30th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. B. M. Snedden, Q.C.) took the chair at 1 1 a.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Right Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That where whole or part of a deceased estate passes to the surviving spouse it should be free from federal estate duty.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Anthony, Mr Cadman, Mr Chapman and Mr Keating.
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully show us, that due to the new information on whale communication, behaviour and intelligence, and to the depleted state of most of the great whale stocks and the uncertainty associated with whale population estimates, that commercial whaling is no longer acceptable to the vast majority of Australians. It is urged that immediate steps be taken to end this activity. Your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Brown and Mr Ruddock.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Objection to the Metric system and request the Government to restore the Imperial system.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Anthony. Petition received.
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petitioners certain citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
The urgent plea to appoint and call our Nation to establish and observe a National Day of Prayer to Almighty God seeking His deliverance of our Nation from all the evil forces oppressing our Nation in these days.
Our action recognises and accepts God’s promise expressed in the Second Book of Chronicles, chapter 7, verse 14.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that God’s Word would be observed ‘If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves and pray, and seek my face, and will turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sins, and will heal their land. ‘
We believe that God affirms this promise in the Book of Deuteronomy, Chapter 28, verses 1 to 14.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray,
Petition received. by Mr Cadman. Petition received.
To the Right Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned concerned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that:
We, your petitioners humbly pray that the Government take immediate steps to provide humanitarian aid to the refugees from South Africa, in particular by providing funds for the supply of clothing, medical supplies etc. scholarships and transport costs to enable student refugees to continue their education in Australia.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Chapman. Petition received.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of certain members of the Australian Association for Better Hearing and other citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that a financial burden is imposed on hearing impaired members of the public in that the special telephone equipment, which is essential for such hearing impaired citizens to make telephonic communication, is subject to installation costs and rental charges.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Federal Government give every consideration to waiving the installation costs and rental charges of these special telephone equipment required by hearing impaired members of the public.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Fry. Petition received.
To the Right Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the weakest members of our society, the unborn, should have the same protection as all other citizens of Australia.
That abortion is a denial of the civil rights of the unborn, involving as it does the destruction of innocent human life.
That on 10 May 1973 the House of Representatives rejected the Medical Practices Clarification Bill which sought to legalise abortion on demand in the Territories controlled by the Federal Government.
That women and girls with serious problems during pregnancy need special care and help to overcome their difficulties rather than encouragement to terminate their pregnancies.
That termination of pregnancy can never be justified on sociological or personal grounds and can be a dangerous treatment when the mother realises that her child has been killed.
That over 46,000 abortions were paid for in 1976 under the existing medical benefits schedule which stipulates the benefit payable for medical services under both Medibank and the private health insurance funds.
That approximately $5,000,000 was spent on abortions in 1976 under Item No. 6,469-‘The evacuation of the contents of a gravid (pregnant) uterus by curettage and suction curettage’.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government takes action
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Hodges.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Borough of Wonthaggi in the electorate of McMillan, respectfully showeth:
That whereas the aged persons accommodation applications have been programmed on a three year basis and
Whereas there is an outstanding application which qualifies for funds under the Aged Persons Hostels Act, from the Wonthaggi and District Elderly Citizens Homes Committee:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Commonwealth Government add a further year to the existing triennium to enable the Wonthaggi application to be included in that program.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Simon.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned Electors of Australia respectfully show us that we humbly pray:
That we condemn government cutbacks in education, in health and social services.
This constitutes a severe attack on Australia’s working people. The government is making the Australian working people pay for the ills of the economy. We strongly condemn this.
We demand that education spending be returned to its original level prior to the cutbacks, and that this amount be increased with increased need.
We condemn the cutting of funds for Migrant education. We demand that funds be returned and extended.
We demand an independent Schools Commission which is democratically constituted and is free from manipulation by the government.
We condemn government’s action of withdrawing funds from state schools’ projects and giving it to some of the wealthiest private schools.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Wilson.
-I give notice that at the next day of sitting I shall move:
That as telephone charging districts for Sydney and Melbourne are based upon similar distances measured from the General Post Office, and since in consequence over half the Sydney charging districts is over water, while most of the Melbourne district is over land, it would be equitable in the case of Sydney to take the measurement from the centre of population- that is somewhere in the vicinity of Homebushthus including the Campbelltown, Penrith and Windsor districts within the charging districts without excluding any area at present inside the district.
I further give notice -
-Order! Is that notice seconded?
– I have not asked for a seconder yet, but I shall.
-The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. Are there any further notices?
-Sir, I have further notices. I give notice -
-The honourable gentleman has indicated to me that the first notice which he read out is not seconded.
– I did not say that, sir. I said that I had not asked for a seconder. Standing Orders require a notice to be seconded before it is included on the Notice Paper but they do not require it to be seconded when notice is given.
-I further give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That this House views with dismay the proposal of the New South Wales Government to abandon most of the projected inner city freeways and to sell the land already acquired for them, and therefore the House requests the Minister for Transport to approach the New South Wales Government and to urge that it change its announced plan before it is too late.
-I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That this House requests the Government to urge the United States to amend its security agreements with Australia and to put them on the same footing as its NATO commitments, where a public pledge has been given that US constitutional processes will not operate to delay swift and necessary action to meet any aggression.
-Order! The honourable member for Mackellar, with his characteristic courtesy, has informed me that he has a number of notices. He has given three. I shall not allow him to take further time of the House at this stage. He may provide the other notices to the Clerk as the alternative method of giving notice and they will be reported by the Clerk at a later hour this day.
– I direct my question to the Deputy Prime Minister. I remind him of my question on 18 October last when I asked him whether he had given authority for the carrying on of operations at the Ranger project. In his reply he said that no approvals would be given until a series of discussions between the various bodies had been held. I ask the Deputy Prime Minister whether the Government is aware that the Ranger and Pancontinental mining projects are continuing their development? Is the Government aware that drilling is going on at both sites, that their camps have been extended and new ones have been built and that roads, particularly at the Pancontinental mining project, are being made indiscriminately through bush that is supposed to become part of the Kakuda National Park? Finally, I ask whether the fact that these unauthorised activities are occurring, contrary to the recommendations of the second Ranger Report, indicates that so called government supervision is in fact a farce?
– No approval has been given at this stage for the commencement of mining for the Ranger uranium deposit. I made this quite clear. No authority will be given until all the appropriate measures have been taken. However, if work is to continue on proving up the ore body under a normal exploration licence that work can proceed. Work can also proceed on an extension of the road to Jabiluka which is part of the development of the whole region, including the potential national park. I see no difficulties with the development of the road, and I am sure that it is in no way in conflict with the Ranger report. However, it seems pretty obvious that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is determined that he will embarrass the Australian Labor Party throughout the election campaign by being absolutely adamant that it does not matter whether contracts are breached, whether relationships with other countries are strained or how he embarrasses the British Labour Government or anybody else. He is hell bent to see that no mining will be done in this country so that it appeases all his left wing and communist sympathisers.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the economic pre-conditions for a further drop in interest rates have yet been established by the Government? If not, what remains the biggest obstacle to a further fall in interest rates in 1978?
-Providing present policies continue there is no doubt that interest rates will fall steadily- I do not think any one move should be dramatic- and sustainably from now on. Providing our policies continue, the consumer price index will continue to come down. It is worth noting, I think, that in the nonfood items in the September quarter the increase was 11/2 per cent. Therefore, it was less than 2 per cent, which was the total consumer price index figure. The expectations for the December, March and June quarters in relation to the consumer price index are heartening indeed. The Reserve Bank of Australia and the monetary authorities already feel that they are able to operate in the market place, as honourable gentlemen know, to achieve lower yields on government securities. That has been reflected through other markets also. However, the Government intends to act, and obviously the monetary authorities intend to act, in a responsible way in relation to these matters.
I think probably only one factor could prevent these circumstances from unfolding during 1978. Throughout 1978, starting with the peak period in January-February, there will be a sustained reduction in unemployment in addition. The one factor that would prevent that happening would be a return to the mad deficit financing of the Australian Labor Party. We have already been told that that Party of great economic irresponsibility has learned nothing and will once again be enormously irresponsible if returned to power. We have been given notice of that in successive speeches made not only by the Leader of the Opposition but also by the honourable member for Oxley who people sometimes think has some element of economic responsibility. I fail to see why that is so because nobody more than the honourable member for Oxley led the attack on the Australian dollar and the value of the Australian dollar. In a speech he made over the weekend he supported his leader’s madness and extravagance in relation to government expenditure.
That madness and extravagance can have only one of two results. The tax cuts that we have announced would be abolished. It is worth noting that the Opposition is not committed to those tax reforms that we have announced and the tax relief that would ensue. It is not committed to tax indexation, according to the honourable member for Oxley. Alternatively, it can introduce an additional tax. It can take away the incentives that have been given to industry. Also it can take measures which will lead to higher interest rates and a return to the printing presses.
The honourable gentleman should know that the promises made so far by Labor in relation to expenditure on the hospital development program, the sewerage program, growth centres, area improvement programs, die Australian Assistance Plan, tourist development, community assistance for leisure facilities, the program to reduce unemployment, national compensation, aged persons’ accommodation, Medibank, the reintroduction of petrol price equalisationabolished by the Labor Government- extra government funds for the beef industry, expansion of migrant education services, ethnic radio and television stations, expansion of telecommunications research, the establishment of overseas agricultural services, together with the substantial additional funds promised in relation to education, total about $3 billion. And the Labor Party has not even entered the race yet. When the Leader of the Opposition makes his policy speech, how much more is he going to promise? Really, the $3 billion man is starting pretty well. I suppose by the time he makes his policy speech the amount of money committed will be considerably more than that. The Australian people have far too much sense to be seduced by bribes, and the honourable gentleman is the greatest briber in the history of Australia.
-My question is directed to the Treasurer.
- Mr Speaker, the Treasurer went into hospital this morning for some X-rays. I do not know when he will be returning to Canberra.
– I will direct the question to the Prime Minister. Is he aware that the latest Bank of New South Wales Monthly Review claims that the Reserve Bank had been premature in entering into the bond market to share yields and that appreciable interest rate cuts were hard to justify before next year? Would he agree that the official interest rate cuts to date have been largely cosmetic because of the failure of the market rates charged for bank overdrafts and home loans through the building societies to move in the same downward direction?
– It is my understanding that that bank document was prepared before the results of the September quarter consumer price index came out. As Treasury sources would say, as I am sure the Bank itself would say, and as any reputable commentator would say, any estimates that were made before the results of that September quarter consumer price index were published would be quite inaccurate and would need substantial revision. I think any estimates that the Bank made today would be of a different character indeed.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. In view of Press comments last week on progress achieved towards the implementation of a national companies and securities Bill, can the Minister tell the House what progress has been achieved? Can he say if the progress is not all that it should be, whether it is being helped or hindered by those States whose governments are attempting, by introducing legislation, to indicate a level of concern which is not supported by their other actions?
– The matter contained in the question asked by the honourable member for Parramatta is of tremendous importance, is one that concerns the Government greatly and is one that has occupied a great deal of my time since I was appointed Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. When my predecessor in this portfolio spoke in the House on 1 7 March last he indicated the details of the broad agreement that had been reached between the Commonwealth and the States in relation to a co-operative scheme for the regulation of the entire field of the companies and securities industry. He also indicated on that occasion that a great deal more work still needed to be done in relation to detail before a final agreement could be drawn up. Since 17 March there have been meetings of officers of the Commonwealth and the States, and there has been another meeting of Ministers.
The honourable member asked whether actions by some States are slowing down progress in this matter. I feel that some States, by legislating in recent times, have perhaps given an indication that ultimately there may not be full co-operation, although I am bound to say that the ministerial meetings to date have indicated a large degree of co-operation between the several governments. There was to have been a meeting of Ministers on 9 December, but because of the importance of this issue I asked that the meeting be brought forward to 25 November. Unfortunately, not all Ministers are available on 25 November. The New South Wales AttorneyGeneral has asked that the next meeting be held on 9 December. Obviously he has shown a great deal of confidence in the return of this Government, because I am sure the New South Wales Government would not want to be negotiating with a Minister who might not be in office the following week. That is an official recognition by the Australian Labor Party “I New South Wales that this Government will be returned on 10 December.
Unfortunately a meeting cannot be held on 9 December because the South Australian Minister will be unavailable. I understand that he will be in China on that day. The Tasmanian Minister has indicated the the meeting ought not to proceed unless all Ministers are present. I assure the honourable member for Parramatta and other honourable members that this matter will be pursued, both at the officer level and at the ministerial level, with a view to bringing in at the earliest possible date co-operative legislation that will be supported by both the Commonwealth and the States.
-Will the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security say whether the Director-General of Social Services wrote to all State Directors of Social Services on 26 October 1977 about the payment of unemployment benefit in arrears? Did this letter suggest continuing delay in the payment of benefit to unemployed persons because the timing of administrative arrangements is so critical? Did the Director-General go so far as to suggest that income statements from the Commonwealth Employment Service should be collected daily by car or verbally over the telephone in order to minimise delay in the processing of claims? Because of this administrative nightmare, will many unemployed persons be denied income support to which they are entitled?
– I will obtain from the Minister for Social Security an answer to the detailed question put by the honourable member and provide him with the information in due course.
-I direct my question to the Prime Minister. Are there revised official forecasts of inflation and growth following the release of the September quarter consumer price index figure.
– The official advisory group comprising representatives of the Treasury, the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the Reserve Bank of Australia has substantially altered its estimates and undertaken a complete reassessment of the inflationary outlook following the Vh per cent increase in the non-food prices in the September quarter. It has done this against the background of the much improved outlook for the economy. I am able to give the honourable gentleman information on some aspects of that revision. For example, the increase in the consumer price index in the first half of 1977-78 is 8.6 per cent, and in the second half, 7.4 per cent. In the first half of 1978-79 it is expected to be 7.2 per cent. Of course, that confirms the outside estimates, which are indicating rates throughout next year of between 6 per cent and 8 per cent-a remarkable improvement in terms of what other countries have achieved.
I think even more encouraging are the estimates for growth throughout next year, which also have been revised substantially upwards. Gross non-farm product in the first half of 1977-78 is estimated to increase by 1.7 per cent, but in the six months from 1 January 1978 it is estimated to increase by 6.9 per cent. The estimate for the first part of 1978-79 is 5.8 per cent. All the official advisings from the advisory group of officials from the Treasury, the Bureau of Statistics and the Reserve Bank who meet to undertake these forecasts point to a very substantially improved outlook throughout 1977-78 as a result of this Government’s policies. Of course, if the policies of the Opposition ever came to be applied there would be different kinds of estimates and forecasts of renewed inflation, reduced growth and further increased unemployment.
– I ask the Minister for National Resources a question. Has the Government discussed with the Queensland Government the future role of hydropower generation in the Queensland electricity supply network to which the Federal-State Burdekin project committee directed attention in its report in May this year? Has the Government pursued the proposal which I put to the Premier of Queensland in June 1974 that the Australian Government, in conjunction with the Queensland Government, should undertake an examination of the ways and means of increasing efficiency and reducing costs within the power system with a view to lowering the price of electrical energy in Queensland?
– There has been considerable discussion with the Queensland Government over a number of years on assisting it to supplement its existing electricity network. Of course, the big contribution that the Commonwealth Government has made has been financial assistance towards construction of the Gladstone power station. It has paid the larger part of the cost of construction of that very large power station and has guaranteed the Queensland Government that further funds will be made available for continuing development of that station. The matter of hydropower which the Leader of the Opposition mentioned incorporates not only power generation but also the question of water resources. I have already made a statement to the House that the Government is looking at a national water resources program, for which legislation is now before the House, so that any agreements reached between the States and the Commonwealth can be implemented quickly. There will be continuing talks with the Queensland Government and other State governments on the question of water resources.
Of course, we will integrate water resources programs into any electricity programs that the States might want to introduce.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Primary Industry. The Minister will be aware of the value of government underwriting for the manufacturing sector of the dairy industry. However, is he aware of the concern being expressed by industry officials and factory managers that underwriting will cease with the introduction of Stage II of the National Dairy Plan? Can the Minister assure the dairy industry that Commonwealth Government underwriting will continue?
– I think every dairy farmer in Australia is aware that under Senator Wriedt and under the previous Administration the whole of the dairy stabilisation plan that provided a firm bulwark against market change was completely destroyed. The former Minister for Agriculture, as he was designated, felt that the dairy industry did not need maintenance and support and he was quite prepared to introduce, as he did, legislation to ensure that a high level of assistance to those who so demonstrably were being affected by market change would not be preserved.
In contrast, our Government, recognising the difficulties facing the industry as a result of the stockpiling of skim milk powder, for example, and other dairy products generated in the European Economic Community, not only introduced and followed through a plan for marketing change as a result of a report of an Industries Assistance Commission inquiry chaired by Professor Sir John Crawford, but also provided a level of underwriting assistance to ensure stability in the market place. We provided in this season an increase on the assistance initially provided in the preceding season. Today the Government is underwriting the equalised returns for butter at $1,160 per tonne and cheese at $860 per tonne. In conjunction with the States other than the two Labor States, New South Wales and South Australia, again indicative of the general attitude of the Labor Party to the dairy farmer, skim milk powder is being underwritten at $360 per tonne and casein at $935 per tonne. Underwriting is pitched at these levels to enable efficient manufacturers to pay their suppliers around 65c per lb butterfat at the farm gate.
We believe underwriting to be a form of assistance which is quite critical to the preservation of returns in the dairy industry. The Government has made no statement about removing underwriting. Indeed we have, right through, indicated that underwriting would be provided until such time as the dairy industry was in a position to expect reasonable returns from the markets that the efforts of our Government could develop. For that reason I can assure the honourable gentleman that our sympathy remains with the dairy farmer and with the interests of the dairy farmer. We would look very sympathetically at the position of the dairy farmer come the end of the present underwriting at 30 June next year. Indeed, it is my own personal view that until the marketing position of the dairy industry is improved, underwriting is essential to the viability of the Australian dairy farmer.
-I ask the Minister for the Capital Territory whether he has refused to meet a deputation of Canberra people concerned at the proposal to develop medium density housing near the shores of Lake Burley Griffin at section 22, Yarralumla. Has the National Capital Development Commission been instructed not to discuss this matter with the residents concerned? Does the Minister agree that the foreshores of Lake Burley Griffin should be preserved for parklands, consistent with the Burley Griffin original concept of the national capital? Will the Minister take action to proclaim section 22, Yarralumla, as open space parkland area?
– I shall look into the matters raised by the honourable member and will give him a reply as soon as possible.
– Has the Minister for Health seen reports that the Government is considering the forced closure of chemist shops? Is consideration being given to the rationalisation of chemist shops? If so, is the matter being done in consultation with the Pharmacy Guild of Australia whose members constitute some 90 per cent of Australia’s retail pharmacies?
-The Government has no intention whatsoever of forcing the closure of pharmacies in Australia upon the Pharmacy Guild or its membership. It has no such policy or proposal before it. Despite what the honourable member for Prospect had to say, the so-called leaked document was a document that had no status whatever with the Government. It was a working document that the Minister had not even seen. So I give a categorical denial that the Government has any such intention. But there is one thing I would like to say, and that is that this Government has done more than any government before it to assist the pharmacies of Australia. The Whitiam Government had the opportunity of implementing the Scott recommendations which became available during the life of the last government. It failed to do so.
When this Government came to office it amended section 99 of the Health Insurance Act and provided for the independent determination of pharmacy dispensing fees when agreement was not reached between the Pharmacy Guild of Australia and the Government. It has also done more than any other government before it to assist the isolated pharmacies of this country. Rather than abolishing chemist shops it has introduced a policy for isolated pharmacies which is designed to keep the pharmacies in business. So it is a load of absolute rubbish to suggest that this Government is out to abolish this important sector of small business in Australia, and the chemists can continue to live in the confident hope that this Government will be returned on 10 December. The future prosperity of the chemists of Australia rests on the decision that the people make on 10 December.
-I ask the Prime Minister whether he has given deep consideration to the latest unemployment figures which are now at a postDepression record level of 370,335, and are at least 5,000 higher than the September figures, even after allowing -
– Order! I ask the honourable gentleman to ask his -
– . . . for maximum possible effects of certain recent industrial disputation -
– Order! If the honourable gentleman continues to speak while I am drawing his attention to something I will have to deal with him.
-I did not hear you, Mr Speaker.
– I am asking the honourable gentleman to put his question and to cease giving information.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that many industrial nations and international economic institutions are now calling for expansionary selective economic policies by industrial nations? Will he admit that no national economy ever recovered while unemployment figures kept rising?
-The matter which the honourable gentleman raises is obviously a matter of very significant importance. I think it needs to be understood that this Government has introduced a range of programs to help the unemployed, especially the young unemployed, and it is doing it in a way which is sensible, which provides additional help and training and which helps tens of thousands of individuals. One of the things which I think are so tragic about our political opponents is that whenever there is a semblance of a possibility that they have learnt something they very soon show that they have forgotten it. The Labor Government had a Regional Employment Development scheme costing at the rate of $250m a year and providing about 30,000 jobs. It abandoned that scheme because it knew that the scheme was not operating and would not operate. Now Labor comes back with a massive RED scheme which is to cost $800m and to provide, it is said, 40,000 or 50,000 jobs. The original RED scheme would not work and there is no reason to suggest that the expanded and more extravagant approach would work either.
In relation to training, under the revised Commonwealth Rebate for Apprenticeship Full Time Training scheme and the National Employment and Training scheme we are concentrating now on people who need to obtain immediate job skills rather than concentrating on those in tertiary institutions who do not necessarily want jobs at all. The Government has introduced experimental programs for unemployed youth, such as the Special Youth Employment Training scheme and the community Youth Support Scheme. The honourable member for Cunningham has asked a question which is serious and important, and it is quite remarkable that members of the Opposition who are supposed to be significant members of the Opposition show no concern at all for these important questions. All they can do is to go around like a bunch of chooks in a barnyard. They are about as intelligible as that.
– He has not answered the question. That is the problem.
– Order! The honourable member for Wills has kept up a steady stream of interjections and I ask him to cease doing so. He has been supported in his interjections by the honourable member for Corio. I ask him to cease interjecting also. I ask the Prime Minister to answer the question and to leave me to deal with interjections.
-Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. I am demonstrating what the Government has done and is doing in this matter. In relation to the various training programs which are directed especially towards the needs of young people, over 120,000 people have been or are being helped at present. We announced at the time of the Budget that there would be no arbitrary limit on funds for any of the training programs. At the time of the Budget we announced also that for the Special Youth Employment Training Scheme the age limit would be increased to 25 years. More recently we announced that the eligibility period would be reduced from six months to four months. These training programs are being monitored constantly by my colleague, the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, and also by the Minister for Education. The Government has made it perfectly plain that, if they can be further modified and improved, they will be. In addition, in the term of this Government, over 800,000 people have been placed in employment by an increasingly efficient Commonwealth Employment Service under the administration of the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. These are important matters.
A return to the policies of mad and massive spending, of throwing money around like chaff, I do not doubt for one moment could get more people on the government payroll but the consequential rise in interest rates, the consequential increased expectations of inflation, the resort to the printing press would lead to a much greater reduction in employment in the private sector. That needs to be understood, were the honourable gentleman’s party to put into practice the policy which the Leader of the Opposition is advocating now as a renewed solution to Australia’s problems. In 1974-75 when government expenditure went up by 46 per cent in an attempt to overcome unemployment, the consequent inflation and inflationary expectations led to the circumstances where unemployment in fact rose in that year by about 200,000. The Leader of the Opposition knows quite well that what he is offering to Australia is a recipe for more of the same. It is a recipe that is doomed to failure. Even the honourable member for Oxley, when his words were being written for him by the Treasury, sometimes said something sensible. He said:
It would take the total deficit to more than $4,600m and would be a prescription for roaring inflation with devastating monetary measures and high interest rate hikes leading to widespread corporate failures and unprecedented unemployment levels.
-Who said that?
-The honourable member for Oxley said that in one of his moments of common sense when he was being more closely advised by the Treasury than he is now. The Leader of the Opposition and his party have learnt nothing over the last two years. They are a disaster.
-I direct my question to the Prime Minister. I refer to the report on the Bankruptcy Act tabled in the House last Friday. I ask: Has the number of bankruptcies increased by 16 per cent to the highest level for five years? Does the amount owing to unsecured creditors represent the largest indebtedness ever recorded in the history of this country? I ask the Prime Minister whether he is concerned with this dramatic sequel to his Government’s economic policies?
– If honourable gentlemen opposite would only look at what is happening, they would know quite well that there has been a substantial increase in profits over the last financial year which will continue throughout the course of this year. This is obviously a reversal of the situation in which profits and national product were falling, as they were at an earlier time under the previous Government. If the honourable gentleman is implying in his question that he is in favour of increased profit, I applaud him because he is the first member of his party prepared to make that acknowledgement. If there is any information available in relation to the document, I will see that the information is provided.
-As the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations is absent, I direct my question to the Prime Minister. Has the Prime Minister noted that the Norgard report has pointed out that it is not of value to use the Commonwealth Employment Service figures to assess our unemployment situation? Therefore will he take into account that the unemployment figures have been totally distorted by the Victorian State Electricity Commission strike.
-Order! The honourable gentleman will ask his question.
– Will the Prime Minister suggest that the Norgard report should be looked at and that in future the statistics on unemployment should come from the Australian Bureau of Statistics in Canberra which can do the job better?
– I think it is now widely recognised that the figures published monthly by the Commonwealth Employment Service represent a totally inaccurate picture of the number of unemployed, and that is recognised by some honourable gentleman on both sides of this House.
Opposition supporters interjecting-
-Order! The House will come to order.
– If any honourable gentlemen on the opposite side of the House are prepared to deny that that is recognised by any of them, I would like them to do so so that the ones who have recognised it can be revealed. The Australian Bureau of Statistics will be publishing figures on a monthly basis from early next year. It is widely recognised that the basis on which it provides the statistics gives a much better analysis of the true state of unemployment in Australia. But there is one matter that does need drawing attention to and it has become very evident as a result of events in recent times. The number of unemployed, according to current CES statistics, has been grossly swollen as a result of the Victorian power dispute- a dispute which some honourable gentlemen on the Opposition benches supported. In that circumstance, a dispute of about 2,000 people asking for $40 a week more led directly to 450,000 being laid off, about 50,000 having to register for employment and something approaching 40,000 still registered for employment. This has come to our notice because it was a massive dispute in its consequences, having massive effects for tens of thousands of Australians.
We need to understand that each and every strike, each and every dispute of that kind has a consequence for employment in Australia. The dispute involving the Seamen’s Union of Australia over the export of coal is having the consequence of a loss of jobs in the Norwich Park operation in Queensland. The dispute involving the Builders Labourers Federation has led to positive decisions that the construction of buildings would not proceed simply because people do not want to get embroiled in any way with the Federation, and again hundreds of thousands of jobs have been lost.
If honourable gentlemen on the opposite side of the House are really concerned for jobs in the Australian community they will reverse the influence that the union movement has over them and try to place some influence over the union movement for a change and suggest to it that strikes should not take place, so that jobs can be created throughout Australia. I believe this is widely understood not only amongst the general Australian public but also the working people of Australia, who have been betrayed time and time again by those who have sponsored strikes of this kind and by the Australian Labor Party which never does anything to condemn them.
-I direct my question to the Minister for Primary Industry. What does the Government see as being necessary to ensure a return to profitability for the Australian beef industry in 1978? Does the Minister see the Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation, as presently constituted, being able to make a positive contribution to improved producer returns? What effect have policies flowing from the implementation of the Coombs report in the 1974-75 Budget had in prejudicing the present state of the Australian primary industry sector?
– There is no doubt that the circumstances of the farming community have suffered very seriously because of inflation and because of changes in government policy that were implemented during the 1972-75 period. A number of extraordinary statements were made at a seminar in the honourable gentleman’s electorate at the weekend by the man who was principally responsible for those changes as Minister for Agriculture. It is rather interesting that this man, having requested to be relieved of his shadow portfolio during the term that the Labor Party has been in Opposition, and having served in another area- the shadow portfolio has changed hands at least once since that senator has retired from the post; a member of this House is now the Labor spokesman on primary industry- now purports to speak on behalf of the Labor Party presumably in the field of agriculture. I hope that those things which he says demonstrate that he is now genuinely prepared to embark on a policy of support for agriculture.
I see many of the problems of the Australian primary producer and particularly the cattleman revolving around the necessity to provide again infrastructure support at a government level in the way we did pre- 1972 before the adoption of the Coombs report by the Labor Government in 1973. It is quite true that the Australian Meat and Live-stock Corporation will provide a more widly embracing marketing opportunity for Australian meat producers than did its predecessor. There is no doubt that the powers which are entailed within its legislation and which enable it to market meat in certain circumstances and to promote and to advertise the qualities of Australian meat very extensively around the world are very much in line with the thinking of most meat producers. It seems that the Labor spokesman has not been aware of the powers that are in the legislation. He is already suggesting some changes to it which do not accord with the reaction of the Labor Party when the legislation was introduced in this House.
I also see again that the spokesman is setting a pattern which was so typical of the Labor Party when in government. He is coming out as a champion of a cause. Presumably, when it comes to presenting a collective point of view as a member of a government- if ever there were to be another Labor government- he would say to the producers: ‘I supported you but it happened that the numbers were not there.’ The overall policy of the party can be shown to be quite different from that which he as an individual presents. This is obviously true in regard to another matter about which he spoke at the weekend. I see that he promised tariff restructuring and pledged several concessions including petrol equalisation. The man who is the spokesman for the Labor Party on tariff matters is known from newspaper reports and his statements in this House to have a responsible attitude towards employment. Yet a spokesman for the Labor Party apparently decided that he would remove all tariffs and presumably -
-Order! The right honourable gentleman was asked a question about the beef industry. I ask him to remain relevant to the question.
– Thank you, Mr Speaker. I can assure you that the policies affecting high protection are very relevant to the beef producer. We on our side of politics are concerned about the effects of tariffs but we are concerned about them in a broad responsible way. We are worried about the cost to consumers and to export industries on the one hand and the availability of jobs on the other.
I sought to identify the fact that in his speech at the weekend this gentleman quite obviously took a different point of view from some others within his party. Equally, as he was Minister for Agriculture at the time petrol price equalisation was lifted, he deserves to be given responsibility for removing that form of support. I see that he now comes back and says that he will reintroduce it. He has not acknowledged that he was responsible for its removal. He has not identified the fact that the added cost to beef producers and primary producers generally was largely as a result of that decision and others that flowed from the Coombs report. I think that primary producers need to recognise that this man’s concern for the genuine opportunities of primary producers -
-Order! The right honourable gentleman is going far beyond the question. He is being irrelevant to the question that was asked. I ask him to remain relevant.
