30th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. B. M. Snedden, Q.C.) took the chair at 2. IS p.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned students, parents, teachers and citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the decision of the Government to withdraw all forms of financial assistance to students of non-State tertiary institutions in the main, business colleges, is in total conflict with stated Government education policy.
The decision will result in a shortage of places for training secretarial and clerical students and an inordinate demand upon the State Government technical education systems.
At a time of severe economic disruption, this action must lead to an unnecessary worsening of the current employment situation for school leavers.
Your petitioners, therefore, humbly pray that the Commonwealth Government will act immediately to reverse its decision.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Abel, Mr Armitage, Mr Bourchier, Mr Bradfield, Mr Dobie, Mr Gillard, Mr Neil and Mr Yates
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 because television and radio
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray:
That the Australian Government will amend the Broadcasting and Television Act, in relation to both national and commercial broadcasters, to legislate
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Donald Cameron, Mr Giles, Mr Kelly, Mr McLeay, Mr Porter, Mr Eric Robinson, Mr Short and Mr Wallis.
To the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That many pensioners who are holders of the Pensioners Health Benefit Card, have suffered undue hardships as inmates of Private Nursing Homes, because the Federal Government subsidy was insufficient to meet the charges as laid down.
Many pensioners whose spouse was an inmate of the Private Nursing Homes suffered poverty in an endeavour to sustain their partner while in the nursing home.
Only in rare cases was the statutory minimum patient contribution as laid down adhered to.
That the telephone was a matter of life and death to many pensioners, but because of the cost of installation of the telephone many are unable to afford the installation.
That those pensioners who have only their pension and very little else to live on and are forced to pay high rents, are in many cases living in extreme poverty.
The foregoing facts impel your petitioners to ask the Australian Government as a matter of urgency to:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Anthony, Mr Armitage, Mr Bradfield, Mr Morris and Mr Stewart.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of certain members of the Australian Association for Better Hearing, and other citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that financial burden is imposed on hearing impaired members of the public in that the special telephone equipment, which is essential for such hearing impaired citizens to make telephonic communication, is subject to installation costs and rental charges.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Federal Government give every consideration to waiving the installation costs and rental charges of the special telephone equipment required by hearing impaired members of the public.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Charles Jones, Mr MacKellar and Mr Morris.
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 abortion has become a multi-million dollar business in Australia in spite of the fact the Medical Practice Clarification Bill 1973 was overwhelmingly defeated.
The multi-national giant, Population Services International, which operates in Sydney is now expanding its business to include Canberra.
In1976 alone, over 46 000 abortions were being paid for under the existing Medical Benefits Schedule which stipulates the benefit payable for medical services under both Medibank and the private health insurance funds.
Item No. 6469-‘The evacuation of the contents of a gravid uterus by curettage and suction curettage’ now attracts a benefit of $65. In1976 close to $5m were spent to destroy unborn children.
Under the ‘abortion item’ No. 6469 abortion-on-demand is now being paid for from public monies, i.e. contributions to the existing health funds.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government takes action:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Lynch, Mr Kelly and Mr Porter.
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 newinformation on whale communication, behaviour and intelligence, and to the depleted state of most of the great whale stocks and the uncertainty associated with whale population estimates, that commercial whaling is no longer acceptable to the vast majority of Australians. It is urged that immediate steps be taken to end this activity.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Hodgman and Mr Macphee.
To the Honourable the Speaker and the Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned concerned citizens respectfully showeth:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Macphee and Mr Short.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the delays between the announcements of each quarterly movement in the Consumer Price Index and their application as a percentage increase in age and invalid pensions is excessive, unnecessary, discriminatory and a cause of economic distress.
That proposals to amend the Consumer Price Index by eliminating particular items from the Index could adversely affect the value of future increases in aged and invalid pensions and thus be a cause of additional economic hardship to pensioners.
The foregoing facts impel your pensioners to ask the Australian Government as a matter of urgency to:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Macphee and Mr Short.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned (electors of the Division of) Capricornia in the State of Queensland respectfully showeth objection to Metrics and request the Government to revert to the Imperial system.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Carige.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that:
Television is the single most influential medium for the dissemination of information and for the recording and development of our national identity and culture.
Children are the most important section of the viewing public in that they are most likely to be affected by the impact of television.
Australian children, on average, spend more time watching television than in school.
And believing that:
The basic problem behind the lack of programs designed for childrenis the fundamental divergence of aims between those primarily interested in the welfare of children and the commercial interests of television licensees and their shareholders.
The creation of an establishment to initiate, research, promote, co-ordinate, fund and produce material for children’s consumption through the medium of television, as recommended by Australian Children’s Television Action Committee in its submission to the Senate Standing Committee on Education, Science and the Arts1973; the Australian Broadcasting Control Board’s Advisory Committee Report 1974 and the Television Industry Co-ordinating Committee1975, as a positive step toward providing better quality television for Australian children.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Chipp.
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:
We therefore call upon the Government to implement the recommendations of assistance for air passengers, made in Mr Nimmo ‘s report.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Groom.
Gambling Casino in Canberra
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the establishment of a gambling casino in Canberra would debase the National Capital and increase crime in Canberra.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled, should seek to preserve the dignity of the National Capital by disallowing any ordinance to authorise the establishment of a gambling casino in Canberra.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Groom.
Refugees from South Africa
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned concerned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that: 1.On16 June1976, when the students of Soweto township in South Africa demonstrated peacefully, many hundreds were shot down.
We, your petitioners humbly pray that the Government take immediate steps to provide humanitarian aid to the refugees from South Africa, in particular by providing funds for the supply of clothing, medical supplies, etc. scholarships and transport costs to enable student refugees to continue their education in Australia.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Hurford.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. We the undersigned citizens of Australia do humbly pray that the Commonwealth Government will permit Mr Ignazio Salemi to remain in Australia as a resident. The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr MacKellar.
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 one year would:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Morris.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled: The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That we believe that Australia’s constitution is undemocratic and should be replaced by a democratic constitution. This new constitution should be drafted at a representative directly elected people’s convention following extensive public debate, and then put to a referendum of the people.
The petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Parliament, as a matter of urgency, will help to promote such public debate and will arrange for the holding of such a people’s convention and referendum.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Morris.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of members of the Brighton-le-Sands Progress Association respectfully showeth that the proposal to site a new runway, at the Kingsford-Smith Airport, Sydney, through the suburb of Kyeemagh is outside the terms of reference of the MANS study committee, which is charged to investigate either the siting of a new airport or the up-grading of existing facilities at the present airport, and that the proposal does not conform to either of these conditions.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government in conjunction with the State Government of New South Wales direct the MANS study committee to delete this proposal from its considerations.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Neil.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament House. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Tasmania and other States respectfully showeth their disapproval of the unsatisfactory access to ABC television transmissions in Derby and environs in the north-east of Tasmania.
Your petitioners humbly pray that your honourable House will at this time take steps by way of direction to Government departments to rectify this situation.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Newman.
To the Honourable the Speaker and the Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the electors and residents of South Australia showeth:
Your petitioners therefore pray that your honourable House will have the necessary steps taken to bring about an improvement in children’s television programs.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Porter.
Advertising on Television
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the electors and residents of South Australia showeth:
That the undersigned parents believe that as most young children watch television between 4.00 p.m. and 6.00. p.m., there should be no advertisements on television during this time.
Your petitioners therefore pray that the necessary steps be taken to eliminate advertising on television between the hours of 4.00 p.m. and 6.00 p.m.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Porter.
To the Honourable the Speaker and the Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Our grave concern regarding the extremely high cost of communication. We earnestly request that there be no increase in telephone charges and postage rates. Further, we request that there be a reduction in the postage rates which have been an imposition on many citizens (e.g., pensioners who are unable to communicate with their families) and have caused hardship to the whole community. We had expectations of the present Government reducing the exhorbitant charges imposed by the Labour Government. This Government’s failure to do so has caused widespread disappointment to the whole community. Therefore we request the Government to give serious consideration to our petition.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Eric Robinson.
To the Honourable Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The undersigned petitioners are concerned with the proposed closure of the Australian Broadcasting Commission ‘s Acess Radio Station3ZZ.
Your petitioners wish to point out that 3ZZ serves a vital need in the community- a need which is not duplicated by 3CR, 3EA or any other station in Melbourne or indeed in Australia. As community groups and individual members of the Australian community are able to make their own programs on 3ZZ, the station provides a unique opportunity to have all opinions heard.
Just as people have always had the opportunity to publish and distribute pamphlets on any topic, 3ZZ has enabled a 314 REPRESENTATIVES17 August 1977 Petitions similar service to be conducted through the air-waves. A necessity in the twentieth century.
Your humble petitioners are also concerned at the implications of Government interference in an independent Commission. Your petitioners feel that dangerous precedents may be set by these actions.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Staley.
To the Right Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned concerned citizens respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled, should ensure:
That the Commonwealth Government’s long-term policy should be to provide 50 per cent of all funding for Australia ‘s roads.
That at a minimum the Commonwealth Government adopts the recommendations by the Australian Council of Local Government Associations for the allocation of $5,903 million of Commonwealth, State and Local Government funds to roads over the five years ending 1980-81, of which the Commonwealth share would be 41 per cent as recommended by the Bureau of Roads.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Thomson.
Petition received. ministerial arrangements
– I inform the House that the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Peacock, leaves Australia today to attend the world anti-apartheid conference at Lagos and is expected to return on 26 August. During his absence the Minister for Primary Industry, Mr Sinclair, will act as Minister for Foreign Affairs. questions Without notice services to migrants
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. In view of the fact that the Government has spent considerable time and taxpayers’ money on the Coombs, Bland and Bailey reports, all of which directly relate to the availability of services to migrants and as the Prime Minister is about to announce, for blatant political purposes, yet another inquiry -
– Order! The honourable gentleman will nut use those terms in a question. I advise him to ask his question.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he is about to announce yet another inquiry at the cost of approximately $120,000 for a complete review of all migrant services. Will he have regard to the fact that the newly established section of ethnic affairs in the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs is doing precisely nothing?
– I would have thought that all honourable gentlemen would know that the Coombs Report on Australian Government Administration was a very far reaching and detailed report on aspects which affected public administration in Australia.
– What about the Bailey report?
-I rather thought the honourable gentleman began his question with a reference to the Coombs report which does not touch upon services which might be available to migrants.
– I raise a point of order. The Prime Minister is not referring to the text of the question which I asked.
-That is not a point of order.
– He refers specifically to the Coombs report when the Bailey report is the optimum aspect of my question.
– The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
-One might well be justified in wondering whether the honourable gentleman wants to have any information. The Coombs report is a report on public administration in its broadest sense. It is highly important. Many decisions have been announced in relation to it. Other recommendations are being processed through departments and the Government for decision making so that a report can by made to the Parliament as speedily as possible. I would have thought that all honourable gentlemen in the House would be concerned that the post-arrival services for migrants to Australia would be as best arranged and as sympathetically administered as is possible.
Those early services to migrants when they first come to this country are very important in helping them to settle into Australia, which is for . them an alien and different and unaccustomed country. I should have thought that any measures the Government might want to introduce or announce which would improve post-arrival services for migrants in Australia would have had the support of the honourable gentleman if he were concerned with the real welfare of migrants.
-My question is directed to the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development. Is the Minister aware thai the South Australian Government is in trouble over the quality of the water available to Adelaide? This water which I now show honourable members came out of Adelaide’s water mains. Is the South Australian Government giving the water filtration program a high priority in the allocation of its resources or does it give this program priority only if someone else pays for it? What resources is the South Australian Government allocating to the program and how much assistance has it sought from the Commonwealth? Will Commonwealth assistance be available to ensure that South Australians are not disadvantaged by comparison with the residents of other States because of the high cost of providing drinkable water?
-I think all honourable members would be indebted to the honourable member for Sturt for at last allowing us to see the colour of his water. I am sure that all honourable members would also join with me in being very concerned. If I could put this matter into some perspective, the Commonwealth Government as done a lot to eradicate the problem that the honourable member has just drawn to our attention. In fact, the Commonwealth Government has spent something like $23.62m to date on providing filtration for that water supply. Over the next two years, after arrangements have been made between the Prime Minister and the Premier, an additional $10m will be spent which will bring the two projects of Anstey Hill and Hope Valley to a conclusion. That puts the Commonwealth’s position quite clearly. As to what the South Australian Government is doing, I think that must be questioned. On the advice that I have, if the South Australian Government had moved quickly in the early 1970s the cost of this water supply system would have been reduced considerably and probably would have been coped with in the Budget situation much more easily. So the South Australian Government must bear some of the blame because of its tardiness in getting off” the mark. Secondly, despite the loud protestations of the Premier of South Australia, it is most odd that except for very miniscule amounts he has not put a single cent into this project himself. That simply does not measure up for a Premier who is demanding action and yet has not done a single thing himself. The Commonwealth Government even provides the salaries for the public servants who are involved in the design of the system.
In the last pan of this question the honourable member for Sturt raised the matter of whether South Australia is at some disadvantage compared with the other States of Australia. If the South Australian Premier feels that he cannot provide that money out of his own pocket to help ensure better water for Adelaide then he has one recourse. That recourse is to the Grants Commission, where he can test the argument that he has a disability.
– South Australia has a budget surplus.
-As the Prime Minister has pointed out, the financial position in South Australia is a very healthy one. In fact it has finished this financial year with a surplus. Let the Premier keep quiet or put his hand in his own pocket and provide the money for proper resources for water filtration in Adelaide, which the people of Adelaide so rightly deserve.
– I ask the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development a supplementary question. Whilst I realise that the Minister for National Resources has stated that the present Government does not have a program of assistance to the States for water projects, I ask this Minister a question because he is responsible for the agreement between the Federal and State governments which was made some three years or so ago. Why has the appropriation for the Adelaide water treatment program been reduced from $9.7m, as it was in the 1975 Budget and $9.4m as it was in the 1976 Budget, to $6m as it is in last night’s Budget? What is the justification for a 45 per cent reduction in real terms in this program which is the subject of an agreement between the two governments? I ask him whether the Federal Government will discuss the future of this program with the South Australian Government, and if so when.
– The principal justification for querying the arrangements that the honourable gentleman made is simply this: Under this Government’s arrangements, the States have a much better share of the general Commonwealth resources through tax sharing, loan arrangements and so on. So for the first time a State has the ability, if it wishes to make the priorities itself. That answers the essential pan of the question. As to the arrangements, the Prime Minister and the Premier of South Australia have had fairly lengthy discussions about this subject. It is true that an amount of only $6m appears in this year’s appropriations, but that is on the basis of an agreement that had been reached between the Prime Minister and the Premier. The amount of $6m will be available this year but the Prime Minister and the Premier have reached an agreement that $4.3m, I think it is, will be available next year. Consultation has been going on between the two governments. Consultation will continue.
-Can the Minister for Post and Telecommunications tell the House what the current position is in regard to the postal dispute?
– The present position regarding the postal dispute is completely unacceptable. The first point I want to make is that the provision of mail services to Australia is absolutely essential. They are being disrupted by a series of rolling strikes, bans and limitations which have affected all States but in particular have affected New South Wales because of the problem at the Redfern mail exchange concerning the new rostering arrangements flowing on from discussions on the implementation of the 36%-hour working week. Whilst there are mail delays in all States, the position is becoming critical in New South Wales. Despite the fact that this matter has been to arbitration, the unions continue with their limitations and bans. The Government finds this position absolutely intolerable. The Australian Postal Commission finds the position intolerable and unless common sense prevails, the Postal Commission on Friday will start to stand down employees not fulfilling their work obligations. The Government is tired and the community is tired of having a few people in Australia prejudicing the interests of the community and the country.
-I direct a question to the Treasurer. Does the steep drop in urban public transport payments to the States mean that the Government is encouraging the run-down in the urban public transport system which produced the Granville rail disaster? How can the Treasurer claim in his Budget Speech that one aim of raising petrol prices is to conserve the urban environment by reducing urban car usage when a 60 per cent decrease in funds will reduce the availability to the States of money to provide adequate public transport which is the alternative to car usage?
-The first thing I should say in respect of the question from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is that in total Budget terms New South Wales is in a much better financial situation than the Commonwealth finds itself in. That is an indisputable fact and comes about mostly because of the sheer extravagance and the sheer waste in some of the programs introduced by Labor when in government. As to the specific matters raised by the honourable member- as I would have expected- he is misinformed. Firstly, he ignores the special arrangements that have been made with New South Wales through the Loan Council for $ 100m to be made available for the purpose of correcting the rail difficulties in the Sydney area. I do not know whether the honourable member was overseas when that occurred, or where he was, but that provision has been made. The second matter on which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is misinformed is that for the first time since 1974 a fund for new projects in urban transport has been made available in this Budget. I remind the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that he was part of the Government that stopped new projects from being accepted into the system in the 1974 Budget and again in the 1975 Budget. So do not let the Deputy Leader of the Opposition claim in this place any great credit for what has been done in the urban transport system. This Government has recognised the need and has at least made a provision in this Budget for new projects.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I directed my question to the Treasurer. The question related to the Government’s claim that the petrol tax was a matter of consultation. That part of my question was not answered by the Treasurer.
– Order! The honourable gentleman ‘s question was heard. The Minister is entitled to answer as he chooses.
– My point of order is that I directed my question relating to petrol tax to the Treasurer.
-There is no substance in the point of order.
– The Minister for Primary Industry would be aware of the current bans being maintained by the Storemen and Packers
Union on rice exports through the ports of Melbourne and Portland. The honourable member who is interjecting should put a ban on his tongue. The Minister would be aware also that these bans are directly threatening the jobs of 600 rice industry workers and that if the bans are not removed they will cripple one of Australia ‘s most successful rural industries. Will the Minister, through consultation with his colleague the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, investigate this dispute with a view to taking action against the Storemen and Packers Union under the provisions of the Trade Practices Act?
-Unfortunately, this is another instance of disputes within the trade union movement. In this case it is a demarcation dispute which flows on in its effect and prejudices returns to rice growers and also the jobs of those people who are working at the rice growers cooperative mills. I think it is very regrettable that there should be not only that present impact but also, as I understand it, a potential impact in that if the ban on handling bagged rice continues there could well be not only a closure of two mills -one at Echuca and one at Deniliquin-but also ah effect on the market penetration of rice cooperatives in the Victorian market. So without doubt, as the honourable gentleman has suggested, this has been very prejudicial to his own constituents and has a flow-on effect which would seem to be within the secondary boycott provisions of section 45 of the Trade Practices Act to which the honourable gentleman’s question referred. In those circumstances I certainly shall be prepared to take up the matter on his behalf with my colleague the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs and ensure that a proper and adequate inquiry is made within the context of that legislation.
-I direct a question to the Treasurer and refer to his comments on the new tax arrangements for the new year, to which he loosely refers as being generous. Is it a fact that a married man supporting a wife and two children and earning $10,000 per annum throughout this financial year will complete the year with income in real terms- after tax and the Medibank levy and allowing for family allowances and tax rebates- which will be more than $ 1 8 a week less than his income at the commencement of the year? Further, is it a fact that, for that person to be no worse off at the end of the year than he was at the beginning of the year, inflation would have to fall to about 2 per cent? How does the Treasurer expect any consumer leading to occur in the economy to encourage a recovery when real disposable income, especially for the middle income groups in the community, is so savagely contracted in this way?
– I am sorry that the honourable gentleman has not read the detail in Statement No. 2 of the Budget Speech. I would have thought that he in particular because of his background would have studied it. If he turns to page 37 of the Budget Speech he will find the following reference in Statement No. 2:
Given the actual and projected changes in personal taxesthe indexation reduction of I July 1977 and the new scales of 1 February 1978- cash benefits and other income components, aggregate real household disposable income would in these circumstances show a noticeable rise over the course of the year . . .
– I rise to a point of order. The Treasurer is referring to household income which is swollen considerably by unemployment benefits and it is not analagous to domestic income. I ask the Minister to address himself to the question.
– There is no substance in the point of order.
– He does not understand the simple economic principles he is working on.
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
– I regard that interjection as quite frivolous. The honourable gentleman knows quite well, as do members of the Government, what goes into the components of real household disposable income which, as I recall the question, was precisely the term that the honourable gentleman used. I assume from his interjection that he is not denying that Statement No. 2 says that.
– I am saying that you do not know what you are talking about.
-Order! The honourable member for Oxley will remain silent. I inform the Treasurer that I have ruled that there was no substance in the point of order and I suggest that he disregard the interjection. No point of order was allowed.
-If there is anyone in this House who does not know what he is talking about in relation to this matter it is the honourable member for Oxley because Statement No. 2 makes this matter perfectly clear. What the honourable gentleman is seeking to concentrate on in his question are the very strong benefits of the revolutionary change which has been made to Australia’s tax system. As is his custom, the honourable gentleman is smiling. But let me invite him to compare what we have done by way of tax reform with what he asserted he did by way of tax reform- I put that phrase in inverted commas- in his period of office. The fact is that the honourable gentleman’s tax changes were nothing less than a direct hoax upon the Australian people. They cost the Labor Government virtually nothing in terms of revenue forgone. The so-called changes were nothing less than a figure fiddle. The figures expose the honourable member’s duplicity in posing questions of this type. Our reform, genuine and far reaching as it is, has a full year cost of around $ 1 ,300m. Let the honourable gentleman recall what his so-called reform cost. It represented a full year cost not of $ 1 ,300m but of $205m. In other words, our tax reductions have a full year cost more than six times what the Hayden changes cost. I think that that disposes of the tired situation which the honourable gentleman seeks to bring into this House. Our reforms are genuine. Our reforms are far reaching and, as I mentioned in the House last night, they are revolutionary. Some 225,000 taxpayers, many of them elderly pensioners, for the first time will not be paying tax and approximately 90 per cent of Australian taxpayers will pay tax at the standard rate. Let the honourable gentleman think about that reform because that is genuine. It is far reaching and will build incentive in the Australian community.
– I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard a table with the calculation showing the justification for the assertion I made in my question. I shall be distributing it in the Press gallery in a few seconds.
– Order! Is leave granted?
-Leave is not granted.
-Has the Prime Minister seen statements that following the release of the Budget the prospects of achieving the Government’s objective’ of reducing interest rates have receded?
-Yes, I have seen those forecasts. I shall add to my answer and comment on them. It had been generally accepted in the wider community that a Budget deficit of the order of $2,000m, $2,200m or $2,300m would drive home the fight against inflation in a most effective manner. What many people wanted and what many people now have is a Budget that will consolidate the gains made in the fight against inflation and take the fight against inflation further. People were also saying beforehand that if the Budget deficit was of the order which I have mentioned it would clearly be conducive to circumstances when interest rates could and would, in fact, come down. Now, some commentators seem to have been put out. They thought that in reaching a Budget deficit of that order it would not have been possible to encompass as well the most far reaching and far sighted taxation reforms that have ever been introduced into this Parliament.
Therefore, even though the Budget deficit remains within the parameters which all the experts were saying were necessary for the thrust against inflation, and the thrust towards lower interest rates to be continued, merely because the Budget contains far reaching tax reforms people seem to be saying that it might be a little more lax than they had otherwise expected and that therefore it will not be so effective in moving in the directions which I have indicated. That argument is a sheer and utter nonsense. The Budget is within the parameters that had been forecast. The Government has achieved this. The Budget has not only achieved far reaching taxation reforms, it will also drive home the fight against inflation and, at the same time, because it is within the appropriate parameters it will be conducive to lower interest rates.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. I refer to the announcement in July that the Governor-General will be resigning at some unspecified date in December next. I also refer to the fact that the Governor-General is on record as saying that he would not grant a dissolution of the House of Representatives unless the Parliament was unworkable. In view of the speculation about an early election, can the Prime Minister inform the House whether he has had any discussions with the Governor-General about an election? If so, what were the results? If he has not had any such discussions, has he had discussions with the Governor-General designate?
– I have had many discussions with the Governor-General. I have had discussions with the Governor-General designate. If the honourable gentleman thinks I will indicate the nature of those discussions or whether they touched on one subject or another he must be naive indeed.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security aware that the income limits to determine eligibility for pensioner fringe benefits have not changed since 1969? Is he also aware that this has led to a situation in which some people receiving a part pension may lose more in fringe benefit value than they receive from any increase in the basic pension? Is he aware that some pensioners are therefore inquiring about their rights to refuse a pen.sion increase? Will the Minister investigate this anomalous situation? Does he agree that the overall circumstances of pensioners should be determined more by changes in basic pension levels than by a lack of change in fringe benefit eligibility?
-I shall convey the terms of that question to the Minister for Social Security who, undoubtedly, will make the necessary inquiries on the honourable member’s behalf and give him a full answer. I should like to make it clear that since this Government came to office the pensioners of Australia have attained a sense of security that they had never achieved before. The indexation of pensions to the consumer price index on a twice yearly basis has ensured that pensioners do not fall behind the general standards of living of other people in the community on that income level.
– I preface my question to the Prime Minister by reminding him of the excellent work being done by the House of Representatives Select Committee on Tourism set up as a result of the interest shown by honourable members on both sides of the House. Has he received my letter suggesting that in view of the widespread concern about continually growing unemployment the Government set up a select committee of the House of Representatives to investigate the various types of unemployment relief schemes that operate within Australia and also the various schemes operating in the United States, Canada, Great Britain, and other European countries?
– The honourable gentleman touches upon a very serious problem. Obviously the experience of other countries is important to us but the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations is advised of schemes operating in other countries and examines them constantly to see whether they are working effectively and whether they have relevance to the Australian circumstance. I have to say that in discussions with the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations after his return from the International Labour Organisation meeting, where he personally examined some of these aspects, he said he felt that Australia’s training programs and what we are doing in those areas are in many ways in advance of what is happening in other countries. As the honourable gentleman would know, over 100 000 people have been assisted or are being assisted under those training programs. Under the decisions announced by the Treasurer those programs will be expanded. They certainly are not going to be restricted, if there are training opportunities, for lack of funds. I would hope that all honourable gentlemen would support those initiatives. The honourable gentleman also referred to the work done in relation to tourism by a committee of this House and I recognise that. I am not at all sure that the subject about which he was asking is as appropriate for investigation by a committee of the Parliament but it is an interesting suggestion.
– My question, addressed to the Minister for National Resources, concerns the most welcome announcement recently of the Government’s offer to assist the Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Co. Ltd and the people of the important mining centre of Queenstown in Tasmania by providing funds on a dollar for dollar basis, jointly with the State Government, to cover the company’s cash shortfall position pending an Industries Assistance Commission report on the copper industry. Is the Minister able to indicate to the House at this stage whether the offer has been accepted by the company?
-There has been a lot of concern about the Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Co. Ltd over the last year, what with higher costs of production and the low world price of copper. I am well aware of the continuing representations and concern of the honourable member about this mining company because its operations have a great bearing on the towns of Gormanstown and Queenstown where some 5000 people are completely dependent upon its operations. There also is a flow-on effect to that whole region in Tasmania and to the smelter at Port Kembla. Therefore it has been a matter of great concern to the Government to try to maintain this operation. Fortunately, during the year the copper price did increase and this, together with the depreciation of the Australian dollar, did give the company a bit of a lift. However, in the last 2 months we have seen a complete collapse of copper prices so on 4 August we decided to ask the IAC to recommend within 60 days what assistance could be given to the copper ore and concentrate industry. In the meantime the Mount Lyell company said that it could not continue for another 60 days and that it would have to close. Under those circumstances negotiations were entered into with the Tasmanian Government to give the company support for that period on a dollar for dollar basis to meet its cash shortfall. It is my understanding that this will enable the company to keep operating until the report is brought forward and a decision is made on it.
-Is the Prime Minister aware of the depressed state of the motor vehicle industry in Australia at present? Is he also aware that the sales of motor vehicles this year are likely to be the lowest for the past four years? Does the Prime Minister not agree that the vicious increase in the price of petrol announced in the Budget last night will increase buyer resistance to the locally produced motor vehicle? Will he agree to the calling of a meeting of industry leaders and the trade unions involved in the industry to discuss the future of the industry and any structural adjustment programs that may be required to buffer the effect of the increase in the price of petrol in this country?
-There are really two aspects of the honourable gentleman ‘s question. I think that he would know in relation to the motor vehicle industry that the Government has made a firm decision that 80 per cent of the domestic market will be reserved for local manufacturers and that a reference has gone to the Industries Assistance Commission as to the best way of achieving that purpose. It obviously had been hoped that the target figure of 80 per cent would be achieved without quotas; but, in the event, that appeared not to be the case. So far as assistance to the industry is concerned, I believe that that approach is realistic having regard to the importance of the industry in the honourable gentleman’s State, in my State and also in New South Wales. So that therefore would not seem to be a matter for discussion.
So far as petrol prices are concerned, the honourable gentleman would also know that because of the peculiar circumstances in Australia and the pricing policies in relation to Bass Strait crude, the prices of petrol in Australia have been kept well below world parity prices and that the prices in Australia have been much lower than those in most other developed countries. My colleague the Minister for National Resources gave the comparisons in speaking to the Parliament last night. Even after the changes that have been announced, the United States of America will be the only developed country that has lower petrol prices than Australia. I think that a large number of people do not adequately understand that as Australian supplies run down, as they will unless there are new discoveries, inevitably the prices in domestic terms in Australia will have to come closer to world parity prices because more and more petrol will have to be bought overseas at world parity prices. In the interests of exploration and the full development of the Bass Strait fields it is necessary to move towards the world parity price in the returns to the companies. This is being done. It is just naive to believe that we can continue under circumstances in Australia in which the price of petrol is well below the normal world prices, although it still will be lower than it is in any other developed country, as I am advised, except the United States.
