31st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden) took the chair at 1 0.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Lionel Bowen and Mr Viner.
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:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Cadman.
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled the petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth.
That it is necessary for the Commonwealth Government to renew for a further term of at least 3 years the States Grants (Dwelling for Pensioners) Act 1974-77, renewed for one year expiring on the 30 June 1 978.
The demand for dwellings has not slackened as the waiting list (all States) of 12,060 single and 4,120 couples as at the 30 June 1977, showeth.
Your petitioners respectfully draw the attention of the Commonwealth Government to the Report of the Committee of Inquiry into Aged Persons’ Housing 1975 under the Chairmanship of the Rev.K. Seaman (now Governor of South Australia) which recommended additional funds to State housing authorities to meet the demand for lowrental accommodation in the proportion of $4 for $1 with the proviso that the States do not reduce their existing expenditure and
That the Act include married pensioners eligible for supplementary assistance and migrants as specified by the Seaman Report and that particular consideration be paid to the special needs and requirements of the prospective tenants in the location and design of such dwellings.
Furthermore, your petitioners desire to draw the Government’s attention to the hardship of many pensioner home owners caused by the high cost of maintenance.
The Social Security Annual Report 1976-77 shows that 24.6 per cent, or 283,000 home owning pensioners, have a weekly income in excess of the pension of less than $6 per week.
Your petitioners strongly urge the Commonwealth Government to establish a fund whereby loans can be made to means tested pensioners for the purpose of effecting necessary maintenance to their homes. Such a loan to be at minimal interest rates sufficient to cover administrative costs and to be repaid by the estate upon the death of a single pensioner before probate or upon the death of the surviving spouse in the case of married pensioners or where two pensioners jointly own the dwelling. Administration to be carried out by local government bodies.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Falconer.
– I direct a question to the
Treasurer. I refer to the recently released overseas trade statistics which indicate a worrying upsurge in the level of imports at a time of an apparently declining trend in the value of our exports, suggesting that Australia may be moving towards a period of a continuing balance oftrade deficit. I ask: In view of the substantial cutbacks which are occurring in our mineral export contracts, and the resulting further reduction that will occur in our level of exports, and noting the substantial outflow of invisible earnings, with detrimental effect on the balance on current account, can the Treasurer assure the business sector of the economy that he will not pursue an intensification of the prevailing budget strategy which will lead to an even greater balance-of-payments crisis?
-The question asked by the Leader of the Opposition is based upon the charge that the present current trade account situation of Australia is the result of the Government ‘s budget strategy. I do not accept that charge and would like firmly to repudiate it. This Government, since it took office, has believed that the long-term solution to Australia’s international competitiveness- which of course, is ultimately what the trade account and the surplus of exports over imports is all about- was very severely reduced during the period in which our domestic cost pressures were such that we literally priced our country out of world markets. If anybody believes that there can be a long-term solution- leading to the desirable balance that ought to exist between exports from Australia and imports into Australia- which ignores the absolute essentiality of Australian industry remaining competitive so far as its cost structure is concerned, that person has no understanding of either the reasons which cause difficulties in this area or, indeed, what the long-term solution to those difficulties is.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. I refer to the agreement between the Commonwealth Government and the Queensland Government concerning the introduction of satisfactory local government legislation in Queensland and special leasing arrangements for the Aurukun and Mornington Island Aboriginal communities. I ask the Minister: What role will the Uniting Church in Australia play in these arrangements? In particular, will the Church be able to stay if that is the wish of the two communities?
– I thank the honourable gentleman for asking the question so that this point can be clarified, if there is any doubt, particularly in the minds of the two communities and the Church. The intention behind the proposal for local government within the two communities is that through that the communities will achieve self-management so that their own community councils will be the managing authorities for the communities and thereby they will be selfmanaging. As self-managing authorities the communities of course will be in a position to seek the assistance of whomever they want. Therefore I am pleased to inform the honourable gentleman that there will be no reason at all why the communities could not decide to have the
Church stay and also determine the kind of relationship they want. The point to be made clear is that this decision will be in the hands of the communities. If they want the Church to stay, as they have so firmly expressed before, of course the Church can stay and provide that help and support and assistance that the Church is able to give.
– I address my question to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Is it a fact that it is the Australian Government’s view that a settlement of the Middle East conflict between Israel and neighbouring States should be on the basis of United Nations resolutions 242 and 338? Is it also a fact that it is the Australian Government’s view that the Palestinian people have a homeland alongside Israel, presumably on the West Bank of Jordan in territory occupied by Israel in 1967? Further, is it the Government’s view, in line with section 1, sub-section (ii) of resolution 242 which calls for ‘acknowledgment of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area’, that any new Palestinian State created as part of a peace settlement should be an independent entity rather than a province within either Israel or Jordan? Do these views indicate that the Australian Government has followed the American Government in adopting what has been called a more even-handed Middle East policy? Does this policy indicate a shift towards support for the Arab position and pressure on Israel to make a concession for peace comparable to the one made by President Sadat by going to Israel last November?
– I have stated time and again that Australian Government policy rests firmly on resolutions 242 and 338- and to some extent on 339. Resolution 242 is more of a threshold resolution in this area and must be endorsed. The difficulty with all countries in this area is that different groups have given different interpretations to those resolutions, particularly resolution 242.
– What is your interpretation of resolution 242?
– The honourable member has helped me by interjecting in that way. I shall give him my interpretation of resolution 242. I have done it in great detail, not only in statements since I have been Minister for Foreign Affairs, but also in publications produced during 1 975 on behalf of the then Opposition indicating that the form of so-called ‘even-handedness’ pursued by the honourable gentleman’s Government, which led, ‘for example, to abstaining on questions such as deeming Zionism to be a form of racism, was an even-handedness that we rejected and still do. If the honourable gentleman wants to pursue us down this line he may.
I have been at pains not to cause divisions in the Australian domestic community in regard to the most critical flashpoint in the world. I believe that when endeavours are made such as the most significant advance by President Sadat last year, it is more beneficial to the cause of peace and indeed to the elements mentioned by the honourable member- respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the States concerned- not to get into domestic debates in those areas in a country such as Australia. By that I do not mean that we reject debate, but we oppose the injection of the basic disharmonies that people sometimes seek to introduce into Australia. We have supported the endeavours to bring about a successful conclusion. We trust that the forays that were made both into Israel and into Lebanon will not set back the peace-keeping process in the Middle East. I reconfirm the Government’s attitude that its policy is firmly founded on Resolution 242.
– Is the Minister for Trade and Resources aware of Press criticisms, based on recent inaccurate statements in this House and the Senate, of the new International Sugar Agreement and claims that it will be of no value to the industry? Are those statements and claims correct?
– I have noticed some comments coming particularly from the Opposition relating to the International Sugar Agreement. Those comments cast great doubts as to whether Opposition members really support the International Sugar Agreement and its provisions. They are certainly crying poor mouth about it, hoping, I think, that it will fail. They are in an equivocal position at the moment. If it fails, I suppose they will say: ‘We told you so’. If it is successful, they will support it strongly.
Under the International Sugar Agreement certain disciplines are imposed upon sugar exporting countries and certain undertakings are given by importing countries. The Agreement is aimed at achieving a price range of between 1 lc and 21c per lb. Anybody who understands this scheme will know that it will take some time, by limiting the supply of sugar, to get prices within this range. Once prices hit either end of this range certain obligations must be undertaken either to release more sugar or to put more production controls on it. We know that at the moment there is an over-supply of sugar in the world. The industry is convinced that if there are no production controls the price of sugar this year will drop to about 5c per lb.
The world sugar industry has agreed to put some disciplines on production. A basic export tonnage has been given to every country. Further imposed upon that basic export tonnage is a cut of 15 per cent to try to tighten the market. It is hoped that in the second half of this year there will be some tightening of the market. It has taken longer than one might have wished because a significant number of countries unloaded extra sugar onto the market before the provisions of the Agreement came into operation. At the moment, the sugar industry is in full support of the International Sugar Agreement, as are the Queensland Government and the Commonwealth Government. It is all right for the Opposition to be equivocal and nit-picking about the Agreement but it is of absolute importance to the Australian sugar industry. As I have said, I believe that we will see the effects of it in the second half of this year.
-I ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs which governments, other than the present Australian Government, have explicitly acted to recognise the incorporation of East Timor into Indonesia. In what terms did those governments state such recognition? What action by other governments, other than pressure from the Indonesian Government, precipitated his announcement of de facto recognition?
-I shall investigate the actual international community statements on Timor. As honourable members will be aware, other countries have not concerned themselves with the position of East Timor to anywhere near the same extent as this Government. I make the distinction between this Government and the previous one whose lamentable performance in this area has been commented upon from time to time. I have detailed the factors behind the recognition of Timor on numerous occasions. In relation to the latter part of the question, the reality of the situation dictated the need for such recognition. It was not brought about by pressure from Indonesia or any other country. I shall be in touch with the honourable member in relation to the first part of his question, but I have covered this matter in so much detail before. The factors behind the Government’s recognition were indicated by me outside the Parliament before it resumed, and they have been discussed in the Parliament and elsewhere.
-My question, which is directed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, concerns the death sentence which has been imposed on the former Pakistan Prime Minister. Has the Government made representations to the Pakistan Government asking that the death sentence be commuted? If so, what was the reaction of the Pakistan Government?
-The Australian Government has followed with concern the proceedings in Pakistan. The Lahore High Court, of course, last month sentenced former Prime Minister Bhutto to death following his conviction for the murder in 1974 of the father of a former political colleague. He appealed against the sentence to the Supreme Court which will begin its hearing shortly. I had to consider in this case factors relating to the internal affairs of another country. I did not wish to act in a way which would be seen as a direct interference in the legal process and in a manner which could prejudice the appeal. But, having considered all those factors, I instructed our Ambassador to make representation on behalf of the Australian Government to the Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs seeking commutation of the death sentence. The Ambassador was instructed to state that in seeking such clemency the Government had taken into account the close and friendly relations which exist between Pakistan and Australia and which, indeed, enabled us, in my view, to express concern at the death sentence without, we would hope, its being taken as interference in Pakistan’s internal affairs. The representations made by the Ambassador stated that while the Australian Government appreciated that the judicial process had not yet been completed, we felt compelled to seek clemency.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in Pakistan responded that, while our humanitarian motives were understood, the case in its view was sub judice at the time. Appeals for clemency in its view were liable to be seen as interference in the legal process in that they might prejudice the result. As I said, I had earlier weighed that in consideration. Nevertheless I felt that such an appeal for clemency should be made. It was also explained by the Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs that if the Supreme Court upheld the death sentence Mr Bhutto could still appeal further to the Governor of the Punjab and then to the President of Pakistan. It is my view that notwithstanding the response of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Pakistan the Government was correct in this instance to join with some other responsible members of the internatioal community to seek clemency on behalf of the former Prime Minister.
-Has the Minister for Health noticed the advice given by the Hospitals Contributions Fund of Australia to its contributors in nursing homes that they should suspend their membership of that fund temporarily and gain free cover from Medibank? Is this a manoeuvre to transfer costs from the private funds to Medibank? Will the Minister take steps to prevent such manoeuvres? Will he insist that the private funds cover their members in times of sickness as well as in times of health?
– I thank the honourable member for the question. It would appear that the Hospital Contributions Fund is playing musical chairs with its contributors. In other words, when a person is in a nursing home the fund says he should opt out of membership and when he gets out of the nursing home he can opt back into membership. That is a quite extraordinary position for a health fund to adopt. I think that those people who were invited to do that would be advised to opt right out of the HCF and join another fund. I have asked my Department to undertake an immediate inquiry into the reasons for the HCF taking this action. It is understood that the HCF is using rules that were recently approved to enable it to suspend membership for such reasons as contributors being sick and unemployed or desiring to suspend membership for a temporary period for reasons approved by the executive commmittee. Those rules were approved but the HCF is now using those rules to suit its own purpose. Recently the Government approved new rates for the HCF to cover contributors who were in nursing homes. I am having the whole matter investigated. I expect to be in touch with the fund today.
– My question is addressed to you, Mr Speaker, under Standing Order 152. It relates to the area of your administration covered by Standing Order 33, that is, the seating of members in this House. Have you had any indication regarding the possible necessity of reallocating the seat in the House now occupied by the honourable member for Werriwa? If so, could you inform the House so that it might take appropriate note of any forthcoming change while the honourable member concerned is still with us?
-I think questions without notice to Ministers are fair but a question without notice to the Speaker is playing it a bit rough. There has been no approach to me about the honourable member for Werriwa.
– I raise a point of order because the honourable member’s question was obviously facetious. Any notification of that nature to you, Mr Speaker, would automatically mean that the member would cease to be a member of this Parliament.
-Not at all. The method of resignation is not something I want to raise but from the moment I received a resignation it would be operative; it cannot be conditional. As to the allocation of seats, obviously a member of the House is allocated a seat solely within my discretion. Equally clearly, a person who is not a member is not allocated a seat.
– The honourable member for Werriwa has made an impression on the history of this country. The honourable member for Mackellar will merely make an impression on the cushion on which he sits at the moment. I ask a question of the Prime Minister. I refer to two statements -
– Why don’t you get a suit? The member for Werriwa would not come in here in a sports coat.
-Order! If this is to be a special day I ask all honourable members to treat it accordingly and give attention to the questions asked.
-As I have observed before, the behaviour of the honourable member for Hume always reminds me of that of a dealer in pigs and calves in a country town.
-The honourable member will cease making comments about the honourable member for Hume.
– I refer the Prime Minister to two statements he made last March regarding overseas borrowings for statutory authorities. Will the Commonwealth Government be advising statutory authorities as to the preferred currencies in which such borrowings should be made? Further, will the Commonwealth Government underwrite any foreign exchange loss incurred by a statutory authority due to any adjustments in relation to the currency in .which the loan is denominated? If so, will the Government be extending forward cover facilities to include all overseas capital transactions?
