30th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. B. M. Snedden, Q.C.) took the chair at 2.15 p.m., and read prayers.
– I inform the House of the deaths of Mr Albert Oliver Badman, a former senator and member of this House, and Mr Albion Hendrickson, a former senator. Mr Badman, who died on 24 April 1977, represented the State of South Australia in the Senate from 1932 until 1937 and represented the division of Grey from 1937 to 1943. Mr Hendrickson, who died on 28 April 1977, represented the State of Victoria in the Senate from 1947 to 1971. On behalf of the House I have forwarded messages of sympathy to their respective widows and families. As a mark of respect to the memory of the deceased, I invite honourable members to rise in their places.
Honourable members having stood in their places
– I thank the House.
– 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 ofeach quarterly movement in the Consumer Price Index and their application as a percentage increase in age and invalid pensions is excessive, unnecessary, discriminatory and a cause of economic distress to pensioners.
That proposals to amend the Consumer Price Index by eliminating particular items from the Index could adversely affect the value of future increases in age and invalid pensions and thus be a cause of additional economic hardship to pensioners.
The foregoing facts impell your petitioners to ask the Australian Government as a matter of urgency to:
And your petitioners as in dutybound will ever pray. by Mr Armitage, Mr Falconer, Dr Jenkins, Dr Klugman, Mr Les McMahon and Mr Ian Robinson.
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 wild (feral) donkeys transportedfrom Western Australia and the Northern Territory to the Eastern Slates suffer undue stress and die unnecessary deaths under conditions we consider inhumane.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that existing laws relating to the prevention of crueltyto animals be enforced and in particular that RSPCA inspection be mandatory on commencement and en route.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Baillieu.
To the Honourable the Speaker, and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. 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 situations 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
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Braithwaite.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the products of nuclear fission create risks unlike those of any other single technology and. furthermore, it is uncertain whether or not nuclear fission technology, taking all inputs into account, is a net producer of energy.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will take immediate steps to bring about the wishes expressed in our petition that:
By reason of the hazards associated with the use of uranium in nuclear power plants, mining of uranium in Australia be restricted to that needed for physical and biomedical research and medical diagnosis.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Chapman.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned members of Parents Without Partners Australia Incorporated and citizens of Australia respectfully say:
That we are concerned about the discrimination and hardship being experienced by lone fathers and their children. They are faced with the same problems and financial needs as supporting mothers, without equal opportunity for comparable benefits. We feel that the Government do not recognise the needs of this section of our community.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that Parliament take immediate steps to ensure that this years Budget allows for lone fathers to be given the right to receive a pension on the same basis as supporting mothers. We also request that the Government take immediate action to instigate one ( 1 ) category of lone parent pensions to eliminate the discrimination currently experienced in the present structure.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Goodluck.
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully show us:
That due to the new information on whale communication, behaviour and intelligence, and to the depicted 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. by Mr Hodgman.
Chilean Citizens in Australia
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned electors of Australia respectfully showeth that we humbly pray:
That we protest against the threatened deportation of Chilean people from Australia, considering the threat to their safety if they are forced to return to Chile. The estimated number of persons missing in Chile is 2,500, excluding the thousands of recognised policital prisoners in Chilean jails.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray by Mr Innes.
To the Speaker and the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens and residents from overseas respectfully showeth that many Australians and residents from overseas are concerned for the safety of Malaysian student leader Mr Hishamuddin Rais.
Mr Hishamuddin Rais, the past Secretary General of the University of Malaya Student Union is currently in Australia seeking political asylum.
We your petitioners pray that the Commonwealth Government-
Recognises that Mr Hishamuddin Rais was persecuted by the Malaysian Government for his activities as a student leader, because he supported the struggle of the peasant and workers for just working and living conditions.
Considers Mr Hishamuddin Rais’ case favourably and grant him political asylum in the spirit of the UN Declaration of Human Rights which states that everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.
Understands that the belated pressing of these charges as a deliberate attempt to incriminate Hishamuddin Rais before the law so as to jeopardise his case for political asylum. Hence, we demand that these fabricated charges be withdrawn in order that Hishamuddin ‘s case for political asylum not be prejudiced.
Acknowledges that the case of Hishamuddin Rais is a particular instance of political pressure brought to bear upon overseas students in Australia as a result of the collusion between the Australian Government and foreign regimes.
And recognises that political surveillance and political intervention by foreign and Australian agents is a direct threat on the life and liberty of overseas students.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Innes.
Royal Commission on Petroleum
The petition of certain members of the Service Station Association of New South Wales Ltd, and certain members of the motoring public of New South Wales 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 Dr Klugman.
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.
-Mr Speaker, I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
Trade and Commerce between the States
-Mr Speaker, I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move- and I might say that this motion is seconded by the honourable member for Braddon (Mr Groom):
That, bearing in mind the fundamental principles contained in section 92 of the Commonwealth Constitution, this House is of the opinion that it is alien to the concept of federalism if deliberate industrial strike action is instigated for the purpose of interfering, hindering or preventing freedom of trade and commerce between the States or for the purpose ofeffectively isolating one State from the other States and accordingly this House is of the opinion that in defence of the federal system in Australia legislation should be passed by this Parliament at the earliest opportunity to ensure thatthose who choose to contravene the principles of section 92. by isolating States and in particular the State of Tasmania, shall be called upon to publicly answer for their actions and shall be subject to appropriate sanctions in accordance with the law.
-The Prime Minister will remember that on 31 March 1977 the Foreign Minister told the honourable member for Fraser that without his knowledge- I emphasise the words ‘without his knowledge’- 2 Indonesian officials were waiting for him at the airport when he visited Bali in September 1975. He will have noted that on the same day the Australian Ambassador in Jakarta had cabled to the Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs that the meeting in Bali had been arranged between the honourable member and the Indonesian Ambassador in Australia before the former left Australia. I ask: Has the Prime Minister interviewed the Minister about thus misleading the House and what action has he taken?
-The honourable gentleman should be a little more careful in the allegations implied in his question because they are false. It is my understanding that there has been a conversation between the Ambassador and Australia- not with the Minister for Foreign Affairs- in recent times. It is my understanding that the Ambassador recognises that he drew a conclusion which he had no right to draw. I understand also that the honourable gentleman has a cable which he got in another capacity and which he holds. But it is also my understanding that there is very clear evidence that the Minister asked for a visa to visit Bali, and nothing more. I am quite convinced that that is the fact of the situation and that the honourable gentleman has adduced no evidence to the contrary.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, concerns the AlburyWodonga growth centre. I ask the Minister whether his attention has been invited to statements by New South Wales and Victorian Ministers calling for an urgent meeting of the AlburyWodonga Ministerial Council to discuss funding arrangements for the complex? Will a meeting of the Ministerial Council be held in the near future? Has the Commonwealth Government made a firm financial commitment to the project?
– I thank the honourable member for his question because it raises an issue which this Government is now beginning to view with concern, that is, the intention of the States of New South Wales and Victoria towards the Albury-Wodonga growth centre. The history of this Government’s activities in Albury-Wodonga points to the reasons for the Government’s concern. I will take up the time of the .House for a moment to recapitulate the history of the events of the last eight or nine months because they are very relevant to the honourable gentleman’s question.
Firstly, after some negotiations the Commonwealth agreed, at a ministeral meeting on 8 November, that it would fund the AlburyWodonga project on a dollar for dollar basis and, further, that it considered that AlburyWodonga was a significant project of national importance. The Government stated further that it would like the views of the States urgently as to what the States would do about that proposition. Since then, despite officials meeting on 12 January, I think it was, and although I wrote to my ministerial colleagues in February, stressing the urgency and asking them for a reply to the Government’s proposals, nothing happened until about the end of March. That demonstrates the urgency displayed by the States in their consideration of this matter.
Then, their replies to the Government’s proposition have been what can only be described as absurd. They have said that they will agree to a sharing arrangement in Albury-Wodonga but on the basis that the Government would share, on a dollar for dollar basis, all decentralisation measures in those States. Of course, in a sense of equity, that would include all States in Australia. What they are in fact asking for, according to advice I have received, is about $60m this year, increasing to about $190m plus in the next 3 years. The States must realise, as the Government has assessed, that this is an impossible situation.
I will be meeting with the Ministers, in a sense of urgency, on Friday next, 6 May, but I am afraid that I will be telling them that their positions as they have put them are quite unacceptable to the Commonwealth. The question must be asked: Are the States fair dinkum about Albury-Wodonga? I have real suspicions about their intentions. The Commonwealth’s money is on the table. It is up to the States now to show their financial and political commitment as well.
– Why have you sold out our deal?
-The Deputy Leader of the Opposition may well interject and ask questions. This is the man who is responsible for the extravagances that occurred in Albury-Wodonga. I am glad to say that his colleague, the Labor Minister in the New South Wales Government, readily saw the extravagances that he entered into and agreed with the Government that they should be cut back. This saved millions upon millions of dollars.
– I direct my question to the Prime Minister. I ask: Has the Government taken any action to prevent General Motors-Holden’s Pty Ltd from closing down all its Australian plants? Further, has the Government given consideration to what will be the role of the Government in the post-freeze period in relation to claims going before the Prices Justification Tribunal from the car industries for price increases? Will the Government support or oppose companies making up losses suffered during the so called price freeze?
-There were certain reports concerning conversations that the Government was alleged to have had with representatives of the motor industry. I think it ought to be said at the outset that in advising the Government of the current state of the industrythere were eight or ten representatives of the industry, including General Motors-Holden’s Pty Ltd, present on that occasion, on 20 Aprilnobody raised the problems that General Motors has since learned about and has since been experiencing. The General Motors’ representative did not raise those problems in any sense, shape or form but obviously accepted the general industry approach as it was put to the Government at the time, which was a quite different approach. It is clear that there is an industry situation at the moment and a General Motors’ situation. Apparently General Motors is finding it harder to sell its cars. Its industry is structured differently from other parts of the motor industry. Whereas others have some flexibility by varying overtime arrangements, the General
Motors’ capacity is so large that that possibility is not as open to it, so I am advised. In addition, the General Motors’ share of the market, I am told, has been somewhat less than on earlier occasions, and other domestic manufacturers have somewhat increased their share of the market. So this just emphasises the point that there is an industry position and a General Motors’ position. There have certainly been no assurances given to the motor industry of any kind about a post 3-month price freeze situation. I understand that when I was out of the discussions some points were made by the industry which would not have been more than notes, and it was left at that.
In relation to the freeze, I think the Government’s position has been well understood for quite some time. If it were to be accepted on both sides- this is likely to be finally determined at the hearings of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission that have begun this morning- that the freeze should be proceeded with, then the problems that would occur in some areas and in the transition arrangements in the post 3-month period should be examined jointly by the Prices Justification Tribunal and the committee that the Government has suggested should be established, a committee representing the Tribunal, employers and employees on the one hand and the Commission on the other, because it certainly continues to be the Government’s view that there is such widespread community support for this broad approach that the community would not want to lose the benefits of it at the end of a 3-month period. This, as the honourable gentleman knows, depends upon a later point and on what happens over the next two or three days.
I do not think there is anything else that I can add in relation to these matters. Very late last week, I understand, General Motors sought by telephone to contact one or two Ministers, and there have been some discussions with the trade union movement. It would be the view of the Government that attempts to have those discussions on a proper and meaningful basis should certainly have been made considerably in advance of the action taken by General Motors.
– I address my question to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I refer the Minister to the question I asked him on 31 March 1977 regarding his meeting in Bali with 2 senior Indonesian officials. I ask the Minister: Did he state in answer to my question that the meeting in Bali took place without his prior knowledge? I also ask: In the light of the report of the secret telegram between Mr Woolcott and Mr Renouf, will the Minister again state that this meeting was arranged without his knowledge? As the Minister did not refer to his own notes taken at the meeting in his reply to my previous question, I ask the Minister: When did he recall that he had made such notes? Finally, will the Minister make a statement to this House on his meeting in Bali and on the grave issues that have been raised about that meeting following the publication during the last 3 days of important documents concerning the meeting?
-I am pleased to deal with this question, for reports concerning my visit to Bali in September 1975 are not only distorted, they are totally false. The facts are as follows: In September 1975 I left Australia to visit Papua New Guinea and then went onwards to attend a conference in Iran. Before leaving Australia my wife and I planned to stop over in Bali on the way back from Iran, and I contacted the Indonesian Ambassador in Canberra to arrange for visas. Well might the honourable member for Fraser listen with interest. I made it clear to the Ambassador that my sole purpose in stopping over was to have a rest. All I requested of the Ambassador was a visa. When I arrived in Bali and was met by the 2 Indonesian officers, as I have previously stated in this House, I had no foreknowledge that they would be there. In the event, my wife and I that night attended 2 social functions and had a drink with them before retiring. During all this time we had a general conversation about relations between our 2 countries including, naturally, the Timor issue. My well known views were politely but firmly restated.
As to what purports to be the ‘record of interview’ of that conversation, it is simply a travesty of a report. What is not outright falsehood or invention is drastically distorted. I did not say that the Liberal Party would not protest against an Indonesian resort to force on the Timor issue. Indeed, for many months, I had been saying quite the contrary. The fact that when in office we did protest at the highest level on a government to government basis and indeed by taking the matter, as the previous Government did not. to the United Nations and voting against Indonesia, makes nonsense of the claim that I did say so.
I did not refer to the Association of South East Asian Nations in cynical terms of a ‘moral cover’ but genuinely in terms of an opportunity to develop and demonstrate the effectiveness of the organisation which should not be missed. I was the first to introduce the question of an ASEAN initiative into the Australian debate on Timor. It was applauded editorially. What I said in Bali was completely consistent with my public position, which can be found on the record in this House and which is referred to in the documented account of the previous Government’s handling of the Timor issue by a former member of Senator Willesee ‘s staff. I did not say that I respected the Whitlam policy, nor that I would continue it in office. I did not respect it and I did not continue it.
Lastly, I did not outline the scenario concerning Australia’s domestic politics which is set out in the alleged record. Anyone who honestly believes that any politician, let alone one who had been out of the country for some time, could set out such a detailed scenario as early as September 1975 either has only the most tenuous understanding of the Australian political situation as it existed at that time or is prepared to take conspiracy theory to the point of fantasy. The fact is, as Mr Tjan states, that these matters were not discussed at all. This part of the document, which comprises nearly half of the whole, moves from extreme distortion to simple outright fabrication. What gives this report the lie most conclusively is the policy which the Government has actually followed on the Timor issue. That policy has been consistent with what I and other Ministers have said publicly and with what I said in Opposition, reminding the House that to the best of my knowledge the first member of this Parliament ever to issue a statement on Timor was me in September 1974 when I learnt of the previous Prime Minister’ duplicity. I followed it both in this House and outside throughout the remainder of 1974 and throughout 1975, and countless people can be called to corroborate my private views, which were at all times consistent with my publicly expressed views. From September 1 974 onward, from the time of the meeting between the then Prime Minister Whitlam and President Suharto, I was consistently a critic of the Labor Government’s stance. All that I said privately and publicly bears that out.
May I turn finally to the allegation that I misled the Parliament when I stated that I was completely surprised to be met at Bali by 2 officials. That statement of my reaction of surprise is correct. It is alleged that a cable from Ambassador Woolcott casts doubt on this. Well, Mr Woolcott ‘s apparent conclusion was incorrect. My only conversation with Ambassador Tasning was to request a visa- nothing more and nothing less. Ambassador Tasning completed his term in Australia last year and he is now the Indonesian Ambassador to Singapore. Last night a cable was received from our High Commissioner in Singapore recounting a conversation he had with Ambassador Tasning yesterday. It reads:
In my conversation with him on 2 May Tasning confirmed that you had never asked Tor, or discussed either a briefing or meeting about Timor, during your visit to Bali in September, 1975. All that was sought was a visa, which had been issued.
I table that cable.
-I direct my question to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. Does the Minister remember telling the House last Wednesday that an alteration to the level of protection to the textile industry was imminent, yet when the action was eventually taken the particulars were given to the Press and not to Parliament? Does the Minister not agree that this is a discourteous and improper procedure to adopt when the House is sitting? ls this not a particularly dangerous precedent to set in cases such as this when particular advantages are being given to particular people to the great disadvantage of other people? As the Minister has already announced what action the Government will take before the report of the Industries Assistance Commission is even received, does the Minister not realise that by so doing he is making nonsense of the philosophy that evolved the IAC and the Tariff Board system, namely, that before special advantages are given to particular people there must be sworn public evidence and a publicreport?
-I think the honourable member for Wakefield is referring to a remark I made when replying to the debate on a number of associated Bills in the protection area and particularly to the contribution to that debate made by the honourable member for Bendigo. To the best of my recollection- I have not had any time available to me. since the honourable gentleman got to his feet to check the Hansard report- I said that decisions had been taken by the Government relating to quotas and that details of those decisions would be made available. It is a fact that on Friday a joint Press statement was issued by Senator Cotton and myself in which it was said that the Government had reviewed the level of protection now prevailing to the textile, clothing and footwear industries. We expressed great concern in that Press statement at the declining employment levels in those industries. As everyone in this House knows, that decline commenced during the term of office of the Whitlam Government. We noted that during the past 12 months there had been a decline of employment in those industries of some 12 000 persons. The effect of the decision announced on Friday is twofold. Firstly, the Government has decided to extend the validity periods for existing quotas so as to give to importers an option of either exhausting their quota allocations during the current 12-month period or deferring some of that quota allocation to the subsequent period commencing after the expiry of that first period. We have also said that we are sending urgent references to the Industries Assistance Commission seeking advice on what quota levels ought to prevail at the expiry of the current 12-month period. That Press statement also indicated that no part of the Government’s announcement represented an alteration or a disturbance to the existing quota levels.
It is true that if the present trends regarding employment and market shares in those 3 particular areas were to continue, it would be necessary for the Government to allocate quotas at significantly lower levels at the end of the current 12-month period, I do not agree with the honourable gentleman that that statement goes further than indicating the Government’s concern at the decline in the level of activity and the decline in the level of employment in those industries. The Government makes no secret of its concern about that decline. It makes no secret of the fact that if indeed that decline continues then in order to maintain a level of employment and a level of activity necessary to reverse it, changes would need to be made. The fact remains that no decisions on quotas to apply during the next 12-month period will be made until a report is received from the IAC. I do not accept that the procedures that the Government followed in these circumstances, particularly as there had been speculation during the week that decisions had been made on these issues, in any way makes a mockery of the IAC procedure.
-I ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs: Is it a fact that in his Department there is a section in which documents and papers about East Timor and Indonesia are kept under triple or high security because they are highly embarrassing to Indonesia? I further ask: Are there reports that the East Timor independence movement is still strong and that it will take Indonesia a very long time to subdue itthat is, to destroy that capacity of East Timor for national self-determination?
-It is correct, of course, that we have special safes in the Department for holding highly classified documents. I would like to follow that question further down the line but it being the subject of highly classified information dealing with security and intelligence matters, the honourable member will be aware that precedent dictates- which I accept- that I cannot comment one way or the other on such highly classified documents.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. The Minister is no doubt aware that many people in Australia do not have a basic telephone service and many others have non-continuous or unsatisfactory services. The Minister no doubt is also aware that significant funds are being expended by Telecom on sophisticated advances in telecommunications technology. Can the Government bring any pressure to bear on Telecom towards providing all Australians who wish to have a telephone with a service before proceeding with other technological advances which, at first glance, do not appear to be of critical necessity?
– The first comment I should like to make is that the great majority of Australians have a most adequate telephone service. Indeed there are some hundreds of new connections each week. I think the average waiting time for a telephone in most parts of Australianot in all parts but in most parts- is down to about 3 to 4 weeks. So, the first point that is worth making, I think, is that there has been a large increase in demand for telephone services and an increased capacity to supply them.
The honourable member said that a number of people have an unsatisfactory service. That is true. A number of people, particularly in the rural parts of Australia, do have unsatisfactory service. But of the 3.7 million connections there are 130 000 manual type connectons and this year they will be reduced to 1 1 1 000 at a cost of about Sim. In addition to that, because the Telecommuncations Commission wants to improve facilities, particularly to rural people and outback Australia, it is spending a greater percentage of its funds on improving rural services.
The second part of the question was concerned about whether we are putting too much emphasis on technology. Of course, if we are to nave improved services we have to be concerned with technology. We are looking in the long term at using satellites. As the honourable member well knows, solar energy is now being used for communications in the Northern Territory. We are looking at an interface with the Royal Flying
Doctor Service which will help particularly the people of electorates such as that of the honourable member for Kennedy. We will link into the Flying Doctor radio service to improve facilities in outback Queensland.
The final part of the question asked whether I could exert pressure on the Commission to stop it spending so much money on technology and more on providing services. I do not think that contradiction exists. I think spending money on technology is part of the success story of providing increased services.
-I refer the Treasurer to the March motor car registration figures showing that there have been only 48 415 new registrations, a drop of 16 per cent on the figure for the previous March of 57 646 car registrations. I ask the Treasurer: Does this post-devaluation panic buying slump reflect the disastrous effects of the Government’s devaluaton as further shown by the determination of General Motors-Holden’s Pty Ltd to stand down its workers for at least one week?
-The answer is no; it certainly does not. The honourable gentleman is right in referring to the March figures because, if one takes the official statistics and also relies upon the information which has been provided by industry, it is seen that it is a fact of life that sales of new motor vehicles and therefore new motor vehicle registrations have been fiat during that period. The decline in new registrations is no more than an adjustment to the artificially high December figure of some 63 000 which the honourable gentleman may well recall was a record. I point out that, despite the decline in March, seasonally adjusted new registrations in the March quarter were a little higher than in the 3 months to November- the period immediately preceding devaluation- and substantially higher than the relatively low levels following the introduction of the more stringent emission control specifications on 1 July of last year.
– What about April?
-I shall go on to the question that the honourable gentleman interposes in relation to April. The House would be well aware that sales in April would have been adversely affected by the petrol strike in Victoria, some uncertainty concerning the incomes and prices pause and of course the fact that the number of selling days in April is less than in the other months. There are differences as the Prime Minister has made clear, between General Motors-Holden’s and the Ford
Motor Company. I have mentioned, consistent with information already provided to the House by the Prime Minister, that General MotorsHolden’s organises its workforce on the basis of a straight line time and therefore has no capacity to reduce overtime as a buffer against increasing stock levels.
– Will the Prime Minister hold an inquiry into the alleged leakage of a Foreign Affairs document marked ‘SECRET AUSTEO’ as reported in this morning’s Canberra Times?
-Inadvertently I have with me a copy of that document as printed in the Canberra Times. That document represents an advising to the previous Administration, and it is not the practice of myself, the Foreign Minister or this Government to ask departments to provide copies of the advisings or the originals of the advisings that went to the previous Administration. I am further advised that this document in departmental files is in a special safe and there it has remained, that there are markings on the printed document that in fact are different from the ones on the departmental document. I have here a note which my colleague, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, has given to me. I would like to table it in a moment. I would like to read this note to the House. It is to the Minister from his own office and states:
I spoke with Mr Parkinson concerning the document published in the Canberra Times this morning.
he believed the document may be one of a scries held by the former Prime Minister which may have been misappropriated after 1 1 November:
the Department had located a file copy of the document. It did not have on it the markings (square brackets and initials) as did the copy published in the Canberra Times;
the departmental file copy had been held in a special safe to which access was controlled and had not been used by any departmental officers recently: a further chronological file copy had also been located. It did not have any markings on it and had also been securely held:
evidently 2 copies of the document had been forwarded to Senator Willesee (one of which was for Mr Whitlam). Neither has been returned.
It ought to be emphasised again that these advisings have not been in the Foreign Minister’s office; they have not been in my office. I do not think that it is necessary to have an inquiry.
-Will the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs outline the restrictions imposed by the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs on the appointment of teachers from overseas sources to independent schools in Australia? Is the Minister aware that these restrictions do not apply at tertiary or university level? Will the Minister advise as to the reason for the exemption of university staff and how long the restrictions will remain in force?
– It is true that teachers for pre-tertiary educational institutions are not on the list of eligible occupations for entry to Australia at the moment. In respect of independent schools, if they can provide a case to the regional directors of migration, who, consult with the State Departments of Employment and Industrial Regulations, which suggests that they cannot recruit suitably trained teachers locally and that the teachers they wish to recruit overseas are of a standard which is acceptable to the Department of Education in the State in which those teachers will be employed, then the entry of those people may be looked at sympathetically. It is true that professors, lecturers, senior tutors and senior research officers are eligible for entry to approved tertiary institutions. This is done to provide the necessary flexibility to those approved tertiary institutions to fill occupations or positions with suitably qualified people. The situation in respect of pre-tertiary teachers will not change so long as the present limited opportunities for pre-tertiary teachers in Australia continue.
– I address a question to the Prime Minister. Six days ago I drew his attention to reports from the Los Angeles spy trial that the Central Intelligence Agency was engaged in deception against Australia and that secret material involving Australia had been passed to the Soviet Union. I asked him whether the Royal Commission on Intelligence and Security could investigate and report on this matter and whether Australian officials could attend the trial and report on the proceedings. In reply, he undertook to examine the proposition. I ask him: Has he now examined the proposition? What action has he taken?
– I do not believe that there is a case to be referred to the Royal Commission. The honourable gentleman would know that the Royal Commission- he has been kept advised of its progress in a number of areas at my request- has been asked to advise on various security and intelligence arrangements that Australia either has or ought to have. I do not believe that advising on a specific circumstance of this kind falls within its charter. I would think it needs to be understood that a great deal has been said and written as a result of comments made by a person who has been convicted in the United States of America of the most serious charges and that the only beneficiary of the matters in relation to which he has been convicted is the Soviet Union. I think that puts into a certain light the various allegations that he has in fact made. The honourable gentleman will know as a result of the briefings he would have had as Prime Minister that the bases referred to in his earlier question are joint United StatesAustralian bases and that the result of research from these bases is fully and freely available to Australia. Having regard to the total circumstances, I do not believe there is evidence at the moment that requires further action on the part of the Government.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Primary Industry. Has there been any negative reaction from the State governments to last week’s announcement that legislation agreed to in principle at the Australian Agricultural Council meeting in February will be introduced this session for stage 1 of the dairy industry marketing arrangements, which provides for a potential levy on market milk? Does Commonwealth legislation require complementary State legislation to make it binding on the States? Is there any relationship between stage1 legislation and the continuation of underwriting?