Against that background and against the background that this is part of a total energy policy and an approach to energy- I think that the House has been informed that the Energy Council has been asked to report to the Government as early as possible on the broad framework of an energy policy- I think that no national purpose is served by trying to suggest that the increase in petrol prices is not part of a proper program and policy in the interest of Australia. Quite obviously nobody likes increases in petrol prices; but in the interests of Australia and having regard to all the circumstances no responsible government would have had any alternative. I believe that the course of action that the honourable gentleman has suggested is one that would only build hopes in the minds of people that some alternative course could have been taken. That just would not have been possible.
– Will the Minister for Primary Industry inform the House of the current situation in relation to the export of live sheep from different Australian ports? What action can be taken to ensure that live sheep exports are not interrupted by trade union activities?
– There is a very real problem in determining the extent to which the present bans that have been applied in a number of States on the export of live sheep are going to be extended and what effect they might have on what has been a very important industry for every wool grower and every sheep farmer throughout Australia. When we came to government an arrangement had been established across Australia which set down a fixed ratio between the number of live sheep and carcasses to be exported. I did not believe that this was an appropriate ratio, not that the Federal Government does not support to the maximum the processing of meat within Australia but because we believe that there are a number of markets to which it is not possible at this stage to export carcass meat but to which it is possible to export livestock. In those circumstances to set down any fixed ratio would deny to Australian exporters, Australian producers and Australian industry an opportunity to make a sale that could otherwise go to another country.
I therefore suggested to each of those who were involved in export that in their own State and individual instances they should consult with all who were involved within the trade union movement, the shipping companies and so on, to ensure that to the maximum there was a free flow of livestock to markets and that this would be without prejudice to any ratio that might previously have been negotiated. For most of the last 12 months this arrangement has operated very effectively. However, there have been for some companies and in some States far more interruptions than I believe necessary or desirable and certainly far more than are in the best interests of the trade and the members of unions which have been active in imposing bans.
At the moment there is a ban which I understand applies in eastern Australia. To the degree to which that ban has been imposed without regard to the future of the trade everybody is going to suffer. I am.not sure of the future intentions of the federal union involved but it is my belief that separately within each State arrangements can be negotiated quite satisfactorily to look after the interests as they are seen in that State. In Western Australia an arrangement was made at the local level. A request was received from the Western Australian Minister for Agriculture that export permits should be issued only after fulfilment of the terms and conditions that he had set. For the time being I have agreed to that arrangement as Western Australia is considerably isolated from the rest of Australia and it is there that trade has been most important. I understand that a number of stock have been moved from other States to South Australia. The South Australian Government has asked whether a similar arrangement could be negotiated for South Australia. I see the circumstances in South Australia as a little different. I have suggested that it might be possible, if South Australia wishes to negotiate some arrangement with respect to that State. In other words, a similar arrangement might be possible if it is relevant only to South Australian stock.
For the whole future of the livestock trade to be prejudiced because union action has imposed bans is to penalise those who are involved in the trade union movement because they will not have jobs involved in loading live sheep. It will prejudice the farmers, who certainly are not going to be able to maintain their sales, for there are inadequate sales of carcass meat. That consideration is important in trying to lift farmers’ returns. In terms of developing new markets, the Middle East trade at this stage is significantly dependent on our selling live sheep.
– That is nonsense.
-Unfortunately it is not nonsense. We are sending a special Federal Government mission to the Middle East to ensure that there are adequate cold store facilities available and to find out in which ways we can help in the handling, unloading and loading of meat in that region. In that way we might be able to see whether the carcass trade can be extended. The honourable member opposite does not seem to realise that under tropical conditions the handling of frozen meat is not as simple as it is in more temperate climates, that unless there are facilities, not just to get the meat off the ship but also to hold the meat in cold stores at the point of receipt and then to transport it from the cold stores at the port back into the various distribution points, the customers will not get the product they wish. The live sheep trade does enable the meat to be slaughtered on the spot and the customer’s requirements to be met. I hope that the present industrial trouble can be resolved for the sake of everyone in the trade.
– The Treasurer will recall that last year in his Budget Speech he estimated that unemployment and sickness benefits would cost $580m. Even though unemployment benefits were not paid to school leavers for 2 months, the actual expenditure was $745m which is 28.5 per cent greater. Does the Treasurer expect to be able to maintain this order of accuracy?
– Fancy being that far out.
-I would have thought that the honourable gentleman and all honourable gentlemen in the House would certainly pay tribute to the general order of accuracy which was put into the figures in the previous year’s Budget. This accuracy was reflected in the figures being remarkably close to the original estimates. I am speaking, of course, of the generality of the figures in the Budget. It is a matter of record- I trunk I adverted to this situation in sufficient terms in the Budget Speech last night to make it absolutely clear- that this Government’s capacity for economic management can be judged on the record. The honourable gentleman referred to figures for unemployment benefit. Those figures are the subject of judgment by the departments concerned, namely, the Department of Social Security and the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations. Those figures are then provided to the Federal Treasury. A judgment is made at departmental and ministerial level. Those figures are put in the Budget.
In relation to unemployment, as the Budget Speech and the documents accompanying the Budget have made clear, we have allowed for an increase of 2 per cent in employment. Equally, there would be an allowance for an increase in the work force of up to 2 per cent. There is a prospect of some improvement with a reduction in unemployment. But the facts which have been put down have been put down in the context of high labour costs according to the judgments brought down by the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. We have made it perfectly clear in the Speech and in the Budget documents that as the price of labour continues to rise the unemployment position will continue to be very difficult. If the honourable gentleman is not aware of that position in New South Wales, then I suggest he ought to visit a number of companies. He will find that many employers- large and small- are unfortunately continuing to shed labour simply because the price of labour is regarded by those employers as too high. That happens to be their commercial judgment. The honourable gentleman would better understand the subject concerning which he is posing questions if he spoke to the employers.
-I ask the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations whether his attention has been drawn to the high level of industrial disputes occurring in the building industry in Melbourne at present. If so, can he advise whether these disputes are part of a national campaign within the building industry? Is the Minister aware that these constant, selective strikes, particularly by crane operators, have resulted in a production level as low as 30 per cent on several major jobs and could well result in employers being forced to go outside the guidelines of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission?
– Yes, I am aware of the situation in the building industry in Melbourne. It goes back to April this year when the building industry unions made claims for a $30 a week wage increase, a 35-hour week and some other concessions. Various building unions have pursued these claims through strike action since, I think, June. As a result the Commissioner responsible for this industry refused to vary the builders labourers award to include the recent wage indexation increase unless the union concerned gave an assurance to the Industrial Registrar that it would cease its strike action and pursue its claims through the proper processes which are available to it; that is through conciliation and arbitration. Since then, regrettably, if anything there has been an intensification of the strike action. Notification by the employers has been made to the Commission. The present situation is that there are widespread stand-downs in the industry and a loss of jobs. As the honourable gentleman has pointed out, there is a lack of productivity leading to greatly increased costs in the industry. The union leaders responsible for this situation should be condemned for directly endangering their members’ best interests and, as well, imperilling the jobs of those who are associated with firms and industries which are suppliers to the building industry. The only consequence of the action the honourable member has outlined is a direct loss of jobs in the industry concerned and, in due course, a reduction of job opportunities in associated industries.
-I present the following paper:
Advance to the Treasurer 1 976-77- Statement of Heads of Expenditure and the amounts charged thereto pursuant to section 36a of the Audit Act 1901.
Ordered that the statement be taken into consideration in Committee of the Whole House at the next sitting.
– Pursuant to section 1 1 of the Commonwealth Police Act 1957, I present the annual reports of the Commonwealth Police Commissioner for the years ended June 1 976 and June 1 977.
– For the information of honourable members, I present the report on the Territory of Cocos (Keeling) Islands for the year ended 3 1 December 1 976.
– Pursuant to section 7 of the Remuneration Tribunals Act 1973, I present the Remuneration Tribunal Northern Territory Legislative Assembly Review 1977, of 6 June 1977, which includes determination number 1977/5.
– Pursuant to sections 6 and 7 of the Remuneration Tribunals Act 1973, 1 present the Remuneration Tribunal 1977 Review, of 20 June 1977, which includes two reports (numbers 1977/1 and 1977/2) and five determinations (numbers 1977/6W 1977/10).
– Pursuant to section 7 of the Remuneration Tribunals Act 1973 I present Remuneration Tribunal determination number 1977/4, which predates the 1977 review, and remuneration Tribunal determination number 1977/11, which postdates the 1977 review. These determinations are in relation to the holders of certain public offices.
I present agreements relating to financial assistance for land acquisition for nature conservation purposes to Tasmania- Asbestos Range (Supplementary agreement), dated 31 May 1977; Three Hummock Island, dated 16 June 1977.
Pursuant to section 8 of the Urban and Regional Development (Financial Assistance) Act 1974, 1 present eight agreements between the Commonwealth and the States of Queensland and Tasmania made under the provisions of that Act.
– For the information of honourable members, I present the interim reports of the Industries Assistance Commission on plywood and veneer (thick plywood); children’s knitted tracksuits. playsuits, rompersuits and like garments- tariff quotas; and short term assistance for room air-conditioners.
– For the information of honourable members, I present the reports of the Temporary Assistance Authority on tyre cord fabrics; carpets and related correspondence; ceramic floor and wall tiles; and vices.
– by leave- The purpose of this statement is to bring to the attention of the House the measures being taken by the Government to assist the States in the development of their water resources. Even within the current difficult budgetary constraints, the Commonwealth has approved grant funds totalling $6.66m to the States. This will be matched by State funds. It will augment State programs concerned with the assessment of surface and underground water resources and their quality. In addition, about $390,000 will be available in 1977-78 for water research projects in priority areas. Such areas have been identified by water operating authorities throughout Australia through the Australian Water Resources Council. The Commonwealth will also be providing $50,000 towards an action program to control a serious water hyacinth infestation along the Gwydir River. New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia will contribute a similar sum to the cost of the action program in 1977-78. This infestation continues to be a potential threat to our highly productive irrigation areas along the Murray and its tributaries.
The Government also recognises the appropriateness from a national perspective of being involved in the development of water resources and flood mitigation projects in the States. The
Commonwealth will continue to meet its obligations to the States in respect of assistance authorised under previous programs. I have now been authorised to bring forward a new national water resources program as a basis for providing assistance for projects identified by the States as having top priority. In the present difficult budgetary circumstances, the Commonwealth will not be allocating funds for individual water resources projects. However, in 1977-78 $lm of grant funds has been allocated for the New South Wales coastal rivers flood mitigation program. These grants will be allocated on the same funding basis with State and local authorities as in previous programs. We recognise that it is urgent to ensure continuity of work on flood mitigation projects along these rivers. The States will be duly notified of the details of the new national water resources program.
I also draw the attention of the House to the current inquiry by the Senate Standing Committee on National Resources. This Committee is examining the role of the Commonwealth in the assessment, planning, development and management of Australia’s water resources. I would hope that the report on the inquiry will provide valuable guidance to the Government on these important matters. It will be apparent from this statement that the Government attaches considerable significance to the involvement of the Commonwealth in the orderly and efficient management of the nation’s water resources, having full regard to the constitutional responsibilities in these matters. I present the following paper:
Commonwealth Involvement in Australia’s Water Resources- Ministerial Statement, 17 August 1977.
Motion (by Mr Macphee) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
-This statement, like the statement delivered last night by the Minister for National Resources (Mr Anthony), is another demonstration of a blatant broken promise by the Fraser Government. The Minister has just introduced under the guise of a water resources policy a statement which allocates $6.5m to water resources as against $9.4m allocated in the last Budget and $9.9m in the Budget before. It might be edifying for the House for me to refer to page 92 of the Budget papers to see what the Government has done with water resource allocations. In 1975-6 the actual expenditure on all water projects totalled $28.6m under the Whitlam Government. It declined this year to an estimated $ 14.9m. When that figure is adjusted to take account of inflation, it can be seen that there is a 75 per cent decline in real terms over the spending for the previous year and a 50 per cent decline in actual terms. Yet the Minister has the hide to come into the Parliament today and say that the Government has a program of water resources. As recently as 3 May he supplied the answer to a question asked in the Senate. The answer is reported on page 1090 of Senate Hansard of 3 May 1977 as follows:
The present Government does not have a program of assistance to the States for water projects.
Quite clearly, what has now been proposed is a ruse. The Government has run out on commitments made on the question of water resources not only by the Whitlam Government in that period but also by previous Liberal-National Country Party governments. The first agreement was made in 1 947-48 with the West Australian Grant (Water Supply) Act. Similarly, there was the Blowering water storage works agreement in 1963 and the Chowilla reservoir agreement of 1963. There was also the New South Wales Flood Mitigation Act. There has been a myriad of pieces of legislation and commitments by the Commonwealth to these programs and to new ones which have been entered into.
– You do not understand the statement.
– The Minister says that I do not understand the statement. I ask him: What about the agreement on the River Murray? The greatest river in Australia, sadly, is unpotable. This affects not only all the people who live on the River Murray but particularly the people in the cities of Adelaide and Whyalla who, of course, use the River Murray as their major supply of water. For the first time in 60 years under the former Labor Government, Prime Minister Whitlam and Environment Minister Cass convened a meeting of the 3 interested premiersthe Premier of Victoria, Mr Hamer, the Premier of South Australia, Mr Dunstan, and the then Premier of New South Wales, Mr Askin- to deal with the water quality as distinct from the water quantity of the River Murray.
– The water was like this water.
– Because Premier Askin at the time was tardy in dealing with the New South Wales polluters, little agreement came out of the meeting.
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. I ask the Minister for Health to pour his water and depart to his seat.
– I object to the water here.
-The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. I call the honourable member for Blaxland.
-Now the Wran Government has ratified the agreement. The present Minister, in a reply to a question asked by the honourable member for Hawker, Mr Jacobi, as reported in Hansard on 2 June, said that the 4 governments have agreed to proceed initially with the legislative amendments relating to water quality matters and other things. Yet there is no funding in this proposition for that. What the Government has done is to cut the real level of government spending on water resources. Rural Australia misses out again as it did last night with the 1 lc a gallon slug for fuel. In addition, the cities of Adelaide and Whyalla are left dangling with the kind of polluted water that is brought into the House today. The Government should not bring polluted water into the House when it has not put its money where its mouth is. It is the Ministers opposite who sit down to work out appropriations and the priority for Commonwealth spending. They have pruned back expenditure on water resources by 75 per cent in real terms and 50 per cent in actual terms. It can clearly be established to the people in rural Australia who believe that the Government is looking after their interests that this is not the case. The position is worse than that. The Government is leaving the State of South Australia and more particularly the cities of Adelaide and Whyalla in the parlous situation where, because of the inadequacy of the quality of the River Murray water, there is a threat which is detrimental to the health of the people. This is because the Government is not prepared to fund programs to improve the quality of this water. I have put these remarks in the record to indicate the nonsense which the Government has introduced under the guise of a statement which is a clear abrogation of a clear commitment to maintain the programs of the Whitlam Government, particularly in respect to water resources, and to continue funding adequately programs started by previous Liberal-Country Party governments.
Mr ANTHONY (Richmond-Minister for National Resources)-Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
-Yes. I am afraid that the spokesman for the Opposition the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) has misrepresented the situation. The amount of $6. 6m that is cited in this statement is the same amount of money that was provided last year for surface and underground water resources investigation and water quality.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
-I have received a letter from the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The Fraser Government’s failure to take adequate action to reduce unemployment and to relieve the plight of the unemployed. 1 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 placesMr HURFORD (Adelaide) (3.22)- I want to state quite clearly one premise on which we in the Australian Labor Party build our policies. We believe that the vast majority of the Australian people are not selfish. They want to live in a thriving, fair society. When given the choice they will opt for policies which will reduce inequalities. They will choose options which will result in full employment and in looking after the disadvantaged. They will discard, even at their own temporary personal expense, policies which do nothing to reduce the grave level of unemployment and policies which make life more difficult for those in greatest need. In short, on closer analysis they will reject the Budget package announced by the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) last night. That is why the Labor Opposition in this national Parliament raises this matter of public importance today, a day when our newspapers and our media generally- indeed, the Australian people- are analysing the impact of the important economic measures announced by the Government.
-Order! I ask the honourable gentleman not to anticipate the debate on the Budget. The terms of the matter of public importance are the failure to take adequate action to reduce unemployment and to relieve the plight of the unemployed. The honourable gentleman must confine himself to considerations not relating to the Budget.
– Of course, Mr Speaker, in making that assertion, which is the subject of this matter of public importance, I think you will agree I am taking into consideration announced policies of the Government and suggesting that other policies ought to be instituted. I can hardly fail to take into account the Budget Speech of the Treasurer last night. I hope you will allow me the indulgence of taking that into account.
– I am a very indulgent Speaker, but if you trespass beyond what is reasonable I shall stop you.
-You will concede, Mr Speaker, that we on this side of the House have taken into consideration the announced policies of the Government, from wherever they come, in formulating the matter of public importance which is before this House. We believe those policies fail to apply the proper prescriptions to the grave problems affecting the ailing Australian economy. The package that we know about is a cynical exercise designed, we believe, to attract the selfishness of some, even though the temporary gains of those people may be illusory. On the Government’s own admission, its announced policies will not reduce unemployment. The policies we know about do nothing to ease the plight of the afflicted. They transfer resources from ‘have nots’ to ‘haves’ and increase inequalities in our community at a time when we should be building a fairer, more equitable society. We believe it is fair to say that the policies we have seen to date are political and not economic in nature and that they seek to curry favour with the Government’s traditional supporters. The Government is treating the Australian people as fools in believing that it can buy their votes in the short run, assuming that our fellow citizens do not think deeply about issues and do not worry about our ailing economy, including our unprecedented rate of unemployment, and in believing that the people will not choose policies which are correct in the long run and not just temporary, mainly illusory palliatives in the short run.
Let me spend a few minutes outlining the gravity of our economic situation and the terrible social consequences of that situation. On the figures produced by the Commonwealth Employment Service, at the end of July 338 000 Australian residents were registered as unemployed. This is 68 500 more people than at the end of July 1976. It represents 5.4 per cent of the labour force, compared with 4.4 per cent a year earlier. It is over 86 000- in fact close to 87 000- more than it was 2 years ago, at the end of July 1975, when the Labor Party was in power. It follows a disturbing trend of increasing unemployment commencing in April 1976, when the Fraser Government policies began to take their toll. It leads us to the terrible conclusion that, even without a further deterioriation in the labour market which must be expected as a result of the Budget, at least 430 000 people, or 7 per cent of the work force, will be unemployed at the end of next January.
We must analyse the matter more deeply than this for the true picture, unpleasant though the exercise is. Commonwealth Employment Service figures do not display the full extent of the problem. We must consider also the plight of the hidden unemployed. If we just apply past percentages of total employed to total population and compare them with the present percentage we must come to the conclusion that at least another 100 000 Australian residents are out of work now, would like to be in work, but are not registered as unemployed because they have no prospects of finding a job and are not eligible for unemployment benefits, so there is no point in their registering. Incidentally, the work force figures published today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, which reached me only in the last half hour, bears out the point about hidden unemployment which I make now. I shall outline some of the side effects of this phenomenon. Firstly, one officer of the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations has estimated publicly that one in ten of the last year’s school leavers went back to school because job prospects were so grim. Secondly, an Australian Bureau of Statistics labour force survey found that 30 per cent, or 72 900, of those people looking for work who were included in that survey were not registered with the Commonwealth Employment Service. That was a sample survey which once again bears out the extent of hidden unemployment. Another study to which I can point has concluded that there is structural hidden unemployment of about 150 000 people among women in country areas.
Let me mention some of the few facts we do know about the registered unemployed, leaving aside the hidden unemployed to whom I have just drawn attention. The May figures indicate that at that time 32 1 000 people were unemployed, as opposed to 338 000 people now according to the Commonwealth Employment Service figures. At the end of May 1 14 000 persons aged 15 to 19 years were unemployed, as disclosed by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. In other words, at that time 15.2 per cent of the 15 to 19-year-olds in the labour force were unemployed. There is no reason to believe that the position is not just as bad, if not worse, now. Another vital piece of information for our analysis is that 6.8 per cent of all women in the work force were unemployed at the end of May. Further, the average duration of unemployment for all the unemployed, as disclosed by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, at the end of May was 18.3 weeks-over 4 months or a third of the year- and was getting longer. Once again using the ABS figures, at least 17 people were unemployed for every vacancy. Seasonally adjusted, unemployment was 40 000 people above the previous recorded high figure.
That is the stark tragic picture of our economy, painted in the only terms which are meaningful and proper in terms of the effect on peoplefellow residents of this island continent of ours. The vast majority of Australians are concerned about their fellow residents- their neighbours in this society. In this context I pay tribute to the many churches in our midst which are drawing to the attention of all of us the need to forget selfishness and to concentrate on making jobs for the unemployed and to care adequately for those who are damaged by these fluctuations in our economy. But this is a humanitarian and not just a church point of view. I am just drawing attention to the fact that representatives of the churches have been doing an enormous amount of writing to me and, I believe, to other members of Parliament about this subject. I want to draw attention also to the marvellous work done by the Australian Council of Social Services in this field.
What are the proposals that we have before us from the Liberal-National Country Party Government to tackle these grave problems? The most important feature of the proposals we know about is that they will not have an expansionary effect on our economy, designed to increase the level of economic activity. On the contrary, they will have a contractionary impact on our economy. Last year’s Budget- the 1976-77 Budget- led to declining incomes and declining employment, as I illustrated earlier. The latest proposals that we know about knock that into a cocked hat. As far as we can analyse now, the latest proposals will have a further depressing effect of about 5 per cent on the Australian economy.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! I suggest to the honourable member that he should not go over the line.
-Certainly, Mr Deputy Speaker. You will notice I have not mentioned the 1977-78 Budget.
– I noticed that. I thought the honourable member showed a remarkable capacity in that respect. But it was because the line has been drawn and we were toddling over it that I suggested we should stay on the correct side of it.
-I am bound to point out again the whole purpose and thrust of this matter of public importance, that is, that from the policies announced by this Government from whatever source and at whatever time insufficient attention is given to the grave matter of unemployment. I am bound then to analyse those policies in order to make my point. So I do hope, Mr Deputy Speaker, that you will allow me some leeway in doing just that. After all, I have to point out that, in Budget speeches or whatever, the philosophies have remained the same and if it seems that some of the things I say might relate to last night’s Budget Speech I ask you, Mr Deputy Speaker, to agree that they relate also to previous policies.
I wish to make the point that from the published facts before us- these are not in the Budget Speech but in papers that have been given to members of Parliament- average weekly earnings for employed persons are expected to fall over the next 12 months. There is not much hope of increased demand coming from that source in order to bring us back to full employment. Those published papers also show that savings are likely to remain high because of continuing high unemployment and a continuing high rate of inflation. Once again, we cannot look to a reduction in the rate of savings with some hope for that demand which would bring our economy back to the level of activity which would put people back in to work.
From all the statistics we have been given from whatever source we notice the high stocks, the stagnant consumer demand and, in addition, the proposal to increase company taxes. This will not improve the rate of investment in our domestic economy in order to reduce the level of unemployment. Although some restraints on lending for housing have been lifted we notice from many sources that the stock of housing is at such a high level that there is unlikely to be the spurt in the building industry necessary to reduce unemployment. We can go on through the various indicators. We are left with investment in mining. All the best commentators I have read point out that any new activity likely to come from investment in mining will be very slow and the effect will be small. The sum total, on the Government’s own admission, from all the documents which have been given to members of Parliament is a very depressing picture. The Fraser Government is ignoring the grave economic and social problem of unemployment. It holds out little or no hope for the 338,000 people who are registered for unemployment, to say nothing of the hidden unemployed to which I drew attention.
Let us look at one small policy gesture announced which I now realise I cannot talk about in great detail. That is the extension of the special youth employment program to young people under 25. 1 shall not say any more than that it will help only 1 1 ,000 young people of the 36,000 people in that category. It is merely a small gesture towards the problem to which this discussion of a matter of public importance is directed. Before turning to Labor’s alternative constructive proposals in this area I am bound to point out that the Government’s apprentice training program is also running down. The alternative to which I draw attention is the proposal to get Australia working again announced by the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden). I am glad that the honourable member for Oxley will be following me in this debate and will have an opportunity to talk about those proposals.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– It is disappointing to think that the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) so timed the introduction of what he said were constructive ideas that he waited until he was due to finish speaking. We had a concentration on political point scoring and short term thinking. I was reminded of some remarks made to me by my old friend the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) when I was revelling in the luxury of being in opposition and being able to score political points at the drop of a hat without thinking through constructive alternatives and without putting myself in the position of the Government and saying: ‘These are the difficulties. These are the long term causes. These will be the long term remedies’. My dear old friend whose electorate joins mine but whom I had known for a while before looked at me gravely and tried to point out that I was wrong in some of the things I said in order to try to gain a few points for the Opposition on a matter which had some popular public appeal.
Reflecting on it the honourable member for Melbourne Ports was right. The honourable member for Adelaide has fallen into the same trap today. He said that our policies are political and not economic. I trust that the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) who follows him at least will not accuse us of making political decisions to try to win some support and ignoring the economics of the situation. It is facile to talk of the Fraser Government policies taking toll. That was the expression used by the honourable member for Adelaide. It is facile to start measuring the impact of unemployment from December 1976. It is beyond any doubt that if action to arrest inflation had not been taken when this Government came to office there would be many more unemployed now and the Opposition would rightly be discussing a matter of public importance because of the inflationary consequences.
The Government has set out to curb inflation. The evidence last night- this is the only reference I shall make to the Budget-showed that it has lived up to its own aims and expectations. More will be said about that but it is important to recognise that if the action taken in the course of our economic strategy had not been taken in last night’s Budget, last year’s Budget and in the measures taken as soon as the Government came to office, more people would be unemployed now, there would be more hidden unemployment and more structural problems of unemployment. The honourable member for Adelaide also spoke about fluctuations in our economy. It was in distinct recognition of the fact that there are some fluctuations and structural problems that my own Department, the Department of Productivity, was created. It was created by the Government as an important initiative to begin coping with long term problems. It is a shame that we have a repetition of another cheap political point-scoring debate which concentrated so much on the short term that the honourable member for Adelaide had to be pulled up several times for concentrating on last night’s Budget. No attention was given to the long term, to the causes and to the solutions.
My colleague, the honourable member for Casey (Mr Falconer), will be elaborating on a number of measures which have already been taken by this Government in respect of unemployment in the short term. I shall reiterate these manpower measures because they have been the subject of debate many times. The Government is proud of the endeavours it has taken. It acknowledges that there is still an unacceptably high level of unemployment. There is no one in this House who would take any joy from the levels of unemployment. To say that we have adopted political policies designed to achieve them is not worthy of the honourable member for Adelaide. The upgrading of the Commonwealth Employment Service is a matter which has been presented to this House and to the public by my colleague the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street). In 1976-77 the Commonwealth Employment Service placed 467 000 people in employment. The expansion of the National Employment and Training program has been the subject of debate in this House. Despite the early criticism and scepticism, that program has been a resounding success. The Special Youth Employment Training program again has been a most important means of trying to bring in young persons for special training programs. The education program for unemployed youth is another initiative in the case of some disadvantaged youths. Increased assistance for apprenticeship training has also been the subject of debate in this House, including the training in government factories administered by my Department.
As the honourable member for Adelaide said in respect of the Community Youth Support scheme, all these measures can be said to be small, but each of them helps individual people in need. Each of them contributes to a solution of our unemployment problems, not in the sense of making work but in the sense of giving people satisfying and sustainable employment in the years ahead. In addition to those programs there is the Relocation Assistance scheme, which my colleague the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations has presented to this House. It is a sad commentary, not only on this House but also on our society generally, that it is only when we get to unacceptable levels of unemployment that we begin to discuss the subject seriously. I do not think there is anyone in this House or anyone who understands the working of our economy who seriously expects that unemployment which now worries us all can be banished overnight, no matter how determined we are that it should be.
I think it is worth summarising the reasons for the existing levels of unemployment. Firstly, they relate to the underlying structural changes in the economy to which the honourable member for Adelaide referred and to which we all, or anyone in this House interested in economics, have referred from time to time. They certainly relate to poor domestic economic management, especially during 1973 and 1974, and to unfavourable international trading patterns over a similar period. It is important that we get those things into perspective. The record of performance, and the figures were produced last night, shows that Australia has returned to sound domestic economic management. There certainly are some promising signs of an improvement in our international trade position. However, the underlying structural problems remain and this is acknowledged by the Government. It was acknowledged by the Government when it created the Department of Productivity.
One salient fact that needs to be recognised when we talk about fluctuations in the economy, even when we have soundly based economic management and favourable trade patterns, is that we need to eliminate the structural problems and to harmonise the rate of technological change with the rate of retraining in order to try to minimise the peaks and troughs of the employment situation in future. By doing so we can harness advantages that come our way through favourable economic trade patterns and can cushion ourselves against the worst effects of adverse trade patterns, or, heaven preserve us, any return to management such as that of the Labor Government of 1 973 and 1 974.
