30th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. B. M. Snedden, Q.C.) took the chair at 2.15 p.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens (students, parents, teachers) of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the decision by the Government to withdraw all forms of financial assistance to students of non-state tertiary institutions 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 education systems.
At a time of severe economic disruption, this action must lead to a serious worsening of the current employment situation, particularly school leavers.
Your petitioners, therefore, humbly pray that the Federal Government will act immediately to reverse its decision.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Bradfield and Mr Garland.
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 Connolly and Mr Dobie.
To the Rt 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 cost of airfares between Australia and Scandinavian coutries is excessive when compared to the fares charged to other points in Europe.
We express a desire for negotiations between the Commonwealth Government and the Governments of the Scandinavian countries to negotiate an excursion fare for all points in Europe at a level that is currently being charged to Great Britain and more than twenty other major cities in Europe.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Haslem and Mr Katter.
To the Honourable 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 hardship 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 Sinclair and Mr Les Johnson.
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:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that exportation of uranium from Australia cease until scientists improve methods of handling problems associated with nuclear energy.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Connolly.
State Housing Organisations: Interest Rates on Loans
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 are concerned about the Commonwealth’s Housing Agreement with the States;
That the Commonwealth Government in renegotiating the Housing Agreement with the States recognise the urgent need for more capital funds for Public Housing building/rental programs, and the immense value this nas for many thousands of Australian citizens with low incomes;
That the States Housing Authorities are funded in a manner which allows them to determine their own financial and social responsibilites;
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Parliament in enacting a new Housing Agreement with the States does not force the States Housing Authorities to either charge ‘market rents’ or bear ‘market interest rates’ as we clearly recognise that those who rent pay more over their life than those who own their own home, and receive less direct and indirect Commonwealth Government subsidy;
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 the Commonwealth of Australia by this humble petition respectfully showeth:
That we believe that none of the safety problems associated with uranium and plutonium has been solved.
The mining and export of uranium will help to expand the nuclear power industry thus contributing to the health hazards of the world. Mining uranium will damage the environment and the health of the aboriginal people.
Our beliefs on this matter are shared by a majority of physicists and scientists including 75 per cent of all specialists in nuclear medicine.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will not allow the mining, selling and export of urnaniumore.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Innes.
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:
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 Les Johnson.
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 Cabinet’s decision to reject the Council of the Australian National Gallery’s proposal to purchase the Georges Braque painting, Grand Nu, ignores the knowledge and experience of the Council ‘s members.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that
The Council of the Australian National Gallery be granted the right to purchase major works of an within the allery’s budget without Cabinet intervention and that Cabinet revoke its decision to reject the Council’s recommendation to purchase the Grand Nu.
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 undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the existence of a system of double taxation of personal incomes whereby both the Australian Government and State Governments had the power to vary personal income taxes would mean that taxpayers who worked in more than one State in any year would-
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that a system of double income tax on personal incomes be not introduced.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Morris.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned electors respectfully showeth:
That they are greatly concerned about the fact that so many people, including such a large number of young people, are receiving unemployment benefits without any condition except that they are not able to find suitable employment.
Your petitioners therefore pray that Parliament give consideration to the suggestion that, to enable individuals to maintain their self-respect and dignity as human beings, and for the good of the community at large, the provision of unemployment benefits carry the requirement that the recipient of such benefit be available for service to the community for a time equal to that which would produce a similar return at minimum wage rate.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Wilson.
-Mr Speaker, I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That Australia joins with and supports the United States of America, France, Britain, the Netherlands and a significant and substantial committee of Polish dissidents in condemning the puppet trial in Prague of the Czech proponents of Charter 77, Vaclav Havel, Jiri Lederer, Ota Ornest and Frantisek Pavlicek and the further arrest of Pavel Kohout and the further secret police interrogation of former Czech Foreign Minister, Jiri Haiek and calls on the free world to support the campaign of those fighting for the restoration of human rights in Czechoslovakia.
– Will the Treasurer make a statement in the House to supplement and update his foreign investment policy speech of April 1976, outlining the Government’s attitude to applications for the acquisition of shareholdings by foreign companies that have given notice to the Government of their intention to reduce their foreign holdings below 50 per cent of their shareholdings?
– I appreciate the honourable gentleman’s question. I give him an assurance that these matters are under examination by the Foreign Investment Review Board. They then will be examined by the Government and a statement will be made as and when appropriate.
-Has the Prime Minister yet completed his consideration of the report of the Royal Commission on Intelligence and Security conducted by Mr Justice Hope? Will he now tell the House what action the Government proposes to take?
-The Commonwealth is indebted to Mr Justice Hope for his reports on intelligence and security. They are thorough and workmanlike documents which are of great value to Australia. I believe that the Leader of the Opposition should be commended on the appointment of Mr Justice Hope to carry out the particular tasks he undertook. We have had the reports in our hands for some time, but they are lengthy documents. Government consideration of them has now been completed and I expect to be able to make a statement concerning the Government’s decisions very shortly. I would also indicate that those parts of the reports which His Honour indicates can be published will be published. There are some parts of his reports which he recommends, in the strongest possible terms, ought not to be published, and those recommendations also will be accepted.
-My question is directed to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. What does he see as the first consequence of deregistration of unions, the dismissal of workers involved in the power dispute and the use of non-union labour? Has he considered what the Government’s answer should be to any request from Victoria for the use of Commonwealth police or members of the armed forces to maintain peace in the Latrobe Valley?
– I see, as the first consequence of any action taken, an attempt by a responsible government to provide services to the people and the community that elected it. The Commonwealth Government will support the Victorian Government in its efforts to do its job.
– I address my question to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. In view of the latest aircraft hijacking, what action has the Government taken in the United Nations to reach international agreement on a convention against terrorism?
-I take the opportunity, in answering this question from the honourable member for Evans, to reiterate at the outset what
I said yesterday outside the House: The Government naturally deplores the recent hijacking of the Lufthansa aircraft and particularly the callous murder of the aircraft’s captain. Equally, it should be said that we applaud the firm response of the Federal Republic of Germany, in the face of considerable pressure, and the success of the commando attack on the aircraft at Mogadishu Airport. Mention ought to be made in that context of the co-operation extended by the Government of Somalia.
We certainly hope that the recent hijackings will give the United Nations additional impetus in finding more effective means of combating international terrorism than exists at present. At recent sessions of the United Nations General Assembly Australia has urged that a widely supported convention be drawn up to protect third parties and to bring hijackers to justice. Stated simply, we have to ensure that the hijackers have no haven. Last night I telephoned New York and discussed the matter with the Australian Ambassador to the United Nations. At my request he then discussed with other delegations- in particular the delegation of the Federal Republic of Germany- the prospects for accelerated action at the United Nations on the items dealing with terrorism and the draft convention against the taking of hostages. I am informed that these items are now listed for debate and action in the General Assembly in mid-November. I am informed also that Dr Waldheim, the United Nations Secretary-General, has written to the President of the International Air Pilots Association to say that he had personally urged that these items be given the highest priority. We too shall obviously, from what I have said, give our full support to any measures which may be devised at the United Nations to combat effectively international terrorism. In the meantime, a number of delegations at the United Nations, including the Australian delegation, is already examining existing conventions on hijacking to see what further action the General Assembly might appropriately recommend under those conventions.
– I ask the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations a question. It arises from his answer last night on the television program This Day Tonight that the Government last week had lodged a joint application with the Victorian Government for the deregistration of the unions involved in the Victorian power dispute. I ask him: On what day was that application made? I also ask him: How does the deregistration of unions assist in settling a dispute between them and their employers when once they are deregistered the unions are no longer within the ambit of existing or amended industrial relations legislation?
– I am not aware of the day on which the application was lodged. I understand that it is likely to come on before Mr Justice Smithers at 2.30 this afternoon. As the legislation makes clear, deregistration of a union is the last step which can be taken in the processes through our industrial system, through the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and the Australian Industrial Court. It is taken only when the action of a union indicates that its members are no longer entitled to the umbrella of protection which registration gives it. Therefore, anybody applying for deregistration has to view very seriously the circumstances in which he seeks it. I do not think any member of this House would deny the seriousness of the position in Victoria. In these circumstances, the normal procedures of our system are being applied.
– I direct my question to the Treasurer who will be well aware that the State Electricity Commission strike in Victoria has substantially disrupted the normal cash now of many Victorian small businesses, particularly small manufacturing businesses, and the effects of this will be felt throughout the remainder of this financial year. In view of the precarious financial situation this disruption has placed a large number of small businesses in, will the Treasurer consider advising the Commonwealth Taxation Office to allow reasonable deferments for the monthly payment of sales tax and, if it becomes necessary, also reasonable deferments for the payment of provisional tax? Furthermore, will the Treasurer consider advising the banking system through the Reserve Bank of Australia that, where appropriate, reasonable latitude be exercised in the administration of overdrafts and other short term finance?
– In responding to the honourable member for Henty, I might take the opportunity of recognising in this House, as certainly all honourable members on this side would recognise, the very significant contribution that the honourable member for Henty has made in the interests of the small business community throughout Australia as chairman of the Government Members Small Business Committee. In this respect, I instance in particular the policy statement that was brought down recently in the
Senate by my colleague, the Minister for Industry and Commerce, Senator Cotton, and by myself in the House of Representatives.
As the honourable gentleman has observed, the power strike in Victoria has, of course, had a devastating impact upon activity and also upon the question of employment in Victoria. I can assure the honourable gentleman that I have discussed with the Commissioner of Taxation the problems posed for the small business community whose financial stability has been affected by the Victorian power strike. Many of the companies in question are, of course, now receiving notices of liability to pay instalments on company tax in November 1977 and that would be followed in the normal course of events by a further instalment in February of next year. I have been assured by the Commissioner of Taxation that applications for extended time for payment of company tax lodged by companies in financial difficulties, including those in particular which have suffered as a result of the recent strike, will be carefully examined and where justified extensions of time will be granted. The main point is that companies that find it necessary to do so should apply to the Taxation Office at the earliest opportunity. Concerning what I recall to be the last point in the honourable gentleman ‘s question, I have had discussions with the private banks in relation to the problems to which he refers. I am assured by the banks that these matters will be treated in a sympathetic fashion. The matter of contact with the banks in addition to that through the Reserve Bank of Australia will be taken up with the Governor.
– In view of the State Electricity Commission dispute in Victoria, has the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations examined the system of voluntary conciliation and arbitration which operates so successfully in Canada? If he has, or even if he has not, will he take urgent steps to consider the adoption of the Canadian system by which the parties to the dispute may mutually agree upon an arbitrator outside the arbitration commission to consider the dispute and to reach a decision which would then be binding on all concerned?
– Yes. I have examined in some detail the system in Canada. So often industrial relations systems evolve in response to the particular needs and circumstances of the country involved. The system to which the honourable member referred may very well be entirely appropriate for Canada. Our system has grown up in a somewhat different way because of different circumstances. In view of the very widespread adherence to the wage indexation guidelines of the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission at present and the cohesion that has been developed in both State and Federal areas to maintain wage increases within the guidelines, I must say that I view with a good deal of concern any system which appointed ad hoc arbitrators to near major wage claims. I think our system suits us, and I would have to give very careful consideration before I advocated changing it in such a fundamental way.
– My question is directed to the Minister for National Resources and Minister for Overseas Trade. He will recall answering questions yesterday about the threatened disruption of uranium exports by industrial action. Is the threat of disruption confined to uranium? If other commodities are involved, to what extent are they involved?
– I think one can only look at the disruption of our export trade with a great deal of concern. There has been a great loss in our trade because of a wide range of disputes which have prevented trade. Certainly our international reputation is very much at stake with the threatened uranium ban. We also have much to answer for concerning our trade with Chile. Wheat shipments to Chile have been held up for a long time. There have been discussions and negotiations with the unions involved and the Australian Council of Trade Unions, but to date there has been no settlement of that issue. Some $100m worth of wheat trade with that area has been lost. We have also had serious disruptions to trade with Indonesia. In both cases the disruption has not been on industrial grounds but on purely political grounds. People with left wing socialist beliefs want to cause disruption to trade with those countries and therefore try to have some political influence on our foreign policy. There has been disruption to our sales of wool to Japan, which caused enormous concern to the live sheep and cattle industries which have great potential. Bans were threatened if the permissible limits that have been talked about to date were exceeded. Of course, we have lost on a number of other agricultural commodities, including dairy products, rice, honey and fruit. In all of these areas there have been periodic disruptions which can only lead me to say that sooner or later the Australian people must realise that the Government is trying to do as much as it can to resolve these matters and needs their support. How can we have a few militant union leaders trying to dictate what our foreign policy and trade policy will be? I can understand the feelings of rural producers who expend an enormous amount of effort with little return seeing their opportunities being forsaken because of the will of a few people who want to foster their socialist and communist political beliefs.
– My question, which is directed to the Deputy Prime Minister, relates to the production of uranium at Mary Kathleen. Honourable members know that the Government has invested about $ 1 lm in Mary Kathleen Uranium Ltd which it will be unable to get back for the Australian taxpayers. Is the Minister aware that Mary Kathleen Uranium Ltd has contracted to supply 4,800 tonnes of yellowcake by 1985? Is he aware also that Mary Kathleen Uranium Ltd is operating at a production rate of only 400 tonnes a year, when its production target under its existing contracts this year is 948 tonnes? How will Mary Kathleen meet its existing contracts? Will the uranium be supplied from the existing stockpile at Lucas Heights or will the Government purchase the uranium overseas, as set out at page 64 of the Fox Commission report?
-I do not intend to get into an argument with the honourable member as to the level of production at Mary Kathleen this year although I can soon find out that information and give the honourable member accurate figures. If the honourable member is expressing concern as to whether it will be 400 tonnes or 900 tonnes, the workers at Mary Kathleen should know that the honourable member would have no production whatsoever if he had his way. Why should the honourable member express concern as to whether the contracts will be fulfilled when his objective is to see that this Government completely dishonours its commitments and undertakings to people who are expecting it to supply that uranium? With regard to the contractual commitments undertaken by Peko EZ and Queensland Mines, the Government will use the stock pile from Lucas Heights to meet those commitments, as it has commenced doing already. The Government will endeavour to ensure that production levels at Mary Kathleen are kept as high as possible. I do not know why the honourable member should be so concerned because, when the Labor Government was in office, it took great pride in actually buying into Mary Kathleen to the extent of 42 per cent Government ownership. When the
Leader of the Opposition was at Mount Isa only two weeks ago he boasted proudly and trumpeted loudly about how his Government had bought into Mary Kathleen and taken action to see that the mine was re-opened. I am very proud that he did so, but why does he not get the support of his Party and ensure assurance and security for the workers who have gone back to Mary Kathleen? Why does he not see that the contracts about which our trading partners are concerned are fulfilled and honoured and that there will be a firm commitment? Why does he not say to Mr Hawke, to the Federal Australian Labor Party and to the Australian Council of Trade Unions that whether or not there is a moratorium, those contracts will be honoured? That means there will have to be exports. That means that Mary Kathleen will have to proceed. That means that Ranger and Queensland Mines will also have to be developed.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs. The Government announced in the Budget Speech that the special pension and benefits available in respect of re- patriation tuberculosis pensioners would no onger be available. Can the Minister inform the House when the Bill in relation to this matter is likely to be introduced or what the current position is?
– The Government did announce in the Budget Speech that the special provisions relating to tuberculosis pensioners would no longer apply in the main. The then Minister issued a Press release that evening, setting out the detail. Since then I have had two discussions with representatives of the Federated TB Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Association. That Association has proposed to the Government that it should be given more time to put its case. The Government has decided that the Association should be given sufficient time to do that. In fairness to the organisation and to the 7,300 veterans and their dependants who would be affected, the Government has agreed that the Bill will not be introduced in the Budget sittings.
-I direct my question to the Deputy Prime Minister. Is it a fact that in the last two years the Government and Conzinc Riotinto of Australia Ltd have put $26m into the Mary Kathleen uranium mine; that within the last few weeks $20m has been sunk into that mine by
Mary Kathleen Uranium Ltd and the Government; and that of that amount the Government made $9m available none of which will ever be regained by the Government? Would it have been better to pay all the mine workers severance pay, which would have given them $30,000 each, in order to finish up this very uneconomic mine?
-I am quite sure that the honourable member for Kennedy will love to take that question back to the people of his electorate, particularly the workers at Mary Kathleen where it is now suggested by the Australian Labor Party that the mine be closed down. The Labor Party ensured that the Goverment bought into and took part ownership in that mine, and it also gave encouragement to CRA to open the mine so that we would have a uranium industry as part of our overall development including the developments at Ranger and other mines in the Northern Territory. There was a consultancy examination of the Mary Kathleen mine to see what was the feasibility of continuing the operation of it. That study showed that it would be a viable proposition but that it would need more capital for the purpose of maintaining its operations. The Commonwealth is meeting its obligations to see that the mine will continue in operation. By the time the ore body has been fully exploited there will be a profitability. In other words, the Australian taxpayers will get a return, although it will not be as attractive as the return that will come from the development of the Northern Territory mines. Of course, the honourable member who asks the question is not concerned about the profitability of uranium; all he is concerned about is that we have no development but have the maximum tension, irritation and embarrassment with our trading partners, thus putting Australia in the worst possible position in the eyes of the rest of the world.
-Has the attention of the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs been drawn to a report that a number of Iraqi representatives are about to visit Australia for a breakfast? If that report is true, can the Minister advise whether all precautions will be taken to prevent sums of illegal money entering the country? Can the Minister also advise with whom the Iraqi visitors will be meeting on this visit, which is timed to be in late November or early December? Can he also assure the House that all precautions will be taken to prevent the Leader of the Opposition and his colleagues from suffering from migratory flatulence?
-Does the Leader of the Opposition have a point that he wishes to take?
-Yes, Mr Speaker. The honourable member is inviting comment on a matter which, as I have assured you earlier, is sub judice. In fact it is due to come on in the Supreme Court here next Monday.
-I did not interpret the question as relating to any past event but as relating to some future event. I will allow the Minister to proceed. If in his answer the Minister refers to matters which I regard as sub judice I will stop him.
– I have not seen reports of a number of Iraqi representatives seeking to visit Australia for a breakfast. In relation tq the question of the entry of illegal money, I presume that the honourable member is not referring to counterfeit money but is referring to money entering the country illegally. That, of course, is the responsibility of my colleague the Treasurer. It is difficult to give information as to the actual reasons for people “‘siting Australia because often the reasons for visits given when applications for visas are made are very different from the reasons given on the entry card on arrival in Australia. I remember an occasion in the past when some visitors to this country stated in their applications for visas that they were seeking to establish a consulate in Australia. When they actually arrived they said that they intended to visit relatives. As I am aware, neither of those activities took- place. In answer to the final part of the question, I do not know whether indigestion or other forms of dietary upset are the correct ways to describe an event which really had a great deal of bad odour about it.
-I ask the Prime Minister whether in his election broadcast of 11 September he indicated that the proposed rural bank would be a statutory organisation and whether Senator Cotton in another place repeated that statement last week. Is it a fact that the Government is currently in negotiations with the private banks for the establishment of a rural bank within the private banking structure? Does this mean that the Government has dropped the proposition for a statutory organisation? Does it also mean that the expertise in these matters which the Commonwealth Development Bank of Australia has is to be ignored and that the operations and management of the proposed bank are to be placed under the control of the private banking system?
-The Development Bank has its own specific role. As honourable gentlemen will know from statements made by Senator Cotton and by my colleague the Treasurer in relation to small businesses, that charter is to be extended. It has a particular role unlike that of the general run of trading banks. The honourable gentleman need not be pointed because the Australian rural bank will be established under special and substantial legislation which I hope will have the support of all honourable members of this House. It will give a very firm indication of the purposes, functions and operations of the Australian rural bank. In addition there will be special requirements on that bank and special responsibilities on the Government in relation to it. It will be a substantial institution established by legislation of this Parliament.
-I direct a question to the Minister for Primary Industry. Has the Australian Wool Corporation been given approval to borrow funds overseas? If so, how much may be borrowed? Why has this approval been given? How will the borrowing be conducted? Will the Minister inform the House where the overseas stockholdings of the Australian Wool Corporation are located and what savings could result from overseas borrowing?
-It is true that the Government has approached the members of the Loan Council to seek their concurrence for the Australian Wool Corporation funding abroad those stocks of wool that it holds overseas. This move will mean a significant cost saving to the degree to which interest rates are less abroad than they are within Australia, thereby reducing the demand that the Australian Wool Corporation will have on the somewhat higher priced domestic moneys. On present interest rates, if the total stocks of wool amounting to about 285,000 bales were to be financed externally, it could mean a saving of between $3.5m and $4m a year.
Approximately 90 per cent of the stocks held overseas, I am told, are located in Western European countries and in the United Kingdom. The balance is held in the United States of America, Korea and Israel. The United States stocks have been quite material in enabling some re-establishment of Australian wool in that market. I know that the first sales were made from the Korean stocks only last week. It is important that at a time when there are rising costs in the pipeline there is an availability of wool outside
Australia so that those who are major consumers of Australian raw wool are able to source their raw material from wool as well as from alternative fibres.
In addition, I am delighted to see that in Australia the auction sales at last are showing a somewhat brighter trend. In the sales of Tuesday, 18 October- that is, yesterday-in Sydney and Melbourne there was a net purchase by the Australian Wool Corporation of only 6.5 per cent of the wool offered. There was an overall price improvement and as a result of the selling position last week the Australian Wool Corporation at least in that week moved into a position of being a net seller. This gives a general trend of a firming tone in the wool market. I believe that, together with these new financial arrangements of the Australian Wool Corporation, is very much in the industry’s interests.
– I address a question to the Minister for Primary Industry. The Minister will recall that on the Australian Broadcasting Commission news yesterday morning the Minister asserted that there was no danger to the public from the excessive levels of iodine found by the National Health and Medical Research Council in New South Wales milk supplies. On what information and advice did the Minister base his assertion that mothers, housewives and others should not be concerned about this report? Is the average level of iodine found by the National Health and Medical Research Council the highest found anywhere in the world? Did the Minister consult his colleague, the Minister for Health, before making this statement? And what steps are being taken to correct the problem?
-I thank the honourable gentleman for the question because it is important that there is an understanding of the basis by which iodophors are used in the dairy industry. I am told that they are particularly valuable against what is known as psychrophilic bacteria which, if unchecked, cause lipolysis, rancid flavour and quality reduction in milk and dairy products. In any event, it is quite true that iodophors have become increasingly significant in maintaining health and hygiene standards within Australia’s dairy farms. The warning given by the National Health and Medical Research Council relates to an overall assessment that has been applicable for quite a considerable period. Indeed, my own Department, together with the States has been pursuing a very strong endeavour to maintain the standard of health and hygiene and to ensure that the degree to which iodine is present in market milk is kept to a minimum. I am told that a figure cited on the Austraiian Broadcasting Commission the other day, 760 micrograms per litre content in New South Wales market milk, in fact referred to 1974. The extreme cases referred to in the National Health and Medical Research Council’s observations apparently also occurred some years ago.
For three years the chief dairy officers of the various States have been keeping a very close watch on the position. I am in a position to advise, as a result of the milk monitoring scheme which covers most dairy suppliers on a sample basis around Australia that the position seems to be: Victoria, 437 micrograms per litre; South Australia, 2SS; Western Australia, 319 in carton milk and 269 in bottled milk; and Tasmania, 388. For New South Wales I have a statement which suggests that only about 3 per cent of the tests have shown a reading over the 500 microgram a litre level. That is the level at which the NHMRC has said that there is any likelihood of any risk to human health.
The statement I made was made after consultation with officers within my Department who had been in consultation, I understand, with officers of the Department of Health. The present position is that very close inspection has been made of all market milk. There is a complete awareness of the necessity to minimise the risk of iodine infection. The conclusion is that whilst the National Health and Medical Research Council has correctly drawn the community’s attention to the necessity to reduce iodine levels in milk, this is a point that has already been accepted by State departments of agriculture and primary industry. Very considerable measures have been undertaken to achieve this end. I believe that at this stage the necessary health and safety standards have been applied and that although it is necessary that every effort be made to reduce them further, there seems to be very little risk to the Australian consuming public while those standards which have been reported to me are the standards applicable throughout Australia.
– Has the Prime Minister seen, or been given a report on, a British Broadcasting Corporation film entitled The War Game shown to members of Parliament and staff last week which deals with the horrors of a nuclear attack and its aftermath and public apathy beforehand? Will the Prime Minister advise the House of measures taken by Australia in support of international action to reduce or prevent the proliferation of strategic arms?
-The Government has always been active in international forums designed to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Of course a very significant part of the fuel cycle evaluation program, in which Australia will be participating very actively under the leadership and guidance of Mr Justice Fox, is designed to achieve that very purpose. Australia, as it has now become, under the Government’s decision, a significant supplier of uranium for peaceful purposes on a continuing basis, will be able to act with authority and strength in those international forums. That is obviously one area in which Australia will be able to exert a greater than normal influence because of its position as a supplier of uranium. Of course in addition to that we support United States efforts in relation to strategic arms limitations talks- SALT- and in relation to the achievement of SALT 2 which is designed to further safeguard the international scene in those areas.
It is worth noting, I think, that our own safeguards in relation to non-proliferation and the sale of Australian uranium for peaceful purposes are in effect the most stringent and strongest in the world. Under those arrangements, we will be able to act in concert with other supplier countries to make sure that the safeguard arrangements of one supplier country reinforce the safeguards of another. That will not operate in any means as some illicit cartel. It is a matter of acting in a responsible international manner to make sure that if there were a breach of safeguards in relation to the supply of Canadian uranium, for example, the customer involved would not be able to come running to Australia or to another supplier to make up for what was not supplied from Canada. So, supplier countries will be consulting in these forums also to make sure that the safeguard arrangements are the best that can be devised.
I think it is worth noting that the Soviet Union in these particular matters continues to spend 12 per cent to 14 per cent of its gross national product on defence, not only for direct offensive weapons of a great variety but also for the construction in very large measure of strategic nuclear shelters for a large part of the Soviet population. I think the free world is entitled to ask why this happens. It is something that is far beyond the needs of the Soviet Union for purely defensive purposes. The Australian Government, of course, has had consultations with the
States about civil defence over a long period. It is very much a responsibility of State governments. Matters which are regarded as necessary in our own circumstances are pursued through cooperation with State governments and by the action of State governments themselves.
- Mr Speaker, the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, I think, was asked his first question without notice today. Let me ask him another. Why is the Defence Service Homes Corporation subject to a lower ceiling on the loans it makes than any bank, building society or other financial institution?
– Successive governments have reviewed the operations of the Defence Service Homes Corporation. In making their decisions from time to time, usually at Budget time, they have had to weigh the advantages that they could give in terms of the amount of money that could be provided in the Budget each year, the amount of the concessional rates and the categories of persons to which they would make loans available. In coming to that conclusion and in looking at the overall picture, they have decided to keep the level at the levels announced from time to time. However, I will take notice of the import of the question asked by the Leader of the Opposition, so that when the matter is next reviewed it can be borne in mind and a comparison can be made with the lending policies of other institutions.
-The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs will be aware that Mornington Island in the Gulf of Carpentaria was devastated by Cyclone Ted in December 1976. Can the Minister say what action the Commonwealth is taking to assist in the restoration and rebuilding of Mornington Island?