-I thank the honourable gentleman for the question because all of us have been most concerned at the downturn in dairying and the circumstances of dairy farmers. We rather hoped that out of the Industries Assistance Commission Crawford report there might have been an early introduction of legislation which would have helped resolve many of the problems of the manufacturing sector of the industry. Unfortunately I have received a message from the Victorian Minister of Agriculture which suggests that whilst he is delighted with the implementation of legislation for stage 1, which of course will greatly benefit producers in his State, he is not prepared to go ahead with the introduction of the other part of the legislation which would provide for a potential levy on market milk. The development of the legislation, of course, has not been in isolation. The legislation is the product of extensive discussions between the Federal Government and State governments and between the Federal Government and producer groups and manufacturing groupsindeed, everybody involved in the dairy industry.
In terms of the point of conflict between the States, it has been accepted that it was almost impossible to reconcile the views of each State. The Victorian Government is well aware that other States will not get the benefit out of the introduction of stage 1 that the Victorian producers should. In those circumstances I am most disappointed that the Victorian Minister is suggesting that there should be a delay in the introduction of the parallel legislation flowing from the IAC Crawford report. At this stage I have not responded to the Victorian Minister. But, of course, it would not be possible to introduce the stage 1 proposals unless the supplementary proposal for a potential levy on market milk were also introduced. Agreements have been reached within the Australian Agricultural Council to ensure that the protection of the interests of the Victorian Government and producers can be taken within that forum before the market levy is applied.
The legislation is Federal legislation and not State legislation and the ultimate decision will be taken by us. In terms of the actual parallel or complementary legislation part of the question, the stage 2 proposal may well require such legislation. The proposals that will shortly be before the Parliament are only for the Commonwealth ‘s responsibility. Therefore, it will be possible for us to introduce both the potential levy and the stage 1 proposal without the State agreement.
– What about underwriting?
– There is no relationship with underwriting.
-I direct a question to the Prime Minister. Did he or any of his Ministers during 1975 meet with or have discussions with any members of the United States Central Intelligence Agency?
– I would not be indicating in answer to that question either affirmatively or negatively. But at the same time, I think it ought to be said that the Prime Minister of the day would have had discussions with a very large number of people. The honourable gentleman might well like to ask his own Leader whom he had discussions with during that period. He would be very interested with the answer if he got a fair one.
-Mr Speaker, I claim to have been misrepresented.
-Does the honourable gentleman wish to make a personal explanation?
– I remind the honourable gentleman that it is customary to give notice to the Chair of an intention to make a personal explanation. I call the honourable gentleman.
– I agree. I should have done so. As you know, Mr Speaker, I make very few personal explanations. I always tell you of my intention to do so. During question time the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) implied that copies of a secret advising to me from the Department of Foreign Affairs for an interview I gave the former Indonesian Ambassador on 7 November 1975 which had been given to the former Senator Willesee and me and which has been published in the Canberra Times had not been returned by the former Senator Willesee or by me. Obviously, I have not been in touch with the former Senator Willesee since the Prime Minister made this imputation. But I want to assure honourable members- this will be known by the Department of Foreign Affairs- that I never retained any secret documents or any Foreign Affairs documents. I always handed them back to the custody of the Department. I do not have a copy of this document now. I certainly remember seeing it, but I do not have a copy. I am assured by my staff that they had never seen it before they saw it published in the Canberra Times.
- Mr Speaker, I ought to say that the information I gave the House was on the advice of the Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs. Those 2 documents were not returned. I was also advised, which I had not known before, that between 60 and 90 cartons of documents of different kinds left what was then the honourable gentleman’s office for Curtin House. It would be interesting to note if the honourable gentleman would be prepared to provide the 60 or 90 cartons and to find out how many government documents are contained in those cartons.
Mr E. G. WHITLAM (Werriwa-Leader of the Opposition)- Mr Speaker, there are no Foreign Affairs documents among them. I would also take this opportunity to say that I do not know how many cartons there were. I would be amazed if there were sixty or any more than six. But there were no Foreign Affairs documents among them. Other documents have been published recently in the newspapers, some of them security documents. I did not have them. I certainly remember seeing them. I can vouch for their authenticity. But they did not come from me. They did not come from my office. I have had a check made on this and the only documents which used to be thought to be confidential which I have retained are the Petrov ones and I can table those if required.
– Pursuant to section 29 of the Wine Overseas Marketing Act 1 929 1 present the annual report of the Australian Wine Board for the year 1975-76.
– For the information of honourable members, I present a report prepared by the Department of Transport titled Transport (Planning and Research) Act 1974, Report on Progress to 30 June 1976. Due to the limited numbers available, reference copies of this report have been placed in the Parliamentary Library. The report was produced at the request of State authorities, and provides an example of the cooperation between State and Commonwealth which is being achieved under the Act.
-I present the first report of the Joint Standing Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House, together with minutes of the proceedings. On 24 March 1927, the Commonwealth Parliament resolved that the next sitting of the Parliament would be at the Federal Capital, Canberra. The Parliament, on 9 May 1927, moved into a building that was a compromise solution- one that was neither a monumental permanent structure nor a cheap temporary one. It was a provisional Parliament House meant to serve only until the 1970’s. We have occupied it 50 years.
In December 1965 the first Joint Select Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House was established to inquire into certain aspects of a new and permanent parliament house. Since that date, a tremendous amount of time and effort has been spent by members and senators in planning the new building. The site of the- new and permanent parliament house was debated and resolved by the Parliament Act 1974. By this Act, Parliament determined that the site is Capital Hill. Following determination of that issue the Joint Standing Committee was established in 1975 and re-established in 1976 to act for and represent the Parliament, as the client for the new and permanent parliament house, in all matters concerned with the planning, design and construction of the new and permanent parliament house and all matters incidental thereto.
The First Report which I have just presented is, in essence, a progress report. The Committee has agreed unanimously to a program which would enable a fully functioning, stage 1, parliament house to be constructed and occupied by 26 January 1988- the 200th anniversary of European settlement in Australia. I must stress that the Committee’s decision does not involve the expenditure of any significant funds for at least 2 years. No specific Government expenditure or commitment will be required before the 1979-80 Budget.
In order that some comprehension of the way in which the national capital building could be designed appropriately to its environment on Capital Hill, an artist’s impression was drawn. There is no design and that artist’s impression serves no purpose other than to assist in seeing a building on the site. Studies of the mass of a building show that a balance can be achieved between the lines of a building while retaining the natural beauty of the site. Artists’ impressions in the report illustrate this. They show how a cone shaped building, for example, could be used to reinforce the hill shape and how the radial road pattern can be visually extended into the building to form courtyards and access corridors, lt is stressed that the sketches are not the proposed design but merely an example of the effect a building may have on Capital Hill.
The Committee’s First Report coincides with celebrations to mark the 50th anniversary of the opening of the provisional parliament house. The opportunity now lies ahead to take the first step towards marking the 200th Australia Day celebrations by opening the new and permanent parliament house on 26 January 1 988.
- Mr Speaker, I understand that the Committee wishes the report to be printed. I have not received a request but, if the report is in a form that can be printed, I will move that it be printed.
– I assure the Leader of the House that it is in a form that can be printed.
That the report be printed.
– I move:
-The honourable gentleman is moving a motion that is not available to him. The motion is that the report be printed. There is no motion to take note of the paper. That is a question to which the honourable gentleman would be entitled to move a motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– Notice has been received from the honourable the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) that at the next sitting he will move:
That this House expresses its want of confidence in the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) for deceiving the House and the Australian people about his policy on East Timor and for misleading the House on 3 1 March about his meeting at Bali in September 1975 with senior Indonesian officials.
-The Government would propose to take this as a matter that affects the tenure of office and the character of the Government. It therefore proposes that the matter be dealt with forthwith. I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Two documents have been published within the past 48 hours- one from Australian and one from Indonesian sources- about the actions and statements of the Foreign Minister on East Timor. One conclusion only can be drawn from these documents: The Foreign Minister has misled the Parliament. He has misled the Parliament about his own behaviour; he has misled the Parliament about the Government’s policy. Either one of the documents is sufficient to condemn the
Foreign Minister. Taken together their message is unshakeable. Each corroborates the other. The Foreign Minister has deceived the Parliament and covered up the record of his blundering and impropriety.
The Minister has been caught out on 2 seperate aspects of his talks with Indonesian officials in Bali in September 1975 when he was shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs. He has misled the House on the manner in which those talks were arranged and on the substance of what he said. On 3 1 March he told the House that, without his knowledge, he was met on 24 September 1975 by 2 senior Indonesian intelligence officials. That statement has been contradicted by a cable from Australia’s Ambassador in Indonesia, which was widely published in yesterday’s Press. The authenticity of the Ambassador’s cable has not been questioned. I ask leave to have the published text incorporated in Hansard.
– You could table the original. You still have it.
– I have not.
– Well, members of your staff admitted they had it.
-Well, they cannot speak for themselves in the House.
– But you can speak for them, and you are responsible for them.
-They will deny it.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
O.JA2026 105024.9.75 CLA
FM. Jakarta/File 860/119/1
For Renouf from Woolcott.
Andrew Peacock is due to arrive in Bali today from Singapore for a four-day holiday.
We have learned of this from special material and also from Tjam (Centre for Strategic and International Studies). We have not been informed through Indonesian Embassy despite suggestions that we have in that material or from the department and it occurs to me that you may not know of this visit.
Our understanding is that Tjam and Lim Bian Kie will be sent to Bali to brief Peacock on Timor. This was apparently arranged between Peacock and Hertasning before the form (sic) left Australia.
Unless any assistance is sought from Bali the embassy docs not propose to do anything.
-The meeting in Bali was arranged between the honourable member for Kooyong and the Indonesian Ambassador to Australia before the honourable member left Australia. The Foreign Minister sought the meeting and arranged the meeting. He spoke to the Ambassador only about getting a visa. I know the man is pretty presumptuous, but how presumptuous is it for a member of Parliament to go to an ambassador and say ‘I want a visa to visit your country’? It is a clear message that he wants to be entertained or appropriately received when he visits the country. There are thousands of Australians who visit Bali every year. They do not go to the Ambassador; they do not go to the Embassy; they go to the Consulate. The meeting in Bali was not held without the Minister’s knowledge. It was held at his instigation. Does he maintain that our Ambassador misled the departmental head about the arrangements that were made.
– Yes, I do, and he has corrected it subsequently also.
-Well, at least it is interesting to have these imputations made openly and overtly. The Ambassador’s cable was as unqualified in its substance as the Minister’s insistence that he knew nothing in advance of the meeting in Bali. The cable demonstrates beyond doubt that the present Minister approached the Indonesian Ambassador before his departure for overseas. No other explanation is credible. The Australian Ambassador to Indonesia sent a secret priority telegram to his Permanent Head drawing attention to these facts. He had learnt of them from one of the officials who was to meet Mr Peacock on his arrival at Bali and from secret intelligence material. He had certainly not been told of the meeting by the shadow Minister himself. It would have been courteous, to say the least, for the honourable gentleman to have advised the Department of his involvement with 2 top level Indonesian diplomats and officials. Any suggestion by the Minister that the conversation with the Indonesian Ambassador was merely for the purpose of seeking an Indonesian visa will not stand up. The purpose of his conversation with the Ambassador is demonstrated in the Ambassador’s telegram from Jakarta. It was to request a meeting with Indonesian officials to discuss Timor. Far from being a meeting held without his knowledge, it was a meeting held at the Minister’s own request and by his own arrangement. It was a meeting he kept secret from the Australian Department, the Australian Government, the Australian Ambassador and the Australian people. It did not emerge until I put to him a question on notice about it a year ago. He was so furtive that the Australian Ambassador had to learn of the meeting from secret intelligence sources.
That was the first deception. It was blatant; it was clear cut. It suited the Foreign Minister to pretend that the meeting was arranged without his knowledge. If it were known that he had arranged the meeting himself the details of what he said would assume much greater significance, and so it has proved. Indeed, whether the Minister was speaking at an impromptu meeting or whether he was speaking at a prearranged briefing, his statements to the Indonesians were reckless and improper. He is now shown to have misled the House about those statements, just as he misled the House about the arrangements for the meeting.
On 31 March the honourable member for Fraser (Mr Fry) asked the Foreign Minister specific questions about the views he conveyed to the Indonesians in Bali. He asked whether the Minister had praised President Suharto. The Minister said he may have done so. The honourable member asked whether the Minister had informed the Indonesians that it was planned to deny Supply to the Labor Government. The Minister said he had not. The honourable member asked whether the Minister had indicated that in the event of Supply being refused and a Liberal government being formed the new government would ‘not obstruct Indonesia in its takeover of Timor’. This too the Foreign Minister denied. These were his words: . . what is contained in the question is the very antithesis of the views I held and the statements I made throughout 1974-75.
To the Minister’s dismay his denials have been contradicted in the space of a month by the publication of the record of conversation written by the Indonesian side just 3 days after the Minister’s talks in Bali. The document appeared in the National Times on Sunday. I seek leave to have the text incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
THE RECORD OF INTERVIEW
Information (Translation) Meeting wilh Andrew Sharp Peacock
Denpasar, 24 September 1975
Andrew Sharp Peacock and his wife stopped for a rest on their way home from Iran in Bali from 24 to 28 September 1975.
Peacock is a young Liberal Party politician (born on February 13, 1939) who now holds position as ‘Shadow
Minister for Foreign Affairs.’ Thus if the Liberal Party wins in a general election, he will become Minister for Foreign Affairs. According to PM Edward Gough Whitlam, the views of Mr Peacock on foreign affairs- even though he is from the Liberal Party- are similar to his own, especially concerning relations with Indonesia. This turns out to be true.
I. The Portuguese Timor Issue
As has already been reported by Ambassador Hertasning, Mr Peacock said his party would not protest against Indonesia if Indonesia was forced to do something about Portuguese Timor, for example to ‘go in’ to restore peace there. He recommended that such Indonesian action be given ‘open support ‘ by the ASEAN nations, in order to provide ‘ moral cover’ for it. If Indonesia were forced to go in, at the maximum he would criticise PM Whitlam and his Government for hesitating to join in solving the Portuguese Timor problem, thereby forcing Indonesia to act unilaterally. He would have to make this protest for no other reason than to fulfil his role as Opposition. Basically he respects Whitlam ‘s policy in this Portuguese Timor problem, and he personally is of the same opinion. Mr Peacock also greatly respects the attitude of President Soeharto who was demonstrating a ‘statesmanlike’ attitude of self-restraint and great wisdom.
Australian Foreign Policy in the Future
If Mr Peacock becomes Minister for Foreign Affairs he will basically continue to carry out the foreign policy of PM Whitlam which he respects. He will continue to maintain good relations with Indonesia and allocate top priority towards Indonesia. Indeed he would possibly pay more attention to the defence sector, because the Labor Party had grossly ignored it. The security, stability and development of Indonesia were vital for Australia.
Australian Domestic Politics
According to Mr Peacock at the present moment the Opposition parties were leading 20 per cent in the opinion polls over the Labor Party Government. In order to win a general election, it was sufficient to have only three per cent. The Opposition parties wanted to force an early general election this year (November, 1975) or next year. (May, 1976). He personally, along with John Malcolm Fraser, (candidate for PM) really wanted to see the three-year term fulfilled, not to force a general election by rejecting the Supply Bill in the Senate but he felt his Party would be forced to agree to bringing on a general election because pressure was already strong enough (nine out of eleven members of the Shadow Cabinet agreed with the bringing on of an election ). A problem that might arise was two liberal senators who would not follow the command of the Party. So we will just have to wait and see what happens in the next few weeks.
If the Supply Bill can really be rejected by the Senate the following scenario will develop:
PM Whitlam is not prepared to dissolve the Parliament and Senate (a ‘double dissolution’). He will continue to govern without a budget. As a result he will not be able to pay salaries and so on. The situation would become chaotic.
PM Whitlam appeals against the Senate to the High Court. A constitutional court battle would result.
PM Whitlam will not agree to a double dissolution or to hold a general election, but also does not want to work. In this case the Governor-General Sir John Robert Kerr would be forced to ask John Malcolm Fraser (Opposition) to form a cabinet. But this cabinet would not be able to get a mandate to govern, because Parliament is controlled by the Labor Party. What can happen is: John Malcolm Fraser is appointed PM, a minute later he asks the Governor-General to dissolve Parliament and the Senate, following which a general election is to be held.
From this scenario and situation it is clear that Australian domestic politics are in a chaotic state.
Jakarta. 27 September 1975.
– It has been published by a journal of unquestioned responsibility and high journalistic standards. The National Times was satisfied that the document was of such importance that it deserved to be published in spite of the Minister’s denials of its accuracy. It was satisfied that it came from Indonesian intelligence sources. The document reveals that not only did the Foreign Minister promise that a Liberal government would ‘not protest’ about an Indonesian take-over of East Timor, but that he urged some ‘moral cover’ for Indonesian action. Not only did he foreshadow the blocking of Supply, but he spelt out with uncanny accuracy and prescience the very course of events to be followed a month and a half later. He showed that he was party himself to the conspiracy then being launched.
The Minister’s response to the Indonesian document has been to brand it a fabrication. The more we examine his denial the more qualified and unconvincing, the more specious and defective his denial is seen to be. The Minister has not issued a Press release denouncing the document. Since the document appeared he has been totally unavailable to the media. In his own statement to the National Times he has denied some of the allegations; he has ignored some; he has conceded some. Let us look at what the Minister concedes to be true. He acknowledges that his meeting with Mr Tjan and Mr Lim took place. He agrees that he ‘may at some stage’ have professed admiration for President Suharto’s leadership. He has not denied that he made statements about President Suharto. He has not denied that he discussed the relationship between Australia and Indonesia. He has not denied before today the authenticity of Mr Woolcott ‘s cable. In reply to the honourable member for Fraser on 31 March the best the Minister could say, in a floundering and disjointed reply to a question which was obviously without notice and which caught him by surprise- he had nothing to read- was that he could not recall all the details of the discussion. He told the House:
I cannot recall all the detail of the answer I gave about the visit on return from a conference in Persepolis in Iran in 1975.
That is, he was referring to the answer he gave me to a question on notice a year ago. It was a curious way to respond to questions about his behaviour in Bali. The Minister had not been asked to recall what he had previously said in his answer. He had been asked to recount what he had done. Clearly he was more worried about contradicting his previous account than in coming clean about his actions. He could not remember.
The authenticity of the documents is further confirmed by the Indonesians themselves. The Minister cannot run away from the fact that his deception of the Australian Parliament is borne out by the very people who took part in the discussions. The National Times stated:
In an interview with the National Times’ Jakarta correspondent Hamish McDonald on Friday Mr Tjan said that the document appeared to reflect accurately the views of Mr Peacock on Timor as he recalled them from the Bali meeting.
The Indonesian reaction is further confirmed by a news report from Jakarta in today’s Sydney Morning Herald. It reads:
Authoritative sources here discounted speculation tonight that Indonesian Government agencies had deliberately leaked a document in order to embarrass … Mr Peacock. They believe that the document was genuine but it was designed for internal circulation.
The Minister picks his way through these statements, conceding parts of them and denying others. Why should this record, if it is accurate in some respects, not be accurate in others? Does the Minister suggest that all of it was fabricated or only parts of it were fabricated?
The self-evident fact about the published record of discussion is that it contains internal evidence of the falsity of the Minister’s claims. It is inconceivable that the authors of this document would have known about the details of Australian domestic politics unless the Minister had told them. The document refers to the possibility of a High Court challenge to the opposition of two Liberal senators and to the attitude of the shadow Cabinet. All this information must have come from someone in the know, from someone who had briefed the Indonesians in detail on the Opposition’s plans, from the only Liberal shadow Minister who had had a chance to do so.
-Shame; I agree. It must have come from the man who, on the evidence of Australia ‘s Ambassador in Jakarta, had sought out and arranged a meeting with Indonesian officials in Bali. The shadow Minister had his sights set firmly on coming to power. He had participated in all the planning within his Party for its grab for power. He firmly believed that in another 2 months he would be Foreign Minister. How natural for him, in the security of Bali, remote from Australia, glowing under
Indonesian hospitality, to blurt out the details of his Party’s plan and assure his hosts that Indonesia could expect no trouble from a future Liberal-National Country Party government. At least they could expect no trouble from him, the designate Foreign Minister.
The Minister’s action in seeking a meeting, and the nature of the discussions he had, can be explained only on the assumption that he was confident about the future course of Australian political events. Would any Australian shadow Minister, even one as vain and presumptuous as the honourable member for Kooyong, have sought to bring 2 Indonesian Government officials to Bali to discuss the Opposition ‘s views on Timor unless he was able to assure them that there was some point, even some urgency, in such discussions? The only way to convince the Indonesians that they were not wasting their time and interrupting the Minister’s sunbathing was to persuade them that a change of government in Australia was imminent and inevitable because of his leader’s machinations. Would the Indonesians have sent two top officials from Jakarta to Bali simply to greet an Opposition politician on holiday with his wife and take him to dinner and a monkey dance?
It is interesting to recall the Minister’s public statements at the time he was preparing for the secret talks in Bali. Statements that appeared at the time merely provocative take on a new significance in the light of what we now know he told the Indonesians in private. For instance, on 3 September 1 975 he declared in a Press release:
Labor’s refusal to become involved in the problems of Timor may force Indonesia into reluctant unilateral intervention. There is no doubt in the view of the Opposition that Indonesia is most reluctant to take such action but Labor’s bankrupt approach may force its hand.
What else does this statement say to the Indonesians except: ‘Go ahead, and we will blame Labor’. Was there ever a clearer signal, a greener light? A month later, refreshed and invigorated from his Balinese holiday, his tan augmented by 4 days exposure to real sunlight instead of the sun lamp, his scruples allayed by Indonesian hospitality, he felt able to express his sympathy more openly. On 2 October he declared in this place:
We understand Indonesia’s concern. The events of the civil war in Timor are taking place in an area at the end of the Indonesian island archipelago.
I suppose one has to receive some hospitality in Bali in order to make such a geographical discovery.
He went on to make a very curious accusation against my Government. He did not accuse us of failing to protect the rights and freedom of the Timorese people. He said:
We have seen a failure to act in concert with Indonesia on Timor.
His final accusation was against the Department which he now administers. Coming from someone who had just returned from secret talks with officials of a foreign government- talks which he had arranged privately with the Ambassador of that government, talks which he had apparently gone to some lengths to keep secret from the Australian Government and its officials- the honourable gentleman then declared:
The Department of Foreign Affairs behaves in a most secrective manner in this area.
In all these published accounts of the Foreign Minister’s travels there is one glaring omission. Nowhere is there any statement of the policy he has been professing publicly for the past 2 years.
For 2 years he asserted that the people of East Timor should have the right of selfdetermination. The Bali document says nothing about it. It was never discussed. It was never mentioned. The Foreign Minister’s policy was that Indonesia should take East Timor by force. He even spoke of the need for ‘moral cover’ for this action. The Liberal and National Country parties had had that idea ever since the end of August 1 975 when the present Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) branded Fretilin as communist. The Prime Minister now says that they wanted some ASEAN cover. We know quite well that nobody else in ASEAN would be involved in the matter. I knew that from the Prime Minister of Singapore in August 1975. We all knew it from the Prime Minister of Malaysia in September-October 1975. His proposal never had any reality about it.
A necessary support for the present Minister’s deception has been his unending assertion that the Labor Government favoured an Indonesian military takeover of East Timor. The record shows that that was never the case. He has been able to maintain this slander against my Government because of my refusal to break the rules of confidentiality in discussions between heads of government. The Minister knows that in discussions between President Suharto and me there was agreement on the right of selfdetermination of the Timorese people. He knows that that agreement was respected until 1 1 November 1975. He knows, as was reported in the Canberra Times today, that I reiterated that policy to the Indonesian Ambassador just 4 days before the coup d’etat.
The persistent, false and virulent attacks on me by the Foreign Minister and the Prime Minister on this issue have had one purpose, namely, to goad me into breaching long established rules of diplomatic confidentiality, betraying defence secrets, and harming Australia’s reputation as a trustworthy nation. I have refused to do so. It now emerges that the Labor Government’s record on this issue has been consistent and clean. We had 2 objectives throughout: Firstly, to end the fighting in East Timor and, secondly, to preserve the right of self-determination for the Timorese people. All the slanders against me, all the false charges and innuendoes, have been based on the say-so of people who were never on my staff, never in my confidence, never in my presence. The record from Bali comes from direct participants, involving the present Foreign Minister. The record now proves that Labor’s policy was honourable and consistent. It is the Foreign Minister who is condemned by the firsthand accounts of those who discussed East Timor with him and by a cable from Australia’s own Ambassador in Jakarta.
With this deception all the falsity of the Government’s position has been exposed- all its hypocrisy, its manifest double standards, all the Minister’s posturing and preening over the past 2 years. The Minister at the weekend indulged in a remarkable piece of self-justification. He stated that the Indonesian document on Timor was contrary to everything’ he had been saying in public and private on the East Timor question. Precisely. It is indeed contrary to everything he has been saying, and that is the very charge against him. The Foreign Minister’s excuse is his own self-condemnation. Far from confusing the story, far from exonerating the Minister, the published documents make sense of the whole sorry business. The double dealing and deception can now be clearly seen. What the Minister said ‘in public and private’ was irrelevant and untrue. It is what he was doing and saying in secret that matters- what he was doing and saying in defiance of his publicly professed attitudes and his false and sanctimonious statements to this House and outside. He has succeeded not merely in deceiving the Australian people but also in double-crossing the Indonesians, as they know. I quote to him his own words of a year ago:
Published documents here, together with media accounts, condemn you. Your lack of justification of your actions today further condemns you. I think the overwhelming majority of Australians will bc of the same view when they compare your record with our record …
You are condemned not only by your own words but also by those who work within the department for which you are responsible.
-Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion and support the call of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) for the resignation of the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock). It is with some regret that the Opposition takes this step for we, like many other Australians, once believed the Minister to be genuine in his support of the East Timorese people to have selfdetermination. I have said on more than one occasion that I thought the Foreign Minister was genuine in that approach. However, I am sad to say that the Minister is a person who wants to be liked by everyone, he is one who likes to get on side with everyone. He likes to be Mr Nice Guy. Sadly he has been Mr Nice Guy with the Indonesians, much to the regret and of course the suffering of many people. It is indeed tragic that we have been so deceived.