The problem of structural change has emerged gradually and will be resolved only gradually. This Government is endeavouring to tackle that situation. It certainly has rejected the notion of make-work programs. The honourable member for Adelaide did not mention the fact that in our federal structure we have seven governments. We have State governments, each of which has managed to show a healthy surplus and each of which has a responsibility in respect of capital works programs. Some of those capital works programs can employ people. It is very much the responsibility of particular State governments that they maintain their level of capital spending in those areas. In many cases they ought to do it at the expense of some of their current account expenditure. We will not correct the unemployment situation by short term make-work programs, as I have said. The fact that such suggestions are still implicit in matters of public importance raised by the Opposition in this House indicates a continuing preoccupation with the short term. I am sure we will all listen with interest to what the honourable member for Oxley has to say about any long term ideas. They certainly were not forthcoming from the mover of this motion.
Everyone in the community, people on both sides of the House, people in the bureaucracy, people in management and the trade unions, and people elsewhere must bear responsibility for failing to see the underlying structural changes that were going on within industry. They were most dramatically exposed by the mismanagement of 1973 and 1974. That mismanagement graphically highlighted the magnitude of the problem we now face. It cannot be corrected overnight and it would be aggravated if we were not to embark upon a successful program of reducing inflation.
It is important that we recognise that the labour force was increasing in the period of great growth, the 1 950s and the 1 960s, at a very strong rate. It is not growing at a very strong rate now. At that time there was perpetual discussion about immigration and whether the level of immigration placed too many demands upon our capacity to provide goods and services. Now the one variable we have, that of immigration has in fact been discounted by the previous administration. Our level of immigration has slowed to the point where we have no growth in the labour force and we now have built into it certain immobility and certain structural difficulties associated with relocating people and retraining people at the same time in order to fill some of our requirements in a rational way.
I believe that the Green Paper on immigration and population is worthy of considerable nonparty political discussion. The Government requires constructive ideas from the community and from the Opposition on the long term matters raised in that paper. The long term matters in respect of structural unemployment of which we are all aware deserve dispassionate, sensible and mature consideration, not short term political point scoring in debates of this nature. The Opposition would do the community much more service by addressing itself to long term matters. Had it done so, during its term in government as well as in opposition, we would have had a much better employment picture than we have now.
There are complex issues, not the least of which are a shortage of skills and obstacles in the way of training people to meet those skills. In this regard the trade unions have an obligation to overcome some of their previous prejudices about adult training, especially in some of the metal trades areas where there is a screaming shortage of skills. We now have the situation that if a person is not trained by the age of 23 to take up a particular trade he cannot take it up at all. We are so conscious these days of removing discrimination in employment that the community, and certainly the trade union movement, should give more attention to this aspect.
I am very concerned because there are indications that the allocation and mobility of labour is becoming less flexible, as I have said before. In general a rapidly growing labour force tends to e more mobile because the new entrants, especially if they are migrants, can be directed more readily towards the faster growing sectors.
In the future, with less scope for transfers from rural areas and, possibly, less immigration, there could well be problems of that nature in seeking to ensure a balanced supply of the different labour skills required. It is quite clear that increases in productive investment will be required to offset the shortages of many labour skills and to provide additional employment opportunities in other areas. As I have said, in order to see that these shortages are offset a great deal must be done to formulate future training policies. It is my Department which bears the principal responsibility for national training policy and it, together with the National Training Council, is seeing that these matters receive attention. The Government already has directed its attention to improved technical training and it is determined to solve unemployment in the future by an examination of the hard questions facing us in the long term so that we can return to full employment with improved production and improved productivity.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable Minister’s time has expired.
– I sat in the chamber thoroughly engrossed in the earlier comments of the Minister for Productivity (Mr Macphee). The House will remember those comments in which he outlined the development of statesman-like qualities and the growth in his own stature since becoming a member of the Government. Visitors to the gallery, being strangers, may remark to themselves that this seemed to be strange behaviour, for a man to be speaking so well of himself, but those of us of a kinder bent of mind and who know him well would merely comment that if these things have to be said, who better to say them? Indeed, who is more likely to say them?
Mr Deputy Speaker, I too am conscious, as have been earlier speakers, about the need to be cautious in referring to the Budget because of the terms of the forms of the House but I do think it is necessary to make the record clear. I want to dissociate myself from some of the unfair comments made about some aspects of the Budget indicating that it does not ignore the plight of the unemployed in the community. Indeed, as a result of the Budget, there is a guarantee that life will be tougher for the unemployed and that there will be many more people unemployed. The outlook for 1977-78 as a result of the Budget is dreary, depressing and a poor prospect. There will be more unemployment and more recession and little of any easing in the rate of inflation. The most disturbing feature of all is that this is occurring nearly 2 years after the entry to office of this Government.
We ought to recollect that the Government came to office in most unusual circumstances. It was prepared to provoke the gravest and most divisive constitutional crisis that this country has seen. It sought to justify that most unusual conduct by claiming to have a solution to the economic problems of the country. Nearly 2 years later we have the worst unemployment situation that the country has seen in nearly half a century. The inflationary situation is no better, in spite of the enormous social and economic cost imposed on the community. Projections from the Treasury indicate that there will be little improvement at all, although unemployment and the recession will worsen in the course of this year. The facts are that nearly 2 years later it is abundantly clear that the Government bought its way into office with a dud cheque. It no longer has any credit. It is bankrupt of any idea now, as it was at the time it sought to divide this community with its unparalleled conduct to grab office.
The Minister for Productivity has suggested that things will be difficult but will get better as a result of the unique- I do not dispute the use of that word- handling of the nation’s economy by the Government. I would prefer it to be unique. I would prefer to believe that no other group of people in this country could be so bloodyminded and foolish as to cause the sort of havoc that is going to occur in the course of this year as a result of the savage contractionary qualities of this Budget. At pages 35 and 36 of Statement No. 2 of the Budget Papers it is said -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! I remind the honourable member for Oxley of his own words. Comment on the Budget as such is not part of this debate.
– I am speaking in terms of Statement No. 2, which says that the likelihood is for little or no change in the unemployment situation over this period, being this year. I think that that is a fair enough observation to make. If it is not I will not make it. That is a clear confession that we are not going to see any improvement in the rate of unemployment in the course of this year. It does not take much understanding of simple economic principles to conclude quite justifiably and correctly that the unemployment situation is going to be worse in the course of this year. It is clear by the nature of the economic management outlined by the Government for this year that we are going to end this financial year- June 1978- with an unemployment rate exceeding 6 per cent and that we are going to see a situation early in the new year where there is an unemployment rate in excess of 7 per cent. It is sheer nonsense to suggest for a minute that in the course of the second half of this financial year the unemployment rate will be down to anywhere near the levels of this year. I remind honourable members that the levels of this year represent record levels of unemployment for nearly 50 years. I repeat that it is rubbish to expect any climb down with the sorts of rates of growth that are being projected by Treasury forecasts for the economy this year.
Last year the rate of growth achieved was 3.5 per cent. ‘A 3Vi per cent increase in products saw only a slight employment increase; and, with a growing labour force, unemployment therefore increased.’ That is a quote from the Treasurer (Mr Lynch). I do not attribute the source. I leave it to the imagination of honourable members to guess. But it is a terribly fresh and recent quote. So we had last year a real rate of growth in the economy of Vh per cent. In spite of that the unemployment rate, which was exceeding 5.8 per cent in January of this year, was in excess of 5.4 per cent by July. The rate of unemployment was nearly 20 per cent higher than for the comparable month of last year. We have a situation where the projected growth this year will be less than 2 per cent. Last year it was 4 per cent. Last year the economy nearly achieved that rate of growth. In spite of that, the unemployment situation reached high levels. It scarcely moved in the course of the second half of the financial year, when the full severity of the economic measures implicit in last year’s Budget started to bite into the economy.
It is sheer nonsense and poppycock and the Government must think that the community is peopled by fools to suggest, and in so suggesting to believe that the public will accept it, that the unemployment situation will show any improvement at all. We are going to have far worse unemployment levels throughout the course of the second half of this financial year. The situation is that the number of unemployed is more than 90,800 greater than when we left office in November 1975. So much for the unparalleled conduct of members of the Government in grasping for office. Where is their magic touchstone? They have made a mess of the economy. We are in a far worse condition than we have been in at any time for nearly 50 years. I remind honourable members that the Government has had nearly 2 years of the normal 3-year term of office. Unemployment numbers today are nearly 37 per cent higher than when the Government came to office.
The most depressing aspect of the unemployment situation is the way in which it so discriminately prejudices the position of groups in the community. Juniors are the most severely affected of them all after Aboriginals. They comprise 12 percent of the work force but 40 percent of the unemployed. Nearly every fifth unemployed young person today is a school leaver. This means that several months after the end of last year’s school year nearly every fifth young person still has not obtained his first job. We will be facing a situation early in the new year where more than 200,000 young people will be elbowing their way throughout the work force trying to fit themselves into a slot in the employment situation and, by and large, they are not going to have much success. Some of them are going to discover in the course of 1 978 that they are going to be unemployed for quite distinctly extended periods.
What has the Government contributed? An extension of its subsidy scheme for employers who employ the long term unemployed. That will mean, quite simply, that 3,000 more jobs will be provided under that scheme, taking the total to something like 1 8,000. It is better to do that than to do nothing at all, but it is nowhere near enough in terms of what is needed in the community. What is the situation? Those in receipt of unemployment benefit are going to find that instead of having their unemployment benefit paid a fortnight ahead it will be paid a fortnight behind the date on which they register. So they will have 2 weeks of poverty to meditate upon the circumstances of their condition. Those currently in receipt of unemployment benefit will, because of this change, find that they will receive no payment for a month. They will have a month of penury in which to wait and while away the time, with all the depression that goes with that, until their next cheque arrives.
What do the tax savings mean? They mean that someone like the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) will save $60 a week on the tax that he otherwise would have paid. The standard rate of unemployment benefit is only $49.30 a week. The married rate of unemployment benefit is only $4 1 . 10 a week. So much for the social conscience of the Government.
-The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I am sure that all members of this House have been very pleased to see the two economic shadows of the Opposition speaking together on the one subject. We can only assume that the tactic being adopted by the Opposition is to put the two of them together so that we can assess them as to their merits as spokesmen for the Opposition on the economy. I think that we on this side of the House can say with confidence that they both have come equal last in that respect. The Minister for Productivity (Mr Macphee) mentioned earlier today that the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) did not get around to making any constructive suggestions in his comments until the last minute or so of his speech and that he then did not have time to develop them. I would have to say in respect of the speech by the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) that he did not get around to making any constructive suggestions in the course of his entire speech. It was entirely negative. He did not try to make any positive suggestions whatsoever. We can understand his position.
The fundamental cause of the unemployment situation is the rate of inflation. It is this inflation which has made Australia uncompetitive in world markets. This inflation was fired by the spendthrift policies of the former Labor Government, which in turn led to unrealistic expectation in many parts of the Australian community, including the wage earning community. This Government has been seeking to bring down the rate of inflation, which is the major cause of unemployment. We can understand the embarrassment of the honourable member for Oxley. In the last Budget brought down by the Labor Government he gave some acknowledgment to the fact that inflation was the major cause of the country’s problems and that his predecessors as Labor Treasurers had made a great contribution to the creation of those very problems.
What is the situation in respect of inflation in this country? We are bringing it under control. Admittedly we are doing so with great difficulty but it is being done. In the context of inflationary pressures within our country the most direct cause of unemployment in Australia at the present time is excessive wage increases. Ultimately, in economic terms, labour is a commodity, and like any other commodity it is subject to the laws of supply and demand. I appreciate that there are many other aspects of labour; it is not just to be regarded as a commodity. But when we look at the provision of jobs in our community, in our work places and in the economy as a whole we must look at the price that it raises in the economy. Increase the price of labour and, other things being equal, the demand for it will fall, because buyers either turn to substitutes or just buy less.
For most of the post-war period the condition of high employment was associated with a generally buoyant demand for goods and services. In such a situation employers were usually able to pass on wage increases in the form of higher prices for the goods and services they produced. The current environment of higher unemployment, however, is associated with a generally slack demand for goods and services and highly competetive selling conditions. In such circumstances the average employer is no longer able to pass on wage costs as readily as in the past. Consequently, in order to preserve profits, or to avoid losses, he finds himself compelled to cut wage costs by reducing his overall demand for labour. In this respect a recent survey conducted by the Australian Chambers of Commerce and the National Bank reveals that 38 per cent of the respondent firms had reduced their employment as a result of recent wage indexation decisions.
Let me outline some measures that this Government has introduced in order to reduce unemployment, or to reduce the effects of unemployment on various groups of people. There has been the up-grading of the Commonwealth Employment Service which presently costs about $50m a year to operate. Even in 1 976-77 the Service placed 467,000 people in employment. There has also been the expansion of the National Employment and Training scheme which will have a budget of more than $54m for 1 977-78. In the last financial year this scheme assisted 40,000 people. One important point to make concerns the changes that this Government has made to the NEAT scheme. Previously the NEAT scheme was training a number of people in courses which eventually could produce qualifications which were not in demand in the labour market. People were undergoing long tertiary courses in areas of high unemployment. The emphasis that this Government has introduced in the NEAT scheme is to have people undergo shorter courses with relevant onthejob training which fits people for jobs that exist in real companies in the economy.
A further development by this Government has been the introduction of the Special Youth Employment Training program. At the end of June 1977, 7,500 young persons were in training under this program. The expansion of this very effective scheme has, of course, been announced in the context of the present Budget. That expansion will involve increasing the eligibility of people for subsidy under the scheme up to the age of 25 years. I also mention the education program for unemployed youth which is expected to absorb more than 550 young people in 1 977-78.
Further, there has been increased assistance for apprenticeship training. Apprenticeship intakes rose by 9 per cent in 1976-77. In addition, the Relocation Assistance scheme has relocated to permanent employment 400 people since its introduction. Finally, the Community Youth Support scheme has supported more than 200 programs involving about 20,000 young people.
Also in the context of the present Budget the Government has said that there will be no firm restriction on the payment of funds for any training programs. Therefore, there is a degree of flexibility in the forthcoming financial year in terms of the expansion of training programs. As I mentioned earlier, employers have been replacing labour or just plain getting rid of it. Employers can reduce their demand for labour in any or all of five different ways. They can do this, firstly, by the introduction of labour-saving machinery and procedures; secondly, by switching from the employment of full time workers to the employment of part time workers; thirdly, by not hiring new employees and meeting short-run increases in demand through increased overtime; fourthly, by the non-replacement of wastage of workers; and, fifthly, by retrenchments from their existing labour force. As I have indicated, surveys have shown that employers are doing all of those things.
I conclude my speech by reminding the House that the honourable member for Adelaide and the honourable member for Oxley said that they would present constructive views. Neither did. Neither was constructive; they were most destructive. They made no attempt to introduce any constructive element into their speeches. They ignored their own disastrous mismanagement of the Australian economy which produced the very problems which this Government has been grappling with and gradually overcoming.
-The discussion is now concluded.
– I move:
Customs Tariff Proposals No. 25 ( 1 977 ).
The Customs Tariff Proposals I have just tabled related to proposed alterations to the Customs Tariff Act 1966. The Proposals implement the Government’s decision on recommendations made by the Industries Assistance Commission in its report on measuring, checking, precision instruments and apparatus, etc.; clocks and watches, etc.; medical apparatus, etc.; cine cameras, projectors, etc. The effect of the decision means that minimum rates of duty will apply to a wide range of imports, many of which previously attracted protective rates of duty. In some instances, the implementation of minimum rates has been deferred for 12 months to enable local industry to adjust. The new duties will operate from tomorrow. I have had prepared a comprehensive summary of the changes which is now being circulated to honourable members. I commend the proposals to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Innes) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 16 August, on motion by Mr Peacock:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– When I rose to speak to these measures yesterday I referred to the personal disappointment and disillusion in the remarks of the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) who had just spoken. The Bills we are now discussing are important measures in the context of assistance to the developing countries, the poor countries of the world. We can all be overwhelmed by the immensity of the problem, but there is no future in doing that. We have to keep on pressing the matter as hard and as effectively as we can. These Bills should command the enthusiastic support of this House and I believe of all Australians.
We sometimes encounter a questioning in this country as to why we should get involved in diverting resources to overseas countries when there is so much needing to be done in this country- for our own poor, education, health, and so on. The truth of the matter is that it is very much in all our interests. The matter of assistance to developing countries is an area of massive long term concern to Australia as a member of the international community of nations. President Carter recently put the situation this way: ‘A peaceful world cannot exist one-third rich and two-thirds hungry’. That, I believe, is the essence of the situation. We have to contribute to the assistance of developing countries, yes, on humanitarian grounds- there is the obligation of those to whom much has been given to help those with so much less- but also on the grounds of straight, long term economic and political self interest, the interest of all of us in a stable, workable, peaceful world system. The President is right. We cannot have stability or, ultimately, peace with onethird rich and two-thirds hungry. The President called for a new, wider international system to tackle global problems. The reality, of course, is that we are not likely to see that situation this side of the millenium. Nevertheless we must all be in the business of assisting the development of poor countries, and to an increasing degree.
There can be assistance in a variety of forms. There can be development aid which is assistance given to countries to help them to enlarge their capacity to produce goods and services both in industry and agriculture. That, in fact, is the context of the Bills before the House. There is also the trade context. In that respect the developing countries themselves most prize the establishing of world commodity stabilisation schemes and a common fund to finance them for their commodity exports, which are by far the major source of their export income. As a result of the 18 months north-south dialogue at the Conference of International Economic Cooperation (CIEC) which recently wound up in Paris, some progress has been made in this direction with a commitment by the rich industrial countries to a common fund for raw materials, albeit that no price tag was put on that commitment. The Australian Government is firmly in support of this measure. I stress that because the spokesman on these matters for the Opposition seemed to indicate to the contrary yesterday.
– He would not know.
-Perhaps he would not. My colleague the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) in this context would put most of the emphasis on tariff reductions in the industrial developed countries to foster the sales of manufactured goods from less developed countries. This is an area in which the political realities of high unemployment which exists in most developed countries at the present time cannot be left out of account. But even so, it is important to recognise that much progress has already taken place in that respect. There has already been a steady and large, relative decline in the labour intensive industries in the Western countries, with increasing reliance on imports from developing countries. I doubt whether this process can or should be pushed any faster.
Another area of assistance to the developing countries is with the currently crushing burden of their debt financing, that is, interest and capital repayment. For practical purposes, that merges with the general issue of development aid. The International Development Association (Further
Payment) Bill authorises Australia’s contribution of $ 133.76m to the fifth replenishment of the International Development Association. One reason why this is so important is that the International Development Association is the World Bank’s so called ‘soft loan’ agency. It makes long term interest free credits available to the poorest of the developing countries. Of course, it does so for soundly based development projects which are assessed by the same standards as ordinary World Bank projects-but it provides credits interest free. That is of great significance to developing countries, as I have said, because of the crushing debt burdens. I shall return to that again in a moment.
The activity of the International Development Association is a part of the development aid program as we have known it since World War II. Aid on a comparatively large scale was forthcoming, albeit often politically motivated, in the first decade or two following World War II. In recent years however the quantum of development aid has fallen significantly in real terms, that is, allowing for inflation. Indeed it is now proportionately less than it was in the1950s and 1960s. That is a most unhappy situation not just on humanitarian grounds, as I said before, but also on grounds of straight, long term political and economic self interest. However, from 1973 there has been a major new factor in the whole situation. From late 1973 the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries proceeded to hoist the price of oil some four or five fold. That was a development of quite massive indeed historic proportions. It amounted to a forced transfer of resources to the less developed countries, or at all events to one group of them, namely, the oil rich among the developing countries. In effect this has meant an appropriation of funds by those oil rich countries enabling them to command real resources on a very large scale. It far exceeds the dimensions of the voluntary aid program to which I have been referring. The impact, in fact, is perhaps best summed up in a small table from a recent issue of the Economist. I ask for that table to be incorporated in Hansard. I have spoken to the Opposition spokesman on this matter, the honourable member for Oxley (MrHayden).
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The table read as follows-
-This table was included in an article entitled ‘Aid Not Trade’ in the Economist of January this year. Under the heading ‘The Burden of Debt’ it shows the changed pattern of surpluses and deficits in international trade since the oil price rise. For instance, it shows the massive flow of funds to the OPEC countries. From1974 and including the OECD forecast for1977, there is a total of $180 billion. That would be about $45 billion per annum. In effect, that provides the means for a country such as Iran to acquire from the West the half dozen new factories, the three new rail systems and the five nuclear power stations, not to mention the substantial shareholdings in Germany’s Krupp and America’s Pan American which were on the Shah of Iran’s shopping list at the time he visited this country some time ago. I repeat that the impact of that is that real resources are transferred over a period to Iran- in this case, mainly from France- and the growth in the standard of living of France is restrained, and that of Iran is given a great boost.
Although that group of developing countries has benefited greatly, the impact on the nonoilproducing developing countries has been all but catastrophic. As I said, their indebtedness has soared to a crushing burden. As the table shows, the deficit counterpart of the surplus accruing to the OPEC countries for the non-oil-producing developing countries, particularly the countries of Asia, is of the order of $100 billion over that period. I should point out that the small OECD countries also bear a significant portion of the burden, amounting to $62 billion. All that is not to overlook the adjustment problems of the Western industrial countries in this situation, which manifested themselves particularly in the 1974-75 recession.
In this context, the importance of a large increase in aid which has always been importanta very large increase in aid on a Marshall Plan scale, the Economist would advocate- is underlined and would be to the mutual benefit of developed and developing countries alike. In the
absence of that, and looking to the West’s selfinterest, the danger lies in the contraction of world trade as the debtor countries, especially the poor ones, are forced to cut down further on imports. That also underlines the fact that the task of providing aid in this way should no longer fall on the industrial countries alone, but in particular on the OPEC countries themselves. Of course, there is a whole area of aid in the Russian sphere of influence. In this respect, referring to the second Bill before the House establishing the International Fund for Agricultural Development, in which Australia has played an important initiating part, it is interesting to note that the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries group is contributing to the total of IFAD funds in roughly equicalent amounts to those contributed by the OECD countries. So we have the OECD countries and the OPEC countries contributing roughly equal amounts.
In the context of these largely energy-imposed difficulties, particularly for the nonoilproducing developing countries, I cannot forbear from making a reference to the importance to those countries of the development of nuclear power for electricity generation to meet their expanding energy needs. The advantage to them is two-fold. Firstly, the development of the alternative energy source acts as a restraint on the further increase of oil prices. They obtain that benefit whether or not they themselves enter into nuclear power for electricity generation. Secondly, they establish nuclear plants in the countries themselves. Many have done so, and on an increasing scale- witness Iran, as I have said, and its obtaining of five nuclear power stations. All this bears on the decision whether or not to mine and export Australian uranium, and the Government is currently concerning itself with all aspects of that very complex matter before it announces a decision. While the Labor Party claims to have a monoply of concern for the morality of this matter, I wish to put this to the Australian public: Where would be the morality if this country, which has about .04 per cent of the world’s population, refused to make available the 20 to 25 per cent of the world’s high grade uranium reserves which it possesses to an increasingly energy hungry world? I put that to the House and to the Australian people in the context of the quite catastrophic impact on the non-oil-producing developing countries of higher oil prices.
In conclusion, I strongly support the Bills before the House. In terms of the massive figures to which I have been referring the sums involved in these Bills are relatively small. But they do represent Australia’s proportionate obligations in these contexts, and we are meeting them. We take this step and it is an important one, albeit a small one. The challenge and the dangers of a world which is one-third rich and two-thirds poor will long stand before us.
-The Opposition supports the two measures which are now being debated, one to increase our subscription to the International Development Association and the other to participate in a new fund to be known as the International Fund for Agricultural Development. I want to draw the attention of the House to the various serious human problems which we will face in this area in the years ahead. The honourable member for Berowra (Dr Edwards) referred to the world’s population as being one-third rich and twothirds poor. Of course, there are degrees of richness among the rich, and unfortunately there are degrees of poverty among the poor. My colleague the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden), in launching the debate on behalf of the Opposition yesterday, said that in the past a lot of mistakes had been made in the way aid had been given and that the mechanics of giving aid were not always very satisfactory. I believe that that is still a very real difficulty. Essentially, the poor countries will have to increase substantially their output of foodstuffs. It is not feasible, at least on a long term basis, to rely on food shortages in one set of countries being met by chance from a surplus in others. Of course, the economics of developed countries can be thrown into much confusion by reason of famine in some parts of the world and alleged surpluses of grain stuffs in other parts.
I have taken the opportunity to read one or two recent publications concerned with this area. I draw attention to an article in a magazine that most of us get or certainly can get. I refer to Finance and Development, the quarterly publication of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. In the June 1 977 issue, there is an article by Shahid Javed Burki and T. J. Goering on food problems of the low income countries in which they said:
If we employ the UN ‘Medium ‘projections for population and assume a modest increase in per capita income and consumption, with no correction of existing nutritional inadequacies, demand for food-grains in the low-income countries is estimated to increase from 174 million tons in 1 974 to 245 million tons in 1985.
Then the authors go on to reflect:
It is hardly credible, for both logistical and balance of payment reasons that the low-income countries will be able to import sufficient food to make up a deficit of 45 to 70 million tons by 1985.
That is the difference between estimated needs and anticipated production. They go on to say that in 1974, a year of serious shortfalls in their domestic production, these countries imported 14 million tons of grain, which is something like the total export potential of Australia. They added:
Even this level of imports placed a serious burden on their balance of payments. If the low-income countries import 15 million tons in 1985, a shortfall of 30 to 55 million tons will remain.
The authors then go on to suggest that perhaps other countries which have better technology and industrial development should systematically assist these areas to increase their own production.
I was interested to note that the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) in his second reading speech on the International Fund for Agricultural Development Bill 1 977 said:
Furthermore, it is likely that, as IFAD gets under way, there will be commercial opportunities for Australian agricultural machinery, technology and expertise in connection with IFAD projects.
I think it is rather sad in a way that so little time is devoted in this House to serious consideration of these sorts of problems. We all come in here and get het up when there is a debate on Vietnam or on what we should or should not do with uranium. I have no doubt that tonight there will be some golden pearls dropped in connection with what we should be doing about the Middle East. However, when it comes to the practical problem of trying to remove some of the aspects that cause international friction, what do we find? I suppose there is no greater cause of friction than the gap between the ‘haves’ and ‘havenots’. The fortunate factor for the ‘haves’ is that the ‘have-nots’ largely lack the ferocity to be very effective in having their needs met except by recourse to aid or trade. With a certain amount of cynicism, I remember that, years ago, when a prominent American statesman was asked for his views on trade, not aid, he said that he was all in favour of the latter. He did not want to be bothered with aid and presumably did not want to be bothered with trade either. Unfortunately, that tendency still exists to a great degree.
Another of the publications that honourable members may obtain free is a very interesting publication of the Rural Bank of New South Wales called Trends. In the April 1977 issue, there is an interesting article by Mr E. F. Gillin entitled ‘Agriculture in the Year 2000’. The article is adapted from the presidential address of the Rural Bank’s chief economists, Mr Gillin, to the Australian Agricultural Economic Society,
New South Wales branch, on 3 1 March 1 977. At the end of his article, Mr Gillin sums up by saying:
Great changes will occur in world agriculture by the year 2000 . . .
I suggest that there will need to be great changes long before that if a great deal of misery and suffering is to be avoided - . . . bringing about enormous increases in food supplies and altering the structure of agricultural production.
We talk a lot in this House about structural change both in industry and in agriculture. I suppose one thing that we are slowly learning is that structural change is not easy to bring about. There is a resistance on the part of those who are already structured to being restructured and sometimes the only way that the structure is altered is by the ultimate demise of the existing structure because the warnings were not seen early enough. We have had the Jackson report suggesting that the future of Australian manufacturing, if it is to expand, cannot be seen in terms of internal demand but has to be seen in terms of export. I would defy anybody here to be optimistic about the areas of manufacturing industry which are likely to be large export earners in the foreseeable future. It may be that if we pay some attention to situations in other countries, the answer to the food shortages of the low income countries is not for Australia, the United States of America and Canada to supply them with grain but for us to supply them with the agricultural machinery, the irrigation techniques and so on to help them increase their own production.
I had the honour recently to represent this Parliament at a Commonwealth Parliamentary Association conference in London at which there was a representative from Kenya who told me that, if he had available just a handful of tractors, they could have a multiplier effect of something like ten times their value. I presume that a tractor worth $5,000 or $6,000 could have resulted in increased annual agricultural production of about $60,000. It seems to me that that is the kind of get together that has to occur more in the future. I have found from visiting some of the Pacific Islands that Australia is more appreciated there for things which most people in Australia did not know had happened. I have referred before to the curing on one of the islands of a disease in bananas called curly top or curly leaf simply by flying an expert from the Queensland Department of Primary Industries to this place in the New Hebrides. He was able to set the problem right in a relatively short space of time. Bananas were the principal export earning crop in that area. Here was an example of a need and someone knowing how that need could be met. I think that that is still the great deficiency in a lot of the aid provisions. We have elaborate machinery, and too often we are inclined to think that the problems of the poor will be solved by giving them what the rich do not want. This is the sort of thing that Dickens pilloried years agosending handkerchiefs to the Hottentots. I have heard of overcoats being sent to the people of Madras. The intention is good but it is very far from the mark in solving the problem.
