30th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. B. M. Snedden, Q.C.) took the chair at 2.15 p.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives 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 harship 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 Bradfield, Dr Klugman, Mr O’Keefe and Mr Wentworth.
Royal Commission on Petroleum
The petition of certain members of the Service Station Association of New South Wales Limited, and certain members of the motoring public of N.S.W. respectfully showeth:
That the Federal Government give every consideration to implementing the findings of the Royal Commission on Petroleum.
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that your honourable House will take action to ensure that the needs of the motoring public and the retail petroleum industry are given every consideration.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Bradfield, Mr Keating and Mr MacKellar.
To the honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens respectfully showeth:
That failure to obtain sufficient funds by Government grants and fund raising activities has forced Koomarri to retrench staff, leaving the handicapped in an even more disadvantaged position. Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that you will do all possible to provide greater government support for the handicapped.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Fry and Mr Haslem.
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 1 977- 1 980. by Mr Bradfield.
Petition to the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled, through Mr Ray Braithwaite, the honourable member for Dawson.
The petition of the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth humbly showeth that the undersigned are deeply concerned that abortion is the destruction of innocent human life, that on 10 May 1973 the House of Representatives overwhelmingly rejected the Medical Practices Clarification Bill, which sought to legalise abortion on demand in the Territories controlled by the Federal Government, that the Legislative Assembly in Canberra should consult Parliament again before discussing and debating the opening and operations of Population Services International and Preterm Foundation in Canberra, that the situation regarding abortions in the Australian Capital Territory is the same as that in New South Wales where the statute prohibits abortion but allows a defence, that the situation in the Australian Capital Territory has a great impact on situations in the States.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Federal Government will act immediately to prevent the establishment and/or operation of Population Services International and Preterm Foundation, and other private clinics, in the Australian Capital Territory, that taxpayers’ money may not be used, through Medibank, to finance abortions.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Braithwaite.
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That due to the new information on whale communication, behaviour and intelligence, and to the depleted state of most of the great whale stocks and the uncertainty associated with whale population estimates, that commercial whaling is no longer acceptable to the vast majority of Australians. It is urged that immediate steps be taken to end this activity.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byDrJ.F.Cairns.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in the Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the Commonwealth Government restore the Petrol Price Equalisation Scheme immediately for the benefit of those people who live away from the seaboard.
Your petitioners believe that the matter is urgent and your petitioners as in duty bound will every pray. byMrCorbett.
To the Right Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned concerned citizens respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled, should ensure:
That the Commonwealth Government’s long-term policy should be to provide 50 per cent of all funding for Australia ‘s roads.
That at a minimum the Commonwealth Government adopts the recommendations by the Australian Council of Local Government Associations for the allocation of $5,903 million of Commonwealth, State and Local Government funds to roads over the five years ending 1980-81, of which the Commonwealth share would be 41 per cent as recommended by the Bureau of Roads. by Mr Cotter.
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 grave concern is expressed about the Government’s intention to dismantle the Australian Legal Aid Office which is providing efficient, readily available legal aid to all communities in Australia.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will undertake a full national enquiry as proposed in 1975 by the present Attorney-General, as a matter of urgency.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Drummond.
To the Right 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 undersigned are concerned at:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Groom.
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 Haslem.
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 Holten.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. We, the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth do humbly pray that the Commonwealth Government:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Les Johnson.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia respectfully showeth:
That we believe that laxity in the control of broadcasting standards has given viewers:
Your petitioners humbly pray that your honourable House will take steps to:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr McVeigh.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the existence of a system of double taxation of personal incomes whereby both the Australian Government and State Governments had the power to vary personal income taxes would mean that taxpayers who worked in more than one State in any year would:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that a system of double income tax on personal incomes be not introduced.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Morris.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the Houseof Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned electors of Australia respectfully showeth that we humbly pray:
That in relation to early childhood, primary, secondary and post-secondary education:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Wallis.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Objection to the Metric system and request the Government to restore the Imperial system.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Wentworth.
– Are there any questions?
– I rise to a point of order, Mr Speaker. In view of the fact that the majority of Ministers apparently cannot attend the Parliament at this hour, could the Leader of the House arrange for question time to be held at a time convenient to the Ministry?
-There is no point of order.
-I ask the Minister for Primary Industry whether his attention has been drawn to a public notice on page 16 of today’s Melbourne Sun, put in by the Foodlands stores, which states:
We, the nominated independently owned food stores, licensed stores, and supermarkets, commit ourselves to a voluntary program of price crusade and undertake to responsibly freeze the prices of those products where such action is possible. Where control of costs is out of our hands as in the case of tea, coffee, cocoa or chocolate, together with fresh meat and produce we will endeavour to . . . keep increases . . . to a minimum …
Will the Minister reassure the House and the people that the prices of such meat and produce will be frozen?
- Mr Speaker, might I first of all explain to the House that the Prime Minister, the Treasurer and the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations are still in conference with the peak councils because we on this side of the House and we in the Government are quite determined to ensure that the voluntary price and wage freeze that is covered in the terms of the heads of government agreement agreed on unanimously between the State Premiers and the Prime Minister should be made to work if at all possible. I would only hope that the same resolution could be picked up by the members of the Opposition in this place and the members of the trade union movement- in particular their leadership, for I am quite sure that the average member of Australian trade unions has an entirely different attitude towards the voluntary freeze from that which is being expressed by some members of the trade union leadership. With respect to the question from the honourable member for Port AdelaideMr Young- I rise to a point of order. My point of order is supplementary to the point of order taken by the honourable member for Corio. You have ruled that there was no point of order in that some Ministers were present, but the Minister who is now answering my question is using as an excuse for not really answering it the fact that other Ministers are not here.
– There is no point of order. The honourable member for Port Adelaide will resume his seat.
– I rise to a point of order. The answer of the Minister should be relevant to the question, Mr Speaker. If you examine Hansard you will find that nothing the Minister for Primary Industry has said to date is relevant to the question asked by the honourable member for Port Adelaide.
-The point- raised by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has some merit. In fact I have permitted the Minister for Primary Industry to answer in such a way as was not directly relevant to the question because of the matter, which was not a point of order but a point of explanation, raised by the honourable member for Corio.
– There is no doubt that the sensitivity of the Opposition in relation to this matter is appearing yet again. One would only hope that, instead of trying to take irresponsible points of order, the Opposition will take up responsibly with the trade union movement the sort of approach to a voluntary freeze which is imperative if this move is to succeed.
– I rise to another point of order, Mr Speaker. The right honourable gentleman is deliberately misrepresenting the situation in stating what is not an answer to the question. I asked that question time be deferred until the Ministers could be present. I did not criticise the fact that they were not present.
-Order! The honourable member for Corio will resume his seat. There is no point of order.
– I raise a further point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister for Primary Industry said that my point of order was irrelevant. You said that it was relevant.
-The Deputy Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat. I have noted the point. I call upon the Minister for Primary Industry to answer the question.
– The honourable member for Port Adelaide asked me specifically a question regarding an advertisement which I have not seen, but I am delighted to hear that in Foodland ‘s advertisement and in so many other ways positive steps are being taken by employers right throughout Australia to implement their part in the voluntary price freeze. Obviously in the implementation of that price freeze there are going to be extraordinary difficulties in a number of areas. I highlighted some of them in the statement I made the other day. Specifically because of these difficulties the Government has been putting to both employers and employees the prospect of establishing a committee which might look at the ways by which the voluntary freeze could be applied and maintained. Therefore, of course, it would be through not only that committee but also the Prices Justification Tribunal. Let me reiterate that it is not peculiarly a matter of one side of the whole community making an offer and maintaining its part of the bargain. If the freeze is to succeed, it must be on both sides of the balance sheet. Unless those who are in the trade union sector are prepared to play as positive a part as those who are in the employer sector, then it is impossible for that which is seen by the heads of government as being attainable to be just that. As far as exceptions are concerned, as the Prime Minister said in this place yesterday, it is the objective of the Government that the voluntary freeze should apply right across the board, but where this is impracticable or impossible there is a facility through the joint committee and the Prices Justification Tribunal on the one hand, and through the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission on the other hand, for individual citizens to raise their complaints, to identify the areas of difficulty and to have their applications processed in a true and open form.
Mr Bourchier proceeding to address a question to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications as Minister Assisting the Treasurer-
-Order! The honourable gentleman is out of order. The Minister is not responsible for statements by the Opposition.
– The Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs will recall that in 1970 the then Minister for Immigration, Mr Phillip Lynch, made an announcement regarding a number of steps that were to be taken by the then Government, amongst which was the commissioning of Professor J. R. Wilson of the University of Sydney to undertake -
– There was a drought then.
– There was a drought; I can tell you. He was commissioned to undertake a costbenefit analysis of immigration into Australia. This analysis was commissioned as part of the inquiry into Australia’s population. I ask the Minister: Is it true that Professor Wilson has submitted the first part of his report to the Government? If so, will the Minister table the document as a contribution to the discussion on Australia ‘s population? What has been the financial outlay on the report? When will Professor Wilson complete the final report? The inquiry having gone on for 7 years, it sounds a bit like Blue Hills.
-Order! The honourable gentleman will not comment.
– I am aware that my colleague, the present Treasurer, commissioned a report from Professor Wilson, I believe in 1970. That report has been sought by successive Ministers for Immigration. If the honourable member asks his own colleagues who held the position of Minister for Immigration or Minister for Labor and Immigration he will find that they sought to have the report finalised and brought forward for consideration. On attaining the office of Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs I too sought the finalisation of the report, and I am pleased to say that I have been partially successful. I have at least had the first part of the report brought forward. However there are supporting documents which are still to be completed. We are endeavouring to encourage Professor Wilson to complete the work that he has undertaken. I cannot give a precise date when the work will be completed, but as soon as it is and as soon as it has been looked at by my Department I will decide whether the whole work can be tabled.
– What about the cost?
– I cannot give the cost of the project from memory. I will find out as soon as I return to my office after question time and give the honourable member a written reply.
– I direct a question to the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in the Arts. Did the world famous tenor Donald Smith resign from the Australian Opera Company last year? What steps is the Minister taking to ensure that Mr Smith is again available to sing with the Company?
– It is a matter of great regret that Donald Smith is not singing with the Australian Opera today. He is Australia’s greatest tenor; indeed he is one of the world ‘s greatest tenors. Honourable members would know that the engagement of singers is not a matter for the Government but for the Australian Opera Company. However, I have received representations from a number of members of this House, and especially over a period of time from the honourable member for St George, and I have had discussions with both the company and Mr Smith. I have been assured by the company that proposals for guest appearances in 1977 and 1978 are to be made to Mr Smith. Both the company and Mr Smith have indicated that they are prepared to compromise over their past differences, and I hope that we shall soon hear Don Smith sing again for the Australian Opera.
-As one third of question time has now elapsed, I direct a question to the Minister for Primary Industry, the senior Minister present, in the continued absence -
-Order! The Leader of the Opposition will ask his question.
– In the continued absence of the Prime Minister, the Treasurer, the Minister for Industrial Relations, and the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs -
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. If the honourable gentleman does not direct his question and cease his commentary, I will rule him out of order.
– I ask the senior Minister present: Is it a fact that the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission yesterday rejected his Government’s submission on the proposed wage and price freeze, describing it as a nonsubmission, and then unanimously commended the proposals made by the Australian Council of Trade Unions? In the light of that judgment and the serious confusion which now exists in the community, I ask: Will the Government agree to the national conference on the wage and price freeze which has been proposed by the ACTU to the Commission, supported before it by employers and several State governments, and welcomed by the Bench itself.
– The President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission of his own volition called before him yesterday for a special hearing the parties who are normally parties to the national wage case. Before that hearing there was obviously an opportunity not only for the normal parties but for governments to make their submissions. In accordance with that request, the Federal Government decided that, rather than act unilaterally, it should contact each of the heads of government of the 6 States and ask their point of view and attitude towards a common case. As it transpired, a number of the heads of government of the States believed that to appear before the Commission at this time would be premature. In that event, the Federal Government decided that, in accordance with the undertaking we maintain within the heads of agreement, there should be a request to the Commission to postpone the proceedings.
I think it is worth while to consider what the President of the Commission determined yesterday. He said he would be prepared to act in any way that the parties or the community required in order to ensure that the voluntary freeze might be achieved. He offered to act in whatever way might be requested to try to achieve the same sort of agreement which the Prime Minister and the heads of State governments in fact achieved a week ago, which the Prime Minister and the employers achieved, and which the Prime Minister and the heads of the trade union movement have been attempting to achieve over the last couple of hours. As to where we go from here, and as to a national conference, obviously those are matters which I should leave to the Prime Minister. But I think it is worth saying that the question of a national conference was not canvassed at the Premiers Conference. The heads of agreement were agreed upon unanimously by those who were present at the Premiers Conference and, in those circumstances, there is no doubt that whatever variation is made to the heads of agreement must be seen as a breaking down of what looked to be an almost unanimously agreed position throughout the Australian community. I think it would be a great pity if, because there is some variant to the heads of government agreement, there should be any breakdown in what looked like being a complete breakthrough in this constant wage-price spiral.
-The Minister for Transport is no doubt aware that information is circulating in Tasmania that the Tasman Limited will be taken off the run. Can the Minister indicate to the House whether this report is correct?
– I am able to confirm that the Joy report has recommended to the Government that the Tasman Limited be taken off the run. I have also received a recommendation from the commissioners of the Australian National Railways that, following the recommendation of the Joy report, the Tasman Limited be taken off the run. The honourable member may know that the annual loss incurred on the Tasman Limited service is about $650 000. That is a very heavy loss and therefore I have to give very serious consideration to the recommendations that have come to me. As I said to the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development the other day, no action will be taken to withdraw the Tasman Limited without a proper examination of what effect such a withdrawal would have on Tasmania and the tourist industry in particular.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister whose arrival in the House we welcome. Has the Government agreed to the national conference on the wage-price freeze which was proposed at the hearing of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission yesterday by the Australian Council of Trade Unions, supported before the Commission by employers and several State governments and welcomed by the Bench itself?
– I think that this matter needs to be put into some degree of perspective. Towards the end of the discussion this morning held with Mr Hawke and other peak union leaders, I asked whether we could be given any understanding that there was an inprinciple agreement with the objectives expressed in the heads of government agreement. I ask honourable members to note those words carefully- ‘an in-principle agreement with the objectives expressed in the heads of government agreement’. Mr Hawke and others with him were not able to give any such agreement. We returned to this point time after time. The conference started by our asking whether they agreed with the objectives of that agreement. They did not agree with the objectives of the agreement. That quite plainly means that they do not agree with the objectives of a wage-price pause and since they do not agree with the objectives of a wage-price pause -
- Mr Speaker, I rise to order. You will recall that yesterday this Parliament was promised a statement on this question. The Prime Minister has every opportunity to make a statement in debate instead of using question time -
-Order! No point of order arises. The honourable member for Port Adelaide will resume his seat. Before I call upon the Prime Minister, I must say to the honourable member for Port Adelaide that he knows the matter he raised was not a proper one for a point of order. I must ask him to desist from taking what purports to be a point of order when in fact it is only a point of argument. If he continues to do that I will have to deal with him. I call the Prime Minister.
– I had thought that it was very much to the point of the question asked by the Leader of the Opposition. If the honourable gentleman is objecting to his Leader sometime asking a question, so be it, but that is an objection he should make in his Caucus room and not in this Parliament. I think it ought to be repeated that at the beginning of the conference with the representatives of the peak councils, including Mr Hawke, and at the end of the conference we sought to see whether or not there was even an agreement in principle with the objectives of the heads of agreement of 7 governments which include 3 governments headed by Labor Premiers. It was made quite plain that there was no agreement with the objectives. There being no agreement with the objectives, there was plainly no agreement with the objective of a wage-price pause, and in that respect there is no point in having a national conference to discuss something when some of the parties involved plainly do not agree with the objective. Therefore I would not put it to the Premiers that a national conference ought to be held on these matters. I made it plain at the end of the conference that I would put it to the Premiers that there would be a national conference if the representatives of the peak councils had in fact indicated an agreement with the objectives of the heads of agreement.
I think it needs to be pointed out that agreement with objectives in principle does not commit anyone to any point of detail or to any particular point in relation to which there might be an alleged difficulty. It would be merely what it said: Agreement with the objectives in principle. The peak councils were not even able to come to that, and because they were not able to come to that there will not be a national conference.
– Is the Treasurer aware that in a recent publication published by the Movement Against Uranium Mining of 5 1 Nicholson Street, Carlton, Victoria, it is stated that any donation over $2 can be claimed as a tax deduction? The coupon in the publication states:
All donations over $2 will be tax deductible if your cheque is made out to the Australian Conservation Foundation, 206 Clarendon Street, East Melbourne, 3002, and marked ‘Movement Against Uranium Mining’.
Can the Treasurer advise whether that type of donation is a legitimate tax deduction and, if not, what action will be taken to stop it?
– I am informed that the basic legal position is that donations made to the Australian Conservation Foundation are specifically tax deductible under section 78(1) (a) of the Income Tax Assessment Act but that donations to the Movement Against Uranium Mining fund are not deductible. The statement to which the honourable gentleman refers appears to have been made on the basis that gifts made to the Australian Conservation Foundation are specifically tax deductible and that the Foundation’s constitution enables it to provide assistance to or to co-operate with other bodies concerned with or interested in conservation. The question as to whether gifts made in circumstances such as these would be allowable as tax deductions is, of course, primarily one for the Commissioner of Taxation to determine according to the law. The advice that I have received from the Commissioner is that in his view the answer would depend upon whether the gift is made to a fund which remains in the control of the initial recipient or which passes to the organisation on whose behalf it was received. I have been further advised recently by the Commissioner that when the matter to which the honourable gentleman has referred came to his knowledge administrative arrangements were made with the Australian Conservation Foundation to ensure that when the present appeals have been terminated no further arrangements will be entered into under which outside bodies with conservation related aims will be permitted to raise money through the Australian Conservation Foundation. If that answer does not quite satisfy all the aspects of the question posed by the honourable gentleman I shall add to it with a response in writing.
– My question which is directed to the Prime Minister is related to the answer which he just gave to the question asked by the Leader of the Opposition and to his apparent unshakable faith in a wage-price freeze. Did the Prime Minister last September state that a pricewage freeze was unworkable in Australia? Specifically, did he tell the journal Country Life -I have the quotation with me- that no country in the world which had adopted fixed controls had found them to be successful as a means of reducing inflation? Is that secret view held by the Prime Minister the real reason why he is not game to present to the Parliament a full statement on his wage-price freeze?
-Order! The honourable gentleman will not make comments of that kind.
– I think the honourable gentleman would be well advised to wait. I think the attitude that has been shown by some members of the Opposition throughout is very much in the mind of the President of the Australian Labor Party when he puts the various views which he does on certain matters.
– Did you say it?
-Let the honourable gentleman wait just a moment or two. I think there was an earlier occasion when the President of the Australian Labor Party campaigned against his own Party on issues of wages and referendums. That is something that well needs to be understood and might well explain parts of the attitudes that have come forward. We know quite well that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition sought from the outset to undermine the thrust of what 7 heads of government were seeking to attain.
– I take a point of order. I submit, Mr Speaker, that the Prime Minister is continuing to flout your very strict ruling that answers must be relevant to questions. I ask that you direct the Prime Minister to make his answer relevant to a very explicit question.
-Order! The point of order is overruled. The answer is relevant. I call the Prime Minister.
– Well, answer the question. Did you say it?
– It is interesting to note that the Leader of the Opposition is getting his instructions from a stranger in the gallery.
– I raise a point of order. That is an objectionable statement. Members of this place regularly converse with persons in the gallery. The Prime Minister stayed out of question time for a period to get his riding instructions. The Leader of the Opposition at least attended the Parliament when it was sitting.
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. I call the Prime Minister.
– Tell the truth. Did you say it?
-Order! The honourable member for Chifley has now interjected three or four times. I call upon the honourable member to remain silent.
– I think that the objections that have come from the Opposition in respect of this matter quite miss the point of what has occurred over the last few days. A proposal was put forward by one Premier at the Premiers Conference. That proposal gained the support of 7 heads of government- which was a rare event. There was a clear wish within that Premiers Conference to see-
– I raise a point of order. I asked a specific question of a head of government about a statement that head of government made not 6 months ago. I asked him to confirm the statement he made. It was a simple question and I want a simple direct answer.
-The honourable member forBlaxland raises the point of order that the Prime Minister is not being relevant. I remind the honourable member that his own introduction to the subject raised the whole question of a prices and wages freeze. Therefore what the Prime Minister is saying is relevant.
-What occurred in the Premiers Conference was a rare event because 7 heads of government, who represent all major political parties in this country, were in agreement. I believe that they came to that agreement because they recognised that there was a wish within the Australian community for a halt in the mad round of wage and price increases that Australia has seen in recent times. Under those circumstances the Premiers and the Commonwealth took the opportunity that was offered. There has been a warm response to their action from people in the community.
The statement made yesterday by the President of the Labor Party before the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission was a sad and tragic political document. It did nothing to advance the cause but much to belittle the cause that is very much in the interests of all of the supporters of the President of the Australian Labor Party and all his constituents in the trade union movement. His approach to this matter is one that I think a great number of these people would not greatly appreciate.
The heads of government understood that if the proposal was to succeed it would have to succeed on a voluntary basis because there was a will and a commitment. However, the President of the Labor Party has made it quite plain, as some other spokesman for the Labor Party had made it plain earlier, that there is not a commitment. To his credit the Leader of the Opposition did not say this; he had said that it ought to be given a go.
Compulsory wages and prices freezes have seldom worked overseas because pressures have built up underneath and at the end of the freeze period things have tended to get worse. But when that has happened there have been underlying inflationary demand pressures. Those pressures are not now present in Australia so the circumstances in this country are different from a large number of those experienced overseas. In addition to this, the heads of Government were talking about a voluntary arrangement. If there was a will to succeed, a voluntary arrangement certainly could succeed. It could not succeed without at least the objective and in principle support of the President of the Australian Labor Party and of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. The conference this afternoon was, I think, an unfortunate and sad one. Australians will be worse off as a result of it because of a lack of commitment to that cause.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. Are there any other steps the Government can take in pursuit of the agreement between the governments?
– I will be consulting with other heads of government later this afternoon and I will be putting certain proposals to them. I will be saying that as a result of the discussion today and of the failure to reach agreement, and because there is also an understanding within the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission that employers have agreed to the freeze voluntarily, we should now consider an alternative approach to that which we originally had in mind and that we should make a joint approach to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to ask it to consider the wages issue in the light of changed circumstances. The changed circumstances are ones in which employer organisations and businesses, even some who have been granted price increases by the Prices Justification Tribunal, are prepared to forgo increases. In those circumstances there is a changed and different situation in Australia which the Government would invite the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to examine. I will be sending messages to State Premiers later this afternoon to see whether they are prepared to join with the Commonwealth in an approach of that kind.
-My question, which is directed to the Prime Minister, is based on the judgment of the Conciliation and Arbitration
Commission yesterday afternoon. That judgment states, in part:
We believe that every effort should be made to pursue those avenues which provide the opportunity for reaching consensus in national wage matters. In this connection we commend the ACTU proposal supported by the other peak union councils and the Governments of New South Wales, South Australia and Tasmania for a broadly based conference to be called by the Commonwealth.
I ask the Prime Minister: Does he propose to make any other effort to call this conference which the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission said it commended?
– I think that if the whole decision or judgment of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission is read a somewhat different view of the intentions and wishes of the Commission will be gained. One does not have to go beyond the first paragraph of Sir John Moore ‘s statement which is in these terms:
Employers generally have agreed with the Government about prices and unions are to meet representatives of the Government tomorrow to discuss wages.
I emphasise that part of the statement which says that employers generally have agreed with the Government about prices. This is not a statement by employers. It is not a statement by the Government. It is the statement of Sir John Moore. He makes it plain that on one side there is agreement with the objective, not only in principle but also in fact. The price freeze is in place and has been in place since 14 April. He goes on -
Honourable members interjecting-
-Order! The right honourable gentleman will resume his seat. This is a very serious matter for the Australian people and I believe that in the National Parliament the answers of the Prime Minister should be heard in silence. I call upon members on the left of the chair to listen to the answers in silence and not maintain continual interjections.
- Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order in regard to your ruling. I submit to you that whilst the Prime Minister makes deliberately provocative statements - ‘
– There is no point of order. The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. I call upon the House to listen to questions and answers in silence. I call the Prime Minister.
– Give us some truth.
-Order! I warn the honourable member for Shortland. I call the Prime Minister.
-Let me again repeat the words of Sir John Moore. He said:
Employers generally have agreed with the Government about prices . . .
And the prices freeze is in place. He went on to say: . . . and the unions are to meet representatives of the Government tomorrow to discuss wages.
That is the discussion that was just held. Sir John Moore, on behalf of the Commission, then said:
We express our hope that agreement will also be reached about them.
He was referring to wages. In other words he was saying in his opening paragraph: ‘As a matter of first importance on the question of prices the agreement is there; employers have acted. There is to be a discussion tomorrow with the Government about wages. We hope that an agreement will be achieved with the unions about wages.’ Quite clearly there was a hope that there would be that agreement today. It is unfortunate for the people of Australia that there is no such agreement, not even an agreement in principle. I think this is something that well needs to be remembered.
If we go on we find the part about the opportunity which national conferences might provide to search for something that the Arbitration Commission has continually sought, that is, the reaching of consensus. But it was quite plain that the Commission was expressing the view that there should be agreement about wages today. It was not a national conference today, it was a discussion with the Government. In discussion today it became quite clear that the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions wanted a national conference on a very much broader range of issues, not giving any commitment on what might come out of it one way or the other. He wanted a national conference to discuss issues that he is perfectly entitled to put to the Government in the normal industry discussions that we have before Budget preparations. He will have the opportunity to do that. Employers will have the.opportunity-to do that and we will listen to their views and we will listen to the views of all other industry groups which come to us on that particular occasion. But since there was no agreement about a wage-price freeze, even in principle, even as an objective, and since that was the principal matter that had concerned heads of government, the Commonwealth decided it would not pursue the question of a national conference on these matters.
I say again that on these particular matters Mr Hawke had established conditions which would have made it very difficult, I think, to get agreement. Members of this House need to understand that the President of the ACTU, President of the Australian Labor Party- it is sometimes hard to know which- was proposing that there ought to be 2 more conferences before there could possibly be agreement on the substantive issue. On page 6 1 1 of the transcript yesterday Mr Hawke is reported as saying:
Let me repeat that: We indicate that should the Australian Government, as a result of the conferences which we now ask it to convene, and to be convened as a matter of urgency, be prepared to undertake a cut in direct taxes which would produce a real after tax level of disposable income equivalent to what would be necessary by way of money wage increases to compensate for the March quarter CPI movement-
That sentence, if honourable members can follow it, ought to be noted. There is no forbearance in that. He is stating that if there are tax cuts fully equivalent to the increase in wages that would flow through from 100 per cent indexation- that is what it is saying- the ACTU on its part, but only then, would be prepared to convene a special federal unions conference to consider the forgoing of the March quarter application on that basis. What sort of wages freeze is that in the face of a prices freeze that is in place? Quite plainly what Mr Hawke was proposing is that if there is a national conference and depending on the Government making certain commitment about tax cuts the ACTU would then consider calling a conference of its unions to decide what it would do as a result of that. None of it would have promoted restraint in this community. The proposal is completely by-passing the simplicity of the concept of heads of government- a wages freeze for a prices freeze. Most people out in the sticks believe that is a pretty fair exchange, but Mr Hawke and the peak unions do not.
– I believe the call is from the
– Yes, but I am not asking a question this time. I ask the Prime Minister to table the judgment of the President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission from which he was quoting and the submission by the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions to the Commission, which preceded the President’s judgment. I also suggest that because of the public interest in this matter the judgment and the submission should be incorporated in Hansard.
– And the statement he welched on yesterday.
-Order! The honourable gentleman will withdraw that comment.
– I withdraw, Mr Speaker.
-The right honourable gentleman was, I understand, quoting from a transcript of the Arbitration Commission’s proceedings. I would not call upon him to table the whole of the transcript, but perhaps if he were willing to table that portion from which he read, it might satisfy the Leader of the Opposition.
– I said the submission.
– It was page 611 of the transcript.
- Mr Speaker, I think that maybe I can assist the Leader of the Opposition in this matter. There is no problem as to the judgment being tabled, and there is no problem as to the transcript being tabled. They are, I would think, as a matter of course also available in the Parliamentary Library. For that reason I do not think that there would be a necessity to have them incorporated in Hansard and the Hansard writers can be saved that particular element. They are not secret documents. There is no reason why they should not be tabled.
-The right honourable gentleman is tabling the judgment of Sir John Moore?
-And what was the second document?
– It is the statement which the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions made before the Commission yesterday.
-Those 2 documents will be tabled. I now come to the point raised by the Leader of the Opposition as to incorporating matter in Hansard. Is leave granted?