The extent of the deception is becoming more widely known daily. Complicity by the Foreign Minister with Indonesia’s unprovoked aggression against the East Timorese, even before he held his present position, has become known in recent days. These reports are only confirmation of what any objective observer could see all along if he looked at the history of this matter. The Fraser Government and the Foreign Minister were actively engaged in secret betrayal. I want to review the record of the Government and the Foreign Minister. On 4 March last year the Foreign Minister outlined a 4-point policy on East Timor. These 4 points were as follows: First, a call for a withdrawal of Indonesian troops; secondly, a call for the cessation of hostilities; thirdly, a call for the implementation of an act of self-determination; and fourthly, for a resumption of humanitarian aid through the International Committee of the Red Cross. This policy, as outlined, would undoubtedly have had the full support of the Australian people. I stress the words ‘the full support of the Australian people’. But sadly it was only words and we can only conclude that this policy was contradicted by the actions of the Government.
In the United Nations Australia abstained from supporting a General Assembly resolution of November 1976. Among other things the resolution amounted to calling for the implementation of the first 3 points. This action in the eyes of the world amounted to a clear position. The Australian Government was prepared to appease the Indonesian Government in its desire to use armed force to suppress the East Timorese people. Yet this vote in the United Nations was preceded by a series of actions which implied not only an appeasement of the Jakarta generals- particularly the most extremist elements of the Jakarta generals- but also a tacit recognition of the incorporation of East Timor into Indonesia. The points calling for the withdrawal of Indonesian troops and the ending of hostilities were blatantly contradicted by the business-as-usual ‘ defence relationship between Australia and Indonesia.
Throughout 1976 Australia continued military aid and co-operation with Indonesian defence scientists and military training programs. This contradicted the Minister’s frequent statements that we were unwavering in putting pressure on the Indonesian Government over East Timor. The call that the International Committee of the Red Cross should resume aid was abandoned even more rapidly. Upon his return to Australia on 17 April 1976 the Foreign Minister said he believed that the International Committee of the Red Cross would be allowed back into East Timor within 2 weeks. This never happened. Again we see an example of the flowery words of the Foreign Minister.
The Indonesian army, intent on avoiding public exposure of its brutal activities in East Timor, refused the International Committee of the Red Cross access to East Timor. What then did the Foreign Minister do? Instead of raising the matter in his speech to the United Nations Decolonisation Committee in September, he chose to ignore the issue of East Timor entirely. Does the Foreign Minister recall his silence on that occasion, that crucial time when he should have been raising his voice? What ‘pressure’ did he put on the Indonesian Government? His action on this occasion was no more than another step on the path of appeasement. Instead the Government provided $330,000 to the Indonesian Red Cross, whose inability to provide non-partisan and humanitarian aid is well known. There can be little doubt that this assistance never reached most of the East Timorese people.
This Government, and in particular its Foreign Minister, has pursued a policy of appeasing the extremist elements among the Indonesian generals. I said this in my speech in the Grievance Day debate of 7 October 1976. Nothing has happened since to alter my belief. I am not alone in this country in this view. Several supporters of the Government have stated this publicly. Senator Bonner, in a current Senate debate concerning the proposed appointment of a
Senate Select Committee to inquire into certain matters relating to East Timor, said that this Government has ‘blood on its hands’. The Foreign Minister certainly has blood on his hands.
The history of this Government on East Timor is one of covert support for the brutal and unprovoked actions of the Indonesian generals against the Timorese people. Even Mr Malik has stated that at least 50 000 people may have died in East Timor. Yet the Foreign Minister has made no statement on the allegations made by Mr Jim Dunn testifying to massive Indonesian atrocities in East Timor. Nor has he made any statement on the role of Indonesian troops in the deaths of six Australian journalists. He has had Mr Dunn’s report for 2 months.
This tight-lipped attitude, this attempt to stifle East Timor as an issue in Australia, is a symptom of a wider policy of ‘going all the way with the Djakarta generals’. In ‘going all the way’ the Minister has undermined Australian integrity, principle and morality. He has undermined Australia’s credibility as a nation prepared to act on questions of self-determination and human rights. This is even more damaging when it concerns a people who assisted us so much in the Second World War, a people who made enormous sacrifices for this country by defending our soldiers for so long. The Foreign Minister is aware of the suffering of the East Timorese people in World War II when they lost at least 50 000 people. The East Timorese people were concerned both directly and indirectly during the struggle against the Japanese in World War II. If we compare that suffering and those deaths to the whole of Australia’s losses in theatres of war- Australia lost only 26 000 people- we can see the real sacrifices that have been made by the East Timorese people. I ask that this aspect be given concern. This Government’s loss of principle reaches its most tragic level in the recent relationships and activities of the Foreign Minister. In the Melbourne Herald of 21 September 1976 the Indonesian Foreign Minister, Mr Malik, is reported as having said:
You remember during the second visit of Peacock, even Peacock explained the difficulty there.
By ‘there’, he means Australia. The article continues:
My position in the Parliament -
Mr Peacock was talking about the Australian Parliament- is like this and maybe. Mr Malik, you feel unhappy but I must wait.
But in the long run we understand that this is the only way for Indonesia.
That ‘s why 1 am sure ( we should ) give them time.
This is the smooth as silk man- the man who, with his silver tongue and soft hand, likes to be nice to all people. This sad situation is being revealed more and more in this way. Many Australians have remained suspicious of the real policies of the Foreign Minister. This was justified when, in March of this year, information started to appear which threw doubt upon his public stance. On 31 March, the honourable member for Fraser (Mr Fry) asked the Foreign Minister several questions relating to his visit to Bali in September 1975. In his answer to the honourable member for Fraser, the Foreign Minister did not deny outright the questions regarding the substance of his conversation with the Indonesian officials. All he said was that the allegations were:
The antithesis of the viewpoint we were putting forward.
He also stated that they were:
Contradictory of all the views and concerns I was expressing at the time.
In other words the Foreign Minister in answer to 3 specific questions relating to the discussions agreed to the first. He said of the 2 other questions that it was contradictory to what he had been saying in public. This failure to deny outright the charges that he had told the Indonesian officials that they must act swiftly and efficiently in East Timor and that the new Liberal-National Country Party Government would not obstruct a takeover is bad enough. Surely if the report was inaccurate he should have made a straight out denial. Yet, in his answer he went a step further. He implied that the discussions held in Bali were of an informal nature. He said that the meeting in Bali was arranged- I quote him- ‘Without my knowledge’. He repeated that during Question Time today but he added one other comment this afternoon. He said quite clearly that there was nothing more and nothing less involved. He said that he went to the Ambassador to get a visa to visit Bali and that nothing more and nothing less was involved. Anybody who knows the Foreign Minister knows that ‘nothing more and nothing less’ is an overstatement. It is an utterly stupid statement to make. Who is he trying to kid when he said that it was nothing more and nothing less than just asking for a visa?
Of course, we know that the Foreign Minister is all things to all men. We are aware of his pride, his dignity and his ego. We know how vain the man is. We also know that he could not rely on that alone. On 2 May a cable from the Australian Ambassador in Jakarta dated 29 September 1975 was published. The cable indicated that the
Foreign Minister had arranged his visit in advance with the Indonesian Ambassador in Canberra. If the contents of this cable are accurate, then not only is the Foreign Minister guilty of providing further support for the wishes of the Jakarta generals to take over East Timor, he is also misleading the Australian Parliament. The Foreign Minister’s duplicity, as shown in the release of the cable and the National Times summary of his discussion, has been exposed. It is a tragedy that his activities in Bali were not revealed at the time because it may have saved thousands of East Timorese lives. It is clear that the actions of the Foreign Minister in September 1975 have written a black page in the history of Australian foreign policy. This has been added to by the way in which the Foreign Minister misled the Parliament in answer to a question asked by the honourable member for Fraser on 3 1 March. Several years ago the Minister, whilst he was Minister for External Territories, offered to resign because of advertising involving his wife. The present issue is of far greater importance. It involves the deaths of more than 50 000 East Timorese people. This has been confirmed even by the Indonesian Foreign Minister. This issue involved Australia’s integrity and credibility amongst the nations of the world. The Minister should now take the honourable course. He should resign in the interests of the Australian Parliament and his own prestige.
– I have listened in particular to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) to what amounted to nothing more than a farrago of fanciful fiction leavened with lies, and he knows it only too well.
-Order! The honourable gentleman will withdraw that remark.
-I withdraw the remark. It was certainly a farrago of fanciful fiction. The Leader of the Opposition had prepared that speech before I gave my answer at question time. He chose to go on with his speech, knowing it to be incorrect, knowing it to be false and seeking to cover his own craven record in this Parliament and elsewhere over the issue of East Timor. He said at one stage that the first time it was alleged by the present Government that he had entered into an arrangement with President Suharto about the incorporation of East Timor into Indonesia was after the ‘fateful day of 11 November’. He also knows that to be incorrect because he is aware that on 9 September 1974-not 1975 but as far back as 9 September 1974-1 was advised of his complicity. I issued a statement on that occasion drawing attention to what had transpired in those talks. The statement referred to the sort of article that appeared in the Canberra Times that Mr Whitlam, at that stage, was advocating incorporation of East Timor into Indonesia. Of course, he was saying that it should be carried out ‘on the basis of selfdetermination’. As I said in that statement there can be no pre-conditions or pre-judgments on the future of a people. There must be no constraints and no intimidation in any free act of self-determination. The Leader of the Opposition well knows that by saying he favoured incorporation and then adding after it the words some act of self-determination’, the very statement was qualified. The belief in selfdetermination was qualified by that first desire. From that date of complicity we had oftrepeated acts and statements revealing duplicity. Whether they were revealed to the other members of the government or not, one is uncertain.
I had never broken the convention of going through the documents, some of which unquestionably have been removed, prior to the date I became the Minister for Foreign Affairs. But 1 was advised- before reading in the newspapers of it only the week before last- as I have been in different ways that I am not, as the Leader of the Opposition would know, able to reveal, of an interview between the Indonesian Foreign Minister and a representative of Australian Associated Press in which the Foreign Minister said words to the effect: ‘Whitlam gave us the green light. Whitlam said we could move, but the present Foreign Minister was opposed ‘.
– I have never discussed the matter with the Foreign Minister of Indonesia.
– Are you assuming that he would not know the foreign policy of his own country or are you denying your own duplicity? Now do both, if you wish. Challenge the Foreign Minister’s authority to speak. But put that to one side. Challenge the truth. You know as well as 1 do that you gave the green light in September of 1974 and you know that from 9 September 1974 we published this and we worked against it. You know that there are latter day yappers in the Parliament today who talk about being opposed to what transpired. But where were they in September 1974? Those people on the other side were not standing with me. Where were they in February 1975 when I introduced a matter of public importance in this Parliament condemning you for what you were conniving in and drawing attention to the events in Indonesia and Timor? You did not dare come into Parliament -
-Order! The honourable gentleman will address his remarks through the Chair, not directly to any other member.
-I take the point, Mr Speaker. Where, Mr Speaker, was he? Cringing in the corridors, throughout the craven behaviour that he had gone on with, keeping away from it all. I note that, from the latter part of November 1974, 1 was the only one, I think, to ask questions in this place- no, you, Mr Speaker, as Leader of the Opposition also asked one in addition to the questions I asked- on this matter. As I can recall, in the early part of 1975 again only Liberals pursued the matter. In the latter half of 1975 nine questions on this matter were asked- six by members of the Liberal and National Country Parties, three by the then Government. There were 2 pointed questions to you at last by the man you had deposed- the former -
-Order! The honourable gentleman will address his remarks through the chair.
– … the man the present Leader of the Opposition had deposed, namely Dr Cairns. He got nowhere in the questioning. Labor in government did nothing but acquiesce. What did we do? The Labor Party in government at no time took the matter to the United Nations, neither in the General Assembly nor the Security Council. The House should bear in mind that when we came into government Australia was no longer a member of the Security Council. This was one area in which, after an initial reluctance to change a policy during the period of the caretaker government, we nevertheless determined to do so even before the election. We voted against Indonesia in the Fourth Committee of the General Assembly before election day. I gave that advice consistent with all I had been proclaiming and the antithesis of all you had done. Then we went into the Security Council where we were not members and put forward viewpoints which were the contrary of what you had espoused and connived at during your period in government. The public reference to this, to the representative of Australian Associated Press the week before last, reveals you for what you are in terminology that cannot be expressed adequately in this Parliament, a conniving coward who seeks to proclaim previously prepared material -
-Mr Speaker -
-Order! The honourable gentleman will withdraw that remark.
-I withdraw the remark. Really, I do not need this sort of rhetoric, because the facts -
-Then I advise the honourable gentleman not to use it.
– I meet with your request, Mr Speaker. All the facts from September of 1974 prove what I am saying to be correct. You come into the Parliament today with a prepared speech prior to the answers being given and refuse to accept the denial of those who were involved, including the present Australian Ambassador in Jakarta and the present Indonesian Ambassador in Singapore. Because of what I know about the Leader of the Opposition I am aware that there would be a marked reluctance. I do not expect charity; I normally expect honesty: But I gave that away after 9 September 1974 in regard to you. But this desperate man needed to go on. Mr Speaker, you will know from my answer at question time that there is absolutely no truth in this allegation whatsoever. I find it interesting -
– He does not believe you, either.
-Order! That comment by the Leader of the Opposition was offensive to me. I call upon him to withdraw it immediately.
-I withdraw it.
– I find it intriguing, bearing in mind the evidence put to this Parliament by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) today, about the records taken out of this building by the man who is now Leader of the Opposition, that the one member of this Parliament who received the cable, now shown to be incorrect, from Mr Woolcott, the one man to whom it was addressed, was Mr Whitlam. He is the only one in this Parliament whose name appears as a recipient of that cable. The names of Mr Renouf and Mr Menadue also appear, but the copy shows that the one member here to receive it was Mr Whitlam. I do not know who of the few he had around him were retaining this for him but, somehow, somewhere it was carefully but casually dropped in the course of the last couple of days. I would not know who carefully but casually dropped it. I can only indicate the one alleged recipient in this Parliament of that document. But it does not require my denials, supported by the Ambassador in Jakarta and the Ambassador in Singapore. I ask: What of the judgments of those who worked for the Labor Party in government? One of the trusted advisers working in Prime Minister’s Department. Mr
Gregory Clark, has also indicated with clarity the role of the former Prime Minister in this devious deception. Another Dr Viviani. worked for the former Foreign Minister, who to his credit it is known disagreed fundamentally with the path the then Prime Minister was taking. I shall read a couple of quotes quickly obtained from what she wrote in the Australian Outlook of August 1 976, many months after ceasing to work for Senator Willesee. She wrote:
The first, and cardinal circumstance was Mr Whitlam’s initial judgment in September 1974 -
That magic date again:
That is on page 222. On page 224 the article states:
There is strong evidence -
I would not know where it comes from but she cites it and she was in the Foreign Minister’s office: to suggest that a major Indonesia-led, armed and supported advance had begun in mid October and escalated rapidly through into November. So, de facto, Indonesia had breached the undertaking before November 1 1 .
On page 226 the article states: . . no previous Australian government was as pusillanimous in expressing publicly to Indonesia its support for Australian interests in self-determination and opposition to the use of force as the Labor Government in 1 974 and 1 975.
The real role of the former Prime Minister, now Leader of the Opposition, who seeks to transplant his own guilt on others, and who has failed to do so, we do not know. The statement that he has made today is based on alleged statements of others. They have since denied them. The real truth we do not know. We only know the outline of what I have been able to put. That, after all, mirrors the attitudes I have taken outside the Parliament from September 1974 until now. Countless dozens of people who are aware of my private views and those who read them as publicly expressed from September 1974 until we became the Government are well aware that under no circumstance could I have put those views attributed to me in the National Timesviews that have since been denied by those who were there. My own record as Foreign Minister since November 1 975 indicates my action in trying to prevent at the eleventh hour, if you like, what has been connived at for so long by the Leader of the Opposition. I wanted to take the matter to the General Assembly of the United Nations and have it voted on accordingly. It was an action that the previous Government never took.
As to the Leader of the Opposition, all I can say about his talk of scandal yesterday is that amazement at his gall competes unsuccessfully with disgust at his hypocrisy. As the document reproduced on the front page of the Canberra Times today shows, he not only believed that Timor should be incorporated into Indonesia, but he made it clear to President Suharto. An act of self-determination was seen only as a necessary legitimising step to bring this about, not as something valuable in itself to be approached without preconceptions as to the outcome. The Leader of the Opposition, as Prime Minister, did not say that the Australian Government would oppose unilateral Indonesian action. He said only that no Australian government would allow it to be thought that it supported unilateral action. His only concern, as ever, was with appearances. This is the man who accuses me of misconduct. It has totally rebounded as has always been the case.
-Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
-A central element in this case to which the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) has not addressed -
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) agreed to:
That the question be now put.
Original question put:
That the motion (Mr E. G. Whitlam’s) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Rt Hon. B. M. Snedden, Q.C. )
Question so resolved in the negative.
- Mr Speaker, I have been misrepresented and wish to make a personal explanation.
-The honourable member may proceed.
-The Foreign Minister (Mr Peacock) misrepresented me in quoting from an article by Miss Viviani and referring to views expressed by Mr Gregory Clark. As I said earlier, such persons were never on my staff; they were never in my confidence; they were never in my presence. Miss Viviani was an expert on Papua New Guinea and on aid to developing countries. At no time was she involved in matters concerning Timor. Mr Gregory Clark was never on my staff. I have denied this assertion when made by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) on previous occasions. I did have it in mind to make a personal explanation on this subject because last month a book on Japan in Japanese was published by Mr Clark, and he was described not only in Australian papers but also, my wife tells me, in English papers as an aide, an assistant, a consultant or an insider to me. The fact is that Mr Clark was never on my staff; he was never in my confidence; he was never in my presence. I have obtained the facts of his employment by the Public Service from the Secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and from the Chairman of the Public Service Board. He was appointed a consultant to the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, taking up work on 16 December 1974 in the policy co-ordination unit. He resigned on 30 January 1976. His appointment flowed from a letter to the Board by Sir John Bunting when he was Secretary of my Department. Mr Gregory Clark was never a consultant to me, an insider, an aide or an assistant.
-I have received a letter from the honourable the member for Lilley ( Mr Kevin Cairns) proposing that a definite matter of public- importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The growing inadequacy of Brisbane Airport.
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-
-This matter is of great national significance and international significance. Its importance to a large part of Australia ought not to be underestimated by this House. I am delighted that the discussion of this matter of public importance is supported by every Queensland member- the 17 on the Government side and the lone Queensland member of the Opposition. Brisbane Airport is the worst capital city airport in Australia. It is increasingly incapable of fulfilling its functions as the third airport in this nation. It falls into that position on at least 5 grounds. These grounds were best exemplified and made clear to the people of Australia when recently the International Federation of Airline Pilots Association stated that Brisbane Airport as a capital city airport did not receive the top rating that other cap.tial city airports received. Here I refer to Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth and Darwin. The growing inadequacy of the airport to fulfil the needs of the north of Australia is clear and something needs to be done about it. The measure that is not required is any proposal to extend the present runway. That will not satisfy the requirements of Brisbane or in fact Queensland.
The honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron), the honourable member for Bowman (Mr Jull), who shall speak after me, the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) and every honourable member who lands at the airport knows its inadequacies. It falls into that position on 5 grounds. The runway size is totally inadequate. The angle of the main runway is such that the airport cannot function properly.
– This is a matter of national importance.
-Certainly it is a matter of great national significance. The strength of the runway is such that it is not able to serve domestic transport adequately. The instrument systems for landing are totally inadequate for an international airport. The effects on the growth of the city of Brisbane and of the south eastern corner of Queensland are increasingly detrimental. So what is required- this is a simple, straightforward requirement- is a new runway situated at an angle of several degrees to the present runway. Anything short of that will not serve its purposes. The main runway at Brisbane Airport is the shortest main runway of any capital city airport in Australia. It is for that reason that domestic aircraft cannot take off fully loaded. At Adelaide the main runway is 8 000 feet long. At Darwin it is nearly 1 1 000 feet long. At Perth the runway length is over 10 300 feet. Melbourne Airport has a maximum length runway and at Sydney there is a maximum length runway of 12 000 feet. The main runway at Brisbane Airport is only 7760 feet in length. It is quite clear that it is totally inadequate. It is those circumstances which have caused very senior authorities and responsible people to make it clear recently in a number of television interviews that something needs to be done. I will quote firstly what Captain Holt, a former chairman for many years of the Air Pilots Federation of Australia had to say. He stated in Brisbane on 7 April 1 977 in an interview for the This Day Tonight television program:
A main runway at Brisbane airport should be north-west south-west. Present operations occur only within the limitations of Brisbane airport and again there are the larger aircraft limitations . . . The needs of the decade have already outstripped Brisbane airport and as the decade continues Brisbane will be just that more deficient as far as the airport is concerned.
But what he is saying also, and it is quite important, is that unless the needs of that airport and the airport itself are scaled down in terms of the demand for its activities, there could be danger. In other words, the limitations of the airport must be adhered to in order that it functions safely. That is the clear imputation that can be drawn from what Captain Holt had to say. Mr David Pitts, the secretary of the Queensland Branch of the Civil Air Operations Officers Association made it clear that a 4000 foot extension to the Brisbane runway and a few terminal facilities are not just good enough. He said that we needed a complex equal to those of Sydney and Melbourne. Of course we do not need a complex equal to those of Sydney or Melbourne. We need one which is adequate, properly positioned and with a proper length runway. It is not there in Brisbane.
Let me state one or two facts to the House in terms of runway size. The major aeroplanes in Australia at any temperature over 77 degrees fahrenheit- 26 degrees centigrade- cannot take off fully loaded. At times of industrial disputes or at times of strikes when Boeing 727 aircraft must carry a full load of fuel passengers must be offloaded, as has been the case in recent weeks. Aircraft involved in long domestic flights within Australia cannot take off from Brisbane Airport with a full load of fuel and a full load of passengers. That is quite disgraceful for a capital city airport. I also wish to give the House one or two details. It is now proposed by Qantas Airways Limited and British Airways Limited that Brisbane Airport function as an international airport. At any temperature over 26 degrees centigrade, those carriers will have to offload from the aircraft’s fuel weight. Let me indicate to honourable members how much the international air traffic will be affected. At 34 degrees centigrade, a temperature which is often attained in Australia’s largest tropical or sub-tropical city which is presumed to have an international airport, a Boeing 747 aircraft would take off 140 000 lb light. In other words, it would be 70 tonnes light. In these circumstances, it is a travesty to say that Brisbane has an adequate airport.
Boeing 707 aircraft taking off at temperatures above 28 degrees centigrade must do so 41 000 lb light and at temperatures above 34 degrees centigrade they must take off over 51000 lb light. So at times of dispute, at times when genuine international travel is required, this airport, by its very nature, cannot do the job. The reason for which it cannot do the job is intimately related to the length of the runway. It is also clear, as Captain Holt has pointed out, that the main runway has to be shifted. The main runway has to be moved more to the west than it is at the moment. The prevailing winds are always cross winds at that airport. The plain fact is that a mistake was made years ago in the positioning of the runway. The honourable member for Wide Bay (Mr Millar), who is a celebrated pilot in his own way and who understands these things, knows that what I am saying is perfectly correct. He lands at that airport quite often. I presume that he will continue to land at the airport quite often. But even if the runway were increased in length, the pavement strength of that airport could not do the job. More details need to be given to the House.
An ordinary stretch version of the Boeing 727 aircraft on domestic operations in Australia has an all up weight of 90 000 kilograms. At Brisbane Airport it can operate only at an all up weight of 75 000 kilograms. But in special circumstances, those aeroplanes are allowed to operate 7 times a week to operate at a weight of 83 000 kilograms. Without boring the House with a whole mass of figures, it is clear that even for domestic aircraft the runway strength cannot do the job that is required of it. Douglas DC8 aircraft can only operate on a runway strength which is 43 000 kilograms below their all up weight. Boeing 707 aircraft can operate only 22 000 kilograms below their all up weight and Douglas DC 10 aircraft can only operate at 40 000 kilograms below their all up weight. All of these faults exist in addition to the ones which later on the honourable member for Bowman (Mr Jull), who has a very intimate and expert knowledge of these matters, will mention when he discusses, with the peculiar expertise available to him, the lack of even the possible development of an adequate ILS landing system at the airport. That landing system for international carriers enables them to operate both ends of what is already, as I have pointed out quite clearly, an inadequate runway.
The tragedy is that promises that have been made or implied in relation to this airport for many years have not been kept. I am delighted to see that the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) has come into the House to listen to this very important debate. He would know that the most important promise was that made at the end of 1971 and the end of 1972 by a former Federal government in co-operation with the Brisbane City Council and the State of Queensland. That proposition concerning the proper positioning of a main runway and a new runway is one that still holds. Many modifications of that promise and that proposal ought to be made. I ask the governments concerned to adhere to them. I hope that they do adhere to them. It is a sad reflection on that pan of Australia that these kinds of circumstances have been brought about. We hope that they will not be continued. We know that the promises made in earlier years were compounded by the greatest proposal of all which, in fact, broke what was a promise. I refer to the reports and recommendations of Dr Coombs which, unfortunately, were accepted in the great part by the Government which preceded this Government. The Coombs report on Brisbane Airport was the type of report which made the position increasingly difficult.
We do know this: Something has to be done in respect of Brisbane Airport. It is increasingly inadequately able to serve its purpose. It cannot serve its present purposes. For example, I have a letter here from the present Regional Director of the Department of Transport in relation to noise abatement procedures. The Regional Director states in the last pararaph of the letter:
I must advise you that with the growth of traffic at Brisbane there are periods of each day, which are increasing both in frequency and duration, when the traffic density is such that the preferred runway system involving take-offs over Moreton Bay and landings from Moreton Bay on the main runway, i.e., an opposite direction traffic system, cannot be used. As the volume of traffic grows our ability to employ this aspect of the noise abatement procedures progressively reduces.