Mr Gillan lists quite a number of areas in which, if a systematic application were made, perhaps a fortunate end result could be achieved by some Australian industry selling machinery. It need not be highly technical machinery. There is much talk of the needs of what are called middle technologies that would be best adapted to smaller peasant farming and so on. But it seems to me that that sort of approach is not being undertaken. We are still inclined to gratify ourselves when asked whether we fed the hungry, clothed the naked or gave shelter to those who did not have it by saying that we have already given 0.5 per cent of the gross domestic product in foreign aid. Maybe that salves our consciences but it does not do much to remove this disparity that exists between the rich and the poor.
When I was Minister for Overseas Trade, Australia had a trade exhibition in Iran. We were quite successful there in selling irrigation machinery which was quite readily adaptable to the needs of Iran. I am sure that the same sort of need exists in other parts of the world. It was Israel which instituted the system known as trickle irrigation. Apparently, before the introduction of that system there had been a rather wasteful use of water in some of these areas. The water was not applied to the crops effectively. We have technicians or technologists in Australia who are quite capable of educating in that area. I do not know whether honourable members received as I did today the publication of the United Nations Development Program for the years 1976 and 1977. It is stated on the cover of the publication:
For the United Nations Development Program, the years 1976-1977 mark an important biennium
The report goes on to list what the Development Program has done and to suggest what might be done in the future. It is pointed out that at one level it has become evident that real progress by the developing countries depends not simply on maximum internal effort and optimum external assistance but on basic changes in the structure and dynamics of the international economy. One of the areas in which there has to be basic change in the structure and dynamics of the international economy, of course, is this very tender area of trade and tariff negotiations. Discussions are taking place all the time on multilateral trade developments but very little interest is taken in this House in Australia’s participation in those events. I am sure that at times it would be far more sensible if we devoted a little more time to the rather dreary mechanics of this kind of thing rather than all of us presenting our blueprints for setting the rest of the world right. The report goes on to state:
The second category will involve activities designed Tor the greatest possible impact at the grass-roots- improving nutrition, increasing employment and earnings, safeguarding health, expanding education, upgrading housing and strengthening social services.
Some play was made in the House today about the unsatisfactory water supply of Adelaide. Adelaide is a big enough city. But something like two-thirds of the world’s population has unsatisfactory water services. I suppose that the problems of these people are far more serious than the problems of the people of the city of Adelaide. Some delegates from Australia recently attended a conference in America devoted to the objective of trying to give pure water in the next 10 years or so to every human being in the world. It involves hundreds of millions- perhaps even billions- of people. Apparently, it is not very difficult to encompass them within a satisfactory water supply scheme provided the right sort of assistance is given at the right time. We sometimes contemplate what one country will do to another in the name of war, in shifting men and materials in the name of destruction. But I think that we have an entirely different attitude when it comes to social reconstruction. In the long run, if we removed these barriers- physical, social and economic- that exist, perhaps we would have far less need to have defence expenditure as the biggest item in our Budget after social welfare expenditure. I am not sure whether we ever argue what it is we are supposed to defend ourselves against. We seem to go into great debates about what we will defend ourselves with. I do not think that we get a great deal of agreement about that, either. But it seems that too little attention is given to these very real human problems. At least the opportunity is presented this afternoon and it was presented yesterday for these matters to be considered. We are only tinkering so far with what is a vast problem. I believe the world has the resources available to solve it. The problem is one of communication, to take from those who have not the things they do not want but the assistance that is undoubtedly required by the recipients at the other end. It is a big problem. Unfortunately, I think that inflation has moved faster than anything else. As my friend the honourable member for Berowra says, in real terms probably less aid is given now than before. But we still haggle about the percentage of GNP.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-In speaking to the International Development Association (Further Payment) Bill and the International Fund for Agricultural Development Bill, it is good to know that both the Opposition and the Government are as one in regard to this matter of foreign aid. One of the Bills seeks the replenishment of funds which are now required in connection with the International Development Association. The second Bill seeks the first funding for the International Fund for Agricultural Development. I think that the debate is very pertinent because last night there was an allocation in the Federal Budget for overseas aid amounting to some $426m. There will be debate in the House as to how that money should be used. Even in the course of this debate, one of the members of the Opposition took time to indicate the reaction by certain political people within Australia to foreign aid. One of those people was the Queensland Premier who gave an expresssion of opinion about how aid should be spent and how we might look internally at our own problems. That is fair enough. I am not here to say whether this expression of opinion was correct or incorrect. But it is an expression of opinion from probably the most politically astute politician in Australia today. He was voicing an opinion on behalf of people. This taxpayers’ money will be spent within the next 12 months and there will be a commitment in these Bills which will tie the Australian Government into the future.
The International Fund for Agricultural Development, for instance, is not just a one-year plan. It will be funded over a period of three or four years. Certainly, whilst our commitment is not great under that arrangement our commitment to the International Development Association is rather significant. It is significant because this aid is not of a type that is directed from Australia to one recipient nation. It is a contribution that is part and parcel of many others. For instance, the International Fund for Agricultural Development encompasses the Organisation of
Petroleum Exporting Countries, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and also a category of Third World powers or part of the developing nations. Interestingly, some countries that receive funds from the International Fund for Agricultural Development give to the International Development Association. So in some ways recipient countries will give through this second fund.
As the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) just mentioned, we should spend more time in looking at the ramifications of these Bills and should not just treat them as a formality. It is imperative that we regard foreign aid as a distribution of some of our excess wealth to those countries that have a lesser capacity to earn- those countries that are still developing. When projects are funded by these various organisations the identity of the Australian contribution is entirely lost. We must make sure, therefore, that what we give is given in the right spirit. I think it is agreed within this House that what we are giving in this transfer of wealth probably is not sufficient. In last year’s Budget, I think, I came across a figure for this of less than one-half of one per cent of our gross national product. When we spend money, let us ensure that we spend it in the right way.
I believe we are trying to achieve many things through our contributions to both these organisations. As has been mentioned, aid and trade go hand in hand. In aid we must have an ultimate view of trade of a consistent nature to the recipient countries or, in reverse, trade that can flow from those recipient countries once the projects reach fruition. There is a recognition of a need within a developing country to handle the type of project that these organisations will fund. We will be one of those nations which will want to fulfil that need through aid. There must be a constant monitoring of the projects undertaken to make sure they achieve their purpose. There is also the aspect of eventual trade opportunities and defence possibilities that these bring with them. Australia, with its large shoreline, vast sea area and small population, must look at reciprocal benefits in defence when going into this type of aid.
Some projects have been undertaken by Australians in a personal and individual capacity without assistance from any of these organisations. I think we should consider emulating this type of assistance so that Australians and the Australian Government can be given recognition for the part they play. Even within Australia there is little realisation- possibly no realisationof the activities in which this Government is engaged in its foreign aid programs. I think that it is a great tragedy. In fact, it has probably taken this Bill which is before the House for me to gain some realisation and appreciation of what goes on. Perhaps if we circulated a little more widely throughout Australia this booklet on what the International Development Association does it might enable a wider appreciation of the Government’s activities in this field.
Australians are involved in a number of projects at the moment and I shall mention a few of them. A person from the cane industry is in Brazil at the moment showing how to operate a cane harvester. This will be a 2-year project. It goes to show the type of assistance that is required at certain stages of development of an industry.
– Was the cane harvester manufactured in Queensland?
– It was produced in Queensland by a section of the Toft organisation. I had better not say too much about that.
– Does it work?
– It works now. But one of the difficulties is that these machines were being transported to Brazil which did not have any trained operators. The Australian who is over there at the moment is giving recognition to the fact that Australia is prepared to assist the cane industry of Brazil, even though we are vitally dependent upon our own cane industry. I know a company manager has spent some time in the Philippines to advise on mechanisation in the cane fields and bringing up to date milling operations in the manufacturing process. Again, recognition is being given to the source from which this assistance is coming, namely, Australia. In Malaysia a pilot project in beef production is being undertaken to try to give Malaysia a start as far as this product is concerned. It will not be self-sufficient, but this is a start. Malaysia is being assisted in clearing the jungles, planting the improved pastures and transporting from Australia the type of cattle that will suit Malaysian conditions. Also, Malaysians are being trained to handle the cattle industry. For instance, they did not know what a horse was. When the horse was introduced it was almost as baffling to them as the cattle. All these things are part of the project.
A person from the Mackay area has spent some time with the Food and Agriculture Organisation in Kenya. Because of his direct participation he was able to give recognition to Australia’s assistance through that program. The program was to improve the horticultural prospects of Kenya. As a result of his expertise in administration and his personal advice on production over the period of 3 years that he was there Kenya has been able to increase its exports of fruits and greens from some 5000 tonnes a year to 14 000 tonnes a year. In doing that it has established a market in Europe. Produce from Kenya can go to Europe only by air transport. At the same time, the Kenyan Government has been assisted in the dehydration of greens. Production capacity within that nation has been improved from a plant capable of handling 3000 tonnes a year to one handling 36 000 tonnes a year. In between the time this man spent on these projects in Kenya he also assisted the Food and Agriculture Organisation in advising adjoining nations. I was advised that at the same time a project in sheep breeding was taking place with Australian involvement, as well as a project in water drilling in Tanzania.
I believe it is important that we should insist through these organisations that the long term objectives are achieved and not just short term objectives. If we want short term objectives, this is not the type of assistance that is required. We should be looking to ensure that the benefit to these developing nations falls within the lower income or rural producing groups and that the project does not benefit those people who are already more wealthy than others within those nations. So much is said these days- I believe it to be true- about some of our aid finding its way into the pockets of those people who do not need it; that they are only filling their own pockets at the expense of leaving in poverty those people who are at the lower income level. I think the first criterion of these projects ought to be that the funds are spent to bring lasting benefits to people in the lower income brackets.
There must always be a potential and a possibility for. an increase in agricultural production. This must be done on a long term basis by training staff, by leaving at the finalisation of the initial project a capacity for the indigenous people to do those things themselves to make sure that the projects carry on. It has been mentioned earlier that the infrastructure for these projects must be available or must be provided. We have heard about uranium for the creation of electricity to meet the energy needs but we have to look also at the other services that are required. For instance, we have to consider transport and whether the people are prepared to accept particular projects. Last but not least we have to look at the marketing of the product- the eventual outcome of the project. The marketing should be constant and trade should be created with that country to ensure an export of the product in excess of domestic need. The national and international safeguards for trade must also be capable of being implemented within the recipient nation and in any trade outside it. Complex systems are not required. Grandiose schemes are the last things we are looking for. We need something practical and reliable which will last and which the locals can handle once the organisations pull out of the system. The International Development Association grants the funds on a generous basis. Most of the projects are funded on a 50-year maturity basis with a 10-year grace period for the redemption of capital and no interest, although a small charge is made for the handling of the funds. In the second project Australia makes a contribution to improve the food products in these places.
There is questioning in the minds of some Australians, the present taxpayers in this country and those who will be contributing in the future, as to whether these funds are well spent. Certainly, we do not believe that they are being spent within our capacity to pay for them, that is, within one per cent of our gross national product target. There is questioning all the time as to whether assistance overseas is being recognised and the credit we are given for it as against some of the real needs which exist within this country today. One typical example is the 26,000 beef producers throughout Australia who at this moment have a fairly critical situation on their hands. Perhaps some may remain within the industry for only another 6 months. This is the type of questioning which is occurring. That is why it is absolutely necessary to promote these projects to make people aware of what is going on.
It might be of some benefit to our own industries that some of the aid we give, not necessarily in these projects but in other aid projects, could come from processing some of our own surplus requirements within the rural industry, such as wheat, beef and dairy products. We could even transport our livestock so that Australian industries could receive a fringe benefit as well as assisting in foreign aid programs. We need to monitor constantly our foreign aid programs to make sure they are achieving the purposes they are supposed to achieve and that they are giving the best benefit and the best value for the dollars we spend. Wherever possible Australians should be involved with the projects so that they can lend their expertise, give advice wherever necessary and become physically recognised with the project.
Within the capacity of these developing countries as soon as they possibly can they should contribute to these programs so that they also have something at stake. Basically the projects we are involved in at the moment are not projects in which the recipient nations can assist to a great extent. But if they had to repay a loan, even on a 50-year basis, that would be a contribution. As soon as we can lift the level of these developing nations to assist themselves in this way I believe we will be on the road to a permanent recognition and continuation of these projects by the developing nations. In support of the Government I have much pleasure in contributing to this debate and supporting the 2 Bills before the House.
-Most of the debate on the International Development Association (Further Payment) Bill and the International Fund for Agricultural Development Bill has emphasised the disappointments in our aid programs. Many people have tried to analyse the cause of the disappointments. Some speakers have been rather cynical about the results because of the disappointments. More recently, people concerned with aid have been analysing the reasons for failure much more deeply, particularly academic investigators. A lot more useful knowledge is being made available to people concerned with aid to give a better understanding of what is required and why aid programs consistently fail. Generally, most aid programs can be said to have failed. At best they have had a very limited impact. Certainly, there have been some successes through technological breakthroughs and the development of special breeds and more productive varieties of wheat and rice in Asia and some African countries.
Generally, the overall picture of aid to rural development is one of failure. I have seen recent figures which show that per capita food production in Asian countries has declined. This is not because the actual amount of food produced has declined but because the increase in production of food has not kept pace with the increase in population. As a result, the opportunities for employment in the rural sector have not increased whereas the available resource for rural employment has increased. The work force has increased consistently. The rural sector has not been able to absorb it. Neither has the industrial sector in many countries been able to develop to the extent that it can absorb the surplus rural work force. Although there may not be a lot of obvious unemployment there is certainly a lot of underemployment. If there were opportunities for industrial employment a lot of the work force could be removed from the rural sector into the industrial area. This happened in
Japan where the process went on over a long period from about 1 930 onwards.
There is a wide range of reasons for the failure of aid programs. A lot of them stem from misdirected motivation in the donor countries. Countries have used aid as a propaganda tool. They have donated surplus production from their own countries to a less developed country which has had a reverse effect and discouraged rural production in that country. Fortunately, those days are past, but we went through a period when that was practised widely. Other programs fail because of corruption either in the donor country or the recipient country. From my brief contact with these countries it seems to me that corruption is much more likely to be found in capitalist countries than in socialist countries. The ruling elite tend to use aid not in the interests of the people at the bottom of the scale but in their own interests and for speculation. This has been a considerable factor in the reasons for failure of aid programs.
Failure to control the population in countries overrides any significant positive effect that aid might have. The huge increase in population, particularly in the rural areas, outstrips any increase in productivity which may be taking place. One of* the factors which is being looked at more closely now but which has not been looked at enough in the past to see why these programs have failed is the failure to alter the structural and institutional constraints in the recipient country. We tend to try to operate in the environment in which we are experienced in our own country and not adapt our programs to the environment of the recipient country. I believe that this is a major reason why various aid programs have failed.
Technology is terribly important. This is mainly the function of research and extension institutions and not the aid organisations. The institutional problems cover a wide range of factors. They cover political factors, the ruling elite and the interest groups they represent, the extent to which rural interests are represented and the sons of problems we have in our own country with interest groups within politics. Here again these problems are more acute in capitalist countries than in socialist countries. Socialist governments tend to operate in the interests of the people as a whole and not for special vested interests.
Another problem which has the same connotation is land tenure. It is very difficult to get land tenure reform in capitalist countries because so much vested interest is involved. In socialist countries it is much easier to change the system of land tenure to a system which benefits people at the bottom of the rung. I invite honourable members to compare newly independent countries in Africa like Kenya and Tanzania. In Kenya there has been very little change, although it is a newly independent country, because of the tremendous capital investment in the land. In Tanzania there was much less capital investment in the land. It did not have an entrenched capital structure. The investment was much lower and therefore it was much easier to alter the land tenure system and to direct production in a particular way.
The prices policy of a government is terribly important. One of the main problems in a lot of countries is that the prices policies are aimed at producing cheap foodstuffs for the masses. This destroys incentive for the rural sector and results in a lack of balance in prices policy. If you are going to sell cheap rice without subsidising the growers you are not going to get any incentive to produce rice. Members of the National Country Party in this place would appreciate that point. Import policies also are important. Countries have to determine whether or not they are prepared to import cheap foodstuffs and sell them in competition with local production. Taxation policies are terribly important when considering aid programs, particularly if the emphasis in a particular country is on indirect taxation. People on very low incomes often pay a much higher proportion of their income in tax than do people on higher incomes. This has a very strong bearing on agricultural development in particular countries.
Trade policies, the attitude towards imports and the extent to which a country is prepared to protect its industries are important matters. These are all institutional problems within recipient countries and the people devising aid programs must understand them. They must be knowledgeable about them; they must be prepared to research them and to approach the governments of the countries concerned with a view to making adjustments within the institutional structure so that aid programs can be more effective.
It is terribly important that aid programs should not be seen as an outlet for rural surpluses by donor countries as some honourable members have suggested. We should not give aid in the hope that at some future date we may be able to export more rural products. This is a very dangerous basis for aid. Certainly we cannot accept the view that there is no self interest in aid. We are political realists. There has to be self interest. If the self interest is based on developing closer relations with a lesser developed country, the ultimate aim being increased trade at some future date, not necessarily in rural products because generally the situation is reversed, well and good. If the aid is aimed at improving the education or health standards in a country with which we want to develop friendly relations, or if it is aimed at promoting peaceful co-existence in the world, the motivation is still self interest but as far as I am concerned the motivation is acceptable. I do not accept the view that we should give aid in the hope of being able to flog off more of our agricultural produce at some future date. I think this is quite misleading. This just will not happen. Basically it is essential that we develop the local technical competence and professionalism in the agricultural field in recipient countries. I think that Australia can play a very vital role in this area. We should not send people to another country to manage a project and then walk out; we should train people there to manage the project so that in turn they can train their own people, develop their research facilities and provide a strong infrastructure for a sound growth program in whatever field is involved.
It is essential that all lesser developed recipient countries become more self reliant in their rural sectors. We will not accomplish that be sending them our surplus produce but we can do it by sharing our technology, our knowledge and our experience that we have built up over many years. We have to recognise that although many newly independent countries have achieved political independence they certainly have not achieved economic independence. They are still dominated by outside economic forces which have them trapped. Unless we can break through with institutional changes they are also trapped within the institutions in their own countries. Unless we can break through these institutional constraints and establish institutional arrangements which can make the aid programs work we are not going to achieve a great deal. I commend the Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative. Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Staley) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 16 August, on motion by Mr Peacock:
Question resolved in the affirmative. Bill read a second time.
That the Bill be now read a second time. Question resolved in the affirmative. Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Staley) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 2 June, on motion by Mr Adermann:
That the House take note of the paper.
-The subcommittee of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence which produced, the report we are discussing worked with tremendous intensity. I think it must be acknowledged that it has produced a report containing great detail. This document is of great importance to honourable members on both sides of the House. I would like to congratulate the Honourable Kim Beazley, the Honourable Ian Robinson and the other members of the sub-committee, including my friend the honourable member for Hawker (Mr Jacobi). The terms of reference for the subcommittee were: ‘The significance of the domestic crisis in Lebanon for the fragile Middle East situation and the possible international repercussions’. I am quite sure it is not necessary for me to go into great detail and to explain to the House that the sub-committee was concerned with what was happening in a very small country, in Lebanon. What was happening in that country obviously was of importance not only to our country, our sphere of influence and our security. If there were no finish to this war, one which would tie up the loose ends, then there would be terrible possibilities for the future and for all of us at this end of that particular sphere.
I commence my remarks by stating that there is a clear course for action for Australia to take in relation to the Third World- more particularly in relation to the Middle East. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) was right on target in declaring to the world that we acknowledge and respect the important role that the emerging nations of the Third World are playing in world affairs. He, of course, was subjected to a great deal of criticism from people who are to the extreme Right, as he was subjected to a great deal of criticism from people who are to the extreme Left. They suggested that he was doing this sort of thing for our own particular gain. Nevertheless he was quite definite in his expression of opinion. Our course of action, based on the Prime Minister’s leadership at the Conference of Commonwealth leaders, is to acknowledge that we have a clear choice. We could, with what would be a high degree of stupidity, stand in isolation and imagine that our only affinity is with the Eastern European bloc, which has previously been regarded as comprising not only the Eastern European countries but also the United States of America, Japan and, of course, Australia. I say that we would be standing in isolation because geographically we are a part of the South East Asian family and this zone of influence will inevitably extend, as the world contracts, into the Middle East and the vast African continent.
We were more than casually interested in the domestic conflict which caused bloodshed in the Lebanon on a massive scale. We were interested not only because there are a couple of hundred thousand Australians of Lebanese origin in this country but also because of a realisation that all sorts of possibilities depended upon the course and outcome of that terrible genocidal war. It is interesting to note some of the theories expressed as to the cause of the war. I will not go into detail in relation to this matter except to say that the informed sources were not convinced that it was a religious war. I do not think that anyone who was in a position to probe deeply into the initial outbreak of this war was ever convinced that it was a conflict between the Moslems and the Christians of that country. As a matter of fact, those who have studied affairs in the Middle East will acknowledge the fact that the Lebanon has offered a splendid example of co-operation between Moslems and Christians. I well remember my experience in that country. It occurred at a time when I was being briefed in a number of countries en route to the United Nations. It was interesting to note that even when the police officers patrolled the streets of Beirut there was always one Christian and one Moslem. The Parliament consisted of a Moslem and a Christian for each area of responsibility. Everything seemed to work out extremely well. This example of co-operation was outstanding. However, that war came and, we hope, has finally gone.
I think that it is of immense importance to the world to be assured that the Lebanon becomes stabilised as it is a gateway point between East and West. A number of options immediately become apparent. The Lebanon could revert to the pre-war situation of complete independence. That, of course, would necessitate the Government being restored to its former position of responsibility. The army would have to be reorganised and the city of Beirut rebuilt. One might well expect the United Nations to assist with a substantial contribution of finance and expertise. That would be well and truly due to the Lebanon as that country acceded to the wishes of the United Nations and provided a refuge for thousands of Palestinians and had to endure the complex and enormous problems that followed. One might be forgiven for theorising a little and saying that if Palestinian camps were not sprawling around the city of Beirut there never would have been the conflict that caused the death of perhaps 40 000 to 100 000 people.
Another matter worthy of consideration is how long the Syrians will remain in occupation. If they leave will there be a further outbreak of internal war? If they stay will there be a provocation which could well stimulate war with Israel on a full scale basis? How interested are the world powers in the preservation of peace in the Middle East? Could the situation arise where the United States and mainland China tapered off their interest in the Middle East and the African continent and left a zone of influence available for the exclusive exploitation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics? That possibility is well recognised by those who are involved in a constant study of the balance of power.
When one realistically examines all these pressures it becomes obvious that a country like Australia must earn the confidence and respect of that large and influential segment of the Third World which has not accepted and never will accept communist enslavement. I will always remember the point of view expressed by Archbishop Ryan, who was a very old friend of my former leader, Sir John McEwen- they were buddies- that the genuine Moslem world could never bow its knee to communism because communism in its purest sense is entirely atheistic. His theory, followed through, is perfectly justifiable. It is that people who have a god of any description cannot accept the cold atheistic, materialistic philosophy. So we will always have that bulwark against communism in those areas.
I have gained great comfort from his theory. I think it would apply. So we can safely say that there is a great segment of the Third World that would never accept the enslavement of atheistic communism.
I revert to my suggestion that we should build up an affinity with this segment of the Third World. We have to do it in a manner that earns its confidence and respect and not by sending out smoke signals that we are interested in its petrodollars, that we are interested in our own survival and that we see its immense power beginning to develop. Not for one moment should we consider doing that. We have to try to get across to this segment of the Third World that we now understand that the barriers which divided Europeans and non-Europeans, black and white, Moslems and Christians and the very rich and the very poor must be removed. No one appreciates that more than the Prime Minister. I think that he has given international leadership with his tremendous tolerance. I do not think that many people would have thought that the Prime Minister accepted that philosophy. I think that the . Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Staley) will agree with me on that aspect. Yet he has produced it in its purest and most sincere form. I believe that his leadership will earn us the right to become closely associated with these people. It is not, as I have said, that we want their petrodollars and because we quiver and quake because of the possibility of their vast influence offering some sort of threat to us. We seek an honourable association with these countries. We have offered a home to thousands of people who have come from the Middle East. Many Armenians, Turks, Lebanese and other nationalities have attained very high and noble positions in this land.
In the few minutes I have left I would like to talk about the ever present possibility of a conflict blowing up in the Middle East which will prove more criticial than any we have encountered. I have had a good deal to do with Israeli ambassadors over a period of years, both here and at the United Nations, and with various Arab ambassadors, such as the Egyptian and Lebanese ambassadors. When one talks to them separately they seem to produce a very simplistic solution to the whole conflict. Israeli Ambassadors will tell one that now that they have their own country they do not propose to permit that their territory should be interfered with in any way. But vast areas are still available. The need is for someone to convince both these peoples that they can exist side by side and that gome, pf the billions of dollars that are being squandered IR preparing for war could be used to create a Palestinian state that did not interfere with Israel. I am speaking purely as a layman who, as a representative of this country at the United Nations, has spent, in relation to the period a politician is at that body, a long term there. I have had the opportunity of observing these people and I have tried to adopt a tolerant attitude to the matter. I would imagine that a solution would be readily available. Please God that it will come- I hope it will.
I now turn to the subject of trade. I have had the opportunity on two occasions now of observing the trade possibilities that exist in the Middle East countries. These trade possibilities are immense. But, of course, it takes two to tango. If we go the Middle East and say that we are willing to sell beef, wool and other products from the great natural resources that we have but that we are not greatly interested in any of its products, obviously trade arrangements between our countries will not work.
It is important to understand the psychology of the Middle East people. It is a matter of trying to introduce into discussions on the great prospects for international trade among our nations something of the philosophy of the Arabs bargaining in the bazaars. I returned from the Middle Eastand I hope to go there again at the end of the year- with the opinion that in that area Australia could not have a trade commissioner in the normal sense that that position is understood. A few of our trade representatives in this region have not been quite normal! Boy, they have taken over the character of the area. The only thing they did not do was wear Arab dress. They spoke arabic. They ate the food of the region. When I met them, I found myself wondering whether they were genuine Arabs or whether they were people such as Pier Hutton, a delightful character, who would not like to call himself ‘Peter’ Hutton. He was not a trade commissioner. He was our ambassador. He was a grand worker for trade. If we choose the right people to represent Australia we could well become part of that terribly influential segment of the Third World.
I conclude my speech by again offering my congratulations to the members of this very hardworking sub-committee. They have done a fine job. 1 am sure that their contribution will go a long way towards producing the kinds of results that I have been talking about.
Notice of Motion
The Deputy Clerk- Notice has been received from the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) of his intention to present a wool industry amendment Bill.
Notice of Motion
The Deputy Clerk- Notice has been received from the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) of his intention to present an air navigation amendment Bill.
Notice of Motion
The Deputy Clerk- Notice has been received from the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Eric Robinson) of his intention to present a postal and telecommunications commissions Bill.
– It was a privilege to serve as a member of the sub-committees which was charged with the responsibility to inquire into and report upon an area as complex and important as the Middle East. I take this opportunity to record my thanks to my fellow membersthe honourable members for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) and Cowper (Mr Ian Robinson) and Senators Wheeldon, Sibraa and Scott. In particular I wish to express my thanks to Mrs Jill Chorazy, the research assistant, and Mr Ducker, the secretary, for their tireless efforts. Their valuable work is reflected in this report.
This report, the evidence received both written and oral, its compilation, its findings, its conclusions and its recommendations ought to be studied by all members for I believe it to be one of the most penetrating and important reports ever to be tabled in this Parliament. Over the years I have held a view- and this report confirms it- that if world peace is to be achieved it will in no small measure depend upon the solutions to the extremely complex problems which have arisen in the Middle East. There is a number of factors which I believe must be evaluated and acknowledged if the whole of the complex issues are to be put into their correct perspective. First, we should be concerned with the strategic importance of south-west Asia which is that area from the Persian Gulf to
Karachi. Secondly, we have to take note of the strategic importance of those countries which stretch like a crescent from Afghanistan to Morocco. Thirdly, we need to consider the vexed question of the strength of ‘Arab unity’, whether it continues or fragments. It is upon changes to its structure and realignments that will rest the peace of the Middle East and the world. Fourthly, as 65 per cent of the world ‘s oil deposits are located within this vicinity we ought to acknowledge the growing dependence on the area by the West, by the Soviet Union and by Australia. We must recognise that they are dwindling reserves and that access to and a rational distribution of these dwindling reserves is a factor which no government and no people can ignore. Fifthly, we should bear in mind that, for 30 years, the Arab-Israeli conflict has defied solution. It continues to do so despite the optimism being expressed in some quarters. In this regard the most pressing problem is to find a solution to the Palestinian aspect of the conflict.
In the brief time at my disposal I would like to develop three important issues, namely, the Palestinian question, the Arab unity question and above all the critical question of oil. First, I shall deal with the Palestinian question. The former Rabin Government in Israel had what I believe was a coherent and thoughtful policy with regard to the Palestinian question. It was committed to seeking a solution to the problem of Palestinian self-identity within the context of a general peace agreement. While it opposed the establishment of a Palestinian Liberation Organisation controlled West Bank state, it endorsed the concept of a Jordanian solution for the political expression of Palestinian rights. Because of the search for a ‘quick fix’ many have come to see the West Bank solution as ideal. I think it is necessary to understand Israel’s reasons for insisting that a West Bank state cannot be an adequate solution to the problem while a Jordanian- West Bank state can.