-Leave is not granted.
-On that point, sir, the judgment is quite short and it is very difficult to find it in any of today’s newspapers. There could scarcely be a document of greater importance. I submit that it would be reasonable to have it incorporated in Hansard.
– I shall deal with the points one at a time. The Leader of the Opposition had called for all the documents he mentioned to be incorporated in Hansard. If he now changes his request to the incorporation in Hansard of the judgment of Sir John Moore I put that to the Prime Minister.
– I grant leave to incorporate the short one, thejudgment,MrSpeaker.
– Leave is granted to incorporate in Hansard the judgment of Sir John Moore.
The document read as follows-
The statement issued last Wednesday by the heads of all Governments in Australia has received the support of a large section of the community and nothing put to us today detracts from its importance. What we are called upon to decide is not so much how any agreement should be implemented but what should happen in the meantime. The halt envisaged by the heads of government is to be a voluntary one about both wages and prices. Employers generally have agreed with the Government about prices and the Unions are to meet representatives of the Government tomorrow to discuss wages. We express our hope that agreement will also be reached about them.
The issues confronting us relate to the period between today and the reaching of agreement. We do not propose to traverse in detail the arguments put to us but we do emphasise the importance which the statement placed upon consensus. If this is to be achieved the question is what this Commission should do about the intervening period in order to assist the reaching of consensus.
As to matters now before the Commission and those which may come before it before 3 May 1977 our view is as follows-
Variations flowing from the last or earlier National Wage Decisions should be made;
Hearings of pan heard matters should continue and new matters may be commenced;
The Commission in all its manifestations should if possible defer awarding money increases until after 3 May though we realise there may be matters which for industrial relations reasons call for special consideration.
We have in past decisions laid great stress on the importance of consensus in national wage matters. We believe that every effort should be made to pursue those avenues which provide the opportunity for reaching conscensus. In this connection, we commend the ACTU proposal, supported by the other peak union councils and the governments of New South Wales, South Australia and Tasmania, for a broadly based conference to be called by the Commonwealth.
We also welcome the suggestion of the Commonwealth that we might use our good offices to assist those concerned to reach consensus and we hold ourselves available at short notice to do what we can in this regard.
This matter stands adjourned and unless we are asked to take further action in the meantime the hearing will resume on 3 May.
– Getting away from the prices freeze for a moment, my question is directed to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. I ask the Minister: Is he aware that drug trafficking by post is on the increase in Australia and that police commissioners are believed to be concerned at the lack of powers by police and customs officials to intercept mail which they suspect contains drugs? Is the Minister satisfied that the existing laws are adequate to cope efficiently with this communal use of the mails? If not, will the Minister take the necessary action to put more muscle into existing legislation to facilitate the interception of suspect mail?
-I have read reports, and indeed I know, of the concern within the community about the increase in drug trafficking. I am aware of the concern of the police and indeed of governments generally here and throughout Australia. There are 2 issues in this matter: First of all there is the question of privacy with regard to the mail, and secondly- this is a very important matter- the question of community interest, public interest. The problem is being considered by the Law Reform Commission. Officers of the Australian Postal Commission have discussed it with the Law Reform Commission and have offered some advice. My understanding is that the Law Reform Commission will have some comment on this matter later in the year. I shall see whether that report can be presented at the earliest possible date, and if action is needed I am certain that it will be speedily taken.
– I preface my question, which is directed to the Prime Minister, by reminding him that yesterday he said that interest rates should remain static. I ask the Prime Minister whether he is aware that the latest quarterly review of the Bank of New South Wales puts Australia’s Budget deficit at $4.8 billion for the first 7 months of this financial year- 19 per cent higher than for the corresponding period of the last financial year. Further, if because of static interest rates the May loan fails, as the February loan failed, and the Government is unable to finance the deficit from the non-bank public, what other measures of financing the deficit will the Government use?
– If the question can be taken as the support of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition for a voluntary wages and prices freeze, which quite obviously would be contrary to other remarks he has made, then he should lend his support to it and not merely try to destroy what could have been a very notable advance in Australia.
– I rise to a point of order, Mr Speaker. An answer should be relevant to a question and this question dealt with static interest rates. The fact of the matter is that yesterday the Prime Minister clearly stated that interest rates would be static.
-Order! The Deputy Leader of the Opposition is arguing the point and not making a point of order.
– I am asking that the Prime Minister’s reply be relevant to my question.
-The right honourable gentleman is entitled to answer the question as he wishes as long as his answer is relevant to the question.
-Can the Prime Minister give any information to the House on what the major objections of the peak trade unions were to the wage-price pause?
-Many detailed objections were given. There was one thing about which Mr Hawke was unwilling to talk. That was his reaction to the proposal for a wages freeze. He wanted to talk about the prices area and the areas of difficulty that would occur in that regard. He asked what we proposed should be done about that. We have made it quite plain that there was the reference to the Prices Justification Tribunal and that there was the special committee that would- still could- be established with representatives of employees, employers and the Prices Justification Tribunal on it, which would be able to survey, monitor and report in addition to the reporting and surveillance of the Prices Justification Tribunal, and even recommend what administrative changes might be necessary to help survey prices.
Objections were raised because there was inadequate knowledge of what would happen after the end of the 3-month period. It was put that the first thing to do was to get into the wageprice halt. One would then have the proper administrative machinery- the Prices Justification Tribunal, the new committee and, on the other side, the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. Through those bodies, which are of high reputation, it ought to be possible to work out post 3-months freeze arrangements that would be fair and just to all parties. That was a significant part of the reason for having the additional committee that my colleague the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs recommended should be established.
Obviously that kind of answer was not sufficient because there was no willingness to get behind the basic principle, the basic objective. Therefore the objective seemed to be to try to point to difficulty after difficulty that ought to be resolved by the administrative machinery that is available and that could be resolved by the administrative machinery that is available if only people had a will, a wish and a determination to make it work in the interests of all Australians and in the interests of all the constituents of all the members of this House, including those who are laughing and who think that the matter of the economy in Australia is a matter for sheer humour.
– I ask the Prime Minister: Is it a fact that significant employer organisations have also indicated that they favour consideration of the tax cuts proposed by the Australian Council of Trade Unions? Has he asserted that proposals for tax cuts depart from the original wages and prices freeze proposal? Can he explain how proposals for tax cuts depart from the original wage-price freeze proposal as that proposal as originally made by the Premier of Victoria included consideration of tax cuts, and the Premier of Queensland has today again supported such tax cuts?
-No Premier in the Premiers Conference mentioned tax cuts in any sense, shape or form. What might have been mentioned outside the Premiers Conference could well be another matter, but in Premiers Conference the proposal did not include tax cuts, and tax cuts were not raised by any Premier in relation to these matters. There is one thing which I would be interested to know from Premiers because a number of them have suggested that there should be tax cuts and most of them have suggested that there should be income tax cuts. Of course under the federalism proposals they would have the power to implement that for themselves-a power which they ran away from so fast, some of them behaving like frightened fawns. Under the present arrangements, they ought to know that tax cuts involve revenue forgone. If the Premiers wish to be involved in revenue forgone we would be quite delighted to provide them with lesser amounts in tax reimbursement grants and they can be additional sums that will go towards tax cuts when the Commonwealth is in a responsible and proper position to provide them. I will look forward to hearing from those Premiers under the honourable gentleman’s influence or under the influence of the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions and President of the Australian Labor Party, to find out by how much the Premiers of New South Wales, South Australia and Tasmania will be prepared in line with their advocacy of tax cuts to forgo revenue normally due to them. I venture to say they will not be prepared to forgo one cent.
Suspension of Standing Orders Mr SCHOLES (Corio) (3. 12)- I move:
-Has the honourable gentleman put the motion in writing?
-I submit the motion in writing. I do not intend to speak to it. I think the arguments for such a statement being made were given yesterday.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) proposed:
That the honourable member for Corio be not further heard.
-The honourable gentleman indicated that he was not going to speak to his motion, but unfortunately he was a bit slow to return to his seat. Before he had returned to his seat the Leader of the House had moved that the honourable member be not further heard.
– I withdraw the motion.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. The motion is withdrawn. Is the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders seconded?
– I second the motion and I want to speak to it. A statement on this question was promised by the Government yesterday. No Minister has yet been prepared to speak on the subject in the Parliament. The wages and prices freeze is supposedly put forward seriously as a matter of great national consequence; yet the Government is too afraid to debate the question.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) proposed:
That the honourable’ member for Port Adelaide be not further heard.
– What have you got if they put you up? You are a big enough nong.
-Order! Unfortunately I did not identify who made that interjection or I would call upon him to withdraw it, which no doubt he would very readily do. Firstly, the question now before the Chair is that the honourable member for Port Adelaide be not further heard.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– The question now is, that the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Rt Hon. B. M. Snedden, Q.C.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
– by leave- Mr Speaker, I wish to make a short statement regarding the sitting times of the House. The question of the variation of the intimated sitting dates was canvassed prior to the Easter adjournment. The Government has considered the various requests and has decided that the House will not now be sitting on the proposed sitting dates of 17, 18 and 19 May but instead will be in recess in that week preceding the referendum. It will be sitting in the following fortnight on 24, 25, 26 May and Friday, 27 May. The proposal is that the House should adjourn at 5 p.m. on 27 May. The House will sit again on Monday, 30 May at 2.15 p.m., the proposal being that the House should sit in the afternoon and evening on that day. It will then sit through to the evening of Thursday, 2 June.
-by leave-The Opposition does not object to the altered sitting days although it does draw attention to the fact that some extremely major legislation is set down for debate during the period following the date of the referendum. It is only because of the referendum that we do not object to the sitting week being cancelled. We doubt very much that, even with the addition of 2 sitting days, proper time will be available to debate the legislation in those 2 weeks. I suggest to the Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair) that at this stage he ought to make plans for sitting at least one additional week because I cannot see the House dealing adequately in 8 sitting days with the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, the Trade Practices Bill, which has been foreshadowed, and the double taxation Bills also foreshadowed, and indicated by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) as Bills to be passed by the House in this session.
Motion ( by Mr E. G. Whitlam) agreed to:
That leave of absence for 2 months be given to the honourable member for Bonython on the ground of ill health.
– I have received a letter from the honourable the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The Fraser Government’s proposals for State income taxes.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places.
More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places-
– The Premiers Conference last week signalled the collapseignominious but unlamented- of the Fraser Government’s new federalism.
– I thought it was, too. The centrepiece of the Fraser philosophy is in ruins, rejected by the very States who were supposed to be its beneficiaries. The brave new era of States’ rights has been aborted. Whatever the vision of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) of co-operative federalism was intended to mean, it has proved to be anything but cooperative. The Premiers Conference left the States and the Federal Government divided and mutually antagonistic as never before. Every State government, with the possible exception of Western Australia, turned down the new federalism. Every State Premier saw through the phony prospectus put forward by the Prime Minister. A policy which the Fraser Government trumpeted as the economic salvation of the States, a policy which embodied and enshrined all the regressive and reactionary features of the Fraser Government, is dead. Is it any wonder that the Prime Minister seized on his wages and prices freeze last Wednesday? What better way to distract us from the humiliation he suffered at the hands of the States and the Premiers?
For months- for over a year- the Government has sought to cover up and distort the real meaning of its new federalism. The crunch came last week. The new federalism means dual taxation; it means double taxation; it means the end of the system of uniform taxation which has served Australia well since World War II; it means the withdrawal of the Federal Government from all creative programs and all responsibilities for the people’s welfare and the nation’s advancement. Far from signalling a new era of co-operation between the States and the Federal Government, it means the end of co-operation, the end of any joint and shared responsibility for the needs of the Australian people. Under the Fraser federalism the real creative co-operation between State and federal governments- the co-operation that has been the basis of all new initiatives and all constructive ventures for the people’s welfare since the War- would be destroyed in reality and in spirit. And the great sham, the massive deception involved in that policy has been exposed. The Premiers have seen through it and the people have seen through it- not just the Labor Premiers and the Labor States but the Liberal States. Even Mr Bjelke-Petersen’s Government has rejected this shoddy and deceptive policy out of hand.
Right up to his final humiliation last week the Prime Minister was pretending that dual taxation would not be imposed on the States. In an interview on 12 April he said:
I want Premiers to have the power to raise or lower income taxes in their own States if they so wish.
In other words, right up to the eve of the Premiers Conference the Prime Minister was dishonestly pretending that a dual income tax would be voluntary, an option for the Premiers rather than an inescapable course imposed by the Fraser Government. How could anyone expect the States, whose revenues have already been heavily reduced by the Fraser Government, to swallow that line? The Prime Minister knew that the States would be forced to impose their taxes. He knew they would have no choice. The States knew that once the Federal Government withdrew from essential community services and abdicated responsibility for essential programs they would be forced to fill the gap from their own resources. They would have none of it. They knew, whatever their ideological or political leanings, that once essential and popular programs were cut back or abandoned, there could be no restoring them under the financial stringency imposed by the Fraser Government. They knew that basic and needed programs for health care, hospitals, education, housing, the cities, recreation, transport, sewerage, child care, sport, the environment would all suffer from the Fraser federalism. They were not going to be part of this fraud on the people, and above all, they were not going to incur public odium for the sake of the Fraser Government. The Prime Minister was saying to the States, in effect: ‘If you think these programs and services are necessary then you find the money for them, you put up your taxes; you impose a dual income tax if necessary’. Under the new federalism, the so-called cooperative federalism, the States would have no choice. The Federal Government was not just allowing the States to impose their own taxation. It was compelling them to do so. In the face of the States’ outright, concerted, unhesitating rejection of his plan, the Prime Minister is still going ahead with his own legislation. He wants to force double taxation on the States by starving them of funds and leaving them no option but to raise income taxes of their own.
The States already had grim warning of the Fraser Government’s parsimony. Phase one of the new federalism, introduced last year, tied the States to a dwindling share of federal revenues. For 30 years or more, under governments of every persuasion, the Federal Government has made general purpose revenue grants to the States on condition that the States did not impose their own income tax. The present Prime Minister is removing that condition. For decades the Federal Government has made grants and tax reimbursements to the States which grew year by year. In effect the grants were indexed. They were tied to cost of living increases and the growth of population and supplemented by a betterment factor. For decades the States were guaranteed a steadily increasing volume of general revenue. But no more. The Fraser Government has tied grants to the States to a percentage of the federal income tax collections. The States have a stark choice: To impose their own taxes as receipts from federal revenues decline, or cut back their services and depress the living standards of their citizens still further.
As usual the Government’s real purposes have been disclosed in leaked documents and Public Service submissions. Last year, in a confidential paper prepared for Cabinet, the Treasury itself calculated that the States would undoubtedly have to impose their own income taxes to maintain the present growth rate in their revenues. Extracts from the paper were published in the Press on 23 April last year. A section of the paper headed ‘long-term growth’ pointed out that, under the old system of tax reimbursements, the States enjoyed the benefit of secure long-term growth. The paper continued:
Over the longer term, the revenue from income tax, once it is fully indexed, would be lower than under the present formula.
This could mean that, to simply maintain what they have now, the States may be forced to increase the surcharge on income tax which they would have to levy under their own legislation. This could be summarised as the Commonwealth handing over the dirty work of increasing taxes to the States.
It was a vivid and revealing indictment of the new federalism from Treasury officers. They were much franker with the Government than the Government has been with the people.
Let us be quite clear that the Fraser federalism is not meant to kill off Labor’s programs alone, but any co-operative Federal-State venture. It would spell the end of Federal initiatives not only by my Government but also by successive Liberal governments- the Menzies, Holt, Gorton and McMahon governments alike. Every initiative in public welfare or national development since the war has been taken by the Federal Government or with its participation. There was no welfare housing in this country before the Federal Government made it happen. How many universities would there be and of what standard would they be but for Federal involvement during and since the war?
What would be the prospects of our railways, hospitals, schools or technical colleges if their recent development had been left to the States alone? Have the States been able to preserve our heritage? Have they been able to service the post-war suburbs and resource centres? It is inevitable that initiatives in these areas must now come, as they have come ever since World War II, from the Federal Government. The Federal Government alone can raise direct taxes on individuals and corporations in an efficient and equitable manner; it has a constitutional monopoly in direct taxes- customs and excise, including sales tax. The States lack the means to raise revenues efficiently and equitably because the revenue measures available to them- apart from income tax and death duties- consist of licences or franchises. Their methods of financing services from their own resources are inequitable or incomplete. Adequate public services and public accountability are not to be secured by resurrecting the financial arrangements of an earlier era but by accepting the respective responsibilities required in a modern nation.
To return Australia to pre-war federalism is to ignore the immense national growth in the demand for government services that has occurred during the past 30 years. The responsibilities of governments are vastly more extensive, complex and costly than they were a generation ago. Education is a striking example. There would be scant opportunities for higher education today, and very little decent secondary education, if it were not for Federal participation and initiatives. The Federal Government, with primary responsibility for economic management, fiscal policy and the allocation of resources, simply cannot ignore the rising demand for such services. In 1947, 6.3 per cent of young people of university age were receiving a tertiary education; by 1975 the proportion had nearly trebled to 17.7 per cent. In 1945 Federal expenditure on education was less than $10m. The demand for education has grown so much in the past 30 years that total expenditure on education by the Federal Government this financial year is estimated at $2,204m. Population growth and inflation alone cannot account for this growth. Growth of this order has been a feature of the economies of every western country. The change has come about, at least partly, because of rising expectations, improving standards, the growing cost of teacher training and educational techniques and equipment. Ten years ago colleges of advanced education received about $2m a year from the Federal Government. In the last Budget Federal grants for colleges of advanced education totalled $455m.
The response of conservatives is not to consider how such costs can best be met but how they can most easily be cut. Conservatives will always argue that because the good things, and often the necessary things, in life are expensive, some people should be made to do without them. Where money is needed and where it is spent governments must ensure that it is spent in the most efficient and equitable manner, and spent where it is needed- in the regions and suburbs where it is needed, on the people who need it, with a proper sense of national priorities and a proper sense of responsibility for the nation’s needs and aspirations. Uniform taxation was introduced in this country because we recognised, as a nation, that the States were so disparate and diverse, so unequal in their populations and their tax resources, that without a coordinating and overriding Federal responsibility for growth, welfare and development, the very ideal of federation would be at risk; pressures and disparaties among the States would produce a grossly unequal and therefore divided nation. Every successful Federal initiative, every attempted Federal initiative, has produced benefits for our people and drawn us together more closely as a nation. Without Federal intervention there would be no unbroken rail guages between the States; urban transport, particularly the railways, would still be burdened with antiquated equipment and rolling stock; young people would still have inadequate and unequal opportunities for secondary and tertiary education; and new initiatives in health centres, the environment and child care would not have been considered. People’s living standards would depend more than ever on where they happened to live, just as the taxes they pay would vary under the new federalism depending on the State in which they lived, unless they were privileged enough to live in a Territory where no dual taxes would be paid at all.
The States have consistently failed to provide community services in the places where people most need them. Often they have lacked the funds; too often they have ignored the changing patterns of population within their boundaries. A report tabled in the Senate on 6 December by the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) described the inner suburban areas of Sydney as the most socially and economically demoralised in New South Wales. It pointed out that in the deprived inner suburbs and outer western suburbs of Sydney people are more likely to commit suicide, to be sent to gaol, to be admitted to a mental hospital, to appear in court, to be unemployed, to be divorced or separated. The Green Paper on immigration policy and Australia’s population tabled by the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) on 17 March stated:
The rate of growth of the larger cities involved since World War II has made it difficult for public authorities to keep up with the demand for urban services. The backlog is most serious in sewerage services but there is also scope for improvement in recreational facilities, schools, public transport and housing.
These are problems that the States have historically failed to meet. They will be met only by an enlightened and responsible Federal Government. Fraser federalism would put back that prospect indefinitely. It would stultify existing services and pre-empt new ones. It would guarantee for our people and our nation a new and indefinitely prolonged era of division and inequality, social backwardness and economic stagnation.
– The matter of public importance before the House today demonstrates once again the Australian Labor Party’s complete commitment to the centralisation of financial power in Canberra. What an irony it is for a man who was Prime Minister and was responsible for the greatest taxation rip-off in Australia’s history to condemn this Government’s federalism reforms as being double taxation. He is a man who is desperately at the present time attempting some form of public and party resurrection as Leader of the Opposition. What he said in this debate will not assist him in that pretence.
The honourable gentleman referred to what he called double taxation. But let us for a moment look at the record of the previous administration regarding taxation. In the first 2 years of the Whitlam Government personal income tax receipts increased by 89 per cent. The public will recall that the Australian Labor Party had promised not to raise personal income tax or indirect taxation. It is a matter of record that those promises were broken in the most cynical and most flagrant way. What needs to be emphasised in this debate is that the Labor Party’s stated objectives are to abolish the Senate and the State parliaments and to amalgamate Australia’s local government councils into a small number of regions completely dependent on the Federal Government.
The House may recall, as indeed will some State parliamentarians, the public statement made some time ago by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) to the effect that the role of State Labor politicians is to bring about their own dissolution in order to support the Labor Party’s centralist ambitions. The present Government rejects without qualifications the centralist objectives of our opponents in this House. Tax sharing is the most significant reform to Australia’s system of government since Federation. We have given the States for the first time assured access to Commonwealth personal income tax revenue. For the first time local government authorities have access to federal funds on a continuing and guaranteed basis. For the first time there is a national advisory bodythe Council for Inter-governmental Relationsto act as an instrument of co-operation and consultation between all levels of government. In all of this the position of the less populous States will be fully protected by a guaranteed equalisation system and by their continuing right of access to the Grants Commission.
The fundamental principle on which this Government’s federalism policy is based is that the government which spends the money should have some responsibility for raising the necessary taxation. This is a system of responsible government; it is not a system of dependent government. Throughout the post-war period Premiers of all political persuasions have been adamant that the uniform taxation system would ultimately, in conjunction with the growing use of section 96 grants, destroy the independence of the States. Previous attempts to reform the uniform taxation system did nothing to alter that view. The States have consistently urged that their recurrent revenue should be allowed to grow at the same rate as that of the Commonwealth Government. Such a proposal was put forward by all Premiers in 1970 and was reechoed by various Premiers in later years, including the South Australian Premier in 1974. An arrangement having a similar effect was proposed by all of the Premiers in 1 975 to our predecessors in government.
The proposal by this Government to undertake Stage 1 of revenue sharing, thus giving the States a specified percentage of personal income tax, was wholly in line with these former arguments and requests of the various States. The Opposition’s attempts to brand the Stage 2 arrangements as double taxation completely overlook the fact that new revenue raising arrangements of this kind were, as I said earlier, sought by all the States for many years. Beyond thatand let there be no mistake about it- the attack by the Opposition on this program is motivated largely by the fact that it is a fundamental departureand a very significant one- from the centralist philosophies which the Labor Party pursued in so extreme a fashion when it was in government.
The assertions by the Leader of the Opposition about ‘double taxation’ could be debated at length, but let me briefly make 4 points. First, there will at all times remain one collection and administrative agency. There will be no additional forms to complete. There will be one set of assessment provisions remaining completely uniform as between the States and one basic rate scale. Second, no State will in any sense be obliged to levy a surcharge. I repeat this: No State will be obliged to levy a surcharge. The decision will be one for each State to make, having regard to all relevant considerations including the views of the general public. Third, the States have agreed that in exercising these powers they would accept responsibility to work in harmony with and not in negation of the overall economic management policies of the Commonwealth. Fourth, some Premiers have urged the Commonwealth to reduce income tax. But as the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) made clear in question time today, the Stage 2 arrangements will allow those Premiers to put such a suggestion into practice- to put their money where their mouths are.
It needs to be understood that as the economy grows the States’ share of personal income tax under Stage 1 will, of course, also expand- as in the case, for example, with State payroll tax and stamp duty. If any State should decide that the growth in its revenues does not match or, indeed, is in excess of what it requires to pay for the services it believes that State ought to provide it will be free under Stage 2 to raise or lower its revenues from personal income tax collections by introducing a surcharge or granting a rebate in the State. The States are, of course, in general free to legislate to vary the level of their own taxes. Stage 2 of the tax sharing arrangements will simply extend this area of decision and responsibility to the States so far as their share of personal income tax is concerned. The purpose of Stage 2, therefore, is to give the States greater flexibility to determine the pattern of revenue raising while at the same time encouraging each level of government, when making expenditure decisions, to be more responsive towards the effects on those who ultimately foot the bill- the Australian taxpayers.
At the recent Premiers Conference there was further progress in the discussion of the arrangements for the establishment of Stage 2 of tax sharing. The Conference was in broad agreement with the recommendations of the working party established last year as to the objectives to be pursued in developing detailed arrangements for Stage 2 and for the benefit of the House, I reiterate them here. First, there should be complete uniformity as between the States in all respects other than rates of any surcharges or rebates. Second, the arrangements should be free of any significant constitutional or other legal doubt. Third, the scheme should be as simple and inexpensive to administer as practicable consistent with legal requirements and the other broad objectives being pursued. Fourth, the arrangements should impose the least inconvenience practicable on taxpayers and employers. Fifth, the arrangements should be such as to avoid creating avenues for tax avoidance or tax evasion.
Insofar as possible legislative and administrative arrangements are concerned, the Commonwealth has stressed that no State will be forced to enter into Stage 2 arrangements but, for the benefit of those States that wish to do so and to avoid technical problems, we suggested that all governments co-operate to prepare complementary or ‘interlocking’ legislation. The Commonwealth, for its part, has emphasised its willingness to introduce enabling legislation as soon as possible, thereby providing each State with the option of proceeding to raise or lower income tax. The States could within an enabling framework of legislation make their own decisions, in their own time in accordance with their own priorities, whether or not to utilise the Stage 2 tax sharing arrangements. The arrangements would enable the States to vary their Stage 2 revenues from personal income tax at their own discretion. I mention in this connection that Commonwealth officers and officers of the Victorian and Western Australian Governments, are to have discussions regarding the Commonwealth legislation to be drafted. It is therefore a matter of complete inaccuracy on the part of the Leader of the Opposition to assert that all States have rejected the application potentially of Stage 2 in their various State jurisdictions.
– One out of six.
– I want to emphasise for the information of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that very significant progress has been made by the present Government in the implementation of its federalism reforms.
The Leader of the Opposition for political purposes has chosen in this debate to adopt a wholly negative and destructive approach. The States have not been starved of funds. They have been well treated during our early period in government. In spite of what the Leader of the Opposition has had to say today in this debate State governments have received a very adequate share of Commonwealth finances under the present Liberal-National Country Party administration. I remind the House that the States, together with their local authorities, now constitute some 52 per cent of total public sector outlays after adjustment for transfers between government sectors. Expenditure by the States as a whole is estimated to increase by some 15.9 per cent during the current financial year, compared with an estimated 1 1.3 per cent increase in Commonwealth government outlays. One reflection of the relatively fast growth in State spending is the growth in numbers employed by the States and local authorities. For example, the numbers of State and local government employees increased by 3.3 per cent in the year to November 1976 compared with a decline of 3 per cent in the Commonwealth sector over the same period. As a further illustration, this year all States have either budgeted for a balanced budget or a very small deficit in contrast to the Commonwealth’s estimated deficit of some $2.6 billion.
– They cannot print money any more.
– The honourable gentleman would know all about printing money because the Government of which he was a member printed a tremendous volume of money during its period in office. For that it stands indicted in this House. This is in spite of the fact -
-It is $4.8 billion for the first 6 months.
– The honourable gentleman is not the best at mathematics but in the final analysis of the financial year he will see that the estimated budget deficit of $2.6 billion will be then very much on line. With regard to the point I was making, the States have budgeted for a balanced budget or a very small deficit in spite of the fact that in their latest budgets all the States have offered tax concessions. The assertion by the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) that the States have in some way been squeezed financially by this Government is patently misleading. The Government rejects the propositions put to the House by the Leader of the Opposition. They represent nothing more than a mixture of old-fashioned, discredited centralism and red herrings dragged in for crude political purposes. The new federalism reforms will, for the first time, enable the States to have flexibility and sovereignty in individual decision making. Whatever else the Opposition might say in this House, the new federalism reforms marie the regeneration of true federalism in Australia.
-The important aspect of this question is the phrase ‘new federalism ‘. If ever there was a phoney government it is this Fraser Government. First of all, it accuses the Labor Government of being a centralist government yet it warned the 6 Premiers only last week that if they did not co-operate with the Federal Government, the Federal Government would act on its own. Only one out of the 6 Premiers in fact agreed with the proposal although they said they would not use the tax system. So much for centralism. The Treasurer (Mr Lynch) also said that we in the former Labor Government knew something about printing money in order to finance a budget deficit. Clearly, if he understood the situation, the level of the deficit at present for the first 7 months of this year is running at a record $4.8 billion. That is not my estimate; that is in the quarterly review of the Bank of New South Wales. The rate is 19 per cent higher than it was last year. Even with this so called wage-price freeze, the situation is that if the Government freezes interest rates, it will have to give some indication of how it will finance that deficit. The February loan failed because it was not attractive, the same situation will occur with regard to the May loan. No government in history has ever changed resources as fast as this Government has done in its first year in office.
