30th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. B. M. Snedden, Q.C.) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I have received a return to the writ which I issued on 8 September for the election of a member to serve for the electoral division of Cunningham in the State of New South Wales to fill the vacancy caused by the death of the Honourable Reginald Francis Xavier Connor. By the endorsement on the writ it is certified that Stewart John West has been elected.
Mr Stewart John West was introduced and made and subscribed an affirmation of allegiance as member for the Division of Cunningham, New South Wales.
-Mr Speaker, are you able to advise when you will make an announcement of the date of the by-election for the division of Bonython?
– When I have made a decision I will let everybody know.
Clerk- Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of undersigned volunteer firemen attached to the New South Wales Fire Brigade Service respectfully showeth:
That the volunteer firemen of the New South Wales Fire Brigades are performing an essential community service in suburban and country towns by providing low cost fire protection and in sacrificing their leisure and rest hours to perform this essential service, are being subjected to severe financial loss by having to pay income tax on two incomes which under the present taxation system discourages most individuals from having two jobs.
That the present situation has resulted in the resignation of a large number of volunteer firemen because of the effects of taxation, leaving a number of fire brigades under strength and a reluctance of potential recruits to pay exessive taxation.
That this growing problem could be effectively dealt with by granting taxation concessions to volunteer firemen in the State of New South Wales similar to those being received by members of the Citizens Military Forces.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives will urge the Government to review the Taxation Act to exempt the earnings of volunteer firemen in the State of New South Wales from income tax, or give consideration to separate assessment of earnings and so protect the future of the volunteer fire service in New South Wales.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Armitage, Mr FitzPatrick, Mr Gillard, Mr James, Mr Lucock, Mr Lusher, Mr O’Keef e and Mr Wentworth.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that the undersigned persons believe:
That there should be more research into all fields providing energy sources such as uranium and its effects, solar energy, tidal energy, coal and the effects of carbon dioxide.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Connolly.
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 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 we believe that Australia’s constitution is undemocratic and should be replaced by a democratic constitution. This new constitution should be drafted as 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 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 Sainsbury.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
That the public library services of New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory are inadequate both in quality and quantity and that the burden of provision is placed too heavily upon local government.
That the Report of the Committee of Inquiry into Public Libraries recommended a program of assistance for public libraries of approximately $20m a year (at June 1975 prices) over a period of 10 years, and the establishment at a national level of a Public Libraries and Information Council to formulate, to implement and evaluate assistance programs.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled, should: as a matter of urgency implement the recommendations of the Report of the Committee of Inquiry into Public Libraries.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byMrE.G.Whitlam.
-I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That this House, viewing with grave concern the recent report of the correspondent of Paris Match, Denis Reichle, that at least 70,000 East Timorese have been killed by Indonesian occupying forces, and his further report that 30,000 Indonesian troops are continuing actions which involve further deaths of great numbers of men, women and children; and bearing in mind that the United Nations does not acknowledge Indonesian possession of East Timor and that the question is not an internal one for Indonesia, requests the Government:
to renew efforts to have the matter made the subject of United Nations restraining action;
to call on Indonesia to allow reputable world organisations, including the International Committee of the Red Cross and a fact-finding mission of the United Nations, free and unimpeded access to East Timor, objectively arranged so that Indonesia has nothing to fear if it has nothing to hide; and
to promote international action to rehabilitate an East Timor which has been given an internationally acceptable right of self determination.
- Mr Speaker, may I ask you a question following on the remarks made by the honourable member for Corio? I ask you, Sir: Why is it that you have not yet announced the timetable for a by-election in Bonython, where a vacancy occurred 2 1 days ago, when you took only 18 days after the vacancy occurred in Cunningham to announce the timetable for that by-election?
-I do not run to as strict a timetable as that. I will announce my decision when I reach it. It should not be long delayed.
-I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security. Has the Minister noted that the Salvation Army and other voluntary agencies in Victoria which have been providing emergency aid to families of people out of work because of the power strike have depleted their funds? Is the Minister able to give any assistance to voluntary agencies to provide emergency funds?
– It was brought to the attention of the Government that voluntary agencies in Victoria have used their funds to the maximum extent to assist distressed families. The Government has decided to make a grant of $50,000 for emergency relief. The Minister for Social Security has been in discussion with her State colleague in Victoria, the Honourable Brian Dixon, and the Victorian Government has also decided to contribute $50,000 for the same purpose. The $100,000 will be made available immediately. The Commonwealth Department of Social Security is working with the State department to determine the distribution of those funds for people in necessitous circumstances as a result of the deplorable strike in Victoria.
– The honourable gentleman really answered half his question when he referred to the present employment and vacancy situation. The Government has already announced that this year it will be spending about $100m on training schemes, with particular attention being devoted to schemes for young people. It has also said that if opportunities are available and people meet the labour market criteria, finance will be no limit to the number of people who can be assisted. The present advertising campaign is directed principally at employers to make them aware of the assistance that is available to them for training people and to create more vacancies so that more opportunities can be provided, particularly for young people. I am surprised at the honourable gentleman suggesting that there is something improper in this. I can think of no better way in which to get more young people into jobs than to get them into productive employment associated with training for a skill which they previously did not have.
-Does the Minister for Construction recall my recent representations on behalf of a group of small builders in the construction industry in South Australia? Has the Minister seen today s reports suggesting that the latest consumer price index figure will show that the rate of increase in the cost of living for the September quarter has been held to three per cent or less? Can the Minister say whether this good news is reflected in the building and construction industry?
-I thank the honourable gentleman for his question. Yes, I have read that report. I hope that situation occurs and that if it does the Treasurer will get the credit for it. Some figures were released just a few days ago-on Tuesday to be exact- in respect of the increase in the cost of building materials which I think are relevant. Those figures show that for the 12 months to September the rate of increase in building materials in the non-residential section of the building industry was less than 10 per cent; in fact it was 9.6 percent. That should mean that by the end of the financial year we can get down to a rate of between 7 per cent and 8 per cent. That is a tremendous achievement, especially when we recall that when Labor was in office the rate hit 20 per cent. In fact during 1974-75 it was 22.9 per cent.
There is another interesting indicator in the number of building approvals in the nonresidential sector. It shows that the seasonally adjusted figures for the 8 months to August are up by 20.9 per cent. Of course it is when building approvals are translated into building commencements that the construction industry benefits. These figures are much higher than they were when Labor was in government. I think it is reasonable to say that the Government’s economic policies are now really starting to work.
-I ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs: Did a delegation of the most senior Papua New Guinea departmental heads visit Canberra recently for discussions about Australian aid to Papua New Guinea? Is it a fact that Australian officials of relatively junior rank represented Australia at the talks and that they were unwilling or unable to discuss the aid issue effectively? Did the Papua New Guinea delegation leave angry and frustrated by this snub? Further, I ask whether the Minister intends to make a statement to the House about a recent incident where a Joint Intelligence Organisation agent approached an Australian academic in Papua New Guinea to spy against that country? Will that officer be withdrawn from Papua New Guinea? Will the Minister investigate and take action on these incidents which have caused a further rupture in relations between Papua New Guinea and Australia?
-Mr Speaker, here we go again. We had all sorts of conscience baring and moral hand washing in the House quite some months ago by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition on questions of foreign policy when he sat subservient and silent over incidents that occurred near to Australia and took a totally different line once he went into Opposition. Now, on a question concerning Papua New Guinea, he tries to imply that the relationship has been ruptured. It was the action of his Party when in government in 1975 which led to the most disjointed and disappointed series of talks on the side of Papua New Guinea on aid questions shortly prior to or shortly after the date for independence when Papua New Guinea was seeking to determine its budgetary allocation for the period immediately after independence. Talks at Kirribilli in 1975 stay in the minds of officials and Ministers of Papua New Guinea to this day and will do so for a long time hence.
-The Leader of the Opposition knows the scars that were created then. He knows that when we came into government we immediately held talks with Papua New Guinea. We worked out a five-year agreement with Papua New Guinea, and that agreement has been hailed by Mr Julius Chan and others- Mr Chan, I remind the House, is the Acting Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea at the moment -as an example for other donor countries to follow. The agreement was reached in an atmosphere of appreciation of the way in which Australia was responding to Papua New Guinea’s requests and not imposing its own views. It has been hailed by the Papua New Guinea Government successively in international forums.
I refer now to the matter that was raised in relation to recent talks on aid. There were official talks to see whether it was possible to reach agreement on an update of the formula determined only early last year. In other words the
Papua New Guinea Government, appreciative of the certainty that is inbuilt into the agreement on aid, was nevertheless proposing a further form of agreement that could be utilised over the remaining three-year period of that agreement. Following the talks, Mr Barry Holloway, the new Minister for Finance, was in Australia this week attending a seminar which I addressed and which he addressed on Sunday and which I addressed again on Monday. He and I had talks. We have agreed that we will have further discussions on the figure for the third year of this current five-year agreement and that we will also have further discussions in regard to the fourth and fifth year of the agreement. The Minister for Finance indicated to me that he was perfectly happy with this arrangement.
Papua New Guinea has changed, as honourable members will be aware, to a financial year based on the calendar year. So it is essential that we give that country a reading for the allocation from Australia, probably by the end of November, so that it can have its effective budgetary finalisation into December. We have also agreed to give Papua New Guinea certainty for further discussions on the formula for the fourth and fifth years. There is no doubt that this is most satisfactory to Papua New Guinea. The Minister indicated that to me. It is satisfactory from our point of view. It is a further update of an agreement which, as I say, was hailed by Papua New Guinea. What is contained in the question of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition bears no resemblance to the facts of the discussion between the Finance Minister and me.
In regard to the final aspect of the question asked by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, I discussed this matter last night with the Acting Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, Mr Chan. A statement issed by Mr Chan accurately reflects the tone of that conversation and the conversation that occurred between the Australian High Commissioner, Mr Critchley, and Mr Chan. Mr Chan expressed his regret that an action of an officer of the High Commission had led to a misunderstanding of the role of the High Commission. Mr Critchley accepted an assurance by Mr Critchley that Australia had not established nor was establishing a spy network in Papua New Guinea. It is well to recall that the officer was declared to Papua New Guinea and accepted by that country. The statement issued by Mr Chan, as I say, accurately reflects the conversation between him and me but more particularly between him and the High’ Commissioner yesterday.
-Has the Prime Minister received a reply to his letter to the Japanese Prime Minister concerning exports of Australian beef to Japan?
-The Japanese Prime Minister has replied. In that reply there was reference to the talks at Kuala Lumpur and a recognition of the problems that Australia faces that were brought to attention at that time. As a result of the reply there will be continuing talks between officials and, as the governments determine, between Ministers. That basically means that the message that I sent to the Japanese Prime Minister some little time ago has in fact been accepted. The response that we got to it was the response that we not only expected but wanted.
– I ask the Foreign Minister a question. How soon will the offending Australian official be withdrawn from Port Moresby?
-As far as I am concerned, the statement issued by Mr Chan, as I have said, accurately reflects the discussion between him and the High Commissioner. As a consequence I have nothing to add to the matter, other than to reiterate that the Government of Papua New Guinea agreed to the posting of this man in the first place.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Primary Industry. I remind him and the House of the Government’s action last year in increasing the first advance on wheat to a record amount of $66 per tonne. With the background of that magnificent initiative, what are the arrangements for the announcement of this year’s first advance? Can Australia’s wheat growers who are faced with lower yields and a shortage of cash resources due to drought this year expect the same sympathetic treatment from a government which has established a reputation of being concerned for unfortunate farmers?
-Order! The honourable gentleman is not entitled to pay tribute to the Government but merely to seek information.
– When will the first advance payments be announced? Can the announcement be made sooner than programmed?
-I know the honourable gentleman’s interest in the wheat industry. There has been no programmed date of announcement. In fact, to date I have had no firm consultations with the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation with respect to the first advance. It is equally true that the Government will give the same sympathetic consideration to the problems of the wheat industry as this Government traditionally does. There are tremendous difficulties this year for the wheat industry, mainly because of the drought that is regrettably so widespread around Australia. The honourable gentleman would have noticed only last week that the Australian Wheat Board put some slightly reduced figures on the projected harvest for 1977-78. It has reduced the projection by about 2 million tonnes to about 9 million tonnes. Looking at the drought scene, it is very difficult to make a firm judgment on whether even that expectation will be realised.
I should say with respect to the Australian wheat industry, however, that the whole Australian wheat community is very indebted to the retiring Chairman of the Board, Mr Jack Cass, and to the Board for the efforts that they have made on behalf of the wheat industry. In fact, in spite of the general drift in world grain prices, the Board has already sold forward much of next year’s crop. Considering the relatively low stocks of wheat carried forward from last harvest, the Australian wheat industry is in a much better position than industries in many other countries in the exporting world. For that reason, although grain prices are uncertain, the sales position is sound. One would hope that the Australian wheat industry can look forward to that part of the crop which it is able to harvest giving at least some reasonable return. I hope that in terms of the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation I can comply with the honourable gentleman’s request. That, of course, will depend upon consultations which are still to take place. I certainly recognise the problems of the industry and I can assure the honourable gentleman that the Government will examine very sympathetically any proposition put forward by it.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to the views expressed in editorials in every major newspaper in the country that increasing speculation about a premature election is destroying the economic and political fabric of Australia? In accordance with his publicly expressed attitude of deploring such speculation, what steps have been taken to terminate it? In particular, nas he, as has been reported, sought the advice of the GovernorGeneral about an early election? Will he now act responsibly and end speculation about an early election?
-The honourable gentleman should well know my policy in relation to these matters. I believe it is an improper matter for comment by any Prime Minister. Let me say only that this speculation was started by the Australian Labor Party some considerable time ago. If there were concern about the future of the Australian economy it would be only because of a concern about the policies enunciated by the Opposition which would take away the concessions, the incentives and the investment stimulii which this Government has provided for businesses across a wide sector of Australia and which have led to a recovery in profits and investments. There also has been very great concern about statements by the Leader of the Opposition. He indicated on Monday Conference that the Opposition would restore expenditure in all sorts of areas, probably adding about $2 billion or more to this year’s Budget. This would lead again to a greatly increased Budget deficit and thus to higher interest rates and higher inflation. Australia trod that path and I am quite certain that Australians will never tread it again.
-Can the Treasurer give any information as to when the September consumer price index figures will be released? Is he aware of the significance that these figures will have on business confidence in Australia?
-These figures certainly will have a very real impact on business confidence throughout the Australian community. I can inform the honourable gentleman that the September quarter consumer price index will be released at 12 o’clock today. The information is currently under an embargo. I have every intention of respecting that embargo so I do not mention the figure at this stage. However, I can say to the honourable gentleman, because the embargo is up at 12 o’clock, that the figure reflects the smallest rise in prices, apart from the Medibank distortion of September 1975, in any quarter since December 1972. The CPI for the September quarter, which is a real breakthrough in the fight against inflation, will demonstrate beyond any doubt whatsoever -
– It is a miracle.
– The honourable gentleman says it is a miracle. I would like to deny that and say that it is because of the consistent application of this Government’s economic policies. I hope the honourable gentleman will take no offence at my response to his interjection. The CPI for the September quarter will demonstrate beyond any doubt whatsoever that this Government is winning the fight against inflation and that our policies have been successful. Finally, the rate of inflation has been curbed, as I have said on many other occasions, and I repeat it here again, because of the consistent application of Budget and monetary restraint. The stage is now set for a further significant reduction in inflation during 1978.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the views expressed yesterday by the Deputy Prime Minister on an early election for both Houses of the Parliament represented the Government’s view.
-The views expressed yesterday were entirely appropriate in the circumstances in which they were expressed.
-My question is directed to the Minister for Productivity, who represents the Attorney-General in this House. Does the Minister recall the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act, which has now been on the statute book for some months? Does the Minister recall also that, under that Act, certain reforms were introduced which give citizens a simplified method of approaching the court to review judicially decisions by public servants and Ministers? Can the Minister inform the House when this Act will be proclaimed so that citizens can enjoy the benefit of those reforms?
– I do recall the Act and I do recall the very commendable features of the Act. I know that the Attorney-General gives it high priority and that he intends to have it proclaimed as soon as possible. He is currently working on regulations under the Act. If the term ‘as soon as possible’ is not precise enough for the honourable member, I shall ask the Attorney-General to convey a more precise time. But I know that it will be done as soon as possible.
-Has the Prime Minister seen reports of the hearing of the New South Wales Royal Commission into Drug Trafficking yesterday which indicated that the Royal Commissioner, Mr Justice Woodward, was not receiving any co-operation from Commonwealth agencies which would assist that Commission’s inquiry into the problems of drug trafficking? In particular the Commissioner mentioned the agencies of bankruptcy, immigration and foreign exchange. The Prime Minister will recall that I earlier asked the Treasurer whether he would cooperate also. What is the explanation for the Commonwealth not being prepared to cooperate? Will the Prime Minister personally intervene to see that the Royal Commissioner gets all the assistance that he needs?
– I certainly was surprised to see that report this morning because it is my understanding that appropriate administrative arrangements have been worked out between governments in relation to this matter, which certainly is vastly important. That report is being followed up to see what justification there was for it being made. I should have thought that if there were difficulties in relation to this particular matter the Premier would have contacted me directly. I am not aware of any communication having come forward. Obviously there needs to be proper communication between governmentsthe Commonwealth with the State in this particular case and, I might add, the State with the Commonwealth’s inquiry.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Health and relates to the announcement that the New South Wales Health Commission has a surplus of cars under the funding program from the Commonwealth for the community health program. I draw the Minister’s attention also to the fact that the New South Wales Premier, under pressure from the State Opposition, has stated that he intends to sell these surplus cars and to use the proceeds for other purposes. I therefore ask the Minister: Will he ensure that any money from the sale of these surplus cars will be accounted to the Commonwealth and will be properly applied to the health programs required by the people of New South Wales?
– It would appear from Press reports that the New South Wales Government does not only have money running out of its ears but also has motor cars running out of its ears as a result of the better revenue grant system for financing the States and also the way in which we are assisting the States with various programs. Yes, it is a fact that statements about a surplus of cars have been made by the Premier of* New South Wales. In fact, I understand that there is a surplus of something like $1.6m worth of cars. About half a million dollars worth of those cars have been purchased under the community health program. When this matter was brought to my attention towards the end of the last financial year I made arrangements for my departmental officers to get in touch with the New South Wales Health Commission to make sure it was brought to account. I have also made sure that in this financial year proceeds from the sale of surplus cars purchased under the community health program granting arrangement will in fact be reinvested within the community health program block grant allocation for 1 977-78.
I must say that this matter adds great weight to the decision that the Government took to involve the States to a greater extent in the contributions that they make towards this very valuable community health program. If they are more accountable for and more involved in the program we will probably not see a surplus in the number of cars purchased, as has happened in the past. I shall be watching the matter very closely to make sure that the proceeds from the sale of surplus cars are directed to the right and proper place under the community health program grant for 1977-78.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, is supplementary to that asked by the Leader of the Opposition. Is the action of the First Secretary of the Australian High Commission in Papua New Guinea in approaching Professor Brian Brogan, who had previously been a member of the staff of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, a true reflection of the capacity and capabilities of the Joint Intelligence Organisation? For how much longer will bumbling activities such as this be tolerated?
-I do not think I need comment specifically on the type of allegation made. I would make this passing comment: Whilst what transpired as an action by this officer was outside the agreement reached between Papua New Guinea and ourselves, what intrigues me is that the fact that he worked on the staff of the
Leader of the Opposition would ipso facto in the mind of the honourable member disqualify him to do anything on behalf of Australia.
Mr IAN ROBINSON I direct my question to the Minister for National Resources. I refer to the visit to Australia last week of representatives of a European group known as URENCOCENTEC which has forward contracts to supply enrichment services for fuelling nuclear power stations. Has the Minister had discussions with representatives of URENCO-CENTEC? Is he in a position to inform the House of the outcome of any such discussions?
– It is true that there are in Australia at the moment representatives of URENCO-CENTEC. They are exploring the possibility of being involved in an enrichment plant in Australia. They are well advanced in the centrifugal method of the enrichment of uranium. Therefore they are trying to get interested people in Australia involved in a joint or multinational venture, which of course would lead to very large expenditure. At the moment they have forward contracts to the value of about $ 1,000m. So one can say that they have a good deal of experience behind them.
At the moment they are going around the various government agencies. They are having discussions with the Australian Atomic Energy Commission and with my own Department, and they are meeting with various State governments to see how much interest they can work up. They will be reporting back to me before they leave Australia. I will then have more detailed information to put to this House and the Australian people as to what is involved. I think all honourable members would welcome the opportunity of seeing more processing or upgrading of raw materials in Australia. If we are to proceed with the mining and export of uranium, it is only natural that there should be further upgrading so that we receive the maximum benefit. Such an enrichment plant would involve a very heavy investment and would provide additional employment opportunities in the area in which it was established. State governments have been extremely interested in such a venture. As I have mentioned to this House before, the South Australian Government was and, I believe, still is very keen to have an enrichment plant in South Australia. It is also interesting to note what utter confusion there is within the Labor Party on its uranium policy. In the Australian Labor Party’s platform there is a clause which supports the enrichment of uranium in Australia.
-There is not.
-That is very nice to hear. The Labor Party must have erased that clause suddenly because it was there during the course of the 1975 election campaign. Of course, the Labor Party had a lot of other policies while it was in office which dealt with uranium but now it is in Opposition it looks as though the Leader of the Opposition has lost control of his Party to the left wing influences which are doing their level best to stop development of uranium and to exacerbate relations with our trading partners.
– I ask a question of the Prime Minister. Has he noted the Industries Assistance Commission’s report which states that Australia has the second highest average tariff rate in the world? Has he noticed in the latest annual report of the IAC that several industries enjoying high protection rates have used the protection rates to increase prices and profits, thereby aggravating cost problems in the community, and have used increased profits to invest to a greater degree in capital equipment, accordingly reducing the numbers in the work force? Has he noted paragraph 2.3 1 of the annual report of the IAC which states:
The use of high import barriers is also likely to be in conflict with financial measures to control inflation, such as strict monetary restraints. Since extra protection raises prices, economic activity (and thus employment) is likely to be depressed unless this monetary restraint is relaxed.
I ask the Prime Minister: In view of the rigorously argued findings in this report, which indicate that the impulsive ad hoc approach to protection-
-Order! The honourable gentleman will now ask his question.
-. . . adopted by the Government aggravates cost problems, reduces potential-
-Order! I warn the honourable gentleman that if he does not ask his question and cease giving information I will have to rule him out of order.
-I will put the question succinctly. Because of the conflict between the findings in this report and the claims of the Government in terms of its objectives for a high protection policy, will the Prime Minister make a full statement to this Parliament indicating the objectives of the Government, reassessed in the light of the findings and the reports of the IAC, including this annual report?
– The honourable gentleman seems not to understand that it is the Government that makes policy and that the Industries Assistance Commission is an adviser and nothing more than an adviser. Its recommendations are sometimes accepted and sometimes rejected. There are a number of interesting implications behind the honourable gentleman’s question. As is consistent with his Party’s platform and policy, he attacked the fact that some firms are making better profits. Our parties want firms to make better profits. It was the grinding down of profits-
- Mr Speaker, on a point of order-
-Now he does not want to hear the answer.
– I want to hear the answer to the question I asked. The Prime Minister said that I attacked the fact that some companies made more profits because of protection.
– Order! There is no point of order.
– With respect, what I indicated was that companies were taking the opportunity to increase profits and reduce the work force.
– It is not a point of order.
– I ask the Prime Minister to address himself to that question.
-Order! I call the right honourable the Prime Minister.
– Is it his purpose to increase profits through Government policy and reduce employment?
-Order! I indicate to the honourable member for Oxley that if he continues to go beyond the bounds of the Standing Orders I will have to deal with him. I do not wish to do that, but if he fails again to respond to my request to resume his seat, I will have to deal with him.
– Implicit in the honourable gentleman’s question was an attack on the improved profitability of a number of industries. I would like to know how he thinks that Australians are to be employed in the manufacturing sector unless profits can be substantially improved from the disastrous levels to which they fell as a result of Labor’s policies. Indeed, it is my understanding that when the honourable gentleman was part of a government which reduced tariffs across the board by 25 per cent he was in possession of an official report which indicated that as a result of that move some tens of thousands of people would be put out of work. Therefore, quite knowingly, the Government of the day took a decision in relation to tariffs which it knew and which it had been advised from official sources would add tens of thousands of people to the unemployed list throughout Australia. The Labor Party is supposed to be the great champion of the Australian work force, but it has done more harm to Australians- to hundreds of thousands of Australian families- than all other governments in the history of Australia, and it knows that very well indeed. Consistent with what the Treasurer said earlier today, if there is any worry or concern about the effect on prices of decisions this Government has made in relation to tariffs and protection of Australian industry, the figures that will be announced at 12 o ‘clock today will blow that worry and concern right out the window.
We are concerned about the employment situation in Australia. We are vastly concerned at what happened during the years in government of the Labor Party when a disastrous situation resulted from a whole amalgam of its policies. From December 1972 to December 1975 unemployment increased by 191,000 or 140 per cent as a direct result of Labor’s policies. In the year January 1974 to January 1975 unemployment increased by 190,000 or 157 per cent. That is a record of Labor; that is the record of its policies. That is what it achieved as a result of unwanted, unnecessary and stupid tariff cuts which did nothing but add to the unemployment problem and which exported jobs to other countries at the expense of the people whom the Labor Party is meant to represent.
– I move:
I find it necessary to move this motion because of the way in which the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has abused and misunderstood -
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) put:
That the honourable member for Oxley be not further heard.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Rt Hon. B. M. Snedden, Q.C.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
- Mr Speaker, the companies which have benefited most from Fraser’s protectionism have reduced their work force while increasing their profits.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) put:
That the honourable member for Werriwa be not further heard.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Rt Hon. B. M. Snedden, Q.C.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question put:
That the motion (Mr Hayden’s) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Rt Hon. B. M. Snedden, Q.C.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
– Pursuant to section 8 of the Poultry Industry Assistance Act 1965 I present the annual report on the operation of that Act during the year ended 30 June 1977.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Lands Acquisition Amendment Bill 1977.
Non-government Schools (Loans Guarantee) Bill 1977.
Office ofNational Assessments Bill 1977.
– I have received a letter from the Honourable the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The Prime Minister’s dishonouring of his election promises.
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-
-Mr Speaker -
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) put:
That the business of the day be called on.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Rt Hon. B. M. Snedden, Q.C.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
-On behalf of the Publications Committee, sitting in conference with the Publications Committee of the Senate, I present the report of the Committee entitled Inquiry into the Purpose, Scope and Distribution of the Parliamentary Paper Series’ together with the transcript of evidence.
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 contrary voice, leave is granted.
-This is the fourth special report presented to the Parliament by the Joint Committee on Publications since its investigatory powers were conferred upon it by amendments to the Standing Orders in 1970. The inquiry was initiated by the Committee in June 1 976 to ascertain whether, in the opinion of the Committee, the Parliamentary Papers Series of the Commonwealth Parliament was fulfilling adequately its intended purpose and, if so, whether this was being achieved in the most economic and efficient manner. The Committee noted that no thorough investigation of the content and effectiveness of the Series had taken place since the presentation of the report of the Joint Select Committee on Parliamentary and Government Publications in 1964, often referred to as the Erwin report after its Chairman, the Honourable Dudley Erwin.
Since 1967 the content of the Parliamentary Papers Series has been determined, in the main, by the Joint Committee on Publications, following the recommendations of the 1964 Erwin Committee report. In that report certain guidelines were laid down to encourage future Publications Committees to establish and maintain a comprehensive and consistent Series. The main advantage of a consistent Series remains unchanged from 1964, namely that researchers, librarians and other users of the Series can anticipate, with relative confidence, the likely content of the Series from year to year. More recently, the establishment of a consistent Series has enabled the Australian Government Publishing Service, on advice from the Parliament, to arrange the simultaneous printing of the departmental and Parliamentary Paper versions of a report. The resulting cost savings from undertaking only one production run for two separate jobs are considerable. The Committee reaffirms the general conclusions of the Erwin Committee with regard to the consistency of the Series and has made a recommendation designed to reinforce this aspect of the Series. The Committee has added only slightly to the Erwin Committee content guidelines by including documents which comprise the Australian Treaty Series and reports of parliamentary committees of inquiry.
In 1971, in its report on Distribution and Pricing of Parliamentary Publications, the Committee recommended that the free distribution list for the principal parliamentary publications be rationalised and up-dated. It recommended that each addressee be limited to the receipt of one copy only of each of the principal parliamentary publications- for example, Parliamentary Papers, Hansard, Notice Papers, upon request. The Committee examined its 1971 recommendation and found that, in the main, its previous recommendations on this matter were still sound and only minor variations to up-date the recommendations were considered necessary. The Committee did not make any recommendations concerning the free distribution of Hansard in this report. It took the view that any examination of the extent of free distribution of Hansard should be the subject of a separate investigation by the Committee at a later date.
The Committee was informed that the cost of producing the Parliamentary Papers Series in the financial year 1977-78 is likely to reach $lm. With this in mind the Committee was most concerned to remove any duplication of distribution or any wastage which might occur under the present distribution arrangements. The Committee was pleased to discover that in the main such wastage was minimal. In only one area did the Committee determine that it was necessary to amend the distribution arrangements of the Series to avoid wastage, namely, where members of parliament receive a copy of a report on tabling, duplication should be avoided by excluding members from receipt of the Parliamentary Paper version.
One of the prime concerns of the Committee relates to the increasing cost involved in producing the Series. For example, it was informed that in 1970-71 the cost of producing the Series was $107,580; in 1975-76 that cost had increased to $729,716. As previously mentioned, the cost in 1977-78 will approach lim. The Committee was keen to determine the principal factors involved with the increasing cost of producing the Series and whether any action taken by the Committee could reduce that cost or at least slow down the rate of increase. It narrowed the increasing cost to four main factors: namely, the increased size of the individual publications included in the Series; escalating costs involved with printing, binding et cetera and the supply of labour; a tendency for more reports to be prepared by certain more expedient but relatively expensive processes; and a failure by author bodies to observe production guidelines and procedures laid down by the Australian Government Publishing Service when producing simultaneously the departmental and Parliamentary Paper versions of reports.
The Committee determined that the first two factors, namely, the size of individual publications and increasing costs of production, were outside the terms of its inquiry and that it would be in a position to comment on these matters in the course of future inquiries. It has, however, made recommendations which are designed to encourage departments to make greater use of less expensive production processes. The Committee also recommended enforcing AGPS production procedures laid down by AGPS circulars. It recommends that, in the event of an author body failing to follow AGPS procedures and, as a result, additional costs flow on to the production of the Parliamentary Paper version, those additional costs be met by the originating department rather than by the parliamentary house departments as is the present situation. The Committee hopes that the implementation of this recommendation will provide an incentive for author bodies to avoid the use of unnecessarily costly methods and material during the production process.
The other main concern of the Committee was the delay in the publication of the Parliamentary Papers Series. The Committee found that the present procedures which apply following the tabling of a report in Parliament and leading to the eventual printing of that document as a Parliamentary Paper are cumbersome and require streamlining. Under present arrangements the Parliamentary Paper version of a report normally does not become available for some eight to nine months after the original tabling. The Committee feels that such a situation is intolerable. Such delays reduce the practical use of the Series to that of an archival research tool rather than offering a Series which provides the community with current and up-to-date information on the affairs of Parliament and government.
Ordinarily, the completion of the Parliamentary Paper version of a tabled report is undertaken by the printer who produced the original departmental tabling version. In most cases, these are contract printers employed by the Australian Government Publishing Service. The Committee has recommended that the Government Printer undertake the completion of the Series from the beginning of 1978. The implementation of this recommendation would co-ordinate and simplify the procedures involved in completing the Series. Its implementation would shorten delays caused by the preparation of design specifications and setting type because of the familiarity of the Government Printer with this type of work, would certainly reduce considerably the delays associated with the movement of proofs between the AGPS, the contract printer and the Parliament, and would enable direct contact to take place between the Government Printer and parliamentary officers. The implementation of these recommendations would bring the production of the Series into line with the production of the other principal parliamentary publications.
In past years, the Committee consistently has expressed concern over the late tabling of many of the reports presented to Parliament. Members of both Houses, particularly in recent times, have complained of this growing trend. Because of the Committee’s concern in this area and the fact that late tabling necessarily means that the currency of the Parliamentary Papers Series is adversely affected, the Committee has recommended the establishment of parliamentary machinery which is designed to encourage the more timely tabling of reports in Parliament. If the recommendations are implemented, members of Parliament will be advised of those reports of government which have not been tabled within a reasonable period of time following the completion of the period to which each report refers. It would also ensure a continuing involvement by the Committee in this most important area of executive accountability to Parliament.
The Committee feels that greater use should be made of the photo-typesetting equipment recently installed at the Government Printing Office. It feels that the time taken to produce most publications could be reduced by employing this equipment. At this stage the Committee suggests that the extension of the use of this equipment be limited to the production of parliamentary committee reports which make up part of the Parliamentary Papers Series and the transcripts of committee evidence.
Evidence was given to the Committee that a reduction in the costs involved in the storage, distribution, ease of retrieval of information, et cetera, of the Parliamentary Papers Series could be achieved if the Series was reproduced in a microform. The Committee accepts the evidence given on this subject and recommends that, when production and financial considerations permit, the Parliamentary Papers Series be produced in a microform version as well as in hard copy.
One factor which was brought out in evidence revealed, in the Committee’s opinion, an inconsistency with the distribution of government publications through the AGPS deposit. Currently there are 25 recipients of the AGPS deposit, namely, national, university, and Commonwealth parliamentary librarians. The Committee feels that the category of State parliamentary librarian should be added to the AGPS deposit and has recommended accordingly.
In conclusion, I thank the members of the Committee for the work which they have undertaken to complete this inquiry. It is the first of its type for a number of years carried out by the Joint Committee on Publications and I feel sure that members of the Committee enjoyed the experience. I also take the opportunity of thanking those many people who provided submissions to the Committee and also those who gave evidence.
Finally, I place on record my appreciation as Chairman of the Committee and I am sure the appreciation of all members of the Committee, of the loyalty shown by the two staff members of the Committee, particularly by Mr Wharton, the Secretary of the Committee, who is the Deputy Usher of the Black Rod in the Senate. I thank him for his efficiency and dedication and for his attention to detail. Account should be taken of the considerable work load that he, as a parttime secretary, has had to bear during the last few months due to the requirements placed on him by the Australian Government Printing Service inquiry that the Committee has conducted concurrently with this inquiry. I commend the report to honourable members.
Debate resumed from 19 October, on motion by Mr Street:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Declaration of Urgency
– I declare that the Conciliation and Arbitration Amendment Bill (No. 3) 1977 is an urgent Bill.