-A number of States have for some time been pressing for changes to the arrangements between the Commonwealth and the States that would enable the States or, more particularly the statutory authorities in the States, to borrow overseas infrastructure development within a State. As a result of those representations and decisions taken at Premiers Conferences earlier there have been extensive discussions between Commonwealth and State officials to establish appropriate and responsible guidelines under which various bodies might be able to borrow overseas but with the approval of the Loan Council as to terms and conditions. One of the matters that the States had pressed very strongly and one of the reasons that caused us to examine this matter was that they were not asking for financial obligations to be accepted by the Commonwealth in relation to borrowings, as is the case with the normal Loan Council program as the honourable gentleman would know; also they believed that, in relation to major developments, infrastructure support by the instrumentalities of a State could well become necessary in the future.
The guidelines have been agreed to between Commonwealth and State officials and I have exchanged correspondence with the States in relation to those guidelines. In my last correspondence with them I suggested that even though they might not be in full accord with the totality of the guidelines, in the interests of testing the guidelines and the Commonwealth’s position in relation to them, they should put to the Loan Council proposals on which they want to borrow for infrastructure support to see how the matter fell out. One State has by and large put forward a proposal and other States have been urged to do so. I hope very much that the States will take the Commonwealth ‘s offer seriously.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry whether he can report on the progress made by the Government in establishing the Australian Rural Bank. Can he inform the House when the Bank will start business?
– My colleague the Treasurer and I have been attempting to resolve some of the outstanding problems in establishing the Australian Rural Bank. There has been some difficulty in view of an action taken by the New
South Wales Government to resist the registration of the Bank under its proposed name, that is, the Australian Rural Bank. In addition, there has been a deal of discussion around the memorandum and articles which are necessary for the constitution of the Bank in accordance with the legislative framework introduced into this House by my colleague some months ago. The timetable for introduction is on schedule. I understand that the preliminary officers of the Bank have been taken up and interim personnel appointed so that the functions of the Bank can be commenced. On the present schedule we believe that the target set by the Government, that is, for the Bank to be in a position to start lending funds by the end of this financial year, will be achieved. The Government remains completely committed to this undertaking and believes that the Bank should commence operating in accordance with our announced program.
– I direct a question to the Treasurer. It concerns the clause in the Income Tax Assessment Amendment Bill which authorises deductions for certain gifts to a public library, public museum or public art gallery. On the assumption that the clause is based on the report made in May last year by the interdepartmental committee set up by the Labor Government in October 1975, will the Treasurer table the report so that members of the Parliament and the public can learn the whole range of arguments and precedents on this issue? I also ask him about the suggestion that similar deductions should be made for gifts of works of art for exhibition in parks, squares and public places, such as the Archibald Fountain in Hyde Park and the statuary and murals donated to Martin Plaza and the Rundle Street Mall. Since the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in the Arts told me last November that the Government was in sympathy with this idea and was considering it, I ask the Treasurer why the Government has dropped it.
– Whilst I have responsibility for the Income Tax Assessment Act, the policy responsibility primarily involved in the honourable gentleman’s question is now within the responsibility of the Minister for Home Affairs. I shall discuss with the Minister for Home Affairs whether the report to which the honourable gentleman referred should be tabled and whether the Government should have gone further with the provisions regarding gifts. I am not immediately aware of the exchanges that occurred between one of my colleagues and the honourable gentleman last year but, as the result of the honourable gentleman’s question, I shall better inform myself on that.
I must of course make the general comment that as the honourable gentleman will be aware and as all honourable gentlemen will be aware, the request and submissions which are made to government regarding the gift provisions of the income tax legislation are very numerous. Given the responsibilities government has regarding revenue in this area, it is only in limited cases that it is responsible for government to accede to such requests.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. Will the form of local government to be established at Aurukun and Mornington Island be such that the new bodies to be established will become entitled to funding under the local government income tax sharing arrangements? Will those bodies be entitled to, firstly, per capita allocations similar to those received by other local government bodies in Queensland and, secondly, to a distribution in accordance with equalisation principles that take account of the needs of the communities they serve?
– The honourable gentleman has raised a very interesting question indeed because if these two communities are to obtain selfmanagement by being created local government shires so that the community councils become local government councils, then under the full force of the Queensland local government laws they would be fully-fledged shires. Therefore, they would be in a position to receive the per capita reimbursement grant to which the honourable gentleman has referred, in exactly the same way as any other local government shire in Queensland.
They would also be able to participate in the distribution of moneys made available under the tax reimbursement formula and, furthermore, to participate in the equalisation scheme for which all other shires in Queensland are eligible. So the fact that they do become fully-fledged local government bodies and, through that, obtain self-management for their communities, could provide them with very distinctive financial advantages over other Aboriginal communities in Queensland.
– Is the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development aware of the Iwasaki proposals for a mammoth tourist development at Yeppoon? Has an environmental impact statement been prepared and, if so, has the Minister seen it? If he has, can the Minister tell us what effect the project will have on the environment?
– It is a State matter.
– It is not a State matter because it involves foreign investment, but I know that you would not understand that.
-Order! The honourable gentleman will continue with his question.
– What action does the Government propose to take?
– I had discussions only yesterday with a delegation from Queensland which was concerned about this particular project. The day before I had had the good fortune to discuss this project with the Premier of Queensland and he expressed certain points of view. I understand that an environmental impact statement has been prepared by the Queensland Government. As well, I have directed, under Commonwealth legislation, that a Commonwealth environmental impact statement be prepared. I am now waiting for a report from my officers on the Commonwealth statement.
– I address a question to a Minister who made a tremendous impact on the nation with his splendid appearance on the television program, This Day Tonight, the night before last. I refer to the Minister for Trade and Resources. I ask: In the light of the trade figures published today, can the Minister indicate whether he is satisfied with Australia’s export performance and whether there is a need for the Government to take special action to achieve a better trade situation? Finally, what are the general prospects for rural exports, particularly beef?
– I do not think any of us would want to treat our balance of payments situation with complacency. The whole prosperity and welfare of Australians depend upon a continuing strong export performance. However, it is pleasing to know that our export performance is increasing all the time and is breaking records. The figures for the first nine months of this financial year are up about 5 per cent on the figures for the corresponding period last year. The figures for March of this year as against February of this year are up by a similar amount. Right along the line our export industries seem to be holding their own on world markets. They are being given every encouragement and assistance by the Government to do so. My recent visit to Japan was wholly for the purpose of trying to secure and maintain that very important market for Australian exporters. Likewise, with the presence in Europe of the Minister for Special Trade Representations, we are endeavouring to gain greater access to markets.
Later today, if I am given leave to do so, I shall make a statement announcing a whole series of new initiatives by the Government further to stimulate our export performance. I believe that by the use of some initiatives in different areas and by greater promotion and publicity we can give a new impetus in this area which will be of overall importance to the country. The honourable member mentioned figures to be published today. I believe that more figures are to come out about midday. The interesting significance of those midday figures will be the way in which our balance of payments situation has improved significantly. I think an analysis of the figures will show not only an improvement in the export performance but also a healthy increase in private capital inflow into the country, indicating that there is confidence in the way in which the country is being managed.
– I address a question to the Minister for the Northern Territory. Has the Northern Territory Executive, through its Primary Producers Board, sought to purchase the Scott Creek- Willeroo property? What trading powers does the Board have to deal in rural properties? Is the Minister aware that the Majority Leader in the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly, Paul Everingham, has delayed finalising the purchase in order to seek alternative cheap European loan money, thus by-passing the Loan Council? Who will pay to the station hands the overdue wages for this month? Did Mr Everingham warn the Minister that this could cause a scandal? Did the Minister reply that he would send any complaints to Mr Everingham?
– I am aware of this matter because of some Press speculation in the Northern Territory. I had talks yesterday and Tuesday night with the receiver involved. Today I will be having talks with Mr Everingham in Canberra. After that I will be able to make some assessment and judgment of the situation.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Health. In considering the result of the inquiry into national health costs will the Minister take into account the relevance of preventive health in the containment of the national health bill? Does the Minister agree that such preventive measures as immunisation, fluoridation, the role of the community health program, the work of the Anti-Cancer Council and the National Heart Foundation and programs like the ‘Life be in it’ campaign make a considerable impact on the containment of health costs? Does the Minister agree that there should be a substantial lift in the funds available for preventive medicine programs to arrest the escalation of health costs in Australia?
– The honourable member has highlighted one of the real problems that we face in trying to come to grips with the great health cost problem. Other governments and countries in the Western world have also been trying to come to grips with it. Unfortunately, the escalating bill for the treatment of illness has reached such a proportion that insufficient resources have been available for important preventive health education programs. The community health program, of course, has a tremendous potential for going to the grass roots of the community in respect of health education plans. The program also tries to encourage people to alter lifestyle, not to take up smoking or to stop smoking, not to drink as much and to eat the right types of food. Obviously lifestyle and the environment in which people live have a tremendous influence on the state of health of people in the community.
It is true to say, as the honourable member has suggested, that the public health measures that have been taken in the last 40 years including sanitation programs, fluoridation of water and immunisation have done more to improve health standards than any other single factor since mankind has been on earth. I believe where possible the Government should be aiming at both State and Federal areas. Health educators and the medical profession should be doing as much as they can to improve lifestyles and to encourage good practice and preventative medicine. This in itself in the longer term should help to reduce the mounting costs of maintaining health standards and treating disease in this country.
– I ask the Prime Minister Is it a fact that a group of senior Indonesian intelligence officials have been holding talks in
Canberra this week with members of the Australian intelligence community? Is the group led by General Yoga Sugama who was named in testimony before the United Nations at the top of a list of Indonesian officials responsible for actions leading to the forcible incorporation of East Timor into Indonesian territory? I ask: What is the purpose of these talks and who besides General Sugama is participating?
– Talks have been taking place. I understand they are a continuation of talks that have been taking place between Indonesian and Australian officials for some time. I remember as Leader of the Opposition that a general from Indonesia who was here for talks under a previous administration also had some discussions with myself as Leader of the Opposition. I understand that he is the same honourable gentleman who is here at the present time.
-My question is directed to the Minister for National Development. In view of the fact that the Australian Minerals and Energy Council considered that the increased use of liquid petroleum gas would result in improved utilisation of our indigenous oil resources and an easing of lead pollution levels, will the Minister tell the House what, actions if any, has been taken to encourage the use of LPG in motor vehicles?
– I thank the honourable member for Franklin for his question. He has had a pretty active interest in this matter for some time.
– Tell me a story.
– I thought that members of the Opposition were vitally interested in energy problems.
– I take a point of order. The honourable gentleman who asked the question should really do a little more homework. I raise the point that this question conflicts with question No. 57 which I have put on the Notice Paper.
- Mr Speaker, I wish to take another point of order.
– We will have one at a time. The questions are very similar. There is one aspect of the question without notice which I think is not covered in the question on the Notice Paper. That is: What action does the Government intend to take in order to encourage the usage of LPG?
- Mr Speaker, on a point of order; the Minister has already announced this matter. If the honourable member for Franklin is not aware of that fact he should be. It is not for the Minister to take up time during Question Time to expatiate on government announcements which were made weeks ago.
-There is no point of order.
– On a further point of order let me say that, in fairness, these questions ought to be answered. It is not for people to put them up in the House. Part (2) of question No. 57 on the Notice Paper quite clearly reads:
Does the Government intend to take any action to increase the usage of liquified petroleum gas . . .
I would have thought that that was quite specific.
– It could be used for many purposes.
– Exactly. I do not disagree with that.
-Order! The honourable member for Franklin will remain silent.
– Would the Minister answer my question before I get someone else to answer it?
-Order! The honourable member for Hawker will resume his seat. I have given a ruling. I call the Minister for National Development.
-Mr Speaker, I do not know why the Oppositon should pick on the poor, inoffensive honourable member for Franklin.
-Order! I ask honourable members on my left to remain silent, and I warn the Minister that he ought not to use those terms to refer to the honourable member for Franklin. I call the Minister to answer the question.
– It may help avoid my having to answer the question again for the other honourable members.
-I suggest to the Minister that he should ignore any comment by way of inter.jecton or by way of point of order, and answer the question.
– I will try to do that, Mr Speaker. This is an important question because Australia has very large reserves of butane, and if we can use it as a substitute for motor fuel we will be a long way towards solving the liquid energy scarcity that we will have in the next 10 years.
To answer the honourable member’s question specifically: There are great difficulties associated with saying overnight: ‘Let us introduce an LPG policy that will have everybody using it’. All sorts of things have to be considered and resolved. If I could just mention a few- and I know the honorable member will be glad of that- there are matters such as State legislaton for quality control, for transport and for increased storage. There are matters of distribution, in Sydney especially. There are matters of excise and sales tax. All of these things have to be looked at. I know that one suggestion in which the honourable member is very interested is that LPG equipment should be an option on new motor vehicles. That is another aspect that we will consider. In short, we would like those people who can turn to the use of the LPG to now do so. I refer to those who use high mileage vehicles, such as vans or taxis, in the cities. I hope they will do that. There is already a trend in that direction.
The widespread use of LPG would be difficult to achieve overnight; it will take several years. I have already discussed the matter with consumers, producers, and all the other people involved. They show great interest and enthusiasm for using LPG as a substitute for motor fuel. I can assure the honourable member that the Government recognises the very important part that LPG could play and will be prospering that with all the vigour that it can.
Report by Sir Robert Mark
– For the information of honourable members, I table the report by Sir Robert Mark on the organisation of police resources in the Commonwealth area and other related matters. The Government has of course, made no decisions at this stage and will be putting the recommendations of Sir Robert to study. May I take this opportunity to thank Sir Robert, who is the former Commissioner of the London Metropolitan Police, and Sir James Haughton, former Chief Inspector of Constabulary, for undertaking this difficult task and for their ready and enthusiastic co-operation.
Mr LIONEL BOWEN (KingsfordSmith) Mr Speaker, with your indulgence, the report that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has tabled concerns a most important matter, on which the House might want to express a view. Could I ask the honourable gentleman to move that the House take note of the paper, in order that we may have that opportunity.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
Debate (on motion by Mr Lionel Bowen) adjourned.