It has taken from the wage packet and it has diverted, not only from the wage packet but also from public services, to the private sector and that private sector is big business. This Government stands condemned not only for its centralist policy of squeezing the small States and the State governments but also for squeezing the people of Australia. The main casualty at last week’s Premiers Conference was the adoption of a fair and sensible federalism policy by the Australian Government. The people of Australia will be the ones who will pay for that situation. The point of this Conference was to discuss the progress of the so-called new federalism. According to the Government’s time scale, phase one was ending and it was moving into phase two. In effect phase two, which will apply for the first time in Australia for 35 years, is a double taxation system. The Government has used other terms, such as surcharge, to describe this tax but in blunt English it is a double tax system. It does not matter how much the Treasurer wriggles, that is what it is. It is a double tax on the people of
Australia. There will be a Federal income tax and there will be a State income tax.
The Premiers Conference was supposed to reach agreement on the new State income taxes and to look at relativity problems of existing payments to the States. In fact, the meeting reached a complete stalemate on the tax issue and little progress was made on other items. The whole thrust of the meeting was directed to the futile bid to lay down a wage and price freeze. I do not want to go into the wage and price freeze at this time but it is important to note how it overwhelmed the vital issues of federalism which the Conference was supposed to resolve. That is the situation. It will be much later in the Budget cycle before discussions on these issues are resumed. This puts the Federal Government into a much stronger position. It will be much more difficult for the States to press their arguments in a new Budget context. There can be no doubt that it will be a much tougher Budget with very substantial cuts in specific purpose payments to the States and also in the funds for public works programs. This will make it much tougher for the States when they start framing their own budgets. Federal pressure is tightening on them all the time to raise their own income tax. That is the real pressure of this centralist government. All the Premiers have denied any intention to raise State taxes.
At last week’s Conference 5 of the Premiers said that they would not impose State taxes and they would not introduce legislation for the socalled surcharge. The Premier of Western Australia said that he would accept the legislation but would not use it. This seems a peculiar position to adopt and one which must be treated with suspicion. Now the Fraser Government is convinced that it has the legal power to introduce legislation without State agreement. Just imagine if former Prime Minister Whitlam and his Ministers in the Labor Government had said to the States: ‘We want to introduce such legislation’. The States would say: ‘That monster, socialist centralist government in Canberra is full of villains’. They do not mention this Government or the arrogance of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Treasurer, the tail that follows behind the great man. We are now told that a Bill will be introduced before the Parliament rises in June. What about the co-operation that is needed between the States? The Government is laying down the law without that cooperative spirit. Once this happens the States will lose any independence they might have in regard to a separate income tax. I do not dispute the sincerity of the State Premiers in saying now that they will not raise extra taxes but in the months ahead they will be squeezed to an intolerable degree. The crunch will come either with cutbacks on public goods and services, which will mean a lower living standard for the average people, or with a search for new revenue sources. Again, the people will really suffer.
In the few minutes remaining to me I want to mention that one of the great public services that the former Labor Government tried to carry out will suffer greatly under this scheme. I refer to the national sewerage backlog. The Labor Government made a commitment that we would work in co-operation with the States and local government authorities and semi-government authorities to reduce the sewerage backlog which existed in this country. In fact, one in six families in Sydney and Melbourne had unsewered homes. Fifty per cent of the people living in Perth were in the same position. The debt burden was such that in Perth 50c was being paid out of every dollar they collected in rates. In Sydney 52c was being paid in the dollar. In Newcastle it was 52c in the dollar but in Melbourne, the city where Premier Hamer is supposed to govern, it was 58c out of every dollar which was collected.
What would have been the cost of overcoming this sewerage backlog? The magnitude of the cost of this scheme is such that at June 1974 prices it would have cost $3.8 billion. The commitment of the national Government would have been $ 1.5 billion. In fact in the 3 years of Labor Government $260m was spent. In 1976-77 the expenditure on this program was dropped to $50m. This was cut back sharply from the forward estimate of expenditure of $ 135m. In total the Commonwealth had given $3 10m out of the estimated commitments of $1.5 billion. The question is how the overcoming of the sewerage backlog is to be financed. We decided that 30 per cent of the money would be provided by grant and the other 70 per cent would be loaned at the long term bond rate. Under this new scheme by which the States will have to meet the whole financial commitment the cost of that money will be much higher. Therefore the burden will be again thrown back on the ordinary people, the ratepayers, the people who own homes. That is the situation that will occur. Not only will the Government create double taxation under this so called new federalism scheme but it will also force local government and semi-government authorities and the State authorities to put up council rates and State government charges. The burden will be thrown onto the ordinary people. Only a national government has the financial resources to carry out such works. A national government needs to get involved in all walks of life and to co-operate with the States and local government.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The time of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has expired.
-The so-called matter of public importance which the Opposition has brought forward today is fatuous. It is almost as fatuous as the contributions made to date by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Uren). I only hope my friend the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) can do better. He certainly cannot do worse. The debate vividly illustrates several issues of which this House and the Australian people should be fully aware. The first is that the present Opposition is perhaps the worst Opposition this Parliament has had the misfortune to be inflicted with since Federation. Its performance in this House is pathetic. Its members are few but the paucity of its quality is unbelievable. The Opposition seems pathologically unable or unwilling to raise and to discuss objectively the real issues facing this nation. Why does it not bring to attention the industrial sabotage being wreaked on Australia through the extreme left wing of the trade union movement? It is because to a large extent it is beholden to that left wing.
Why does the Opposition seek to obstruct at every turn the Government’s efforts to bring about a wage- price pause rather than to work in a spirit of co-operation to bring it about? It is because it has a vested interest in the pause not succeeding, because it disregards the national interest in order to pursue its own petty interests and intrigues. Why does the Opposition not raise and discuss the need for responsible economic management and the best ways of achieving it? It is because it is made up of tired old men who presided over the destruction of responsibility in government economic management in 1973, 1974 and 1975, and because it is led by a man who is desperately trying to hold on to the leadership when he knows he has lost all credibility in this Parliament, in his own Party, and throughout the community.
Equally important, the subject of this debate illustrates the vast, fundamental, philosophical difference which exists between the Australian Labor Party and the Liberal-National Country parties coalition. Far too many Australians have been hoodwinked into thinking that the differences between the 2 sides are mainly matters of degree. They are not. They are fundamental. The Labor Party is a party of big government. It is a party which believes that government knows better than the individual what is in the best interests of the individual. It is a party which says it believes in freedom of the individual. But the freedom the Labor Party is referring to is freedom of the individual to be governed by big government, the freedom of the individual to have government take decisions for him, the freedom of the individual to have his initiative and his enterprise sapped and usurped by the State. Worse though, as is evidenced by history and reinforced by the contributions by the Opposition in today’s debate, the Labor Party is a centralist party. It not only believes that government knows what is best for the individual, it also believes that government centralised in Canberra knows better than State and local government what is best for the members of our community. That is the real nub of today’s debate. That is why the Opposition is critical of the Fraser Government’s proposals for State income taxes. The gobbledegook we have had from Opposition speakers today all stems from one basic fear- that the second and third tiers of government will get back some of the powers and responsibilities for decision making that have been eroded over 70 years of gradual, incipient centralism in Australia, a centralism which has shown its greatest acceleration during those periods when Labor has been in government in Canberra.
For 70 years now, but particularly over the last generation, State governments of all political persuasions have complained bitterly, and in my view with considerable justification, about the erosion of their areas of responsibility. They have argued that the uniform taxation system was bad and that in conjunction with the growing use of grants under section 96 of the Constitution the truly sovereign nature of State parliaments would be destroyed. The Fraser Government, whilst believing rightly that to hand back totally to the States the power to raise income taxes would not be consistent with the Federal Government’s clear responsibility for national economic policy, has a great deal of sympathy with the States’ point of view on this fundamental issue. It is for this reason that in September 1975 whilst in Opposition the Liberal and National Country parties announced their federalism policy. That policy reads in part:
The Liberal and National Country parties view as the main objective of government the creation of a society and an environment in which individuals may best fulfil themselves.
If this is to be achieved, individuals must be free to participate fully in government and the forms of government must be decentralised to permit maximum response and involvement. Government must be brought as close as possible to the people.
Accordingly, the Liberal and National Country parties wholly support the concept of federalism in which there are three areas of government- Federal, State and local- and in which the powers and functions are distributed to achieve continuous response and to provide an effective barrier against centralist authoritarian control.
Federalism … is not merely a structural concept. Its principal justification is a philosophical one. It aims to prevent dangerous concentration of power in a few hands. In so doing, it provides a guarantee of political and individual freedom.
The statement goes on to say:
If effective government, geared to the needs of the 1980s and beyond, is to be achieved … if the great issues of national and local concern such as education, health, social welfare, housing and urban development are to receive maximum intelligent attention … if all our resources including human talents and local knowledge are to be effectively harnessed … if innovation, diversity and imaginative reforms are to be encouraged . . . then we must restructure our forms and institutions of government and our attitudes of mind to achieve co-operation not conflict, partnership and not domination.
For true national concern to be achieved and maximised, it must be done through a partnership effort by all forms of government. Canberra should not meddle with power- hungry hands at levels where local knowledge and talents can perform so much better.
The policy statement also said that the adoption of the policy would involve changed revenue sharing arrangements and that in this respect a 2-stage transition period would be provided. In relation to the second of those stages the policy document said:
In order to increase the budgetary independence, responsibility and flexibility of the States, it is proposed that as soon as possible each State Government will have discretion to impose a surcharge or allow a rebate on the total personal income tax of that State.
It is this stage 2 which the Opposition superficially appears to be attacking. But as I said earlier, what the Opposition is really attacking is the whole concept of federalism, a concept which was a major plank in the 1975 election campaign when the Liberal and National Country parties won an overwhelming verdict of support from the Australian people. All State governments know full well that since the Fraser Government came to office they have received a better deal from the Federal Government than they ever received before. In 1976-77 alone the States have received $90 m more in direct, untied grants than they would have received under arrangements negotiated at the time the Whitlam Government was in office. What is more, local government this year has received an increase of 75 per cent in its untied grants from the Federal Government. Not only that, but both State and local governments are now assured that in future years they will receive increases in general purpose funds from the Federal Government directly in line with the growth in the Federal Government’s receipts of personal income tax. That is an assurance that State and local governments have never had before.
The proposal to permit State governments to impose a surcharge or to allow a rebate on the total personal income tax of each State- on top of the amount of general revenue grants they will receive under the stage 1 agreement- is in total money terms a small supplement within the overall federalism policy. This is a major matter of principle because, as the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) said earlier in this debate, what it does is to give to each State the option to make its own choice as to whether it wants to spend more or less money in accordance with its own ordering of priorities. There is no compulsion or coercion in the proposal which would force State governments to impose such surcharges or to allow such rebates. Each State can make its own arrangements in this matter, in accordance with its own priorities and in its own time.
This debate should never have been brought forward but I am glad that it has been. I am only sorry that it is not being broadcast because once again what has been shown is that the Opposition is dedicated to increasing the power of the central government at the expense of the States and local government and of the freedom of the individual. As that famous United States champion of individual freedom, Woodrow Wilson, once said:
The history of liberty is a history of the limitations of governmental power, not the increase of it. When we resist concentration of power, we are resisting the powers of death, because concentration of power is what always precedes the destruction of human liberties.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-The speech of the honourable member for Ballaarat (Mr Short), even if being neither relevant nor ‘revelant’, at least has the virtue of being diverting. We are still waiting to discover whether his presence in this House strengthens it as much as his absence from the Treasury has strengthened that institution. The so-called new federalism is a political and financial trap for the States. It is a device to allow the Australian Government to gain popularity at the expense of the States and it bristles with difficulties.
Let us start by pointing out that the Budget payments to the States in total for 1976-77 were $8,388m. Now that is important because the
Government, when it talks about its new federalism, is constantly referring to only pan of that total payment. It is referring only to general purpose payments. It leaves out nearly half of the total, which is covered by specific purpose payments. So we have the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) saying frequently in public that his Government has been more generous this financial year than would have been the case if the formula which we had adopted in 1975 had applied.
There are 2 things to be said about this: First of all, although true, the more generous nature of the payment is only a marginal improvement. It needs to be pointed out that each year we were in government, if the strict formula had been applied for general purpose payments, the amount provided under that rubric would have been lower than the actual amount which we allocated to the States. But the second and more important point that deserves to be made, and with considerable stress, is that the Prime Minister is talking about only part of the payment. He is leaving out that substantial additional amount which goes to the States as specific purpose payments. But even allowing for that, if we look at the total payments to the States in the 1976-77 Budget we see that in real terms payments went down. Total payments increased in money terms by $693m or 9 per cent. But there has been no abatement of inflation in the course of this year and indeed the evidence clearly is that inflation for this financial year will be higher than that which applied last financial year. Yet last financial year we allocated in the 1975 Budget an increased amount of $ 1,869m or a 32 per cent increase over that of the previous year. Inflation is going to be far worse this year than last year, yet this year the Government has increased the allocation in money terms by only one-third of the rate of increase which applied during our period of office. Total specific purpose payments in the Budget- making some rough allocations on the basis of experience in earlier years- are of the order of $4,200m.
Mr Wran, the Premier of New South Wales, predicts that the so-called new federalism could cost up to $8 a week more each for the taxpayers of New South Wales. He predicts that there could be a cut of up to 50 per cent in the specific purpose payments. So he is talking of a cut of up to $2,000m in the allocation to the States. That is a very large amount of money. Frankly, I would be surprised if such a cut would be applied dramatically in one Budget, but it is my clear belief that the whole philosophy, the whole strategy behind the so-called new federalism is aimed at reducing Australian government expenditure, government outlays by cutting back on allocations to the States and forcing the States to raise more money themselves. I must confess to just a little more than a minuscule of sympathy for the view that in some ways it might not do any harm at times for the States to be responsible for some of their own revenue raising. The State Premiers, regardless of their political colour, can be difficult people to deal with. But this matter goes far beyond being able to tap on that sort of sympathy because it is quite clear that this arrangement, as I said earlier, is a financial and political plot and will be a disadvantage to the smaller States of the Commonwealth. I want to come to that point in a few seconds.
First of all, let us look at how the Government can court popularity at the expense of the States with this arrangement. If we take as an example a 10 per cent cut in the total payments to the States, we are talking of something like $850m. I take these figures only for the purposes of illustration. There are so many permutations that one ought not to take these figures as any sort of rigid guideline. They are, I repeat, only for the purpose of illustration. The Government, from that amount it has cut at the expense of the States, could engage in $500m more new expenditure at the Federal level- its own responsibility- and cut taxes by some $3 50m. It would accordingly appear as though the Government had been particularly generous to the community and it could sell this as a proposal to reduce taxes by something like 6 per cent on average or $2.30 or $2.50 a week for the average income earner. But the States will have to raise that $850m and they will have to raise that $500m of new expenditure which the Australian Government has undertaken as additional taxes over the existing total tax burden.
Let us look at what this means to New South Wales. A 10 per cent cut overall in payments to the States, which is a 20 per cent cut in specific purpose payments- that is the matter which concerns Mr Wran most of all- would represent something like an additional $3 a week tax to be borne by the people of that State. To the extent that any cut is offset by commitments on the part of the Commonwealth, then that will impose an additional tax burden on top of the existing tax burden which the people of that State will have to bear. In the case of Victoria, it is something of the order of $2.70 a week additional tax, in the event that any cut at the expense of the States is fully committed by new commitments on the part of the Australian Government. So under the new arrangements, Canberra can cut taxes, it can reduce expenditure and it can increase government expenditure. It can do a combination of these sorts of things and the States are going to be the ones who really will have to pay.
The importance of this is that the Government is in a tight corner. It has a Budget which, according to inspired leaks in the financial papers that it is preparing for 1977-78, has a proposed deficit of $ 1,500m. I leave to one side the economic wisdom of such a severe contraction in government outlays. Within that Budget it has new outlays of about $ 1 ,000m in terms of either new expenditure items or revenue collections forgone because of commitments in the last Budget. So it will be a particularly tight Budget. The Government will be manoeuvring about, looking for the opportunity to garner more revenue for itself. This Government would not be averse to transferring to the States the responsibility for much of the revenue raising in the community, much of the sacrifice which is required to try to finance the rather blinkered view it has on economic management in the Budget area.
Let us look quickly at the effects that are going to flow from all of this. Even allowing for the sort of equalisation arrangements which the Government talks about- some sort of guarantee that the per capita revenue will be the same in total for the States for any rate of levy that they apply as would be raised from the major States of New South Wales and Victoria- it is, while on the face of it some relief for those States, nonetheless a situation which will create disadvantage for the other States. It will mean, on the sort of calculations I have carried out, that the other States will be disadvantaged in terms of the amount of money that is made available to them to meet total liabilities that would have been met, say, under the present Budget as against the present system.
Let us look at what this sort of thing means. Let us assume that Mr Wran is right and that there is going to be a 50 per cent cut in specific purpose payments. Let us assume that the sort of tax he is talking about, necessary to meet New South Wales liabilities at an average money rate, is spread evenly across the States in money terms. That would still leave a substantial amount of money to be raised by the States of Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania if they are to fund all of the commitments that would be funded under the present financial arrangements. Allowing for equalisation, they would still have to raise collectively some additional $100m and probably more. In short the sums show that, above the sort of expensive tax that Mr Wran would have to impose in his State if this proposition were forced upon him and Mr Hamer in the case of Victoria would have to impose in his State if it were forced upon them, the smaller States still would have to apply a further tax rate that was something like 15 per cent higher than that which applied in those large States. So it is quite clear that the so-called new federalism is a redistribution away from the smaller States. It is a system that is aimed at financially disadvantaging them. It is my clear conclusion that this has come about not so much as a conspiracy on the part of the Government but because it has not thought through the propositions and the implications of what it is putting to the public.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-In rising to speak on this matter of public importance I say it would be appreciated in this House that no new proposal or policy that is brought forward and that is particularly as sensitive as this one on tax sharing arrangements could be introduced without quite a lot of debate and without a certain amount of opposition because the eventual proposal, program and policy will depend upon this type of discussion. We can expect the Labor Opposition to speak against the proposal because we know that in the 3 years in which it was in government it was dedicated to the principle of centralism and we know that any move by the Government to change that flow back to the States would be something that the Labor Opposition would bitterly oppose. It has been already indicated by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Uren) that the type of centralist government that the Opposition introduced is the one to which it would again be dedicated if ever it were returned to the Treasury bench.
We would also expect opposition and critical debate from the State governments themselves because the principle of the legislation that is being brought forward gradually over a period- it was introduced last year- is something of which they would be a little suspicious because it intends to give those State governments responsibility for the recurring expenditure that this money is supposed to meet. Of course, there will be criticism of the shortcomings from both of those lobbies- from the Opposition and those governments- in this connection. But when we look at the intent of this legislation- certainly the technicalities of it in terms of what is going to be given to the States- we find that what is going to be given to the States is also being given in conjunction with a certain restraining influence on not only the Federal Government’s finances but also the finances of the State governments. One would be led to believe from listening to some of the Opposition speakers that if a Labor government were returned to power it would do so without having learned the lesson that the expenditure of unlimited amounts causes more problems than it rectifies. One can see the result of its 3 years in office in the record inflation rate and the record unemployment rate. The fact of the matter is that the previous Labor Government was spending money as a centralist government to provide services at the expense of certain taxpayers in the community.
The proposed tax sharing arrangements intend to give responsibility to the States for expenditure in certain areas. They will be given as a right- not as a result of a wrangle every 12 months over funds for their individual States- a certain percentage of the personal income tax collections. That percentage, which will be provided on a population basis, will be fairly easy for the States to determine and they will be able to bring it forward into their Budgets at the relevant time of the year. The subject of the payment of income tax, whether it be imposed by a State government or the Federal Government, is one of rather academic debate unless one thinks in terms of whether the individual concerned classes himself as an Australian or a resident of a State when paying that tax. Their situation depends upon the results that such persons seek from the payment of that tax at a Federal or State level.
This Government has already indexed personal taxation, which was not done previously. That has meant a cut in the rate of tax that people would have been paying because of inflationary pressures if that cut had not been applied. The Government has given private company relief in certain areas. The trading stock proposals that are now coming forward under the recommendation of the Mathews report will provide a substantial reduction in taxation. But the eventual test of what a person does pay is what he can see resulting from the payment of that tax. If, under this legislation, the State governments feel that they are unable to cope with the amount available to them under the percentage of personal income tax they have then to accept the burden and the responsibility, if they impose a surtax, of being able to show results from the collection of that additional amount of money. It is so much easier for a taxpayer to observe what is going on at a State level than at a Federal level.
Let us look at the taxation situation and consider what we have done as a government and what happened under the Labor Government. Certainly there were backlogs in the sewerage programs and in other fields that affected the urban areas, but the expenditure in those areas was at great expense to the rural people. Subsidies that had been in existence for many years and that had kept people on the land were removed. I mention the superphosphate bounty and the fuel equalisation scheme. Those subsidies were removed in order to provide for expenditure on the sewerage backlog program and then the expenditure in that area was on only a discriminatory basis, being on townships and cities with populations over 20 000. Many of the smaller towns and cities with populations under 20 000 could well have been included in those programs. Of course, the sewerage backlog grant was not the great grant that people were led to believe. Certainly a portion of it was, but 70 per cent of it was not. Let us look at the position of the miners. During the 3 years of Labor Government they were taxed as far as coal levies were concerned but were not given any incentive to go ahead with development and expansion. Every person throughout this nation paid additional tax, if only in the form of the inflationary pressures that existed at that time.
The States could be affected if we do not give them responsibility to incur expenditure in accordance with the priorities they allocate. If one looks at the industries of any State, whether they be rural, mining, primary, secondary or whatever, one will see that they have a very close affinity with the State governments for the provision of the services that they want and in relation to the climate in which they operate. We have already proven that in the mining field. By setting our guidelines and then removing ourselves from the mining situation we have already seen an improvement. This year there has been a growth of 40 per cent in the income from the mining industry. Developments throughout the Commonwealth worth over $1 billion already have the go ahead. Certainly giving this responsibility back to the States has been a great asset in this regard.
The States will have to be prepared to argue about the percentage of personal tax that would go to them, but the principles of the scheme are most important because how the scheme works will depend on the income of the States and how they can get their own industries moving. How they adequately serve those industries is also a matter of coming to grips with this problem.
There are still options available to the less populous States in the form of topping up grants and thing like that, but it is important to realise that if they take on the burden of a surcharge it is for them to determine their priorities and the standard of services they intend to give.
If the States are particularly concerned about the adequacy of funds available to them in any one year it is expected that they might do more themselves to keep their labour costs down and generally resist further increases in money wages. This would assist in the fight against inflation and would make their funds stretch further in real terms. This is important. The further you get from the people the less in value you return to them. Greater supervision on a State basis could affect this. The Commonwealth in its own area has effected a reduction of some 12 000 people in the Public Service during its period of office compared with the States, which have not accepted that responsibility or that challenge but have increased substantially their public service. I do not deny the need for increased government services that has arisen over the last 30 years. Possibly within the last decade these services have increased more than ever. But we must recognise also the need for responsible management in the provision of these services. If the States can provide this responsible management better than the Federal Government can, we should allow them to do it but let them set their own priorities. Possibly in no other program introduced by this Government has there been such a close monitoring of the progressive federalism policy as there has been with the back bench committee. It has been responsible for consulting with the States, offering constructive advice and seeing what can be done.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. The discussion is now concluded.
– J move:
That, in accordance with the provisions or the Public Works Committee Act 1969, the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report: Development of the military area at Randwick, N.S.W.
The proposed works comprise construction of living and working accommodation for the Army, joint Services recreational facilities and all associated engineering services. The living accommodation will provide permanent facilities for Army personnel located at Randwick and will also meet the needs of other units in the south Sydney metropolitan area. It comprises officers and senior non-commissioned officers messes and sleeping accommodation, providing messing for 59 officers and 105 SNCOs and sleeping accommodation for 48 officers and 76 SNCOs, rank and file messes and sleeping accommodation consisting of 4 three-storied buildings, housing 72 servicemen and 24 servicewomen. The buildings will be grouped together and adjacent to new dining-recreation facilities for 325.
The working accommodation will replace substandard, uneconomic facilities at Randwick, Moore Park, South Head and Ingleburn and will provide facilities not currently available in the south Sydney metropolitan area. It will comprise area and unit administration building, stores building, military police building and transport buildings and compound. The joint services recreational facilities will provide for physical training and a variety of recreational needs for the military personnel. A complex comprising squash courts, gymnasium, change rooms and offices for instructional personnel is proposed. Outdoor facilities include a variety of playing fields and courts. The estimated cost of the works at February 1977 prices is $ 13m. I table plans of the proposed works.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, as you would be aware, this would be the first notification the House has had of this proposed work. Listening with interest to the Minister for Construction (Mr McLeay), I found that the proposed work is to be carried out within my electorate. I am well aware of the circumstances and history of the area concerned. It is defined in the motion as the military area at Randwick. It is a very substantial area which embraces both naval and military installations. For some years the Army has occupied a segment of it, and that occupation has caused a great deal of trouble to my constituents because the development that has taken place has been incompatible with development in the surrounding districts and has caused a great deal of nuisance and annoyance to people who own homes there. Large structures have been erected immediately opposite their homes. From those structures have emenated a great nuisance and annoyance by way of noise, heavy vehicles passing in front of their homes and, most importantly, a large number of private vehicles being parked in front of their homes all day. You can imagine the difficulty, Mr Deputy Speaker, of people who thought they would enjoy life in their own home in a quiet street. They feel that they are being denied their rights of quiet enjoyment and access to their homes. An invalid lady in the area needs constant transport. On many occasions the transport cannot get access to her home because of parked cars belonging to personnel employed in the military establishment.
The Minister says that further work of some magnitude will be done. I heard him say that the cost would be approximately $ 13m. At this stage I make no comment as to the desirability of the development except to make the point that I know that the local council- the Randwick Council- has not been consulted. I would have thought that this would have been important. In fact I understand that it was virtually a requirement of a former Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, that developmental works carried out by the Commonwealth be compatible with local town planning schemes and be in accordance with the views and expressions of councils. From what I understand, this development would be contrary to some of the principles of planning which the Randwick Council is trying to enforce on all the other residents. For example, on one of the perimeters of the military area there will apparently be three or four storey buildings which will interfere with the privacy of residential accommodation nearby.
Originally it was proposed that the area might revert to recreation space and playing fields for the public, but 1 understand now that it will be used for some recreation purposes for the Army and for some residential accommodation. The area is large enough to provide for all these facilities on a proper planned basis, but it is only encouraging trouble when this development is mooted and when the local council will have to say that it has not been consulted about the matter. The Army authorities will receive protests on the basis that normally these developments should be the subject of consultation with appropriate planning officers. The residents concerned would be anxious to see that all normal procedures were followed.
As I have mentioned, the existing development is causing a lot of nuisance and annoyance. It is not good development. It has taken place over the years. It has never been planned. People who felt that they would be looking at normal residential development opposite their homes are looking at all designs of large establishments which are used for all sorts of purposes other than residential purposes. I think it is possible in this area to plan proper residential development on the perimeters and provide recreation space and all the other amenities that good planning would provide. I was told that one of the original proposals was to put a 7-storey building adjacent to residential development. That would have caused objections. That was abandoned because I understand that on inquiry as to its view, the local council said it would not favour it. Now I am told that the council does not even know what is going to take place there and is anxious to know about the type of development which the Minister foreshadowed here this afternoon.
Before this matter goes to the Public Works Committee, may I ask that the appropriate officers of the military consult with the planning officers of the local council and take into consideration their views and the plan recently gazetted by the State Government for the whole of the area, as well as the needs and objections of the residents. I should think there would then need to be alterations to the proposals which apparently are envisaged. If that course is followed, the development could still take place and could still come within the same cost structure but would be on a proper basis. The people would have been consulted and the council would have exercised its legal rights. If that is not done we could run into a situation where the Commonwealth deems itself to be a law unto itself and not bound by any of the local planning authorities.