We ought to analyse this matter. First, it would not solve the refugee problem. There are over a quarter of a million Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, a similar number in Gaza and 300 000 on the East Bank of the Jordan and in Syria. The West Bank, which already has 650 000 inhabitants, obviously would be unable to absorb them. With its lack of cultivatable land and its limited resources the West Bank has been an area of emigration rather than immigration. It utterly lacks the geographic and economic infrastructure to become an adequate home for all the refugees. Besides this, for the refugees in
Lebanon, the West Bank is no more their homeland than is Lebanon. They dream of Haifa not Hebron, of Jaffa not Jericho. To the extent that the West Bank state does not solve the refugee problem it will make the area even more unstable than it is today. On the other hand, the Jordanian state which embraces the West Bank and covers an area 1 1 times its size could become an adequate base for the resettlement of refugees, giving them economic opportunities they would not have in a West Bank state.
Secondly, the Palestinians now living in Jordan would be severed from the West Bank entity and the Palestinian identity. Those citizens of Jordan, who are well integrated into the Jordanian economy, presumably also have rights as Palestinians. Thus, there will be a cause of constant friction between the West Bank state and the Jordanian state and this could well threaten the existence of Jordan. On the other hand, a Jordanian state which embraced the West Bank would be able, because of its broader context to integrate the Palestinians and develop a Jordanian-Palestinian identity.
Thirdly, the West Bank state would be, in itself, a serious source of instability. Official PLO policy makes it quite clear that the West Bank state is only the springboard for further action against Israel- the first step towards its objectives of the dismemberment of the Jewish state. Even if this policy changes, the Palestinian Rejection Front, which is supported by Libya and Iraq, will oppose any compromise with Israel. A small, weak and problematic West Bank state will be unable to deal with the Rejection Front’s subversive and obviously terrorist tactics. It will also be unable to resist, and will probably seek, Soviet military and economic support, fuelling super power rivalry at a time when it ought to be reduced throughout that area. A Jordanian- West Bank state, on the other hand, with the administrative and organisational skills of the experienced Jordanian Government will be able to deal with subversion, resist Soviet influence and ensure that the conflict with Israel is not carried on from the West Bank. Because the West Bank pinches Israel’s waist and makes it extremely vulnerable to Arab attack, Israel will insist that the West Bank be demilitarised. Israel can live with an Arab government ruling areas of the West Bank but it cannot live with an Arab army surrounding Jerusalem and within shelling distance of Tel Aviv, especially if that army is intent on attack. Thus, the demilitarisation of the West Bank is a must for Israel. In fact, it is just not on to expect a Palestinian government of the new West Bank state to accept complete demilitarisation of the totality of its territory. However, it is at least feasible to expect that a Jordanian West Bank state will consent to demilitarise its western province which is an area which covers less than one-tenth of its territory.
For these reasons a Jordanian-West Bank state seems to offer, I believe, the best hope for a peaceful and stable settlement which will solve the Palestinian problem. On the other hand, the establishment of an independent West Bank state will merely perpetuate the problems of the refugees and cause further instability. Regretably, I fear, this is probably what the Palestine Liberation Organisation really wants. While the Palestinian problem tends to occupy the attention of those concerned with peace and stability in the Middle East, we ought to remember that there are other sources of tension in the region which endanger world peace, which threaten Western interests and which cause misery and hardship to large numbers of people. In particular, the inter-Arab conflict in all its manifestations is a cause for our attention. We on the Committee certainly looked at it in some depth because it could interrupt crucial supplies of oil and disrupt vital communications between Europe, Asia and Australia. It has incredible destructive potential.
The fact that 60 000 people were killed in Lebanon is tragic and deplorable. This also points to the problem in the area which may be even more difficult to solve than the Arab-Israeli conflict. We tend to overlook it in the debate. There are five basic, underlying causes of the inter-Arab conflict. These are the class struggle between the extremes of feudal wealth for the few and poverty for the masses; the continuation of tribalism in the guise of political parties; the existence of artificial boundaries inherited from the colonial era; the struggle for leadership in the Arab world; and the ideological and political rivalry between conservatives and radicals. This is seen in the civil war in Lebanon, the conflict between Libya on the one hand and Egypt, Sudan and Chad on the other, and the rivalry between Algeria and Morocco over the western Sahara which, basically, if we analyse the situation, is due to minerals and phosphate. Then there is the struggle between the Iraqi and Syrian Baath parties for dominance over the territory once known as greater Syria. There is simmering tension between Iraq, Kuwait and Iran and between North Yemen and South Yemen.
All these conflicts and tensions complicate the task of this diplomacy and threaten to plunge the region on the road towards war. These are issues which will continue to cause problems for the West and therefore problems for this country. We must keep a watch on the area, keep informed of the causes of tension and the possibilities for their solution and do what we can to assist in the long and difficult settlement process. In this regard I believe the report on the Middle East has made a valuable contribution. On the matter of oil, I ask for leave to incorporate in Hansard a table setting out Australia’s increasing dependance on the Middle East.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The table read as follows-
-In the few moments left I shall pass a few observations on the oil situation. I do not think there is any doubt at all that between 1979 and 1985 there will be increasing dependence by the West, by the Soviet Union and by Australia on Middle East crude oil. If a conflict breaks out in the Middle East, Australia will be placed in a vulnerable position because our dependence on Middle east crude will escalate while our indigenous resources are dwindling. I see that many of the recommendations in the report were incorporated in last night’s Budget. But the Budget does not go far enough. This country urgently needs a national energy policy and it needs it quickly. I struggled for five years in the Parliament to get a parliamentary delegation to the Middle East. At long last, this year, the Government approved of that visit. I confess that I was unable to go. I was rather concerned that the itinerary restricted the delegation to the confronting states, that is, Egypt, Israel, Lebanon, Iraq and Syria. I found that very remiss.
– And Jordan.
-Well, and Jordan. This country, whether we like it or not, will have to place most of its energy potential in the Middle East basket. I thought that the delegation would have taken it upon itself to visit the Gulf states such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Iran and such areas with which we must build up a rapport. We must keep with them if we are to survive in the next five to 10 years. I conclude with an aphorism from H. V. Morton. I think it is very telling in this debate because it sets out graphically the points I have tried to raise. In 1934 in the book In the Steps of St Paul he stated:
Politicians of Western Nations ought not to be eligible for election until they have travelled the ancient world. They should be made to see how easy it is for the constant sea of savagery, which flows forever round the small island of civilisation, to break in and destroy. Asia Minor was once as highly organised as Europe is today: a land of large cities.
Yet a few centuries of occupation by a static race have seen the highest pillars fall to earth.
I sincerely trust that every honourable member in the House will apply himself to the report because many of the recommendations will be crucial for the welfare of this country.
-Recently there have been discussions in the Middle East and in America regarding the Middle East problem. There is no doubt that the present situation in the region is the most delicate that has existed for many years. I include the troubled periods which have recently gone by. If the election of the new Israeli Government means that there has been a move to the Right in that country, reflecting the fears of people in Israel, and if those fears are not seen in some way as a possible expression of belligerence, then the situation may be misjudged. The new situation may result in either war or a set of circumstances short of war which might be almost as serious. If the current negotiations fail then the moderate leaders of the Arab world will have been undermined and the more extreme elements will be likely to have their way.
On the Israel side, a failure of the negotiations could mean a continuation of the very serious political burden brought about by the insecurity which is felt by Israel and a continuation of their economic burden. At present Israel has to spend 36 per cent of its gross national product on defence. It has an inflation rate of 35 per cent and one of the highest tax rates in the world. There must inevitably be some effect upon morale in that country. Because of the importance of the situation I commend those members of the subcommittee of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence whose report we are now considering for their extensive work and excellent report. Already events have started to overtake it, but I think it is correct to say that this is one of the most detailed and valuable documents to come before the Parliament. The report has received reasonable publicity dealing mainly with aspects which might impinge upon Australia’s interests. But the Press reports covered such things as the unemployment which might come about in Australia because of a further deterioration in the situation and other matters close to home. The Press failed to point out that this issue represents the No. 1 global threat to peace. Unless we realise that the position is serious not only to the Middle East and to Australia but also in a global sense the people of Australia might well misjudge the situation.
This issue represents the most serious threat to world peace. Paradoxically, despite the way we tend to think of our own backyard, it is therefore the most serious threat to Australia. What Australia can do about it is limited, but we must bear three things in mind. Firstly, we have a very considerable number of people living in Australia who came originally from that region. They have come from both the Israeli side, if I might put it that way, and from the Arab side, although I appreciate that the Arab world is very diverse. Australia must ensure that the policy adopted by this Government is such that it will not in any way give rise to differences within the communities of people in this country who have come from that region. It is for that reason that I believe the Australian Government’s policy is correct and even-handed. We must ensure that the political differences which exist among people who come and reside in this country are contained. We must also be even-handed to any refugees who are already here or who might come here in the future.
The sub-committee’s report arose principally out of the Lebanese situation, and I want to congratulate the Government for allowing Lebanese people to come to this country over the past year or so. But I believe we should do more to assist the assimilation into Australia of refugees or quasi-refugees, including those from Lebanon. Many people who have come here, and I refer particularly to those who were delayed in Cyprus, have expended large sums of money, often their entire savings, waiting in places such as Cyprus for their final approval to come to Australia. In other cases, relatives or friends have paid large sums of money in fares for the newly arrived people or have borrowed large sums of money to provide support and assistance. Many new arrivals in Australia, as well as relatives in Australia of people who have come here, are suffering considerable financial hardship. I ask the Government to give the highest consideration to including at least the worst cases of financial hardship in its overall aid program. 1 wish to deal now with the position of children of parents who have fled from their own countries. I believe that we must look very carefully at the reception into our schools of children who have come from those areas. In the electorate of St George strains have been placed on the system. Large numbers of Lebanese children who cannot speak English have come into the schools. The teachers have had to take special steps to look after those children and there has been a shortage of special teachers. In at least one school additional teachers were provided, but 1 would like to see joint Commonwealth-State programs developed to take care of this problem. In addition, the quality of education for these children needs to be considered. In some cases, they are given three-quarters of an hour teaching daily by a specialist teacher in English as a second language. That is not necessarily sufficient. I would like to see reception centres set up, and I think the New South Wales Government is talking about this. Children who cannot understand English and are suffering from cultural shock, having been brought from one environment to another, should be given special assistance. I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later time.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– by leave-Mr Speaker, in 1967 Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand met and established the Association of South East Asian Nations. The principal aims of the Association, set forth in the ASEAN Declaration signed in Bangkok on 8 August 1967, are to accelerate the region’s economic growth, social progress and cultural development, and to promote regional peace and stability. The leaders of the five ASEAN nations undertook to promote active collaboration and mutual assistance in matters of common interest in economic, social, cultural, technical and administrative fields. This undertaking was reaffirmed in the Declaration of ASEAN concord issued at the end of the first ASEAN summit conference held in Bali last year. ASEAN leaders recognise that the only through interdependence and self-reliance will they secure peace and stability in the region. And they have concerted their energies to establish the region as a force for stability and concord. The five countries have made a significant effort to develop friendly relations with their neighbours as well as to accommodate the changing pattern of involvement of the major powers in South East Asia. The ASEAN countries have firmly held the ASEAN is not, and should not be, a security organisation or military pact. Increasingly their concern has been with the problems of economic development. This reflects their clear recognition of the very close connection between economic development and social and political stability Coinciding with ASEAN ‘s tenth anniversary, Australia together with New Zealand and Japan received an invitation to meet with the Heads of Government of ASEAN in Kuala Lumpur on August 6 and 7. The occasion was of significance It was only the second time in which the five leaders had met together and the first at which any leader of another country had been invited to meet with the five ASEAN Heads of Government as a group. The meetings with the ASEAN Heads of Government were of the greatest value in furthering the strong and friendly ties that have linked Australia with these five countries for more than three decades. The meeting demonstrated, at the highest level, our mutual desire to enhance Australian-ASEAN operation.
Mr Speaker, Australia strongly supports ASEAN ‘s objective of preventing domination of the region by any major power and we have a significant interest in helping to ensure that ASEAN succeeds in its efforts to generate the economic growth and political stability for which it is striving. Our relationship with ASEAN is one which will require continuing and special attention. The opportunities which the Kuala Lumpur meeting provided to discuss policies in an open and direct manner have made many of our policies better understood, particularly those relating to our economic and trading positions. The opening meeting between the leaders of the five ASEAN countries, Japan, New Zealand and myself afforded a useful opportunity for us to make contact as a group and to exchange views on matters of common regional concern. At Australia’s suggestion, world economic trends and their implications for the region were discussed. Matters which were raised included our common problems of inflation, economic recovery and international trade. The goodwill between the eight countries was evident. This goodwill has the most important long term implications for the development of a framework of co-operative, imaginative and mutually beneficial relations between the countries of ASEAN and their neighbours. The meeting the following day between Australia and the five ASEAN Heads of Government was particularly successful and significant. It established strong foundations for the further development of relations between Australia and ASEAN. The ASEAN Heads of Government raised the question of our trade and they expressed the strong wish to increase their share of trade with Australia. I emphasised that the balance of trade with ASEAN countries had been moving relatively in ASEAN ‘s favour since 1970-71 from a ratio of 3:1 against them to 2:1. The growth rate of imports to Australia from ASEAN over the last five years has averaged 30 per cent a year, much higher than the general growth rate of imports from all countries to Australia. Because of import competition and changing demand patterns, employment in the Australian textiles, clothing and footwear industries has declined from about 160 000 people in 1971 to fewer than 120 000 people today.
Given the short term economic difficulties Australia has experienced over the past few years, there is little prospect of imports from
ASEAN continuing to grow at the rapid rate of the last five years at the further expense of Australian industry. There will be further opportunities for ASEAN ‘s exports to Australia to increase when the economic and employment situation in Australia itself improves. 1 believe that the ASEAN countries understand this. But there are opportunities for ASEAN ‘s exports to Australia to expand by competing more effectively with other countries that export to Australia. ASEAN enjoys at this time only a small share of Australia’s imports of textiles, apparel and footwearunder 10 per cent of the value of such imports from Korea, China, Hong Kong and Taiwan combined- and clearly there is room for improvement in this share so far as ASEAN is concerned. In discussing the desirability of increasing ASEAN ‘s share of the Australian import market, it was agreed that an annual ASEAN- Australian Trade Fair, jointly sponsored by Australia and ASEAN, be held in one of the State capitals. The first of these Fairs will be held in 1 978. ASEAN countries commenced exporting to Australia later than the other countries I have mentioned. Their exporters were later in establishing links with Australian traders and importers. Much of the purpose of the Trade Fair is to bring ASEAN products- exportable goods- to the notice of Australian importers and traders. This is a very positive initiative that is intended to give ASEAN countries a greater share of imports that come into Australia.
I also emphasised that ASEAN trade opportunities in the Australian market were heavily dependent on Australia’s access to other markets, particularly the European Economic Community, for Australia’s agricultural products. Australia’s experience in endeavouring to obtain access to European markets has been far from satisfactory. Many of our agricultural products have been utterly excluded from the European Economic Community by huge import levies and by the Common Agricultural Policy. In 1 960 our exports to members of that Community accounted for 40 per cent of our total exports. Now that proportion has been reduced to under 1 5 per cent, to a significant extent because of the restrictive policies of the European Economic Community. To make matters worse, artificially stimulated domestic surpluses in the European Economic Community are being exported subject to subsidies which frequently change and which are often quite exorbitant disrupting other traditional markets around the world.
A recent example is the Community’s subsidy or ‘restitution’- that is the polite name they use- on malt. As from November, the subsidy increases by more than 30 per cent. This arbitrary rise could have very damaging effects on the Australian malt industry. The ASEAN members and Australia noted their common interests as commodity producers. We expressed our joint concern at the decline in recent years of the terms of trade against commodity producers and the difficulties sharp fluctuations in commodity prices have caused producers. The role Australia has played in commodity agreements for stabilising world trade was raised and we expressed our support for the concept of a Common Fund for commodity trade. It ought to be noted that Australia has a considerable interest and a considerable experience in international commodity arrangements in wheat, sugar and in the present trading arrangements for wool. We believe that that experience is useful in working out better arrangements for trade in commodities.
The ASEAN leaders also welcomed the initiative Australia had taken at the June Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in establishing a Commonwealth task force to consider the part a Common Fund would play in commodity price stabilisation and the possibilities in relation to particular commodities. The ASEAN leaders expressed the hope that the adoption of complementary trade policies would benefit both ASEAN and Australia. In this respect they indicated their desire to increase their imports from Australia.
There has been some speculation in the Press about discriminatory measures against Australian imports continuing to be applied, or even some speculation that such measures would be increased. I was assured by the Malaysian Trade Minister, in the presence of the Malaysian Prime Minister, that discriminatory impediments in the way of the development of that trade had been removed. The Government attaches considerable importance to that assurance. In order that we might discuss mutual trade problems before they become difficult or acute, I suggested that ASEAN and Australia should establish better arrangements for consultation on trade matters and other problems. The precise form such consultative machinery might take is still to be determined. We shall be awaiting reports from Foreign Ministers in relation to that. But we want arrangements which will be responsive and which can be activated quickly by either side. Our objective is to have a forum for discussion and identification of problems in all aspects of trade between us. It was agreed that our Foreign Ministers should make appropriate proposals to our respective governments at the first opportunity so that the proposed new arrangements could be established without delay.
In looking at ways in which we could promote closer economic co-operation, we agreed on the need to establish a sound basis of knowledge from which a long term economic relationship between ASEAN and Australia would be developed. To that end we proposed and will finance a joint ASEAN-Australia research project. Its success will require a major mutual effort. It is envisaged that it will take the form of an independent research team in each of our six countries working together and assembling cooperatively the basic material, ideas and proposals for greater co-operation. It will not be expected to bring quick results, but it will give us a reliable foundation on which to build a long term economic relationship. Another matter which was raised was the basis upon which Australian import quotas are issued. A review of the principles involved has now been undertaken and details will be announced after this statement.
At the post-ASEAN talks Australia also announced a significant expansion in the size of Australia’s aid program to ASEAN countries and several measures aimed at improving its quality. These proposals are indicative of our positive interest in the economic development of the region. They can be briefly summarised. Australia will contribute an additional $10m to the ASEAN-Australia Economic Co-operative Program. We have increased our forward commitment for total bilateral aid to the five ASEAN countries by $90m to $250m. In order to improve the quality of our aid we will untie it further to allow increased procurement of materials and equipment from within the ASEAN region. We will also fund some local costs and enter into cofinancing arrangements with international organisations where this is considered appropriate by the recipient country.
The ASEAN leaders sought Australian assistance in developing five industrial projects which ASEAN is promoting and the Australian Government confirmed that it would contribute to those projects within our available resources and capacities as the projects became more clearly defined. It is envisaged that our assistance will take the form of feasibility studies, technical training, design and construction work and possibly assistance in the development of infrastructure. Discussions at official level will be held concerning the five industrial projects when appropriate and when there is further definition. The ASEAN leaders were interested also in our policy on Australian investment overseas. I indicated that the Australian Government welcomed investment overseas where this contributed to the economic and social development of the countries concerned, but that at the present time we would have difficulties with investment which involved little more than the transfer of operations to other countries with a consequent loss of jobs in Australia. Because of our willingness to encourage Australian investment in the ASEAN countries, an ASEAN suggestion that we sponsor an ASEAN-Australia investment seminar was accepted. It is envisaged that this will be a major seminar based on the experience of one which was held most successfully earlier this year between the European Community and ASEAN.
Whilst in Kuala Lumpur I had the opportunity also of having useful talks with the Prime Minister of Japan. A number of matters of significance in our bilateral relationship were discussed, including the importance Australia attaches to stability in trade. Australia seeks a predictable and growing access on a stable basis to the Japanese market for agricultural products. We all know the history of that trade. It has not always been stable. As to Australia’s beef export to Japan, I pointed out to the Japanese Prime Minister that the present arrangement of negotiating beef quotas every six months was disruptive to the beef industry’s ability to operate effectively. It also diverted the attention of officials and Ministers from Japan and Australia from the long term relationship to have discussions and often very hard bargaining on a six-monthly basis. I pointed out that it was not a successful or proper way to conduct business between two countries which are as closely related by trade as Japan and Australia.
It was pointed out that it ought to be possible to devise a system which both affords reasonable protection for the Japanese beef industry and gives more predictable and stable access to the Japanese market. I think it is worth noting that in many respects Australia is a much more open market than many of the markets of our major trading partners. Sometimes there are objections from Europe about measures that we take to protect Australian employment and Australian jobs. But in the areas which are protected in Australia by import quotas, which cover a very small part of our total imports, there is still considerable access for exports from other countries to the Australian market. But when European countries, or sometimes Japan, wish to protect their local markets for one reason or another they establish circumstances which make our exports to them virtually impossible to accommodate. I believe it is time that Australians recognised that this is an open market by world standards and what we can do to make this market an open market depends very considerably upon the reciprocal treatment that Australian exports get in other major countries around the world. Australia has not had adequate and proper access to many markets which have in many cases been completely and utterly closed to the exports of Australian producers.
So far as meat is concerned, it ought to be possibleit is possible- to devise a system which both affords protection to the Japanese beef industry and gives more predictable and stable access to the Japanese market, just as it is possible for the European Community with adjustments to the Common Agricultural Policy to devise a program which will support and protect their farm producers but which at the same time will allow the prospects of some trade to Europe. It ought to be possible also for the European Community to adopt a different policy in relation to restitutions, as they call it- that is, the subsidised export of their products to other countries. It ought to be possible to establish a policy in relation to restitutions which does not disrupt the traditional markets of other countries such as Australia. When these matters are pointed out and when it is pointed out that there is no threat to the basic objective of Europe to protect its farmers, I believe there is a greater willingness to discuss the matter and to see whether solutions can be amicably and properly found. I do not suggest that that approach is going to be easy but it will be vastly important because Europe does represent about 260 million people, and 40 per cent of the world ‘s trade. We need some access to that trade. The Minister who has been appointed for this purpose will, I think, have a difficult task to perform but the Government has confidence in what he can do and what he can achieve.
The Prime Minister of Japan agreed in relation to beef and our exports to Japan that our officials should work closely together to devise a system which would better serve the needs of stability between Japan and Australia. I expressed great appreciation for the readiness of the Japanese Prime Minister to agree to the pursuit of that objective in a realistic and constructive manner by Japanese and Australian officials. Our officials are expected to meet Japanese officials in Japan shortly to consider various alternatives including, for example, a fixed base quota. We certainly believe that such a quota should be considerably above the present quota because before the trade with Japan was cut off the quota was standing at 120,000 tonnes; it now stands at about 80,000 tonnes all in. A base quota together with a growth factor should, perhaps, be related to beef consumption in Japan. With goodwill on both sides and an understanding of the problems both of Japan and of Australia I believe it would be possible to get to a more secure arrangement than the one which we now have.
The current state of negotiations on the long term sugar contract was also raised. This is a vastly important matter for Queensland and many thousands of people involved in the sugar industry. I stressed that the security of long term contracts as bankable documents should not be compromised in any way. It ought to be noted that much of Australia’s development in coal and iron ore and not just in sugar rests on the viability and bankability of long term contracts against which funds are raised to enable the projects and developments to proceed. It would be very damaging for Japan and Australia if the bankability of such contracts came to be seriously brought into question around the world. I am certain that that is not in the interests of Japan or Australia.
The Government’s strong support for the generality of the case put by the Colonial Sugar Refining Co. Ltd to the Japanese refineries and the Government’s belief that CSR has made concessions enough was also emphasised. I emphasise again that any movement from the present contract price is a concession by CSR because there is a long term contract with prices attached to it. Any concessions made by CSR up to 1980 when the present contract expires would need to be compensated for by some arrangement after 1980 covering both price and tonnage. That general principle was agreed to by the Japanese Prime Minister. I believe that that agreement has enabled the negotiations to recommence on a more realistic basis than had been pursued hitherto. It is the strong desire of the Australian Government and, as the Japanese Prime Minister indicated, of the Japanese Government also that the commercial parties resume meaningful discussions and arrive at a prompt and mutually beneficial solution. It is in the interests of all concerned that the negotiations be brought to resolution as quickly as possible.
During the three days of discussions, the Philippines and Japan both raised the subject of uranium. Both stressed the importance of nuclear power to meet their future energy needs and expressed the hope that Australia would be a future supplier of uranium to them. They were informed that the Government’s decision on the issue would be taken shortly and that their representations along with those from other energy short countries would be taken into account in reaching that decision. The ASEAN leaders warmly welcomed the initiatives Australia had taken and all our discussions were both constructive and helpful. The ASEAN leaders are playing a positive and progressive role in the development of our region. I am confident that as pan of this process ASEAN will strengthen and extend its relations with Australia and other countries. Australia is concerned to promote the totality of its relationship with ASEAN. The measures agreed to at Kuala Lumpur will add significantly to what we have already achieved. I table the joint statement issued at the end of my meeting with the ASEAN leaders. I present the following paper:
Post-ASEAN Conference Talks- Ministerial Statement, 17 August 1977.
Motion (by Mr Howard) proposed:
That the House take note of the papers.
Debate (on motion by Mr E. G. Whitlam) adjourned.
– by leave- The recent Industries Assistance Commission draft report on textiles, clothing and footwear has heightened uncertainty in these industries to a degree which the Government considers unacceptable. Numerous requests have been made to the Government seeking clarification of the Government’s attitude to these industries and an indication of the rules of the game so manufacturers can plan accordingly. Greater certainty about Government policies towards industry and economic prospects are essential if investment and employment are to be sustained. These industries have been subject to many difficulties and pressures over recent years. Imports have increased steadily notwithstanding the application of short term measures of assistance.. Employment has declined from about 167,000 in 1971 to fewer than 120,000 now.
The Government’s basic position is that it regards efficient textile, clothing and footwear sectors as important and continuing parts of Australia’s manufacturing industry. The significance of these sectors in terms of employment and related social considerations is fully recognised. We are determined, as are other developed countries, to preserve an efficient industry, not necessarily with the present composition, but with an essentially permanent character. The Government will apply what it termed in the White Paper on Manufacturing Industry ‘sectoral policies’ to meet the special problems of the textiles, clothing and footwear industries. Support will be provided for a defined period during which the industries concerned should make a real effort to improve their structure and efficiency and hence improve their longterm outlook. Specifically, the Government will now:
Ask the IAC to provide advice on the construction and implementation of a policy, in both its short term and long term aspects, which takes into account the Government’s basic position to which I have just referred. In addition, the IAC will be asked to pay specific attention in its final report to the employment implications of its specific recommendations, including:
I turn now to the level and allocation of quotas for textiles, clothing and footwear in the next quota period. In April this year, the Government announced it would extend the validity period of quota allocations for six months from January 1978 for footwear and brassieres and from March 1978 for textiles and other clothing. We sought urgent advice from the IAC on the supplementary levels of quota for the additional six months period. The IAC has advised that lower levels of quota for certain items appear necessary to sustain activity and employment in the local industry sectors concerned. The Government has accepted the IAC’s recommendations.
The Government has noted that the existing method of quota allocation, which is in general on an historical importing base in many cases dating back to 1973-74, has introduced rigidities into the quota allocation system. Accordingly the Government has decided to reserve 1 5 per cent of total quotas for cases involving anomalies. It has also decided that all quotas be made transferable and that for all quotas allocated on an historical basis, a moving base period will be used. Details of the supplementary quotas and the changed procedural arrangements will be announced in separate statements as soon as possible.
The Government has considered the position of local firms which invested in offshore production facilities prior to the introduction of quotas with the objective of placing a substantial part of the output from these facilities on the Australian market. Provision will be made within the quota reserve for such firms. Honourable members will be aware that a number of such cases have occurred recently with respect to Australian operations in a number of developing countries. The Government’s decision will assist the viability of these operations. Textiles, clothing and footwear form an important part of these countries’ exports to Australia.
Trade in these products was an important element in the talks which the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) had in Kuala Lumpur earlier this month with the five leaders of the countries which form the Association of South East Asian Nations. During those talks the ASEAN leaders expressed their strong wish to improve their trade with Australia. There has in fact been considerable growth over the past five years in
ASEAN exports to Australia, even for sensitive items such as textiles, clothing and footwear. The balance of trade with Australia which has been of concern to ASEAN countries has moved relatively in ASEAN ‘s favour during that period.
The Prime Minister was able to point out the considerable scope, even in present economic conditions, for increasing ASEAN ‘s share of the Australian import market and announced measures which we hope will facilitate increased two-way trade between ASEAN and Australia. The ASEAN Heads of Government and the Prime Minister agreed that they should improve consultative mechanisms to promote further cooperation on mutual trade problems. Our trading partners appreciate the difficult economic problems which we face at the moment and accept that our ability to expand our imports will depend in an important way on economic recovery in Australia and the access which our own exports have in other markets. The Government’s policy is directed towards achieving an appropriate balance between providing opportunities for our trading partners and sustaining activity and employment in the Australian textiles, clothing and footwear industries.
For the information of honourable members I present the report of the Industries Assistance Commission on short term assistance to certain fabrics of acetate yarn and the IAC interim report on textiles, clothing and footwear- review of quotas.
I present the following papers:
Textiles, clothing and footwear industries-Government policy-Ministerial statement, 1 7 August 1 977.