-The question is: ‘That the Bill be considered an urgent Bill’.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Rt Hon. B. M. Snedden, Q.C.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Allotment of Time
-The Opposition opposes this motion. The Opposition believes that the time set aside to debate a major change in industrial relations legislation in Australia is quite insufficient. The Bill is an amended form of the Bill which was introduced on a previous occasion. Only one hour’s notice was given to the Opposition before the Bill was introduced at 8 o’clock last night. There has been no opportunity for the Opposition to consult experts in industrial law, to give serious consideration -
– It has been going on for months and months and months.
-Mr Speaker, who is making the speech- myself or the honourable member for Brisbane? I cannot even concentrate.
-The honourable gentleman would be wise to continue with his speech.
-The Opposition has not had the opportunity to give consideration to the terms of the Bill. It certainly has not had time to go through the consultative and examination processes that such a major change in the structure of industrial law in Australia is entitled to expect. It is a very significant change and most likely is a step backwards in industrial relations law m Australia.
Irrespective of that it is sufficiently important to have had time to examine the legislation and for the Opposition to have been given time to consult and examine properly the clauses of the Bill. In the time in which the Bill has been in front of members of the Opposition, there has hardly been time to read the clauses let alone to examine what they actually mean. This is a complete denial of any semblance of parliamentary process. The Government has decided that it wishes to introduce certain legislation. It has not been prepared to have that legislation examined. Certainly, in a two-hour period there will not be any time for any form of Committee debate or consideration of the actual form of the legislation. As all honourable members know it is not unusual in this Parliament for legislation to be found, on examination, actually not to mean what it is purported to mean in the second reading speech and quite often not to mean what the Government thought it meant when it was introduced. There have been many instances of legislation having to be amended even before it reached the debate stage in this Parliament because what was thought to be in the Bill has been found not to be in the Bill and the meanings of clauses have been found to be not what was intended when the Bill was drafted and passed through the various processes of government.
It is all right for Government supporters. They have examined this legislation in committee for months, as they claim. The Opposition has some rights in a parliamentary system. One of the rights of the Opposition is to have sufficient time to examine legislation, to consider it at a party level and to discuss it with those sections of the community which have an interest in the legislation or will be affected by the legislation. As I said initially, this is a major piece of industrial legislation which will change the whole form of industrial law in Australia. It is not an insignificant piece of legislation and it is certainly not a piece of legislation that should be introduced and debated in this Parliament on the basis of setting the scene for an election by developing industrial confrontation or by some other device which the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) may seek to use. This Bill is of sufficient significance to warrant examination by a committee of this Parliament, including members from this House and the Senate. It is important legislation and could cause traumatic disruptions to industrial relations in Australia because of the manner in which it is drafted and because of the manner in which it will be sought to be implemented, if the reports which have been leaked to the Press are in fact accurate. It is a total denial of the rights of the Australian people, let alone the Parliament, for legislation of such significance to be passed through the Parliament without any real consideration by the Parliament and without any opportunity to examine the contents of that legislation being given to those who are responsible for discussion and putting an alternative point of view to the Parliament on behalf of the Australian people. I know that honourable members on the other side of the House believe in dictatorships and this is a perfect example of it. The fact is that this country is still supposedly a democracy. Passage of legislation of this importance through the Parliament -
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Mr Speaker -
Motion ( by Mr Sinclair) put:
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Rt Hon. B. M. Snedden, Q.C.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question put:
That the motion (Mr Sinclair’s) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Rt Hon. B. M. Snedden, Q.C.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
-The debate which is now commencing is not so much a debate as a parliamentary sham. To expect that a sensible debate can occur on a Bill comprising 28 pages of detailed amendments to one of the most complex Acts that this Parliament has ever passed, to expect this Parliament today to debate sensibly such provisions, introduced last night, in the period between now and 4.30 p.m. is ridiculous. It makes a mockery of the whole parliamentary process, and everyone on the other side of the House knows that that is the case. If the Government says that industrial relations in this country are so important, why not debate them in this House? Why does the Government always rush through legislation giving this side of the House no time at all to consider the details of the legislation? Bill after Bill has been rammed through the House with no opportunity at all for any sensible debate or discussion or even consideration by this side of the House.
The Commonwealth Employees (Employment Provisions) Bill was rammed through this House in a most disgraceful fashion. The Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) introduced it with a one-minute speech. The Opposition had one hour in which to see the Bill before we debated it. This time we have a Bill comprising 28 pages of amendments, given to us at seven o’clock last night, to be debated now at half-past twelve. It is a total parliamentary sham, an absurdity, and honourable members opposite know that is the case. There is no possibility that anyone on this side of the House could have gone through all the clauses of the Bill and known exactly what was there. I suggest that the same goes for almost everyone on the other side of the House too, with the possible exception of the Minister and some others who may have been involved in the employment and industrial relations committee. Certainly there is no way that the Government will get from this debate, from either side of the House, a comprehensive understanding of what is in this legislation. It is extremely important legislation. It does democracy and the parliamentary process no service at all to indulge m this kind of exercise.
This applies not only to the Bills that I have mentioned. The previous amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act passed at the end of the last session were rammed through in the same way. We sat one extra day, with less than a day’s notice that we were to have that debate, so that that legislation could be rushed through the House. The amendments to the Trade Practices Act, which were extraordinarily complex and which were amended time after time, were finally passed through this House. When I rose to speak on the part of that Bill dealing with industrial relations I was faced with 12 pages of amendments handed to me across the table, amongst which were details of amendments affecting the industrial relations section of the Trade Practices Act. How can we possibly discuss this legislation sensibly in the whole industrial relation area, if the Government keeps squibbing on it? That is what the Government is doing. It says that industrial relations are very important but it squibs the debate every time. It is ridiculous and absurd, and I am sick and tired of it. The Opposition is quite willing to debate with any honourable members opposite at any time about industrial relations. We think that this is the appropriate forum in which to do so, but the Government squibs on every occasion and we are sick and tired of it. If the Government really thinks that industrial relations are so important it should give us time to talk about them. We will discuss them with honourable members opposite and we will show that their kind of industrial relations are a disaster for this country. What the Government is about is not so much improving industrial relations as trying to create an atmosphere in which it thinks it might have some political advantage. Well, it is very wrong about that.
The fact is that this Bill goes far beyond any provisions which could excuse this legislation being rushed into the House at this time. Of course, the excuse is that it is necessary because of the State Electricity Commission dispute. But this Bill goes far beyond anything that could possibly be used in relation to the SEC dispute. What has financial accounting for unions to do with the SEC dispute? What have union ballots to do with the SEC dispute? What have demarcation provisions to do with the SEC dispute? There is a whole range of provisions in this Bill which have absolutely nothing to do with the SEC dispute. If the Government wants to bring in some amendments which it says, quite wrongly in our opinion, may have some relevance to the SEC dispute, wiry not do that? Why bring in this great ream of legislation which cannot possibly be considered by us in the time available either before the debate or during it? The whole thing is an absolute sham and a disgrace.
Rather than being needed to settle industrial disputes, this legislation will only exacerbate industrial disputes. It is totally opposed by the unions. Despite the impression that may have been given by the Minister in his speech last night referring to points of agreement, this legislation is totally opposed by the trade union movement in this country, and I suspect that a lot of employers are not too happy about it either. Last May when similar legislation- not exactly the same, but similar legislation- was put before this Parliament the resolution of the Australian Council of Trade Unions executive was that if it were passed into law there would be massive economic dislocation in this country. Since that time, only a month or so ago, the ACTU congress endorsed a similar proposal. So the unions’ attitude to this kind of legislation is well known. The Government knows that the unions will resist completely this kind of legislation and it knows that, by introducing it, it is raising the prospect of industrial confrontation. Of course, that is what the Government wants to achieve and that is why this legislation is being introduced.
The Government knows that the penalty procedures which it has introduced in this legislation have been against trade union policy since 1969. It knows that the attempt to impose that kind of legislation will mean that there will be strong resistance from the trade union movement. It knows that that will lead to industrial confrontation. I suggest that that is really what the
Government wants to achieve. So much for a good industrial relations policy. There is not a thing in this legislation which is aimed at improving industrial relations. Rather, it is waving an enormous stick at the unions and threatening to undermine their position in many ways. I will come to this later.
The background to this legislation is one of deceipt and deception. Legislation similar to this was introduced in March last year. It was vigorously opposed by the unions- not just bv the ACTU but by the Australian Council for Salaried and Professional Associations and also by the Council of Australian Government Employee Organisations. Both of these white collar organisations, CAGEO being predominantly a white collar union, agreed completely with the ACTU that this legislation should be totally opposed. Yet similar legislation is now being brought before this Parliament. However, the ACTU proposed a compromise on 1 1 May of this year. I quote from a statement by the ACTU officers at a conference with the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations:
Having expressed at length the detailed reasons for our total opposition to the Government’s proposed amendments to the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Act, we make the following statement:
This existing legislation contains a range of ‘pains and penalties’ provisions. It is known that some of those provisions conflict with the policy of the Australian Trade Union Movement.
What we therefore put now does not imply into the future a change of our policy in that respect. However, that is not the current issue.
On that basis we put two propositions for the earnest consideration of the Government. These propositions are put in the deeply held belief that confrontation and massive dislocation, if avoidable whilst still adhering to principle, is against the best interests of the Australian community.
First, if the Government wishes to put the responsibility for dealing with the existing pains and penalties and processes into the hands of a body which they wish to designate as an Industrial Relations Bureau- and there is no explicit or implicit addition to those existing provisions or processes- the Trade Union Movement, while regarding such a move as unnecessary, would offer no objection.
The statement went on to indicate that the ACTU would also agree to participate in the National Labour Advisory Council with a view to achieving agreed improvements in that area. So the basis on which the ACTU made its compromise proposal was quite clear. The first requirement was that there be no change in the powers or processes by which the Bureau operated compared with those of the previous Inspectorate. The ACTU saw the NLAC as something in which it would participate with a view to achieving agreement improvements in that area. Following that, the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations issued a statement on 1 7 May which stated:
The Government has decided to pass legislation this Session to establish the Industrial Relations Bureau which will have the 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 and no less, and those powers will be exercised according to the same processes as they have been until now.
He went on to say that the Government would also legislate for the National Labour Advisory Council, which later became the National Labour Consultative Council. So the Minister said that he would agree that the same processes and powers would be accorded to the Bureau as were accorded to the previous Arbitration Inspectorate. But what is the reality in this? It is that the powers which were then given to the Bureau exceeded those of the Arbitration Inspectorate. This represented a total breach of the agreement reached with the ACTU. The powers given to the Bureau were the same as for the Inspectorate in every respect but one, and that one difference was that the Arbitration Inspectorate was subject to ministerial control and the Bureau was made subject to no such control.
That is a very important difference indeed because as the Inspectorate had operated in the past, its power to initiate prosecutions in various areas had not been used. This was so under Labor governments and Liberal governments in the past. But once the Government abolished the power provided under section 125 sub-section (4) of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, which provided for ministerial control, and gave the Bureau a statutory obligation to ensure adherence to the Act, regulations and awards it gave the Bureau a statutory duty to prosecute anyone who breached the Act, regulations or awards, regardless of the industrial relations consequences. In fact, if the Director of the Bureau did not initiate such prosecutions he would be in breach of his statutory duty as Director of the Bureau. No intervention by the Department or by the Minister was possible, although it had been possible with the Inspectorate in the past. Let me read the criteria by which the Inspectorate operated in the past in respect of award breaches by employees. This information was tabled by the Minister early this year. I do not know why he did so as it is an acute embarrassment to him.
– It was last year.
– It was this year. The document reads:
Award breaches by employees … are subject to the same fundamental enforcement policy as award breaches by employers. However application of this policy must take account of the difference in the nature of the breaches. For this reason, and because of the complexity of the issue involved, Directors are to refer all alleged employee award breaches to Central Office for decision as to whether a breach exists and whether proceedings under section 1 19 will be instituted. In referring such matters, Directors should provide their assessment as to whether a breach exists.
It was clearly and concisely indicated that the inspectors had to direct any proposed prosecutions to the central office of the Department for assessment as to whether there should be a prosecution. That requirement does not exist in respect of the Bureau. It is a fundamental difference. The fact that the legislation passed last June has not yet been proclaimed means that this legislation has not yet come into operation, but it will do so in the very near future. It will mean that the Bureau will have a statutory obligation, for instance, to prosecute anyone who breaches section 138- the incitement to boycott provision. Anyone who advises, encourages and incites anyone else to go on strike or in any way to place any ban or limitation upon work will be liable to a prosecution and a fine of $400.
If the Government applies that section, as the Bureau will be compelled to do under this legislation- there will be no control by the Government as to whether it is done- it will be able to prosecute many persons each year. If that is what the Government wants to do I suppose this legislation will achieve its point. But it certainly will not improve industrial relations that way. It will bring about massive industrial unrest with that proposal. But that is what is involved in the legislation introduced by the Government to this point of time, regardless of what is being done by the legislation before us right now. All I am doing is providing the background of the deceit and deception which led to the breach of the agreement reached with the ACTU in respect of the powers and processes of the Bureau.
The legislation which is before the House, although considered by the unions in the National Labour Consultative Council and although some amendments were made, is still strongly opposed by the unions. Let there be no doubt about that. This legislation is implacably opposed by the ACTU and by the other peak councils in this country. The Government’s insistence on continuing with this legislation could well lead to unions pulling out of the National Labour Consultative Council. As I said, the unions agreed to go into the NLCC with the aim of achieving agreed changes to the Act. But what happened? All that happened was that when they got to the NLCC they were thrown a whole heap of proposed amendments. Some notice was taken of some of the objections they put up, but no attempt was made to reach total agreement.
What has happened is that there has been consultation in the sense that the unions have been shown what the Government intends to do; some minor changes have been made to the Government’s proposals; then the legislation has been put before the House. In those circumstances I think it is highly likely- it is not for me to say whether it will happen- that peak councils will say: ‘To hell with your National Labour Consultative Council if that is all it is about’. If that is what the Government wants to achieve it is going the right way about it.
What about the employers- are they in favour of this legislation? We have not been told that they are. I have good reasons to believe that some employers at least are quite strongly opposed to this sort of legislation. Certainly when this sort of legislation was put up last time various employer organisations expressed considerable doubt as to whether this sort of legislation would achieve anything. The Australian Industries Development Association went quite public and gave detailed reasons why it thought this sort of legislation would not work and should be rejected by the Government. That was just one amongst a number. But what about this occasion? Have the employers all agreed that this sort of legislation is just what we need to promote good industrial relations? I think they probably have not. The Minister should tell us whether he has total agreement from the employers in regard to this sort of legislation.
This legislation also greatly increases the powers of the Industrial Relations Bureau. Provisions for the establishment of this body were included in legislation which came to this House in March last year. At that time the Industrial Relations Bureau was said to be an industrial ombudsman- a kindly sort of body which would try to look after the complaints of people involved in industrial relations. What a joke; what an absurd description that was! This so-called industrial ombudsman has been given enormous powers. It in fact will be an industrial police force, which will be there to impose a whole array of pains and penalties upon the unions if that legislation is enacted. That is what the Bureau will be there for; not to make sure that the unions have their rights enforced, as an ombudsman is supposed to do. In fact, it is to be the policeman who takes them to court and through the processes of being fined and penalised. That is what the Industrial Relations Bureau is about.
Consider the powers it will have. It could initiate penalty proceedings under sections 33 and 109 of the Act and carry them right through to completion. So we will be right back to the pre- 1969 days when unions were taken through the industrial court and fined for breaches of bans clauses. It could seek the cancellation of an award. That is a nice conciliatory approach! It could seek deregistration of unions. Of course, the grounds for that will be much widened under the legislation presently before the House. Where a union or its officers or members are suspended, as will be provided for in this legislation, the Bureau can seek renewal of the suspension. So the Bureau will play the role of seeking time after time the suspension of unions, union officials or members. It can investigate union rules or adherence to rules on its own initiative. It can apply for demarcation orders to exclude a union from covering employees engaged in certain work.
All this is not the role of some industrial ombudsman: It is the role of an industrial police force. Let there be no hiding of our light under a bushel: That is what it is. It is an industrial police force brought in to enforce various provisions, both existing and new, against the trade union movement. In so doing, the Bureau does not have to have any regard whatever to any objectives about improving industrial relations in this country. Nowhere in this legislation is there any provision for it to have regard to the industrial relations implications of what it is doing. It purely has this role to enforce the Act, regulations and awards in the way in which they will be expanded by this Bill. In the face of all this it is absurd to describe the Bureau as an ombudsman.
The Bill provides a new range of pains and penalties for industrial action. The industrial action definition is extremely wide. It goes far beyond mere industrial stoppages. Clause 3 (b) of the Bill describes industrial action as:
So there we have a very wide-ranging definition of industrial action. From that industrial action so widely defined- just doing work in a way different from the way in which it is normally performed or a work to rule or anything like that- flow a lot of very important implications for unions. For instance, there are extremely wide grounds for deregistration. Industrial action that prevents, hinders or interferes with trade or commerce with other countries or amongst the States becomes the basis of deregistration proceedings.
Industrial action can mean a work to rules campaign that is a very mild form of industrial action indeed, but it does come within the definition of industrial action. If that involved trade or commerce, either interstate or overseas, it would be a basis for deregistering a whole union. Incredible! But that is what is proposed by this kind of legislation. Of course once you have taken into account trade or commerce overseas or amongst the States, you have not left too much untouched, particularly when you follow that up with provision of any public service. Deregistration is a fairly important proceeding. On the few occasions on which it has been used, I think it has been counter productive. Nevertheless, it is an important proceeding. To suggest that deregistration could occur on the basis of very mild industrial action seems to me to be a total absurdity; but that is what this legislation proposes. Also conduct not authorised by the union rules is a basis for deregistration proceedings.
As I have mentioned, there is a self-defeating nature about deregistration. Once a union or a section of a union is deregistered as this legislation will allow, there is no control whatever by the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. Deregistration means that the union is then outside the system. You are not just imposing a penalty by taking away award cover; you are throwing that union right out of the system. That means that you cannot start imposing a means of settlement through the Arbitration Commissioner, or if you want to, apply penalties. The whole process of dealing with industrial disputation ceases once the union is deregistered. It is a self-defeating proposal. The only way in which it can work is if the unions are so frightened of deregistration that they would give in on the expectation that they would be deregistered if they undertook certain action.
So, as I said, deregistration is basically a selfdefeating exercise. It is not going to achieve anything, for instance, in the case of the State Electricity Commission workers. Under section 143 (2) (a) as amended, sectional deregistration would enable the Government to deregister the employees who are on strike at the SEC in Victoria. But what is the use if you deregister the SEC workers? The strike would more than likely still continue. I could not imagine that at this stage the threat of deregistration would send them scurrying back to work. Current arbitration proceedings could not continue if they were deregistered. We have a work value case starting today which hopefully may go a long way towards settling this dispute. Hopefully it will get the men back to work soon and there will be a settlement of this dispute. Everyone is hoping that that will be the case. But on the very same day as this process begins, this Government brings on for debate in this House legislation which proposes the possibility of deregistering the SEC workers? If the Government does deregister them, that will be the end of the arbitration proceedings. There will be no more work value case; they will be out of the system. Does the Government think that is going to solve anything? I think the Government is really having itself on if it believes that that action would in any way assist in the resolution of that kind of dispute. Nor can any other initiatives be taken through the Arbitration Commission to settle that dispute. If they are deregistered, not only would that work value case go out, but any other initiative through the Commission would be finished. It would more than likely ensure that the strikers just stuck it out until their claim was settled through direct bargaining with the Victorian Government.
This selective deregistration is also possible because maybe the Essential Services Act in Victoria cannot be applied until the SEC workers are deregistered in view of the possible conflict between State and Federal law. It may well be that the Essential Services Act in Victoria, which involves provisions for ordering workers back to work, cannot be implemented while Federal law applies. So selective deregistration may be aimed at that particular situation. If that is the case, if the Government is passing this legislation in a hurry to bring about selective deregistration of the SEC workers so that Mr Hamer can apply the Essential Services Act to the SEC workers, I still say it is not going to bring about any sort of a solution to the dispute in the Latrobe Valley. It will not in any way get to the basics of that dispute. It will simply mean that the Victorian Government, under the Essential Services Act, will be able to order the men back to work. But are they going to go back to work? Is there any reason to suspect that an order under the Essential Services Act would be more likely to make them go back to work than the threat of penalty being applied through this system? I do not think so. I do not think that fine of a couple of hundred dollars at this stage will make an enormous difference to their attitude. I think their general belief would be: ‘We have stuck it out to this stage. They cannot get blood out.of a stone, anyway. We are all broke and the threat of fines is just going to make us more solid than ever.’
We think this whole pains and penalties approach by the Government is simply counterproductive. It does not bring about good industrial relations. It does not solve industrial disputes. At no stage have we seen action of a constructive nature by this Government which is designed to bring about a settlement of the dispute in the Latrobe Valley- by any sort of initiative in the Arbitration Commission or otherwise. All we have seen has been the pains and penalties approach which is now before us in this debate.
We believe that a key reason for the introduction of this selective deregistration legislation in this terrible hurry is that the Government wishes to clear the way for Mr Hamer’s Essential Services Act to be applied. If this is so, I still say that it will not solve anything in the Latrobe Valley dispute. In fact the use of that sort of legislation while a work value case is being heard before Commissioner Mansini could well send the whole thing spinning off into oblivion again. It is totally counter-productive.
Alternative penalties are provided in this legislation. Where a union is m a position where deregistration or selective deregistration is applicable, an alternative set of penalties are available. A power is given to the Industrial Court to order suspension of the rights and privileges of union officials, of the union itself or of its members. The rights, privileges or capacities of the organisation or any of its members can be suspended. The Court will have the power to give directions as to the exercise of any rights, privileges or capacities and to restrict the use of funds or property of the organisation or a branch of the organisation. That is an alternative to deregistration. If that kind of provision were to be utilised in the Latrobe Valley case, again one could not see exactly what would be achieved. If you suspend the employment rights and privileges of the SEC workers who are all on strike- they are not covered by the award while they are on strike, anyway- how are you going to suspend any privileges which they have not virtually suspended for themselves? So this is again something which just cannot be seen to be very useful in terms of this dispute. If it were applied to union officials, such as Mr Halfpenny, who have been involved in the dispute people would be suspended who may have the best chance of settling the dispute.
-It is very interesting that the Minister makes that querulous interjection. The fact is, as I understand it, that Mr Halfpenny has been booed and jeered a number of times in the Latrobe Valley when he has made suggestions about ways of going about resolving the dispute. So far as I can see his role has been a conciliatory one of trying to solve the dispute rather than exacerbate it. But the Government sees him as some sort of whipping boy. If a person like that who has much more a chance of getting the backing of the men, than the Minister or anyone in the Government, is suspended, you are suspending someone who may bring about a resolution of the dispute. Use of that kind of power will not solve anything.
If the Government insists on bringing in this kind of legislation either in relation to the SEC dispute or any other dispute it will bring about an enormous reaction from the trade union movement. If the Government thinks the Federal Court of Australia will be allowed to take over the trade union movement, suspend its officials, direct its funds, direct the operations of the unions and the union movement will quietly accept that, the Government has another think coming. I cannot believe that the union movement will allow without substantial protests such action to occur. It means that unions can be virtually wiped out by that kind of provision. It means that they can be suspended for six months and then for another six months and then for another six months. This can go on indefinitely so long as the Bureau keeps making the application and the Court keeps granting it.
My speaking time is running out. There is a lot more that should be said about this legislation. It is legislation which is totally counter-productive. It is legislation which will not solve industrial disputes in this country. It will not improve industrial relations. It will not improve the SEC dispute. It is legislation which has been brought before this Parliament in such a hurry for reasons which have more to do with elections than they have to do with industrial relations.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Sitting suspended from 1.2 to 2.15 p.m.
– It is difficult to know where to start replying to the speech of the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis), because in the half hour tirade that he launched against the Government for introducing the legislation he did not seem to have time to address any remarks to the provisions of the Bill. One would have thought that the purpose of a parliamentary debate was to address remarks to the provisions of the Bill before the Parliament.
It is appropriate to state, as a general proposition, before looking at some of the provisions of the Bill, that is is certainly time for some stiffening up of the industrial relations legislation in this country. Not only is it so because of the current situation with which we are faced in Victoria; not only is it so because of the specific industrial disputes that are presently troubling the country and which have troubled the country for the last few months in particular; not only is it so because of the damage done to individual citizens of this country, whether they are employees or in business- not only is it so for those reasons, but it is appropriate that we should now be looking at some very basic principles of industrial relations in Australia. It is time that some basic principles are laid down for this system. This Bill deserves the support of the Parliament because it goes some distance towards laying down some of those basic principles.
Let us look at some of them. The first principle is this: There is in Australia a structure set up for the resolution of industrial disputes. It is a structure in which industrial disputes can be settled. By and large, it is a good and fair system. If there is any imbalance in the system as it operates in Australia today, it certainly operates in favour of unions and employees. The system can certainly not accurately be described as one which benefits employers. The important point about this principle is that organisations must work within the system. If they will not work within the system voluntarily they must be obliged to work within the system. They cannot use the system when it suits them, when their advantage will be served by using the system, and opt out of it and use direct action to achieve their ends when that method suits them. If there is to be a system for the resolution of industrial disputes- as I have said, there is a system which is a good and working system, one which is fair to both sides- both sides should work within that system. If they will not it is the responsibility of the Government to oblige them to do so.
Let me illustrate that proposition by citing a specific case which arose recently in the building industry. I suppose I should declare my interest in this matter. I appeared in the case when it was before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. What happened was that the Builders Labourers Federation was on the warpath again. A 1.9 per cent increase had been awarded in the national wage case. The Federation said to the Commission: ‘We work within the system. We are a registered organisation. We are subject to the awards of the Commission. We are entitled to the 1.9 per cent increase because we work within the system’. At the same time that the Federation was doing that, of course, it had on foot a log of claims demanding an extra $35 a week in wages, a 35-hour week, and numerous other claims which were contained in that log. The Federation said so far as that log is concerned: ‘We will not work within the system to get our demands under that log; we will work outside the system. We want the 1.9 per cent which the Full Bench has awarded in the national wage case. Because we work within the system we are entitled to that. With respect to our other log which contains the major claims, we are entitled to have strikes, we are entitled to have bans and limitations, we are entitled to use any means we want to achieve those demands outside the system’. We cannot tolerate a system that operates in that way.
If organisations make demands within the arbitration system, if they get the benefits from operating within that system, they should be obliged to process all their claims within that system. Until they proceed to do that there will continue to be industrial disputation in Australia. This applies, I should say, equally to employer organisations as it does to unions. No doubt we will be hearing later from the other side that this legislation is directed against the unions. That allegation is quite without any foundation whatsoever. This legislation applies equally to employer organisations as it does to unions. Both operate within the system. Both are subject to the pains and penalties, if that is how they are described, which are imposed under the legislation. That is the first principle, namely, that there is a system operating within Australia and that organisations registered under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act must and should process thenclaims within that system.
The second principle is that unions in Australia I am talking now specifically about unions and not employer organisations- are in a very privileged position. They obtain that privileged position by virtue of their registration under the Act. That system of registration gives unions a large number of very considerable advantages. It is sometimes not realised just how extensive those advantages are. The unions have the advantage, for instance, under section 47 of the Act of obtaining preference for their members. What does that mean? It means, to take one example, if there are two employees, one who is a member of a union and one who is not, the one who is a member must be given preference in the case of employment, in the case of termination and in the case of any other provisions under the award in which a decision must be made as to who will benefit. It means that if a competent, willing, devoted employee who is prepared to work for wages fixed properly under the system, fixed properly according to arbitration, is not a member of a union, he suffers. The person who gets the advantage, the person who gets the benefit, the person who gets the preference, as it is called under the Act, is the member of a union whether he is competent, whether he is able or whether he meets the requirements of the employer. Despite any other criteria, he gets the benefit. That is one enormous advantage to unions which are registered under the Act. They obtain the benefits of the preference clause for which they are entitled to apply under the Act.
It is likewise not realised that section 142 A of the Act can give to one union the exclusive rights of representation in industrial matters in a particular industry or part of an industry. That means that not only is that union entitled to operate within that industry but that no other union is entitled to operate within that industry. That is an enormous and very valuable advantage to unions which are registered under the Act. The important point about this principle is that it must be given balance. Hence, if advantages of these sorts are to be given to unions which apply for preference or which obtain this exclusive right of representation, that system must operate in such a way that those who are not members of the organisation are not prejudiced. It must also be a system which will operate so that those who are members of the organisation are not prejudiced.
It is for those reasons that the conscientious objector provisions which are in the legislation and which are widened by this Bill are so desirable. I gather from the honourable member for Gellibrand that there is opposition in the House to this principle. If there is union opposition to these provisions relating to conscientious objectors, if there is opposition coming from the Labor Party or from the trade union movement, I suggest that that opposition comes because what they want is universal domination. They do not want people to be joining unions because the union provides a benefit, because the union is so good that it attracts people voluntarily to join it; they want people to be obliged to join compulsorily. They want universal dominion on the part of the union, aided in some cases by tyranny.
They want to bludgeon non-unionists into joining unions.
Because unions are in a privileged position once they are registered, because of preference and because of the right of exclusive representation, this system must be given balance. It must be a system which gives rights also to those who do not want to join unions and who object to joining unions on the grounds of conscientious objection. That is the justification for the conscientious provisions in the Bill.
It is also the justification for the amendment being made to section 142 A by virtue of clause 19 of the Bill because it limits to some extent the right of exclusive representation given to an industrial organisation under the Act. It is quite right and proper that in appropriate circumstances there should be some restrictions imposed on that exclusive right of representation to an organisation in a particular industry.
Not only should there be some preservation of the rights of people who do not want to join unions but likewise there must be a recognition that people who are members of the organisation have rights. They pay their dues; they surrender a lot of their responsibility to the union and it is only right and proper that the Government should take steps to ensure that the union acts properly towards its own members. Accordingly it is right and proper that this Bill should make some quite stringent provisions for the keeping of accounts and for the auditing of those accounts. It is quite right and proper that those accounts, when they are audited, should be submitted to the Industrial Registrar where they will be available for inspection. It is quite right and
E roper that those accounts, when audited, should e available to the members of the organisation so that they can see what is happening to the union dues which they pay to the organisation and which are supposed to be spent on their behalf. Consequently, the provisions relating to accounts and those relating to secret ballots are just and fair and it is right and proper that they should be included in the legislation.
I would have thought that there is an obligation on a government to ensure that there is a legislative framework to ensure that there is a proper and fair ballot for the election of office bearers of an organisation. That is the second principle.
The third principle is this: If unions- again I am talking solely about unions on this occasion- do not act responsibly, if they do not use the machinery which is available to them under the Act, they must face the reality of deregistration. They get privileges from registration and I have mentioned some of them already. They are put in a tremendously privileged position by virtue of registration under the Act, particularly if they obtain the benefits of preference and particularly if they obtain the benefits of exclusive representation in an industry or a section of an industry. If they do not act responsibly, if they do not use the machinery which is set up to process their claims, they must face the reality that there is a possibility that they will be deregistered, that there is a possibility that they will be denied those exclusive privileges which come to them on registration under the Act. They cannot expect to hold their privileged position and act with impugnity whenever they wish and to get away with it. Hence there are provisions under the Act for deregistration and hence, likewise, the deregistration provisions are being widened under this particular Bill.
It is fair and reasonable and proper that the provisions with respect to deregistration should be widened so that it is a ground for deregistration that the organisation has been engaged in activities which result in disrupting trade and commerce between the State or with other countries. It is likewise right and proper and fair that there should be a ground of deregistration if the organisation is involved in an interference with the provision of a public service to the community of Australia.
While I am on that subject I might as well mention that it is extraordinary that there are organisations, composed of employees paid with public funds, and m most cases paid very well, who assume unto themselves, despite the fact that they are paid from public funds, the decision to withdraw a service which is supposed to be provided by them to the public at large. That is an extraordinary situation. These people are being paid with public moneys, are employed to provide a public service to the commumty, yet on their own say so they can just withdraw their labour and deny that public service being provided to the community. Accordingly it is only fair and proper that that should be a ground- it is not an automatic ground, as the honourable member for Gellibrand seems to think- for going to the Federal court and saying that that organisation should be deregistered completely or in part because it has withheld an essential public service to the community of Australia.
Those are just some of the basic principles. As I have said, what this Bill does is draw attention to those basic principles. It goes some distance towards laying down those principles. It is on those grounds that this piece of legislation should have the unqualified support of every honourable member of this House.
– I rise to oppose the Bill. I seek to establish beyond all reasonable doubt that the Bill is phoney, that it is an attempt to create a situation that will produce a political climate that the Government hopes will enable it to hold the next election in a spirit of division and dissension. This Bill will not solve the State Electricity Commission dispute or any other dispute in which key personnel are engaged because where you have key personnel involved in a dispute they can, if they use their heads, always defeat any legislation and any government. The present SEC dispute will be won by the strikers unless they are sold out or betrayed by their leaders.
The SEC employees have a just claim. Nobody can assert that these kev men, doing work that nobody but trained, skilled operatives can do, should be required to work for $40 a week less than a class 4 clerk employed by the Commonwealth Public Service who sits in an air conditioned office, working for 36% hours a week, enjoying all the frills and benefits that go with being employed by the Public Service. It is monstrous to suggest that key personnel like those involved in the strike doing the kind of skilled work they do and working in conditions that they work under should be forced to do so for $40 a week less than a 2 1 or 22-year old clerk in the Public Service. That is what the strike is all about. The men have justice on their side. We should have the decency to stand up and admit it and the courage to defend them for their actions.
I hope that the men will not be deceived or betrayed into agreeing to a settlement that will cause them to lose their present advantage and to lose the justice of their claim. As I said, they have a just claim. If the Government proposes to send troops into the Latrobe Valley, as is now being talked about, or to send in scabs, there will be an immediate stoppage of all power production because members of the Municipal Officers Association have announced already that they will not work side by side with scabs and members of the Federated Engine Drivers and Firemens Association most certainly would refuse to work side by side with scabs or troops. If the Government of Victoria wants the Victorian people to forget about its own land scandals. To do this it will ask the Fraser Government to send in the troops and it will send in the scabs. Once that is done there will be no power produced in Victoria at all. That is the great strength of the people who are on strike. They know the Government’s weakness and the Government ought to know their strength because the strength they possess is enough to win the strike for them. Because they can win and will win, the Government ought to face the realities of the situation and be prepared to talk to them in a commonsense manner.
This Government wants a confrontation. This Government is carrying out a deliberate policy which is designed to create the division within the people of Australia that will help it politically. It is a cynical abuse of power for purely political motives so that the Government can divert public opinion from rising unemployment, galloping inflation and the pending collapse of the dollar. One of the leading industrialists in this country has recently stated that, by 1983, if we are still governed by the present political party, the number of unemployed persons in this country will rise to 750,000.