– For the information of honourable members I present the Schools Commission report for the triennium 1979-81, together with the text of a statement by the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) relating to the report.
– For the information of honourable members I present the report of the Australian Education Council Working Party on the Supply and Demand for Teachers in Australian Primary and Secondary Schools 1978-85.
– For the information of honourable members I present the report of the meeting of the Australian Education Council which was held in Aukland, New Zealand, on 27 January 1978.
– Pursuant to section 38 of the Australian Council Act 1 975 I present the annual report of the Australia Council for 1 976-77.
- Mr Speaker, I seek your indulgence to add to an answer to a question asked by the honourable member for Werriwa (Mr E. G. Whitlam).
-I readily give it.
– The honourable gentleman asked a question about the provision of works of art for people in parks and in places like Martin Plaza. I assure the House that the Government is very sympathetic to the suggestion contained in the honourable members question. However, some difficulties arise in drawing the line in relation to tax deductions in this area. I suggest that it would be a good thing if public art galleries, receiving gifts from the public, had special sections in their galleries which could make some of these donated works of art available to local government bodies or to other responsible bodies that could show them in public places. In other words, the art galleries could be used to some extent, by arrangement, as repositories for works of art of this description. That is one way under the proposed deduction system in which the object that the honourable gentleman has in mind could be met.
Another proposal that I am looking at is the question of setting up an art bank. The purpose of the art bank would be to provide works of art which could be displayed in public buildings and in other public places. I hope that in the course of the ensuing 12 months we may be able to advance towards establishing an art bank in Australia similar to one that has been already established in Canada.
-Mr Speaker, I seek your indulgence to speak on the same matter.
-I call the honourable member for Werriwa.
– I thank the Minister for his elaboration of the answer given to me today by his colleague to my question without notice. I ask the Minister for Home Affairs: Will he now also answer a question I have had on notice for him on this matter, number 174, since the day we met just over six weeks ago?
-The honourable gentleman no doubt will take that request into account.
- Mr Speaker, I seek your indulgence to make a statement on the days and hours of meeting.
-Indulgence is granted.
-For the information of honourable members, in anticipation of a motion that will be subsequently introduced into this House, I have sought your indulgence, Mr Speaker, to mention some proposed changes to the pattern of sittings. It is intended that the House should have the fortnight recess in accordance with the current sessional order. The sitting of the Parliament will be resumed on Tuesday 2 May. It is intended that the House will sit on the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th- that is, Tuesday to Friday of that week- and Monday to Thursday of the following week, the 8th to the 1 1th. Then, in lieu of the following fortnight break, there shall be only one week of recess. That would mean that the House would resume on Tuesday 23 May. We would sit on 23, 24, 25 and 26 May. In the following week we would commence on the Monday and it is hoped that the business of the House can be concluded by Friday night, 2 June.
A paper showing the revised pattern of sitting will be available for the information of honourable members.
It is also proposed to modify the sitting hours when that motion is moved. This will mean, in essence, that in the second bracket of sitting weeks the House will sit at 10 a.m. on the Wednesday instead of 2.15 p.m., as at present. There is also some modification in that on the Friday of the first sitting week the motion for the adjournment of the House will be put at 5.30 p.m. and, allowing half an hour for an adjournment debate, the House is not expected to sit later than 6 p.m. So honourable members will be able to get away from the chamber and from Canberra that night should they so wish.
– Will you move this today?
-No, I will do so when we return for the next sitting.
– Will the House adjourn at 11 o ‘clock on the Thursday night?
-The House will no doubt appreciate the indication of the sitting arrangements by the Leader of the House. I am sure that all honourable members would be obliged to the Leader of the House if he were to provide them with some indication of the sitting pattern for the Budget session at the earliest opportunity.
-I claim to have been misrepresented and desire to make a personal explanation.
-The honourable gentleman may proceed.
-In the Australian newspaper of today’s date yesterday’s censure motion about the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr Lynch), which was moved by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Holding) and seconded by me, is reported under the heading ‘Govt strikes back at Lynch critics’. In part the report states:
During the exchanges which became heated, allegations were made against three ALP members: Mr Clyde Holding (Vic), Mr Chris Hurford (SA), and Mr Barry Jones (Vic).
A later paragraph reads:
That is government supporters- said … Mr Barry Jones practised in Melbourne as a suburban solicitor and assisted clients in tax avoidance schemes.
On page 1432 of the Hansard report the following interjection is recorded:
I missed the word ‘your’ at the time. I thought that the honourable member for Ballarat was merely trying to be helpful. I should explain that I have never been involved in any tax avoidance or tax minimisation scheme for my own benefit, for family benefit or, for that matter, even for the benefit of clients. To the best of my recollection in my entire period of practice as a solicitor I never advised any client on any tax matter. It was not my expertise. I worked almost exclusively in tort, crime and conveyancing. Finally, I have not been actively involved in practice as a solicitor since November or December 1 972, shortly after my unexpected election to the Victorian Parliament. I resigned as a partner in Norris, Collins and Barry Jones on my election to the House of Representatives.
-I call the honourable member for Melbourne Ports as I think he wishes to make a personal explanation relating to the same matter.
-I also claim to have been misrepresented. I seek leave to make a personal explanation in relation to the same article.
-The honourable gentleman may proceed.
- Mr Speaker, I draw your attention to the article, which seems to me to constitute a grave misrepresentation of the proceedings of this House. The article not only produces a completely distorted account of what occurred in the debate involving me and the honourable member for Lalor (Mr Barry Jones) but also refers to the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford), who was not present in the House, who did not take part in the debate and who was not the subject of any reference. To that extent the article is a gross distortion of the proceedings of the House. With respect to my own misrepresentation the article states:
Government members said Mr Holding was an ALP bargain’-
Whatever that may mean- and a close personal associate of Mr Graham Hill, who was indicted by the Victorian land inquiry for having ‘committed an offence ‘ in dealings with Lensworth Finance.
The only reference to that matter at any stage in the proceedings of the House was contained in a point of order raised by the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Bourchier), who said:
The honourable member for Melbourne Pons is talking about land deals somewhere, ls he going to tell us about land deals of Hill estates, of which he is a director?
You, Mr Speaker, ruled the honourable member out of order, and I did not deal with the interjection by virtue of your ruling. I respond by saying that I have no knowledge of the matters to which the honourable member for Bendigo referred, I have no knowledge of Hill estates, and I am certainly not a director of any such body.
-Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
-Yes. I refer to a report which appears at page 17 of today’s Sydney Morning Herald. Under a photograph of a pensive Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) appears the heading: ‘No problems with ChinaPeacock’. It is a report on a question which I asked in the House yesterday. The paragraph which is in error reads:
He was answering a question from Mr K. Cairns (Lib, Qld) who said that Dr Stephen Fitzgerald, former Australian Ambassador to China, had remarked that Australia saw China as a threat to the free enterprise system.
The paragraph goes on further. The question which I put was substantially different from that, and the point I made in relation to the remarks of the former Ambassador to China and his return to Australia was different from that. Dr Fitzgerald stated:
Because we lack the awareness and the will, we also lack the mechanisms for consultation, or even fear them as a threat to our allegedly free enterprise system.
The sense of those two comments is quite different, and I suggest that the report is significantly in error.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
That grievances be noted.
– I wish to raise with the House the grave concern and misgiving which has been expressed to me by Aboriginal communities and officials throughout Australia in relation to what they see as a possible sell-out in the deal which was announced yesterday between the Federal Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) and the Queensland Government. The Minister is on record as saying that we must hear the Aboriginal voice. He said:
He says that any government that does that, does so at its peril. The Minister went on to say:
If . . . Australians are true to the belief in liberty and equality and the brotherhood of all people, then we will see Aboriginals move in dramatic fashion out of the crippling mire of poverty, protection and discrimination … we will see Aboriginals do it for themselves . . Governments must . . . make certain the barriers are down and that they have a fair go.
The Minister has been doing all sorts of sidesteps and fancy steps with the Queensland Government in an effort to avoid having to live up to that high ideal of a fair deal, of liberty, of selfdetermination of self-management for Aboriginal people. We have on the Notice Paper listed for debate later in the day an amendment to the Aboriginal Councils and Associations Act 1976. In his second reading speech when introducing that Bill the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs spelt out the concept of what the relationship should be between Aboriginal councils and other kinds of local authorities. They are the same sorts of matters that ought to have come into his considerations when discussing these matters with the Queensland Government yesterday.
In his second reading speech the Minister said that there had been exhaustive discussion between the Commonwealth Government and State and Territory governments through the Australian Aboriginal Affairs Council. Yet it seems that all of the discussions yesterday took place without any reference to any spokesman for Aboriginal interests. The purpose of the proposed amendment to the Aboriginal Councils and Associations Act which will be debated later in the day, if the business of the House permits, specifically is to avoid the intrusion of Aboriginal councils into State responsibilities for local government. But nowhere in his public statements does the Minister say what he intends to do, what the Government intends to do, what consultations are taking place with Aboriginal interests, about the intrusions of State interests, of local government administration, into the Australian Government’s responsibility in relation to Aboriginal self-management. That is what the whole debate of the last few weeks has been about.
The Minister says that before the Aboriginal councils are established discussions will take place with the State authorities. Nobody can see any harm in that. It will be just as well if we do have discussions with everybody concerned with these matters. The Minister is also very concerned that people do not see any move by the Federal Government to give self-management to Aboriginal communities as being some kind of separate development, as being the creation of a semi-autonomous Aboriginal entity, or as encroaching on State rights, whatever they may be. I thought we were talking about human rights. It seems that in this case the Minister is giving priority to State rights. He is not concerned with the rights of Aboriginals or of Australians but with State rights. He says that he does not want to have separate laws for Aboriginals which will cut them off from Federal or State institutions. That is fair enough.
But, in the mere fact that he has proposed an amendment to the Act, he also admits that differences do exist in the administration of Aboriginal communities and that of other communities and that it is the right of Aboriginals to maintain those differences so that they have some protection against intrusions, the incursions and the irresponsibilities and, indeed, the racism, suppression and discrimination of which he complains in his speech on the ‘winds of change’.
The Minister says, for example, that Aboriginal communities, particularly those which are remote and tradition-oriented, might find difficulty with Western European legal concepts as embodied in State and Territory legislation. That is commendable sensitivity to the special needs of a people who live within an Aboriginal culture, who have not yet integrated into the western system of laws, of social activity and of cultural patterns. Yet the Minister is prepared to abandon them and turn his back on them. Of course, he has assured us that those things will depend on the legislation brought down by Queensland being acceptable to him and to the Federal Government. Thereby he puts the whole question on ice until the Queensland Government makes the next move. He hopes thereby to quell any disquiet, any complaint, any demur by the people of the Aurukun and Mornington Island reserves in particular so that he and the Premier of Queensland and his Ministers can in some way wriggle out of any intrusion by the Federal Government in its responsibilities for Aboriginal affairs, Aboriginal self-management and Aboriginal self-determination, into the sovereign rights of the State to control all local government matters.
The powers that were spelt out in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (Queensland Reserves and Communities Self-Management) Act, which was passed last week ostensibly for the purpose of overcoming the intrusion of the State into the legitimate rights of Aborigines to determine their own rate of acculturation into the western culture, are identical to those spelt out in the 1976 Act which deals with Aboriginal councils. Those powers deal with the same functions which the Minister says will be left to the States in the proposed legislation. With one hand he gives; with the other hand he takes away.
Under existing law in Queensland the Minister for Local Government can step in at any moment when he thinks that the council is not adequately carrying out its functions and he can appoint an administrator. That is the very thing which precipitated the whole debate in the first place. Instead of the Department of Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement in Queensland appointing an administrator the gate has been left open for the Minister for Local Government in Queensland to appoint an administrator to take over the same functions of an Aboriginal council under the 1976 Act or under the selfmanagement Act of this session. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs assures us that he will have to be satisfied that the legislation does not do that. However, we have seen the sort of things that meet his approval. He went with the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) to Queensland to discuss this takeover with the Queensland Premier and Queensland Ministers. He came back with a formula for compromise. There would be a joint administration by the Church and the State authorities. The Aboriginal communities rose up in protest. The Prime Minister listened to their voice and ordered the Minister to back-track. Now he is doing the same sort of deal, only worse. In this case it does not involve even the Church. This will hand things over entirely to the State.
I believe that the Aboriginal communities throughout Australia- at least from the initial reactions I am getting- will not accept this as an assurance because it is no better than the assurance the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs gave when he said there would be joint administration by the Uniting Church and the State. It is a sell-out to the racist, repressive and regressive policies of Queensland. The Opposition will not rest and the Aboriginal communities we will be consulting, I am sure, will not rest until we have something a little better than this. The Queensland Premier, with his great concern to preserve land for rnining companies, will probably give only a very small portion of the Aurukun Reserve and even of the Mornington Island Reserve to the council that he will set up. He will do his best to see that it is a puppet council, an Uncle Tom council such as he has repeatedly organised throughout Queensland.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I rise to report briefly to the Parliament and the people of Australia on the devastation caused by cyclone Alby to the south-west of Western Australia on Tuesday, 4 April. Nature put the people of Western Australia to their biggest test and uncovered a combination of fortitude and inadequacy. It was an unprecedented conspiracy of violence; a freak alliance of the country’s traditional foes- storm, bushfire and flooding. Any one of these takes its toll but together they spell disaster. It was a disaster of extraordinary proportions which the emergency services and thousands of volunteers turned out to tackle on Tuesday 4 April. Farms and forests wiped out by fire and a trail of damage across the entire southwest of the State were the immediate statistics of loss. The greatest tragedy was the loss of life. Five people met their untimely death during the storm. To their families and friends I extend my deepest sympathy.