-Certainly, Mr Speaker, I shall remain relevant. The opportunities for Australian primary producers are very dependent upon a sympathetic government attitude.That attitude demonstrably did not come from the Australian Labor Party or from the honourable gentleman who is seeking by fairly rude noises to intervene at the moment, or from that spokesman at Rockhampton at the weekend. The only way in which Australian agriculture and the Australian cattle industry can survive is by receiving sympathetic and aggressive support. Those industries will receive that support from the Liberal-National Country Party Government, and quite demonstrably they will receive it from nobody in the Australian Labor Party.
– I ask the Minister for Overseas Trade: Did the Government authorise the Governor-General to agree with the President of the Philippines at their meeting in Manila on 24 August last that the Philippines and Australia would soon eliminate trade barriers for their mutual benefit? What steps has the Government since taken to honour this agreement between the two heads of state?
– I am unable to answer that question off the cuff. I shall take it as a question on notice and give the honourable gentleman a reply.
– Is the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs aware of complaints regarding unfair treatment concerning taxation refunds to overseas born people? Has he received correspondence in relation to such taxpayers in the Macarthur electorate? What action has he taken?
– Yes, I am aware of complaints regarding late payments of taxation refunds to overseas born residents of Australia, particularly in the Wollongong area and in the electorate of Macarthur. I thank the honourable member for Macarthur and also his colleague Senator Lajovic for bringing these complaints to my attention. It is tremendously important, Mr
Speaker, as I am sure you would agree, that refunds are paid as quickly as possible. I know that these taxpayers have taken the trouble to put in their taxation returns just as soon as they could. I am very disturbed to think that there may be some feelings of discrimination against such taxpayers. I hope and trust that the Australian Taxation Office will make a quick investigation of this matter. To hasten that investigation I have taken up the matter personally with the Treasurer. Unfortunately the Treasurer is not with us today. Therefore I shall draw this matter to the attention of the Minister Assisting the Treasurer in the hope that these refunds can be paid as soon as possible.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Transport. He will recall telling the House last Thursday, as reported in Hansard:
Let me assure the House that I have no knowledge of the activities of the Department of Administrative Services. That Department is totally independent of my Department.
The Minister will recall also telling the honourable member for Chifley on Friday that he recommended a local stock and station agent to participate in the purchase of land for the Omega base on the ground that it was part of his normal representations. I ask the Minister: Is it a fact that he requested a local stock and station agent to be appointed to act on behalf of the Australian Government because, in his own words, he thought he could act more discreetly? Secondly, I ask the Minister: In the light of his statement in the House on Thursday is it a fact that in December 1976 he personally telephoned the Secretary of the Department of Administrative Services querying the way in which investigations into the possible sites for the Omega facility were being handled? Was he not informed later that the officers of that Department had acted meticulously according to the instructions given by the Department of Transport? Why has the Minister misled the House?
-As I said the other day, the honourable member for Shortland is a very slow learner. He has proved that again today. The Minister for Administrative Services made the files on this matter available in the Senate. It is clear that the honourable member for Shortland has been reading those files word by word, very slowly, since they were made available. I make no secret of the fact that I did ring the Secretary of the Department of Administrative Services -
-I rise to take a point of order, Mr Speaker. My point of order is that the Minister is making personal reflections on the honourable member for Shortland. He should be asked to withdraw.
– I call the Minister for Transport.
-I did ring the head of the Department of Administrative Services because of reports which appeared in the local newspapers in Gippsland to the effect that the Department was seeking to purchase land on which to site the Omega station. I sought from the head of the Department of Administrative Services an assurance that speculators could not get into the area ahead of the Department with the result that the land values would become unreal. I was concerned to know -
-That is not what you said. Why do you not tell the truth?
-Order! The Minister will resume his seat. I ask the honourable member for Shortland to withdraw.
-The Minister was being most provocative but, in deference to you, Mr Speaker, I withdraw.
-Order! I call upon the honourable member for Shortland to withdraw unqualifiedly the comment he made.
– I withdraw. The facts will stand for themselves.
– I call upon the honourable member for Shortland to withdraw unqualifiedly.
-I withdraw, Mr Speaker.
-I was concerned to see that the Government’s position in relation to this matter was properly cared for. I did ring the head of the Department of Administrative Services about the matter. I should point out to the House that on Friday night I attended in the Victorian electorate of Yarram a meeting concerned with the Omega station. After that meeting a well known supporter of the Labor Party- indeed, he was a Labor candidate on, I think, three occasionssaid to me that he was aware of questions that were being promoted in the House and that he was concerned about the implications in one or two of them. He felt that they were very unfair.
Opposition members interjecting-
– I am not concerned about any reflection cast on me; I am concerned about a reflection cast on a resident of Gippsland whom I know personally and whom I know to be a person of integrity. So, I am concerned about the reflection cast upon him in the House last week by the honourable member for Shortland. I do not know what the honourable member for Shortland is trying to prove. The people of Gippsland are satisfied about the propriety of this matter. The price received for the land was less than the price received for land sold subsequently. I do not really know what the honourable member for Shortland is driving at. All I say is that coming from the Tammany Hall politics of Newcastle, as he does, he probably thinks-
Honourable members interjecting-
-Order! The Minister will resume his seat.
- Mr Speaker, I ask for the withdrawal of the words ‘Tammany Hall politics of Newcastle’. The honourable member for Wentworth used offensive words outside this place. He was silly enough to do that. The honourable member for Shortland did him in the court. I ask -
-Order! The honourable member for Newcastle will remain silent for the moment. He referred to the ‘honourable member for Wentworth’.
– I meant the honourable member for Mackellar, not the honourable member for Wentworth.
-The honourable member for Wentworth was immediately on his feet.
– I beg your pardon, Mr Speaker. I meant the honourable member for Mackellar- Mr Wentworth, the honourable member for Mackellar. He made outside of the Parliament some remarks similar to those just made by the Minister and was taken to court by the honourable member for Shortland. The result was the honourable member for Mackellar had to apologise. Furthermore, as far as the siting of the Omega station is concerned, I think the whole thing is crook from go to whoa -
-Order! The honourable member for Newcastle will resume his seat.
– The decision was taken to locate it at Deniliquin. It was only as a result of the actions of a crook Minister that it was decided to put it in his electorate.
– I will take the withdrawals one at a time. The honourable member for Newcastle is offended by the Minister’s use of the term ‘Tammany Hall tactics’. I ask the Minister to withdraw.
– I certainly do not include the honourable member for Newcastle -
– I ask the Minister to withdraw.
– I was really referring to -
-Order! I ask the Minister to withdraw.
-I withdraw, Mr Speaker.
-The honourable member for Newcastle will withdraw his comment. I shall identify it for him. He said that the acquisition of the land for the Omega site was crook. I ask him to withdraw.
– I withdraw.
– The point I was making was that the previous member for Shortland made plain in this House a few years ago what he thought about the present member for Shortland. I was really trying to remind the House of that incident. I do not think people who live in glass houses, therefore, ought to throw too many stones. The fact is that the files on this matter have been laid on the table by the Minister for Administrative Services. No one, except the honourable member for Shortland is in any doubt at all about the complete propriety of everything that has occurred.
– I take a point of order. I find the imputation in the Minister’s remarks grossly offensive. If he has the courage to say those things publicly I will deal with them, but I ask that ne withdraw the imputation.
– I must indicate to the honourable member for Shortland that whatever imputation was involved in the reply of the Minister was not unparliamentary. Likewise, the question asked by the honourable member for Shortland in itself carried an imputation, and that was not unparliamentary.
-Has the Minister for Transport seen reports that only a handful of demonstrators were present at the latest loading of uranium containers at White Bay? Can the Minister confirm these reports and that the loading of the containers took place without incident? If so, does this demonstrate a growing community feeling that Australia should make its uranium available -
-Order! The honourable gentleman is asking for an opinion from the Minister. The first part of the question is permissible. I call the Minister.
-I am able to confirm that two ships containing yellow cake for the United Kingdom left during the weekend. The Associated Transport Container Australia ships ACT III left with 12 containers, and the ACT VII left with a record tonnage of 292 tons in 34 containers. I am happy to inform the House that only a handful of demonstrators were present. I think two things have been brought home sharply to those Australian people who are thinking about this question. Firstly, the way in which the Government has explained its policies on this question is being understood more and more by the people of Australia. The second factor, I think, is the visit by Dr Mabon, the British Minister who distinguished and contrasted sharply the approach taken by the British Labour Party and the British Trade Union Congress with that of the Australian Labor Party and the Australian trade union movement. I think it is fair to say that as a result the pro-communists and left-wingers were unable to get the general support for preventing the shipments last weekend that they were getting at an earlier date.
I think the Deputy Leader of the Opposition ought to take note of the lack of support for preventing the shipment from getting out last weekend. I have no doubt that the people of Australia are genuinely comprehending more and more that the United Kingdom is short of energy, is desperate for energy and requires energy for the jobs of its people and for the heating of its homes. The only thing I am sorry about is that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition should so embarrass the Labor Party by splitting it down the middle by coming out with the communist line, as he has done. I am sure the people of Australia will recognise that fact and register their disapproval on 10 December.
– I take a point of order. I know an election is imminent and they are getting pretty low.
- Mr Speaker, on what basis is the honourable member speaking?
– He is making a point of order.
– The Minister said -
-Proceed with the point of order.
– The Minister for Transport said that I was taking the communist line. You did not call him to order. I ask him to withdraw that remark. They are getting desperate.
-The honourable gentleman has made his point. I will deal with it. The Minister said- I heard it quite clearly- that the Deputy
Leader was taking a communist line. If he had made a comment which reflected personally on the Deputy Leader I would have required him to withdraw. To suggest that a line taken by the Deputy Leader may coincide with that taken by some other political party is not an unparliamentary expression.
- Mr Speaker, I have been fairly patient, but the fact is that if this smear is allowed a member can say here, under privilege, with you in the chair and with you permitting him to say it, that any member on this side- any individual, not the party- is taking a certain line. In this case it is a reflection on me. I object to it. I ask that it be withdrawn.
– I wish to speak to the point of order. Is the honourable gentleman saying that to have a policy similar to that of the Communist Party is now offensive to him? If he were saying that, I would have thought that those of his colleagues who stood on the same platform with communists on other occasions would have regarded his remarks as offensive. This affinity for and relationship to the Communist Party would be worth exploring.
– I take a point of order. The Standing Orders are clear on this matter. They indicate that if a member finds a statement offensive it must be withdrawn.
– I suggest that some members opposite should read the Standing Orders before they start making noises. The Standing Orders are quite clear on the matter.
- Mr Speaker, in the past when a member of the Government has been called a fascist you have required that it to be withdrawn. When the Government has been referred to as a mob of fascists you have required that it be withdrawn. Accordingly, I think the same approach should be taken now. There should be consistency in this matter now.
– I think there is consistency. The ruling which I have given is quite consistent with past rulings. If there were any personal reflection on the Deputy Leader of the Opposition I would be the first to protect him. To suggest that a course of action taken by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is of a certain kind, and to apply to it a description, is not unparliamentary. The honourable gentleman will be perfectly entitled at a later point to make a personal explanation stating why his actions do not warrant that description.
- Mr Speaker, are you saying that if I say to you that you take a fascist line that would not be unparliamentary? Could I say to you: ‘Mr Speaker, you are taking a fascist line’? Is that unparliamentary?
– You would not be able to say it to me simply because I am the Speaker, but you would be able to say it about any other member.
– Why can I not say it to you?
-Because I am above that.
– Can I say that the Prime Minister is taking a fascist line? We all know that the Prime Minister is taking a fascist line. Do I continue? Is this the line of parliamentary debate that you want?
– It would not be unparliamentary. It would not be the best choice of language having regard to the dignity of the Parliament, but it would not be unparliamentary.
– Having accepted the proposition that the Prime Minister takes a fascist line I rest my case.
– The point I was making was that I think there are six communist parties in Australia and that the six communist parties have a policy of opposing the mining and exporting of uranium for peaceful purposes.
-Order! I have already ruled on that point.
– This is part of my answer.
-There is no need to argue the point further.
-The Deputy Leader of the Opposition supports that policy.
-Order! The Minister will resume his seat.
– Is the Minister for National Resources aware of the heavy burden of fuel prices which country people carry? Will the Government consider some means of reducing this burden in the light of the continuing rises in costs in rural industry at a time of depressed prices and incomes?
– I am sure that the views of the Prime Minister and myself in relation to fuel prices in rural areas are well known. Indeed, if it had not been for the economic mess that we inherited from the Whitlam Labor Government, it would have been possible to reintroduce the fuel equalisation scheme which it abolished in 1974. Because of the constraints we have had to apply and the need for a responsible approach to economic management, we have not been able to reintroduce as many measures as we would have liked. I now see that apparently the Australian Labor Party is recognising that this is a political issue and it is talking about bringing in the equalisation of fuel prices. We have not heard any details as to what this scheme will be, but I suppose another $ 100m here or there does not really add much when Labor is promising thousands of millions of dollars.
All I can say to the Australian people, particularly country people, is that they should remember very clearly the circumstances of 1974 when the fuel equalisation scheme was abolished. There was an uproar within the Labor Government at the time and the so-called rural rump was going to have it reinstated. So much for the rural rump. The thumb was put down very hard by Mr Whitiam, the then Prime Minister, who said that there would be no return of the fuel equalisation prices. What I say to the rural people of Australia is that when they hear these promises being made by the Labor Party they should ask themselves how much reliance they can place on them. All the experience and all the performance of the Labor Party have pointed to Labor withdrawing forms of support and assistance to country people. By contrast, when a Liberal-National Country Party government says something it does it.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, whom I note is wearing a white buttonhole today. Is it a fact that migrants who have been advised by you as Minister that they are eligible are unable to obtain their Australian citizenship for at least another six weeks, the excuse being that there are lengthy waiting periods for private citizenship ceremonies conducted by your Department? Do these long delays mean that many migrants will not be eligible to vote at the Federal election on 10 December because of the closing of the rolls on 10 November? Is this action being deliberately taken by you as Minister to prevent eligible migrants from voting at this election? Was this action taken on your instructions as Minister? Is the Minister also aware that because of staff ceilings imposed by the Government many Commonwealth electoral officers in Sydney are unable to advise migrants from Commonwealth countries of their obligation to be enrolled and to vote on 10
December? Was this action taken by you as Minister deliberately and with your full knowledge?
-Order! I remind the honourable member that he is not entitled to address persons in the chamber directly. The purpose of that is to avoid tempers flaring. A question is put through me. When the honourable member says ‘you’ he is referring to me. Will he please say ‘the Minister’ rather than ‘you’ and make his question shorter in future.
– In finality, Mr Speaker, through you to the Minister, will the Minister please advise all eligible migrants in the best manner available of their rights and obligations to vote under the Commonwealth Electoral Act?
– I thank the honourable gentleman for his quesiton, because it gives me an opportunity to lay to rest much of the misrepresentation, particularly by members of the Opposition, of the Government’s attitude towards citizenship. A number of statements have been made which suggest that somehow this Government is against the granting of citizenship to people who are eligible to take out citizenship. I point out very briefly that in 1972 the number of persons granted citizenship was 25,971; in 1973, 34,891; m 1974, 40,709; in 1975, 84,059; and in 1976, the first full year of the present Government, 1 1 8, 1 89. In the six months from January to June 1977 the number was 36,606. These figures give the lie to those people who suggest that this Government is against granting citizenship to* people who are eligible to obtain citizenship.
In relation to the actual questions, information has been made available to citizens about their eligibility to vote in federal elections. I have not given instructions that people should be denied citizenship prior to the elections this year. I have said, and I nave repeated, that those people who are eligible to be granted citizenship should be given it in the shortest possible time. The period of waiting for citizenship under this Government has been reduced significantly from the waiting period under the previous Labor Administration.
-Has the attention of the Prime Minister been directed to the proceedings of the recent meeting of economists at the Brookings Institute in Washington? Is he aware that this meeting virtually acknowledged that the economic policy hitherto pursued by developed nations overseas had been grossly wrong? Because in the past the Treasurer has slavishly followed overseas leads, can we expect him now to make a rapid reappraisal of fundamental economic policies? Should we interpret some recent rather tentative relaxation of economic restrictions not as election bait but rather as an implicit recognition that past policy was wrong and should be changed?
– I think the honourable gentleman is referring to circumstances which do not apply to Australia in the way in which he would like them to apply to Australia. As the honourable gentleman would know, some pressure has been exerted overseas to try to get the so-called stronger economies of Japan, Germany and the United States of America to reinflate their economies to a greater extent. It needs to be understood that these are the economies in which inflation has been lowest. Disappointment has been expressed by some people that reinflation in Japan and Germany is not taking place to the extent they would like. Of course it has been suggested that the stronger economies would then drag forward the weaker ones with them. I have always had a considerable degree of reservation about the extent to which weaker economies can expect to have their problems overcome- I speak of those countries in Europe which have particularly high rates of inflation- by action taken by stronger economies, when that action might prejudice the strength that the stronger economies have attained generally through policies of restraint and sound monetary and fiscal management.
In relation to Australia’s own circumstance, we are much better off looking at commentaries coming from an increasing number of authoritative and most knowledgeable sources in Australia. I had in front of me earlier this morning the latest issue of SYNTEC, which was released today. I should like to read a couple of passages from it. SYNTEC, which may be one of the most authoritative commentaries on the Australian economy in the world scene, says:
The change in Australia’s money supply and, prospectively, inflation and currency positions means a long period of slowly falling interest rates within this economy. A drop of 20 per cent in the underlying stucture over the course of 1 978 is not now inconceivable. This is a prospect we have been stressing consistently now for two years. It is about to begin falling into place. The only thing that could destroy this prospect now is a break from the long wind-down strategy back to deficit-financing. The choice of the December election date appears to us to have eliminated the risk of that happening.’ ‘We expect the medium to long term bond rate structure to move gradually towards 8 per cent through 1978. We expect the rate of inflation to move substantially below 8 per cent on a year-on-year basis from mid- 1978 onwards.
Only two things would upset this prospect:
defeat of the Fraser Government; or
reversion to pump-priming fiscal expansion.
Given that these two qualifications won’t apply, the whole interest and yield structure in this economy should move down by some 200 basis points over the next fifteen months. ‘
Earlier on Syntec says: ‘In Australia, the policy of monetary wind-down pursued by the Fraser Government in the past two years has begun to have a dramatic payoff effect on inflation. The Budget view of inflation through 1977-78 has become out-of-date.
The year-on-year rate of inflation at end-1977-78 now looks like being some six full percentage points . . . less than at the year’s beginning. This would represent a 44 per cent change in the rate of inflation over the course of this financial year.
A further comment for the honourable member for Oxley: ‘. . . unless the Fraser Government now reverses policy, inflation in this country will decelerate quite markedly through 1978.
Such a prospect is of fundamental relevance to clients of this service.Incredible as it may seem at this point, it means the gradual movement of the Australian dollar into the ranks of the semi-hard. Such a development would in turn extend substantially the downward path for Australian interest rates.
Australia- given re-election of the Fraser Government- is likely to be pursuing economic strategy akin to the US under Dr Arthur Bums in his hey-day (1974 to 1976). Given this.the Australian dollar will come gradually under a fundamentally based pressure to upvalue on the US dollar.’
In other words, Syntec is saying that provided the present Government policies are continued the Australian economy will strengthen and become one of the leading economies in the world. I thank the honourable gentleman for his question.
- Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. My point of order relates to Standing Order 145. My question to the Prime Minister was directed to the meeting that occurred recently at the Brookings Institute. His answer was not so directed. Apparently he is not aware- he is out of date- that overseas opinion has reversed the general tendencies.
-The honourable gentleman has no point of order. He will resume his seat.
– For the information of honourable members I present a resolution of the International Sugar Council for the third extension of the International Sugar Agreement 1973.
– For the information of honourable members I present the Australian
Meat Board interim report for the year ended 30 June 1977.
– Pursuant to section 40 of the Australian National Airline Commissions Act 1945, I present the Trans-Australia Airlines final annual report for 1975-76. I am advised that there are no substantial differences between the final report and the interim report which was tabled in December 1976 and distributed to all members. For this reason, it is proposed that copies will not be made available for distribution to members.
– Pursuant to section 46 of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 I present the annual report of the Commissioner for Community Relations for the year ended 30 June 1977.
For the information of honourable members, I present the annual report of the Fawnmac group of companies for the year ended 30 June 1 977.
– Pursuant to section 24 (4) of the Metric Conversion Act, I present the seventh report of the Metric Conversion Board for the year ending 30 June 1977. In accordance with the same section, I report that no amendments were made to the Act and no regulations introduced. The Board continued to carry out successfully its function in achieving the object of the Act. Copies of the report will be sent to all members as soon as bulk supplies become available. In the meantime, copies of the report have been placed in the Parliamentary Library and the Table Office.
– For the information of honourable members I present ‘Antarctica ‘, an information paper, together with the text of a statement made by the Minister for Science in connection with the paper.
Pursuant to section 43 of the Australian Heritage
Commission Act 1975 I present the Australian Heritage Commission annual report 1976-77. Copies of the report will be sent to all honourable members as soon as bulk supplies become available. In the meantime, copies of the report have been placed in the Parliamentary Library and the Table Office.
For the information of honourable members I present the annual report of the Autralian Capital Territory Fire Brigade for the year ended 30 June 1977.
For the information of honourable members I present the annual report of the Department of the Capital Territory for the year ended 30 June 1977. Copies of the report will be sent to all members as soon as bulk supplies are available. In the meantime copies of the report have been placed in the Parliamentary Library and the Table Office.
– For the information of honourable members I present the Patent, Trade Marks and Designs Office annual report 1976-77.
-Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?
-Yes, Mr Speaker. At Question Time today, the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) accused me of telling an untruth regarding the Government’s proposal to eliminate private pharmacies. He claimed that he had not seen or made any such proposals.
– He said there was an option, on the radio this morning.
-No, he said in the House today that he had not seen or made any such proposals. I quote from a paper of the Pharmacy Guild:
Enclosed is a confidential working paper, prepared by the Pharmacy Economics Division, on the options tor Rationalisation presented by the Government.
At the top of the page it reads:
The attached document ists (on the first page) the options of Government’s representatives on the Joint Committee.
Another page is headed ‘Consideration of the Options for Rationalisation Presented by the Government Representatives’. Finally, the last page is headed ‘Joint Committee on Pharmaceutical Benefits Pricing Arrangements: Subcommittee on Rationalisation. Government Representatives’ List of Draft Options on Rationalisation for Discussion with Guild Representatives on Sub-committee on 7 October 1 977 ‘. That paper states:
Option 1- Amalgamation of pharmacies . . .
compulsory . . .
Option 3- Licensing by State Governments of Pharmacy outlets
Option 4- Placing limitation on NHS approvals
by not issuing new approvals
by reviewing the number of approvals in areas where there is more than one pharmacy serving a given population
by issuing approvals to ‘dispensing only ‘ pharmacies.
Option 5- Increased dependence on hospital dispensaries
Option 6- Economic pressure on pharmacies (Reduced rates of remuneration)
Option 7- Tendering for NHS remuneration rates in areas where more than one pharmacy is operating.
Those are the options presented by the Government’s representatives on that Committee. The only point I can make is that apparently the Government’s representatives acted without the knowledge of the Minister.
- Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, I do, Mr Speaker. It is true to say that I did not see this working paper before the government representatives presented that draft optional paper to the Joint Committee. The first time it was drawn to my attention was during this recent public controversy. The Government does not endorse the options put by those officials at that Committee as discussion points only, so they tell me. To avoid any further confusion in this matter I will write to every chemist in Australia and make sure that they will not be disturbed by this sort of political nonsense that is going on now.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Nitrogenous Fertilizers Subsidy Amendment Bill 1 977. Judiciary (Diplomatic Representation) Bill 1977
Sitting suspended from 12.29 to 3 p.m.
– by leave- The purpose of this statement is to provide a summary of the more important aspects of the Government’s energy policies to date and to outline some policy objectives for the future. In my statement today I will be dealing briefly with the rationale of energy policy, the usefulness of individual policy measures and general policy targets.
The continued use of large and increasing quantities of energy by Australia is essential if we are to maintain our current living standards and see a continuation of reasonable rates of economic growth. Until the ‘oil crisis’ of 1973-74 it was widely assumed that growing world demand could and would be satisfied from established sources of supply without major upheavals. The Middle Eastern war of October 1973 and the subsequent oil supply restrictions showed dramatically how wrong that belief was. Secure and stable supplies of energy are now explicitly recognised as an essential ingredient of economic growth, and policy makers in the major energy consuming countries spend much time analysing energy problems.
Many groups in the community have recently been expressing the view that there is a need for the Commonwealth Government to develop and implement a comprehensive energy policy, covering all forms of energy, because of the dangers and uncertainties that lie ahead in the energy field and the benefits that are thought to be likely to flow from far-sighted and resolute Government action. It is a view which we as a Government endorse. Usage of energy in our sophisticated industrial economy is so widespread that energy policy cannot be determined in isolation from other significant policy considerations. Our energy policy needs to recognise the interdependence of economic activities and the ways in which changes in energy costs and the availability of energy could affect the outlook for the economy generally, particular industries and private consumption. In our approach to energy policy we will be ensuring that these considerations are taken fully into account. Two of the most basic problems in energy policy are the conservation of energy generally, and the related question of the replacement of fuels in scarce supply by others in more plentiful supply- for example, oil by coal. Both these problems are linked to the more general problem of the need for a reasonable level of selfsufficiency in those major fuels.
A number of countries have, under the impact of the oil crisis, adopted objectives of energy ‘self-reliance’, ‘energy independence’, or ‘greater self-sufficiency’ in energy. These have some of the characteristics of slogans. Nevertheless, there is a considerable amount of truth in the notion that self-sufficiency in major fuels is a worthwhile objective. There are strategic and political advantages in being relatively free of the threat of embargoes; there is also the probability of being able to avoid the very significant losses to national output of goods and services that would occur if embargoes were actually imposed. Some of these factors are quantifiable to a degree. On the other hand, efforts to achieve greater self-sufficiency can involve considerable costs for the consumer and the nation. It is necessary for governments to strike a careful balance between these costs and the benefits of selfsufficiency. Australia is, of course, self-sufficient in and indeed a major exporter of energy fuels, with the exception of crude oil. It is our dependence on imports of crude oil which brings into sharper focus and need for energy conservation, inter-fuel substitution, and energy research and development. It is in these areas that much of our energy policy efforts will be coming in the future.
One of our main tasks as a Government in the field of energy policy is to develop, as far as practicable, firm and stable guidelines for the development of the energy industries. Firm guidelines are desirable because the lead times involved in major energy projects are frequently so extended that the commercial risks to private enterprise in undertaking its projects can rise to very high levels. This argues for the development of a national consensus in energy policy, to the extent possible, because private enterprise will continue to be wary of a situation in which the ‘ground rules’ could change drastically with a change of government. In addition to these considerations affecting the private sector, we as a Government may have to take decisions in the public sector affecting Australia’s energy future, for example, on energy research and development, which have ramifications into the distant future too far for commercial interests to register effectively in the present.
One of the main problems in developing firm and realistic guidelines for energy policy is, of course, the degree of uncertainty which exists as to the situation we will be in in 20, 10, or even five years time. Five years ago the present level of energy prices was predicted by almost no one, yet the effects of these price movements have been very far reaching. Energy is required as a complementary commodity to all other goods and services we consume. To attempt to develop on a rational basis a complete blueprint for Australia’s energy future would be an exceedingly daunting prospect. Quite clearly, the Commonwealth Government’s role should not be to attempt to dictate the precise future path along which energy producers and consumers should move. Apart from being repugnant to our philosophy as a Government, such an approach would be beyond our powers and almost certainly could not be made to work effectively in any case. It is, however, necessary to set the scene within which the private sector and government instrumentalities can operate with confidence, while, as far as practicable- that is, given our other objectives- allowing the forces of the market to allocate our available resources of manpower, capital, and technology.
In one sense, Australia as a nation is still at a relatively early stage in the formulation of a national consensus in which all aspects of energy policy have been thought through in detail. Much public discussion will be needed before the finer details are settled. We are, however, well placed in another way in that the principal planks in our energy policy are to a large extent already in position as a result of the many important policy initiatives we have taken. The main policy initiatives we as a Government have taken in the field of energy policy over the last couple of years have been in the areas of mining taxation incentives, energy pricing, the administration of export controls, foreign investment guidelines, decisions on the development of uranium and natural gas resources, assistance to energy research and development, and the formation of energy consultative and advisory bodies.
The incentives we have provided to the mining industries have been designed particularly to help the oil industry, for example, the provision for petroleum explorers to be able in future to write off their exploration expenses against income from any source. In general, the energy extraction industries have benefited from the new provisions available to the mining sector generally. These decisions have improved the economics and financibility of most energy projects. The decision on crude oil pricing has also markedly improved the economics of the oil extraction industry- and is of significance in another way in that producers of hydrocarbons now have some tangible evidence of government support for the concept of world parity prices for local energy sources. We have prepared the way for uranium mining and for development of the North West Shelf gas reserves by the provision of assurances to potential developers and by the appropriate safeguarding of environmental and other interests. I am pleased to say that this afternoon the companies have announced that they will now continue to proceed with the $50m feasibility study.
We have diverted additional funds to energy research and development. Finally, we have taken a number of important initiatives in the setting up of consultative and advisory bodies in the energy field. These initiatives between them amount to a very considerable onslaught on the energy problems facing Australia. In fact it could fairly be said, on the strength of these initiatives, that we have given energy a high priority in our overall policy program.
I will now deal briefly with the types of policy measures which are available for the implementation of our energy policies. Of all the measures which might be used to implement an energy policy, energy pricing is perhaps the most fundamental. Correct pricing will to a very large extent limit consumption of energy and encourage exploration for and development of new energy deposits. Other conservation measures- that is, provision of information- may also be able to play an important role. Encouragement of the substitution of fuels in plentiful supply for those in scarce supply may be economically feasible in some circumstances and efforts to develop means of converting plentiful fuels into scarce fuelsthat is, coal into oil- would be an even more direct way of tackling the same problem. The setting up of strategic reserves of liquid fuels may also be justifiable as a measure to give protection from supply embargoes. Finally, assistance to research and development, particularly in coal liquefaction and solar power, should assist in developing new options which we may be able to capitalise on at some future stage. Measures along any of these lines would involve costs, so careful judgments of net benefits are needed.