-in reply-In quick response to the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen), I should say that I appreciate his remarks and that I do not know whether the local council has been consulted. I would be surprised if it has not been consulted because it is the practice of my Department and of the Department of Defence to keep on side with local authorities. Quite apart from that, I should emphasise that this is residential development of a good quality. I regret that there was no time to distribute the publications attached to this minute before I brought them in today because the honourable gentleman would have been able to see the quality of the development. This is a referral to the Public Works Committee, and the principal function of that Committee is to receive evidence. I am sure that residents of the area and other interested parties will be invited to give evidence and ask questions of the Committee when it meets.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Approval of work: Public Works Committee Act Mr McLEAY (Boothby-Minister for Construction) (4.47)- I move:
The proposal is for the construction of a 2 -storey court building designed to accommodate the requirements of 4 courts and associated public areas, jury rooms, judges’ and magistrates’ accommodation, court reporting facilities, registry areas, and a secure area for persons in custody. Separate access and circulation within the building will be provided forjudges and magistrates, the public, and persons in custody. The estimated cost of the proposed work is $3.Im at February 1 977 prices. The Committee in recommending the construction of these works concluded that the existing law courts facilities in Alice Springs were inadequate and outdated; that there is a need for a new law courts building; that the site selected is suitable; that the proposed work will benefit judicial proceedings in Alice Springs; and that the departments concerned should consult and determine without delay the responsibility for the control and maintenance of the old cell block after its restoration. The latter recommendation has been the subject of interdepartmental discussions, and the Department of Administrative Services has accepted responsibility for the utilisation, management and maintenance of the old cell block after restoration. Upon the concurrence of the House in this motion, detailed planning can proceed in accordance with the recommendations of the Committee.
-The Opposition supports the proposal before the House, and I believe that the Public Works Committee is to be congratulated upon the very thorough investigation and inquiry it has undertaken. I have just taken an opportunity to go through the transcript of evidence and to see the plans of the proposal, as I had a very early interest in this matter. The project is part of an overall Commonwealth centre objective which was contrived by the Labor Government and put under study in 1972, and naturally the Opposition is delighted to see segments of that project coming to fruition. I was very interested to note that the new law courts building- there is a tendency to refer to this as a Supreme Court; I hope that does not mean that the Supreme Court will move in and leave inadequate space for other courts- is going to replace a building which was constructed in 1928 as a residence, that demonstrating its inadequacy, and which went into operation for legal purposes in 1934. The Committee has provided very substantial evidence of the need for this facility. The population of Alice Springs is already over 14 000 and is expected to rise to 34 000 by 1990. The Committee mentions that tourist numbers stand at 75 000 and are increasing at a rapid rate.
I have a special interest in the Committee’s commendable recommendation, in my view, regarding the preservation of the old cell block. This matter came to my attention when I was the Minister and it seemed that the old cell block could easily have gone under the demolisher’s hammer. Fortunately we have been able to prevent that occurring and there is now a proposal that the old cell block, which is one of the few historical features remaining in the Territory, is to be preserved in a courtyard setting and possibly used as an historical museum, no doubt associated with the work of the police and perhaps with the progress of justice in the Northern Territory. All that has been made possible by another Labor Government contrivance, the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act 1974. Without that Act, which was utilised to preserve this historic relic, a different result would have ensued. I notice that $100,000 is referred to in relation to the preservation and restoration of the old cell block, but that seems to be a small price to pay in a $3.1 m project if we are to have regard for our heritage. At one time, I think in 1 974, the old cell block was just about on the skids, and the matter was brought to my attention by the National Trust people. I think I was able to ensure that at least while the Labor Government was in office there would be strong ministerial directions to one of the departments involved, the Department of Housing and Construction, that every possible effort should be made to preserve the old cell block.
The Committee has mentioned one dilemma to which the Minister for Construction (Mr McLeay) or perhaps another Minister could refer at a subsequent stage. No provision has been made for the administration of the cell block. Paragraph 63 of the Committee’s report states:
The Committee is disturbed that responsibility for the control and maintenance of the old cell block after its restoration has yet to be determined.
The Northern Territory Reserves Board looks after the old telegraph station out of Alice Springs and the old police station at The Gap is also under the jurisdiction of that Board. I understand that new arrangements are being made for the administration of things of historical importance in the Territory. I hope that the Minister for the Northern Territory (Mr Adermann), who is taking an intelligent interest in the proceedings at the present time, will be able to note the importance which some members attach to this matter and advise the House, or the public at large, by way of a Press release, that the problem raised by the Committee will be taken care of effectively.
I conclude by saying that all those members of the former Labor Cabinet who thrashed out this matter on several occasions between 1972 and 1975 and who indicated their preparedness on several occasions to allocate considerable resources to this Commonwealth complex in Alice Springs are delighted to see that $3.1m is being allocated for the advancement of the wellbeing of the people in the Northern Territory.
-I also congratulate the governments which are responsible for bringing into being this Commonwealth centre. The claim has been made that the former Labor Government brought about the planning and construction of this law courts block and possibly the administration of the police cell block before it. Certainly, some of the buildings which comprise a very dignified and impressive area of Alice Springs were devised, planned and constructed during the days of previous governments both Liberal-Country Party and Labor. So I think that congratulations should be offered all round. Certainly they should be offered to the Department of Construction for the job it has done with regard to the administration block. I turn to deal with the court-house block involving an expenditure of $3.1m. Having sweated it out in the old courthouse, on the bench I might add, on numerous occasions, I am only too pleased to see the construction of this new complex. I know the opinion of the judiciary of the old courthouse in Alice Springs. It was pretty hot and sticky and odours which were not terribly hygienic emanated from the floor of the courthouse on many occasions when the temperature was well over 100 degrees fahrenheit- there was no air conditioning- with the court house full. I am very pleased to hear that the quarters for these legal gentlemen are to be included in the new building because under the old conditions they were fairly basic. Although I have never been inside the old cell block, I had something to do with representations for its preservation, having been connected with the National Trust at the time. We fought very hard to have it preserved. I am sure that the former Minister took the same view as us, namely, that it is of historical interest. It is of interest to know that the Department of Administrative Services will be looking after the interests of the reconstructed and rehabilitated old police cell block in Alice Springs. I hope the whole job goes forward with speed and that the Commonwealth centre in Alice Springs will be enhanced by the addition of this building.
– in reply- I think that the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) may have been referring to what is stated in paragraph 63 on page 10 of the report of the Joint Committee on Public Works which states:
The Committee was disturbed that responsibility for the control and maintenance of the old cell block after its restoration has yet to be determined.
I imagine that that is the paragraph to which the honourable member is referring. I think that the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) really has just dealt with that. If the honourable member looks at the Hansard record tomorrow he will see that the motion clearly states that the Department of Administrative Services has accepted responsibility for the utilisation, management and maintenance of the old cell block after restoration. I believe that that would answer the honourable gentleman’s queries.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a statement on this matter also.
-Does the Attorney-General wish to say something in this debate?
– I do not think the debate should conclude with the Attorney-General speaking.
– We are in a rather difficult position. We have allowed the Minister for Construction to close the debate in the strict sense. If the Attorney-General wants to make a statement, he can ask for leave to do so.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I ask for leave to make a short statement.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. Perhaps the Attorney-General can answer the intriguing question of how a cell block can be on the skids.
Mr Deputy Speaker, the question I wanted to ask was which bench it was that the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) was sitting on in that court. Those of us who have been in that court know that there are several benches in it, and some of them are higher than others. I want to say that it gave me great pleasure to go to Alice Springs last year at about this time and at least to come to a decision that the Government should be asked to proceed with this development. The previous Government had not seen fit to take it up, but we resolved last year to do it. Of course, the matter was sent off to the Joint Committee on Public Works. It is a matter that should not have been left unresolved. It has needed urgent attention for some time. As the Attorney-General and the one responsible for the administration of the courts, may I say that it is urgent work. The people of Alice Springs have gone far too long without proper court premises. I am sure that the old cell block which seems to have endeared itself to those in Alice Springs will be looked after by the Department of Administrative Services in the proper way.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 1 9 April, on motion by Mr Nixon:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes) expressed quite some concern about the abolition of an independent statutory body. Of course, he was referring to the Bureau of Roads. He was also concerned whether the new amalgamated Bureau of Transport Economics would have the independence which was such an attractive feature of the Bureau of Roads. I would like to quote from the second reading speech of the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon). Normally I do not like including quotations in my speeches as it may give the appearance of padding a speech. But as you, Mr Deputy Speaker, will know, honourable members do not pad their speeches these days. We are lucky if our Whip does not come over to us and say: ‘Instead of speaking for 1 5 minutes, would you mind cutting down your speech to 7 minutes?’. However, I would like to clarify the position for the honourable member for Melbourne. At this stage, it might be of concern to some of the people involved in this matter, if not all of them, to know that there is a body of people who have been appointed specifically by the local government movement itself to act in a liaison capacity between the Government and local government. I have the privilege of being the chairman of that committee. Hence, we became the focal point of a huge, continuing and momentous agitation and concern at the possibility of the elimination of the Bureau of Roads and the formation of the Bureau of Transport Economics
I would like to say that the present Minister for Transport had a particular understanding of the concern of the people throughout the nation. The concern, which was fairly unanimous, was that the Bureau of Roads was going out of existence. One can well understand that concern. One can well understand the concern of the Minister because he comes from an area in which roads are perhaps of more vital and critical importance than they are in the more densely populated areas.
The Bureau of Roads has been particularly fortunate in that it has always had serving on it men of the highest calibre. After all, there are only three of them. If I mention one or two of them and do not mention the other it is not because of any priorities which I hold. One man whom we all know and who has served the Bureau, the nation, this Government and other governments splendidly is Ron McCormick who is the Secretary of the Bureau. Mr Loxton, the Chairman, did a splendid job. Those of us who probe a little deeper into the membership of the Bureau of Transport Economics know that that Bureau has an equally high calibre of personnel serving it. I seem to be throwing with gay abandon bouquets all over the place, but I say these things with the utmost sincerity. What I say is factual. It is never difficult to discuss the subject of roads, either at the Commonwealth political level or at the bureaucratic level. I think we would concede generally that the 2 bodies have the great advantage of having men of high quality serving on them.
I have another interest which brings me close to those people, and that is my position as Chairman of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Road Safety. I think it important that I should read what the Minister said in his second reading speech in relation to this matter. He said:
It is important to realise, however, that the BTE has similar autonomy to the Bureau of Roads.
The Minister made a very specific statement there. He went on to say:
For instance, the Director has direct access to me as Minister for Transport on all matters relating to the Bureau’s work. There is a considerable misunderstanding in the minds of some people who think that the BTE is a division within the Department of Transport -
That was a major obstacle in getting a message through to the people involved in local government, and I must say that I share their concern to a tremendous degree, as the Minister well knows- and is thus subject to direct influence by the Department. It is true that the BTE receives administrative support from the
Department of Transport. This allows for considerable cost savings but does not put the Department in a position where it is able to alter the professional advice the BTE gives. The BTE has no less and no more independence in this regard than the Bureau of Roads.
That is a fairly specific and fairly clear statement. The independence of the Bureau of Transport Economics receives administrative support from the Department of Transport. The Minister went on to say:
The independence of the BTE’s advice and its Director’s free access to me as Minister are established facts. There will certainly be no erosion of these rights as a result of amalgamation. The new body will act independently in undertaking research and supplying advice as the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads and the BTE have in the past.
One would have to be either a little mentally unstable or stupidly and priggishly determined if one would not accept such a factual and clear cut statement and if one were not to realise that the Minister has entirely clarified that matter and given a very specific undertaking. As regards the Minister’s involvement, I must mention another man who has played a very specific part in this matter. I refer to Andy Walls. For those who may not know him, he is the Director of the new Secretariat of the Australian Council of Local Government Associations here in Canberra. He has maintained a very close liaison not only with the Minister but also with we people who I suppose are his storm troopers. The Minister has at all times had his office open not only to Andy Walls but also to other people. He has asked me on occasions to tell the Australian Council of Local Government Associations that if any of its State bodies or if the Council itself wish to confer with him on this matter he would at all times be prepared not only to receive them here in Canberra but also to go to the States and discuss the matter with them. So there has not been a breakdown of communication in this matter.
The 2 States that reacted in a particularly apprehensive manner to the Bureau of Roads proposal were Victoria and Queensland. The honourable member for McMillan (Mr Simon), who himself is highly qualified in local government affairs, made it quite clear last night when he addressed the House that the Victorian Municipal Association has a very grave concern about the matter. We held a conference with the gentlemen on that Association. The way they explained the situation was that many of their bitumen rural arterial roads have become gravel roads and the gravel roads have become bullock tracks. Maybe there is a slight element of exaggeration there. The message they were trying to get across was that they do have a great problem. Why is there concern that the Bureau of Roads should be abolished or, if you like, absorbed into the Bureau of Transport Economics? The great virtue of the Bureau of Roads was that it considered that its primary task in making any evaluation in any particular area was to ensure that that evaluation was based on need. In other words, if the Bureau went into a particular area it had to condition itself not to be concerned so much with government policy or with the amounts of money that were available; it had to make a truthful and explicit report based on the needs of that State or that part of the State. To my mind, that was the great virtue of the Bureau of Roads. Now we are assured that this aspect will be maintained in the new Bureau. There is a fear that because of the comprehensive responsibilities of the Bureau of Transport Economicsits overall interest in all aspects of transportation in the nation- maybe roads will become just another element in its activities. That is not the case either, because an assurance has been given in this matter. Maybe I should read just one or two parts of the statement to which I referred earlier. When speaking of the staffing of the amalgamated body, if I might put it that way, the statement reads:
It is not intended to proclaim this Act (to abolish the BOR) until staff of the BOR have been absorbed into the PublicService.
The Public Service Board’s recommendation is to the effect that staff of the BOR who were employed on 1 1 November 1976 (the date of the formal decision to amalgamate the 2 Bureaus) and who have since been continuously employed by the Bureau be made offers of employment in the Public Service.
This is important:
The Public Service Board has indicated that it is prepared to consider a formal interim proposal from the Department to create in Melbourne a sufficient number of positions identical -
This should be noted- to positions currently existing in the Bureau of Roads in the BTE to allow those staff members of the Bureau of Roads to whom division 9F would apply to be offered employment at their current substantive level in the APS.
It is not just a matter of those people retaining the same classification in the Public Service; their expertise and their attitudes are often more important, because we could well conclude that the stressing of needs in a particular area when evaluating roads would flow on to the Bureau of Transport Economics in the form of the very splendid people who staffed the Bureau of Roads. I would rather hope that the services of Mr McCormick- I do not know yet whether this is to be the case; I have not gone into this matter -will be retained and that his association will be of a similar nature with the new amalgamated body to that which he had with the Bureau of
Roads. Over the many years that I have been associated with him, not only as a federal member of Parliament but also in the sphere of local government, I have come to know very explicitly that no man is more respected, is more accessible and is more willing and ready to help all of us who are interested in the one objective of having a better roads system in each of our States than is Mr McCormick.
The honourable member for McMillan (Mr Simon) dealt last night with the situation in Victoria. I would like to talk a little about the Queensland road system and why that State is concerned about all matters relating to decision making in respect of the funding of roads. Anyone who is prejudiced against that State and who is not convinced of the State’s concern need merely pull out a map to see at a glance that Queensland is the most decentralised State in the Commonwealth. The State requires long arterial roads which have to be maintained. Because of the splendid contribution made by the Government coalition parties almost all of these arterial roads are sealed. A previous Liberal-Country Party Government made probably one of the most historical contributions to the development of this country when it introduced the system of beef roads. While I am on this subject, I might mention that there is a move afoot to have this classification of roads reintroduced. I am led to believe that this proposal may receive some sympathetic consideration. The major reason why Queensland is so concerned about this legislation is its need for a tremendously long mileage of sealed roads. For instance, the road from Townsville to Mount Isa to Darwin is approximately 650 miles long. The road from Brisbane to Longreach to Alice Springs and on to Darwin -
– They are all sealed.
– Almost entirely sealed. We should also consider the road from Adelaide to Alice Springs to Darwin. I am stressing the important point that these roads are feeder roads to Darwin. I think it would be pretty obvious that road transport is easily the most predominant form of transport for the carriage of supplies to the Northern Territory. Road transport has been obliged to use these roads particularly since Cyclone Tracy.
The second reason why Queensland and the areas beyond are concerned with this legislation to establish the Bureau of Transport Economics is that the roads of that State have suffered havoc- I think that that would probably be the most descriptive word to use- because of continuous torrential rains. In passing, I do not think
I have to tell members of this House, prejudiced though some of them from both sides might be against Queensland, of the magnificent tourist attractions of that State. One cannot help but envy Queensland. The State boasts tourist attractions such as the Great Barrier Reef and the rain forests of the far north. There is also the grandeur and the natural and naked beauty of the Gold Coast and on occasions the naked and colourful beauty of inland areas. If we take these attractions into consideration we must be impressed with the necessity for Queensland to have a road system of a standard sufficient to service these tourist attractions.
I have read to the House in great detail and informed honourable members of the manner in which the Minister for Transport has made himself accessible to the local government movement for discussion and dialogue. In answer to the honourable member for Melbourne, who had grave apprehensions about the independence and powers of the proposed organisation, I quoted from the Minister’s second reading speech. The Minister left no doubt in anyone’s mind about the independence of the proposed Bureau of Transport Economics. I want to reiterate in the Minister’s presence that this particular attribute of the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads could be maintained, continued and probably developed in the Bureau of Transport Economics. In respect of the transfer of personnel I have pointed out that a detailed and vigorous effort has been made to make sure that the expertise that was available to the Bureau of Roads will be transferred to the Bureau of Transport Economics.
I would like to mention just one other aspect. I have mentioned that great interest is again being shown in having the Government consider a classification of roads similar to beef roads. I am always amused when members of the Oppositionthose of the Labor Party who are left in this place- comment on the introduction of a national roads system. I was a Minister when the decision was made to introduce the national roads system. It is a splendid concept which will give us great arterial roads, particularly from the north and south of our continent.
Recent comments and statements by people who are looking at our whole defence structure, particularly at mainland defence and not forward defence, show very clearly and very specifically that the whole road system has to be looked at again not only in terms of availability both north and south and east and west but in terms of quality. In the case of an emergency the roads would have to carry such equipment as
Leopard tanks and other extremely heavy equipment that would be required to move with great mobility into areas far beyond what we visualise today. In this context there is talk about the need for additional airports. Suitable roads will be needed to service such installations. This is another aspect of our tremendous interest in the Bureau of Transport Economics. We hope that the all predominant function of evaluating an area in regard to its needs will be continued by the proposed Bureau. If it is, I am sure that the local government movement of this nation will be far less apprehensive than it is at the moment and will be very happy to co-operate with the Federal Government in the future planning of our road system.
-To some extent I am rather flattered that the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) has seen fit to come into the House to hear what I have to say on this subject. I can assure him that he did not miss very much by not hearing the first 15 minutes of the speech made by the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) because there was nothing in what he said that would have given the Minister any hope. To me, anyhow, the honourable member for Kennedy seemed to spend most of his time telling us what bad roads there were in Queensland. This is the State of which he professes to be very proud. He also professes to be very proud of the Government of that State. It would seem to me that the honourable member gave an excellent argument not as to why the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads should be abolished. His argument seemed to convince me that I am correct in my view that the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads should be retained and that that body should look further and deeper at the roads in Queensland to make sure that this Government, which is one of the mingiest governments we have ever had, made funds available to ensure that the honourable member’s home State had roads of a standard that he would like to see.
I was interested to hear the honourable member for Kennedy say that roads were very important in the Northern Territory. I know that this is the case, having chaired an inquiry in respect of the Stuart and Barkly highways in the Northern Territory. The honourable member told the House that goods and supplies in the Northern Territory are predominantly carried by road. Of course, that is not surprising because there is no rail link between Alice Springs and Darwin. As goods cannot be shipped by boat up the Todd River they have to go by camel or by road. It is logical that people choose to send their goods by road. The roads in the Northern Territory are being progressively upgraded. I think that there is little to be gained by trying to make political points out of this matter.
The roads are being upgraded under a 3-year program. Culverts are being built as part of a steady on-going task. I compliment the Department of Transport, if not the Minister, for this program. However, I am a bit unsure as to how that Department will go for funds in the future. It seems that the biggest problem that is facing this whole matter is suspicion. It is only natural that people would view this Government with suspicion. Any Minister of this Government would be viewed with suspicion by the community, and we on this side of the House have the opportunity to watch daily the political gymnastics of Government supporters in this House. We view them very much with suspicion from our close vantage point. But it is not only we, the close observers, who view the Government with suspicion. I have been inundated by mail from organisations that I would usually regard as being sympathetic to the government of the day. I am not saying that these organisations are necessarily Liberal Party or Country Party oriented. That would be quite false. I know that they are not Labor oriented but they seldom kick up their heels against the government of the day unless that government really does something to hurt them. These are local government bodies in my electorate and an organisation of local government bodies in Victoria, the Municipal Association of Victoria. These organisations which, as I have said, normally support the government of the day, are very suspicious about this action.
They, like the general public, are no longer amused by the theatricals that go on in this place. All that we see each day is a charade of sloganeering and someone trying to find actions that fit the slogans that they think are popular. I am not surprised that people suspect the Government of having some hidden motive and that there will be some severe unannounced consequences to the community from a seemingly innocent Bill. I wish, first of all, to read the names of the local government bodies in my electorate that have written to me on this matter and have expressed concern about it. They are the cities of Broadmeadows and Keilor, and the shires of Melton, Whittlesea and Bulla. Therefore, every municipality within my electorate has written to me expressing concern at the abolition of the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads and its alleged amalgamation with the Bureau of Transport Economics. After hearing the speech of the honourable member for Kennedy I have some doubts about this now because he seemed to be putting to the House a proposition that everybody employed by the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads would be offered alternative employment in the Public Service. If that is the case, I suppose one of two things must be true- either the people who are now employed in the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads have nothing to do, because they will not be missed if they go or, alternatively, the people in the Bureau of Transport Economics do not have anything to do because they can cope adequately with the work that is being done by the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads.
I refuse to accept either of those propositions. I think that the people in both Bureaus are doing their jobs well and working hard. Probably, like every other Commonwealth department at the moment, they are considerably understaffed and, as a consequence, probably highly disorganised. This is not the fault of the people working in them but because of the parsimonious attitude of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in not allowing people to be employed. However, if we pursue that line put by the honourable member for Kennedy- the Minister for Transport may care to respond at some time at the conclusion of this debate- it leaves me with the thought that the work that is being done by the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads will not be done because this will be a marriage in name only, a marriage of convenience. The current position is that the Bureau of Roads, which is under the control of the Minister, can now be examined. It is a statutory body set up by an Act of Parliament. With its disappearance, what guarantee do we have from the Government? I would rather suspect any guarantee that was given, but we do not even have the opportunity of a guarantee that the work that is being done will be continued and that the Minister will continue to act through the House in order to take any action that he wants to take in this area. There is again a very deep suspicion that the Minister may, in fact, begin to do things by regulation. 1 am quite sure that he is responsible. People have told me that he is a responsible person and I believe those people. They are generally honest. All honourable members know that to undertake very serious acts by regulation in a place such as this, which relies on scrutiny of legislation, can be regarded as doing things by stealth.
I am quite sure that the Minister would never do anything by stealth. He nods his head in assent. If he would not do so, why does he not leave the matter alone and continue to do things by legislation rather than by regulation? The history of the Bureau of Roads is probably well known but I think that the comments made by the former Minister, Mr Freeth, bear repeating. On 20 May 1964 the then Minister introduced a Bill into the House. The second reading speech appears at page 2135 of Hansard of 20 May 1964. 1 wish to read selected quotations. It is not feasible to read the entire second reading speech. I assure the Minister that they are not selected with any political bias. How could they be? The former Minister was a member of the Liberal Party and I am simply quoting to the present Minister the words used in 1964. The then Minister said, for example: . . . the Government’s intention to establish a Commonwealth Bureau of Roads in order that the Commonwealth might have the benefit of a continuing study of the national roads situation.
It was wise in 1964 and it is as wise in 1977. The whole line of communication in this country now is road communication. There is no doubt in my mind that had the motor car been more advanced than it was in the middle of the 1 9th century, we would not have the rail systems that now exist in this and other countries. Communication would have been by road transport rather than by a fixed rail system. However, that is a quirk of history. It is becoming more manifest every day that people, for a variety of reasons, choose road transport to convey their goods from one place to another, possibly because of the flexibility of the system. So roads, particularly national roads, are very important. The honourable member for Kennedy made one intelligent remark during the course of his address to the House when he spoke about the defence needs of this country. I will not follow his jingoistic line on defence but one must be realistic enough to realise and to understand that any emergency situation- never mind about people coming to this country with arms- such as the national disaster in Darwin on Christmas Day 1974, is every bit as much a function of the armed Services as when the Japanese threatened to land in this country in 1 94 1 and 1 942.
It meant the quick mobilisation of people to get them to that disaster point. Obviously the fastest way to reach a point is by air and that was done. However, the roads were impassable because they were flooded. Therefore the heavy vehicles that were required to carry in the large volumes of food to replace the food that had been spoilt in the refrigerators when the power failed, and to replace the food that was spoilt when the roofs came off the supermarkets and other places where food is stored, were unable to reach Darwin. Therefore, roads are of national concern in
Australia whether they be to service the 90 000-odd people who live in the Northern Territory in a large area or the 3Vi million people who live in Victoria in a relatively small area. In the Government led by Robert Gordon Menzies, the Minister, Mr Freeth, said:
This Commonwealth has great and growing responsibilities for the financing of roads.
How true that was and how it came to be ever so true as time went on. Reading through a document put out by the Country Roads Board of Victoria called Financial Facts, February 1977, one sees that that document includes a chart that gives an indication of the way in which Australian Government contributions have been made toward the Victorian Country Roads Board over the 10 years from 1965-66 to 1975-76. In 1965-66 the contribution from the Australian Government was about $27. lm out of the total amount spent on roads in Victoria. State sources provided $35m. Progressively the expenditure rose until in 1975-76 $90m was provided for road works in Victoria by the Australian Government. In 1965-66 the Commonwealth Government provided $27. lm out of a total of about $67m spent on Victorian roads- about half. In 1 975-76 the amounts had risen dramatically. The Australian Government contributed $87.2m to the construction of roads in Victoria, as against $27. lm ten years earlier. The Victorian Government’s contribution had also risen and so had the contribution from the Roads (Special Projects) Fund on behalf of the State Government. So in 1975-76 nearly $200m was spent on roads in Victoria and the Australian Government provided $87m of that amount. So it can be seen from that expenditure growth, leaving aside any increase in inflation or costs, that the amount of money being spent on roads- I believe Victoria to be indicative of the nation as a whole- is rising at a tremendous rate. The Commonwealth has faced up to its responsibilities. But that is not the point; the point is that it must continue to face up to its responsibilities. Roads must be developed further. It cannot be said that Australia has a perfect roads system.
Another reason given by the then Minister for Shipping and Transport for setting up the Bureau of Roads was that the Commonwealth Government found itself in a position of having to discharge responsibilities without having available to it data fully adequate for its purpose. I would not believe there is much cross-up between the Bureau of Roads and the Bureau of Transport Economics. There may be some overlap. In fact in 1973 in the so-called Coombs Report this very point was made, that if there were an amalgamation of the two bodies the savings would be very small. The report stated:
There appears to have been no compelling reason for setting up the Bureau of Transport Economics separately in 1970, rather than enlarging the functions of the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads to take in all of surface transport. The main reason appears to have been that the Bureau of Roads had gained the confidence of the States and it was feared that, given the inter-modal jealousies existing in the transport field, widening its functions might complicate its role in the roads field, in which extensive liaison with State road authorities occurred. The interdependence which its statutory role gave to the Bureau of Roads appears also to have been unwelcome to the proponents of a wider ranging transport research bureau.
Three options were given at that time. The first option was to retain the 2 bureaus. The second possibility was to incorporate them into one body, making it a statutory authority; that is to absorb the Bureau of Transport Economics into an enlarged Bureau of Roads with appropriate change in title. That is not even suggested by the Bill the Minister has put before the House. The third option was to incorporate them into one body, abolishing the Bureau of Roads and incorporating it and its functions in the Bureau of Transport Economics. So of the 3 options that were put forward in the Coombs Report this Government has gone, not surprisingly, for the last one. It ignored the first two. It is rather difficult to disagree with the comments that were made by Mr Freeth at the time of the introduction of the Bureau of Roads when he said things like:
It has to try to see the problem as a national whole and not simply as the sum of particular views of it.
That is why we need this Bureau of Roads. Each State government has its own department which looks after roads in its area and the States simply talking to a separate body will not get down to the nub of the question. Rather do we need a national body such as the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads that can look at roads as a whole, that can look at roads in the north of Queensland or the outback of Queensland, in the Northern Territory, in the far north of Western Australia or indeed in other States and determine the priorities for spending from there. Mr Freeth said back in 1964 that the Government has to see the problem as a national whole and not simply as the sum of particular views of it. By continuance of simply listening to the State authorities giving their advise one certainly comes to that result, the sum of particular views of it. If we are to look at roads as part of our national defence system they may be seen differently by -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MartinOrder! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-When the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads was established in 1 964 the purposes for its establishment at that time were perfectly clear. Indeed, as its most recent report shows, the standards and the objectives of that organisation are still relevant. The goals and objectives as seen by the Bureau are firstly, ‘a safe and efficient convenient road transportation system to meet the present and changing needs, requirements and preferences of the nation; and secondly, a road transportation system which assists as far as feasible, overall development to achieve better systems of living and working and for trade and commerce’. The emphasis within the report is completely on the need for change. The Bureau of Roads is a farsighted body that has been capable in assessing the road requirements, the future in transportation and the inter-relationship between the various modes connected with road transportation in Australia.