– I thank the honourable member for his question. Since Cyclone Ted struck, in his representations to the Government he has been very anxious to see that something is done for the Aboriginal people in Mornington Island and Burketown. I am glad to be m a position to advise him of the moneys allocated by the Commonwealth Government through the Queensland Government for the provision of housing in those areas. At Mornington Island my Department’s share of the cost will be $1,480,500. At Burketown its share will be $950,000. That money will be provided through a two-year or three-year program. In fact, in this financial year the amount of cash provided by my Department for that housing will be $1,050,000. 1 also advise the honourable gentleman that in addition the Commonwealth will be providing, out of the Natural Disasters Relief Fund, the sum of $3,454,500, covering both centres. This money from the Commonwealth will finance the provision of 83 houses and 40 shelters at Mornington Island and 19 houses at Burketown. So the honourable gentleman will see that the Commonwealth is making a significant contribution to housing the people of those two places.
– For the informaton of honourable members I present the report of the inquiry into unemployment benefits policy and administration, together with the consultants ‘ recommendations to the inquiry.
– Pursuant to section 27 of the National Library Act 1960 I present the annual report of the National Library for the year ended 30 June 1 977.
– Pursuant to section 147 of the Defence Act 1903 I present the report on the Royal Military College of Australia for the period 1 February 1976 to 31 January 1977.
Pursuant to section 9 of the Social Services Act 1947 I present the annual report of the Department of Social Security for the year ended 30 June 1977.
– For the information of honourable members I present the report of the Industries Assistance Commission on stranded wire, cables, et cetera, of copper; insulated electric wire, cable, et cetera.
-On behalf of the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory I present the following report:
Report on proposals for variations of the plan of layout of the City of Canberra and its environs, 64th series.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– I seek leave to make a short statement in connection with the report.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-The document I have tabled is a further report from the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory in the series relating to changes to the plan of the national capital The report deals with the 64th series of such variations. The Committee has recommended the implementation of each of the 32 items which were referred to it by the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Staley).
The series contains proposals for important roadworks. It is proposed to upgrade portion of the Barton Highway and eventually to duplicate the existing road so that it becomes a dual carriageway by-passing the township of Hall. The road will then become part of Canberra’s urban parkway system and will also provide a more appropriate approach to the capital. Work is proposed to begin on this project almost immediately. The Committee also recommends implementation of proposals to improve traffic flows at intersections on the Tuggeranong Parkway, which is the main north-south route linking the new towns of Woden and Belconnen.
This series contains a number of proposals for the gazettal of new residential areas in Belconnen and Tuggeranong. These proposals caused the Committee some initial concern due to the surplus of serviced land and a bank of residential land of 9,700 blocks already gazetted and available for servicing. The Committee questioned why more residential land needed to be made available. After a further meeting with senior officials of the National Capital Development Commission and the Department of the Capital Territory the Committee was satisfied that the proposals can be recommended. Recent revision of projected population growth rates has led to a new strategy being required. It is now the intention of NCDC to concentrate settlement near existing facilities and services and to defer proposals for development in the more remote parts of the Territory. These considerations have resulted in action to slow down the expansion of Tuggeranong, postponement of the proposed new town of Gungahlin and concentration on developing Belconnen, including the suburbs of Evatt and McKellar and Florey, and the existing Tuggeranong suburbs of Wanniassa and Kambah. The Committee was satisfied that NCDC and the Department have adopted plans appro- priate to the changing demand for land and housing in the ACT. The Commission had entered into contracts for land servicing for housing at the peak of the boom in 1974. These contracts had been honoured and the land servicing program gradually adjusted since then to accord with current levels of demand.
The Committee has also been informed by NCDC that the total value of the works associated with the 64th series which will be undertaken in the current financial year will be $ 12.7m. Included in this figure is $900,000 for the first stage of the Woden Technical and Further Education College which, in total, is estimated will amount to $6.4m. Some of the roads which will be built as a result of this series of variations will also enable other associated building projects, such as the Belconnen retail market car park, to proceed.
It may be of interest for honourable members to be acquainted with a procedural development of some importance to the Committee’s work. In the past the sessions at which the Committee has been briefed by the NCDC and DCT on these proposals have been conducted in closed session. The Committee decided that with this series and future variations these briefings should be open to the Press and public. Accordingly the briefing in respect of this series took place at public hearing. The Committee feels this will serve to ensure that members of the public are fully informed about proposed changes contained in the variations and will provide opportunity for a more thorough public examination of such proposals. I commend the report to the House.
-I have received a letter from the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The Prime Minister’s divisive policies and statements.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places.
More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places-
– I think it is fair to say that a nation in trouble depends on the unity of its people in order to emerge from that trouble. The most obvious example of that is the manner in which a nation is cajoled into patriotism during a period of war. I think it is fair to say also that a nation that is divided can be manipulated politically but can achieve little. Further, I think it is fair to say that the policies of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) extended over a long period are policies of advancement by division.
– It is not fair to say such rubbishing things.
-If the honourable member wants to make a speech I suggest that he see his Whip so that he can get to his feet. I point out to the House that this Government has taken more policy initiatives designed to divide the people of Australia against themselves than any government possibly since Federation and certainly in modern times.
I would like to give the House some examples. During his period as Minister for Education the present Prime Minister played very heavily on the disputes and divisions in the community which derived from the State aid arguments which were a deep seated area of community concern. Those divisions were healed by the adoption of proper measures which took into account consideration of the needs of the education system, namely the establishment of the schools commissions which were opposed in this place by the present Prime Minister. If I may say so- and the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Sullivan) might agree with this- this legislation was passed through this Parliament only as a result of the good sense of the National Country Party of Australia over and above the obstinancy of the Liberal Party.
Since his return to office the Prime Minister has again sought to revive the State aid argument and in this year’s Budget we have clear evidence of that attempt. The move to take away moneys from the State school and parish school systems and to transfer it to class A schools is not a matter of financial management or monetary allocation. It would not have been difficult for the Government to provide to class A schools the amount of money it felt necessary in addition to making allocations to the other areas of education. But the Prime Minister chose to evoke the State aid argument by turning those schools in need in the State school system against class A schools to which moneys were being transferred. It was a deliberate act to divide the community. It was an act in line with the normal policies practised by the present Prime Minister of Australia.
In the field of health, we have seen a double standard introduced by the alterations that have taken place to the Medibank scheme which again was introduced in this Parliament over and above the opposition of the Liberal and National Country parties and passed through the Parliament only as a result of a joint sitting of the Parliament. Those people who under previous arrangements of the old pensioner medical scheme were disadvantaged because they were not able to afford health insurance, are again disadvantaged under the present scheme in which medical cover of a far greater range and standard can be bought in the form of private health insurance. This cover is not provided through basic Medibank insurance provided by the Government.
The major area in which the Government has sought to divide the Australian community i in the area of industrial relations, of wage fixation and conditions. I shall give some examples. First, wage indexation, which was an initiative of the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron), was brought into this Parliament against the bitter opposition- I repeat, the bitter opposition- of the present Government Ministers. Although they did everything possible to defeat its introduction they have now made it an act of faith. Indexation has been altered in a number of ways by initiatives of this Government which have seriously disadvantaged sections of the wage earning community who have to approach the court to seek payments that ought to be automatic following a change in their financial status in line with movements in the cost of living. I instance one obvious divisive process- the elimination from indexation of overaward payments which have existed throughout industry over a long period. It should be stated clearly that determinations of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission have always set minimum standards. Therefore anything over the minimum is something which an employee has a right to seek. The indexation guidelines exclude overaward payments. Therefore those payments over and above the minimum standards fixed which were enjoyed as a result of negotiations between employees and employers are no longer adjusted but are frozen at a fixed level. Employees in the Victorian Government service received an overaward payment of approximately $26 a week which has been frozen since early 1976. Therefore their relative wage standards are dropping.
The Conciliation and Arbitration Commission is said to be the umpire, and its decisions are holy writ with the Prime Minister when the Commission is acting in the interests of employers or in the interests of what the Government sees as its policies. Employees are expected to accept without question decisions of the Commission m matters which are the subject of dispute with their employers. They are told that the Commission’s decisions must be obeyed at all costs. I think most of us will remember the attitude of the Prime Minister to decisions that have not been in line with the Government’s recommendations to the Commission on indexation, for instance. The abuse heaped on the Commission by Ministers of this Government is tantamount to contempt of court. They have done everything possible to intimidate the officers of the Commission in their decision-making process, and on at least one occasion have deliberately misled the officers of the Commission in the presentation outside the court of conditions under which judgments should be made. Every member of this House will be fully aware of the Prime Minister’s statements in the indexation case of March this year. He said that the Government would considerI repeat the words ‘would consider’- tax concessions if the court determined that it would not pass on the indexation rises due to employees under the system.
More importantly- in fact, of total importanceis that the freedom of action for employees, whether privately or as a group, has been removed from the conciliation and arbitration system by the Government’s freezing negotiations on wages or conditions outside the fixed guidelines on indexation. There is now no room for negotiation between an employee and an employer, although this condition does not apply to those employees or employers whose classification could be said to be executive. In reply to a question I asked the Prime Minister some time ago, the Prime Minister made this position quite clear. The guidelines apply only to those employees who would normally expect to negotiate their wage levels through the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission.
Divisiveness is the aim and the policy of the Prime Minister. It is being used ruthlessly to divide Australia and turn sections of the community against one another in the interests of the political advancement of the Prime Minister and his Party. This is historically the method by which he has operated, and the bodies of those people who have suffered are scattered widely around the political arenas of Australia. Confronting Australia are serious problems which cannot be solved by this type of divisiveness or by the daily abuse by Government Ministers, for political purposes alone, of significant sections of the Australian community We need and require a government which is prepared to seek and which is capable of utilising the national unity which is available in Australia if the proper approach is made. No sections of the Australian community are entitled to expect the continuing and almost unmitigated abuse of the Government of the day. Every person is entitled to expect equal rights and that the Government of the day will treat him as an Australian, not as someone belonging to a sub-standard section of the community, as is presently the case under this Government. We ought to look closely at the oft repeated abuse of English migrants by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair), who talks about the ‘Pommie shop stewards ‘.
– Utter nonsense.
-I agree that it is utter nonsense. These people are being abused merely because the intonation of their voices makes them readily recognisable from other sections of the community. If their skins were black and they lived in another country we would be up in arms about what was being said, but in Australia it is part of government policy. We see the deliberate and continuing attempts of Government Ministers to turn one segment of* the community against another. Not without note are the efforts to create and multiply the divisions in the trade union movement about which we hear from Government Ministers every day of the week, and in the rural community. Both these areas are suffering similarly under this Government. One gets sympathetic words but very little else; the other does not even get sympathetic words. Recently in the Australian Financial Review the Prime Minister was described as a person who receives his kicks from crises and moves from one crisis to another. At the moment we have a crisis which is being magnified deliberately by the Government.
– Tell the people of Victoria that.
-I will tell the people of Victoria exactly this: They have a government which for nine weeks has sat on the fence and not even bothered to go to the trouble of discussing with the employees of the State Electricity Commission, which is the utility of the Victorian Government, and with the people who can do something about the matter the problems which exist in the Latrobe Valley. The dispute is over more than wages. There has been total uncertainty for 20 years. It is now developing in Canberra and I would have thought that the honourable member for Canberra (Mr Haslem) would be worried about it. Obviously he is not.
-The people of Canberra have never been so happy as they are under this Government.
– You resign and contest your seat tomorrow, and you will be an ex-member, that is how happy they are. The facts are that people were brought to this country to work in the Latrobe Valley and were offered the Promised Land. It was to be Ruhr of Victoria. That was the advertising slogan. The Government of Victoria has not carried through its undertakings. In fact, the proposals for that area have not been proceeded with. In the last 12 months the Prime Minister has added to the uncertainty by making speeches in which he has clearly indicated that in his belief no future projects should go into the Latrobe Valley; that the area should become an industrial desert. They are the Prime Minister’s own words. He feels that by some magic means this will solve problems which have been created by the uncertainty which grows in a community in which hope is taken away from the people by an insensitive and unresponsive government. If the Federal Government or the Victorian Government wants to intervene in the Latrobe Valley industrial dispute the first thing it should do is call the parties into conference and let them discuss their problems in a civilised manner.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-In 1962, on the very first occasion on which I had the honour to accept a brief as counsel for the defence in a criminal trial in the Supreme Court of Tasmania, a very wise old lawyer gave me some very sound advice. He said: ‘Carefully study the prosecution case. Examine in detail the elements of the charge and the character and standing of the prosecution witnesses. Are they reputable and truthful witnesses?
-Do they come to the court with clean hands?
-Are they the sort of people in whom you could place your confidence and trust?
-Are they witnesses of truth?
-Can you rely -
-Order! The honourable member for Griffith will cease interjecting from the place in which he is sitting; otherwise he will not be inside this Chamber at all.
-He said: ‘Can you rely on them? Above all, be on your guard to ascertain carefully whether they are people of good intent or whether they are treacherous and malevolent deceivers- the sort of people who seek to distort the truth and to pervert the course of justice’.
I apply that wise advice to this spurious and disreputable matter of public importance, brought into this House this afternoon by the most divisive and destructive political party ever to blight Australian politics. How dare the Australian Labor Party accuse the present Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) of being the author of divisive policies and statements, when the Australian Labor Party earned for itself the reputation of being the most divisive political force in this country since Federation, a party which callously and shamelessly sought to divide the Australian community in every conceivable way. It sought and promoted a vicious division between town and country; it sought and promoted a vicious division between employer and employee; it sought and promoted a vicious division between old Australians and new Australians; and it sought and promoted a vicious division between one State and another. By 1975 the divisive, destructive, disruptive and antiAustralian policies of the Whitlam Government had rent Australia asunder. By 1975, when the Whitlam Government was thrown out of office by the Australian people, Australia was stricken by more divisions within our national community than ever before.
The Australian Labor Party did not restrict its divisive policies to the Australian community. It practised what it preached within its own party ranks. Who will forget the bitterness and viciousness with which it set upon its own parliamentary members? The brutal and unprecedented character assassinations amongst its ranks shocked even its most stalwart supporters. One by one, the more decent and honourable members of the Whitlam Government fell victim to the divisive and destructive machinations of their own political organisation. We saw the unprecedented removal from office of the five CsCrean, Cairns, Cope, Connor and Cameron. The honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr
Crean) is indeed a most honourable and distinguished member of this Parliament and a great servant of the Australian people. Honourable members on both sides of the House all regret his recent announcement of his intended retirement. The Parliament and the people of Australia will be the poorer for his departure from this great institution of parliamentary democracy within the Commonwealth of Australia. He went from office because he was too honest, too truthful and too faithful to the call of duty and would not bend his strong character and fierce determination to do the right, the honourable and the just thing in the course of his ministerial duties. To his eternal credit he was not party to the Khemlani loans scandal. To his eternal credit he placed duty to the nation above all else, and he paid the penalty at the hands of those who espoused less honourable principles.
Philosophically speaking, the honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns) and I could not be further apart; yet I and many other Australians have a deep respect for the sincerity with which he espouses his ideals and causes. He, too, fell by the sword of divisive and disreputable political infighting. A former Speaker of this House, Mr James Cope- although, in the opinion of many, a Speaker with some limitationscovered himself with great glory and will long be remembered as possibly Australia’s greatest Speaker because when the chips were down he upheld the duties of his high office to this House and to the Australian nation and refused to be dictated to and betrayed by the divisive and destructive actions of the former Prime Minister. I say in all humility that the courage and example of Mr Cope should be an inspiration to all of us who have the honour to serve in this place as to how we should uphold and maintain the standing of this Parliament in the face of divisive, destructive and completely headstrong and irresponsible Prime Ministers such as the former Prime Minister, the now temporary Leader of the Opposition, the honourable member for Werriwa (Mr E. G. Whitlam).
I refer now to the late honourable member for Cunningham and his unfortunate demise at the hands of the former Prime Minister. He fell victim to the sword of a man who will go down in history as the most divisive and destructive leader this nation has ever known. The late honourable member for Cunningham was a man with a vision, a man of whom all Australians could be proud, including the Deputy Prime Minister, the right honourable member for Richmond (Mr Anthony), who, although he strongly disagreed with all that Mr Connor stood for, nevertheless greatly admired and respected him. The late honourable member for Cunningham fell to the divisive and destructive sword that was wielded so viciously by his own leader. Last but not least I refer to our old friend and colleague, the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron), a man who undisputedly holds the respect and genuine affection of honourable members on both sides of this House. Some might disagree with me, but I say that the honourable member for Hindmarsh is a great Australian. I furiously disagree with much of what he says, but I have not the slightest hestitation in proclaiming him a great Australian and a true patriot. He is, above all, a loyal and trusting soul and certainly one who did not deserve to wake up one day with a dagger firmly implanted between his sensuous shoulder blades.
Members of the Labor Party have the temerity to come into this House and talk of divisive policies. We on this side of the House condemn them for their cant and hypocrisy because the Labor Party, above all, was the party which nearly brought Australia to destruction as a result of its divisive policies and actions. The Labor Party continues to do so to this present day. There is a temporary Leader of the Opposition, a potential Leader of the Opposition and a new one who entered the ranks only last week. The honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating), in an unprecedented attack, stuck the knife into his own leader when he publicly criticised the report of a committee which substantially was based on the evidence of the honourable member for Werriwa, the Leader of the Opposition, supported by Mrs Whitlam. I wonder what is going on. One day it is Whitlam. The next it is Hayden. The next it is Uren. The next it is Keating. If the people of Australia want to see divisive policies at work, if they want to see divisive politics at work, they should have a good look at the Australian Labor Party as it is today and compare it with the strong, united and determined approach of the Government parties.
Of all the back benchers on this side of the House, possibly the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Goodluck) and I have been regarded in some quarters as the most outspoken, perhaps the most critical and perhaps the most misunderstanding -
– Or misunderstood.
-Perhaps the most misunderstood, as the honourable member reminds me. It is no secret that on occasions we have had confrontations with the Prime Minister; but I want to say how nice it is to have a Prime Minister with whom one can have a face to face confrontation instead of running the risk of being stabbed between the shoulder blades when one’s back is turned. That is the big difference between the Liberal Party and the Australian Labor Party -
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I have been misrepresented by the honourable member for Denison.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! If the honourable member for Blaxland wishes to make a personal explanation, he should wait until the honourable member for Denison has finished his speech.
-Yet another attempt to stifle me in this Parliament has failed. The difference between the Liberal Party and the Opposition is that we members of the Liberal Party can front the Prime Minister; we can go and see him. I must say that the honourable member for Franklin and I, and I think perhaps the Prime Minister, have all come out of those confrontations the better for it.
– And enriched.
-And enriched. Of course, the Labor Party is the only party in the world whose members go around with their hands behind their backs in case somebody sticks a dagger into them.
I find this a very easy brief to accept, firstly, because the prosecution case is so weak and, secondly, because the defence case is so strong. The Prime Minister has gone a long way along the line in an endeavour to be reasonable, to prevent the confrontation which the pro-communist left in the Labor Party is organising in this country at the moment- a confrontation which is determined to bring down our entire arbitration system and our entire system of parliamentary democracy. If honourable members opposite do not believe me they should read some of the speeches in which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Uren) talks about people taking their anger into the streets. If they do not believe me they should read what Mr Hawke said recently about blood in the streets. The Labor Party today is the party of provocateurs. It is the party which is endeavouring once again to build up division and disunity within the Australian community. It is the party which is endeavouring to set one section of the Australian nation against the other.
Unlike the Leader of the Opposition, who does not have the confidence, the loyalty and the trust of honourable members on his side of the House, the Prime Minister of Australia has the total confidence, the total loyalty and the total support of honourable members on this side of the House. We stand as a united party today to serve this country, and we will serve this country for many years to come.
The case put forward by the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) was so weak and so pathetic that it barely deserves answering. But let me deal with three matters that he raised. My colleague the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) will follow me in the debate and no doubt will cover some of the other matters to which I do not refer. The honourable member for Corio had the audacity to attack the stand taken by the present Prime Minister on the question of State aid when he was Minister for Education some five or six years ago. The Labor Party has had to go really to the bottom of the barrel. It has had to go back five or six years to try to build up some sort of case. As an impartial and, I believe, objective Australian, I say that I believe we have had two outstanding Federal Ministers for Education in recent times. I do not comment at all upon the performance of the present incumbent, except to say that he is going pretty well too. The two Ministers for Education whom I believe the people of Australia will remember for many years to come are Malcolm Fraser and the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) to whom this country owes a very deep and very substantial debt of gratitude.
-All their good people are going.
-Of course they push them out. What they do is push them out to the back row and when they step out to the passage, if the lighting is dim enough, they put the dagger in. What the honourable member for Franklin says is quite right. The situation is that the procommunist left has taken control of the Labor Party. The decent and honourable members of that Party are pushed to the back row. I include my friend the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James). He has been pushed to the back row. But he will not turn his back; he is too clever and too cunning to do that. He knows what he might find behind him. We do know somebody who sits behind him, but I am not referring to her.
When the Prime Minister was Minister for Education, education in this country went forward in leaps and bounds because of his compassion, his humanity and his dedication to his task. I believe it was completely uncalled for that the honourable member for Corio should suggest that in some way the Prime Minister, when he was Minister for Education, did less than justice to the school children of Australia and to the parents of those children. I believe that the record is clear and that the people of Australia are very much in the debt of the Prime Minister for what he did when he was Minister for Education.
The honourable member for Corio had the temerity to claim that in some way the Prime Minister had made divisive statements derogatory of Medibank. Let me tell him here and now that had it not been for the amendments moved by this Government Medibank would not have survived. The Labor Party created a monster; it created an unworkable nightmare. By means of the amendments we moved we have given the Australian public something which is workable to their benefit.
I turn, last but not least, to the question of industrial relations. Following the answer given by the Prime Minister at Question Time yesterday, how on earth can honourable members opposite accuse him of being the provocateur? He said: ‘Please find a way to solve this crippling dispute in Victoria’. But the Labor Party has the gall to accuse him. I suggest that honourable members opposite are the people promoting disruption. They want industrial anarchy; they want trouble; they want blood in the streets. The only way in which they think they can crawl back to power is by producing further division and disruption in the Australian community. We have been a united nation since December 1975. We will continue to be a united nation as long as the present Prime Minister and the present Government stay in office. Heaven help this country if the economic vandals opposite, the provocateurs opposite, the inciters of” violence opposite, ever get back into power.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
-Yes. During the mealymouthed attack on people on this side of the House by the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman), he said, amongst other things, that I had knifed the Leader of the Australian Labor Party in the back. The basis of that convoluted thinking was that I made a speech in the
House last week in which I attacked the political utterances of Mr Andrew Grimwade. The honourable member for Denison went on to say that because the Leader of the Opposition supported his appointment to the Committee of which he is a member I was then knifing the Leader of the Opposition. The point was that the Leader of the Opposition did not support his appointment to that Committee. The appointment was made by the present Government. There is no basis for the remarks made by the honourable member -
-Order! I suggest to the honourable member for Blaxland that what he is doing now is commenting on a point made in a debate. I think the honourable member for Blaxland has intimated that the particular suggestion made by the honourable member for Denison during his speech cannot be justified. The honourable member at that point has explained where he has been misrepresented. I would say that the honourable member, in going on further, is now dealing with a matter which is one more of debate than of principle.
-I will leave it at that point. I just wanted the House to understand that the basis of the honourable member’s comments was his own view of my relations with the Leader through the appointment of that gentleman. The point I was going to make was that you, Mr Deputy Speaker, as the custodian of the Chair, should not, in my view, permit those kinds of attacks on honourable members.
-Order! The honourable member for Blaxland will resume his seat. I suggest that the honourable member for Blaxland does not proceed along that line any further. If the Chair were to try to decide what matter related to what in the speech of an honourable member, its task would be completely and absolutely impossible.
Mr SCHOLES (Corio)-Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– I claim to have been misrepresented by the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) in relation to the remarks that I made. On a number of occasions during his speech he purported to quote the remarks that I had made during my speech. On every occasion the remarks that he purported to quote were inaccurate and untrue. It would take me 10 minutes to go through all of the points of misrepresentation. I simply put it on the record that he made up the things that he said I had said.
-Order! I suggest to the honourable member for Corio that this also is a matter more of debate than of misrepresentation.
-The honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman), who is unblushing in the slipperiness of his political commitment, observed that it was nice to have a Prime Minister whom he could confront face to face. Would it be safe to confront the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in any other way? Let me illustrate that in another way. On more than one occasion I have sat in the House during Question Time near the Speaker’s chair- at his foot, as it were, to use a very loose manner of speaking- and have noted the honourable member looking at the Prime Minister with a far away look in his eyes and I have heard him muttering to himself: ‘If it was not for the Prime Minister I would not be where I am today’.
The Government has set upon a course of dividing the nation and inflaming passions. Its purpose is to have a disunited community so that it can distract public attention from its abysmal failures in economic management. That is the key issue in the country today, and that will continue to be the key issue because the success of this nation- what we can achieve and will achieve- will be determined by successful economic management. We do not have successful economic management at the present time. We have a government which is determined to divide the attention of the public so that hopefully it can distract the public’s focus of attention from its failings in economic management. The Government wants to manufacture false spectres with which to haunt the electorate. For instance, the spurious attacks on the trade union movement and the lack of justification for its generalised claims about industrial unrest in a nation at the present time are clear evidence of its determination to divide the nation by abuse and by false accusation.
The facts are that on a month by month basis this year days lost through industrial disputes are the lowest for almost a decade. Moreover, the trade union movement, the industrial movement, has been forebearing and sacrificing in the way in which it has been prepared to contribute, through self restraint, to an improvement in the economic conditions of the country. We have heard much about the problems of wage push, the pressures which emanate from that and the destabilising effects which can flow from that in economic management, but we have heard of no credit being extended to the trade union movement for the fact that, in spite of average earnings increasing by a little over 10 per cent last financial year, the cost of living increased by much more than 13 per cent and productivity increased by more than 3 per cent. So what has actually occurred in the course of last financial year, in real comparative terms, is that the average income earner was some 6 per cent worse off in his gross income- some $11 a week worse off- as a result of the policies of the Government.
There has been more industrial harmony in this country in the past financial year than we have seen in this country for a long time. But that cannot last while these unrestrained, unremitting assaults take place against the industrial movement, against workers, while we have a situation in which the Government constantly assails and questions the loyalty and patriotism of blue collar and white collar wage and salary earners in Australia. The only way in which we will get on top of the great economic and social problems of this country is to strive for unity, to bring .the country together, dedicated in a common purpose to conquer the economic and social problems that afflict the country so gravely at the present time. I think it is significant that where there are Labor governments greater success is achieved in industrial relations.