Some further remarks on individual policy measures are in order. First is the price of energy.
The price of energy provides a fundamental control of myriad individual decisions about the production and consumption of energy. The prices to which both producers and consumers react should therefore fully reflect the present and future value of our non-renewable energy resources. In practice, what this means in the Australian context at the present time is that policy measures will need to be taken to move the overall energy price level toward international parity levels, which have, other things being equal, a particular status as a measure of the relative values to the community of tradeable commodities. At the same time it will be necessary to ensure that the prices of particular fuels reflect the relative domestic scarcity and abundance of resources. In determining and influencing the price of energy in Australia we need to avoid making adjustments which are too rapid and which could cause serious damage to the prospects for industries using energy. A careful approach taking into account the fact that industry is a major user of energy is warranted. When considering the objective of moving energy prices towards international levels, we are, of course, aware that the Commonwealth Government does not have complete control over energy prices. Electricity prices, for example, are set by State electricity authorities. Domestic coal prices are set by the coal producers, many of which are vertically integrated with the electricity generation industry or with the steel and cement industries and which therefore may, and often do, transfer coal at prices which are not fully commercial. The Commonwealth Government can, however, exert some influence on other domestic energy prices through its control over the price of indigenous crude oU. For example, the increases in oil prices which we announced at Budget time can be expected to enhance the economics of possible large new gas projects by allowing domestic gas prices to increase further whilst still remaining competitive. The economics of coal to oil conversion processes and other new energy generation methods could also be favourably influenced by a higher oil price although these processes are still a long way from commercial feasibility in Australia. By promoting a price differential between oil and other energy forms, we could encourage conservation of oil, together with fuel substitution. Co-operation between the Commonwealth and State Governments will be essential in the implementation of the pricing aspects of a national energy policy. It will therefore be necessary for the target of moving energy prices toward international levels to be canvassed in the forum of the Minerals and Energy Council. Taxation incentives for the industries producing energy materials may assist new energy mining projects by making them easier to finance, but of course such incentives can be achieved only at a cost to Government revenue. Concerning energy conservation measures, improvement in the efficiency of use of energy will require wide public acceptance of the need for greater efficiency, and greater public knowledge and skill in methods of achieving it. An effective energy conservation program would essentially represent a campaign to change national attitudes in relation to energy usage.
I endorse the National Energy Advisory Committee ‘s advice that conservation is the most effective action which can be taken to lessen our dependence upon imported oil in the immediate future. The Committee has recommended that a major national program should be undertaken to conserve energy, especially oil. Basically the proposed program calls for immediate action which could inform the public of the need to conserve, educate consumers as to how savings might be made, and provide specialised advice and assistance to energy users. Fuel savings would be achieved by means such as better maintenance of industrial plant and vehicles and increased use of insulation to minimise heat losses. Because the States have much of the expertise in the public sector, it is recommended that the national energy conservation program should be a joint undertaking of the Commonwealth and State governments, industry, and various other bodies. One of the most direct ways in which security in short term supply of energy materials can be achieved is by stockpiling of major fuels. The governments of several overseas countries, notably the United States of America and Japan, have already taken major measures along these lines. Only essential materials which could be vulnerable to supply interruption at short notice need be considered for stockpiling. For Australia probably only crude oil and/oil refinery products would qualify, as our supplies of oil in the future will depend to a large degree on its availability from OPEC countries.
Prevailing forecasts indicate that a desirable timing for stockpile establishment, if this is necessary, would probably be the early to mid-1980s. The main value of inter-fuels substitution would be in diverting demand away from oil to other fuels, and in ensuring that all fuels are used in their most appropriate applications. At both the level of the individual firm and at the national level, inter-fuel substitution is likely to impinge upon national and regional policies other than energy policy, and some degree of conflict is inherent, particularly in respect of environmental objectives, economic efficiency, industry and employment policies, and with energy conservation itself. Quite apart from interfuel substitution, as such, there is also the possibility of actual physical conversion of one fuel to another. The principal practical possibility here is the conversion of coal into synthetic oil or gas. Basic to any discussions on the conversion of coal to oil should be the understanding that this is essentially a long-term proposition and is likely, in practical terms, to represent only a modest share of Australian oil requirements. It is no panacea.
The quickest route to significant quantities of synthetic transportation liquids from Australian coal would appear to be the South African ‘SASOL II ‘ process. However, this would be likely, in practical terms, to represent no more than 40,000 barrels a day, probably about five per cent of estimated total market requirements, by 1985. This route, with its significant chemical by-products, presents some problems for Australia. An alternative approach is the West German proposal for combining established hydrogenation, gasification and synthesis technologies. However, as this system is likely to require a demonstration plant to prove its effectiveness, the earliest date for a 60,000 barrels a day plant might be as late as 1992. This would probably account for about 6 per cent of our expected requirements at that time. Alternative approaches could be expected to take even longer time periods. For example, even with the rapid commercial development of solvent refined coal, commercial production would not be possible before 1995. The integration of pyrolysis with power generation would fit a similar time-scale.
The only renewable energy resource which is likely to make a significant contribution to Australia’s energy balance in the foreseeable future is solar energy. Solar energy is in fact, making a small contribution at the present time. The present main area of application for solar energy in Australia is the area of domestic applications typified by the flat plate collector for use as a domestic water heater at temperatures of around 60°C. One area in which solar energy makes a small contribution at the present time is in solar evaporation in the Western Australian salt industry, while other areas of potential commercial importance are in the kiln drying of timber and in water desalination. Solar energy used for these purposes in Australia at present comprises less than 0. 1 per cent of total energy consumption- although it is possible that the contribution from solar energy could amount to several per cent by the end of this century. With the development of commercial solar collectors at temperatures up to 150°C, solar energy could make a not insignificant contribution to Australia’s energy balance by substituting for present oil consumption. Solar energy would be valuable in those sectors of industry, such as food processing, which use hot water produced directly and not from waste heat.
In Australia there appears to be little possibility of generating electricity from nuclear power before 1990. At present, neither the Commonwealth nor the State governments and their instrumentalities have any intentions to proceed to nuclear electricity generation. New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland have abundant reserves of low cost coal, and as yet nuclear generation cannot be justified on economic grounds. A major question for consideration is the extent to which assistance is provided to energy research and development. Past experience indicates that the development of new energy technologies to the stage of commercialisation usually spans several decades. If Australia is to provide for the future, it is very desirable that appropriate steps be taken now. This raises the question of the need for substantial government participation in all phases of energy research, development, and demonstration. Direct government funding will facilitate the integration of our national effort in energy research with overall policy objectives, and ensure that the research effort is properly co-ordinated. It also will help to ensure that the application of successful results is not unnecessarily restricted. There is a particular need for government participation in the demonstration phase of many energy technologies because of industry reluctance in this area. It is critical that effective vertical integration be achieved in these energy projects, and this will often be achieved by co-operation in joint ventures between industry, universities and government.
I conclude this statement by sketching in some general policy targets to which energy policy should be directed over the next several years. The first target is to move crude oil prices in the direction of international levels. The first steps have already been taken towards this. There is no need, nor would it be desirable, for prices to move to world parity levels overnight. A second objective of a general nature, closely related to the first, is for the average rate of growth of energy consumption, particularly in liquid fuels, to be restrained. Prior to the rapid rise in energy prices in 1974, growth rates of energy consumption in Australia were in the order of 5Vi per cent to 6 per cent per annum. Primarily as a result of slower rates of economic growth in recent years, the growth of energy consumption over the past three years has decreased markedly. It is projected that the average rate of growth in energy consumption in the period 1977 to 1985 might decline to about 3Vi per cent per annum. This would mean that consumption of crude oil in 1984-85 could be as much as 50 million barrels per annum below the level of consumption which would be indicated by historical growth rates. To the extent that this reduction in rates of growth in energy consumption is brought about through increases in energy price levels and by more efficient usage of energy- that is, not by reductions in rates of economic growth- it may be recognised as a sign that our energy policies are working. To assist in achieving this objective the recommendation of the National Energy Advisory Committee in its report on energy conservation will be studied and as appropriate developed into an action program.
A third objective is the highest degree of selfsufficiency in liquid fuels broadly consistent with the economic utilisation of energy resources. Self-sufficiency in oil supplies is particularly relevant to the supply of crude oil from new deposits to be discovered and developed over the next decade or so- and as such is dependent to a large degree on the likelihood of success in discovering new deposits. It would not appear to be realistic, on the basis of presently estimated probabilities, to expect to achieve very high levels of self-sufficiency in crude oil supplies over the next 20 years or so, because of, amongst other things, the time lags involved in exploration and bringing new discoveries on stream. The continuation of substantial incentives for petroleum exploration and development will very probably be required. The possibility of establishing strategic stockpiles of major energy fuels will be investigated, and the potential for inter-fuel substitution will be fully explored.
A fourth energy policy objective is that economic oil and gas reserves be developed. Known reserves of oil and gas in onshore and offshore fields yet to be declared commercial amount to 160 million barrels of oil and 6.6 trillion cubic feet of gas- not including reserves in the North Rankin, Goodwyn, and Angel fields on the North West Shelf. Prospects for the development of known oil fields yet to be declared commercial have been considerably enhanced by the new pricing arrangements for ‘old’ oil, and the other incentives recently introduced by the Government. Careful consideration will be given to the design of any secondary tax on crude oil to ensure that it will not detract from the economic viability of oil fields yet to be developed, The new pacing arrangements, and the possible application of new equipment and techniques, will be significant factors in reassessment of the viability of production from reserves in Bass Strait which until now have not been considered economic. The Esso-BHP partnership recently announced an increase of 329 million barrels in estimated oil reserves in developed Bass Strait fields, of which 35 per cent is directly attributable to the higher crude oil price now applicable. The proving-up of appropriate reserves, and the existence of necessary markets will be key factors in determining the viability of gas discoveries not yet considered commercial, especially in offshore areas remote from the coast.
A fifth objective is to encourage individual major energy projects to meet overseas demand for energy minerals where those projects are economic and will provide an adequate return to Australia. Australia has a large number of new projects available to meet overseas demand for energy minerals. Much of the work needed to ensure the right climate for a new upsurge of mineral development has already been done- a very large proportion of it in the energy field. Foreign investment in developments arising from these objectives would of course be subject to the Government’s foreign investment guidelines.
Nevertheless, the danger of any renewal of cost inflation must be avoided. Internal economic and industrial conditions play a significant role in the evaluation of large projects through their effect on developmental and production costs. Most of the projects are export-oriented, with the prices obtained being determined by international factors which are not directly related to indigenous economic conditions. Australia is now poised to play a major role in meeting the world’s energy needs. A recovery in world economic conditions will see this development take off. In the meantime the Government must continue to monitor events to facilitate the early identification of possible impediments and the development of appropriate policies to meet them. No changes to existing guidelines, that is, depreciation rules, will be made where these would be likely to have a detrimental effect on the energy industries.
A sixth objective is that energy research and development be substantially increased. Special machinery will be established to administer the expanded program and allocate funds, and a high level body, having close links with the National Energy Advisory Committee, will be established to report to me, as -Minister for National Resources, on these matters. Pursuance of the policy targets which I have listed today will enable Australia to tackle its energy problems in a responsible manner, and with reasonable hope of being able to capitalise on the opportunities and avoid the dangers that lie ahead. Energy policy cannot, however, be determined in isolation, and must be consistent with other major areas of policy including those relating to the Budget and taxation, industrial and commercial development, overseas trade, and transport. I present:
National energy policy- Ministerial Statement, 7 November 1977.
-by leave-In what is a remarkable display of cynicism on the day before the House rises for a general election, the Government has now introduced what it terms its energy policy statement. No doubt, following his disastrous performance on the Four Corners program last week, the Minister for National Resources (Mr Anthony) was prompted to try to save the day and to rid the Government of the charge to which it is now laying itself open- the charge that it has done nothing about an energy policy. This statement, I believe, is the result of a 150-page submission to Cabinet last Saturday. One wonders why the Minister does not do the decent thing and table the whole submission so that we can really get the Government ‘s thinking on the energy issue. All in all the policy is just a collection of truisms. It was a rambling statement that did not mention one hard issue or enunciate one hard decision.
The Carter administration in the United States of America after only four or five months in office introduced a comprehensive and hard energy policy. This Government has been in office for two years. It has done nothing. The Minister comes in here with this rambling, shambling statement just a day before the House rises. So much for the Government’s interest in energy policy. The Government does not want to enter the election campaign saying that it has done nothing about an energy policy. I notice in the statement that the only references to positive parts are a straight lift from Labor policy. It is a case of the coalition, as usual, not doing its own thinking and relying on our Federal Conference documentation to provide it with a policy. Let me take the time to read some of the relevant parts of the Australian Labor Party Federal Conference policy into Hansard so that interested people can make a comparison. Even the expressions are similar. I quote from page 4 of our document. This deals with energy policy and reads:
The aim of the policy is a long-term sustainable energy economy, in which energy resources and technologies are appropriate to the needs and goals of the Australian community.
A National Energy Policy should encompass:
the careful use of Fossil Fuel reserves as a bridge to the longer term future;
promotion of energy awareness in the public and private sectors and amongst individuals;
That relates to a publicity campaign. One of the things the Minister is now talking about we talked about and wrote into our policy months ago. The policy continues:
The Government has just discovered that it should be interested in energy conservation. The document continues:
To those ends:
Policy on Fossil Fuels to include:
It is strange that we had all this out in the market place six months ago. The Government is now only just talking about it. The policy continues:
A policy on energy awareness should include:
The vehicle for Labor policy is the establishment of a national fuel and energy commission. To this end the policy states:
Labor will establish a National Fuel and Energy Commission to assist the Australian Government in developing and implementing a co-ordinated fuel and energy policy. The Commission will, together with the Department of Minerals and Energy, provide the Australian Government with expert advice on energy.
The Fuel and Energy Commission will:
be composed of representatives of Federal and State Governments and of producers and consumers of energy;
be funded directly by the Australian Government, and in return be responsible to the Australian Government through the Minister for Minerals and Energy;
be responsible for the preparation of a blue-print for Australia’s future energy requirements and an inventory of Australia’s energy resources, and will specifically-
monitor the exploration, development, transport, price, marketing and use of energy hydrocarbons, fissionable materials and generative water, with the object of achieving the best energy balance for Australia;
Honourable members should listen to this one -
Let us recall the Minister’s speech. Amongst other things he said:
Special machinery will be established to administer the expanded program and allocate funds, and a high level body, having close links with the National Energy Advisory Committee, will be established to report to me, as Minister for National Resources, on these matters.
Earlier in his statement he said:
This raises the question of the need for substantial Government participation in all phases of energy research, development, and demonstration.
When did the Liberals ever talk about government participation in anything, much less energy research? The Minister continued:
Direct Government funding will facilitate the integration of our national effort in energy research with overall policy objectives, and ensure that the research effort is properly coordinated.
That statement is almost a straight lift from Labor policy. We say:
Be responsible for the national co-ordination and Federal funding of energy research and development of Australia.
When did this crowd ever talk about federal funding or co-ordination of research? The Government has just picked up our policy. The Government has paid us a great compliment. Let me turn to some other pans of the Minister’s statement. He said:
One of our main tasks as a government in the field of energy policy is to develop, as far as practicable, firm and stable guidelines for the development of the energy industries.
The Minister went on to talk about consensus policy. I will read what we say about that so that it can be made clear from whose policy the Minister is reading. The general preamble to the minerals and energy policy of the Australian Labor Party states:
The mineral and energy policies of the Australian Labor Party are based on the principle of government supervision of Australia’s mining and petroleum industries through a policy of clear and consistent guidelines.
The Minister says ‘firm and stable guidelines’. We state: . . . through a policy of clear and consistent guidelines.
The preamble continues:
This policy will be administered to establish a stable climate for long life investment that will provide growth to the Australian economy and an improvement in the living standards of all Australians.
Above all, these policies will be administered with flexibility and in consultation with industry and labour so as to guarantee that the objectives are fully realised and that the national interest is protected.
The Minister, in talking about the need for a national publicity program, said:
An effective energy conservation program would essentially represent a campaign to change national attitudes in relation to energy usage.
We pioneered this little bit of thinking when we stated in paragraph (b) of our policy, which I have already read:
Promotion of energy awareness in the public and private sectors and amongst individuals; in the company of- a strong program of energy conservation.
The whole point is that the Government has never had an energy policy and does not have one now. But it feels that it has been remiss in not dealing with the issue and now comes in with this statement at the 1 1th hour, the day before the House rises. The Government knows that the statement cannot be debated. I have to respond to it extemporaneously, not with a prepared speech, because tomorrow the House will rise and there will be no opportunity to debate it. So much for the way the Government considers energy issues.
The Minister made great play about the fact that he thought there should be a national concensus. He said that this is what we need in Australia and that without it we cannot progress. When has the Government ever supported anything that the Australian Labor Party has said about minerals and energy? In the Parliament from 1972 to 1975 honourable members opposite took every opportunity unfairly to beat the then Minister for Minerals and Energy around the ears with statements that he made- quite defensible, reasonable statements. Honourable members opposite have never at any stage shown any inkling of achieving a national concensus on anything, much less investment policy, because they think that they are the only people who should have connections with these industries, that they are the only people who can govern these huge industries and that there is no need for concensus about anything. But now we hear talk of a national concensus. They are now in an election campaign and it is all sweet reason. But listen to what the Australian Labor Party stated. At the Australian Petroleum Exploration
Association Symposium on 20 September last year I said:
The prime requirement of such a minerals and energy policy is that its objectives be clearly stated and that the ground rules for investment and development be well known and understood.
It seems that the Minister’s statement is reminiscent of those words. I continued:
As far as is practicable such ground rules should remain constant so as to provide investment planners with a clear overview of the nature of government policy throughout the life of the investment. It is only by assurance and certainty in respect of the policies laid down, that the private sector and government can establish a working relationship conducive of continuing progress and development.
This is the crux, Mr Deputy Speaker. I continued:
The ideal is that a degree of bipartisanship exist between the major political parties in respect of resource development in as far as it affects government policy. Changes of government, which are likely to occur more frequently in the future than they have in the past, would then witness changes in emphasis of resources policy rather than substantive changes in direction.
There it is. When have we ever heard that from the Government? I delivered that speech to APEA. Two or three months later at another APEA convention, which I happily walked out of, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in his contribution to bipartisanship belted the hell out of the Australian Labor Party and the former Labor Government and said that the only good news he had for the industry on that day was to keep backing him and his party and not to have a bar of us. To get back to the question, who are the authors of the Government’s policy? The authors are the members of the Australian Labor Party. The Government has just lifted our policy in this area as it has done in many other areas in the past. But the Government has not put its policy as positively as we have. We had all the lies about what happened between 1972 and 1975 and how no projects got off the ground. They did not get off the ground for the same reason that they are not getting off the ground now- that the Japanese economy turned down -
Government supporters interjecting-
– Oh shut up, you hillbillies.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)Order! The House will come to order.
– The Japanese economy turned down, the resource projects were not required and long term contracts could not be secured because cash flows from contracts could not be guaranteed and funds were not advanced for development. It is just as simple as that. The Minister for National Resources berated the former Administration about the North West Shelf. But it was his party which challenged the
Seas and Submerged Lands Act in the High Court. It was the Senate which delayed the passage of the legislation through the Parliament. It was he and his party who added to the uncertainty surrounding these off-shore ventures. In terms of that project the Burmah oil company was stuck for cash half way through because it invested in an enormous tanker fleet just before the crash in the world oil tanker trade, when the world economy turned down in 1973-74. It had 25 tankers tied up in Norwegian fiords attracting about Stg11m or £St&12m a year in interest. That is why the North West Shelf project did not go ahead. Finally Burmah sold its interest to Shell and the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd. In fact the Government is today claiming that it got the project off the ground. We have positively supported the project. We have said that we would agree to gas exports and we have made easier all the requirements that the banks may require of the consortium -
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I wonder whether the validity and the integrity of what the honourable gentleman is saying is relevant to this argument. He is talking the most utter drivel.
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. There is no point of order.
– At no stage has there been any attempt by honourable members opposite to get any concensus policy on minerals and energy, manufacturing, agriculture or anything. Today we saw the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) attacking the former Labor Government for the things it did in rural industry. In fact we introduced the wool floor price scheme. We put our money where our mouth was. We provided $345m. What did the Government put up? It put up about $2.7m when it knew it was in an escalating market. What did it do for the manufactured milk industry? It saw 10,000 farmers walk off the land. Yet the Government has the hide in the Parliament today to talk about -
– I raise a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Is there a question before the House or are we having a debate?
– It is not the responsibility of the Chair to inform the honourable member for Holt what matter is under debate. However, the honourable member for Blaxland is speaking by leave on a ministerial statement.
– I object.
-The honourable member cannot object at this stage and he should know that.
– He will not get an opportunity to object because it is his second last day in the Parliament, Mr Deputy Speaker. It does not matter what the Labor Government did from 1972 to 1975, it is constantly berated by these people in office now. There has never been an attempt to get a national concensus on anything. I shall return to the question of energy policy and demonstrate from the statements that we have prepared the depth of our thinking to date and how shallow is the Government ‘s thinking on energy policy. I turn firstly to our conservation program. Labor will institute a national energy conservation program in conjunction with the States. The national fuel and energy commission will have the management of the program and will be responsible to the Government for its implementation. The energy conservation program will cover the following areas: In relation to transport, cars and station waggons consume over half of the fuel used in transport in Australia. Labor will encourage the more economic use of fuel in Australian transport. Fuel consumption standards for new motor vehicles will be established with positive encouragement for people to use more efficient, smaller vehicles. Rail transport of freight, particularly for bulk commodities, will be encouraged in place of road transport- dependent on diesel and other heavy end products. The electrification of the main rail trunk routes will be a clear policy objective. Growth in transport must be directed toward surface transport rather than energy hungry air transport. In relation to building and houses, the trend in recent years towards the construction of large buildings that operate only with artificial lighting and air-conditioning must be arrested. New government buildings should pioneer the establishment of new building design practice that provides an acceptable internal climate relying primarily on natural light and natural thermal efficiency. House designs which minimise energy costs and provide a greater degree of comfort will be brought to the attention of the State departments of housing, local government bodies, architects and builder organisations. In relation to solar heating. Labor will positively encourage the installation of solar heating devices particularly in industrial situations as well as households where solar energy can be economically adapted and provide reliability.
I turn now to hydrocarbons. In relation to oil, Labor recognises the chronic deficiency in liquid petroleum that will face Australia in the near future unless new exploration activity is stepped up. Indigenous crude oil production which at present supplies about 65 per cent of local demand will fall off to around 25 per cent of demand unless new fields are discovered. New exploration must be encouraged. To this end Labor will facilitate the deductability of moneys expended on oil exploration against taxable income from any surce, provided proof of expenditure can be established. Labor will endeavour to stabilise the ground rules applying to petroleum exploration and production.
I now turn to the subject of liquid petroleum gas usage. Only liquid petroleum gas is a feasible subsitute for motor spirit between now and 1990. In line with the sixth report of the Royal Commission on Petroleum, Labor will positively encourage the increased use of LPG within Australia to replace crude oil based products. Government bus fleets, taxis and municipal vehicles are particularly suited to LPG conversion, particularly as LPG is a non-pollutant fuel. At the moment nearly all of Australia’s l!/2 million tonnes of LPG is exported to Japan.
I now turn to the matter of coal. The National Fuel and Energy Commission will fund and coordinate the research and development effort into coal conversion. The conversion of coal to liquid fuel can provide Australia with a level of independence in ‘portable’ energy at a time when the world will feel the impact of diminishing crude oil supplies. Coal will also be promoted as an alternative fuel to oil for major industrial use, particularly in furnaces used for the production of basic materials.
I now wish to discuss synthetic fuel. Australia ‘s climate and rainfall could provide the basis of a synthetic fuel industry based on crops that can be used for the production of ethanol. Synthetic ethanol production for blending with motor spirit will be investigated by Labor as a possible supplement to our diminishing indigenous oil supplies. The National Fuel and Energy Commission will have the carriage of this program in conjunction with private industry.
I now turn to the matter of natural gas. Indigenous natural gas can supply up to 20 per cent of Australia’s energy requirements. The continued integration of the available supply of gas will be encouraged so as to lessen Australia’s dependence upon members of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries. Labor has already given positive support to the development of the North West Shelf gas field in Western Australia so that adequate indigenous supplies can become available towards the late 1980s.
That is part of the basis of the Australian Labor Party’s thinking on energy policy. We do not have the advice of the Department of National Resources or the backing of bureaucracy to prepare our comments. We have to do it with our own labours. We do not just stand in this place and read a speech which has been prepared by some departmental officer. Our policies mean something; they matter; they have been thought out. Now they are being stolen holus bolus by the Government in order to save its skin at election time. The Government has not thought out an energy policy at all. We have seen today an absolutely cynical display by the Government on this issue of energy. After two years in office, one day before the House rises, the Government has introduced a statement which, as I said at the beginning of my speech, is no more than a rambling discussion and a collection of truisms, the only positive sections of which are a straight lift from Labor Party policy.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek leave to make a statement, not exceeding five minutes, on the same matter.
-Is leave granted?
-Leave is not granted.
– Leave is not granted? I am trying to say something constructive -
-Order! The honourable member for Mackellar will resume his seat. I asked whether leave was granted and an objection was raised. Leave was refused.
– by leave- It was announced on 28 July that the Government has accepted the recommendation of the Royal Commission on Australian Government Administration that the Auditor-General should undertake responsibility for auditing the efficiency of Commonwealth departments and statutory authorities. The details of the system to be adopted are set out in an officials’ report, which I table for the information of honourable members.
The Government agrees with the Royal Commission that departmental management must continue to bear the main responsibility for ensuring that financial, manpower and other resources are properly and efficiently used. The Auditor-General, however, should be able to report to Parliament on departments, statutory authorities or government owned companies when he has formed the opinion that they could establish more adequate procedures for assessing the efficiency and economy of operations under their control; or that particular activities are not being conducted in an economical or efficient manner.
The officials’ report leaves open the arrangements for parliamentary consideration of efficiency reports from the Auditor-General. The Chairmen of both the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and the House of Representatives Expenditure Committee have indicated that they would wish to examine the reports, and that they would maintain the closest liaison in any such examination, in order to ensure that there is no unnecessary duplication of examination of departmental efficiency and expenditure. The Government intends to give this procedure a trial.
Honourable members will also be interested in the provisions made concerning the AuditorGeneral’s access to information and discretion to report. The Government recognises the importance of maintaining the traditional independence of that office. However it takes the view that because efficiency auditing breaks such new ground there is a need for procedures to restrict the publication of information of the kind set out in the report, if it were against the public interest, and to provide machinery for exemption of certain organisations- for example commercial enterprises- from the public reporting requirements when appropriate. The Government’s intention is that legislation would be introduced to establish these procedures, which would take into account the recommendations made by the working party and precedents in other legislation.
The report concludes that the development of the system of efficiency auditing should be gradual. There will be a learning process for all concerned. Hence, substantial and tangible benefits cannot be expected to emerge overnight. The Government accepts the need for a gradual approach and proposes that the system of efficiency auditing should be reviewed two years after the passage of the necessary amendments which will be made to the Audit Act. It is intended that honourable members should have an opportunity to debate the substance of the report when amendments to the Audit Act are introduced into the Parliament, as part of an amending Bill, to enable the implementation of efficiency audits.
The Auditor-General will be asked to work in close consultation with the Public Service Board, which will have continuing responsibilities for efficiency improvement activities under section 17 of the Public Service Act, the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, which carries responsibility for reviewing the effectiveness of government programs, and the Department of Finance, which has general responsibility for financial administration.
The Government is determined to ensure the work of the Public Service is carried out as efficiently as possible, and that any wasteful use of resources is eliminated. An independent and public audit of the administration’s use of resources is an important way of ensuring this, and of improving the accountability of the Government to the Parliament and the people. I present the following paper:
Commonwealth Departments and Statutory AuthoritiesEfficiency Audits- Ministerial Statement, 7 November 1 977.
-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 crisis in building and construction caused by the Government’s economic policies.
I called 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-
– All the surveys, indices and statistics published since the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) announced his panic election give the same message: The Australian economy is in serious decline. None point this truth more clearly than the latest figures on housing and construction. The Australian Bureau of Statistics released figures last Monday which show that home building approvals slumped by 22 per cent between September last year and September this year. Further, building approvals in September were 41 per cent lower than they were two years ago, when this Government was installed. Both private and government building approvals have been depressed throughout 1977. There was a marked decline at the beginning of the year and approvals have remained depressed in comparison with the previous year. The depression has affected the private sector as much as the public housing sector.
The Government has reduced its expenditure on housing construction, but the private sector has not expanded to take up the slack. The shallow dogma of this Government that squeezing the public sector allows room for the private sector to expand has been exploded- nowhere more catastrophically than in the construction area. There is no necessary connection between the level of Government housing construction and private sector home building. Both are influenced by the same monetary and fiscal policy. Both might be constrained by shortages of manpower or materials if the construction industry were anywhere near full employment. In a situation of high and growing unemployment in the building and construction industry, it is absurd to suggest that the Government should reduce expenditure simply to make way for the private sector. Yet it is to this absurdity that this Government has committed itself.
Construction activity has been hit even more directly by the Government’s contractionary policies. At the beginning of 1976 the Government announced its intention to reduce government outlays. It found it very difficult to retrench staff, so it was much easier to delay, postpone, or cancel capital expenditure. So that is what this Government did. The effect was severely to reduce capital expenditure in the first half of 1 976 and throughout 1 976-77. So the total actual capital expenditure by the Federal Government in 1976-77 was far below the level in 1974-75. The recklessness of this destructive policy becomes clear when it is recalled that of all forms of government outlays capital expenditure has the greatest impact on the rest of the economy. It directly encourages employment in the private sector because so many private contractors depend on capital works and so many private companies depend upon the purchase of their manufactures for use in capital works. Further, capital works involve directly improving the infrastructure and the quality of services available to the community.
Throughout the post-war period, LiberalNational Country Party governments impoverished the public sector by retarding capital works spending. Public investment accounted for approximately half of the total investment in Australia in the decades up to the Second World War. Since the war, under successive coalition governments, the proportion has been only a third. Now, the decline in home building, together with the decline in capital construction work, has led to near collapse throughout key sections of the building construction industry in Australia.