The massive power failure brought chaos and boosted the cost of the storm by closing shops and factories. The power failure, which blacked out the entire south-west of Western Australia, was caused by an uncontrollable build-up of salt and dust on insulators, which short circuited the power grid. Some areas were without power for many days following the cyclone. The vulnerability of power lines emerges as a cause for concern, though the scope for doing much about it is clearly limited. The importance of electricityour complete dependence on its use- becomes patently obvious when it is no longer there. One can certainly sympathise with the people of Victoria during their prolonged power strike last year. There were unusual circumstances, to say the least, which, I hope, will not be repeated. But if sand and salt can knock out the entire power grid one could speculate how vulnerable we would be to any attack on these installations.
The vastness of the area affected is hard to believe. Cyclones usually cross the coast, depending on their intensity, and leave a thin line of destruction in their wake. In this instance the cyclone battered 500 miles of coastline from north of Geraldton to Cape Leeuwin. It penetrated some 300 miles inland in the southern areas. So, while no towns were affected as Darwin was by cyclone Tracy, the overall loss and damage are quite staggering when one remembers that the centre of the cyclone was 130 miles off the coast. I mentioned inadequacies earlier, one being that there was so little warning of the storm’s intensity. The freak weather conditions provide much of the answer. The speed of the weakening cyclone confounded the weather men. Nonetheless, in an age of satellite surveillance it is a sobering thought that we are not as advanced as we may have thought in tracking weather trouble spots. It is doubtful whether much could have been done to offset the storm ‘s impact had a few extra hours notice been given. Fires would have raged as fiercely, roofs would have blown as far, sea water would have poured into homes. During a freak storm such as Alby all normal procedures are more or less rendered useless. The very high winds caused almost every fire burning in the open at the time to spread and move rapidly. At this time of the year a lot of burning off is carried out on private property and in the forest areas. The extreme winds and low visibility rendered aircraft and fixed lookout fire detection systems unusable and caused the dislocation of telephone communications and road access. In fact, one of the massive Karri trees usually used for fire detection was blown over.
With every road closed by fallen trees, no power, no telephone, the initiatives which stemmed from control centres at Manjimup, Kirup, Harvey, Como and numerous bushfire brigades and volunteers in the south-west were, to say the least, exceptional, as was the courage and determination displayed. It was necessary to depend upon local initiatives for many hours and the effectiveness of the fire supression efforts resulted in minimising fire size and damage. The radio network of the Forest Department was of the utmost importance during the emergency, together with radios of the bushfire brigades winch were, for many hours, the only means of communication for co-ordinating the efforts of fire fighting forces. Emergency services activated on Tuesday night involved support from the Army, Special Air Services, police and main roads and local government authorities. The volunteer brigade and Bush Fire Board officers were, of course, involved much earlier on Tuesday. The fire fighting efforts by the Forest Department staff and volunteers from the Bush Fire Brigade organisations received valuable support from men and equipment of the timber industry, Collie miners, Greenbushes Tin Co., numerous shires and other rural groups. Most of these people worked without rest through Tuesday night and Wednesday. Fortunately, the cyclone was followed by a small amount of rain and this aided fire control efforts.
There were something like 78 fires raging accompanied by winds of 120 kilometres an hour during that period. It was remarkable really that only 31,500 hectares were burnt out. Some people lost their entire properties- pastures, stock, fences, house and sheds. The heartbreak of that, I am sure need not be explained to honourable members. The Federal Government will naturally be called upon to provide assistance under the agreement with the States as follows:
Despite this assistance I am afraid there will be many areas of hardship which are not covered by government assistance. For this reason the Lord Mayor of Perth has opened a Lord Mayor’s Fund which I trust will attract the attention of members of this House and the public in the eastern States generally.
Time does not allow me on this occasion to adequately deal with this disaster. There are many areas of hardship. There has been loss of income, particularly in the apple, dairying and vegetable growing industries, which should be more adequately described. Approximately 500 houses were flooded in the towns of Bunbury and Busselton. Facts and figures regarding these will come to light as proper assessments are made.
There can be nothing but admiration for the human efforts at the height of the storm and since. From the long backbreaking struggle by firefighters to the small scale contributions, such as helping a neighbour to cover a torn roof, there were countless examples of the readiness of people to assist others in distress. In our part of the world which, by comparison with so much of the rest of the world, seems remote from strife, it was and is a reassuring demonstration of what can be achieved through concern for others.
-The nine days from 3 to 11 April will forever be remembered by Aborigines in Australia with despair and total disappointment as nine days in which they were again abandoned. The nine days started on a high note with the grand promise of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) of an historic commitment and ended with a monumental cop out. On 3 April the Prime Minister said:
Our basic commitment is that all Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders be as free as other Australians to determine their own varied futures. For it is this basic right which is essential for the building up of their sense of pride and selfesteem. Aboriginals have the fundamental right to choose whether to retain their distinctive traditional identity and culture, or, if they wish, to adopt partially or wholly a European lifestyle.
That is very grand stuff. That is how the nine days began; it ended with appeasement, appeasement of the Premier of Queensland who was able to say only yesterday that he had been involved in no back down at all. Already, with the ink on the agreement scarcely dry, we are seeing contradictory statements by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) and the Queensland Premier. We had nine days of high political drama on the part of two of the greatest masters of vanity in the land. The important ambition in the whole exercise was to ensure that the Prime Minister and the Queensland Premier came out with their reputations and egos intact. The least important people in the whole dismal exercise were the Aborigines themselves. All this was stage managed by the Prime Minister who nine days ago also had this to say, and I again quote from the same speech:
It was never good enough for politicians or bureaucrats whether at the State or Federal level to impose on the Aboriginal people their conception of what was good for the Aboriginal people.
This miserable exhibition was not only dishonest but also ruthlessly cruel. The people of Aurukun and Mornington Island whose expressions throughout have been clear and unequivocal are now enmeshed in a minefield of confusing and conflicting laws. What they wanted and what they were promised was the right to manage their own affairs free from the interference of State bureaucrats. They wanted the right to determine their own future. Fundamentally, what they wanted was to be free from the domination of the Queensland Government. That Government has never accepted the concept of land rights. It has never accepted the right of Aboriginal people to determine their own future. It has supported blatantly discriminatory and repressive laws in that State. The Aborigines now find that they are firmly back in the grasp of the State Government, imprisoned by the Government from which they were trying to escape. What this Federal Government fails to understand is that what is needed is a simple once and for all remedy. For too long these people have been disappointed, disparaged and defeated and what they needed so desperately was a clear unambiguous victory and the new security which would accompany such a victory.
How can they have confidence in this new compromise, this new agreement, which within hours of it being reached was being interpreted quite differently by the Premier on the one hand and by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs on the other? Let me give one example of the way in which these interpretations varied in a fundamental respect. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs said that the people could continue to work in the same close relationship with the church as they had before. Yet the Premier at the same time was saying that the church could stay solely for the purpose of pursuing its pastoral duties but would have no role in assisting the community to manage its own affairs. That is a clear difference of interpretation of a basic aspect of the agreement.
In another respect there is also quite depressing confusion. The agreement which was reached by the two governments talks of the need for consultation. It says that the Queensland Government has offered to consult with the Commonwealth Government on the terms of the legislation required. What does consultation’ mean? The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs says it means that any legislation introduced by the Queensland Government has to be acceptable to the Commonwealth, but if that is what it means, why does the agreement not say so? We have seen other instances of requirements for State governments to consult with the Commonwealth on aboriginal affairs but consultation has meant nothing more than informing the Commonwealth of what the State government intended to do. In Western
Australia now we have a classic example in relation to the change of regulations which determine access to the Forest River reserve. The State Government believes that it already has consulted with the Federal Minister but the Federal Minister will say only that the State Government has informed him of what it intends doing. This is a totally unsatisfactory aspect of this agreement and it will be seen by all Australians as yet another defeat for the Aborigines.
These people have been so conditioned to defeat and disappointment that I dare say this agreement will be accepted with stoicism and will increase the cynicism with which they regard politicians and governments. What was needed was a break from this despairing history. It must be realised that Aboriginal communities do not have the resilience to withstand this sort of defeat forever. What was and still is needed is encouragement, extra encouragement, to overcome the tragic sequence of defeat and devastation which they have had to withstand for so many years. Let me give the House an example of how past atrocities still influence the attitude of Aboriginal people. In 1926 in the Kimberleys a pastoralist was killed apparently by an Aborigine. A party of police and civilians set out to seek revenge. In the ensuing few days they managed to chalk up the scalps of at least 34 Aboriginal people. They shot and burned those people and crushed their bones in the sand. As a result of a royal commission held the next year it was established that two police officers were closely associated with and responsible for at least some of those deaths, yet in subsequent court proceedings the police officers were acquitted.
That history and that experience still dominates the attitude and the outlook of the Oombulgurri people of Forest River. There stands in their settlement on the reserve a cross high on a hill to mark that atrocity, that massacre. People still alive today lost relations, uncles and aunts, and remember it. Older people in the community still talk of returning to the scene of those atrocities and of still hearing the cries of women and children coming out of the land. How can we expect people with these experiences and with this history to stand up to governments which try to impose their will so ruthlessly on them? How can we expect them to continually resolve to fight this sort of government action? What is necessary under these circumstances is to make a clear break from the past; not simply to give these people equal access to laws but to give them extra encouragement to determine their own future in their own way. The disappointing thing about this agreement which has been reached with the Queensland government is that it clearly fails to do that. The people of Aurukun and Mornington Island must be totally confused by what has been agreed upon. In nine days we have seen the Government move from one position to another, from one foot to another, and never in that time has it bothered to consult with the people who are going to be most affected. In 1967 the Commonwealth was entrusted with a sacred responsibility to make laws for the interests of Aboriginal people. The Government has now abrogated that sacred trust. It is to the Government’s great discredit that it has moved to that position.
In the last minute available to me, I should simply like to refer to a proposition which has been put by Stewart Harris which I think commends itself very greatly to us. He talks about the need for us to enter into a treaty of commitment which would ensure a complete break from the past in terms of our attitudes to Aboriginal people. It would put on a completely new footing the relationship between Aborigines and the rest of Australians. It would ensure a fundamental right to a certain level of financial support for now and for ever. It seems to me that now, when the Government seems to be intent on abrogating its constitutional responsibilities, would be an excellent time to enter into such a treaty of commitment with the Aboriginal people of Australia to ensure that such a depressing and demoralising episode as that which we have witnessed in recent days is never repeated.
– I grieve today as I have grieved on previous occasions for all those who will never see the light of this day or any other day. I grieve for all those young Australians who at the moment are being killed in the womb, with the approval and connivance of their parents, by doctors, in the main, who essentially were trained to heal.
These operations are conducted under the dreadful euphemism of ‘termination’, which of course has very mild connotations and does not really describe what happens. Before I am finished my speech, if we consider the averages, one child will have been killed and disposed of. More than six are killed and disposed of every hour of every day of every year; that is, a rninimum of 60,000 a year. The estimates I have put the figure even higher. I am citing figures from the report of the Royal Commission on Human Relationships chaired by Justice Elizabeth Evatt.
Why is this going on in Australia? It is happening firstly because like every human weakness, every human vice, it has always been with us and probably always will be. The supreme pragmatists amongst us, and there are plenty of them, say: ‘Well, if this matter is prevalent, if people want to do this thing, legalise it, clean it up, put it under supervision’. That is a very superficial point of view because in this particular case it just is not somebody’s property; it is the very right to life itself. The pragmatists do not seem to realise that they are establishing, like Adolf Hitler, that the right to life does not apply to all humans and that some can be destroyed. Once this right is conceded-and it has been conceded in Australiathen who can really say that any one of us is safe? Hitler decided that all Jews did not have the right to life and so they were disposed of, with even less rights than animals.
Some Australian judges have decided that unborn Australians do not have the right to life. One of them, Mr Justice Menhennitt, says that he considers abortion lawful when there is an honest belief on the part of the physician; reasonable grounds for that belief; necessity for the operation arising out of serious danger to the mother’s life, or to her physical or mental health; a threat beyond the normal dangers of pregnancy and childbirth, and reasonably judged proportion between what is done and the danger sought to be averted. Some people think that this is eminently reasonable. They think: Why not? But again they do not seem to realise the very essential fact that the right to life of another human being is being jeopardised.
This Menhennitt ruling is the basis of the thriving abortion industry in Australia today. It is responsible for what I can only describe with some horror as ‘modern death factories’. These death factories’ exist in every capital city except Canberra. The only reason they do not exist in Canberra is that the local people have put up such a fight. Indeed, they have been supported in this House by me and various other honourable members. Because of that successful fight, so far there are no free standing abortion clinics in Canberra. But they are in existence elsewhere and they are thriving as profitable concerns.
The Menhennitt ruling has changed what was previously a heinous, despicable crime and turned it into a perfectly respectable operation. Is it a perfectly respectable operation? Let us look at some of the facts. In the so-called dilatation and curettage methods, young babies of up to 12 to 14 weeks are killed in the womb by being decapitated, cut into small pieces by a curette and then scraped out; or more usually by being shredded in the uterus by vacuum suction and then sucked out. I am sorry if this language is too strong for the people who are listening, but this is what happens. I think that the people of Australia have to know something about this so that they will know what is going on.
As the baby gets older, it can be killed by pickling alive in the uterus, thus taking a couple of hours to die. It is then born dead by normal birth process, with its fragile skin burned from its body and its delicate internal membranes seared by the pickling. This must be intensely painful, for the baby of this age has already developed a real sensitivity to touch and pain over the whole of its body, and it writhes about in the uterus during the pickling, trying to escape its deadly environmental pollution. This method is illegal in Japan because it is highly risky for the woman, but it is still used here in Australia. Other abortionists prefer a hysterectotomy a small caesarean section which lifts a living baby from the uterus. The baby is then killed by someone present, turned upside down in fluid to drown, or made to bleed to death, or is left to whimper and die of prematurity.
This is not the killing of an unborn baby; it is the killing of a living child which has proceeded from the body of its mother. It therefore could well come within sections 269 et seq of the Western Australian Criminal Code which is the one with which I am most familiar. But I have no doubt similar legislation applies in other States as well.