Industries Assistance Commission ReportsShort term assistance to certain fabrics of acetate yarn, dated 29 April 1977.
Textiles, clothing and footwear: Review of quotas- Interim report, dated 3 1 May 1977.
Motion (by Mr Howard) proposed:
That the House take note of the statement.
-Whilst some aspects of the statement made by the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Fife) are welcomed by honourable members on this side of the House, nonetheless the statement exposes the weaknesses inherent in the White Paper on Manufacturing Industry which was tabled in this House only a few weeks ago. The procedures by which the Industries Assistance Commission must operate in future are becoming increasingly complex. Obviously the IAC charter is being altered quite dramatically, if not by legislation then by design, in view of the new moves made tonight by the Government.
When the White Paper was tabled there were a number of us on this side of the House who said that it lacked detail about the structural adjustment program which must be inherent in the Government’s policy in dealing with the problems of rundown industries in Australia. Whilst the statements tonight by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs weigh very heavily upon our relationship with the countries which make up the Association of South East Asian Nations, those countries are only pan of the total number of our trading partners.
There were some very nice cliches in part of the statement made by the Minister. He talked about the relatively favourable movement in the trade balance between Australia and the ASEAN countries. We have far more problems than just trying to isolate the trade with those five nations making up ASEAN. Obviously an Australian Government is going to have to deal with all of them. The draft report of the Industries Assistance Commission, which very conveniently became available to the public just a few days prior to the Prime Minister’s visit to Kuala Lumpur, weighed very heavily upon the words of the Government in the White Paper. Time and again the IAC, in its draft report, quoted the White Paper as being Government policy and said that what it recommended was directly related to what the Government itself had said in that paper. The IAC acted accordingly. Now, before there is any final report by the IAC, we find that the Government has moved in to break the mechanism set up for the IAC to look at these industries.
– Do you agree with what the IAC says?
– The Government should look further than just the industries we are discussing tonight. It is all right to say that the employment figures in the textile, clothing and shoe industries has dropped from 167,000 to 120,000 but the number of people working in manufacturing industry has dropped from 28 per cent of our work force to 20 per cent. The question facing any government in this country is where is it going to end? Are we to take it to the level where only those industries which have natural protection are to survive or is the Government going to make decisions that give what it calls the greatest certainty on economic prospects essential for investment and employment in this country?
At the moment manufacturing industry throughout this country has the jitters. As I pointed out to the Prime Minister this morning, the increase in petrol prices will do nothing but cause jitters again in the auto industry. Tonight we are talking about textiles, clothes and shoes. Next week we will be talking about the auto industry and the week after that we will be talking about other industries. At the moment 5.4 per cent of our total work force is registered as unemployed. Obviously the Government has to do more than make this very short statement tonight about what might happen in industry.
Let us look at some of the extraordinary features of this statement. Firstly, it refers back to the IAC for comment the future of these industries and the employment opportunities in these industries. Should they be rationalised? It refers to all the things that the IAC has said already. The IAC has told the Government quite bluntly what will occur with a rundown in protection in the long term. It has said that it is costing Australian consumers $600m to sustain these industries. The Government has to make up its mind about what it wants to do. It cannot continually keep thrusting back these questions on to the IAC. The buck must stop with the Government. It has to make the decision. To keep changing the rules of the game in relation to what the IAC must say is no good because it cannot make government policy. The Government itself must take responsibility for policy.
We have another extraordinary feature relating to this question of quotas. The Government has said that it is not going to allow the unemployment figures relating to these industries to rise any higher than they are already. However, the Minister has put forward an extraordinary view in this statement tonight” about part of the quotas. The honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) has pointed out time and again in this House that there is malpractice in the allocation of quotas. We now have the Government saying that it has to do something to protect the industries because they are going through an economic recession, but at the same time it says that sections of our industries are going off-shore and in order to assist them to set up and become viable off-shore they will have part of the quotas. The honourable member for Brisbane (Mr Peter Johnson) is always talking about protection although, to his disgrace, not always about industry. Nevertheless his firm or his father’s firm is now being encouraged to go off-shore because this Government has said that that industry can have part of the quotas. One of the ways in which this Government is going to assist these Australian companies to go into the industrial zones of Singapore, Taiwan or South Korea, thus becoming trans-national, is to guarantee that they will be able to get back into the Australian market. That represents only part of the recipe for what has to occur.
We on this side of the House said in the debate on the White Paper that until the Government starts talking in real terms about structural adjustment, retraining and the further employment of people and the relocation of people all it is doing is kicking the football up and down the ground. There is no concrete decision in relation to these industries. Of course it was fruitful for the Prime Minister to take to Kuala Lumpur under his arm the draft report of the Industries Assistance Commission and say: ‘There is part of the government machinery. We are telling those industries that in the long term there will be no protection’. But on the second day of this session, after his return from Kuala Lumpur, he said: ‘There will be none of that nonsense. We are not having that’. The countries of the Association of South East Asian Nations will have to read both of his statements. If the Government puts all of its eggs in the one basket in its talks with the ASEAN countries it will be making a very grave mistake because in that region there is a great deal of protection by the home countries of their local industries. We are dealing with many countries. The report of the IAC did not say that the problem is one concerning only the ASEAN countries. There is also a problem with Eastern Europe, China and many other nations where the trading balance has been in Australia’s favour for over two decades.
The Government has to start to assure the workers of this country that something decent will be done for them if they loose their jobs. Sooner or later in the development of this country, with the population growth as it is now, many industries will find it very difficult to attract the labour that they need. We have time to move to assure the work force that it is not going to carry all the burden of the decisions that this Government may have to make in relation to those industries. If the Government continues to do what it is doing at the moment it will make a complete farce of the transformation of the work force and what has to be done in the interests of this country and the $800m worth of protection spoken about earlier tonight will be increased in two years to $ 1 billion worth of protection.
The Government talks about the problem of inflation. The Government is making it far more difficult for itself to achieve what it is setting out to do. The Government has to say to the IAC: ‘Here are the rules by which you will operate’. It cannot say that it should play the first quarter under one set of rules and the second quarter under a different set of rules. In the instance of this report the Government is gambling with the livelihood of 127 000 workers in this country. It is also gambling with the livelihood of the people who live off the income poured into this community as a result of those people being able to find employment. These people have to be guaranteed employment at this time of very high unemployment. Some classical economist would say that this is a good opportunity to change the work force and restructure it because the unemployment rate is 5.4 per cent and there is no reason why it should not be 8 per cent. The Government now has time to retrain, relocate and to assure the work force that what is being done is being done in the interest of Australia.
Whilst the Government says in a very muddled way what has been said in this statement tonight it is no further along the road towards achieving what may be described as being best for Australia. The Government is on its hands and knees to the ASEAN countries. By achieving nothing it is ignoring the rest of the trading partners. It is again ignoring the benefits that flow through to the work force from people being able to go to work. It is also ignoring the plight of the people who are already unemployed. The Government cannot talk about these three industries in isolation. It has to talk about the total manufacturing base of this country. This Government will have to make up its mind as to where the dismantling stops.
– What would you do?
-What is happening in Victoria, which is the State from which the honourable members who are making all the interjections come? The very brilliant honourable member for Bendigo, who sits at the back of the House, has in his electorate a number of very minor industries which will be dismantled instantly unless this Government comes up with a program for dealing with the problems confronted by Australians. We may not have been dealing in trade as long as some of the other countries but we can be as hard and tough as they are. Our first priority and responsibility is to the work force in Australia. It is our first responsibility. It is not always a matter of locking the members of the work force into the jobs in which they are now engaged. It is a matter of seeing that the transformation from the job in which they are now engaged to the job that they should do in the long term to the benefit of Australia is carried out with government assistance and government guidance. The Government is threatening the jobs of certain people and saying: ‘These 120 000 people have to carry the burden for the rest of the 13 million people who live in Australia. We are very sorry about that. It just so happens that they work in the textile industry, the shoe industry or the clothing industry’. It will always have a fight on its hands while it does that. If some honourable members opposite were to take the trouble to get away from reading comics and were to read the White Paper on manufacturing industry they would see at an instance all the things that are missing from it.
– You have forgotten what Dr Cairns was saying.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member for Bendigo will cease interjecting. I suggest that if the numerous private conversations and debates were to cease it would be of help to the honourable member.
-The term that we should be setting out in a very positive manner is the only term that is missing from the Minister’s statement tonight. I refer to the term ‘market’. One cannot hold up industries without having a market. Until such time as we are able to claim markets outside this country or to rationalise the industry to meet the home market or part of this market, which is what these industries are doing, we are in trouble. It is not enough for the Minister or the Government simply to refer these matters back to the IAC and for supporters of the Government to go round the countryside saying: ‘It is all the fault of the IAC. We would have won the game but for the IAC. The Government set the rules for the IAC. It makes the decisions on the IAC’s report. It is no good sending the rule book back every time the Government is dissatisfied with a draft report. The whole issue of the clothing, textiles and shoes industry has been a ploy by the Government to grovel at the feet of the leaders of the ASEAN countries. The Government has no feelings at all for the workers of Australia. This has been an absolutely disgracefull exercise.
-On behalf of the exporters of Australia, I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
-Prior to the adjournment of the debate I was discussing the position of Lebanese refugees in Australia. Unfortunately my remarks were interrupted by the Neanderthal war dance of the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young). I will now continue the debate on this substantial matter. In the electorate of St George and no doubt many other electorates there is a number of refugees or quasi-refugees who have arrived recently. There are many children amongst that group. Many of those children have attended school. They have arrived without any knowledge of English. In some schools there are considerable numbers of these children who have had to be accommodated and who have had to receive English language training. These schools have battled on under great strains on their physical resources and the number of teachers available.
The report of the Committee deals with this matter in a number of places and then talks about the need for Australia’s efforts regarding our Lebanese community to be devoted to the integration of the Lebanese who arrived in Australia during the Lebanon crisis. It points-out that an interdepartmental approach by the Australian Government is necessary and that close co-operation with State instrumentalities is necessary. Those are very good words. If there is any slight criticism that I would make of this excellent report it is that in one or two areas it does not speak strongly enough. Indeed, that paragraph ought to be strengthened considerably. I do not believe that the Government’s policy sufficiently recognises the importance of the education of young persons who come to this country as refugees or quasi-refugees and who are unable to carry out the ordinary learning processes in the schools. The topic could be broadened beyond the Lebanese community because there are other communities in the same circumstances.
I was talking about the possibility of setting up special schools for those who arrive under those circumstances. I point out that I understood the New South Wales Government had some proposal in mind. If a child is to learn only for threequarters of an hour a day, although the teacher may be an excellent teacher the child still has to go back into the class room and may well be prejudiced. Also the child in the class room who has reached a certain stage of development for a certain school year may find that he is being held back in his learning because of the need for the teacher continually to pay special attention to children who are disadvantaged. So I strongly urge the Government to develop a policy in this area. 1 do not believe it is beyond reason, if we have economic problems, for us to look to the United Nations for help because the report states that there is a refugee assistance fund of $200m that is, in the words of the report, lying idle. The
United Nations ought to be able to allocate some of those funds to be used in the countries where refugees finally settle to assist those people with their integration problems. If that money is lying idle I would ask that the Australian Government make appropriate approaches to have some of those funds released.
I will briefly deal with a few miscellaneous matters that arise out of the report. The report talks about the consequences of the Middle East arms race. Somehow this race has to be slowed down and reversed. If, as I said earlier, there were another war, the consequences could be catastrophic. Even if the war were contained in the way that the war was somehow contained in 1973 the attrition rates on men and material and the economic viability of the states involved would be immense. During that conflict the Americans and the Russians flew in huge amounts of equipment. The delivery of that equipment and the subsequent economic cost must have contributed to the present serious Israeli financial problems and those of the area generally.
The report also deals with the nuclear problem. It is obvious to all concerned that if nuclear weapons were used in that area the result could well be a world wide nuclear conflict. Everything possible must be done by all nations, including Australia, to restrict any possible development of nuclear proliferation in that area. I briefly mention the Palestinian question but I believe a great deal more thought needs to be given to it. I understand that Mr Begin has come under considerable criticism for alleged intransigence, but we need carefully to examine the position there. It is difficult to impose solutions. The solutions will have to be found through negotiation. One has to offset what is desirable by way of an aim against what is attainable. One has to ask: If there is an ideal solution, do we risk the consequences of the parties being pigheaded and failing to reach what each side thinks is an ideal solution because they are unwilling to compromise for something that appears to them to be imperfect?’
The Australian trade relationships with the area need to be expanded dramatically. Trade has increased. This development is a tribute to this Government and, I would hope, the last Government. But much more trade between Australia and the Middle East is possible. I have some doubts as to whether the Australian Government is being sufficiently aggressive in the neutral sense of the term in promoting the sale to that area of goods and the mutual trading arrangements that we should like to see. The report we are considering is a very fine one. I conclude my remarks by once again congratulating all members of the sub-committee on their work.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-At its National Conference in Perth last month, the Australian Labor Party adopted this resolution:
Labor believes that both Israel and the Palestinians are entitled to independent States and national homes of their own.
There can be ho peace until the Arab States respect and recognise Israel’s sovereignty and right to exist. Equally, there can be no peace until Israeli forces have been withdrawn from occupied territories to secure and recognised boundaries and a just settlement of the claims of the Palestinian people is achieved. Australia will contribute to such a settlement.
Throughout the whole period of my Government, Australia actively and energetically pursued a course designed to promote these objectives. We affirmed and we continue to believe that the best prospect for an enduring peace in the Middle East will flow from an agreement freely arrived at between the parties, an agreement which fully recognises the rights and the status of both Israel and the Palestinians. The right to self-determination guaranteed under the United Nations Charter is a right for the Palestinians as well as the Israelis.
The report under consideration, comprehensive as it is, contains, I am bound to point out, a striking omission and opacity on the matter of human rights. There is no examination of the position of the 1,200,000 Palestinians who are subjects of Israel. There were only half a million before the 1967 war. The denial of equal political and social rights to this population represents a continuing source of tension and conflict. It injects into a situation of immense danger to the region and the world yet another potential cause of conflict. We have in the last 2 years seen in Lebanon an example of the bitterest conflict within a country. In that country in less than 2 years, from a population of scarcely 2 million there were more deaths than Australia suffered in over twice that period in the First World War when her population was over S million people. Those 60,000 Lebanese would have been alive today if the world had actively worked for a Palestinian national home after the 1973 war. In 1970 there was a similar conflict, not so prolonged, not so drastic in Jordan and that conflict would not have occurred within Jordan if the world had promptly pursued the settlement proposed by the United Nations after the 1967 war.
In the last 30 years there have been four wars between Israel and her Arab neighbours, each one progressively raising the level of tension in the region. And each conflict within any of the countries, between any of the countries, has deepened the possibility of confrontation and conflict between the two great powers, the United States and the Soviet Union. Thus on these three levels- conflict within countries, conflict between countries and world conflict- we have a situation of great and growing urgency. It is precisely this sense of urgency which is lacking in the recent statements of the Foreign Minister (Mr Peacock): The plain fact is that the longer a lasting settlement is delayed, the more intractable the situation becomes, the more intransigent parties are likely to become and the further the possibility of any negotiated settlement will recede. If one marks time on such issues one loses ground. Members of the new generation of young Palestinians, better trained, more highly qualified than their parents, are even more determined than their parents to assert their claims to the lands of their forefathers and to assert their political and social rights further. Each stage of the fighting between Israel and her neighbours has introduced new claims, new problems, new tensions, and in the significant and ominous phrase of Prime Minister Begin ‘a new reality’. Our Foreign Minister on 1 7 July said:
The abandonment by the PLO of its written rejection in the Palestinian National Charter of Israel ‘s right to exist is rightly seen as an essential pre-requisite of progress towards a settlement.
The simple fact is that if pre-conditions for negotiations are insisted upon there will be no negotiations and there will never be a settlement at all. It was precisely such an insistence on preconditions before negotiations which prolonged the war in Vietnam and which prevented a settlement far less humiliating to the United States than the complete and devastating final outcome there. The real basis for negotiations is not the stance of the Palestine Liberation Organisation but the United Nations resolutions 242 and 338. The resolutions assert that Israel should receive an absolute recognition of her right to survive as a nation within secure and recognised boundaries in return for its withdrawal from territories occupied in the 1 967 war. The future security of Israel and her existence as a nation lie not in the occupation and proliferation of buffer zones but in the guarantees of the United Nations. What is important is not what the PLO says but what the
United Nations says. The United Nations resolutions provide the proper basis for negotiations and the proper objectives of such negotiations. Central to the resolutions and the negotiations is the recognition of Israel ‘s right to exist.
Even if the PLO is acknowledged to be the representative of the Palestinian cause, it is not the only interested party. The PLO must be a party to negotiations; but it is not the sole or predominant party. King Hussein who is at present celebrating his silver jubilee, President Sadat and President Assad do not reject Israel ‘s right to exist. They do not say that the PLO is their spokesman. Delay in negotiations can only weaken Israel’s position and deepen the intransigence of the PLO itself. Israel’s armaments may be stronger than ever; her economy is not. My own recent meetings with the leaders of the front line Arab states leave me in no doubt about their sincerity in recognising Israel’s right to exist. In June last year I visited Cairo and Tel Aviv. In June this year I visited Syria, Jordan and Lebanon. Last week I talked again with the Prime Minister of Egypt in Nicosia.
Since my last visit to Israel there has been a change of government which has raised some anxiety among the moderate leaders of the neighbouring states. That anxiety is not likely to be set at rest by the new Government’s provocative references to the Palestinian lands as Judea and Sumaria. In the second book of Chronicles, chapter 8, verse 4, we learn that it was King Solomon who built Palmyra. For modern Israel to draw on biblical names as support for current territorial aspirations is as hostile to the contemporary facts as it is for outsiders to persist with the colonial terminology for the region, namely, Transjordan and the Middle East which term I have just used. One might ask: Across the Jordan and the middle east from where? The answer is, from the point of view of London. Le Monde uses Cisjordanie for the West Bank, looking at the whole problem from the point of view of Paris.
The most hopeful recent development is the determination of the President of the United States to secure negotiations. President Carter stated on Monday that his administration remains tenacious and determined to improve the situation in the Middle East. The term ‘determined ‘ is the one which the President has used for several months past. The word ‘determined’ has given heart to King Hussein and President Assad. Last Monday President Carter stated:
There are three basic levels for peace: acceptance of a genuine peace on the part of the Arabs; an adjustment of boundaries which are secure for Israel and also satisfy the minimum requirements of her Arab neighbours and the
United Nation’s resolution; and a solution to the question of the enormous numbers of Palestinian refugees who have been forced out of their homes and who want to have fair treatment.
The President brings to the search for a lasting peace the highest intellectual qualities of any American President since another southerner and Democrat, Woodrow Wilson. Australia should make her support for the President’s efforts and his policy absolutely clear. We should be unremitting in our efforts in support of the President’s initiatives. As in so many areas there is the best hope for a breakthrough and peace through the intitiatives taken by the new President of the United States. The action that is needed, the action which should be urged and supported by Australia, is to get negotiations started. They will not be started by setting preconditions which, whatever their objective merit, will not be met.
Each month which passes brings closer the possibility of a fifth war. The past four wars have stopped short of the ultimate disaster. There can be no assurance that we shall be so fortunate next time. Until recent years in Australia there was a preponderance of sympathy and argument in favour of Israel. To the proponents of Israel’s case I point out that as each month passes the weaker Israel herself becomes. No nation, for all its valour and determination, can endure indefinitely the tensions, the crippling drain on resources and the waste of youth and materials to which Israel has been subjected for the last 30 years. The greatest danger for Israel is that insistence on a formal expression of her undoubted right to exist in security and in peace with her neighbours may some day lead to the destruction of her actual existence. The proper course for the friends of Israel and for the Government of Australiathe Foreign Minister (Mr Peacock) has acknowledged that this Government follows the policy established by my Government- is to urge and encourage all the parties towards negotiations based on a mutual recognition of the rights of both Israel and the Palestinian people to their independence, their sovereignty and their self-determination. That is the proper course. It is an urgent course. It is proper and it is urgent for Israel, for the region and for the world.
Mr CONNOLLY (Bradfield) ^^Successive Australian governments of all parties have followed a basically similar policy towards the Middle East and particularly towards the right of the state of Israel to exist. We must face the fact that not only is the Middle East vital to the economy of the world but also its growing military power presents enormous risks for international peace and stability. Nevertheless, no Australian should forget that in 1 947 Australia endorsed the United Nations vote to partition Palestine and to establish Israel. For more than 30 years the Palestinians, like the Israelies before them, have sought rights to a state of their own. The difficulties which have faced Israel since 1948 should never be underestimated. I have no doubt that in the annals of human endeavour the achievements of Israel will be seen as a demonstration of the power of man to overcome insurmountable problems, to achieve the right to exist and to establish a state which, in the Middle Eastern context, remains to this day one of the most unified and one of the most prosperous, despite the fact that Isreal is facing a rate of inflation of some 30 per cent, that over 40 per cent of her gross national product is directed at defence and over recent years she has had to absorb nearly 2 000 000 immigrants. Perhaps with the exception of Australia, it is one of the largest immigrant communities in the world.
We see in the Middle East today, as we have since 1948, the strong probability of wars, of further destruction, and of further intense human suffering unless, in the present context, there is some possibility of at last a settlement being reached. But when we speak of a settlement in the Middle East context we should not see it merely in terms of a few years. The Middle East regrettably, being as it is, balanced between the mainland of Europe and Africa, has always had an extremely difficult and complex strategic position. The peoples of the Middle East have also become so mixed over thousands of years that in the ethnic sense it is not so easy to say that a person is specifically a Jew and another an Arab. All peoples of the Middle East are Semitic. One can hope that perhaps one day in the future that great group of peoples will be able to turn their mind from war to peace. Perhaps they will be able to again give to the world, some of the tremendous philosophical wealth which was passed on to us through Judaism, Mohammed and Jesus Christ.
In Israel today, as the Leader of the Opposition rightly pointed out, we do not know precisely where the borders of modern Israel should be. That is because of two basic difficulties. Firstly, there is the problem that some Israelis, including to some degree the present Begin Government, appear, to take the view that the historic boundaries of Israel, ought to be the present and the future boundary. On the other hand, however, it is a reflection of the historical difficulties which the Middle East has faced that since 1 947 the boundaries of Israel have been fought over, they have never been negotiated. So when we speak of whether Israel should withdraw from the West Bank, from Sinai, or from the Gollan Heights, we should also consider that since the first war of independence in 1 948 this problem has remained. There has never been a serious attempt to negotiate the borders of the modern state of Israel.
Since the October war there have been a number of very significant movements which would suggest the likelihood of a more advantageous position in the future in terms of negotiation. This applies particularly to the Arab side. We must remember that the last war, resulted at best in a stalemate. Psychologically, it was seen by the Arabs as a victory, and certainly there is some evidence to bear out that contention. Following the October war, the Arabs were able to show that they could lodge their troops across the Suez Canal and capture Israeli positions. The invincible Israeli military machine, seen in the past as such, demonstrated that, like all other war machines before it, that it had the weaknesses of human frailty. As a result, a considerable degree of flexibility with regard to negotiations has been introduced by the Egyptians, to a lesser extent the Syrians, and the Jordanians. The present United States Administration under President Carter has emphasised that while there may be temporary security lines or zones to which special security arrangements would apply in terms of a final settlement, the political borders in any settlement would necessitate ‘Israels return to approximately the borders that existed prior to the war of 1967, albeit with minor modifications as negotiated among the parties’. This would, among other things, involve the surrender of the West Bank.
I want to speak about the West Bank because, unlike the Sinai which is essentially desert and has a very small bedouin population, the West Bank is the home of well over one million Palestinians. Those people are there under the administration of an Israeli occupying authority. The main difficulty regarding a settlement with Jordan is that there has been a tendency in recent years, dating back to about 1971, for Israeli governments to ‘create facts’ in that area. I refer specifically to the establishment of various military and civilian settlements. While notionally many of those settlements were meant to be for strategic purposes and such as on the salient facing across the Jordan River towards the Jordan, in recent years the tendency has been for more civilian settlements to be created inland near cities like Tulkarm and Nabulus and other places which are totally Arab. A comment was made recently by General Dayan in justifying this on the grounds that it was a good thing for Jews and Arabs to live together. I certainly applaud that statement, and I am sure that everybody else in this chamber would do so. However, the fact is that many of the civilians who have settled on the West Bank are themselves ultra nationalist and ultra religious. They have no intention of living together or of getting closer to the Arab population. I suggest that people of that nature are not necessarily the best type of people to settle in such a strategic area. Nevertheless, that is what has occurred.
I believe the vast majority of Israelis wish to live in peace with the Arab nations around them. I am firmly of the view that the Israeli people want a settlement and are prepared to negotiate a settlement. But a settlement can be negotiated only when people are prepared to sit down and talk. We are faced now with the prospect of failure of the conference in Geneva even before it starts. The main difficulty, is the question of the recognition of the status of the Palestine Liberation Organisations. The Israeli Government quite rightly says: ‘Why should we sit down and negotiate with a group of people who have stated quite definitely, through the Palestinian National Covenant and more recently through the Cairo Declaration, that their major objective in life is to destroy the Israeli state?’ Obviously, Palestinians must be prepared to make clear that they are willing to co-exist with Israel. Their failure to do so has been and will continue to be a major stumbling block in the fundamental question of whether or not the major parties to a settlement in the Middle East will ever sit down in the one room and negotiate.
Of course there are lower levels of negotiation which need to be considered. Perhaps the most successful episode in an otherwise unsatisfactory history since 1948 was the negotiations at Rhodes. While we may see it as a rather amusing and somewhat pathetic situation nevertheless delegates in the same building occupying different rooms and having people running between the rooms swopping notes, were able to negotiate an armistice, something which they have not been able to do since, with the notable exception of the negotiations under the United Nations leading to the cease fire between Egypt and Israel following the last war. The important thing, is that every attempt must be made by the United States and its allies to encourage all parties concerned in the Middle East dispute to seek a basis upon which they are prepared to negotiate. ,
The major problem to be faced with regard to the Palestinians is that they are a racial entity and are recognised as such by the world community, and of course by the United Nations, which has given them the status of observers. Historically, it can be said with complete justification that in terms of their racial and ethnic origins the Palestinians are as mixed as the Australian people. That is correct. Nevertheless, surely the essence of whether a people are to be defined as such rests on whether or not that group of people believe that they have sufficient in common to share a history and a future together. The reality is that the Palestinians, whether they are found in Jordan on the West Bank, in Sinai, in the refugee camps in Gaza or in the refugee camps in Lebanon, have one common characteristic. They believe quite firmly that one day they will return to their homeland in Israel or the occupied territories. Of course, the regrettable fact of history is that many of them have never ever seen their homeland nor the villages from which they came, if they still exist, but those people believe that one day they will return to Israel, regardless of how many wars intervene. Having served in the area for two years and having known many Arabs and Israelis, both in the Arab countries and in Israel, I can say that it is a pathetic fact that, however many wars they fight, it is the view of many Arabs that ultimately they will win. Because they know that at least they are winning the battle of the cradle. The growth of the Arab population is massive when compared with that of Israel ‘s which, like Australia, apparently sees great benefit in zero population growth. In fact, if it were not for the rate of migration to Israel, in terms of its Jewish population Israel would have negative population growth.
These are very real problems which have to be seen for there effect on the future. One thing that is clear is the tremendous potential of the Israeli people which, if it can be harnessed and made available to the entire Middle East, would in my opinion make the Middle East not only one of the wealthiest but also one of the most developed ones on earth. Israel today has the greatest concentration of academic, scientific and technological skills to be found anywhere outside Western Europe and North America. That Israel has for so long had to seek markets for its products in the US, and especially in Europe, is a pathetic indication of the fact that, although surrounded by so many millions of people whose standard of living is by no means comparable with that of Israel, nor I might add with that of most of the Arab-Israelis or the Arabs of the West Bank or
Gaza, the opportunities which peace will give to those people are beyond quantification. Their future rests only through peace. The alternative is that the Middle East and perhaps the whole world will one day be thrown into conflagration. It is indeed sad that the Middle East, which has given so much to the philosophical development of mankind and was the home of the three great monotheistic religions, is unable to achieve peace. We see yet again the intransigence of humanity because so few people ultimately are prepared to give to work, to compromise to achieve ultimately the greatest victory of all. Peace.
The report of the Sub-Committee of the Parliamentary Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee has given the Parliament an excellent opportunity to debate this most important question and I should like to congratulate the members on their excellent work.
-I was a member of a parliamentary fact finding mission sent by this Parliament to the Middle East recently. I believe that it would be premature to give my personal impressions gained on that visit without first having discussed the issues and the questions with the other members of the mission and agreeing upon the report to be placed before this House. Nevertheless, I should point out that the mission visited Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Israel. We spoke with the leaders of all those countries. I think it would be reasonable to say that the report we are discussing here tonight- the report of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence- even though there might be some qualifications expressed in regard to the Palestinian question, is substantially correct in fact and opinion as evidenced by the fact that both sides in the Middle East criticised us. This surely shows its even-handedness. That is to say, the Israelis as well as the Arab states criticised us. As a member of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence I wish to congratulate particularly the Sub-committee of that Committee, of which I was not a member, upon a very sound and logical report.