The seriousness of this situation is described fully in the annual report of the Indicative Planning Council for the Housing Industry. That Council states that the building and construction industry is no longer able to meet desirable levels of housing construction because adequate supplies of labour, materials and managerial ca- pacity are no longer adequate to meet desirable levels of construction. For example, the Council estimates that the desirable level of dwelling construction in 1976-77 would have been nearly 150,000 homes and units. Because of the decline in the building industry it would have been feasible for only 138,000 dwellings to be completed. In fact, an estimated 131,000 dwellings were completed. There are a number of reasons for this shortfall. The most far-reaching reason has been the Government’s fiscal and monetary policies. During the last nine months there has been a credit squeeze- stealthy as it has been, undeniable in fact. Monetary policy has been excessively harsh. It has reduced the rate of the money supply to such an extent that a fall in output was bound to occur. When the money supply grows at well below the rate of growth of national income the effect must inevitably be to reduce the level of output. Interest rates remain high or increase. Limitations are placed on borrowing. Credit is restricted therefore. Economic activity declines. That is what has happened under the Fraser Government. Now we find that industrial production is at its lowest level since 1 972.
Public spending on housing by the Federal Government fell from $702m in 1974-75-the last full year of the Labor Government- to $549m in 1976-77. Even less is allocated in the 1977-78 Budget-to wit $496m. It is true that part of the decline in spending in the current financial year is due to the rundown of expenditure on housing by the Darwin Reconstruction Commission. The work of re-building Darwin begun by the Labor Government is being brought to a triumphant conclusion. We have honoured the undertaking we gave to the people of Darwin and the people of Australia in 1974. But the resources freed by the ending of this emergency action should have been used selectively for other housing activity. Instead, the Government has imposed a further decline in every other area of housing and construction. Part of the decline was due to the reduction in advances to the States for housing.
The Indicative Planning Council notes that one of the major problems of the housing industry is the structural bottlenecks and constraints in land development. In its recent report it states, at page 8:
Part of the problem involves the expenditure of more real resources in the provision of urban services. While the Council cannot comment on budget expenditure either of the Commonwealth or of the State of Victoria, it feels bound to point out that the provision of urban services in Melbourne is a real restraint on the feasible level of dwelling construction in Victoria.
One wonders, of course, whether increased funds could be safely allocated to Victoria, given the accumulating evidence of misuse of Federal funds by the Hamer Government. One can never be sure that Federal money going to that Government will not, shall we say, leak. The Indicative Planning Council expresses serious concern about the shortage of housing in New South Wales. It states, at page 5:
The present capacity of the industry is well below what it was some years ago and well short of the desirable level; and expected construction activity is substantially below the recommendated goals.
Further on in its report at page 8, it states:
If high priority is to be given to increasing activity in the New South Wales dwelling construction industry further funds could be allocated by the State and/or the Commonwealth governments to the New South Wales Housing Commission.
The New South Wales Government has in fact increased its allocation to the Housing Commission in its 1977 budget. The Federal Government, however, continues to reduce the total real resources available to the States for housing.
The Council also draws attention to the problems in Queensland caused by the decline in available finance for house building as a result of the problems of the building societies. The report states, at page 9:
Lack of finance is still a problem in Queensland but the situation may be expected to correct itself when the building societies regain strength in that State. The situation needs to be watched carefully and appropriate action taken if building societies do not appear to be moving quickly enough towards their former lending levels.
I have mentioned only a few of the recommendations made by this expert committee. The Government has turned its back on those recommendations and on the committee. Careful forecasting of bottlenecks and problems and planning for means of coping with such difficulties are anathema to this doctrinaire Government. Australia is one of the few mixed economies in the world where the need to plan is ignored. In the most successful economiesGermany, Holland, Sweden and Franceeconomic planning is an integral part of economic policy-making. The report of the Indicative Planning Council shows the value of such planning for Australia. The incoming Labor government will make housing planning an integral part of its overall national indicative economic and social planning. The Labor Party’s platform states:
Labor will ‘develop a national housing policy as part of its urban and regional policy and, where possible, greatest assistance will be provided to families on low and moderate incomes in achieving home ownership and meeting the costs of rental accommodation’.
The new Labor government will also re-establish the Australian Housing Corporation. The Australian Housing Corporation was set up by the last Labor Government with the primary function of providing finance to a wide range of individuals within the Australian community for the acquisition of land and dwellings. It was abolished as part of the Fraser Government’s cutback on public expenditure. Before it was abolished, the Corporation stated in its first- and last- report that ‘it was ready to implement a mortgage lending program primarily on second mortgage based on a deferred pattern of repayments and aimed at that middle income group who do not qualify for assistance under housing programs by State authorities and yet are unable to compete successfully in the private housing market’. I quote from the Corporation’s interim report, page 2:
The Corporation had also made considerable progress in determining the basis on which it might make financial assistance available to non-profit housing associations to provide rental housing for people in need, mainly in areas of housing distress in the inner city.
The Corporation would have met needs in the housing market which are not being met by any institution at present. Another potential activity for the Corporation would have been to support building finance industry by establishing a secondary mortgage market allowing building societies to buy and sell mortgages. Such a scheme would have removed the liquidity problems of building societies by ensuring that if ever there were a rundown on their funds they would be able to sell mortgages and increase their liquid assets. Such a scheme would be an obvious means of preventing the kind of periodic crises which have plagued building societies in Queensland in particular. A Labor government will move swiftly to restore growth in the housing industry through a series of selective, carefully controlled initiatives involving a moderate increase in public expenditure- public expenditure that would restore growth to the private sector.
As I foreshadowed last Friday, Labor will, as part of its plan to spend $500m net in a full year to restore economic growth, move to reduce the increasing backlog of projects awaiting funding under the Aged Persons Hostels Act and the Aged or Disabled Persons Homes Act. A Labor government will also renegotiate the housing agreements with the States in order to provide sufficient funds to begin to meet the housing needs of the 100,000 people on the waiting lists of housing commissions throughout Australia.
-Of the 100,000 families on the waiting lists of housing commissions throughout Australia. I turn to defence service homes. A Labor government will also urgently review the present administration of the defence services homes scheme with a view to making second mortgages available to eligible persons through the re-established Australian Housing Corporation. A Labor government will also review the ceilings on advances to eligible persons under the defence services homes scheme, which at this stage are by far the lowest available from any financial institution in Australia. I deal next with insurance. A Labor government will pursue its goal of making household and mortgage insurance available at cost, thus easing the intolerable burden of servicing home loans. As national priorities allow, it will restore the original mortgage interest deduction scheme established by the last Labor Government.
There is no area of economic activity where there is greater scope for new policies and initiatives by the national government than in building and construction. There is no field where such new policies and intitiatives are more urgent than this industry which finds itself in a deepening crisis as a result of the Fraser Government’s policies. There is no area where long term social needs- the Australian idea of home ownershipmesh so precisely with immediate urgent economic needs. By acting in this area, we can help provide jobs immediately, help restore health to the private sector and at the same time help achieve long-lasting goals for thousands, for tens of thousands, for hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens. There could be no clearer example of how the tragedy of this Fraser Government’s economic mismanagement can by a strange paradox open the way for new opportunitiessocial opportunities, economic opportunities. All that is needed are new policies. All that is needed is a new government.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Is it possible to amend this matter of public importance? I ask this because apparently there is not to be an opportunity for those who have a different point of view to speak. Independent members in this House are not to be given a voice. Is it possible under Standing Orders to make some amendment to this matter so that a proper, reasonable and rational point of view can be expressed?
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)There is no formal motion. It is a matter of public importance. It cannot be amended.
– As usual, here today we have been subjected to the new line up of glittering promises that the Opposition will offer to the people of Australia on 10 December. The honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson), who is trying to interject, was responsible for some of the mismanagement that now afflicts the building and construction industry about which we are talking. He should keep quiet and listen. The people of Australia should remember what the Labor Government did. It produced the erratic economic policies that created instability in the very industry about which we are talking. It increased inflation to such great heights. It increased interest rates which not only disrupted the housing and construction industry but also caused the severe problems which now inhibit young people who are seeking their first home. Let that be remembered as we speak.
For the building and construction industry, the Government has laid the foundations on which sustained growth can occur. Let me look first at housing. In the housing industry, following that instability of the Labor years about which I have just spoken, the present Government reintroduced responsibility into monetary and fiscal policy. This will do much to improve the stability in the industry. We believe that steady growth is anticipated through 1977-78. The flow of funds to housing finance has already improved since the August Budget.
Mr Keith Johnson- You mean you cut off $22.5m? . Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER-Order! The honourable member for Burke will cease interjecting.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, let the honourable member go on. These are the typical sorts of ravings that produce the situation that we now have to try to correct. As inflation is defeated, we will reduce interest rates further and there will be room to expand further the flow of funds into housing. For the first time in five years the housing industry will enter the new year on a stable growth path. Our policies in this critical area of government management are aimed at, firstly, providing a sound economic basis for stable growth in the housing and construction industry; secondly, providing for adequate urban community infrastructure; thirdly, reducing the real cost of housing to the consumer; and, finally, ensuring that those Australians who cannot readily satisfy their housing needs in the market are assisted by the Government funding suitable housing in the most efficient and equitable way. It is essential to the health of the housing and construction industries that the economy as a whole be brought back on to a stable footing. The level of interest rates, the rate of inflation and the growth in real income all influence the ability of Australians to establish new households. In the same way these factors directly affect industry activity levels.
We have worked hard to avoid the monetary instability which occurred during the term of the last Labor Government. But between 1972 and 1975 growth in money supply changed from over 20 per cent to under 10 per cent and back to 20 per cent in three consecutive years. As a result of this mismanagement the industry and home seekers alike were disadvantaged by the resulting boom and recession cycle in housing construction. I hope that few will forget the excesses of the 1973-74 boom, when costs and prices rose by over 20 per cent, shortages were endemic and it took more than six months to complete a dwelling; or the devastating recession of 1974-75, when output plunged 20 per cent and confidence was shaken to its roots. At the same time, as a direct result of Labor’s mismanagement of the economy, dramatic increases in interest rates forced many young couples out of the home ownership market.
– What about the sewerage program?
-Let him babble on, Mr Deputy Speaker. He must have been drinking at lunch. Our economic policies are now establishing circumstances -
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I have to make a personal explanation on that remark.
-Order! The honourable member may make a personal explanation at the end of the Minister’s speech. I would suggest to the Minister that it might be wise to withdraw the remark.
– I withdraw it, Mr Deputy Speaker. I have never heard such incoherent babbling in all my life as I have heard from the honourable member for Burke this afternoon. He pretends to be -
– If it is incoherent perhaps I could speak it into the microphone.
– Why do you not pull him up, Mr Deputy Speaker?
-Order! The honourable member will cease interjecting.
– Our economic policies are now establishing circumstances in which it will be possible to look forward with confidence to greater stability in housing costs, modest but meaningful reduction in interest rates and a concurrent expansion in the availability of housing finance.
– Mary Willey is on your tail in Bass.
-We hear from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, whom I remember confidently forecasting that in November interest rates would be 2 per cent higher than they are now. We all know this man. He is the man who makes decisions by being taken on an aeroplane flight across the Dandenongs, looking down, and when he gets back on the ground saying: ‘We must buy it’. I ask him please to keep quiet. Inflation in housing costs has been reduced. The rate of increase is running well below the intolerably high rates experienced in 1973-74 and 1974-75. Sub-contract rates have remained stable, and the rate of increase in building materials was a little over 9 per cent in the year to June 1977. The price of contract housing is estimated to have risen by less than 2 per cent in the June quarter. This contrasts with 24 per cent in the year to June 1975.
To meet the problems of the increase in cost of the house-land package we have established a national inquiry into housing with the full support of the States. When it reports in June 1978 we will take the necessary action to review and implement its findings. To ease the short term problems facing the housing industry we have taken steps to ensure an adequate level of housing finance in 1977-78. Seasonal influences being allowed for, the level of lending in the three months to August was similar to the high level attained in the December quarter 1976. A continued increase in lending levels is expected following the advice of the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) to the Reserve Bank. I might add that figures released at noon today show that permanent building society lending in the September quarter had increased by 20 per cent, making it the highest in any quarter since 1975. This increasing flow of home finance will lead to levels of construction which, by the June quarter of 1978, will, on an annual basis, be approaching the high levels reached in the second half of 1975-76. In fact we have now reached a point where consumers can expect a continued stabilisation in housing costs; finance will remain available and will become cheaper as our economic policies work to reduce inflation and the industry can anticipate steady growth through 1977-78. This will help all Australians. For some, however, it still will not be possible to satisfy their needs in the market. To meet the needs of these different groups in the community, we provide a comprehensive range of programs.
The Government’s involvement in home ownership is shown by its substantial assistance to home purchasers. This is the most comprehensive range of programs ever provided by a Federal government. First of all, there is the Commonwealth State Housing Agreement which has recently been renegotiated and which will offer the States the most generous terms ever offered for welfare housing. Under the Agreement the money will flow to State lending agencies such as agricultural banks and terminating building societies for home ownership and to the State housing commissions for rental accommodation. Unlike those restrictions placed on it by the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) when he was in this position, home ownership will not be restricted: It will be available for all those who want it. The proportion of money which will flow to the home building account will go from 30 per cent to a minimum of 40 per cent. The States will be able to increase this amount if they so wish.
Those restraints which honourable members opposite, when in government, placed on home ownership for those who were less able to afford it will be removed, and at last every Australian will have a decent chance to purchase his own home. Next there is the home savings grant scheme which has already assisted thousands of home buyers to bridge their deposit gap. In
January the grant will rise from $667 to $1,333. There is also the housing loan interest tax deductibility scheme under which approximately $60m a year is provided to assist first home buyers. The Housing Loans Insurance Corporation will now insure loans to home buyers up to 100 per cent of value. It will also insure, in approved cases, loans for land development and construction. This will, of course, encourage greater availability of housing for young couples. Lastly, we are continuing the development of urban renewal areas such as Glebe and Woolloomooloo in New South Wales, Emerald Hill in Victoria and Inveresk in Tasmania.
I turn to the area that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitiam) conveniently forgotthe non-residential construction area. Our housing policies reflect the great significance we attach to the economic and community role of the housing industry in Australia. However, we attach equal significance to other parts of the building sector- the non-residential building and construction industries. Because of the overall size of these industries and the large nature of many of the projects they undertake, the national Government must pay close attention to their continued stability, and this our predecessors failed to do. The erratic economic management of the Labor Government and the shattering of expectations which its policies finally created have caused considerable long term difficulties in building and construction, particularly in the private sector. These difficulties led to declining activity levels in both 1975-76 and 1976-77. If, after what we heard from honourable members opposite today, Labor were to come in office that sort of decline would set in again. Let there be no mistake about that. Under the Labor Administration, building costs soared. In the year to March 1975 costs increased by some 30 per cent. I notice that honourable members opposite are keeping pretty silent about that. These cost increases contributed greatly to instability in the industry and the shelving of new projects. The latest figure to June 1977 shows that the rate of increase is now below 10 per cent.
The period of the Labor Government was marked by the highest level of industrial disputes ever recorded in the building industry in Australia. In 1973-74, the first full year of the Labor Government, a total of over one million man days was lost through industrial disputes.
– How many?
-A million man days. In 1975-76 the number of days lost was more than halved. Industrial disputation hits very hard at contractors. For example, construction projects costing $469m -
– Tell us about the number of people who died.
– . . . were disrupted around Australia due to the Builders Labourers Federation strike. I presume that the discussion we had this morning, led by those who would believe in communist philosophies, is the communist line that the babbler over there would espouse just as much as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The Minister has just said that I take the communist line. It is well known that he is a member of the National Civic Council. He takes the grouper line and the neo-Fascist line.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)Order! There is no point of order. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat. I call the Minister.
-The Deputy Leader of the Opposition will say anything in this place. Really it is incredible. He would be the most irresponsible -
– I am just responding -
-Order! The Deputy Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat. I suggest that the Minister return to the subject.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, the fact that there were industrial disputes around this country initiated by the Builders Labourers Federation, led by Communist leaders, is a matter very pertinent to this debate. The stability in economic management which we have introduced has now begun to reverse the Labor initiated decline. As a result, the level of private demand for building and construction projects is accelerating. (Quorum formed). Mr Deputy Speaker, we strayed from the case. Let me make one point. If the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Opposition would like to repeat the exchange we just had over the table-that I belong to the National Civic Councillet them do so outside this House. Let both the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition say it straight away after this debate is concluded. There is a challenge for them.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, in view of the quorum called, I regret that I have to move:
That the business of the day be called on.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The honourable member for Griffith has just said that because a quorum was called he has had to move that the business of the day be called on. That is not true. The Government told the Opposition half an hour ago that it was going to apply the gag. I do not know why the honourable member has to mislead the House.
-Order! There is no point of order.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker-Mr P. E. Lucock)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) proposed:
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until 10 a.m. tomorrow.
– I think that this is another example of the almost unbelievable incompetence of this Government. It does not know what day we are going to meet, what hour we are going to meet -
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) put:
That the question be now put. The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker- Mr P. E. Lucock)
Question so resolved in the affirmative. Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion ( by Mr Sinclair) proposed:
That Notices No. 1 and No. 2, Government Business, be postponed until a later hour this day.
-May I continue the speech I was making? All I wanted to say is that here is another example of incompetence in handling the business of the Parliament -
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) agreed to:
That the question be now put. Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 1 November, on motion by Mr Viner:
That the Bill be now read a second tme.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, may I have the indulgence of the House to raise a point of procedure on this legislation. Before debate on this Bill is resumed, I would like to suggest that it may suit the convenience of the House to have a general debate covering this Bill and the States Grants (Tertiary Education Assistance) Bill as they are associated measures. Separate questions will, of course, be put on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate. I suggest, therefore, that you permit the subject matter of both Bills to be discussed in this debate.
-Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering both measures? I will allow that course to be followed.
-The two Bills that are the subject of the cognate debate are the States Grants (Schools Assistance) Bill and the States Grants (Tertiary Education Assistance) Bill. The question of grants to education, whether in the schools area of in the tertiary area, has been the subject of reports by the appropriate commissions, that is, the Schools Commission and the Tertiary Education Commission. Those reports also have been the subject of deliberations in the House. They have been the subject of consideration in the Budget debate and in the matter of public importance raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) in respect of that very important matter- the direction and guidelines given to the Commissions which, in the view of the Opposition, have reduced the amount of necessary funds that should have been made available to meet the needs of education, whether in the schools area or in the tertiary area. The present legislation is merely to authorise the amount of money that it has been foreshadowed would be made available. The Opposition criticises these amounts as being completely insufficient to meet the needs of education and has the very well documented support of the Commissions themselves. These Commissions have investigated the needs and priorities of both schools and tertiary institutions and have been able to establish that the guidelines announced by the Government mean there will be severe retardation of the excellent progress that was being made as a result of the Labor Government’s innovations in the field of education, whether in the schools area or the tertiary area.
I am particularly pleased that the honourable member for Fremantle, Mr Beazley, is in the House today. This is probably the last period when he will be spending time in the House. I intend to pay a tribute to him later.
The States Grants (Schools Assistance) Bill provides for the payment of grants amounting to $57 lm at December 1976 prices. The States Grants (Tertiary Education Assistance) Bill 1977 provides assistance by way of recurrent and capital grants totalling $1,1 36m for universities, colleges of advanced education and technical colleges. That is quite a sizable amount of money, but it goes nowhere near meeting the needs of education in Australia. I hark back to the time when we first entered into the area of assessing the needs of education. I remind honourable members that in respect of Commonwealth budget outlays the statistics show that under the Liberal Government of 1972-73 the appropriation for education was $442m. In the first year of the Whitlam Government in 1973-74 the appropriation almost doubled to $852m. In the second year, 1974-75, it was increased again to $ 1,626m and in 1975-76 it was increased again to $ 1,846m. So honourable members can see the Labor Party’s remarkable interest in education and the needs of children. Because of the diminution in the amount of money that should have been granted to the commissions on the evidence that was submitted to the Government, the Opposition proposes to move amendments to both
Bills before the House. In respect of the States Grants (Schools Assistance) BUI on behalf of the Opposition I move:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: ‘whilst not opposing the provisions of the Bill, the House (a) is of opinion that the Government is neglecting the real needs of schools in Australia, and (b) condemns the Government’s interference with the independence of the Schools Commission and, specifically, the Government directing funds into the wealthy private schools against the Commission ‘s recommendations ‘.
In respect of the States Grants (Tertiary Education Assistance) Bill I propose to move:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: ‘whilst not opposing the provisions of the Bill, the House is of opinion that (a) there is insufficient funding for technical education in Australia, and (b) the Government’s intention to transfer a major section of tertiary education funding to the States will be to the detriment of tertiary education’.
In respect of the Schools Assistance Bill, let us look at the position as it was investigated by Professor Karmel. This was the subject of a report by Professor Karmel in May 1973. It was entitled Schools in Australia. In that report Karmel was able to identify the great needs of children and the priorities that were necessary to give children an equal opportunity, and that is what education is all about in this country- to give every youngster an equal opportunity. If honourable members look at the tables in the Karmel report at pages 18 and 19 they will see that there was a study of 150 students of high measured ability who did not complete secondary education and that most of them were in the lower socioeconomic group. In fact, Karmel was able to say that of those 150 children a mere 14 per centthe brightest children- would survive to complete their secondary education because of their low socio-economic standard. He made this point:
Among tertiary students of all kinds, the children of manual workers are under-represented and those of higher status families over-represented. To the extent that higher education is financed from taxes it has thus a somewhat regressive effect, poorer people contributing to the cost of education of a group in which the children of richer parents predominate and from which recipients can expect to draw higher than average incomes.
Karmel went on to quote a bad example, the example of the United States, when he said:
The United States, for example, spends ten times more on the education of the ten per cent of its children on the top of the socio-economic scale than on the 10 per cent on the bottom.
He illustrates in one table that the proportion of students entering secondary school who remained there to the final year in the government and the Catholic schools was about 33 per cent and in non-Catholic non-government schools it was 86 per cent. That is the problem. It must interest you, Mr Deputy Speaker, to know that it is also a problem in country areas from a geographical point of view, the lack of community facilities and the general lack of facilities in certain country areas in which the needs of children were evident.
Karmel did something that I think was very essential from the point of view of trying to bring about equality in education. At this stage he was dealing with the non-government schools, but I think what he said emphasises the point. He said:
The interim Committee made a detailed check of the assessment of each non-systemic non-government school. On information supplied to it by all non-government schools, the Committee found that the recurrent resources of nongovernment schools ranged from 40 per cent of the state school average to 270 per cent of the state school average. It is the aim of the Interim Committee to raise all schools to a level 140 per cent of that of government schools. Nongovernment schools above that level are classified A. They do not need assistance to reach the target level.
That illustrates the great disparity as regards education needs in the different categories of schools. The tables to which I have referred are evidence that unless the Government grapples with the needs of education it will not give equal opportunity to every child in Australia. Karmel tried to do it and with the likes of Beazley supporting him, legislation was introduced into this House. That legislation guaranteed that there would be a Schools Commission that would look at this matter impartially. That legislation had real value. It provided for an impartial assessment. We got rid of all the nonsense about state aid or trying to help any particular religion. We got rid of that and looked at the matter on the basis of what should be done for the children of Australia. Honourable members can see the wide spectrum that exists in all schools with resources ranging from 40 per cent of what may be called the norm to 270 per cent. We now find that there are complaints by the Schools Commission. But did the Government really intend that it should divert money from schools in need to those schools which did not have need, those schools with resources up to 270 per cent of the average for state schools? On the basis of needs and priorities surely money could not be given to these schools. Money certainly could not be diverted from the former government and the non-government schools.
The tables to which I referred earlier relate to level 6 schools, which are in the lowest socioeconomic group. These are schools which have the greatest need. I am dealing with the nongovernment sector at this stage. There are 450,000 non-government pupils at level 6 schools. If they represent about a quarter of the school population, as they do, we would find that in the non-government and government schools area there are some Vi million children in this category. In relation to finance, by direction of this Government money is going to be directed from government schools and given to schools at the wrong end of the spectrum. No money at all should be removed from the government school area. Let us make this clear. These schools need every penny they can get. They need more. The guidelines and directions laid down by the Government are ridiculous. If the Government is going to divert money on that basis it really will cause severe trouble.
We welcome the fact that in the election on 10 December education again will be a major issue. It will be an issue on the basis that the Government was wrong, unfair and discriminatory to direct the Schools Commission to divert essential funds from the area of government schools to the area of non-government schools which do not need it from the point of view of equality of opportunity. We are not talking about helping parents, we are talking about trying to help all children. If the Government wants to substantiate the claim that it is a responsible government it has no right to put itself in the position in which it now is. It stands indicted on the basis that it has diverted from the government school area at least $13. 8m that it should have had and to which it was entitled. Levels 1 and 2 schools are to get $2m and Catholic and non-government schools are to receive $3m. Schools in other levels are to get $8.8m. That is a diversion of an amount of $ 13.8m. All that the Commission can say is: ‘That it unfair. We object to it. We do not think that should be done but the Minister has directed that it should happen’. The Schools Commission, I think, in trying to save something from the wreck has said: ‘We will try to take $4m from the services and development and special project areas’. That would be the last area from which one would want to take money. The area has had to be denied funds. Is it not unfair and unreasonable? It is too late now for the Government to change its mind. It is facing the polls. We intend to have the Government assessed on whether it should have done what it did.
These are not just my remarks. The remarks are highlighted by the Schools Commission report. I refer to page 5 of that report which deals with financial implications and states:
That is one of the aspects. I turn now to page 6 which deals with supplementation directions and guidelines of the Government. What do they mean? They mean less money for government schools. The report reads:
The guidelines state that ‘Supplementation of the 1978 program for cost increases . . . will be limited to increases in respect of the wages and salaries component .. . In other words, additional funds will remain available for the recurrent expenditure which goes on wages and salaries but increases during the year in other costs will have to be absorbed. The amount devoted to capital expenditure will not be supplemented during the year.
So we see the result. The report continues:
These arrangements, in conjunction with the absence of increases in grants to government schools to compensate for increases in enrolments, mean that 1978 will be a year when there is a reduction in the real value of Commonwealth funds to these schools in comparison with 1 977.
Under the heading ‘Future Obligations’ the Commission reports:
For 1979 and 1980 planning is to be on the basis of one per cent real growth in funds. That is, the one per cent will be calculated and added after supplementing the base amount of the previous year . . . In December 1976 prices, one per cent growth would generate an additional $5.7 lm. As enrolments are still increasing, maintenance of the per capita value of grants to government schools, even at the reduced 1978 level, would require additional funds . . . The additional funds required in these two ways simply to maintain present levels of grants will be well in excess of the one per cent growth amount.
This is proved if one looks at the tables that have been programmed on the basis of maintaining the general resources grant to the nongovernment area. At one stage the Commission talks about a one per cent growth in the government area and in the non-government area says that recurrent grants will rise by some 6 per cent for primary students and by some 4 per cent for secondary students. It is out of balance and out of all proportion if in fact one segment of the report is talking about a 6 per cent and a 4 per cent growth in the non-government area and a one per cent growth in the government area. Table 4.3 on page 16 deals with general resources allocations for government schools, excluding migrant and multi-cultural educational funds, for 1978 as compared with 1977. The funds are itemised State by State. Some $10m less is available this year than in the previous year. Again we make the point that the Liberal Party and apparently the National Country Party have got hooked onto this ridiculous mathematical policy that every child is to be given 20 per cent towards the cost of maintaining him at school.
– How much would you give?
-How much would we give?
– This is ridiculous.
– The ridiculous partthe Minister for Foreign Affairs usually takes an interest in all matters; I am delighted to see him take an interest in this one- is that level 6 at present receives 33 per cent. Are we going to drop the percentage to these children by 13 per cent? That is the position. That is what the Government will do. This is the way the Government is facing this program. By virtue of this arithmetical cut-off of 20 per cent it will deliberately deny children with the greatest need. At present they are needing 33 per cent. The Minister shakes his head and says out of compassion but not out of any other wisdom that that is the best that could happen. It could not be true, the Minister said. I invite him to have a look at the Schools Commission report.
Other matters which are very similar to this show that right throughout the area of education we have continual cuts. I again mention the fact that we are dealing with, for example, migrants and the problem of migrant education. That area will be getting completely insufficient funds to maintain equality of opportunity. A migrant child needs more additional resources than have been made available here. If any honourable member takes an interest in migrant education, as many do, they will see the real problem. The Commission, in dealing with migrant and multicultural education, states:
As the Commission is not able in the present circumstances to increase the . . . funds … it has proceeded with the foreshadowed intention that the funds be distributed rather more equitably. The Commission hopes that the funding position will ease sufficiently in future years to allow provision of additional funds for unmet needs-
That is a severe indictment of the Commonwealth Government which has a complete legal responsibility for all migrants. It cannot just hide, as it has done for many years past, by saying that education is not really a Commonwealth or Australian Government matter. That was the famous Menzies’ technique. If honourable members look at the Hansard for 1958 they will see an urgency debate on education being ruled out of order because it was not within the ambit of the Constitution. Everybody forgot section 96 and all those other provisions which would enable funds to be given to children in need, particularly as the Federal Government collects the taxes.
Let us look at the Tertiary Education Commission. In its report there is discussion related to our amendment. We are keen to see the problems of tertiary education properly looked at. But again the same problems and difficulties are met with as were foreshadowed in the Schools Commission report The guidelines clearly state that because of cost supplementation there will be no increase in capital grants and no increase in recurrent costs to allow for progression up the scale of lecturers and professors who have to be elevated and are entitled to greater salaries. That aspect will not be catered for either. The impact of the elimination of growth and spending for universities and colleges has fallen on building programs. This is a strange thing. We have massive unemployment and the building industry is below its full capacity yet the guidelines of the Government in the field of education are deliberately causing a cut in the building program. One would have thought that the converse should apply. The Commission clearly identifies this as the big problem- the area where there will be no spending. I find that incredible from the point of view of a nation that has these resources and certainly needs schools, universities and facilities.