– He is mad.
-He is not mad. His name is Rod Carnegie and he is not as mad by a long way as the honourable member. That is his view.
The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) knows that he has lost control of the economy and that next year Australia will have more than half a million people unemployed. It will have a record number of bankruptcies and greater industrial unrest than ever before, in spite of the legislation that we are now asked to carry. There will be more and more foreign takeovers of Australia’s industries and natural resources and a further drastic cutback in funds for education. There will be a savage increase in Medibank levies and indirect taxation, a further fall in real wages and a general reduction in the real value of social services.
The Prime Minister’s uranium policy will ignore the dangers of proliferation and the deadly risks associated with the storage of radioactive material. He will ignore the rising public opinion against the mining and export of uranium because he hopes to be able to force an election now on false issues and to be able to have another three years after the end of this year in order to defy public opinion and to treat the public with utter contempt. He hopes to rule for another three years in utter disregard for the wellbeing of the country.
This legislation is deliberately designed to spread confrontation with organised labour to every State in the Commonwealth. The confrontation in Victoria is not enough. The Prime Minister wants to extend industrial confrontation to the three Labor controlled States as well and then, in the atmosphere of the situation which he has deliberately created, he will go to the people and say: ‘Look, you have to decide who is going to govern.’ The people, however, well know that the sole author of the confrontation and dissention will not be the person against whom the campaign will be waged but will be the Prime Minister himself. Then, in this atmosphere of division that the Prime Minister has deliberately created, the Prime Minister will call for an election to let the people decide. To decide what? They will not be deciding anything at all because the Government now has a record majority in the House of Representatives and it has a huge majority- huge certainly by Labor Party standardsin the Senate. There is no legislation that this Government cannot put through overnight.
The Government has demonstrated that it is possible on this issue to put through in less than 48 hours the most contentious Bill that this Parliament has ever seen. If this Bill was three times as thick it would go through in exactly the same time as is now allowed under the guillotine mechanism. This Government has the power now to do whatever it wants if it has a solution. But it has not a solution. The Government will pretend to the people that if it is re-elected it will suddenly be able to pull a rabbit- and it does not have that rabbit yet- out of the hat. This is utter nonsense and the people will see through it. I repeat that the Government has the numbers now to pass any legislation it likes. What kind of legislation does it have in mind that it cannot pass today? What new powers will another election give to the Government that it does not already have? If the Government cannot point to some new power that an election will give to it, why does it not use the powers it already has to cure the problem we are talking about.
Governments of the Liberal and National Country parties have been in power for 25 years out of the last 28 years. In that time they should have had every opportunity to examine the powers available to them and, if they have the powers to cure the confrontation that we are talking about, those parties stand indicted for having failed to carry them out over the last 28 years.
It is now clear, as it was to me several months ago, that the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the Council of Australian Government Employee Organisations and the special conference of the federal unions were led up the garden path when they were conned into saying that they would accept existing penalties and processes of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act m return for the abandonment of the more obnoxious provisions of the original Bill. The only peak organisation which had the gumption to reject the proposition was the Australian Council for Salaried and Professional Associations. I salute the leaders of ACSPA for the fact that they would not have a bar of it. It is equally clear that the establishment of the National Labour Consultative Council was a confidence trick and that regrettably the ACTU and CAGEO fell into the trap. It has no power. Its opinions are treated with contempt. Trade union collaboration with it does no more than provide sitting fees for its members and a facade of respectability to disguise its real purposes. The trade union members of the NLCC are not even allowed to report back to their constituent bodies on what happens at meetings of the NLCC. This has to be kept secret. That is the condition on which they go into the meetings. They should have been free to come out of the last meeting of the NLCC held eight days ago and to have exposed everything that we discovered, only at 7 o’clock last night, the Government proposed to do. Why have not we read a word in the newspapers about this from representatives of the unions on the NLCC? I think that one could almost call the NLCC a national labour compromising committee ‘.
So far as I am aware, the ACTU and CAGEO representatives have not held a meeting of the constituent unions since their last meeting with the Government’s NLCC eight days ago. I believe that they had a duty to tell all the trade union movement by way of a special federal conference what had been planned so that at any rate the Labor spokesman and the people who represent labour on this side of the House would have had at least more than 12 hours notice of the present intention.
I do not know whether the peak unions accept the principle of allowing union rules to be made by regulation. I assume that they do not. But that is what the Bill provides for. Here is a new concept proposing that the Government may make union rules by regulations. Where the union rules are in conflict with the rules specified by regulations, the rules made by regulations shall prevail. What sort of a situation is that going to be? It means that we have taken the first step towards giving the Government the right to make a set of uniform rules that will apply to all unions that wish to remain registered with the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. I do not know what sort of opposition was expressed by the unions at the last meeting of the NLCC to the proposal that the court can order that an elected official shall refrain from holding himself out as being so elected. I assume that they opposed it. I am certain they opposed it. But I have not read anywhere in the Press that representatives of trade union organisations on the NLCC have indicated their opposition to it. I repeat that they ought to be free to attack publicly what is being proposed at those meetings of the NLCC. If they are not free to do that, then if they have any self-respect at all, they will get off the NLCC altogether because they are being used as a facade by the Government to give respectability to the Government’s rotten proposals to try to hogtie and weaken the trade union movement. The Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) claims that it is necessary for the court to have new powers to deal with demarcation disputes and to make orders prohibiting a union from covering a particular employee or group of employees.
The only solution to demarcation disputes is to have a method by which organisations can amalgamate more easily than they now can and with greater expedition. We have at least 250 more unions than we ought to have for a population of 14 million people. After I had passed in the House of Representatives in 1973 a Bill to make it possible for the 303 unions we now have to amalgamate with greater expedition, the Liberal and National Country Party senators not only rejected the proposal but also on that occasion refused to give the Bill a second reading. Amalgamation is the only cure for demarcation disputes. Nobody defends demarcation disputes. They are indefensible; but the solution to them must lie in easier amalgamation resulting in fewer and more efficient unions.
The Government talks about the democratic right of union members to control the policies and affairs of their unions and blames the communists for forcing members to go on strike against their will. In the case of the Latrobe Valley dispute the members involved in that strike have done exactly what the Minister now advocates. The log of claims was approved by a mass meeting of the employees concerned. By rank and file decision the log was served on the State Electricity Commission. When the SEC refused to accept the log the rank and file authorised the Electrical Trades’ Union to serve the claim on their behalf. By rank and file decision, the workers then agreed to allow the matter to go to arbitration. It went to arbitration and they were betrayed again by the arbitration system for the third time in three years. Is it any wonder they no longer have any faith in the arbitration system? When the SEC introduced an objectionable roster system without consulting the workers concerned, the rank and file, by democratic vote, decided to strike again. None of these decisions was forced upon the rank and file by some communist agitator. The decisions were reached at a democratically conducted meeting of members which 2,300 members attended and by vote decided to support the actions that were taken.
The present strike came about as a result of rank and file decision, not by a directive of some union bureaucrat. Since we are talking about communist union bureaucrats it is perhaps appropriate to mention that when John Halfpenny went down to the Latrobe Valley to try to persuade the men to go back they howled and hissed and jeered rum out of the meeting. So much for the nonsense about communists union officials forcing people to go on strike against their will. One cannot force people to go on strike against their will when they have to suffer as they do through strike action. Workers do not get paid while they are on strike. A strike means a real sacrifice not only for the person concerned but also for his wife and children. It is not a paid holiday as Liberal Party members seem to imagine. The decision to take the dispute back to arbitration last week again was taken by the rank and file. When they were betrayed by the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission on Tuesday this week for the fourth time in less than four years, the rank and file, by democratic vote, voted on Tuesday to go on strike again.
The maintenance men in the Latrobe Valley have justice on their side and they should not surrender until they win. I hope they will not surrender until they win this dispute because if ever a claim was justified it is this one. This dispute has now reached the stage at which the strikers are in a position to force the issue. To give up the fight now would allow the Hamer Government to snatch victory from the very jaws of defeat. That, I hope, they will never do.
We are now going to give the new GovernorGeneral an increase in salary of $7,000 tax free, which is nearly $400 non-taxable income a week. While the Government says that these useful men who are doing something for the community are not entitled to $40 a week it gives the equivalent of a $400 a week taxable income to some person like the Governor-General who has no useful purpose at all. He produces nothing.
– You increased the salary yourself when you were in government.
-That is right. The Labor Government increased the salary -
-Mr Deputy Speaker, on a point of order -
-Order! The honourable member for Hindmarsh will resume his seat.
– Wait a bit. The Labor Government was told that if it did not increase Kerr’s salary ‘we won’t get this man’.
-Order! The honourable member for Hindmarsh will resume his seat.
– My point of order is that I regard the honourable member’s remarks as an attack on the Governor-General. He should be required to withdraw.
– He is not Governor-General yet.
– On the office of GovernorGeneral.
– Why do you always -
-Order! The Deputy Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat. I must confess that I did not hear the remark made by the honourable member for Hindmarsh. I was endeavouring to arrange something to protect the rights of a member of this House. I did not hear what the honourable member for Hindmarsh said. The honourable member knows that he is not entitled to reflect upon the Governor-General or the office of GovernorGeneral and if he did so I ask him to withdraw.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I think I will have to seek your guidance by repeating what I said. You can tell me whether it is a reflection on the GovernorGeneral. I said that when we refuse to give a miserable $40 a week increase to useful men who are doing something for the community by providing it with power, it is monstrous to suggest that we should give the equivalent of $400 a week taxable increase to the next GovernorGeneral not the present Governor-General; no one would reflect on him- who is nothing more or less than a useless ornament. That is what I said.
– Make him withdraw it.
-I hope that the honourable member is inferring that the office of Governor-General is a useless ornament and not the individual concerned. If the honourable member was referring to the individual, it was a gross reflection and I would demand a withdrawal. If the honourable member means merely the office of Governor-General and not the individual, he is not out of order.
– I claim that either way it is a reflection.
– But you are not the Deputy Speaker.
-Order! No matter what a person’s opinion may be on the subject, I should think that a member would be entitled to say that the office is a useless office.
- Mr Deputy Speaker -
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat until I have finished my remarks. A reflection on the Governor-General as a person certainly would not be permitted in this House. If the honourable member for Hindmarsh assures me that he was referring to the office and not the individual I will be prepared to accept that assurance.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, you are absolutely correct in demanding a withdrawal of anything any member might say that would reflect upon the GovernorGeneral himself. I admire you for the stand you have taken but it so happens that mine was not a reflection on the individual but a reflection on the useless office of Governor-General and that is all.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Reference has been made to the highest office in the land. May I suggest, with respect, Mr Deputy Speaker, that the Hansard record on this question be examined tomorrow.
-Yes. Any honourable member has that right.
-What an indictment of the policies of the Australian Labor Party, what an indictment of its attitude to industrial relations when we consider what the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) has said. He has encouraged people to stay out on strike. He has encouraged people to defy all lawful authority. He has encouraged people to defy the arbitration system and to stay out on strike. He does not care, and neither does the Labor Party care, if the community is wrecked in the process. The community is comprised of individuals. Its peaceful continuity depends on one thing; it depends on the cooperation that we all are prepared to extend to each other in trying to make the system work.
It is a great pity that industrial legislation has to be introduced to protect from the guilty those individuals who are innocent of blame for the sort of industrial anarchy that we have at the moment. But we have found it necessary to do that. If we are to maintain co-operation in this community, if we are to save this community from being wrecked by the activities of just a few people- as all honourable members know, it takes only a few power workers, as we have seen in the Latrobe Valley, to tie up almost a whole State- this sort of legislation has to be introduced. What sort of co-operation is that? I believe that the community will be torn apart unless this Government legislates to protect the individuals in it.
It seems to me that the consumer price index figures which were issued just recently are the greatest encouragement for industry and for the people in this country that we have had for some time. They provide real encouragement for industry to get going again. But how can that happen when we have industrial anarchy and industrial disorder right throughout the community? In that sort of situation how can there be encouragement at all for the economy ever to get off the ground? We are legislating in the interests of industrial peace. We must have legislation to protect the innocent from the guilty.
Only ten unions are involved in the dispute in the Latrobe Valley. We should look at the untold misery that is being caused to members of all the other unions throughout the State who are being affected by that dispute. It is estimated that something like half a million people in this country today have been stood down because of this one dispute. Yet only 2,000 workers are out on strike. The Labor Party is making no mention of the wages that are being lost due to the effects of this strike. Not a word is being said about the small businesses that are being hurt all over the country. Nothing is being said about all of the ancilliary effects- the misery, hardship and difficulty- imposed because of the utter intransigence of a small group of men. There has never been a situation as bad as this since we have been in government. This situation makes it absolutely necessary for us to produce this legislation.
In spite of what the honourable member for Hindmarsh has said, I am sure that the Australian people, including most unionists, are sick and tired of a gang of communists- I emphasise that because it is a gang of communists- in the Latrobe Valley who are holding the greater part of this country to ransom in a stupid and, in this case, outrageous manner. The situation has developed into an outright political strike. The people involved are actually defying the governmentsthe Victorian Government and the Federal Government. I am equally sure that the Australian people have also had enough of the Opposition defence of this indefensible situation.
It is one thing to defend genuine cases of hardship imposed by silly and thoughtless management; it is another thing entirely to defend communists and other social wreckers who have no interest in the real and permanent industrial peace that we need in this country.
I have been a trade unionist and I know that the real aims of all varieties of communists, whether they be the Moscow variety or the dim sim variety, in the trade unions are to have permanent industrial chaos. It is quite clear that that is their objective in the Latrobe Valley. The people we read about and see on television all the time- people like Sammy Armstrong, Jack Halfpenny and Laurie Carmichael- have organised, guided and directed the whole disaster over the last couple of weeks. A cursory glance at any newspaper or at any television screen will verify that. Unionists have got to ask themselves whether they really want this kind of leadership. The answer would seem to be directly and strongly in the negative- not just in the Latrobe Valley but all over Australia.
But what can genuine unionists do in the face of persecution, thuggery, extortion and coercionyou name it? That is the sort of difficulty that individual unionists are facing, and that has been the hallmark of communist-controlled unions over the years. Genuine unionists feel powerless to resist the communist machine. There have been many instances of that sort of thing that I can remember over the years, beginning perhaps with the Hurseys a long time ago, where the communist machine has overrun individuals who have stood up against it. Individuals stand up and are run over. As far as I can say and see, this industrial chaos is perhaps just a prelude to political chaos of a worse kind. The only period I can recall when the communists in the trade unions were on the run was in the early 1950s when the Labor Party itself joined in the fight to drive them from the trade unions, the trades hall councils and the Australian Council of Trade Unions. It was the famous period that is now known as the grouper era. There are people on the other side of this House who are inclined to denigrate me and accuse me of being a grouper. It is something of which I am proud, because I know that in those days a unity existed against that communist power. That is the only way in which they will be driven again from the unions.
– We commend you for it.
– I am indebted to the honourable member for Hotham. Not too many people on the Opposition side would commend me for it. The Conciliation and Arbitration Amendment Bill (No. 3) which we are debating seeks to protect the rights of unionists who are not able as individuals to fight for themselves. It seeks to protect them from the persecution and the thuggery which we have seen quite obviously in the last year or two. Plenty of time has been allowed for public discussion and scrutiny of this measure. It is nonsense for the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) and others to tell us that there has been no time to think about the Bill. It is an insult particularly to the honourable member for Hindmarsh for the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) to suggest, as he did this morning, that the Labor Party needs a good industrial lawyer to look at the Bill. That is what he said when taking a point of order this morning. I do not know how the honourable member for Hindmarsh feels about such an assertion. The truth is that many people in the Opposition know how vitally necessary this Bill is to protect the rights of individuals. But they do not intend to say too much about it publicly.
I know how the honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson) who is sitting at the table admires Adam Smith. I thought he would be interested to know that 200 years ago Adam Smith, in his book The Wealth of Nations, celebrated the liberation of the working man. If the honourable member for Burke reads that work of Adam Smith he will not find too much with which to disagree. The guild system which rigidly controlled occupational status had crumbled and the laws that backed it were repealed or ignored. Smith rejoiced. To him the right of a man to work where, when and how he wanted was the most important freedom of all. Surely the honourable member for Burke can appreciate that. Adam Smith should in fact be a hero to him and not a villain. Today the freedom that Adam Smith admired and wanted so much is in imminent danger of extinction.
The Australian worker is being judged not by his skill, training or character but by his status. His union membership inhibits his wish to change his trade or his will to remain an individual instead of a unit in an anonymous mass. The right of the individual must be protected; so also must be the right of the decent trade union which tries to secure justice and equity for its members by negotiation, thus preserving industrial peace. The Bill does not upset preference for unionists. I commend the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) for his understanding of this point. The legislation has made clear that the conscientious clause which protects the individual ‘s right not to be a unionist will not be a refuge for free-loaders who want all the benefits of decent unionism without paying a cent. Industrial harmony is achieved through negotiation- through the industrial courts and commissions- which costs money. So there must be no free loading. The beneficiaries, the unionists, have to pay their way and it costs them plenty of money. Those who want all the advantages for nothing will not be advantaged in this way. The Registrar will be able to impose a prescribed fee, which will go to Consolidated Revenue in this instance. Clause 22 of the Bill is quite precise on this point.
Section 22 also protects employees from arbitrary action and persecution from employersnot just from their own union but also from employers- in many specific ways which are itemised. Until now it nas been a case of woe betide any humble trade unionist who questioned the actions of the bureaucracy to which he had to give allegiance. Union bureaucrats have ample power to deal with people who do not pay their way or who make difficulties other than the ordinary difficulties for the union and whom, up until now, they had the right to expel. It is this which makes the preference situation somewhat difficult for many people on this side of the House to accept. Many people on this side are inclined to regard preference as a closed shop which, by the definition we have here, really is not the case. One of the great difficulties that people in the Liberal Party have in understanding preference for unionists is that it seems to resolve itself into a closed shop. The closed shop puts enormous power into the hands of the union officials both on the job and at headquarters.
Let me give an instance of the difficulty that I have been talking about. I refer to the problem of Mr Latham at Broken Hill. One of the problems of the present legislation is that Mr Latham is suffering because he is working under a State award. I suggest to the Minister that perhaps in the near future there can be further discussions with the State Ministers for labour with a view to achieving some uniformity between Commonwealth and State legislation which will protect everybody. The whole essence of the legislation before us is that it is designed to protect the individual, to protect his rights against arbitrary dismissal, to protect his rights against arbitrary action by union officials. It is a pity that there are some situations, particularly in States controlled by Labor governments, in which those rights of individuals will still be in jeopardy because of the difficulties presently existing in State and Federal awards. So in humility I ask the Minister to give some consideration to this matter and to see what can be done to tidy the matter up.
Everyone on this side of the House knows that all unions are not communist. I hope that no one gets the impression because I have strong views about this matter that I make a declaration that every single union in this country is a communist controlled union, that ipso facto all unions are bad and that we should have nothing to do with them. I am not suggesting that for a moment Everyone on this side of the House knows that all unions are not communist and that decent trade unionism is as essential to our present structure of civilisation as is any other social institution. I tried to make that point earlier following the remarks of the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron). It seemed to me that what he was advocating was defiance of the law and defiance of our civilised structures. We know that if the present communist penetration of the key unions goes on, the whole structure is likely to crumble. For example, the Amalgamated Metal Workers and Shipwrights Union now has a membership of 170,000-3 per cent of the work force of this nation- and it has an annual income of $4m. The curious thing is that this organisation, with 3 per cent of the work force, has been responsible for nearly 30 per cent of all stoppages in recent months. This seems to me to be a most significant equation.
In this country there is no starvation. There may be social difficulties but there is no starvation as there is in countries to our near north. There are not the difficulties that exist in some European countries. It seems to me that, if 3 per cent of the work force can cause 30 per cent of the stoppages, there is something seriously wrong in that union. Indeed there is. Sir John Egerton says that this particular union’s awards do not compare favourably with those of unions which do similar work. For instance, in many cases its awards are not as good as those of the Australasian Society of Engineers. The honourable member for Burke and others would perhaps suggest that the reason for all the stoppages is that things are so bad that people are starving. Anyone who has read a newspaper in the last couple of weeks will know that that is not correct. It is quite plain, particularly in the Latrobe Valley where these people have been involved, that the difficulty has been caused by things other than the need for an improvement in wages and conditions.
-The honourable member for Burke knows that. The situation has developed into a political strike. It has developed into an attempt to shatter the Victorian Government and to bring down this Government, but it will not work. Honourable members opposite may as well face the facts. In the test to come it will be quite clear what the people will say.
We also know that the key unions in this country, such as the Waterside Workers Federation, the Seamen’s Union, the railway unions, the miners, the Building Workers Industrial Union and the Builders Labourers Federation are communist controlled or strongly communist influenced. They are the key unions in this country. In a list of the 25 major unions in this country we see that 230 key positions are held by members of the Communist Party and 150 fulltime positions are held by members of the Communist Party. When one considers that situation it is not hard to realise why there is deliberate industrial anarchy in this country today. The whole purpose of this Bill is not to destroy the Communist Party- would that it were possible to do such a thing- but it is designed specifically as the beginning of a number of major industrial steps to give rights and freedom to the individuals within those unions so that they will have the full protection of the law when and if they decide to stand up and seek office in the interests of other members of those unions.
In conclusion let me say also that anyone who has any doubts about the sort of extortion, thuggery and difficulty that has been brought to trade unionism by this dreadful element in the community should read the two Sweeney reports of 1974 and 1975. In those reports there were clear and distinct instances of extortion- demands for money under threat- on a grand scale. I submit humbly that those involved should have been gaoled and given heavy sentences. If they had done that sort of thing outside the trade union structure that would have been the penalty. It is that sort of thing also that the Bill is seeking to stop. The Bill seeks to make unions, and union officials in particular, observe the law -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– It seems to me that the honourable member for Swan (Mr Martyr) and the honourable member for Diamond Valley (Mr Brown) ought to get together and talk about this Bill because it is pretty obvious that neither of them has read it. The honourable member for Diamond Valley offered some criticism about the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) not speaking to the Bill but then spent the next 20 minutes promptly moving away from it himself. He made the comment that the conciliation and arbitration system was fair to both sides. I am wondering how fair to both sides it really is. It seems we have a government that is hell bent on bringing in penalties against workers. Quite recently, my colleague in the Senate, Senator Mulvihill, elicited information concerning James Richardson Pty Ltd which operates duty free stores in Sydney and Melbourne. It was found after investigations by the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations that there had been a shortfall of wages in the company’s branch in Sydney. Employees had not been paid as much as they were legally entitled to. When the amount involved was added up it was found to be $40,000. That is a considerable sum of money. As I understand it, all that was required of the Richardson company was that it pay the workers the money to which they were entitled. Surely if somebody went into somebody else’s premises and removed $40,000 the law would extract some penalty other than just requiring the offender to return the $40,000. The employees of the Richardson company were robbed by that company of a total sum of $40,000, yet the penalty imposed on that company was that it simply had to pay back the $40,000 to the people whom they had short-changed. That could hardly be considered to be fair to both sides. Yet this Government, since it assumed office in December 1975 has introduced Draconian legislation such as this and has imposed all sorts of horrendous penalties upon the working people, the people who are employees, the people who are least able individually to defend their position in the community. That is the very reason why we have unions.
The honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) spoke about disputes. He said that a number of disputes were caused through demarcation issues. That is true. We know that, but they are also caused because of the multitude of unions that we have. The honourable member for Hindmarsh, because of his past actions, is one of the finest Ministers for Labour, in fact the finest Minister for Labour, this country has ever had. He had real understanding and feeling for his job. He made an endeavour to make it easier for unions to amalgamate. While the honourable member for Hindmarsh was speaking a member of the National Country Party- I believe it was the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett)- said: ‘Well, why did you not do something about it?’ The honourable member for Hindmarsh did try to do something about the situation but the passage of the legislation was frustrated in the other place by colleagues of the honourable member for Maranoa. This is the sort of humbug we have to put up with all the time.
The honourable member for Swan kept talking about the decent unions in the community. Is it the honourable member for Swan, the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) or the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) who is to decide who are the decent unions in the community? Who is to make that sort of decision? Who is to place himself on a pedestal to make that sort of decision? Is that person another Lee Kuan Yew? Will we come to a situation where only those unions that please the Government will be permitted to continue in existence? Is that what the Government parties want? I am quite sure that it is.
The honourable member for Swan, who seems to be quite a student of Adam Smith- and that does not surprise me- referred to Adam Smith and his writings. It has just occurred to me that in this country when a number of working people sit down and meet we say that that is a union. But Adam Smith said:
When two or three businessmen meet together, you can be sure that they are engaged in a conspiracy to raise prices.
The honourable member for Swan would lead us to believe that that is quite all right. In his view the business community can raise their prices while the rest of the community has no rights at all to raise their voices in opposition or indeed to organise themselves against the rises.
The resolution of industrial disputes is such a serious matter that it requires the combined intelligence and goodwill of all concernedgovernment, Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and unions. On 30 April 1947 the late Dr Evatt, who was then the Attorney-General of Australia, when addressing this chamber on a Conciliation and Arbitration Bill said:
If laws are believed to be necessary for the maintenance of industrial peace and justice, they are embodied in the permanent legislation. Waiting for an emergency to arise would show that the remedy was dictated and coloured by what was regarded as the nature of the emergency. Nothing could be worse than that.
Yet here we are 30 years later and this Government has not moved one inch away from that position. It is trying to take action in the light of a dispute coloured and dictated by the circumstances of that dispute.
It is interesting to note that that Bill on which Dr Evatt was speaking was introduced into the House of Representatives on 12 March 1947. Debate was resumed on 16 April. Honourable members can see what the time lag was. The Bill finally passed through the House of Representatives on 30 April that year. The Senate ultimately dealt with the matter on 14 May 1947. That was a somewhat more sensible time-table for a measure that would affect the lifestyle of every man, woman and dependant in a case where the family breadwinner relied on wages or salary for income. The late Mr Harold Holt was given to reply in that debate that 22 government supporters and IS members of the Opposition had spoken on that day. But then Labor governments have always given ample time to debate serious issues. This contrasts strongly with the 2 1/4 hours and six speakers we are to hear today. It is a snub and an arrogant rebuff to the Opposition, to the trade union movement and indeed to the people of Australia to have this measure introduced yesterday at 8 p.m. and to expect a full, in-depth debate at 12.30 p.m. today. The Bill is Draconian in is extent. The Government is being completely dishonest if it says that these are the same measures as were introduced in March. These are different measures. It is specious to argue that these measures are prompted by or indeed aimed at the resolution of the dispute currently taking place amongst power workers in the Latrobe Valley in Victoria.
The conspiratorial reputation of the Prime Minister, his apparent desire to be constantly surrounded by controversy and turmoil, his philosophy of divide the people and retain power and his obvious need to provide a diversion from the poor economic position and extraordinarily high unemployment in this countrythe highest for 50 years- give all the reasons for this legislation being introduced, and introduced with such indecent haste. Never before has Australia had a more morally corrupt government than the one it has now. Never before has an Australian government lurched from selfmade crisis to self-made crisis. Laws should reflect the greatest good for the greatest, number and be tempered with justice. This law is designed to deny rights to unionists. It does not give rights that do not already exist. The Minister concedes that the Bill proposes important farreaching amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. Who knows how important and how far reaching they are? It is not the Opposition, as we had only 16 1/2 hours from introduction to debate and some of those hours were needed for our nightly sleep. It is not the bloodyminded hawks who sit behind the Minister, because they do not care as long as the legislation destroys the unions and gives them a free hand to use their own organisations to exploit the community without let or hindrance.
The Minister would be the last person one would expect to appreciate the scope and range of this instrument for blood letting, such is his history of understanding the consequences of his actions, or rather actions forced upon him by the Kublai Khan of the industrial world, the Prime Minister. With respect to the parliamentary draftsmen and the departmental advisers, I am convinced that bland as they may be, their private reflections must bring trepidation to them. One could easily be accused of incitement simply by telling a self-evident truth. The working men and women and their organisations- organised labour- will not blithely accept this latest assault upon their very existence. The organisations were born in agony, and out of oppression by need and can be relied upon not to suicide. As with each piece of legislation introduced dealing with industry, there is always provision for action against unions. It is not provocative to say that with this great arsenal of anti-union legislation already available to it, the Government has seen fit not to use any of it yet. Now it wishes to add nuclear weapons to an already over-stocked arsenal. Yet the arsenal remains untouched. Why? Because sensible employers warned these lunatics that to unleash their weapons would be disastrous in the extreme. However, the paranoic desire of the Prime Minister to divide the community and establish grounds for an election keep coming to the fore. No legislation will prevent men and women from organising themselves for survival. History tells us this. But the only thing this Government ever learnt from history is that it never does learn from history. The National Labour Consultative Committee serves no further useful purpose with the introduction of this Bill. It, in turn, will disappear.
There has been great play about the question of secret ballots in unions. Provision already exists for them. Most of the unions, if not all, use this provision. The exception, I think, is the Waterside Workers Federation which has an election day to elect its officials in the same way as the people of Australia elect their governments. The union has compulsory voting and fines members if they do not vote for their union officials. If we are talking about secret ballots before people decide to go on strike, let us cast our minds back to the stoppage by the air traffic controllers earlier this year.
-We are not talking about air traffic controllers. We are talking about secret postal ballots for union elections.
-Very well then. The Minister has moved away from the situation concerning air traffic controllers. He realised how silly that was. He is not going to talk about that any more. The Bill then refers to the personal rights of people to join or not to join unions. I thought I had found an ally in the honourable member for Swan. He started to talk about there being no room in our community for scabs and free loaders and that people ought to pay if they receive benefit from the actions of others. All I can say is that I must have misunderstood him. In the second reading speech the Minister says:
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.
Will the Minister tell me how he equates that statement with a factory, any factory, where the people working there take a decision individually and collectively that they will not work with anyone who refuses to join their industrial organisation? How does the Minister reconcile his words in the second reading speech with that situation? That situation obtains in quite a number of factories around Australia. Personally I applaud it Having spoken with the people who are responsible for the management of those factories I know that they applaud it, because they have a very small amount of individual strife within their factories. They do not have to deal with a number of people. They deal with properly elected shop stewards of the union. The problems are sorted out on the shop floor.
We all witnessed the history of the unfortunate man Krutulis. He went along to the Melbourne and Metropolitan Tramways Board to seek work as a tram conductor. We know what happened. We know that the people who work for the Tramways Board said that they would refuse to work with this man. We know that the matter was then taken up with the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. We all know the words of Commissioner Cohen. She said that the role of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission is to resolve disputes, not to start them. That is the role of the Commission. It is the reason for the existence of the Act itself. This Government finds nothing nicer when it believes an election is looming than to stir up the community, to divide it and to raise this specious law and order issue. We all know that the Tramways Board cannot function with only one person collecting fares on its trams. It needs other people to drive trams and to collect fares on other trams. Commissioner Cohen was wise enough to know that the people in that depot had made up their minds that they were not going to work with any person who came to them to try to break down their conditions.
The same sort of thing applies to the man Latham from Broken Hill. We all know that the honourable member for Phillip (Mr Birney) tried to make great political capital out of a situation that he knew to be wrong. Yet he took this man around to the courts of the land and succeeded nowhere. The man is still without employment because he still declined, having been persuaded by those who have a hatred of unions- that man I do not believe does have a hatred of unions- to face up to his responsibility as an employee in an establishment and take out his union membership.
We all read the Press reports about our own Prime Minister being in Kalgoorlie the other week. He nipped behind the bar to serve someone a beer. He promptly got lumbered by the local secretary of the Liquor and Allied Industries Employees Union. He was told to either join the union or to get out from behind the bar. He said that if the union would send him an account for his membership he would send back a cheque. The members of the union said that they would not bother sending him an account and furthermore that they did not want him as a member of the union. But he did get out from behind the bar. Therefore -
– How petty and stupid that would be.
-Please stop talking about yourself.
– You are doing a rotten job on the Bill. You have hardly referred to it.
-It is not surprising that people cannot follow this Bill. It is such a jumbled hotch potch that it is very difficult to follow it through. Even having made copious notes it is still difficult to follow the legislation through because it has no sequence to it. I refer again to the second reading speech and to the Minister’s own words:
Clearly, in any large group of individuals such as a trade union, while there might be agreement about traditional union goals, the scope for disagreement about other issuespolitical, social, cultural, environmental- may be as great as the diversity amongst individuals in an organisation.
That is given to us as an argument why unions should not exist and why they should not be permitted to take action around things that this Government cares to call political strikes. For example, the Government called the Medibank strike of last year a political strike and ignored the fact that the Medibank levy was taking money out of people ‘s pockets. To cap it all off, the honourable member for Swan who spoke previously, had the temerity to tell this chamber that the dispute with the power workers in the Latrobe Valley now is a political dispute. Everybody knows that the bone of contention there is a payment of money. The workers are claiming an additional $40 a week. How anybody can twist that around to call it a political strike is beyond my capacity to understand.
– Do you believe in the arbitration system? What did the court say about that claim?
-Somebody has left the barn door open again, Mr Deputy Speaker, and the ass is braying its head off.
– What did the court say about that claim?
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)Order! The House will come to order.
– He is inflaming me.
-Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I refer now to conscientious objectors. I have looked through the second reading and through the clauses of the Bill and find this question probably a lot wider and more embracing than even the Minister believes it to be. If a certificate of conscientious objection is indiscriminately provided it could lead to a rather anomalous situation and once again, rather than bring about industrial peace and harmonywhich I know to be the aim of the Labor Party but I rather doubt that it is the aim of the Liberal Party- where the majority of people within a particular establishment have taken a decision about a matter that affects them and one or two of them care to opt out of that decision, it could create conflict. The employer cannot dismiss the person who chooses not to go along with his fellows. The person concerned can simply get a certificate of conscientious objection which is available to a person now. As I understand it, the person then pays into the court a sum of money equal to union dues. Is there any real need for this provision in the Bill? It already exists in the Act
– Only for awards with preference clauses.
-I see. As the Minister has explained this applies only to awards with preference clauses.
– That is the situation as it stands.
-A11 right. If we are talking about awards without preference clauses it seems to me even sillier to introduce such a provision. This provision will either apply to a place that is not fully organised and has no preference award or, if the place is fully organised, the Government will not get away with such a provision anyhow.
– You have a look at what happened in Western Australia.
-I understand what has happened in Britain is all that ever happens when this -
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-The honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson) and other Australian Labor Party speakers tried to give the impression that these amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act are a form of union bashing. I suggest that on reading the amendments and the legislation generally a far more compelling argument could be made that the amendments are to strengthen the role of the individual unionist and to protect his rights against certain union leadership. Furthermore, because of the effect of union power on all aspects of life in this country, there is a need for greater accountability by the unions to the public at large. I believe that these amendments go some of the way towards fulfilling these requirements.