-The honourable member for Denison says: ‘Rubbish! He is an expert in that and I would have to listen to him. But on this occasion he is dead wrong, because the latest statistical information, released yesterday, shows that he is wrong. If we look at days lost for the whole of this year to the end of July per one thousand civilian employees we find that South Australia, Tasmania and New South Wales- in that ascending order- have the lowest levels of days lost through industrial disruption. But the situation deteriorates rapidly when we tura to Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia which has the worst record of all. Is it any wonder that the people in the Liberal Party are incapable of developing a sensitive and effective industrial relations policy? After all, who was their patron, financing them in the development of their industrial policy when they were in Opposition- more specifically allowing the present Prime Minister to define the sorts of policies that the Government wishes to apply in industrial relations now? It was none other than
Kevin Compton Gale of Gollin and Co. Ltd, the son-in-law of Mr Justice Dunphy. His great achievement was to ‘borrow’- I use inverted commas-$900,000 from Gollin and Co.-I quote the investigator- ‘for private purposes and for quite impermissible uses -
– I take a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I do not know the gentleman to whom the honourable member has referred but I have read in the newspapers that that gentleman has been charged with certain offences arising out of this matter. That being so, the matter is sub judice.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! There is no point of order involved in the subject matter referred to by the honourable member for Oxley. The facts presented by the honourable member are public facts.
– The honourable member for Denison has that remarkable facility for expanding endlessly on the finest point without giving it any length, breadth, or depth and without displaying any understanding. The point I want to make about Mr Kevin Compton Gale -
- Mr Deputy Speaker, in deference to your ruling I resumed my seat. I was immediately misrepresented by the honourable member. I ask you to call upon him to withdraw it. I find it completely and absolutely offensive. Every time I sit down he makes a further below the belt attack, and I object.
-Order! The honourable member for Denison raised a point of order on which I gave a ruling. The comments of the honourable member for Oxley in regard to the reasons for the honourable member for Denison taking that point of order are not relevant to a point of order.
-The point I want to make is that the present Prime Minister resorted to Kevin Compton Gale, a self-made pillar of the Liberal Establishment, to help him develop the industrial policy of the Government- a self-made pillar of the Liberal Establishment but a pillar that was shaped with ‘sticky fingers’. Now more than at any other time since the bleakness of the Great Depression of nearly 50 years ago, more than for any time since the grim years of the last World War, this country needs to stand united. The people of Australia must be inspired to dedicate themselves to a great national commitment to overcome the grave problems plaguing our economy and straining our social system. Australia needs to be united, but it is led by a man who consciously strives to divide it, a man whose whole political career has been promoted by his own destructively divisive tactics. He was the man who plotted the rise of John Grey Gorton to the Prime Ministership and, with just as easy a conscience, plotted Gorton’s downfall. He was disloyal to Gorton’s successor, just as he had been instrumental in promoting the leap of the right honourable member for Lowe into high office in breeches which were too big for the right honourable member for Lowe.
He pledged his fealty to Mr Speaker, the then Leader of the Opposition, even while he was intriguing and engineering his downfall. His public pledges of loyalty to his leader were a scabrous cover for a sly enterprise of deceit, dishonour and disloyalty. The une of Liberal succession from Gorton to Fraser is Uttered with the shattered political aspirations of leaders who stood in his way and who made the fatal mistake of trusting him. He destroyed the political future of the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp) within the Liberal Party; he dumped Senator Tom Drake-Brockman, a loyal and trusted servant; he hounded the honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Ellicott) from the Cabinet; he has destroyed the faith of the honourable member for Tangney (Dr Richardson) in the Government and the Prime Minister by dishonouring election undertakings; and he has driven the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) out of the Liberal Party. What supreme irony there is in the honourable member for Mackellar resigning from the Liberal Party because the Prime Minister’s economic policies are too right-wing for him.
The Prime Minister is a desperate man and he will use desperate measures to grasp at the ends he sets himself. The means are unimportant; the ends are all that count for him. The only limits to what he can achieve are his abilities, and they are like the prospects of the Australian XI were in England last summer-not great. His abilities prevent him fulfilling a creative and constructive role and therefore he settles for what he knows best and for what comes easiest to himdivisiveness, confrontation, conflict and destructiveness. Australia needs to stand united and determined in its efforts to conquer the economic and social strains which currently assail it. The Prime Minister is as capable of rallying that common sense of national purpose as thistles are of becoming roses. He has determined on a course of confrontation and division because he cannot unite the nation, and so he has decided to divide it. His substitute for creative and inspiring responses to the great economic and social malaise of the present is to divide and disunite, to turn the country upon itself in conflict and unrest.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr Scholes) put:
That the honourable member for Oxley be granted an extension of time.
The House divided. ( Mr Deputy Speaker-Mr P. E. Lucock)
Question so resolved in the negative.
– Those in this Parliament who have listened to the contributions by the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) and the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) must wonder as to their cheek in bringing on this subject under the title of ‘Matter of public importance ‘. The subject is:
The Prime Minister’s divisive policies and statements.
I believe that this subject would have been better suited for discussion at an Australian Labor Party conference behind closed doors because the only divisiveness of this Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has been his effect upon the Australian Labor Party. The conflict which exists in that party in relation to the subject of uranium bears testimony to my comments. On the one hand the organisational President of the Australian Labor Party and the trade union leader, Mr Hawke, is saying that there should be a referendum to make a decision on this issue. On the other hand the parliamentary wing of the Australian Labor Party is saying: ‘No referendums. We do not want anything other than a big No’. No Prime Minister has done more to consult or to ensure that his Ministers consult in a sincere endeavour to obtain peaceful progress for this great country of ours than the honourable member for Wannon, the Right Honourable Malcolm Fraser, M.P., has done.
The two previous speakers from the Opposition side have suggested that this Government is a divisive government. Heaven forbid! They should look back on their Government’s record and the way it divided rural dweller from city dweller. They should look at the way they divided young from old and the way they neglected most of the people so that they could pour money into the so-called growing swinging seats to try, at all costs, to hold those seats. Yet they have the cheek to describe this Government as divisive. Honourable members should look at the way members of the Australian public, when they had their opportunity in December 1975, divided the Labor Party. They divided the group that was in here as the Labor Government in half. They left half here and put the other half out into the street. That was the way the Australian public viewed the performance of the previous Government. Yet members of the Labor
Party have the audacity and the effrontery to come in here, less than two years later, and to accuse this Government of being divisive.
The second speaker, the honourable member for Oxley, the aspiring Leader of the Opposition, said that the key issue was the successful economic management of the country. He talked about that in terms of divisiveness. One has only to look back at bis record in the last year or so. It was on 7 September last year that the honourable member for Oxley, the man who now stands out, wishing to be tapped on the shoulder to become Leader of the Opposition, started the first run on the Australian currency. Every time the stocks of the honourable member for Oxley, one of the two shadow Treasurers, are flagging a little, he sets off another story of a run on the currency, to ensure that he gets headlines. The cost of that to Australia is hundreds of millions of dollars.
– He is not interested in Australia.
-That is a comment from a man who does not have an axe to grind in this House. The honourable member for Oxley started the story going again this year. Every now and then, when he seeks a headline, he turns to the currency and says: ‘Let’s give that a bit of a whip along’. He creates more troubles for this country of ours than anybody could possibly conceive of any person who had this country’s interests at heart bringing upon us.
The accusation that this Government has been divisive by virtue of its policies and statements is a most unfair one. I do not believe that any government has tried more to bring peace and harmony and to restore stability to a nation than has the current Government. Despite the moan.ings and the crooning of the Opposition, the Government has been successful in many respects. We all recall the inflation rate which existed in this country at the end of 1975. Today the rate has been almost halved. This has occurred in only two short years. Only one Western country- I think it is Canada- has been successful in grappling with inflation as has Australia, and Australia has been led by the LiberalNational Country Party Government under the leadership of the one and only Mr Malcolm Fraser, partnered by Mr Anthony. It is a great team; a successful team.
When honourable members opposite talk about the decline in industrial unrest they are indirectly and unconsciously praising this Government The honourable member for Oxley said that in the past decade there had never been so few hours lost. Which party is in power?
Which party has brought about this situation? It is the present Liberal-National Country Party Government which has caused a diminution of the industrial strife that so destroyed our country in previous times. The industrial anarchy which we have witnessed in Australia has changed. We do not have hundreds of thousands of people stepping out on strike. Now it is the men in the key positions, those who can turn the key and create the greatest possible disruption of the country. They are the ones who now are controlled by the Halfpennys, the Mundeys, the Gallaghers and some of the other staunch supporters of the Australian Labor Party who also at other times profess to be avowed communists.
– Sammy Armstrong.
-And Sammy Armstrong, as I am informed by the Government Whip. These are the people whom the Labor Party seeks to protect. For the life of me, I cannot understand how the Labor Party has not learned the lessons of its three years in office. The lessons are these: The Australian believes in a fair go for the worker. The Australian also believes in a fair go for Australia. The average citizen believes that the trade union movement regrettably has been irresponsible in certain sections and has created havoc for a country that is struggling to get back on its feet after the economic recession and setback which it received at the hands of the previous Government.
It is interesting to note that only 27 per cent of Australians believe that unions should have the right to strike to get wage increases outside the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. Of that figure, only 30 per cent were unionists. Only 27 per cent of Australians said that all members should have to stop work if the unions go on strike. Some 67 per cent said that some members should be able to keep working if they want to. Yet we continually hear words such as ‘scab’ used against a person who wants to stand up and say: ‘I want to keep working for my company, for my country, because I am really getting a fair go. What I am being driven into doing and being driven into accepting is to my eventual detriment and to the detriment of my country and my children’. This matter of public importance is perhaps the weakest introduced this year. It states:
The Prune Minister’s divisive policies and statements.
I suggest that it would be better for a matter of public importance to come from this side of the House praising the Prime Minister’s decisive policies and statements. They alone are getting this country back on the rails. We should be grateful we have not had to depend on the brilliance which has come from the Opposition.
-The discussion is concluded.
The Deputy Clerk- Notice has been received from the Minister for Construction (Mr McLeay) of his intention at the next sitting to move:
That it is expedient to carry out certain work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, namely, the construction of the proposed new complex for the Antarctic Division Headquarters and for the Hobart Regional Laboratory of the Australian Government Analytical Laboratories, Kingston, Tasmania.
Bill presented by Mr Fife, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill gives effect to decisions concerning the role of the Industries Assistance Commission announced by my colleague, the Minister for Special Trade Negotiations (Mr Howard), on my behalf on 14 September. The Bill also amends the temporary assistance provisions of the IAC Act as foreshadowed earlier this year. One of the purposes of the Bill is to ensure that recommendations of the Commission are made in the light of Government policy and that the Commission’s reports contain all relevant information to enable fully informed decisions to be made by the Government.
I emphasise that the changes will not compromise the independence of the Commission, or its role in advising the Government on the nature and levels of assistance which should be afforded particular industries. The public inquiry and report procedures will continue as important features of the Commission’s operation. The Bill provides that the Commission, in the performance of its functions, will have regard to the Government’s desire to achieve sustained growth through balanced development of industries with a view to providing increased opportunities for employment and investment. The BUI also expresses the Government’s objective that any measures to achieve changes in the structure of industry are taken only after due regard has been given to the capacity of the economy to sustain those changes and to absorb members of the work force displaced by those changes.
The Minister will have the power to bring additional matters to the attention of the Commission and to direct the Commission as to the priority it should observe in having regard to its policy guidelines in the performance of its functions. Provision is also made for the Commission in reporting on matters relating to the giving, continuance or withdrawal of assistance to report on the level of assistance required to ensure that activity and employment in an industry is sustained. Where the IAC recommends a lower level of assistance than this, it will be required to state the reasons for doing so. The Commission will be required to report whether the structure of an industry can be improved and, if so, the measures by which this can be done and the consequences of such improvement. It will also report on the probable consequences of implementing its recommendations for the giving, continuance or withdrawal of assistance to an industry or group of industries.
The Bill clarifies the role of the Temporary Assistance Authority-TAA- as the principal body dealing with temporary assistance matters. The Bill states that the principal purpose of a TAA inquiry is to enable the Authority to report on the level of assistance necessary to maintain an existing level of activity and employment in an industry. The TAA will, as in the case of the Commission, be able to recommend to the Government any form of assistance which it considers appropriate.
The Government will have the same flexibility in dealing with recommendations of the TAA as applies in respect of recommendations by the Commission. This change will mean that upon receipt of a report from the TAA the Government may not only accept, reject or partially adopt the Authority’s recommendations but also take any other action it thinks fit in the circumstances. Not all temporary assistance matters will necessarily go to the TAA. From time to time there will be circumstances where short term problems are of such a nature and of such basic importance that they are immediately critical to the long term future of the industry. The option of referring such cases to the Industries Assistance Commission rather than the TAA should this be warranted by the circumstances is, therefore, retained. Consistent with the Government’s policy that inquiries by the advisory bodies should be held in public, the Bill requires the
TAA to hold its inquiries in public. Inquiries by the TAA will also be bound by Part V of the IAC Act which governs the manner in which Commission inquiries are held.
The Bill also extends to 45 days from the present 30 days the time limit for the TAA to report on matters referred to it. This will facilitate proper inquiry procedures by that body and provide witnesses with better opportunities to prepare and present submissions. The present requirement for an automatic reference of an industry to the Commission following a decision to provide temporary assistance based upon a TAA report is unnecessarily restrictive and, in many cases, unwarranted. The Bill provides that temporary assistance granted following a TAA report will not continue for a period of more than 12 months without review by either the TAA or the Commission. Continuation of temporary assistance beyond 2 years will be dependent upon a prior report from the Commission and any industry seeking and obtaining temporary assistance will automatically be referred to the Commission for consideration of its long term level of assistance where it has received temporary assistance for two years or for a cumulative period of two years within the previous four years.
The Bill provides that temporary assistance by way of import restraints or temporary duties will, in certain cases, not continue beyond three months after the receipt of an IAC report. These cases are where an industry seeks continuation of temporary assistance beyond two years or where, having received such assistance for a period of two years in the previous four years, it obtains further temporary assistance. The provision maintains restraints on the continuation of tem- porary assistance similar to those in the present C Act. A consequential amendment is, however, required to the Customs Tariff Act and a Bill for this purpose is being introduced with this amending legislation. As the TAA is concerned with industries which face actual and potential difficulties arising from import competition, the Bill provides as a guideline for the TAA the essence of the emergency action provisions of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade in relation to the withdrawal or suspension of obligations. These provisions allow for the withdrawal, suspension or modification of concessions by a contracting party, where it is necessary to take urgent action to provide assistance to an industry where any product is being imported in such increased quantities and under such conditions as to cause or threaten serious injury to domestic producers of like or directly competitive goods.
Although the short term problems of an industry warrant particular treatment, the Government is nontheless conscious of the link between short term and long term assistance issues. For this reason the Bill specifically provides for the general criteria contained in section 22 ( 1 ) of the IAC Act to continue to apply to inquiries conducted by the TAA.
The Bill also provides for changes in the structure of the TAA itself. The TAA will comprise one full-time member and there is provision for the Minister to appoint associate members for specific inquiries, thus allowing for the appointment of persons having expertise in a particular area as the need arises. It has been a matter of concern to the Government that the present Act does not provide for references, or parts of references, to either the Commission or the TAA to be withdrawn. This can lead to a situation where, during the course of an inquiry, it becomes apparent that there is no need for the inquiry or part of the inquiry to continue and consequently industry and other interested parties can face unnecessary costs. Provision is now made in the Bill for references to the Commission or the TAA to be withdrawn or amended. When sending a reference to the Commission, the Government will in appropriate circumstances require the Commission to report within a specific period of time.
Mr Deputy Speaker, the changes to the IAC Act contained in this Bill demonstrate the Government’s concern that the Commission should be able to fully respond to the Government’s policy with respect to industry and that efficient emergency procedures to safeguard industries should exist. The Government fully recognises .the interdependence of short and long term assistance. Temporary assistance will not, therefore, be provided in such a way that it effectively removes the need for industries to adapt to changing circumstances; rather it will be provided so as to allow industries to take appropriate action to adapt to such changes. These amendments will ensure that an appropriate balance is struck between long term and short term assistance. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Young) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Fife, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill deals with amendments necessary to the Customs Tariff Act 1966 consequent upon the proposed changes to temporary assistance measures foreshadowed in my second reading speech on the Industries Assistance Commission Amendment Bill 1977. The amendments provide that temporary assistance by way of temporary duties will, in certain cases, not continue beyond three months after receipt of a report from the Industries Assistance Commission. As explained in my speech on the Industries Assistance Commission Amendment Bill 1977, these cases are where an industry seeks continuation of temporary assistance beyond two years or where, having received such assistance for a period of two years in the previous four years, it obtains further temporary assistance. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Young) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 6 October, on motion by Mr Fife:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Opposition does not oppose this Bill which extends the present provisions of the Act for 12 months. This is the end of the period covered by the Industries Assistance Commission report in 1975. That report recommended a gradual reduction in the subsidy and if that recommendation had been accepted it would have been abolished at the end of this year. The Government’s decision to extend the existing subsidy for 12 months will give a degree of assistance to some sectors of primary industry, and the manufacturing industry concerned, at a time when there is some uncertainty and certainly some doubts about market prospects and the future incomes of people engaged in the major industries which benefit by the provisions of this Act, namely the tobacco, fruit, sugar, cotton and citrus industries.
A decision to accept the IAC recommendation at this late stage would not be in the best interests of either the Parliament or those involved in the industries concerned. The Bill extends for 12 months the payment of this subsidy and that is the period over which the IAC recommended elimination of the bounty should take place. I think it is important that the Government now has the matter re-examined or else makes a long term decision on what it is going to do in respect of this industry and those in the manufacturing areas who benefit indirectly or directly from the subsidy. The Opposition does not oppose the Bill. I think its passage through the House is more important than uttering a lot of words.
-I was disappointed with the remarks made by the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes), the Opposition spokesman on agriculture. I would have thought that the allocation of $ 12m from Commonwealth funds to important industries would have created greater interest on the part of the Opposition in the position of farmers. Obviously members of the Opposition have no concern for the plight of farmers. I would like to ask the Opposition a few questions: Is the farmer entitled to assistance from the common pool of funds? Is he to be considered as an equal citizen among his fellow Australians? Is he to be the basis on which our country can prosper on a strong foundation of competitive exports? Quite obviously the Labor Party answers ‘no’ to those three questions, if one can judge its attitude from the speech made by the honourable member for Corio. On the other hand, the Fraser-Anthony Government and the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Fife) have answered yes’, emphatically and positively, judging by this legislation.
This Bill is proof positive that we are not prepared to have rural Australia driven into subjectionthe subjection of poverty through being made the one section of the Australian community being denied some assistance in alleviating a suffocating cost burden and a pressure from a society which demands all and wants to give little or nothing in return. The $12m allocated under the terms of this Bill this year will have a two-fold effect- it will contain costs and it will encourage farmers to use nitrogen in their ceaseless endeavours to increase productivity. We note with pleasure the extension of the present rate of bounty of $60 per tonne of contained nitrogen until 1 December 1978. Being at the end of the line in regard to the handing on of costs- the buck passing stops at the tractor seatfarmers have the absolute argument in justice and in fact for some assistance, particularly assistance which is a two-way flow in that there is increased production, increased income and increased taxation to pay for the subsidy given.
Metropolitan Australia needs to be educated on the problems facing Austraiian farmers. Quite obviously the honourable member for Corio is not going to educate them. Metropolitan Australia simply does not appear to be able to absorb the facts. Therefore one has to take the opportunity in debates such as this to repeat the facts. They are alarming, disturbing, and one may say rather tortuous. Taking wheat as an example, and using the period 1960-61 to 1962-63 as the base average 100 for index of prices received by wheat farmers, we find that the index for 1974-75 is 199 but for the period ending March 1977 is only 170. Wheat farmers are on a declining income. However, the reverse is the situation when we analyse the index for prices paid by farmers for goods they use. For equipment and supplies, using the same base for index purposes, we find that for the period 1974-75 the index is 184. For the period ended March 1977 it is 250. On the same basis the figure for wages was 259 in 1974-75 and 346 at March 1 977. The consumer price index cements the argument that there is discrimination against farmers. From a base of 100 for the period 1960-61 to 1962-63 it has catapulted to 191 in 1974-75 and to an astronomical index of 251 as at March this year. No doubt this is a model which grieves all farmers. This Bill does something about assuaging that grief. In effect it aims to give some flavour to a most discriminating position.
It is worth recording that the Whitlam Administration was set about removing the bounty. It is to be regretted that in Mackay recently the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitiam) released a statement on the FraserAnthony Government’s intention concerning nitrogenous fertilisers. The statement of the Leader of the Opposition was completely inaccurate. What excuse can one offer in defence of the honourable gentleman’s lack of knowledge or distortion of the facts? There can be none other than that desperate men do desperate things. It is appropriate to remind the sugar growers of the electorates of Dawson, Leichhardt, Herbert, Capricornia and Wide Bay and the workers in the fertiliser distribution works in those electorates that the Hayden Budget of 1975-inciden- tally, that was the Budget which resulted in a deficit $2,000m greater than Hayden planned- did not provide for the subsidy payment on the use of nitrogen fertilisers after the expiry of. the Act on 31 December. No action- I repeat, no action- was taken by the present Leader of the Opposition, the then Treasurer and present honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden)- he is the chap who wears the title of economic tea cup reader from the electorate of Oxley- and the then honourable member for Dawson, Dr Rex Patterson, to extend the subsidy into 1976, during the Budget session of that year, to allow the subsidy to be paid after the then expiry date. The Industries Assistance Commission report of 5
September 1975 to the Special Minister of State in the Whitlam Government recommended that the nitrogen subsidy should be phased out over a period of three years and cease at the end of 1978.
Shortly after the Whitlam Government received the political count from the Australian people exercising their democratic rights at a free election, the Fraser-Anthony Government, in an honest endeavour to repair what in many cases was irreparable damage to Australian primary producers, as a matter of urgency extended the subsidy at the rate of $78.74 per tonne nitrogen in order to allow a close examination of the whole area. One needs to record these facts because of the wrong statements by the Leader of the Opposition on his recent sentimental journey up the Queensland coast- a sentimental journey into oblivion. The sugar growers of the electorates concerned know what his Government did, or programmed to do, and we are not going to let him get out of it. They weigh this with the constructive, disciplined and determined approach, with fully documented facts to the Government, by the honourable members for Leichhardt (Mr Thomson), Dawson (Mr Braithwaite), Capricornia (Mr Carige) and Wide Bay (Mr Millar). Facts, not fiction, are what people want. Of course, these hard working members were not alone in their representations for the retention of the subsidy. I have vivid memories of the forceful advocacy by the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) and the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) on behalf of the wheat and grain growers and by the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Sullivan), the honourable member for Calare (Mr MacKenzie), the honourable member for Hume (Mr Lusher) and the honourable member for Cowper (Mr Ian Robinson) for their producers. The argument for the fruit growing industry was advanced with precise accuracy and relentless determination by the honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd) and the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Fisher). Their efforts have succeeded.
In introducing the second reading speech on nitrogenous fertiliser in 1976, the then Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs stated that although the Industries Assistance Commission report was accepted in principle the Government would not accept that the subsidy be phased out over a period of three years but that the level of the subsidy should be reviewed on an annual basis in the light of economic conditions prevailing nearer to 31 December of this year. The Government honoured its promises. It did not play lip service to the statement of the Minister in his second reading speech referred to earlier. In reviewing the economic situation true to its promise in the preparation of the 1977-78 Budget, the nitrogen fertiliser subsidy received attention. This is what this Bill is all about.
During the year, prices in the grain and sugar industries fell substantially in export markets and, since these are the major uses of nitrogen fertilisers, the decision was made not to reduce the nitrogen fertiliser subsidy by a further 33 per cent- from $60 to $40 per tonne- in the coming year as had been recommended by the IAC. I submit that this is good government in actionnot biased government seeking to destroy free enterprise, but a government sensitive to the needs and priorities of a section of the community discriminated against. This matter is one of justice by the community to a section of primary industry, namely sugar, grain growing, fruit, dairying and tobacco which do not use, or have limited use for, superphosphate and in which because of their soil structures and climatic conditions legumes are unable to contribute to a build up of nitrogen which is the most essential plant nutrient. In fact legumes will not grow in many areas. Nitrogen has to be applied. This is a necessity if both quality and quantities are to be increased. We need more primary production to balance our economy and to meet and hopefully to satisfy the food needs of the developing Third World.
This assistance is given in recognition of the pressures that are exerted on primary industry over which the industry neither has control nor has any inbuilt mechanism to cushion the effects of decisions made by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, the Prices Justification Tribunal or union initiatives. Farmers have no wage indexation processes, no international PJT, no protection as the European Economic Community gives its farmers in the world market place. They have to absorb domestic and world cost increases simply because there is no way of passing them on. Without help such as the assistance provided in this legislation, farmers would have a much lower standard of living than they have now.
There is a fundamental difference between farmers and workers and service industries. The latter two can recover costs simply by passing them on through either direct action or indirect action. In an excellent publication put out recently by the Australian Woolgrowers and Graziers Council entitled ‘Rural Policy September 1977’, figures are given which highlight, in hard dollar terms, the amount of protection borne by each Australian producer on account of the various tariff duties imposed to protect Australian manufacturers. In essence the cost of carrying Australian manufacturers on the backs of Australian exporters is almost crushing. In a table prepared by this rural organisation it is revealed that each rural producer in Australia in 1975-76 had imposed on him a cost of $11,600 for the purposes of protecting Austraiian manufacturers. The total cost of protection applicable to the sheep, cattle and grain industries was $1,1 68m or $2.60 a sheep, $8 a head of cattle and $3 1 .20 a tonne of grain if we assume we had at that time 148 million sheep, 29 million cattle, 17.7 million tonnes of grain and 101,000 producers. I submit in all seriousness that perhaps this publication should be made compulsory reading for all members of the Opposition. Perhaps the shadow Minister for Primary Industry then could speak for more than one or two minutes on matters of vital importance. One, of course, would have to mete it out to them in small doses. Even their conscience would then be able to be conditioned in this way to asking forgiveness for all their ruthless unprincipled actions in regard to primary industry. Whilst this objective may well nigh be impossible, it would at least broaden their horizons and lead to a better understanding of rural conditions, inconveniences and problems.
One pleasing feature in the nitrogen manufacturing industry is that the cost of fertilisers has levelled out in recent months. Nitrogen fertiliser prices rose substantially during July 1974- July 1976. If we take anhydrous ammonia as the example- and I use it because I am more conversant with it than I am with urea, ammonium sulphate or aqua ammonia- the price a tonne before subsidy in July 1974 was $188.77, July 1975, $219.27, July 1976, $253.28 and July 1977, $258.40. Quite obviously the manufacturers of nitrogen have adopted and applied all possible economies of scale and have exercised responsibility and restraint as far as their own economic activities are concerned. In effect they are partners with the farmers in an honest endeavour to build a better Australia.
The result of the increase in price of fertiliser over the period referred to, coupled with the reduced rate of subsidy, when expressed in percentage terms indicates that the price reduction due to subsidies declined from 34.6 per cent in July 1974 to 19 per cent in July 1977. The present subsidy works out at 6c a kilogram. Whilst demand is always related to the farmer’s assessment of moisture stored in the soil and his guess of what the rainfall will be during the plant growing period, it also varies according to price. The IAC report indicated that, if commodity prices increased, demand for nitrogen fertilisers would increase from an estimated 175,000 tonnes in 1975 to 300,000 tonnes in 1981. It is to be regretted that a farmer has to sell twice as much wheat this year to pay for the same amount of fertiliser nitrogen as he did four years ago. In 1973-74 it took 0.83 tonnes of wheat to buy one tonne of urea, whilst in 1976-77 it takes 1.65 tonnes of wheat to buy the same quantity. I am assured by members of this place who represent sugar growing areas that a similar situation exists in regard to sugar. The sugar industry, incidentally, uses 30 per cent of all Australia’s nitrogen.