The Bureau of Roads has presented 2 important reports. The second report presented in 1 975 is a very fine report. In this report, I think for the first time, a federal organisation recognises the importance of local authorities, local government, in the provision of road transport. Indeed, it is this comment that I suggest has assisted Federal governments to throw the emphasis that has been so sorely needed on assistance to local government. The Bureau in its comments stated that local government, because of increasing inflationary costs was in need of assistance, that there was no capacity within local government to meet the quickly increasing prices that it was paying for road construction. I shall quote from . paragraph 1 1.10 on page 227 of that report. It states:
These projections should be regarded as being extremely conservative especially those for Local Governments. They are mostly based on the historical response of State and Local Governments to cost rises in periods when the rates of inflation were relatively low compared with the two most recent years, . . .
We all will remember, particularly honourable members on the Government side of the House, the inflationary factors pressed on all sections of the community by the administration of those days. The 1973-74 and 1974-75 road costs increased by some 17 per cent and 30 per cent respectively. Local government has no capacity to assess that sudden surge in costs. It found the pressures of that time were very significant. It gives me a great deal of pride to be a supporter of the present Government in which the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) and his colleagues understand the requirements of local government. They have been able to assess very accurately, given the assistance of the Bureau, the requirements of local government. The announcements made recently by the Minister for Transport show that the proposed expenditure for urban and local roads in all States has increased very significantly. The proposed expenditure for rural local roads in all States this year will reach an amount of $89. 6m- an increase from $64m in the previous year. Urban local roads will receive a massive increase, from $14m to $25m. The emphasis that the Bureau of Roads has been able to throw on funding for local government and the effects of inflation on local government would lead a person to believe that the importance of the Bureau and the constructive work it has been able to contribute to the nation’s assessments of this important area are very significant.
One is quite distressed to find that the possibility of slowing down this growth in cost has been rejected only today by various sections of the community. Nowhere have increases in costs been more telling than in the transport area. The capacity for unions and employers to pause in regard to increases in cost in the freight area would have been welcomed by the community. However, most unfortunately the proposal has been rejected. I am sure that those people responsible for that decision will pay sorely in future times for their thoughtlessness and lack of concern for the community at large.
The Government’s response to rural and local roads has been but a part of the Government’s activity in response to the report of the Bureau of Roads. But what the new body will do in its activities, what will compromise its activities, I think, is the challenge and probably the concern of many people in the nation. Certainly the level of representation from local government has been high because there is no doubt a concern from local government authorities that the continuing sympathy and understanding shown by this Government may be somehow or other filtered. The advice coming to government may not be so accurate or so direct as has been the case previously. However, I refer the House to the guidelines laid down by the Minister for Transport in relation to the new body which will be an amalgamation of the existing Bureau of Roads and the Bureau of Transport Economics. The new body’s functions will include the roles that are now performed by the Bureau of Roads. The Minister, in his second reading speech, enunciates those roles clearly. He says that the new body’s duties will in part be to:
Undertake evaluations of the Australian road situation as presently done by the Bureau of Roads. These will continue to be done, as in the past, by consultation in the broadest sense with State and local government authorities. It includes conducting investigations and reporting to the Minister on the matter of the need for financial assistance to the States for roads and road transport.
There followed a series of factors that will be the reference points and guidelines of the new composite body in relation to the roads section. There are five or six guidelines which perfectly carry forward the impetus that this fine body has given to transport in Australia to this date. The Minister has made a firm commitment.
I should like to put the point of view to the House that the concern expressed by local government is not so much that there has been a change; it appreciates the reasons for this change. What it fears is that perhaps there will be a change of administration or Minister with this body. I would rue the day that happened because the present Minister has shown a sympathy and understanding for the role of local government in transport and in roads that has not been demonstrated before in the last couple of years. All local government representatives to whom I have spoken have said: ‘We understand what you are doing. We appreciate the value of your decision, but we fear a return to those days when we were tightly controlled by a Minister who was getting advice which he chose not to make public’. As I have said, there is no fear that the present Minister will be doing that sort of thing because he has a capacity to understand. He will be building the Bureau of Transport Economics- the new body- into a body with a fine reputation. He will be putting his personal seal of aggressiveness, integrity and imagination on that body. It is a very fine challenge for any Minister to undertake. It is a challenge that is understood by all sections of the transport industry, and it one that they fully endorse as they endorse the Minister. His efforts to build this body will demonstrate in practice, I am sure, that there is no need for the disquiet that some have shown. In practice, this disquiet will find no place in the operations of the new body. I suggest that the reputation of any future Minister could be seriously jeopardised if he were so foolish as to make moves to change the measures that the present Minister has introduced. The reputation of that new body will be so high, so clearly understood, so clearly appreciated by those involved in transport, right from local government through to our large, wealthy, exporting industriesthe industries by which this nation exists.
Perhaps the role and the future challenge are matters that the Minister and the Government are prepared to accept. In submissions made in 1975 to the Bureau of Roads, the New South Wales Government said:
The inclusion of road matters on the agenda of the Australian Transport Advisory Council, the proposed appointment of a Committee of Road Authorities, the moves made for closer co-ordination in the work of the Bureau of Roads and the Bureau of Transport Economics are all steps in the right direction.
So there we have from a State government an assessment of the importance of a close relationship between the Bureau of Roads and the Bureau of Transport Economics. That would seem to indicate that there is thought in the community, an understanding in the communityand certainly an understanding at the level of the ministry of New South Wales at that time- that there is a need for close co-operation, a close binding together of the objectives of the 2 bureaus.
The problems of freight were also mentioned in the same submission from the Government of New South Wales. I think its comments in this regard stated very clearly the need to have a cooperation and basic understanding under one heading and one body. The New South Wales Government said in regard to expressways and general movement of freight over roads:
The movement of freight should be the major consideration when assessing priority of work as regards the construction of freeways. Freeways should not, however, be regarded as an alternative to rail freight nor should they necessarily have priority over the construction of freight lines; it is necessary to adopt a co-ordinated approach to the problem of goods movement when considering freeway proposals in order that limited resources for various transport projects should be put to the best use when looked at in the total transportation requirement.
Frankly, that is what this proposal is all about. It is about the capacity to assess the various means of transportation of freight; it is about an assessment of the cost basis of moving goods about; and it is about assessing whether rail or road is a substantial improvement on the movement of export goods. The honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris) is writing away. He is no doubt scoring points; as he does in this House when he takes many points of order or asks for the tabling of documents. But the crux of the matter- the amalgamation of these 2 bureausholds for this country a very great objective and a very great goal that the nation should take and seize. The opportunity for those officers involved in the amalgamation should not be seen as one for dispute or competition but one for looking forward to the very drastic requirements and the drastic means that we have to pay our way in the world and continue to be in the forefront of exporting nations.
As freight charges are regarded as an invisible item in the country’s balance of payments it could be expected that there would be some statistical bases for information. Unfortunately, it has not been possible to obtain this information due to the methodology adopted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in the compilation of Australia’s balance of payments. Although the problem of freight costs both within Australia and overseas has received a great deal of attention recently, no consolidated data are readily available from either the Department of Overseas Trade or private sources that would allow anybody to answer a request for information on the transport component of the freight of Australia and the cost to a basic commodity. There is no freight input whatsoever; nor is any information available.
On writing to the Bureau of Transport Economics as it now exists I have found that it has completed reports on ‘The transport and handling of Australia’s wool production’, ‘A study of inter-system railway freight rating practices’ and ‘An assessment of Tasmanian interstate transport problems’, but nowhere in that information is there the same sort of information as is available from the Australian Wool Corporation. That body is able to tell in detail the basic costs of production- the basic costs which must be covered in any sales that are written with foreign buyers and which must be recouped by producers. It is a tragedy indeed for the economic affairs of Australia in the transport area that we have not this information. The Wool Corporation has given to me the fact that the cost of the transportation of wool from the farm to foreign port has increased by 120 per cent in the last 2 years. What greater challenge could those people who are interested in the future of the country have?
I was wondering today whether the comments made in Canberra by the President of the Australian Labor Party and President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions are those of real concern or whether they seek to disrupt or change the system. If he had real concern he would be aware of this massive increase in cost of our export goods. If this new Bureau- the Bureau of Transport Economics- can be set a challenge it must be the challenge to assess the cost of freight and the reason for the freight rates charged to our great exporters, whether they be of a mining, manufacturing or primary industry base. It would be my prediction that if it were able to assess those costs it would be found that labour costs were an important part of the overall charges. We need as a Federal Government to be able to look at these costs and to assess what is the best way that we can assist as a Federal Government in helping to overcome themwhether it be through movement on road systems or through the infrastructure of pons so that there is rapid transit of goods and ready delivery to wharf side so that there is quick and capable loading onto ships and the productivity of many people throughout Australia goes to earn real benefit for them and is not delayed or sidetracked through a lack of information or a lack of will by a few people who today have indicated their complete lack of concern.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– I think that I have successfully pointed out to the House the importance of the combination that has taken place under this legislation. The prospects and the future for an organisation such as the new Bureau of Transport Economics cannot be measured in terms that are readily understood at this time. It would seem to me that the prospects in the area of examination of freight costs, the relationship between road, rail and other means of transport and the prospects for our great exporting industries alone would be sufficient to warrant the establishment of such an organisation. However, if one were to extend the prospects and the brief of this organisation to cover matters of urban transport, then the challenge for this organisation must be one that is readily seen not only by local government but also by State governments and this Federal House.
The provisions that have been made by the Government are sound and should receive the support of both sides of this Parliament. The concern that some people have expressed about the bringing together of the Bureau of Transport Economics and the Bureau of Roads is not warranted. The Minister for Transport, who has brought this about, has a reputation which few people can challenge. He will make this organisation his own and he will adopt a completely different attitude from that of the previous Minister. The reputation that the Minister has with people with whom he deals is such that he will make an organisation which no future Minister or government will dare challenge. The fears that are being expressed by local government authorities and other persons about this change are completely unwarranted.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-We in the Opposition support in principle the amalgamation of the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads and the Bureau of Transport Economics. In terms of public administration, it is a logical and sensible step. The separation of roads from other modes of transport is an artificial one. All modes of transport are interconnected, and transport in turn is interconnected with the broad range of urban and regional development policies. It makes sense to unite the 2 bodies and coordinate their work. There are 2 aspects of this measure which we oppose. Firstly, we oppose the decision to bring the amalgamated Bureau into the Department of Transport structure. Secondly, I stress that the new Bureau should not be retained within the Transport ministry. As I have said, transport is a part of the wider urban and regional development context. The appropriate place to locate the new Bureau, to my mind, would be within the responsibility of the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development. Accordingly, I would urge the Government to look again at the administrative arrangements and allocate the Bureau to the department which has the broader responsibility of urban and regional development.
I do not think that the Government gains anything by dissolving the Bureau of Roads. In some circumstances statutory corporations outlive their usefulness and should be disbanded. I can speak from experience of the Cities Commission, which is a recent example. This was created by the McMahon Government as the National Urban and Regional Development Authority. The Australian Labor Party kept it along with its new Department of Urban and Regional Development when we became the Government at the end of 1972. Undoubtedly the Cities Commission was a valuable body during the first 1 8 months of the Labor Government. We had to start the new Department of Urban and Regional Development completely from scratch. Until the Department built up its strength, the established authority undertook much of the work. The Labor Government could not have got its growth centres going so quickly without the help of that authority. Certainly AlburyWodonga would not have been so advanced as it is now had it not been for the Cities Commission. As DURD built up its strength and its functions, it became obvious that there was a duplication of functions with the Cities Commission. The 2 bodies were getting in each other’s way in a number of areas, particularly in their relationship with the States. For this reason we wound up the Cities Commission and absorbed it within the Department of Urban and Regional Development as a bureau. This process was interrupted with the dismissal of the Labor Government.
As I read the present organisational structure of the Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development, the Bureau has been absorbed totally into the Department and there is no trace of its old independence. There is a real risk that a similar fate awaits the new Bureau of Transport Economics- Bureau of Roads after the amalgamation. As the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) has said, the existing Bureau of Transport Economics has a semi-independent status. This arrangement has worked reasonably well since the Bureau was formed in 1971. It has been loosely attached to the Department of Transport and seemingly its independence has been respected. I suggest that the pressure will be much greater on the amalgamated Bureau.
The functions of the old Bureau of Transport Economics were very limited. It was primarily a research body. In terms of public spending, it had very little impact. This will not be the case when it is joined with the Bureau of Roads, which is perhaps the most powerful of the Commonwealth statutory authorities. The Bureau of Roads is deeply involved in the Commonwealth Aid Roads Agreement. Its recommendations largely determine the amount of funds to be spent on roads and where those funds are to be applied. It recommends on what sort of roads are to be funded and how much of the total is to be spent in each category. The Bureau of Roads has a close relationship with State governments and local government. It is a body that is extremely respected within the State sphere and within local government. It is an immensely important co-ordinating vehicle through the complicated maze of Australian federalism. This explains the very strong reaction by the shires and councils to the abolition of the Bureau of Roads as a statutory authority.
Because of the influence of the Bureau, it is inevitable that it will be subjected to the pressures of rivalry and empire building within the bureaucracy. I accept the Minister’s pledge that he intends to preserve the independence of the new Bureau of Transport Economics once it is attached to his Department. But with the roads function added to the old Bureau of Transport Economics, there is no doubt that it will become a source of conflict. It will be drawn into interdepartmental fights. Other sections of the bureaucracy will be out to pay off old scores. Above all, because it will be recommending spending on a vast capital works program, the biggest spending item in the transport budget- I stress that it has by far the biggest allocation of the transport budget- attempts will be made to take over its functions. It will be only a matter of time before the Bureau is shorn of its independence and integrity. The Department will absorb it, because that is the way the bureaucratic process works. The functions of the Bureau will be spread through the Department and its influence and effectiveness will disappear. The Minister is being very naive if he thinks otherwise. It is surprising that the Minister, who has so much experience, should know so little about how the system really works. The new arrangements may look neater on paper, but in the long term they will not work in practice.
I am not pushing the case for statutory authorities, but they have an important role in some areas. Normally I have very strong reservations about statutory authorities, but I believe that this particular authority should be defended and retained. As I said earlier, it has a relationship with shire councils, State governments and State government departments which has been built up over a very long period of time, and a great deal of respect exists for its nonpartisan approach and for its expertise. The Bureau has been particularly helpful in assisting those local councils which do not have the skilled engineers necessary to carry out road works. Undoubtedly, in the past there have been cases where statutory corporations have been created and were found to be unnecessary, and I cite the Cities Commission as an example. Other statutory authorities within the Federal bureaucracy could, if the Ministers in charge wanted to do so, easily be amalgamated within those ministries and a great deal of administrative cost to the Australian people could be saved. But this Bureau is not one of those statutory authorities which should be amalgamated into a department. There are important areas of public policy and public spending where a high degree of independence is needed, and the Bureau of Roads is a prime example of that.
Turning to the second argument, I speak again from experience. When the Ministry of Urban and Regional Development was being created in the first half of 1973 I argued strongly that the Bureau of Roads and the Bureau of Transport Economics should be place within that ministry. It was and still is my attitude that the transport investment is crucial to the investment in urban and regional development. Housing, job opportunities, and the whole range of urban services and amenities are all related to the choice of transport modes and the amount of transport investment. Transport is vitally important to the development of new growth centres, which can be badly disrupted and even ruined if transport modes and transport investment are not properly planned. One has to look only at the existing cities to see the importance of both the rail and road transport systems. It is important to bring about a balanced load in the transport system because no city can achieve any real efficiency if it does not get the best use possible out of its transport system. Because of the laissez faire attitude which existed for around 20 years between 1950 and 1972, there was an over-centralisation in the central business districts of most capital cities, particularly in Sydney and Melbourne. It has been found that both the political and economic power lies inside one square mile of the cities of Sydney and Melbourne. The power radiates from within these central business districts. The city of Sydney stretches for some 35 miles west, 35 miles south-west, 20 miles north and 20 miles south, and the administrative power radiates from within the central business district.
It does not matter what transport system exists or what is the investment involved, there can be no real efficiency in the transport system if it is geared to the peak load system. Under that system the transport vehicles, whether they be trams, buses and trains in Melbourne or simply buses and trains in Sydney, go out empty in the morning and bring the workers into the central business districts, where most of the job opportunities exist. It is necessary to build up other centres, as the Labor Government was doing in Sydney in co-operation with the State Government. We were able to agree with that conservative Government to build up modes at places like Parramatta, Penrith, Campbelltown and Liverpool. In seeking to build up those places we were seeking to build up business centres and to get people moving both ways in the transport system. I should say that similar things were being done in Melbourne. The so-called centralist Whitlam Government, and I say this with some pride, worked in co-operation with the State governments. We sought their co-operation. We believed that the only way to solve the problems of transport in a city was to work in a spirit of cooperation involving all levels of government.
The Australian Government’s Department of Urban and Regional Development worked with the Hamer Government’s planning department to get agreement on the development of major new sub-metropolitan centres in metropolitan Melbourne. We were able to reach agreement on places like Watsonia-Epping, Dandenong, Sunshine and Broadmeadows becoming major centres. We reached agreement to build up those centres, to transfer Commonwealth public servants into the areas, to create job opportunities there, and to integrate them into the overall transport system so that we could get transport moving, not just one way in the morning and the other way at night but in a way which would achieve a more balanced load on the transport system. Therefore I believe that it is important that the present counterpart of the old Department of Urban and Regional Development- the Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development- should be given greater muscle in this administration and that the Bureau of Roads should be made a statutory authority under the Ministry of Environment, Housing and Community Development. That Department has an overall environmental approach rather than just the narrow sectional interest of public transport. It is for this reason that I argue that the Bureau should come under that Department.
In the end, of course, it will not be my responsibility and it will not be the responsibility of my colleague the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris). In the end it will be the responsibility of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), who is responsible for administrative arrangements, to determine what will happen. In the Labor Administration there was a very close working relationship between the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones), who was the Minister for Transport, and myself and we had joint access to both these Bureaus. As I said earlier, I argued very strongly that the Bureau should have come directly under the Ministry of Urban and Regional Development, with guaranteed access to the statutory authority for the Minister for Transport.
I will give honourable members one example of the need to restructure a major city. The example to which I refer is the Macarthur growth centre on the south-western sector of Sydney. As Minister for Urban and Regional Development I made a strong effort to get the New South Wales Government to complete the East HillsGlenfield railway line before the major work on the growth centre was undertaken. This rail link would have brought Macarthur within Sydney’s urban rail system in a practical and effective way. It would have expanded the opportunities for workers to travel by rail to the new jobs in the industrial areas of the growth centre. Every other aspect of the development of the growth centre was dependent on the simple choice of transport mode. Even with the assurance of Federal funding, the New South Wales conservative Government, as it then was, under Sir Robert Askin, did not realise the urgency of this work. Now we are seeing Macarthur emerge as a rapidly developing growth centre- a fast growing area of metropolitan Sydney. It is by far the fastest growing area. Nowhere in Sydney is an area developing faster than the Macarthur region.
In many ways, Macarthur has been a successful venture. But the basic problems of rail transport remain. Delays in providing the rail link have multiplied the cost. The whole burden has been thrown on to road transport. This means that it will not be long before Macarthur is feeling the same pressures from over-reliance on road transport as the rest of metropolitan Sydney. The case of Macarthur shows why it is wrong to isolate transport from urban and regional development. It is no solution to rely on the traditional process of co-ordination through interdepartmental committees or other devices within the bureaucracy. These have never given the sort of interconnected planning which is needed for the proper development of our cities and particularly our new developing areas. Experience in government has convinced me that it is completely wrong to separate transport planning from urban and regional planning. The proper solution is to merge the 2 bureaus into a single statutory authority and, in my view, to place that under the administration of the Ministry and the Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development. I do not think it will happen under this Government. Unlike an earlier speaker in the debate, the Minister for Transport is a strong man. He is a very arrogant man. He has a very arrogant approach. There is no argument about that. He is proud of that arrogance. In fact, that is why the Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development, so far as this Government is concerned, has a very low priority. I am quite sure that the objectives to which I have referred will not be brought about under this Government.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-The Commonwealth Bureau of Roads (Repeal) Bill which repeals the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads Act is, in fact, a forerunner of a new concept in road and transport planning in this country. The Bill will allow the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads to be amalgamated with the Bureau of Transport Economics in order that the functions of the 2 former bodies may be carried out together. In the past undoubtedly there has been some overlapping of their individual functions. Their amalgamation should allow a more efficient use of the taxpayers’ funds while not undermining the role of either body. The Australian Transport Report for 1975-76 gives an outline of the problems of planning and co-ordination of modes of transport in Australia. It is stated on page 12 of the report:
The task of administering government policy to develop an efficient and economic transport system is not an easy one.
The report goes on to state:
The Commonwealth Government, in partnership with the States and local government and private enterprise, has a major responsibility for the co-ordination of the national transport system and for seeking resolution of national transport problems. Issues such as Australia’s future transport energy requirements and the impact of overseas technology and motor vehicle design on Australian transport need to be assessed at national level. The most efficient allocation of resources in the transport sector can only be achieved if the right mode or balance of modes is engaged for a particular task. The community bears the burden of excessive cost, unwarranted monopoly or competition and undesirable social or environmental effects. The commuter pays higher fares than are necessary; the farmer and the manufacturer pay unnecessarily high freight charges which are in turn passed on to the customer. Industries highly dependent on freight for their inputs may have to operate under unduly high cost structures. High freight charges may further contribute to making the Australian producer uncompetitive by world standards.
It is quite clear from that report that there is not only a need for a co-ordinated approach to the right mode or the correct balance of modes to be engaged for a particular transport needs; there will also be the cost to the commuter, the farmer and the manufacturer if wasted modes of transport are adopted. In the words of the report, it ‘may further contribute to making the Australian producer uncompetitive by world standards’. The same report when outlining the Bureau of Transport Economics program for the 1975-76 year detailed programs it had undertaken which included: Assessment of urban public transport proposals; urban land use in relation to transport needs and services; a joint study with the Western Australian Director-General of Transport and the Western Australian Main Roads Department on ‘evaluation of transport planning packages’. These are but a few of the activities undertaken by the Bureau of Transport Economics and they are examples of the ways in which the roles of the Bureau of Roads and the Bureau of Transport Economics can overlap. Further, it is quite clear that the Bureau of Roads is of similar opinion. Its report headed ‘Roads in Australia, 1975’ states on page 19 under the heading ‘The Role of the Bureau’:
In our 1973 report a summary was provided of the origin of the Bureau and the role it had performed. In that report we emphasised that transport should be related to the goals and objectives of the community. We said: ‘That transportation services are a means of assisting a community towards satisfying broad socio-economic and development goals. ‘
The report went on to state:
In many cases increased mobility is most efficiently provided by roads and road transport. In 1973, we indicated the importance of considering roads and road transport in the context of the total transport services for the community. It is our view that our considerations must embrace land use, social and environmental factors, public transport and many other issues.
It is quite clear from that paragraph that the Bureau considers its role is to ensure that the importance of the roads system in Australia is looked at in the context of the total transport services for the community. It is therefore not unreasonable, considering the statements by both bodies in their reports, to amalgamate the two in order that we might have an efficient co-ordinated approach to transport planning in Australia.
I have had many approaches from the representatives of local government bodies in South Australia who are concerned that the amalgamation may prejudice the chances of their obtaining suitable independent advice as to the road needs of the Australian community. I, with many others, have taken up these matters with the Minister and I deal with them only briefly. The Local Government council was concerned that the Bureau should be attached to the Department rather than incorporated within the Department. It also considered that advice should be direct to the Minister for Transport rather than through a department which is responsible for other transport modes. The Minister quite clearly stated in his second reading speech:
The new Bureau of Transport Economics will act independently of the Department of Transport in research activities and in giving advice to the Government. I repeat its Director will continue to have free access to me as Minister for Transport. This is the Government’s clear policy and direction on this matter. In addition, the reports of the Bureau will continue to be made public to the same extent and in the same way as they are now.
The Local Government Council also considered that all previous policy advisory functions should be maintained. Again the Minister had directly addressed himself to that problem, and he said in his second reading speech:
The new body will continue the present functions of both the present Bureaux. Its duties will in part be to undertake evaluations of the Australian road situation as presently done by the Bureau of Roads. These will continue to be done, as in the past.
Finally the council considered that the amalgamation should be effected by legislation rather than administrative decision. The Government considered this argument and the Minister said:
No one has ever questioned the integrity or the independence of the Bureau of Transport Economics. It has always operated with the same degree of autonomy that the Bureau of Roads has enjoyed. The new BTE will be able to react to changing circumstances. It will be able to move with the times rather than be rigidly controlled through legislation.
It would seem that the Minister has taken into consideration the arguments raised by the local government associations and he has clearly outlined the Government’s action which takes account of the associations’ views. Let me say at this stage that I, together with local government, am extremely concerned about the future planning of our roads system. However, I can also see that it must be considered together with other modes of transport in any overall policy consideration. The importance to my electorate of the roads system is enormous, as is the cost of construction and maintenance of that system. I am particularly concerned at the future planning and reporting of road needs as undertaken by the Bureau. It will be well known that while the Federal Government funds roads to a greater extent than does the South Australian State Government it has only a limited ability to specify those areas in which funds will be used. For example, under the Road Grants Act the present Commonwealth Government has allocated funds to urban and local rural roads. However, it does not have the power to determine on which roads work is undertaken. The State Government is not required to match any of those funds in those specific areas. That is amply shown by the figures given by the South Australian Minister of Transport, Mr Virgo, in the South Australian House of Assembly when answering a question on notice asked by the Liberal shadow Minister of Transport, Mr Russack. The allocation of funds in the 1976-77 financial year by the State and Commonwealth Governments was as follows: For rural local roads the Commonwealth allocation was $5. 3m and the State allocation was $3.1m; for urban local roads the Commonwealth allocation was $ 1 . 1 m and South Australia allocated $500,000; and for minor traffic engineering and safety improvements- MITERS- the Commonwealth allocated $1.5m and South Australia allocated nothing at all.
– They do not care.
– They do not care. The honourable member is quite right. The Minister said further in his answer:
It is anticipated that the Commonwealth Government allocation in these categories will be increased.
Indeed, the Federal Minister has announced a 26 per cent increase for South Australia for rural local roads and a 100 per cent increase for urban local roads, in line with this Government’s commitment to ensure that local government needs are adequately covered. The State Minister went on to say:
State contribution to rural local and urban local roads will be decreased. State contribution to MITERS will be nil.
That statement leaves absolutely no doubt in my mind as to what the Labor Government thinks of the rural area. It could not care less about the people who live in the rural area. It is intent on abandoning rural South Australia. But that contemptible disregard for the needs of those people is so unbelievably shortsighted. The Labor Government seems to forget that, while it panders to the interests of the declining number of its political supporters in some areas of Adelaide, those same people, when they have more leisure time, will be wanting more and more to use the roads which the State Government is intent on ignoring.
But this farcical situation in South Australia does not stop there. I criticised the South Australian Government for reneging on its proposed road program for 1976-77. I further criticised Premier Dunstan when he tried to explain why South Australia had the highest consumer price index increase in December. He said, of course, that his Government had nothing to do with that. He blamed the Commonwealth Government’s road funding program. We all know that Premier Dunstan tends to go off the deep end when he is criticised, and I was not to be disappointed on this occasion. He and his media machine spewed forth his standard abuse. All honourable members know the sort of thing I mean. But on this occasion he excelled himself. I shall quote from a copy of the telex which he sent to my local newspapers. I read its text in the local newspaper. I could not believe it. I had to get a copy of the telex which he actually sent. In it he said:
Mr Porter’s comments regarding the Commonwealth aids road grants are even more indicative of his ignorance of Commonwealth-State finances. The States are required to meet conditions imposed by the Federal Government and one of those is that grants from the Federal Government must be met on a dollar for dollar basis.
-Who said that?
-Dunstan. I repeat that I am reading from the telex that he sent to my local newspapers. He said that Commonwealth road grant funding must be met ‘on a dollar for dollar basis’. I do not believe that there is anyone in this House who does not know that that is a total lie. If the Premier means that the South Australian Government is required to match the Commonwealth Government on a dollar for dollar basis in providing funds for roads, that is totally wrong. As a Premier he ought to know better.