Sometimes these babies, being born alive, are suitable for experimentation and can be kept alive on life support systems until they are no longer needed. Then they are allowed to die. Another method of killing the child before birth is exsanguination, by which the baby’s umbilicus is drawn outside the woman’s body and cut to allow the baby to bleed to death while it is unborn. It is then scraped out of the woman’s body.
I make no apology for my remarks, except perhaps to the children at present in the public galleries, for this is the Parliament of the country and I think I have the right, indeed the obligation, to tell the people of Australia what is going on. I make no apology for describing these barbarous, inhumane, disgusting killing methods. They are illegal in slaughter houses for animals, and properly so. They are, however, legal and widely practised in the best hospitals of Australia at the hands of trained surgeons and nurses. There is in Australia an increasing number of men and women who specialise in this highly lucrative skilled work of doing these killings for a living.
These babies have committed no crime that would justify such barbarous deaths. They are killed only because their mothers, and sometimes their fathers, do not want them. However, of course, in Australia today the father has absolutely no rights at all and has absolutely no say in whether his unborn baby will live or die. The Royal Commission on Human Relationships insists that this highly discriminatory situation continue.
This is a terrible story and Justice Menhennitt in Victoria and Justice Levine in New South Wales have made all of this terrible story that I have just outlined respectable in Australia. I hope that people listening will realise just exactly what this nice euphemism ‘termination’ means. I have gone to this trouble today, not without some personal embarrassment, because I have the very strong feeling that the people of Australia do not know what is going on. They stand outside the Arncliffe clinic in Sydney and see a nice hygenic exterior and perfectly ordinary people- and inside that building the sorts of things which I have just described are going on at the rate of at least six every hour, day after day. As I have said previously, before I finish speaking another unborn baby will be dead. That upsets me. I hope it upsets everybody who is listening. I hope it upsets the people of Australia. It is something the country cannot afford. Irrespective of the morality, we cannot do without these unborn Australians who are being slaughtered for no other reason than that they will be an inconvenience to their parents.
I have heard arguments over the years about women’s rights and all sorts of rights. The one right that never seems to be considered is the right of the unborn human being in the womb. The unborn baby is a separate human being with a separate entity. It has rights. I commend the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Dawkins), who spoke previously, for his worry about a certain type of Australian. But it should be remembered that the babies that I am talking about will never see the light of day and will never know the beauty and the joy that all of us have known, as well as the tragedy and the triumph. Surely they have the right to life.
-The honourable member for Swan (Mr Martyr) is surely well aware that a large number of pregnancies are terminated because of the social conditions which are inflicted upon the people of Australia. A large proportion of the group who have to take the steps referred to by the honourable member do so because of the failure of the country’s social programs in all sorts of ways. We are all responsible for that condition in many respects, but I think that the honourable members opposite are more responsible than most. I express my sympathy with the point put by the honourable member for Forrest (Mr Drummond) about the devastation wrought in south Western Australia. I know that he personally was a victim of it. I hope that that is something to which we will pay attention and that facilities will be provided in this country to minimise the effects of such occurrences and to bring proper aid to the people who suffered these sorts of things across this sometimes troubled continent.
I support my colleagues the honourable members for Capricornia (Dr Everingham) and Fremantle (Mr Dawkins) in their criticism of the approach of this Government to Aboriginal advancement programs and particularly to the episodes that have taken place in the last few weeks in the negotiations with the Premier of Queensland. There has been another let-down. The result of those negotiations is no answer whatsoever. The document that has been tabled as the one agreed to between the Premier of Queensland and the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) is no answer. It gives no security to the Aborigines. I am afraid- I make this point here and now- that another let-down may well occur in relation to the Torres Strait. The latest moves by the Government of Papua New Guinea with which the Australian Government seems to concur, places the security of the people of the Torres Strait, particularly of” the islands of Dauan, Boigu and Saibai, in peril.
Over the last two and a half to three years a mythology has developed about the Aboriginal advancement programs. This mythology has been built upon the theme that the Labor Government either did nothing for the Aboriginal people or did what it did incorrectly and basically wasted money. I regard that as a most amoral or, I suppose, immoral political ploy. The facts are that in the three years in which the Labor Government was in power programs were launched which had a dramatic effect upon the future of the Aboriginal people right across the board. I ask honourable members opposite to stand up at some stage and spell out the new initiatives that have been taken by this Government in Aboriginal advancement programs since November 1975. 1 cannot think of one, and I am normally fairly charitable even to my political opponents.
Everything that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) has touched in relation to Aboriginal Affairs he has damaged. Everything that he has looked at has been chiselled down. The programming has been reduced in effectiveness, size and scope because of the financial approaches of this Government. Everyone who can read knows and understands that the health of the Aboriginal people is of a lower order than that of the rest of the community. The Labor Government launched health programs throughout the country to try to overcome this problem. Health services were one of the first casualties of the return of the Liberal-National Country Party coalition Government. The same happened to education services. Dramatic new steps were taken in relation to education. These were built upon some programs advanced by Ministers and governments prior to 1972. But such things as Aboriginal bilingual education, the programs and support for Aboriginal children at schools and the isolated children’s programs, which covered the non-Aboriginal and Aboriginal communities, are Labor initiatives that have been taken forward.
Legal service is another area to which I refer. For some mysterious reason the passions of honourable members opposite and the conservative element in the community are aroused because people who have allegedly broken the law are being assisted. I remember the former honourable member for Fremantle remarking in this chamber on one occasion that the only doors that were open freely to the Aboriginal people of Australia were the doors of the prisons. That was true. The Aboriginals were the first people arrested throughout the country. They were the principal victims in the courts. They were helpless before the courts. We established legal assistance schemes to overcome this problem. Housing is one of the great disgraces of the Australian scene, as far as the Aboriginal people are concerned. We are all aware of the great difficulties of carrying out an effective housing program for any part of the community. For the Aboriginal people such a program is bedevilled by the difficulties of distance and the differences of need and aspiration in housing of the Aboriginal people from one end of Australia to another. We launched programs of some magnitude in this area. Most of them have been slowed down. There has been a gradual, halting start.
That brings me to a point about land. Land is the fundamental need of the Aboriginal people. We all have attitudes to land. We all feel an attachment to the piece of real estate upon which we have lived or on which we were born. Land is the key to the issue in Aurukun and Mornington Island in northern Queensland and elsewhere. Land is the subject of the discussions between the Premier of Queensland and the Prime Minister of Australia, neither of whom will be sensitive to the Aboriginal people’s aspirations concerning land. The Aboriginal people in particular have been let down. I appeal to the House to turn its mind back on this subject with some of the vigour it showed when we were in government and during the run-up to the 1972 election. We have to defeat the mythology, as I called it earlier, concerning the wastage of money upon Aboriginal programs. That is intolerable. It bedevils everything. It prevents proper estimating being done. It prevents people approaching the problem with an open mind. Across the board, the Aboriginal people of Australia have needs. Across the board, those needs must be looked at. We have to do better than we did in the past.
I have before me a list of the inquiries into the subject. I went through the subject on behalf of some of my colleagues and found that since 1 964 40 different inquiries have been held. I have over 200 pages not of reports but of recommendations, hardly any of which have been implemented. I believe that a great deal of the non-implementation of these things comes from the ready acceptance of the attack upon Aboriginal programs by people in communities who are envious, racist or resent money being spent on other people. I believe that this was the issue in northern Queensland in the last few weeks. There is only one solution to the problem: The land must be acquired and must be deemed in perpetuity to those communities. Such action is not apartheid or separate development. It is none of those things. This country is accustomed to people being able to operate as communities on their own account and even to the establishing of separate facilities for themselves and people of their affinity without any problems at all. For instance, we have an enormous range of Catholic schools and education facilities. So we are accustomed to it all. We have a very comprehensive system for people who have served in wars. I ask honourable members opposite to disabuse their minds of some of the things- I suppose one could call them myths- that have been floating around in the last three or four years in relation to this subject.
People should take with a grain of salt the speech of the Prime Minister to the National Aboriginal Conference on Monday of last week. The NAC was established to be the principal advisory body to the Minister. It was convened and called into being to establish an apparatus by which the Aboriginal people themselves could speak directly and continuously to government. It is my deep regret that successive Ministers, particularly the present one, have not made any effort to overcome the disabilities of the membership of that body and to establish an effective communications system. That body was not set up as a separate apparatus. The idea was that there would be an immediate channel of communication and that the Ministers would listen to that. This body was finally established late in 1973. It was getting into business by the time we went out of government. The present Minister appointed a committee of inquiry, and we want to take with a grain of salt the remarks made by the Department to that inquiry.
The National Aboriginal Conference met in Canberra this week. The Prime Minister opened a meeting of this important body last Monday week. He had the presumption, as did the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, to give the feeling that they had actually created the body. However, we will not go into that matter at the moment. What that body was supposed to be and what I hope it will become is the principal advocate of the Aboriginal people’s causes- the principal line of communication between every community in Australia to the Minister. I only hope he will establish some kind of system in which any member of the NAC will feel free to ring his office and say: ‘Things need doing in this area’. Unless this happens there is nothing we can do about the advancement of the Aboriginal people.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Mr McVEIGH (Darling Downs) (12.21J-A new light has dawned on the Australian industrial day. This light capsules the spirit of strong yet gentle men and women who have lost their patience, who have suffered for what must seem to them an enternity and who are now putting into practice in this modern environment the same sense of preservation, determination and survival demonstrated by their forebears who tamed the harsh dry areas of Australia. In the words of my leader the Right Honourable J. D. Anthony, these men have had a gutful of the unions.
The current proclamations of good intentions, of rising hopes, will not and ought not dispel the aims and aspirations of rural Australia. For survival the people of rural Australia must achieve eventual triumph. The situation will not come to a neat conclusion when the last sheep is loaded and the last boat has sailed. Rural Australia has had to meet the challenges of our time by direct action and participation. As a member of parliament I am not prepared to let them down and let them wage the fight alone. It grieves me that it has been necessary for rural Australia to say to the Parliament of this country and to the parliaments of the Sates ‘come on’ because the parliaments up until now have merely said to them ‘go on’. Why have the parliaments had to say this? Before answering that question, I pay a tribute to all people who at all times made an honest endeavour to cool a situation which could have led to bloodshed in Australia. I pay a tribute to them for all that they did. Certainly we do not want war among our own people. But rural Australia has been aggrieved by the irresponsibility of trade unions whose members could not make the right choice between the loss to them on the one hand of $2m a year in the short term compared with a loss of $200 m to $300m a year to the sheep producers which represents a fall in live sheep exports of 56 per cent, sheep prices of 45 per cent and carcass prices of 1 2 per cent.
A meat worker’s wage of $450 a week is not unknown. However, the average real income of farmers has deteriorated by 64 per cent in the last five years. Income this year is estimated to be down 19 per cent and costs are estimated to be up by 6 per cent. The average wage of a farmer is $23 below the average weekly male wage in Australia. Meatworkers believed that the loss of $2m to them in the short term was more important than the destruction of the livelihood of many hundreds of thousands of Australian people. They fail to realise that if farmers go bankrupt the meatworkers may not have any jobs. Although there may not be jobs for them as operators in meatworks if livestock exports continue, they fail to realise that many more jobs would be available to them in associated industries provided rural Australia is prosperous.
It grieves us to realise that waterside workers can load a boat destined for Vietnam to help the people of that country but do refuse to load boats with cargoes, the sale of which will safeguard and ensure the living of Australian men, women and children. On behalf of rural Australia I ask what right trade unionists- meatworkers and waterside workers- have to interfere in affairs of trade? It is no wonder that rural people believe that we have let them down. J submit that the real danger lies in permitting an unsatisfactory state to be a permanent one. What have we achieved if the arrangements that resulted in the solution of the present deadlock are not permanent? A government must not only appear to govern; it also ought to govern. We as parliamentarians are recreant to the trust that has been placed in us if we are not alive to our responsibilities. We should ensure once and for all that this country is governed by the elected representatives and not by trade unionists.
What can we do in the future? It is not good enough to say that ali is well that ends well. Time stands still for no one and if we do not go forward we will go backwards.
– And the future lies ahead, too.
– The honourable member obviously has a headache. This happens to him every time he starts to talk. Certain anomalies were revealed in the legal machinery in respect of the dispute over the export of live sheep. I believe that over the next two or three months a government of goodwill will get around the table and come up with positive legislation to ensure that the powers are clarified and are made applicable. The new force is pulsating with a spirit that will not be denied. I do not want to be saddled with the charge of having to admit that if the Government cannot or will not, rural Australia will. That is the spirit that is prevailing- a spirit born in frustration not in anger, of necessity not choice and of determination not withdrawal.
The light that has been lit in the last few weeks is a light that will not be extinguished. People from all areas of Australia will ensure that that light becomes a blazing furnace so that rural Australia will receive a decent standard of living secure in the knowledge that it is the master of what it produces and will not be detailed into a nation of serfs. This light was first seen in the early years of this century with the formation of the Country Party which is now called the National Country Party of Australia. I submit, with a great sense of feeling and personal concern, that unless the National Country Party takes note of the situation it could well be that the bell that is tolling now, of concern in rural Australia, will be the bell that tolls the funeral of my own Party. The torch of freedom has been held by strong, gentle, long-suffering people and I hope that the National Country Party will be the force in Parliament to carry that torch. Our backing is for rural Australia. If it goes over the brink I, as a National Country Party member, will go over with it. A start has to be made. Tomorrow could well be too late. I submit that we on both sides of the House, who gave approval to the Clyde Cameron Australian Council for Union Training for trade union leaders -
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I want to talk about the problems of one man, who desperately wants to work, who is mentally and physically fit and able to work, but whom the Government has failed and refused to help. That man’s dignity and self-respect have been assailed in the most callous way. The Departments of Social Security and Employment and Industrial Relations have classified him as being unemployable. They have wiped him off the unemployed list. They have refused to find him a job. They have refused to pay him unemployment benefit. They have insulted him by telling him that he will have to settle for an invalid pension; that he will have to wear for the rest of his life the tag that he is an invalid, less than a whole man.