The amendments have not been introduced suddenly. They have not been introduced just because of the Latrobe Valley dispute, the Seamen’s Union dispute, the dispute involving the transport people in Western Australia or the dispute involving the Builders Labourers Federation in Melbourne, although I believe that each one of those disputes provides justification for the introduction of these amendments. All these amendments were put forward many months ago. There were lengthly consultations with the union movement, with employers and with people inside Parliament. I believe the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) is to be congratulated on his patient and painstaking approach to this important legislation and for allowing it to be discussed for a period of months. Nothing could be further from the truth than to claim that it had been suddenly brought in because of the Latrobe Valley dispute.
The amendments have several distinct purposes. They are designed firstly to protect the rights of individual unionists. I believe these amendments and the principle behind them are supported by the majority of ordinary unionists in my electorate, because time and time again they have complained to me about political strikes of which they do not want to be a part, about the less than genuine secret ballots for the leadership of their union and about compulsory levies for certain funds the ideology of which they do not subscribe to. They want protection, in many cases, from the unrepresentative nature of their leadership. What are these measures? Firstly there is the question of conscientous objection, of protecting a person rather than forcing him to join a union. If he has a conscientous objection to joining a union there is a provision by which an amount can be decided and the payment made into Consolidated Revenue as an alternative to a union fee. Some States already have such a provision for unions within their power. It has been suggested to the MinisterI suggest it to him again- that if it is possible a discretion should be allowed so that payment could be made to a recognised charity, not just to Consolidated Revenue.
The second point is forced unionism for selfemployed people. There are amendments to protect against coercion and other unfair tactics for people who really are not wage or salary earners ut who are self-employed contractors. The amendments protect such people from being forced into joining a union which really does not have a genuine interest in such people but a union which will be used against them and which is being used against them if they fail to join. For example, take the owner of a truck which carries premixed cement for some bulk cement com- pany, and the unionists fail to load the truck un:ss he joins a union which he really has no point in joining. The third amendment concerns refusal of an individual to participate in industrial action. There is protection against his dismissal because of this and against other forms of disadvantage such as being fined or penalised for failing to take part in it. The Medibank strike of last year is a perfect example of thuggery in many areas against individuals who stood up for their rights- rights that every Australian should have- to decide whether they should participate in a particular action.
The next amendment deals with secret postal ballots for union elections. It surprises me that many people in Australia are still not aware that we passed legislation some time ago providing for secret postal ballots for union leadership. This amendment is to tidy up the loopholes which some unionists have used to try to subvert a genuine exercise of opinion by their ordinary union membership. There are many examples of the union leadership trying to protect itself and trying to restrict the real rights and freedoms of the individual union member. For example, there was one case in which nominations for leadership of a union were to be presented at union headquarters. Because they were presented at union headquarters by hand rather than through the post office box of the union, that was considered to be not a correct situation. Therefore the nominations were not accepted. Another example is a case in which five days after the nominations for a union leadership ballot both opened and closed, a notice appeared in the paper to that effect. These are the sorts of loopholes which are restricting the rights of the ordinary unionist to participate gainfully in his union’s affairs and to get the leadership which he feels he wants and is really representative. Where union elections have not been conducted properly there are provisions to declare them null and void.
There is the question of greater accountability of union finances. Once again I believe that this is protecting the rights of individual unionists to see what is happening to their money and, in some cases, even from where it comes. These statements of account of the unions must be audited and filed. I believe that in these days of greater public accountability the public has a right to know the sources of union revenue and the avenues on which they are expended, including the possibility of illegal payments. We already have documentation in this country of such payments, with the maritime unions a couple of years ago.
I referred earlier to another aspect of the legislation, and that is that because the unions influence the everyday activities of nearly all Australians at present, usually to their disadvantage, there is a genuine public interest in whatever a union may do. Hence the Industrial Relations Bureau. This legislation specifies the powers of that Bureau. They are the same powers as those previously held by the arbitration inspectorate. There are no new draconian regulations or requirements. A separate Act established the Bureau in June. The Bill received royal assent on 12 June. A head of the Bureau has been appointed. Basically the Bureau will investigate whether and see that there is observance of the Act. It will have powers to initiate investigations in relation to the Act and follow up complaints from individuals. Once again, in many cases the complaints will be from individual unionists who feel aggrieved at the tyranny of their leadership. Under this Bill there is greater flexibility in the process of deregistration procedures and, for the first time, perhaps the power to adjudicate in demarcation disputes- the cause of many unnecessary industrial troubles in this country. There is a great need to protect the individual and the people of this nation, in particular the individual unionist, from this type of oppressive union leadership.
I refer to the other main point made by Labor speakers, and that is their fixation with the Latrobe Valley dispute and the present problems in that area. They say that somehow or other the Latrobe Valley situation is one which everybody should have agreed was one of justice, that it was done properly through the arbitration process and that it was another exercise of the Government not giving in to legitimate union demands but indulging in union bashing. I quote from the speech during the Adjournment Debate last night by the honourable member for McMillan, Mr Barry Simon, who quoted from a letter to the local newspaper. Mr Simon is the Federal member for that area. The Adjournment Debate is never broadcast. I believe this letter is an important document which shows to the people of Australia the true situation within unions and between unions. It shows the justice of the claims in the Latrobe Valley at present. Mr Simon said:
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 Latrobe 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 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.
I interpose to remind the House that these words were said by two leading trade union officials in the Latrobe Valley. This letter continued:
At this meeting S. Armstrong, after a reprehensible and completely unjustified 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 consitutional 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.
– Are they not all communists now?
– In response to certain grunts from the Labor Party side I interpose once again to say that these are the words of senior trade union officials in the Latrobe Valley about the Latrobe Valley situation. This letter continues:
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.
I believe that is a most useful document to show the true situation in the Latrobe Valley and the breakdown in ordinary and essential arbitration processes. To my mind this reinforces certain comments made about the power of the shop stewards, the usurping of constituted trade union authority, the British disease in this country, and articles written by Paul Johnson, that leading Labor Party intellectual in the United Kingdom, who contributed to the New Statesman on the new tyranny of the trade unions.
– He has just resigned.
-If I had been him I probably would have resigned earlier. It would have been a sensible thing to do. Amongst other things he said this:
A union card already confers a greater degree of real political power than a parliamentary vote. Increasingly, it is the title deed to full citizenship, more important than a birth certificate or a passport- an identity card, in fact, the only document which proves a man exists and has rights.
This reminds me of that song of not so long ago which says that you cannot touch me because I belong to the union. I hope that with these amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act we can restore some rights and protection to the individual union man in this country who, I believe, overwhelmingly supports this legislation.
-I am grateful to my friend the honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd) and other honourable members who have conspired to give me five or six minutes in which to speak in this debate. I voted with the Labor Party this morning against this Bill being declared an urgent Bill. Having been chairman of the Government Members Industrial Relations Committee on, I think, three occasions I can say, and I think I would find some agreement, that there is no more complex piece of legislation on the statute books than the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. It contains 122 pages of legislation of the most complex character. Today we are being asked, as a parliament, in just a few hours, to add another 28 pages of very complex amendments.
I compliment the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street), as did the honourable member for Murray. The Minister has been tolerant. He has canvassed these amendments, as far as we know, with responsible people but the fact is that this Parliament received this Bill only last evening. I understand that its printing was rushed through during the suspension for dinner. I simply ask the Parliament this question: Does everybody understand every implication of these 28 pages of amendments to the most complex piece of legislation on the statute book? Without being offensive I would say to every member of the Liberal Party and every member of the National Country Party that they do not understand everything that this Bill does to the Act. Therefore on principle, as a protest- and this is the third time I have done this- I am not going to vote with the Government to carry this Bill because I think it is a farce and that it renders this Parliament a farce if members of this Parliament are asked to vote on something which they do not completely understand, particularly something as important as conciliation and arbitration which can affect every citizen in the country.
Having said that, on my quick reading of the amending Bill I would say that there is a great deal in it to be commended. If I gave it proper consideration I probably would find myself voting for it or for most of it. Like the honourable member for Murray I believe that the amendments giving conscientious objectors fuller rights is sound and represents justice. I entirely agree with the amendments to section 142a relating to deregistration. I agree with the accounting provisions. More strongly than anything else I agree with the protection for self-employed persons. I know of a scandal which is now occurring in at least one State. In South Australia a person who runs, I think, an excavating company has invested his capital and his health in that business and cannot get a job contracting for the
State Housing Trust unless he is a member of a trade union. Therefore I would support a clause to cover that sort of thing in this legislation.
In the few minutes remaining to me I very briefly want to refer to the Latrobe Valley. The Minister did not refer to the Latrobe Valley in his second reading speech. I cannot see anything in this Bill which is going to assist the Latrobe Valley situation in any way. Therefore I wonder why this Bill is being rushed in in this way at this time if it is not simply for electioneering purposes. I believe this is an incredibly cynical use of this Parliament. It is a cynical use of the hundreds of thousands of decent people in the trade union movement. I have an enormous amount of sympathy for the people who are striking in the Latrobe Valley. I ask members of the Liberal Party and members of the National Country Party to consider this point: Thousands of men and women- I mention the women because the men have to be backed by their women- do not go out on strike for nine weeks over an issue in which there is no justice. There is justice in their claim. However I believe it has been very badly handled by the people concerned.
I was surprised and disappointed at the decision of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. I was challenged last week by the honourable member for Higgins (Mr Shipton) to say where I stand on this issue. As far as I am concerned, if people are in a system where an umpire’s decision is to be referred to and they accept the benefits of that system they should abide by the decision. In the present situation we have had a Full Bench make a decision. The honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) said that he thinks the Commission was wrong. Whether I believe the Commission was wrong, as I do, I think that the only solution is to abide by the umpire’s decision. Let me warn the Government that sending troops in will not solve this dispute. Sending scab labour in will not solve this dispute; it will exacerbate it.
– What will solve it?
– The only way in which it can be solved is by conciliation. There are decent men in the Trades Hall Council in Victoria and the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions already negotiating. I believe the only solution to this dispute will be found in the discussions which are now taking place between those people, the State Electricity Commission and the Victorian Government.
I have been saying for years that one of the things that cause disputes such as we now have is the leapfrogging techniques that have been adopted. The men in the Latrobe Valley have been disadvantaged- and this has been pointed out by other speakers on this side of the Housebecause there are too many unions in that area. The unions have adopted an ad hoc approach in which one union gets a benefit and the other unions do not. An impediment to the long term solution of disputes of this type is the number of unions in the country. Germany, which has a population of 80 million people, has IS trade unions Australia, with a population of 13 million people, has over 311 trade unions. There are very few employer organisations in Germany. Australia has over 2,500 employer organisations. Each is playing the other on a break.
Before I resume my seat I plead with the Federal Government and the Victorian Government to treat this dispute as a delicate human situation. For God’s sake, do not send troops in, do not send scabs in at this stage; otherwise there will be a conflagration, the like of which in the industrial sphere this country has never seen before.
– I oppose the legislation. I join with my colleagues in expressing disappointment and revulsion at the indecent haste in which this legislation has been introduced into this House. As the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp) indicated- and this is realised by many people- the Government’s action has been exposed as a cheap political gimmick which puts at risk the future of thousands of men, women and children not only in the Latrobe Valley but also throughout Victoria because of the spin-off effects that the dispute is having in other industries.
No industrial dispute can be won by hitting someone over the head with the back of an axe. All one receives in return is a similar blow. Mr Polites, the top employers’ advocate in this country, who is sitting in the gallery of the House at the moment, indicated during a speech he made today at the National Press Club that this issue will not be solved by tampering with the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. He well knows, and anybody with any industrial experience whatsoever well knows, that any attempt to tear down the trade union structure, to turn it into a tame cat organisation, and to reduce its potence, will succeed only in watering it down to the point where we have either control outside the wishes of the properly elected leadership or leadership that is not acting in the best interests of the unionists. Disputes will not be resolved if unions are treated in this way. History proves that not one dispute has been resolved in this way. This tyrannical, oppressive and unjust legislationthose are its implications for the trade union movement- does not go one iota along the line towards resolving the dispute in Victoria or, for that matter, any other industrial dispute that may arise now, in the short term or in the long run. Any attempt to destroy the arbitration systemand this legislation goes a long way towards making that the fundamental questionhas resulted in the government concerned incurring the wrath of the electors. The Bruce Page government in this country and the Heath government in the United Kingdom tried to do this but they felt the wrath of the electors and were defeated. Ultimately this legislation, will backfire on the Government because in the final analysis there is always a valid reason behind a decision to strike. People may strike because they believe they have suffered an injustice. To batter them into submission does not deter them one iota from the belief that their case is right.
The Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) claims that the Government has a mandate to introduce legislation which will create a haven for scabs and eat away at the foundations of the trade union movement. The Minister seeks to protect individuals who have been set up or who set out to destroy trade union organisations. The legislation is designed to reduce industrial organisations to tame cat affairs. The conciliation and arbitration area as we know it is complex and the electors would not know how industrial relations ought to be run in this country unless the industrial system and all related factors were explained to them in detail. Therefore I believe that the Government has no mandate and it is idiotic for the Minister to claim that it has. This legislation has been introduced as a cheap political gimmick that has been planned for months and months to develop a climate in which an election can be held. The legislation has been introduced to entice people’s minds from the economic mismanagement of this country and to shroud economic matters in mystery.
I refer next to some questions that were raised in the Minister’s second reading speech. It is claimed that there has been proper consultation. But the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the peak councils rejected the policy and the philosophy inherent in the Government’s proposition. The employee representatives were told that the workers should have no fears about the industrial Relations Bureau. Having spent almost a lifetime in the industrial movement, I know that propositions that are claimed to be new and revolutionary are in fact not in that category. They have been around since Adam was a child. Protection in relation to union ballots has existed ever since the conciliation and arbitration legislation was just enacted. There may be some revolutionary and sophisticated alterations but, once again, they are only gimmicks used by the Minister. The real thrust of this legislation is to be found in the terminology that the Minister used in such a glib way when reading his second reading speech. He said:
Such situations demand that action be taken. It is paramount that unions recognise their obligations and the legitimate interest of the Australian community.
In effect he said that the Government has an absolute right to ensure that the unions recognise their obligations. All that means is that the Government will move to a situation in which it will attempt to bring troops into the Latrobe Valley. It will attempt to encourage scabs to carry out the bidding of those who are associated with the policies of the Government. It seems to me that, unless something positive is done to protect us from such action in the current dispute, which is a glaring example of what I am saying, the Government will be encouraging and inciting the shedding of blood on the streets in the Latrobe Valley.
To add weight to what I am saying, let me point out that 2,500 members against 20 members voted to continue the dispute. These 2,500 people know why they are in this dispute situation. They know that there is a variation of about $20 a week between their salary and like classifications in the State Electricity Commission. The merits of their case have never been heard. The tight guidelines laid down within the framework of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission have restricted the aspects of their claims that can be raised. The review now being carried out by Commissioner Mansini, who has been especially assigned the task, relates to other aspects that could have been considered in the first instance. But what happened? The Federal Government stood over Hamer. Hamer, in turn, stood over the State Electricity Commission and there were no objective negotiations to have examined the anomalies that existed within the classification framework of the SEC. Therefore when we talk about conciliation and arbitration, what this legislation means is a compulsory arbitration system. There is no room for conciliation. The Government should throw off the shroud of respectability it seeks to give it. The Government wants to have every case arbitrated upon within the strict narrow guidelines that control the overall wage structure. The room in which to move, which could have been used in this issue affecting the SEC, was never used. Therefore, the hearing that was held the other day was a farce. It has been proved to be a farce because Commissioner Mansini has now been appointed to examine those anomalies. This will go a long way towards resolving the dispute but the Government does not want to resolve this dispute. It wants to pour petrol on the flames to ensure that there is a dispute so that on 3 December or 10 December it can hold an election on a law and order issue which is a complete and utter phoney.
The Government talks about responsibility. I repeat that the legislation provides a haven for scabs. I refer to a comment by Clarence Darrow in his autobiography. He was one of the greatest lawyers of all time who really fought for the underdog. He said:
The strike-breaker occupies in the industrial world a position precisely analogous to that of the renegade and traitor. He represents a type of man universally condemned in any other sphere of human activity. He sells himself for less than the 30 pieces of silver, but too often lacks the grace which caused Iscariot to go and hang himself. He commits the unpardonable sin of betraying his fellows. He purloins that to which he has no claim and is the one stumbling block in the path of the wage earner. The attempt to make him respectable reflects discredit upon those engaged in ‘.t.
It reflects on the Government because the Government is encouraging the strike breaker to move into the Latrobe Valley. The natural reaction of people who have been in dispute, as the honourable member for Hotham said, is to be enraged at the treatment they receive. When we talk about responsibility, lo and behold the speakers on the other side of the House say that people who undertake responsible positions such as the people with a finger on the switch of the electricity supply, have a responsibility to the community. I put it to the Minister that the community has a responsibility to them. If their position is exaggerated or placed in jeopardy and they are not permitted in the normal course of events to take whatever action is available to them, when they have voted overwhelmingly to take that action, then it is up the Government to ensure that that which is enshrined in the legislation will ensure that they receive that to which they are justly entitled. That is not to be. People in these classifications receive $20 or $30 a week less than that enjoyed by people in like classifications in private enterprise. How does the Government believe those people are going to react? The Government ought to ensure that the conciliatory wing of the Act works in such a way that they will not go through eight months of frustration, as they nave done in this case, trying to discuss their claims but with the co-ordinating committee of the State Parliament rejecting their advances and refusing to discuss their claims in a proper way and purely and simply duck-shoving it, playing a straight bet and waiting for the axe to fall.
I spent many years in the industrial court and I know something about it. Lawyers like the Speaker of this House made a small fortune as advocates for the employers. Day after day they took unions into the industrial court, and under sections 109 and 1 1 1 had them fined and finally having a trade union official gaoled. The sins of the trade union officials were that they stood up for the union members they represented and carried out the duties of the democratically elected positions they occupied. So far as trade unions are concerned, once the Government destroys that conciliatory section of the Act and puts in the hands of the employers the right to neglect and reject any area of conciliation, the end result will be confrontation. The honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) outlined the various aspects of the Bill. It does not have one redeeming feature. Mr George Polites, top national employers’ advocate, and the representatives of the Chamber of Manufactures with whom I have spoken individually have indicated that so far as they are concerned they are quite capable of handling their own position.
The Prices Justification Tribunal is a toothless tiger. If the Government is going to control that which affects wage claims by workers, if it is fair dinkum at all, it would not be reducing the amount of money that is involved in the activities of the Prices Justification Tribunal. Instead it would be increasing it. It would be ensuring that the cost structure which forces wage claims by workers throughout the length and breadth of this country was kept to a minimum. The representatives and lackeys of the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd and all the vested interests in this country sit on the other side of the House. This whole reaction and response is to the wailings of individuals of that type. It is all very well to talk about the freedom of the individual if your name is Baillieu, for instance and you have never had to worry about the next pay packet, the next meal or the next pair of shoes for the kids. But if you are a migrant worker in Fitzroy slaving all day over a machine in some sweat shop in Fitzroy in oppressive conditions for the privilege of taking home a miserably inadequate wage, freedom of the individual means absolutely nothing or very little.
Despite what the Government and business apologists say, there is little scope for the individual to rise above the economic mire that exists in this country. If we could all set up businesses and use those favourite euphemisms initiative’ and ‘enterprise’ we would all be bosses and there would be no workers and the system would then be exposed. What a load of clap trap. Workers’ wages have been eroded by the phoney proposition that was put to the electorate prior to the election that this Government would support wage indexation. It was not in Government for two minutes before it doublecrossed the workers. One of the issues that caused the Latrobe Valley dispute is their wage structure. They had an over-award payment for some 20 months. It remained stagnant for that period of time when costs rose by something like 20 per cent. If the Government is going to take the responsibility of controlling workers’ wages, the only commodity the worker can sell, by way of oppressive legislation such as this, it will not win in the final analysis. I sincerely hope and trust that the trade union movement shows a bit of guts and stands up and fights to the finish.
This legislation will never be effective. The Government is putting into legalism what it tries to do by standing over trade unions for the purpose of creating a political gimmick that is so blatant it is a joke and will never convince the electorate that the Government is fair dinkum. That is the rock on which it will perish. I put it to the Government that if it had an ounce of decency at all it would have taken steps to put its house in order before coming along with this load of tripe, this gimmick. It should have shown its bona fides to the trade union movement and the peak councils.
It is going to destroy the consultation that has taken place, because no doubt those organisations will withdraw from further consultations. They have said that they do not believe in what is contained in this legislation. If they do withdraw from further consultations, it is on the Government’s head. What the Government has done is to confront the unions deliberately. It has confronted all sections of the organised industrial movement. It has done nothing to try to control prices. It has run away from that problem. It is an apology for a government. Now it adds this legislation to its misdemeanours. The legislation is a fraud. The position the Government has taken is phoney. It will not convince the electors one iota. Whether the Government goes to the electors on 3 December, 10 December or at any time in the future it will be defeated.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I am alarmed at what I have heard from three honourable members opposite whom I would have expected to have made a presentable case in this House as to why the legislation brought forward by the Government should not be passed. But far from touching on the essentials of the legislation they have engaged in efforts to ensure that there will be greater political and industrial problems than are necessary. Let me, first of all, ask one question. Each of those honourable members whose remarks I have listened to, such as the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron), the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes) and the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) who opened on behalf of the Opposition in the debate, has claimed that this legislation is an attempt by the Government at confrontation.
Where did the confrontation come from? The Latrobe Valley dispute taking place at the present time? Or maybe the tanker drivers’ disputes, the seamen’s disputes with Utah coal, the disputes involving Australia Post and, if you like, the Medibank dispute. We have seen strikes and go slows of government service, both Commonwealth and State. These were deliberate confrontations by small sections of the Trade Union movement. The Government’s response was a reaction. What I am amazed about -
– What have you done about all the crooks in the Stock Exchange? Why did you not rush legislation in to deal with them?
– The honourable member for Port Adelaide ought to take notice of this too. I think the Latrobe Valley problem must have been designed .by the shop stewards or those who advise them. They would have known that there was no prospect of a solution on the basis of an anomaly in the indexation guidelines of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. You know, Sir, and I know, and so does my friend who sits opposite, that this dispute occurred as a result of a decision in relation to incremental payments for the Latrobe Valley workers. Because of the action of the Victorian Trades Hall Council, those payments were merged with special payments relating to trade unions as a whole. Therefore there were no grounds, on the basis of facts presented, on which the matter could have been resolved by the Arbitration Commission. Do honourable members opposite tell me that those who prepared the case or the log of claims on behalf of the workers of Latrobe did not know what they were doing? Can they tell me that consequently when the Full Bench of the Commission came to handle the matter, it had no other course to follow than to decide that it was inconsistent and not viable.
The second part of the log was that they wanted to make a series of claims that would have repercussions throughout the whole of the trade union movement of Victoria. The Commission could not deal with the Latrobe matter unless it dealt with the other unions as well. Why then do we find that Mr Ken Stone, who we all concede is an intelligent man, has urged the workers to go back to work? Something far worse than that is the use by the honourable member for Hindmarsh of the word ‘scab’ and urging the workers in the Latrobe Valley not to go back to work no matter what Mr Hawke might achieve in the work value case which is now before the Commission. The honourable member for Hindmarsh used the word ‘scab’. Let him think of himself and then ask who is scabbing on Mr Hawke.
Now let me look at the essential features of the legislation. I want to make some analysis of what the Government proposes in relation to the national interest. As you know, Sir, and as the House knows, the Industrial Relations Bureau has been created. That Bureau’s fundamental functions are, to ensure that the law, regulations and awards under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act are observed. The Arbitration law and awards are known! Why should a few sections of the trade union movement have a licence to forget the law and not care about the devastating effects that strikes in essential industries, by a small number of people can have? Why should they be permitted to ignore the law and why should not the rule of law apply to them?
I wonder why Sammy Armstrong and his shop stewards- Sammy Armstrong by the way has been imported from Scotland; I do not know the
E laces from which the others have come- should e able to ensure, that 300,000 of their colleagues in the trade union movement are put out of jobs and that Australia lose a minimum of $800m and probably $ 1,000m in production? When those workers go back to work there is little or not hope, even if they get a 20 per cent rise, that they will be able in a period of less than two years to make up the pay that has been lost.
I look at this matter in a totally different manner. I believe that power corrupts, and I think that every honourable member in this House, except members of the Opposition when their own interests or trade union interests are involved, agrees with that. Power has corrupted too many of the trade unions. We are at a watershed now. If we do not take action to bring trade unions within the established law, I believe that parliamentary democracy will be at stake. We are not prepared to wait any longer.
Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish the honourable member for Hindmarsh would not walk around the chamber in his idiotic and clumsy way and be very rude in this House. I wish, Sir, you would ask him to take his hands out of his pockets when he is standing in front of me and to resume his seat. I do not know what he is doing with his hands in his pockets.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member for Hindmarsh will resume his seat.
– If the honourable member wants to be offensively rude, gigling the way he is when he is trying to be smart, will wait till he sits down. I would like to analyse the powers of the Industrial Relations Bureau. I have to say in front of the honourable member for Melbourne that it does not have powers relating to arbitration and conciliation. He said that conciliation had been destroyed. That is simply not true. The Bureau, it is true, can take a matter up to the stage of conciliation and arbitration, but it can act only as an intermediary in order to get a solution. It cannot arbitrate if it cannot achieve a solution, the matter has to be taken into the courts or to the Commission itself. It is true that if a bans clause has been broken the Bureau has the power to take that matter to the Commission for a certificate and then proceed to the courts. It has four other powers. It has the power of injunction.If an award is not being obeyed, why should not injunction proceedings to try and ensure compliance be taken? Those proceedings can be taken in a court of common law when civil rights are involved, so why should not it happen in the case of industrial law? The Bureau can have an award abolished. Why should not that be the case if, day in and day out, little groups of unionists with a maximum of destructive power disobey an award and are callous about what effect their actions might have? The Bureau also has the power to apply for deregistration of a union that is causing continuous trouble.
I go back to my own history on the waterfront when I had to say, first to Jim Healy and then to Mr Fitzgibbon, that they would be deregistered unless they obeyed the law. They did. Similarly in 1972 we threatened to deregister the tanker drivers. They went back to work. There was the problem of Mackie in Mount Isa and other unions including Public Service unions that had to be faced. The situation was much the same. A similar situation existed with Laurie Carmichael and the General Motors-Holdens’ strike and the problems associated with the Calabrians who were working in the foundries of GMH.
– What about when I caught you having dinner with all those corns?
-Yes! But I would not have dinner with the honourable member-not again, anyhow. I prefer the corns. That, Sir, is the reposte that he deserves. Those are the powers of the Bureau. And they are needed. In the measure now before us, the Government has decided wisely, on three other powers which I wish to speak about before the debate on this Bill concludes. The first one relates to a matter which I believe to be very important. I now refer to proposed new section 142a of the Act. Under that section the Arbitration Commission will have power to exclude certain parties or groups of people from the provisions of an award or to prevent them from entering certain areas of work or occupation. There is also power, when the Arbitration Commission is determining claims before it, to take into consideration past practices and arrangements in the industry concerned. Is it not right and proper that when there have been practices and arrangements that have continued successfully and economically for years, unless there is some overwhelming reason why they should be changed, we should prevent industrial disturbances from permitting those operations to be performed by the class of workers already performing the job? I think this will be a great help in bulk loading. The legislation is not as safe as I would like it to be. It does not give the same protection as was given under the Stevedoring Industry Authority Act. But I do not doubt that it will be a severe restriction on interfering with bulk loading operations by waterside workers unless they are agreed to by the employers or by State instrumentalities or private industry.
The second point I want to make relates to deregistration of unions under section 143. One of the problems we faced with regard to deregistration was this: There was only one power of total suspension or deregistration. Let me take suspension first. Suspension will now relate only to the circumstances associated with possible deregistration and particular sections of the union involved. It will not apply over the whole range of union activities that were previously envisaged in the earlier Bill. I turn now to deregistration. Frequently we may be faced with a set of circumstances in which a group in a trade union or a division or branch of a trade union may be causing all the trouble. In this case the law will now provide that it is within the power of the court to distinguish between the union itself and the various groups or branches that make up the union and are causing the industrial dispute. It is only those guilty of continued failure to observe the law, the regulations or the awards who will have to take responsibility for their actions.
Now we come to one other matter which I believe to be of great importance. I said that power corrupts. I have no doubt that in the case of corruption by industrial power the Government has to do all it can to take corrective action. As an example there must be proper administration and proper accounting for moneys received by the union. Arrangements will be made under the Bill to provide, under the supervision of the Industrial Relations Bureau, that all sums must be properly accounted for and supervised by recognised accountants. The accountancy will not be by single entry but has to be in detail and to the satisfaction of the auditors. It has to be complete. It has to be filed with the Registrar and it has to be open for inspection by members of the union and by the general public.
– What do you think happens now?
– The honourable member thinks it happens now. He should not be in this House if he were as innocent as that. Does the honourable member think that the Builders Labourers Federation does it? How friendly is he with Comrade Gallagher? I conclude with this comment: I believe that in this country today we have the greatest economic and social problems that we have had to face. I do not think it can be handled by ignoring it or by being cowardly. On the contrary, I believe that over the months the Government has presented facts and opened up debate and discussion so that people, if they wish, can become well informed, not only about the problems, but also about the solutions the Government has offered. In all the years that I was Minister for Labour and National Service- probably for a longer time than anyone else -
– I wish I were there still. If I were the problems would not have occurred in such an intense way. I say that with great deference to you, Mr Speaker. These problems have to be handled quickly and in such a way as to ensure that the trade unions are brought within the new province of law and order. We are taking this action so that parliamentary democracy will survive. I commend the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) for the time and effort he has given not only to the National Labour Advisory Council but to the committees of his own party.
He has given us the opportunity to recommend changes to the policies he presented and to understand the very basis on which the original policies were based. I believe that the legislation will be successful. I do not take much notice of the threats that have been issued by members of the Australian Labor Party. It was ever thus. I doubt whether the Opposition knows what public opinion is all about. But we will have the evidence in front of us- first of all by Tuesday by which time I believe Mr Hawke will have settled this dispute, and subsequently when I think the nation will benefit from the changes that are now being recommended and which will be passed by this Parliament in the next few days.
-The time allotted for all stages of the Bill has expired.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Rt Hon. B. M. Snedden, Q.C.)
Majority ……. 43
Question so resolved in affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
That the remaining stages be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Rt Hon. B. M. Snedden, Q.C.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Bill presented by Mr Malcolm Eraser, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill provides for an increase in the salary of the Governor-General. Because the Constitution provides that the salary of the Governor-General will not be altered during his continuance in office, the increased salary becomes payable to the next Governor-General, after he is sworn in in December. The present Governor-General Act was introduced by the Labor Administration in 1974 and provided for a salary of $30,000. It is now proposed that the Governor-General’s salary be $37,000-a salary that will remain unchanged through the period of the next GovernorGeneral’s appointment.
In 1974 the then Prime Minister, the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam), put forward some important principles as applying to consideration by the Parliament of the Governor-General’s remuneration. It is worth restating these principles now. They are that the Governor-General’s salary should be dealt with in a non-party way; that the salary should recognise the importance and place of his high office; and that the appointment of a Governor-General should not depend on personal wealth or the availability of other income. The Government fully endorses these principles. In the same spirit I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Lionel Bowen) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Street, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill is part of a parcel of legislation designed to enable the introduction of new administrative, financial and industrial arrangements for the stevedoring industry. These arrangements were foreshadowed in my second reading speech to Parliament on 1 June this year when I introduced a Bill to extend until, the end of this year the Stevedoring Industry (Temporary Provisions) Act. The Bills that I am now introducing give precise expression to the decisions of principle which I indicated the Government would translate into legislation during this session of Parliament.
Before proceeding to deal with the particular Bills I want to provide a brief outline of how the proposed new arrangements have been developed and what they involve. It will be recalled that up until 1967 the nature of the waterside employment was almost exclusively casual. This resulted in a situation whereby the absence of employer-employee relationships which existed in most other industries adversely affected the performance of this industry. In 1965 the Government established a major industry conference under the chairmanship of Mr A. E. Woodward, Q.C., with the objective of achieving long term improvement in the industry. In 1967 the Government introduced enabling legislation to permit the scheme of employment that emerged from the Conference to operate on a trial basis. Significant changes brought about by the Woodward Conference included the move from casual employment to a system of employment on weekly hire in the major ports; the introduction of pension and past service benefit schemes; and a significant reduction in the functions of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority in the major ports.
The Woodward Conference scheme was to have a trial period of 2Vi years. However the temporary arrangements were allowed to continue and they in fact are still operative. Since the introduction of that scheme successive governments have given consideration to what further steps need to be taken to effect improvements in this industry. Late in 1975 the then Minister for Labor and Immigration, Senator James McClelland, requested Mr R. M. Northrop, Q.C.-as he then was- to report on the views of the parties to the industry as to what they saw as the problems associated with the existing arrangements and the action they considered appropriate for the Government to take as to future arrangements. Mr Justice Northrop reported to me early in 1976. Mr Justice Northrop ‘s report indicated that whilst all of the organisations and parties who made submissions to him agreed that the existing arrangements should not be allowed to continue, there was a sharp division between those who proposed that the Government should take a more direct role in the industry and those who believed the Government should seek to withdraw from its already limited regulatory role to enable the parties in the industry to assume more responsibility.
Following detailed consultations with the industry parties and other interested organisations the Government determined that the time had been reached when everything should be done to ensure that this industry moved towards a situation where the relationships within the industry were as normal as possible and where the employers and employees should accept greater responsibility for the affairs of the industry. At the same time it was accepted that in those circumstances the role of the Authority in the industry would be discontinued. The Government considered this general approach was consistent with the steps first proposed by the Woodward Conference. This attitude of the Government on the future of the industry was made clear in the Parliament in May last year.
The Northrop report highlighted many of the problems that have existed in the industry. It became clear that any new arrangements for the industry would need to provide for the following: Continued efforts to reduce the existing size of the workforce; satisfactory means of providing additional waterside workers to cope with fluctuating requirements as to labour needs; evidence of an adequate method of labour allocation; means of securing improved industrial relations; effective consultative arrangements to allow user interests and others to have an effective voice in the industry; and satisfactory funding arrangements including measures to recover the deficit accumulated by the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority. The industry parties and other interested bodies were then consulted in detail on the requirements as to each of these problems and in November the Parliament was advised on the steps to be taken to effect the necessary changes in this industry.