The quota provisions of the Act require the South Australian Government to spend only a minimum of $93. lm of its own funds over the 3-year period ending this financial year. If $93. lm is spent, South Australia will receive the full Commonwealth grant of $11 1.61m. That means that the South Australian Government falls short of meeting the Commonwealth road funding for South Australia by $18. 5m. I ask the Premier: Where is the dollar for dollar basis? There is no requirement for the South Australian Government to match the Commonwealth grant on a dollar for dollar basis, either in total or by road category. Perhaps the Premier is referring to the fact that he has recently suggested to the Federal Government in support of his case for more road funds in 1977-78 that the South Australian Government will exceed its 3-year quota of $93. lm by approximately $5.8m. I point out, however, that his spending over the 3-year period will still be only of the order of $98. 9m, which is still $ 12.5m less than the Commonwealth grant. I ask again: Where is the dollar for dollar basis about which the Premier keeps talking?
He may further claim that the expenditure on roads for the 1976-77 financial year- the last of the 3 years- will be $42.6m and thus exceed the Commonwealth grant of $38. 8m for that year. But that claim, of course, ignores the fact that the State’s expenditure in the previous 2 years was well below the Commonwealth grant for those 2 years. In fact, as I have stated above, even taking account of his $5. 8m spending over the quota, he is still $ 12.5m short of the Commonwealth Government’s grant. I find it absolutely incredible that the Premier can issue such a Press statement which is blatantly untrue and which shows his complete and total lack of comprehension of the facts of Commonwealth-State funding of roads. How can the Premier be so ignorant of the funding arrangements which have been operative for nearly 3 years?
As if that were not sufficient indictment of the Premier, he further went on to say that the Federal Government- again I quote from the telex he sent- ‘insisted that we put up vehicle registration charges in order to get an increased allocation of road funds’. That is another lie. I simply ask the Premier: Under what power would he suggest that the Commonwealth Government had been acting if it had insisted that the State Government put up vehicle registration charges? In what document was that insistance recorded and who made such a proposal to him? The answer, of course, is that the Federal Government at no stage insisted that the State Government put up motor vehicle registration charges. The Commonwealth Government does not insist on the areas from which funds for the State’s quotas should come. The Premier will well know that he has recently boasted a surplus budget in South Australia. There was in fact no need at all to increase motor vehicle registration charges but rather he could increase his quota from his socalled surplus.
I think it is a sad day when the Premier of South Australia shows by his own statement that he just does not know what he is talking about. He is responsible for the finances of the State, and yet he seems totally out of touch with Federal road grant aid. What is worse, he criticises others, pretending that he knows what is going on. This is now not a matter of politics or of negligence; rather he has shown himself to be grossly incompetent. If he thinks he has been matching Commonwealth road grant funds dollar for dollar, and in view of the fact that over the last 3 years he has been at least $ 12.5m short of meeting them dollar for dollar, I am terrified to think what the true state of South Australia’s Budget really is. His dishonesty or incompetenceor both- does not look good for the future of the people of South Australia. That is just why we need the new Bureau to look after States like South Australia with dishonest Premiers to show us exactly where road funds are being spent.
-Order! I would suggest to the honourable member for Barker that he withdraw the final comment in his speech which is a reflection upon the Premier of a State.
-With deference to you, Mr Deputy Speaker -
-Order! I would suggest to the honourable member that he withdraw not in deference but because it is not parliamentary to refer to the Premier of a State in the terms which he used.
– Well, Mr Deputy Speaker, I thought truth was some sort -
-I withdraw it.
-Order! The honourable member for Barker will not question a ruling or comment from the Chair. Truth had nothing to do with it. The honourable member used language which was unparliamentary and was asked to withdraw it.
– I would suggest to the honourable member that he read his speech. There were two other occasions on which I nearly interposed but I did not because he did not make what one might term a direct reference. I felt that perhaps it was wiser to let the honourable member continue. I might suggest, in view of what has happened, that the honourable member read his speech tomorrow and give some consideration to those remarks.
-One can, of course, understand the venom which the honourable member for Barker (Mr Porter) put into his speech tonight. Last night the Privy Council gave a decision in favour of an electoral redistribution in South Australia. Of course, this decision will end many years of Liberal Party jerrymander in South Australia. Because of that decision, I believe, the Liberals in South Australia are pretty upset. Of course, we can understand the venom which the honourable member for Barker put into his speech and the derogatory manner in which he referred to the Premier of South Australia and also, of course, to the Minister for Transport in South Australia.
I support the views of the Opposition in respect of this Bill. We believe that the legislation is a little precipitous, a little sudden. The Bill proposes the amalgamation of the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads and the Bureau of Transport Economics. Apparently this proposal has not been thought out very well for reasons that I think have been clearly stated by the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris). The Bureau of Roads has done an exceptionally good job. Anyone who has had any dealings with the Bureau of Roads would agree with this. The Bureau has earned the respect of not only local government and State governments but also other people who are associated with roads in Australia.
Of course, the Opposition does not say that there will not be advantages in amalgamating these 2 bodies. However, the Opposition feels that the legislation does not go far enough. It does not lay down guidelines and it does not say clearly how the Bureau is to report, whether it is to report to the public, to Parliament and so forth. The honourable member for Shortland referred in his contribution to the number of reports that have been brought down by the present Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) that have not been made available to the public and in some cases have not been made available to the Parliament. I repeat that while the Opposition is not opposed to the amalgamation it believes that the repeal of the Bureau of Roads legislation should be left until further legislation is brought before the House.
Members of Parliament have had approaches from local government organisations which have expressed their concern about what is going on. We have all received letters from local government bodies. Some of us have received petitions. I have received correspondence not only from the major cities in my electorate, but also from district councils. The City of Whyalla stated:
Council has been informed that the Federal Government intends to proceed with the Amalgamation of the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads and the Bureau of Transport Economics, contrary to requests by the Australian Council of Local Government Associations and State Associations.
Assuming that this intention will be put into effect this Council wishes to emphasise the necessity for the amalgamated body to be created by legislation that clearly sets out the body’s role, its functions and its responsibilities. Secondly, it is considered vital that the new body is independent so that it may report direct to the Minister of Transport rather than be an appendage attached to or under the purview of the Department of Transport.
Council is convinced that the future of road funding in South Australia and in the rest of Australia may well be dependent on having a body of the independence that is suggested above. No doubt other organisations and Councils will be contacting you on this matter and I would appreciate your earnest endeavours to comply with Council ‘s request.
That is only one letter that I have received. I have similar letters from all the cities and district councils in my electorate. These bodies expressed concern as to what was likely to take place. This concern has also been expressed in a number of petitions that have been presented to this Parliament. I myself have had the opportunity of presenting a number of petitions from district councils. They express the sentiments contained in the letter which I have just read.
I represent the electorate of Grey in South Australia which had probably the most under developed road works in that State. Therefore I have a particular interest in this subject. Progress on the Eyre Highway was very slow, probably at the rate of 30 miles a year, prior to the Labor Government coming into office. During that time there was a cry from Western Australia that the Eyre Highway was not being sealed. I asked the Minister for Transport of the time, a number of questions about this work. Invariably I received the answer that South Australia was allocated so much for its roadworks and that it set its own priorities. The blame was thus placed on the South Australian Government. No specific assistance was given to South Australia to complete either the Eyre Highway or the Stuart Highway to the Northern Territory.
I would just mention the attitude of the Minister at that time. It was proved beyond doubt that 84 per cent of the people who travelled from west to east or east to west on the Eyre Highway originated from outside of South Australia. Yet the Commonwealth attempted to place on the South Australian Government the responsibility for sealing that track across the Nullabor. The same thing applied in respect of the Stuart Highway to the Northern Territory. Prior to the introduction of the national roads program the Labor Government of South Australia had sealed 80 miles of the Stuart Highway. This work is now at a standstill. Again the reply from the Minister of the time was that South Australia would receive an allocation of so much money for its roadworks, that South Australia would set its own priorities and that it was up to South Australia to spend the money. The inference was that South Australia could spend its money on this highway but that other roadworks would go by the board.
South Australia was expected to provide the main highway to connect Western Australia to the eastern States and the Northern Territory. South Australia was not able to complete its works because of the inadequate amount of money that was allocated. In particular it was not able to complete the Eyre Highway until the introduction of the national roads program. This program was introduced, of course, during the period of the Labor Government. I heard the Minister for Transport interject previously when I mentioned this fact to the effect that the report had been prepared while he was the Minister. That may be so. But the Labor Government actually put the report into effect when it came to office. I am sure that we are now seeing the benefits of that project. In the very short time since the national roads program was introduced work on this highway has been completed.
Much has been said lately about the Stuart Highway. I would like to refer to an article which appeared in the February edition of the Northern Territory Newsletter. We see from a reading of the article that the Northern Territory government is trying to blame the South Australian Government. The article states:
Funds are expected to be made available next financial year to enable a start on the sealing of the Stuart Highway between Port Augusta and the Northern Territory border. The Cabinet Member for Transport in the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly, Mr Roger Ryan, said on February 1 the sealing program would take a minimum of five years to complete. He said the main reason for the delay in sealing the Stuart Highway had been the South Australian Government’s reluctance prior to the national highways scheme to spend federal money on the Stuart Highway because of other priorities.
Here again, as I said earlier, they wanted South Australia to spend all of its federal allocation on the main highways to Western Australia and the Northern Territory. But with the operation of the national roads program we still have not seen any further progress in the sealing of the Stuart Highway other than that a survey has been made as to the route of the new highway. I understand that quite recently a meeting was convened in Adelaide by Senator Jessop from South Australia at which a senator from the Northern Territory, the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) and a State member of Parliament were present. The meeting referred to South Australia’s allocation of funds to seal the Stuart Highway. The whole of the Stuart Highway in South Australia runs through the electorate of Grey. Whilst I certainly do not expect that the Liberal Party, in the manner in which it plays politics, would invite members of the Labor Party to the meeting which was held in Adelaide, it is rather strange that the person most involved, the South Australian Minister for Transport, was completely ignored. Let me refer to a question that was asked in the South Australian Parliament. The State member for Stuart asked a question of the Minister for Transport which referred to the meeting that was held in Adelaide. In his reply, the Minister said:
The position about the question that the Federal Minister referred to in that Parliament, I believe, arose out of a meeting which was held in Adelaide and which was orchestrated by Senator Jessop. I understand that the member for Eyre was one of those present, as also was the Country Party member for the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly, who assumes some degree of responsibility for roads. I believe, also, some other people representing commerce and industry were present, and really they met, as I understood it, to seek ways and means of trying to get additional funds for South Australia.
One of the Liberals interjected:
But you were kept informed of the meeting weren’t you? Mr Virgo replied:
No, I was informed by the press that that meeting was being held. The meeting did not extend the courtesy to the Minister for Transport in South Australia of inviting him to attend and, had the press not informed me, I would not have known even that the meeting was on.
That is what these people thought of the South Australian Minister. They showed extreme discourtesy in holding the meeting and not even informing him that the meeting was to be held. Later in the answer, the South Australian Minister referred to the categories of national roads. He said:
One of those categories is the national roads, and in 1977-78 South Australia will receive $15 000 000 from the Commonwealth Government, a reduction of 1 3.2 per cent in money terms. This year South Australia is receiving $ 1 7 300 000 but next year we will get only $ 1 5 000 000 and when that is considered in the light of inflation, one can realise just how badly we are treated by Mr Nixon.
One can see from those figures that South Australia certainly has not received much of a go from the present Minister. As I have said, to the present time it does not appear that any of that $15m for national roads in South Australia will be provided for the Stuart Highway. I know that there are other major road works going on in the electorate between Port Augusta and Port Pirie and between Port Augusta and Whyalla. These are certainly major projects but they are all projects that were approved in conjunction with the South Australian Government during the period of office of the Whitlam Labor Government. They are progressing and we would certainly hope that they will continue to progress. This question of the Stuart Highway is very important because not only is it a major highway to the Northern Territory, it also serves those isolated townships in the northern part of South Australia such as Coober Pedy and the Woomera Rocket Range area. Something that has always amazed me is that although the South Australian Government completed 130 kilometres of that highway north-west of Port Augusta, there are still 50 kilometres in the middle between Port Augusta and Pimba that were not completed. It has been like that for quite some time and although we know that the highway itself will be taking a different route to the one it takes now, it will still follow the same route between Port Augusta and Pimba. There is no reason that 50 kilometres of road cannot be sealed to at least give the people in the northern part of South Australia that additional length of sealed road.
With regard to weather conditions in this area, as many people would know, if there are heavy rains both the railway and the roadway are out. On many occasions they are out for quite some time. I certainly hope, as has been stated in the earlier statement I read out, that money will be allocated in the very near future so that these projects can proceed. The honourable member for Barker was very strong in his criticism of the South Australian Premier and also of Mr Virgo, the Minister for Transport in South Australia. He made a number of remarks in which he accused the South Australian Government of abandoning rural areas in South Australia. I represent 5 1 per cent of that State and my electorate is a large rural and pastoral area. Anyone who cares to come out to that area, go through it and then say that the South Australian Government has abandoned it would be talking through his hat. One can see this in the provision of major roads, and schools and the other facilities that go to make life worth living to those areas. One of the things that the Labor Government pledged for those rural areas was to introduce community health centres and various other amenities such as that, which Liberal Governments for years had never provided. But the former Labor Government, when it was in office, provided these things in rural areas. So to say that the South Australian Government abandoned the people in the rural areas is just a lot of hogwash.
I refer to some of the figures mentioned by the honourable member for Barker. The Premier of South Australia issued some information regarding the allocation to South Australia. Apparently the State was informed in a letter from the Prime Minister that no State would receive less than it received the previous year. That referred to next year. That was reluctantly accepted on the basis that it would be honoured. One would naturally assume that this means no less in real terms, that is, that at least zero growth would be maintained. The allocation for road assistance in South Australia for 1977-78, as advised to the South Australian Government, is $40.4m compared with $38. 8m in 1976-77. Therefore, the increase to the State is a mere 4. 12 per cent. Nobody who looks at those figures would say that they represent zero growth in real terms. In fact, it would appear that there would be at least a 10 per cent reduction in the road allocation to South Australia. One could also look at the effect that this could have on the employment situation in that State with a 10 per cent reduction in real terms in the road works program. When one compares those figures, that is what happens. It was also stated that the State itself is paying a higher quota than it has paid previously. In the figures I have here, and I think they are pretty right, the State’s quota for 1976-77 was $34.2m compared with $37.2m proposed for 1977-78. This is an increase of 8.77 per cent, or more than double the Commonwealth’s increase. As I said earlier, the Commonwealth’s increase was 4.12 per cent. The State ‘s allocation was an increase of 8.77 per cent so I think that this places a query on the figures that were used by the honourable member for Barker.
It is a fact that this year South Australia is receiving progressively less as a proportion of the Commonwealth grant for road works. It has decreased from 1 1.5 per cent in 1967-68 to 8.5 per cent proposed for 1977-78. It appears that the South Australian Government is being penalised in its road works program perhaps because it is developing an efficient transport system. It is also interesting to note that in 1973-74 the State’s quota, compared with the Commonwealth’s quota, was 54 per cent whereas the proposed quota for 1977-78 is 92 per cent of the
Commonwealth grant. So we can see that compared with what the Commonwealth is allocating, the South Australian Government is contributing a higher amount. I think that this refutes some of the arguments put forward by the honourable member for Barker. I was disappointed to note the venom in his speech against the South Australian Government. I conclude by saying that this venom is brought about by the frustration of honourable members on the other side of the House at the introduction of full democratic government in South Australia.
– We are debating the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads (Repeal) Bill 1977 which will result in the amalgamation of the existing Bureau of Roads with the Bureau of Transport Economics. I was a little surprised to hear the honourable member for Grey (Mr Wallis), who has just been speaking, say in his earlier remarks that the change had been a little bit sudden. I think I quote him correctly. The changes that we are debating tonight were announced by the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) on 17 November 1976. So in fact the Parliament and all those interested in Australia have had 5 months to comment to the Government on these matters. I am in the happy position of being able to say that in the electorate of La Trobe I have had a great deal of comment from local councils and people involved in the transport industry, expressing their opinions to me about the proposed changes.
I should like to record that I have had contact from the councils of the cities of Knox and of Croydon, and the shires of Sherbrooke, Lilydale, Healesville and Upper Yarra. All have written letters to me on a number of occasions expressing their views and asking me to make particular comments to the Minister about the Bill that we are now debating. I am pleased to be able to say that the Minister has seen fit to give the fullest consideration to the suggestions that I have put to him on these matters, which were initially put to me by those local councils. I am surprised that the Labor Opposition cannot agree to the Bill though I recall that it opposed the original Bill that was brought into the Parliament in 1 964 to establish the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads. It seems rather strange to me that the Opposition opposed the establishment of this Bureau at that time and is now opposing the change that we are bringing about. One wonders whether it is just opposing for opposition’s sake or whether the Opposition has some genuine reason for that opposition.
The Minister knows that I have queried certain aspects of this Bill at an earlier stage but 1 am pleased to say that I am now supporting it completely. I believe the Minister has accepted the suggestions that have been put to him by Government supporters and I think that the arrangements we have now and the explanations we have had from the Minister, which have been spelt out in his second reading speech, put beyond doubt the sort of reservations that Government supporters raised initially. In fact I support the Bill for the very reason that the criteria that the Councils were asking me to set down have been adopted by the Government. I congratulate the Minister for this.
The problems of transport in Australia are considerable. This is largely due to the geographic character of Australia. Equally the problems of transport are in a dynamic situation. I do not believe that we should be scared of changes in administration or of planning provided we can satisfy ourselves that such changes will produce the improvements and the efficiency that we should be seeking. The Australian transport industry has not only expanded rapidly over the past few decades but also has undergone considerable changes both in technology and in organisation. I believe it is incumbent upon this Parliament to adopt and to profit from those changes, to encourage further innovation and to maintain and improve the efficiency of the industry. We should be prepared and ready to restructure our institutions in order to best meet our rapidly and continuously changing transport industry scene. That surely is what we are doing tonight.
The Bureau’s aim and achievement have been to provide a framework for evaluation of the medium to long term outlook for road transport. I think it is recognised that the Bureau has been a leader in seeking and gaining public participation in the evaluation of programs. I think it is also fair to state that the Government has put itself in a position in these 5 months that have elapsed since this Bill was initially introduced to receive from interested groups all over the country comments and suggestions which might result in these changes being even more profitable for Australia. The Bureau of Transport Economics, into which the Bureau of Roads is now being amalgamated, arose out of the growing complexity of transport operations and the increasing importance of the transport sector as a whole during the 1 960s.
All governments require expert advice on all aspects of transporting people, freight and raw materials and certainly this advice should not be restricted to road transport. It was to provide that advice that the Bureau of Transport Economics was created in 1 97 1 . It is important to realise that the Bureau of Transport Economics has similar autonomy to the Bureau of Roads. For instance, the Director has always had access to the Minister for Transport on all matters relating to the Bureau’s work. One of the reservations that was expressed to me by local councils was that the independence of those officers working with the Bureau of Roads should not in any way be impaired. The Minister has stated, not once but on a number of occasions, that that guarantee would be given. It has been given. I think it is reasonable for the House to support the measure now.
There has been a good deal of misunderstanding, I believe, by some people who believe that the Bureau of Transport Economics is simply a division within the Department of Transport and thus is subject to direct influence by the Department. The BTE receives administrative support from the Department of Transport, that is true. That very fact allows for considerable cost savings. It does not put the Department in a position where it is able to alter the professional advice that the BTE provides. The Bureau of Transport Economics, into which the Bureau of Roads is being amalgamated, has no less and no more independence in this regard than the Bureau of Roads presently has. The independence of the advice of the Bureau of Transport Economics and its Director’s access to the Minister are established facts. The Minister has positively undertaken that there will be no erosion of these rights as a result of the amalgamation. The new body will act as independently in undertaking research and supplying advice as the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads and the BTE have acted in the past.
I believe the benefits to be gained from amalgamating the 2 bureaus are clear. The staffs of each bureau will be able to gain a greater insight into the problems of the other, an insight and an understanding that are essential for the effective handling of transport problems and for work towards the best solution of those problems. The new BTE will enable the full weight of total available expertise to be brought to bear on the complex and vital transport problem areas in the country. Scarce professional resources can be employed to the greatest advantage and considerable administrative savings can be achieved. I cannot for one minute see why the Opposition should take such exception to these efficiencies being introduced by this Bill. A particular function of the new Bureau of Transport Economics will be to assist Commonwealth, State and local governments as well as instrumentalities. The private sector also will have access to the resources of the Bureau of Transport Economics. It will be able to liaise and co-operate with the Bureau.
In the course of commenting on the role of the local government instrumentalities in transport problems, I think that it is quite reasonable to put on the record now the proposals that the Government is putting up for those areas of funding which mostly affect local councils- the areas of funding in which municipalities have complete autonomy over design, administration and construction. If, for instance, we look at Victoria we see that the allocation from the Federal Government in regard to the program for urban local roads for the financial year 1977-78 will rise from $4.6m to $8. 9m- an increase of 93 per cent over the allocation for the present year. The allocation for the MITERS program- the minor improvements for traffic engineering and road safety program- under which a considerable amount of work is done in connection with road safety, particularly intersection work and signal systems in Victoria, will rise from $2.6m to $3. 5m- an increase of 35 per cent. The planning and research section allocation for Victoria will rise from $ 1.4m to $2. lm- an increase of 50 per cent. It is in those areas that the municipalities to which I referred earlier will be able to get particular assistance to help them to carry their responsibilities which presently are such a burden to them.
Another interesting figure which I think should be recorded is that in 1975 public sector capital investment for transportation of all governments has been estimated at $ 1,000m, or $80 per head of population. More than $788m of that amount was spent solely on roads and streets. These sorts of levels of expenditure reflect our degree of dependence on highways, urban arterial roads, urban local roads and rural roads. The benefits to be gained from amalgamating the 2 bureaus are clear, as I have stated on a number of occasions and as the Minister has mentioned in his second reading speech.
– Put a bit of life into it.
– I am grateful to so many members of the Opposition for coming into the chamber to listen to me tonight. Obviously they are interested in hearing what I have to say. I think that they are feeling somewhat guilty that they opposing the Bill. They realise from what I have said that they really ought to be supporting it because it makes such good, logical sense. In addition, the reports of the Bureau will continue to be made public. I remember the honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins) standing in this chamber the other night and saying that the reports of the Bureau were going to be kept in some secret file to which there would be no access by either the Parliament or interested people. The honourable member for Scullin will not listen to me- he is too deep in conversationwhen I say to him that the reports of the Bureau will continue to be made public to the same extent and in the same way as they are now. There will be no restriction by the Department of Transport or any other Commonwealth department on the work or the advice of the Bureau. Its officers will be as freely available to State and local government, private enterprise and individuals as they are at present. I am confident that practice will show the new Bureau providing an even better service to governments at all levels and to industry than the separate bureaus have done in the past.
There have been suggestions that the new Bureau of Transport Economics should be established by an Act of Parliament that is, its powers, duties and procedures should be set out in legislation. We have given careful consideration to this question and we have reached the firm conclusion that legislation is not required. The present Bureau of Transport Economics was not established by legislation and is attached to the Department of Transport. As I have said already, no one has ever questioned the integrity or independence of the Bureau of Transport Economics. It has always operated with the same degree of autonomy that the Bureau of Roads has enjoyed.
-That is nonsense. You do not know that.
– The honourable member for Shortland says that that is nonsense. The honourable member for Shortland is displaying his ignorance in the same way he has done ever since I came into this Parliament.
– He did before you came into it, too.
-Order! I think it might be helpful if we allow the honourable member for La Trobe to make his own speech without any assistance. That covers the honourable member for Scullin as well.
– I realise that it is a tribute to me that members of the Opposition are interested in what I have to say, but it is a matter of some disappointment to me that members of the Opposition front bench do not understand what we are debating, do not understand the facts and make such inane comments as did the honourable member for Shortland. The Bureau of Transport Economics as we will be constituting it through this amalgamation, will be able to react to the changing circumstances and problems of Australia. It will be able to move with the times rather than be rigidly controlled as the Opposition would seek to do. I have pleasure in supporting the Bill.
– I do not have a great deal of time in which to speak in this debate. I just want to summarise the attitudes of the organisations involved in transport around Australia which take a view opposite to that held by honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Baillieu) who preceded me in this debate. During the course of the debate the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) was described by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the honorable member for Reid (Mr Uren), as an arrogant man. Somebody else said that the Minister was long on rhetoric and short on logic. There is one thing that is without doubt, even if those 2 contentions have some doubt about them, and that is that the Minister for Transport is an expert on devolution. Here is the man who has jettisoned not only Labor reforms in transport but also the long standing provisions innovated by his own Party, which have stood the test of time. We are now talking about an instrumentality which was established back in 1 964.
– By whom?
-This is the man who has destroyed the shipbuilding industry. This is the man who is flying in the face of advice from all the organisations with which honourable members opposite claim to have a close association and a real affinity. I look, for example, at the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) who is responding intelligently. I need that kind of look from the other side of the House at the moment because intelligence is a rare quality. I know that the honourable member for Maranoa claims to have some concern about and association with the local government authorities of his State and of Australia. The honourable member, having some understanding of the facts of the situation, would be the first to acknowledge that every local government authority which has had a point of view on this matter is averse to the thinking of the Minister and to the spirit of this legislation.
We are discussing the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads (Repeal) Bill. To summarise the first couple of lines of what the Minister said, the purpose of this Bill is not really to create something but to repeal legislation enacted in 1 964 to create the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads. When I made reference to this a while ago somebody interjected and asked who created the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads. If he does not know I will tell him who created it. It was the Menzies Government. So this is what this repudiation is about.
Motion (by Mr Bourchier) agreed to:
That the question be now put.
Original question put:
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.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Nixon) read a third time.
- Mr Speaker, I seek leave of the House to make a statement regarding the heads of government agreement for a 3-month price and wage halt.
-Is leave granted?
-Leave is granted. I call the Prime Minister.
- Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. Before leave is given to the Prime Minister -
-Leave has been given.
– No. I believe that a guarantee should be given to the House that we are going to receive guidelines as to how the scheme is to operate and not a flimsy personal attack on the Leader of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, and on the Opposition.
-The honourable member for Oxley will resume his seat. Leave has been granted. I call the Prime Minister.
– No, Mr Speaker. It is the right of any person to object to leave being given. Before leave is given I am raising the question that the Prime Minister should fulfil his undertaking.
– Has leave been given to you?
– I do not need leave.
-Order! The honourable member for Oxley will resume his seat. I asked whether leave was granted. The Leader of the Opposition, sitting at the table, granted leave. I then announced that leave had been granted. I call the Prime Minister.
– On a point of order, Mr Speaker -
– A point of order, Mr Speaker.
- Mr Speaker -
-The honourable member for Oxley will resume his seat.
– I have a point of order.
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat.
- Mr Speaker, I cannot raise my voice further -
- Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order.
-Order! The honourable member for Oxley will resume his seat.
– I am raising a point of order.
-But the Prime Minister stood on a point of order before the honourable member for Oxley. I call the Prime Minister.
- Mr Speaker, I would like to point out that it is within the honourable member’s competence to deny leave without debate, if that is his wish.
– We want to know what the statement is about. It is just political.
- Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. A firm undertaking was given to the House by the Minister for Primary Industry that guidelines would be outlined by the Prime Minister in his statement. I can tell the House now that the statement has no guidelines at all. It does not refer to the way in which the scheme will operate.
-The honourable member for Oxley will resume his seat.
– It is a mean and flimsy attack on Mr Hawke ofthe ACTU
-The honourable member will resume his seat.
– It is irrelevant.
-Order! I warn the honourable member for Oxley.
- Mr Speaker, I take a point of order. My point of order is that your ruling that it is only necessary to get the leave of the Leader of the Opposition is contrary to the Standing Orders. Any one person can refuse leave, and I ask you now to state whether you adhere to the first ruling.
-The Prime Minister asked for leave to make a statement. It is the practice of this House to look to the person in charge of the Opposition and ask whether leave is granted. I looked to the Leader of the Opposition and asked whether leave was granted. The Leader of the Opposition said: ‘Aye’; leave was granted. In accordance with that practice I then announced that leave had been granted. I then called upon the Prime Minister. When I asked: ‘Is leave granted?’ it was open to any member of the House from either side to deny leave. There was no refusal of leave. After I have announced that leave had been granted then the honourable member for Oxley came to the table on a point of order. At no time did he say that leave would not be granted. What he wanted to do was to give a conditional leave after leave had been granted. I call the Prime Minister.
– You are in the bag.
-The approach of election day -
-Order! The Prime Minister will resume his seat. I call upon the honourable member for Melbourne to withdraw his remark.
– I withdraw.
– I ask the honourable member for Melbourne to withdraw.
– I said it sotto voce.
– I warn the honourable member for Melbourne. I call upon him to withdraw.
– I withdrew.
– I did not hear what the honourable member said. Perhaps he will repeat it.
- Mr Speaker, I withdrew it immediately you asked me to withdraw.