Those of us who represent lower socioeconomic groups know full well that children have to put up with substandard conditions in schools now, including overcrowding. Buildings which were erected in the last century are in no way comparable with modern facilities. How can these children be expected to compete? Surely from the point of view of health alone urgent consideration should have been given to this matter. The same applies in the great needs of the tertiary area. If we are to make this nation worth while and competitive we have to utilise the best talents of our people. We have to utilise the tertiary field to do so. If we can keep people at school until the end of their secondary education we can encourage them to continue in the tertiary field. What do we find if we look at the tertiary field? Again I praise highly the honourable member for Fremantle, Mr Beazley, for the abolition of tertiary fees. This was an example of equality of opportunity. People could go to universities and not have to pay fees. But they cannot get there now because of the reasons I am mentioning. What does the Commission say in respect of the problem of no supplementation? It states:
The effect of these adjustments will be to reduce the real value of the funds available for expenditure on universities . . . below the level for 1977.
There is no progress at all, no matter where we look in these reports, valuable as they are. We must encourage them to keep coming. These Commissions are forthright and full of integrity. They are able to identify the needs and to criticise the Government. That is what is needed in this country to illuminate clearly the problems of education. Let the Government try to argue its way out of the situation. Let me read more of what the Commission had to say. It stated: . . . grants will also be diminished by unavoidable increases in costs not covered by cost supplementation arrangements, particularly those arising from the progression of staff -
The recommendations also state:
For the second year in succession, however, funds are insufficient to enable any new building projects to commence in universities. As a result high priority projects recommended in the Universities Commission’s Sixth report . . . will not proceed.
This is the situation in the whole area. In regard to colleges of advanced education, we see that they have a further problem in their cost structure and that also a substantial amount has been transferred from what should have been available to them. The most serious indictment relates to the position of women enrolling in the teacher training area. The report makes the point that in normal enrolments women represent an equal percentage with men. But in teacher education we find that 68 per cent of enrolments are women. Because of the reduction in the funds available the report states that the Advanced Education Council is aware that if the existing structure of advanced education is maintained a general reduction in pre-service teacher education enrolments must significantly affect the participation of women. Again that is an indictment. There is a further indictment in relation to the guidelines. The report states:
While the Guidelines enabled the Council to provide each State with a firm basis for 1978 planning they did not provide a base for the advanced education sector for 1979 and 1980.
What are the States to do when there is no firm base as to what will be the guidelines? How are they to commence or even to be interested in undertaking a building or capital works program where there will be no guarantee of any continuation of funds in the period 1 978-80?
– Are they not running the guidelines?
– They are not running the guidelines, and that is the point that is being stated here. The Liberal-National Country Party Government is making the guidelines. The honourable member surely should know that. He is a supporter of the Government. I do not have to remind him of that. I turn now to the technical field. The remarks in regard to technical education are quite serious indeed. As my colleague the honourable member for Fremantle, Mr Beazley, has said, technical education was the Cinderella of education until such time as he got interested in it. The Kangan Commission report was presented and a belated start was made. Praise has been given to the Government, by itself, on the basis that it has increased the allocation in this field by some 10 per cent. Honourable members will notice that it has been on the basis that the States are not to impose any fees at all. A substantial sum of money really goes towards fee reimbursement to the Statessome $28m is mentioned in the report.
On page 1 73 of the report it is stated that of the $525m expended in technical education the national government has contributed the paltry sum of $35m-some 7 per cent. Yet the Government is talking about unemployment programs, retraining schemes and all these essential projects we must undertake. But the technical education area is the area which has to meet the need. We now find that the Government has contributed a paltry sum of $3 5 m, with all the other problems I have mentioned superimposed on this sector. This is why there is a crisis in education at present. It is because the Government, dictated by fiscal measures, has said that it will reduce the amount of money available to education.
One can readily identify the reduction in this way: The guidelines that the Government announced in May 1976 would have guaranteed $ 1,680m but because of the guidelines announced in 1977 $33.5m less will be provided. That is quickly identified. In the technical education field the Technical and Further Education Commission complains about the fact that while it has been able to create some additional places they will probably fall short by some 50,000. This is a real problem for this nation. If we have all the resources of taxation and government financial aid to schools and universities is not being provided, where else will the money come from? Take children of the poor. If a 20 per cent limitation is imposed and the States are expected to do likewise where will the difference of 60 per cent come from? Who is going to make it up? It cannot come out of the wages packet.
The Karmel report drew attention to the children of the lower socio-economic groups. They have been penalised for years. Tertiary institutions were the privilege of the wealthy. The dignity of the child has been destroyed and nothing has been done to see that every Australian has an equal opportunity. Unless the child is given the opportunity it will not get it later. The child may have all the problems of not having a good home environment, having one parent or no parents. That disadvantage to that child has to be made up now and not later. It is for all these reasons that the Opposition has moved the amendment.
I wish to place on record the great debt the Australian Labor Party owes to the honourable member for Fremantle for the work he has done. A summary of his achievements is very interesting. Personally, he is the finest gentleman we could have in the Parliament and we shall miss him tremendously. He has no peer as an Australian. He is the best advocate for education it has ever had. I well understand some of the difficulties he had with people who should have known better. Remember that he established the Karmel Committee that guaranteed that there would be a Schools Commission and that justice perhaps could appear to be done. He abolished tuition fees for universities, college of advanced education and technical education. The Labor Government accepted full financial responsibility for Australian universities, provided living allowances for all senior secondary and tertiary students on the basis of need and made special assistance available in the form of allowances for those children who lived in isolated country areas. We began the long overdue process of upgrading and renewing technical and further education and established the Technical and Further Education Commission. We accepted full responsibility for the education of teachers at all levels and that involved the comprehensive support of teachers colleges. For the first time as a national responsibility we began the vital task of providing educationally related services designed to allow Aboriginal Australians to take their rightful place in our society. I have a high school in my area at which I am delighted to know there are now 12 Aboriginal children completing their secondary course this year. This is happening for the first time ever and could not have been done unless we had the likes of the honourable member for Fremantle being interested in this area. As Minister he made special efforts to foster quality of education by establishing the Curriculum Development Centre, promoting research and financing an enormous number of special innovatory projects in Australian schools and the community at large. We owe him a debt.
For the reasons I have mentioned I have moved the amendment. We had hoped that the Government would have considered it. It will not now; it is too late. We are going to the polls. The people of Australia will be asked to judge the situation. We want them again to support Labor on the basis of its record in education because it is only through a Labor philosophy that the needs of children will be properly identified.
-Is the amendment seconded?
– Yes, Mr Deputy Speaker, and reserve my right to speak.
– I have received notices of motion from the honourable member for Mackellar that on the next day of sitting he will move:
That this House further notes that such a plan would provide a valuable stimulus to Australian secondary industry. 2. (i) That in order to determine more accurately the geological structure of the Australian continent, and thus assist private industry to increase our mineral production, the facilities available to the Bureau of Mineral Resources should be substantially increased;
That in the opinion of this House in order to assist rural industries:
This House therefore urges the Government to put action in hand for these purposes and, where necessary, to cooperate with the States and offer them finance. 5. (1) That in the opinion of this House the policy of plateau indexation, leading to wage compression, is fundamentally inequitable and leading to industrial unrest and giving to Communist disruptors the opportunity to arouse dissatisfaction and precipitate strikes;
That the Treasurer be urged to put the necessary measures for this reduction in hand without delay.
The fact that the building industry is depressed, so that unused resources of labour and materials are presently available; this House is of the opinion that the Government should give approval for an accelerated program of construction under the accepted subsidy arrangements.
That to this end:
– I have received notice from the Leader of the Opposition that he has withdrawn Notice of Motion No. 42 General Business relating to a motion of censure of the Government.
-We are debating this afternoon two Bills concerned with States grants in the field of education. I wish to speak briefly to the first of these which provides financial assistance to the States for universities, colleges of advanced education, and colleges of technical and further education for 1978. This Bill gives effect to the financial recommendations contained in the report of the Tertiary Education
Commission for 1978. The Government has decided to accept its recommendations. That acceptance will result in the allocation of an estimated total of $1,1 36.5m, at June 1977 prices, for institutions in the States. Universities will receive some $5 94m, colleges of advanced education $443m, and technical and further education institutions $97m.
In accordance with the Government’s guidelines for the 1978-80 triennium, these grants will be adjusted in subsequent legislation for cost movements to the end of 1977 and for increases in wages and salaries components of recurrent grants during 1978. In the past separate Bills have been required to implement the approved programs of the three tertiary education sectors. With the establishment of the Tertiary Education Commission, which replaced the three previous commissions concerned with tertiary education, it is now possible to consolidate the necessary legislation into one Bill. These new arrangements will permit a greater degree of flexibility in the administration of approved programs, thereby assisting the Commission in its functions of co-ordination and rationalisation for the tertiary education system.
This Bill also provides for adjustments for movements in costs between December 1976 and June 1977. The additional funds provided are $24m for universities, $10m for colleges and $3.4m for technical and further education institutions. These supplementary grants for increased costs indicate once again the divisive tactics of the Opposition which has made predictions outside this House and within it that these grants would not be made. Naturally, such predictions have concerned teachers, academic staff and educational institutions. The Opposition has been irresponsible in its predictions which are once again completely unfounded.
The second Bill- States Grants (Schools Assistance) Bill- provides for the payment of grants to the States for government and nongovernment schools in 1978- the first year of the 1978 to 1980 rolling triennium. In addition, the Bill adjusts grants for 1977 in respect of cost increases. The Government announced in June this year that it would provide for expenditure in 1978 of $57 lm, at December 1976 prices, for government school programs, non-government schools programs and joint programs through the Schools Commission. The Commission’s report was tabled in the Parliament in September. The Government recently announced its acceptance of the Commission’s recommended allocations for 1978 consistent with those guidelines.
The Bill provides for the continuation of all existing programs for government and nongovernment schools. In short, they are: The general resources programs- general recurrent grants, including funds for child migrant and multicultural education, emergency aids for nongovernment schools and capital grants; specific purpose programs- disadvantaged schools and schools in disadvantaged country areas, special education for handicapped children, including children living in institutions, services and development including education centres and, of course, other special projects. In line with normal practice the non-government schools general recurrent program also includes final provision for cost analysis to the end of 1977. The additional cost of these adjustments alone is some $22m.
In indicating the National Country Party’s support for this legislation, I must make some comment about the representations I have had over past months in relation to education funding and the Government’s attitude to the Schools Commission. Do not let us forget that in August 1975 the Australian Labor Party made massive cutbacks through the four education commissions which totalled some $105m. In these areas expenditure on universities was reduced by $21m, expenditure on advanced colleges was reduced by $32m and, at a time of record increases in unemployment as a result of gross economic mismanagement, there was a $9m reduction in expenditure in the field of technical and further education. In the schools area, funds were reduced by $43m. In the area of capital works an incredible decision was made to reduce spending on the construction of urgent school buildings by some $85m.
That is the record of the Labor Party- a record of cutbacks unequalled in the history of the Federal Government. It then threw aside the system of triennial funding, a means of planning that had resulted in real progress, strict administration and correct management procedures. This action set back education planning and created chaos in the system. Then the Labor Party froze student allowances, even those that had been set at the June 1 974 cost of living indexes.
What have we accomplished in this area of assistance to students since we have been in government? On 17 August 1977, we announced details of increased allowances and the relaxation of the means test for the Commonwealth’s schemes of assistance to students. In 1978, more than 167,000 students are expected to benefit from the Government’s education assistance schemes. This growth in student numbers, combined with increases in allowances for 1977, has resulted in a large increase in funds allocated for direct payment to students.
In considering allowances for 1978, the Government has had to balance economic restraint with its concern that students should not suffer hardship. Changes have therefore been directed to students whose needs were assessed to be the greatest. These included students who must live away from home to continue their education, students who were self-supporting and students who had the responsibility to support dependants. I believe that these students are affected the most by rising costs. Allowances for these groups will be increased as from 1 January 1978. Total expenditure under the schemes in 1977-78 is some $224.7m, or an increase of $37.8m compared with the expenditure for 1976-77.
Much has been said about the continuing independence of the Schools Commission. Our Government will ensure that the Commission can continue to study and report on the needs of our schools area, as it sees them, and importantly to advise the Government on the pattern and priorities for expenditure of an already determined level of funds. Surely neither the Australian Labor Party nor anyone else in our community is suggesting that government must accept and implement necessarily in total all recommendations or appropriations made by government advisory bodies. Their role is to establish the needs and priorities. The Government’s role in both an economic sense and a social sense, is to set the priorities within the parameters of national needs and budgetary restraints. I believe the Government is doing so. It is ensuring that the best possible education standards for all Australian children apply, whether they attend government or non-government schools. The Liberal-National Country Party Government has introduced new policies both for government and non-government schools.
Federal funding for schools comes from two distinct sources. Firstly, there are the direct grants through the Schools Commission programs. Under these programs we have seen a 2 per cent in real growth in 1977. The base level grants are to be consolidated at the same level for 1977-78. The substantially increased general revenue funding made available to the States through the federalism tax sharing policies is the second source. This funding has been increased by 17 per cent for the current financial year, allowing for real growth. It is not necessary to take my word for the statement. We need look only at what was said in the recent Schools Commission report. That report outlines very significant improvements in resources available in government schools. It states:
Resources in most government schools systems are about to reach or have already reached the improvement targets set.
It reveals that four States-Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania- have already reached the primary school targets set for 1980. The other two States are progressing towards targets at a faster than planned rate. In the secondary schools area three States- Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia- have reached their targets set for achievement by 1 982. Tasmania is moving faster than the planned rate. The other two States- New South Wales and Queensland- are maintaining the planned rate of growth. Three secondary government systemsVictoria, South Australia and Western Australia- and one primary system, Tasmania, are operating at approximately the same standard as level 2 non-government schools. It is the second highest level in the Schools Commission’s categories of resource usage. The report adds:
States have continued to improve their own allocations for recurrent purposes in recent years.
It stresses that the States have increased their education spending beyond the levels necessary for maintenance of effort. In fact the States have been able to allocate a greater proportion of their total budgets to education. In 1975-76 the States’ recurrent expenditure on education was $ 1,967m. In 1976-77 the total was $2,241.5m. This was an increase in money terms in the first year of the Liberal-National Country Party Government of $2 74.3m or 13.9 per cent. Education’s total share of State budgets in that period increased from 28.4 per cent to 29.4 per cent, a gain of $75m compared with normal maintenance of effort. This demonstrates the success of the Federal Government’s tax-sharing policies. In 1976-77 all States were able to balance their budgets and to make substantial tax cuts, demonstrating their enhanced capacity to increase funding on education and on other programs. The 1977-78 budgets show a further strengthening of these trends.
This year the Liberal-National Party Government took the following additional initiatives: Extension of the disadvantaged schools concept to country areas, a $3.5m joint government/nongovernment schools scheme; and a $lm joint funding program for additional education assistance to children in residential institutions. Recurrent funding for government schools is derived on the basis of 85 per cent from State revenues and 15 per cent from Schools Commission resources. This illustrates the importance of the federalism general revenue funding to State education budgets. The Schools Commission report shows that the resources gap between government and non-government schools widened in the period from 1972 to 1976. In 1976 nongovernment primary schools were operating at a level 28 per cent below that of government schools, a decline of 5 per cent since 1972. Nongovernment secondary schools were 15 per cent below government schools, a decline of 2 per cent. By way of some measure of partial rectification of this imbalance, the Commonwealth Government has initiated the following policies: The percentage linkage of per capita grants to the average cost of a student in state schools; emergency aid of up to $844,000 to schools in temporary financial difficulties; capital assistance for non-government boarding schools; a loans guarantee scheme; advance offers of building grants to enable projects to be commenced sooner than originally scheduled; the provision of $1.9m as additional funds to level 6 schools; and minor increases in per capita grants to all six levels.
I make one further point, and that is the need to break down barriers between technical education, further education and tertiary education. I believe we must develop the concept of postsecondary education so that we can provide real interchange between levels of education for students and other people. An examination is needed to ensure an adequate and long-term benefit from rationalisation so that this can take place between the tertiary sector and the technical sector. Importantly, the technical sector needs to gain a degree of autonomy from State systems. Some local control and independence are essential. This Government has committed itself to the expansion and the provision of and an impetus to all sectors of education. However, we cannot tolerate a continuation of competing requirements for the sake of empire building, with the duplication of resources, particularly as it occurs in universities and in the colleges of advanced education area. This is to the detriment of primary, secondary and technical students and their facilities.
The National Country Party supports these Bills and gives the assurance that education has the highest priority in our policy in terms of development and implementation. We want a balanced development of the total system to continue so that we can meet the needs of all people in rural and urban areas to recognise their full potential and expectations. I am quite sure that all members of my party will join me when I express gratitude for the tremendous contribution that the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) has made in the whole realm of education. I believe it has been most outstanding. I believe his retirement will be a great loss to this Parliament. It is a pity that his party did not recognise as fully as it should have the outstanding quality of this man’s abilities.
– I am not quite sure whether such kind praise was not the kiss of death put upon me. I must say that, watching my colleagues now facing an election and its attendant stress which I am not facing, I am reminded of Disraeli’s statement as to his feelings in being a member of the House of Lords after having been a member of the House of Commons. He was asked what it felt like. He said: ‘I am dead; dead, but in the Elysian fields’. That is almost how I feel at present. Although the honourable member commended me very warmly, he accused me of very serious cuts in my last budget in education expenditure. I draw the attention of the honourable member to the actual figures. In 1974-75 universities got $552. 3m. In the Budget in which he said there was a cut they got $569.8m. Colleges of advanced education got $393m. That rose to $405m. Technical education expenditure rose fom $70.6m to $10 1.3m- a 40 per cent increase. Expenditure on schools, pre-schools and child care rose from $594m to $664m. In addition there was a $70m appropriation for indexation to maintain the value.
The honourable gentleman taxed us with not going ahead with the triennium. The triennium was suspended for a year. The honourable member spoke about empire building. I draw his attention to the fact that colleges of advanced education had had capital of $234m in a triennium, and the recommendation for the next triennium was $584m. That capital acceleration was totally impossible. I had called the education commissions together beforehand and said: ‘We do not want the Commonwealth competing with itself for labour and building materials’. The recommendation was for $36m worth of building for the Western Australian Institute of Technology in the triennium, and there was a recommendation from the universities commission for $13m for the Murdoch University alongside. Very large sums were also recommended for various schools in Western Australia. Obviously it was impossible for the Commonwealth to compete with itself for the limited pool of labour and material is such a way in Perth and that illustrates the problem in many other localities. That was why the triennium was suspended. That is why the Commission on Advanced Education and the Universities Commission were combined. The present Government has gone further in the combination by adding-mistakenly, in my view- the Technical and Further Education Commission in the new tertiary Commission.
However it is about schools that I wish to speak because those who have a tertiary education are the recipients of a great expenditure derived from the taxpayer by comparison with children in primary and secondary schools. Although I am not attacking that, I am saying that in one’s priorities one cannot regard anybody receiving a tertiary education in Australia as underprivileged from the point of view of the Commonwealth’s concern. I draw the attention of the House to a television debate not very long ago between Senator Wriedt, the Labor spokesman on education, and Senator Carrick, the present Minister for Education. Senator Wriedt objected to the Government’s objective of a flat rate grant of 20 per cent of the recurrent costs of State education as the basic Commonwealth grant to non-government schools. Senator Carrick very properly said in effect: ‘The Australian Labor Party in the Australian Capital Territory, in its territorial grants, granted the same flat rate 20 per cent to Canberra Grammar School as it did to Marist Brothers College’. Senator Wriedt also very properly replied: ‘That Territorial Grant and what the States contribute as the state grant we regard as the basic grant to all schools. The differential according to need comes from grants at the Commonwealth level’. The controlling fact in Labor’s thinking was that Karmel found that some non-government schools had about 40 per cent of the resource levels in recurrent costs of the average State school and some had 230 per cent or more.
Everything that Karmel could have asked of the State governments in his. objective for the decade they have in fact carried out. In the maintenance of State government effort for government schools the progress which is occurring is faster than Karmel envisaged. For instance, Commonwealth and State contributions to the recurrent expenditure in non-government schools have risen between 1972 and 1976, but the level of resource usage in non-government schools in comparison with government schools over the same period has declined. In 1976 nongovernment primary schools had not reached on average the resource level used in government primary schools in 1972. 1 think this is where the guidelines of the present Government are mistaken.
In 1976 the present Government indicated in its guidelines to the Schools Commission that the 1978 allocation would be 2 per cent more in real terms than in 1977. The actual allocation of $571m was the same as for 1977, but because cost supplementation will apply only to wages and salaries the real value will fall. The guidelines issued for 1978 require the Commission to allocate an additional SI 3.8m to nongovernment schools as follows: An amount of $8.8m to link Commission subsidies to nongovernment schools with government school running costs; an additional $2m to levels 1 and 2 schools, which are the non-government schools with the highest resource levels; and an additional $3m for the construction of nongovernment schools in expanding areas. I have no complaint about the $8.8m to continue to link the grants to non-government schools with government school running costs. However I complain about the mistaken attitude in requiring a deployment of resources to those non- government schools that already have resource levels far higher than the Australian average.
Can we just forget about non-government schools for a minute and look at the position of a director of education in a State school system? What would be said of him if he deliberately pursued a policy of giving additional resources to those State schools that already had the finest equipment and the highest level of resources for their students at the expense of those schools with the lowest levels? He would be regarded as incompetent. I believe it is incompetent to apply to non-government schools of high resource level additional resources at the expense of nongovernment schools with poor resources. There is a requirement for an additional $3m for the construction of non-government schools in expanding areas. It is here that there is a real problem.
In this matter I have a great deal of sympathy with anybody wrestling with this problem. After all, if we are talking about non-government education we might as well face the fact that we are speaking very largely about Catholic education. The Catholic Church has interpreted literally the direction to go into the world and preach the gospel to those who are in need of hearing the gospel, and family income is irrelevant. The Anglican Church in this country has tended to take the view in its schools that the direction was to go into the world and preach the gospel to those who could afford fees of up to $3,000 a year. That is a slight amendment of the gospel situation. However I leave that aside.
There is a problem if we are talking about the construction of new Catholic schools. I think the
House should face this. I am not arguing that the problem should lead to a lower resource allocation, but it is a difficulty. I had better invent imaginary dioceses; or I will be in trouble. Let us say the Bishop of the Abrolhos Islands decides that there must be a new school in the town of Tuxford and the Bishop of the Whitsunday Passage decides there must be a new school in the town of Dockington. Now taken all over, Dockington might be much more in need of a school than Tuxford. But if the Bishop of the Abrolhos Islands is more dynamic and can organise his people better then the school will come in his diocese in an area which, by comparison with Dockington, was not in need.
When a beautifully logical body like the Schools Commission looks at need and never gets firmly into its mind that the Catholic Church is not a monolith but is highly decentralised as between different dioceses with bishops of vastly different levels of ability, vastly different levels of interest in education, vastly different ability to mobilise their people in an educational effort and with different numbers of schools run by orders that are not under their control, you have a somewhat illogical structure from the point of view of bureaucratic administration. You have, in fact, a highly decentralised administration. I am not complaining of this. They have been able to get over some difficulties and to set up in States Catholic directorates of education that are more logically bureaucrat. But the structure of Catholic organisation has not always appealed to the Schools Commission.
I do appeal to the Schools Commission to come back to the conception we had about its work, that is, that it is quite irrelevant to the Commonwealth whether an Australian citizen happens to be a child in a government school or a child in a non-government school. They are all Australian citizens. The States, since Henry Parkes’ day, had been carrying on totally unnecessary sectarian fights about government or non-government schools. They did not come into policy of aiding non-government schools really until the Commonwealth led the way into that field. The Commonwealth came into education as a new personality and did not need to be bound by the church and state disputes of the 1870s or the 1880s that had originated in the United Kingdom. Therefore we should look at all the children in State schools or in private schools, church schools, in terms of need, and as Australian citizens.
The problem is twofold. The first aspect of the problem is that the poorer people are, the less critical they tend to be about what their children are getting in education. Secondly, the view of the Government about education ought to be somewhat different from the view of the parenteven the good parent. Now as a parent I want my child to have educational advantages, but honourable gentlemen opposite are not in the slightest degree interested in my child’s advantages. They ought to be interested in education as an instrument of every child’s dignity and every child’s efficiency. That is part of the case for the differential grants according to need. If children have deployed behind their education already a very high resource level, it is not wise in a budget of limited resources to deploy more behind those children at the expense of those less privileged, who are not getting a proper deployment of resources behind their education.
Of course as a reforming Commission the Schools Commission engendered quite extraordinary attitudes of suspicion. The Schools Commission came out with the recommendation for ‘supported schools’ that there was to be a category of non-government schools, ninety-five per cent of the cost of which would be met by the Commonwealth as long as they did not impose religious tests for enrolment. There was immediately a chorus from Democratic Labor Party quarters that this recommendation had emanated from Cabinet and that the Government was trying to produce control of Catholic schools, deciding whom the schools could enrol and whom the could not. Let me say that my distinguished colleagues in Cabinet were totally innocent of the idea of 95 per cent support for any non-government school, except in one particular area- the aboriginal mission area- that I shall mention in a minute. I think the people who were suspicious were also quite mistaken. The mere fact that some Catholic schools which has been catering for very poor children and therefore needed massive support got a rate of 95 per cent of its running costs from the Commonwealthand it was open to any child to enrolwould not mean that there would be a Protestant deluge into the school. So the people who criticised this particular provision, I think, were highly unrealistic.
Finally, I sometimes wonder what church schools are about because we did make the decision to finance, 100 per cent, Aboriginal schools, mission schools, in the Northern Territory. Santa Theresa and various Catholic and Protestant missions like that had all their teachers paid as Government school teachers, their principal paid as a Government school principal and the staff were given the Government district allowances and so on. I suppose a very large number of the Aboriginal children who went to such schools were pagans; they were not yet converted to the Catholic or Protestant Church. But nobody was suggesting that because those children were pagans they should not go to that school. It happened to be what the school was about- reaching non christian families. I sometimes wonder, therefore, just applying that same philosophy into the metropolitan area, if some Protestant children do come to a Catholic school, what the school is about. It does not seem to me to be any more objectionable from a theological point of view than that children who are totally pagan come to such a school in the Northem Territory and presumably would then be on the way towards conversion. However, that is an aside. I do feel that there is a need on the part of church authorities to ask themselves many times over what their schools are about.
The honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen), who led for the Opposition in this debate, spoke about very great rises in Commonwealth expenditure for education under the Labor Government. Those rises are indisputable and I want to say one thing about them. The working class generally tends to believe that education is a good thing; that other people get advantages and privileges out of it and therefore there should be more of it for them and for their families. We were not tremendously critical of education as education. We wanted access to be widened. Is all that is going as education on in the schools ideal? Is it achieving its aims? Though not intensely critical one thing that was done by the Labor Government to look at values in education was establishment of the Curriculum Development Commission. What should be the curriculum? What should be taught? The purpose of this Commission was to co-operate with State governments and private education authorities, to look at the nature of the educational process. The Labor Government also commissioned the University of Queensland to look at the value of the secondary grants that were being made to Aboriginal children and in what ways such grants could be perfected and improved for aboriginal families. There is a magnificent report as a consequence on this question by Professor Betty Watts.
Criticism has been constant, but most of the structure of educational innovation introduced by the Labor Government has been maintained by the present Government. I disagree however with some of the changes in the guidelines for the Schools Commission. I should like to come back to a much simpler guideline. If the Government continues telling the Commission that it must transfer funds from here to there, it finally calls into question whether the Commission is being allowed to function. I do not think, as the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Fisher) suggested was an alternative view to the Government ‘s view, that we can just allow commissions a completely free hand. The guideline I should like to see is a sum of money. We could say for instance to a commission: ‘We can appropriate $650m for you to spend. Will you tell us the most intelligent way to spend this?’ That, I believe, is a defensible guideline for a government dealing with a commission. I think there is a tendency now for too much intervention against the independence of the commissions. After all, I think it is agreed that since the various Commissions came into being- those that were established by our predecessors and those established by ourselves- they have greatly advanced education wherever they were and they therefore deserve confidence and not undermining.
– Honourable members, this, in its own way, is a special occasion for it hap- fpens that the honourable member for Fremantle Mr Beazley), who has just completed his speech, is not only the Father of the House but the Father of the Parliament and is about to leave it. So I want to take the privilege which Speakers permit themselves occasionally to pay tribute to the honourable member for Fremantle Almost twenty-nine years ago- in 1949-1 had the temerity to contest him m the electorate of Fremantle. He gave me the father of a hiding, which is appropriate for the Father of the House, the Father of the Parliament. Throughout this career in the Parliament, which is now spread over, I think, three decades, he has had the respect of the House as a fine parliamentarian. I pay him my own tribute as a great Australian. He has always drawn a house when he has spoken and today, which I apprehend is the last occasion on which he will make a speech here, he has done it again.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
-Mr Deputy Speaker -
Motion (by Mr Bourchier) put:
That the question be now put. The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker- Mr P. E. Lucock)
In divisionMr Killen- Mr Deputy Speaker, may I draw your attention to the state of the Press Gallery.
– I point out to the honourable member that that is not something over which the Chair has any control. It possibly will not alter in any way the capacity of the Press to report the proceedings of the House in tomorrow’s newspapers.
Question resolved in the affirmative. Question put-
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Lionel Bowen’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker- Mr P. E. Lucock)
Question so resolved in the affirmative. Amendment negatived. Original question resolved in the affirmative. Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Clauses 1 to 3- by leave- taken together.
-I want to refer in particular to clause 3 which relates to Interpretation. As the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) indicated in his second reading speech, this Bill has a different format from the one that had existed previously. If this Bill were not being dealt with in indecent haste -
Motion (by Mr Bourchier) put:
That the question be now put. The Committee divided. (The Deputy Chairman- Mr A. W. Jarman)
Question so resolved in the affirmative. Clauses agreed to.
Clause 4 (Schools and areas with respect to which special provision made, et cetera).
– I refer to the differential treatment as between State schools and non-State schools which I see implied in this legislation. For a definition as to which schools are disadvantaged and the decision on which schools are disadvantaged, we will rely upon the State Ministers for Education. For the definition of disadvantaged non-government schools the Commonwealth Minister for Education shall determine the position for himself. I consider that that places many of the State schools at a disadvantage in comparison with non-State schools. It is not totally discriminatory in the sense in which we sometimes use the word, but the result will be that State schools will become the victims of all sorts of political points that may well try to be scored by State governments such as the Queensland one. In Victoria we are pretty confident that the Victorian Government did not apply the same kind of criteria as we wished to apply from the Commonwealth end. In this instance we are absolutely certain that the situation will be to the disadvantage of most Australian State schools which need Commonwealth help.