There are many in this community who might readily accept that that situation was a fait accompli if it happened to them. We can assume that there are many across this country who have been forced, bullied or bluffed into accepting such a situation. However, this man is not prepared to accept it. His name is Jim Cleeve, and he lives in Sydney. He is aged 5 1 years and perhaps there is some significance in that because it may be that, in this society at the present time, anybody over 50 years of age will be classed as unemployable. This man is a qualified fitter and turner with 25 years’ experience, with employment in firms such as Clyde Engineering, CSR Chemicals and the Commonwealth Government itself.
He lost his job in December 1974; he was retrenched. As one would imagine, this has happened to a number of people. He then sought the assistance which, pursuant to the Social Services Act, should be available to all Australians. He registered in Hornsby as being unemployed, but there seemed to be some personality problem applying in that office, because it was suggested that it might be better if he applied for an invalid pension.
As we know, the Act specifically provides for pensions of all types, but to have an invalid pension one has to have some medical disability. He indicated that that was not his desire- that he wanted to get a job- so he had to try to get assistance through that office. A position then arose in which that office decided to suspend his unemployment benefit and suggested, again, that he should apply for an invalid pension. He took them on. He went to the appeals tribunal that we have set up, on the basis that if a pension is suspended one can appeal. He won his appeal.
Here we have a situation where a man exercises his rights, pursuant to the law made in this Parliament and available to him, and wins his appeal but apparently, because he has won the appeal, that again has created a further stigma or suggestion that this man is going to beat this bureaucracy which is trying to declare him to be unfit. The Director-General of Social Services and, regrettably, the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle), have not been prepared to accept the findings of that appeal. They have again, exercising what is deemed to be a discretion, said that he is not going to be paid the unemployment benefit. He has not received any benefits since June 1976. He received none for some period before that. He won the appeal and for some months some sort of ex gratia payment was made. The condition was: ‘If you become an invalid pensioner, you will get the benefits- that was the decision of some unknown person in the bureaucracy- but if you refuse to accept our advice you get nothing’. This man has had to live on his life savings for the past 15 months, and they have been seriously eroded. He has refused to submit to medical examination on the principle that there is no evidence of his being in any way unfit. They are the facts.
Let us look at a further interesting aspect. At a later stage he went to that office and someone there offered him a job. He welcomed that opportunity. He then met another person in the office who said: ‘You are not to go for the job at all; in my view you are unemployable. I will make certain, virtually, that you do not get a job’. He went for the interview and did not get the job. Then he applied to another person in that office and, because of that officer’s sympathetic and compassionate understanding of his problem, was reinstated. The officer said: ‘You had better go up and re-register’. On the way he met the individual who does not like him- let us put it on that basis- and registration was refused. All that was dealt with in the appeal. These are the facts. The man has become a statistic, perhaps, among the unemployable, although he is not in the unemployable statistics.
This leads us to the question as to whether the Government is trying to suggest in certain cases, particularly those of people aged 51 years or more, that it might be better to get them off the unemployed statistics, no matter what other statistics one might want to use for them. There is no evidence at all of any medical disability on the part of this man. He is perfectly fit and well. He has gone through the appeals system and has come to what is called the Director-General’s discretion. We heard of it in the Karen Green case, in which a young girl was obliged to go to the High Court, on the basis of whether a Director-General whom we appoint and who acts in accordance with legislation which we pass in this House, should use valid criteria when exercising his discretion. As we all know, the qualification for unemployment benefit is that one be unemployed, that one is capable and willing to undertake work, and that one has taken reasonable steps to undertake such work. Those are the criteria. In Karen Green’s case it was not validly exercised in the first instance and it required a High Court decision to show clearly that one must use a discretion on a valid basis; that one cannot just use a discretion and assume that one has done so on a valid basis. But section 135n of the Social Services Act provides:
If, in the opinion of the Director-General, a person who is a claimant for a benefit should-
submit himself for medical, psychological or other like examination;
It is very significant that the prior section, section 135m, refers to the payment of invalid pension subject to certain conditions. This is the part of the Act that was deliberately designed to apply to people who may have medical or psychological disabilities. Of course, it would follow, would it not, that in such cases the Director-General may want to order a further examination. However, when my colleague, the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) made representations on behalf of Mr Jim Cleeve, who was his constituent back in 1977, asking whether the Department or the Minister would reconsider the situation, he received a letter which was undated, but I think was sent some time in 1 977, saying that the employment office had suggested that Mr Cleeve was not suitable for referral to work and should be medically examined.
My point is that the Department has no right to suggest that, on the basis that an officer in that area does not like Mr Cleeve, or feels he does not like the look of him, or has some personal feeling against him and says: ‘In my view I am not going to refer you for work’- no work has been made available- ‘but if you want to apply for an invalid pension, that you must do ‘. Let us look at the law on the situation.
– What have you done to help him find a job?
-I do not know what that has got to do with this case. I am doing my best to help him. All the honourable member seems to be worried about is finding out what is wrong with the unemployed.
– Are you helping him to get a job?
-I am trying to do that. Have I to do the Government’s work for it.
Why does not the honourable member do something?
– You should be trying to help him because he is a constituent.
-Mr Cleeve is not a constituent of mine. I made that point clearly. It is the principle of the exercise of discretion, and a Minister of the Government has refused to help him. The point we are trying to make is to stress the classification of being ‘unemployable’.
There is clear evidence that two departments, the Department of Social Security and the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations, have agreed that in their view this man is unemployable and on that description have said that that is going to be the way they classify him. It is pretty clear that this could well be a prejudicial reaction by bureaucrats for an improper reason. That is my view. They have extended their view about whether a man is employable on a subjective test of their own. The real issue we have to look at is whether they exercised their discretion on irrelevant grounds. If they did- I say they did because of the evidence- that is contrary to the law. I am asking the Minister for Social Security to look again at this case. This man is without any benefit and wants work and the Government is saying: ‘You have to be an invalid pensioner to get a benefit’. I do not think anybody would think that is a fair situation.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– In the few minutes that I have I want to refer briefly to a complaint made in this House yesterday by the honourable member for Canberra (Mr Haslem) that the Australian National University halls of residence were competing unfairly with private enterprise and other residential accommodation such as motels, et cetera, in Canberra. That is predictable from the honourable member for Canberra who is seen as the champion of private enterprise. I think that in this case his complaint is completely unjustified. Obviously he is not aware of how these halls are run or he would not have made such a complaint. If he had taken the trouble to inquire he would have found that the halls are run separately from the education vote at the University. Not a penny of it is used to maintain these halls. They are run on a breakeven basis. They are carefully budgeted and in the budgetary arrangements allowance is made for interest, depreciation payments and maintenance costs, and, of course, they pay payroll tax the same as any other business. They are run on commercial lines and they have to make ends meet or close down.
I do not know whether the honourable member for Canberra wants them to close down. The particular residences to which he referred, Burton and Garran halls, employ about 40 people. Their payrolls are spent in the community and no doubt some of the money finds its way into the coffers of some of the honourable member’s many private enterprises in Canberra. So his complaint is against his own interest and against the public interest. All the residences are trying to do is to make ends meet so that there will not be a burden on the community and on the taxpayer at large. In doing that they depend to some extent on outside patronage. There is nothing new about this. They have always done it.
Under the present system there are not as many students who can afford to patronise these halls. This has been brought about for a couple of reasons. Firstly, there has been very harsh application of the means test to people applying for tertiary allowances. The situation has reached the stage now where only the children of wealthy parents can afford to stay in these halls, can pay the cost of the full board that is supplied. The other difficulty is that in the past students were able to supplement their meagre incomes by part time work. But, of course, because of the Government’s policies, there is no part time work in Canberra now and in fact 6,000 or 7,000 people are unemployed. So life is certainly not easy for students at the Australian National University.
I would have thought that the honourable member for Canberra would have been encouraging the halls to seek extra patronage. The sort of patronage they are after is not the sort of patronage which motels are after. The people who would go to the two types of accommodation are completely different groups. School groups, people attending seminars or conferences, often are young people who cannot afford to patronise motels in any case. The halls want to bring new groups to Canberra who normally would not come to Canberra. That was the whole purpose of the circular sent out to honourable members- to try to direct some of the business their way. I do not see anything wrong in that being done. It should be encouraged. The honourable member for Canberra was completely out of court. All the normal charges are applied in trying to make ends meet. As I said, 40 people are employed in the halls. What the honourable member wants to do is to put more people on the unemployment list.
– Oh rubbish! You don’t know what you are talking about.
– He was complaining about competition and there is no basis for the complaint. They are not competing with motels. They are trying to attract new business to Canberra and they should be complimented and encouraged and not rubbished in this Parliament. I was quite disgusted at the response of the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Staley) yesterday. I thought his remarks were unbecoming of him and highly insulting to the ANU.
-It is now 12.45 p.m. and in accordance with Standing Order 106 the debate is interrupted. I put the question that grievances be noted.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill presented by Mr Malcolm Fraser, and read a first time.
– I move:
In a statement on 19 April last year, I informed the House of the Government’s decision to establish the Australian Science and Technology Council, or ‘ASTEC, as a permanent statutory body. The purpose of this Bill is to put that decision into effect, thereby ensuring that the Government will have available to it, on a continuing basis, independent advice of the highest calibre on matters of science and technology. The original forerunner of the present ASTEC was an advisory committee on science and technology, the formation of which was announced by the right honourable member for Lowe, Sir William McMahon, in April 1972. 1 was the responsible Minister at that time, and the formation of the committee reflected the great importance which the then Government attached to having independent, expert advice on these matters.
After the change of Government, the advisory committee was disbanded in February 1973. Two years later, an interim ASTEC was formed. After the 1975 election, the interim ASTEC was re-established, with some modifications to its membership and functions. In November 1976, the interim ASTEC recommended to the Government that a permanent Australian science and technology council be established as an independent statutory body. This recommendation was accepted. Pending the passage of legislation, the permanent Council was established by Executive action in April 1977. Since that time, ASTEC has provided the Government with valuable advice on a range of matters, notably its report on energy research and development which I tabled in this House on 4 April 1 978.
The history of science policy advisory bodies in Australia has been chequered. It is important that ASTEC be constituted as a statutory body in order to provide the Council with the status, permanence and stability it needs to do its job effectively. It is also important to ensure that ASTEC be as independent as possible of any department of Government, and statutory status is necessary to achieve this. The Council will report to the Prime Minister- an administrative arrangement reflecting both the status and independence of ASTEC.
The Bill before the House has three major purposes, intended to guarantee ASTEC ‘s effectiveness as a working body. Firstly, the functions of the Council are denned. Secondly, the Council is invested with sufficiently wide powers to enable it to execute its functions. Thirdly, provisions are made for the independence of the Council to enable it to undertake its functions effectively. The functions of the Council are denned in clause 5 of the Bill. The Council’s role will be to investigate and furnish information and advice to the Government on science and technology, particularly: The advancement of scientific knowledge; the development and application of science and technology to the furtherance of the national well-being; the adequacy, effectiveness and overall balance of scientific and technological activities in Australia; the identification and support of new ideas in science and technology likely to be of national importance; the practical development and application of scientific discoveries; the fostering of scientific and technological innovation in industry; and the means of improving efficiency in the use of resources by the application of science and technology.
These functions will allow the Council a very wide charter indeed. It can range from pure science, to the problems of improving efficiency in industry by applying the results of research and development. It can consider the activities and technological problems of higher education institutions and private enterprise. The Government believes that this wide overview will allow ASTEC to play an important part in ensuring that there is a worthwhile interchange of ideas, information and new discoveries between
Government, industry and academic science and scientists.
The Council’s advice to the Government on priorities and balance of effort will inevitably influence the allocation of resources by the Government and facilitate long term, wellconceived forward planning by both government and industry. In keeping with the quality of advice which the Council is to provide, only people of the highest quality and standing will be appointed as members. A proportion of the membership will have backgrounds in various sectors of industry and others will have academic backgrounds. People having a high contribution to make by virtue of special knowledge and experience can also be appointed. Members will be selected for their personal qualities rather than as representatives of organisations or interests.
To discharge its important functions, the Council is to be provided with appropriate powers, listed in clauses 6 to 9 and 20 to 24 of the Bill. The Council will be able to conduct inquiries and collect information on any aspect of its functions, either from its own initiative or at the direction of its Minister. It is intended that the Council’s reports to the Government will be made public unless there are overwhelming reasons in the national interest for not doing so. Clause 6 contains detailed provisions requiring the prompt tabling in Parliament of ASTEC reports except in the closely defined circumstances there referred to.
The Council will be able to consult widely with Commonwealth and State bodies and with scientific, commercial, industrial and other organisations. Commonwealth bodies shall provide the Council with such assistance in the performance of its functions as is reasonably practicable. The Council will also have powers to engage consultants to conduct studies for it and to arrange with Commonwealth authorities for officers of those authorities to be available to assist the Council. The Council will also be able to form committees of council members and others, who will conduct investigations on behalf of the Council and will report their findings and recommendations to the Council. These powers should enable the Council to meet its responsibilities adequately, from the conduct of basic investigations and information gathering, using such expert advice and assistance as are necessary, to report its advice and recommendations directly to the Government.
The third important purpose of this legislation is the provision of necessary independence for the Council in its actions, so that its advice can be provided to government freely and without unwarranted influence. Clause 8 of the Bill provides that, although the Council will be subject to direction by the Minister, these directions will not extend to the content of any information, advice or report which ASTEC provides to the Minister. This will make sure that ASTEC ‘s advice is truly independent and free of even the possibility of political influence on advice which must be founded on sound scientific judgment.
Another important area where independence is ensured is in the staffing of ASTEC. It is intended that ASTEC will be served by a small staff of skilled officers. Such staff are to be provided under the Public Service Act, but clause 1 9 of the Bill includes provisions designed to make sure that the staff of ASTEC are under the direction of the Council, free of any unwarranted influence from other Commonwealth agencies. In particular, clause 19 provides specifically that staff members shall perform their functions and duties in accordance with the directions of the Council.