The use of nitrogen fertiliser on the Darling Downs is a very important part of crop production. We do not, as yet, have a suitable legume and consequently we rely very heavily on nitrogen. Nitrogen usage started in the early 1960s and present usage is more than double what it was 10 years ago. In fact usage on the Darling Downs m 1976 was nearly 10 per cent of the Australian total. In effect, nitrogen is white gold to Queensland farmers. The usage in Queensland is almost half of the Australian total.
The subsidy we are debating in this Bill is an investment in our great agricultural industries. Fertilisers are necessary in the productive farming system. Research shows that it is usually the better farmers in an area who use fertiliser more efficiently; so the subsidy helps to improve our efficiency of production as well as the total yield. The subsidy has led to increased output and better farming by reducing costs of production. The Fraser-Anthony Government, in adopting a different approach from the Whitlam-Hayden Administration- which was determined to remove the subsidy- and by its action in continuing the subsidy, has recognised two things: Firstly, the importance of exports from the land and, secondly, the role of nitrogen fertilisers in farm production.
-I will be very brief. I want to respond to a few comments made by the honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh), particularly when he challenged the Opposition to state whether it thought primary producers should have equal rights with other citizens. From our record, it is quite apparent that, we believe that. Our record will indicate that. On the other hand, primary industries in their present state are a disaster area. The honourable member should not be asking that question of us; he should be asking that question of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair). Does he think primary producers are entitled to an equal stake in our society? Of course, the answer is in the reception he has been receiving at public meetings all over the country. People are demanding his resignation. Of course, it is not all his fault. If he were left to himself he might make a better fist of it, but unfortunately his policies often are contradicted by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Leader of the National Country Party (Mr Anthony). The whole situation is in a shambles. The people in the country know that it is.
I have no doubt that on the eve of an election little handouts such as a nitrogenous fertiliser subsidy are being made in an endeavour to win back people who have been alienated from the National Country Party. I have no doubt that people in Leichhardt, Dawson and Capricornia m Queensland, in Eden-Monaro, Calare and Riverina in New South Wales, and in a few electorates in other States will express their opinion on how this Government has performed in the interests of primary producers. They will know that historically all the sound market stabilisation schemes have been set up under Labor legislation. Of course, the sound position of the wool industry at the moment is the result of progressive legislation introduced -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! I appreciate that the honourable member for Fraser is making a few passing comments. I point out that the next item of business is the Appropriation Bill and the estimates for the Department of Primary Industry. Some of the comments being made by the honourable memberthis would apply also to the honourable member for Darling Downs-might be made more suitably in the debate on the estimates than in this debate.
– I appreciate your advice, Mr Deputy Speaker. Just to put the record straight for the benefit of those people in the Government parties who do not know what the Australian Labor Party’s attitude is, I have here a statement on our rural and fisheries policy from our last national Conference. I seek approval to table it and to have it incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted?
– Leave is not granted.
– I have a copy if the Minister wants to read it. I will give him a copy. We support the Bill on its merits. We do not have a doctrinaire approach to subsidies. We object strongly to some subsidies, but we support this one. It is quite different from some of the other handouts that government gives to the farming community. This one is not only important to Queensland and the sugar industry but also very important to the horticultural industry of the whole of Australia. Certainly it fits very well into the sugar industry. It is terribly important to that industry and has helped to stabilise it. It also helps to sustain the local industry and keeps us independent of overseas countries in respect of a very scarce natural resource. Of course, there is the effect on the cost of production which the honourable member for Darling Downs quite rightly pointed out. It is a positive approach as far as farmers are concerned, but of course the money is coming out of the public purse generally.
We support this measure as a short term expedient to assist an industry in a difficult time. I would like to see a more long term approach in terms of research which may reduce the necessity to apply artificial nitrogenous fertilisers. I refer particularly to the possibilities in genetic engineering. It is now thought possible that certain plants which do not have the ability to fix nitrogen, such as our wheats and other winter cereals, may be able to have this ability built into them genetically. This is a very exciting prospect which could save this country hundreds of millions of dollars and remove the threat of a shortage of nitrogenous fertilisers which is rapidly approaching all over the world. This is not an easy answer. It is a long term one, but it is one that could come about if sufficient resources were applied over a long enough period in the field of genetic engineering.
I have appealed on several occasions for a long term view to be taken on this matter. We should make ample funds available to enable the excellent scientists in this country to pursue these new progressive approaches in genetic breeding. I am sure that the payoff would be very substantial indeed. Unfortunately, many of our scientists who are working in new areas of science, trying something that is completely different, do not receive much encouragement. I have had a great battle recently to try to retain a very important piece of research into solar energy at the Australian National University. It is a completely new approach to storing and transmitting solar energy. It was about to be cut off. We have had it extended for another six months. In the meantime we hope that some other sources of funds will be found- if not university sources, some other Government sources. Certainly the Government is niggardly in its approach to this research which could confer long term benefits on rural industries and the Austraiian people generally.
We support the Bill on its merits. We appreciate that this is something which is commendable, in the same way as yesterday we supported the very commendable legislation on establishing a research levy on the oilseeds industry. These are positive things which we support and commend. But do not let us say that this Government has all the answers for the rural industries. As we know, they are in a mess, and that is what rural voters will say at the next election.
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.
Motion (by Mr Fife) proposed:
That the Bill be now read a third time.
-I will be very brief. The honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh) made a number of remarks relating to the lack of time I spent on this Bill. The Bill is self-explanatory. I believe that those people in primary industry who benefit under the Bill are well aware of the benefits and do not need any verbose politicians to tell them. I suggest that the honourable member study the methods by which finances are allocated in this Parliament. He indicated that there was no appropriation in the 1975 Budget for this subsidy. The Bill appropriates its own funds and it is not necessary for them to be included in the budgetary provisions. This applies to the majority of funds spent by Federal governments. They are appropriated under Bills which appropriate their own funds. The Australian Labor Party carried on this subsidy as has the present Government, in the same manner and under the same form of legislation as this. The honourable member does the House a disservice when he seeks to base an argument on the spurious ground that expenditure on the subsidy was not included in the Estimates, when in fact the Bill, as you have just indicated, Mr Deputy Speaker, by reading the message from the Governor-General, appropriates its own funds.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member for Darling Downs claim to have been misrepresented?
– I claim to have been misrepresented, quite unintentionally, by the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes). If the honourable member reads Hansard tomorrow he will find that I said quite explicitly and quite clearly that the Labor Government made no effort whatsoever during the 1975-76 Budget session to introduce legislation to extend the Act which was to expire at the end of 1976. That was my statement. I did not specify that it was in the Budget. I said that it was during the Budget session. I know that the honourable member is a man of great honesty and great integrity, and if he reads Hansard tomorrow he will see what I said, not what he thought I might have said.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
APPROPRIATION BILL (No. 1) 1977-78 In Committee
Consideration resumed from 18 October.
Department of Primary Industry
Proposed expenditure, $85,458,000.
-The very short time which is available for members to discuss the estimates for the Department of Primary Industry gives an opportunity for a cursory glance only at what is the most widespread area of estimates that come before this Parliament. I intend to concentrate my remarks today on general approaches and the means by which problems may be solved in a number of primary industries which are growing and which will continue to grow. I think the most important single thing that one can say in this Parliament or anywhere else is that short term measures only stave off the day when long term appreciations of problems have to be undertaken. It is unfortunate that within the primary industry area there is a very strong penchant for people to take short term measures to patch up problems. I realise that it is a diverse area but the problems which have been solved to any degree in the major industries have been solved by fairly strong legislation based on real needs and the real ability of an industry to produce and market its products, to receive for that product a price which is reasonable for the producer, a price which allows that producer to operate a commercial operation, not what may be described as a hobby or as a way of life, or by some other term by which primary industry sometimes is described. It is an industry and it has problems.
The terms of trade have run against primary industry almost through the total period of this century. There has not been more demand in this area from primary producer organisations at an earlier time because the pressures on them were not as great as they have become over, say, the last 20 to 30 years. Certainly at this time the terms of trade have reached a situation where the actual survival of many primary industries as commercial operations must be seen to be in doubt. This is exaggerated by the activities of the governments in other areas and, to some extent, has been contributed to by Australian governments. The European Economic Community, for instance, has taken actions in recent years which have changed dramatically the terms of trade of Australian primary producers and taken away the capacity to dispose of surpluses in markets where they could be sold at reasonable prices to the advantage of the people who live in that area. The subsidisation of primary products in the EEC area and the protection at the level at which it is being granted is acting to the very serious disadvantage of Australian farmers and also the general community in agricultural areas. The Japanese market for beef and the American market for beef and other primary products is restricted. There is still the age old tariff against our wool. One could spend weeks trying to find a justifiable reason for the existence of that tariff. Certainly the United States needs the wool and it would not in any way affect the wool growers of the United States to remove that particular tariff. But it exists, as do restrictions on access to the market and other restrictions.
For too long Australian primary producers have been loath to enter into the types of considerations which are absolutely necessary if they are to obtain the income levels which their efficiency and ability to produce requires. In the early 1940s wheat growers were one of the few areas of primary production to move into a stabilisation scheme. Some level of stability came to that industry in which producers had been the victims of some of the most devastating years in the history of any industry. In the late 1930s and early 1940s the prices of wheat in Australia dropped to levels which had not been reached for 300 years. The reaction to that was that farmers realised the necessity for modern marketing methods and modern approaches to the sale of their product in order to enable them to obtain in the market place the price they were entitled to expect. Unfortunately, it took a lot longer for wool growers to reach a position of similar understanding of the need for them to change marketing methods, and then only reluctantly. It was, in fact, the Labor Government which put the floor in the wool market in 1974, a move which most likely would have been taken by other governments at an earlier time had the industry been prepared to accept what I think was an inevitable move for that industry. I remember over a long period the honourable Reg Pollard, both in this House and outside this House, pushing the need for market reforms in the wool area without any success during his parliamentary or political life because of the objections of the major organisations in the wool growing area.
The beef industry is now going through a crisis which will require for a long term solution- short term patching up methods may be possible- a totally new approach to marketing of beef whereby the producer sells his beef at a price, not in an auction where he takes what is offered. There are all sorts of difficulties which have to be resolved before that can come about, but the main difficulty is that the beef grower himself must want it to happen. Until he accepts it, it will not be possible, within a parliamentary situation, especially in Australia where it is necessary to have the support of seven separate governments in order to undertake this type of marketing change, until the pressure from the beef grower is sufficient for that sort of market change. There is still hesitancy about changing marketing methods. If primary producers are to be commercial operations receiving a price for thenproduct in the same way as manufacturers and other sections of the community, there must be changes. No one expects the Ford Motor Company or General Motors Holden ‘s to auction off their cars at a price which someone might bid and which they will accept, but the primary producer, in the main, sells his product on that sort of basis and has opposed marketing changes. He has opposed the marketing changes because of what I believe to be an archaic approach to the free enterprise system which, I think, long since left the market place. Because of that approach many of these products are sold on the basis of what the buyer thinks he can get in order to make a profit rather than what the primary producer is entitled to expect. It will make some serious changes to our approach and possibly it will even change our food prices. But if farmers are to operate on a commercial basis- surely that should be what it is all about- then they are entitled to sell their product as a commodity for a price and not have to beg someone to take it off their hands at a loss. That is the current situation.
We can make speeches of any nature we wish in this Parliament about what we will do tomorrow or the next day. But the real need in primary industry in Australia is for the farmer to operate on a commercial basis, for the organisations involved in primary industry to become far more professional than they are now. I suggest that it should have the sorts of organisations which exist in the trade union movement, whereby pressure can be applied to obtain the conditions to which trade unionists believe they are entitled, whether or not the community agrees. That is necessary within primary industry organisations.
– Do not liken it to the Victorian Board.
– I am not likening it to anything. I am saying that they can seek and obtain what they are entitled to by putting forward logical arguments and by applying pressure where it is necessary- that may be to the National Country Party on some occasions; it may be to the Labor Party on others; it should always be to the Liberal Party. The fact is that that can be done or else they can sit back and go broke gradually while somebody else makes a fortune.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Jarman)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-The honourable .member for Corio (Mr Scholes) has again made what must be said to be a sincere speech, but I think it is evident from what he said today that he, like so many of his colleagues, really lacks a deep and real understanding of the problems facing our primary producers in Australia today. In the time available to me I want to make a few general comments which I think are of some importance, particularly at this time. From moving around my electorate in the north-west of Tasmania and King Island, and from speaking with farmers on their properties and at the sale yards, I have found that most farmers realise that their only hope of getting true economic justice at this dme is to give continuing support to the present Government.
My farming friends have made it clear to me that they dread the remote possibility of the Australian Labor Party at some future dme regaining government in this country, especially with the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) at the helm. They have not forgotten those despicable remarks he made about farmers in years gone by. At one stage he said that farmers had never had it so good. They have not forgotten his irresponsible remark that most farmers are pagans. They realise that a leopard does not change his spots and they know that the Leader of the Opposition despises farmers and people living in country areas. He continues to have a deep antipathy towards them. Only recently I noted in an article where he referred to farmers, amongst other people, as being no more than dole bludgers. How many more times will he insult our farmers? These are remarks which the farmers feel deeply, and they have not forgotten them. They do not forget the many despicable actions of the Labor Government which, considered together, did so much harm and injury to most of our rural industries and to the livelihood of the people living in the country areas of Australia.
I want to mention some of those decisions of the previous Government which the farmers have not forgotten. The Labor Government presided over the most destructive increase in inflation in this country’s history, causing an escalation in total farm costs of $ 1,400m over the three years from 1973. Farm income has in fact increased by $400m, but because of the Whitlam-induced inflation primary producers are today more than $ 1,000m, or $100 a week each, worse off than they were in 1973-74. The Labor Government abolished the superphosphate fertiliser bounty payable to primary producers. It abolished the fuel equalisation scheme which helped people in the remote areas of Australia. Labor imposed an export meat inspection charge which cost producers an estimated $25m a year
The Labor Government added millions of dollars a year to farmers’ tax payments by means of changes to the tax scale affecting people using the averaging provisions. It abolished tax concessions for water, soil and fodder conservation. The Labor Government imposed an increase of around $700m in indirect taxes and levies in the last Budget it brought down. It refused to extend the unemployment benefit to primary producers. It cut the amount of funds made available for rural reconstruction by more than $20m. The Labor Government reduced by $119m over three years grants for rural arterial and rural local roads. It repealed the 100 per cent tax write-off provision for certain primary production capital equipment. The Labor Government reduced by two-thirds, to only 9 kilometres, free installation of telephone lines to country areas. Free installation now extends to 12 kilometres.
What a dramatic change has taken place since the present Government was installed. In its relatively short time in office it has gone a long way towards honouring the commitments that it made to primary producers. The initiatives taken are a start, and a very good start. But I recognise, and of course the Government realises, that very much more must be done to ensure that farmers get a fair deal from the rest of the community and receive a reasonable income for their work and their effort. I certainly do not in any sense apologise for what has been done so far. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) and the Cabinet have spent many hundreds of man hours seeking answers to the grave problems confronting our farmers. These answers are not easy to find. Any sensible, reasonable person recognises that. But the Government has acted fairly and responsibly.
Let us look at what the Government has done. It has extended the eligibility for the unemployment benefit to farmers who are suffering financial hardship and who have registered for employment. Special statutory reserve deposits have been released to improve the liquidity of major trading banks for term loans and farm development loans. In June 1976 some $106m was made available for term loans and $53m was made available for farm development loans, making a total of $ 159m. A further $132m was provided in September 1977, $84m of which was or term loans and $48m of which was for farm development loans. A new scheme was introduced from 1 January 1977 to continue carry-on loans, debt reconstruction and farm build-up. A $55m approval program was provided in 1977-78, and that provision represented an increase of $22m over that for the previous year.
The Tasmanian freight equalisation scheme was introduced. The Commonwealth has provided $23m in 1978 for that scheme. The scheme reduces the price of imports for Tasmanian farmers and enables them to compete on a cornarable basis with their mainland counterparts, Some important changes have been made in relation to estate duty. A special deduction of $50,000 is to apply in cases where an interest in an estate passes to a surviving spouse. In the case of an estate of a primary producer passing wholly to a surviving spouse, it will be entirely free of Federal estate duty if valued at $98,000 or less.
The devaluation of the Australian dollar, of course, helped the primary producer and all of our export industries. The important investment allowance of 40 per cent was introduced for expenditure incurred from 1 January 1976 to 30 June 197S in acquiring new plant and equipment. A rate of 20 per cent will apply to expenditure from 1 July 1978 to 30 June 1983. That represents an important change for primary producers. The tax averaging provisions were modified to ensure that the tax payment of a primary producer on a fluctuating income is no greater than that paid by any taxpayer receiving the same average income. The effect of these provisions will be to ensure that the averaging system enables farmers to put funds aside in those few years when unusual seasons and markets generate higher than normal taxable incomes. Similarly, in years of poor seasons and poor markets the farmer will pay no more tax than the average earner in those years of income. Therefore the inequity of the Hayden rebate system for farmers with fluctuating incomes has been repealed.
I mention briefly some of the assistance being provided to the beef industry. It includes a total of $28m being provided for carry-on loans during 1976-77 and 1977-78, and the suspension of the Labor imposed meat export inspection charge which will save producers an estimated $28m in 1977-78. Many other important steps have been taken on behalf of beef producers, but I do not have time to mention them now. Similarly, a lot has been done for the dairy industry. Legislation was passed in June 1977 to provide for the introduction of stage one of the new marketing arrangements for the manufacturing sector of the dairy industry.
-It has been helpful.
-It has been a great help to dairy farmers in Tasmania, and particularly in the electorate of Braddon. The stage one arrangements, which came into operation on 1 July 1977, provide for a compulsory levy disbursement scheme to replace the voluntary equalisation scheme operated by the industry, which ceased on 30 June 1977. The Budget includes an appropriation of $6.5m to cover part of the Government’s underwriting commitments for the dairy industry for the 1975-76 and the 1976- 77 seasons. The cost of underwriting in 1977- 78 will be a cost to the next Budget. Unfortunately I don’t have time to mention everything that has been done. I want here and now to congratulate the Government on bringing in so many measures to help the farmers and their families and to provide a sound basis for ultimate recovery and eventual growth in the rural sector. Much more needs to be done and, given time, it will be done.
Mr FitzPATRICK (Darling) (5.16)-The honourable member for Braddon (Mr Groom) stated that members of the Australian Labor Party had a lack of knowledge of primary industry. I do not know on what basis he made that statement. I can inform him that many of us have long family connections as well as personal connections with primary industry. I am one of the members on this side of the chamber who have had a long family connection and also a personal associaton with primary industry. The debate on the estimates for the Department of Primary Industry concerns the Department’s administration of Australia’s agricultural industries. I am very reluctant to criticise the Department because I realise that it is only carrying out the Fraser Government’s lopsided and biased policy towards the primary industries. The honourable member for Braddon read out a long list of things which he claimed the Labor Party had done and which were injurious to primary industry. I think it can be said that many of our primary industries are now in such a serious economic situation that it is very difficult for one to sort out the priorities here. Not only are they going through a very serious economic situation at the present time but also they are facing a worsening economic future.
Because the dried fruit and citrus fruit industries at present are suffering urgent problems, I what to deal with some of the problems of those industries. Last weekend I was asked to visit the dried fruit growing area and to acquaint myself with some of the problems, particularly those resulting from the storm damage at Monak- the district that was struck by the freak tornado that devastated so much of the Redcliffs area. The honourable member for Mallee (Mr Fisher) has mentioned already the problems in that area, but I want to touch on the effect of that storm on some of the areas in my electorate. Although it did not cover as great an area of my electorate, the tornado was just as devastating for those in its path. Those people are facing damage of ruinous proportions. I saw 100 acres of vines stripped of the current season’s fruit. Hailstones also damaged the wood of the vines to such an extent that it is very likely that the next season’s crop also will be greatly reduced. It is estimated that not only has this season’s crop been ruined but also at least 50 per cent of next season’s crop will suffer.
The damage covered the much wider area of citrus fruit growing. Oranges, mandarins and grapefruit have suffered very extensive damage. It reminded me of the damage caused by the spur-throated locust plague that I saw in another part of my electorate some years ago. The spurthroated locusts damaged all the crops in that area. As a result of the storm one could see areas where hail had hit the trees, all the leaves had gone and the fruit had holes in it as though it had been shot with .22 bullets. Underneath the trees one could see a carpet of oranges, mandarins and grapefruit. It is sad that both the State and Federal governments appear to be very slow in coming forward and giving these people some guarantee that they will nave a chance of carrying on in the future. The situation is particularly tragic because the last ten years, except for last year, have been hard years for the industry. Last year was a reasonable year and it was anticipated that this year also would be a good one.
Under normal circumstances the future of the industry is very grim. Early last year or late in the year before the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) himself spoke about the rationalisation of the industry. The findings of the Industries Assistance Commission inquiry into the dried fruits industry caused growers to become desperately concerned about the future and, in the depressed state of the real estate market, forced them to make wrong decisions or at least unjustly unfavourable decisions. While all these things are happening, it is unfortunate that the growers are receiving no assistance and no encouragement to provide self-help schemes to cover natural disasters. Ever since I entered this Parliament I have heard governments mention hailstorm insurance schemes, but they seem to be very reluctant to introduce them. As a matter of fact, on this occasion the Government acted in the opposite direction by taxing the undistributed profit of the self-help scheme which the growers had introduced. They now have only $328,000 in the insurance scheme to cover damage estimated to cost between $14m and $15m. It is terrible that the Government should be doing such a thing to them at a time when they badly need assistance.
I warn the Liberal Party and the National Country Party that the dried fruit industry is looking for its own Barry Cassell. Like the beef producers, the dried fruit growers do not believe that the Fraser Government is justified in giving the Utah Development Co. another $27m handout and letting them starve during a period of national disaster. It is time that the Government really did something for these people. There is an absolute lack of Government policy with relation to tariff protection for the existing efficient horticultural industries. Such a policy should be developed with a clear understanding of the reasonable right of growers to meet Australian domestic consumption. I refer in particular to the citrus juice industry. I believe that this is an indictment of the Government for allowing imported citrus juices to be dumped on the Australian market when these people who have built up their industry on the understanding that they would be able to supply the domestic market are now suffering because of the Government’s policy.
Nearly every horticultural industry, including the vine fruits industry, and totally dependent communities can be ruined almost overnight by lack of proper protection and by the dumping from overseas. The loss to Australia as a whole will be inevitable and great, especially when world conditions change and when supplies from overseas no longer can be obtained. It seems to me to be strange that a government which is always informing us of its concern for the unemployed should allow the level of unemployment to increase by not giving protection to these industries. According to the Daily Advertiser of Friday, 7 October, the total rural employment in Australia has declined by an average of 110 people a week for the past 23 years. I remind the honourable member for Braddon who has just criticised the Labor Government’s treatment of the rural industries that for only three of those 23 years was the Labor Government in office. This is what has happened: People are leaving rural industry at the rate of 1 10 a week. The current unemployment rates in rural areas are up to four times the rate in the metropolitan area, due principally to the immediate and multiplier effects of the rural recession.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Jarman)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– by leave- The House will recall that on 9 December 1966 the Australian and United States Governments entered into an agreement regarding the establishment of a Joint Defence Space Research Facility. This faculty was subsequently established at Pine Gap, outside Alice Springs.
The 1966 agreement was for 10 years and has been terminable at one year’s notice by either party since 9 December 1975. Failing such notice the agreement continues in force indefinitely.
The present United States Administration has recently asked if the agreement could be extended for a further period of 10 years with either party being able to give one year’s notice of termination after nine years from the date of extension or at any time thereafter, failing which the agreement would continue indefinitely.
My Government has considered this matter. Having regard to the importance- acknowledged I believe, by both sides of the House- of the Joint Defence Space Research Facility to the interests of Australia and the United States; to the importance of the co-operation of our two countries under the ANZUS Treaty; and having regard to the requirements for security of tenure at Pine Gap to protect substantial investments in buildings, machinery, skilled manpower and effort, and the requirement to support long term planning in these respects, we have decided to accede to the United States Government’s request. We believe that this arrangement will be helpful to the United States Government in planning its long term financial commitments for this facility.
My colleague the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) and His Excellency the United States Ambassador have today signed notes extending the 1966 agreement for a further period of 10 years. I now table these notes for the information of the House. The House will notice that the opportunity has been taken to transfer responsibility as co-operating agency for the project from the specialist area of the Advanced Research Projects Agency to the general administration of the United States Department ofDefence.
I have referred to the importance of the facility; the House will know that for security reasons I cannot elucidate on this. I do want to say that a sound and co-operative relationship with the United States is fundamental to this Government’s foreign and defence policies and that the Government and, I believe, the great majority of the Australian people welcome this opportunity to extend our collaboration with our American friends and allies. I present the following paper:
Motion ( by Mr Sinclair) proposed:
That the House take note of the statement.
Debate (on motion by Mr E. G. Whitlam) adjourned.
– Notices of intention to present Bills at the next sitting have been received as follows:
From the Prime Minister a Governor-General Amendment Bill.
From the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations: a Stevedoring Industry Acts Termination Bill; a Stevedoring Industry Finance Committee Bill; a Conciliation and Arbitration Amendment Bill (No. 2), and a Port Statistics Bill.
From the Minister for Productivity: a Judiciary Diplomatic Representations Bill.
Department of Primary Industry
Proposed expenditure, $85,458,000.
– It is disappointing to see not only the negative approach of the Opposition to the positive programs of this Government in the rural sector but also the unfortunate response of sections of the rural sector to those initiatives. This matter has been before this House on previous occasions and the complaints by some sections of the beef industry in particular have received a degree of attention, perhaps a greater degree of attention than their case really merits. The substantial expenditure that is involved in the recent package of assistance to the beef industry will be of major assistance to that industry. The only problem- and I recognise it as a real problem- is that such assistance could well have taken place some time previously.
However, there has been no doubt that the forecasts that there would be an upturn in the industry as a result of the normal effect of market forces did not prove accurate.
It is very difficult to forecast a world market for beef, as was shown by the very widespread view a few years ago that the right thing to do was to produce more and more beef, to breed more and more cattle because there was a great protein need around the world at the time- and that protein need still exists. The problem is- and this is self-evident- that forecasting the demands of the cattle market is not necessarily the same as forecasting consumer demand for beef. In very simple terms, the reason the Australian Meat
Board was wrong when it forecast substantial increases in Australia’s exports of beef was simply that the American grain price went through the roof. This made it impossible for feed lot operators, both in the United States and Japan, to afford to hold beef cattle stocks. I am giving this background information because I think it is important to recognise the reasons for the need for substantial allocations of funds to assist this industry right now.