The first step was to act in respect of the problem of surplus labour. Late last year, at my invitation Mr Justice Robinson of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission brought the industry parties into conference to consider ways of meeting this problem. Arising from those proceedings a special redundancy program was developed which was to apply for a limited period. Under that program special benefits accrued to waterside workers who were prepared to leave the industry by the end of March this year. This program had the immediate effect of some 900 men being induced to leave their employment. I might point out that since June 1975 the work force has been reduced by almost 3,000. The total industry work force has declined since 1966 from 21,000 men to a position where today there are slightly more than 10,000 waterside workers. The cost of removing men from the industry has not been light. There was, however, an acceptance by those in the industry that the level of the labour force had to be reduced and I would point out that this reduction was achieved without disruption of any kind.
Other major problems identified by Mr Justice Northrop were referred to the National Stevedoring Industry Conference which was convened under the chairmanship of Sir Richard Kirby in December last. Sir Richard brought the parties together and the Conference considered how a framework might be developed within which the problems could be dealt with and the overall performance of the industry improved. The Conference was attended by the stevedoring employers, the Waterside Workers Federation, the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission, the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited and my Department. As well all other interested organisations were invited to make submissions to the Conference and join with the Conference in considering particular problem areas. A detailed report of the Conference was presented to me on 5 April this year. ( Quorum formed). The report set out what the Conference agreed as the best means of improving aspects such as flexibility of labour, consultative arrangements, industrial relations and the position of small ports. The Government has broadly endorsed the findings of the report as part of a total package which is to constitute the new industry framework. There is no doubt that the Conference was successful in coming to grips with many complex problems and in proposing practical and detailed measures to bring about improvements.
While the National Stevedoring Industry Conference was proceeding, Mr Neil Stevens, a financial consultant, expert in matters associated with stevedoring industry funding, prepared for my Department a detailed report on the financial affairs of the industry. His report dealt with proposed means of providing central funding arrangements for on-going commitments in the industry as well as recovery of the industry deficit and his report has enabled particular attention to be paid to the position of the smaller regional ports. The Government also endorsed in principle Mr Stevens’ recommendations.
I now wish to provide a brief outline of some of the features of the new arrangements and how it is proposed they will operate.
Improved Utilisation of the Labour Force: The report of the National Stevedoring Industry Conference provides means whereby labour currently held in various pool situations will be distributed to operational employers. Procedures have been agreed also to review and redistribute labour on a regular basis. The parties also recognised that additional measures are required to meet the fluctuating labour needs of the industry without resort to recruitment on every occasion. Accordingly, the new arrangements will involve the provision of supplementary labour units- these units will comprise workers to be employed on a casual basis and they will be utilised to complement the existing base labour force in the major ports.
As well, when operational needs demand it, additional working time of the base labour force will be available to the extent of an additional shift per week and the extension of all shifts to complete a vessel which is to finish and sail. These measures together with the use of the supplementary labour force represent a valuable increase in the available hours of work at times when they are most needed.
In the new arrangements all surplus labour of any employer shall be made available for use by all other employers in the port. This is a new concept which has the full support of all parties. It represents a gain of some magnitude and will result in substantial savings in the industry.
If operated efficiently the transfer of labour arrangements between companies will enable the elimination of locked up idle time; more efficient and productive use of the labour; and reduce the turn around time of vessels in port.
These arrangements will be implemented under the surveillance of co-ordinating committees established at both the port and federal level. These committees will comprise representatives of the relevant employers and the Federation and other interested parties such as the relevant port authorities will join with these committees in consideration of matters of concern to them.
Improved Industrial Relations: Mr Justice Robinson and Commissioner Neil of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission were involved with the National Stevedoring Industry Conference in considering ways of bringing about improvements in industrial relations in this industry. The industry parties accepted that the high incidence of disputes at the job level was a reflection on the efficiency of the existing dispute settlement procedures. A major deficiency was identified as being the lack of job conciliators to speedily convene meetings of the parties when disputes arose. The existing procedures for some time have provided for the use of job conciliators but until the Conference no agreement could be reached as to their appointment.
In the National Stevedoring Industry Conference report the parties reaffirmed the need for such conciliators to be appointed and further agreed that where the parties themselves were in dispute on this matter those appointments would be made through the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission.
Mr Justice Robinson has since held a series of conferences with the parties and agreement has now been reached in respect of persons nominated as port conciliators. When the legislation comes into force these appointments will be made and the conciliators will be available to work with the parties in preventing and settling disputes and providing assistance to the Commission where this is needed.
Consultative Arrangements: The National Stevedoring Industry Conference report proposes the establishment of a Stevedoring Industry Consultative Council. The Council is to be comprised of representatives of the major industry parties and significant other interest groups concerned with industry, overseas trade and cargo handling. The Department of Transport and the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations will be represented on the Council and the Chairman of the Council will be appointed by the Government. The Council’s objectives will be to provide a forum for discussion and an opportunity for communication between governments, the industry parties and other community interests. Through the Chairman of the Council all concerned will be able to bring to the attention of the Government or other Council members any matter aimed at bringing about improvements in the industry.
The Interests of Smaller Ports: It has always been the concern of the Government that m any new arrangements proposed for the industry the special interests of the smaller ports should not be subjugated to the needs of the major ports. Under the new arrangements there will be an opportunity for port authorities to join with the direct industry parties in considering matters of concern to them. The Association of Port and Marine Authorities advised the National Conference of its wish to do this and since then the Association has met with the employers and the Federation and there is now a very clear understanding that at both the Federal and the port level there will be a continuing involvement of the port authorities in the affairs of the industry where their interests are concerned.
Most importantly measures have been taken to protect the interests of the smaller ports through the proposed new funding arrangements. Because of the nature of the smaller ports, their location and methods of operation, it has been seen as desirable that the central funding arrangements should continue to apply in much the same way as is presently the case. The new funding arrangements will ensure that the costs for the smaller ports are retained at very much the same level as they are now.
Recovering the Deficit: The accumulated deficit of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority, in the main, relates to the future long service leave entitlements for waterside workers. It has been recognised that the most appropriate means of ensuring that funds are collected so that these entitlements can be met is through a statutorily backed levy. That levy will be imposed in respect of tonnage of cargo handled by waterside workers and special provisions have been made to ensure that local cargo and cargo of a bulk nature will be subject to lesser amounts of levy. These and other funding proposals are in accordance with the report made by Mr Stevens.
The new arrangements now proposed for the industry are not merely a series of measures aimed at overcoming some of the industry’s problems; rather they represent a total framework within which new problems can be faced and genuine improvement in the industry’s performance brought about. That framework includes the agreement that has emerged from the National Stevedoring Industry Conference, the new funding arrangements and the increased involvement of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. (Quorum formed). The way has also been opened for the many other interests in the community who are concerned with developments on the waterfront to exercise an influence on the course of events. The new arrangements envisage the industry parties assuming more direct responsibility and at the same time the Government itself will maintain an influence on what happens in the industry.
The Government’s influence is designed to be a positive one and the potential for that influence can be seen in the following elements. The National Stevedoring Industry Consultative Council will be under the chairmanship of a government appointee; it will report to the Government on developments in the industry and the Government will be represented on the Council. The funding arrangements for the industry will be the responsibility of the proposed Stevedoring industry Finance Committee. That Committee will also be chaired by a government appointee. The level of industry charges will be subject to the approval of Government and the financial accounting of the Committee will be in accordance with the requirements of the Auditor-General. Reports of the activities of the Committee will be available to Parliament.
The increased involvement of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission will assist in ensuring that industrial relations in the industry can improve and the widening of the jurisdiction of the Commission will allow it to be involved in matters such as port quotas, supplementary labour and other matters which were formerly associated with the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority. It is proposed also that when the new arrangements have been operating for a reasonable time they will be subject to a review which will enable the Government to determine how effective the changed administrative, financial and industrial relations arrangements have been. I envisage that this review should take place in approximately 12 months time.
I now propose to discuss each of the Bills so that members will have the opportunity to identify how the proposed package of legislation relates to the totality of the new arrangements. I now propose to deal with each of the Bills.
The Stevedoring Industry Acts (Termination) Bill
This is a Bill designed to provide a smooth and efficient transition from the present system regulated by the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority. To achieve this the Bill provides for a transitional period to commence on a date to be proclaimed and to terminate on a day fixed by notice in the Gazette. On proclamation the other Bills associated with this Bill will also commence to operate. At the commencement of the transitional period most of the responsibilities and functions will be transferred from the Authority. During the transitional period however, the Authority will continue to exist to carry out certain limited functions and so much of the current stevedoring industry legislation is continued as will enable the Authority to carry out those functions.
The Bill provides that at the end of the transitional period all assets and liabilities of the Authority will be vested in the Stevedoring Industry Finance Committee established by the Stevedoring Industry Finance Committee Bill. The Bill also provides for the preparation by the Authority of reports on its operations up to the end of the transitional period.
Stevedoring Industry Charge (Termination) Bill 1977
The amendment to the Stevedoring Industry Charge Act contained in this Bill ensures that the operation of the Stevedoring Industry Charge Act ceases before the Stevedoring Industry Levy Act commences to operate. The Bill further provides that the requirement that employers furnish returns under the Act will no longer apply in respect of a period for which the charge is not payable.
Stevedoring Industry Levy Bill 1977
This Bill establishes a system of levies on employers of waterside workers consistent with new arrangements of which I have spoken earlier which are to be introduced in this industry. There has been for many years a stevedoring industry charge established by legislation. It has imposed a charge on each manhour of employment of registered waterside workers with two prime purposes-to provide funds for the operation of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority and to make payments to waterside workers which largely derive from awards of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission.
The Stevedoring Industry Levy Bill will continue that concept though in somewhat more limited fashion. The industry will be responsible largely for its own funding arrangements in the future, however, there has emerged in recent years what has been termed the industry deficit and that has to be funded. Thus, the Bill makes provision for special levies to be imposed in respect of the employment of waterside workers in the loading and unloading of cargo. A reduced rate will apply to the loading of local cargo and in the case of bulk cargo handled by waterside workers a surcharge will be imposed on the manhours worked. These levies will produce funds to defray the so-called industry deficit.
I would draw to the House ‘s attention that it is intended that these levies designed to defray the industry deficit will have a limited life. By clause 10 of the Bill they will cease to operate when the Minister notifies their cessation in the Gazette. These levies have been fixed in the expectation that they will last for a period of about six years. In addition to the special levies this Bill deals with general levies which will be imposed on employers to cover their contribution to the Stevedoring Employees Retirement Fund and enable specified payments to be made in respect of the employment of waterside workers in the small ports. Like the existing statutory charge these levies will be based on manhours worked.
The levy in respect of waterside workers on weekly hire, that is, those generally employed in the major ports, is set at $1. This means that apart from obligations in respect of the Employees Retirement Fund and certain miscellaneous matters the employers in the major ports will be required in future to provide their own funding outside the statutory levy. As to waterside workers not on weekly hire, that is, those generally employed in the smaller ports, the levy is set at $4.85. This retains the arrangement that presently exists whereby the major obligations of employers in the smaller ports are to be met from central funding arrangements through the statutory levy. This is a practical way of providing assistance to the employers in the smaller ports and aims to ensure that the cost structure in these ports is not adversely affected. The amounts of levies that are to apply in the industry on the introduction of the new arrangements are fixed in the Bill now before the House. It will be a responsibility of the proposed Stevedoring Industry Finance Committee to review the level of these levies from time to time and to make recommendations. Changes to the levies cannot be made without the approval of the Minister.
Stevedoring Industry Levy Collection Bill 1977
This Bill should be read in conjunction with the Levy Bill. It provides the machinery by which the levies set out in that Bill are to be collected. In many respects the provisions of the Bill are very similar to those of the existing Stevedoring Industry Charge Assessment Act which has operated since 1947. However, it has been cast so that in addition to levies on manhours worked there will now be a surcharge on bulk cargo and levies on tonnage of cargo where handled by waterside workers.
The essential framework of the Bill centres around returns which must be furnished to my Department at regular intervals by employers of waterside workers and on which payment of the levy is based. The employers who will be liable for levies will be restricted to those who participate in the scheme of the new arrangements which has emerged out of the National Stevedoring Industry Conference and who employ waterside workers whose names are on a register maintained by the Stevedoring Industry Finance Committee.
Stevedoring Industry Finance Committee Bill 1977
The main purpose of establishing the Stevedoring Industry Finance Committee is to ensure public scrutiny of the large sums of money that Will be forthcoming from the employers by way of levies to be imposed. I should emphasise that the Committee will not be a body with an administrative back-up of its own. It is intended that the day to day administration of its responsibilities will be carried out on behalf of the Committee by the Association of Employers of Waterside Labour. The Committee will be a part time body consisting of representatives of the Association of Employers of Waterside Labour, the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd, the Australian Shipping Commission and the Waterside Workers’ Federation. Its chairman will be appointed by the Government and I will be announcing this appointment shortly.
The functions of the Committee will be to make payments, for example, to the Stevedoring Employees Retirement Fund; payments in respect of providing amenities to waterside workers; payments to the Association of Employers of Waterside Labour as to costs that it will have to bear in connection with the organisation of performance of stevedoring operations and payments arising out of award obligations on employers as to waterside workers. It will reimburse the Commonwealth for expenditure incurred in payments to the port conciliators who are to be appointed under the provisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration (Amendment) Bill.
Beyond this, Mr Deputy Speaker, there are the usual provisions one would expect to find in a Bill of this kind. For instance, the Committee will be given the power to borrow but only with the approval of the Treasurer. It will be able to keep accounts subject to the scrutiny of the AuditorGeneral. There is also a provision requiring the Committee to furnish to the Minister such relevant information as is required. The Committee will be required to produce an annual report which will be tabled before Parliament.
The Conciliation and Arbitration (Amendment) Bill (No. 2) 1977
Save for one small amendment all the amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act to be effected by this Bill are to Division 4 Part III of the Act. This Division was inserted in the Act in 1956 and provides the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission with its jurisdiction for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes and industrial questions involving that area of the waterfront in which work is performed by members of the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jarman)Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Motion (by Mr Macphee)- by leave- agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations speaking without limitation of time. (Quorum formed).
– I thank the House for agreeing to the last motion. The Division does not cover operations in the stevedoring industry outside of the regulatory scheme set up by the existing legislation and there will be no change to this concept as a result of the Bill which I am now introducing. Thus, the Bill contains provisions perpetuating definitions of certain terms which now appear in the principal Act by reference to the stevedoring industry legislation. The fact that Division 4 of Part III of the Act now applies to the traditional area of work of the Waterside
Workers Federation is being confirmed two ways- by changing the title of the Division and by inserting a new section 8 1 A.
A most significant provision of the Bill is that it will widen the jurisdiction of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to enable the Commission to deal with such matters as the question of quotas’ for waterside workers, the employment of a supplementary labour force and recruitment of waterside workers. The Bill also makes provision for the appointment of port conciliators. I am particularly pleased to see this provision there for it marks out that parties have accepted the idea that the Commission may appoint these officials whose functions will be to attempt to reconcile the parties to the industry in on the job dispute situations that might arise.
The Bill also makes provision for the establishment of Federal and Port Co-ordinating Committees as envisaged by the National Stevedoring Industry Conference Report. The membership of these committees will be appointed by a person to be designated by the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. The primary responsibility of these committees will be to monitor day to day matters such as transfer of labour, supplementary labour units et cetera. They will have power to co-opt outside interests from time to time and as indicated earlier I expect they will pay particular attention to the need for consultation with and the involvement of the various port authorities around the Australian coast.
I said earlier that we were ensuring that Division 4 of Part III of the principal Act remains the area from which the Commission draws its jurisdiction as to disputes involving the traditional area of work of the Waterside Workers Federation. Thus, the bulk handling operations which were never within the regulatory scheme established by the 1956 legislation and which have never been involved in Division 4 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act will still be excluded from that area of the Act’s operation.
The industries within which the bulk handling operations take place are of enormous significance to the Australian economy. These operations now account for 70 per cent of all Australian cargoes. Over the years these operations have been carried out largely free from industrial disruption. The companies concerned with these bulk handling operations have placed great emphasis on the contribution that the existing working arrangements within their establishments has made to their ability to function efficiently and to meet contract deadlines. The Government believes it would be undesirable to alter the factual situation now obtaining. The Government wants these operations to proceed free from the fear of industrial disruption and in the most efficient manner possible. It will therefore maintain the closest surveillance of the working operations of these industries to ensure that their efficiency is not impeded.
Port Statistics Bill 1977
The purpose of the Bill is to authorise the Secretary of the Department of Transport to collect stevedoring and related port statistics. Honour- able members may be aware that the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority currently collects a wide range of statistics on cargo movements, labour associated with loading and unloading cargo and vessel movements. As well as being used by the Authority, these statistics are also used by the stevedoring industry at large, Commonwealth departments and a variety of commercial and research organisations. The Commonwealth department with the major interest in the retention of these statistics is the Department of Transport. Accordingly, the Government has decided that when the new arrangements come into effect, the Department of Transport will take over responsibility for collection of stevedoring and related port statistics. This requires legislative powers to collect statistics to replace those powers currently contained in the Stevedoring Industry Act 1956. The Port Statistics Bill provides suitable statutory backing to enable continued collection of the statistics now available to Government through the Authority.
A careful reading of the Stevedoring Industry Act 1956 will reveal that there are few limitations on the Authority’s powers to obtain or disclose information. The Government considers that such wide powers are not appropriate under the new arrangements. Consequently, much of the Bill is concerned with defining the limits of powers which had been left undefined in the existing arrangements. At present there is some duplication between statistics collected by State port authorities and the Commonwealth. In recognition of this, my colleague the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) has had discussions with State Ministers, meeting as the Marine and Ports Council of Australia, on the possibility of rationalising statistics collections. A Marine and Ports Council Working Party is investigating this matter. The Bill provides a basis for the exchange of information between the Commonwealth and the States in anticipation of reaching suitable arrangements.
In essence, the Bill seeks to transfer statistics collection powers from the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority to the Department of Transport. At the same dme the opportunity is being taken to introduce appropriate constraints on the use of these powers.
Finally, there is one additional matter on which I wish to comment. The staff of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority has always carried out its duties in a most responsible fashion. In earlier speeches to the Parliament I have referred to the contribution made by the staff of the Authority and I place on record the Government’s appreciation of what has been done by it particularly during the last 1 8 months. During that time when the new arrangements for the stevedoring industry have been developed the task of the staff has been a most difficult one. Nevertheless the staff has acted to ensure that its responsibilities have been carried out with the maximum efficiency and co-operation. As well the staff has provided valuable technical assistance and advice on the operation of the new arrangements. I regard its efforts as commendable indeed. The pivotal Bill in the package of legislation which will allow the introduction of the new arrangements is of course the Stevedoring Industry Acts (Termination) Bill. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Willis) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Street, and read a first time.
– I move:
The essential purpose of this Bill is simply to ensure that the existing statutory charge applying in the industry is discontinued before the new statutory levy to which I referred in my second reading speech on the Stevedoring Industry Acts (Termination) Bill commences to operate. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Willis) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Street, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill establishes a system of levies to be imposed on employers of waterside workers as part of the proposed new arrangements for the stevedoring industry to which I referred in my second reading speech on the Stevedoring Industry Acts (Termination) Bill. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Willis) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Street, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill should be read in conjunction with the Stevedoring Industry Levy Bill which I have just introduced. It provides the machinery by which the levies set out in that Bill are to be collected. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Willis) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Street, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill establishes a Stevedoring Industry Finance Committee which will be responsible for the disbursement of funds collected through the stevedoring industry levy as I outlined in my second reading speech on the Stevedoring Industry Acts (Termination) Bill. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Willis) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Street, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill makes a number of amendments to Division 4 of Part III of the Act necessary to achieve the Government’s objectives associated with proposed new arrangements for the stevedoring industry as outlined in my second reading speech on the Stevedoring Industry Acts (Termination) Bill. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Willis) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Street, and read a first time.
– I move:
As I outlined in my second reading speech on the Stevedoring Industry Acts (Termination) Act, this Bill makes provisions for the collection of stevedoring and related port statistics. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Willis) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Hunt, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill will give effect to the Government’s social services proposals for 1 977-78. These are:
Extension of eligibility for handicapped child’s allowance to less severe cases where the family income is low and financial hardship would otherwise be suffered. Extension of the free rehabilitation programs of the Commonwealth Rehabilitation Service to housewives, pensioners, juniors and other classes of persons not previously eligible. Removal of a provision which discriminates against married women in relation to sickness benefit and bringing the income test for sickness benefit into line with that applying to unemployment benefit.
The Bill also gives effect to the Government’s decision to clarify in the legislation the position regarding eligibility of school leavers for unemployment benefit. Two machinery amendments are also being made.
Honourable members will be aware that in addition to these measures, pensions and benefits are to be increased in November in accordance with existing provisions of the Social Services Act for six-monthly adjustments in the consumer price index. The new single rate of pension will represent 24.9 per cent of the seasonally adjusted average weekly male earnings for the June 1977 quarter. I will refer in detail to these increases later.
Handicapped Child’s Allowance
At present handicapped child’s allowance of $15 a week is payable to parents or guardians in respect of a severely physically or mentally handicapped child under 16 years of age who is cared for at home and who, because of the severity of the handicap, requires constant care and attention. This should not be confused with handicapped child’s benefit which is paid at $5 per day for handicapped children residing in an approved home. The handicapped child’s allowance is designed to assist in meeting the exceptional costs incurred by parents or guardians who p refer to care for a severely handicapped child at h ome rather than to place the childin an institution. It has come to notice that there are a number of low income families caring for a child who is substantially handicapped but not severely handicapped and for whom handicapped child’s allowance is not paid because the medical criteria are not fully met. The Government is aware of the additional costs that can be incurred in caring for a handicapped child at home and that it places a strain- often a severe strain- on the finance of low-income parents. These expenses can arise out of the need to provide special footwear or other clothing, special diets or specific medical or remedial treatment that the parents of other children are not required to provide.
The Government has accordingly decided to extend eligibility for handicapped child’s allowance. The Director-General of Social Services, at his discretion, will be able to grant a handicapped child’s allowance of up to $15 a week to a person on low income who is caring for a substantially handicapped child. The allowance will be payable in respect of a child whose substantial handicap does not fully meet the existing medical criteria but where, because of continuing substantial expenditure associated with the child’s disability, the parent or guardian is, in the Director-General’s opinion, suffering severe financial hardship.
Commonwealth Rehabilitation Service
The other change in assistance to handicapped people related to the Commonwealth Rehabilitation Service and the broadening of its present terms of eligibility for acceptance of cases without charge. The Commonwealth Government, through the Commonwealth Rehabilitation Service, has, for the past 29 years, operated a com- prehensive rehabilitation service for selectedandicapped people. The service, which began in July 1948, is conducted by the Department of Social Security as part of its responsibility for administration of the Social Services Act. The Service is designed to help people who are suffering from long term disabilities by providing them with comprehensive programs of social/vocational rehabilitation once the acute phase of recovery has been completed. Over the years the Service has been able to assist many thousands of severely handicapped people to reach or to regain independance and, in a high percentage of cases, their capacity to undertake gainful employment. As matters stand, however, assistance free of charge through the Commonwealth Rehabilitation Service is confined to certain pensioners and beneficiaries under the Social Services Act, in addition to a small number of special groups. Other disabled people who are unable to qualify for a free service have either to be sponsored for the cost of their rehabilitation treatment and training, or personally meet the cost in accordance with individual capacity to pay. To qualify for assistance there must also be reasonable prospects, following rehabilitation, of the individual being able to return to, or engaging in, gainful employment, Under the above criteria disabled housewives, for example, or other persons who may be deemed unlikely to have reasonable prospects of undertaking gainful employment, are not eligible for assistance free of charge.
The Government has recognised the pressing need for rehabilitation assistance, particularly of a social/vocational nature, to be made more freely available to all persons who would benefit substantially from such assistance. We are proposing, therefore, that the remedial and training programs of the Commonwealth Rehabilitation Service should be made available, without cost, not only to those who have reasonable prospects of undertaking employment, whether full, parttime, or sheltered, but also to all those within the broad working age group who, in spite of substantial residual handicaps, have reasonable prospects, with rehabilitation assistance, of either resuming a former role as housewife/mother, or simply increasing their capacity to lead an independent or semiindependent life at home.
In brief, the amendments we are proposing to Part VIII of the Act will enable the Department of Social Security to offer the very successful rehabilitation treatment and training programs of the Commonwealth Rehabilitation Service to all classes of severely disabled persons within the broad working age group who would benefit substantially from such assistance. During the current year, emphasis will be paid to the acceptance of greater numbers of disabled housewives, especially those from families of low socioeconomic status who would otherwise be unlikely to undertake necessary rehabilitation on a paying basis even if this were offered at reduced charges. Priority will also be given to those cases where the breadwinner’s employment status is being affected because of the demands of caring for a disabled spouse living at home and who could be afforded more independence through appropriate rehabilitation measures.
The Government has decided to remove an element of discrimination existing in relation to the eligibility of married women to receive sickness benefit. Sickness benefit is payable at the same rate as unemployment benefit to a person who is temporarily incapacitated for work, and has suffered a loss of income as a result of the incapacity. The maximum rate is currently $47.10 a week for a single person without dependants, and $78.50 a week for a married couple- these rates will increase to $49.30 and $82.20 respectively from 1 November 1977, in accordance with the existing automatic adjustment provisions contained in the Social Services Act. Where there are children, additional benefit of $7.50 a week is payable for each child. Supplementary allowance up to a maximum of $5 a week may be paid when sickness benefit has been paid continuously for 6 weeks and the person pays rent, lodging or board and lodging.
At present the Social Services Act provides that a married woman is not entitled to sickness benefit if it is reasonably possible for her husband to maintain her. This provision is considered to discriminate against women. It will be repealed. In future a married woman will be able to qualify for a sickness benefit on the same basis as a married man. A change in the method of assessing sickness benefit is also proposed. Sickness benefit is the only income-tested benefit under the Social Services Act which does not take into account the income of both husband and wife. The method of assessment is out of line with the other income-tested pensions and benefits because the income of a wife is not taken into account in determining the husband’s entitlement to sickness benefit. The effect of this is that a married man may receive sickness benefit up to the maximum single rate of $47.10 a week, irrespective of his wife’s income. The Government believes that this position is no longer tenable and the Bill amends relevant provisions of the Act accordingly.
-That is really the point of this Bill. You are taking something from people.
-Action along these lines was recommended by Professor Henderson in his first main report on poverty in Australia, so it has the support of a very distinguished Australian who is most interested in poverty. This means that in future the combined income of both husband and wife will be taken into account in assessing the rate of sickness benefit as is the case with other income-tested pensions and benefits. Provisions are included m the Bill to ensure that no existing beneficiary’s payment will be reduced as a result of this change.
The Bill also gives effect to the Government’s decision to clarify by legislation the eligibility of school leavers for unemployment benefit. Last year, in accordance with a decision of the Government, unemployment benefit was not paid to school leavers during the summer vacation. In recent years many claims for unemployment benefit have been made during the summer vacation by school leavers prior to their making serious efforts to obtain employment and by others who claim to be unemployed but who actually intend to resume school or go to tertiary education after the vacation. The Government believes that it would be reasonable to impose some period of time after leaving school before a school leaver will be eligible for unemployment benefit.
The Government has decided that a period of six weeks is reasonable, and the Bill provides that, in the case of school leavers, unemployment benefit is not payable for six weeks after the date of ceasing full-time education. A person who has completed a course of secondary education apart from sitting for examinations will be deemed to remain a full-time secondary school student until after the completion of the examinations. A similar period of six weeks during which unemployment benefit is not payable will apply to tertiary students who do not complete their courses if the Director-General is satisfied that the cessation of their studies was due to a voluntary act and without good and sufficient reason.
The other amendments contained in the Bill are largely machinery. Firstly, a provision is being inserted in the Act requiring the beneficiary to notify the Department immediately he obtains paid employment or commences to engage in work on his own account. At present there is no such requirement in the Act. In fact a person is only required to notify the receipt of income within a period of seven days after he has received that income. This has been a serious defect, particularly in cases where unemployment benefit is paid fortnightly in advance.
Other matters affecting eligibility for benefits such as the receipt of income, marriage, etc., will also require immediate notification. The DirectorGeneral will have the right to calculate and recover any overpayments from the date on which the change of eligibility occurred.
A further amendment relates to the periods for which unemployment and sickness benefits may be paid. Section 132 of the Act at present requires that benefits should be paid in fortnightly instalments. The Bill amends that section so that payments may be made in respect of such periods as the Director-General determines. This will enable a weekly instalment to be paid where considered necessary. It is proposed to do this in respect of the first cheque when payments commence to be paid in arrears.
Under the new procedures, a person who makes a claim for unemployment benefit on the day on which he becomes unemployed will not be entitled to receive any benefit m respect of the first week of unemployment. After the end of the second week, he will receive the benefit for that week on submitting a statement confirming that he has not been employed or received income that would make him ineligible. This procedure will be repeated and he will receive a further two weeks benefit at fortnightly intervals thereafter, while the unemployment continues and he satisfies eligibility requirements. It has been claimed that the proposed system could lead to hardship if an unemployed person does not make immediate application for benefit in the hope that he will find work without needing to apply for Commonwealth assistance. The new law will accordingly provide that a period of unemployment immediately prior to the date of application for benefit may be taken into account as the whole or part of the waiting period if it is established that the claimant was able to work and took reasonable steps to obtain work during that period.
I would like to draw to the attention of honourable members the proposed increases in pensions and benefits which I mentioned at the beginning of this speech. As honourable members will be aware, these increases flow from the provisions relating to the six-monthly automatic adjustment of pensions which were inserted in the Social Services Act last year. The maximum single rate will increase by $2.20 a week to $49.30 a week. The maximum combined married rate will increase by $3.70 a week to $82.20 a week.
The increases reflect the 4.7 per cent increase in the consumer price index between the December quarter 1976 and the June quarter 1977. These increases will mean that since the Government assumed office in December 1975 the standard or single rate of pension has increased by $10.55 a week and the combined married rate by $ 1 7.70 a week.
– That is good inflation, is it not?
– It is having the effect of reducing the inflation rate, and reducing it amazingly compared with the way in which it went up while you were in office. The new rates of age, invalid, wives and widows pensions, supporting mothers benefits and sheltered employment allowances will be payable on 10 November 1977. The new rates of unemployment and sickness benefit will operate with effect from 1 November 1977. Single unemployment and sickness beneficiaries under 18 years of age will continue to receive payment at $36.00 a week. The cost of increasing pensions and benefits for Social Security pensioners and beneficiaries in November is estimated to be $140m in 1977-78 and $2 14m in a full year. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Dr Klugman) adjourned. ( Quorum formed).
Bill presented by Mr Macphee, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill was foreshadowed in the statement to Parliament by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) on 6 October when he announced the Government’s decision to appoint Mr Justice Fox as Ambassador-at-Large, to represent Australia overseas in international endeavours to secure a strengthened nuclear non-proliferation regime. In announcing that decision, the Prime Minister mentioned that the Government would be introducing legislation to enable Mr Justice Fox to retain his judicial status and the rights which attach to that status while he is AmbassadoratLarge. This Bill makes, provision for those matters.
Mr Justice Fox is at present the Chief Judge of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory and he is also a Judge of the Federal Court of Australia. As the Prime Minister mentioned in his statement of 6 October, His Honour proposes, when the formalities in relation to his ambassadorial appointment have been completed, to resign his office of Chief Judge of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory. This is a step which will be greatly regretted. I know that His Honour has reached his decision to resign only after very careful consideration. It is an unselfish step which His Honour considers he should take in the interests of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory, having regard to the administrative nature of the duties of the Chief Judge of that Court.
His Honour will nevertheless retain his appointment as a Judge of the Federal Court of Australia and the present Bill will remove any doubts that otherwise might exist as to the effect that the ambassadorial appointment might have had on his judicial office. This is in line with the legislative action that was taken to remove any doubts that the diplomatic appointments of Sir John Latham and Sir Owen Dixon in 1940 and 1942 respectively, and the appointment last year of Mr Justice Woodward as Director-General of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, may have had on their judicial offices. The Bill provides that while Mr Justice Fox is holding his appointment as Ambassador-at-Large he will retain his entitlements to remuneration and annual allowance that he would have had as Chief Judge of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory. His pension entitlement under the Judges’ Pensions Act 1968 is also to be retained on that basis.
When Mr Justice Fox’s appointment as Ambassador-at-Large comes to an end he will retain his position as a Judge of the Federal Court of Australia and he will be entitled to remuneration and annual allowance on that basis. This will be a somewhat lesser entitlement than His Honour would have had if he had retained the office of Chief Judge of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory, but His Honour has indicated that this is nevertheless acceptable to him. Somewhat different considerations, however, apply in relation to His Honour’s pension entitlement under the Judges’ Pensions Act. The Bill provides that His Honour will not suffer any loss of pension entitlement, which has largely accrued already, by reason of his proposed resignation as Chief Judge of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory. I am sure honourable members will agree that it is appropriate that His Honour should retain his pension rights.
It remains only for me to endorse what the Prime Minister has already said about the importance which the Government attaches to Mr Justice Fox’s proposed appointment as AmbassadoratLarge and to His Honour’s pre-eminent qualifications for the task. It is a great pity that during the term of his appointment he will be unavailable for judicial service but his contribution towards our endeavours to secure a strengthened nuclear non-proliferation regime will, I am sure, more than make up for this. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Lionel Bowen) adjourned.
– I move:
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and on which the committee has duly reported to Parliament: Construction of proposed new complex for the Antarctic Division Headquarters and for the Hoban Regional Laboratory of the Australian Government Analytical Laboratories, Kingston, Tasmania.
The proposal provides for a complex of seven separate but linked low rise buildings which will provide offices, display and conference areas, laboratories, workshops and stores for the Antarctic Division which is currently located in Melbourne. An additional building will accommodate Tasmanian regional laboratory and offices of the Commonwealth Government Analytical Laboratories. The estimated cost of the proposed works is $7.3m at March 1977 prices. In recommending the construction of the works the Committee stated:
The Committee believes that the glaciology section should not be transferred to Kingston.
The provision of laboratory facilities for the Antarctic Division should be re-examined when a firm decision is made by the Government as to the scientific tasks to be undertaken by the Antarctic Division at Kingston.
In regard to the glaciology section, the Government recognises the merit of the view expressed by the Committee and this will be taken into consideration when finalising arrangements for the transfer of the Antarctic Division. The provision of laboratory facilities for the Antarctic Division will be re-examined in the light of a Government White Paper relating to the Antarctic policy and programs which is now being prepared. The Committee also concluded that:
There should be greater co-ordination between the Antarctic Division and the universities in Antarctic research.
The Committee urges the Government to agree to the changes in the Antarctic Division’s scientific program proposed by the Department of Science.
The Committee is convinced that any disruption of the relationship between the glaciology section and the meteorology department of the University of Melbourne would not be in the best interests of science.
The Government notes the Committee’s conclusions.