As I said earlier, whilst I do not express the views of the mission, it is public knowledge that the Arab states demand, firstly, that the Palestine Liberation Organisation be represented at the Geneva conference. I should mention that some of them are obviously prepared to negotiate on the precise form and timing of that representation, that is, whether it should be at the start of the conference or whether they should come in some time during the conference, such as towards the end when outstanding issues have been determined. They also demand a homeland for the Palestinians- not necessarily an independent State- but preferably a homeland on the West Bank of the Jordan River and virtually a province of Jordan. In this regard it should be remembered that there are approximately 2 500 000 Palestinians roaming Arab countries without a homeland and very often living in degrading conditions. But it should be remembered equally in Australia that those conditions are not as bad as some of the conditions under which our own Aborigines live. Surely that is an indictment of Australia itself.
The Arab countries also demand the return of all areas annexed by Israel in 1 967-the Golan Heights to Syria, the Sinai Desert and Gaza Strip to Egypt, and Jerusalum and the West Bank to Jordan. But I must say once again that one gets the impression that some of the Arab states at least are prepared to negotiate on territories. It is also public knowledge that the attitudes of Egypt and Jordan are a lot more malleable- more soft line- than those of Syria in regard to their willingness to negotiate on territory and other matters. Also, they agree- I would include Syria in this- that a Geneva conference should occur this year. There is undoubted evidence that the Arab states will use the oil weapon in the event of another war. Whilst they maintain that the PLO is becoming more moderate, one is left with the impression that this still has to be proved and one cannot blame Israel for doubting whether that moderation is real or whether in the final analysis the PLO still wants to push Israel into the sea.
– What do you think?
– Israel demands that the PLO should concede that Israel has a right to exist, which it does not concede at present, instead of stating that Israel will be pushed into the sea. There is no doubt that that is the attitude of the PLO at this point of time, although there have been some published reports recently that the PLO is adopting a different attitude and is prepared to accept the right of Israel to exist.
– What do you think?
– My friend -
– I am asking you.
– Without a doubt, I believe that Israel has a right to exist. Without a doubt, I believe that Israel has a right to secure borders. That is the second point that Israel maintainsthat she should have a right to secure borders and -
– Where do you think the borders should be?
– Oh, look -
– I am asking you.
– Go home to mumma and get her advice on your next Press story.
– Where do you think they should be?
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member for Phillip will cease interjecting.
– I would also say that Israel does not agree to the return of territories annexed in 1 967. She maintains that the West Bank was liberated and not annexed in 1967. I am referring to the present Government of Israel. She also maintains her right to continue to establish settlements on the West Bank with resultant misgivings by the Arab states and their lack of confidence in a secure Middle East settlement. But also I should make the point that Israel, naturally, has suspicions as to whether the PLO or the Arab states are genuine in their statements that Israel has the right to exist. One cannot blame the Israelis for that because the Arab states do maintain that they have time on their side. That is not only the statement by Israel. That is the statement of the Arab states themselves.
I must refer here to the difference between the attitudes expressed by the Labour members in Israel and those who are associated with the Begin Government. I do not think there is any doubt that the Labour members are prepared to negotiate, do believe in a peaceful settlement and that the great mass of the people of Israelthose in Kibbutzim and elsewhere- believe that there must be some give and take and that peace is an absolute essential to the further development of the country. Unfortunately I must say that as far as Begin himself and those around him are concerned, the attitude is not one of the same moderation.
From public pronouncements it is obvious that Vance, the US Secretary of State, has found that the Begin Government is intransigent- very hard line- compared with previous governments. I cannot but say that I believe it is a tragedy that there has been this change in administration, which makes the job of working for peace so much more difficult. I should add that the present Government- I emphasise that it is the present Government and not the mass of the people or the Opposition in Israel- does not accept the principle of a Palestinian home and also indicates a reluctance to negotiate on territory, which is a distinct barrier to United States attempts to find a peaceful settlement between the Arab states and Israel. This hard line attitude of the present Government could do damage to Israel’s image as it could lose world sympathy and make the Arab platform more feasible and acceptable.
I think we should look at the economics of the countries. Every one of the countries we visited in that area had inflation running at a rate of over 30 per cent. In the case of Israel 35 per cent of gross national product was being spent on defence. In Syria, which had two budgets- a current expenditure budget as well as a development budget-70 per cent of her current expenditure budget was being spent on defence with a proportion as well -
-Why should it not?
– If the honourable member wants to favour Syria he should do so. Also, a proportion of Syria’s development budget was indirectly linked with defence. Obviously, peace is the only answer so far as these countries are concerned, to ensure that Israel does exist in the long term, and that the Arab states develop economically. I have not touched on the issue of Lebanon but without a doubt the situation there is a very great tragedy. The civil war continues in the south. Lebanon’s economy is shattered. At one stage we were told that in the past two years an inflation rate of something like 200 per cent has prevailed. In Beirut outbreaks of violence occur regularly, week by week. There is no doubt that if the 30,000 occupying troops, 25,000 of whom are from Syria, were to withdraw tomorrow the Lebanese would be at it hammer and tongs again. There is no doubt that, though they state that religion is an issue, it is not. It is basically a war of the ‘haves’ against the ‘have-nots’, with religion being used as an instrument to get the smaller people involved in the private armies to fight this war.
Israel must be given assurances of its right to exist. There must be acceptance by Israel of the principle of a home land for Palestinians, but not necessarily an independent state. The Palestinians must be given some voice at Geneva. Israel must be guaranteed secure borders and the Palestine Liberation Organisation must accept that Israel has that basic right to exist. The Arab states also must convince the world and particularly Israel that they believe in that right. Until these things occur, I believe, the insecurity, the dangers to world peace, the impossibility of reaching a final, just decision in the Middle East and the danger to the economies and to the peace of the world will continue to exist.
-As a member of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence I am very pleased to be able to say a few words tonight concerning the issues raised by that Committee’s report. Like the previous speaker, I cannot claim any great credit for my contribution to the report as I was not a member of the sub-committee which did most of the work on it. But I should like to take this opportunity to congratulate the Chairman of the subcommittee, the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley), and his colleagues on the work that they did. I think it is an excellent report and also a very important report.
We in Australia often think of the Middle East as an area of the World that is not of great concern to us in any direct sense. I think many Australians have little knowledge of the Middle East. Many of us tend to regard the Middle East as an homogeneous group of countries and people. Of course, any one who has been to that part of the world knows that that is not so. There is a very great diversity of race, culture and religion in the areas and the peoples of the Middle East. One of the important things that I think this report has done has been to highlight this diversity, not only so far as the people are concerned, but also in the resources and the ways of life and thinking of the people. I think this report is important from our point of view because it does bring home to Australians information concerning the Middle East which is of relevance to Australia and which, perhaps, we often neglect to understand and to comprehend.
I want tonight to talk more about the trade and economic issues associated with the report and their relevance to Australia. Other speakers have concentrated mainly on other issues. They have raised several points which I think are of critical importance to us as an important member of the international community and as a nation which is striving with other nations to produce a more just and more peaceful world. The report brings out that we must do more to assist in the work of moving towards a permanent and peaceful settlement in the region based on the recognition of Israel ‘s right to exist in security, on the encouragement of Arab initiatives to settle the displaced Palestinians and also on the efforts of President Carter and other world leaders at the present time. It is an immense problem but we will be abrogating our responsibility as an important member of the international community if we do not play our part.
The Middle East in terms of resources is a very diversified area. We often think that because of the amount of oil produced there and the importance of oil in the international community the Middle East as a whole is a very wealthy area. Of course, that is not so. There is enormous wealth in certain countries of the region but there is also enormous poverty in other areas of the region, particularly those areas which have a scarcity of physical resources including oil. Many of the Middle East countries have major problems of development. Many of them lack adequate water. Anyone who has flown over or travelled through some of the desert areas in the region know just what an immense restraint the lack of water is placing on development. Even a wealthy country such as Saudi Arabia has faced and is still facing major problems in this area. The average rainfall in Saudi Arabia is something like two inches a year and the watertable is a non.replenishable watertable so there is a great deal of difficulty in development in an area like Saudi Arabia despite its oil resources and financial wealth if the water supply problem cannot be solved. There is a lack of skills in the work force in many countries in the region. Saudi Arabia is a good example.
In these difficulties with development I believe lies a great deal of scope for mutual and beneficial trade and economic co-operation between Australia and the countries of the Middle East. There is great scope for increased trade with those countries. In recent years we have increased our trade with those countries on a two-way basis but the potential for trade in that area is still very great indeed, particularly in respect of our agricultural commodities. I would like publicly to pay a tribute to the work of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and the Australian Trade Commission in several of the countries in the Middle East. Officers there have done a great deal in the last half dozen years to increase our knowledge of trading opportunities with those countries and those initiatives are now starting to pay dividends.
However, there is a long way further to go and a much greater opportunity exists for us to develop in the area not just in terms of trade but also in terms of technology. There is a lack of technology and skills in dry land farming techniques in many of these countries. We in Australia because of our geography and resource requirements have developed perhaps the most sophisticated knowledge of skills in dry land farming of any country and my understanding from a visit to this area some time ago was that there are great opportunities for us to export our technology and our skilled personnel to assist the development of dry land farming in the Middle
East. There is a great wish among those countries that we do this, so there is considerable scope for co-operation. There is also great scope for increased investment in Australia from some of the countries in the region, particularly those which have the oil resources which have produced considerable amounts of financial wealth.
Surprisingly there is not as much financial wealth as was predicted four or five years ago when the oil crisis arose late in 1973 as a result of the quadrupling of crude oil prices. Although at that time there was a prediction that the oil wealth would lead to a huge surplus of financial reserves that would be disruptive of the international monetary system and would provide great scope for investment of funds in Australia and in other countries around the world, that has not as yet happened. This is so for a variety of reasons but largely because of considerable cooperation between the international financial community and the International Monetary Fund to ensure that the sudden upsurge in wealth in the oil producing countries was distributed and disbursed throughout the world in a way that was not destructive of financial markets. That is one of the great achievements of the last three or four years in terms of international financial co-operation, but the scope does exist for long term productive investment of Middle East reserves in Australia and that is something that we need to encourage and to look at much more closely. The attitude of successive Australian governments over the last three or four years has perhaps not been fully conducive to the encouragement of foreign investment in Australia as I and some others would have liked and I hope that this is a problem which we will sort out in the not too distant future because there is no doubt that our nation will require large and continuing amounts of foreign investment for many years to come if we are to develop our potential for economic growth and if we are to meet the needs and aspirations of the people in our community.
Middle East oil is of the most direct importance to us. It is important for two reasons. One reason which perhaps is more important than the other is the dependence of other Western countries on Middle East oil. Possibly Japan is the classic example but many other nations in the Western world are also very heavily dependent on Middle East oil. We saw as a result of the oil crisis in late 1 973 just what disruption such price increases as occurred then and subsequently and the rapidity of such increases can be caused to the economies of major Western countries. In many respects the Western world countries almost without exception are living through a period of considerable financial and economic difficulty with lower than optimum growth rates, higher than normal long term unemployment and the like and I think that much of that difficulty can be slated home to the dramatic effects on them of the Middle East oil crisis of 1973 and subsequently. That in turn has had a major effect on the Australian economy by slowing down the economies of our trading partners and it is inevitable that that has an effect on our rate of growth.
The second reason that Middle East oil is of such critical importance to us is that, although we have been fortunate in recent years with our oil reserves providing us with 70 per cent or thereabouts self-sufficiency in oil, the pattern has been very patchy. Between 93 per cent and 95 per cent of our motor spirit requirements have been met from our own resources over the past two or three years but only 20 per cent of our fuel oil has come from this source. Those proportions are going to decline considerably between now and the mid 1980s unless we find a great deal more oil than is indicated at the moment in this country. That spells out two considerations. The first is to highlight the importance of last night’s Budget decision to increase progressively the price of Australian crude over a number of years up to import parity because we must expand our oil exploration program and if possible find more oil. Perhaps the prospects are not highly encouraging but even if they are it is inevitable that for the next decade or more we will have a great and increasing reliance on the oil reserves of Middle East countries. It also highlights the need for us to put more effort into developing an energy budget and conserving our oil and other energy resources and to strive even more heavily than we have in the past for the development of alternative energy sources. For all these reasons, this report of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence dealing with the Middle East is a very important report. It is a timely report. I hope that it will be a widely read report.
– I congratulate the sub-committee of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence on the excellence of its report on the Middle East. It is an excellent document showing an informed, sensitive and humane understanding of the problems which beset the area. It is a document that deserves to be read by everyone in this House and by everyone who wants to see a peaceful end to the long period of conflict in the Middle East. Anyone reading this report and unfamiliar with the politics of the Middle East may well throw up his hands in despair at what appears to be the impossibility of finding a solution that will satisfy everyone-Egypt, Syria, the Lebanon, the Palestine Liberation Organisation and Israel, not to mention the many other neighbouring Arab countries which abound in the region and the two super powers that wield such influence there, the Soviet Union and the United States.
Only a fool or a super-optimist would believe that it is going to be easy. Yet I believe it is possible if one ingredient that is totally absent at the moment is injected into the complex discussions and negotiations that must occur over the next few years if there is ever to be any end to the continual state of war which exists between the two parties. That ingredient is trust. Sitting in the warmth, comfort and security of Australia, thousands of miles away from hatred and mistrust that permeate the whole of the Middle East, it is difficult for rational people here to understand why it is that a compromise solution cannot be found, at least at this stage.
Let me try to illustrate how the various parties feel about each other. I wish to speak as though I was an Israeli living in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv. He would say something like this: ‘For almost 100 years we Jews have fought a running battle with the Arabs to re-establish a homeland for ourselves in the country from which we were expelled some 2000 years ago. We paid outrageous prices to Arabs for desert and malaria infested swamp. After years of struggle against marauding Arab bandits and disease, against the Turks and the British, against the indifference and prejudice of the rest of the world, we finally established a viable Jewish community in Palestine. However, it took the murder of 6 million Jews by the Nazis to move the rest of the world to create a Jewish state of Israel. ‘The same Arabs who sold us the useless desert suddenly became envious after our hard work and industry turned the wasteland into fertile farms. Suddenly they wanted it back and they harassed our settlements, murdered our people and opposed us at every turn. They also exaggerate their claim about having been here for centuries. Many have but hundreds of thousands of them are here because they were attracted by the prosperity we created. We also remind people that for 400 years Palestine was ruled by the Ottoman Empire. The internal warfare against us escalated to external warfare when Israel was proclaimed a state in 1948. The armies of Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon launched a massive attack against our new nation that had been but a few hours before a mandated territory administered by the British. The rest of the world stood by and did nothing more than express messages of sympathy at our imminent annihilation. Despite being outgunned and outmanned we defeated the Arab armies and established the state. ‘It was Israel that accepted the United Nations partition of the mandated territory of Palestine into two states, one Arab and one Jewish even though their proposals were considerably less than we thought was fair. The Arabs it was who refused to accept the United Nations partition as they have refused to accept our existence from that day to this. Since 1948 they have done everything possible to reverse that decision. We have been blockaded at the Straits of Tiran to stop our lifeline to the Indian Ocean and refused access to the Suez Canal. We have had massive armies brought right up to our borders within sight of our farms and homes. We have had thousands of our young men and women killed in four wars which were started or instigated by the Arabs. We have had hundreds and thousands of innocent civilians and women and children killed by terrorist guerrillas in schools, hospitals, homes and shopping centres. It is not only in Israel that our people are threatened. They have been blown up, assassinated, hijacked and terrorised all over the world. When we retaliate the world and the United Nations condemn our action and ignore those who trangress against us and brand us as aggressors and racists. ‘When the Arab nations threaten us with annihilation as they did in 1 967 and 1 973 the world stands by and watches saying how sorry it is but doing nothing. When the Arabs use their oil as blackmail with those countries with whom we have friendly trading and cultural relations the vast majority buckle under and expel our consuls, ambassadors and even our technical experts who were providing assistance in many of the under-developed countries. Throughout all this we have created the one truly democratic state in the Middle East. Our neighbours are either one party states, absolute monarchies or military juntas without any of the basic human rights that exist in genuine democracies. Arabs living in Israel openly participate in public debate about our shortcomings. They stand for public office, speak their minds on radio, television and in the Press and generally have rights that they themselves, let alone Jews, do not have in Arab countries. ‘Despite the fact that we live in a permanent state of war and are under constant threat from internal terrorism, the slightest restriction of any Arab is evidence of Israel being a ‘fascist state’. When crimes 10 times worse are perpetrated against the Jewish population of Syria or Iraq the world is silent. Israel took in over 1 million Jews expelled from Arab countries after the war of 1948 whilst Arab countries refused to accept less than half that number who left Israel at the same time when their leaders told them they could come back in a few weeks after all of us had been massacred. They preferred to let these poor Arab refugees remain in abominable conditions near our borders, encouraging them in their hatred for Israel and using them as a valuable weapon in the propaganda war. From these hell holes of hatred have sprung the nucleus of the terrorist organisations of El Fatah and the PLO. ‘If Israel, a small, relatively poor country, could absorb almost 2 million people in 30 years, many of them from Arab countries, why could not the 100 million strong Arab nations, many of them amongst the richest in the world, absorb less than half a million people into their community? With our scarce resources we have rehoused some 40,000 Arabs in new homes. We have provided the majority of Arabs living in occupied territories with employment at six times what they would have received in Arab countries. Every move has been opposed by the Arabs and the Arab countries. Similar movements of people have been going on throughout history. Why was this time any different? What sort of people are they who would allow hundreds of thousands of people to suffer for years like this to make a political point? What has the rest of the world done while we have fought to survive? Some have expressed sympathy for our plight and admiration for our courage and initiative. But you cannot fight 100 million Arabs with sympathy and admiration. Frankly, we do not want people to die in our cause. ‘Unfortunately, the history of the Middle East has shown that when the crunch comes Israel is on her own. The only people who are prepared to die to defend Israel are Israelis. That is how it should be. Therefore, before you tell us how we should be more tolerant, more flexible and less intransigent in our attitudes towards our Arab neighbours and the PLO just remember that if we make one mistake, if we lose one war then we cease to exist. The Arabs can afford to lose a dozen wars and still survive. Before we make concessions to the Arabs, before we withdraw from the defensible borders that were created during the 1967 war, before we start talking about the rights of the Palestinians you show us that the Arabs and particularly the PLO are prepared to accept our right to exist and are prepared to enter into normal, peaceful relations with Israel. ‘We have no intention of returning to the situation that existed prior to 1967 when Nasser massed his huge armies in the Sinai and ordered the United Nations peace keeping force out of the buffer zone between Israel and Egypt. We have no intention of allowing the Jordanians back into the West Bank area so that they can train their guns on Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and in a quick push of 1 S kilometres cut our nation in half. We will not allow the Syrians to return to the Golan Heights so that they can daily fire rockets at our farmers and school children in the Galilee below. We will not permit these things to happen until we know that by doing so we will ensure a permanent acceptance of our right to exist as a nation. Frankly, we do not believe that the Arabs want peace and that they are ready to accept Israel as a permanent part of the Middle East. ‘We have been told by our friends that the present Arab leaders are more moderate than their predecessors. With due respect to our friends that is a bit like saying that Hitler was more moderate than Eichman. We believe our friends, those few we still have, in their anxiety to find nice, neat solutions to the conflict are being mesmerised by some very polished Arab politicians who have not changed their views concerning Israel or its ultimate destruction but have simply changed their tactics. After having failed to destroy Israel through war, boycott, oil blackmail and international pressure, they are attempting to change their own image by saying how anxious they are to have peace and are portraying Israel as the intransigent warmonger intent on grabbing more and more Arab territory.
We do not believe that the Arabs have any intention of accepting Israel’s presence and believe that their diplomatic initiatives are aimed solely at forcing Israel to make territorial concessions and returning to the boundaries of pre- 1967. When they have succeeded in winning this battle they will then return to Gaza, the Sinai Peninsula, Sharm el Sheikh, the Golan and the West Bank, enabling them to destroy Israel in a surprise attack of their own choosing. If our friends think we are being unduly cautious and bloody minded we would remind them that if we agreed to what they ask and we are proven right they will pick up their papers one morning and see the headline “Israel destroyed- 3,000,000 Jews massacred”. They will be shocked, appalled and sad; they may even weep a little about our tragedy. But within a few days they will recover from their grief and life will go on- for them. Another 3,000,000 Jews will have been added to Hitler’s 6,000,000 murdered and another tragic page will have been added to Jewish history. They may be prepared to take that risk with our lives but I hope they will understand why we will not. There will be no more Warsaw ghettoes, no more Masadas- thank you very much. If you want to gamble then gamble with your own life.’ Mr Deputy Speaker, what I have just described is the view, I believe, of 99 per cent of Israelis. Whatever the differences of opinion within Israel- and believe me the old story about .when three Israelis get together you will get four opinions is not far from the truththere is total unanimity on these fundamentals.
The Arab view would go something like this: ‘We Arabs have lived in this area since time immemorial. Palestine is our homeland and it means as much to us as it does to the Jews. It is not our fault that they left here 2,000 years ago and it is not our fault that the world has persecuted them. We are not responsible for Hitler’s crimes so why should we suffer the loss of our homeland and our right to self determination to assuage the conscience of the rest of the world regarding anti-Semitism. Certainly we have opposed them at every step. Why shouldn’t we? Wouldn’t any people oppose an alien culture, a foreign country being imposed in their midst? When the British departed in 1948 hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were forced, by the brutal Israelis, out of their homes and to flee for their lives. Since then we have lived for one thing- to return to our homeland and we will do anything that is necessary to achieve that objective. The world ignored our plight when for 20 years we rotted in refugee camps on the borders of Israel. Only when our brave young men hijacked planes and attacked Israel did they listen to our problems. We have been accused of being terrorists by the Jewish controlled media but as far as we are concerned we are no different from the Jews who forced us to leave our homeland, who bomb our villages and who kill our people. And anyhow, this is total war. The front line is wherever and whenever there are Israelis or supporters of Israel. Any weapon is legitimate. ‘
I know that people will accuse me of over simplifying the position and will say that there are dozens of shades of grey in between, but I believe that these are the two apparent irreconcilable problems of the Israelis and the Palestinian Arabs and their supporters. Shortly after this report was completed and just prior to it being presented to the Parliament there was the first change in government since the inception of the state of Israel. The Labor Party, after 29 years, was defeated and the Begin Government, or the Likud Government under Mr Begin, came to power. There is no way that any rational humane person can support the policies of Mr Begin and some of the fanatical right wing that surrounds him. Mr Begin ‘s proposition that the West Bank, which he refers to as Judea and Samaria, should be annexed because they were historically a part of Israel 2,000 years ago is outrageous in the light of the present political situation in the Middle East. The argument that 20th century nations should be defined by biblical boundaries is nonsense despite its appeal to religious fanatics. It was an argument used to create the establishment of Israel but the fundamental reason for the final acceptance by the United Nations of the creation of the state of Israel was more related to horror of the Nazi holocaust and the need for a home for Jewish people as a haven against sporadic but virulent anti-Semitism and a recognition that some 650,000 Jews were living in Palestine and desiring a nation of their own separate from the Arabs.
It is equally wrong and short sighted for the Israelis to claim that the world does not care what happens to them. Despite the cowardice of the vast majority of nations over Arab oil blackmail, Israel should never forget that it was world opinion, through the United Nations, that created the state. Without the United States Israel would be in a perilous position and there is still enormous goodwill throughout the peoples of the world despite what may be the official view of their governments. In many ways the Arabs have only themsleves to blame for the Begin proposals. For 29 years they have had the opportunity to negotiate a just settlement with the Israeli Labor Government and they rejected it. (Extension of time granted.) The Palestine Liberation Organisation’s demand that there should be a ‘democratic secular state’ of Palestine incorporating Israel is guaranteed to bring a horse-laugh in Israel. When the PLO was asked which of the 21 Arab countries it thought would be the model for a democratic secular state it used to say Lebanon, and we know what has happened to Lebanon. If at any stage during the past 29 years, and particularly during the past 10 years, the Arabs had shown their willingnes to accept Israel then I have no doubt that by now there would have been a Palestinian homeland. By now the Golan would be back in Syrian hands and the Sinai would be back in Egyptian hands. Even the difficult problem of Jerusalem is soluble if there is a will and if there is mutual trust. Defensible borders are necessary only if the people on either side of those borders are enemies. If they trust one another, if they have normal relations with one another, borders mean nothing.
-This debate on a report by a committee of the Parliament on the situation in the Middle East is a significant one, coming as it does in a year when the world is tackling one of the world’s greatest problems. I was fortunate to be a member of the fact finding mission that recently visited the Middle East. I hope that as a result of goodwill on the part of all men the opportunities now available to find a peaceful solution will be taken. If they are not, war will confront the world-not merely the Jews and the Arabs and not merely the Middle East but the world. I was reminded of a quotation which reads as follows:
When the situation was manageable it was neglected and. now that it is thoroughly out of hand, we apply too late the remedies which then might have effected a cure. There is nothing new in the story. It ‘s as old as the Sybilline Books. It falls into the long dismal catalogue of the fruitlessness of experience and the confirmed unteachability of mankind. Want of foresight, unwillingness to act when action would be simple and effective: lack of clear thinking: confusion of counsel until the emergency comes, until self-preservation strikes its jarring gong. These are the features which constitute the endless repetition of history.
Those remarks were made by Mr Winston Churchill in a speech on the Middle East problems delivered in the early 1 930s. I would hope that in 1 977, when the situation is manageable, the opportunity to achieve a solution is not neglected. If the opportunity is passed by we will reach the situation where self-preservation will strike its jarring gong. I believe it is important to recognise that the solution must be found for the sake of the peoples of the Middle East and also for the sake of the peoples of the world. War in the region is inevitable if a solution is not found. It could be a war with conventional weapons. It could be a war using the oil weapon. It could equally be a war with horrific nuclear weapons. To prevent such a conflagration, the effects of which would spread beyond the relatively small region of Israel and the confrontation states, every effort must be made to achieve a solution to the problem.
Israel ‘s right to exist must be and I believe will be recognised by the significant adjoining countries. Equally the right of the Palestinian peoples to a homeland must be recognised. There must be a solution that results in a real peace- a real peace which is accepted by both sides and one which, as the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) said, is based upon trust. Having visited those countries, I have found in each of them an aspiration for peace and security and an aspiration for an opportunity to develop their countries for the well-being and happiness of their peoples. What worries me is that when they express those views on the public platforms of the world they express them in a way which results in the appearance and sometimes, all too often, the reality of confrontation.
I think it is a sad situation for the world that so often conflict has arisen because of the different mental or philosophical processes that drive men to express themselves in particular ways. What mankind has failed to do has been to bridge these philosophical gaps and to recognise that there can be different approaches to problems even when peoples are striving for a similar goal. If we look not only at the Middle East but also at other areas of tension and conflict we often find that the tension and conflict arise because of the basic attitudes of the peoples involved. I do not believe that enough effort and study has been given to an analysis of those processes. I think that it is important to recognise that the differing peoples in the Middle East approach things from a different basic philosphical background. But that difficulty of bridging those gaps must be faced and must be overcome because if it is not there will be in my view in the all too immediate future, as I have mentioned, a confrontation that could envelop the whole world.
The confrontation could come about either because of external pressures on the states adjoining Israel or because of political pressures within those countries. It could come about because of internal political pressures within Israel. It could come about because of the problems confronting the dispossessed Palestinian peoples. I think it is essential in a process that leads to a recognition by all those involved of the right of Israel to exist that Israel also recognises the importance of finding a homeland for the Palestinians- a homeland on the West Bank; a withdrawal by Israel, subject to relatively minor adjustments, to the borders that existed prior to the 1967 war and a guarantee then of those borders by one country against the other.
I have purposely used the phrase ‘a Palestinian homeland’. I do not believe that the Arab nations want an independent Palestinian state any more than do the Israelis. But Israel is faced with a dilemma. We have heard speakers in this debate say that Israel is proud of being a democracy. Israelis are proud of their democratic institutions, but if they pursue a course which involves the annexation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip- an annexation of over one million people added to the 500,000 Arabs presently within the original 1967 borders of Israel- Israel would have a population of 3 million Jews and 2 million to 2]A million Arabs. In a democracy where the changing balance of birth rates could influence the future destiny of that country it is clear that annexation would not be a solution that would overcome the problems of the future. Therefore I think that it is essential that Israel recognises the need for there to be a homeland for the Palestinian people. I support the moves being made by President Carter and supported by the Australian Government. It is very important that this come about because the Palestinian people need the opportunity, just as the people of Israel, to raise their economic standards and to raise their educational standards. As the standards of education rise and the standards within economies rise, so the need for political equality and political involvement arises on the part of those within a region. I think that there is no way in which there can be continuation of a situation of military domination that would result in the people now living in the West Bank areas being deprived of the political rights to which they would be entitled, any more than anyone would want to see the people of Israel deprived of their political rights.