So a situation is being forced on a government and Australia in which consideration has to be given about what will be done in relation to Brisbane Airport. I say this knowing that every parliamentary member from Queensland- there are 1 8 of them, 1 7 on this side of the House- know that proposals to lengthen the present runway will not suffice. Proposals to lengthen the present runway will not cure the inadequacies to which I have referred. There is only one proposal that can be adopted and only one proposal that will serve the purposes which that airport is designed to serve. That proposal is that a runway of adequate length should exist, that there be adequate pavement strength on the runway, that the runway be positioned correctly in relation to the prevailing winds at Brisbane- the present runway is not positioned having regard to the prevailing winds- and that the runway should enable proper instrument landing systems to operate at both ends if it is to serve, even in a muted way or in a way which has some close relationship to adequacy, both as a recent domestic airport and as a totally adequate international airport. Unless those conditions are satisfied, it would be laughable, for example, to suggest that such an airport could serve the best interests of a city which is hosting the next Commonwealth Games.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-The matter of public importance for discussion before the
House, raised by the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) is:
The growing inadequacy of Brisbane Airport.
I am grateful to the honourable member for Lilley for the large amount of technical information that he brought to the attention of the House during his contribution. I am not being facetious when I say that. I think that that kind of information needs to be brought up for public discussion, particularly when the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon), who is responsible for decisions on the airport, is present in the Chamber. The Opposition, although the honourable member for Lilley did not enunciate those numbers or members of the Opposition who recognise the growing inadequacy of Brisbane airport, likewise recognises that problem. The Opposition, when in Government, sought to do something about it. However, I have to say that the honourable member for Lilley, when a Minister of a previous conservative government, did nothing about it. I find is a little difficult to attach sincerity to the matter he has brought before the House this afternoon, given the history of his involvement over the past years and given the fact that the Party, of which he is a supporter and in which he was a Minister, has been in government for 25 of the past 28 years. I do not think that the matter he has brought forward can be treated in any way as a reflection on the 3 years of Labor Government.
It is a surprising matter to be brought before the House by 2 Government backbenchers. The immediate question that it raises is: Where is the Minister? I accept that the Minister is in the chamber but surely this is a matter that ought to be raised by the Minister or raised in the Party room or a matter on which the Minister himself ought to be speaking and giving some answers. The honourable member for Lilley has given no indication whether the Minister supports the information that he has put to the House. I think that he does not. I will quote some of the honourable member’s earlier remarks in support of that. Has the Minister given an undertaking in response to the matters raised by the honourable member for Lilley, the honourable member for Bowman ( Mr Jull), the honourable member for Brisbane (Mr Peter Johnson) or the other 15 members who represent Queensland? The honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) also now joins the honourable member for Lilley, who has made this very serious subject a political perennial in this Chamber. It is a very serious matter to the people of Queensland, particularly the people of Brisbane.
I am surprised in a way that the honourable member for Lilley should have been a party to a political exercise such as the one he has initiated in this House this afternoon. The problems of the airport, particularly concerning access to it, are indeed serious. For residents noise problems exist in the vicinity of the airport. They are genuine and serious problems and they need serious treatment. Surely from a Government of which the honourable member for Lilley is a supporter we should have been able to hear something in support of this matter. What I think is happening is that, because there is such large conservative representation in Queensland, that State is being taken for granted in air transport in the same way that it is being taken for granted by this Government in urban public transport.
– It was your Party that stamped on us in 1973 when the Coombs Report scrapped what was being done.
– What are you talking about, you nong?
-Order! I suggest to honourable members that this interchange is not assisting the debate in any way. I remind the Deputy Government Whip that he is not in his correct position. I ask honourable members to allow the honourable member for Shortland to continue his remarks without interruption.
-I emphasise that the only urban public transport projects in Queensland being funded by the Federal Government are those that were approved by the Labor Government between 1972 and 1975. Likewise, the only decision of value and merit in respect of Brisbane Airport was the decision taken by the Labor Government in the years 1972 to 1975. Honourable members again are witnessing this afternoon a cheap exercise by the Liberal members representing the electorates around Brisbane Airport to try to gain some solace from criticism or to collect some kudos for themselves. However, the Opposition proposes to treat this matter with the seriousness that it demands, not as a gimmick for the electorates of Lilley, Griffith and Bowman, among others.
I would like to look at the history of Brisbane Airport. In 1 97 1 , a Government committee comprising representatives of the Australian Government, the Queensland Government and the Brisbane City Council recommended a plan of 2 widely spaced parallel runways and one cross runway with associated buildings, drainage and road access works. In the 1972 election campaign, Prime Minister McMahon gave a commitment that there would be an immediate expenditure of $lm for 1973-74 if the Government was returned to office. There was a commitment of $13m for 1974-75 and $18m for 1975-76. However, in 1976-77, $2m is being provided. That $2m is towards land acquisition and is part of the program that was initiated by the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) when he was Minister for Transport in the Labor Government. That is the only concrete decision that was made. In 1973 the Coombs Report recommended a cost-benefit analysis of the project. Subsequently, the Bureau of Transport Economics was asked to prepare a study of the likely future and civil aviation requirements of the Moreton region and the most appropriate development plan for Brisbane Airport to meet those requirements. The interim report recommending construction of an international airport was accepted by the Labor Government. Construction was initiated by the Labor Government and completed in late 1975. Again, only the Labor Government made a decision and took firm action to do something to remedy the problems of Brisbane Airport. The subsequent Bureau of Transport Economics report entitled Brisbane Airport- ‘Economic Evaluation of Alternative Development Strategies’ was tabled by the present Minister for Transport on 7 April last year, almost 6 months after he received the report. It is like the Hewitt Committee report. It was put on ice. Unfortunately, it is still on ice.
At that time the Minister, in response to some heated contributions by the honourable member for Lilley and the honourable member for Griffith refused to give an assurance that the report would be enacted. He said: lt is a matter Tor Budget discussion.
We have had one Budget since then and we are lining up for another Budget but we still have not had a decision. In late 1 974 the Labor Government commenced a land acquisition program. Again, it was a Labor Government that took steps to overcome the problem. The Minister more or less made fun of the honourable member for Griffith in the House on 7 April last year when, referring to this matter, he said:
The honourable member for Griffith displayed his usual fervour and great interest in this matter concerning Brisbane.
He said further, referring to the honourable member for Griffith:
During the course of the Election campaign, they - including the honourable member for Lilley-
. were very active in sending me telegrams seeking my agreement to a proposed course of action in respect of its development.
This referred to Brisbane airport. There lies the essence of this matter before the House this afternoon. The Liberal members in the Brisbane metropolitan area are in a fix. They made all kinds of promises and undertakings in the 1975 election campaign. Their own Government and their own Minister for Transport will not move to enact those promises and they are left high and dry. They seek to bring this matter forward as evidence of some concern.
Let us return to the present. What is the Department doing? Since the Bureau of Transport Economics report the Department of Transport has carried out an internal review of Brisbane Airport separate to the BTE report. This review was completed and sent to the Secretary of the Department for submission to the Minister. This was not done on the basis that the Secretary was not happy with the cost recovery issues. By this process all user airlines were consulted and were satisfied with the proposals by the Department that were to have been submitted to the Minister. Those recommendations were: Firstly, that the present airport be used until terminal capacity was exhausted in approximately 1990 and that this matter be reviewed in 1982; secondly, that a new runway system be approved immediately as a long term development strategy and that land purchases should continue so that ultimately runway approaches were protected. That recommendation also has not seen the light of day. I wonder whether the honourable member for Lilley and the honourable member for Griffith have learnt of that one. Like the report of the Hewitt Committee on the aviation industry recovery program, an important report which relates to airports and to the whole of the aviation industry, their recommendation has not been brought before the Parliament. I come back to the Hewitt Committee report because it is pertinent and important to this discussion.
If there is to be a rational and responsible public discussion on costs associated with the aviation industry- airports are a major item of that cost- there needs to be adequate information before the Parliament. The capital investment in airports and airport facilities, in the necessary accessways and in the public transport systems all need to be taken into account, but importantly, in this subject we are discussing, what needs to be taken into account is the ability of the industry to make a contribution to those costs. There we lie at a deadlock, because the Minister has not passed on to the Parliament the views put forward to him by his Department. There is great national significance in the problems at Brisbane airport. This is not a matter for initiation by 2 back benchers. It is a matter that should have been raised in Cabinet. It should have been dealt with in Cabinet. It is almost 18 months since the government changed, and here we have this charade again of bringing up the old political perennial giving it a bit of a stir-over and trying to make it appear that something is being done when nothing is being done.
The deficiencies of the airport and the systems associated with it have long been known to the Minister for Transport, but he does not give them sufficient priority to ensure that some funds are provided to alleviate the problem. I would like to refer to the latest statistics that are available on the utilisation of Brisbane airport. These show that for the quarter ended March 1977 there were 8 1 47 aircraft movements and 488 000 passenger movements. The increase in passenger movements was 4.4 per cent. There was a decrease in aircraft movements of 0.2 per cent. For the year ended March 1977 there were 2 081 000 passenger movements and 34 1 10 aircraft movements. There was a decrease in passenger movements of 4.5 per cent and a decrease in aircraft movements of 6.9 per cent. The important thing to note in those statistics is that although the number of passenger movements has increased for the quarter the number of aircraft movements has decreased. This seems to provide evidence that the use of larger aircraft can reduce some of the future demand on airport facilities.
– Brisbane cannot handle large aircraft. It does not have the capacity.
-The only improved facility at Brisbane airport is the new international terminal built by a Labor government to provide facilities for moving people.
– Brisbane cannot get jumbos off fully laden.
– That is the question we are posing to the Minister this afternoon. He has heard all these points before. There is nothing new in what has been said this afternoon.
– Yes there is.
– Yes there is; my word.
-There is nothing new to the Minister. I mentioned earlier the report that the Minister has before him, prepared by his Department, on which he refuses to act. All the information on the aviation industry needs to be brought into the Parliament for discussion. The Hewitt Committee report is vital to that.
Let us extend the discussion a little further to take in the estimates of the Department. We are witnessing at the moment what is a very serious campaign by all of the unions involved in the aviation industry. It deals with the safety aspects of the industry. I do not want to delineate the pamphlets and the posters that are being distributed. Let us just talk about the seriousness of the issue that has been put before us. All the people involved in the industry, including the operators of aircraft, are concerned with the safety standards of the Australian aviation industry. Surely that embraces the Brisbane airport, surely that embraces the priorities in relation to expenditure on aviation by this Government and surely it is time to bring into the Parliament the facts and not just leave it to newspaper leaks, not just leave it to speculation, not just leave it to headline hunters. The effect of this kind of campaign, if it is run without any kind of clarification by the Minister and by the Government, is that potential air travellers are concerned. People asked me on the weekend: ‘How much truth is there in this campaign being mounted by the unions?’ I answered that the Minister is saying nothing; the Government is saying nothing. We do know that because of the freeze on departmental personnel air navigational aids are not being checked. It is a matter of waiting until a navigational aid fails and then somebody is sent out to check it. There are not sufficient funds to cover travelling expenses.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– In line with the agreement on this matter, I move:
- Mr Deputy Speaker, do not tell me that the Minister for Transport does not have a reply on this matter. A member of his Party raised the question of what has not been done at the Brisbane airport. Not one of the honourable members who represent Brisbane city electorates are prepared to speak in the debate. As far as I am concerned, there is no agreement. The honourable member for Bowman is supposed to be the next speaker. There is no agreement. I am the second speaker from the Opposition side. When will members of the Government debate this matter? I am astounded that the Minister is prepared to move that the business of the day be called on. Why does not the Minister give some explanation for the Government’s not having done something about improving the facilities at the Brisbane airport?
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The question is: ‘That the business of the day be called on’.
The House divided. ( Mr Deputy Speaker-Mr P. E. Lucock)
Question so resoved in the affirmative.
– I move:
The Customs Tariffproposals I have just tabled relate to proposed alterations to the Customs Tariff Act 1 966. The tariff reductions contained in Proposals No. 12 are an extension of the Government’s policy to reduce tariff levels where there is no adverse effect on local industry. These changes were previously withheld pending international consultation. Proposals No. 13 formally place before Parliament, as required by law, tariff changes introduced by Gazette notice during the last recess. The Proposals give effect to the Government’s decision on the recommendations by the Industries Assistance Commission in its report on the Australian olive industry. The duties mentioned in this Proposal are by virtue of the previous gazettal already in operation and in the majority of instances result in a reduction in rates of duty. In a minor number of items tariff levels were increased. However, the increases are marginal on items of significant trade interest and should not provide any basis for price increases. A comprehensive summary of changes contained in the Proposals is now being circulated to honourable members. I commend the Proposals to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Young) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Newman, and read a first time.
– On behalf of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and the Minister assisting the Treasurer (Mr Viner), I move:
This Bill has 2 main purposes- to provide the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation with a financial chaner appropriate for a government instrumentality operating in competition with private enterprise, and to provide the Corporation with greater flexibility in its operations. When legislation to establish the Corporation was introduced in 1964 it was expected that the government agency would be the sole operator in the mortgage insurance field. Accordingly, it was not thought appropriate that the Corporation should pay income tax, State taxes and stamp duties, or that it should aim to make profits from its insurance operations. As the then Minister for Housing indicated in his second reading speech to establish the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation:
The Corporation will be required to aim over the long term neither to make a profit nor to incur a loss.
The Corporation now has a number of private enterprise competitors, and these companies are required to pay income tax and State stamp duties, and to pay dividends on shareholders funds. The Corporation is exempt from these requirements. It is the policy of this Government that the private sector is to be encouraged, and this demands that the potential for unfair competition with private insurers, because of the Corporation’s present financial charter, be removed.
Apart from industry considerations there are other reasons why HLIC might be placed on a commercial footing and expected to pay a return to the Commonwealth. HLIC has proven to be a very successful venture. It has enjoyed an enviable record since its establishment in 1965. The Corporation has insured more than $3, 500m in housing loans, assisting some 235,000 borrowers to obtain a home of their own, and demonstrated leadership and innovation in its field. The time has come to amend the Corporation’s financial charter to recognise the Corporation for what it is- a large and successful commercial venture.
Because of this success, and because of its freedom from income tax and profit payments, the Corporation has accumulated substantial reserves. The surplus exceeded $lm in each year of the 3 years to 1973-74 and rose to $2.4m in 1974-75. In 1975-76 the surplus was just short of $3m. The total surpluses to date amount to $ 12.7m and are held in the General Reserve. These results have been achieved despite three substantial reductions in premium rates. There is a limit, however, to the level to which premiums can be reduced further. The premium rates set by HLIC, and adopted by its competitors, are already among the lowest in the world.
Up until now, the Corporation has operated without any formal capital. The Government proposes now to arrange the financial affairs of the Corporation on more orthodox lines, and to impose on the Corporation an obligation to service capital. A new section 3 lA will provide that $5m is to be transferred from the General Reserve to form the capital of the Corporation. Section 26 of the Act, which sets out the premium policy to be followed by the Corporation, is to be amended to require the Corporation to seek revenue sufficient to meet all its expenditure properly chargeable to revenue, and to permit payments to the Commonwealth of a reasonable return on capital. At the same time, the Corporation will be required to charge premiums at the lowest possible rates consistent with this obligation.
The Corporation’s current exemption from Federal and State taxes will be removed by the repeal of section 38 of the Act. A new section 38, which will come into force on 1 July 1977, will have the effect of making the Corporation liable to pay income tax in respect of 1976-77 income, and to pay State stamp duties on insurance commitments entered into on and after 1 July 1977. The Bill frees the Corporation, and its customers, from any liability for State or Territorial charges in respect of commitments entered into before I July.
A new section 3 1 B will require the Corporation to pay such amount to the Commonwealth out of its after-tax profits as the Minister determines. Provision is also made in section 3 1C for interim dividends to be paid. The first payments will be made in respect of 1 976-77 profits.
Because it is considered that the Commonwealth is entitled to some share of the residual surplus of the 1 1 years’ operations by the Corporation, during which time it has paid neither taxes nor dividends, the Bill also provides for the payment to the Commonwealth from the General Reserve of an amount of $4.5m. This will leave the Corporation with an amount of $8.2m by way of capital and reserves, which is judged to be adequate for the Corporation’s needs. This amount can be expected to increase, but at a slower rate than the rate at which the General Reserve has been increasing in recent years, as residual profits after tax and dividend payments are added to the General Reserve. However, the Bill provides a mechanism for capital to be repaid, or additional capital to be provided by appropriation, depending on the Government’s assessment from time to time of the Corporation ‘s need for capital funds.
The Bill widens the present investment powers to enable the Corporation to increase investment income, now that it is to be liable for dividend, income tax and stamp duty payments. This amendment also recognises the importance of investment income in an insurance operation, particularly in the insurance of long term mortgages. Hitherto, the Corporation has been able to invest only in Commonwealth securities, fixed deposits with banks, and the official short term money market. Among other things, HLIC will now be empowered to invest in trustee investments, public securities and, with the approval of the Treasurer, in permanent building societies.
I turn now to the widened insurance powers to be given to the Corporation, to give it maximum flexibility in its operations in recognition of its new commercial charter. At present, HLIC may insure only prescribed classes of housing loans as specified by the Minister, and an insurable loan may not exceed limits as to the amount, repayment term, or interest rate which have been set with the concurrence of the Minister. In any case a loan in excess of 95 per cent of property valuation may not be insured. The Bill removes these restrictions, leaving it for the Corporation’s own judgment to determine criteria to be met by insurable loans.
The Bill enables the Corporation to insure loans made for land acquisition and development and subsequent home construction provided there is clear evidence that the construction phase will commence within a reasonable period of time. The Corporation will not underwrite land transactions of a speculative nature. The Corporation’s entry to this area of the mortgage insurance market will enable it to offer comparable insurance services to those of its private enterprise competitors. It is also in keeping with our pre-election proposals that permanent building societies might experiment with front-end lending subject to supervision by State registrars of building societies. The corporation’s activity will not interfere with or be contrary to State responsibilities. It should not be seen as endorsement by the Government of this particular activity or a suggestion that lenders should increase their lending for such purposes.
The Corporation will also be authorised to insure loans for rental housing and loans made by government instrumentalities, such as State superannuation funds and local government bodies. The Bill also authorises the insurance of unsecured loans for home improvements, to encourage the more efficient utilisation of our existing housing stock. The Corporation will not be permitted, however, to insure loans which are not made for housing purposes according to the definition of insurable loan provided in clause 4 of the Bill, and the Minister will retain his powers under section 25 with respect to the policies of the Corporation.
In the 12 years since its introduction, the Housing Loans Insurance Act has not once been amended, except in minor detail. Over that period a number of shortcomings in the legislation have become apparent as a source of administrative inconvenience. This Bill seeks to remedy these faults. I will not take up the time of honourable members with a full recital of these changes. The most important changes are the streamlining of procedures for the assignment of insured loans, and a procedure whereby the Corporation may insure a loan made in the name of someone who is not an approved lender, provided that the loan will be managed by an approved lender.
The Bill also provides for a number of technical amendments aimed at updating certain provisions, and in some cases to insert new provisions, in line with those now generally included in new statutory authority legislation. For example, the audit and annual report provisions have been amended in this way. Ministerial directions and determinations given to the Corporation are to be published in the annual report. There is to be a new requirement that the Corporation provide such information and reports on its operations as the Minister may require, but existing constraints on the Corporation to maintain confidentiality in dealing with the affairs of individuals will be preserved.
The Housing Loans Insurance Corporation has assisted numerous people to attain homeownership and has been largely responsible for the successful foundation in this country of a mortgage insurance industry. This Bill recognises the development of this industry and seeks to regularise the role played by the government agency. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Uren) adjourned.
APPROPRIATION BILL (No. 3) 1976-77 Second Reading
Debate resumed from 28 April, on motion by Mr Lynch:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Mr Hurford had moved by way of amendment:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: ‘whilst not denying the Bill a second reading, the House is of the opinion that (a) the slashing of government spending is pan of an inept economic strategy which has led to a decline in the standard of living of all Australians and (b) there is an urgent need for alternative policies of promoting a consumer led recovery by cuts in indirect taxes and appropriate stimulatory expenditure on job creation and manpower training programs, all done in a context of not increasing inflation by (i) phasing out the more extravagant business tax concessions, (ii) increasing the money supply but not beyond the rate of inflation plus growth and (iii) instituting a more vigorous bondselling program ‘.
-The 2 Bills before the House are the Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 1976-77, which seeks approval for additional expenditure of $247,476,100, and Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 1976-77, which seeks approval for expenditure of $78,596,600. These Bills were before the House last Thursday. It is important that both of these Bills be taken into consideration with the recent savings and improved efficiencies instituted by the Fraser Government, particularly in the field of administration. Savings of $407m offset these 2 Appropriation Bills. When one examines the details of some of the expenditures proposed in these 2 Bills, one realises the tremendous job that this Government has been doing in providing additional facilities and additional worthwhile programs for the people of Australia. After looking briefly through the Appropriation Bills, I am proud of the additional expenditure- I pick out one item only- that the Government has provided for education. Under the heading of Student Assistance Programs’ provision is made for an allocation of about $32. 5m additional to what was previously approved for education spending. Of course, much of this money will go to the tertiary education assistance scheme and recent rises announced by the Government. Some people, when examining these 2 Bills, take fright at the additional expenditure for defence. The item of about $63m, which is appropriated for additional defence expenditure, must be viewed in context and regard must be had to a similar amount which has been saved in deferred capital expenditure on defence.
Of course, both of these Bills revolve around the economy and they typify the excellent way in which this Government is handling the economy in the face of much criticism that seems to be levelled at it quite unfairly. Only recently I was reading an article on the economy by an American professor of economics. It is good to be reminded of some of the history of world inflation and some of the history of inflaton that is causing some of the problems of today. This particular article referred briefly to some of the economic problems facing countries at the times of the Roman and Egyptian empires. It particularly followed the history of inflation in the United States in the last 200 or 300 years. After reading this article, I am in no doubt that basically inflation is caused by governments. If we examine the history of inflation in the United States, we find that every time a particular government ran a deficit, inflation followed. Usually a deficit is run in time of war. At the time the United States fought wars its government ran a deficit to finance that war and it printed money to do this. One can see the pattern of inflation coming out time and time again.
I turn now to Australia’s current pattern of deficits and inflation. As all honourable members well know, the policies of the previous government caused massive inflation in the years 1 974 and 1 975. As people have heard from time to time, when the Labor Government was in office the deficit reached $5,000m but our Government reduced it to about $4,000m. That large deficit in 1974-75 was preceded by a high deficit in the previous year. Of course, Australia built up a tremendous deficit. For the same reason as inflation is caused through deficits in other countries, massive inflation was caused in Australia. Our Government now has the task of pulling that deficit back into gear and of trying to balance the Budget. This year, hopefully, we will be able to reduce that deficit to between $2.6 billion and $3 billion which will be a considerable improvement on last year’s deficit. When an irresponsible government has run such a large deficit and pumped all that money into the economy, it would be soul destroying for the people of Australia if, all of a sudden, this Government tried to balance its Budget a year after such accumulated deficits existed. The best this Government can do is to taper down the deficit gradually. As we taper it down inflation will improve. The rate of inflation will improve and. once again, Australia will be able to get back to a balanced Budget and a sensible rate of inflation.
Of course, many people, without giving much thought to the matter, still criticise this Government and say that we have not yet brought inflation under control. As I mentioned when speaking in another debate in this House, inflation is like the tide when it comes in and out. It cannot be flowing one way and then, all of sudden, be made to flow the other way. It has to stop for a little while. If we follow the quarterly trend of our inflation rate since March 1975 and calculate it on annual rates, we find that in March 1 975 the annual rate of inflation was 17.6 per cent; in June it was 16.9 per cent; and it gradually decreased from 14.4 per cent to 13.6 per cent. The current rate of inflation for the March quarter that has just ended was 2.3 per cent. This was very good news. When people say that this Government does not have inflation under control, they are being unfair to the Government because the rate of inflation has decreased. We have passed the stage of the tide stopping; it is now starting to flow the other way and the news is good for the people of Australia. As we get the deficit down, so will the inflation rate come down.
Many people, of course, are concerned as to how the Government will cope with the deficit that exists and how it will be financed. In light of the problems we have had, this Government has been extremely generous to the people of Australia. For example, in the last 12 months the Government has provided tax cuts to the people. Items that include large amounts of expenditure tend to go unnoticed. This Government has brought in tax indexation at a cost of $ 1,100m. This means that the people of Australia, when they come to fill out their taxation returns in August, will get a 13 per cent discount on the tax rate. This Government has introduced an investment allowance and has promised to bring in legislation concerning trading stock valuation which will be brought before the House shortly. When we look at those initiatives and at the easing of the distribution requirements to private companies, the new family allowances, the automatic adjustment to pensions in Australia and particularly at the incentives that this Government has created, we find that Australians are being given back $2,000m. One might ask in view of the fact that we have a deficit of $2.6 billion- I know that honourable members opposite would ask this- how the Government is going to give $2,000m back to the people of Australia and still control the deficit?
Let me tell honourable members how the Government will achieve this. First, we will have economic policies that are expansionary and good for Australia. That is exactly what our generosity in providing these costly incentives to the people will do. As I said at a meeting the other day, Australia is not unlike any other business. A business, of course, makes sales and has expenses but, if the expenses can be kept below the revenue from sales, there will be some sort of profit. Australia is not unlike a business except that in Australia the Government does not look for a profit. It tries to return all the profit to the people. With a deficit of $2.6 billion we can overcome our problems by increasing sales from Australia. Many people study the gross domestic product. The growth rate in the gross domestic product in Australia recently has been healthy. Twelve months ago Australia’s gross domestic product, which to put it in business terms is the sales of Australia, was $69 billion.
When I look at the current monthly review of business statistics put out by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, I see that according to the quarterly growth rates in gross domestic product, on my calculations this year the total figure should come out at about $82 billion. That means that in 12 months Australia has increased its sales from $69 billion to an estimated $82 billion. Let me do a few quick calculations to estimate Government revenues this year from this source. Australia’s revenue derives from the various forms of taxation including excise duties and the like. The Government collects 28 per cent of Australia’s gross domestic product- Australia’s sales level- in the form of tax collections. So, we can see that when Australia can increase its total sales or its gross domestic product from $69 billion to $82 billion, the Government will get 28 per cent of that in the form of taxation. With a gross domestic product increase of about $12 billion, approximately $3.5 billion will go to the Government.