When the grain price went through the roof and domestic feed lot operators in the United States and Japan were forced to decide whether or not they would pay much more for their grain or whether they should run down their holdings of cattle in feed lots, they took the view that they should run down their feed lot holdings. As a result, a great deal of meat domestically grown in the United States and Japan then became directly competitive with Australian exports to the extent that the Japanese Government prevented Australia from exporting any meat whatsoever to Japan for a period. The Americans imposed a quota system which, I might add, was quite reasonable in view of its own internal problems. As a result, all the forecasts in Australia were wrong and the beef industry found itself in an over-supply situation.
Cattle producers have been going broke. I believe that this has caused an immense amount of unhappiness in this industry, largely to people who have, I believe, not a full awareness of the things this Government is doing and has done for the cattle producer. It has been forecast that $100m-odd will come from the Federal Government program of providing a grant of $10 per head for normal veterinary procedures and/or spaying of young heifers. The program will provide up to $2,000 per cattle producer and certainly will provide some help to an industry that is in severe distress.
In addition, of course, dairy producers in every State except New South Wales are getting a magnificent deal from the Federal Government. The New South Wales producers are not getting as good a deal as they ought because the New South Wales Government has refused to contribute on a matching basis the underwriting that has been arranged by the Federal Government.
– As the interjector states, a mean and unnecessary action by the State Government. It simply follows the pattern of attack on the dairy industry by the Labor Party in whatever government it has a role. I suppose the
Labor Government in New South Wales is directly and solely responsible for the disaster in the dairy industry in that State. I refer to the financial uncertainties. The closure of farms and a trend towards economic size and greater efficiency had been proceeding under the previous Liberal-Country Party Government in New South Wales. In that State the proposition had always been that it was more efficient and would provide cheaper milk if a lot of the small operators were collected together into larger groupings. In other words, there are economies of scale that are clear cut and evident in the dairy industry as they are in any industry.
The dreadful situation now is that after there have been amalgamations in the diary industry and after the industry has very properly done what it can to make itself more efficient by getting economies of scale, the New South Wales Labor Government is doing what it can to break down these larger groupings in order to make the production of milk in New South Wales less efficient than in the past. This is a disaster, I believe, in terms of the proper trend for the industry. It is a disaster for the consumer who will be faced with a less efficient dairy industry as a result of these pressures on the industry by the New South Wales Government to disadvantage the bigger producers more than the smaller ones. Apparently, the New South Wales Government takes the view that it is prepared to do anything to the New South Wales dairy industry in order to buy the seat of Casino for the Minister for Primary Industry in that State. Frankly, that seat has been bought for that Labor member on the backs of and with the reasources of the dairy industry in the rest of New South Wales, particularly in the Basic Milk Quota area, which has had its milk quotas expropriated by the New South Wales Government without any recompense whatsoever. Obviously the New South Wales Labor Government is an expert in the kind of procedure to use to buy a seat.
I want to stress that the reasons for the specific assistance which this Government is obliged to give the primary industry sector emerges from one major problem- the massive rise in domestic farm costs in Australia. There is no doubt that there are serious problems in export industries, problems which I believe will be resolved with the passage of time. This Government is giving assistance to the rural industry, which is a major difference from the activities of the previous government which, from memory, added something like $2Sm a year to the cattle producers’ bill by putting an export tax on beef. This Government instead is providing assistance. The amount of assistance which will be needed continually, even if there are substantial improvements in export markets, will depend to a large degree on the extent to which we can defeat the inflation in farm costs. It is distressing to note that even though there will be increased returns to farmers this year, according to the latest Bureau of Agricultural Economics report, farm income is expected, despite the big increases in gross returns, to decline by 8 per cent. If the rate of inflation is assumed to be about 10 per cent, real income per farm is expected to fall by 1 4 per cent.
It is vital to note that assistance given by this Government is not in fact handouts to some specially well-off sections of the community, which is the Labor Party argument when it attacks assistance to the rural industry. It is in fact a requirement to assist this major section of the Australian people to survive and to retain this major industry, which is still a massive export earner, and to enable it to continue giving benefits to the whole of the people of Australia. It is divisive and offensive for some newspapers and for most of the spokesmen for the Opposition to continue to attack as a handout anything that is done to help rural industry.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drummond) -Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Yesterday I had cause to congratulate the Government on its initiative in introducing a positive approach to a real problem. I refer to the research levy on oilseeds. This was a good initiative, but it was a belated although welcome positive approach to a small and insignificant sector of rural production. It was a token response to the problems. When we look at the big issues we can only conclude, as the farmers have concluded, that this Government has failed the farmers lamentably, and that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair has failed them lamentably. The most glaring failure, and one which has been well expressed right throughout the rural sectors, is in the beef industry where not only has the Government failed the producers but also in the process it has not raised a finger against the continuing exploitation of low prices for beef by the meat processors. The honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Baume) is a member of one of the leading export companies, Tancred Bros Pty Ltd.
The meat producers have made unashamedly high profits at the expense of the producers. We are all well aware of the extent they went to to exploit the producers, even dumping meat, supposedly unbeknown to the government, on the American market. This has greatly embarrassed the Government and brought great discredit to our business ethics that our meat exporters should have indulged in that sort of practice. But, it was condoned by the Government. The Government did nothing about it. It let it go on. It let the processors exploit the producers. That is the continuing sorry story of the beef industry.
The latest effort, of course, is an admission of defeat. I refer to the Government’s bankrupt policy of spaying young heifers. This flies in the face of all predictions about the beef industry. We all know that the beef industry is subject to fairly long swings and cycles of supply and demand. We have been advised by many people that the cycle is in the process of swinging back and that in two or three years time it looks as though there will be a shortage of beef. Yet we are spaying our young heifers, the young breeding stock of tomorrow. We are paying people to render them in such a way that they cannot be bred from. They will be able only to be fattened and sent to the markets. This is a bankrupt policy, a short sighted policy. The whole beef industry must run on a long, planning cycle of something like five years. Yet we are paying people to spay cattle so that the cattle cannot be bred from.
I suggest that producers should not accept this proposition. I do not think many will. I think they have a bit more sense, foresight and experience in the game to know that this is a desperate effort and one that is bound to fail. Other problems have been loaded on to primary producers. The prospect of increased fuel costs is one which must be faced by the whole of the country, of course, but there is an inbuilt inelasticity of demand for fuel on the farm. There is not much that the man on the land can do to save fuel. It is part and parcel of his daily operations in running the farm and in communicating in his area. Whilst people in metropolitan areas may have the opportunity to save fuel, people on the land have not. I certainly think some consideration must be given to this matter.
One of the most notable failures or examples of indecision or of different points of view in respect of rural problems is in the Government’s handling of the anticipated national rural bank. The whole thing is in disarray. The statement by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) this morning did not clarify the position at all. The Prime Minister in his electorate talk in September, and subsequently Senator Cotton in answer to a question on 1 3 October, made it clear that the bank would be an independent statutory authority which would have to operate on its own account and which could not be an institution managed within the trading banks. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) and the trading banks, of course, have other ideas. He has said that the bank should be a refinancing institution, administered by the banks and not by a separate institution. Where does the Government stand on this matter? Perhaps I am being unfair to the Minister for Primary Industry. I think if he had a fair go he would make a better fist of the job. How can he succeed when he is being contradicted and overridden by the Leader of the National Country Party and the Prime Minister? They should make up their minds and work out beforehand what they intend to do, before they start confusing everybody with these conflicting statements.
No statement has been made as to where the funds will come from. No statement has been made as to whether the bank will supply low interest loans. No statement has been made as to whether it will work through the Commonwealth Development Bank or on the relationship the Development Bank will have with the statutory authority or the refinancing institution. It appears that the decision on whether to lend to a producer will rest with the manager of a private bank, as it always has. I have always maintained that where government money is made available for special purposes we should have specially trained government valuers, as the Rural Bank of New South Wales and the Commonwealth Development Bank have. They go out, look at each case on its merits and do forward projections for several years. They exercise expert knowledge of farm management and the latest technology. By doing that, those banks are able to lend to a much wider margin than the manager who applies some rule of thumb method. He sits in his office and decides on a certain value, and then he decides that he can lend up to 60 per cent of that value. If it is done in a more sophisticated or more expert way, I think it is quite valid to lend to a much closer margin- up to 70 per cent or 75 per cent of the value. This can be done only on the basis of expert advice. That expert advice is in the hands of the specialist valuing staff of those banks. It is not in the hands of the commercial banks. From my reading of the legislation, the intention is that the manager of a private bank will have the ultimate say. I do not think that will be very helpful to primary producers.
The Government has tremendous electoral problems. With an election possibly coming up very soon, it can look to many of its rural seats only with a great deal of trepidation following the confusion and mishandling of the rural sector. It has the problem of the Chipp party which will make inroads into the Senate prospects of the National Country Party. There is no doubt that there is a great threat to Country Party held seats in New South Wales such as Eden-Monaro, Calare and Paterson. Several Liberal held seats in New South Wales and Victoria are under threat. They include Bendigo, Ballaarat and McMillan in Victoria. Also under threat are the seats of Kalgoorlie in Western Australia, Herbert, Capricornia, Leichhardt and Dawson in Queensland. All of these are under threat because of the mishandling of the rural sector by the Government These members will pay the price.
– What would you do?
– I tried to table our policy today. Leave was refused. It is all in the policy. It is a very progressive policy. The policy sets out to do something for rural industries on a long term basis.
– Instead of saying that we are not doing well enough, tell us what you would do.
– You had plenty of time to do what you wanted to do, and you made a mess of it.
– Tell us what you would do.
– Look at our policy, and you will see what we would do. We have adopted a positive approach. We have attempted long term solutions to these problems, not the band-aid measures which have been applied by this Government. Another serious problem to rural industries has been devaluation and the prospect of further devaluation. Whilst this may be seen as being of some temporary advantage to the exporters, it is a very short term advantage. It is soon offset by retaliation by countries which put up barriers to our exports to those countries where we hope to sell more. Of course the devaluation has contributed to the massive rise in domestic costs referred to by the honourable member for Macarthur. He did not say why these massive rises were brought about.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drummond) -Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Mr BAUME (Macarthur)-Mr Deputy Chairman, I wish to make a personal explanation.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
-Yes. The honourable member for Fraser (Mr Fry) alleged that I had participated in the exploitation of producers. That is grossly offensive and totally untrue. The facts very clearly are that the company of which I am a director earned in the latest year of trading a profit of half a cent per lb on its product processed or a little more than one cent in the dollar. In those circumstances it is disgraceful for him to make such a comment about me.
-The previous speaker for the Opposition, the honourable member for Fraser (Mr Fry), spoke at some length about forcing people into adopting a spaying program. I wish, when he was speaking on the appropriation, he had realised that that is not part of the appropriations. When he spoke at length about the spaying program and how the Government ought not to be forcing producers to adopt that program, he should read what the Munster for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) said about the program. Producers have the right to opt into some four different schemes. Nowhere along the line are producers forced to adopt a spaying program as an initiative to receive a grant from the Commonwealth Government. I say that for the benefit of the honourable member for Fraser.
The estimates for the Department of Primary Industry amount to some $85,458,000 for 1977-78. This is an increase of some $30,65 1 ,793 over the amount allocated for 1976-77. That allocation was $54,806,207. It was emphasised by both the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) and the Minister for Primary Industry when the Budget was delivered that the amount of money allocated to this Department is in fact an ongoing expenditure and is not limited only to the funds allocated and spoken about at budget time. I have researched many Budget Speeches and I have not found any one major initiative for the rural sector announced in a Budget Speech, with the exception of taxes. Tax amendments are normally brought forward at that time.
Whilst researching Budget Speeches, I was particularly interested to find out what the previous Government had announced at that time and, more especially, some of the benefits that it had removed. If we compare this Budget allocation with that of the Budget of the then Treasurer, the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) for 1974-75 when he allocated $49,418,000 to the Department of Primary Industry, we find that that was a massive decrease of some $6,357,000 compared with the Budget of the previous year. In real terms, it was a loss of some $6m. I feel we must take this a step further and look at the Budget Speech of the then Treasurer (Mr Crean) when he boasted that they increased expenditure for 1974-75 to a record level of $16,274,000. As he said at the time, this represented an increase of 32.4 per cent in expenditure when compared with the previous Budget.
– What did the cockies get?
– The cockies, as the honourable member for Hindmarsh likes to call them, received a reduction of almost $7m. At the time that the Labor Party was skiting about its massive increases in expenditure, it reduced the amount for this Department by almost $7m. That clearly demonstrates the value that the former Labor Government placed on the rural sector.
Whilst this was a direct loss to the industry of actual cash benefits, measures with more farreaching effects were introduced by the Labor Government, and they all represented reductions. For example, there was the abolition of the superphosphate bounty which directly caused hardship to many of our southern producers and many of those along our coastal belt. The Australian Labor Party Government saw fit to work towards the abolition of the nitrogenous fertiliser bounty. Today the honourable member for Fraser stood up and condemned what the Labor Government had done in the past. He complimented the present Government on thinking correctly, on thinking of the future, in deciding to maintain the nitrogenous fertiliser bounty at its present level. Had members of the Opposition remained in power the fertiliser bounty today would have been $40 a tonne, not $60 a tonne. This Government has maintained it at $60 a tonne. The Labor Government abolished the fuel prices equalisation scheme that applied to our remote areas, and appeared to take great credit for that. It imposed a meat inspection charge that cost our producers $25m.
If we look at the 1975 Budget we see that the alterations to the tax averaging scheme cost our primary producers millions of dollars. Further, the Labor Government abolished taxation concessions for water, soil and fodder conservation. There was almost nothing that the Labor Government could abolish in its Budget that it did not abolish. It abolished just about everything. It raised its receipts from personal income tax by a massive 89 per cent during its first two years in office. It imposed an increase of around $700m in indirect taxes and levies. That excludes the coal export levy; that levy was reserved for another industry. The Labor Government thought that it had affected the rural sector sufficiently; so it decided to move on to another major exporter. These imports were felt by all Australians, but they directly hurt the rural people because they could not pass on any of these added costs. They could not pass them on anywhere along the line.
On numerous occasions the ALP Government refused to index personal income tax, despite the fact that the inquiry it appointed, the Mathews Committee, recommended it. It flatly refused to extend the unemployment benefit to primary producers and said that they were not worthy of it. The Leader of the ALP, the honourable member for Werriwa (Mr E. G. Whitlam), said that primary producers were nothing better than corporate dole bludgers. The honourable member for Fraser made a remark today about rural reconstruction and the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) did likewise, but when the Labor Party was in power it cut expenditure on rural reconstruction by some $20m. The Labor Government reduced grants for rural and arterial roads and rural local roads by a massive $1 19m. Members of the Opposition ought to be proud of themselves! The Labor Government reduced by two-thirds, to only 8 kilometres, the distance for free installation of telephone services in country areas. The present Government, quite rightly, has realised that its role is to assist these people and this distance has been extended to 12 kilometres.
All these things have to be seen in the context of honourable members opposite desperately trying to criticise the Budget and to say that it had no benefit whatsoever for the rural sector. I submit that by reducing inflation this Government certainly is assisting all Australians but specifically rural Australians. Rural Australians have at their disposal absolutely no means with which to combat this terrible financial disease called inflation. Members of the Opposition can take little comfort from their attempts to come to grips with this disease because they generated what was a small isolated virus into a major epidemic. This inflationary disease has cost our producers more than $ 1,000m or approximately $100 a week. Members of the Opposition can take little comfort from what they did.
– They are the carriers of the disease.
-They certainly spread the disease. One would have thought that members of the Opposition would have learnt a lesson from all their costly mistakes; but is this so? No way!
Currently we find that they would embark on the same wild spending spree in order to gain some short term political advantage. But at what cost? Their previous term in office almost bankrupted this great nation of ours and certainly sent quite a number of our primary producers to the wall.
The present Government is determined to reverse these trends. In the Budget Speech particular emphasis was placed on the national rural bank and beef classification, along with the revolutionary tax averaging scheme that will benefit all primary producers. Unlike the previous scheme enunciated by the ALP, our scheme will work to the advantage of all primary producers, regardless of their income. We are not trying to hide behind some jargon from the Treasury. The Opposition tried to camouflage the fact that primary producers would be disadvantaged to the tune of some $50m, but in fact they were.
In my closing minutes I would like to speak about an industry with which I am very familiar, namely, the beef industry. It could be said that there was very little devoted to the beef industry in the Budget Papers, but what was spelt out with great clarity was the fact that this Government is determined to expedite beef classification.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drummond) -Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Sitting suspended from 6.2 to 8 p.m.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) proposed:
That progress be reported.
The Committee divided. (The Deputy Chairman-Mr A. W. Jarman)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek leave to present the Conciliation and Arbitration Amendment Bill (No. 3) 1977.
-Is leave granted?
-Leave is not granted.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) proposed:
That so much of Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent a Conciliation and Arbitration Amendment Bill (No. 3) 1977 being presented forthwith and passed through all stages without delay.
-The Opposition opposes this motion. An announcement was made to the Press yesterday of the Government’s intention to introduce this legislation today or tomorrow. But notice was not given in the House in the normal manner. I think it is appropriate that the Government should give the proper notice. The Bill can be introduced tomorrow when it could be dealt with in plenty of time for any application the Government may wish to make. It is proposed that the amending legislation will give additional powers to a bureau which has not even been set up yet. I suggest that the failure of the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) to give this House notice of this legislation yesterday when he was able to give the Press and everyone in the country notice is sufficient reason for the Government to be refused leave to introduce this legislation now. The introduction of the legislation is not a matter of urgency. The Government is seeking to introduce the legislation in an attempt to exacerbate a position in which real and sincere efforts are being made to seek resolution of the dispute in Victoria, despite the efforts of this Government and despite the incompetence and the complete withdrawal of responsibility by the Victorian Government which has not even gone to the trouble of having its Minister -
– Order! I think that the honourable member is now debating more the subject matter of the legislation rather than the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I repeat that the Government was able to announce to the Press yesterday when it would introduce this legislation. But it was not able to inform this House of its intention. I think that that is sufficient reason, ignoring any other relevant reasons for leave to be rejected. But I state as I suggested before that the Government is acting in the wings while the real drama is going on elsewhere, and it is acting to the detriment of, and not to the encouragement of, the settlement of the dispute.
The the motion (Mr Sinclair’s) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker- Mr P. E. Lucock)
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! There being 67 ayes and 28 noes, the question is therefore resolved in the affirmative with an absolute majority.
Bill presented by Mr Street, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill proposes important, far-reaching amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. The measures it contains give effect to the Government Parties’ industrial relations policy which was overwhelmingly endorsed at the last election. This policy reflects a fundamental review of the rights and responsibilities of the parties engaged in industrial relations and the demands of the contemporary community. An important feature of this legislation is the manner in which the Government has sought to expose the subject matter of the Bill to intensive public scrutiny. Much of the substance of this Bill was introduced to the House in March of this year.
In my second reading speech on that Bill I said that, because of the fundamental importance of the legislation, the Government intended members of this Parliament, the principal parties to industrial relations, and the community at large, to be given time to consider objectively the contents of the Bill and to make their views known to the Government. Accordingly the Bill was to lie on the table of the House until at least mid-May. Subsequently I entered into consultations, on behalf of the Government, with the peak union and employer councils. As a result of these meetings, I announced, on 17 May:
The Government welcomes the acceptance by the ACTU of an Industrial Relations Bureau and the reconstitution of the National Labour Advisory Council.
The Government has decided to pass legislation this session to establish the Industrial Relations Bureau which will have to function of securing the observance of the Act and awards in the terms already in the Act.
Pending the detailed consideration of the Act referred to later in this statement, the Industrial Relations Bureau will have the same powers as the Arbitration Inspectorate, no more, no less, and those powers will be exercised according to the same processes as they have been until now.
The Government will also legislate this session to reconstitute the National Labour Advisory Council to provide a national tripartite forum for the consideration of issues of national concern in the industrial relations and manpower areas.
Both these bodies are key elements in the Government’s industrial relations policy.
The Government is also committed to legislating for the protection of individual rights in the industrial area.
However, it is prepared to review the provisions of these aspects and on other matters relating to the operation of the Act contained in the present Bill in the light of their further consideration by the reconstituted National Labour Advisory Council. To enable this the Government will stand over until the Budget session further legislation in relation to these matters.
On 27 May, and in accordance with this statement, I introduced legislation into this House for the establishment of the Industrial Relations Bureau and the National Labour Consultative Council. As honourable members will be aware, the Act establishing the Industrial Relations Bureau was given royal assent on 12 June. The provisions of that Act providing for the appointment of a Director of the Bureau and enabling him to undertake the organisation of the Bureau were proclaimed to operate from 3 October. On that date, the first Director of the Bureau, Mr D. L.
Linehan, took up his appointment. The provisions enabling the Bureau to commence its function of securing the observance of the Act, regulations and awards will be proclaimed as soon as the Director has completed the necessary organisational arrangements. Similarly, honourable members will be aware that I took immediate steps to convene the National Labour Consultative Council following its creation by legislation. The Council has now met on three occasions and, in accordance with my statement of 17 May referred to earlier, considered the legislative proposals contained in the Bill of last March.
I take this opportunity to express my gratitude to both the national employers and the peak trade union councils for the frank views put to me during those consultations. The weight the Government has given those views is borne out by an examination of the amendments proposed by the current Bill. Though similar in substance, it is not the same Bill I introduced in March. A number of modifications have been made and some matters are not pursued. Furthermore, the process of consultation has permitted the airing of other issues and their presentation in legislative form. For example, the current Bill will make provision concerning accounting practices and financial reporting m organisations registered under the Act. These provisions are based on the recommendations of the Royal Commission under the chairmanship of Mr Justice Sweeney into Alleged Payments to Maritime Unions conducted during the office of the previous government. I believe this Bill is evidence of the earnest and careful consideration which the Government has given to the views put to it. However, at the end of the day it is for the Government to act, having regard not only to the views put to it, but also to the demands of the public interest, the interests of the community as a whole.
One of the fundamental tenets of the Government’s industrial relations policy is that each member of the community has both rights and obligations. Those rights must be protected and the obligations must be met. The Conciliation and Arbitration Act is perhaps the paramount Australian industrial statute. It is the principal means of giving legal expression to industrial rights and obligations. While it is not, and cannot be, a complete statement of those rights and obligations it certainly is the vehicle which establishes the framework of those rights and obligations by defining the roles and responsibilities of the parties to industrial relations and providing for an expression of the public interest.
Industrial relations is a dynamic process, everchanging in response to the interplay of economic and social forces. Consequently no industrial statute of the significance of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act can hope to express or define those industrial relationships for all time. The law must be responsive to new demands and changing circumstances. Government has a duty to reshape the law to ensure its relevance to contemporary industrial relations.
This Bill represents an important step in that continuing process of reshaping and redefining the rights and obligations under industrial law. It is a response to emergent trends in the social role of trade unions, or in the roles which they seek to assume, which has led to changes in the behaviour of trade unions as institutions. It is obvious that unions have moved a long way from being small craft organisations with limited aspirations concerned mainly with ensuring fair wages and working conditions for their members. By contrast, the union movement today is a powerful economic and social pressure group. Unions have grown greatly in size and are in a position to influence powerfully, by concerted action, the economic wellbeing of the community. No responsible Government can ignore this, or refuse to take steps to prevent such power being exercised contrary to the best interests of the community.
A very real danger arises where a union, in pursuit of some limited or self-interested goal, is able to impose economic hardship and dislocation on the entire community. Over the past year we have experienced the crippling effect of strikes by fuel tanker drivers, aircraft refuellers and air traffic controllers. We have seen, and are witnessing, the frightening capacity of a relatively small group of unionists in the Victorian power industry to wreak havoc on an entire community. Such situations demand that action be taken. It is paramount that unions recognise their obligations and the legitimate interests of the Austraiian community.
Motion (by Mr Innes) put:
That the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations be not further heard.
The House divided. ( Mr Deputy Speaker-Mr P. E. Lucock)
-I point out once more that honourable members are not to carry on discussions with visitors in the Speaker’s Gallery. The practice of honourable members speaking to people in the gallery is becoming a little more prevalent, and I ask honourable members to observe the relevant Standing Order.
Question so resolved in the negative.
– Prior to the interruption I was pointing out that it was paramount that unions recognise their obligations to the Australian community. It was very significant that, the moment I mentioned the obligations of unions to the community, their more irresponsible lackeys and puppets in this Parliament tried to prevent my views being put before the Parliament. In the face of irresponsible and protracted disputes in essential industries it is fruitless, and blatantly deceptive, for anyone to attempt to suggest that the trend towards a reduction in man-days lost-
Motion ( by Mr Keith Johnson) proposed:
That the Minister be not further heard.
– I take a point of order, Mr Speaker. I draw your attention to Standing Order 86 (h) which refers to the ‘Motion that a Member be not further heard’. The concluding part of the Standing Order states:
Should any of these questions be negatived, -
I draw your attention to the vote which has just taken place in the House- no similar proposal shall be received if the Speaker or the Chairman is of opinion that it is an abuse of the orders or forms of the House, or is moved for the purpose of obstructing business.
I suggest that the motion just moved by the honourable member for Burke was moved with the intention to obstruct the business of the House and I suggest, Mr Speaker, that you rule the motion out of order.
- Mr Speaker, I want to speak to the point of order. Just before I moved the motion the Minister said something that was not relevant to the business of this House. It was an out and out attack on the Opposition. Offensive words were used. That was the matter I was trying to prevent the Minister from raising in this House, and not the subject matter of the Bill. At the time I moved the motion the Minister was blatantly attacking the Opposition for defending a position.
– I will listen carefully to the rest of the Minister’s speech.
– In the face of irresponsible and protracted disputes in essential industries it is fruitless, and blatantly deceptive, for anyone to attempt to suggest that the trend towards a reduction in man-days lost in industrial disputes argues against the type of measures which the Government now seeks to implement. The real issues are the soaring economic and social costs to the entire community, and the capacity of certain unions and groups of unionists to inflict this harm. A second trend is that, in pursuing economic and social objectives- in seeking to give effect to their broader aspirations- trade unions have sought to extend their strength and influence by intensive recruitment activity and have endeavoured to impose greater restrictions on the freedom of individual employees and, indeed, non-employees. This is evidenced in part by the conduct of some unions designed to compel certain self-employed persons, such as owner-drivers, or employers in a small way of business who ‘work on the tools’ to join the union concerned. These unions have sought to impose bans or boycotts which directly or indirectly harm that person ‘s legitimate commercial interests in an endeavour to compel his membership of the union.
Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of this trend is the change in the relationship between the member and his union. A certain common purpose must be shared by the members of a union, but as the objectives of unions broaden this becomes less and less likely. Clearly, in any large group of individuals such as a trade union, whilst there might be agreement about traditional union goals, the scope for disagreement about other issues- political, social, cultural, environmental- may be as great as the diversity amongst individuals in an organisation. Regrettably, some organisations have lost sight of the needs of their members in their pursuit of organisational goals. Legitimate disagreement with some aspect of the broadened aims of the organisation, or with specific action in pursuit of such aims, may be labelled as disloyalty which must be subject to discipline. This becomes all the more oppressive for individual members where the union leadership is ideologically oriented, bent upon serving some narrow political interest rather than the interests of the members. The Medibank strike of last year, a political not an industrial issue, will live long in the memories of many whose unions tried to discipline them for non-participation or who, under duress, took industrial action against their personal convictions.