We are looking for equality between the various forms of education in Australia. There is no doubt that one of the features of Australian education has been the inequality between States as there has been between country and city areas, between various socio-economic areas in the major cities and between Aboriginal communities and non-aboriginal communities. The only way of levelling out inequalities between States and giving all the young people of Australia the same advantages and the same access to education is for the Commonwealth Government to lay down the principles upon which disadvantaged schools will be served. Therefore I ask the Government to give serious consideration to changing the form of definition of disadvantaged schools. That is why we wanted to speak in the first instance on the forms of definition in regards to disadvantaged schools.
During the last term office of the Labor Government it was clear to those like my friend, the honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins), and myself who represent industrial areas of Melbourne that the Victorian Government had no concern whatsoever for the disadvantaged schools in those electorates- the schools which comply with the requirements and the criteria set out in this legislation. Those schools have a large number of migrant children. The economic status of the parents is of a lower order than it is in many other suburbs in the cities. The parents of these children are unable to support them in the same way at school and in many cases the parents are unable to apply themselves to the question of being part of the corporate body of the school life as they can in other areas. These are the schools to which the Victorian Government paid scant attention. The only we will level that out and give the equal treatment is for the Commonwealth Government to accept the same responsibility for the State schools as it does for the non-State schools.
I understand that the present Government is obsessed with State rights and therefore is loth to interfere with the power of State governments in the field of education. I consider, and I believe my colleagues from this side of the chamber consider, that the rights of the children transcend any consideration of State rights or anything of that order. I hope that the Committee will pay closer attention to this matter. This is a complicated piece of legislation. It has some SO-odd clauses. I hope we have made it clear to Government members and the people responsible for the management of business in this place that we consider it a serious matter that such an important piece of legislation has such meagre time for debate. The general principles of education which we would have liked to have put before the Parliament will have to be bypassed.
I hope that the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar), will note my remarks and when he replies to the debate on this clause will give a clear statement of the reason for this differential between non-State and State schools. The Commonwealth Government accepts a full and direct responsibility for disadvantaged non-government schools. Its whole approach to government schools is indirect. The Opposition feels that there should be no differential. Our duty is to all Australians, including young people, in the education system equally and the objective is to create equality of access and equality of opportunity to a higher standard of education. I believe that clause 4 will fail if the Federal Minister opts out. If a government wants direct results it has to take direct responsibility. I hope that the Minister is able to answer my comments or at some stage to get an effective answer from the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) as to the reasons for clause 4.
– I will draw the honourable member’s comments to the attention of the Minister for Education.
– I thank the Minister.
Clause agreed to.
Remainder of Bill-by leave- taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr MacKellar) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 1 November, on motion by Mr Viner:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– As foreshadowed I move:
-Is the amendment seconded?
– I have much pleasure in seconding the amendment. Before dealing with the details of it I want to make a few general remarks on the Bill. This Bill is really the first brought in since the change to Tertiary Education Commission. It will be obvious to honourable members who examine the situation that the change to that Commission has brought substantial changes in the way grants for tertiary education assistance are given. It seems to me that we need a better mechanism to handle the details that are gone through in dealing with this type of Bill in the Parliament.
I remind honourable members that a joint committee of both Houses of this Parliament was set up to investigate parliamentary procedures. The report of that committee seems to have been buried in the last two years. Yet one of the recommendations made m it was that there was a place for legislation committees to carry out this process, rather than using the Committee of the Whole House to examine the Bill clause by clause. I would suggest, Sir, that when we are considering the setting up of the Tertiary Education Commission, with the combination of the three groups and we have the format of the Bill in the way it is presented, this is one of those times when honourable members of this House should be able to make close examination of what is contained in the Bill. In his second reading speech on this Bill the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) said:
Under the Bill, the Minister will be given power to effect transfers of capital funds between sectors and between States after advice from the Commission. Such transfers between sectors will be subject to consultation with the States concerned and, where any transfers between States are contemplated, will be made only with the agreement of those States.
A number of us were having a look at that statement and arising from it we started to look for this provision in the Bill. While there was general consensus that this flexibility in the transfer of funds was desirable, that it would lead to more efficient use of funds in allowing the transfer, concern was expressed that Parliament, not only the States and the Minister, should be aware of the way these amounts were carried over. I am sure most honourable members have not thought about that aspect. In the way the Bill is laid out this provision takes some finding. However, we were assured in examining it that that provision for Parliament to be informed of the transfer was there. We think that is desirable.
I turn to the matters contained in the amendment. Firstly it deals with insufficient funding for technical education in Australia. Criticism in this area could be levelled also at the previous Labor Administration because technical and further education was the last sector to get off the ground. But the whole problem that is being highlighted in the community today is one of technological needs and persons to be trained in this area. We find that although there is an increase in real terms for technical and further education, this really does not compensate for the neglect of technical and further education in the past. One thinks that perhaps some of the money that is being spent on expensive advertising campaigns for the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) with the various apprenticeship schemes and so on, supplying employment and training for next to no one, would have been better put to more practical use in these institutions. This is one area where the Government is to be greatly criticised for not accepting its responsibility and accelerating the area of technical education for Australia’s benefit.
The next criticism contained in the amendment is in regard to the Government’s stated intention to transfer a major section of tertiary education funding to the States. There is no doubt that this will react badly to the detriment of tertiary education. We have all experienced the situation that occurred in that field prior to the Labor Government accepting full responsibility for tertiary education. It is a difficult field at any time because facilities have to be provided for an increasing number of people. The tendency, in today’s economy particularly, to keep the young person in education longer so that he does not become an unemployment statistic is placing greater and greater strains on tertiary education.
One looks back to the bad old days when the States funded tertiary education, admittedly through the autonomous bodies that controlled tertiary institutions. One knows of the lacks that there were in places for individuals, in variety of courses and in the sort of equipment that is needed to carry out properly the teaching and training in the disciplines. One can see this intention to transfer a major proportion of education funding back to the States as only a retrograde step because it has been shown in the past that in so many areas State Education Ministers can indulge in a lot more pork barrelling. It is suggested that there are problems with centralised bureaucracy, that there is disadvantage in this. But in education a great disadvantage is the temptation at the parochial level of the States to indulge in pork barrelling in funding the various institutions. At the moment there is a system where there are recommendations for allocations. There is the examination of expenditure across the whole tertiary field.
There have been great advances in tertiary education since 1972 and it would be a shame to see a backward step taken in that area. The same criticisms that were offered to the State Grants (Schools Assistance) Bill are offered on the States Grants (Tertiary Education Assistance) Bill. They are Bills that require much fuller debate and much closer examination at the Committee stage. They have been subject to commission reports and the various commission reports should be considered because of the criticisms they contain of the sorts of guidelines that this Government has laid down- not only the guidelines which do not allow for real growth in expenditure but which are so restrictive in their nature that they prevent the commissions from making the true choice in the allocations of funds on needs. This was the element that we were able to introduce in our education legislation, whether it was under the schools assistance legislation or the tertiary education legislation. We were able to use needs as a basis and guidelines were not so restrictive as to prevent some free choice by the commission on needs for the various aspects of education. I feel in this tertiary education field that the technical education field is still the Cinderella. In return for the Government Whip not gagging me a third time for the evening I have agreed to sit down at this point in the debate. But I repeat the complaint that I think Parliament is being treated with contempt in the Government not allowing such important Bills fuller debate.
– I want to speak for two minutes about a matter which is of very serious concern and which I believe must be raised as often as possible in this Parliament. Last year the Tertiary Education Commission indicated in its report the disadvantage which was suffered by newer institutions because of the freeze imposed on capital expenditures. The Deakin University, which is the institution I intend to mention, has a building program for establishing the basic facilities that a university needs to operate. That university has a requirement of about $17m. A grant of about $2m has been made to it.
So the House will understand the sorts of difficulties which exist in the circumstances, I point out that in the humanities-social studies areas of degree courses, any student wishing to study sociology, which is part of the education faculty of the university, would have to travel some 9 to 10 miles to attend lectures because of the education faculty is situated in the old premises of the Geelong Teachers College, which is located in North Geelong, whereas the university is located in the Old Gordon Institute in the Waurn Ponds area. The art and design faculty is located in a factory building in South Geelong. So the situation is that we have a university which does not have the basic accommodation which is desirable and which is required for an institution. Being a new institution it is disadvantaged by the cut-backs by a far greater magnitude than would an established organisation at which new buildings would be additional facilities. The facilities required by this institution are the basic building structures m which the institution can operate.
I raise this matter on this occasion, as I did when a similar bill was before the House last year. I notice that little or nothing has been done in the interim. The continued freeze of capital funds has been to the disadvantage and to the detriment of the students, and it makes the position of the staff almost impossible because of the split campus situation under which the lectures on different subjects are given at locations which are far apart. That seriously disadvantages the students, especially as there is almost no public transport available between the various sections of the university.
– I wish to raise several points in relation to what one might term the philosophy of it all. One of the points is related to the history and another to the administration. Perhaps I will deal with the history aspect first of all. I think the House has been rather unkind to honourable members on this side of the chamber in relation to this general matter. My friend, the honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins), and I have taken a long term interest in education. I remind members of the House that, when they come into the chamber to vote and they find the same people causing the trouble, it will be because the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Bourchier) is doing his duty in his inimitable way and because we on this side are doing our duty as we see it.
On 6 May 1958 I, having been a member of this Parliament for two years or so, moved the following motion:
The urgent need for the Commonwealth to take action to ensure that sufficient funds are available to each State of the Commonwealth to provide adequate public education facilities for its people.
In those days we were treated in a slightly different way, I suggest, because after I spoke to that motion I was responded to on that occasion by Mr Menzies, the then Prime Minister and honourable member for Kooyong. Honourable members will be interested in his thoughts on that occasion. He had this to say:
But I should like to say to the honourable member that I rather envy the easy way in which he sets the Constitution on one side on the ground that it is out of date.
I would rather have thought that even the right honourable gentleman would now have joined the forces of the ungodly and would have been on our side on that matter.
The points I make about technical education in particular are well set out in the report of the Technical and Further Education Commission for the triennium 1977-79. The few points that it makes may well be placed on the record. At page xxvvii of its report the Commission states:
The most pressing need in the next triennium is to provide adequate opportunities to individuals to further their educational development, including their capacity to become skilled, knowledgeable, adaptable members of the labour force, and through this, to enhance security and job satisfaction.
Further on the report refers to the fact that Australia clearly lags behind many other Western industralised nations in the level of skilled training of its labour force. In 1971 only half of adults in skilled blue collar occupations held appropriate trade or technician qualifications. It points out that the occupational mix of the labour force will operate to increase still further the importance of technical and further education in the development of labour force skills. Because of the significance of female participation for the future of the Australian labour force, there will be a growing need to come to terms with the apparent disparity between women’s aspirations and the existing realities of the labour market. In the educational aspects of this process, the Commission sees the role of TAFE institutions as being of major importance.
I believe that some statements of particular importance are contained in this document. The report then goes on to point out what we ought to be doing in some other areas. I taught in the Victorian education system for 20 years. I do not know that I ever taught under circumstances which made teaching easy or comfortable, although I hope a good deal of that teaching was effective. I am not one who believes that all the gold plated trimmings and so on are needed in education to make teaching effective, but certainly teaching is easier and more effective if the equipment and the environment is adequate. Page 116 of the report deals with accommodation in New South Wales. It reads:
Students are at present accommodated in 290 buildings less than thirty years old, 300 buildings more than thirty years old and in 124 leased premises.
It is unfortunate that over the last 30 or 40 years we have not capitalised in many areas of our education system as much as did the generation of our grandparents. I am afraid that over the last two years there has been a great fall-off in the dynamics of change in education. Some of that will occur because of finances; a good deal of it will occur because of the internal dynamics of the system and the way in which change is encouraged. I think I should say that in my experience those people who have been occupied in the education industry, if one could term it such, have suffered a serious blow to their morale because of the insecurity that has developed over the last two years in relation to the development of curriculum research and such matters.
I wish to place before the Parliament a matter concerned with administration. It is probably too late to obtain an effective answer in this Parliament. It is concerned with clause 4 of the States Grants (Tertiary Education Assistance) Bill, which reads:
1 ) For the purposes of this Act, the Minister-
That clause then sets out the institutions from which he may receive a submission- universities, colleges of advanced education, technical and further education institutions. I have no complaint about that. I point out to members of the Parliament and to anyone else who may be listening to the debate the actual significance of that provision if it is related to the provisions in the schools legislation. In that legislation no definition is given in relation to a building or even a school. I think I am correct in saying that. However, such a definition is given in relation to other institutions.
I think that is of great advantage to the tertiary education institutions when the Commonwealth says: ‘You can have $20,000 for this purpose or $ 1.35m for that building somewhere else’. If an application for funds is sent off to the Victorian Education Department which does not specify the Brunswick Technical College or a building project at the Moreland High School, or in which it is not specified that the funds are for the purpose of fixing up the Fitzroy Primary School, those works will not be earned out. I think we have to instil in the States the same sense of direction, if one likes to call it that, the same sense of constitutional challenge in relation to primary and secondary education as we have been doing in relation to tertiary education for nigh on 20 years.
I hope the House will take note of those points. I ask the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) to put those points in his diary so that his colleague, the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick), can look at them. We will fix the situation ourselves immediately after 10 December.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr MacKellar) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 3 November, on motion by Mr Fife:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– This is a validation Bill. The Opposition has no objection to it because it will operate for a period and there will be a later enactment to regularise what is now being done by way of temporary legislation. Accordingly, we do not oppose the Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Fife) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 1 November, on motion by Mr Sinclair:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– May I have the indulgence of the House to raise a point of procedure on this legislation. Before the debate is resumed on this Bill I would like to suggest that it may suit the convenience of the House to have a general debate covering this Bill, the Apple and Pear Stabilization Export Duty Amendment Bill (No. 2) and the Apple and Pear Stabilization Export Duty Collection Amendment Bill (No. 2) as they are related measures. Separate questions will, of course, be put on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate. I suggest, therefore, Mr Deputy Speaker, that you permit the subject matter of the three Bills to be discussed in this debate.
-Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering the three measures? There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.
-The Apple and Pear Stabilization Amendment Bill (No. 2) extends for a period of two years the guaranteed payment provisions under the Apple and Pear Stabilisation Act. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair), in his second reading speech, indicated that he believes that this will give stability to the industry, also that it will give some guarantees to the industry which will enable it to become viable. It will in fact provide what could be termed a base price for exports of apples and pears at risk. During debate on an earlier Bill this year the Opposition moved an amendment to alter the underwriting price from $2 to $3 per box of apples, and from 80c to $ 1 .20 per box of pears, on the same limited export quantities. Our intention is to move the same amendment on this occasion because, as was contended then, the Opposition believes that in the period since the present price was fixed the costs and the efforts of the industry have been such that it is not unreasonable to suggest that the prices which I have mentioned should now be written into the Act. This is the second time that a price has been fixed in legislation. The prices will cover a two-year period.
I point out that the Minister, in his speech earlier this year, indicated that the Government was looking at additional means of assistance to the industry. The Minister, in his second reading speech on this Bill, indicated that the Government was conferring with the States on a supplementary assistance program for 1978 which could involve an additional Sim to assist apple exports to Europe, including the United Kingdom. The amount involved if the amendment were carried very closely approximates the amount mentioned in the Minister’s speech. We feel that the industry would be better served by an increase in the support or guaranteed price. It is, I think, true to say that the industry, through its own efforts and through encouragement, has reduced its number of trees to levels which are I think manageable.
I was a little concerned some time ago when I heard the chairman of the marketing board of Tasmania suggest that it was now time to start replanting trees because the market prospects were so good. I hope that would not be undertaken as it would constitute what I would think was a short sighted policy, as was the policy in the early 1960s when people in Victoria and elsewhere were encouraged to plant pear trees at a time when it was fairly obvious to most people that Britain would ultimately be going into the European Economic Community. The result was that many growers who took the advice given to them by the present Leader of the National Country Party and other members opposite suffered very heavy losses, and the Government was involved in extremely heavy expenditure in pulling out trees which had been planted as a result of that earlier advice. Those trees did not have any economic effect on the industry.
This industry is vital to a number of areas. I remember a few years ago accompanying the former member for Bendigo to the Harcourt area to discuss with the growers and the co-operatives in that area the problems of the apple and pear industry, especially the problems which had come about because of the changes in marketing and storage methods which had rendered unsuitable as far as markets were concerned a number of varieties which had been very profitable and very suitable to that area. I think that to some extent it was to the disadvantage of the consumer. Some apples have ceased to be available on the market because the ripening period of other apples can be extended, and these fresh apples, whether they arrive early or late on the market, are always preferred. I do not intend to delay the House much longer. I move:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: ‘the House is of the opinion that the Bill should be withdrawn and redrafted with a view to bringing forward a Bill which (a) increases the rate of stabilisation payments to $3 per box of apples and $ 1 .20 per box of pears and /or (b) provides supplementary assistance measures to facilitate adjustments in the fruit growing industry and to provide assistance directly to individual fruit growers until such times as a coherent planned policy, by which the Australian fruit growing industry can prosper, is determined ‘.
I make one other point. Because of the short period of time left for this Parliament, the Opposition would give a clear undertaking to the Government that if the amendment were accepted we would facilitate the passage of the subsequent legislation through the Parliament without any delay or adjournment.
– Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment.
– I am very pleased to speak in this debate. After consultation with the industry in Tasmania my colleagues and I support the Government. I should like to read a telegram from the newly appointed executive director of the State marketing authority, Mr Windas Smith, who simply sets out the requirements of the Tasmanian apple industry. Of course that industry is comparable with the industry in other States. The telegram reads:
Restabilisation. Current maximum support of $2 per bushel for apples is appropriate but would be more effective if applied to all overseas markets especially developing markets with long term potential. Also important that stabilisation and other support measures be established on a permanent basis. Fruit growing is long term project and renewed annual promises of support do not engender sufficient producer confidence. Because stabilisation operates on Australia wide average of market returns the grower who receives below average return can be seriously disadvantaged. The best way to overcome this problem is to increase Commonwealth contribution to supplementary support scheme say $3 for each $ 1 from State sources.
– Hear, hear! But the State Government will not support that.
-That is right. Windas Smith has simply set out the requirements of that industry. To the best of my ability I have promoted the apple industry, as have my colleagues from Tasmania and also my colleagues from other States. I believe the industry now has a future. Tasmanians should be aware of the vital contribution of the industry to the economy of Tasmania. Those in the industry constitute 2 per cent of the total population and contribute 1 1 per cent of the gross value of Tasmanian agricultural production. One-third of the apples grown in Australia are produced in Tasmania. Tasmania supplies two-thirds of the total Australian export trade. So when we talk of Tasmania we talk of the apple industry.
The most important single form of assistance given is through the apple and pear stabilisation scheme. The scheme is the incentive to the growers of Tasmania and Australia to stay on their farms. One is horrified to think what the economic situation would be in Tasmania without the apple industry. It generates so much income through shops, transportation, labour, equipment sales, domestic sales, et cetera. The main concern of the Government in continuing the scheme is to reduce the economic and social disruption at a time of declining profitability in the industry. I make no excuse for the fact that it saddens me, and it also saddens every sincere Tasmanian and of course my Tasmanian colleagues- the honourable member for Braddon (Mr Groom), the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Burr), the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) and the honourable member for Bass (Mr Newman)- to see the continual reduction in production.
– Where are they?
-They are listening. Of course I must mention the Tasmanian senators also. We are saddened by the desperate decision to reduce the number of apple trees in Tasmania by 40 per cent. Between October 1973, when the scheme was introduced, and October 1976 over 40 per cent of the total tree area was removed. Admittedly some of the trees were old. Orchardists have come forward with a completely efficient way of producing apples, but unfortunately they have been let down by what happens after the apples leave the packing shed. Trees have been pulled out, and all of a sudden we realise that we have quality apples; but we cannot supply the world market, and that is absolutely extraordinary when there is a shortage of fresh fruit in Australia and in the world today.
-Of course the honourable member for Braddon agrees with me. Orchardists have answered the call for efficiency, but unfortunately high transport and freight costs make every season a nightmare for them. Orchardists need support to enable them to compete favourably with Argentina, South Africa and New Zealand. Exports of Australian applies have fallen sharply from a peak of 150,000 tonnes in 1971 to 88,000 tonnes in 1975. 1 think that is indicative of the unfortunate effect of the tree pull scheme. Increases in ocean freight costs have added greatly to the costs of marketing Australian apples overseas. Between 1971 and 1975 the average yearly rate of increase in freight costs to the United Kingdom was 16.4 per cent, which is substantially above the average level of inflation in Australia in those years. The base rate for apples sent to the United Kingdom in 1969 was approximately $1.70 a case. The anticipated rate for 1978 is nearly $6.
Since 1971 Australian production costs and international marketing costs have increased more rapidly than they did during the previous decade. In particular, the cost of labour has risen more rapidly than the cost of most other production inputs, and for that reason fruit growers have been more disadvantaged because of the increases in their costs of production than have most other Australian exporters. Export freight costs have also risen more rapidly than the cost of most other marketing services. Freight costs thus are high as a proportion of returns for apples and pears sold in Europe. Those costs are currently about 60 per cent of the return on apples. The growers have been aware of the multiplicity of problems that have beset them and their industry. Last season a concerted effort was made to restructure the industry. Tasmania is a very small place, but fortunately we have some very good editors who write -
– We have some good members too.
-Of course we have some very good members too. We have editors who write editorials that hit the nail right on the head. I think the honourable member for Braddon and the honourable member for Wilmot will agree with me that on 17 October the editor of the Mercury hit the nail right on the head with his very appropriate editorial. I will just pinpoint some of the points that he made. The apple industry has been greatly assisted by the restructuring and the formation of a single marketing authority that has cut out some problems that have beset that industry for 40 years. The editorial states:
One of the biggest Tasmanian tragedies of recent years has been the demise of the State’s fruit industry. Scores of grubbed out orchards in the heart of ‘apple country’ bear mute testimony to the passing of an era.
There have been innumerable inquiries to try to establish the reasons for the decline of the fruit export industry and to suggest methods of bolstering it. They range from the persistently pessimistic, which suggests it would be wiser to pay growers benefits to quit the industry rather than to continue to prop it up, to the far more optimistic that insisted better marketing and higher quality control could ensure the survival of the industry.
Some reports had a common theme-that if the industry was to remain viable, it would need a concerted effort from everyone associated with it- growers, exporters, and governments. Several experts stressed that the industry had become fragmented and that the days of growers doing their own thing must be sacrificed for the collective benefit of the industry and all those engaged in it.
It seemed generally agreed that a new marketing setup would be vital to co-ordinate and promote sales. It also would need to re-establish confidence among European importers, some of whom were caustically critical of some of the poor quality apples that had somehow been shipped from Tasmania.
And last season, reports from the UK and the Continent indicated that under the new interim marketing setup Tasmania was once again reaping the benefits from high quality fruit bringing premium prices. But the supposition that all was again well with the industry was shattered when some growers expressed dissatisfaction with the executive director of the marketing authority . . .
Fortunately that problem has been overcome. Last season, even though the crop was down to 1.2 million cases, it was a good season. It was brought about by a co-operative, by everybody working together, by improvement in quality control and a demand for Tasmania apples in the United Kingdom and Australia. Fortunately, with the freight equalisation plan, we were able to bring apples to the mainland of Australia. Also the United Kingdom had a very dry season and our apples were in demand. If we are to continue to consider Tasmania as being the apple isle, we will have to make absolutely certain that we protect its markets.
This year growers do not need the additional support price; they have indicated that. But if in the future they do need this support, I think all Tasmanian members would rise to the occasion and would agree with members of the Opposition who, if I may say so, are acting a little bit hypocritically in this situation. They do not really believe in the support; they believe that the industry should be allowed to run into the ground. They are probably using the situation as a political gimmick to try to impress the growers of Tasmania. As I said this year the support is not required; the growers do not need it. It is not of much use giving the growers the money if they cannot use it. Of course I support the Government, and all other members from Tasmania support the Government. We will have a good season again. We, as Tasmanians can feel proud that the growers in Tasmania -
– We stick together.
– That is right. As I was saying, we as Tasmanians can feel proud that the growers in Tasmania have been able to come together and make a good industry once again. That is indicative of all Tasmanians. We have an apple industry again and we can proudly say that Tasmania is the apple isle. We do not need these political gimmicks. We do not need an additional amount by way of support this year. We will be able to stand on our own feet and say in the future that if the growers need money we will support them. ( Quorum formed).
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Scholes’ amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker-Mr P. E. Locock)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Fife) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 1 November, on motion by Mr Sinclair:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Fife) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 1 November, on motion by Mr Sinclair:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Fife) read a third time.
Motion (by Mr Fife) agreed to:
That Order of the Day No. 7, Government Business, be postponed until a later hour this day.
Debate resumed from 2 November, on motion by Mr Sinclair:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering both measures?
- Mr Deputy Speaker, before that question is put can I have some assurance that Order of the Day No. 7 will not come on for debate tonight? I refer to the Australian Rural Bank Bill. I can understand that Orders of the Day Nos 8 and 9 are to be discussed but surely the House ought to know whether this most important Bill- certain people think that it is significant, but I do not- to establish a new rural bank will be brought on for debate tonight? At least the Government should come clean about it. I ask that question with great respect to my friend the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Fife) who I think shows decency in relation to parliamentary procedure. It is nearly 10 p.m. Does the Government intend to push through these two measures- the Brigalow Lands Agreement Amendment Bill and the Beef Industry (Incentive Payments) Bill- and then at a late hour tonight to come back to Order of the Day No. 7, the Australian Rural Bank Bill? I would have thought that this measure was important enough to receive some deliberation tomorrow. I would like some assurance that the Government does not intend to rush it through tonight.
-Order! I think the honourable member for Melbourne Ports has made the point that he wanted to make. This matter is in the hands of the Government. The motion to which the House agreed was that the debate on the Bill be postponed until a later hour.
– A later hour. How late?
-That is a matter for the Government to decide.
– It is the intention of the Government to bring this very important measure forward this evening. As I understand it, that has already been indicated to the Opposition. The reason for postponing the measure at this point is that we are waiting for the Minister for Primary Industry and Leader of the House to return from a commitment in Sydney. He will be here later this evening and it is our intention to proceed.
- Mr Deputy Speaker -
-Order! The subject matter before the House at the moment is the suggestion that the Brigalow Lands Agreement Amendment Bill be debated cognately with the Beef Industry (Incentive Payments) Bill. The honourable member for Melbourne Ports received the indulgence of the Chair to make a comment and to ask a question, which was answered by the Minister. At this point I am afraid that he is transgressing the business orders of the House. We should proceed to the question whether it is the wish of the House to have a general debate covering the subject matter of both Bills.
– Again I seek the indulgence of the House. It is near enough to 10 o’clock at night -
-Order! I suggest, with all due respect, that the honourable member for Melbourne Ports is mentioning something that has no relevance. He is taking up the time of the House. The question has been answered by the Minister and I suggest that we proceed with the business before the Chair.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, if I may say so, with all respect, I do not want to move dissent from your suggestion but all I am saying is that consideration of a very fundamental measureOrder of the Day No. 7, the Australian Rural Bank Bill- has been deferred. Let me say to my friend at the table, the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, whom I respect and who I think respects me, that if the Government is going to rush business through in this way it is on the Government’s head. If I may say so to you, Sir, you know what that means. We are to debate Orders of the Day Nos 8 and 9. How long are we to sit tonight?
-Order! The honourable member for Melbourne Ports sought the indulgence of the House to raise a matter. He has mentioned it. I think that the Chair has been very tolerant with him. The House agreed to the motion to postpone Order of the Day No. 7. The proposal before the House now is that the Bills be debated cognately. I think it would be wise if we proceeded with that. I ask again: Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering both measures?
– I want to know why you want to defer Order of the Day No. 7.
-Order of the Day No. 7 has been deferred. The motion has been agreed to by the House. We have proceeded to Orders Nos 8 and 9.
– Are you going to deal with it tonight?
-Order! The honourable member for Chifley will remain silent.
– It is common sense. That is all he is asking.
– I suggest that the honourable member for Chifley exercises common sense.
– I have been exercising it. I have been here for a long time.
-Order! The House has agreed to the motion that Order of the Day No. 7 be deferred until a later hour. The proposal now before the House is that the Brigalow Lands Agreement Amendment Bill and the Beef Industry (Incentive Payments) Bill be debated cognately.
– So you are still going to rush the Bill through.
-Order! The honourable member for Chifley will not continue to interject and interrupt on this matter. The suggestion by the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Fife) that the Bills be debated cognately is the only matter before the House at the moment.
– I want to speak to the proposal to debate the Bills cognately. Surely debating the Bills cognately means shortening the process. All I am asking is why you are shortening the processes. Surely we are entitled to know. I hope that my friends will take two or three hours to debate Orders Nos 8 and 9. If they do, when will we get back to Order of the Day No. 7?
– I suggest that the honourable member has been a member of the House long enough to know that that has no relevance to the proposal before the House.
– I raise a point of order -
-The honourable member for Chifley will resume his seat. The point of order has no relevance -
– You ought to have more respect for one of the most honoured members of this Parliament.
-The honourable member for Chifley will remain silent. I suggest to the honourable member for Melbourne Ports that whatever time the House gets back to the other legislation has no relevance to the matter now before the House. Anything the House has decided previously has not relevance to the legislation to which the honourable member refers. I suggest to the honourable member for Melbourne Ports that the deferral of Order of the Day No. 7 until a later hour this day has no relevance to the proposal to discuss the two measures cognately.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, with all respect, I believe that the matter before the House is whether we shall have a cognate debate. If you want to argue that we should not have a cognate debate, we can take a lot of time about it. I think that to have a cognate debate in respect of Orders of the Day Nos 8 and 9 is sensible.
– What is this all about?
– Surely people in this Parliament have some respect for sensible ordering of business -
– And the institution.
– And the institution of Parliament.
– I suggest that if the House does not agree to a cognate debate, the Bills should be discussed separately. That is the only matter before the House. If it is not the wish of the House to have a cognate debate, to have a general debate covering both measures, the House will proceed to discuss both measures separately. Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering both measures?