I say to those people listening now that there is no trouble in eventually overcoming the present economic situation. There is no reason for Australians, business people of Australia particularly, to walk around with their tails between their legs. This Government has announced that it will hold Government expenditure, in real terms, to its present level. If we can hold Government expenditure for a couple of years and, at the same time through the use of expansionary policies, build up Australia’s gross domesticproduct, the deficit will automatically rectify itself. So, people can look forward to the future with confidence. The signs for confidence are there. Many such signs have been emerging for some time and are still emerging. Only last Friday in the Australian Financial Review there was an article headed: ‘Long-awaited building upturn could be appearing’. I shall quote a few paragraphs of the article. It states:
The recovery in the non-house building part of the construction industry . . . could be making its appearance.
Figures on actual building commencements prepared by building industry economists . . . show a sharp increase in the March, 1 977, quarter for the Sydney region-
Of course this is the worst hit area in Australia. That news, Mr Acting Speaker, has a lot of significance.
-Order! I take the opportunity to point out that anybody sitting in this chair who is not Mr Speaker is correctly addressed as ‘Mr Deputy Speaker’. There is an Acting Speaker only when the Speaker is absent and, following an announcement by the Clerk to that effect, a member takes the chair as Mr Acting Speaker’. I have intended to say that for some time. I am sorry to intrude on the honourable member’s speech.
– My apologies, Mr Deputy Speaker. I have the greatest respect for you and you know that I would not have made that error in any way out of discourtesy. I hold you in the highest esteem. As I said, this article is of some significance. The people of Australia will realise that the building industry has been suffering over recent years. When one analyses the depth of suffering of that industry, one finds that the building of dwellings has not been one of the main sufferers within the total construction industry. In fact there has been an upturn in numbers of dwellings for some time. Last year the total number of dwellings built in Australia was 144 000, compared to 118 000 12 months previously. The weak aspect in the construction industry has been in commercial and industrial buildings. We know that this portion has been weak for some time. So, it is significant that this article appears and that this section of the industry is now starting to show an upturn. As I said before, this shows the continuing confidence that is now emerging in the community.
Other figures illustrate that we have an underutilisation of our manufacturing industries. That has been so for some time. When the LiberalCountry Party Government left power four or five years ago, manufacturing industry throughout Australia was operating at about 85 per cent of capacity. That capacity today is down to about 76 to 77 per cent. It has been even a few per cent lower than that. I raise that point because many people are saying that if we make our policies too expansionary this will tend to cause inflation. The point I bring to the attention of those people listening is that because we have this excess capacity available in our manufacturing industries our manufacturing industry and economy can stand up to a great deal of expansion, which is non-inflationary because the capacity is already there to produce goods and services. If through our policies we can take up this excess capacity that exists we have a great chance of being able to produce some, and perhaps many, of our goods and services at a lower price than previously. I urge those business people listening tonight please to accept the confidence of the Government that the economy has a great future.
I can well remember 12 months ago when the Government brought in the first of our stimulating innovations, the investment allowance for business, the words of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). He said that those people and those businesses that were prepared to invest then would be in the best position to reap the profits of the future. Those words that he said 12 months ago still apply today because those businesses which are prepared to continue with investment today and to find markets for their goods are the ones which will reap the great benefit in the future. Policies such as these will gradually overcome our problem of unemployment. Gradually we will get back to the situation of being able to provide jobs for all those Australians who want a job and who want to workand most of them do. But first we must get rid of the deficit. It will take time to do. When the deficit is eliminated, the inflation rate will come down and Australia will continue on the road to recovery that it has been on for the last 12 months.
-The House is considering 2 Bills. Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 1976-77 which provides for expenditure of $247m to the end of this financial year additional to what was estimated and Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 1976-77 which provides a further sum of $78.5m for what are described as capital items. So, between the 2 of them, those Bills provide for additional expenditure of the order of $326m. Accompanying these 2 Bills is a camouflage document which describes estimated savings on Appropriation Act (No. I). Those estimated savings are stated to be $406.8m. Many speakers on the Government side have suggested that really, therefore, we are spending $80m less. 1 want to take the 2 principal items in the estimated savings to show what humbug is involved.
The first of the 2 biggest items in the estimated savings of $406m is $67.75m Ibr defence. The details of that saving, as set out on page 20 of the document, reveal that the principal saving is in not buying navy vessels. In the other Appropriation Bill, which sets out the expenditure still to be undertaken, there is an item of $68m. Apparently all that has happened is that instead of spending the money on the Navy, the Government is spending the money on the Air Force. How can this be described as a virtue of saving? It is nothing but sheer camouflage. I think that it is about time there was a little bit more honesty. This document did not exist until lust year, when it was brought in for political reasons. In other years, the usual thing was to show against the Department of Defence the sums that were thought would have been expended when the Budget was drawn up and to match those items with sums that had been expended. I suggest that that was an honest way of doing things. The Government is claiming that it is saving $67m on defence, but in the same breath it is spending a further $68m. So the net effect is that the Government is spending more on defence than it budgeted for at the beginning of the year.
The other big item shown as a saving is under the Department of Health- an amount of $232,362,000. There was not a word of explanation in the speech of the Treasurer ( Mr Lynch ) of how this sum was made up. The principal sum is found on page 34 of this camouflage document where it is shown that whereas it had been expected in the Budget that the Government would spend $l,552m on the Health Insurance Fund established by the Health Insurance Act 1973, the Government is spending $2 15,750,000 less. I would have thought that this at least warranted some sort of explanation. I do not believe that the explanation is that the people of Australia are healthier than the Government thought they were. I think that rather it lies in the choice of people between the Medibank and private health insurance provisions. I may be wrong about that, but this amount really is not a saving. The money is being expended in a different way. I think it is about time that this Government began to come clean about the realities of the situation in Australia at the moment.
The honourable member for Barton (Mr Bradfield) drew some great comfort from the fact that whereas last year the gross domestic product was about $70 billion this year he expected it to be $82 billion. Of course he did not say that both figures are expressed in terms of current prices, not constant prices. I suggest that he look at the document brought out by the Commonwealth Statisticians on 1 March entitled Australian National Accounts 1975-76; Preliminary Statement No. 1 -Gross Domestic Product at Current and Constant Prices’. This shows that although it appeared that the gross domestic product had risen from $59 billion to $70 billion between 1974-75 and 1975-76, those figures, expressed in terms of average prices related to the base year of 1966-67, show that the difference between the 2 years was not $10 billion but only $600m. I submit that the figure of $82 billion will contain an inflation factor of at least 12 per cent. Whatever comfort the Government is trying to claim at the moment by referring to the March quarter figure, I know that when I tried to claim some comfort by referring to the March quarter a couple of years ago, I was told by the present Treasurer: ‘Oh, but the March figure is always a kinder figure than the June figure’. If that information is accurate, I suggest that the Government is being a little bit premature. I know that 2.3 per cent is the figure that the Government would like to multiply by four, which the Treasurer did when it suited him in other days. At least, as I told him recently, he has learnt a bit since he became Treasurer.
The other thing that a great song and dance are being made about is the deficit. I suppose that in the last 10 or 15 years Australia has had more deficits in the budget account than it has had surpluses. Apparently deficits are always a virtue when honourable members opposite are in office, but they become vicious when somebody else comes to office. The likelihood is that this year the deficit will be greater than the Government anticipated because certain things have eventuated. Whatever the position may look like at 30 June, the Government will have some great problems in the framing of the next Budget by reason of the concessions that have been given already and that will have their impact in the next Budget, such as individual tax indexation and company tax indexation, about which we will say something tomorrow when we are debating the income tax measures.
This Government is not facing up to the difficulties of the Australian economy. Candidly. I think that there is too much assumption in Australia that governments can remedy all the things that are wrong. Governments cannot remedy all the things that are wrong.
– They can make one bankrupt.
– They can make one bankrupt, they can make one prosperous. The incidence of bankruptcy is not declining under the honourable member’s Administration at the moment. I think that one shameful thing is emerging. It seems to be emerging only because New South Wales now has an Attorney-General who is prepared to prosecute for things that were left to fester in the dark before. There have been some rather shameful examples of what those who are regarded as the captains of industry and the leaders of finance have done to companies that were successful until they took over. It astonishes me that 2 individuals can get away with what at first appeared to be $750,000, which surely was a big sum. 1 suggest that there was something wrong with the auditing of the accounts that allowed that to happen, irrespective of how the discrepancy was found ultimately. The horrendous sum was more like $1.5m. This hardly sets an example to the rest of the community whom the Government is telling to tighten their belts or to live within their capacities. I suppose that there can be nothing more inane than for a government to believe blandly that there can be such a thing as a wage freeze and a price freeze. One can never freeze all wages. One never should, because some wages are too low anyway. One should never freeze all prices, because some of them are too high already. Surely, for anybody to believe that he can foist upon a nation some sort of a moral call for a wage freeze is inane. I notice that it is not now being called a wage freeze; it is being called a wage halt. In my view, to think that that simplistic sort of solution is possible shows that ignorance of the Government about the fundamental problems that beset the Australian economy at the moment.
In this Parliament we talked- I think it was accepted from about 1946 to 1970 at least- about the possibility of full employment. We believed that everybody able and willing to work would find a job. Sensibly, I do not think that full employment ever meant that anybody should hold the same job all his life. I think that is one of the first lessons that has to be learnt. For example, in the 1930s when I got my first employment I could not choose between a multitude of employment opportunities. I took what I thought I was lucky to get. Maybe that sort of situation is beginning to emerge again. I repeat tonight what I have said on a previous occasion. I do not believe that education is only to turn out people to work. There are cultural, social philosophic, musical and aspects other than earning a living. Nevertheless the majority of mankind for a long time is cursed to have to work to get his bread. In my view the education system is training people for jobs that no longer exist and not for jobs that the new emerging society will need filled in the next 25 years. They are the problems the Government should begin to look at.
Every month we get dismal pictures of the unemployment situation. I suppose the Australian Labor Party won government in 1972 because of the rise in unemployment. It lost in 1975 because unemployment was still rising. That is a very grave portent for the Government side of the House if an election comes along by 1978 and the figures are still rising. At the moment they show no sign of halting. Total employment in Australia really has been stagnant for the last twelve or eighteen months despite the fact that potentially there ought to be nearly 250 000 more people in employment now than there were 18 months ago, but that is not the case. The figure is pretty constant, and the rather alarming thing is that the only plus is an increase in female employment greater than the decline in male employment. Surely this is a fundamental factor in the kinds of attitudes we have come to believe were what underlay the Australian cultural patternsthe dominance of the male breadwinner. Maybe that is not as desirable as was thought, but it is still a majority picture.
The other great area where there is a decline is in the total number employed in manufacturing. The Labor Government commissioned the Jackson report, and the Jackson Committee made a close examination of the economic situation in Australia. It found out, as I guess anybody who read the monthly publications of the Australian Bureau of Statistics could have, that there was a decline in manufacturing employment in total. Whereas it used to be well over a quarter of total employment it is now 22 or 23 per cent. In my view it is likely to continue to decline unless some substantial structural changes are made. The Jackson report suggested that the great hope for the expansion of manufacturing in Australia in the years ahead was that we should find new export markets. I have asked this question in this House categorically: Who can nominate for me some area of manufacturing industry so called that is likely to increase its exports in the foreseeable future? Maybe we have to resign ourselves to a manufacturing industry capable of satisfying only the home demand. I am not too sure that the sensible answer is to begin a new era of protection to enable what is still there to survive. It has to be a little more subtle and a lot less crude than that kind of approach.
If in the future manufacturing is not to be the absorber of employment that it was in the past and if we are still to adhere to a belief in full employment, where are we to find the new employment opportunities for those who are able and willing to work? My belief is that most people want to work. They do not want to survive by doing nothing and getting something like half a wage. I am sure they would like to get a proper wage and do something that is creative, constructive and useful for the future of the Australian economy. I am not too sure that in the future we should emphasise that there should be a growth rate every year of X or Y per cent. I am not too sure myself that people are as fussy these days about physical goods as we claimed to be perhaps 25 years ago. There can be a surfeit of physical goods. Nevertheless there are sections in the Australian community with an inadequacy rather than a surplus.
I listened a few minutes ago to the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Newman) introducing a Bill to strengthen the guarantees under the housing loans insurance scheme. Surely one of the great problems in the years ahead will be how the young generation, the people who are now in their twenties, will buy land and build a house in the next five or ten years. On the news this morning I heard that blocks in Canberra were selling for between $7,000 and $8,000. A house costs $25,000 or $26,000. When one has to get finance at 12 percent, 1 3 per cent or 14 percent it is time we had a look at the elements of this problem. We seem to be consoled one month because the applications for building permits have risen. If they should drop we look at the completions or part constructions and so on. We will have a look at matters in depth in the future. Maybe the great thing will not be for everybody to own his own home. I do not know. These are philosophical problems. In the area where I live a solid brick house that was built in 1910 or 1912 on a block with a 35-foot frontage and a 120-foot depth sold the other day for $75,000. If one does a little arithmetic one can see that nobody is going to have it as a rent proposition. It would cost $150 weekly to rent and one would only get a 10 per cent gross return, which would hardly cover any mortgage repayments.
– You must live in an expensive area.
-I live in an inner area of Melbourne. I think people at long last are realising it is a bit silly to live too far out of the city. Maybe you do have to go up a bit instead of going out. This seems to me to be a question that society has to decide. I wish at times in this Parliament we would look at these questions rather than engaging in blackguarding that all that is wrong with this country happened in the 3 years from 1972 to 1975 and that now the Government is the blessed group born to set it right. It has not done too well in setting it right in the period of almost 2 years it has had so far to set it right. It is about time it began to scratch beneath the surface and see what the problems are. I find it difficult to think of anything positive that has yet been done by this Government in the 18 months or so it has been in office. If anything has got better it has got better despite the Government rather than because of it. I never believed that the Australian economy was as bad as it was painted, but honourable members opposite painted it that way to get into office. Now they are in office they do not know what to do.
Sitting suspended from 5.54 to 8 p.m.
-The House is debating the Appropriation Bills Nos 3 and 4 presented at this time of year to the Parliament to authorise funds for the Government to carry on expenditure in many areas. Following as they do Appropriation Bills Nos 1 and 2 which are presented at the time the Budget is produced in August, I suppose that the debate on these Bills presents the second major occasion for a debate on economic matters. I believe that there has never been a greater public interest than today in the control of Government expenditure. Never has it been found so difficult to control. Much of the expenditure is linked directly to rises in the consumer price index. Almost all the other rises can be linked indirectly because clearly those rises are the result of pressures caused by wage and salary rises. This means that we can predict with some certainty that the expenditure in existing schemes will increase at about the same rate as the inflation rate. That amount of increase has been predicted variously at somewhere between 15 per cent and 18 per cent. That is the percentage increase which I think most people have suggested.
To my mind, that is really a most important aspect of our economic consideration. If we keep on spending, which has been the clear result of our economic activity in this country in the last 10 years, that spending can be financed in only 2 ways: In taxes or in the deficit, which is really a hidden tax since sooner or later people- the taxpayers and those producing- have to make it up. There is a great outcry in this country for a reduction of taxes. I can say with confidence to the House and to anyone listening to the debate that the issue facing the Government at present is not whether to reduce taxes but whether to increase them. If honourable members look at the necessary growth and expenditure as a result of schemes- particularly those that were instituted by Labor governments in the last 3 years they were in office- they will see that the Government has no leeway to grant large-scale tax reductions. We all know- I hope we do- that the level of income tax in this country is much too high. The Government has tried to alleviate this situation. Let me point out what it has done.
It has applied an index to the income tax rates- what is known as income tax indexation. It is a horrible conglomerate but the result of it has been to try to prevent tax getting into higher and higher tax brackets as incomes go up purely because of the pressure of inflation. That has meant that the Government has received over $ 1 billion less in tax. This is the Budget outlook for this year. We have a situation in which the revenue is that much short. The Government has also tried to encourage industry. I believe the Government will have succeeded in that encouragement by the payment of the investment allowance and by enacting very shortly further legislation which will give deductions to companies in trading activities based on the amount of stock they have. But those schemes represent costs to the revenue in the same way as there is a cost against the revenue when, in line with the increase in consumer price index, pensions and unemployment benefits are increased and the costs of health, education, defence and payments to the States are also increased. Those areas I have mentioned are the 5 big areas of expenditure. As a matter of fact, those areas I have mentioned account for nearly 80 per cent of the Commonwealth’s Budget.
I have said that income tax is too high. Of course, it is too high. What I want to emphasise to the House tonight is that the reason for that is that expenditure is too high and it is high time we limited it. I am not speaking now particularly of this Government, I am speaking of all governments. I am also stating that the part played by this Parliament in attempting to do anything constructive in that area is sadly lacking Wage and salary earners in this country carry the whole burden of government expenditure. That means really that the middle income group carries the burden because there is not enough money earned by the lower and higher income groups to get enough tax revenue. The burden is borne by those in the middle. If this Government does not act- I mean act more than it has done- that rising expenditure will smother this nation as it is in the process of smothering one or two other nations. It is a burden on all economic activity in this country.
Government expenditure in about the last 5 years has been the prime cause of inflation. What is more, its growth being linked to the CPI guarantees continued inflation. I am not an opponent of government expenditure for its own sake. But I do propose that Parliament should develop much more adequate systems for controlling expenditure. We have practically no structure to deal with that at the present. We should concentrate much more on the priorities instead of dealing with peripheral matters such as the one raised today as a censure motion. This and other such matters are not central to the issue at hand and everybody in the chamber knows that full well. What we do is debate the little bits and pieces. We do not debate, as we ought to, the major issues of this country- those of greatest importance. We do not discuss how much of the nation’s resources ought to be devoted to public expenditure and how much to private expenditure. We do not debate often enough the policy alternatives. We do not debate the priorities. We inadequately scrutinise Supply and we have not developed in the Parliament adequate institutions to monitor public spending.
I believe that much of the problem in dealing with inflation is political and not economic. We have before us an Opposition amendment to the motion that the Appropriation Bill (No. 3) be read a second time. Really, the wording of it is such that members of the Opposition should be ashamed. I do not know who drafted the amendment but it is a disgrace. Let me refer to a bit of it. The Opposition wants to condemn the Government for the slashing of government spending which it says is part of an inept economic strategy which has led to a decline in the standard of living of all Australians. The amendment also states:
Later the amendment speaks of instituting a more vigorous bond selling program. Mr Deputy Speaker, I will tell you what a more vigorous bond selling program is: It is raising interest rates- interest rates forced up by the most prolonged inflation this country has ever had. The Opposition wants that inflation at higher levels. That is what is being asked for- higher levels of inflation. You do not go out and sell bonds in a high pressure manner to people who do not know what they are buying. They will take them only if the yield is high. If the Government is having trouble selling them today, of course, it is because that rate is not high enough. If the bond rate is put up, housing mortgage rates and everything else tied to the bond rate go up. I believe that the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) knows much better. But, to be fair to him he did not move this amendment. It was moved by none other than the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam). One need say little about his economic expertise; it has been referred to enough by others. But the slashing of Government expenditure is seen by this amendment as being part of an inept economic strategy. I draw the attention of the House to the fact that reducing Government expenditure at these rates of interest is the view of governments, treasuries and reserve banks- that is, central banks- of all the major western countries belonging to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. That is what those countries did when they were in that part of the cycle.
But this country, which let the inflation rate get so much higher, which took action so much later- the honourable member for Oxley as Treasurer in 1975 did his part to try to rein it in- and which has done so much worse than those countries, still has not returned to their level. Of course, we heard earlier in this debate that there have been pressures in the United States and Germany, which has an inflation rate of 4 per cent, for those countries, because of their low inflation rates, to spend a little to try to create some employment. It has been said in this House in the last few sitting days that, if they can do it, we can do it. We cannot do it because our inflation rate is so much greater and because we fell victim to this problem in 1974 and 1975 for reasons which those Governments did not experience. We had advantages which they did not have. For instance, when the oil price went up as dramatically as it did at the end of 1 973, they did not produce 70 per cent of their oil supplies. They did not have that advantage. Incidentally, if they had, they would hardly have embarked on policies which stopped all exploration and development of gas in this country. That is what the Labor Government did. We have not yet been able to recover from that action.
Nor did those countries ever have the reckless growth of expenditure which we saw in this country. The expenditure in 1973 was $10 billion. This year, as a result of the Labor Government’s programs, the expenditure will be $24 billion which represents an enormous growth. It is quite out of keeping with our capacity to pay. Nor did those countries actively encourage wage rises far beyond the increase in their productivity. They had much more responsible government and they kept control of conditions and never allowed them to reach the dizzy heights reached in this country, with all the disadvantages that that entails. The result, as is on the record, was that 3 years of Labor Government brought us vastly increased inflation, vastly increased unemployment and the highest interest rates ever. This Government has attempted to grapple with that state of affairs. There are some signs- I emphasise ‘some’- that its action is having some result. But in my view it will take a long while before there will be the growth and the increasing employment upon which the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) placed so much emphasis earlier in the debate. It will be a long while before those conditions return to this country.
Because this aspect seems to me to need repetition, I put it to the House that those major countries are not really in much doubt about the economic measures to take. If one reads the OECD publications and the publications put out by government, treasury, and central bank bodies in the United States, Germany, Japan, France and Britain, there is not much quarrel about the sorts of measures that are necessary. The problem is whether those countries and their governments have the political will to carry them out. Do they have the fortitude- I will not use the loose word that I might have used- to implement them and to continue them long enough until they can get out of their present difficulties.
The honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) leading for the Opposition on Thursday last made some remarks which appear at page 1366 of Hansard. He referred to the situation in France and how some new measures have just been introduced in that country. I wish to refer very briefly to the situation in France because the members of the French Treasury are highly intelligent and balanced people. Their new Prime Minister in, I think, September or October last brought in a package. One element in that package was to try to keep wage rises in France to no more than 6’/4 per cent per annum. That would be laughable in this country. So much for France’s re-inflation! I inform honourable members that their Budget had no deficit. That would be called- indeed it was called- a brand of stone age economics- only that term was applied to us. That was termed Gladstonian but that is what he thought of the value of such action. The Prime Minister of France in the last few days has announced some expenditure. The political crises and difficulties in France cannot be compared with the stability that we have in this country. He was forced into that action by political circumstances. If one looks at the original package that was introduced in October and compares it with the one that was introduced recently, one will find that the increase is far less than we have in this country at the moment. One really should not take selective quotations in that way.
One cannot believe that the combined economic opinions of those countries, with economies which, I suggest, are the only ones in the world with which we would really care to be compared, or the weight of opinion in those treasuries and central banks, which is implemented by governments, is wrong and out of date, as is suggested by honourable gentlemen not only on the other side of the House but also on occasions on this side of the House.
I do not believe that, as politicians and members of Parliament, we should take that sort of responsibility on ourselves. If we imagine a situation in which the Labor Party were returned to government in the near future- one truly hopes that this could never be- it must know that what it proposes in the amendment and what the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford ) suggested would run completely counter to the advice that would be given to it by the Australian Treasury and the Australian Reserve Bank. Thai must be known. So, I believe it is not a cogent and well thought out amendment. The amendment stated, in part:
I suppose that one would have to concede that there is an area of doubt in that area. It is very hard, when one looks back on such programs that we have had in this country and in those OECD countries to which I have referred, to see them as having been very successful. We saw the operation of the Regional Employment Development scheme in this country. It is very hard- I hope I say that with understatement- to see that it was successful. That is what is called for here. I have referred already to the issue of a vigorous bond selling program which apparently is necessary to finance the deficit because the Labor Party is still arguing that there should be higher expenditure, irrespective of the tax aspect. It does not want to say: ‘We are going to increase taxes wholesale.’ So, it has to be a financing of the deficit. Once that deficit is increased there will be inevitably a rise in interest rates above the already very high level that we have at the moment. As members of the House of Representatives, we need to take steps to encourage the Government to build up in this country political will and a widespread understanding of how this ballooning of expenditure is involving us. In our present circumstances the community, as usual, is asking for more expenditure, on the one hand, and lower taxes, on the other. There are many avenues of expenditure which are desirable and for which strong cases can be made out for continuous expenditure or increased expenditure, but the community cannot pay for everything at once.
– At this time nearly half of the parliamentary term of office of this Government has been exhausted. Accordingly we should take the opportunity to review the performance of the Government in economic management. In doing that we discover a pattern of government economic decision-making which is erratic, uncertain and confusing. We find it alienates public credibility; it attracts publicsuspicion and scorn, and it causes a mounting loss of public confidence. It is clear that the Government’s understanding of economics is on a par, in fact and in reason with astrology. There is a strong suspicion that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) listens to his personal clairvoyant more than he listens to his professional advisers. He is subject to impulsive responses, and they are more influential with him than his rigorous intellectual analysis of an issue. The
Prime Minister would rather cling to old prejudices when under pressure like a crab clings to seaweed in a storm than to conquer the problem intellectually. The greatest danger is that he wishes to make conventional economic wisdom of discredited narrow-mindedness of the 1930s, but then less than generous minds might be tempted to say: ‘Who is better fitted to try to make narrow-mindedness the fashion of the day?’.
I want to talk about this discredited narrowmindedness in economic management, and I want to refer to the constant and almost neurotic preoccupation of the Government, with the budget deficit and government spending. Surely it ought to be acknowledged in the community today that when we talk about government spending we are talking not merely about money spent in government departments supporting public servants. There seems to be an implication in the community that money spent by the Government is being wasted on lazy public servants. For the sake of the record, I want to make it clear that I never found public servants lazy. I found the money spent on them generally to have been well spent. The misdirection of this thinking is quite dangerous in the present economic circumstances which the country faces. So much of what the Government spends is essential to the private sector of the economy. If the Government undertakes programs of spending on, for instance, a national sewerage program, roads, harbour improvement or broadly on construction programs, that money goes into circulation in demand in the economy. There are demands for labour. There are demands for skilled people such as engineers, draftsmen, architects and a whole range of other skilled people. There are demands for commodities which are needed to build the buildings or to lay the roads and the myriad of other things which have to be done, and these things strongly multiply through the economy. The point I am making is that the way in which the Government has aggressively and austerely cut back on the rate of government spending has in fact been anaesthetical to the best interests of that section of the community to which it claims to be philosophically committed. The private sector has suffered more severe body blows as a result of a succession of decisions by the Government to curtail government expenditure than has any other sector in the economy. Similarly it has suffered because of the deficit at a time like this.