-The approach of election day for the position of Leader of the Opposition makes honourable gentlemen opposite slightly nervous. The young pretender, the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden), will not advance his case against the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) by the kind of futile and petty tactics which he has adopted tonight. Really, if he had wanted to deny leave, he could have done so against the wish of his leader. Instead, he tried to introduce some futile and pathetic device -
Opposition members interjecting-
-Order! The Prime Minister will resume his seat. We have a statement by the Prime Minister on a matter of great importance.
-I do not think it is.
– I ask all members of the House to listen to it in silence. I warn the honourable member for Prospect that if he interrupts again while I am calling the House to order I will name him without further warning.
-At the Premiers Conference on 13 April, the 7 heads of government agreed that they should unite to hasten the success of the fight against inflation and unemployment in Australia. The agreement to which all 7 heads of government appended their signatures was directed to breaking the wage-price cycle. None of us imagined that this was more than a supplement to other actions we would need to continue to take, through budgets and through monetary policy, for example, to deal with our national economic problems. We knew that implementation of this proposal would not be a simple matter. We believed that given the existence of a national willingness and the collective will and backing of the 7 governments, the income-prices halt offered a chance to resolve Australia’s economic problems more rapidly than would otherwise be the case. There was an agreement that went beyond political divisions. Let me read the quite brief text of the agreement. Its message is clear:
Prices and incomes restraint. The Heads of the Commonwealth and all State governments, meeting in Premiers Conference in Canberra today, unanimously called for a 3-month halt in price and wage increases.
They agreed that such restraint was urgently needed if Australia is to overcome its current economic problems.
It was agreed that all Heads of Governments will approach employer and professional organisations and put to them the proposal that their membership should voluntarily commit themselves to a pause for a period of 3 months from increases in the prices of their goods and services.
At the same time, all Heads of Governments will be making an approach to the ACTU and other employee organisations to seek a voluntary commitment to a 3 months pause from wage increases.
Governments would not expect either the business organisations or the union organisations to agree to such voluntary restraint agreements without agreement by the others.
Immediately following agreement to the proposal for a voluntary genera) pause from increases in prices and incomes approaches would be made to the Arbitration Commission and the Prices Justification Tribunal for the implementation of the general pause.
Governments would also use their influence and the powers available to them towards achieving a successful outcome. Governments will commit themselves to not increasing their own charges during the period of the pause.
Local Government will be expected to do likewise.
All Heads of Government commit themselves to work for this voluntary pause.
Upon its achievement a further conference of Heads of Government will be held to consider what further steps should be taken.
The Heads of Government called on all members of the Australian community to give full support to this vital endeavour to help overcome inflation.
The statement was signed by myself and all 6 Premiers. The statement was agreed to after the possibility of a national conference was canvassed and rejected as unnecessary and impractical. All heads of government agreed on the principle of a wage-price pause and were willing to use existing institutional machinery for carrying it into effect. Given these conditions there was little that a national conference could add. We also saw that a national conference could mean delay, posturing, of which we have had not a little this evening, rhetoric, recriminations and very likely no constructive outcome whatsoever. In the discussion at the Premiers Conference nobody raised the question of tax cuts. We also saw overwhelming problems because of constitutional and administrative considerations in attempting to impose mandatory controls. The heads of government agreement reached beyond partisan politics to the nation’s interest. Such agreement between the heads of government, despite different party alliances, was remarkable in the best sense of the word. The agreement of heads of government reflected a unanimous bipartisan conviction to fight inflation. The overwhelming majority of Australians, irrespective of party loyalty or sectional interest, desire an enduring solution to the problem of inflation. The heads of government translated this national aspiration into political agreement. The next task was to convert it into practical reality. Heads of government clearly understood that if the proposal was to have a reasonable prospect of success it was not sufficient merely to accept its desirability but to pursue it with unity and enthusiasm. There was every reason to believe that all the State governments did enter into the agreement with the intent of making it work. This in turn created the conditions for the widespread community acceptance of the desirability and equity of a wage-price pause. After the initial agreement by the 7 governments, there were inevitably many detailed matters which needed attention. Together with the States, we moved rapidly to attend to those questions and within a day the machinery was established with the States for close co-ordination. For our part, we sought immediately to implement the agreement. Messages were sent to over 200 major employer, employee, professional and community groups. Advertisements were inserted in newspapers on 16 April in all State capitals seeking support for the heads of government agreement.
– You are saying nothing.
– The Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) wrote to the Prices Justification Tribunal asking the Tribunal to defer decisions on price rises and to monitor and investigate any claims that price rises had occurred. We also obtained agreement from some companies which had been granted price increases to defer implementation of their rises and agreement from companies which had applied for increases to defer such applications.
– Put a bit of zip into it.
– All Commonwealth Ministers and departments were informed that there would be no increases in commercial charges or fees. On 15 April I and 3 other Ministers met with representatives of 25 national employer organisations. They indicated their willingness to support the initiatives of the 7 governments.
– Like Leyland was telling us this morning.
– I think the interjections which continue to come from the Opposition indicate a total disregard for the national interest, a total disregard for the common cause, a total disregard for the common spirit of 7 heads of government, including 3 Labor Premiers who some honourable gentlemen said had been conned. What about the Premier of New South Wales and the Premier of South Australia? Do honourable gentleman really believe that they were conned? I give those Premiers credit for believing in what was proposed and believing that it was possible, for believing that a greater sense of national responsibility would be shown by the Opposition in this Parliament than has been the case. I can say only that with a continuation of the behaviour that is coming from the son of the Leader of the Opposition, from the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes), and from other members of his Party -
– Go back and have another drink.
-Order! The honourable member for Melbourne will remain silent. The fact is that a statement is being made by the Prime Minister on a matter of immense national importance. This is the national Parliament and I expect members of the national Parliament to hear the statement and then engage in debate if they wish. Allinterjectionsareoutoforder.I cannot disallow every interjection, but I ask the
Prime Minister to resume his statement and I ask all members on both sides of the House to listen to it in the national interest.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Speaker. My point of order goes to the point of provocation. If you rule, and perhaps rightly, that there should not be interjections on serious statements, and I doubt the veracity of the statement -
-Order! The honourable gentleman will-
– Could I explain my point of order?
It goes to the point of provocation. I believe that the Prime Minister is provoking interjections and should be dealt with accordingly.
-Order! The honourable gentleman is not making a point of order. The honourable gentleman is arguing, and I will not permit him to continue to interrupt. I ask all members of the House to treat this matter in the same serious manner as the public of Australia treat it.
-Let me repeat that on 1 5 April Ministers met with representatives of 25 national employer organisations. They indicated their willingness to support the initiatives of the 7 governments, and that was recognised in Sir John Moore’s statementlast night. This was a most encouraging response from employers, and a telex was sent to the Premiers providing details of that meeting. Preparations were made to implement the agreement. On 17 April it was announced that a special committee comprising representatives of employers, employees, and the Prices Justification Tribunal would be constituted to advise on the implementation of the heads of government agreement, including the question of whether amendments to the Prices Justification Act would be appropriate to support the agreement. Peak councils were invited to meet today with myself and other Commonwealth Ministers. At the same time, we had received reports that the State Premiers were consulting with employers and employees and taking other measures to encourage compliance by all sections of the community with the wageprice halt. I am sure that the Premiers were working wholeheartedly in the spirit of the agreement to support it and to achieve success. It was clear that public reaction to the plan was one of overwhelming approval. We were encouraged by a private survey which indicated that the vast majority of Australians, including the great majority of trade unionists, supported the concept of a simultaneous freeze in prices and incomes. One of the critical pre-conditions for the plan’s successemployer support for a prices-income freeze- was evident, and again that was recognised by the President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission.
Yesterday the Commission called a special hearing to discuss the call of the 7 heads of government. Acting in the spirit of the joint agreement, the Commonwealth took the unprecedented step of seeking the views of the States on a draft of the submission to be put to the hearing. It was at this stage that we became aware of indications that the 3 Labor Party State governments were having second thoughts about some aspects of the agreement to which their Premiers had appended their signatures. There were public announcements of their disagreement with the text of the draft submission to be put by the Commonwealth to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. Because we saw the agreement as being of such great importance to Australia, we amended our submission to take into account the views expressed by the 3 State Labor Premiers. We hoped that by so doing all State Premiers would continue to honour the agreement they had signed.
Here was the opportunity for Mr Hawke to show that he and other union leaders would put the nation’s interest and the interest of his own constituents first and agree that a 3-month halt in prices would be matched by a 3-month halt in wages. What could be more fair than that, coming very shortly after a $5.70 increase in wages, and when during the 3-month period there would be another reduction in taxation because of tax indexation? But instead of taking the opportunity open to him, Mr Hawke made what has been described as the most blatantly political speech he has ever made before the Commission. He refused to support the agreement entered into by all the governments of Australia. He tried to suggest that it was entirely a Federal Government initiative, when all honourable gentlemen know that it was not. He described the heads of government agreement as a ‘concoction foisted by an Australian Government’. Of course that was not so. To repeat, the scheme was agreed to by all the heads of government as a joint cooperative program. Plainly, what Mr Hawke is about is to break the scheme.
Let us look at what Mr Hawke has done. Let us look at Mr Hawke’s record in 1973, when there was a certain referendum in relation to prices and another referendum in relation to incomes. The policy of the Australian Council of Trade Unions then said that in no circumstances would the ACTU agree to a wage freeze. Quite clearly, while Mr Hawke has not been prepared to say plainly and openly to the people of Australia that that is still the policy of the ACTU, he has been seeking by subterranean moves to implement that same policy.
– You opposed it.
– Honourable gentlemen now pretend that they were all at one, but on that occasion it was Mr Hawke who opposed them. Perhaps honourable gentlemen forget that. But now we know that Mr Hawke has captured them all. He has captured them to such an extent that they wish to embrace him with open arms into this Parliament. This is the extent to which they have come to accept him. But who will resign? Will it be the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean), the honourable member for Lalor, the poor Dr Cairns, or an honourable member from South Australia? Which seat is the President of the Australian Labor Party to be offered- the man so wanted, the man so supported? It may be that Mr Hawke is about to break the scheme, having in mind what was done in 1973 and the attitude he then took against his own Government. In view of those events, it is not surprising that this has happened. The result of that will be to make the fight against inflation that much harder in the hope that it will embarrass the Federal Government and delay the process of economic recovery in this country. He is prepared deliberately to make it harder for people to get jobs, harder for firms to earn profits and expand, all in the cause of seeking to gain some political advantage.
Instead of speaking to the central issue of a price-wage pause, Mr Hawke put to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission 4 other proposals: Firstly, amendments to the Prices Justification Tribunal Act. The Government has already agreed to appoint a joint committee to look at this if employees accept the principle of a price-wage halt. Secondly, deferment of an application for an increase in real wages, based upon past productivity increases. This was an application which had little if any relevance in the next 3 months. His third point was the convening of a national conference to discuss all economicpolicies, to discuss the ‘whole question of the future course of the Australian economy’. He wanted an ongoing opportunity ‘to work out what economic policies in general and pricing policies in particular’ should be adopted. The convening of a national conference, as we know, had been rejected at the Premiers Conference. Fourthly, he suggested a cut in direct taxes sufficient, and I quote him, ‘to produce a real after-tax level of disposable income, equivalent to what would be necessary by way of money wage increases to compensate for the March quarter CPI movement’. I will comment directly on this proposal in a moment.
Sadly, and incredibly, the 3 State Labor governments chose to depart from the heads of government agreement to which they were parties and to support Mr Hawke ‘s propositions. In return for the 4 concessions which Mr Hawke demanded- concessions which fell outside the terms of the heads of government agreementwhat did Mr Hawke offer? Did he offer compliance by the Australian Council of Trade Unions with a 3-month halt in incomes? No. His sole magnanimous offer was to convene a special federal unions conference to consider- merely to consider- the forgoing of the March quarter application. But this was after the guarantees in respect to tax cuts to which I have referred already. He went on to qualify this offer. He said, and in this instance we can praise him for his openness:
I am not saying that we can deliver the goods. I make no false promises about that.
So having got it all, he would deliver nothing. Honourable members can judge for themselves the worth of Mr Hawke ‘s proposals. He absolutely refused to accept that in return for a halt in prices the unions should voluntarily agree to a 3-month pause in wage increases. He will never dare to put that exchange to a vote of his own members. If he did put it to a vote of his own members, he knows that the stand that he has adopted would not be supported.
-The honourable member for Grayndler has not been here long but he is certainly making himself heard tonight. I ask him to cease interjecting. I call the Prime Minister.
-Mr Speaker, I repeat that Mr Hawke absolutely refused to accept that in return for a halt in price increases the unions could or should voluntarily agree to a 3-month pause in wage increases. Instead, he put forward proposals outside the agreement. One of these was tax cuts. Mr Hawke ‘s notion that it is possible to substitute tax reductions for wage increases, while being economically responsible, is blatant nonsense. Let me give a few simple examples. Firstly, the cost of reducing by 5 percentage points the 27 per cent tax rate, applying to incomes between $2,260 and $5,650 would be $840m. The benefit to most taxpayers would be only $3.27 a week. Honourable members may compare this with the $5.70 a week increase recently granted by the Commission with which the ACTU has expressed strong dissatisfaction.
Secondly, for the critical 35 per cent tax rate area covering incomes between $5,650 and $1 1,300 a 5 per cent reduction would cost $740m. This would provide the following benefits to taxpayers. A taxpayer on $5,650 or less would receive no- I repeat no- benefit. A taxpayer on $6,000 a year would receive the magnificent benefit of 34c a week. What would Mr Hawke trade for that? A taxpayer on $8,000 a year would receive $2.60 a week benefit and a taxpayer on $ 10,000 a year, which is about the level of average earnings would receive a benefit of $4. 18 a week.
If Mr Hawke had done some very simple arithmetic, he would have discovered the absurdity of this sort of wage-tax proposition. It would have taken these 2 proposals together to come anywhere near offsetting the last wage increase. This is a cost to the Government’s Budget of over $ 1,600m to compensate for just one single quarter. Clearly, to implement literally Mr Hawke ‘s proposal, tax revenues would be slashed to an extent this country could not stand. His proposal is not in any sense a viable alternative to the even-handed intiative to break the price-wage spiral embodied in the heads of government agreement.
There was, of course, no suggestion from Mr Hawke as to how the tax cuts were to be financed. He did not mention whether additional expenditure cuts should be made to avoid the inflationary effects of additional recourse to the printing press. The 3 Labor Premiers whom he forced into line have not indicated whether they are prepared to contribute to the tax cuts by accepting pro rata reductions in their financial assistance grants. We would certainly welcome any meaningful offers from them in this direction. The funds will be gratefully received and passed on, no doubt, to taxpayers. It should be said that Mr Hawke has not been alone in attempting to undermine the heads of government agreement. With the honourable exception of the Leader of the Opposition, who has played a responsible role in these matters, many members opposite have attacked the agreement. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has said that the plan should be abandoned. The honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden), buffooning around tonight, has attacked the plan devised by this Government and all 6 State Premiers as a ‘flimsy political gimmick ‘.
– It is just apolitical gimmick.
-Let the honourable member say that to Mr Wran, Mr Dunstan or Mr Neilsen. The honourable member for
Adelaide (Mr Hurford), even though he poses as the shadow Treasurer, refuses to give his support to the plan. He said yesterday that he is cynical.
– My word I am. I still am.
-He says that he is cynical. I think that he describes himself correctly and he pays himself no tribute. The Opposition in this House, with the notable exception of the Leader of the Opposition, has taken every opportunity to attack and to criticise the plan to which three of their colleagues are parties. They have missed every opportunity to give the plan the wholehearted support which the occasion clearly demanded and which the nation expected of them.
Mr Speaker, the Government in its determination to make the price-wage halt work if at all possible, today met with peak union councils. We sought from the representatives of the peak councils support in principle- I emphasise ‘support in principle ‘-for the objectives set out in the heads of government agreement, that they would accept the principle of a voluntary pause in wages corresponding to the voluntary pause in prices which is already substantially in effect, as the President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission made plain in his judgment yesterday evening. Mr Hawke persistently evaded the questions I put to him. He recited a list of difficulties he foresaw in respect of prices. He refused to discuss a pause in wage increases.
Opposition members interjecting-
-Mr Speaker, the only tragedy this evening is that these proceedings are not being broadcast so that a wider audience would be able to listen to the behaviour of the Opposition and to realise how it treats a matter of this kind.
Opposition members interjecting-
-Order! The right honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
– You are imbeciles and lunatics. The honourable member for Cowper is an imbecile, too.
-Order! The honourable member for Grayndler will remain silent. I have already called attention to his interjections. The honourable member for Cowper will cease his private war with the honourable member for Grayndler.
-I cannot hear the Prime Minister because of this rabble, Mr Speaker.
-Order! The house is not serving its purpose as a national Parliament. I call upon the Prime Minister to complete his statement.
-The honourable member for Grayndler tonight is earning a reputation of which his father must be proud.
- Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order when the Prime Minister has resumed his composure and adjusted his sneer which is such an affront to the people I represent in this Parliament. As someone who at least knows who his father was, unlike people such as himself in this Parliament, I take the gravest offence at that kind of comment. That is a most offensive remark and it was quite uncalled for. It was altogether typical of the Prime Minister and the mongrels who stand behind him.
– I gather that the honourable member for Grayndler is not pleased with the statement, but it was not unparliamentary. I call the Prime Minister.
– That is unmanly, and I would expect nothing else.
– I suggest that the honourable member for Grayndler composes himself. I call the Prime Minister.
– I regret very much that the honourable member for Grayndler does not want a reputation of which his father can be proud.
Opposition members interjecting-
-Order! The Prime Minister will resume his statement.
-Mr Hawke recited a list of difficulties he foresaw in respect of prices. He refused to discuss the issue at question, namely, a pause in wage increases, having in mind again that the President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, Sir John Moore, had already paid recognition to the fact that action in relation to prices was substantially in order. Mr Hawke insisted that what was needed was a national conference, such as had been rejected in principle by all heads of government at the Premiers Conference, no doubt to provide him with a forum for another of his gratuitous and increasingly boring attempts to usurp the functions of government. If he really wanted to do that, I do not know why he cannot persuade his wonderful supporters in this House to allow him to become a member of this place. But maybe that is a matter which he has to work out.
He specifically asked me to seek the views of the Premiers on his proposal for a national conference. In a final effort to try to prevent a complete breakdown of the heads of government initiative, I said that my Government would be prepared to approach the State governments on the question of a national conference, if we could obtain from the peak councils support in principle to the objectives of the heads of government agreement. On being told that Mr Hawke and the other representatives present, with one exception, could not commit their organisations. I indicated that I was prepared to accept a personal commitment from them if they could not commit their organisations. Mr Hawke was not even prepared to do that. I was asking at that point no more than what one peak council had already indicated before the Arbitration Commission yesterday it was prepared to do. Mr Hawke was not prepared to lift his foot off the ground preparatory to taking the first step. Since there was no willingness to give even an expression of support, there was no point in holding any national conference. The unions had made it quite clear that they would not make any commitment even in the vaguest terms to the objective of the heads of government agreement.
We are proposing that an application be made to the Arbitration Commission to take action on the wages front- action which would be consistent with the prices halt the Arbitration Commission has already recognised. We hope that all businesses and other price setters will hold prices until the results of that approach are known. While the Commonwealth hopes that all Premiers will agree with this approach- we know that some Premiers will agree- the Commonwealth has determined to take this course. Some may ask: How can such an agreement be effective in view of Mr Hawke ‘s refusal to support the concept even of a wage-price freeze and his publicly expressed view in 1973 that a wage-price freeze will under no circumstances be acceptable to the union movement? The answer is simple. We believe that on this issue Mr Hawke and his colleagues are out of sympathy with the overwhelming majority of trade unionists, with the overwhelming majority of Australians. We believe that a decision of the Arbitration Commission which is seen to be eminently fairbecause a price freeze is in operation- will receive the greatest weight of support of Australian employees.
– Does the Leader of the House propose to move that the House take note of the paper?
– I do not intend to move that the House take note of the paper.
- Mr Speaker, I seek leave to make a statement on the same subject.
-Is leave granted?
-Leave is granted.
-When the Parliament resumed at a quarter past two yesterday afternoon the first question I asked the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) was whether he would make a statement which the House could debate on the actions which the Government would be taking and the guidelines which it would be urging on the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, the Prices Justification Tribunal, the Industries Assistance Commission, financial institutions and marketing bodies to obviate increases in prices, taxes and charges over the coming months. The Prime Minister avoided answering my question. At half past three the Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair) was stirred into giving an undertaking to the House that the Government intended that a statement should be made later that day. He said that there would be a debate on that statement and that the statement would canvass developments that day. At half past nine last night the Leader of the House came into the chamber and said that there would not now be a statement made that day.
Accordingly, we tried again to get a statement today. No statement was forthcoming. Now there has been a statement made but there is not to be a debate on it. There will be one Opposition speaker addressing himself to the statement by leave. At half past three yesterday the Leader of the House at least undertook that there would be a debate on the statement. The ordinary way to get a debate on a statement is for a Minister to move that the House take note of the paper. Thereupon honourable members on both sides of the House can debate the statement and any honourable member on either side can move an amendment to the statement. But the Government does not want members of the Opposition, except one member who can do so by leave, to debate this statement. It did not want its members to debate it either. So yesterday and right until late tonight there was no statement and there will be no debate other than my own contribution on it.
All yesterday, all today, the Prime Minister has floundered on this subject. Last night we had the diversion in the corridors, to-ing and fro-ing between his office and the office of the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard), as to who was to make the statement.
Finally all they could agree on was that the Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair) who had given the undertaking that there should be a statement at half-past three should go into the House at half-past nine and say there was not to be a statement. I suppose the Leader of the House was grateful that we did not have that early opportunity to expose the difference revealed at question time yesterday when he said that it was impossible to freeze the prices of primary products and the Prime Minister said that there would be no exemptions. Sir, that is the history- floundering all day yesterday and today by the Prime Minister, fidgeting all day by the Prime Minister. Even tonight when at last he had a text, in the grand old tradition of Liberal leaders which I have experienced for the last 10 years he fluffed his lines. The only touch in the whole of his speech which aroused the interest of his own followers- and, of course, the ridicule of my followers- was when he said: ‘The overwhelming majority of Australians irrespective of ‘sexual’ interests desire an enduring solution to the problem of inflation’ the most exquisite Freudian slip I have ever heard in the House. But I should have known, Mr Speaker, there was no way to freeze the Fraser Singapore syndrome.
The statement we have just heard from the Prime Minister, like his whole approach to this issue, was dishonest and provocative. It misrepresented the agreement signed by the Premiers last week. The point of that agreement was consensus. The basic objective to which the Premiers subscribed- all of them- was the idea of voluntary action to curb inflation. The concept of voluntary agreement was crucial; it was central; it was specifically spelt out 5 times in the short communique issued by the 7 heads of government in Australia. Let there be no mistake that that concept, the basis of the agreement, has been abrogated by the Prime Minister without warning. He will have only himself to blame for the collapse of this whole bungled and abortive enterprise. Overseas as well as at home, the people- the peoples- will understand that yet again the Fraser Government has come out with the same unconsidered, the same precipitous initiative as it did on devaluation. No wonder, once this proposal came out in Singapore, the Australian dollar lost some of its value. The people in this area hold this Government in contempt. They realise it has no policies and it cannot even stick to its own slogans for more than a few weeks.
On the specific question of wages, the Premiers agreement spelt out in clear terms that nothing would be done until union organisations had voluntarily committed themselves to a pause. That was to be the first step. AH heads of government were to approach the Australian Council of Trade Unions and other employee organisations to seek- I quote the agreement- a voluntary commitment to a 3 months freeze. It quickly became clear that before any consensus was reached, or even attempted, the Fraser Government was preparing to rush to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and seek a compulsory deferment of the forthcoming wage case. The Commission, patient and forbearing as always in the face of conflicting pressures, did its best to accommodate the interests of all parties.
At the hearing yesterday the State governments, the unions and the employers, still anxious to pursue and explore the prospects of a voluntary agreement, agreed to take part in a national conference. The Commission itself, mindful of the national interest and the need for genuine consensus, readily endorsed and supported the proposal. The Prime Minister may abuse Mr Hawke today at question time and now tonight he may abuse him. He may criticise Mr Hawke ‘s submission to the Arbitration Commission. But that submission to the commission got the support of most of the employer organisations and half the State governments and was commended by the Commission. The Prime Minister may belittle the submission. His own submission was described by one of the judges as a non- submission. But the submission that Mr Hawke made was supported by at least half the people appearing before the Bench and was commended- that was the word that the Bench used- by the Bench itself. This is what the President, Sir John Moore, said:
We believe that every effort should be made to pursue those avenues which provide the opportunity for reaching consensus. In this connection we commend the ACTU proposal, supported by the other peak union councils and the Governments or New South Wales, South Australia and Tasmania, Tor a broadly based conference to be called by the Commonwealth.
The Fraser Government has refused to hold such a conference. A course supported by most parties and commended by the Commission has been turned down flat by the Fraser Government.
So in the space of a week the Prime Minister has, first, abrogated the agreement for voluntary consensus on a wage-price freeze and, secondly, rejected a conference at which a voluntary consensus could be worked out. The Commission said that every effort should be made. One effort was made this morning and this afternoon. There has been no further effort. What respect will the Arbitration Commission now show for this
Government. The Commission is roundly abused in all the media by the Prime Minister and by his Ministers. Its advice, its deliberate advice, its public advice, is disregarded.
Having deceived the Premiers about his real intentions the Prime Minister then tried to hoodwink the trade union movement. By seeking the Premiers’ agreement to a submission to the Arbitration Commission postponing the May indexation hearing, the Prime Minister tried to push through a pay freeze before there was any chance of a voluntary agreement and before anything at all was done to guarantee a price freeze. The Prime Minister said that some of the Premiers started to have second thoughts. They made it quite clear what their attitude was. The Prime Minister tried to steamroller them, to stampede them into applying to the Arbitration Commission to compel a wage pause. They very properly pointed out that they had agreed that there should first of all be a consensus sought and obtained and only when it was obtained should there be an approach, a joint approach, to the Arbitration Commission. The Prime Minister at least had the grace to say that they had a point. Of course they did. It was in writing. The ink was scarcely dry and he was trying to stampede them into bypassing it and forgetting it.
The Government had one overriding objective in this enterprise: To forestall the Arbitration Commission’s hearing, and if possible its next hearing as well- not only the May one for the March quarter but the August one for the June quarter. If the Government had been genuine in its protestations last Wednesday it would have sought a conference at the first opportunity. It had the opportunity yesterday to call a conference and get down to serious discussion. It rejected a conference because it could not enforce its will in advance.
Now the Prime Minister has sent a telegram to the Premiers in which he asks: . . . would you be prepared to join in an approach to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to use its good offices to assist in achieving the prices and incomes pause as envisaged by our agreement.
The Prime Minister never learns. The Premiers said that there should first of all be a consensus sought and obtained, and only then, when there was agreement, would there be an approach to the Arbitration Commission. I believe the Prime Minister and some of his Ministers believe that if they publicly and constantly misrepresent the arbitration machinery in this country the public will come to believe that misrepresentation. The lie may prevail- the bigger the lie the more chance of its prevailing. We should understand that the Arbitration Commission operates under an Act passed very early in the life of the Federal Parliament of Australia and amended on many occasions.
The people who are appointed to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission have a statutory duty. They cannot just enforce a pay pause. They cannot enforce one even if governments apply for it. If there is an industrial dispute and organisations registered with the Commission apply to the Commission for that dispute to be settled, either through conciliation or arbitration, then the people on the Commission must carry out their statutory duty. It is open to any government to suspend the operations of the Commission. It is not a court and, accordingly, it can be suspended. It can be abolished. If it commends itself to a government that the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission should not operate for 3 months or 6 months or should operate only within certain percentage increases or variations, then it is open to the government to introduce legislation in this Parliament to so suspend or limit the Commission’s operations. But the Government does not try to do that. It has a majority of committed followers in both Houses. If it had the courage to do that it could do it, but it knows very well the experience of a former reactionary government in Australia in the late 1 920s which abolished most of the Federal arbitration powers. The public would not stand for that and the Prime Minister himself subsequently lost his seat.
– Do you mean Lord Bruce?
– I am pleased to hear you say that.
-The honourable member will notice that Bruce tried it only once. It was not a case of try, try again. Bruce learned his lesson, old man. It is open to the Parliament to suspend the operations of the Commission or to abolish the Commission but the Government will not do that. It will abuse the Commission. It will go through this farce of asking Premiers to join in an application to the Commission for a wage pause. We know perfectly well that the Premiers, who said at the beginning of the week that they would approach the Commission if there was consensus, will certainly not change their minds when the Prime Minister has been so provocative with one of the necessary parties to any consensus. A week ago the Prime Minister professed his concern with prices as well as wages. Now his concern is with one side of the bargain only. Not only have the prices of numerous commodities already risen since last week, with no word of protest from the Government but also the Government cannot even agree on how prices should be frozen or whether they should be frozen at all. In fact, the Government is openly split on the question. The Prime Minister said there should be no exemptions from the price freeze. The Minister for Primary Industry said perishable foodstuffs could not be frozen, in this sense. On the day the freeze was announced there was a simultaneous announcement of an inquiry into doctors fees. Over the weekend there were rises in the prices of tea, coffee, chocolate, dry cleaning, beer and perishable foods. A price rise for Leyland cars was announced only yesterday. It applies to quality cars. They would be cars in which the Prime Minister himself would take a great interest- Rovers, Daimlers, Jaguars -
– And Mercedes?