Mr Speaker, I turn now to the Bill itself. Firstly, there are a series of amendments designed to strengthen the protection of individual employees and persons against unfair practices by employers and organisations. Secondly, there are measures designed to further promote the democratic control of industrial organisations. Thirdly, the Bill proposes to enhance the means by which the rights of members of organisations and the interests of the community can be better protected through the functioning of the Commission, the Industrial Relations Bureau and the Federal Court.
I have already made general reference to the manner in which unions can erode the industrial rights of individuals. The Government recognises that strong and effective organisations of employees and employers are fundamental to the effective conduct of industrial relations; indeed the formation of such organisations is one of the principal objects of the Act. However, organisations are meant to protect and enlarge the rights of individuals, and not to undermine their liberties. A number of cases in which infringements of the rights of individuals by trade unions have occurred have received attention in recent months. Two most notable cases are those of Mr Latham and the late Mr Krutulis. But such cases represent only the tip of the iceberg. There are many people whose problems do not hit the headlines and who suffer in silence in the face of injustices which they feel powerless to challenge as individuals.
The Government proposes action in relation to two groups of persons. Firstly, protection will be given to those who conscientiously object to joining an organisation. As proposed in the March Bill the right to a certificate of conscientious objection will no longer be dependent upon the existence of a preference clause in the relevant award. However, in response to views put to me during consultations with the national employers and the peak union councils, the Government has decided to require the payment of a fee by an applicant for a certificate. A series of associated measures is proposed to protect the holders of certificates from various intimidatory tactics by fellow employees, employers or organisations. I have also referred to certain abuses by organisations in relation to the recruitment of selfemployed persons. To this end, the Bill proposes limitations on the right of organisations to recruit self-employed persons. Non-employees will be able to join a State branch of an organisation of employees only where, and to the extent that, State industrial arbitration legislation authorises non-employees to be members of State unions. In addition, to combat unfair recruitment tactics designed to coerce a non-employee to join an organisation, a series of offences is proposed by the Bill.
The right of a union member to refuse to participate in industrial action is to be reinforced. The BUI proposes that it shall be an offence for an employer to dismiss or disadvantage an employee because he has refused or failed to join in industrial action, or to threaten dismissal or disadvantage to coerce him to join in industrial action. It will also be an offence for an organisation to impose a penalty, forfeiture or disability on a member to coerce him to join in industrial action or because he has refused or failed to join in industrial action. Of course it is up to an individual to exercise his free choice on whether or not he engages in industrial action. Nothing in this legislation changes that.
Democratic Control of Organisations
The second group of proposals to which I referred concerned the fostering of democratically run organisations. It is important that elections in organisations be conducted in a manner which will achieve the fullest possible participation by members and be free of practices likely to lead to irregularities. Under the existing requirements for secret postal ballots, an organisation which does not have rules providing for a ‘secret postal ballot’ as defined must conduct the election in accordance with the Conciliation and Arbitration regulations unless an exemption is granted by the Industrial Registrar. These regulations provide a comprehensive code of practice for the conduct of elections to office. However, at the present time, organisations which have rules providing for a ‘secret postal ballot’ may take themselves outside the regulations. There can of course be deficiencies in some procedures.
The amendments I am proposing will deem the regulations to be the rules of organisations in relation to the elections required to be conducted by ‘secret postal ballot’. The regulations will not, however, apply to elections which the Industrial Registrar has exempted from the secret postal ballot requirement as already provided for in existing legislation.
-Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) put:
That the Minister be granted an extension of time.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Rt Hon. B. M. Snedden, Q.C.)
Question so resolvedin the affirmative.
– I was talking about provisions relating to secret postal ballots for union elections. To reinforce these provisions, it will be open to the Federal Court, in proceedings under section 1 4 1 of 1 7 1 C of the Act, to declare void an election not conducted in accordance with the secret postal ballots regulations, and direct that a fresh election be conducted. It will be an offence for a person to hold office knowing that he was not elected to that office by secret postal ballot where required by the Act. A penalty may also be imposed upon the organisation concerned.
I have already briefly referred to amendments to give effect to the Report of the Royal Commission into Alleged Payments to Maritime
Unions insofar as it related to accounting practices and financial reporting in organisations. In his report, the Royal Commissioner reflected upon the adequacy of the existing measures contained in the Act and regulations, and the low level of compliance with them by organisations. The Bill proposes amendments to the Act which, with only slight modification, implement the recommendations of the Royal Commission. These amendments provide for the records to be kept by organisations, for audit and the duties of auditors, for the submission of reports and audited accounts to members, for the filing of financial returns with the Industrial Registrar, and for the investigation of irregularities by the Industrial Relations Bureau and the initiation of actions in the Federal Court. These provisions will require supporting regulations. I agreed, when I met with the National Labour Consultative Council on 12 October last, to the establishment of a sub-committee of the Council to work with officers of my Department on the preparation of the necessary regulations.
Protection of the Public Interest
The final broad area with which this Bill is concerned is the series of measures which go to facilitate the expression of the public interest in the industrial relations process. In part, the vehicle which the Government has chosen for this role is the Industrial Relations Bureau. During my meeting with the unions on 11 May, the ACTU handed me a document setting out its position in relation to the agreement subsequently reached. That document noted that consultation in a National Labour Consultative Council may well produce positive, creative functions for a Bureau concerned with improving industrial relations. The Government is proposing amendments which give the Bureau precisely that role.
The Industrial Relations Bureau will have, in the public interest, two broad functions. One of these involves securing the observance of the Act, the regulations and awards. The Arbitration Inspectorate has always had this function; the powers of the Bureau in relation to these matters will, however, be spelled out quite specifically. If the Bureau cannot bring about voluntary compliance with the law, it will have the necessary power to initiate appropriate proceedings in the’ Commission and in the Industrial Division of the Federal Court. These powers will include the power to notify the Commission of a breach or likely breach of a bans clause in an award and to make application for a certificate under section 33 of the Act to enable proceedings to be taken for breach of the award in the Court. In response to the views put to me by the national employers and the peak trade union councils, the relevant provision has been redrawn to make clear that the Bureau cannot take part in the dispute settling process under this section.
The Bureau will also have the right to apply for cancellation of an award, for an injunction restraining contraventions of the Act and regulations, and for deregistration in appropriate cases. The Bureau’s second major area of responsibility concerns the role it will play in providing assistance to the members of organisations. Apart from its normal award inspection and advisory functions, it will assist persons to ensure that the rules of their organisation conform with the requirements of the Act and that they are observed by those under a duty to observe them. The Bureau will be empowered to investigate complaints by members that the rules of their organisations are oppressive, unreasonable or unjust, or otherwise contravene the Act; and will also be empowered to investigate complaints by members that the rules of their organisations are not being observed. If the Bureau fails to persuade the organisations either to take steps to amend its rules, or to observe its rules, as the case may be, the Bureau will be able to take the matter to the Court. The amendments now proposed in this regard retain the right of a person to go directly to the Court, rather than to have the Bureau act on his behalf, and this change again reflects views put to me by the national employers and the peak union councils.
There are other related matters. As the Bureau will be properly staffed and equipped to undertake investigations, including the type just referred to, it has been decided to empower the Bureau to undertake investigations on behalf of the Industrial Registrar in connection with applications for inquiries by the Court into alleged irregularities in elections. Similarly, responsibility for the detailed investigations relating to the administration of the finances of an organisation under the proposed requirements will be given to the Bureau.
I now come to further very significant provisions of this legislation. The Government proposes to amend section 143 of the Act to extend the grounds on which deregistration proceedings can be based. The new grounds will include power for the Court to deregister an organisation which prevents, hinders or interferes with interstate and overseas trade and commerce, or the provision of a public service of the Commonwealth or of a State. Honourable members are only too well aware that disputes affecting trade and commerce or essential services have imposed profound economic dislocation on the community.
The Government also proposes to extend the range of consequences available to the Court in deregistration proceedings. The ‘all or none’ principle which presently applies limits the flexibility of the Court in dealing with breaches which may not warrant total deregistration. Thus, the Bill proposes to empower the Court to:
Honourable members will be aware that, in the March Bill, this power of suspension was to be available in proceedings for offences under a number of sections of the Act. The intention now is that this power will be restricted to deregistration proceedings. This decision by Government is a further indication of the seriousness with which the views of national employers and the peak union councils have been considered.
Finally, the Bill will insert a new provision in relation to demarcation disputes. For too long the powers of the Commission in this area have been inadequate to deal with demarcation disputesdisputes which may well bring an entire industry to a standstill. It is proposed that the Commission may order that an organisation cannot represent a specified class or group of employees and direct the organisation to amend its rules to exclude these employees from its membership.
In conclusion, I reiterate that the measures in this Bill result from a comprehensive review of the operation of the Act, a review which has involved tripartite consultation at the highest levels. It represents a necessary reshaping of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act to meet changed industrial circumstances and to reassert the rule of the law in expressing or defining industrial rights and obligations. Events of recent months and, most particularly, the events of the last few days have emphasised this is essential in the interests of our community. Here on behalf of all members of the House I pay tribute to the courage and integrity of Mr Justice Ludeke, Mr Deputy President Isaac and Mr Commissioner Vosti of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in the recent Full Bench decision. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Willis) adjourned.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Department of Primary Industry
Proposed expenditure, $85,458,000.
– I would like to comment on the estimates for the Department of Primary Industry. I represent an electorate that is part rural and part industrial. The effect on the rural industry in my area has been very bad over the last few years. At present my electorate is affected by a drought and it seems there will be no wheat crop this year. For some areas it is the third bad year. This means that quite a number of farmers in those areas will certainly be hard hit and in need of assistance, and this makes the talk of a rural bank a little more relevant. For two years, since the last election, the Government has been peddling the idea of a rural bank. I think it has been a bit of a carrot dangled in front of the noses of farmers in the hope that a bank will be established that will give them what they require in order to remain viable in the years to come.
Of course, there has been plenty of noises, and a few disquieting things have appeared in the Press and have been said in answer to questions in this House concerning the national rural bank. One wonders just what form the bank will take, because mention is made of the trading banks being participants. If those banks are to be participants, will the farmers get loans at a cheaper interest rate? By bringing in the trading banks, is the Government fooling farmers into thinking that they will get a loan at a cheaper interest rate that will not be available? I think everybody realises that the main need in these areas is for debt reconstruction, with long term loans at reasonable rates of interest. If farmers do not receive these loans they will be extremely disappointed. If they do not receive these loans I feel that the Government has led them up the garden path.
There are needs in many areas of my electorate. There is the need for debt reconstruction, and long term financing is the only way in which these people will be able to keep going, particularly in the present circumstancesin which quite a lot of areas now are facing their third successive year of drought. The industries mainly affected are the grain and sheep industries, but they are not the only rural industries in Australia that are in trouble. The dairy industry, the beef industry, the dried fruit industry and the apple and pear industry are in trouble. The establishment of a national rural bank would assist the farmers. There is a quite wide area in which this assistance should be made available.
There seems to be a predilection among people on the other side, particularly members of the National Country Party, to place all the blame for the ills in Australia’s rural industry on the Australian Labor Party; to say that it all happened while the Labor Party was in government. Of course, these people quite deliberately have very short memories. Their memories do not go back past the period when the Labor Party was in office. They forget the years in which Australian wheat farmers were really in strife- in 1969, 1970 and that era.
-It is all right for the honourable member for Capricornia to say ‘Oh’. I can remember wheat being stacked in anything that would hold wheat. The position was the same all over the country. There were no silos. We were crying out for markets. Yet, by our political decisions we were denying wheat growers access to the market in China- a market that had been available previously. Because of our political decisions and our political attitudes, Australian wheat growers could not sell their wheat. When China did come back into the market our wheat industry improved. During that time wheat growers had wheat on the farm, anywhere it could be stored. They were without adequate markets. What was the result? The introduction of quotas was the result. It was said that the States introduced the quotas. The fact is that the wheat stabilisation scheme which gave farmers a guaranteed price for wheat was financed by the Reserve Bank of Australia. All the States agreed to it. They had to agree to it because the finance which would allow this scheme to operate was provided by the Reserve Bank. The Federal Government could have prevented that money from being made available. The States had no option but to accept what was put to them.
Perhaps I could go back and refresh the memories of honourable members opposite about the beef industry. Last year or the year before I checked on the figures on the number of beef cattle in my electorate. I found that from 1970 to 1973 or 1974 the number of beef cattle in that area increased by three and a half times. During the period when the wheat industry was going bad the previous Liberal-Country Party Government encouraged people to go into beef. This was prior to the Labor Party coming into office. People in beef organisations now say: ‘We were told to do it’. The result was a massive increase in the size of our beef herds. That Government believed that the market would be all right It showed a lack of foresight. Things did not turn out that way. Our beef industry is in the position that, although it is selling a fair amount of beef, the size of our herds has expanded to such an extent that they must be expanded a hell of a lot more before we can get rid of what we have on the hoof.
Whom do we blame for this? The Labor Government is not to blame because it imposed an export levy or because it took away the superphosphate bounty. The previous LiberalCountry Party Government in the early 1970s is to blame. It encouraged the beef growers to increase the size of their herds. Because everybody else- the wheat grower, the wool grower and so on- was going bad, to hedge their bets they also went into beef. The result was that even small farms were carrying a certain number of cattle. As a result, in my electorate the amount of beef on the hoof increased by three and a half times. That was as a result of the advice given to the farmers by that Government.
At present various rural industries are in strife. They are not getting a great deal of satisfaction from this Government. The present Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) has been criticised all over the country. Motions of no confidence in him have been passed by various organisations- beef producer organisations, dried fruit grower organisations and apple and 1>ear grower organisations. Many of them have lost confidence in the present Minister and do not have any confidence in his ability as Minister to pull these industries out of their present slump. Motions of no confidence in him have been passed all over the country.
Mention was made by a few honourable members opposite of Labor’s abolition of the petrol prices equalisation scheme. Certainly Labor did away with it. I did not agree with that at the time, but we did it. The effect of that on rural producers was absolutely nothing compared with the effect of the increase that the Government imposed on them a few weeks ago by its decision to increase the price of oil to world parity. The increase in the price of petrol which this Government brought into operation is a body blow to those people, particularly the people who now are trying to face the drought conditions that exist in the southern part of Australia. In the wheat areas of my electorate the maximum increase in the price of petrol was 2c a gallon, but the price of petrol has gone up by more than 2c a gallon during the last few weeks as a result of the action of the present Government. I think members opposite are being shabby and insincere when they blame the Labor Government. The present increase is a savage increase, at a time when the Government is talking about fighting inflation. This is one impost that the Government is putting on the people it claims to representrural producers. The impost- the savage increase in the price of petrol- on rural producers makes it a darned sight harder for them to keep their heads above water.
It appears to me that members of the Liberal Party and the National Country Party go around the country spouting divisive policies. They have a vested interest in keeping the city dweller and the country dweller apart. In the Green Paper put out by the Labor Government in 1973 much was said about communication. It is a fact that sometimes there is a lack of communication between the rural dweller and the city dweller. One of the things which seem to be a strong point with the people on the other side is their vested interest in dividing the Australian population. They feel that they are electorally stronger if they can keep the country dweller and the city dweller apart -
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Ian Robinson)- Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I want to speak on a matter which has long been of concern to me and which I have raised in this chamber on many occasions. I refer to the export of livestock from this country. The trade in livestock has increased enormously in recent times, due largely to the increasing demand from the newly rich Middle East. The export trade to Middle East countries is essentially livestock because they do not have the facilities for storing and handling carcass meat; nor is there the demand for carcass meat. However, the facilities are being provided by the governments concerned and in the long term, for economic reasons, it will be carcass meat that is supplied to those markets. This is important and the Australian Meat Industry Employees Union ought to remember that the more livestock we export to the Middle East, and the larger the number of consumers we encourage to eat meat, the greater will be the opportunity to export carcass meat in the future.
Turning to the Japanese market, many beef producers in Australia will have heard the argument that two year old cattle sell for enormous amounts in Japan and that we ought to be exporting live to Japan to get a share of that market. However, the situation is not that simple. At the moment the AMIEU has a ban on the export of live cattle to Japan because it sees it as a carcass market. The Japanese have indicated an interest in importing cattle for feed lots. However the unions have said that unless all abattoirs are working to capacity they will actively endeavour to prohibit such a trade. Honourable members will be aware that Australia has a very restricted quota of carcass meat to Japan, and if we are able to export live cattle to Japanese feed lots this may be a way in which we can influence the Japanese consumer to eat more meat and therefore raise the demand for carcass meat. As an added consequence there would be an increase in the demand for AMIEU workers. However, the union, which consistently seems to adopt a short term inward looking policy, persists in hindering the future of its members ‘jobs.
But there is not only a union problem; there are other problems. The Japanese are refusing to import Australian cattle for feed lots because of contagious bovine rhino-tracheitis. However, I believe the Australian Meat and Live-stock Corporation is overcoming this health problem. Japan has taken a small number of breeding stock from Australia and at the present time I understand it is importing store stock from the United States of America for fattening. These cattle are actually flown to Japan. I am told that the quota the Japanese set on the importation of live cattle is about 5,000 per year. That quota has a tariff imposed on it and any over-quota imports have a higher and almost prohibitive tariff imposed.
In the Japanese domestic market Japanese breeders sell calves to feed lot farmers when the calves are about nine months old. The feed lot farmers fatten them for about 15 months and then sell them. If Australia is allowed to supply the feed lot farmer with vealers to fatten themselves, the Japanese feed lot farmer will be able to buy more cattle for less and so increase his income. Thus some of the political pressure by the feed lot farmers to reduce meat imports and our quota to Japan will be taken off the Japanese Government. Of course, the breeders may fear that an influx of live vealers will reduce the price paid to them. However, I shall explain why they need not be disadvantaged.
It is important to remember that the Japanese wholesale price of beef after slaughter is about three times the price paid in the Australian domestic market. Therefore, obviously, there is a great potential for the Australian producer to export to Japan, either carcases or live.
A further complicating factor is the Japanese stabilisation schemes. As I understand the situation, basically there are two stabilisation schemes. One is on the price of meat and the other is on cattle sold to feed lots. The stabilisation scheme on meat prices works through the government agency releasing or withholding meat from the market in order to maintain the price of meat within a range of prices previously decided. Similarly, with calves sold to feed lot farmers, the price to the breeder is guaranteed and if the sale price is less than the guaranteed price a deficiency payment is made by the authority. There is some suggestion that the funds which are provided by the regional and central governments in Japan for such deficiency payments are raised through the tariffs on imported livestock and carcass meats. However, it seems clear to me that if Australia exported cattle to be fattened in feed lots by Japanese farmers, although the influx of large numbers of such cattle could depress the price of Japanese calves for the breeders, the price to the breeders could be maintained by deficiency payments which in fact could be funded by the tariff on such imported beef cattle. Thus the political problem which could have arisen from the breeders is overcome.
The increase in throughput in the Japanese market would mean that the Japanese consumer would be able to obtain cheaper beef, the Australian beef producer would be in a much better position in having a market for his beef and the Japanese breeder would still receive a reasonable price for his cattle. Of course, the ordinary Japanese consumer would be much better off in that a lot more meat would be provided at a reduced cost. This could be implemented by the feed lot farmers buying Australian livestock, at less than they are currently paying, from Japanese breeders. The Japanese cattle breeders can have the price made up with a deficiency payment and they can still supply at a cheaper price. The feed lot farmer can make a profit probably larger than at present and still supply to the abattoirs cheaper than at present The distribution system in Japan in retailing the meat can still make the enormous mark-ups and still supply the Japanese consumer at less than today’s costs. It is interesting to note that, for historical reasons which I will not go into, the wholesale to retail margin in Japan is up to $4 per kilogram whereas in Australia the figure is somewhere around 60c per kilogram.
I understand that the Japanese Government has agreed that such a system could work. However it is concerned about the administrative problems in implementing it. Therefore I urge the Government, the Austraiian Meat and Livestock Corporation and the Japanese officials to continue to work for the benefit of the Australian beef producer and the Japanese consumer in overcoming the administrative problems of the implementation of such a scheme.
-Real income per farm this year, running at $10,352, as projected by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, is more than $2,200 down in real terms on farm income of last year. On average, real income for farms will have slumped, according to the BAE projections, by some 21.5 per cent this year. Farm industry in this country has been stricken. It is probably one of the disaster areas of the national economy. It will be in a far worse condition by the end of this year. We see a situation in which the wheat industry- putting to one side problems caused by drought affliction- will be facing serious contraction in its prosperity levels as a result of excess supplies on the world market and the price of sugar will be lower than that to which farmers have become accustomed in recent years. Moreover, we see a situation in which important overseas markets are put at risk by the clumsy, confrontationist, provocative behaviour of our Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) because of the sort of personalised diplomacy which he seeks to adopt in a most unacceptable way in the eyes of people in countries which are near neighbours to us.
For instance, the countries in the Association of South East Asian Nations have made it clear that 10 per cent, in value, of our sugar exports are now seriously at risk. They are seriously at risk because of the crude protectionist policies adopted by the Government I do not quibble with the concern expressed by Government spokesmen about job security, given the state of the economy. But that is a totally different proposition to put forward from the one that they are adopting, which is crude protectionism as distinct from some sort of program of adjustment, and domestic support to allow that adjustment to take place, so that we can better integrate hi the world economy and, more especially, in trade relations with our near neighbours.
Wheat sales of the order of $36m to ASEAN countries are threatened. At home we know that the needs for water conservation in rural areas are totally neglected in this Budget. As an illustration of this point I refer to the situation in Townsville, the largest provincial centre and the fastest growing one in the State of Queensland. Its growth will be paralysed within a few years unless some firm commitments are given by the Government as to at least what assessment it will make of the water conservation needs of that area and what commitments it can make in terms of allowing further conservation projects to be undertaken so that Townsville, which I repeat is the most important provincial centre in Queensland, can continue to grow.
The roads of the nation, and especially in our important rural areas, have been neglected greatly in the recent Budget. If the Government were to contribute as much to roads in real comparative terms as we did in our last Budget it would be spending $77m more than it has actually allocated. Of course, as a final gesture in this quick summary of neglect on the part of the Government, we find that petrol is to be increased in price by 1 lc a gallon for all users of that commodity. That means farms which use petrol as an important input for production purposes will suffer an increase in their cost of production.
I have already mentioned that it is projected this year that farm incomes in real terms will drop dramatically. With these sorts of cost pressures induced by Government actions, as was the case with the increase in the price of petrol, farm industry, farm producers, farmers and their families will suffer a deterioration in their living standards.
Let me focus on one particular industry, the beef industry. Some welcome initiatives were taken a few weeks ago by the Government when the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) indicated a number of proposals the Government had decided to adopt to assist this industry. But when one analyses those proposals one finds they fall well short of what the industry expected and indeed what it can reasonably expect to receive. What the Government has sought to do with that statement is to buy time.
Let us look at the situation. I draw the attention of honourable members to reports of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. These reports show as an assessment of the industry that even if cattle prices doubled- that is, if they were to go to an excess of $1 a kilogram dressed weight, which is a most unlikely development- there would still be some 19,000 specialist beef producers earning less than $5,000 a year, 7,000 of whom would still be earning negative income.
If we consider the position of the beef producer with an average equity of about $100,000, the very least he should expect to receive as a return on his investment in today’s conditions would be about $10,000. On top of that, he should be entitled to receive wages for his labour inputs to keep his industry going. So, at the very least, he should be expecting an average of about $20,000 a year. But we find that nearly 50 per cent of beef producers, even if prices were to double- and I stress that this would be a most unlikely event- would still be earning less than $5,000 a year and 7,000 would still be earning negative income. Every third specialist beef producer in 1975 carried debts which exceeded 15 per cent of his capital invested. Let us see what the Bureau of Agricultural Economics had to say about that. It stated:
Debts of this magnitude, under current cost/price pressure can place individual properties under significant financial pressure.
That is what is called a public service euphemism. The beef industry is one of our most stricken industries today. It is one of the most neglected at the level of national government concern of all of the farm industries.
We hear no discussion, no reference at all from spokesmen from the Government ranks as to what their comprehensive response is to the needs of the beef industry today. Not one mention was made in the limited, albeit, to the extent it went, welcome, statement in September by the Minister for Primary Industry as the Government initiatives- limited, I repeat- to assist the beef industry, about restructuring the industry. The high rainfall zone has absolutely and relatively the largest core of producers unable to earn positive incomes at actual price levels substantially above current levels. An implication of that state of affairs is quite clear. The situation should not be allowed to persist. While that situation persists people linger in all of the degradation and want of poverty. There is nothing worse than the existence and deprivation of rural poverty in this country. I remember as Minister for Social Security the distress with which I discovered that one of the highest levels of rural poverty existed in the northern rivers of New South Wales, and had existed there in the dairy industry for many years, within the electorate of the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) and indeed within your electorate, Mr Deputy Chairman. I have not heard either of you speak in an aggressive way in defence of the needs of the people of that area.
Beef specialists have an investment well in excess of $5,600m. Processors in this country at best have an investment of about only $300m. Therefore the producers investment is at least 20 times more significant than that of the processors. But it is the processors, who employ far fewer people in primary industry than do the beef specialists, who get the greatest returns. I quote from a paper presented by Mr R. Bruce Gates, Senior Lecturer in Management at the Capricornia Institute of Advanced Education. He states:
For the seven processors who are listed on the Sydney Share Exchange . . .
Return on shareholders funds peaked at 15.9 per cent during the 1973 beef boom and crashed to 1.3 per cent in 1973-74. But the recovery has been rapid, with profitability rising to 5.7 per cent in 1 974-75 to 14.5 per cent in 1 975-76.
Some firms have out performed the market. T.A. Field led the pack last year with a 22.3 per cent return followed by Protean at 2 1 .0 per cent.
I do not have the time to give further details. But I must mention that last year at Rockhampton the Minister for Primary Industry said that as a result of devaluation there would be an extra $S0m for cattlemen. There has been no improvement in cattle prices since the devaluation decision was taken. The implications of that are quite clear. Processors have been whistling off happily each week to the tune of $ lm at the expense of beef specialist producers in this country. No one in the National Country Party has spoken up in defence of the beef producer. They are all silent in the face of the pressure and privilege of the processors.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Ian Robinson)- Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Proposed expenditure agreed to.
Department of Transport
Proposed expenditure, $285,009,000.
-The proposed total expenditure for the Department of Transport for the year 1977-78 of $840m is a cash increase of $35.8m, or 4 per cent on actual expenditure of $834.2m in 1976-77. It represents a reduction in real terms of 8 per cent on 1976-77. This reduction of 8 per cent in real terms in funds allocated to transport activities by the conservative and corrupt Fraser Government is clear evidence -
– Oh, break it down.
-I will repeat what I said for the benefit of the honourable member. The reduction by the conservative and corrupt Fraser Government is clear evidence of the low priority it accords the provision of transport services in Australia.
– I rise to take a point of order. I ask that the word ‘corrupt’ be withdrawn.
-Speaking to the point of order -
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! A request has been made that the honourable member withdraw the word ‘corrupt’.
-Speaking to the point of order, I claim the remark is addressed to the Government as an entity. My understanding of the practice of the House is that, where a remark is addressed to an entity, the remark is in order.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- In those circumstances no point of order arises.