In a later debate I intend to spend more time talking about the level of the deficit. There is a great deal of misunderstanding about the real level of the deficit in a budget. There are abovetheline and below-the-line entries in the Budget. As the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) pointed out in the Parliament a week or two ago during question time, the deficit above-the-line has to be adjusted according to loan raisings below-the-line. When this sort of thing is done one finds a substantial difference in what really is the deficit or the printed money, to put it in common terms, that is put into circulation in the economy. As a proportion of the gross domestic product, that real deficit I am talking about has fairly consistently been quite low in the past several years. Allowing for these things and allowing for the importance of the Budget and the deficit- the government spending, if you wish, to support the economy and especially the private sector- I find it gravely disturbing to observe the inspired leaks which have been reaching the media in recent weeks. It is quite clear that they are coming from official quarters and no doubt with definite purposes in mind on the part of the people who are leaking that son of information.
It would seem that there is a maximum and minimum range for the deficit at which the Government is aiming. The maximum is $2,600m. The minimum is about $ 1 ,500m. What are the implications of that in terms of the effect on the economy? Given that the Prime Minister has firmly asserted that the Budget will be a ‘no real growth’ budget and, secondly, that he has conceded, as has been established much earlier- I certainly remember pointing it out in money terms in my speech on the Budget last year- that there will be $ 1,000m worth of new commitments in the next Budget, that is, there will be $ 1,000m of new commitments in terms of new expenditure or revenue collections forgone largely as support to the wealthier and more successful sections of industry, and many of them foreign multi-nationals, a deficit of $2600m in money terms for the next Budget represents a cut in expenditure of about $ 1,300m or 5 per cent, or an increase in revenue of about $ 1 ,300m or more than 5 per cent, or a combination of these factors. A deficit of $ 1,500m is extremely disturbing because of the severe implications that flow from it. It represents a cut in expenditure of about $2, 400m or 9 per cent, or an increase in revenue of about $2,400m or 10 per cent, or a combination of these factors. The Government has before it at this time the tough options available to it so that it can range through cuts and can increase revenue. I expect we will see some sort of combination of these things.
The point I want to stress is that it is completely ill advised of the Government, given the conditions of the economy, to protract the recession that this country has been suffering for so long. The inability of industry to respond quickly to stimulation in any case, the fact that industry will go down at a much more rapid rate with any further contraction applied by the government sector, the fact that we have a record high level of unemployment and the fact that we are plagued with inflation- let us not be deceived by the false dawn of the March quarter consumer price index figures in that respect- these things together clearly indicate that the Government is totally ill advised to be resorting even to tougher parameters for the Budget and relating that to economic management for 1977-78. Let us look at the way in which the burden will be distributed unfairly.
I have it on the most reliable authority that these are some of the things the Government is looking at now in terms of the cuts which will be imposed: The elimination of B class widow pensions; the elimination of the means test free pension for people 70 years and over; lower unemployment benefit- that is, lower than the pension rate. We will revert to the old system of discrimination which applied before Labor took office. Unemployment has not been caused by the unemployed, but they will pay a penalty for it. Other expenditure cuts include: Perhaps the reintroduction of university fees; maternity allowances are seriously being considered for termination; and the hospital and health services grants program is seriously being considered for termination. With these things and many others the Government is still scratching. The conclusion is that there will be futher cutbacks in capital works programs, and grants for capital works to the States will be slashed. Specificgrants to the States will be slashed. As Premier Wran has pointed out, with the slashing of specific grants to the States, the people of New South Wales could be paying up to $8 a week in State taxes imposed directly as a result of this Government’s decisions. It may will be that this sort of juggling allows a cosmetic presentation in the national Budget- a cosmetic presentation which implies that the Government has been successful in constricting the level of the government spending pattern. But that has not happened at all in totality within the economy. What it has done has been to shift responsibility. In terms of economic management, the effect is still there.
Let me move to another aspect of economicmanagement with which the Government seems to be preoccupied in the most neurotic of ways. I refer to its preoccupation with money supply. This relates directly to the level of the deficit flowing from the Budget. The Government behaves as though a one per cent or a 2 per cent margin of movement in money supply represents the injection of some sort of serious instability into economic management. It behaves as though a one per cent or a 2 per cent margin, one way or the other, on a target figure represents that fine sort of calibration. That is nonsense. You do not inject run away inflation with a one per cent or 2 per cent margin one way or the other when you are talking about an M3 money supply of about $40,000m. More pertinently, it is crass nonsense to be talking as though M3. or M1, or M2 were some sort of precise measure of the volume of the money that is actually in the economy. What about M4, M5 or M6? This is monetarist economics gone mad.
The fact is as the Opposition spokesman on economic matters, the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford), has pointed out on more than one occasion, the economy could easily bear some increase in the level of real deficit. It needs badly some increase in the level of government spending, if for no other reason than to support more successfully the private sector of the economy. Some selective rearrangement of expenditure within the government sector would have great benefit to the economy. I refer, for instance, to the investment allowance. According to the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) some $450m is to be set aside in the next Budget for that purpose. The Government has never stopped to reflect on the undermining effect the investment allowance would have on the economy if it were to be notably successful. The investment allowance encourages business to replace labour with capital equipment, which means fewer jobs, fewer consumers, less consumer demand. Let us be under no delusion on this score. Business is reporting, to members of Parliament individually and reporting to economic survey collectors, that in those areas in which it is replacing capital equipment it is doing so with this intention in mind, that is, reducing the number of people on the work force and thus aggravating the unemployment situation.
In any case, I think it is important to note for the record that the Government’s undertaking that it would bring about an investment led recovery does not stand too well now. In recent weeks the Treasurer has revised downwards by 50 per cent the amount of money that the
Government will be spending this year in support of the investment allowance. The honourable member for Adelaide has pointed out very rightly the need for employment creating projects such as the Regional Employment Development scheme.
– And the CPI was 50 per cent down on what you predicted.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order!
-He always comes back vitally charged after the dinner break.
– He has been meeting some of his plonko friends he is always talking about.
– It is a sort of galvanic reaction. It is the sort of most blistering result that can come indirectly from the sandy soils of South Australia. As the honourable member for Adelaide pointed out, the implementation of employment creating projects, supported by government expenditure, is another way in which to help the economy and the private sector at the present time. Indirect sales tax cuts, as perhaps trade-offs with the trade unions in an effort to obtain a greater consensual support for a broad program of economic management, is another initiative which ought to be taken. These are the sorts of things which ought to be taken up if the Government is genuine about injecting some sort of healthy vitality back into the economy. But it is misdirected in the way in which it is approaching the economic problems at the moment. The sorts of things the Government has in mind in terms of the parameters which it is considering for the Budget will further depress economic activity and further depress the state of business activity in the private sector.
In talking about greater consensual support from the trade unions, it is relevant to refer to the ill-fated wages and prices freeze which was snapped up by the Prime Minister like an end of season sale bargain at a chain store. There was no thought about it; it was just an impulse. The Prime Minister not very long ago was saying something quite different himself. I shall read an extract from the Country Life of last year:
No country which has adopted hard, fixed controls ofthat kind -
He was talking about wage and price fixing- havefound them successful. What has tended to happen under compulsion is that pressures get built up, and explode when the freeze lifts.
I could not agree with him more. Of course the program was doomed to failure. It was doomed to failure because it was unfair. It envisaged voluntary price control but it was proposed that there be compulsory wage control. It is plagued by confusion. The Prime Minister says that there will be no exceptions. The Queensland Premier not only says that there will be exceptions but also has made arrangements for the exceptions. The Prime Minister has hinted privately to the car companies that if they keep quiet he will try to do something for them in the light of the price increases they may have to face. But that will be done after the national wage case is out of the way.
The whole program is disorganised. No attention has been given to the effect of increased import prices. Is business expected to send itself broke by not passing on what is a legitimate price increase? What about the case of perishables or commodities such as primary products sold at auction? What about the situation in which items can be rebranded and sold under a different name at a higher price? None of those things was considered. Even at this stage, several weeks after the introduction of the price-wage freeze, we have not had a statement made in this Parliament, and no one in the nation has been informed as to the guidelines within which the program is supposed to function. At best it is only a temporary cap on the pressures of inflation. We have already had the early warning signal. The motor car manufacturers have pointed out that as soon as the prices and wages freeze is out of the way they will have to increase prices by 7.7 per cent.
Let us take a more objective political comment on the whole program of the Government. The 16 April edition of the Economist in an article under the heading ‘Snap freeze, might not last’ had this to say:
Only 4 months after the devaluation of the Australian dollar by 1 7.S per cent, the Liberal-Country Party coalition this week took economic ad hockery to new heights. Emerging from a meeting with the Premiers of the 6 Australian States, the Prime Minister. Mr Malcolm Fraser, announced on the steps of Parliament in Canberra a 3-month voluntary wage and price freeze. Cabinet colleagues and official advisers were stunned: the idea had only been raised a few hours earlier, by the Prime Minister of Victoria. Mr Dick Hamer, and was expected to get short shrift.
It should have been given short shrift by any person intelligently informed on economic management. The article went on to say:
Mr Fraser ‘s Canberra two step is only the latest sign of uncertainty in Australia ‘s economic management.
It is not me saying that; it is a conservative establishment commentator commenting on a conservative establishment government. It is not established too well in economic understanding. The article continued:
No sooner had the November devaluation been decided than the currency rate managers started hauling it back up to give what is now only a 12.2 per cent devaluation. This retreat was acknowledgment that the Government had devalued too much in the first place, and was worried that it would fuel inflation rather than exports. How long before Mr Fraser’s second thoughts on the freeze?
It is clear, of course, that the second thoughts are there. The Prime Minister would dearly love us all- the whole community in fact- to forget about the ill vaunted, ill considered wage and prices freeze. Let us look at the justification for an incomes freeze at this time. In the last calendar year inflation ran at 14.4 per cent; average earnings increased by a little more than 10 per cent; productivity increased by about 2 per cent: a Medibank charge of about $3.60 a week was imposed. As a result, the average income earner was some $ 14 a week worse off in real comparative terms by the end of the last calendar year. Then he lost $6 a week as a result of the March wage decision. Now he is being asked to forgo $4.60 a week as a result of the June wage decision. On top of that, in real terms his after tax income has gone down from $1 12.31 a week in January 1976 to $106.89 in January 1977. This represents a reduction of nearly 5 per cent in his real disposable income as the result of Government policies.
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Debate (on motion by Mr Lucock) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Howard and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill places before Parliament the proposals of the Government for amendment of the Trade Practices Act. An earlier Bill, which I placed before this House on 8 December 1976. lapsed with the prorogation of Parliament in February this year. In my second reading speech on 8 December 1976 I indicated that the Government considered that this extremely technical legislation should be exposed for study by interested parties throughout the community. Over the past 5 months the previous Bill was. in fact, closely scrutinised by many sections of the community. The Government received a great number of submissions on the Bill. There was also a second reading debate in this House.
The Bill I now introduce varies from the previous Bill to accommodate a large number of technical changes. These technical changes, which largely flow from the public comments to which I have already referred, are designed to clarify the Bill or remove anomalies. These matters will no doubt be the subject of scrutiny during the Committee stage of this debate and I will not refer to them further in this speech. However, the Government has also incorporated into this Bill a number of changes which could not be described as technical. I now turn to these matters.
Government Commercial Operations
I announced last December that the Government had decided in principle that its commercial operations should be subject to the same restraints of the Trade Practices Act as apply to like operations of private enterprise. I then informed this House that the Government was studying the detailed implementation of this decision. This Bill gives effect to that decision in clause 4 which provides that the Act is to apply to all business undertakings of the Commonwealth Government and its authorities. There is only one specific exception. Land development in the Australian Capital Territory is specifically exempted, so as not to inhibit town planning in the Australian Capital Territory. Although provision is made in the Bill for regulations to provide other exemptions, the Government has no present plans to use that power.
In addition, quite apart from the operation of its business undertakings, this Government has adopted the practice that all its advertising should conform to the standards of the Trade Practices Act. The Government hopes that its lead in this general area is followed by all State governments.
The Government has given close attention to the problems of both primary and secondary boycotts. It has decided that the provisions in the previous Bill dealing with these matters were not appropriate. The Government’s views on this matter are based on two fundamental principles. First, it is considered that boycotting the commercial activities of particular persons is generally undesirable conduct, and that the Trade Practices Act should take a firm line on these matters. Accordingly, the Bill prohibits collective primary boycotts where they have the purpose of restricting or limiting the trade of particular persons. Collective secondary boycotts are prohibited where they have both the purpose and effect of either substantially damaging a particular business or substantially lessening competition in a market. Secondly, the Government believes that the Trade Practices Act should take an even handed approach to secondary boycotts and apply, so far as possible, to both business and employees alike. Primary boycotts by employees are not, of course, dealt with by this Act.
The previous approach of section 45D to deal only with the actions of employees has been altered so that the section now applies to the conduct of any person. Exemptions for purely consumer boycotts will, however, remain. Further, the Bill enables authorisation to be obtained for any such boycott if the Trade Practices Commission is satisfied that in all the circumstances the boycott results in such a benefit to the public that it should be authorised. Secondary boycotts by employees do, however, have some unique features. Accordingly, the Bill has some special provisions which are appropriate only to employee secondary boycotts.
Where employees are taking action for a dominant purpose substantially related to the remuneration, conditions of employment, termination of employment, hours of work or working conditions of those employees, or fellow employees of the same employer, the secondary boycott is not prohibited. Further, where the relevant employees are members of a trade union, that organisation is deemed to have engaged in the secondary boycott itself unless it establishes that it took all reasonable steps to prevent the boycott. An individual employee is not to be subject to an award of damages where his trade union or organisation is held responsible for the particular conduct. Finally, in this regard, no individual is to be subject to the pecuniary penalties of the Act for a contravention of section 45D.
The Government has also given close attention to the problems of small businesses in relation to the Trade Practices Act. It has made a number of decisions as a consequence of this consideration, lt has decided that both the present Act and the previous Bill gave insufficient attention to the problems of small businesses in making pricing decisions. Small businesses often do not have the managerial support staff necessary to make informed individual pricing decisions, particularly in multi-product situations. They tend to rely for this support upon trade associations. However, the present Trade Practices Act has often hindered the issuing of recommended price lists by trade associations. In the view of the Government, this has worked against the interests of small businesses.
The effect of the Bill now before the House is that ‘true’ recommended price lists- that is, those not having the effect of fixing, maintaining or controlling a price- and which do not substantially lessen competition in a market, will be outside the Act altogether. Those recommendations which may fix, control or maintain a price, but which are issued by trade associations of more than 50 members, will not be caught by the absolute prohibitions of the Act. They will still be permitted unless they have a substantial effect on competition.
A further concession to price lists issued by trade associations of more than 50 members will be that even if they have an anti-competitive effect they will be eligible for authorisation on the grounds of public benefit. The effect of these changes is that recommended price lists issued by many small business organisations will not be prohibited by the Act unless they both substantially lessen competition and are not in the public interest.
The proposals of the Bill dealing with boycotts, which I have already mentioned, should also assist small business. It is now to be regarded as a prohibited primary boycott if a business and its supplier agree that the supplier will not supply a competitor of the business for the purpose of restricting or limiting the trade of that competitor. This reflects the Government’s concern that powerful businesses should not be able to undermine the position of a small business competitor by such an arrangement. The Bill no longer provides for the abolition of section 49- the section which prohibits anticompetitive price discrimination. The Government has decided that section 49 should be retained in the interests of assisting the competitive position of small businesses.
Finally in relation to small businesses, the present Bill retains those features of the previous Bill which gave special attention to agreements relating to collective acquisition and joint advertising schemes. Particularly in retail industries, such schemes have enabled small business to band together for the purpose of placing themselves in a stronger buying position. As I said last December, such schemes have played an important role in containing price increases to the consumer.
The Government has always considered that joint ventures have made a special contribution to the economy of this country. The Bill of last December attempted to give a special treatment to joint ventures. The present Bill has made further changes in this regard to overcome a number of technical deficiencies that were contained in the previous Bill. In addition, the Bill provides that the Trade Practices Commission is required to consider together, for the purposes of authorisation, all aspects of a particular joint venture which are placed before it simultaneously.
I turn to mergers. On this matter, the Bill makes substantial changes both to the present law and to the previous Bill. The Government has decided that the categories of merger to be subject to the Act should be quite limited. There should be no unnecessary impediment, legislative or administrative, to the attainment of rationalisation of Australian industry. It is in Australia’s best interest to achieve economies of scale and improved international competitiveness. The Bill now deals only with mergers which lead to a corporation achieving or being likely to achieve a position of control or domination of a market, or to acquisitions of competitors by such market dominating corporations which substantially strengthen the power of the corporation to control or dominate a market.
As the law relating to mergers is now only to be concerned with questions of control or domination of a market, the procedure for clearance and the previously proposed $3m threshold test have been eliminated. This now means the total removal of the clearance procedure from the Act. This changed emphasis regarding mergers, and the changes regarding boycotts require a new authorisation test for those matters. That test will now oblige the Trade Practices Commission to be satisfied in all the circumstances that the merger or boycott results in such a benefit to the public that it should bc authorised.
Some changes have also been made to Part VI of the Act- that is, remedies- in relation to remedies available following contravention of the merger provisions. The remedy of injunction is now to be available in these cases only upon the application of the Minister or the Trade Practices Commission. The availability of the injunctive remedy on the application of private persons and companies gave a powerful tool to opponents of the merger. It has been used as a device to defeat mergers, during the tactical battle between the parties, for reasons quite unrelated to competition. The Bill also now provides that the remedy of divestiture is available to any person, either as a primary application or as a consequence of other proceedings or findings. An application for divestiture must, however, be made within 3 years of the merger.
Affirmative Disclosure and Corrective Advertising
The previous Bill provided a new section 80a, to give a power to the court to order affirmative disclosure or corrective advertising, as a remedy for contraventions of the consumer protection provisions. That power has been criticised as being particularly inequitable in its open endedness. The new Bill provides a limitation of $50,000 on the amount of affirmative disclosure or corrective advertising which may be ordered in relation to a particular contravention or substantially related contraventions.
I note the express provision that it will come into force on 1 July 1977. It is the hope of the Government that this Bill will be enacted during the current sittings of Parliament.
I turn now to matters which are not expressly dealt with by this Bill. On the recommendation of the Swanson Committee, the previous Bill contained provisions relating to the admission of business records as evidence in proceedings under the Trade Practices Act. The Government has now decided that these provisions should be more generally applicable and accordingly will seek to amend the Evidence Act 1 905 to achieve this end. In this way these rules of evidence will apply to proceedings under the Trade Practices Act. but also to a much wider range of proceedings.
In my second reading speech on 8 December 1976 I mentioned that the Government had decided, in principle, to extend the Trade Practices Act to provide for manufacturers to be liable directly to consumers for breach of implied terms in consumer contracts. A draft amendment Bill on this subject has been prepared by the Government and it is my proposal to expose that draft legislation to the community for the purposes of public discussion of its terms. In that second reading speech I also mentioned that the Government was discussing, with State governments, the proposal of the Swanson Committee for substantially greater involvement by State government agencies in the administration and enforcement of the consumer protection provisions of this Act. The Government has accepted this recommendation in principle and discussions have already been held with the States about it. Individual State governments are presently considering their positions. No State government has yet indicated any final decision on the matter.
It is common ground that the Trade Practices Act does not have universal application because of constitutional limitations. The Swanson Committee recommended that the Commonwealth should initiate consultations with State governments to achieve such application. The Government has decided to seek consultations with State governments. As I said at the start of this speech, this Bill has been prepared after extensive study and consultation. I hope it will receive the support of every honourable member in this House. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Young) adjourned.
-In speaking to these 2 Appropriation Bills I want to make some comment on some of the remarks that were made by the honourable member for Oxley ( Mr Hayden). I also want to make one comment in regard to the economic situation and the Labor Party’s term of office. I say quite frankly that I never accused the Labor Party, when it was in government, of being responsible for the economic difficulties that were then facing this country. I, along with many others in my Party, appreciated that a lot of the difficulties and a lot of the problems were contributed to by factors outside this country- factors over which no government in Canberra could have control, irrespective of its political colour. What I and my colleagues said was that the difficultiesand the problems that were associated with this country in the economic sphere were aggravated by the inefficiency, mismanagement and misconception of the Labor Party. I think that that can be borne out by the remarks that have been passed in relation to the honourable member for Oxley at the time when he became the Treasurer of this country. Much of what the honourable member for Oxley said bore out a great deal of the criticism that was being offered by members of the Liberal and National Country Parties, then in Opposition.
We do not criticise Government spending. We have criticised the Labor Government for spending, when it should have been left to private enterprise. The Labor Government did many things that could have been done better by private enterprise. I do not think that we have criticised the Public Service in general. The members of my Party have a full appreciation of the contribution that is made to the government of this country by and through the Public Service. There are many devout public servants and many of our Ministers would acknowledge the assistance given and the work done by those gentleman. I have said, and I repeat, that there are occasions when a public servant makes a decision within the framework of his particular training and his office and the Minister has to decide sometimes in a political realm to make a different decision even after hearing the advice along a certain line which has been given by the public servant. That is sometimes where criticism comes in.
I make a brief comment in regard to the Meat and Livestock Corporation which will replace the Australian Meat Board. This was announced by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) the other day. Representations have been made to me that there should be greater representation from rural interests. I ask the Minister for Primary Industry to look at this question to see what can be done. I have a full appreciation that, if a certain number of members are to be appointed to a board or a corporation, the Minister has the responsibility of what one might call allotting the positions to certain industries, certain representatives or certain groups of people. I feel that it is almost like a selector trying to pick an Australian test team; someone will always be critical. I hope the Minister will have a look at these representations and see what can be done in some ways to meet some of the requests made by some of the organisations involved.
At this time I also wish to say something in relation to Telecom Australia. I have been critical of Telecom, and also complimentary at times, when such comment has been deserved. But the situation at present really worries me. I in my electorate- I know many of my colleagues, particularly in country areas in their electorates also- have been receiving from Telecom on a number of occasions replies saying that unfortunately owing to lack of equipment, manpower or machinery Telecom has been unable to connect a telephone in this or that area. In some instances the requests have been for business telephones. Of course in many business houses a telephone is vital and of course a telephone is vital also to people living in country areas. So, I shall continue to press this matter. I ask the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Eric Robinson) to look into this matter because I am afraid that we are really losing ground. You may recall, Mr Deputy Speaker- I am sure the honourable member for Paterson ( MrO’Keefe ) will recall- on a previous occasion I said that it is all right to talk about the tremendous advance that has been made in telecommunications by Telecom but that is not much satisfaction, as I said at that time and as I repeat, to the person who does not have a telephone. My colleague the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) -I am sorry, the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter), this afternoon asked a question on this matter. Perhaps I said ‘the honourable member for Maranoa’ because the honourable member for Maranoa, along with all my other colleagues, has constantly been asking questions of the Minister in this regard because this matter is vital to the people whom we represent. I ask the Minister to give really careful consideration to the situation relating to Telecom and the installation of telephones. Of course with that subject go the questions of switchboards, and all the other associated matters.
– There are trunk lines and other factors associated with the matter. My colleague the honourable member for Paterson mentioned channel 5. I mention again, as have other honourable members from the Newcastle area, channel 5 having been transferred to channel 5a. I say frankly that I am not satisfied with the answer that the Minister has given. If I may say so, it is a completely departmental answer. On the technical side, technicians could not have looked into the question because the answers that we have been getting have said that there is really nothing much wrong.
– Fiddle with the fine tuning.
-Yes, as my colleague the honourable member for Paterson said we have been advised to fiddle with the fine tuning to improve the problem. One gentleman in my electorate said that he would like to fiddle with something else and it would not be the fine tuning. As I said. I am not satisfied with the answer that the Minister or the technical people have given. I hope the Minister will examine the matter further.
I wish to make a brief comment in regard to foreign affairs. We debated a motion on this topic this afternoon. Of course I do not intend to make any comment on that debate. ButI do make one comment. I think it is most interesting that, when the Indonesians wanted what they called West Irian and the pressure was put on the Dutch to give way, there was no criticism, no outcry, from these delightful left wing people who are now making such a noise. When much the same situation developed with Timor and when Fretilin was receiving support, as I said in this House before, we did not get any criticism from the left wingers. But now that Fretilin is not winning the battle we find that all the left wingers in the world are jumping again and making an awful noise. It is a complicated position. One needs to go to Indonesia to look at it to realise and appreciate the circumstances confronting the Indonesians. I think in this case it would be well for us to have some consideration and thought for what happened in regard to West Irian in relation to what is happening now in Timor.
I said something about Telecom. I should like to make a comment as far as Canberra is concerned. Canberra is isolated in more ways than one. Perhaps one of the criticisms that I have sometimes of our ministry is that it becomes isolated and insulated living in this area. Naturally this comment would apply also to any association. An association sometimes lose an appreciation of what is happening in the rest of Australia. I think the Minister for Post and Telecommunications should have a serious look at communications- radio, television, telephone and all those facilities that are involved.
The main matter I wish to talk about this evening is the suggested new political party. I have been a member of this Parliament for more than 25 years. I must confess that there is an expression that I should like to use in this regard. Perhaps I cannot use it- not that it is unparliamentary, but perhaps it would not be advisable to use it. I get a little disgusted with the media sometimes when it headlines a story of a man resigning or retiring from his party, who then sticks out his chest and acts as an independent. I make one point at the start: The honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp) has his own conscience and his own thoughts. Therefore whatever decision he makes I shall not criticise him personally for it, although I would perhaps think a little more of him if he took the full step, resigned as a member of the House, went back to the people in his electorate and said: ‘I want to represent you as an independent. You make the decision’. Frankly I think it would have been better had he done that.
There, has been talk about a centre party, a new party being formed. The people involved with it say that this country cannot progress in a democratic fashion with the present Liberal Party, National Country Party and Labor Party in the Parliament. I have never heard so much tripe in all my life. Have a look at some of the men who are endorsing this party. In most cases they are academics who are out of touch with reality and they are men who have axes to grind about this Government or this Parliament. For that reason, I say to the people of Australia: Do not be misled. If we get a proliferation of small parties in this country, this Parliament and this country will face exactly the same position as France and some of those banana republics that have 40 or 50 parties in their Parliament face.