-That was a good buy and it is one policy which the Prime Minister has maintained. A price rise for Leyland cars was announced only yesterday and it was justified this morning as a direct result of devaluation. How many more will there be? There is no evidence and no likelihood that prices will be held at present levels. Already the exemptions include the miners, the manufacturers, the farmers, many of whom are no more than corporate dole bludgers. What sort of price freeze is it that exempts food, manufactured goods, imported goods? What sort of government is it that condones these rises while attacking the level of wages? Where is the strong appeal, the clear guidelines from the Prime Minister to producers and retailers- guidelines that consumers themselves could identify and understand? After a week there are none of the guidelines which the Opposition sought at 2.15 yesterday afternoon. Yet this morning the Prime Minister asked unions to sign a carte blanche, to agree to one side of the bargain without a clue of what the other side involved. Wage earners are being asked for forgo compensation for the consumer price index increase in the March quarter and to defer any wage rise until the third quarter of this year. But prices did not stop rising during the March quarter. They were affected during the March quarter by Medibank and devaluation. They will be affected in the June quarter by devaluation.
The Conciliation and Arbitration Commission held only a month ago that if there were no further wage rises for the rest of 1 977, prices in Australia would still rise by more than 1 1 per cent. Half of that rise would be due to Medibank and devaluation alone. The consumer price index only covers between 60 per cent and 70 per cent of items which are subject to any price freeze. Some 30 per cent or 40 per cent of the items are not covered at all by the prospective freeze. The Prices Justification Tribunal indexes prices. If somebody goes before the PJT- fewer and fewer people have to; retailers do not have to do so now- they are automatically given permission to charge the full increase in prices. There is no full indexation. There has not been any in three of the last four quarters from the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. Prices did not stop rising during the March quarter. They will not do so in June. Unlike a wage freeze, a price freeze cannot be made retrospective. There is to be no wage compensation for price rises which have already occurred and the Government can offer no confidence that prices will not continue to rise in the June quarter. Always remember that under wage indexation, whatever its virtues, employees get a rise in incomes only if prices have already risen and only to the extent that they have risen; no more.
In fact, real incomes have fallen. Incomes have risen less since April 1975, when wage indexation was introduced, than prices have risen. In 1976 prices rose by 14.4 per cent. Wages rose by only 11.6 per cent. In fact, real incomes have fallen. Already employees have fallen behind in the race. Even under indexation they have received less than the cost of living in three of the last four quarterly judgments. How can they be expected, with the best will in the world, to accept less and less compensation for inflation without any guarantee from the Government that prices will not rise further and leave living standards further behind? It is just not on. By trying to stampede the unions into submitting to just such a situation, the Prime Minister has sabotaged the whole wage-price agreement which the Premiers signed a week ago. Tonight the Prime Minister once again came out with this argument that there would be a drop in taxation and that there would be an increase of $2 or $3 a week because of the indexation of taxes. The fact is that the tax reduction to which he referred is no more than a tax indexation adjustment. Tax indexation is not a reduction in tax. Tax indexation only ensures that on an annual basis the proportion of income paid in tax does not rise unless the wage or salary increase is in excess of price increases. That is, a real increase in wages results in a higher proportion of tax being paid. The July tax indexation adjustment will be nothing more than a restoration of the excess tax that has been paid by Australian wage and salary earners as a result of the inflation that has been largely induced by the decisions of this Government.
If the Prime Minister really wants an agreement that will work, he will have to call a national conference, spell out what he will do about prices and get down to hard and honest discussion with all the parties concerned. That is his only option and it is the only honourable course. He had his chance a week ago and he blew it. The Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, the unions, the employers, the States offered him another chance yesterday. He blew that too. He talks of the need for trust and cooperation. How can a government appeal to unions for co-operation when it is pushing legislation through the Parliament to restrict their rights and freedoms in a way that no other democracy in the world has contemplated? How can it appeal for their trust -
-Order! It being 10.30 p.m., in accordance with the order of the House of 10 March 1977,Iproposethequestion:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I require the question to be put forthwith without debate.
Question resolved in the negative.
-The Prime Minister talks of the need for trust and co-operation. How can a government appeal to unions for cooperation when it is pushing legislation through the Parliament to restrict their rights in this way? How can it appeal for their trust when it tries to deceive them as the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has done this week? How can a government win the trust of employees when all its efforts are directed to reducing wages and living standards? How can a government win the trust of the community when promise after promise has been broken? This Government promised to support wage indexation. It broke that promise at the first national wage hearing after it came to office. This Government promised to maintain Medibank in letter and in spirit. It broke that promise. Let the Government show some sincerity. Let it stop its squabbling, stop blaming the unions, stop dithering on prices and get around the table for an honest discussion of our economic problems. 1 move:
That so much of Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Leader of the Opposition moving:
That the House rejects the Prime Minister’s statement because of its utter failure to provide guidelines for practical operation of the proposed wage-price freeze.
– I second the motion.
That the motion (Mr E. G. Whitlam’s) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker- Mr P. E. Lucock)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Motion (by Mr Howard) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I have been trying to make a speech on this wage-price freeze for several days now. Because the Government has not given us an opportunity to speak on it, I intend to take this 5 minutes to make part of my contribution. There are many elements about this call for a wage-price freeze that concern me. The first is the way in which it was brought about. It was about as spontaneous a happening as the coup of 1 1 November 1975. The full story has yet to be told but it is clear that there was a degree of collusion between the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), the Victorian Premier and the highest ranks of the Liberal Party and the bureaucracy. It has all the hallmarks of a carefully sprung trap.
Why should a highly conservative government suddenly unleash a policy proposal that has failed whenever it has been tried in the United States, the United Kingdom and Europe? Even the Prime Minister’s mentor, Milton Friedman, has condemned this proposal. The whole thing is fishy; in fact it smells in itself. It has nothing to do with the Government’s economic policy. On the other hand, it has everything to do with the politics of this Government. It ties in neatly with the Government’s plans to coerce the trade union movement through the Industrial Relations Bureau, through the restricted trade practices legislation and through the use of the corporations power in the Constitution. A careful examination of the motivations behind the scheme can lead only to this conclusion. Certainly there is no economic logic in this proposal.
The Government has severely eroded the system of wage indexation which brought to the economy a substantial slowing down of the underlying rate of inflation and a very high degree of industrial peace. It has had considerable success in forcing on the Labor movement a series of measures whose net effect has been to slash real wages. An ounce of thought would have driven home to the Government the basic truth that under full wage indexation, a successful 3-month price freeze would automatically mean a 3-month wage freeze in the following 3 months. This is the surest way of applying a wage-price freeze- to revert to full indexation and to clamp down on prices for 3 months. In my view, this should have been the objective of the Government.
One of the most unsavoury implications of the proposal is its long term impact on wage fixing. The essence of the Government’s tactic is to establish itself as the nation’s supreme wage fixing authority. We know that this is a situation the Government has sought for some time. The Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) has spoken quite openly about it at meetings of employers and farm groups. It is also the rationale behind the confident view of the AttorneyGeneral (Mr Ellicott) that the corporations power can be used to restrain wage rises.
It is a matter of grave concern that the Government should seek in this way to supplant the arbitration system as the determining authority for wages in Australia. We all know that the system has its faults. It also has a measure of impartiality. This quality would be destroyed completely if supreme authority for wage fixing were placed in the hands of a partisan government of whatever political colour. There is no doubt that the long term objective of this Government and the conservative forces which back it, is to get wage fixing back to the market place. It wants market forces to set wages and it wants a greatly weakened trade union movement to operate in this free market. This would destroy the whole structure of industrial protection which has been built up by more than 100 years of painful struggle. This ploy by the Government has very grave consequences for the Labor movement and I ask its members to give this deep consideration.
There is a wealth of other evidence that this Government has not thought through the impact of this proposal. In particular, it has not even considered that effect of the carrying out of a responsible monetary policy. During this week the Prime Minister said that interest rates would be frozen. At question time yesterday he again endorsed this proposal.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-In the short time available to me tonight I want to continue this discussion on the wages-prices squeeze because I am very disappointed at the way in which honourable members opposite have endeavoured, in concert with others, to break down the great storehouse of goodwill that the Australian people have offered to this proposal and the strong feelings they have that it would work to their benefit and to the benefit of this country. At the time when this proposal was announced, when governments of different political persuasions came together and said ‘We are prepared to co-operate; we are prepared to put aside our political differences and to work in the best interests of Australia’, my electorate at large embraced that proposal with a great deal of gratitude and enthusiasm.
– How would you know?
– By the way in which people responded to the call.
– You were not there. You were in Central Australia. You are not going to tell me that they rang you there.
-I say to the honourable member for Prospect that I speak to the people in my electorate. I speak to many people in it. I live in my electorate and I see people on every occasion I am in the electorate. I also had quite substanial meetings to discuss these questions before I came back to this place, as the honourable member should know. Putting that aside, there was some suggestion tonight in the speech that we heard from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Uren) that there was some plot, some connivance in the way in which this scheme was arrived at. When one looks at the nature of the parties involved, the experienced Premiers, how could one even allude to any sort of plotting or connivance? The plotting and connivance have come since then by the efforts of the leadership of the trade union movement to bring into line the Labor Premiers of Australia and to say: ‘You have adopted policies that do not fit into our plot to break the resolve of this Government to overcome the real problem that this country faces’.
This proposal has my wholehearted support because it is needed and is wanted. Suggestions have been made that these sorts of policies have not worked in other countries when they were applied in a compulsory way. I dare say that we all recognise those countries that have not been able to adopt proper policies to contain demand inflation and have then seen their policy of repression of wages and prices fail because the demand pressures were there to be its undoing. But that is not the situation in Australia at the moment. Proper demand policies have been pursued by the Government and the Government has made it clear that those policies will continue whilst a temporary freeze is in operation. What it does give us an opportunity to do is to break the cost-push element of inflation from which we suffer now. Everybody knows that the great bulk of the inflation from which we suffer is as a result of price rises being followed by wage rises and so on. Some people describe it as a form of spiral. If that can be broken the opportunity will be there for the policies that will contain excessive demand thereby to restrict inflation in the future and to contain it. But if we do not control that cost-push element now no amount of proper demand policies will overcome it. It is a pity that honourable members opposite do not recognise that, as does the whole Australian community, and that they do not embrace this policy entirely.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Dr KLUGMAN (Prospect) < 10.51 )- It is not my aim tonight to speak on the particular topicraised by the last 2 speakers, but I cannot start my contribution without mentioning that the last speaker, the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr Ruddock), seemed to imply that everybody was in favour of the wages and prices proposition. The Government has not even been able to produce one single tame economist- usually it has the Professor Warren Hogans or somebody like that- to give it support for this sort of policy. But everybody from Professor Milton Friedman to John Singleton, to Peter Samuels in the Bulletin, attacks the Government and criticises it. saying that the whole thing is a complete joke. It is just quite ridiculous. I agreed with one thing that the honourable member for Parramatta said, namely, his reference to price rises being followed by wage rises. That is exactly the situation. Price rises are followed by wage rises. That is what has been happening in this country for the last few years.
– And conversely.
– Originally price rises may well have been connected with wage rises, but for the last 2 years since the introduction of indexation we have had price rises being followed by wage rises. It is terribly simple for this Government to stop wage rises if it wants to do so. All it has to do is not have any price rises for one quarter. There will be then no increase in the consumer price index and therefore there will be no wage rises under indexation. There will be no need to get any agreement from the unions because the unions have accepted indexation. It is a terribly simple solution but the Government does not want to implement it.
My aim tonight really is to seek the incorporation in Hansard of a table which I am sure would be of interest to all honourable members. My reason for rising is really based upon the Indian election results. I do not intend to comment on whether the group of parties that won the election is any better than the Congress Party that was in power before the election. I do not know enough about Indian politics to enable me to do so. The only thing that I think is important about the Indian election result as far as we in this Parliament are concerned is that for some reason or other many people claim that the citizens in the poorer countries- in the undeveloped nationsare interested only in food and not in freedom. The Indian elections have quite clearly shown that people who are given the choice are interested in freedom. They are quite clearly interested in freedom if they are given that choice. If honourable members were to look at the particular electorate represented by the Minister of Justice in the previous Government, who introduced the legislation which restricted freedom under the previous Government, although admittedly only temporarily, they would find that he was defeated by a lawyer in exile, who was unable to campaign, who had to leave the country but yet received an overwhelming majority in the election. To me that showed quite clearly that the Indian people, as most other people in the world will do, will vote for freedom if they have the choice. Obviously they want food, but they also want freedom. That does not apply only to India. I ask for leave to incorporate a table in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The table read as follows-
Notes to the Table
-The table was produced by what is called Freedom House, which since 1952 has been a non-partisan and non-government organisation in New York. It has produced a table in which it has given nations points for political rights, civil rights and a general status of freedom of outlook. I hope that honourable members will have a look at it and be as depressed as I have been by the large number of countries which have no freedom. There have been recent changes but they have not all been for the better. The worst change, of course, has been in Thailand, which has lost its freedom. There have been gains recently in Portugal because it has joined the free nations. I think that Sri Lanka has improved its freedom. Other countries, such as Spain and Egypt, have improved their status as far as freedom is concerned. Obviously India also did so, even under the previous Government when it called an election. Nonetheless the summary from Freedom House placed 43.9 per cent of the world’s population in the category of not-free countries and 36.4 per cent of the tOtal population in the category of partly free countries. Only 19.6 per cent of the total world’s population are considered to be free citizens. Let us look at that and consider it when we talk about freedom in other countries.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-The Federal Labor Party is split into a dozen different directions over the question of the wages and prices freeze. What right does it have to purport to be the alternative government of this country? It is totally at variance with its own State parliamentary leaders, Mr Wran and Mr Dunstan. There has been talk about economists. The elected leaders of the people are the ones who run this country in the elected leadership of this Government and of the States. If Mr Wran and Mr Dunstan see fit to sign a general statement of agreement to a wages and prices freeze that is the ultimate expression of the will of the people that ought to be eventually reflected in practical political programs. What we have seen in the last few days is a disgraceful attempt by the labour unions to avoid the responsibility for something that the people want to see put into operation. There is overwhelming support for the wages and prices freeze or pause. Mr Hawke is not the first trade union official to come out with rejections of the proposal, although he is the most prominent. Almost immediately the New South Wales Labour Council, with a most prominent member called Mr Unsworth, came out with an almost flat rejection of the proposal before it could even have considered the matter in any detail. The Australian Council of Trade Unions has been late in the day even in making any statements. Other trade union leaders have rejected the proposal before this time.
- Mr Halfpenny.
– I am informed that Mr Halfpenny also has done so. Eventually, late in the day, what happened? The ACTU tried to wriggle itself out of a difficult situation. The trade union leaders are desperately seeking a way to doublecross the interests of their own members without their own members finding them out. They are seeking legalistic formulas to get out of the principle of a wages and prices freeze or pause. Mr Hawke has come up with the suggestion for tax cuts as a quid pro quo. He has fatally missed the point. The simple fact is that what has been proposed in principle is a trade-off of a freeze on prices and wages, and they go together whichever way one looks at it. I happen to take the view that in recent times it is patently obvious that the increases in wages have forced up costs and therefore increased prices. But, whatever way one looks at it, the nexus has to be between prices and wages. Taxation should be offset against work and productivity. There are 2 separate and completely definable equations. If the unions want tax cuts let them ensure that there is a responsible return to reasonable union activities in this country, and that the strikes, loss of production and other disruptive activities that we have been facing over the past few years are ended. I will say one very slight thing in support of a comment made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Uren). I think that this Government has stressed a little too much the fact that it was elected in order to solve the economic problems of the day. That is true. But the economic problems that this Government faced in 1975 were caused by the nature and character of the former Government and it was the nature and character of the former Government predominantly against which the people revolted. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition talked about what happened in 1975. What happened in 1 975 was that the former Government attempted to act unconstitutionally, attempted to act illegally and attempted to act in ways in which it is not proper to act.
-Order! It being 1 1 p.m. the debate is interrupted. The House stands adjourned until 10.30 a.m. tomorrow.
House adjourned at 1 1 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 9 March1977:
What recurrent and non-recurrent expenditures under major programs administered by the Department of Social Security in the Electoral Division of Penh were made in 1976.
– The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
Records are not maintained to show the breakdown by electoral divisions of expenditure under major programs of the Department of Social Security.
Whilst the information sought is accessible for some programs involving relatively small numbers of grants and total expenditures, its compilation for all major programs would involve a detailed analysis of expenditure vouchers and other records for which staff resources are not at present available.
Moreover, for many programs, figures supplied on the basis of electoral boundaries would be misleading if taken to indicate the extent to which facilities are provided for residents of the electoral division. Particularly in the case of urban electorates, homes, hostels, centres and the like serve a population drawn from areas extending beyond the electoral boundaries.
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice, on 9 March 1 977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Mr Justice Joske: Judge of the Australian Industrial Court, additional Judge of the Supreme CourtoftheNorthern Territory of Australia, additional Judge of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory, Judge of the Supreme CourtofNorfolkIsland.
Mr Justice Smithers: Judge of the Federal Court of Australia, Judge of the Australian Industrial Court,ad ditional Judge of the Supreme CourtoftheAustralian Capital Territory, additional Judge of the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory of Australia.
Mr Justice Dunphy: Judge of the Australian Industrial Court, additional Judge of the Supreme Court of the NorthernTerritoryofAustralia,additionaljudgeofthe Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory, additional Judge of the SupremeCourtofNorfolkIsland, additional Judge of the Supreme Court of Cocos (Keeling) Island, additional Judge of the Supreme Court of Christmas Island.
Mr Justice Nimmo: Judge of the Federal Court of Australia, Judge of the Australian Industrial Court.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 9 March 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 9 March 1 977: (1)HashenotedTable12,appearingonpage41ofthe Second Annual Report of the Health Insurance Commission, which indicates that, for the Australian Capital Territory, the average benefit for service paid for operations was $44.90 and for assistance at operations $42.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 9 March 1977:
Will he provide details of the Health Program Grant payments by the Health Insurance Commission which amounted to over $7m in 1975-76.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Details of the Health Program Grants payments by the Health Insurance Commission in 1975-76 are as follows:
asked the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, upon notice, on 9 March 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
School leavers are now defined as comprising all persons under the age of 2 1 who, at the time of registering with the CES, had ceased full-time primary or secondary education within the previous 6 months.
The previous definition differed in that it comprised:
Composition of the Australian Work Force (Question No. 91)
asked the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, upon notice, on 9 March 1977:
What is the number of ( a ) blue-collar and ( b ) white-collar workers in the total number of employees in the Australian workforce.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
There are no official statistics which classify employees by ‘white-collar’ or ‘blue-collar’ status. The most recent information available in sufficient occupational detail to categorise employees in this way was collected in the 1971 Population Census. Using this data, my Department has estimated that 2 101 200 and 2 000 200 employees worked in blue-collar and white-collar occupations respectively (this breakup excludes ‘members of armed services’, ‘farmers, fishermen, hunters, timber-getters, etc’ and ‘occupation inadequately described or not stated’). This is a ratio of 1.05:1.
Latest information published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics Shows that there were 4 722 700 civilian employees (excluding agriculture and private domestic service) in Australia at December 1976. Applying the ratio obtained from the 1971 Population Census data to this figure gives an estimate of 2 419 500 blue-collar workers and 2 303 200 white-collar workers at end 1976.
It should be realised, however, that this estimate is inaccurate to the extent that the proportions of blue-collar and white-collar workers have changed between June 1971 and December 1976.
asked the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, upon notice, on 9 March 1977:
What was the total number of potential man days lost to production on account of unemployment in 1 976.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: ‘Man days lost’ is a specific technical term normally restricted to the measurement of the impact of industrial disputes. Its purpose is to provide a quantifiable measure of the actual loss of production caused by industrial disputes. As such, ‘man days lost’ is a reasonably precise quantifiable term.
In the case of unemployment and, for that matter, most other potential sources of production loss, it would be necessary to first establish some agreed normal level from which the current situation deviates. It is clear that in the case of unemployment any attempt to quantify ‘man days lost’ would be so subject to argument as to lose any analytical value.
asked the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, upon notice, on 9 March 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Other planned expenditure for overseas use in 1976-77 is a total of $180,466 to print information booklets and leaflets in up to 14 languages. These will ensure that prospective migrants are properly informed about aspects of life in Australia (e.g. employment, housing, social security, taxation, education). $18,950 has been allocated for other countries. This is being used for a variety of information activities.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 9 March 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: ( 1 ), (2), (4) and (5) See my answer to Question No. 1334 (Hansard, 7 December 1976, page 3434).
This policy differs from that of the previous Government under which my predecessor and his Ministers regarded all gifts as personal.
asked the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, upon notice, on 9 March 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, upon notice, on 9 March 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: ( 1 ), (3) and (4) As at 5 April 1977 the following organisations had received grants under the Community Youth Support Scheme in the Federal electoral divisions indicated. - The amount and duration of each grant is also shown.
am asked the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 9 March 1 977:
What Commonwealth-State working parties of officials have been set up to examine and advise on matters having a Commonwealth and State interest.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Information in respect of all Commonwealth-State working parties of officials which have been set up to examine and advise on matters having a Commonwealth and State interest is not readily available. To collect and assemble it would be a major task and it has not been the practice of successive Governments, including the honourable member’s administration, to authorise the expenditure of money and effort involved in assembling such information on a general basis.
I intend to follow the usual practice which is that if the honourable member wishes to know details in respect of any particular aspect I shall examine his request to see if he can be provided with the necessary information.
Transition from Secondary Education to Employment (Question No. 212)
am asked the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, upon notice, on 9 March 1977:
Did the Ministers for Labour at their meeting on 25 February 1977 consider the September 1976 report of the Working Party on the Transition from Secondary Education to Employment which was established by the Education Council with the agreement of the Labour Ministers; if so, with what result.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The report of the Working Party on the Transition from Secondary Education to Employment was considered by the Conference of Ministers of Labour at its meeting on 25 February 1977.
At this meeting, Ministers for Labour concurred with a proposal of the Australian Education Council to establish a Commonwealth/State Working Party of education and labour officers to develop proposals for early consideration and, subsequently, to act as a steering group for further action in the area of vocational preparation programs. Action is now in hand to convene this Working Party.
am asked the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, upon notice, on 9 March 1977:
What were the cost, nature and duration of each project for which assistance has been (a) sought and (b) approved under the Community Youth Support Scheme.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
As at 5 April 1977, 238 applications had been received for funding under the Community Youth Support Scheme of which 103 have been approved. The remainder are being examined to assess whether they meet the Scheme’s requirements. Where these requirements are not met applications are referred back to the sponsoring organisation for modification or further information.
All CYSS projects seek to improve the ability of unemployed young people to apply for jobs and find employment and to help to maintain them with a sense of direction and purpose, including an orientation to work.
In regard to the cost and duration of each project approved, I refer the honourable member to my Answer to Question No. 178. Similar information is not available in respect of projects not yet determined.
am asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 8 March 1 977:
Which authority has been nominated, as recommended in the August 1976 report of the Steering Committee on Parramatta Region Public Transport Study, as the lead agency to examine the documentation from the study in detail and to organise active participation of other agencies.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
No such recommendation was made by the Steering Committee. In fact the comment to which you refer was made by the Consultants who were engaged to undertake the Study under the direction of the Steering Committee. It should be noted that the Steering Committee decided it should ‘ not us a Committee make any recommendations for action as a result of the study’. In addition to the report being made available to the New South Wales Government all documentation has been provided to the New South Wales Urban Transport Study Group for consideration. Any future action concerning the report is now the responsibility of the New South Wales Government.
am asked the Minister for Construction, upon notice, on 9 March 1977:
What are the (a) location, (b) cost and (c) completion date of each public work which has been commenced or approved in the Electoral Divisions of Chifley, Macarthur, Macquarie, Mitchell, Parramatta, Prospect and Werriwa.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The following is a list of Commonwealth public works arranged by the Department of Construction which have been commenced or approved for commencement this financial year in the Electoral Divisions of Chifley, Macarthur, Macquarie, Mitchell, Parramatta, Prospect and Werriwa.
asked the Minister for Productivity, upon notice, on 22 March 1 977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Productivity, upon notice, on 22 March 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Its Working Environment Division is concerned with human relations and is doing work in the area of labour/management co-operation. The Division is also concerned with physical working conditions such as lighting, ventilation, noise and general workplace design. The Division is closely linked with the Productivity Promotion Council of Australia and Productivity Groups.
The National Materials Handling Bureau is a communication bridge between sources and users of technology in materials handling, packaging and physical distribution; it is also a source in itself. The Bureau’s role is to achieve productivity improvement through wider adoption of better practices in those fields.
The Patent Office is the repository of technical information contained in Australian and overseas patent specifications. The Department is extending the dissemination of this information as a productivity improvement initiative.
The Government factories are the repository of high technology because of the nature of their functions. There is technology transfer between the factories and industry. A group with experience gained in providing an industrial engineering service to the Government factories also provides advice to industry as requested.
The Government’s industrial research and develop- ‘ ment grants scheme is a responsibility of the Productivity portfolio.
The Department is responsible for the Government’s contribution to industrial design promotion.
The Assistance to Inventors Scheme is managed by the Department.
Interfirm comparison studies are prepard for firms in the manufacturing and tertiary sectors.
Various Information Services are provided- for example the Australian Manufacturing Technology Information Service (AMTIS); Patent Information Service: Occupational Safety and Health Information Services; and General Productivity Information Services.
Industrial training is a responsibility of the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations in conjunction with the Minister for Productivity.
The Department co-operates with other bodies in fostering productivity improvement- for example the Standards Association of Australia and the Australian Organisation for Quality Control.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics derives an annual measure of national productivity by calculating the ratio of gross domestic product (at constant prices) to the number of persons in the labour force. On the basis of these data, yeartoyear variations can be measured and the percentage increase or decrease deduced. In this way, it is possible to indicate the annual rate of productivity change in the national economy.
For a more detailed explanation of output and input components I refer the honourable member to the ‘ Report of the Working Party on the Measurement of Labour Productivity’ (Department of Employment and Industrial Relations 1975).
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 23 March 1 977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
This total can be split into the following categories:
Heavy aircraft are defined as having an all up weight greater than 5700 kilograms.
Of the 12 004 airline aircraft movements, 8267 are jet aircraft.
The domestic airlines pay Air Navigation Charges which are a composite charge covering the use by aircraft of aerodromes, air routes and airways facilities, meteorological services and search and rescue services maintained, operated or provided by the Commonwealth. The amount of charge varies with both the type of aircraft and the route flown. Charges for domestic non-scheduled flights are comparable with those for scheduled services. Because of their composite nature, it is not possible to precisely allocate revenue to specific locations from Air Navigation Charges.
For general aviation aircraft an annual air navigation fee is payable varying with aircraft type, registration category and home base. Again, there are no statistics which readily relate these characteristics to specific locations in this case Rockhampton. Whilst there may be a number of general aviation aircraft based at Rockhampton, they may not necessarily reflect the level of general aviation activity which occurs there.
In relation to military aircraft no charges are levied for the use of civil aviation facilities. Conversely, no charges are made for civil use of military facilities. These are judged to offset each other.
asked the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, upon notice, on 23 March 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Similar data, but grouped by office areas of the CES, with the relevant Electoral Division indicated, is also available on a microfiche held in the Parliamentary Library.
I am able to inform the honourable member that a total amount of about $4,843,000 was paid under the Regional Employment Development Scheme to sponsors of projects located in his Electorate. At least SO per cent of this amount would have been in respect of the wages and on-costs of employing persons registered as unemployed with CES. Using a standard cost for employing a person on council work in New South Wales and an average figure for the duration of projects, it is estimated that at least 1280 positions for unemployed persons would have been created under REDS in the honourable member’s Electorate.
Commonwealth Payments to University and Non-university Consultants (Question No. 517)
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice, on 23 March 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Professor Colin Howard was paid $25,000 in 1975-76; an amount of $8,387 was also paid to the University of Melbourne as the employer’s contribution of Professor Howard’s superannuation contributions.
Professor Howard’s contract terminated on 30 September 1976. Payments of $8,333 to Professor Howard and $7,866 to the University of Melbourne have been made under contract in 1976-77.
In his capacity as General Counsel, Professor Howard gave advice direct to former Attorneys-General. Professor Howard in 1976 furnished advice to the Law Reform Commission on various references until his engagement terminated.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 20 April 1977, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1977/19770420_reps_30_hor104/>.