-The hearing in connection with this project was of great interest to the Public Works Committee. It extended over four days, with one day in Melbourne and three days in Hobart. The reason that three days were allocated to Hobart- there was a break between the two hearings- was that the Committee was not quite satisfied with the evidence that it had received in Melbourne or in Hobart that there was justification for the project to go to Hobart. So the further hearing took place. One of the things that caused the Committee to have some doubt about the matter was mentioned by the Minister for Construction (Mr McLeay) in his speech. He referred to the absence of a White Paper. A Green Paper has been presented, but it became clear to the Committee during the course of the evidence given by many noted witnesses that the whole complex was related to Australia’s continued activity in the Antarctic for scientific purposes. There was some doubt in the Committee’s mind as to whether the Government intended to go on with this activity, because the Government had not clarified its position or made a policy decision as to whether it would continue with Antarctic research. That matter is still not clarified.
The Committee finally agreed that the laboratory should go to Hobart. It was satisfied that it could operate from there. Questions were raised about logistic difficulties. These were resolved, but a number of other facets became clear, as well as the absence of a White Paper. It became quite apparent during the course of that hearing that transport between the mainland and the Antarctic is in jeopardy. The ships, Nella Dan and Thala Dan, are hired from the Danish Government. One of them is at present in Singapore for repairs.
Sitting suspended from 6.2 to 8 p.m. ( Quorum formed).
-Before the suspension of the sitting for dinner I was mentioning that the Australian Government hires ships- the Nella Dan and the Tharla Dan- from the Danish Government on a part time basis to take our expeditions to the Antarctic. There is no provision for air transport between Australia and the area that Australia occupies in the Antarctic continent. For the interest of honourable members, Australia lays claim to and occupies some two million square miles of the Antarctic- equivalent to two-thirds of our continent of Australia. There is talk internationally that Australia might be regarded as some sort of squatter there. I mention these things, which do not really concern the Minister, because they were of interest to the Committee. They were mentioned in the report, and I think they ought to be brought to the attention of the House.
One particular matter I wish to raise with the Minister, and which is raised in the report, is the vexed question of the glaciology section which at the moment is attached to the meteorological section of the University of Melbourne. The position was put quite clearly to the Committee by Dr Budd, an eminent, in fact world renowned, glaciologist, that the best interests of glaciology would be served by retaining that section at the University of Melbourne in conjunction with the meteorological section there. When the Committee considered this proposal and the evidence relating to it, it came to the conclusion that it probably would be in the best interests of the pursuit of science in the Antarctic if the glaciology section did remain attached to the meteorological section at the University of Melbourne. That conclusion is mentioned in two of the Committee ‘s recommendations.
Aligned with that is the fact that about threequarters of one of the two laboratory buildings proposed was to be occupied by the glaciology section. There was also to be one ice tower building. Examination of the witnesses revealed that as late as 18 months from now, the ice tower of this very fine $7.3m building could be removed without cost penalty. The Committee thought that 18 months from now the Government will have made up its mind as to whether the glaciology section would remain at Melbourne or go to Kingston and that no cost penalty would be involved in the removal of the ice tower from the project.
The Committee raised for consideration by the Government the question of these laboratory buildings. I should have thought that when introducing this matter the Minister would have indicated to the Parliament-after all, the Government is asking the Parliament to approve the works- whether a conclusion had been reached concerning the construction of this extra laboratory building. Prima facie, it would appear that if the glaciology section is not transferred to Kingston this building will not be needed. With due deference to the Department, mention was made of the fact that the scientists did intend to spend more time being involved in the science of the sea. They said that if this science were pursued to a greater extent than it is now they would probably use this building for that purpose if the glaciology section remained attached to the meteorology section at the University of Melbourne. The Minister did mention two recommendations of the Committee:
The Committee believes that the glaciology section should not be transferred to Kingston.
The provision of laboratory facilities for the Antarctic Division should be re-examined when a firm decision is made by the Government as to the scientific tasks to be undertaken by the Antarctic Division at Kingston.
The Minister then went on to say:
In regard to the glaciology section, the Government recognises the merit of the view expressed by the Committee and this will be taken into consideration when finalising arrangements for the transfer of the Antarctic Division.
I am not being critical of the Minister when I say this, but it seems to me that if the Government comes to this Parliament and asks the Parliament to approve expenditure of $7.3m, which sum includes one of the laboratory buildings and the ice tower, then the Parliament is entitled to know whether the Government has made up its mind about transferring the glaciology section from Melbourne to Kingston and whether that section will be engaged in the greater studies of the seas around the Antarctic- in other words, in oceanographic biography.
If that section is to be involved to a greater extent in this particular scientific discipline, then
I believe the Government should say so. It should be saying to the Parliament: ‘Well, we agree with the project as laid out, and as recommended by the Committee, for retaining that second laboratory’. It should say that the Government is in favour of retaining that second laboratory because that section intends to engage in pursuits other than those in which it has been engaged up to date. The Government, through this Minister, is not saying that. It says it will consider these things at a later stage.
I know the workings of this House and I know that the Parliament will undoubtedly approve the works but the Parliament is being asked to approve something about which the Committee could not reach a firm conclusion. It could only recommend but the Government has not taken up that recommendation and made a firm conclusion. It has left the matter up in the air. It has left the Parliament up in the air. The Committee is no wiser now than when it came to its conclusions. Frankly, the Committee came to its conclusion in the hope that it would cause the Government itself to come to some firm conclusions. I refer again to the White Paper which still does not exist, and there is no indication as to when it will come into existence. If the Australian Government were to adopt the policy of reducing its activity in the Antarctic that would place a different light on the whole project. Perhaps the Parliament might then say that there is little justification to spend $7.3m on works in Kingston to house the Antarctic Division headquarters and the analytical laboratories when the Government is not giving any indication of how far it is prepared to go in Antarctic research.
I simply leave those matters with the Minister. I can only say that the witnesses who came before the Committee were very eminent men. They were professors and the like, people world acknowledged in their field. It brought to our attention the renown with which Australian scientists in the Antarctic region are known around the world. We were very proud and privileged to have them appear before us. Every witness was of a high character and standard. Every witness put a point of view that bore consideration. It is for that reason that the Committee took four days to deliberate on the matter and to hear evidence. I would rather hear the Minister’s reasons for not being able to come into this House with firm propositions tonight than hear him repeat the recommendations of the Committee which were terribly vague. The Committee is not the Government. It does not take decisions. The Committee hears evidence, deliberates and makes recommendations to the
Government. The Government now recommends to the Parliament the expenditure of $7. 3m. I think that the Parliament is entitled to know exactly what that $7.3m is being spent on.
-in reply-The Government and I are very appreciative of the work of the Joint Committee on Public Works and especially its work on this reference. I have read the transcript. This project was initiated and approved under the previous Labor Administration and confirmed under our Administration. It was really like a can of worms. It was a difficult reference. The Public Works Committee did a good job. In response to the final remarks of the honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson), let me say that the Committee recommended the construction of the works subject to certain reservations. I will convey his remarks, which I know represent the views of the Committee, to the client department. I make the point that the Department of Construction is not the client department. The client department is the Department of Science. It is my intention to discuss this matter further with the Minister for Science (Senator Webster) in another place who is responsible for this project. I am quite sure that he would also have studied the transcript. I recommend to the House that the transcript should be studied. It is freely available to anybody who wishes to read it.
The Government wishes to proceed with the project. We take the view that we have the tacit approval of the Public Works Committee. After all there will be other occasions to criticise, to amend or to express views on what the Government finally decides. I do not wish to delay the proceedings of the House. I refer once again to that part of the reference which relates to the glaciology section. I repeat what is already in Hansard. The Government recognises the merit of the view which was expressed by the Committee and which was expressed tonight by the Vice-Chairman of the Committee, the honourable member for Burke. This view will be taken into consideration when finalising arrangements for the construction of the Antarctic Division headquarters. As the Vice-Chairman said, this is a terribly complicated reference. It is not one where it can be said that we should do this or do that. There are so many areas where perhaps we should not do anything at all. I know that the Vice-Chairman agrees with that because he is smiling and nodding. If we follow the expression the ‘pragmatic compromise solution’ which has been recommended by the Public Works Committee we will have a development which is not wasted and which will be of immense value to the Australian electorate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Before I call the honourable member for St George to make a personal explanation, I would like to say that the standard in this House is not par for the course. I point out something that I pointed out only the other evening. People in the public gallery and in the Speaker’s gallery are not supposed to converse with members particularly by talking over the back of the benches. I have noticed also that members have been taking to the galleries reports or papers and have been reading them with visitors. On a couple of occasions this evening when members have come into the chamber, waving to people in the galleries I thought that they were going to burst into the song Welcome Little Stranger. I suggest that members should keep the Standing Orders in mind. One particular thing is that members cross the floor between the member speaking and the Chair. They would not do this, I hope, in their own homes. I hope that members will give consideration to that as well.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. The edition of the St George and Sutherland Shire Leader of yesterday which I have just received- it is an excellent newspaper- quotes me in relation to the new nursing home benefits as saying:
This will mean a small amount from a pension will go into the pocket of an inmate to cover minor personal expenses.
I did not say that. In fact a percentage of pensioners should receive an extra amount depending on the fee charged by the nursing home. What I said was that I hoped the Government would soon move to a policy which will ensure that all patients in nursing homes will have an adequate extra sum of money for personal expenses.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Consideration resumed from 19 October.
Department of Transport
Proposed expenditure, $285,009,000.
– I join the debate on Appropriation Bill (No. 1 ) in which the Committee is considering the estimates for the Department of Transport. The estimates amount to $285,009,000, which is only about 1.3 per cent higher than the appropriation for the year 1976-77. Whilst this modest provision against inflationary forces may have caused some irritation to those who are required to provide services in the Department of Transport, the merit in the Government’s economic policies in that respect is manifested in the consumer price index announcement of today together with the announcement for the preceding quarter. This will give encouragement to those people who look to the Government to establish a stable economy to believe that we have now established a base from which we can go forward to release some of the restraints that have impeded normal development of not only transport facilities but also all those facilities that tend to contribute towards a well running country.
Having said that it must be acknowledged that some of the restraints responsibly applied have caused apprehension in various quarters in the Australian community. I have in mind inrespect of these estimates the provision of some $450,000 as against $600,000 for the preceding year for division 655.3.09- Aerodrome Local Ownership Plan- Development grant. There is $1,300,000 provided for a maintenance grant under that same plan.
It has come to my notice in recent times that some local authorities are subject to persuasion by the Department of Transport to take over airfields presently operated by the Commonwealth Government. There is a view that the local authorities should, as a matter of course, take over the ownership of these airfields. The Department certainly puts forward a very responsible and persuasive proposal by which local authorities would not be handicapped if they took over these airfields; in actual fact they could advance their own local interests, particularly in tourist areas, where it is not always within the capacity of the Commonwealth Government to provide all the amenities and facilities that locally based people would seek. So there is some merit in the proposal that local ownership could make a significant contribution to the maintenance of that airfield network which is so essential to communications in this vast country of ours.
The Department insists that any retrenchments of facilities at airfields should not intrude on operational security and in no way represent an intimidatory step to bring to heel local government authorities which may have adopted a stance of non-co-operation with the Department’s ambitions or which, for reasons validly based, are not inclined to take over ownership of their local airfield. The Department has found it necessary at certain airfields- two in my electorate, Bundaberg and Maryborough, of which I have first hand experience-to reduce the width of runways and, in one situation, to shorten the length of the secondary strip. The local authorities, understandably, feel that this measure, which is argued as being necessary on the basis of cost restraints, in actual fact is designed to force them into some action to take over ownership.
It may be argued that some local authorities have successfully and profitably accepted the transfer of ownership. By the same token, others may argue that they have been disadvantaged by taking over the responsibility of maintenance of airfields. The fact remains that since 1958, when the Government adopted a policy of local ownership, development and maintenance of aerodromes, in excess of 200 council-owned aerodromes have been participating under this plan. Of that number approximately 70 were taken over from the Government prior to the introduction of this policy. The fact remains that a number of local authorities, in good faith or for various reasons, have co-operated with the Commonwealth Government and are responsible for the maintenance and operation of their own airfields under the provisions of the scheme, which are not ungenerous. Others have elected not to take the step. We have the somewhat incongruous situation at the moment in which those which have assumed the responsibility at the wish of the Commonwealth Government could quite properly express some resentment that other local government authorities are still free to elect not to take over local ownership.
It may be argued that the time has arrived for the Government to readdress itself to this question. It has been pertinent for a long period. Surely by now it must be clearly established as to what constitutes a deterrent for local governments to take over their airfields when under the provisions of the policy the terms appear to be quite generous. It may be that we will have to review the conditions that apply and make them more generous so that they give justice to those who have assumed responsibility of local ownership and at the same time encourage those who are hesitant about adoption of the policy to take the step. It seems an intolerable situation that the years can go by and that this policy, firmly based, endorsed and implemented by all governments during that period, should be left in a state of hiatus where local government authorities are free to determine their own action in the matter.
I am quite satisfied that what the Department of Transport is presently doing as a result of cost restraints is not directed towards intimidating local government authorities to fall in with the Department’s ambitions. I am equally satisfied that there is no intrusion into the operational safety of aircraft using those airfields, though I must concede that in the case of Bundaberg, where strip 0624 has been shortened to an operational length which would deny the use of that strip to F27 aircraft in extreme cross-wind component conditions, certain difficulties could occur. As a result of that shortening those aircraft would be required to overfly Bundaberg to another airfield which could accommodate their requirements. This would happen very rarely. Understandably, the Bundaberg community is not enthused at the prospect of an aircraft being required at any time to overfly and not maintain schedules. While, statistically, it may be of no consequence, almost certainly on the day concerned a number of passengers may be seriously inconvenienced by the failure of that aircraft to maintain schedule.
It is true that we have time on our side, in the case of runway 1432, which has been reduced from 45 metres to 35 metres. The bitumen aprons, which are now excluded from the runway dimensions, will not disappear for a number of years because of very light usage and will remain available to aircraft in a stress operational condition. Hopefully by the time those aprons deteriorate to the point at which they might become a hazard the finances of this country I might say I am confident that they will bewill permit a review of the situation to establish whether operational requirements call for a resumption of the runway dimensions as they originally stood. I feel very keenly that this is a situation which, if not intolerable, is certainly one which is not desirable. Local government authorities are left in a position of conflict. Some assume responsibility. Others consider that it is an excessive demand on their resources, at the risk of further penalties to their ratepayers, to accommodate Commonwealth Government ambition as to the future control and operation of these airfields.
I notice also in the estimates a subsidy to air services totalling $425,000. I think this is an occasion for congratulating the Government for showing such a keen sense of responsibility in coming to the aid of Connair Pty Ltd and similar services in remote areas which are so essential to communities in this vast nation of ours.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drummond)- Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Mr Deputy Chairman, I must confess that I cannot be as complimentary to the Government as the previous speaker was. This year’s Budget paints a very bleak picture for transport in South Australia. The allocation this year for roads is $40.4m, despite a recommendation from the Bureau of Roads that the State should receive $58.6m. This allocation represents only a 4 per cent increase over last year’s allocation, at a time when construction and maintenance costs have increased by 14 per cent. This is a significant reduction in the effective value of road funds. South Australia will receive less for roads in 1977- 78 than it did two years ago. It is the only State in this position. Furthermore, the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) said that funds for 1978- 79 and 1979-80 will not increase in real terms over this year’s allocation. Totally inadequate road funding is to be this Government’s policy for the remainder of the decade.
The Government’s policies are blatantly discriminatory against South Australia. South Australia is receiving proportionately less of the total Commonwealth road grant each year. The sum has fallen from 1 1.5 per cent in 1967-68 to 8.5 per cent in 1977-78 despite the fact that South Australia has 9.1 per cent of the population of Australia, according to 1976 figures, and 12.8 per cent of the land area. Worse, South Australia is required by the Federal Government to contribute an increasing percentage of the Commonwealth grant to qualify for its Commonwealth allocation. In 1973-74 the State’s quota was 54 per cent of the Commonwealth grant whereas the quota for 1977-78 is 92 per cent. For this year South Australia must increase its own contribution by almost 9 per cent- more than double the size of the Commonwealth’s increase.
At a meeting of the Australian Transport Advisory Council in Hobart in February this year all
State Ministers argued strongly that the present system of road categories was a burden on the States and ought to be reduced. After some debate the Federal Minister for Transport handed out a statement to each State showing the Commonwealth allocations which already had been approved by the Commonwealth Government for 1977-78 and which perpetuated the system of road categorisation. It was discovered later that the Minister had issued a Press statement on the allocations before the meeting had assembled. The Minister’s arrogant and ill-mannered behaviour reached a new low at the ATAC meeting in Perth. At the last moment he informed the State Ministers who had already assembled that he was unable to attend the meeting at the instruction of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). On the following day he attended a national meeting of the Country Party in Perth. We assume from that that in the opinion of the Minister a national meeting of the Country Party in Perth has priority over consideration of road grants. It was an act of gross discourtesy and every State Minister knows this. We can clearly see the level to which transport policy has fallen in Australia.
I turn now to the Adelaide to Crystal Brook standard gauge project. It provides another example of this Government’s shabby treatment to South Australia. Not a cent was provided in this Budget for that project. In 1970 the present Federal Minister for Transport- he was Federal Minister for Transport at that time also- discussed the proposals with the State Minister. One of the matters discussed was the possibility of converting the existing broad gauge line to standard gauge, a proposition actively promoted by the then South Australian Railways Commissioner. The Federal Minister rejected out of hand any suggestion that the work should be undertaken in any way other than that recommended in the Maunsell report. The Minister who said that is in the chamber tonight. He repeated his stand on no fewer than six occasions. What is the sum total of all these discussions? This vital project was deferred and deferred and deferred again. It was not until the Labor Party was elected to Government in 1972 that the two Ministers concerned got together and quickly reached agreement.
In 1974 the Adelaide-Crystal Brook Standard Gauge Railway Agreement Act was ratified by the South Australian Parliament and the Federal Parliament. When the Liberal-National Country Party Government was returned to power in 1975 the delay commenced again. In February 1976 the South Australian Minister of Transport discussed finance for the project with the current Federal Minister. He received an unqualified assurance -
-No, I did not.
-Yes, the Minister gave that assurance. He said that the project would proceed along the lines contained in the Maunsell report but in May the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) announced that a committee was to be established to review the project. The Fraser Government had already shown its predilection for committees of inquiry to be used as instruments to delay and destroy projects begun by the Labor Government and this committee was to prove no exception.
In the first place the committee was not established for months after the Treasurer’s announcement. When the committee finally presented its report on 24 December 1976 it found, not surprisingly, that there was no economic justification for implementation of the Maunsell plan. There was a complete volte-face. There certainly were some changes. The Minister must get lost. The committee was established to reach precisely this conclusion. What the committee also found, however, was that there were no economic reasons for provision of the standard gauge link to Adelaide and the report presented an alternative plan which involved converting 1S4 kilometres of the existing line to standard gauge, thereby considerably reducing the cost of the project. This alternative basically was accepted by the South Australian Government. We went back to the late 1960s. The committee of inquiry also made another important recommendation, recommendation D, which was as follows:
It is essential that decisions on the future of the line be reached and announced quickly. The Government and people of South Australia have a right to know. In addition railway and industry planning is affected by persistent doubt.
Nine months later the doubts still exist. The Government and the people of South Australia still do not know the Commonwealth Government’s intentions towards the standardisation project. I ask the Minister: What are his intentions? Is he going to give an indication of them at the end of this debate? I doubt it. The Minister’s Press release on the Budget allocations for transport contained only the following statement:
Mr Nixon said the Government had also decided . . because of the difficult economic situation not to provide funds in 1977-78 for the construction of the standard gauge railway connection to Adelaide.
There is no doubt about that. Another consideration applicable to any aspect of transport policy for the future is Australia’s energy situation. The
National Energy Advisory Committee noted in its recent proposals for an Australian conservation of energy program:
Rail transport of freight is generally much more economic in the use of fuel than road transport, and surface transport is similarly preferred to air transport. The relative amounts and types of fuel used in these various forms of transport should be taken into account in planning changes to the transportation systems.
The Minister for Transport is in this chamber and the allocation of fuel comes within the responsibilities of a portfolio held by his compatriot. What is the Minister for Transport going to do about this? He did nothing for 23 years so we cannot expect him to do much in two years. The Adelaide-Crystal Brook standardisation project would provide Adelaide with an efficient economical link with the eastern States where over 85 per cent of the white goods manufactured in South Australia are sold. Under the Fraser Government, transport policy has gone backwards. The Federal Minister for Transport has behaved repeatedly in an arrogant and deceitful manner and I regret to have to say it. His policies have discriminated against South Australia in a very despicable way. The Government and the Minister should be condemned for their failure to implement a rational national and contractive policy.
-I am delighted to hear the honourable member for Cook say so.
– I will not detain the Committee for too long but in speaking to the estimates of the Department of Transport there are a number of aspects of the Government’s civil aviations policies to which I would like to refer. I believe that the coming year could prove to be one of the most vital for civil aviation, especially as reviews are now being undertaken by the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon), through his Department, into both domestic and national policies. On the international scene, that report must be presented by March 1978. Following a number of submissions to the Government, and especially through the House of Representatives Select Committee on Tourism, obviously there is considerable public interest in the development of charter and other cheaper flights between the United Kingdom and Australia. For many years Australians have been deprived of these low excursion rates. The Australian tourist industry should be able to benefit greatly from the back-loading of passengers to Australia. One would hope that when this matter is reviewed objectively there will not be a snowing of the inquiry as has happened in the recent past whenever the prospect of charter arrangements was mentioned.
In fact one of the things that worries me about this particular inquiry, and the associated publicity that is going on at the moment, is that everything seems to be concentrating on the area of links between the United Kingdom and Australia. If we are to look at this matter objectively as far as the tourist industry is concerned we should be looking in a very real way at the North American market and the major tourist markets which include Japan and some points in Europe, particularly Germany. One would hope also that if these European destinations are being considered by that inquiry the Scandinavian situation would be looked at as well. The Scandinavian community in my electorate is most upset about the fares to and from their home countries at the moment. Certainly there could be a two-way flow between Australia, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland if an excursion fare could be negotiated.
It would be discriminatory indeed if these folk are denied access to Australia just because there is not a direct service operating between here and there. Obviously our national carrier could have a great deal of access to sector traffic, especially of some low yield routes that exist at the moment. One would obviously have a situation where extra charges were to be made if an aircraft had to land and a change of aircraft had to be made at a certain port. But surely, even with that extra charge involved, the air fares that would be available would be nowhere near twice the particular air fare as it is at the moment. I think that the charter fare between Australia and the United Kingdom or the low season fare and of course the excursion fares available at the moment are at approximately the $850 mark whereby the fare to Helsinki is about the $1,600 mark. It would seem to me there is a very real need for the Australian Government and the governments of Scandinavia to get together to see whether some proposal can be worked out.
Because of our sparse population and the long legs involved in domestic airline travel, civil aviation is to be always an incredible cost to Australians. Successive governments have maintained facilities at a very high level over the years and the upgrading processes are on a continuing cost. However, the fact remains that domestic airline travel in this country is still among the highest in the world. It is true that, in these past few months, the domestic airlines have been enjoying an almost unprecedented growth rate on most major routes. However, saturation point must be reached ultimately and one sometimes wonders just when this point will be reached if landing charges, fuel tax and government fees continue to rise.
Obviously these charges do form a part of the overall fare structure which is so high at the moment. It is interesting to note that the House of Representatives Select Committee on Tourism was told at a meeting in Melbourne earlier this year by both domestic carriers and later in Cairns by Bush Pilots Airways Ltd that they could effect considerable reduction if these charges were eliminated. The Ansett Airlines of Australia representative said a 25 per cent reduction and the Trans- Australia Airlines representative a 10 per cent reduction.
There is much to be said for the user pays principle and although the user does not really pay entirely for civil aviation services in Australia at the moment, perhaps there is room for a review in this area, especially if international and domestic tourism is to expand. The high costs are obviously a detriment to getting the international tourist around Australia.
Although our facilities are reasonably comparable, the problems of Sydney and Brisbane airports are still with us. The investigations into Sydney Airport are still under way but the Brisbane Airport problem has not been resolved as yet. I have been disturbed by the reports that a departmental recommendation is in the wind that 1,000 feet is to be added to the present runway. This, of course, achieves virtually nothing. It has been stated so many times in the House that the only option open to the Government is the implementation of the proposed new runway system. The Minister for Transport has, of course, made the promise to Queensland members of Parliament that no approval will be given for terminal or other significant works at Brisbane Airport unless the total airport development strategy is disclosed at the same time. It is an expensive project- and we realise that- but one that is vital if the full safety aspects are to be achieved and if Queensland is to meet its full potential as the tourist State of Australia. The Brisbane Airport becomes a more and more critical question as the Commonwealth Games approach and the question of charter operations to Australia comes closer to being a reality. At the moment it is absolutely impossible for a charter operator to use the present facilities at Brisbane International Airport. The Queensland Government members, the full State Council of the Liberal Party of Queensland and the Liberal Party’s National Executive have all given their fullest report to locating the new runway complex and really have refused to make any compromise.
At the threat of being accused of being parochial, I raise one small matter that I believe is of significant concern to the people of Brisbane. The matter I wish to raise concerns the terminal facilities at the Brisbane International Airport. A couple of weeks ago I wrote to the Minister and explained the situation regarding baggage trollies at the airport. It would seem that only 20 trollies had been provided. I did a check late today and I found that 10 of the trollies are out of operation. It is an interesting sight to see parked on the tarmac at the same time one Qantas Airways Ltd Boeing 747, one British Airways Boeing 747, one Air New Zealand DC10 and one Air Niugini Boeing 707 which lands at Brisbane airport one day a week.
– It must be a very big runway to hold all of them.
-One sees overseas visitors, . especially aged passengers, having to carry baggage because trollies are not available. The ground crew of the airline companies, particularly the ground hostesses, have to struggle through the terminal with very heavy baggage under each arm. This is a most alarming sight. I certainly hope that the Department of Transport will make a thorough investigation into this matter. It would seem that Brisbane International Airport is sometimes regarded as somewhat of a backwater as far as planning in Canberra is concerned. I know that the Minister is most understanding about these things and that he certainly will make an investigation in the near future into this matter.
This year could be a most exciting year in civil aviation in Australia. It could be a year in which we will see major reforms and major changes carried out, both to Australia’s domestic airline policy and of course to our international policy. The Australian domestic airline industry and Qantas have a very proud record and with continued planning and the expansion that is going on, despite the incredible costs involved, that record should be maintained.
– I wish to speak to the estimates of the Department of Transport which involve an expenditure of $539m. There is one matter uppermost in my mind which I wish to emphasise. That is the overwhelming expression of opinion of people in the electorates of Shortland, Newcastle and Hunter and the northern sector of the electorate of Robertson that the national highway should be routed through a point near Doyalson around the western side of Lake Macquarie. I know that the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) has been sympathetic to the overwhelming views of the people in the region.
The honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones), when Minister for Transport, had an investigation conducted into the route that the national highway should take. It was decided by astute and public spirited bodies that the route should extend around the western side of Lake Macquarie, up past Toronto and should join up with the Pacific Highway in the vicinity of Hexham. Since this recommendation was made, there has been a change of government. Increasing pressure has been put on the present Minister for Transport, who is at the table, to upgrade the Pacific Highway- which passes through Newcastlefrom Doyalson to Swansea. I know that the Minister is sympathetic to the views expressed by a large number of bodies to the inquiry set up by the honourable member for Newcastle. However, the Minister for Transport is in difficulty because of the opinion of the New South Wales Department of Main Roads which has recommended to its Minister, Mr Cox, that $10m would be required to upgrade the Doyalson to Swansea road to a four-lane highway standard which would necessitate another bridge being built over the Swansea channel.
I believe that in these matters responsible public opinion should prevail against the recommendation of the New South Wales Department of Main Roads to its State Minister, Mr Cox. I guess that, if I were in the Federal Minister’s position, I would try to meet the request of the New South Wales Minister for Transport who has been guided by his Department. But I think it would be a grievous error if the $10m sought by the New South Wales Department of Main Roads was allocated by the Federal Minister to upgrade the Doyalson-Swansea section of the Pacific Highway to a four-lane capacity instead of allocating that amount of money, or almost that amount, to the development of the national highway around the western section of Lake Macquarie through Wyee, Morissett and Toronto. The matter remains dormant until some decision can be finally reached. I hope that the parties concerned, the New South Wales Department of Roads and the New South Wales Minister for Transport, will agree with the overwhelming public opinion concerning this new proposed national highway which, as was recommended to Mr Charles Jones, the former Minister for Transport, should take a route around the western side of Lake Macquarie. I believe the evidence is overwhelmingly in favour of it. It would take a tremendous volume of traffic away from the Doyalson-Swansea road. I frequently pick up the newspapers and see a report about another fatal smash on this road. The road needs upgrading. It carries a heavy volume of traffic which would be considerably lessened if the main highway went around the western side of Lake Macquarie. I venture to say that it would take two-thirds of the traffic load away from the Doyalson-Swansea region. Even the people who now traverse that road to the suburbs of Newcastle would use the national highway around the western side of Lake Macquarie to go to their homes in the western suburbs of Newcastle.
There is an increasing volume of interstate traffic travelling north to Port Macquarie, Taree, Shoal Bay, and even to Brisbane and Cairns year after year. It will become more intense in the next decade. This is an important matter which has been lying in limbo for some time. I hope the Minister will make the practical and commonsense decision even if he has to chafe the Labor Party Minister in charge of the Department of Main Roads in New South Wales. I am not pushing a political barrow in making this suggestion to the Minister. It is the practical, common sense route for the national highway to take. If the Department of Main Roads is successful in getting the Federal Government to upgrade the DoyalsonSwansea section, one can expect that the national highway around the western section of Lake Macquarie will remain for many years undeveloped and not take the course which was the wish of the former Minister and dozens of responsible Newcastle bodies.
The Minister is aware that the Newcastle Chamber of Commerce is pressing urgently for the upgrading of that road, but it could have a parochial view. It comprises people who are responsible in many ways, but they take the parochial view that it will put more ‘money into commerce in Newcastle by sending northern tourists through the shopping centre of Newcastle where they might stay overnight. I think that is a narrow selfish view although they might hold it unconsciously. I think there is an urgent need for roads to be upgraded all over Australia, as much as the Government will permit. Inadequate roads are the main contributing cause of deaths on the road. Motor car manufacturers can put out faster cars year after year but the roads are inadequate to accommodate them. I could say more on this matter but I understand another speaker from this side of the chamber hopes to make a contribution before the debate closes. I hope the Minister will make the common sense decision. I know he is somewhat embarrassed at having the request made of him by the Department of Main Roads and the State Minister but I believe common sense will prevail and the $ 10m will be allocated to the development of the national highway around the western side of Lake Macquarie to which I have referred.
– Firstly, I would like to thank all those honourable members who contributed to the debate. There have been yesterday and again tonight one or two constructive suggestions put forward. I will not have an opportunity to reply to all the matters that have been raised so I will make sure that the various speeches that have been made are studied and I will respond to them later. With regard to the matter raised by the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James), he has put the case very correctly. The fact is that the New South Wales Minister prefers to upgrade the Doyalson-Swansea road and in that he has the support of the Newcastle Chamber of Commerce. I am aware also that every Federal member of parliament- representing the area believes that the national highway should go west of Lake Macquarie. Honourable members will be pleased to know that this matter is moving. There has been some correspondence between the State Minister and me and hopefully we will reach a reasonable compromise.
The honourable member for Bowman (Mr Jull) raised one or two matters. His interest in aviation is well known and I appreciate his knowledge of it. Like the honourable member for Bowman, I am looking forward to the conclusion of both the domestic study on aviation and the international study on aviation as I believe that plans for aviation in this country for the next generation or so will be able to be laid down in proper perspective and in a proper context after those reports are received. I must say to the honourable member that so far as charter operators coming into Brisbane are concerned, I am at a loss to understand why the honourable member believes this cannot be done.
– Because they cannot take off fully loaded.
– I think the honourable member is being misled or misinformed on this matter. I am advised that they can get in with full loadings and get out with satisfactory loadings to the next place of refuelling. I am informed that the airport, even in its present condition, will in no way debar the proper handling of the Commonwealth Games m 1982. I know the honourable member for Bowman does not agree with that proposition but that is the advice which my Department has given me. My Department, of course, has a very great regard for air safety matters and the like. That is a matter that ought to be established as a matter of fact. It should not be a matter of debate or dispute. Therefore, I will pass on the facts to the honourable member for Bowman and see whether I can settle him down on that point. With regard to the provision of trolleys, airlines themselves have some responsibility in this matter but I will take up the honourable member’s question and look at it. The honourable member for Hawker (Mr Jacobi) and the honourable member for Grey (Mr Wallis) raised the question of the level of road funds being made available, particularly to South Australia. I point out to them that despite the fact that the Government was unable to provide the total level of funds as recommended in the report of the Bureau of Roads, within the context of the funds available, South Australia received its proper percentage. Therefore, I do not think it proper for the honourable members to accuse me of being biased against South Australia in that respect.
I want to thank the Chairman of the Transport Committee, the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Cadman), for his contribution which was a very constructive contribution, and the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Goodluck) who made a very constructive speech last night. The shadow Minister for Transport, the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris), last night expressed some concern about the provision of fire services and I want to lay at rest any doubt with regard to my own or the Department’s approach on this question. The honourable member ought to be aware that orders will be placed this year for 19 ultra large fire tenders and nine rapid intervention tenders at a total cost of $3.2m. That certainly is a rapid stepping up on previous provisions of this type. Also under division 6SS.2.12 provision for air transport moveable plant maintenance has been increased by 20 per cent in the current appropriation to $220,000 to ensure that an adequate maintenance service is available for both the existing fleet of fire vehicles and also pending new deliveries.
I make the point that International Civil Aviation Organisation standards are not mandatory requirements at all airports, but it is government policy to keep international airports up to those standards and to ensure that fire services at other locations are kept close to that level. The honourable member also raised the question of the provision of civil aviation meteorological services. I remind the House that the provision of finance for those services is based on the formula devised back in 1952 for the Bureau of Meteorology, whereby 35 per cent of the Bureau’s salary expenditure and 28 per cent of its general expenditure was attributable to aviation services. Numerous attempts have been made to change the formula, and recently the Government has received an inter-departmental committee report which we are looking at in an effort to review the basis of charging that is currently operated by the Bureau.
The honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) very proudly mentioned that he had spent $ 100m in providing four new bulk ore carriers for the Australian National Line. What he did not tell the House is that when he ordered those four bulk ore carriers, which are the dearest four bulk ore carriers ever built and ever put into the trade, he did not at the same time secure orders for those bulk ore carriers. It has been left to me and ANL to negotiate with the Japanese to try to put those bulk ore carriers into the trade because of the honourable member’s lack of businesslike approach to this problem. Only two of those vessels have been fitted into the trade and two are on standby to be fitted in at a later date.