Many members of my Party have disagreed with the Government, as I have, on a number of occasions. I have written letters to the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) and to other Ministers about the policies they are following. The question that I ask and that every member of this House must ask is: What advantage is it to grandstand, make a great show and go out and say that you are standing out on your own because this or that cannot be accepted by you? If a great moral issue were involved that might be different. What happened on one occasion when the Labor Government had an economic decision of the Cabinet overturned by back benchers? It created a tremendous amount of difficulty. I say that the place for any member of the Government to put forward his opposition to the Government is the Party room, and the place for members of the Labor Party to put forward their opposition is Caucus. What would happen in this Parliament if every Labor Party member, every Liberal Party member or every National Country Party member crossed the floor of the House when something with which they did not agree happened? The thing would become farcical, and government would become unmanageable.
I ask those in the Press and the media, who headline this type of thing when it does happen, not to play up the situation. Let us face it, when those senators crossed the floor in regard to that economic decision affecting pensioners, it was an emotional issue, but the realities of the situation were not accepted or faced up to by those members of the Seante who crossed the floor. We could not govern and this country could not be managed if people, because of every little issue with which they did not agree, wanted to cross the floor of the House or run home crying saying: Give me back my marbles, you cannot play with them ‘ or ‘Give mc back me bat, you cannot play with it’. Some of the major people talking about this centre party are in that category. If they were put in a position of authority or power, they would be of no value to this country in any way. I completely disagree with the pledge made by members of the Labor Party in their political philosophy. I agree that it would be ridiculous for members of the Labor Party to be crossing the floor of the House constantly or wanting to change the situation on the floor of the House every time something happened with which they did not agree.
If people want to talk or think about this centre party, let them have a look at France and the chaos and the disorder there for many years. What happened there? It was only when De Gaulle came onto the political scene in France, with his strength, with his authority and with his dynamic thought for the future of France, that there was stability in France’s political life. At that time there was a danger that the political factions in France would undermine France as a power in Europe. What happened in Italy? What happens in any country where this situation develops? If the people of Australia disagree with the present policies of this Government or with the factors relating to the Labor Party, they should get into the Party they want and change that party from within, whether it is the Labor Party, or my Party, the National Country Party, or the Liberal Party. They should not try to form another ratbag party. That is all it would be, because it would be controlled by dissidents, by people who had gone into it only because they had some criticism or some axe to grind with the present Government or perhaps even with the Labor Party. There are too many problems facing this country, both in the national and international field, for us to have this situation developing here and for us to have undermined in any way the real strength and the real foundation of our political life. If I wanted to- I suppose this would also apply to any one of us if we wanted to- I could take a group up into my electorate and get a few people at a meeting who would stand up and blast the Government, the Treasurer and the Prime Minister and say that their member was not doing his job in bashing the Prime Minister and the Leader of his Party.
– You ought to come to my electorate.
– As the honourable member for Port Adelaide said, this would also happen in his electorate. Any of us could find such people, put them together, find somebody in that group who has a certain amount of money to pay the fares and the cost of a few of them and one could influence a few people. You will not get anything that has any value for this country, that will in any way contribute to the strength of democracy in Australia, that will in any way contribute to the progress and development of this country or that we, who serve in this place-here I give credit to the Opposition as well- want to see.
– I do not want to talk for the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp) and his attitude; I think that he is capable of talking for himself. In fact, if honourable gentlemen opposite like to refer back to the speech made on the occasion of the honourable member’s resignation from the Liberal Party, as recorded in Hansard, they will see his long list of reasons for his resignation. They include the inept management of this Government and the standover and provocative tactics of the Prime Minister ( Mr Malcolm Fraser) with regard to his treatment of trade unionists which the honourable member for Hotham regarded as completely unreasonable. I believe that the honourable member for Hotham, having put on the record an expression of his own feelings, would be a hypocrite if he continued to sit on the other side of the House. I might add. nevertheless, that so far the honourable member for Hotham has continued to act like a Liberal in that he has failed to give any support to the Australian Labor Party. He has not even given us his vote on a routine measure such as the gag or something of that kind. So he is certainly in a limbo situation. I do not blame him in any event for trying to dissociate himself from the policies of the Prime Minister and this Government.
I want to say a lew words about those policies because in my view, freeze or no freeze, the Government is determined to depress further the living standards of most Australians this year. In the 12 months to December 1976. average weekly earnings increased by 1 1.8 percent compared with an annual rate of inflation of 14.4 per cent- a loss of real purchasing power of 2.6 per cent for the average wage earner in this country. Let me give honourable members a case in point. The wage earner on average weekly earnings with a wife and 2 dependent children has lost a net $7.59 a week in the past year because of the Government’s policies. This is arrived at bv taking into account gains through the new child endowment scheme and savings from income tax indexation totalling $1 1.62. and losses of the the child rebate tax claim, partial rather than full tux indexation and the imposition of the Medibank levy totalling $19.2 1.
The Fraser Government’s massive cutbacks in government expenditure have meant a higher budget deficit without a corresponding stimulus to the depressed areas of the economy. The deficit remains high because the Fraser Government has handed out over$1,200m to its business allies in the form of incentives, allowances and subsidies, none of which has increased productivity or employment. We hear from the Prime Minister that there are hard times ahead. One wonders whether he will cause any sacrifice to be made by the recipients of these great handouts. In fact, he and some of his ministerial colleagues might set a good example for others to emulate by volunteering to give up the massive superphosphate bounties from which they have personally benefited. A clear example of the Fraser Government’s economic mismanagement was the devaluation of the Australian currency and eight subsequent revaluations last year. The one decision to devalue added 2.5 to the consumer price index in December and will add a further 2.3 to the March quarter figure.
– You do not know what you are talking about.
-The fact of the matter is that there has been a rise in import costs as a result of devaluation. If the honourable gentleman does not understand that, then he does not know what he is talking about. Although there has been some marginal indication of the effects of devaluation in terms of the CPI movement reflecting the rise in import prices, nobody can assume that they have reached their zenith and there is not more to come. So next quarter we will see the product-the chickens coming home to roost- as a result of that misguided policy, and the Government will have to continue to grapple with that situation.
In addition to its continuous attack on living standards the Fraser Government is determined to create a confrontation with the labor movement throughout Australia. It has sought to do so through a series of inflammatory statements and by the introduction of legislation aimed at emasculating the industrial base of the labour movement, thus setting the scene for an industrial and political confrontation that could well tear this nation apart. The Government’s proposed legislation to amend the Trade Practices Act. which was referred to tonight, and the Conciliation and Arbitration Act which we arc to debate in the latter part of this session seeks to undermine industrial relations and conditions established by practice and precedent over the last 74 years of Australian history. The legislation is so inflammatory that even employer organisations have expressed concern at the Government’s intractable attitude. The proposed legislation is also a breach of international conventions which guarantee trade unions freedom to organise and to engage in collective bargaining. The Government’s strategy, of course, is to divert attention from its economic mismanagement and lack of social conscience by provoking the trade unions into industrial action to preserve their members’ interests. What could any decent trade union or group of trade unionists do in their corporate state but fight to preserve the conditions which they have won over the years and which are now underattack by the FraserGovernment.
Perhaps what the Prime Minister wants to see- I believe he wants to see it- is a confrontation with the unions leading to strikes and demonstrations, thus allowing him to seek reelection on a law and order platform rather than his Government’s economic mismanagement and self-interest. There have been reports over the weekend- I think there could be some truth in them- that if the Government is unsuccessful in its referendum proposal seeking a change in the constitution to provide for simultaneous elections it might rush into an election and defer the Budget, in effect putting its finger in the water. Then the pressure could well and truly be on. Nine months ago the Treasurer introduced the Fraser Government’s first Budget. Prior to that the Treasurer had sent shudders of shock and horror through most Australians with announcements of the abandonment of programmed cutbacks in funds and a reversal of election promises. Labor’s social reforms, which were many and varied and twice endorsed bythe electorate, were knocked down like ninepins.
– Did you say ‘socialism ‘?
-The honourable gentleman asks whether I said ‘socialism’. I would like him to think back to the great reforms that were initiated by the Labor Government in regard to child care programs, urban improvement programs and the Australian Assistance Plan. I do not know whether he designates those programs as socialistic. I do not know whether he is anxious to disparage the emphasis that Labor gave to caring for the aged and disabled and providing many amenities with the backing of the Commonwealth Government which had never been provided before. We are starting to get a clear indication of what honourable gentlemen opposite think constitutes a policy of socialism. It seems that the only thing honourable members opposite are happy about are handouts to big business and even handouts to entrepreneurs from overseas, the people to whom we repatriate our dividends. If something is inititated in respect of the well-being of the Australian people, then it is to be sullied and set down by the aspersion of socialism.T he Labor
Party will continue to espouse such policies, and 1 believe the Australian people will respond to them with enthusiasm.
Even the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission periodically finds that the Government’s policies are abhorrent. It is repelled by the heavy-handedness of the Government and the unreasonable demands made on the arbitration system. 1 refer of course to the assault that was made against wage indexation and the fact that the Government has sought to defer arbitration processes for the purposes of its wage-price freeze. Everybody would know of course that since something like 40 per cent of commodities were not to be effectively frozen, ordinary wage earners would be greatly disadvantaged if the Government were successful in its endeavour to intimidate the Arbitration Commission. I understand that even today the Commission has rejected the Government’s submission that the CPI flow on should be deferred. So once again the Government’s attempt at intimidation has been unsuccessful.
Let me say in this respect that I understand that when the New South Wales Government goes before the Commission tomorrow it intends to provide the members of the Commission with a list of price increases which have taken place since the freeze was first mooted. Honourable gentlemen who have been denying that workers were to be disadvantaged might be surprised to learn that something like 3600 commodities have been listed by people making protests to the Consumer Affairs Bureau in New South Wales. Heaven knows what the aggregation of price increases would be over the Commonwealth of Australia. New South Wales is one State that happens to be fair dinkum about this matter. It will put not so much its own case but the complaints of the constituency, indicating that the Fraser Government was attempting to work a swindle in this matter by gaining an effective and total freeze over wages but at the same time allowing a significant variety of price increases to occur.
The cumulative effects of this Government’s economic mismanagement may now be assessed in the light of overseas experience during the same period. As the shadow Treasurer, the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford), pointed out last week in this debate, the nonfarm product grew, albeit marginally, during 1975 compared with falls in seven comparable member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Yet in 1976 under a Liberal-National Country Party Government Australia’s non-farm product increased by only 4 per cent compared with an increase of 5.5 per cent for comparable OECD nations.
Let us look at industrial production statistics. In the period from 1964 to 1968 Australia ranked ninth in terms of industrial production. From 1972 to 1975, during Labor’s term in office but not during its term of power- honourable gentlemen opposite will know what I mean by that remark- we climbed to fourth position. Last year we slipped back to eighth position. Despite this, the Government, particularly the Prime Minister and the Treasurer, have the gall to lecture to the Australian people on the failure of the Whitlam Government’s economic policies. We can all recall the declared objectives of the Fraser Opposition at the time of the last election. They can stand mention once again. I remember the present Prime Minister walking the length and breadth of this country announcing the then Opposition’s intentions when it came to government to reduce the deficit. But honourable gentlemen know that instead of reducing the deficit, there has been a massive increase in the deficit and the likelihood is that it will rise very significantly in the next Budget.
– Nonsense. It is not true.
-It is not nonsense that the deficit has not been decreased. The next promise was that the Government would reduce unemployment in Australia. This was part of the great mirage that was created. Of course, we now know that instead of reducing unemployment. Australia is faced with the highest level of unemployment since the Depression years. We had promises of a reduction in taxation. But so far as the ordinary wage earner is concerned, there have been no benefits in this regard. What has happened to the promise to lower inflation? The fact of the matter is that the rate of inflation currently is running at between 14 per cent and 15 per cent per annum. There is no clear indication either that that can bc effectively arrested. Ever)’ one of these significant promises made at election time Ibr the purpose of inveigling the Liberal-National Country Parties into office has been broken. The people should recall that if they get the opportunity to vote in an early Senate election.
One fact remains clear and it is this: The Labor Government did care about people. It attempted to provide the Australian community with services and amenities equivalent to our standard of living. I refer to hospitals, schools, health and community centres, pre-schools and the like. Now. this Government is seeking to turn back the clock. It is a process called devolution. It is sometimes called federalism. Of course, that simply means that this Government wants to get out from under and pass the buck to the States but not to ensure that the States are adequately financed to carry on the services. I look at one matter in that regard, namely that concerning the regional councils for social development within the Australian Assistance Plan. We know that the Task Force on Co-ordination in Welfare and Health Services specifically recommended in its first report that if devolution of Commonwealth programs to the States was to be successful the basic arrangements as to capital and operating expenditures should be outlined clearly in an agreement. But now we have had an announcement by the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) on 21 May 1977 that the Federal Government would not provide any financial assistance for regional councils for social development. That is simply one case in point.
The process of devolution, the process of buck passing, goes on. But we have seen no evidence that the Government is prepared to make adequate funds available for these purposes. I believe that the Fraser Government’s attitude to the Australian people in this regard reflects its political and privileged background. It has ignored the people and buttered up its business allies- not the small businessmen, not the small manufacturers or the self-employed, but the dominant Australian and foreign corporations that have so much control over our industries. The Fraser Government has tottered from one economic strategy to another. Firstly, we were to be saved by the investment led recovery, a strategy that offered high investment allowances and tax write-offs to companies. When this failed, the Prime Minister exhorted the nation to spend forgetting that the reversal of his election pledge to support wage indexation had meant that most Australians could not longer keep up with cost increases, let alone spend more. The failure of this strategy again led the Government to its overseas friends. So after millions of dollars had flowed out of the country, the Government devalued the currency thus allowing exchange speculators to clean up and take their profits.
That this decision was one of the Government’s greatest disasters is well documented, most recently by the influential Wall Street Journal last week. It correctly stated that the decision had: . . done nothing to improve the competitive position of local industry nor stimulate investment but had only compounded the complexities of lighting inflation.
That decision, made by the Cabinet ‘farm boys’ as they were referred to by the Wall Street Journal who dominate economic decision making in this country, has cost and will cost the community millions of dollars. The flow on to costs in Australia has been very slow in registering in the consumer price index figures. We will have to wait a little longer before the props are knocked out just a little further through this Government’s economic policies. On every front we find that this Government has failed to give decent economic management to this country.
As recently as last weekend the Melbourne University Institute of Applied Economic Research issued a most indicting statement. I will not have time to enunciate it. But the effect of it was that every economic objective set by this Government has proved discredited and. as the journal says, unemployment will rise and inflation will rise likewise. I condemn the Government and ask the House to support the amendment moved by the Opposition.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Martin)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Ellicott) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 21 April, on motion by Mr Lynch:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Ellicott) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 24 March, on motion by Mr Ellicott:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Mr ELLICOTT (WentworthAttorneyGeneral) by leave- Mr Deputy Speaker, when I made my second reading speech on the Criminal Investigation Bill I indicated my desire to receive submissions from honourable members and honourable senators and from any other interested persons in relation to the measure. It is a very important measure. I had hoped that those submissions would be received by 1 May. On Saturday of this week a seminar, which has been organised by my Department and the Institute of Criminology, will be held. I expect that a number of people interested in this matter will no doubt wish to bring submissions before me. I want to make it clear that the purpose of bringing on the Bill for debate at this time is not to breach the undertaking that I gave that I would receive submissions but to enable honourable members to express their views on the Bill. I do not propose to make my speech in reply to the second reading debate this week but to leave it, at the conclusion of members’ contributions, until the House returns after the referendum on, I think, 24 May. I think I should make that clear so that not only members of this House but also members of the public and interested persons may be aware of the fact that they will be able still to make representations. I would hope to receive them some time next week, if at all possible.
– The Opposition notes the remarks of the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott). Nevertheless, from the point of view of the Opposition, the debate is now under way. As the Attorney-General has said this is a most important piece of legislation. At this stage let me say that the Opposition believes that it could be improved by amendments which, in the main, were envisaged by the report of the Law Reform Commission. As was indicated, the Commission was not unanimous in its findings and the Government has acknowledged that it is prepared to accept, in some respects, the report of a minority of Commissioners as against the majority. The Opposition feels the majority position would have been a better one and, while it is not at this stage indicating the nature of the amendments proposed, I foreshadow them by saying that the Opposition would rather the Bill be as it was proposed to be drawn. The Opposition will develop that theme as it makes comments in the course of the second reading debate.
The Attorney-General, when introducing the Bill, placed a lot of emphasis on, in fact devoted a fair section of his speech to, the difficulties in assessing the relative merits of human rights as against the need to protect the public interest where crime is involved. It is not an easy proposition to maintain that balance because society must be protected against criminals and the police have a very onerous task indeed. The Opposition believes that the police forces in Australia do a magnificent job of protecting the cities from hoodlums, thugs, murderers and others. They receive very little thanks and very little reward. In fact, the problem in law enforcement is that perhaps it is more newsworthy to report the deficiencies of a policeman rather than to report the merits of the police force. There is no segment of society which is above suspicion. There is always the problem of balance. I place on record, as any member of Parliament would, the extraordinary efforts made by policemen to detect murderers and to prevent people losing their lives. This was seen recently in New South Wales where the police force has a magnificent record of detecting murderers. Of course, the crime of murder is not always easy to solve. In many cases it results from a deranged mind and might not necessarily have been any predilection towards the crime that was committed.
The police must spend countless weeks and hours interviewing people to ascertain the course of action required. This was evident in a recent case in a Sydney suburb where there was an obligation to call on every house in an area to try to ascertain evidence. It was seen in a recent matter involving Commonwealth property in which, I think, some 1750 personnel had to be fingerprinted. I wish to emphasise that in the course of the remarks I am about to make there is no suggestion that the police have not done their duty. In fact, a magnificent aspect of law enforcement agencies in Australia is that we have people dedicated to preventing further crime. Nevertheless, crime is increasing. That is the other weakness in our society. Perhaps a crime might not be considered one that will destroy other people but is a crime that might well destroy people who are involved in it. For example, the addiction to heroin is increasing enormously. It obviously flows from illegal imports on that particular drug. The underworld obviously is involved in peddling it and in the manipulation of young people. This addiction costs society an enormous amount.
Again, we must look at the balances and how best to maintain our laws. To that extent, there are the problems of finance and the inability to provide adequate police services. Criminal investigation can cover a relatively insignificant matter or it can cover a matter of the most major importance. That is where we get into this problem of human rights. What are one’s rights regarding the law when those enforcing the law are endeavouring to ascertain whether a crime has. in fact, been committed, whether there is evidence to say that a crime has been committed or whether there is a mental suspicion? If one looks at it, as a practising lawyer would, there are often circumstances in which an accused is able to be acquitted. Perhaps in many cases he is acquitted because he has been able to give better evidence or, perhaps, has been acquitted because he has been able to prove that the evidence against him will not stand up to crossexamination. One then enters into the area of human rights, about which we are now talking. It is well known in Sydney that appeals made as a matter of course from magistrates’ convictions or police convictions to District Courts were, in the main, 40 per cent successful. It is that cut and thrust adversary position concerning whether the evidence in respect of the accusation can stand up under cross-examination in respect of fairness and balance about which we are now talking.
So, when the Attorney-General talks about human rights, that is certainly the case. The Bill contains a number of interesting and specific matters to which the Opposition will advert in the debate in the course of the next few weeks. The Opposition is entitled to talk about the Bill because it was a former Attorney-General, Kep Enderby, who encouraged the Law Reform Commission to look at this question, particularly with regard to civil rights. The Bill has an immediate weakness, if I may say so, because it refers only to Commonwealth Police and not to the Australia Police. The Enderby version, of course, was formulated in the hope that the Bill would include the Australia Police. I think he probably met the full blast of that proposal as a politician because he suggested that there should be an Australia Police as against the Commonwealth Police. That was not popular in the area he represented and I think he paid the penalty at the ballot box because it was deemed to be something that was not in accordance with local opinion.
If one looks at the Bill one finds that the onus and the difficulties of law enforcement agencies in Australia fall on the Commonwealth Police and not on the Australia Police. So, the Bill states that the Commonwealth Police will be responsible for all these matters and that it does not apply to the Australia Police in the sense that we would be dealing with police in the Territories as against Commonwealth Police. So, there is an immediate distinction in that the Bill appears to apply only to Commonwealth Police and not to police in the Territories. I think that is a weakness. Again, another matter concerns a private members’ Bill in the Senate which deals with Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders and which gives a very good definition of them in the legal sense. The definition in this Bill of an Aboriginal is a person who is a descendant of an indigenous inhabitant but does not include a Torres Strait Islander. An identical definition applies for a Torres Strait Islander. The Bill in the Senate states that not only would that definition include that person but also a person who claims to be such and who is recognised in the community as being such. I think it is a reasonably accurate definition and perhaps one that ought to be looked at in the opening stages of the debate on this Bill.
However, with regard to the question of investigation and what it means, we are talking about what I have said already, that is, the need to maintain a proper balance between protection for the individual rights and liberties on the one hand and the community’s need for practical and effective law enforcement on the other hand. As the Commission has pointed out, wherever the line is drawn it will leave those who place a greater value on one element with tension and dissatisfaction and even a hostile attitude. In other words, it is not possible to please everyone with this legislation. I say that because it is quite clear. Police officers in the States have already met and said that they are not at all satisfied with this situation because it might allow too many criminals to abscond or because it might be deemed to be too lenient or too impractical. Nevertheless, as legislators we have to look at the balance of possibilities and probabilities.
I do not think it can be questioned that in Australia we have given at the most lip service, and at times not even that, to civil liberties. The recurring theme throughout the Commission’s report is that there are common law rights, but the rights are illusory. It is all very well to talk about rights, but let us see them spelt out. The Commission put it in this way:
The so-called common law protection has been excellent in theory but quite lacking in practice. If rights are to be of any use to us they must be enforceable. It was for this reason that what the Commission called ‘a reverse-onus discretionary exclusionary rule of evidence’ should bc introduced. What this rather legalistic term means is that evidence obtained in contravention of the rules should be inadmissible, unless the prosecution can satisfy the court that it should be introduced in the public interest without unduly interfering with the rights of the accused. This is not as strict a rule as the exclusionary rule which operates in the United States. The Commission decided to steer a middle course between the exclusionary rule which operates in the United States and the common law rule which is virtually a non-exclusionary rule.
What has been done in this Bill is not only contrary to the recommendations of the Committee, but is also totally inconsistent with the principle that the burden of proof should be borne by the prosecution and not the accused. I refer the Attorney to clause 73 which states:
Honourable members will not find that proposition in the Commission’s report. It has been introduced by the Government because it feels that ought to be the situation. Honourable members will see immediately that the civil liberties aspect seems to have flown out of the window when the onus of proof is placed on the accused person. What that sub-clause means is that the burden of proving the contravention lies on the accused. It is not simply a burden of leading evidence but a burden to prove the contravention. For example, if an identification parade were held in contravention of the legislation the onus would be on the accused to prove it. This places a very unreasonable burden on the accused. The Attorney-General, in his second reading speech, quoted at length from the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. He should note article 1 4 section 2 which states:
Everyone charged with a criminal offence shall have the right to bc presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law.
That necessitates that the burden of proof be placed on the prosecution and not on the accused. That has been the common law position although we have never had any guarantee, as exists in the United States, that it cannot be overridden by statute. That is exactly what has been done here. What appears to be reformist civil liberties legislation is destroyed by sub-clause 73 (3). I ask the Attorney-General to delete that sub-clause which would destroy the whole tenor of the legislation if it were allowed to remain in the Bill.
In Victoria recently a good deal of work has been done on allegations of police administration. The Beach report found that there can be malpractice. The Bar Council took an interest in the matter and said that tainted evidence should always be inadmissible. In many of the other recommendations the Victorian report parallels the report of the Law Reform Commission. However, in this matter regarding the admissibility of tainted evidence, Victoria favours the United States exclusionary rule. Whether we should have an exclusionary rule or a reverseonus discretionary rule may be a matter of debate. The question is the perennial one of individual rights versus law enforcement. However, to place the onus of proving the facts on the accused runs not only counter to all recommendations from eminent authorities but also to common law tradition.
The legislation is quite comprehensive, and it would be virtually impossible to deal with all of its aspects in the time available to me in this debate. One of the matters which is a desirable reform is that relating to indentification parades. The Law Reform Commission mentioned some of the cases which clearly indicated the difficulties that flow from the holding of identification parades as practised throughout the world and the injustice that they can cause. Honourable members can see from paragraph 1 17 and the following paragraphs of the Commission’s report that there have been many problems. The Commission cites- to put this in neutral territorya number of English cases. It states:
A memorandum to the Committee from the National Council for Civil Liberties lists IS cases over a period of 2 years in which there was cither admitted or strong evidence of persons convicted or remanded as a result of mistaken identification by witnesses.
It talks of the unfortunate English gentleman named Alfred Beck who was picked out in identification parades by 12 women, served 7 years and was released. As the offences which society was complaining about and wrongly thought Beck was guilty of continued, he was again picked out in a subsequent parade by 4 women, was convicted and was awaiting sentence when the real villain was apprehended. This can happen. Another notorious case was that of Oscar Slater who served 18 years for murder as a result of wrong identification. Honourable members will know of the famous English cases involving the Christie murders and an unfortunate person named Ward who was, one might say. not fully mentally equipped. He was hanged on the basis of evidence deemed to have associated him with what had been done. So there can be injustices within the law, and any policeman will acknowledge that.
We are trying to achieve a balance. In talking about these problems I am reminded of the recent case of George Davis in England. He was sentenced on the basis of identification. I think the only way his supporters could attract attention to his case was to dig up a cricket pitch used in one of the test matches. It certainly attracted a lot of attention. Ultimately it was proved to the satisfaction of the authorities in England that he had been wrongly convicted, wrongly identified. He was pardoned. The difficulties relating to identification parades were also highlighted in a number of current affairs programs on television last year. One can imagine a suspect drawing attention to himself by his sheer nervous behaviour while standing in a line trying to appear normal. If he had some sort of peculiarity that would cause him to show stress under strain, would not he show it in the identification parade, thereby leading himself into a situation in which he could be deemed to be the guilty person simply because his psychical equipment could not stand the strain?