-I presume that the Bill before the House is the Brigalow Lands Agreement Amendment Bill. It is one of two pieces of legislation before the House arising from the statement by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) on additional assistance to the beef industry made in this House on 22 September. The Bill itself authorises the deferment of payments under the brigalow agreement for a period of 12 months from July 1977 to July 1978 without penalty to the persons who are required to make the payments and also without penalty to the Queensland Government. The Bill, in fact, legalises the agreement between the Commonwealth Government and the Queensland Government to assist that section of the beef industry in the brigalow area which is in extreme difficulties because of the poor market conditions and the lack of cash flow available to persons involved in beef production in that area. The whole crux of this Bill and the related measure, which the House will debate at a later stage, is to provide some cash flow assistance. Mr Deputy Speaker, with your indulgence I will refer to the other measure briefly because the two Bills are so interrelated it is almost impossible not to debate them, as I would have hoped we would have been able to resume debate on the ministerial statement.
These two pieces of legislation scratch the surface and little more in solving the long terms problems of the beef industry. Recently we had an indication from the Japanese Government that an additional 10,000 tonnes of beef will be received by Japan this year. That is a breakthrough but honourable members will have noted in the Press in recent days that the Japanese Government has indicated also that it is reducing the domestic price for beef- which, I think, is not before time. It may well increase Japanese consumption. Inputs into the industry by the bureacracy- in this case the private bureaucracy within Japan- bring the product, which I think would sell in greater quantities but for the exorbitant price, to Japanese consumers at a price in excess of $6 per kilogram. The price received under existing agreements for Australian sales of beef in Japan is considerable less than $2 a kilogram, the differential being made up of moneys which are taken out of the beef industry by the Livestock Industry Promotion Corporation, an organisation which controls the imports, the marketing and the retail sale outlets of beef within Japan.
Today we became aware of an alarming announcement by the United States of America that there is a suggestion that the American imports will be varied on a year to year basis. For the Australian beef grower, this is a very serious suggestion because the United States constitutes the major and best Australian market. Australian beef does not constitute a serious threat within that market, representating a very small proportion, a complementary proportion, of the American market. The American Secretary of Agriculture has suggested that a cyclical import arrangement may be introduced whereby imports would be at a higher level in some years than in others. This would destroy almost totally any hope of rationalising the beef industry within Australia and any hope of bringing about the sorts of market reforms and export market stability which are important if the industry is to be returned to a viable state. I think it is important also to point out that the problems which confront the beef industry are long term problems which are concerned with not only terms of trade but also the weakness in the market place of the beef producer. He is extraordinary weak, as are most primary producers in the market place. Until recent years he has tended to resist, to his own detriment, change in methods of marketing his products or means by which his products come to the market place.
Very largely he has been a conformist with the auction system and has allowed himself to be manipulated by persons better organised and more commercial in the market place. The Japanese operation of our exports, for instance, is a perfect example. We send more than one bidder into the Japanese market place to sell beef to a single buyer with the result that we end up with the lowest possible price, not the best price for our export product, which disadvantages the grower but not the meat companies which are selling in the market because their bidding in the auction system is arranged so that their share of the price is taken out and the grower gets the thin end of the stick. It is as simple as that and that is the basic problem through the whole of the industry.
There obviously are problems in other areas where assistance could be rendered. This Bill merely attempts to remove a disability from one section of the beef industry which has been extremely hard hit. In some areas of the industry it has been suggested that this type of agreement should be more uniformly spread among and passed on to other growers who have not dissimilar problems, but at the moment I suggest that the House ought to be considering- it should have done so much earlier- arrangements by which the industry can have a type of stability and the grower can be given undertakings or have market arrangements established which will enable him to receive a reasonable price for his product. One does not sell any product other than primary products in Australia to the bidder, quite often a single bidder, for the price the purchaser wishes to pay. If I may just use a parallel, a person does not go to General-Motors or to the Ford Motor Company and bid for a motor car because they do not wheel them out the gate and say: ‘What will you give us for them’. They tell you how much you will pay. But the cattle grower and most other primary producers do in fact take their products to the market place and say to the buyer: ‘How much will you give me for it?’ They accept, and are forced to accept, whatever price is offered.
There is some movement in the area of beef classification. It is slow and it has taken the Government a long time to agree to underwrite such a scheme when it is accepted. The pressure coming from the industry itself is most likely the greatest that has been experienced in any primary industry. I suggest that it is pressure which ultimately will bring about a far stronger primary industry in Australia. I do not believe that those who go quietly or tend to feel that it is nasty or not proper to put their documented and proper cases before governments, and to go public if necessary, in order to have their industry problems dealt with seriously on the basis of the industry’s real needs and the real needs of those who are participating in that industry, do themselves any service. It is important that the spokesmen for the industry put their case firmly and without favour. For too long political considerations often have overridden the needs of an industry and the case has been put not on the basis of the needs of the industry but quite often on the basis of industry politics, organisational politics or just straight out party politics. I think that has now passed.
We are going through a phase of change in primary industry organisations which ultimately will be to the good of the whole of primary industry. I believe the other thing which is to the good of primary industry itself is that the producers are corning to the view in most industries that it is necessary for them to have marketing arrangements which will enable them to sell their products from the strongest possible position.
If I may refer to other sections of the beef industry statement which was made by the Minister for Primary Industry which is the derivative of the legislation we have before us and therefore very relevant to that piece of legislation, the Minister announced a scheme under which $10 a head up to 200 head could be made available to beef growers for various processes which could be undertaken by them. Among the processes are spaying, drenching and other control measures including measures associated with the brucellosis eradication campaign, which is an area in which the Government ought to have some concern. It would seem to me that the program of eradication very likely will not be completed at the due date and if this happens it could have an effect on overseas markets especially in the United States and in Europe. There are serious problems arising from the very shortage of funds within the industry whereby control measures are unable to be implemented. I am certain that the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Fife), who is sitting at the table, will realise there are problems between his State of New South Wales and the State of Victoria because programs are progressing at different rates and according to different timetables which, if they are not altered very soon, will result in almost having to create a sea of where the River Murray is in order to protect those areas in which brucellosis has been eradicated from those areas in which the program is not as well advanced.
There is another problem which certainly affects New South Wales and which, I think, affects other States. This could be the subject in the not too distant future of industrial problems within the industry if it is not solved at a political level, and that is the workers compensation side of the brucellosis eradication campaign as regards infection and the problems associated with abattoirs involved in the program. I think some action by the Federal Government is necessary in this area in order to make sure firstly that those abattoirs which are properly equipped and are able to deal with infected animals are utilised without disability to the grower or to persons working within the industry. Also the anomalous problems within the workers compensation legislation and the problems that are being aggravated because insurance companies are forced to protect their interests in the area of workers compensation should be ironed out. I understand that discussions are taking place on this between the States and the people within the industry, but it does constitute a threat which I think is understandable. The disease is communicable to human beings. There is at least evidence that the disease has been caught unknowingly by human beings. There also is evidence to suggest that it is extremely difficult to establish that the disease has been caught in the work place and this involves a serious problem of workers’ compensation. I raise that matter because all the assistance in the world and all the goodwill in the world will not solve the problems of the industry unless the smaller problems of those who work in the industry are looked at. This particular problem could have serious repercussions.
Tonight I will not mention the need for the animal health laboratory, which is currently deferred. I merely point out that the industry may well suffer very serious losses if the Government continues to defer that project indefinitely. It is an insurance project and it is a long term insurance project because its completion will take eight years. We are running on luck at the moment, or hope, in that area and we must hope that we have eight years plus to allow for whatever delays are placed in the way of the completion of that project.
Finally, I think the House should realise that we may well in the future have considerably more of this type of legislation before the House unless there is a substantial change in the approach to marketing, a speeding up of the classifications scheme and an approach to the industry whereby not only do the processors get their share but the employees in the abattoirs and other processing works get their share and the growers get their share. In the United States at the moment the grower receives something like 56 per cent of the retail price. In Australia it is below 35 per cent and in many cases far lower than that. The industry cannot continue to operate unless the grower’s share of the price in the market place is comparable with his costs in placing his product in the market place. The product should be sold on that basis. I repeat what I said before: People cannot go to the Ford or to General Motors and say: ‘We will give you $2,000 for a car’. The companies would laugh and say that it costs $7,000 or $10,000 or whatever it is and that if the people do not want the car they do not have to buy it. That sort of thing cannot quite be done with cattle, but plenty of perishable products are sold in the market place on the same basis. It should be possible and is possible to devise marketing methods which will guarantee the grower a price which is comparable with what he is entitled to expect from the market place.
We are not good sellers. I suggest that we are poor sellers in the export areas because there is no reason that the exporting companies need to obtain a better price. The situation in Japan and in other areas where exporters compete against one another for contracts on the basis of who can bid the lowest is not in the best interests of the industry. The Australian Meat and Live-stock Corporation should be in the market place seeking the best possible price. I am extremely concerned at statements made by the newly appointed chairman of that organisation that it will not operate differently from the old Australian Meat Board, the reason the legislation for the Corporation was put through this Parliament, the reason it was sought by the industry and the reason it should be acceptable to the industry is that it was expected to operate differently. It expected to play a more vigorous and a more active role in the market place and in the industry. If it is, as the new chairman has said, not to be different from the Australian Meat Board the value of the organisation is nil. I am certain that the industry itself is not prepared to accept that situation. I can inform the House that the Opposition would expect the Corporation to act in the manner in which this Parliament and the industry expects it to act and not in the way in which the old Meat Board acted. The legislation was passed for specific reasons. If the chairman is not prepared to carry out the provisions of the legislation actively I think the industry is entitled to demand that a person be appointed to that position who will.
The Opposition does not oppose this Bill or the subsequent legislation which will come before the House. It merely points out that this legislation is at best a patching operation and at worst an operation which will provide little relief and, in the case of the Beef Industry (Incentive Payments) Bill, possibly financial administrative nightmares for those people who become involved in seeking assistance under it. It is legislation which is aimed to assist. For that reason the Opposition does not oppose the Bill but points out that far more substantial areas of government activity are required if there are not to be many more such Bills to prop up sections of the industry.
– Notice has been received from the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) that on Thursday General Business No. 9 he will move:
That in the opinion of this House trade union votes in elections should only have validity when a reasonable pro- . portion of those entitled to participate have exercised that right at secret ballots properly conducted.
-The Brigalow Lands Agreement Amendment Bill amends the Brigalow Lands Agreement Act of 1962. That Act was amended previously in 1965 and 1967. This Bill deals with problems being endured by people who are in the area covered by the Brigalow Lands Agreement Act. I recognise, as do most people who understand the problems of beef producers today, that there are people outside the area concerned who also need assistance. Nevertheless, this is one of the areas of great difficulty. It is an area where there has been probably as great a financial problem as any other area in the beef industry. Since this Bill has been brought in to help those people I think that we can look at the expansion of the scheme to areas which are possibly almost as much entitled to relief as are those people.
Because of lack of time we cannot have as many speakers as I am sure would like to speak to the Bill. I know that the honourable member for Dawson (Mr Braithwaite) and the honourable member for Capricornia (Mr Carige) were anxious to speak but cannot do so because of the limitation of time. There has to be a limitation of time. We cannot go on forever. We have to get the bosiness of the House through before the Parliament is dissolved. Those two members have expressed to me their disappointment at not being able to speak to the Bill. However, I will comment on some of the views that they expressed in relation to it.
Under the Brigalow Lands Agreement Act Queensland is required to repay loans and interest made to the State by the Commonwealth for the purchase and development of brigalow lands. The scheme was warmly welcomed by the State Government when it was first introduced. At that time it seemed that it would be a development scheme which would have tremendous value to the State and would be viable and beneficial to those people participating in it. It was no fault of the people engaged in it that it did not proceed as expected and provide a satisfactory development scheme. The difficulties that the people are experiencing in the area are beyond their control.
Brigalow land is a highly productive type of land. A lot of the land is used for the production of agricultural crops. The brigalow land in the area where the scheme applies is confined largely to the production of beef. Because of the disastrously low export prices continuing over some period of time, these people are in grave financial difficulties. The export price of beef so affects the domestic price. These people are now producing at well below the cost of production. They cannot go on just doing that. The settlers have been placed in an impossible position in endeavouring to meet their commitments and to carry on. The difficulties that they have faced are very great. They have certainly done their best. We must give credit to them for the courage and determination with which they have faced their problems. They have endeavoured to try to meet their commitments. But the Government now, realising this position, has agreed to extend the consideration which is outlined in this Bill. The people concerned certainly deserve what is being done for them.
Under the Bill the Commonwealth Government is willing to grant concessions to the State Government m respect of repayments to the Commonwealth by the State, but it does require that similar concessions be made by the State to the settlers in the brigalow areas. I am sure that the State is only too anxious to do so and will cooperate fully with the Commonwealth in that regard. The Commonwealth and the Queensland governments are anxious to assist the brigalow settlers under this scheme. It is quite obvious that the Commonwealth has made concessions to assist these settlers. The State Government welcomes it in helping it to provide assistance to the settlers through the concessions that are being granted to the State. There is no doubt that there will be no problem between the governments on that aspect. There will be a cooperative effort.
It is, however, proposed that a 12-month moratorium on repayments to the States will be accepted by the Commonwealth. The repayments of principal will be deferred and spread over the following years. This is a measure which has been successfully applied in other areas. I remember the Agricultural Bank in Queensland, of its own volition, adopting that sort of procedure. Loans were made available over a 20-year period. Borrowers striking difficult times appealed to the Agricultural Bank which decided whether to fund the outstanding payments over the period of the loan. It decided that it would fund outstanding payments over the period of the loans. I was in an area where this applied and all the people I knew who were affected fulfilled their commitments. When one is dealing with primary industries and the vagaries, the difficulties and the unreliability of markets this is certainly a proposal or an idea that should be considered and applied. I believe that this proposal incorporating that idea is a very good one. Interest which would normally be payable over the period will be waived. One aspect of this concession is that it is being provided by the Commonwealth for one year on the condition that the State Government agrees to extend a similar concession to the settlers, according to need, for an average two-year period.
There may be some comment- I have heard some comment- that the State feels that perhaps the Commonwealth might provide sufficient funds to cover that two-year period and not have this requirement. That is one of the matters that I have heard debated. But that is how the present situation stands. What we are most concerned about is that the brigalow settlers should get the concessions and relief that they are justly entitled to receive. The period over which the payments are made at present is 20 years but the Government has quite generously, I contend, agreed to extend this period to 27 years in relation to the State’s commitment to the Commonwealth and once again providing that the State apply similar relief measures to the settlers concerned. I have no doubt at all that the State Government will be prepared to meet that requirement, but when one is dealing in a business way these things have to be stated.
I am hopeful that this concession will enable the brigalow settlers to. carry on their work in developing the brigalow area and enable them to keep in business until, hopefully, the market price of cattle rises to enable them to show a profitable operation. I concede that one of the things that confronts this Government is to do everything in its power to assist in whatever way it can to enable those prices to rise. The Australian Meat and Live-stock Corporation has a responsible job on its hands. I am not going to condemn it at this stage, as it has already been condemned, before it has an opportunity to prove what it is able to achieve. It is a new organisation. I think we should give it an opportunity. I have no doubt that avenues are available whereby the supplydemand situation can be improved. We must look for more markets. We must develop the ones we have. As has been stated, the Japanese market has been expanded to take another 10,000 tonnes of Australian beef. Provided we can do that and at the same time keep our production to a level so that we can reasonably expect to get profitable prices for our beef, that is the soundest of all bases for the continuing prosperity of the beef industry.
The people who have been working in this industry have suffered greatly. Those of us who have watched this problem and have been concerned with it have a great deal of satisfaction in seeing that these people are at least going to get this degree of assistance. If further concessions are needed they will be a matter for consideration in future and I believe they will be, and certainly should be, sympathetically considered by this Government. The relief granted by way of a moratorium on both principle and interest will be a significant measure to give assistance to those in that area. That is what we are doing at present. There is no doubt that the people there have suffered a great deal. They are poverty stricken in many instances through no fault of their own. The States of Queensland has had to bear its share of responsibility to ensure the average two years’ moratorium that I have mentioned for those in need in the brigalow. Area 3 of that scheme is mainly situated within the federal division of Dawson. It is for that reason that I mentioned that the federal member for Dawson was so concerned about the matter and was anxious to be able to put the case for his constituents when this Bill was debated.
– He is not here.
-He is a very good member. He would not be able to speak on this Bill if he were here because of the time limitation. I have already mentioned that and I think it is unfair to condemn him for that.
– I am not condemning him.
– The honourable member is condemning him. If he were here he would not be able to speak because of the time factor. I have mentioned that a couple of times. However, while building up the properties and enocuraging the bouyancy of the beef market we have to remember that these breeding herds were acquired at high prices when these people were starting. They had that difficulty. They went in when the prices were high, when the industry was thriving. This factor is on top of the problems that they struck later. So they really had no chance. The Government must remember that. These people are excellent settlers. They deserve the consideration that they are being given. Until prices get back to a more profitable level the Government will have to continue to give them the consideration that they are justly entitled to receive.
With other commitments the loans that they have received have increased through high interest rates, and without the relief currently being offered by the moratorium the financial burden that these people have to carry would be impossible to bear. The moratorium will bring immediate financial relief from some of the loan redemptions. Coupled with the $2,000 grant program which is contained in the Beef Industry (Incentive Payments) Bill, which is being debated cognately with this Bill, these things we hope will be sufficient for these pioneer settlers to ride this trough and get over this two-year relief period when there will be a return to higher market prices and hopefully full viability. It is the desire and the duty of this Government to see that this is achieved.
It should also be appreciated that the Commonwealth has assisted with a cash flow to those settlers with children with the alteration of family allowances. But that is outside the scope of this Bill. However, it indicates that the Government is deeply concerned with the problems that these people face. The package for beef may not be the complete answer but it will be an inducement for the States also to co-operate and be an encouragement to private lending institutions and to the settlers and beef producers themselves to assist towards a final recovery which I believe will come. Those people who are trying to forecast beef prices for the future have a hopeful outlook. But the people who are in severe financial difficulties now cannot wait for that time. Their interest payments are accruing at such a rate that unless they get this type of assistance they will not be able to see this time through. Therefore, it is vitally necessary that we should give it to them. We need the short term assistance to bridge the gap until some other longer range program on beef classification and a marketing scheme are given a firmer basis to guarantee a stable market price. That is the situation at which we have arrived at present. I want briefly to touch on the Beef Industry (Incentive Payments) Bill. I have mentioned the Australian Beef and Live-stock Corporation, the problems that -
- Mr Deputy Speaker, could I seek your indulgence because I am rather confused in view of the events -
– Is this a point of order?
– It is a point of order. I am not normally confused by the happenings in this House but on this occasion I am confused and I seek a ruling from you, Mr Deputy Speaker.
– Just a minute. He is still speaking.
– I am raising a point of order.
-The honourable member will raise his point of order and raise it quickly.
-And I will not be bustled by the honourable member for Bendigo. My point of order is this, Mr Deputy Speaker, and I seek your guidance on it: I am somewhat confused as to which Bill we are discussing. As I understand it, leave was not granted to have a cognate debate.
– You should have been here earlier.
– I was in here the whole time.
– In regard to the point of order raised by the honourable member for Banks, there is no leave. It was a matter of suggestion to the House. When the honourable member for Melbourne Ports discussed other matters I said that if the House did not want to consider the Bills in a cognate debate they could be debated separately. I again put the question: Is it the wish of the House to have a cognate debate on the subject matter of both Bills? At that point of time there was no objection. I called the honourable member for Corio on the understanding that this was a cognate debate before the House.
-The Bills are interlocking because the Beef Industry (Incentive Payments) Bill affects the viability of the beef producers under the Brigalow Lands Agreement Amendment Bill. It is only common sense that the Bills should have been debated cognately, and I am grateful that permission to do that was granted. I mentioned the problems which the Australian Meat and Live-stock Corporation will have to face. The incentive payments which have been granted by the Government to the beef industry generally will be of assistance. The angle is that the assistance which is being granted will help to tide beef producers generally over the very difficult period that they are experiencing at the present time.
The Bill provides a basic eligibility criterion, which is the ownership of 50 or more cattle kept for beef production on 30 June 1977. That is a pretty generous low level from which this benefit can be provided. Eligible persons may be paid up to $10 a head, to a maximum of $2,000, in respect of recognised procedures in relation to control of disease, including drenching and other treatments carried out in the normal operations of the effective production of beef. I mention also the spaying of female cattle less than 2 years of age. I do not feel that we should keep the numbers of cattle as high as possible because there is a prospect that we will get good prices later on. Let us first get the good prices and we will build up the numbers following that. The idea of the incentive payments is to enable people to achieve some degree of prosperity or some level of return from their work. The spaying of young cattle will perhaps help to keep down production during the period when prices are low and expedite the return to more profitable production.
– Labor did not do this.
-No, it did not. Provision is made for the Minister to accept disease control measures other than those already mentioned if they fall within the spirit of the Bill. In order to expedite payments and achieve administrative economies, the Minister has pointed out that claims will be accepted only in the form approved by him. I emphasise the fact that these claim forms will be printed and distributed as soon as possible. It is intended that claims will be lodged with the Department of Primary Industry, Canberra. We want those forms sent out to the people concerned in order to ensure that they conform with the requirements of the Beef Industry (Incentive Payments) Bill and to make sure that the declaration made by the owner is in order so that there will then be no loss of payments to those people who are entitled to them but who perhaps have failed to meet the provisions of the Bill.
This Bill gives me very great satisfaction because it helps those people who are very much in need of help. It indicates that this Government is sympathetic to the primary producers of this country. It indicates also that if primary producers generally want sympathetic consideration they will get it from this Government. An examination of the history of our legislation, compared with that of legislation introduced by the Labor Party when in government, shows where the primary producers should place their faith and confidence in the future.
-Mr Deputy Speaker -
Motion (by Mr Garland) put:
That the question be now put. The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker-Mr P. E. Lucock)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Garland) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 2 November, on motion by Mr Sinclair:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I take the opportunity to talk about the beef industry incentive scheme. I was denied the opportunity in the cognate debate. I am sorry that only one member of the National Country Party is present. Nobody in the beef industry would deny that Australia has a great potential to extend its capacity. The basic market is the United States of America. A lot of capital is being made about new markets in Russia, Japan and certain other areas. The Australian beef industry at the moment, at its present level, is geared to the capacity of achieving markets in the United States, m terms both of firm quantities and firm prices. I am pleased to note the nods of approval from the other side. As Minister for Overseas Trade, I sought those sorts of conditions. I resent honourable members opposite saying that somehow or other this Government is so superior in what it has done since. We almost doubled our cattle capacity in a very short time. We did it on assurances of markets in the United States of America. That is the area that has fallen down. I do not know whether that is our fault or the fault of the United States.
As with so many other products, Australia can become one of the great food exporters of the world. It cannot become an exporter on the assumption that we will have supplies when there is famine in some parts of the world or when there is a fall in the price of grain in another part of the world. Surely we must have assurances. There are all sorts of international committees and what are called multilateral trade negotiations. We get caught up in a very admirable formula- in the belief that somehow we can arrive at a contrivance that makes fair prices for both consumers and producers. Whether a fair price for the producing country can necessarily be regarded as a fair price for the consuming country is surely what all the nonsense of the argument is about. There is no doubt that at the moment the future of the beef industry is caught up with whether we can sell more to the United States of America at a different price from the price at which we are selling to it now.
Why get into politics? Why argue that the present Government is doing much better than the Labor Government did? The Labor Government inherited the problem. It inherited an assurance from the United States that it would take certain quantities at what were regarded as fair prices. This may be my farewell speech. I have not asked for people of either side to be here, but it is one of those occasions that emerges. I am talking about a serious situation. Australia is potentially one of the biggest food exporters of the world, but it has to have assurances of both quantities and prices for what it is to export. If we fall back on to the home market, those in the National Country Party in particular will be in poverty for years. I think it is about time we faced up to this reality.
The Bill is called the Beef Industry (Incentive Payments) Bill. What are the incentives about? Are they about getting back to the old situation of having a high home price to subsidise exports at low prices, or are they about what we ought to be talking about, the new economic order? More than two-thirds of the world is short of food. Surely their hunger will not be satisfied by current beef prices? Let us face up to the reality of the situation. Those honourable members who represent country areas know the truth of what I am saying. Some day the world will have to face up to the fact. From memory, more than fourfifths of America’s grain sales are due to the production of meat that it consumes at home. Is Australia to get into that position? We can become an exporter of wheat on a large scale. We can become a major exporter of oats, maize and so on. We can become a large-scale exporter of beef, but beef is still the rich man’s food. Maybe we will have to grant some indulgences in the sale of lamb and get into arguments with the unions about whether it is sold live or dead. This gets into the realities of whether there is refrigeration in the countries to which it is sold.
This may be the last speech I make in this Parliament. I have expressed these thoughts in four or five speeches recently, but I think the issues are just as significant now. They will not be resolved in this Parliament. They will be resolved by sensible acknowledgement that Australia may well be a beleaguered country in the future. This country cannot sell ad lib unless it buys something in return. It is economic nonsense for any country to sell ad lib without buying. In the ultimate, no country should export unless it wants to import. Surely this is the hard lesson for Australia. In my view it is independent of who will be the government of this country in the next few months. I hope it is a Labor government. The present Government has done nothing in the two years it as been in office to face up to the fundamental economic problems of this country. I would put them almost in line. We are a beleagured country. I have said this jokingly sometimes: If by some jest of nature the Australian continent were turned upside down overnight so that all of us were drowned, we would be the least missed country in the world and the greatest grievers would be Greece and Italy which have supplied our most recently arrived migrants. The United Kingdom would have long ago forgotten us.
– That is not true. What about Prince Charles?
– I am simply putting a question to you gentlemen opposite. There are no ladies present here. This is indicative of how antiquated this place is. Is this not the reality of the situation? The Government is going to the people now arguing about whether inflation is this rate or unemployment is that rate. Where are the economic opportunities in Australia in the next two years irrespective of who is the government? The Government is trying to say that it has brought inflation down to less than double digit figures. Is 8 per cent in one year any worse than 1 6 per cent over two years, or is it less than 10 per cent or whatever it is in one year? Inflation of 8 per cent creates great economic problems.
– It is much less than 18 per cent.
– How much less, my friend? You taught economics.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! I suggest that the honourable member for Melbourne Ports is irrelevant enough at the moment without answering interjections. I think the honourable member might come back to the Bill.
– I am talking about the future of the beef industry.
– I think the honourable member has been talking about many other things as well.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I do not dissent from your bringing us back to the track, but occasionally in this Parliament we wander on strange tracks. The future of the beef industry in Australia at the moment in terms of total population of beef cattle potentially and otherwise is in the American market. There is marginal opportunity in Japan. Japan has a better Country Party than we have here. That makes the fat beer-fed beef of Japan what it is. The European market is closed, and the only market with potential is the United States. Oddly enough, there is not a single Country Party member in the House.
-That is not unusual.
-It is not unusual. It is not surprising either. The Government is making great capital out of what it is going to do for the beef industry. There are limits to the number of stomachs in Australia. The beef industry is built on the potential of one stomach outside Australia to one stomach in Australia. The main market where the Government will find the other stomach is not in Japan or Europe; it is in the United States.
I hope that my friend, the honourable’ member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) who spoke earlier- I have respect for him and I hope he has respect for me- will not mind when I say I am disturbed occasionally by what are called polemics or, in other terms, politics. Let us face realities, gentlemen. Is this not the situation? We can become one of the providers of food of the world. We may even ultimately have to shift from beef to grain production, but that is going to take a long time. Surely to goodness we have to think about it. We have been the lucky country. I made a speech recently about the meaning of the word ‘lucky’. I referred to a biblical translation: ‘The Lord was with Joseph and he was a lucky fellow’. When I looked it up in another modern translation it said: ‘ all went well with him ‘.
All is not going to go well with Australia unless it begins to adjust itself to the reality that we are 14 million people in a world of 3 billion. There are not too many people who love us and they will love us more only if we trade better. One of these areas where we have to trade better is in a sensible adjustment to what we can produce in terms of meat, grains and minerals. I was about to use the phrase ‘what the hell’, but I hesitate in this secular world to talk about hell because I do not think anybody now knows what Heaven is or what Hell is.
-Hell is a Labor Government.
-Well, one of the sad things now is the number of people we hear speaking on moral issues who, in my view, have no moral basis at all. Surely Australia, above all, is one country that depends on the rest of the world more than the rest of the world depends on Australia.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I would not have entered this debate but for the erroneous remarks made by a man whom I respect very much-the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean). He is a city man; he is a financial man, I am sure. He is not a cattle man. I took the stairs two at a time to come into this chamber to try to put him right, and to try to put the people of Australia right if they are listening to this debate. He was talking about our markets in Japan and the United States of America. I do not think he realised that they are entirely different markets from those to which most of the cattle exports from Australia, or northern Australia go. He was talking about the export of prime beef. He could not have been doing otherwise because we do not export other than prime beef to those markets. Of course, we do export manufacturing beef to the United States; let us face it. But the honourable member’s criticisms are completely wrong. His assumptions that we are selling top class beef to all the markets in the world are also wrong. We are not. What this Government is about is giving people the incentive to carry on their properties, to breed beef to sell to the people who are meat hungry. I have just come into the chamber to put the matter right.
– To whom would you sell it?
– I say to the honourable member for Prospect, who should be interested in exports to the Middle East and so on, that we would sell it on the hoof; we would sell it in any form we could. We are not only in the market for what the honourable member for Melbourne Ports was talking about. We are trying to sell beef, whether it be prime beef, manufacturing beef, cattle on the hoof, or whatever. That is what this Australian Government is all about. This Government is trying to sell the beef and it has marketing experts-
– At least we found out what this Government is all about.
– The honourable member for Prospect, who is not even sitting in his right seat, should get out into the country and find out what it is all about. I am here to rectify the error made by my respected colleague. He does not really know what he is talking about.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Garland) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 2 November, on motion by Mr Lynch:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I move:
It is almost 1 1 o’clock. I think it is time that the debate was adjourned.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker- Mr P. E. Lucock)
Question so resolved in the negative.
The Bill does few of the things which the Prime Minister intimated it would do. The proposed Australian Rural Bank certainly will not be structured as a statutory organisation, as the Prime Minister said in 1975 and reiterated as late as September this year. That statement was repeated at least once after that and also repeated by Senator Cotton in another place. The Bill also leaves in the air a number of the bank’s operating provisions and it fails to indicate what the interest rates will be, what the structure of the board will be and what restrictions will be placed on persons designated under the Bill as lenders.