In the remaining minutes at my disposal I would like to touch on two or three other aspects that came to my notice during the delegation’s recent visit. I want to pay tribute to the Australian ambassadors working in the countries that the delegation visited. I would like to say, however, that I believe that it is important that there be adequate opportunities for personal exchanges between ambassadors and the staffs of embassies so that the people working in one country in the region have at first-hand experience the opportunity to discuss with their colleagues. I think that they should not be dependent upon the written report because the written report cannot always convey the impression that must be conveyed if there is to be complete understanding of the difficult and tense situation. I think, too, that it is important that we look very carefully as to the permanent establishment of our embassy in Damascus. I think that the importance of Syria is such in the light of the devastation of the Lebanon that the retention of an embassy in Damascus is of very great importance. I also agree with the recommendations contained in the report of the Joint Committee on the importance of Australia providing military attaches to our ambassadors in the region. Those countries have probably the greatest amount of armament of any region in the world. Insofar as we believe that we should develop our own defence potential we should at least have an understanding, as expressed through the eyes of military men, of the techniques and skills being adopted by countries that have the greatest degree of military build-up of any region in the world.
Finally, I touch on another point very briefly. I raise the question of migration and the effort that Australia has put into assisting the distressed peoples of the Lebanon. I raise a word of caution. I am concerned that there are many who in a situation of tenseness seek temporary refuge in the country to which it is easiest to go. At the present time, under certain conditions, from certain countries, Australia is the easiest country in which to obtain refuge. We have always been opposed to the concept of the guest worker. We have wanted permanent migrants. I believe that many of the people who come here as refugees from the Lebanon and from other countries do not come here with the idea of remaining permanently. They come here with the idea of getting an insurance premium. That insurance premium is Australian citizenship and perhaps an Australian pension. One they have gained these benefits they can return at the time of their choosing to the country of their origin to remain there for the rest of their lives. They have in their pockets the Australian passport- or insurance premium- to enable them to come back here if the going gets too tough. I do not think that is a role to be played in a refugee policy. I think people should be allowed to come if they wish to come here permanently.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Notice of Motion
– The Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) has given notice of his intention to present at the next sitting a Commonwealth employees employment provisions Bill.
-The Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) warned against preconditions for negotiations. He began his speech by quoting with approval the new platform of the Australian Labor Party on this subject adopted in Perth. It said that there would be no peace in the Middle East unless the right of Israel to exist were acknowledged and unless there were a Palestine homeland for Arabs. Palpably those are preconditions as far as many of the Arab spokesmen in the world are concerned. They are preconditions which are not acceptable in any public document of the Palestine Liberation Organisation. It was that fact which the Sub-Committee and subsequently the full Committee had to accept. One of the problems with which we deal is the fact that the PLO does not accept in any official document the right of Israel to exist. It does not seem to me to be very germane to the position that the Leader of the Opposition says that some of the leading Arab heads of government with whom he dealt took a different view. They have adopted a position where the spokesmen of what they regard as the Palestinian people are to be accepted as the PLO.
There are many elusive contradictions in this whole situation. I had conversations with some of the most distinguished Arab intellectuals, one of whom had been a Foreign Minister. In conversations with him I found that Israel really was not there. An ideology called Zionism was occupying a part of what had been Palestine. The intellectuals regarded themselves as not anti Jewish but as anti-Zionist. Then, faced with the paradox that in fact the PLO has done nothing against Israel, nothing at all, but has attacked Jordan, has attacked Lebanon, has tried to undermine Kuwait and has recently fought Syria-for Arab authorities. But they said: ‘Ah, but the PLO is not an entity; it is penetrated by Zionism and Communism and Zionism and Communism have turned the PLO against Arab states’. They said to me: ‘If you doubt that Zionism did this, who has benefited from the fact that the PLO attacked Jordan; who has benefited from the fact that the PLO has attacked Lebanon, is fighting Syria and has tried to undermine Kuwait?’ They point out that clearly Israel has and therefore Israel or Zionism has penetrated the PLO and has done these things. This is an astonishing way of thinking from our point of view. But professors who have been Foreign Ministers cannot be regarded as thoughtless spokesmen for the Arab people.
I do not accept the diagnosis, but I say that it is an attempt to evade the unpalatable fact that what Arab governments have called the authority that should negotiate on behalf of the
Palestinian people as they call them, the PLO has in fact fought and undermined Arab governments and has done nothing whatever against Israel and from that country’s point of view has been an asset. If the heat has been taken off Israel at any time it has been by what has happened in Lebanon and by the fact that Syria ultimately had to intervene against the PLO in the Lebanon. The truth is that the PLO, for whatever explanation, has sought to destroy every Arab government which gave it hospitality. It sought to destroy Lebanon when the Palestinians were there. It sought to destroy Jordan. It has fought Syria and Kuwait suspended its constitution because that country was being subverted.
These are the sorts of things that the SubCommittee had to try to cope with in its thinking. I was not aware at the time the report was being prepared of the thinking of Arab intellectuals who are of a more conservative kind, that the PLO had been penetrated by Zionism. But that extraordinary view was expressed to me. The positions that have been taken up by the PLO do not fit into the simple categories of the resolutions that have been passed by political organisations in Australia.
There are other forces in the Middle East. There are many who take the point of view that the PLO is simply a fireball to tear down conservative Arab governments, to produce a situation in which the West will be denied oil. It is also said that one of the forces behind the PLO is the Gaddafi Government in Libya and behind Gaddafi stands the Soviet Union. That might be right or that might be wrong. But at least it is a more intelligent explanation of this seeming paradox of the strange activities of the PLO, which is supposed to be anti-Israel, being interpreted by Arab intellectuals because of its behaviour as an asset for Israel.
But when people say that there should be no preconditions for negotiation, the mere fact that a negotiation takes place at all means that one has recognised that there is an entity called Israel with whom one negotiates, and that in itself is a precondition. There is no negotiation if there is no one there to negotiate with. If Israel is not a state but is an ideology called Zionism occupying some area called Palestine we are in a different situation. I do not think, as a man who has been in the Australian Labor Party long enough to know that Evatt was one of the major architects of the existence of Israel, and we recognise it, that we can go on pretending that something did not happen. What happened was there was an entity of Palestine- a British mandate. It was divided into the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and the state of Israel. If there is an authority other than Israel that has an entitlement to the West Bank it is not some new entity called Palestine to be created, it is the state of Jordan which once came across the River Jordan and penetrated into the narrow waste of Israel that Israel obviously sought to eliminate when it was in a state of conflict with Jordan.
The complication for Israel is that, while it might be quite easy to negotiate with Jordan, Egypt or others as existing entities if they were willing to negotiate with Israel, the PLO is a very elusive concept altogether. It is as elusive in fact as what is said by some Arab intellectuals- that Israel does not exist; that there is merely an ideology called Zionism occupying a part of a country that was once called Palestine. Honestly, I do not know how we can ask people to put their faith in resolutions of the United Nations if their existence is at stake. Splendid resolutions were passed by the United Nations in respect of Timor. That has not stopped 60,000 people being done to death. The United Nations did nothing about the disasters in Lebanon. I am afraid that at the moment we cannot ask that Israel should regard the United Nations as a safeguard. We would not do so.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! It being 10.30 p.m., in accordance with the order of the House of 10 March 1977 I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the negative.
-Some of the problems which were wrestled with in the report related to the situation in the Middle East being seen always as unpredictable. The worst disaster which could come out of the Middle East is a world war. In chapter 4 the Committee looked back at the one time when a world war might have threatened but where, clearly, neither the United States nor the Soviet Union wanted to allow this situation to develop into a war. Specifically, the Soviet Union did not want to be pulled by those they were sponsoring. Paragraphs 4. 1 3 to 4. 1 5 commencing at page 142 of the report state:
There is a tendency in Australia to talk about the foreign policy of the Soviet Union as if it were an endless summer of successes. It was a very distinguished Egyptian Ambassador who pointed out to me that back in 1955, at the time of the Bandung conference, the Soviet Union was the dominant influence in China, the dominant influence in Indonesia, the dominant influence in Egypt, the dominant influence in Syria and the dominant influence in India. Now it is the dominant influence in none of those countries. It has switched its attention to a tightroping between Ethopia and Somalia. Somalia has given it bases and it hopes to influence Ethopia. But Ethopia and Somalia are in conflict with one another. The Soviet Union is in the role of urging them to be at peace with one another, obviously so that it can retain its influence with both. I merely say this: I am not making this statement as a denunciation of great power politics which are all in this game. I merely say that there is no infallibility in the foreign policy of the Soviet Union. It does not always succeed in its objectives. Its main strength in the Middle East is not its ideology, not its ideas, but its supply of arms.
The Middle East is the most immense dumping ground for arms which I think has ever existed. We talk about the standards of living and Arab poverty. The annual expenditure on arms in the Middle East, as this document points out, is SUS 12,500m a year. Iran uses its oil wealth in a particular way. It is a Gulf country but it is an important country. It is back from the zone actually considered in this report. Iran has more tanks than all the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation powers put together. This oil wealth has not been used to a great extent to transform the living standards of the Arab peoples. A large part of it has been used to finance this massive expenditure on arms. Every economic problem of the Middle East as well as the living standards of the Arab peoples could be solved by a more rational approach. I think the one great point of hope in the Middle East has been the turning of Egyptian policy from the luxury of hating Israel and from the luxury of spending enormous sums of money on arms. A younger generation of Egyptians are asking for the raising of living standards in their country. It is that in which I put my hope, the development of rational convictions among the Arab peoples.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Citizens in St George Electorate- Trade Unionists in Hobart -Opening of the Tasman Bridge
Motion (by Mr Howard) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
-In the past two months many citizens in the St George electorate have been subjected to very serious worry and distress at the hands of rumour mongers and other persons who peddle lies about proposed government actions. Fortunately, many of those rumours and lies have now been laid to rest. On behalf of the people of St George I place on record my utter contempt and disgust for those persons who would use the underprivileged in our community, the pensioners and other worthy citizens, as political pawns for their own purpose, that being to try in desperation to discredit this Government by any low means available to them. Let us look through the list. The first and most disgusting of all attempts was the planned rumour regarding the pharmaceutical benefits list. People came to my office and to the offices of many honourable members throughout Australia. People wrote letters and telephoned. They were deeply disturbed and distressed, often in regard to their personal position or that of their relatives, many of whom were aged. A very real inference which can be drawn is that the Australian Labor Party machine at least, and perhaps even members of the Australian Labor Party in Parliament, condoned these rumours. They certainly said nothing about them.
-They aided and abetted.
– As the honourable member for Denison has said, they aided and abetted. A very clear inference can be drawn from this. Their henchmen perpetrated deliberate planned propaganda to upset people. The fact is that the pharmaceutical benefits rumour was proved to be a total lie. I will not go on to deal with the Budget. Another rumour related to nursing homes assistance. We now know that this Government has introduced the most revolutionary and farsighted solution to the serious nursing homes problem, which has been exacerbated by the Labor Party’s inflation, the worst inflation that this country has ever seen. The next rumour related to pre-schools, and the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) issued a long statement dealing with that situation. Another rumour that arose related to family allowances, and again that has been laid to rest. It was said that there was to be a means test. Another despicable rumour related to handicapped persons and a -other to private hospital subsidies. Can any honourable member on the other side point to any substantiation of this planned propaganda? There was one rumour about changes to Medibank which proved to be a complete and utter lie, and there was a planned program-
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! I point out to the honourable member that although some of the things he has mentioned have been the subject of a separate statement, a great deal of what he has said has been disproved only because of certain legislation which has been presented in this House. At the moment that legislation cannot be anticipated nor can it be discussed. I ask the honourable member to keep well away from the subject matter of that legislation.
– Let me move to matters that were dealt with in statements made well before the Budget. One of them related to the Aboriginal medical service. The Minister made an announcement some time ago, and that issue has now been settled. A deliberate campaign was conducted in Sydney to discredit the Minister. He has provided me with a large number of reasons indicating why his actions were valid and sound, and that rumour has been disposed of. Details of education expenditure were announced recently which involved the same level of expenditure in real terms as last year. The Teachers Federation and its cohorts tried to claim that simply because the Government did not accept all of the expenditure recommended by an advisory committee there had been a cut. That was the worst lie of the lot, and in an opinion poll S 1 per cent of the people fell for it. The sooner these lies are put to rest, as was done by the Minister, the better. I simply reiterate my contempt for these people.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I rise to place on record my contempt of the State Labor Government in Tasmania for two recent actions which I believe were absolutely disgraceful. The first relates to a disgraceful episode in which a pig-headed and stupid government set about deliberately victimising a small but significant group of trade unionists who wished to stand up for their rights and the protection of their jobs. While I have incurred some criticism in my own home State for supporting members of the Australian Railways Union, I want to say that I have done it in good faith and I will do it again. I am very proud that when they had their meeting last Sunday to decide whether or not they would remove certain carriages which they had placed across the tracks at the Hobart railway station, members of the union invited me to be present as an observer and to speak briefly to the meeting.
Very shortly, what happened was that approximately two months ago, in a moment of blind insanity, the State Labor Government decided that it was going to build a slip road across eight railway tracks 200 yards from the Hobart railway station. This was at the very time that a campaign was being mounted for the reintroduction of the Hobart suburban rail service and a very strong campaign was being fought for the retention of the Tasman Limited. At that time, and I repeat it, I challenged the Premier to indicate any city in the world which did not have either a suburban rail service or a tram service. Hobart has neither, and indeed Hobart ‘s road traffic is very slowly but surely strangling the city. I challenged the Premier to nominate any city in the world where it was proposed to put a highway across the railway tracks 200 yards from the main rail terminal.
Naturally, members of the Australian Railways Union and other affiliated unions took a pretty dim view of this. It is crazy to think that trains can be run across one minute and cars the next. One can imagine somebody standing there with a red flag waving the cars through one minute and a train the next. In any event, when the Government had indicated that it was blindly determined to go its own way, the unionists decided to put four railway carriages across the tracks. I believe that in order to protect their jobs they had a right to do that. Although I have been accused of backing a union which was bucking the Government, I say that because the jobs of the men were in jeopardy they had a right to take action. The bulldozers moved in on each side and we had the situation of the slip road being built on one side and up to the tracks on the other side. When it got to the tracks it could not go any further because the carriages were there.
The State Labor Government then gave a direction through the Transport Commission that shunters would be ordered to move the carriages off the track so that the slip road could be completed. When that small but gallant band of men stood firm, the Tasmanian Labor Government proceeded not only to suspend them one by one but also to call in the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) and ask him to assist it to do its dirty work. I am very proud of a Federal Minister who had the guts to stand up and say that he was not going to become involved in the dispute, that it was not a dispute involving the Commonwealth Government. The Minister refused to lend his weight to the efforts of the Neilson Government to suspend the railway shunters. It was good to see a Country Party Minister standing up on this occasion against the State Labor Government, which had decided that it would persecute a small group of unionists.
By holding out, those unionists were able to get into a bargaining position, and the State Government has now made certain commitments to them that the slip road will operate for only 1 8 months, that it will be only one lane, and that there will be an inquiry into the reintroduction of a suburban electrified rail service in Hobart. I believe that in the years to come the people of Tasmania will remember the day when the railway men stood firm, their own Labor Government took the stock whip to them, and the Federal Minister, to his eternal credit, declined to do the State Government’s dirty work.
The other matter I wish to raise relates to the opening of the Tasman Bridge and the petty and disgraceful attitude, of the State Government in cutting up rough because the Prime Minister of Australia had occasion to suggest that the man who ought to open it, the logical person, was the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Goodluck). The Premier of Tasmania could not take it, he could not cop it. The honourable member for Franklin has done more for the people on the eastern shore since the Tasman Bridge collapsed than anybody in Tasmania, but the Premier has used the device of saying that the bridge ought to be opened by a minister of religion in an ecumenical service. The honourable member for Franklin is a gentleman and he has said that he will go along with it. But people will never forget what that man did at the time that the bridge collapsed and subsequently. It is nothing short of a crying shame that the man who should have been there to open the bridge will be denied that privilege because of the petty jealousy of a Premier who was not prepared to see him carry out a function which was obviously his rightful role.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I am always attracted to rise in this place whenever the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) gives us the benefit of his wisdom. It is very refreshing to hear him speaking tonight in glowing terms of unions. On every other occasion on which he has spoken in this House about trade unions he has referred to them as mainland industrial gangsters. That is the sort of expression he uses when it suits him, but when it suits him to attack the Government in Tasmania he can twist very quickly and very sharply and turn his coat inside out quicker than anybody I know. The man has got no credibility in this chamber and he has even less credibility in Denison. He has seen the results of the redistribution, as I have, and he knows that he cannot retain the seat of Denison any longer than the next election. It was interesting to hear this man. I understand that in respect of the tragic incident of the ship Lake Illawarra striking the bridge over the Derwent River the honourable member for Denison made great political capita] out of it, both at that time and afterwards, and he was about the same thing tonight.
Surely there has to be some justice in this matter. I do not know the rights and wrongs of the State Government in Tasmania doing the things that the honourable member has suggested it was going to do. I am a native of Melbourne and was born there more years ago than I am going to tell. The honourable member talks about roads crossing railway lines. Right at the terminus of the rail system in Melbourne, a road crosses the railway lines. It divides the Flinders Street rail terminus from the Princes Bridge rail terminus. Let me also remind the honourable member that it is the Australian Government which owns the railways. I think the honourable member called the service the Tasman Limited. I understand that it takes nine hours to go 90 miles on that train. As I understand the position, it was the Australian Labor Government that baled out the railways. So why should not the Australian Minister for Transport be involved in the opening? He is the owner of that system.
– You just lost John Coates about 5,000 votes by knocking the Tasman Limited. That will go down very well in the Tasmanian Press.
-I am sure that Mr Coates, if he happens to be the opponent of the honourable member at the next election, is not concerned about 5,000 votes. The present encumbent of the seat ought to be worried. From my experiences of this gentleman, the honourable member for Denison, I know that he is worried. I know this from comments that he has made to people around this place. It is well known in Denison that there will be a change of member. I might also remind the honourable member that there is a history in the federal division of Denison-he may well know this and bear it in mind-that the member for that electorate invariably comes from the government party. The honourable member for Denison can check that back. I am putting to him that Mr Coates will be the honourable member for Denison after the next elections. The honourable member may draw his own conclusions from that.
It seems to me that there has to be some honesty and consistency about people who rise in this place and raise matters that are of national interest. That is the reason that they are raised in the national Parliament. People should not be shifting from one foot to another like an ice skater trying to get from one place to another and, as it suits them, calling trade unions mainland industrial gangsters, and then on another occasion standing in this House to praise and applaud the Australian Railways Union. I am pleased that the honourable member for Denison did that because the Australian Railways Union, like the other 360-odd unions in Australia, is a responsible body. I am glad that the honourable member for Denison now agrees that there is responsibility in the trade union movement and that the trade unions themselves are responsible people. Furthermore, I am glad he agrees that they have the right to express a view on matters that affect them. When other issues come before the House I look forward to the support of the honourable member for Denison. I look forward to his support for those unions that are taking action in respect of questions that affect their members and all people in the community generally. The honourable member has broken the ice tonight and, for the first time in the short time he will spend in this House, has put a case fairly and squarely. I hope that he continues to do so in future and I look forward to his support on all of these questions.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The House adjourned at 10.53 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 24 March 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Index-linked Securities (Question No.593)
asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 19 April 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
In the Liberal Party policy speech, delivered by Mr Fraseron 25 November 1975, the Government undertook to give ‘consideration … to the introduction of a new security, on a limited basis, with an inflation adjusted capital value or floating interest rate ‘.
asked the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice, on 27 April 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Letters from Premiers: Pre-School Funding (Question No. 794)
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 3 May1977:
On what date did each Premier respond to his letter of 3 November1976 seeking his thoughts on the form of Federal-State consultative arrangements on pre-school funding.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The details of correspondence between a Premier and Prime Minister arc regarded as confidential.
asked the Minister for National Resources, upon notice, on 4 May 1 977:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: (1)1 understand that on 1 1 November 1976 the Director of the Northern Territory Reserves Board, which was at that time responsible for the Ayers Rock- Mount Olga National Park, advised the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation that the condition of the park was such that essential interim work needed to be done as a matter of urgency and estimated it would cost between $2.28m and $3. 561m exclusive of work on the main road to the park and the relocation of the airport.
asked the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice, on 25 May 1977:
Will he have prepared a table giving a detailed break-up, including actual expenditure to date, in respect of the sum of $13,489,000 which I understand has been amended to $14,800,000 appearing in the 1976/77 Budget in respect of municipal services for Aboriginal communities.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The following table shows actual expenditure at 31 May 1977 by project, and estimated expenditure at 30 June 1977 in respect of each region:
asked the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, upon notice, on 27 May 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Overseas Trade, upon notice, on 30 May 1 977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Since it was not considered that there was any basis, at that stage in the negotiations, for a change in Australia’s position on the Common Fund it was not necessary to send futher instructions to the Australian delegation. Moreover, the EEC initiative at the Common Fund Conference was overtaken by events when the developing countries insisted that a Conference resolution contain elements which were unacceptable to virtually all the developed countries.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 30 May 1977:
What proportion of (a) all claims for medical services and ( b ) claims for pathology services is bulk billed to the Health Insurance Commission.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
As a single claim may include one or a number of services, I provide hereunder details of the proportion of services bulk billed to the Health Insurance Commission in the quarter ended June 1977:
All medical services (including Pathology)- 64.1 percent.
Pathology services- 73.4 per cent
Department of the Treasury: Overseas Travel (Question No. 1006)
asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 1 June 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I refer to you to the Acting Prime Minister’s answer to question No. 003 in Hansard-oil June 1977 (page 253 1 ).
asked the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, upon notice, on 1 June 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice, on 1 June 1 977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I refer the honourable member to the reply provided by the Prime Minister to question No. 1003, weekly Hansard, for 2 June 1977.
asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
These are the things that the Australian Government has agreed with the Indonesian Government that Indonesian traditional fishermen may do in those waters:
Reef, Seringapatam Reef, Browse Island, Hibernia Reef;
You may operate in any waters to the west of the doited line on the map. You are asked not to sail your boats into the waters east of the dotted line on the map. However, you must not do any of the things in the next list. If you do, you are liable to be arrested and tried by Australian courts.
The Royal Australian Navy and fisheries officers have the authority to board and search fishing boats in waters where Australian law applies. If they have reason to suspect that you have done any forbidden fishing, they may remove sea products and fishing gear from your boat, arrest your boat, and take you before an Australian court.
If your boats remain to the west of the dotted line on the map, the Australian authorities will not stop you from fishing.’
asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 2 June 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Reports of the Trial of the Pyx, which refers to the traditional method of random selection used by the Mint for testing the standard and quality of coins it produces, state that all the coins were within the prescribed limits for diameter and thickness for each of the years from 1 967 to1 976.
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice, on 9 March1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
fined in his absence for a summary offence may not be arrested without being given notice of the fine and time to pay. In the absence of contrary provisions in Commonwealth law, the laws of the State in which a person is convicted by a court of summary jurisdiction apply in relation to the execution of a warrant of commitment for imprisonment in default of payment of a fine imposed for an offence against Commonwealth law. A contrary provision appears in the Income Tax Assessment Act, so that the provisions of the Victorian law referred to above would not apply in relation to a warrant of commitment issued by a magistrate in respect of a sentence of imprisonment in default of payment of a fine imposed under the Income Tax Assessment Act. Such a warrant of commitment may be executed forthwith, although I understand a discretion is usually exercised to allow a person willing to pay to seek time to do so or to take action to contest the conviction.
asked the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, upon notice, on 9 March1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
New South Wales-
Land at present being developed to provide housing for family applicants in the Sydney area is located at Minto. The costs involved are:
Due to the varying terms of purchasing land and development of estate and special circumstances relating to particular estates there will be a wide variation in actual costs compared with the assessed average cost per allotment set out below:
Melbourne Metropolitan area
Blocks of developed land in the Brisbane metropolitan area and major provincial centres on which the Queensland Housing Commission is building houses range in cost from $6,000 to $7,500.
It is the general policy for the Housing Trust to purchase land in advance of requirements and usually in broad acres. Metropolitan-
At the present time land purchased in broad acres costs:
In the Hobart metropolitan area average costs per allotment on which building is proceeding are:
In country areas, including Launceston and Burnie, average costs per allotment are:
Development-$5,500 (includes holding costs).
Raw land costs given in that answer referred to purchases made between1968 and 1974, which were then being developed by both private and public sector operators.
I also pointed out that these figures should be treated with some caution as they were based on a limited sample, presented a picture at a particular point in time, and were simple averages and not weighted in any way to reflect the diversity of costs within any given metropolitan area.
Up to date acquisition costs, as a component in private sector raw land costs are not available to my Department, and I am not able to provide them for the honourable Member.
The Inquiry into Housing Costs which was agreed to by the Housing Ministers Conference of 29 April 1977 will examine, inter alia, the adequacy of current information on land costs.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 15 March 1 977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
New South WalesMr Druitt Polyclinic
Benevolent Society of New South Wales Community
Health Centre, Peakhurst Hunter Working Women’s Centre, Mayfield Women’s Health Centre, Liverpool Women’s Health Centre, Leichhardt
Victoria- Kensington Community Health Centre Deer Park Community Health Centre Eaglehawk/Long Gully Community Health Centre De Paul Community Health Centre, Fitzroy West Heidelberg Community Health Centre Richmond Community Health Centre Singleton Community Health Centre, Collingwood
Inala Community Health Centre
South AustraliaWomen’s Community Health Centre, Hindmarsh
I understand that the Victorian Health Authorities are giving consideration to the introduction of charges in the abovementioned centres in that State.
It is impracticable to accurately separate the costs of services by salaried or sessionally paid general practitioners in community health centres from the overall costs of operating the centres, including costs of services by other staff. However, the estimated total annual cost of- salaries payable to 45 full-time and part-time practitioners (equivalent to 37 full-time practitioners); and sessional payments to 18 practitioners, in such centres is approximately $1,113,750, of which the Commonwealth has been meeting 90 per cent under the Community Health Program.
Australian Capital Territory-
Of the seven health centres in the Australian Capital Territory which provide medical services, six have at least one salaried doctor. These salaried practitioners provide a free medical service only to contributors of the Medibank levy. All other patients are charged for services at the level of the patients’ reimbursement from the private health fund.
The accounting system which operates in the health centres in the Australian Capital Territory does not allow a costing of individual patients who pay Medibank levy and who are therefore treated free of charge.
Northern TerritoryHealth centres in the Northern Territory are normally divided into Urban and Rural.
Urban health centres, which are exclusively provided and controlled by the Commonwealth Department of Health are situated at Darwin (city area, Nightcliff, Parap, Berrimah), Katherine, Tennant Creek, Alice Springs and Gove.
Rural health centres, the physical facilities of which vary considerably, are provided in the main by the Commonwealth Department of Health. A number are operated by mission authorities and pastoral properties although these operations are subsidised by the Commonwealth. Centres are situated at:
Community Health Program funding of women’s health centres has been on the basis that, at least as an interim measure, there has been a need to provide special health and health-related services from such centres to meet the particular needs of women. Because women’s health centres are intended to provide services to women in areas beyond the suburbs in which the centres are located, the numbers of private general practitioners in the immediate vicinity of the centres has not been regarded as directly relevant to the question of approval for Community Health Programf unding.
With regard to the other centres listed above, it has been standard practice for Community Health Program funds to be made available only for projects whichhave had the sponsorship of the relevant State health authority. In determining whether project proposals should receive such sponsorship, the State health authorities have regard to the health services needs of the residents of the area concerned, and this includes regard to the numbers of private general practitioners, if any, in the area.
The Government regards it as primarily a State responsibility to determine whether salaried general practitioner services should be provided from health centres in areas where there are either no private practitioners or an inadequate number of private practitioners. Where such services are provided, it has been primarily a State responsibility to determine whether fees are to be charged.
Australian Capital Territory-
Health Centres in the Australian Capital Territory have been developed in areas which had what was considered to be an inadequate number of general practitioners. The charges regulations for the centres in the Australian Capital Territory are laid down by the Government.
The Government has determined that no charge would be rendered to Medibank levy patients in the. Government health centres where service is provided by a government salaried doctor. Charges are rendered to all other patients.
The degree to which medical practitioner services are provided at these centres varies with need and availability of medical staff. At most centres medical practitioner services are only provided on a visiting basis.
At localities where private practitioner service exist (Darwin, Alice Springs, (Catherine and Gove) the medical prac
In providing limited free health services in the Northern Territory the Government has used as principal criteria isolation, underprivilege, public health priorities, administrative costs which would be incurred if charges were made, and limited private medical resources.
I have directed that the general question of charging fees for services by salaried or sessionally paid medical practitioners in community health centres which are funded wholly or partly by the Commonwealth be reviewed.
asked the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, upon notice, on 16 March1977:
How many complaints have been considered by (a) the national and (b) each State Committee on Discrimination in Employment and Occupation since 30 September1975.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question, for the period from 30 September1 975 to31 July1977, is as follows:
asked the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Public Service Matters, upon notice, on 20 April1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Information which is centrally recorded and maintained in relation to staff employed by Departments under the Public Service Act is set out below.
) Total Staff employed under the Public Service Act: 1970-77
Comparisons between these figures must take into account transfers of staff into and out of Public Service Act coverage during the period. The most significant change reflectedin the above table was the transfer of 121 598 former Public Service Act staff to employment under the Australian Postal Commission Act and Australian Telecommunications Act on 1 July 1975.
At 31 December1976 there were153 708 full-time staff and 2520 part-time staff employed under the Public Service Act.
The approved staffing level varies from time to time, reflecting developments in the responsibilities and workload of the Public Service as a whole. At 30 June1977 the approved level of Public Service Act staff was155015.
Full-time Public Service Act staff by department: 1975-76-
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 17 August 1977, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1977/19770817_reps_30_hor106/>.