The final point I want to make concerns the problem raised by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Uren). He spoke about the allocation of funds this year for urban public transport and pointed out that only $51m is being made available. He made the point that that figure represents a 13 per cent reduction on the $5 8.4m which was advanced in 1976-77, but he ignored the fact that the 1976-77 allocation of $58.4m was some 70 per cent greater than the $33.8m allocated in the last Labor Budget. He also ignored the fact that it was his Government which abolished the allocation of new funds for urban public transport in 1975-76. In fact, it is true to say that this Government has provided $ 109.4m in two years, and that is some 40 per cent more than the $79m provided by the Government of which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was a member. I think therefore it is unfitting and unbecoming of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to make the allegation that this Government is not interested in the problems of urban public transport.
Once again I thank all those honourable members who made a contribution to the debate.
Proposed expenditure agreed to.
– For the information of honourable members I present the text of a statement by the Minister for Education, given to the Senate by the honourable gentleman today, on programs of the education commissions for the 1978-1980 rolling triennium.
Bill presented by Mr Lynch, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill, which fixes the rates of tax payable by individuals and trustees, will put into effect the new personal income tax system that is a central feature of this year’s Budget. When I presented the Budget, I outlined main features of the new system. I said then, and I repeat now, that the system is revolutionary, it is simple and, above all, by its reductions in tax at all levels of income, it goes a long way towards restoring incentive for individuals to work, to take on added responsibility or to become qualified for a more skilled job. The new standard rate system removes, once and for all, the unjust and crippling regime of personal income tax imposed on the community by the former Government.
We embarked on a program of fundamental tax reform in the first year of our current term of office, when we introduced full automatic indexation of the personal tax system. That step alone reduced revenues- and put money back in people’s pockets-by about $ 1,000m in 1976-77 and another $ 1,000m in 1977-78. Now the new personal tax system will, in annual terms, add approximately another $ 1 ,000m to these benefits for taxpayers. lt is not just the size of these reductions that is important, it is also the way in which they are structured to provide tax relief to Australiansall individual taxpayers- from the excessive level of personal taxation under the previous Government. Effective from 1 February 1978, there will be no tax levied on the first $3,750 of taxable income of individuals. In other words, the first $3,750 of everyone’s income will be tax free. In the case of a taxpayer with a wholly dependent spouse, the first $5,484 of income will be tax free because the dependent spouse rebate is maintained under the new system.
About 225,000 taxpayers, many of them pensioners, will thus be made tax free. This feature of the new system is a social reform that significantly improves the position of lower income groups in the Australian community.
For those who remain taxable there is to be the one standard rate of tax, 32 per cent, applying only to the part of taxable income above $3,750. Ninety per cent of taxpayers will pay tax at no more than that standard rate. For those who do pay at higher rates, and these are people with taxable income above $16,000, the rates of surcharge are structured in keeping with the Government’s decision that all taxpayers will have the benefit of substantial reductions in tax. The structure of a zero rate, a standard rate and surcharges that is introduced by this Bill will mean that there is no tax on the first $3,750 of taxable income, 32 per cent on the part from $3,751 to $16,000, 46 per cent from there to $32,000 and 60 per cent, the new top rate, on the excess over $32,000.
Dependant rebates, having been indexed upwards last July, are retained in the new system, and, as I shall explain when introducing an associated Bill, taxpayers in 1977-78 will be able to qualify for rebate when their concessional expenditure exceeds $1,590 rather than the pre- Budget level of $1,690. This means that rebates are being made available to more taxpayers, particularly as the new amount will not be indexed in future years.
As I have said, the new system is to operate from 1 February 1978 and, from that date, PA YE deductions from salaries and wages will be reduced accordingly. Provisional taxpayers, whose provisional tax for 1977-78 notified on notices of assessment is based on 1976-77 income levels, will be called on to pay provisional tax for 1977-78 at 1976-77 rates of income tax. By ‘self-assessment’ procedures, however, the provisional tax may be recalculated by taxpayers so as to reflect the application of 1977-78 rates to properly estimated taxable income for 1977-78.
When tax for 1977-78 is assessed, it will, for each taxpayer, in basic principle represent seventwelfths of the tax that would be payable for the year under the pre-Budget system and fivetwelfths of the tax that would have been levied if the new system had been in force for the whole year, instead of from 1 February 1978 only. In applying this principle, we have set the tax threshold for 1977-78 at $3,403 which is livetwelfths of the way between the ore-Budget tax threshold of $3,154 and the threshold of $3,751 under the new system when it is operative for a full year. The Bill declares the rates of tax applicable under the new system as they will apply, subject to indexation, in 1978-79. For convenience of application, it declares the 1977-78 rates in composite schedules that give a fivetwelfths weighting to the rates under the new system and seven-twelfths weighting to the preBudget rates.
In its review of the personal tax system, the Government has paid particular attention to the special circumstances of primary producers. This Bill introduces the new system of averaging for primary producers which we have formulated and which has been the subject of a separate announcement. Previously, the averaging system provided some moderation of tax liability when incomes were rising, but increased tax above normal levels when incomes were on the decline. Under the new system, the first of these features will be continued, but the second will not. Previously, there was a limit of $16,000 on the income that could qualify for the benefits of averaging, but under the new system there will be no such limit.
In short, the new averaging system will mean that, when taxable income of a primary producer is higher than his or her average income, the tax on taxable income will be calculated at the rate obtained by dividing tax on average income- ascertained by applying the new rate structure- by the amount of average income. Where taxable income is lower than average income, averaging would be to the detriment of the taxpayer and will not be applied. As will be the case for taxpayers generally, the tax payable by primary producers for 1977-78 will be seven-twelfths of the tax under pre-Budget averaging arrangements and five-twelfths of the tax under the new averaging system.
Another Bill- the Income Tax Assessment Amendment Bill- makes some associated amendments to the averaging provisions of the income tax law. In my Budget Speech I referred to some specific changes in the rules for taxation of trustees that are consequential on the new system of personal taxation. This Bill will implement these changes as well as some connected amendments introduced pursuant to our policy of acting against tax avoidance schemes and arrangements. The high tax threshold of $3,750 under the new system, while right and proper for individual taxpayers, would, if applied in assessments of trustees generally, provide an undue incentive for the formation of trusts for purposes of tax avoidance. On the other hand, the Government does not wish to impose tax on trusts not set up for purposes of tax avoidance where the income of the trusts is relatively small.
The solution that we have arrived at is to allow the zero rate to some trusts and not to others, but to free from tax those trusts not entitled to the zero rate where the income is relatively small. The zero rate is generally not to apply in respect of income to which no beneficiary is presently entitled, or to income of a trust set up during the lifetime of the settlor where an infant child under 16 years of age is presently entitled to the income. In these two situations, there will be no tax if the income concerned is less than $417 and $1,041, respectively, and there will be associated shading-in’ provisions to prevent abrupt transition from a non-taxable to a taxable situation. The $1,041 minimum taxable income for trusts for infants will be related to the aggregate income of such trusts for each infant, in order to prevent avoidance through multiple trusts of this type. The Commissioner of Taxation will, however, have authority to vary this rule where that is appropriate in the circumstances.
This relieving power will ensure that ordinary trusts for children under 16 years of age will not be called on to pay tax where the income is under $1,041. Trustees who are taxed on other income to which a beneficiary is presently entitled will be allowed the zero rate- for example, a trustee of a deceased estate for an infant child. We are also preparing to allow the zero rate to the trustee of a deceased estate who is taxed under section 99 of the Assessment Act in respect of income received in the income year of death and the two following years. This is a new concession.
Before I leave the subject of trusts I mention that in association with the maximum marginal rate of tax of 60 per cent under the new personal tax system, the Government proposes to bring the rate of tax on trust income that is taxed under section 99a of the Assessment Act up to that level. As many honourable members will know, section 99a, which was introduced with other anti-avoidance measures in 1964, relates to trusts which are never more than tax avoidance arrangements pure and simple. I note further that we are now proposing, oy amendment of the Assessment Act, to broaden the scope of the section in a way that I will outline when introducing that amendment.
I referred at the beginning of this speech to tax indexation, a very significant reform initiated by this Government. Tax indexation is to continue, but for 1978-79, in the context of our introduction of the new personal tax system during the course of 1977-78, the Bill provides for the indexation of the new rate structure to be, at base, one-half of what it would otherwise be. The Bill also, however, contains provision for the 1978-79 indexation adjustment to be fixed as a greater proportion than one-half of the ordinary adjustment, should that be found appropriate when the time arrives.
That completes a broad exposition of the main features of this Bill. Detailed explanations of it are contained in an explanatory memorandum that is being made available to honourable members. The Bill is more lengthy than is usual for Bills of this type, but that is largely attributable to the need to make additional provision for the transitional year, 1977-78, the income of which will in effect be taxed according to both the pre-Budget and new systems. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Hurford) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Lynch, and read a first time.
This Bill deals with a number of matters associated with the new standard rate system of personal income tax, with the Budget proposal to increase the Australian tax on film royalties being paid overseas and with two of the measures announced in the general statement dealing with the North West Shelf natural gas project. It also provides for a start to be made on our program to counter tax avoidance schemes and arrangements.
Mr Deputy Speaker, under the pre Budget system introduced by our predecessors the practical situation, despite appearances to the contrary, was that taxpayers did not really get any rebate for certain expenditures- superannuation, municipal rates, education expenses and the like- unless their total expenditure exceeded $ 1 ,690. The rebate, at the rate of 40 per cent, applied effectively only to the excess over $1,690. 1 say ‘effectively’ because the general concessional rebate of $676, which was allowed to taxpayers whether or not they spent anything, was so structured as, in a practical sense, to absorb the first $1,690 of rebatable expenditure.
Under the new personal tax system, we are replacing the general rebate by the more generous zero rate on the first $3,750 of taxable income. But in doing that, the Government is, by this Bill, reducing by $100, to $1,590, the amount of rebatable expenditure that a taxpayer must incur before being eligible for rebate. Consonant with the system of a standard tax rate of 32 per cent the rebate rate on expenditure in excess of $1,590 will be 32 per cent. These changes have effect for the whole of 1977-78 and for subsequent years the $1,590 ceiling will not be subject to indexation.
Replacement of the general rebate by the zero rate necessitates technical adjustments in relation to superannuation contributions in excess of the $1,200 limit set by the law for rebate purposes. At present, contributions in excess of $1,200 may be carried forward so as to reduce the taxable part of a superannuation pension when the person concerned retires and commences to draw it. The Bill will ensure that this right of carry forward is retained.
In introducing the legislation to declare rates of personal tax I referred to our new arrangements for averaging for primary producers. This Bill contains ancillary provisions. These will give primary producers who have withdrawn from the averaging system the right, if they so wish, to return to the system for the current year, 1977-78. Because the new averaging arrangements applicable under the new personal tax system will, for 1978-79 and subsequent years, always be of benefit to primary producers, the Bill also provides that all primary producers, including those who have elected to withdraw from the averaging system, will automatically have averaging applied for those years when it is to their advantage for that to be done.
Another provision of the Bill deals with the health insurance levy. For 1977-78 and subsequent income years it is proposed to free trustees of deceased estates from the levy in respect of income to which no beneficiary is presently entitled.
– Hear, hear!
– I know that on this side of the House there are a number of members who have drawn attention to the need for this change. The Government recently announced its decision to give taxation concessions which would be of benefit to the North West Shelf natural gas project. The main feature is to be a rebate for shareholders in respect of capital that they subscribe to companies holding valid licences or permits under the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act and that is employed by those companies in offshore petroleum exploration or development. The extensive and complicated legislation for this rebate is in course of preparation, and will be introduced as soon as practicable.
We will also be introducing at an early date legislation to reinstate the exemption under section 23 (p) of the Income Tax Assessment Act for income from the sale of mining rights.
– Hear, hear!
-I can hear the honourable member for Kalgoorlie quite properly drawing attention to what is a very significant initiative which he has brought to my personal attention and to the attention of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). I hope the honourable member will take the opportunity to carry the context of what is being said here into his own electorate to make it absolutely clear that the initiative that the Government is now taking, substantial in its application, is an initiative which came from the very vigorous representations of the honourable member for Kalgoorlie.
The Bill does, however, contain two of the concessions I referred to a moment ago, one of which will also have beneficial effects outside the mining industry. This general concession extends by two years, from 30 June 1983 to 30 June 1 985, the date by which plant must be ordered or construction commenced to qualify for the 20 per cent phase of the investment allowance. The other measure includes within the range of allowable capital expenditures of a petroleum mining company the cost of a liquefaction plant for use in the processing of natural gas. This measure will be of particular assistance to the North West Shelf project and reflects the desire of the Government to get important resource projects off the ground.
Film and video tape royalties paid abroad after Budget day are the subject of another part of the Bill. I announced in the Budget Speech that, in broad terms, the Government proposed to increase the Australian tax on such royalties from 4.6 per cent to 10 per cent. The Government came to the conclusion in its Budget deliberations, and has on subsequent review confirmed, that Australia collects an unreasonably low tax on such payments. The tax of 10 per cent, which we believe to be appropriate, will be formally declared in another Bill, to be introduced shortly, according to basic conditions of liability set out in this Bill.
Other parts of the Bill deal with measures to counter tax avoidance, some of which are closely connected with the fundamental changes in the personal tax system that we are proposing. One measure will give effect to the decision announced on 29 June 1977 to legislate against arrangements by which some private companies have been able to acquire technical public company status for income tax purposes by giving formal control of the companies on the last day of the year of income to a public hospital or other public body. The amendment will not, however, affect the public status of any company in which a controlling interest is genuinely and effectively held by a public body.
I referred in my Budget Speech to the Government’s firm resolve to crack down on tax avoidance schemes and arrangements. Since Budget day, Ministers have looked at a number of schemes and arrangements at present in operation and have taken decisions to introduce remedial legislation. That legislation is in course of preparation and will be introduced at the earliest opportunity.
Our decisions in one area- trusts- are connected closely with Budget measures and they are thus contained in the legislation now being introduced. When in 1964 the Government of the day brought in extensive anti-avoidance legislation, it introduced a special rate of tax- 50 per cent- on some trust income to which no beneficiary is presently entitled. Under section 99A of the Income Tax Assessment Act, that tax applies where the trust is clearly for tax avoidance purposes and, under the 1964 legislation, deceased estates were excluded from it. Unfortunately, that exclusion has given rise to tax avoidance by most unpleasant means. Some family groups, few in number I am pleased to say, nave arranged for unrelated aged people who are expected not to live for any length of time, and who have little in the way of assets of their own, to set up multiple ‘shell’ trusts under a will for the benefit of members of the sponsor family.
On the death of the aged person, the family channels income into these trusts which, because they qualify as deceased estates, are outside the scope of the special rate of tax under section 99A. Effective for the 1977-78 and subsequent years such trusts will be dealt with by bringing deceased estates within the scope of section 99A. However, I emphasise that deceased estates of the ordinary and traditional kind will continue to be assessed by the Commissioner of Taxation under section 99 of the Income Tax Assessment Act.
I mentioned in my earlier speech that the rate of tax under section 99A is, in future, to be the maximum rate of personal tax, 60 per cent. We have also decided to withdraw the advantage of one-year’s deferral of tax that, through their exemption from liability to provisional tax, is now available to section 99A trusts. For the 1978-79 and subsequent years trustees of these trusts will be liable to pay provisional tax. Again, details of all the measures in this Bill are contained in the explanatory memorandum that is being circulated.
Before I close my second reading speech in relation to this Bill, I should like to take the opportunity to place on the record my appreciation of the outstanding contribution which the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) has made to this Federal Parliament, to the people of Australia and in particular to his constituents over a very long period. I might say to the honourable gentleman, who I see in the chamber, that I was not aware of the announcement that he was to make in this Parliament but a few days ago. I should like to say to all members of the House that I do not think that any member is better respected in this House than the honourable member for Melbourne Ports, to whom I prefer to refer here as Frank Crean. There is no member who has been better respected over so long a period.
I record my personal appreciation. The honourable gentleman will know that I carry with that the appreciation of the officers who served him well and faithfully in what are now the two departments of the Department of the Treasury and the Department of Finance. They would like to be associated with these comments. I also extend my very best and personal wishes to Frank Crean and his wife for a very long and enjoyable retirement after a most productive and distinguished record in this Federal Parliament on behalf of the people of Australia, particularly those people in the electorate of Melbourne Ports. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Hurford) adjourned.
-by leave-I appreciate what the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) has said. The majority of people in Australia cannot evade one cent of the tax they are obliged to pay, but a lot of people can. One of the things which I have tried to do and which I hope all Treasurers will try to do is to avoid permitting the slickies to do what the ordinary people cannot do. I ap- preciate at any time the closing up of anyoopholes which are present in the Act. Most people have no income except their wages or salaries. They cannot get out of paying one cent of the tax they are required to pay. But a lot of people try to tura what is really income into capital.
I think all Treasurers try to close the loopholes which permit that. I am sure that the present Treasurer has tried to do this. Most of us cannot avoid paying a single cent of tax. We pay it week by week when deductions are taken from our wages or salaries. Yet certain people try to turn income into capital. I hope that the present Treasurer will continue to do what I tried to do. We close loopholes. But every time we try to do that a combination of slick lawyers and capital accountants move in. I am against both shek lawyers and capital accountants.
– I thank the honourable member for those comments.
Bill presented by Mr Lynch, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill is an annual measure. Principally, it has the short, simple, purpose of formally imposing tax for 1977-78 at the rates to be declared in the Income Tax (Rates) Act. It also has another transition-year purpose connected with the introduction of the new system of personal taxation as it applies to primary producers taxed under the averaging provisions of the income tax law. Tax rates for 1977-78 that are being declared are an amalgam of those applicable under the pre-Budget system, with a weighting of 7/ 12, and those under the different system applicable from 1 February 1978, with a weighting of 5/ 12.
For taxpayers generally, the 1977-78 rate schedule is so constructed as to give them the benefit of the rebate of $676 proportionate to the period of seven months for which the pre-Budget system applies. However, to maintain this effect for primary producers it is technically necessary to provide a special transition-year rebate and the Bill does this. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Hurford) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Lynch, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill will impose income tax for 1977-78 on the 1976-77 incomes of companies and the 1977-78 incomes of superannuation funds. The rates of company tax declared by this Bill give effect to the 3Vi per cent increase that I announced in the recent Federal Budget. I pointed out then that the increase was a necessary part of the overall Budget arrangements and was set against the background of the very substantial tax savings that the corporate sector is enjoying as a consequence of the investment allowance, which the Australian Labor Party is on record as wanting to abolish and the trading stock valuation adjustment.
As is usual, the rate of 46 per cent that is to apply to company incomes is also to be levied on superannuation funds that are taxable only because of a failure to observe the 30/20 investment rule.
The rate of tax applicable to friendly society dispensaries- previously 37Vi per cent- is to become 41 per cent. For superannuation funds for which tax relief of one kind or another is provided in the law, the rate is to remain unchanged at 50 per cent for any income of the fund that may be subject to tax.
However, in line with the proposal to increase above 50 per cent the rate of tax on accumulating trust income that is taxed under section 99A of the Income Tax Assessment Act, there is to be a corresponding increase in the rate of tax payable by a trust that, under the income tax law, technically qualifies as a superannuation fund because benefits it provides accrue on retirement. I stress that this increase in rate will not apply to superannuation funds for which the income tax law provides special treatment of one kind or another. The rate of additional tax payable by private companies that do not make a sufficient distribution of profits is not being changed.
The Bill also contains provisions which will enable the collection of company tax by instalments in the 1978-79 financial year, on the basis set down in the Income Tax Assessment Act.
Notes on the Bill are included in an explanatory memorandum being made available to honourable members. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Hurford) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Lynch, and read a first time.
This Bill, an annual measure, formally declares the rate of health insurance levy payable for 1977-78 in those situations where the general levy law requires that the levy be paid. The rate of levy remains at 2.5 per cent of taxable income, subject to unchanged ceiling amounts of $300 for taxpayers with dependants and $150 for those without dependants. One change, dealt with in this Bill as well as in an earlier Bill, will exempt from the levy the income of a deceased estate to which no beneficiary in the estate has a present entitlement.
The new system of personal income tax means that liability to income tax will begin at a higher income level than hitherto. Correspondingly, the amount of income at which liability for levy begins will become higher and the Bill makes technical provision to this effect. For example, a person without dependants was exempt from tax under pre-Budget rules where his or her taxable income was less than $3,154 and from levy where the taxable income was less than $2,887. Under the new system, under which the tax threshold will be $3,751, the point at which levy commences to be payable will be taxable income of $3,479. For 1977-78, the fivetwelfths/seventwelfths transitional arrangements will result in tax and levy thresholds of $3,403 and $3,114 respectively. Of course, if a person has a dependent spouse, the tax and levy thresholds will be greater again. To illustrate, under the new system a man with a wholly dependent wife will not pay any levy unless his taxable income is $5,087 or more. Technical changes in the law are explained in the explanatory memorandum and I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Hurford) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Lynch, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill will declare and impose a rate of tax of 10 per cent on film and video tape royalties paid from Australia after Budget day to residents of other countries. Liability to this tax is to be created under the Income Tax Assessment Act and, in introducing amendments to that Act, I spoke about the proposed arrangements which are explained in more detail in the explanatory memorandum that is being circulated to honourable members. I think that I need therefore do no more at this stage than commend this Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Hurford) adjourned.
Department of Education
Proposed expenditure, $479,963,000.
– The education estimates give us a chance again to talk about the problems that are facing the education area. This is evidenced by the number of reports we have now from the Schools Commission and the Tertiary Education Commission. Let me refer to what would have been the situation if we were relying on the Liberal Budget of 1 972. It was proposed then that a fiveyear triennium be introduced to cover the period up to 1978.
– We are talking about the Liberal Budget of 1977.
-I think it is important to remember what the Liberal Party would have done if it had remained in office. It was proposed in 1972 that the then Government would provide, over five years, $167m by way of capital to the government schools and a paltry $48m to the independent schools. It took a change of government in 1972 to bring into focus the real needs of education. Let us look at the program of the commissions and the guidelines that they have been obliged to adopt. They have lost their independence of being able to advise on the basis of need. They now have to work within a concept of government directions. On this occasion the amount to be spent is $ 1,647m. If we look at this matter from the point of view of the needs of education, in 1972 they were perhaps assessed at $400m. In the Whitlam Government era the funds were quadrupled to $ 1,600m. It was all done on the basis of needs. The point I make is that from looking at the commission reports we still see large gaps as to what is needed by way of aid to children.
Some of the matters that are causing concern we have mentioned already. I refer to the directions given to the commissions. I think it is important to mention also what this will mean to the government and non-government areas. The biggest worry for anybody concerned is that there could be division in the ranks of the two sectors of the education area. It is made very clear that the non-government sectors of education are objecting to funds being diverted from the government sector. In fairness to them I think that is a worthwhile comment to make. Let us look at what is happening now from the point of view of limitation of funds. The direction that some of these funds are to be diverted to the nongovernment area means that the funds can come only from the government area, and that is an area of need as well. Because of the growth factor that is envisaged of a mere 1 per cent in the forthcoming years there will be a shortfall in the amount that has to be provided for the nongovernment sector. It can come only from the government sector. We are seeing a deteriorating position. The government sector is still not getting sufficient funds. There is going to be inbuilt hostility in parents and children about whether the level of funding should have been maintained. The non-government schools sector did not want that odium anyway. It did not want it said that it was seeking funds from the government sector. This is happening all because of the Government’s attitude that there has to be a limitation on the amount of money spent. On page 6 of the Schools Commission report these words appear:
For 1979 and 1980 planning is to be on the basis of a one per cent real growth in funds.
Further on it says that this would ‘generate an additional $5.7 1 m. ‘ The point is that there has to be a maintenance of a certain level of funding in the non-government area. I understand that that figure is well over $ 10m, so there has to be an additional drag on State government funds to make up that levy. All this adds to the fact that we have nothing but confrontation, division and disappointment with this sort of attitude towards the needs of children.
The whole gamut of the Labor Party Government’s philosophy was not to get into the area directly but to establish worthwhile independent commissions to advise on needs. If honourable members look at the reports of these commissions, whether in the tertiary field or the schools area, they will see that great concern is expressed by the Commission. The Schools Commission expresses it in this way:
The Commission accepts the financial implications . . but is concerned at its future implications if there is to be insufficient growth in total funds.
This independent commission expresses concern and rightly so. If one looks at the guidelines that have been introduced one finds that there has been a continual reduction in the resources that should have been made available. I think it is very important that the Government has another look at this issue. If the Government wants to give additional funds to schools that are well endowed it should not take them from schools that are not so endowed. The Government is only putting a further burden on the children and the parents. The State governments feel that they cannot continue to carry the burden. If this Government is going to maintain the growth factor, as it must, and it is not providing sufficient funds to make up the leeway the State governments have to find it from their limited resources.
The tertiary field is another one which is very important and worth looking into. We already have discussed, as a matter of urgency, the question of the independence of the Schools Commission but the tertiary field also is suffering a number of growing pains. The Commission highlights the fact that in the tertiary area there is going to be no real growth at all. The universitiesand some of them are comparatively neware very concerned about how they will cope with their problems. The Commission makes the point that the Government’ has to look at whether it can continue to maintain the standard of education and the standard of enrolment. The Griffith University was mentioned as an example when the Commission dealt with enrolments. In paragraph 4.37 of the Tertiary Education Commission s report is a reference to the problems of the Griffith University and what should be done. The Commission expressed concern as to how that university would cope if additional funds were not made available. It said:
The Universities Commission was particularly concerned about the implications of constant intake for Griffith University. If intakes were to remain at the present level, undergraduate enrolments at the University would stabilise at about 1,300 students, the lowest of any university in Australia . . .
That is an example of the problems I am talking about. There are particular problems for colleges of advanced education because there has been a limitation in the amount of money being made available. The big limitation in that field is that the guidelines call for a reduction in teacher training intake and a static intake for all other courses. I am reminded of the situation in New South Wales. In that State, of all the College of Advanced Education enrolments some 46 per cent are for teacher training yet the Commonwealth Government has directed that there is to be no increase in the funds they need. More importantly, 68 per cent of the students are women. Clearly, because of this limitation, women will suffer a great disadvantage in gaining access to teacher training in the tertiary education field. That situation should be looked at.
The technical education field is most important. It is deemed to be the Cinderella area of education. It was not until the Labor Government established the Kangan Commission that we were able to identify the great problems in the technical area. It is essential that that field be expanded as rapidly as possible. The Commonwealth Government, while making contributions, has given a direction that such contributions virtually are on the basis of a subsidy to the States for not charging fees. Consequently there are basic problems. The Tertiary Education Commission report states:
Accordingly, … the Council has formulated programs for the expenditure of $44.4m for capital purposes and $45.6m for recurrent purposes . . . The proposed recurrent program for 1978 represents a no growth situation . . .
This is a problem. It was intended that there would be a rapid enrolment. There has been an increase of between 9 per cent and 1 1 per cent in the enrolments but the Government is not providing the capacity to cope with it. The Commission says this:
The projects are taking from one to four years to construct . . and when completed will provide 14,000 student places . . .
If the resources of both the Commonwealth and the State are used perhaps about 23,000 places can be provided. These will cater for some 58,000 enrolments. The estimated increase in enrolments in the vocational and preparatory courses will be about 118,000. In New South Wales a total of $ 102m will be provided in the field of technical and further education.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drummond) -Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– It would be fair to say that there are many primary and secondary schools in the electorate of Macquarie and throughout Australia that are in need of repair, expansion or rebuilding and therefore I would have hoped that Budget funds for schools would have been greatly increased. However, I can understand that this year has to be a year of consolidation and review rather than a year of any large growth in the funding of education. But in this year of consolidation and review all sections of our education system should practise moderation and restraint in spending, not the least within universities and colleges of advanced education.
For many years, in fact well before I became a member of this House, I felt that universities and colleges of advanced education were advancing too quickly. The whole attitude of these institutions was expansion with no apparent regard to costs. If we look back to 1950 we find that there were only seven universities and no colleges of advanced education. Today there are 19 universities and 83 colleges of advanced educationa total of 102 institutions. In 1950 there were 30,000 students attending such institutions but today there are almost 300,000. To look after these students there are more than 50,000 teachers, administrators and research staff. This Government’s contribution- in effect, the taxpayers’ contribution- is some $ 1,307m.
Today colleges of advanced education alone are costing $53 7m in Commonwealth funds whereas in 1966-67, the first year in which the Commonwealth became involved, only $6.2m was provided. That has been a dramatic increase of $53 lm in just ten years.
When we arrive at a stage when the chairman of a college of advanced education suggests that perhaps it is time for some colleges to close then lt is time for this Government and the new Tertiary Education Commission to look closely at what is happening in the tertiary field. In discussing the tertiary field I would leave technical education out of consideration because it is a recognised fact that technical colleges need considerably more funds for expansion in order that we may train more carpenters, plumbers, electricians, motor mechanics and other associated tradesmen of which there is such a shortage in Australia today. I refer to the earlier comment that some colleges of advanced education should be closed. Duplication in courses is taking place throughout New South Wales. In 1976 some 17,601 students were undergoing teacher education but they were spread over 21 colleges.
In some cases these colleges have only parttime students. One college is providing teacher training for only 164 students and another for 29 students. Courses for commercial and business studies are spread over eight colleges, some of which have only small enrolments. People should have the opportunity to undertake courses of study to further their education. However I am afraid that many courses which have been established at colleges of advanced education should have been left to universities or technical colleges. If a plan of rationalisation is decided upon, some students may have to return to correspondence courses, but I am sure there are many who in the past and today are finding this manner of education quite satisfactory. But it is good to know that there are those in the education field who are at last realising what the position is. On 23 September last the Chairman of the Association of Principal Officers of Regional Colleges of Advanced Education in a letter to Professor Karmel, the Chairman of the Tertiary Education Commission, said:
At a recently held meeting of this Association, the matter of the proliferation of external courses in higher education was discussed. As our membership extends over four states, it became apparent that expansion and duplication of courses was occurring well across state borders. It seemed evident that these extensions of activities were coming from established institutions experienced in the area of external courses as well as a quite new university.
The impression conveyed to us gave little hint that any effective rationalisation or co-ordination was taking place between institutions concerned.
It is our concerned desire to draw the Commission’s attention to these activities. We also wish to invite the Commission to convene a meeting of senior executives of universities and colleges of advanced education which are interacting in the offering of external courses. This meeting would need also to include representation from the respective co-ordinating authorities of states.
We consider the matter to be one of extreme urgency arm one that should not wait for a public inquiry.
I have had compiled details by field of study of students in New South Wales who are enrolled in colleges of advanced education to emphasise the area where I believe duplication is taking place. I seek leave to have this schedule incorporated in Hansard.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drummond) -Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The table read as follows-
-At the time the comment of change in colleges of advanced education was made, on 6 May last, the Chairman of the Higher Education Commission of New South Wales had this to say: we have gathered … at a time when extraordinary changes are to be seen in post secondary education in particular.
We are meeting at a time which is effectively the close of an era. It’s been a very short era and those of us who were involved in its beginning, barely ten or twelve years ago, can hardly believe that the cycle of change has been so rapid in post secondary education.
The Chairman further said:
In those heady days just after the war there was an unthinking commitment on the part of all of us to more education. It seemed that that was inevitably the way ahead. We were going to develop this country of ours through education and many of us approached it with a fervour that could only be described as religious. Education was going to be the key that would unlock all of the development for our country into the future years.
However, the education industry as it is now called, and I don’t think it’s an unfair epithet to apply to it, has overreached itself.
Like many another industry throughout the years it has outstripped its resources and like many a social industry it has been so successful in promoting its wares to the general community that it has led the community to a level of sophistication in their educational expectations that the crash when it comes, when the industry boom bursts, is all the more painful and hard.
So there is now throughout our community at official and suburban level, as it were at provincial level, an enormous questioning of the advantages of education viewed in relation to the costs of providing the education.
We look back now, a little wryly, at some of the plans that were laid at about the time when Mitchell was founded. These were the heydays for the boffins. All the backroom planners and statisticians had a marvellous time in laying out their forward plans for the growth, always the growth, mark you, the growth and expansion of education, and as I heard it put the other day, so wrong have some of the projections and predictions been in education that the Irish are now telling jokes about the planners.
We need universities and we need colleges of advanced education. But I do not believe we need them at the expense of primary and secondary schools. Kindergartens and primary schools, I am convinced, need more money for teachers to give a proper groundwork for the young students. Primary and secondary schools need more money for buildings. When I look at schools like Penrith High School, Oberon Central School and Kandos Primary and Secondary Schools within the electorate of Macquarie, it hurts me to think of what is being spent and wasted in the tertiary field. At Oberon Central School during the last winter the temperature in one room was down to 4 degrees even though that room had a gas heater. This school is operating in some 14 separate buildings with no coverways between them. I do not believe that this is what we want for our children but neither do we want to see grand buildings at colleges of advanced education or universities when young children are suffering. My thoughts have been expressed to many teachers and parents and citizens associations, and above all to the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick). I will do what I can to see that there is some review of tertiary education spending thus providing money for where it is urgently needed.
-I join my colleague the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen) in his criticism of the Government’s role in its relative rundown of expenditure on education and its attitude towards the education commissions. I think it a great cause for regret that the Government’s actions have caused a stifling of the debate on the quality of education which had been growing in the Australian community. The Government seems to have removed stimulus and to have placed the dead hand on the aspirations of all those people who are concerned with education and who have shown some interest in it.
Previously I have expressed concern at the relative rundown in expenditure and spoken of its effects on the schools in the Scullin electorate. I have looked at the proposed boundaries for the new electorate of Scullin and certainly the problems I have outlined will be worse in some of the new areas. But it is not my intention to be parochial on this occasion. I wish to raise three areas for comment where there is great concern that there is a diminution of activity.
The first area I want to mention is that of innovations. This may be the last opportunity that I will have to pay a tribute to a former Minister for Education, the honourable member for Fremantle, Mr Kim Beazley. I think that one must pay a tribute to the great stimulus he gave to educational thought in the Australian community. One of the areas that interested him greatly was the innovations program. In referring to that program the opening paragraph of an article in the Education News, Volume 15, No. 10 of 1976, stated:
The Innovations Program rests on one basic principle: Individuals, and not governments or government agencies should define an innovation according to their needs and aspirations. It is a self-help program, returning initiative to teachers, parents and the community. It is inexpensive to run and thoroughly non-bureaucratic in its operation. Its primary purpose is to lift the quality of education in all Australian schools.
I have seen some of the innovation programs and observed the trials that have been made. It seems to me that the attitude of this Government to education expenditure is stifling much of the stimulus for these programs. Much of the determining in an inexpensive way of what innovation can be used to improve the quality of education in our schools has disappeared in the community. There is a lack of confidence.