Another reform in this Bill is the recognition of technological advances. The common law has been able to adopt such advances as the telephone, photography and tape recordings. The use of telephones should be of particular advantage in remote areas. The Law Reform Commission is to be congratulated for making provision for these advances to be used in enforcing the rights of the accused. One matter that I notice in this Bill is the question of people being detained for questioning for any lengthy period. The Law Reform Commission did suggest provisions- I think they are to be found in Division 3- relating to the duration of custodial investigation by police officers in which virtually there were some limitations on how long a person can be detained for questioning. I note that the Bill we are debating omits those provisions. I should have thought there would be some merit in their inclusion because the Law Reform Commission was unanimous on that point. If the Attorney-General addresses his mind to the remarks made he will see that people come under a lot of stress and strain if they are likely to be detained for an extraordinary length of time without a charge being laid. So that does appear to be another defect in the legislation. We are dealing with this on the question of balance. We find good things and bad things. We find matters that perhaps ought to be better drafted and we find matters that have been omitted altogether.
One matter with which the Opposition does not agree is the fact that the Government has opted for the minority decision of Mr Justice Brennan, as he now is, rather than the majority view of the Commission. I refer to ‘voluntary cooperation’. Anyone who has seen an English television drama or even the odd Australian drama will know the type of thing that happens. There is a knock at the door. The suspect opens it to find the police standing there. The police say we would like you to accompany us down to the station’. Of course, the hardened criminal knows that he does not have to go. He has been through it all before; but the person who is not used to this sort of thing may not be aware of his rights. As the suspect starts to accompany the police, they say to him: ‘You had better take your coat’. In other words, he is given the impression that he will be detained for a long time and that he is under grave suspicion. As I say, only the professionals would be unconcerned about that because they know they are not obliged to go anywhere, nor are they obliged to answer any questions. There is no doubt that either because of ignorance or fear most people placed in that situation would consider themselves bound to accompany the police and to answer the questions. This is another instance of common law rights being practically worthless. In his second reading speech the Attorney-General mentioned those rights. In particular he said that they were protected to some extent as to what is known as the judges’ rules. The Commissioners said that in their view the judges’ rules were practically worthless. Only in the rarest cases will a breach of the judges’ rules, or the police standing orders in some States, result in an exclusion of evidence. That is pretty obvious, because common law rights are theoretical. They are not really evident when we are dealing with ‘voluntary cooperation ‘.
The Attorney-General would know, that during the time that he was in the Senate Mr Justice Murphy was anxious to introduce a Bill of Rights. It was said at the time when that legislation was introduced that we did not need it. that we could rely on the common law rights. If the common law has had any genus it has been of a textbook type and not of a practical type, lt Ls for that reason we do need law which spells out what people’s rights are. lt would be appropriate to reinsert the provision envisaged in the Law Reform Commission’s draft Bill and omitted from the Bill before the House. I refer to the provision for a person to sign an acknowledgment that he had received a warning as to his rights.
That provision has been omitted. I think it should be included.
The recommendation of the majority of the Commission was that in cases where the police suspected that a person had committed a serious crime they should not question that person, nor seek to have him accompany them to the station or elsewhere, without first advising him of his rights. That is the position which we support. The method of ensuring that that was done would be to have the person sign the acknowledgment that he was advised of his rights. If that was not done it would be prima facie evidence that he was not advised. Of course if it is done, it is evidence that he was so advised. We are left with the verbal battles that occur from time to time as to whether a person was given such a warning.
There were two main reasons for the Commission making that recommendation. The first was that very few citizens are aware of their common law rights and the police are not always able to inform them. This means, in effect, that the individual’s rights are illusionary. The second reason was that a signed document is a much better guarantee of the truth than the contest of word against word. The great strength of the report was that the Commission insisted on the desirability wherever possible of obtaining independent evidence, such as tape recordings and independent witnesses. It cannot be said that the requirement that the police obtain a signed acknowledgment places a greater burden on them or that it would impede law enforcement. With great respect to Mr Justice Brennan, his minority position does appear to be defective. He thought that making the present rules enforceable would suffice, if that were accompanied by a general educative process. What the majority was saying was that no person should be deprived of his rights because of ignorance. The best sort of education in this area is to inform a person of his rights at the time those rights are in question. If a suspect is given the impression that he is under a compulsion to answer questions and does so to his detriment, it will not be of much use to him later to say that he did not want to do it and then try to use the provisions of clause 73(3). Even without clause 73(3) it would be his word against that of the police. We all know that there is a tendency to say that police evidence is not to be challenged. As I said before, 40 per cent of appeals on this issue of whether or not evidence should be admitted can be successful. So we have a number of problems in this very sensitive area: but the Bill is grappling with them and is dealing with them very well in the sense of law reform.
The Law Reform Commission is to be congratulated for two things: firstly, the speed with which it has prepared its reports and. secondly, the fact that in its report it is able to prepare draft legislation. I can think of nothing more beneficial to a Parliament than to have a very detailed effective report as well as a draft Bill. An examination of the draft Bill reveals a number of provisions which the Government was not prepared to accept but in relation to which I would say from an opposition’s point of view and from the community’s point of view the Commission was right and the Government was wrong. I have mentioned the provisions involved.
I think it is important to talk of other provisions in the Bill which relate to people who suffer disabilities because of either language or race. There are special provisions for Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders. I think that is important. There could be argument as to whether they are drawn in a fashion which might be deemed to help the people concerned. There is to be a list of friends. I do not know how friendly a list of friends becomes, because if it becomes a pretty sterotype list it could well bc that it could become a list of people who believe that what they have heard is not good enough and who are prone to say that certain matters happened without perhaps judging them fairly. What I am saying is that it appears to me that the list of friends is a pretty sterile old list and that friendship does not seem to be so obvious if it has to be founded on a set list. Nevertheless, there are some great advantages in these provisions, because they say that there has to be some other person available and present when these people are being questioned. The Bill also provides some help in that those people arc entitled to legal assistance. That also is important, as it is for any other citizen.
The Bill has a lot going for it. It has all the advantages that we are able to say should be available. We do not want it said at the outset that it places on the police a greater burden than they should have placed on them, because the priorities arc to prevent crime and to ascertain who are the criminals. We do not want people escaping because some technicality has not been adhered to. But that will not happen, if one looks at the provisions of this Bill. Its purpose is purely to ensure that the rights of people have been looked at properly, lt is of no good to say later: We made a mistake. A person was wrongly convicted’. We have gone through that, as I say. in terms of British justice. The great advantage of British justice has been the jury system. It has created the means whereby the average person can evaluate evidence and we do not get the human problem that may be found with judges who may get a fixed idea about who they should believe. In some cases judges have been known to be more prone to believe people who are leading evidence against the police than the police themselves. We get this sort of human element. This Bill goes a long way towards saying that there is going to be an independent factor, that there will be independent witnesses, that there will be an opportunity for independent legal advice, that there will be visual evidence of identification parades, that there will be tape recordings of interviews and notes of interviews, and also that there will be a few other matters that I would like to think will happen. In this context 1 refer to the destruction of the finger prints of innocent people. It is important that this practice is maintained. We do not want innocent people to be deemed to be criminals simply because their finger prints have not been destroyed.
The Bill does many tremendous things. I notice that my speaking time has almost expired. However, before I conclude my remarks I would like to indicate that the Opposition foreshadows amendments which it believes can improve the legislation. I mention again that clause 73(3) seems to be the most obnoxious provision and that the Opposition’s view is in favour of the majority report.
– The House is debating the Criminal Investigation Bill 1977. The Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott) and the Government should be congratulated on the introduction of this legislation through which Australia will become one of the leaders in the world in terms of codifying the procedures to be adopted for interrogations and investigation of citizens by police officers. There has always been a conflict inherent in the balancing of different individual rights or group rights in the community. The community has the right to know that detection methods are efficient and free from complications. The individual is entitled to know that he or she will receive reasonable and fair treatment and, subsequently, a fair trial.
We have come a very long way from the days when the finger of suspicion was pointed, the heavy stones were pressed on the chest, the suspect was dumped in the local river or numerous persons simply said that he or she had done it. In those days actions of this kind were always sufficient to extract a confession to gain a conviction and a penalty. We pride ourselves in the modern day and age in having laws that balance the various competing claims to rights. However, those laws have not in the recent past been entirely satisfactory. A tremendous amount of court time has been taken up with argument, principally around the admission of confessions. Confessions have proved to be a great problem in criminal law. The rule that a confession should be voluntary before being admitted as evidence has been a most important rule and has served the law well. But there has been tremendous disputation about whether any individual confession has been voluntary. There have also been arguments about the treatment of people prior to the time of giving an alleged confession to the police or the actual laying of the charge. On the other hand, the police have often claimed that the law nowadays favours the criminal to too great a degree and that investigation is being hampered.
This Bill seeks to provide a way in which the Commonwealth Police in their sphere of activity will have guidelines to assist them in carrying out their duties and the public will have a much better opportunity to know their rights, to be informed of those rights and to have clearly defined procedures adopted in regard to interrogation. I want to make it quite plain, as did the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen) who was the previous speaker, that I have the greatest admiration for the Australian police forces, in particular the New South Wales police with whom I have had a great deal of connection over the past few years. There arc very very few police officers who behave improperly. Occasionally there are police officers who behave a little inconsistently in respect of some of the technicalities of the law although they do not intend any wrong doing. But the vast majority of police officers in New South Wales are not only people of high integrity but also arc people of vey considerable competence who know the law as it applies to their State. In the great majority of cases they abide by it. I am informed that in recent times- this has been my own experience- police officers have been more successful in obtaining convictions by adhering to the customary usual, fair and proper methods of interrogation than by using improper methods. That is a tribute to the police and also to our law as it now stands. On the other hand, there have been occasions on which unscrupulous police officers, who are in the the very great minority, have obtained convictions either through improper methods or, alternatively, have failed to gain a conviction because juries have been disgusted by what they have done. A person might have gone free because of some bungling or conduct by police which the jury was not willing to accept.
There have also been occasions on which accusations have been made against police officers by unscrupulous criminals. Those police officers often have had to go through lengthy crossexamination and have had to substantiate their integrity. Perhaps on occasions they have had to face some difficulty with the police force itself arising out of the allegations. This legislation will assist police officers. They will benefit from laid down procedures, particularly in relation to the taking of confessions. Courts will be able to see that allegations that might otherwise be made against police are in fact ill-founded. I will not go into the various examples of what can occur. Practising lawyers are well aware of the methods that are used occasionally by unscrupulous police officers. They are aware also that the hardened professional criminal is fully aware of all the tricks of the trade and takes advantage of them.
As I see it the major difficulty that the Bill is directed to curing is in the area of the ordinary citizen who is involved with police investigations in circumstances in which he probably has very little knowledge of the law and often has a degree of concern or nervous agitation. There are probably very few members of this House or of the community who when confronted by a police officer would not feel some degree of nervous concern. A businessman used to signing cheques worth hundreds of thousands of dollars every week is often reduced to a nervous state when confronted by a police officer who pulls him up for speeding. The authority of the law carries with it a considerable degree of impression upon the individual. An individual subjected to interrogation may not fully understand the proceedings or may say things that he does not really mean. In certain circumstances, if he is subject to physical violence, he might say anything at all simply to get the immediate problem over with. The Bill is designed to assist by providing a balance between the individual and the community as represented by the police officers.
The Bill will assist also in the conduct of criminal trials in that it will take some burdens off juries, lawyers and judges. Juries often are faced with the very difficult task of assessing the credibility of witnesses. Lawyers under the present situation are often involved in the most detailed tactical battles, one with the other, to keep a confession out of evidence, if that is the defence in any case. Alternatively, the crown will be seeking to support a particular confession, the issue usually being whether or not the confession was made voluntarily. A considerable amount of time is often taken up on these matters. In this situation the judge will always be in a difficult situation because he may have to rule as a matter of law on the admissibility of a confession and whether it was made voluntarily. If he decides that it was not voluntary, under the present law he must rule that it is inadmissible. Alternatively, he may have to rule whether in his discretion he ought to admit the evidence if there are certain factors about the case which it is argued should lead to a rejection of evidence. So even before the case gets to the jury the judge is involved in deciding whether much of the evidence should go before the jury. He then has to address the jury in his summing up. I know that at times allegations are made that inadvertently judges tend to sum up in one way or another, favourable to the prosecution or to the defence. I believe that in the vast majority of cases those allegations are made by a person who, for one reason or another, has not been satisfied with the result of the case. I certainly do not know of any advertent case in which a judge in Australia would do such a thing. Inadvertent impressions may occasionally be given but I think we can discount those. In any case, this Bill will assist to overcome much of the problem.
I want to raise one or two questions about the Bill. I will deal in order with those clauses about which I intend to speak. Firstly, I refer the AttorneyGeneral to clause 4. I commend the Attorney for the way in which he intends to approach the Bill. It will provide opportunity for public debate and discussion. What is said in this debate, of course, is said on all sides in order to help achieve the best Bill that will eventually be passed by the Parliament. Matters of detail ought to be raised at this time. I refer to the definition of a person who is under restraint because I think that this needs tidying up. The Bill provides for a special category of a person under restraint prior to his arrest. At present, the law is quite clear. A person is not required to accompany police officers and no one can be taken into lawful custody until certain steps have been taken. A person who- to use the common phrase- is ‘assisting police with their inquiries ‘ or who has been asked to accompany police to the police station is perfectly at liberty to refuse or to refuse to leave the place where he is or to refuse to answer any questions. However, practical difficulties have arisen. Most people think that they have to assist the police and, in fairness to all parties, it is thought proper that some provision should be included in the Bill to regulate conduct prior to an actual arrest. This question of a person being under restraint in clause 4 leaves it open possibly to an argument that ‘under restraint’ is in fact in some way permitted by the law as a means of lawful custody. When referring to a person under restraint, clause 4, in part, states: . . whether or not he is, for the purposes of this Act. in lawful custody . . .
There should be no suggestion that a person under restraint is in fact in any way subject to imprisonment of any nature. The unfortunate words in the clause are: . . a person is under restraint if he is in the company of a Police Officer for a purpose connected with the investigation of an offence and-
I would prefer a more objective test or a better choice of words because an act should not rely upon a police officer’s subjective decision, which he could only hold in his head, as to whether or not to allow a person to leave. I also believe that at the end of clause 1 8 it would be preferable to add a provision. Clause 18 deals with the question of a person under restraint. It states that a police officer shall not ask him any questions or ask him to do anything for certain purposes unless he has been informed by the police officer of his name and rank. There is further provision that questions shall not be asked or other things shall not be done unless the police officer has, in the course of such an interview, given or caused to be given to the person a warning. That warning is that the man or woman is not obliged to answer any questions asked of him or her and that he or she may at any time consult a lawyer or communicate with an appropriate relative or friend if he or she wishes to do so. I would have thought that to be consistent with what I understand the present law to be, the words ‘and that he is free to leave’ should be added. In fact, a person under restraint ought not to be subjected to any form of imprisonment.
The next clause that requires some examination is clause 19. The words: ‘Where a Police Officer decides to charge a person with an offence ‘, should be amended in some way to provide a more objective test. One of the great difficulties that we have had up till now in the law is that the rights of persons change dramatically at the time a police officer decides to charge a person. Cautions have to be given. The rights of such a person change. But how does one tell when a police officer has decided to charge a person? One cannot look into his head. One can only examine the surrounding circumstances. It is easy for a police officer to simply sit in the witness box and say: ‘I decided to charge the man at 5 minutes past 2 and I did not in fact decide to charge him at 5 minutes to 2.’ It leaves too much up in the air for the subjective decision of the police officer to be taken. In fact, it is contrary to the overall intent of the Bill to seek objective solutions. It has caused difficulties in the past. I believe that a relatively simple amendment to clause 19 would solve much of the problem.
The next clause to be considered is clause 23. Sub-clause (3) of clause 23 refers to a person who is in the company of a police officer in connection with an investigation for a period of 30 minutes or more but not under restraint. I think there is some inconsistency in this clause because it is adding another situation. I think clause 23 (3), for the purpose of the time we have available tonight, is a clause that I content myself with saying is somewhat complicated and needs to be simplified. Clause 24 is most welcome. Clause 30 is one about which I make a substantive suggestion. In New South Wales under the Crimes Act. a confession is to be inadmissible if it is not voluntary. There is also a category of confession that is obtained pursuant to an untrue representation. That is the case where a police officer might say to a person: ‘Look, your mate, John Smith, told us you did it. Now confess’. The person might say: ‘Oh,’struth, I will confess’. But in fact, John Smith did not tell the police any such thing. The High Court has held that if a representation is made by a police officer that is knowingly untrue to the knowledge of the police officer then the confession should be inadmissible. I think an amendment to clause 30 should be made to provide that if the confession is obtained after what is a trick, objectively calculated to produce the confession, it should be ruled inadmissible. Clause 46 is a proper clause which provides that questions cannot be asked except in certain cases after a person is charged. I am a little concerned about clause 73, as is the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen). As a general principle I do not like the reversal of onus of proof. I believe this clause could cause difficulties. I ask the Attorney-General to give it detailed consideration.
The remainder of the Bill deals with broad matters. I support entirely the approach regarding identification parades. There are injustices in the history of the law. There are occasions on which innocent men have served in prison. In fact there are some- albeit very few in Australia today- who are probably innocent but the system is designed to obtain the greatest amount of justice, the maximum number of innocent persons to go free, and the absolute maximum number of guilty persons to be convicted. I applaud the technological approach; in particular, the use of tape recordings which will resolve a tremendous number of difficulties that could otherwise arise. I applaud the provisions as to bail. They are perhaps a little complicated. I believe the police are entitled to have a simple Bill and I believe that the community is entitled to have a simple Bill. I ask the Attorney-General to look once again at the Bill to see how many words can be cut out of it and yet retain the essential meanings of its provisions. Bail should be as of right, subject to refusal under specified criteria. I commend the Bill to the House. My time is drawing nigh a little earlier than otherwise expected. I am sure the Attorney-General will give the most detailed consideration to the matters I have raised.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! It being 10.30 p.m. in accordance with the order of the House, I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.30 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 9 March 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Usually the requirement for the provision of adequate nursing care is considered to be met if the person who accepts responsibility for the patient arranges Tor a registered nurse to visit and treat the patient on at least two occasions each week.
To the extent that a nurse must be available to provide the nursing care required by the patient, it would be fair comment to say that the benefit is paid on the basis of the availability of nurses. However, it is also a fact that the patient’s medical practitioner must certify that the patient needs nursing care on a regular basis and therefore payment is also based on the nursing needs of the patient. The criterion that the patient must receive at least two visits by a registered nurse each week is relaxed where suitable arrangements are made for the care of a patient in an isolated rural area where it is not physically possible for a nurse to visit and treat the patient twice weekly.
The benefit is not subjected to any type of means test and therefore is not paid on the basis of the financial needs of the patient or the applicant.
asked the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice, on 9 March 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Mr Gordon Barton: Proposed Airline Operations (Question No. ISO)
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 8 March 1977:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The honourable member will recall that, in answer to a question in the House on 1 7 February I indicated that I was in favour of the importation by IPEC of 2 Argosy freighter aircraft, and also the importation by Air Express Limited, a company not associated with Mr Barton, of 2 Carvair aircraft as replacements for that company’s existing fleet of Bristol Freighters.
The honourable member will also know that the right of the Secretary to the Department of Transport to issue the necessary permits to import the 2 Argosy aircraft which Mr Gordon Barton’s company IPEC wished to place in service between Tasmania and the mainland, and also the 2 Carvair aircraft of Air Express Limited, was challenged in the High Court of Australia by Ansett Transport Industries Limited.
Ansett Transport Industries Limited obtained an interim injunction from the High Court restraining the Secretary from giving import permits to both IPEC and Air Express.
Arguments on the question of law were heard before the full High Court, and on 4 March the High Court reserved its judgment. The High Court has not yet handed down its judgment, and in the meantime the injunction against issuing the import permits remains in force.
asked the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, upon notice, on 17 March 1977:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for National Resources, upon notice, on 9 March 1 977:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: (1). (2) and (6). The Government has repeatedly indicated that its policy is to allow the export of reasonable quantities of natural gas to make the North West Shelf project viable and to encourage further exploration.
Proposals for the development are being examined by the Commonwealth and Western Australian Governments. Amongst other things the proposed level of exports is being examined against reasonable expectations of Australia’s future requirements of natural gas.
asked the Minister for National Resources, upon notice, on 9 March 1 977:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for National Resources, upon notice, on 9 March 1 977:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for National Resources, upon notice, on 9 March 1977:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Transition from Secondary Education to Employment: Report of Working Party (Question No. 229)
am asked the Minister representing the Minister for Education, upon notice, on 8 March 1 977:
Did the Education Council at its meeting in February 1 977 consider the September 1 976 report of the Working Party on the Transition from Secondary Education to Employment; if so, with what results.
-The Minister for Education has provided the following reply to the honourable member’s question:
The Australian Education Council discussed the matter and decided to establish a joint Federal/State Working Party of representatives of education and of labour and employment departments to act as a steering group to develop proposals on career guidance in schools and to improve services available to young people making the transition from school to work. The Council of Labour Ministers has agreed to co-operate, and arrangements are being made to finalise the membership of the Working Party as soon as possible.
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 10 March 1977:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Hospital Service in Wynnum/Redlands District (Question No. 370)
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 15 March 1977:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 1 7 March 1 977:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
At the 1976 Health Ministers’ Conference a submission was made by the States that patients in acute psychiatric hospitals-defined as hospitals or designated portions of hospitals which provide facilities, services and treatments equivalent to those provided hy similar sections of public hospitals- come under the Medibank cost-sharing arrangements. This submission was closely examined and, while I have some sympathy for the views of the States, I would find it particularly difficult to put forward such an increase in costs to the Commonwealth in the present economic climate.
The Government could not accept these changes at the present time, but we will be looking at the issue with the aim or achieving the best results for these patients. Nevertheless, I must point out that the raising of charges is a State responsibility and currently all States except New South Wales and South Australia provide free services for psychiatric patients. South Australia raises charges only in respect of patients in hospital for more than 28 days.
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 22 March 1977:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 22 March 1977:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 23 March 1977:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: (1). (2) and (4) During heatwave conditions with sustained temperatures above 38°C, the probability of heat induced faults occurring in welded rail track increases and usually reaches a peak on the third day of such conditions. Under these circumstances, track inspection patrols are extended until dusk to ensure that any potentially dangerous faults that may occur in the track during the latter part of the day are detected. Details of faults detected are immediately relayed to the district railway engineer who imposes speed restrictions as may be necessary.
Domiciliary Nursing Care (Question No. SOS)
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 23 March 1 977:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
New South Wales-Weris Creek, Manilla, Jeogla, Bendemeer. Pilliga, Maules Creek, Narrabri, Paleroo, Bellata. Bungwahl. Togganogerra, Dalgety, Tooma, Khancoban. Mulwala. Henty, Finley, Bribbaree, Goodnight. Valla. Old Bonalbo. Woodenbong, Green Pigeon. Horseshoe Creek. Forbes, Gurrundah,
Boorowa, Grong Grong, Marra. Eumungerie. Stuart Town, Mendooran, Biddon, Weilmoringle, Mudgee. Dunedoo, Baradine.
Victoria- Flowerdale, Digby, Omeo, Laanecoorie, Talbot. Watchem, Darlington. Korong Vale. Alecandra. Rocklands, Avon Plains, Ensay, Meredith. Nullawarre. Knowsley, Jancourt East.
Queensland- Allora, Augathella, Barmoya. Bartle Frere. Berajondo, Blackall, Burrum Heads, Carmila. Clifton. Coalstoun Lakes, Coen, Cooktown, Cunnamulla. Dululu, Eidsvold, Freestone, Georgetown, Gin Gin. Goomeri, Gracemere, Harvey’s Siding, Hughenden. Inglewood, Killarney, Kuttabul, Lowlands. Meandarra. Miriam Vale, Monto, Moore, Mount Eagle, Mount Garnet, Mount Sturt. Mungar, Obilbil. Paluma, Prairie. Proston, Raglan. Sellheim, Springbrook, Stelworth. Swanfels, Thursday Island, Wandoan, Waverley. Yarraman, Yelarbon. Yuleba.
South Australia- Bower. Gawler River, Tintinara. Murray Town, Parrakie, Mataranka*, Mount Compass. ( * Northern Territory)
Western Australia- Busselton, Doodlakine, Gairdner River, Goomalling, Mount Magnet, New Norcia. Nukarni, Pithara, Quairading, Wagin, Wyalkatchum. Yericoin.
Tasmania- St Helens, Levendale, Tunnack. Woodsdale. Mount Seymour. Lulworth, Bridport. Pyengana, Swansea, West Kentish, Gunns Plains, West Pine, Cuprona. National Park, Mount Lloyd, Westerway, Ellendale. Grove.
Each individual case must be assessed on its own merits. Basically, however, a remote area is one which is distant from any urban centre where home nursing services are readily available.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 23 March 1 977:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
It is understood that a number of doctors perform abortions privately as part of their practice. The number of these is not known.
The question no doubt relates to the number of freestanding clinics, which offer abortion and other fertility control services. There are at least four such clinics known in Australia, but there may be others of which the Commonwealth Government is unaware.
asked the Minister, representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 24 March 1977:
– The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
The predominant element is pensions and cash benefits paid to persons but grants and subsidies paid to religious, charitable and other non-profit organisations, to State Governments and to Local Authorities for welfare purposes are included, as are general administrative expenditures by the Department.
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 30 March 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Thai International: Landing Rights at Melbourne (Question No. 548)
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 30 March 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 3 1 March 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice, on 31 March 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice, on 19 April 1977:
– The Minister for Administrative Services has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
Inquiry into Unemployment Benefits (Question No. 620)
am asked the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 19 April 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
As the honourable member will be aware, on 30 March 1977 the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations and the Minister for Social Security announced the establishment of, and the terms of reference for, an inquiry into unemployment benefit policy and administration to be carried out by Dr David Myers, former Vice-Chancellor of La Trobe University.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 3 May 1977, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1977/19770503_reps_30_hor105/>.