Another provision designed to secure the independence of the Council is clause 25 of the Bill, which exempts the Council and those working for it from legal action in relation to any act done in good faith and in accordance with ASTEC’s powers and functions. People supplying information to the Council in good faith will be similarly protected. This legal indemnity will allow the Council, and its witnesses, to provide information and advice fearlessly and candidly. The Bill also provides proper protection for information provided to the Council in confidence.
The foregoing represents the more important purposes of the Bill. There are, in addition, the usual provisions of a Bill of this nature concerning the appointment, terms of office and remuneration of Council members, and acting members, and related matters. The Council will be obliged to meet as necessary to perform its functions. Council members will be required to disclose any interest they may have in any matter under consideration by the Council. Such an interest will debar the Council member involved from taking part in any decision on the matter in question and, if the Council sees fit, from being present at any discussions on that matter.
Mr Speaker, this Government and previous governments have been well served by a distinguished group of men who have devoted considerable time and energy serving ASTEC and its predecessors, the Advisory Committee of 1972 and the interim ASTEC. I particularly wish to thank the present Chairman of ASTEC, Professor Geoffrey Badger, for his untiring efforts in helping to bring this Bill to fruition. I well recall that as long ago as 1967 he chaired a working party established by the Science and Industry Forum of the Academy of Science to examine the need for science policy machinery in Australia. As Minister for Education and Science at the time, I took part in the discussion of his report at a subsequent meeting of the Forum. Professor Badger has constantly pressed for the establishment of a permanent and independent science advisory council, particularly during his term as President of the Australian Academy of Science.
There are three other men whom I should also mention in this regard. Professor Sir Rutherford Robertson, the Director of the Research School of Biological Sciences at the Australian National University, has also provided meritorious service. He continues to serve as Deputy Chairman of ASTEC. Sir Colin Syme, the Chairman of the Advisory Council established in 1972 and a member of the interim ASTEC, also played a vital role in the establishment of ASTEC. He made sure that private industry played a dynamic role in ASTEC from the outset. I also mention Sir Louis Matheson, who served as Chairman of the interim ASTEC and who continues to serve as a member of ASTEC. The advice of these men and of all the other distinguished scientists and others who have served on ASTEC has greatly assisted the Government in making numerous decisions affecting science and technology in Australia. I and the Government and, I believe, this Parliament would wish to record our obligation and gratitude for that service.
The Government believes that there is an overwhelming case for establishing an effective science advisory body in Australia which is an independent and permanent statutory authority. Nothing less will properly safeguard the status, permanence and stability of ASTEC. This Bill provides the necessary safeguards. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Dr Klugman) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 12.57 to 2.15 p.m.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
- (Mr Millar) - Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– I do. As appears on page 1462 of the Hansard of yesterday 12 April 1978, last night a comment was made in debate imputing that I had not been present at a joint party meeting. It is now conceded by the right honourable member who made the statement that I had in fact been present at the joint party meeting on the day concerned. I do not think I need go into further detail. It is simply a matter of an inaccurate statement being made which now, by consent, is corrected.
Bill presented by Mr Howard, and read a first time.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill to amend the Estate Duty Assessment Act is the first of four associated Bills necessary to implement the Government’s undertaking to abolish estate duty and gift duty. Honourable members will know that, in a Press release on 18 January 1978,I outlined key points of legislation to give effect to the undertaking, first given by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in his policy speech on 2 1 November 1977. Since then, the Government has decided that the exemptions initially available should extend also to property passing between grandparents and grandchildren. This extension both obviates some anomalous situations and gives directly an exemption that otherwise could have been obtained by the making of successive gifts and bequests.
The Government’s decisions mean that no estate duty will be payable by the estate of a person dying on or after 21 November 1977 in respect of property passing to the surviving spouse, a child, a grandchild, a parent or a grandparent of the deceased person, and no gift duty will be payable on property given by a person on or after that date to relatives within those classes. Estate duty is to be abolished in relation to all property in the estates of persons who die on or after 1 July 1979 and, similarly, gift duty will not apply in respect of any gifts of property made on or after that date.
This Bill, in conjunction with the Estate Duty Amendment Bill that I will be introducing shortly, will give effect to these proposals so far as they relate to estate duty. In setting a firm and relatively early date for the abolition of estate duty, the Bills achieve what has been an important objective of the Government parties for many years.
I am sure that a large section of the community will be delighted to see the end of this impost, which for a long time has been causing serious problems in relation to family arrangements, particularly on the death of a member of a family conducting a small business. Because of the intention of the Government to exempt from duty any property passing to the widow or widower of a deceased person, the existing provision that allows a deduction of up to $50,000 for property so passing is superfluous and will be repealed. Requirements for the lodgment of estate duty returns are to be changed to reflect the ultimate abolition of estate duty and the interim family exemption proposals.
As well as the measures directly related to the implementation of the Government’s undertaking, the Bill proposes some other amendments. Exemptions are to be provided for property passing to the National Trust of Australia (Northern Territory) from the estates of persons dying on or after 16 November 1976 and to the National Trust of Australia (Australian Capital Territory) from the estates of persons dying on or after 20 December 1976. The amendment will place those two bodies, from the dates on which they were constituted in their present forms, on an equal footing for estate duty purposes with the Australian Council of National Trusts and State national trust organisations.
An additional power to amend estate duty assessments is to be provided so that, in circumstances where this might not otherwise be permissible, deductions allowed in respect of State probate or succession duties may be adjustedup or down to reflect any subsequent variations in liabilities for those duties. The additional power will facilitate the abandonment of cumbersome administrative procedures that had to be instituted following a High Court decision which indicates that the Commissioner does not always have power to amend assessments for that purpose. The administrative procedures increase the work of the Taxation Office and are a source of inconvenience to the administrators of estates.
The additional power of amendment will not, of itself, authorise the amendment of an assessment made before this Bill receives the royal assent so as to increase a liability for duty and it will not, of itself, authorise the amendment of an assessment after the expiration of three years from the date on which the duty became due and payable under the assessment. Explanations of technical aspects of the Bill are contained in an explanatory memorandum that will be made available shortly to honourable members. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Scholes) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Howard, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill is associated with the Estate Duty Assessment Amendment Bill 1978 that I have just introduced. It proposes an amendment of the Estate Duty Act 1914 to provide that estate duty will not be payable in respect of estates of people who die on or after 1 July 1979.I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Scholes) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Howard, and read a first time.
In the course of my speech when introducing the Estate Duty Assessment Amendment Bill, I outlined proposals concerning legislation to implement the Government’s policy commitment to abolish estate duty and gift duty. This Bill will amend the Gift Duty Assessment Act 1 94 1 . In conjunction with the Gift Duty Amendment Bill 1 978 that I will introduce shortly, it will give effect to the proposals so far as they relate to gift duty. One effect of the proposed amendments will be that gift dutywill not be payable in respect of gifts made on or after 2 1 November 1977 to the extent that they are for the benefit of the spouse, a child, a grandchild, a parent or a grandparent of the donor. The other important effect will be that gift duty will not be payable in respect of any gift made on or after 1 July 1979.
By reason of an existing provision in the Gift Duty Assessment Act and a provision in the Gift Duty Amendment Bill 1978, the gifts to be so exempted from duty will not be aggregated with other gifts made by the same donor to arrive at the rate of duty payable on dutiable gifts. It will not be necessary for returns to be lodged in respect of the gifts that are to be exempted. Explanations of technical aspects of the Bill are contained in an explanatory memorandum that will be made available to honourable members. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Scholes) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Howard, and read a first time.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill is associated with the Gift Duty Assessment Amendment Bill 1978 that I have just introduced. It proposes an amendment of the Gift Duty Act 1941 to provide that gift duty will not be payable in respect of any gift made by a person or a company on or after 1 July 1979. The Bill will provide also that such exempt gifts will not be taken into account in arriving at the rate of duty payable on dutiable gifts made before 1 July 1979.I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Scholes) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Fife, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill embodies amendments to the Trade Practices Act which arise as part of a continuing program of study and monitoring of the effect of that Act on conduct in the Australian market place. The Government has always made it clear that it will keep the Trade Practices Act under close study. We will not rest on the results of the important and intensive examination of the law by the Swanson review committee which reported to the Government in 1976. The Bill also introduces provisions dealing with manufacturers’ warranties which were recommended by the Swanson Committee, and a Senate select committee, and which were foreshadowed by the Government last year.
It is the policy of the Government that the Trade Practices Act operate evenhandedly and be conducive to the sensible regulation of business activity, fair trading and freedom in Australian trade and commerce. The Government is determined, however, that trade and commerce in this country will not be hindered by over-regulation.
This Bill deals with three main matters; an extension of the present exception from the prohibition in section 45A of the Act of price fixing for joint ventures relating to services- to correspond with that relating to goods; the introduction of a specific prohibition of false or misleading job advertisements; and the inclusion in the Act of provisions relating to manufacturers’ warranties. The Bill also makes a number of more minor amendments, the need for which has come to light since the passage of the Trade Practices Amendment Acts of 1977. These amendments include the widening of the scope of the unsafe product provisions of the Act to include the protection of members of the public.
Further, the Bill provides that members of the Trade Practices Commission may, with the consent of the Minister, engage in paid employment outside the duties of office. This would ensure that members may serve, for example, with the Defence Reserve. The Bill also enables the Minister to make acting appointments to the positions of registrar or deputy registrar of the Trade Practices Tribunal- to facilitate the administration of the Tribunal.
I deal now with the amendment relating to joint ventures for services. It was the intention of the Government that the 1977 amendments to the Trade Practices Act provide for joint ventures, in relation to price fixing arrangements, equality of treatment between joint ventures for goods and joint ventures for services. After enactment of the Trade Practices Amendment Act 1977 it came to the attention of the Government that there was a possible problem that the law discriminated unfavourably in respect of joint ventures for services. The problem was brought to attention particularly in relation to joint venture financing agreements. It would clearly be anomalous for the Trade Practices Act to encourage joint ventures for the production of goods and, at the same time, discourage creative joint ventures in respect of services. The amendment to section 45A of the Act, by clause 8 of this Bill, is designed to remove any unintended discrimination between goods and services. This amendment has also been made retrospective to 1 July 1 977 to ensure that no joint venture for services is disadvantaged by a possible adverse interpretation of the present law.
With respect to the amendments relating to false or misleading job advertisements, the Government is concerned that job-seekers should receive accurate information in relation to employment opportunities. The Act already applies, in limited respect, to misleading or deceptive job advertisements by employment agencies. It does not apply at all to such advertisements by employers. The Bill seeks to provide a strong prohibition of such undesirable conduct.
I turn now to manufacturers’ warranties. In my second reading speech introducing the Trade Practices Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1977 in November last year, I indicated that the Government would be proceeding with legislation in relation to manufacturers’ warranties early this year. This legislation is regarded by the Government as an important innovation. The proposal for the inclusion in the Act of provisions dealing with the liability of manufacturers was one of the recommendations of the Swanson committee report. It was also recommended in a report of the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs. Those reports considered that it is the manufacturer placing goods on the market in the first place who is largely responsible for the quality of the goods. Accordingly, it is sensible for the law to require manufacturers to be directly responsible for statutorily imposed standards in respect of the quality of those goods. South Australia already has manufacturers’ warranties legislation, as has the Australian Capital Territory.
Early last year the Government circulated for public comment draft amendments to the Trade Practices Act dealing with this subject. Many submissions were received from industry, consumer organisations and individuals. These submissions greatly assisted the drafting of the Bill I now place before the Parliament. However, I would like to take this opportunity to correct some misunderstandings which have been expressed about this legislation. First, there is a misunderstanding that the retailer would be made liable under the legislation. This is incorrect. The retailer is, as a general rule, already liable under current law. There is no change to the legal liability of retailers under the Bill. The amendments will make manufacturers or importers generally concurrently liable with retailers. Secondly, there is a misunderstanding, apparently based on and influenced by reports of United States developments, that the liability of manufacturers or importers will be considerably greater than that which already applies to retailers. This would not be so. In general, liability only arises where there is a breach of certain statutory obligations, such as fitness for purpose of merchantable quality of relevant goods. However, a wider liability arises in two respects: one in relation to the reasonable availability of repair facilities and spare parts and the other in relation to express warranties- provisions appropriate to the manufacturer or importer of goods.
I commend this Bill to the House generally, and particularly draw attention to clause 14 of the Bill which embodies the provisions dealing with manufacturers ‘ and importers ‘ liability.
Debate (on motion by Mr Scholes) adjourned.
– by leave- The Government has decided to undertake an enlarged export development program designed to encourage Australian firms to increase their export sales and more actively pursue export opportunities. A comprehensive review of facilities and incentives for exporters has just been completed and I am pleased to announce a number of major initiatives which the Government has decided upon in this area. These encompass a wide range of export development activities, including export incentives, export promotion programs for both the manufacturing and rural sectors, the Trade Commissioner Service, the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation, the Overseas Projects Corporation, the promotion of Australian consulting and construction contracting services overseas, and the export of Australian technology.
The allocation of increased resources to export development as part of a major government priority to enlarge Australia’s external trade was announced in the Governor-General ‘s address at the opening of Parliament. That major priority was set in the knowledge that a renewed emphasis on export development was essential to the Government’s program of restoring full economic health to the country since export growth is one of the keys to greater prosperity and the creation of more jobs.
The measures adopted are in accordance with the Government’s long term industry policy which includes encouragement for the development of export oriented industries. As well as encouraging the long term development of more competitive industries, the revitalised program will assist in the short term in taking up the slack in the manufacturing sector and help alleviate adverse pressures on the balance of payments and reserves situation.
In formulating the measures which I now announce, my colleague the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr Lynch) and I have had the benefit of consultations with the Trade Development Council, the Australian Manufacturing Council and other industry organisations. We have been fully informed on the problems which exporters are facing and the difficulties which must be overcome if industry is to maintain and improve its export performance.