The innovation programs more or less flow into the next area that I wish to raise, which is the primary school area. There is no doubt that in recent years modern teaching methods in schools and the type of curricula that have been devised are making the library the vocal point of the school. Rather than pupils being taught by rote we have been trying to take pupils on a voyage of discovery. The whole teaching process is oriented to their purpose so that they can be guided in finding information, collating that information and learning how to organise it and put in together and so develop their thought processes rather than be confined to just a regurgitation of things learned by heart. If this is to occur in primary schools, there must be effective primary school libraries.
The honourable member for Macquarie (Mr Gillard) spoke about what happened in the field of tertiary education and raised some doubts about it. I perhaps share some of those doubts about whether we did not start at the wrong end in many ways by concentrating so much on tertiary education. We find that there is no effective program for government primary schools in any of the States for the proper provision of primary school libraries and that much of the necessary action is really left to the parents in the community. What is there reflects the lack of ability of the community to afford the proper sort of library setup that gives all those aids which are needed to allow the pupil to make his investigations and discover how to learn. This is all the more important for children from economically disadvantaged areas. It is the old story that we have heard so often in this House that resource material, including books, is not available in the home. So these children are even more disadvantaged when there are poor library facilities. I would like to see a stimulus to this thinking to increase the number and range of libraries in primary schools.
The third subject I raise arises out of the reports that the Commission of Inquiry into Poverty has been bringing forward. Many of these papers have referred to educational matters. In the document ‘School Leavers: Choice and Opportunity’, Dr Fitzgerald comments:
The material and recommendations in these reports do not necessarily reflect the views of the Commission. However, they have been fully considered and taken into account in assisting the Commission to formulate recommendations to the Australian Government.
One cause for regret is that, whilst these reports are circulated to members of the public for their information, we in the Parliament who are concerned with the direction in which we are going in various areas do not have an effective mechanism for debating them. In this volume, there is a study which deals in particular with migrant females in a certain school. I have had some experience with one of the local schools, Preston Girls High School, where there is a very high migrant content and where many of the problems expressed in this report occur. Some of the suggestions made in the report should be discussed in the educational field. There should be debate on it. We should be questioning why something effective is not being done about these aspects. I refer particularly to that part of the report which states:
As part of the ‘support’ services available in a school for students, a curriculum suitable for a multicultural school is imperative.
It comments that the premise behind this is that ethnic groups and individuals must be able to decide, their own participation within the cultures. With the sort of setup we have at the moment, the school system is rather antagonistic to this sort of cultural diversity. The programs for this sort of facility for migrants are left to State governments which show no initiatives and no ability to supply this multicultural diversity by providing adequate staff and facilities for these children. I regret that time does not allow me to expand on this area. It should be one of great concern to us as it is found in many areas in the major cities of Australia and even some of the larger country centres.
-The honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins) took the Committee down some paths that were of a technical nature and ones that frankly I would sooner leave to the teaching technicians. However, he raised one subject with which I would like to be associated. He spoke kindly and correctly of the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley). He spoke perhaps as though he believed that there might be an election in the offing. I would not know anything about that. However, just in case there is, I take the opportunity to associate myself with those remarks. The Hon. Kim Beazley has been a great parliamentarian. He has made a considerable contribution to education. He has inspired people in education. I have not always agreed with every move that he has made. I do not believe that everything he did was the result of his own choice. He was concerned not only with the quantity of education and spending on education but also with quality in that field and for that I believe he will be remembered.
I wish now to refer to two points raised by the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr
Lionel Bowen). The honourable member raised two broad points. He decried the fact that there was not continuing real growth in education and he depreciated the additional funds that had !»one into the private education sector. Let us look at the question of real growth. The Schools Commission is a body which is especially skilled in advising the Government and, for that matter, the Parliament and the public, on priorities within education. It is not skilled in advising on the cut-up of the total Budget. It is in no position to say that we should have less defence expenditure and more education expenditure. It is not even in a position to say that we should spend less on universities and more on schools. What it is skilled in doing is providing the Government with advice within the schools area. It is, like the Industries Assistance Commission and the tertiary commissions, an advisory body. It puts down independent advice and its advice is independent to the government of the day. It is sheer nonsense to suggest that any such body can determine needs in isolation. To say that so much must be spent on education is to say that so much will not be spent in some other area.
If expenditure on education, or any other area for that matter, is to go on growing in real terms at a faster rate than the economy itself is growing, of course, other areas must decline. Expenditure in some areas will increase and in others it will decline; that is true. In recent years education has increased its share of the gross domestic product It cannot expect and should not expect to go on doing so indefinitely, because if its share grows at a rate faster than the economy itself grows, it will be taking an ever greater share and leaving an ever smaller share to be allocated to other areas. Incidentally, there is a limit to the rate of growth that any organisation can encompass. I submit that in the education area an attempt to achieve too great a rate of growth in the 1970s has resulted in unnecessary and considerable wastage.
Let us look at the additional funds which have been provided in the area of private education. Section 26.3 of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights states quite unequivocally that there is a right of parents to decide the type of education that their children should receive. I presume that right applies and ought to apply irrespective of the wealth of the parents. It does not state that children of wealthy parents will have the right to go to independent schools, to church schools or to schools that demand fees. The cost of educating a child at such schools is not met entirely from the public purse. In fact, in this country it is met only partially from the public purse. It is a complete fallacy to suggest that the children of wealthy parents attend private schools.
– In the main they do.
– Not even in the main. I suggest that if the honourable member believes that he ought to read Karmel on the subject. He ought to read particularly what Karmel had to say about some of the Catholic schools located in depressed areas of cities.
– That is level 6 schools.
– Many children of poor parents attend even level 2 schools. I am not speaking about level 1 schools, because there are none in Western Australia. But many children of poor parents attend level 2 schools. I will tell honourable members how they come to attend these schools. Some parents believe that their children ought to have a religious education. Some parents believe that the private education system provides a better grounding in the three Rs. I know of one such case which I cited in the House a few days ago. A fireman has two children attending a level 2 school. That man is on a very limited salary. He undergoes considerable financial difficulty but, as far as I can gather, he accepts that very willingly. He certainly accepts voluntarily sending his children to that school because he believes that they will be better educated.
The parents of some children live in isolated areas and frankly do not have the option but to send their children to schools which involve the paying of fees, even if the fees paid are as a result of a charge made by a government hostel. There are parents whose children for some reason or other do not meet the middle stream. There is a disproportionate number of children with learning difficulties in independent schools because those schools are prepared to cope with the difficulties of those children. The parents in all those groups send their children to independent schools not because they want to pay those fees but because they believe they should pay those fees for the sake of their children. I submit that is a decision which is best left with the parents. I submit that a person who is taxed to provide education, amongst other things, is entitled to the same consideration from those taxes, irrespective of where he sends his children to school.
It may be reasonable to discriminate between parents on the basis of wealth; it is not reasonable to discriminate between parents because of the choice they make in relation to the education of their children. Sometimes it is a choice which is not within their control at all but which is in fact forced upon them.
-Education is again becoming a controversial issue with the Australian people. I surmise that most members of Parliament will be receiving letters from constituents or schools complaining about what they call the unfair allocation of federal money to the private school sector at the expense of the public school sector. I have with me one of three letters that I have already received from my electorate. It is from Mr B. W. Channell, honorary secretary of the Toronto High School. He has sent a copy of this letter to the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick). He resides at 77A Excelsior Parade, Carey Bay. The letter reads:
Mr A. W.James,
Member for Hunter,
At a recent meeting of the above association I was directed to write to you and express our extreme disquiet at the proposed alteration in funding by the Federal Government to private schools.
Not many honourable members have disclosed to the House the number of letters that they are receiving, but I guess that every honourable member is receiving letters expressing such disquiet. Without having made a deep study of the allocations of money to the private school sector, I understand from one newspaper that I read that the Schools Commission has made a recommendation to the Government which the Government has ignored.
– Was that the Daily Mirror?
– I forget which newspaper it was. The recommendation of the Schools Commission has been ignored. If I understand the position correctly, the Schools Commission has on it representatives of the private school sector and representatives of the catholic schools. The recommendation to the Government was unanimous. It did not recommend to the Government a greater allocation of money to the private schools. I hope the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen), who is our shadow Minister for Education, will correct me if that is not the case, as he makes a deeper study of these matters. I do not know why the Government should ignore a recommendation of the Schools Commission and dig up again the old sectarian serpent, which caused great divisions in our society over the allocation of money to private schools, I cannot understand the Government’s attitude
Although I respect the opinions of the honourable member for Moore (Mr Hyde) who preceded me in the debate, I am surprised at his claim that in the main children of poor parents rather than of rich parents attend private schools. I am at a loss to understand how he arrives at that conclusion. If one were to conduct a survey into the incomes of the parents of the pupils who attend all the private schools in Sydney, such as Riverview and Kings and Joeys, as well as other great public schools such as Geelong Grammar and its associated enterprise Timbertop, one would find, I would say, that at least 70 per cent of the parents earn very high incomes.
That is all I wanted to submit in the consideration of the estimates. Time does not permit me to say anything further. Thank you, Mr Deputy Chairman.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drummond) -Order! It being 10.30 p.m., in accordance with the order of the House of 10 March, I shall report progress.
Display of the Australian Flag in the House of Representatives- Drought in South Australia-Morals in Society-Brisbane Airport -Australian Broadcasting Commission- Trade Unions
-I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
-I simply rise for a moment or two to note the fact that for the first time in history we have the Australian flag displayed in the House of Representatives. I do not think the event should go unnoticed. When all is said and done, the Australian flag symbolises in many ways the history of Australia. The flag incorporates the Cross of St Andrew, the Cross of St George and the Cross of St Patrick. Of course, that has a great deal to do with the fact that the early Australians came from what we now call the United Kingdom. These flags have arrived in this chamber somewhat mysteriously. I do not contend for a moment that they are unwelcome but I think it important to note that it is probably an unprecedented innovation in the parliaments of Australia. I am not aware of flags being displayed in any other legislative building in this country.
I am not sure why they have arrived today. I note that 18 October was St Luke’s Day and I note that 24 October- which is four days away- is United Nations Day. It causes me to speculate that there might be some merit in having regard for the fact that there are two other unused corners in this chamber. Whilst we acknowledge our British heritage, through the symbolism of these flags, we could take into account the fact that there are probably two million or so Australians who have come from other parts of the world and that the displaying of the United Nations flag, which incorporates the symbolism of the five continents, could well be appropriate in all the circumstances. As well there are many other factors which are often symbolised by flags. I have not had a chance to check facts concerning the flag of the Red Cross, for example. It is regarded as the international flag of humanity. I recall that Henri Dunant looked down from the hills and saw the battle of Solferino about, I think, 120 years ago. It was in recognition of the mercy he displayed on that occasion that the Swiss flag was reversed to become the international flag of the Red Cross. That flag depicts a red cross on a white background whereas the Swiss flag has a white cross on a red background.
I do not criticise the display of these flags in this chamber. I am not sure why they are here today. Perhaps they are here today in acknowledgement of the fact that a great Australian has taken his place in the Parliament today- Stewart West, the honourable member for Cunningham. The seat of Cunningham was represented for many years by Rex Connor, one of the greatest Australians, who was greatly concerned at the need for Australians to be deeply involved with the utilisation of their resources. I welcome Stewart here today. Unless we can find some other reason why these flags have been installed we will accept the proposition that it is to recognise the fact that Rex Connor’s successor has arrived in this Parliament today. I welcome him very warmly.
Perhaps we will hear more about the reasons for the presence of the flags. I wonder whether there is an environmental impact statement concerning them. No doubt there are good reasons for their presence. I understand that the House Committee has considered the matter. I think that the flags could be displayed more spectacularly than they are. They could be better presented. I understand that Mr Speaker has in mind obtaining a better type of silk flag, properly wired so that they can be more effectively hung. I hope that consideration will be given to putting in another corner an international flag which will inspire the new Australians who come from parts of the world other than the United Kingdom to recognise that here in Australia there is an opportunity for people of all races to fulfil their aspirations. It may also reflect the culture and the heritage that they have brought here from other parts of the world.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. The honourable member for Hughes really answered his own question. The matter of the flags was proposed, investigated and discussed by the House Committee in consultation with Mr Speaker. It was decided that the flags could be hung. They were approved. I understand that further consideration is being given to the flags in this chamber.
– I rise on a matter of great importance to this House. It is certainly a matter of great importance to the farmers of South Australia and undoubtedly to farmers in other parts of Australia who have been grievously affected by the drought which the country is suffering at the moment. A great number of farmers in South Australia are affected by the drought and it is unfortunate that South Australian politicians- only Australian Labor Party politicians in South Australia- seem to be attempting to play politics over the plight of those who have been affected by the drought. Last week in this House the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) asked the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) whether the South Australian Government had provided the $ 1.5m assistance required to be provided by the State before the Commonwealth Government would give assistance over and above that amount. The Minister for Primary Industry said that the South Australian Government had not provided that amount.
In another place, on 11 October, Senator McLaren said that the Minister for Primary Industry was ‘criticising the South Australian Labor Government because it has not carried out its obligation to give assistance to South Australian farmers under the drought relief scheme’. Honourable members will know that the Commonwealth under the agreement will not and cannot provide assistance until a State government has spent $1.5m. In answer to the Minister for Primary Industry, who said that the South Australian Government had been tardy in applying assistance to those affected by drought, the Minister of Agriculture in South Australia, Mr
Brian Chatterton, said that that was not so. In a Press release the Minister for Agriculture said:
The State Government has exceeded by $600,000 the amount of money it had to pay out for drought relief before getting grants from the Commonwealth Government.
It would seem that he thinks that he is entitled to the matching grants now. Further on in that Press release he said:
I repeat that: ‘the rest is in the pipeline’- for other successful applicants under our State scheme.
He went on to say that $236,000 had been paid out in freight rebates and $35,000 for slaughter schemes. Anyone who knows anything about mathematics knows that $900,000 plus $236,000, plus $35,000 does not add up to $1.5m. Yet the Minister for Agriculture in South Australia is saying that because these grants have been approved the farmers should receive the Commonwealth grant on a dollar for dollar basis or whatever the grant may be. He has said that the $1.5m has been spent, yet in his own Press release he is saying that it has not been spent. He says that only $900,000 has been spent. He says the grants have been approved.
Now we are not going to pay out- the Commonwealth has never paid out- on a book entry in the State government’s books. The money has to be paid out. I ask the House to consider those affected by the drought in South Australia. Is it the sort of thing with which the South Australian Labor Government ought to be playing politics? I do not believe it is and I do not believe the people of South Australia think it is. I askonourable members to look at the South Australian Minister’s Press statement. He says that he has paid out $900,000. He knows or he ought to know- it appears that Senator McLaren does not know either- that this is not the case. I must admit it is not very difficult to show that these people are incompetent.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Mr FitzPATRICK (Darling) ( 10.41 )-Last week in this Parliament I raised the matter of obscene publications- pornography- and asked the Parliament to give some consideration to the morality level of our society. I feel some obligation to raise the matter again tonight owing to the concern expressed by citizens outside this Parliament. I do not wish to cast any reflections upon members of the parliament because two or three of them showed some interest in the matter, but of course this is a very busy period. As I say, most of the interest was shown outside this Parliament. Just about every second attendant asked me about this matter, including the papers from which I had quoted. I was also contacted by two television stations and two radio stations. I also received letters from people outside my electorate. Although this matter was initiated from a complaint that I received from constituents in my electorate, most of the contact I received about this matter came from people outside my electorate.
I want to impress upon the House that I am not starting a personal crusade on this matter I am simply trying to handle the problems within my own electorate. I also know how to involve other members of this House because I told the people who contacted me to take up the matter with their own member and that if they did not receive any satisfaction to let me know and I would see what I could do about it. So I am quite sure that other honourable members will be hearing something about this matter.
From the contacts I have made, it seems to me that there could be some connection between obscene publications- pornography- and drug taking and drug trafficking. I have no direct evidence of this but I am quite sure that if other honourable members were to take some interest in this matter they would get information because people talk to members of parliament whereas they will not talk to a royal commission. The honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter), who seems to be very interested in what I have to say, knows that people will talk to a member of parliament but they will not go to an officer of the law. So I ask other honourable members, to give some consideration to ths matter.
I do not want to take up too much of the time of the House, but I want to impress upon honourable members that although the law is controlled by the States, there is some obligation on Federal members of parliament. If anyone has any doubts about that I refer him to the United Nations Treaty Series No. 710- ‘International Convention for the Suppression of the Circulation of and Traffic in Obscene Publications, Concluded at Geneva on 12 September 1923, as Amended by the Protocol signed at Lake Success, New York, on 12 November 1947’. There is a long list of signatories to this protocol and Australia’s name is proudly included. Article 1 reads:
The High Contracting Parties agree to take all measures to discover, prosecute and punish any person engaged in committing any of the following offences, and accordingly agree that- lt shall be a punishable offence:
1 ) For the purposes of or by way of trade or for distribution or public exhibition to make or produce or have in possession obscene writings, drawings, prints, paintings, printed matter, pictures, posters, emblems, photographs, cinematograph films . . .
Clause (3) of Article 1 reads:
To carry on or take part in a business, whether public or private, concerned with any of the said obscene matters or things, or to deal in said matters or things in any manner whatsoever, or to distribute them, to exhibit them publicly or to make a business of lending them;
One of the reasons I have raised this matter is that a Catholic priest contacted me and complained about what he considered to be an obscene publication which had been posted to a convent. I ask members of parliament to give some consideration to this matter because it may be only the tip of the iceberg and no one knows what may be found underneath.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Three statements have been made recently in relation to the Brisbane Airport and the statements are incredibly and very misleading. I want to deal with those three statements. One statement wasthis is very close to a quote-There is no reason why charter operators cannot go into Brisbane Airport’. That statement, I presume, is meant to indicate that charter operators are free to operate into and out of the Brisbane Airport. Let me make it clear. If charter operators are to operate economically with all up weight and on long hops that are necessary for aircraft such as the aircraft operated by Laker Airways, their aircraft cannot take off from the Brisbane airport. So the statement is carefully culled to indicate that there is no reason why they cannot go into Brisbane Airport; they certainly cannot go out of Brisbane Airport on economical distances with economical loads.
I will give one example to the House. Laker Airway operates DC 10 aircraft. If those aircraft were to take off from the Brisbane Airport in a temperature of 30 degrees centigrade, a modest temperature in a semi-tropical city airport, they could not be scheduled for Singapore even if they offloaded 19,000 kilograms of freight and off-loaded at least SO passengers from the very high passenger loading. These aircraft can carry a maximum of 350-odd passengers. They still could not be scheduled for Singapore, which is the closest significant international airport by some 400 or 500 nautical miles. Of course they cannot go out of Brisbane Airport, and that is a fact of fife. The British Airways 747s are in the same category. These aircraft fall short even of Singapore, which is only 3,318 nautical miles away, by many hundreds of nautical miles.
The second statement that was made was this: There is no reason why present facilities cannot handle the Commonwealth Games traffic’. Strictly speaking there is none if the Brisbane Airport is willing to function as a second-rate commuter airport, but of course it will not be the kind of airport that will be induced to operate like the airport at Edmonton which is able to operate at a proper international level. It is not like the airport at Perth which handled the Commonwealth Games traffic many years ago and is able to operate as a proper international airport. Nor is it like even the little airport at Christchurch which is able to operate as a much more significant international airport because today the runway is at least 2,500 feet longer than is the Brisbane runway. The second statement, which might indicate that the Brisbane Airport can accommodate Commonwealth Games traffic, is true only if that is expected to be done in a second-rate manner and not as a properly functioning international airport.
The third statement that was made is this: There is no problem in proceedings’- from Brisbane, I presume- ‘to the next fuelling point’. I find this a fascinating statement. Of course there is not problem as long as the next fuelling point is sufficiently close. As the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris) would appreciate, there is no problem in proceeding from Williamtown to Sydney because that is the next fuelling point, but there certainly is a problem if an operator is going to operate planes which are designed to travel thousands of miles- significant international carriers- with all up weights. So, the statement that there is no problem in proceeding to the next fuelling point is one which I feel, taken with the other two statements, unhappily as designed to create a sense of well being which is not warranted on the facts.
Those facts ought to be appreciated. I know they are realised. I merely point out those three statements which I judge have been carefully culled to mislead. I would be misled by them. They do not indicate that all is well. It is for those reasons, for example, that Government members in Queensland are concerned at the total inadequacy of that airport. The Opposition is concerned about that airport. That is why members of the Liberal Party in Queensland have unanimously declared that they are totally opposed to any second rate program which will not develop a properly realigned runway and which is designed only to lengthen the present runway. The airport is inadequate. My Party in my State is aware of that fact and is unanimously committed to the proper development of that airport. Those three statements made earlier today should not be allowed to mislead anyone that all is well. While the situation continues as it is, it cannot be well because the airport is totally and completely inadequate.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-On Tuesday night I raised in the House a complaint on behalf of the Queensland Leader of the Opposition, Mr Tom Burns, about coverage he was not receiving for important news releases and news conferences which he had arranged through the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I understand that subsequently the ABC claimed that it was a matter of balance in the presentation of programs- that is, balance or evenness in coverage provided for each of the major political groupings. This may be so, although I think that, if a man of the energy and ability of Mr Burn’s takes the opportunity to develop programs broadly in an exhaustive and industrious way and seeks to disseminate those policies in new ways in the electorate, he is entitled to coverage. Certainly, that is the response of commercial media outlets in Queensland. That is not the response of the ABC if the report which I have received is correct, namely, that the ABC seeks to justify its failure to extend coverage on the same basis as the commercial outlets to Mr Burns’ news conferences because of this balance concept. I do not want to labour that point further.
Briefly, to conclude this topic, I point out that what concerns me is that balance seems to be a very uneven concept when applied by the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I have noted the program This Day Tonight over a considerable period now. It is quite obvious to me that the appearance of Government Ministers and Government spokesmen on that program is running at about three to one in their favour as against the appearance of spokesmen from the Opposition. I am aware that, on many occasions -
-What about Bob Hawke?
– On almost all occasions on which Mr Hawke appears, he speaks as President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. That is equivalent to arguing that Mr Polites from the Employers’ Federation ought to be treated as presenting views on behalf of the Liberal Party. From what I have heard tonight of his comments, he has had one of those moments of insight and inspiration and he has justly condemned the cynicism behind the Government’s industrial policies. He said that fiddling and tinkering with industrial policies is no way to save those major problems. In any case, I merely underscore the fact that there is inconsistency in the way in which balance is presented. It is unbalanced’ on the part of the ABC. Clearly This Day Tonight is not a program where balance is applied. I am not trying to canvass that point but I am trying to bring out the more pertinent point that the ABC is not applying this balance equally. I suspect that in Queensland pressure is being applied to the newsroom. I am not impugning the independence or the fairness of the journalists employed there. I understand that they are quite irritated by the way in which this direction has been imposed upon them by administrative fear.
The next point on to which I want to move quickly concerns an industrial matter. On 26 August at the Willowburn meatworks on the Darling Downs the employees held a stop work meeting during their lunch break because an employee had returned late from the mid-morning tea break and had been dismissed. The resolution of the lunchtime stop work meetingalthough it was scarcely a stop work meeting if it was held in the men’s own time- was that they should not return to work until that employee was reinstated. I understand from the union that, without that matter being canvassed or explored in any way at all, all employees were stood down. That seems to me to be a quite unreasonable action on the part of the employer. But it is even more unreasonable that the Department of Social Security should have refused to provide unemployment benefit for those stood down workers.
On the basis of the advice passed on to me by the meat workers union, it is clear that the workers have been stood down. But the industrial situation which has developed there is one which probably could have been avoided by more careful handling of industrial relations on the part of management. Accordingly, I raise this matter in the Parliament to ask that this unfair, unjust and discriminatory treatment of the workers at Willowburn be rescinded that unemployment benefits be provided to the workers who have been stood down; and that, in the meantime, every effort be made to bring about a fair settlement of this dispute.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-An election in the New South Wales Branch of the Australian Postal and Telecommunications Union is coming up. Two factions are fighting bitterly for control of the union. One faction could be called the Hawkins faction, which is presently in control of the union; the other faction could be called the Barney faction, which used to be in control of the union. The Barney faction alleges against the Hawkins faction that the present officials of the union have been involved in what is called booking off” postmen and linesmen at Commission salaries to assist in postmen’s reviews and that this has involved excessive payments of more than $20,000 from union funds. The faction claims that this is wrong and should not occur.
The Hawkins faction has counter-attacked by saying that the former officials are guilty of corruption (Quorum formed). An accountants ‘s report from the firm of Coopers and Lybrand shows that the union’s provident fund is deficient by $24,500 for the three years ended 31 August 1976; that the long service leave fund is deficient by $38,630; that there have been overpayments; that union officials have borrowed moneys contrary to the rules, that they have borrowed moneys in circumstances in which they are subject to a charge; that there have been irregularities in the books, which have been kept in a totally wrongful fashion; that moneys have been paid improperly to a person called Evans; that people have been credited improperly with sick leave; that former union officials, when they took over, got rid of all their ordinary motor cars and purchased luxury cars -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! It being 1 1 p.m., the House stands adjourned until 2. 1 5 p.m. on Tuesday next.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, upon notice, on 9 March 1977:
Is he prepared to consider giving legislative force to Convention No. 1 1 1 of the International Labour Organisation.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
As the honourable member will recall, ILO Convention No. 111.- Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) 1958- is in such a form that it is not mandatory for a ratifying country to enact legislation in order to implement its provisions.
Accordingly, when Australia ratified this Convention in 1973, the National and State Employment Discrimination Committees were established shortly thereafter, on a nonlegislative basis, in order to give effect to its provisions.
As the honourable member will also recall, this nonlegislative approach which was adopted by the Commonwealth Government in 1973, had the support of all the State governments,’ as well as of the national employers’ organisations and the trade union movement, and the tripartite membership of the Employment Discrimination Committees reflected this tripartite support.
Moreover, because these Employment Discrimination Committees were established by the Commonwealth, with the full support of all the States, there were no problems involving jurisdiction and no demarcation disputes, while the participation of non-governmental representatives, nominated by the employers and the unions, enabled the Committees to resolve complaints of discrimination which they received in a way which may not have been possible if their membership had been restricted to the governmental level.
However, since the Employment Discrimination Committees were established, the Commonwealth has enacted its Racial Discrimination Act 1975 and, in addition, the New South Wales Anti-Discrimination Act 1977, the Victorian Equal Opportunity Act 1977, as well as the South Australian Sex Discrimination Act 1975 and Racial Discrimination Act 1976, have been adopted. As all this legislation applies, inter alia, to the proscription of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation, at least on the grounds of race and sex, it does provide some legislative basis for giving effect to some of the provision of ILO Convention No. 1 1 1 .
At the same time, this legislation, which is mutually inconsistent, and not fully in accord with the provisions of ILO Convention No. Ill, even in respect of race and sex, has given rise to questions of jurisdiction, to demarcation disputes, as well as to problems of duplication, overlap and uncertainty, as well as to confusion among the Australian community, and very real difficulties from the point of view of the Employment Discrimination Committees.
In these circumstances, and given these recent legislative developments, I am examining the desirability of discussion with the States, as well as with the national employers’ organisations and the trade union movement (through the National Labour Consultative Council), on the possibility of providing a legislative basis for the National and State Employment Discrimination Committees.
asked the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Public Service Matters, upon notice, on 2 June 1977:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Public Service Board has provided the following information for answer to the honourable member’s question. The information provided is in respect of Public Service Act staff including staff of authorities which are in statutory relationship with the Board, except where otherwise stated.
1 ) and (2) The information sought is provided in the following tables:
As at December 1976 (the latest figures available):
An increase in the number of students graduating from tertiary institutions with qualifications in computing studies will, in the long term, assist in meeting the needs of the Public Service for qualified computer systems officers.
asked the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Public Service Matters, upon notice, on 16 August 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The following information has been provided by the Public Service Board and is in respect of permanent officers of the Australian Public Service employed under the Public Service Act It does not cover exempt or temporary employees whose termination of service records are held by individual departments, nor does it cover Government employees outside of the Public Service Act.
The numbers of permanent officers dismissed by the Public Service Board were as follows:
asked the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Public Service Matters, upon notice, on 16 August 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: (1)1 have been advised that Mr Perriman did not, in so many words, ‘request’ Mr Toomer to ring him in Canberra, but Mr Perriman did, on more than one occasion, invite Mr Toomer to do so if he wished to raise any matters concerning the inquiry. Mr Toomer did in fact make telephone contact with Mr Perriman on several occasions, and all were directly relevant to the inquiry.
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 17 August 1 977:
How many persons travelled overseas on an Australian official or diplomatic passport during the periods
1 1 November 1975 to 30 June 1976 and
1 July 1976 to 30 June 1977?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
A number of official and diplomatic passports are issued, some for a very limited period and some for a period of years. The period of validity depends on the purpose of the bearer’s official travel abroad and the time he or she is likely to spend away from Australia for this purpose. Some holders of official and diplomatic passports travel frequently throughout the year. Some travel very occasionally. It would not be a practical exercise to determine how many persons travelled on these documents in a given period of time.
asked the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice, on 6 September 1 977:
With reference to recent allegations in the Press, did his Department use its Budget allocation in 1976-77.
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The following table shows direct Commonwealth expenditure on Aboriginals over recent years, compared with total appropriations, for DAA and other Departments:
There was an under-expenditure of $ 11.1m in 1976-77, compared with $7.8m in 1975-76, and $8.7m in 1974-75.
The total appropriation for DAA in 1976-77 of $ 128.4m was made up of an original budget appropriation of $1 1 1.4m, and additional appropriations in the latter part of the financial year of $ 1 7m.
The additional appropriation was sought following the Government’s decision, announced by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs on 5 October 1976, ‘to provide an extra $25 m for Aboriginal programs bringing total available for expenditure to $1 77.6m during 1 976-77 ‘. The Minister announced on 26 November the allocation of the $25m as follows: $ 12.75m for housing through State grants and grantsinaid; $2.5m for enterprises; $350,000 for cultural, recreational and sporting activities; $570,000 for State grant employment projects; $2.33m for increasing employment opportunities for Aboriginals.
An amount of $6.5m was available for inclusion in the Health and Education Departments’ capital works program. Although only minor expenditure was incurred against the additional $6.5m in 1976-77, the Departments of Education and Health have carried forward to their 1977-78 capital works programs major projects in the Northern Territory at Darwin, Garden Point, Angurugu, Borroloola and Elcho Island estimated to cost $2. 6m.
So far as the remaining $18. 5m was concerned, for which the Department of Aboriginal Affairs was responsible, the Department was not in a position to program the full $2. 33m on employment as expenditure of the initial appropriation was running below pro rata. However, during 1976-77 it was possible to incur additional expenditure of $ 1.6m on Town Management and Public Utilities, a function which has a high employment content. Programming of the remainder was completed in time for the following expenditure to take place over and above that planned in the initial budget estimates:
Housing $ 12.4m
Enterprises $ I. lm
Culture, etc. $0.239m
State grant employment $0.4 1 3m
Town Management and Public Utilities $ 1 .6m
The Department acted responsibly in not seeking an additional appropriation of the full amount of $18.5m when it became clear that this could not all be effectively spent during the financial year.
The under-expenditure of $7.4m against appropriation recorded above was spread over a number of separate votes, e.g. support of Aboriginals at Government settlements, assistance to missions, employment grants-in-aid and State grants for health, education and welfare.
It has been suggested that the funds not spent should have been transferred to functions where expenditure was not up to target. However, no Department has authority to utilise underspending in separate appropriation items to provide for additional expenditure in other items.
It has also been stated that the Department should in some way have carried over the unspent funds into this financial year. However, unspent appropriations lapse at the end of each financial year. It is only possible to provide funds in the following year for purposes in respect of which underspending has occurred provided they are approved for inclusion in the following year’s estimates and funds are appropriated in that year.
asked the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Public Service Matters, upon notice, on 6 September 1977:
Does the Public Service Board intend to institute a ‘nopoaching’ policy which will inhibit the transfer or promotional opportunities of civilian Defence Department personnel to positions in other Public Service departments.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
No. Statutory provisions place the responsibility for filling vacancies in a Department with the Permanent Head who is required to comply with the criteria for selection specified in section SO of the Public Service Act. Promotions are made on the basis of relative efficiency, and the Board does not have a role in affecting such selections. Indeed, as a general policy, the Board encourages the mobility of officers. Departments have the necessary authority to arrange interdepartmental transfers of officers and there is provision, under section 52 of the Public Service Act, for reference to the Board if any party to such transfers objects.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 13 September 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice, on 14 September 1977:
– The Minister for Administrative Services has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
am asked the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 22 September 1977:
Why was he not willing to state on what date and for what year the reports of departments and authorities were last tabled (Hansard, 20 September 1977, page 1354) when Prime Minister Menzies was willing to do so (Hansard, 25 August 1960, page 508).
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
As I said in my previous answer to the honourable member, the information he seeks is publicly available. Therefore, I am not prepared to request that the work involved be undertaken. The honourable member will appreciate that many more reports and papers are presented to the Parliament now than was the case in 1 960.
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 4 October 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
As to the request for direct representations by the Australian Government, the attendance at Mr Biko’s funeral of an officer of the Australian Embassy, along with many other western diplomats, is perhaps the most fitting expression of Australian and international feeling about this sad incident.
am asked the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 4 October 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: ( 1 ), (2) and (3) After the Government had given the matter preliminary consideration, an interdepartmental committee has been examining the recommendations of both the Royal Commission on Australian Government Administration and the Joint Committee on Pecuniary Interests of Members of Parliament. The Committee includes officers of the Departments of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Administrative Services, Treasury, Defence, Attorney-General’s and the Office of the Public Service Board. Formal terms of reference were not set down for the committee and no date has been set for completion of a report.
West German Pensions: Payment in Australia (Question No. 1736)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 12 October 1977:
-The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question. ( 1 ), (2 ) and ( 3 ) Yes, A letter in the terms indicated was recently received and the correspondent informed that the Government had recently considered the general question of Australia’s participation in agreements on social security with a number of countries, including West Germany. It was also stated that additional information is being sought and that the Government will give further consideration to the subject after the required material is available.
am asked the Minister, representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 12 October 1977:
Does the Department of Social Security yet have available the percentage increases made in (a) workers ‘ compensation and (b) third party insurance since the report presented on 26 September 1975 by the working party of officials on the financial aspects of the National Rehabilitation and Compensation Scheme (Hansard, 9 December 1976, page 3738 ).
-The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question.
The only available figures for premium increases relate to the period of the financial year. Figures for the period 26 September 1975 to 12 October 1977 specifically are not available. However, the percentage increases in premiums for the 1975-76 financial year over the 1974-75 financial year based on figures in the Third Annual Report of the Insurance Commissioner were:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 20 October 1977, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1977/19771020_reps_30_hor107/>.