The structure of the board is important because this is a company over which the Treasurer has some control, in that he will be empowered under the Act to take shares, but the policy of the Bank will be substantially controlled by those who make up its board. The only details contained in the Bill are in the Schedule to the Bill. They indicate that the Treasurer will appoint an independent chairman and there will be two representatives of primary industry. They do not indicate what the number of other representatives on the board will be, how they will be elected or from where they will be drawn.
The Bill indicates that a lender shall be a person who normally lends to primary producers. That must be the broadest definition that can be placed in any legislation. The Schedule sets out the ‘Requirements Applicable to Memorandum and Articles of Association of the Rural Bank’. It indicates that the board of the bank, in making loans- it is restricted to making loans to lenders; it cannot make loans to primary producers- shall take into account the shareholdings of the lenders seeking accommodation. The import of that is that, if a lender puts in a lot of money, his drawing rights apparently will be greater than those of a lender who puts in a smaller amount of money, even though the lender putting in the smaller amount of money may be servicing an area where the general financing structure is such that it may be that drawings on the bank are required far more than in another area. That may or may not be correct. Neither the Bill nor the second reading speech of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) gives any clear indication what the structure of the bank is to be. The Requirements Applicable to Memorandum and Articles of Association of the Rural Bank state: … or have a reasonable prospect of, successfully carrying on the business of primary production.
That applies to persons who will be able to obtain loans from lenders on the basis of funds drawn from the rural bank at a concessional rate of interest. Only those persons who have a reasonable prospect of successfully carrying on the business of primary industry will be eligible for loans from lenders. It is complicated but lenders are the only people who actually can borrow from the bank. Assuming, as all must under the terms of the Bill, that lenders mean finance companies, estate agents, banks or other organisations, such as co-operatives, which are operating in the financing of primary industry, there is clearly a conflict in the customer area in that the person, to receive a loan, must be viable and that in making a loan the organisation will be competing against its own normal lending policy in making the loan to that customer. The Bill does not indicate whether a concessional loan, which is made through the rural bank, will in fact carry the normal bank charges and secondary bank charges because of the additional operations which will be required.
The most important aspect of the Bill is that it does not meet the Government’s commitment. It certainly does not satisfy industry organisations which had been led to believe that a different type of bank would be established- a type of bank which would utilise the expertise already existing. It is important to note expertise in evaluating and assessing the loan applications is very important in the primary industry area. There are already in the area a large number of finance organisations which, if they were able to be drawn together, could most likely provide a very substantial lending apparatus for the rural sector but, in too many cases, the availability of finance is not readily known, certainly not utilised, by primary producers. One can assume only that it is because their financial advisers, usually the bank manager or the estate companies through whom they deal, are not able to give them the necessary advice.
I mention one case which was drawn to my attention recently. A dairy farmer in the Gippsland area went to his bank manager and was refused a loan. When he asked the bank manager whether he would give it to him in writing, the bank manager asked him why. The dairy farmer indicated that once he had been refused a loan by his bank he could seek accommodation through the rural finance organisation in Victoria. The bank manager, who was in an area where many people in similar circumstances were regularly refused accommodation, apparently did not know that this secondary service was available and that an application would be made on the basis of the bank s refusal and, most likely, through the bank. Hence people were being denied access to financial assistance which was available to them but which the people who would normally advise them financially did not know about.
I think that this legislation is destined for a very short currency. It does not meet the requirements that the Government itself set and indicated would be met. It certainly does not meet the requirements of sections of rural industry. For example, one of the more conservative organisations in the rural scene- the Australian Woolgrowers and Graziers Council- issued the following Press statement on 3 November after the introduction of this Bill: ‘While welcoming the establishment of the Australian Rural Bank, it is most disappointing that so many of the details are still vague and undefined. ‘
This was said today by Sir Sameul Burston, President of the Australian Woolgrowers and Graziers Council, in commenting on the Australian Rural Bank Bill which was introduced into Federal Parliament yesterday.
Sir Samuel said that in respect to the following areas, specific details were not provided in either the Bill or the Treasurer’s second reading speech: interests rates to be applied; criteria to be used for lending; guarantee of increased skills of loan appraisers; facility for producers to approach the Development Bank direct, without first being referred by trading banks; terms and conditions of loans. ‘AH these matters were the subject of detailed comment by AWGC to the Government over many months. We regard them as essential for the objective of the Bank- the provision of additional funds to primary producers over long termsto be achieved.’ ‘Until this additional information is provided, it is difficult to assess whether the Bank will satisfy primary producers’ legitimate requirements. ‘ ‘It may be that early amendments to the Act will need to be made in the new year, and AWGC will be maintaining close attention to this matter’, Sir Samuel concluded.
The proposal before the House is what one would have to call a beat-up proposal. It is about a bank for bankers. It is a proposal of the private banking organisation which tends to exclude or appears to exclude- it is extemely vague- the expertise of the Development Bank, for instance, in this area of lending. One would have to say that it would be desirable, as indicated in that Press release, for the Development Bank to be given the power to lend direct. It has the structural organisation. It would require only the removal of the lender of last resort provisions for that to be able to be done.
In this case we have a bank which will not be able to lend to primary producers but which will be in fact a re-financing organisation for lenders. The area over which the term ‘lenders’ can be spread is undefined. The definition in the Bill, as I indicated earlier, is extremely broad. It refers to lenders to primary producers. That it itself is a term which ought to be clearly defined. The capital to be provided under the Bill is not indicated in the second reading speech of the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) or in the Bill, although I understand from radio broadcasts that it is to be $45 m. As that was announced by the Treasurer the next morning, I wonder why it was not referred to in his second reading speech.
The other matter about which I think very serious concern must be expressed is that there is no clear indication of how the Board is to operate in making loans to lenders. The Schedule of the Bill clearly states that in making loans the Board must consider the shareholdings of lenders. Does that exclude persons who are not shareholders from seeking to borrow and therefore being able to pass on the benefits to their cutomers, or does it mean that the larger subscribers to shareholdings will have first call on available funds if funds come into short supply? These are matters which ought to be cleared up and on which the rural community is entitled to an explanation.
The Opposition is of the opinion that this Bill will have to be amended very substantially and that the conditions which are laid down for the operation of the Bank will have to be far more clearly explained. At this stage we can only say that whilst there may be some benefit to primary producers, it is more likely that the Bank will serve the needs of the private banking services, finance companies and estate organisations. It will in fact tend to create a far greater dependence among primary producers, especially those in difficult circumstances, on single lending organisations than is desirable and will not provide an opportunity for them to escape from financial commitments in an area where they would wish to move those commitments to a body which they think is more expert and more sympathetic to their cause. Apparently they will still have to go to their present bank manager, who may or may not be sympathetic, and line up at a different part of the counter to get their rural service from that part of the counter to which they go to get their normal banking service. Like the problems which were drawn to the attention of members of parliament not that long ago, they will be able to go to which window at what price. Previously it was the Bank window or the finance company window which caused very serious problems in many areas, especially for primary producers wishing to purchase such things as machinery. On this occasion we are going to have a window for rural bank refinancing, another window for the normal banking business of the bank. The conflict of interest which will exist is obvious.
There are considerable areas in which all that exists at the moment is mystery. There is little or no explanation of the method of operation. I have to say that I think that is because it has not been worked out yet. The Bill has been rushed into the House. I think that if the Government is given the opportunity we will see very substantial amending legislation in order to make into a viable organisation what at the moment is a beat-up proposition. I think it is absolutely necessary that the expertise which already exists in organisations such as the Commonwealth Development Bank should be utilised in the structure of this Bank. There is no indication in the Bill that this can be done and there does not appear to be any indication as to what role, if any, the Commonwealth banking organisations may be able to play in the company which is to operate the Rural Bank.
The Opposition moves that amendment as an expression of opinion. Because we are not opposing the Bill and because we feel that there may be explanations for some of the problems we have raised, we will not press the amendment. However, we have moved it because we believe that it expresses the opinions of primary industry organisations and certainly expresses what is a fact, that is, that this Bill does not meet the undertakings which were given by the Government to primary industry in relation to this legislation.
-Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment, Mr Deputy Speaker, and I exercise my right to speak to it. As my friend the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) has said, this Bill has been on the stocks for a considerable time. My understanding is that it provides for a capitalisation of $45m. I ask honourable gentlemen to look at a document entitled ‘A Review of Credit in the Australian Rural Sector’ which was issued to this Parliament in May 1977, 1 draw attention particularly to what is referred to at page 104 as rural indebtedness. The latest figures available are to the end of 1975, but I do not think the situation would have improved to the end of 1976. The figures show that the estimated gross rural indebtedness at the end of 1975 was $3,076m. What difference will a new institution with a capital of $45m, or roughtly one-seventieth of that indebtedness, make to the total situation?
– It will attract more than that.
-It will fill the gap.
-I am pleased to hear so many defenders of the ratio of $45 m to $3 billion, particularly from a Government that at the moment is indulging in a credit squeeze for the rest of the community.
– It will go on to the open market.
-At least listen to the realities.
– You read them first. It is not $45 m.
-Well, what is it?
-The $45m is just a start.
-My friend is explaining that it is not $45 m; it is something more than that. But what is it in relation to the total indebtedness of the farming community at the moment of $3 billion? Honourable gentlemen opposite have been arguing that somehow there is something wrong with what is called the Budget deficit, and that what is wrong with the Budget deficit is that it should not be increased. If rural credit is expanded from the sort of sources that are supposed to be available, is not the overall deficit increased? Is there not an argument at the moment about expanding credit? If I may say so, the National Country Party is dedicated to the principle of more for the farmers and less for the rest,
– You are half right.
– If I am half right, I have a 75 per cent success rate. Let us look at the figures. Of that $3 billion the major source is from the trading banks which at the moment provide $ 1,220m. That can be expressed as 12 over 30, which is a fairly large proportion. Pastoral finance companies provide $225m, the Commonwealth Development Bank $232m and assurance companies $104m. Ex-service settlements account for $58m. Other government agencies provide $5 54m. Those areas between them make up four-fifths of the available credit.
– All indebtedness does not have to be refinanced.
-There has to be a start, does there not? All I am suggesting is that honourable members are making a great emblazoning of this proposition that $45m in terms of total farmer indebtedness of more than $3 billion somehow will make the difference between survival and death of what particular farmers I do not know.
I sometimes said facetiously that until I became Treasurer it seemed that anybody anywhere in any part of Australia could go to any financial institution and get all the credit he wanted. Surely no honourable members believe that. It was easy when we had a Labor government. I am afraid that bank managers in particular condoned the exercise. They said: ‘The only reason you cannot get an overdraft now is because you have a terrible Labor Treasurer’.
– Nothing has changed.
-Nothing has changed. The only thing that has not changed- I am sure my friend the honourable member for Moore knows this- is that there are always more demands for credit than can be met. Choices have to be made between who gets credit and who does not. This is similar to something I said earlier tonight. I hope it will be accepted as a fundamental proposition. If honourable members believe that by this piece of legislation more credit will be made available to a particular area it is nonsense to say that credit cannot be made available to other areas. In a situation where something like a quarter of a million people are unemployed I think it is nonsense to suggest that if somehow unemployed manpower and available resources cannot be brought together it is adding to inflation. As I see it this is the essence of this debate. If there is a virtue in making credit available to the rural sector, why is there no virtue in making credit available to the non-rural sector?
I heard today asked of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) a question which arose out of a statement in today’s Australian Financial Review that certain economists from other parts of the world meeting at the Brookings Institutewhich is a body that collects together economists from all parts of the world- said that there should be expansionary policies. I am not objecting to additional credit being made available to the rural areas. All I am suggesting is that plenty of institutions already are available which can extend credit. Why do we have to have a new body to do this? Is the problem that the rural industries at the moment do not have credit or that the people who live in those areas are in situations of economic decadance? We cannot isolate one area of an economy from the rest.
The prosperity of the rural community in Australia depends upon two things, namely, that part of the product which one sells internally and that part of the product which one sells externally. Most of the members of the National Country Party of Australia whom I see around the chamber at the moment are in areas where the products which are produced are sold externally, such as wool, over 90 per cent; wheat, something like 75 per cent; sugar, as I understand it as least 66.6 per cent; dried fruits, if my friend at the back -
– No, he is dried fruits. I am canned fruits.
– The honourable member is not far from dried fruits. I thought the honourable members were a band of dedicated brothers with each for all and all for each so that what went wrong in one area might come right in another. In all seriousness, do members of the National Country Party think their problems will be improved one inch by setting up a new institution? Figures which I have show that $3 billion has been extended in rural credit one way or the other. The Government is setting up an institution with a capital of $45 m. Goodness knows how long it will take to start the institution. It certainly will not happen before 10 December, so the problems are not one whit abated by the passing of this measure tonight. The Government has talked about this proposal for nearly two years but it is just now in the process of doing something.
– You are against the legislation? You are against a rural bank?
-I am against the humbug. An additional amount of $45m will not abate the kinds of problems the honourable member thinks exist. If I am asked whether I deny that problems exist, the answer is no. I simply ask honourable members: ‘Do you think this tittle will make a fundamental difference to the problems which exist in rural industries in Australia?’ The problems of rural industries in Australia are bound up with the totality of Australian industry. I have the report of the Industries Assistance Commission before me. It states that we should not continue to export and do nothing about importing on the other side. I take it the honourable members in the National Country Party are involved with wheat, wool and sugar. They are not all concerned with minerals. We have to look at things like capital outflow or less imports of capital. Surely these are the central problems of the Australian economy at the moment.
I have said that a speech might be my final speech several times now but I find that things keep coming up. But I do not find that the answers keep coming up. We have problems of unemployment at the moment. There is a decline in the totality of manufacturing to absorb people. They certainly will not be absorbed in rural activity. Whether honourable members believe that this $45m in terms of $3 billion already committed on rural credit will make one very marginal difference to the totality, I do not.
-What would the Labor Party do?
– I am simply asking what the Government is doing. Honourable members opposite say that they are doing something by setting up this new institution. I simply say kindly that there is no shortage of financial institutions already in existence.
– But they will not give money over 30 years for rural properties.
-Then there is something wrong with the honourable member and his action on the Treasurer (Mr Lynch). I think my friend here, the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth), has sort of suggested that in a different fashion. Honourable members opposite regard him as a curiosity.
– No, he is our friend.
-He is at least closer to the honourable member now than he used to be but he does not get too many seconders for his propositions.
– So in the Labor Party’s view there is no need for a rural bank?
– In my view, there is not. There are rural sections in the existing trading banks. There is the Commonwealth Development Bank. There is the Rural Bank of New South Wales. There is a bank in Western Australia which is supposed to be a rural bank. There is a section in Victoria called rural rehabilitation and so on. The provision of another $45m will have no effect before 10 December. If some honourable members think that that is the answer to the problems I am sure my friend the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) in a way does not. Years ago we had the arguments about the McEwen Bank and the McMahon Bank. We have one or other of them now, I am not quite sure which, but honourable members opposite still think there is a deficiency in totality, and so do I.
One has only to read the Industries Assistance Commission report and documents written 30 years ago by what was called the Rural Reconstruction Committee to see that they said that one of the great deficiencies always is the provision of rural credit. We know that the difficulty of rural credit is that the producer has to produce at the beginning of the year, there are hazards between the beginning of the year and the production of the crop, and somehow the producer has to carry on. He has been accommodated by banks, by pastoral companies and by what they call their own co-operative systems. But what is it now that honourable members opposite think will breech this fundamental deficiency by the production on the eve of an election of something that they call this Australian Rural Bank? If honourable members opposite believe that I think they will believe anything, and sometimes I think they do believe anything. I think they believe there is nothing in the future. Australia’s future depends on industry. It depends on primary activity and upon the exports of primary products. This is one of the great problems of the National Country Party’s great man years ago, Mr McEwen. He used to say that we do not determine the prices overseas; we have to live with them. Tins is still true. I think one of the great curiosities is that at the same time the Japanese were haggling that the price of sugar was too high we were haggling that the price of iron ore was too low.
– What about when Chile would give us a good price for our wheat and the waterside workers would not load it?
-How much of the total export of wheat did Chile take?
– It was 5. 1 per cent.
– In recent times our problem has been that we have had less wheat to deliver to potential customers who needed it. Honourable members opposite pick one extreme. At the moment our great problem is that because of seasonal circumstances we have less wheat to deliver than we would like to deliver. In my view this is the final problem. One of the great difficulties still facing Australian rural activity is that of seasonal problems but we also have to get certainty of markets if we are to be the supplier to the rest of the world.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I regard this measure as a tremendously beneficial one for the rural sector. It is unfortunate that members of the Opposition do not seem to comprehend its intent, its purport and its embrace. In terms of the capital initially to be provided for the Australian Rural Bank, the concept is, of course, not that all borrowings will be covered by equity contributed to the Bank. Indeed a borrowings to equities ratio is one of the fundamentals of business. The incapacity of the Labor Party to understand the functioning of a bank such as this illustrates yet again the degree to which the ideas of business and the Labor Party differ.
There certainly will be a capacity, through the funds contributed by way of the income equalisation deposits and in other ways from the Government, to provide for a more beneficial lending rate than would otherwise be possible. I see the Australian Rural Bank in this form as completely identical with the undertaking given by us in our rural policy speech prior to the 1975 election. That document of November 1975 stated:
We intend to establish a National Rural Bank in conjunction with trading banks and other lenders in the rural sector to provide rural credit to cover the investment in land.
The bank will also finance machinery, plant, stock and farm equipment, lend for farm development projects for the expansion of existing projects and refinance existing short term rural debts.
It is envisaged that the bank would function by relending through existing financial institutions but may be involved in direct lending in some instances.
As a refinance institution, staff will be kept to a minimum and security and other documentation held and processed by the on-lending financial body.
So much for the contention in the motion of the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) that in some way this legislation dishonours the 1975 election promise. On the contrary, it is completely identical with that promise. I believe that this legislation is in a form that will be beneficial to primary producers.
In terms of the extension, it is true that there will need to be memoranda and articles established by those who will be the prime lenders. We look to that being undertaken in a very short time and we look thereafter to the early introduction of the product of the Australian Rural Bank which will be the refinance institution itself.
It is true that this is an unusual piece of legislation. It is legislation designed to facilitate a body operating in the manner and in the way that my colleague the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) mentioned in his second reading speech. The purpose of this legislation is to facilitate existing private mechanisms. But those private mechanisms, contrary to suggestion made in this House tonight, are to be constrained by directions given by the Treasurer which are intended to ensure the longer term of lending and the beneficial interest rate where funds are contributed by the Commonwealth. Initially, through the application of income equalisation deposits, we believe it should be possible through this bank to achieve advances for longer term at about the same rate as achieved for overdraft accommodation of similar amounts on short term loan. The objective is to ensure that that is so by means of the provision of funds from the income equalisation deposits which, of course, are referred to in the accompanying legislation.
No one contends that this measure overnight will correct all the financial problems of primary producers. It will certainly reduce the extent to which they require continued capital repayments of a significant amount. It should enable many of them to finance more viably enterprises which at the moment have been only marginally capable of being financed under existing lending terms. With the borrowings to supplement the equity and with a range of institutional and other lenders who can participate, we see this institution as being a very worthwhile extension to the finance facilities available to the rural sector. Equally the measure is designed to assist those who are involved in the fishing industry at a time when the extension of our fishing zone to 200 miles will necessitate a different type, character, size and extent of vessel. Again we see this measure as being as worth while for them as it will be for primary producers.
I turn to the Development Bank. It is true that for the purposes of plant, machinery, stock and other short term loans direct lending is already available from the Development Bank. It is available at interest rates more beneficial than those available from any other institution. In relation to other advances- that is, predominantly those on longer term loans, land and security of land- the general restraints now applying to the Development Bank will continue. Loans should be made only when funds are not otherwise available. However, the extension to the Development Bank of a capacity to finance under this Bill will, I am sure, also ensure that the Development Bank can extend the facilities that it will provide to the rural community.
I believe this measure to be very worthwhile, with its provision for access henceforth to longer term credit at concessional rates of interest, subject to the funds being provided by the Commonwealth. I see in all those instances a Bill which not only fulfils the policy undertaking of the Government in 1975 but also provides a very worthwhile extension of the financial facilities for primary producers throughout Australia. I commend the Bill to the the House.
– I wish to comment on only one or two aspects of the Australian Rural Bank Bill. The measure has considerable interest for rural people. It comes before the House and the people amid expectations of rural people, some of which, unfortunately, are not completely realistic. I wish to quote from the policy document of the Liberal and National Country parties brought out prior to the last election. I wish to do that lest anyone take seriously the amendment to the motion for the second reading of the Bill. The policy document reads:
Interest payable would be at bank interest rates for medium term loans and marginally better for long term loans.
It is envisaged that the bank would function by re-lending through existing financial institutions but may be involved in direct lending in some instances.
The Liberal and National Country parties made it quite clear before the last election what they had in mind in relation to their proposal to set up the Rural Bank. I wish to say something about why they had that sort of proposition in mind, why they are legislating to implement that sort of proposition, and why they are not legislating for substantially subsidised interest rates. What happens if at any time an average interest rate must be struck for purposes of economic management? I remind the House that the interest rate is a major tool of economic management. If the interest rate is to be reduced in portion of the credit market surely it is axiomatic that it must be increased in the remainder of the market if that same average is to be struck. If interest rates were to be reduced for the rural sector, they would necessarily have to increase in relation to housing, industry and so on.
The second reason why it would be undesirable to have a substantially lower interest rate for portion of the economy is that it would be built into the cost of that portion. It would happen in this way. These borrowings in the main would be used to purchase land and if the returns from that land were enhanced by reducing the cost of money that purchased the land, the price of that land would rise accordingly. In other words, that interest rate would be capitalised and the amount of money which a farmer would have to find to service that debt would be very close to what it would have been at the higher interest rate. Nothing has been done to make life easier for that farmer.
Unfortunately in interest rates, as in most other matters, there are no easy free lunches. The terms and conditions under which loans will be made have been deliberately left flexible so that the lending under the auspices of the rural bank can take up the genuine credit gaps. The purpose of the rural bank is to fill what is perceived as a credit gap which has arisen because the existing lending institutions were not suitable to the demands of the market; and particularly we are thinking of the longer term loans and property purchases. The rural bank will facilitate lending, particularly in the longer term. It will not overcome all problems as has been said already. For instance, it will not assist in the situation where the income of the enterprise will not service further borrowings and the most substantial problem in rural areas and among rural people is not inadequate access to funds but inadequate ability to service further borrowings and to expand the business. I, therefore, have no hesitation in supporting the Bill as it stands.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Clauses 1 and 2- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
Tuesday, 8 November 1977
In this Act, unless the contrary intention appears- ‘primary production’ means production resulting directly from-
– I move:
This is a Bill to give preferential treatment to certain types of industry. Of course we must think of those types of industry which are most valuable to the Australian economy as a whole. Everybody has a sympathy with farmers in their difficulties. They are real difficulties. One would want to offer help to farmers, provided it did not penalise other sections of industry, but from the point of view of the Australian economy as a whole- I am not speaking about social things; I am speaking about economic things- the most valuable and productive section of the economy is the mineral section. This is the section in which, from the Australian point of view, the most opportunity lies. It is a form of primary production. In reality, it is just as much primary production as is farming or fishing. From the point of view of the economy, it is more valuable than any other form of primary production. Nationally, this is the section which should get the most preferential help, because it is the section which is most likely to bring Australia out of its present financial difficulties.
Motion (by Mr Bourchier) agreed to:
That the question be now put. Amendment negatived. Clause agreed to.
Clauses 4 to 6- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
– I move:
In sub-clause ( 1 ) insert ‘by regulation’ after ‘may ‘.
This clause gives the Treasurer the power to make loans. The purpose of the amendment is to ensure that the loans are made by regulation and that a blank cheque is not given. I put to the Committee that I do not know of any section in any Act which gives a blank cheque as is given by this clause. It gives to the Treasurer power to make advances, to pay out Commonwealth money and to add to the deficit without any constraint whatsoever. It may be that people on one side of the Parliament would trust one Treasurer and that people on the other side would trust another, but I do not think that either side would want to give to the Treasurer of another political colour an absolutely blank cheque. As I have said, I believe this matter is unprecedented. I do not think there is anything in Commonwealth legislation like this.
Motion (by Mr Bourchier) proposed:
That the question be now put.
– I will take this matter to the country if you gag my speaking in this Parliament. This is a scandal, and you will not let me talk about it. This will go to the country.
– You are against the farmer.
– I am not against the fanner. Mr Deputy Chairman, I ask the honourable member to withdraw something that is untrue.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drummond) -Order! Will the honourable member for Mackellar resume his seat. The Chair did not hear what was said, and I do not believe that anybody else heard what was said. Therefore I cannot rule on whether anything should be withdrawn.
– I will tell you what was said, Mr Deputy Chairman. It was said by the honourable member for Cowper that I was against the farmer. Nothing could be more untrue. I think it is time a little protection was given from the Chair.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Will the honourable member for Cowper consider withdrawing that comment?
– There is nothing to withdraw, Mr Deputy Chairman.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 8 agreed to.
-I wish to move two amendments in respect to clause 9. I think the first amendment would represent the general view of the Committee and that it should be carried. I move:
After proposed sub-section ( 1 ) insert the following subsection: ( 1 A) The Bank shall in general aim at keeping the interest rates upon its loans to the lowest figure compatible with its other objectives.’.
I think it is rather extraordinary that no policy is laid down in the Bill. The Bill says nothing about what the policy should be. Again we are writing a completely blank cheque. A Treasurer cannot even determine under the Bill what the policy is to be. The sole power of the Treasurer is to revoke a licence. I wonder what happens if a licence is revoked. What happens about the liabilities of the Bank and the assets of the Bank. Nothing is said in the Bill about these things. So the Treasurer will be given a power the exercise of which will cause consequences quite unforeseeable. If he does not exercise that power, he has no control whatsoever over the policy of the Bank. Frankly, I do not think this is good enough.
I think, first, that it is necessary for the Bank to have a general policy of lending at low interest rates, that is, as far as is compatible with its other objectives. Furthermore, although the Bank may report to the Treasurer, that can be done in secret. All these things can be done under the lap without the Parliament knowing about them. I put it to the Committee that perhaps that is all right when the Treasurer is from the present Government side of the chamber, and it may be all right for Opposition members when the Treasurer comes from the side of the present Opposition. But do Government supporters want to give to a Labor Treasurer a blank cheque or do honourable members on the Labor side want to give a Liberal Treasurer a completely blank cheque?
Motion (by Mr Bourchier) agreed to:
That the question be now put. Amendment negatived.
-I wish to move a second amendment in respect of clause 9. 1 move:
After proposed sub-section (2) insert the following subsection:
*(2A) The Treasurer shall keep the Parliament informed as to the policies of the Bank, and shall report any change or modification of such policies to Parliament at the first opportunity’.
I think this amendment is quite important. As the clause stands at present, all these things can be done secretly and -
-Mr Deputy Chairman, I rise to order. Has not clause 9 been agreed to already by the Committee?
-The Committee did agree to clause 9. The Chair was out of order in allowing the honourable member for Mackellar to proceed and move his second amendment.
– I think the Chair was out of order in putting the question ‘That the clause be agreed to’ before the second amendment had been moved. But do not let us stand on points of order at the present moment.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! I believe that the honourable member for Mackellar has a point in this regard. I may have raced the proceedings through a little quickly with the result that he did not get the opportunity to move his second amendment. Perhaps the Committee will allow me to offer the honourable member an opportunity to put his second amendment. The question now is that the second amendment be agreed to.
– I was speaking to the second amendment and I was saying that as things stand -
Motion (by Mr Bourchier) agreed to:
That the question be now put. Amendment negatived. Clause agreed to.
Remainder of Bill-by leave- taken as a whole.
- Mr Deputy Chairman, I raise a point. I want an explanation from the Minister about a matter in the Schedule -
Motion (by Mr Bourchier) agreed to:
That the question be now put. Remainder of Bill agreed to. Bill reported without amendment.
Adoption of Report
Motion (by Mr Viner) proposed:
That the report be adopted.
-I should like to speak against that motion. This Bill has been railroaded through the Committee and matters of importance -
Motion (by Mr Bourchier) agreed to:
That the question be now put. Original question resolved in the affirmative. Report adopted.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek leave to move the third reading forthwith.
-Is leave granted?
– No, leave is not granted.
Suspension of Standing Orders
– Pursuant to contingent notice, I move:
– I call the honourable member for Wills.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. When was the contingent notice given?
-Order! The honourable member for Mackellar will resume his seat. I have called the honourable member for Wills.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, with reasonable brevity I express sympathy with the point of view of the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) not necessarily with the details he has placed before the House but with his attitude to the way in which the matter has been treated. I think my friend the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) feels the same way. I believe that this is a disgraceful parliamentary exercise. There is not much we can do about it, but I think it ought to be placed on record that this is just another example of the incompetence of this Government, which is unable to manage the affairs of the Parliament which has had procedures running for 700 years now. One would think that even a government such as this would have learned from all that.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion ( by Mr Viner) proposed.
That the Bill be now read a third time.
-Mr Deputy Speaker-
Motion (by Mr Bourchier) agreed to:
That the question be now put.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
– Notice has been received from the honourable member for Shortland that on the next day of sitting he will move:
That the Prime Minister should ask for the resignation of the Minister for Transport in accordance with longstanding parliamentary practice because:
The Minister has misled the House as to his activities in the purchase by the Australian Government of-
14.44 hectares of land from a Mr J. W. McDonald;
334.8 hectares of land from Great Gippsland Farms Pty Ltd; and
4.228 hectares of land from the State of Victoria near Darriman in his electorate of Gippsland.
In relation to the purchase of the land the Minister told the House on 3 November 1977 that he had no knowledge of the activities of the Department of Administrative Services; that that Department was totally independent of his Department; that if the honourable member for Shortland had had any experience in handling such matters he would have been aware of that and would not be asking stupid questions; and that the vendor of the land in Darriman was known to him.
On 7 November 1977 in answer to a question the Minister told the House that he had spoken with the Secretary of the Department of Administrative Services about the matter about December 1 976.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Commonwealth Electoral Amendment Bill (No. 2 ) 1 977.
Commonwealth Electoral (Redistribution) Bill 1977.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate without amendment:
Homeless Persons Assistance Amendment Bill 1 977.
Commonwealth Grants Commission Amendment Bill 1977.
Social Services Amendment Bill 1977.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I draw your attention to a breach of faith -
Motion ( by Mr Sinclair) agreed to:
That the question be now put.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 12.17 a.m. (Tuesday)
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 7 November 1977, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1977/19771107_reps_30_hor107/>.