-Despite the fact that the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) is reputed to be a senior Cabinet Minister, the funding priorities accorded transport services show that either he is responsible for those low priorities or he has little impact on Cabinet decisions relating to his own portfolio. In any case, Australian industry, primary producers and Australian consumers are needlessly forced to accept a lower standard of efficiency in transport services than could and should be available.
In the few minutes available to me in this totally inadequate debate on proposed expenditure for the Department of Transport, remembering that we have one and a half hours in which to debate item by item $870m of expenditure, I want to discuss a number of expenditure items to which I sincerely hope the Minister will respond responsibly as previous Ministers have done in respect of the estimates for their departments. I turn first to fire services. Under item 06 of subdivision 2 of Division 655 a sum of $345,000 is being provided, compared with actual expenditure of $324,235 in 1976-77. Under item 12 the sum of $2.850m is being provided, compared with actual expenditure of $2.609m in 1976-77. In both items the proposed expenditure is a considerable reduction in real terms compared with 1976-77 expenditure. Both items cover the provision and maintenance of fire fighting materials, fixed installations and fire fighting appliances. Item 02 under subdivision 1 of Division 957 in Appropriation Bill (No. 2) includes some provision for new fire fighting appliances. The amount of $ 10.4m is a reduction in real terms also. We are not told in the Budget Papers what amount is separately available for new appliances.
Last Sunday the spillage of burning motor spirit into drains at Mascot following a tragic motor accident could have resulted in a holocaust if the resultant fire had spread to the airport facilities. The risk of fire is a tremendous hazard at airports and to aircraft passengers. It is a disgraceful state of affairs when so little action is being taken by this Government to ensure that our major airports have modern effective fire protection services available. That the Government is aware of the dangers is evidenced by statements made at the Senate Estimates Committee hearing on the Department of Transport estimates. On page S21 of the Hansard of Senate Estimates Committee C for 15 September we read the following questioning by Senator Wriedt of officers of the Department of Transport:
Senator WRIEDT; To what extent does the Department attempt to make its fire-fighting equipment interchangeable with that provided by local fire services? Is it an on-going policy to do that in order to reduce costs?
Mr Birch; Certainly this would be so with the fixed firefighting installations. There is not much room for compatibility between the types of mobile equipment used by the local fire brigades and our particular requirements on airports.
Senator WRIEDT; What are the specific items which are deferred from last year.
Mr O’Halloran; Basically, senator, they refer to a normal provisioning of spares programs which fell back a little last year because of the lack of sufficient funds.
I emphasise the last few words. The Hansard report goes on:
Senator WRIEDT; Could I also ask for a comparison of fire-fighting equipment at Australian airports with equipment at overseas airports. Is the Department satisfied that the standards are adequate?
Mr Birch; At the moment we are attempting to raise all airports to the International Civil Aviation Organisation standards. We are acquiring new equipment. We placed orders recently for 10 ultra large fire vehicles and we have deliveries of other types of vehicles coming up. We have been having some difficulty in meeting ICAO standards in this regard But we hope during this year that we will be back to standard again.
Senator WRIEDT; Would that mean that we were at one stage up to the ICAO standards but have now slipped behind somewhat?
Mr Birch; I would doubt that we were ever right up to ICAO standards in all respects at every airport.
It is clear from the answers given by the Department representatives that fire protection services at our airports are not up to desirable international standards. It has to be emphasised that for 25 of the past 28 years the conservatives have been in government and they have maintained a below international requirement standard of fire protection at our airports. They have traded on good luck for that period, but even good luck eventually runs out. It is questionable whether our major airports have the capacity to deal with a major Boeing 747 disaster, let alone a disaster of the magnitude of the Teneriffe disaster. That is the achievement of this Government. I draw the Committee’s attention to the comment in the recent report of the Commonwealth Fire Board relating to the compatibility of fire fighting appliances under the control of departments.
I turn now to expenditure on meteorological services. Division 655.2.16 provides an amount of $ 11.403m in 1977-78 for the cost of meteorological services, which include the supply of pre-flight and intra-flight weather forecasts and information. The amount is shown as an increase of $31 1,000 on 1976-77 expenditure, which at first sight appears to be a substantial reduction in real terms. In notes supplied to the 1977 Senate Estimates Committee C the Department stated:
It is the Department’s opinion that the share of costs of the Bureau of Meteorology being borne by the aviation industry is inequitable, and to this end has identified some specialist services taken from the Bureau which can now be dispensed with. Nevertheless, until such time as the matter is closely examined by an IDC and a new level of charges assessed, the costs will have to be continued under the existing arrangement.
By itself that statement seems reasonable until this year’s appropriation is compared with the corresponding 1976-77 estimates. In my view that comparison shows that the Minister and the Department have seriously misled the Parliament. Actual expenditure on this item in 1975-76 was $10.999m, in 1976-77 it was $1 1.092m, and the proposed expenditure in 1977-78 is $1 1.403m. In 1976 the Parliament was told that proposed expenditure for 1976-77 was $9.582m, which was a decrease of $1.417m on actual 1975- 76 expenditure. At the time the Department stated:
It is intended to review the level of aviation weather services taken from the Bureau of Meteorology in an endeavour to effect an immediate reduction in costs. An IDC is to examine the basis of charges currently levied by the Bureau and it is anticipated that a reduced level of charging insofar as this Department is concerned will be formulated.
I do not have time to go through all the information, but I will just deal with my conclusions which are based on the submissions by the Department and the Minister to the Senate Estimates Committee last year in respect of Appropriation Bill (No. 3) and Appropriation Bill (No. 1 ). They show that the estimate for 1976- 77 was exceeded by $1.5 10m. An examination of the explanatory notes supplied to the Estimates Committee by the Department will show that the procedures followed by the Department in respect of this item raise a number of serious questions of financial procedure. In the light of the deficiencies shown in those reports, I believe that Minister is responsible for the procedures that were followed and that the procedures followed denied the Parliament pertinent information on proposed expenditure. In my view, the whole matter, scandalous as it is, should be referred to the Auditor-General for examination and to the Joint Committee of Public Accounts for inquiry and report to the Parliament. The information contained in the 1976-77 Appropriation Bill (No. 3) should be before the Committee. It is not, and a completely false impression has been given to the Committee as to the purpose of the expenditure and how it relates to expenditure in the year just concluded.
-We are debating the estimates for the Department of Transport for 1977-78. The areas covered by the Transport portfolio are wide and diverse, and in fact affect 20 per cent of the gross national economy. The portfolio encompasses aviation, shipping, the roads programs, and development and research into transport throughout Australia. The Minister who was responsible for this portfolio on the Government coming to office decided that the Government should proceed along lines different from those taken by the previous Government. Previously we had seen the Australian Labor Party pursuing lines of great fascination and great difficulty in the transport areas. I particularly recall to the Committee the InterState Commission that was proposed by the previous Minister. It was a far-reaching and incredible piece of legislation that went far beyond the transport portfolio into every walk of Austraiian life. Not only would it have been used to control transport across State borders, it would also have had the effect of controlling the relationship between business and commerce right across the nation. It was one of the most centralistic pieces of legislation this Parliament has witnessed. Honourable members who were present at that time will remember that the then Opposition refused to accept the proposals that were brought forward by the Labor Party.
The current Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) changed the approach. Working in the spirit of true co-operative federalism, he has given a freedom to people in all avenues of transport to have a greater say and to set thenown priorities in the development of a national transport policy. If one looks, for instance, at the roads proposals that have been dealt with in this House in the last week or two, one will be aware that an impetus, a life and a will are being expressed by this Government to improve the road transport situation across the nation- not only in the area of roads but also in the development of types of machinery and equipment, and a uniformity of weight carrying capacity, for instance, for highways and axle loads for transport where trucking is used. These are the important things, not the control of binding down of industry and commerce or the binding down to a uniform transport system in Australia. In some areas where there is need for uniformity the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) has pursued programs such as the national highways program. That program lies fully within the responsibility of this Government and it is encouraging to see the way in which State governments have responded to the improvement in national highways and national programs of that type.
The other area where the Government has had difficulty during its term of office is the railway arrangements made by the previous Government. It is futile to say that the South Australian Government received anything but the most generous treatment when the decision was made to purchase the railway system from the South Austraiian Government. It has been a constant thorn in the side of administrators and governments since that decision was made. The employment of staff and the introduction of a sensible rail transport system in the State of South Australia have been made almost impossible by the fact that the South Australian Government continues to run that railway system. I am sure that my good friend the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Goodluck) will be aware of the difficulties in the State of Tasmania with the agreement made with the Government of Tasmania under which that Government has control of so many factors which by law should lie in this Parliament. I do not agree with the decision that was made by the Labor Government to buy these State railway systems. I think it has been demonstrated that it was not a good decision.
If one looks into other areas of this Government’s activities, such as the airlines and airline policies within Australia, one will see a change, m which some sort of adventure or imagination is being applied to those policies. It is not good that air travel in Australia is so expensive and the matter of international travel versus internal travel is receiving the closest attention. The Government’s committee of inquiry into international fares and the operation of international companies within this nation will bear fruit that will be of benefit to all travellers. The registration of travel agents is outside the ambit of the transport portfolio, but it bears strongly on what may happen in the area of international travel and the benefits that will flow to Austraiian citizens travelling overseas. I know that this legislation was introduced first by the previous
Government. With the collapse of various travel agencies, we now have seen the reason for bringing forward these proposals. I refer particularly to the agency operated by the Australian Union of Students and the great hardships that were caused to many individual students who were caught overseas and who could not make proper or effective travel arrangements through that agency. It is unfortunate that that agency has fallen into great disrepute. I trust that the Government will move to overcome those problems by introducing a true student fare that will be available to high school and tertiary students throughout Australia from a number of agencies instead of just from the monopoly that operated previously.
When one looks at the future needs of this nation in the field of transport, there are a number of areas that spring to mind. The need, with the changing emphasis in defence policy, to have an understanding of the transport system throughout Australia and the need to know in detail the weight carrying capacity of various railway lines and roads, the capacity of various sea ports and airports and the fuel facilities that would be needed in times of emergency appeal to me as being a reasonable function of the Department of Transport, in co-operation with the Department of Defence, with the Federal Government providing additional support for State and local authorities to fulfil something of an internal defence arrangement. Other areas of innovation are of great interest to me. I see a policy of innovation, such as we see with the Schools Commission, being applied to State governments, perhaps amalgamating the research and development programs administered from here, as well as new programs, so that in particular instances State governments might take up innovations such as automatic ticket collecting as a trial program that could be examined and evaluated around Australia to see where that sort of system would be of advantage.
Finally, I think that no area is more important than the capacity of this nation to continue to export economically. It is important that there be a rationalisation of the export of manufactured and primary produce in such a way that there is a minimum of delay and cost to exporters through the transport system. The expenses in this area have risen dramatically over the last three to four years. It is of great concern to me that exporters, on whom we depend to pay our way in the world by trade, have difficulties and are meeting increasing costs -
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drummond) -Order! The honourable gentlemen’s time has expired.
– We have just heard a typical speech from the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Cadman). It was just garbage. It shows how little he knows about transport when honourable members have to sit here for 10 minutes and listen to that sort of speech. He has now left the chamber. He could not bolt out quickly enough. I draw attention to the fact that once again the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) is not in the chamber during the discussion of the estimates for his Department. The discussion of the estimates for each department is an important part of the Budget debate. But where is the Minister? He is not to be sighted anywhere. He has not been sighted in the chamber at any time during this debate. I draw attention to the fact that, of 11 Bills that were introduced into this placesome of which undid the very good things which the Labor Government did in the area of transport- the Minister could muster sufficient interest to come into this place and take part in the debate on only three of them. It must be disappointing for the officers of the Department of Transport sitting in the advisers’ benches that the Minister is not here to give the lead as to what is going on as far as the Department is concerned. These gentlemen have my sympathy. They have a Minister who has no interest in his Department.
I want to draw to the attention of the Parliament a decision that was taken by the Labor Government to build four large bulk ships- two 120,000 tonners and two 140,000 tonnerswhich would carry Australia’s iron ore exports and establish a large bulk shipping line under the control of the Australian National Line. In 1973 the then chairman of ANL, Mr Weymouth, with my approval, together with the general manager of ANL went to Japan and had discussions with steel industry managers there. They came to an understanding that, if the Australian National Line or an Australian shipping line had ships of sufficient capacity to carry ore, it would get sufficient work to maintain those ships. At that time the Japanese shipbuilding industry was so loaded with orders that it did not have the opportunity to build those ships. When the question of building the ships in Japan was discussed with the Japanese- it made sense in view of the fact that we intended to carry iron ore from Australia to Japan, so at least we could have built the ships in Japan- unfortunately the Japanese shipbuilding industry had so many orders to fill that it could not even give any indication when the ships could be delivered. The result was that at that stage only two shipbuilding yards in the world could give any reasonable delivery time. The result was that ANL placed orders for two of those ships to be built in Sweden and the other two in West Germany. The total cost of the four ships was in excess of $ 100m.
What disappoints me is to see today that two of those ships are laid up and have never been used since they were completed. More than $50m worth of ships is just lying idle, not being used, because the line does not have orders on which it could use them. What also disappoints me is the fact that, in my humble opinion, the Minister is not applying sufficient pressure or taking sufficient action to ensure that those two ships are employed and that Austraiian labour is employed on them. Instead it is creating a situation similar to that which exists with Utah. Furthermore the Government has refused to move into the field of carrying Australian crude oil imports. It has dismantled the policy of 40:40:20 which we laid down. Immediately this Government came to power it dismantled that policy. So the position today is that the Australian shipping industry is being neglected. Ships that have been paid for by the Australian National Line are now tied up, when we had a definite understanding that they would be used. Without that understanding, those four ships- two of them are working and two of them are laid up- would not have been built at that stage. So I simply bring out those points in order to clarify the position for anyone who says that ANL went into that trade blindly without any prior consultation or understanding of the situation.
Another matter I would like to bring to the attention of the Committee is the need for the Government to stop holding inquiries and to get on with the job of developing the Sydney airport, either on its present site or possibly on another site. Any suggestions that there may be a Sydney airport at Mascot and a second airport located somewhere else are just crazy. If another airport is to be built it has to be large enough to cater for the whole of the traffic that will be moving through Sydney and the present airport closed down. There is no way that a city the size of Sydney should have two international or two domestic airports. The Sydney airport has to be located in one position.
I put forward the proposition that the present inquiry should be looking at the possibility of constructing an open V runway- something oriented along the lines of the 31-13. At the present time we have a 16-34 runway and an 07-25 runway- north-south, east-west runways. A runway should be built in such a way that there is no need to carry out the demolition of any existing buildings. The only buildings that would be demolished would be the old tower and the existing fire station, which we all know is to be shifted to another site. I believe that the decision has already been taken. If it has not, I point out that it was well on the way to being taken before 1 1 November 1975.
So we could have three runways operating. It is wrong for people to say that these runways are not effective. We could construct a runway of some 6,500 feet commencing from approximately the position of the present 16-34 runway. That would cater for all the DC9 and 727 traffic that would be using the Sydney airport. That would have the effect not only of providing the means of operating the airport more efficiently and eliminating some of the delays that occur from time to time but also of paying a dividend in the form of a reduction in aircraft noise, because an aircraft taking off on a 31-13 runway would not pass over any residential areas; it would pass over water or over vacant land entirely. So that is a proposition which I put forward.
As I was saying, open V runways are used right throughout the world. In the limited time that is available to me I would just like to mention quickly some of the large cities in the United States which have open V runways. They include the La Guardia airport in New York, Baltimore, Newark, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Greater Pittsburgh, Lambert-St Louis, Miami International, Washington International, Seattle-Tacoma International, Cleveland International, Detroit Metropolitan, Minneapolis-St Paul International, Kansas City, Dallas and the Logan Air- port at Boston. They are all major airports in the Inked States which have open V runways. That is a proposition which should be looked at for Sydney.
I also want to discount the suggestions that are being made by some people that commuter aircraft should be kept out of Sydney. Let us get one thing very clear and very positive: Commuter aircraft in this country are doing a first class job of providing air transport for a lot of people who under normal circumstances would not be sufficient in number to justify the operation of even a Friendship aircraft. These commuter aircraft have to be blended in with the existing arrangement in Sydney, either by locating a 2,000 feet runway on the eastern end of the airport, probably parallel with General Holmes Drive, or even putting it on the southern side of the eastwest runway so that it runs once again parallel with General Holmes Drive. Either one or two runways could be located in those positions. If that were done it would reduce a considerable amount of the pressure that exists at the present time on the two major runways- the 07-25 runway and the 16-34 runway. Even though the Minister is not present in the chamber, I ask his advisers who are present to take this proposition to him for consideration, so that at least the commuter operators who are using Sydney airport and who are providing a first class service for people from the areas that they serve can continue to operate.
I regret that in the limited time of 10 minutes available in a discussion of this type one cannot say very much. However, I regret very much that this Government has not moved yet to do anything about establishing a transport accident investigation authority, because I believe there is a need for one. In the aviation industry last year 266 accidents occurred, 19 of which were fatal claiming 54 lives. I have spoken on a number of occasions in this House about the accident involving the Heron aircraft that crashed on approach to the Cairns airport. That accident should have been the subject of investigations by transport investigation authorities.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drummond) -Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I draw the attention of the Committee to a national problem which deserves to be discussed in a spirit of co-operation. I refer to road safety. The motor vehicle and the resultant problems that have occurred as a result of the massive number of cars on the roads throughout Australia today represent a real problem. They are of vexing concern to the present Government and will present the same problems for future governments. Motor vehicles dictate our future city planning and they dictate whether we live to a ripe old age. There are approximately 5.5 million motor vehicles on our roads today. New car registrations for the period 1972-73 numbered 534,139 and for 1974-75 they numbered 624,187. Those figures indicate the growing number of motor vehicles being put on our roads.
Whilst it is appreciated that the motor vehicle is a convenient mode of transport, it has become a monster. Sometimes it is possessed to the extent of selfishness, provides an outlet for frustration, and represents a large cost factor in the average family budget. Unfortunately, motor vehicles can kill. Hospitals are full of tragic cases resulting from road accidents. Relatives and friends of victims have had happiness and future prosperity plucked from their very reach by the motor vehicle. During the year ended 30 June 1 975 some 3,656 people were killed on the roads and approximately 90,000 people were injured.
One out of ten people killed on the roads today die as a result of motor cycle accidents. Unfortunately most of those people are under the age of 21 years. Governments in all States of Australia should realise that we need uniformity in our legislation and pre-training needs to be provided to young motor cyclists before they are allowed on the roads because, unfortunately, sometimes they go out and kill themselves. It has been said that approximately 2 per cent of Australians who, when they ride motor cycles or drive motor cars, do not care whether they live or die. That seems incredible to me. The sooner governments realise that this is a major problem, the sooner we will overcome this sad and sorry situation in which young people, and of course older people, are killed on the roads in Australia today.
From 1970 we have made great inroads into the problems associated with road safety. Despite an increase in population of one million and an increase in registrations of 1,800,000, the staggering death rate has been slowed down by concerted efforts, particularly in relation to seat belt legislation, by inspection of motor vehicles and also by an improvement in the standard of motor vehicles. The motor industry is the second largest industry in Australia. It employs approximately 254,000 workers in manufacturing, wholesaling and retailing. Consequently, and most importantly, it is a vital and economic growth factor for our future prosperity. We need it but we must be aware of the problems it creates. The motor vehicle is here to stay. I realise that the pride of independence of owning one’s car and the thrill of keeping up with the models and possibly with the Jones family are allimportant out we must realise too that it is a national responsibility to reduce the toll on Australia’s roads today.
– Stop drinking.
-Yes, of course. The honourable member for Shortland has mentioned drinking. It is a most important factor in the number of deaths in Australia today but sometimes people seem to think that drink is the cause. When an accident has occurred and somebody is killed, if there is a smell of alcohol or a percentage of alcohol in the victim’s blood it is assumed that the accident has been caused by drink. But there are many other factors, and the sooner we realise-
– It is No. 1 .
-Of course it is No. 1, but we need to tackle the problem constructively and find out exactly what occurred. We need to find out whether it was a fault of the vehicle, whether it was a fault of the road or whether it was caused by other contingencies. The sooner we do that, the sooner we will be able to overcome the real problem. The honourable member’s point is well taken. The motor vehicle is a lethal weapon. Much is said about the tragedy of war and the precious lives lost but we as a Government must make a concerted thrust in the area of road safety. Every State has a responsibility but the States must have the support and the expertise of a sympathetic Federal government prepared to back them and to make road safety a national priority. Determined and courageous decisions must be made in car design, standards of safety, road design, compulsory inspections, behavioural patterns of drivers and, of course, alcohol, drugs and eyesight. I could name other factors, but the sooner we tackle these problems, the better.
– In the Northern Territory, too.
-Yes, in the Northern Territory. The retail motor industry in Australia has developed to improve the level of draining of managerial staff to take care of and to look after motor vehicles. I believe that is important also. It should also be noted that this is an industry dominated by very small businesses and sometimes these businesses are unable to provide the service and care essential. It is taken for granted. I repeat that the sooner we tackle the problem constructively, with uniformity, force and determination the sooner we will be able to reduce the number of lives lost on the roads each year.
-The honourable member for Franklin (Mr Goodluck) should understand that the Government which he supports disbanded the road safety authority. It was to be located at Albury-Wodonga but the Government did not proceed with it, even though an all-party committee of this Parliament sat for a long time and even though its recommendations were accepted by the former Australian Labor Party Government. So it is not of much use the honourable member talking; he must make sure that his Government meets its commitments.
The urban public transport policies of this Government have given rise to confusion and chaos. Its policies are self-defeating because they are riddled with contradictions. The funds provided in the Budget for urban public transport have fallen from $58.4m in 1976-77 to $5 lm this financial year. That is a drop of 13 per cent in money terms or a drop of 25 per cent in real terms. This has occurred at a time when road expenditure has increased by 10% per cent. It is an appalling record for a government with a selfproclaimed interest in public transport. This Government is encouraging a run down in the urban public transport system of the kind which produced the Granville train disaster. I stress that I am not only talking about the two years since 1975; I am talking also about the neglect by conservative governments between 1950 and 1972. The situation with Australia’s railways at present is disastrous. The plant, equipment and rolling stock of our State railways are in urgent need of upgrading and re-equipping. For example, in New South Wales over 100 derailments occur each month. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table illustrating this point.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drummond) -Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The table read as follows-
– From the figures we can see that 1 1 per cent of derailments are attributable to vandalism’ or ‘private companies’- factors which are utterly outside the control of the railway authorities. But the other 89 per cent of derailments reveal that equipment malfunction must be an important part of this problem. In the same eight months period as set out in the table, there was an average of 44.75 per month of what the New South Wales Government Railways define as ‘irregularities’. These range from level crossing accidents to running through points. Most of them were minor, but some of these socalled irregularities could end in disasters such as the Granville disaster. These problems cannot be blamed on the New South Wales railway workers. They do a magnificant job considering the outworn and outmoded equipment they are forced to use.
This situation of obsolete rolling stock and rundown lines and facilities in New South Wales is present to much the same degree in other States. These problems can be solved only by Federal Government funding. It is beyond the State governments’ resources to upgrade their railway system. We need a sustained program of Federal-backed expenditure for the renewal of our rail and other urban public transport networks. The railways have been placed m a crippling financial position over the years. Unlike road expenditure, which is funded through interest free grants, the railways on the whole have had to resort to loan funds to finance capital expenditure. This means that there has been a heavy subsidy element over the years for roads. Railways in Australia were faced with a deficit on their operations in excess of $500m in 1975-76. More than $ 130m of this deficit was for debt servicing charges. In both New South Wales and Queensland these charges exceeded $50m in 1975-76.
Our public transport systems have been placed in a financial straitjacket. This appalling situation has to be corrected. At least the Labor Government from 1972 to 1975 tried to meet this situation. But this Government’s lack of commitment to funding urban public transport does nothing to solve the problem and can only make it worse. We are now faced with a situation where only 4V4 per cent of public capital investment is on railways. This compares with 5V4 per cent in the second half of the 1 960s.
This cut back in funds for public transport has come at a time when this Government has just increased petrol prices by 1 lc a gallon. One of the supposed aims of raising petrol prices was to conserve the urban environment by reducing urban car usage. Conserving the urban environment is what we are talking about. This great decision by this Government was an environmental decision. It was supposed to be a decision to minimise the use of the motor car within the cities. Yet this Government sees fit to cut back urban public transport funds which would provide public transport which is an alternative to car usage. What is the position? We have a National Country Party Minister responsible for national resources and a National Country Party Minister who is responsible for transport. What did they do? They made a decision to impose a levy of 1 lc on each gallon of petrol sold. What does this mean? It means $150m will be paid by car users in this country and handed over to the very wealthy companies. Of that amount $1 10m will go to Esso-BHP and $48m will go to Wapet. Six-sevenths of Wapet is foreign owned. Sixty per cent of the $150m is going to foreign interests. Yet in the Budget we reduced the expenditure on urban public transport.
This was a measure which pandered to National Country Party supporters, namely, the foreign based rnining interests. It has done nothing to improve the quality of the urban environment. The fault of this Government has been to see transport as an end in itself, which of course it is not. What we have to do about urban public transport is to make sure not only that is there increased expenditure but also that there is increased expenditure on urban and regional development, because they go hand in hand. We should develop a system in such a way as to allow the sub-metropolitan centres to develop.
For instance, in the city of Sydney we should make sure that we develop metropolitan centres like Parramatta, Liverpool, Penrith and Campbelltown to balance the transport load. In the case of Melbourne, when we were in government we worked in co-operation with the Victorian Government to set up sub-metropolitan centres at places like Sunshine, Dandenong, Watsonia, Epping and Broadmeadows and to transfer our public servants to those areas so that at least we would bring some balance to the transport load. Transport cannot be an end in itself. This is what has happened under this Government. We have a Minister for Transport in the Cabinet. The Minister responsible for overall planning is one of the junior Ministers in this Government. That is the low priority which this Government attaches to the planning of urban and. regional development as a whole. Transport and urban and regional development go hand in hand and must be treated in that fashion if we want better public transport. Unfortunately, this Government has no real interest in urban public transport in any shape or form.
Notice of Presentation
– Notice has been received from the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security of his intention at the next day of sitting to present a Bill relating to social services amendment.
Motion (by Mr Viner) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
-In the brief time available to me in the adjournment debate this evening, I want to draw to the attention of the House a decision of the Government to lay up two of the three navigational aid vessels or navaid vessels- the Cape Pillar, the Cape Don and the Cape Moreton. It is well known to the seafaring community, to those people who are dependent for safety reasons upon the proper and efficient operation of navigational aidslighthouses, buoys and markers- that the Government has decided to cut back on the servicing and maintenance of these aids. What I want to draw to the attention of the House is the very serious safety factor involved in this course. The ships, as well as servicing and maintaining the navigational aids provide supply facilities and also at times carry out some work on behalf of sister departments. It would appear that because of the reduction in revenue from light dues and because of a reduced traffic in coastal shipping it is felt that there is insufficient revenue to match the increase in expenditure that has occurred over the last year and therefore a decision has been taken by the Government to reduce the number of vessels in this area.
These vessels have a number of other functions. They are one of the important means of reporting otherwise undetected vessels off the Australian coast. It is worth noting that more than 30 per cent of marine operation centre sightings are made by non-surveillance vessels. At the present time, with the great fear being expressed about breaches of quarantine and what could occur with the unauthorised landings of vessels on the Australian coast, particularly at remote places, and the ravage to Austraiian livestock that would be caused by the introduction of exotic diseases, it is all the more important that the Government do all it can to maintain the operations of these vessels. Not only is the question of quarantine important but also the unauthorised landings of persons intent on permanent residence in Australia or others who could be engaged in drug trafficking is important. There is also the recent decision to establish a 200-mile commercial fishing zone around Australia. While it is in the interests of Australia to develop and foster our own fishing industry, it is also in our interests to maintain those vessels on the Australian coast to keep up the good work they are doing sighting unauthorised vessels from other lands which are entering our commercial fishing zones. They are just some of the reasons why these vessels should be maintained.
The Opposition believes that safety should not be related strictly to revenue. It would appear from the information available that the Government’s decision on the operation of navaid vessels around the Australian coast is determined by revenue available from light dues. Some claim is also made by the Government that this decision is related to practice followed by overseas countries. It is understandable that the use of light aircraft and helicopters in maintaining and servicing some of the aids may well provide a more efficient and more economic method of servicing those aids. But the paramount matter is that the vessels should be kept operating, at least until some alternative means of surveillance is arranged. As said I earlier, at a time when we have a record number of violations of Australian commercial fishing zone waters by the unauthorised entry of foreign vessels, these navaid vessels should be maintained if only to sight unauthorised entry into Austraiian waters and unauthorised landings on the Australian coast.
I conclude on the point that the task is before the Government. I believe the Government has its priorities wrong because more than 30 per cent of Marine Operations Centre sightings are made by non-surveillance vessels. These navaid vessels have a very important role to carry out in this respect and I ask the Government to continue their operations, pending the establishment of other means of identification and surveillance.
– I am alarmed at statements reported to have been made by the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Mr Hawke, which clearly place him in contempt of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. On the front page of this morning’s Adelaide Advertiser, in an article headlined ‘ “Bastards”, says Hawke of Bench’, Mr Hawke is quoted as making the following extraordinary statement about the members of the Full Bench of the Commission:
The collective bloody salary of those pack of bastards who made the decision would be what . . . $30,000 average.
The Melbourne Age was a little more restrained. That newspaper quoted him as saying:
The collective bloody salary of these men who made the decision would be what . . . $30,000 at an average.
Mr Hawke ‘s uncouth language apparently made the Age sub-editor blanch. The phrase ‘pack of bastards’ was replaced by the word ‘men . In the Australian this morning Mr Hawke is quoted as saying further:
It is an absurd decision. It is an internally unintelligent decision.
He is further quoted in that newspaper as saying:
If I had been a man down there today I would have voted to continue the strike.
So much for the great conciliator Hawke. His language and his attitude clearly stamp him as one of the bully boys in this dispute. Let me quote section 182 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, which I believe Mr Hawke has breached by his statement. Section 1 82 of the Act provides:
a person shall not-
Penalty: Five hundred dollars or imprisonment for 12 months, or both.
I turn now to section 19 1 of the Act, which states:
They are the relevant sections of the Act. Mr Hawke should be charged with contempt of the Commission and brought before the Industrial Bench of the Federal Court of Australia. What is Sir John Moore, the President of the Commission, doing about it? Is he prepared to defend the integrity and dignity of his own Full Bench comprising Mr Justice Ludeke, Mr Justice Isaac and Commissioner Vosti? On the past record of those gentlemen, no one could accuse that Full Bench of being anti-trade union. It is a bench with an impeccable record.
If Sir John Moore is not prepared to take action under section 182 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act to protect his own Full Bench, the Attorney-General, Senator Durack, should do so. Mr Hawke does not stop at insulting the Full Bench- this responsible and courageous Full Bench which took the only decision which it felt it could take under the circumstances. Mr Hawke goes on, in reports of his statements, to urge that the Commission should give in to industrial blackmail. Let me quote him again from the Adelaide Advertiser, which reports him as saying:
They ‘ve got an industrial dispute and if it was true that the unions case was incoherent, they are still charged with the responsibility of settling the dispute.
They are paid enough bloody money to say ‘Well perhaps the union case didn’t cover everything but we are now charged with the settlement of an industrial dispute and we will now settle it’.
If that is not a statement which urges the Full Bench of the Commission to give in to outright industrial blackmail, I do not know what is such a statement. This stands in marked contrast with statements made by Mr Ken Stone, the Secretary of the Victorian Trades Hall Council, who said last night that he thought the men should have returned to work. He said:
My view is that they should have returned to work out of sheer common sense.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Bob Hawke and the industrial movement certainly have a lot to put up with. We have some very junior back benchers entering into what is now a very serious dispute in Victoria. Bob Hawke, when he returned to work last Monday week, was the vehicle by which a settlement was reached until the Full Bench gave its decision this week. Again, Bob Hawke, with the calling of the meeting today of the unions affiliated with theAustralian Council of Trade Unions and the shop stewards, has been the vehicle by which there will be another inquiry into a work value case in regard to the Latrobe Valley. This Government is terrified that Bob Hawke will settle the dispute.
We are still living in this Disneyland of politics where everything now is being done to suit the election that will be called in the first or second week of December. What the Liberal Party requires most of all is a very serious industrial dispute in Australia in order to bolster its political hopes. It gives no thought at all- we have not heard one word from this Government- to the 400,000 people who are unemployed. We have not heard one word about the people who were refused unemployment benefits after being stood down as a result of this dispute. We have not heard one word from the Government about what these people are putting up with. Rather, we hear further provocation of Bob Hawke, nationally the most popular figure in the country by any poll taken by anyone and published by any journal. Bob Hawke has the full backing of the Australian people in trying to negotiate and settle these industrial disputes.
We have these political peasants sitting on the Government back benches trying to irritate and provoke the industrial movement into perhaps prolonging an industrial dispute. One thing people involved in the industrial movement do not do, because they are the people putting up with the hardships, is prolong industrial disputes. They have a dispute because they want to achieve some financial gain or better conditions under which to work. They do not go on strike for nine or ten weeks as some useless exercise. Their bank balances are not so fat that they will carry them through that period. The people in the Latrobe Valley obviously feel that there is grave economic injustice concerning the wages which they receive. This Government, by provoking those workers further and keeping them out on strike for a longer period, is ignoring the enormous impact on industry throughout Australia.
It may suit the Government to go to the polls in the first or second week in December, a year before an election is due. The ironic feature of the way in which back benchers are so slavishly following the Government is that at least 25 or 30 of them will never come back. They are putting their hands up to support a Prime Minister who is hell bent on seeing that a number of them never return to the Parliament. There will be no more Wentworths, Chipps, Ellicotts and Goodlucks in the next Parliament. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) not only wants the industrial dispute lengthened but also wants to tame what is already to us on this side of the House an extremely tame back bench.
We continue to live with the political decisions associated with an early election. One can expect that in the next two weeks decisions will be made which conveniently will suit the election and will show a sense of propriety about the unemployed people. I would not be surprised if the Government takes a decision to subsidise people who will be employed by local government. I would not be surprised if the Government decides that people, at their option, can retire at 64 years of age. I ask honourable members to follow those predictions in the next couple of weeks. Rational economic decisions are not being made. Every political decision being made in Australia at the moment is aimed at returning the present Prime Minister as Prime Minister and leading a number of back benchers back to their old professions in their old districts. Tonight we have had a further illustration of the infantile position politics has reached when the most junior of the back benchers gets up to tell Australia how bad Bob Hawke is. It is a futile exercise.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-The honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) is very concerned about the strength of the back bench after the next election, whenever that may be. I trust that he will listen quietly to what I am going to read tonight. I have a letter from some responsible union leaders in the Latrobe Valley. I refer to a letter from the State President of the Federated Engine Drivers and Firemen’s Association, who is also Secretary of the Morwell sub-branch of that union, and the Secretary of the Yallourn sub-branch of that union to the local newspaper, the La Trobe Valley Express some three weeks ago. In that letter Mr Kroezen and Mr Coffield state:
The log of claims, cause of the disputation, was, and still constitutionally is, in the hands of the Victorian Trades Hall Council. Processes were under way for establishing complete agreement among all unions with members employed in the SEC before the log was submitted by the VTHC to the SEC on behalf of all these unions.
Two meetings of representatives of the SEC unions were held at the VTHC in May, at which discussion was necessarily protracted because of complex award matters involved. It would have been, nevertheless, only a matter of time until agreement was ultimately reached on the log to be submitted to the SEC through constitutional trade union channels.
However, on IS June, an organised group calling itself the SEC Latrobe Valley Shop Stewards Committee, under the leadership of Amalgamated Metal Workers Union official S. Armstrong -
– He is a communist.
-Mr Armstrong is President of the Gippsland Trades and Labour Council, Chairman of the SEC Latrobe Valley Shop Stewards Committee, Secretary of the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union and a member of the Communist Party, as the honourable member for Riverina said. The letter continues: . . took it upon itself to call a mass meeting of SEC workers in the Latrobe Valley in order to discuss the log of claims issued. At this meeting S. Armstrong, after a reprehensible and completely unjustifiable attack on the VTHC, moved a resolution that the Latrobe Valley work force ‘go it alone’ in pursuing a log of claims with the SEC. This resolution was narrowly carried, committing the workers involved to breaking away from a unified campaign, properly conducted under the control of the VTHC. Overtime and availability bans were imposed forthwith, this industrial action escalating to the now seven-week long stoppage.
Apart from the fact that S. Armstrong’s committee is representative of only 11 of the unions with members employed in the SEC, shop stewards committees, which operate under an ACTU charter, have no constitutional authority to either engage in this type of industrial activity or pursue matters affecting wage rates or award conditions. From the outset, therefore, the Latrobe Valley campaign has been essentially illegal and divorced from properly constituted trade union procedures. The 2,300 men involved have been badly misled and the great hardship suffered by them and their families should never have happened.
The FEDFA, together with the other unions with members in SEC employ, has endeavoured to act responsibly by maintaining a position within the framework of the VTHC campaign. This campaign has, of course, been disrupted by the Latrobe Valley operation.
Disunity there certainly is, but the whole disunifying process was initiated by S. Armstrong and his shop stewards on IS June.
The writers of the letter refer to the editorial in that newspaper and state:
Reverting to the Express viewpoint as stated we take particular exception to the presumption of the editorial writer in daring to tell our members how to conduct their industrial affairs, and we view his suggestion that the FEDFA should have seen to it that Victoria was ‘plunged into darkness and brought to a standstill ‘ as the most outrageous editorial comment we have had the misfortune to read.
It is no wonder the Secretary of the Victorian Trades Hall Council is reported in tonight’s Herald as calling on the workers to resume their work in the Latrobe Valley and to stop the rot which has set in and which is in fact totally caused by the illegal actions of the SEC Latrobe Valley Shop Stewards Committee.
– The Latrobe Valley workers are entitled to a substantial increase in their wages. That is the starting point. The reason that we have this trouble now is that when wage indexation was first introduced we did not adjust the wages of the metal trades group to the natural or historical nexus that always existed between fitters and carpenters. Ever since Judge Higgins fixed the rate for carpenters and fitters and turners more than 60 years ago there has been this nexus between the two. When wage indexation was first introduced the award rate for a fitter was $27 a week less than the award rate for a carpenter. My view then was that wage indexation would eventually break down unless this anomaly was corrected at the beginning of wage indexation. I have been proved correct.
It is all very well for members of this Parliament who recently voted themselves a $60 a week increase and it is all very well forjudges of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission who have been awarded an $80 a week increase- not an $80 a week increase on top of $180 a week, but an $80 a week increase on top of $800 a week- to sit in judgment on these workers. That is the position. It sickens me that judges of the Arbitration Commission should sit there in their smug satisfaction, on their $44,000 a year, and be telling useful people- people who are useful to the community and without whom we cannot exist- that they are not entitled to an increase in their salaries. I agree entirely with Bob Hawke that these men have a case. This Government knows that they have a case, but it is deliberately conniving with the Commission. I say ‘deliberately’ because the Government has been in touch with the Commission, and I know it.
– How do you know it?
-It has. How do I know it?
-You are not denying it. I am not telling you how I know it, but I know that this Government has been conniving with the Commission to refuse to give these men the just increase to which they are entitled because it wants to bring about sufficient chaos in industry to cause people to believe that the real culprits are the men who are merely asking for an increase in wages commensurate with the value of the work that they are doing. These men are getting $20 a week less than average weekly earnings. Do honourable members opposite know that? Do they know that a 21 -year-old clerk in the Third Division of the Commonwealth Public Service gets $20 a week more than average weekly earnings? Such a clerk gets $40 a week more than a fitter and turner. The clerk works 36% hours a week in an air-conditioned office. These men have to work out in the heat, the noise, the dirt, the smoke and the fumes of the industry in which they are doing 40 hours a week for $40 a week less. Of course they are entitled to an increase. Members opposite are nothing more nor less than a pack of hypocrites, sitting there on their $60 a week increase that they gave themselves only a little while ago, saying that these men are not entitled to a miserable $40 a week increase. Honourable members opposite got their $60 a week increase on top of a salary that was already in excess of $400 a week. What right have they deliberately to cause members of the public of Victoria to have to suffer the privations that they are suffering just to make it possible for them to win another election? They will find, just as Edward Heath found, that if they try putting the public to an inconvenience that they are deliberately setting out to do inorder to win some political advantage the attempt will backfire on them, as it ought to.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I move:
– An extension of time cannot be moved during the adjournment debate. I call the honourable member for Wide Bay.
– I wish to
PUt forward a modest proposal which I feel could e of some benefit to the Australian motor vehicle industry. I recently had discussions with members of the retail section of that industry. I have come to the conclusion that the Government could consider reducing the sales tax on vehicles by a modest 2 ‘A per cent. Unquestionably this would have the effect of stimulating sales in the retail area. The 2Vi per cent is a modest amount because there is no suggestion that the Australian car manufacturing industry should be relieved of its responsibility to increase efficiency iri the production of motor vehicles in this country. A reduction of 2lA per cent certainly would act as a stimulus to an industry which at the moment is lacking buoyancy.
The effect of a 2 ‘A per cent reduction in sales tax would require an increase in sales of 10 per cent to make good the sales tax revenue forgone. In other words, a dealer currently moving 100 vehicles in a specified period would be required to sell 1 10 vehicles, or a dealer selling 10 vehicles would need to sell another vehicle. According to the information brought to me, this is well within the bounds of possibility. In such an exercise the Government in fact would not be surrendering revenue in the final analysis. Rather, in the process it would have generated some activity in an industry which at the moment needs a shot in the arm.
There would be additional incidental benefits. It would have an effect on the employment level in the industry, in the wholesale and retail areas. It stands to reason that if a retailer is not moving vehicles he must look closely at his staffing position. This device certainly would have the effect of removing the need, in many cases, for employers to dispense with some of their staff. The generation of activity would bring further incidental benefits to the Government. I commend this proposal to the Government for earnest consideration.
The sales tax on motor vehicles represents a very substantial penalty. Based on wholesale prices, which do not include delivery or registration charges, the sales tax on a Holden Torana is $927.97; on a Kingswood it is $1,062.06; on a Ford Falcon standard it is $994.88; and on a Datsun 180B it is $8 10.09. Sales tax is a very substantial deterrent for people who are contemplating purchasing a vehicle and who also are timid in view of the uncertain conditions that prevail at this time. There is no question of doubt that there is sufficient liquidity in the community to enable people to fulfil their ambitions in the acquisition of material objects, including motor vehicles, but we need something to break the nexus, to encourage people to take the step. If some people take that step others will be encouraged to go along with them and thus we can generate a mood of getting on with the job. We could say to people: ‘Buy now and take advantage of an immediate sales tax concession’. Also this would set aside the effects of even modest inflation over a period of time. If the Government initially forgoes a modest 2V4 per cent in sales tax, it can anticipate a considerable stimulus in the industry and comfort itself with the thought that in the long term the revenues that will accrue will in no way be diminished.
I say again that a reduction of 2Vi per cent is modest. It must of necessity be modest because the Ausstraliin car manufacturing industry cannot be relieved of its reponsibility to get its house in order. Too many people are disenchanted as a result of their experiences in buying new Australian vehicles. Manufacturers, encouraged by moving some of the vehicles on grass at the moment, may direct themselves to greater purpose in putting their own house in order. I am sure that if consideration is given to this proposal it will be found to have considerable merit.
– I want to speak briefly about the proposed Williamsburg Conference which is planned to be held in Canberra between 1 November and 4 November at the Lakeside Hotel. Originally it was planned that this conference would be held at the Australian National University but there was such an outcry from the student and staff associations that the organisers wisely withdrew from the ANU and decided to hold it at the Lakeside Hotel.
These conferences are held each year and they bring together top military and government officials, and heads of multinational corporations from the United States of America and noncommunist Asian countries. This top level think tank is sponsored by the Asia Society, an organisation based in New York and Washington and started by multimillionaire John D. Rockefeller I, who built the colonial town of Williamsburg where the first conference was held in 1971. These conferences usually are held away from main cities and out of the public eye. They are highly secretive and exclusive get-togethers which allow lobbying and person to person contact between individuals in top positions. Hence a high proportion of chairmen and presidents of multinational corporations from the United States and Japan, and top people of influence from South East Asia have been invited to Williamsburg 7, the conference planned to be held in Canberra. Although it is claimed that this is only a way of bringing together key decision makers, the Asia Society has a recent history of involvement in providing important research facilities for the United States war effort in Vietnam.
If one looks at the guest list of those coming to Williamsburg 7 it speaks for itself. From Indonesia there is General Ali Murtopo, Chief of Indonesia’s security and the man who was the project officer for the acquistion of East Timor. This man was responsible for the invasion of East Timor where up to 100,000 Timorese have been killed. Others are Rachmat Saleh, Governor of the Bank of Indonesia and Julius Tahaya of Caltex Indonesia. They are all very interesting personalities. From Australia there is to be Rod Carnegie, of Conzinc Riotinto, John Reid of James Hardie Asbestos who is also a director of the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd as well as being chairman of the Australian-Indonesian Business Co-operation Committee and who applauded the Indonesian takeover of East Timor. Another is Nicholas Parkinson, Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs, which has helped to sponsor this conference and which has put up some $15,000 provided by the Australian taxpayer. Another is Sir Laurence Mclntyre, former Ambassador to the United Nations and now director of the Australian Institute of International Affairs which is co-sponsor of Williamsburg 7.
From South Korea there is to be Kyung-won Kim, the assistant to dictator President Park and the man responsible for the imprisonment of thousands of political prisoners. From Malaysia we are to have Ghazali Shane, the Minister for
Home Affairs and the man in charge of mass detentions.
– This is a communist conference.
-If the honourable member for Riverina would listen he might learn something. Another guest is Alejandro Melchor, the Executive Director of the Asian Development Bank. He is from the Philippines. Also to come from the Philippines is Cesar Virata, Minister for Finance in the Marcos martial law regime. From Thailand we are to have Thanat Khoman, former minister and top Central Intelligence Agency man. From Canada we are to have Maurice Strong of Petro-Canada.
– You are a lot of communist lackeys.
– The honourable member might learn something. From the United States we are to have John D. Rockefeller III, who calls himself a philanthropist. We are also to have George Ball, former United States Secretary of Defence during the Vietnam period and who is now with Lehman Brothers Corporation; William Agee, Chairman of the Bendix Corporation; and Herbert Cornuelle, Chairman of the Dillingham Corporation. And so I could go on. The guest list speaks for itself. It is a conservative elitist group and its main aim is to perpetuate American and Japanese imperialism in Australia.
This organisation is strongly opposed by many groups in Australia, including the East Timor Association, the Aboriginal land rights groups, the Campaign Against Racial Exploitation, the Australian independence movement and the Australian Union of Students. I suggest that we do not need the Williamsburg Conference in Australia. I hope that all the organisations I have named will take the opportunity to make thenvoices heard in protest against this secret meeting being held in Australia.
– I rise to make an unprepared speech for a couple of minutes. After listening to the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) I want to say that some men can be their own worst enemy while others can be the bitterest enemy of their friends. That is the precise type of proposition put in the speech by the honourable member for Hindmarsh tonight. He looked at the determination of the Remuneration Tribunal and tried to make a distorted comparison between that and what is happening in Victoria today in an effort to justify those events and events in that State over the past few years. What disgusts me is that that kind of case is being made increasingly by the Opposition yet over and over again members of the Opposition come to me and pleaded that the determinations of the Remuneration Tribunal, the body they are now criticising directly, should have been higher than they were. In order to obtain cheap and sordid popularity with members such as the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young), who is in the middle of this, they are trying to turn whatever is done by the Tribunal back on to their friends to gain a bit of sordid good will with those on strike in Victoria. It was totally unbecoming for the honourable member for Hindmarsh to do what he did. I believe that his friends in the Opposition ranks ought to be ashamed of the type of argument that he proposed.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! It being 1 1 p.m., in accordance with the order of the House of 10 March the debate is interrupted. The House stands adjourned until 10.30 a.m. tomorrow.
House adjourned at 1 1 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 16 August 1 977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
am asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 16 August 1977:
Did the Foreign Investment Review Board consider the acquisition of a controlling interest in La Fiamma newspaper by foreign interests. (Hansard, 25 May 1977, page 1894 and 2 June 1977, page 2579); if so, what recommendation did the Board make to him.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Matters referred to the Foreign Investment Review Board are confidential to the parties concerned. The only exception to this rule arises where an Order is made and published in the Gazette. This practice in respect of foreign investment matters has been accepted by successive Australian Governments.
Icebergs: Use as Source of Fresh Water (Question No. 1219)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Science, upon notice, on 17 August 1977:
– The Minister for Science has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
In addition, Australian scientists (including a Government scientist from the Antarctic Division) actively participated in the First International Conference on Iceberg Utilisation, held in the United States from 2 to 6 October 1977. The conference was attended by scientists, engineers, consultants and industry representatives.
One of the principal reasons for holding the International Conference was to assess all aspects of the state of research and development on the use of icebergs as a source of fresh water. It would seem therefore that the outcome of the conference should be awaited and considered before deciding whether or not further inquiries into the present state of technology for iceberg utilisation should now be pursued.
asked the Minister for Overseas Trade, upon notice, on 25 August 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
These amounts do not include the cost of common services provided by the Department of Overseas Trade and other Departments which are not separately recorded.
As grants are limited by ceilings prescribed in the Act, it is not possible to dissect the cost to revenue of grant payments in relation to claims embodying both grant rates.
However, in the first two years of operation of the scheme, the total grant entitlements according to the rate of grant and total cost to revenue are set out below:
Details have not been recorded which would provide complete information, by category, of the grants sought.
The following tabulation shows the total number of claims processed in each year of the Act’s operation:
These officers do not include the Chairman of the Board and two part-time members.
asked the Minister for Overseas Trade, upon notice, on 6 September 1977:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The purpose of the libraries is to provide a specialised collection of world trade data for the Department of Overseas Trade and Department of the Special Trade Negotiator, in particular, and for other departments as necessary, and also for members of the business community.
Overseas Trade Regional Office libraries serve the dual interests of the Department of Overseas Trade and the Department of Industry and Commerce and also provide world trade information to members of the public, primarily businessmen.
Books, approx. 1 1,000
Periodicals, approx. 1,000 titles
Other publications, (pamphlets, reports, statistical publications, etc.) approx. 13,500
Other publications, (pamphlets, reports, statistical publications, etc.) 977 (including 2 1 8 items gratis)
Central Library, $ 1 98,000
Central Library, 1 Librarian Class 3; 1 Librarian Class 2; 2 Library Officers Grade 3; 2 Library Officers Grade 1; 1 Assistant Library Officer; 4 Clerical Assistants Grade 4; 3 Clerical Assistants Grade 3; 1 Clerical Assistant Grade 2
Sydney, 1 Librarian Class1; 1 Clerical Assistant Grade 3
Melbourne, 1 Librarian Class 1; 1 Library Officer Grade 1; 1 Clerical Assistant Grade 3; 1 Clerical Assistant Grade 2
Brisbane, 1 Clerical Assistant Grade 3
Adelaide, 1 Library Officer Grade1
Penh, 1 Library Officer Grade 1
asked the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, upon notice, on 6 September 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Each State office of the Department has a small collection of reference books. Officers of my Department at overseas posts have access to libraries provided by the Department of Foreign Affairs under common service arrangements.
In all cases, the purpose of the libraries is to acquire and facilitate access to published material of relevance to the functions being performed.
Broadly, the publications in the Department’s library cover the subjects of immigration, emigration, the education, health and welfare of migrants, automatic data processing and demography.
The purpose of COPQ library is to collect and make available to its research staff and professional expert panels material from both Australian and overseas sources, which describes and evaluates higher education and the gaining of professional qualifications.
The budget for COPQ library is $2,500. In addition the salary of a librarian, on a part-time basis of 25 hours per week, was $6,857 during the year ended 30 June 1977.
No major staff changes have occurred in the past three years, although the staffing position is currently under review.
COPQ library has onepart-time librarian (25 hours per week) although the position is for a full-time librarian.
COPQ library is not generally available to the public as it does contain some material supplied to the library on the condition that it be used in confidence. However, professional associations and organisations have been granted access to certain material on request.
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 8 September 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 15 September 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
It follows that the provisions are not available either to professional actors and entertainers or to other classes of taxpayers. There are, however, special ‘anti-bunching’ provisions applicable to authors and inventors.
The question of extending these latter provisions, or the averaging provisions themselves, to other classes of persons with variable incomes has been examined many times over the years but successive Governments have seen fit not to propose any such extension.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 15 September 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The subsidy amounts payable in respect of individual organisations are the differences between the actual contribution rates for each organisation and rates of $1.30 a week (single) and $2.60 (family), subject to the above maximum subsidy amounts.
I further indicated that subsequently when the contribution rates for Medibank Private were being determined it became apparent that the family contribution rates for the standard hospital benefits tables in each State would exceed $2.60 a week. It seemed likely that this would be the case with most other major organisations.
Because of its concern to keep the cost of this type of insurance within the reach of those with low to medium incomes, the Government decided to provide a subsidy to hold the single member and family member weekly contributions at $1.30 and $2.60 respectively. The maximum rates of Commonwealth subsidy were based on the difference between the rates of $1.30 (single) and $2.60 (family) and the actual contribution rates for the standard hospital benefits tables offered by Medibank Private in each State.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice, on 20 September 1977:
– The Minister for Administrative Services has provided me with the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 22 September 1977:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
There are no plans for the introduction of television on the Indian-Pacific. Such a proposal was investigated about four years ago but was unsuccessful for technical reasons.
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 5 October 1977:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
am asked the Minister for Con struction, upon notice, on 5 October 1977:
What steps have been taken to implement the recommendation which the Inquiry into Public Electricity Supply in the Northern Territory made to him on 27 June 1977 for the establishment of an Electricity Commission with responsibility to the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly for all public electricity supply in the Northern Territory.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Government has adopted the recommendation and is working with the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly towards the establishment of a Northern Territory Electricity Commission by 1 July 1978.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 19 October 1977, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1977/19771019_reps_30_hor107/>.