The Government will introduce legislation shortly for a new and improved export incentives grants scheme in accordance with its policy announced before the election. In addition, a number of changes will be made to the present Export Market Development Grants scheme designed to increase its effectiveness. These amendments follow consideration by the Government of the report of the Industries Assistance Commission on export incentives, which made a number of specific recommendations for improvements to the present scheme. The Government has decided to accept all of the Commission’s recommendations.
The new export incentives grants scheme will provide for the payment of taxable cash grants. The grants will be calculated on a formula applied to the increase in exports in the grant year over the average annual exports in the three immediately preceding years. Provision will be made for varying the base period relating to particular sectors to take account of special situations. The formula will be cumulative and regressive. It will provide that increases in exports of up to $500,000 will attract a grant rate of 15c in the dollar, and that as increases in exports go beyond $500,000, the increases in the grants will be based on lower rates.
The formula is as follows: For increases up to $500,000 the grant rate will be 1 5c per dollar, for increases from $500,000 to $5m the grant rate will be 10c in the dollar, for increases from $5m to $ 10m the grant rate will be 5c in the dollar and for increases in exports above $10m the grant rate will be 2.5c in the dollar. This scale of grant rates has been changed from that announced earlier as a result of discussions which the Government has had with its trade and industry advisory bodies.
The new scheme is to cover exports of manufactured goods, some bulk farm and agricultural products, services provided overseas, value added industrial services provided in
Australia performed on imported goods subsequently exported, and the sale of industrial property rights and know-how that are of substantially Australian origin. The new scheme is designed to provide incentives to those export sectors that will be most responsive to such incentives and to distribute the funds available in an equitable manner as between small and large exporters. Specific exclusions are minerals, wool, wheat, sugar, livestock and meat sold to the United States of America and Canada under quota. The scheme will operate with effect from I July 1977, with the first grants being payable in 1978-79. Grants will thus be based on the increase in exports in 1977-78 over the average of the three years 1974-75, 1975-76 and 1976-77.
The changes to the present Export Market Development Grants scheme are designed to improve its operation and simplify administration. The main changes are:
A single rate of grant of 70 per cent of eligible expenditure for all claimants in place of the present dual rates;
Removal of the provision which limits grant payments to 10 per cent of eligible export earnings;
Removal of the limitation applying to groups of corporations;
Extension of the scheme to include value added services in Australia performed on goods subsequently exported, such as repair to overseas-owned ships;
Provision will be made for the Administrative Appeals Tribunal to review decisions taken by the Export Development Grants Board in relation to claims under the scheme.
Amendments to the present EMDG scheme will take effect from 1 July 1978 and will be reflected in grants payable to firms in 1979-80. However, as the proposed elimination of the dual grant rate would effect the benefits currently available with respect to promotions sponsored by the Government, a period of grace will be given at the 85 per cent rate for those promotions which have already received government sponsorship and which take place, or are intended to take place, on or before 31 December 1978. 1 will be introducing legislation to give effect to these decisions as soon as possible. The two schemes will complement each other and will provide exporters with real incentives to expand their export activities.
In recognition of the importance of the travel and tourist industry as an earner of foreign exchange and its potential to increase employment opportunities, the Government has decided in principle to extend the coverage of the EMDG scheme to this industry. Relevant departments have been asked to examine, as a matter of urgency, the legislative and administrative action required to implement this decision.
As a means of giving immediate encouragement to exporters, the Government had decided to lift the $10,000 ceiling on initial grant payments. In future, all claimants will be paid their grant in full as soon as this has been determined by the Export Development Grants Board. In order to eliminate uncertainty and provide exporters with a firm basis for forward planning both schemes will run to 30 June 1982. Both schemes will be administered by the Export Development Grants Board. The cost of the new scheme is expected to be about $66m per year and when added to the cost of the EMDG scheme, estimated at $34m, including the additional items I have already mentioned, the total cost of these incentives should amount to $100m.
Export Promotion Activities
As a further measure of assistance, the Department of Trade and Resources will be intensifying its export promotion activities. An enlarged program extending over a three year period will be undertaken in order to provide the essential support facilities to enable companies to take the fullest advantage of the improved incentive arrangements. In addition, a comprehensive export consciousness and publicity campaign will be undertaken within Australia to increase awareness amongst industries of the benefits to be obtained from developing exports and to familiarise them with the range of assistance available from the Department of Trade and Resources.
As part of the enlarged export promotion program, Australian trade displays and Australian participation in international trade fairs will be held with more frequency in traditional markets such as South East Asia. In other markets, which in recent years have assumed increasing importance, such as the Middle East, our marketing efforts will be intensified. Supporting trade publicity activities will be increased generally.
The program of trade missions to assist industry in identifying new market opportunities overseas will be expanded. A government-financed Wool Worsted Industry Survey Mission is currently visiting Japan, the United States and the Federal Republic of Germany to investigate market prospects for high quality men’s garments made in Australia from Australian wool worsted fabrics. The successful special group visits scheme under which Australian manufacturers are actively encouraged to visit the Japanese market to assess sales prospects for their products will be given greater emphasis. Consideration is being given to extending this scheme to other markets. An expanded program of specialised industry trade missions will be developed to assist the promotion of product groups which clearly have export potential.
The Government has taken the view that the current level of government funding for the promotion of rural products overseas through the Overseas Trade Publicity Committee should be maintained. This decision means that exporters of rural products can plan ahead with confidence and in the knowledge of a consistent level of government support.
Additional funds are being provided specifically to help the beef industry in its overseas promotional efforts. This is clearly necessary given the critical situation currently facing the beef industry, where problems of inadequate access to overseas markets have been compounded in recent months by the effects of the prolonged drought. The beef promotion program will include a series of missions to the newer markets for Australian beef, visits to Australia of relevant officials and businessmen from these countries, participation in appropriate trade displays and publicity activities. The overall aim of the Government in this expanded export promotion program is to undertake a balanced and realistic level of trade promotional activities which will maximise market opportunities throughout the world for Australian exports.
Trade Commissioner Service
A vital element in the export development drive is the Trade Commissioner Service. In recent years Australia’s trade representation has been strengthened in the Middle East, Asia and the centrally planned economy countries. The Government has just completed a comprehensive review of the Trade Commissioner Service against the changing patterns of trade and trading prospects in individual markets. As a result, Australia’s trade representation in the Middle East, the United States, Latin America, Asia and the Pacific will be further strengthened to meet the needs of Austraiian exporters. Trade representation at a number of posts will be adjusted to take account of these developments.
Also, resources available to the Trade Commissioner Service will be increased as part of the expanded export promotion activities proposed.
I am sure that the strengthening of the Trade Commissioner Service will be particularly welcomed by Australian exporters. A very close working relationship has been built up over the years between exporters and the Trade Commissioner Service. Exporters have strongly supported the continued existence of the Trade Commissioner Service. The Government has taken a firm decision that the Trade Commissioners Act will be retained and existing arrangements governing the operations of the Trade Commissioner Service will be continued. These arrangements have worked well to the benefit of Australia and Australia’s export industries.
EFIC Finance Facility
The Industries Assistance Commission in its report on export incentives has recommended that the capital goods export finance facility of the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation should continue. The Government has accepted this recommendation. The Government has been pleased to note the important contribution made to the development of Australian exports of capital goods by this facility. Since its introduction, the facility has been used to support the winning of contracts valued at some $ 130m.
Using funds obtained from the trading banks at commercial interest rates EFIC provides loans on internationally competitive terms in support of exports of machinery and capital equipment and related services. The margin between Australian and overseas interest rates has been in the vicinity of 2lA per cent-3Vi per cent and without government support for capital goods exporters most of this business would have been lost to Australia. The interest rate subsidy is payable over the life of individual loans, which may extend up to 10-12 years and accordingly annual calls on the Budget are relatively small. In 1977-78 the cost of the subsidy will be only about $lm.
As the subsidy involves a forward commitment of government funds control is exercised through a ‘subsidy commitment authority ‘ which sets an overall limit on the extent to which EFIC may commit the Government to pay subsidies in succeeding years. The Government intends to ensure that Australian exporters of capital goods and services, who are required to offer extended terms to win business against overseas competition, are not at a disadvantage when it comes to obtaining competitive export finance. Accordingly, the Government has decided to authorise an immediate increase in the subsidy commitment authority from $ 17.5m to $30m to allow EFIC to continue to strongly support exporters seeking export orders where extended credit terms are an important competitive factor. The new level for the authority will be reviewed when $25m has been firmly committed.
There will be no effect on the Budget this financial year and the budgetary impact will be minimal in 1978-79. On the other hand, the benefits in the form of increased employment flowing from contracts won with the aid of the EFIC finance facility will be experienced within a reasonably short time. Discussions with the trading banks will be held as soon as possible to ensure their continuing involvement in providing funds for this important facility.
Australian Overseas Projects Corporation
The Government has decided to give greater active support to Australian exporters, contractors and consultants in their endeavours to participate in the development projects overseas. As already announced, an Australian Overseas Projects Corporation is to be established to assist Australian industry to compete for large-scale development projects overseas.
Australian firms frequently seek government assistance to compete against overseas interests that are receiving support from their governments for projects in the Middle East and other new markets.
The Overseas Projects Corporation will be a small specialist organisation which will operate on a commercial basis at the request of industry. The Government will provide the Corporation with initial working capital of $2m.
The Government has completed its discussions with industry organisations and I have presented a Bill proposing the establishment of the Australian Overseas Projects Corporation to the Parliament with a view to the Corporation commencing operations during 1 978.
Promotion of Australian Consultancy and Construction Contracting Services Overseas
The Government has decided to amend the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation Act to allow EFIC to establish a performance guarantee facility to help to overcome the problems Australian firms have been facing in meeting the requirement for performance and other contractual guarantees on overseas consultancy and construction projects. The EFIC facility will be supplementary to those facilities already available from the private sector and firms will continue to make their initial approach to their bank or private insurer. EFIC will cover that percentage of a guarantee not covered by a bank or other financial institution and will operate the facility on a commercial basis. The Government has also decided to undertake more active promotion of Australian consulting services overseas by significantly increasing the size of the Consulting Services Feasibility Study Fund. The Fund was established in 1973 to promote the export of Australian consulting services by the provision of funds for feasibility studies and has been instrumental in gaining significant contracts for Australian consultants.
Export of Australian Technology
The Government recognises the potential contribution which can be made to export earnings through the sale overseas of Australian technology, expertise and know-how. International trade in technology is a major growth industry. With world trade in technology estimated to be growing at some four times the rate of international commodity trade, the Government believes there is considerable scope for Australian technology to be marketed profitably abroad. For example, Australia currently earns about $10m a year from the sale overseas of copyrights and royalties. At the same time we pay out about $70m.
It is difficult to accept that the relatively low level of Australia’s earnings in this trade is a true reflection of the export marketability of Australian technology. It seems more than likely that much of the technology developed in Australia has not been fully exploited on overseas markets or, indeed, that a great deal of it has probably not even been considered as a marketable product. The Government therefore will be more actively working with Australian firms and organisations to assist them in gaining a greater share of the increasing international trade in technology. Our initiatives will include a continuing program of seminars to create a greater awareness in Australia of the opportunities for technology export and the best means of marketing technology abroad. Through my Department, the Government will also sponsor participation in international technology fairs and arrange for investment and technology missions to visit and assess overseas markets. Promotional expenditure incurred by technology exporters will, of course, be encompassed by the expanded export incentives scheme.
I believe that these wide-ranging initiatives by the Government in the export field give an indication in the very clearest terms of the Government’s strong and continuing commitment to assist Australian exporters. Let me say, though, that whilst these initiatives, especially those in respect of export incentives, will entail increased expenditure by the Government, this should in no way be interpreted as any relaxation by the Government in its fight against inflation. We have been successful in reducing the annual rate of inflation to less than 10 per cent. We intend to continue with our policy of budgetary restraint and to lower this rate still further. The measures I have announced will provide a stimulus to the economy. It is now up to exporters, particularly in manufacturing industry, to accept the challenge offered by the Government, make full use of the facilities and incentives being offered, and gear themselves for a period of renewed export development. It is only in this mannergovernment and industry in partnership- that Australia’s economic recovery can be accelerated and in this regard the Government has given a strong commitment to a major export thrust to facilitate meeting this objective as quickly as possible. I present the following paper:
Export Development Initiatives- Ministerial Statement, 13 April 1978.
Motion (by Mr Fife) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
– The Opposition welcomes the statement and recognises that at this stage the Government is making a rather belated acknowledgement of the importance of incentives. The importance of incentives was apparent at least two years ago. However, it has taken record unemployment for the Government to consider doing something that we say is worthwhile. But is the package complete? Where is the Government’s long term policy? Mention was made of the necessity for new markets. I mention in this context the substantial markets we have lost. These have meant heavy losses by way of dollar income to the Australian economy. The markets for sugar, steel, iron ore, fruit- canned and dried- and beef are just some of the markets that we have lost.
Let us look at the cost of the incentives schemes, which is a good parameter of how we have been trading from the point of view of increasing our markets. Statistics prepared on the cost of these incentive schemes, which includes tax rebates, export incentive grants and export market development allowances, show that in 1972-73 they cost $83m, that in 1973-74 they cost $92m and that in 1974-75 they cost $ 106m. The last figure is significant because it relates to a period of Labor administration. What was the cost last year? It was $32m. There has been a decline from the amount of $ 106m paid by way of incentives in 1 974-75 to a mere $32m last year.
Another comment which I find rather disappointing from the point of view of open government and the preparedness of the Government to indicate on what basis it makes promises of legislative action is contained on page 2 of the statement and reads:
These amendments -
The ones foreshadowed- follow consideration by the Government of the report of the Industries Assistance Commission on export incentives.
That report has not been made available to this Parliament. The Opposition knows nothing about it. We have no idea what is in the report. Is it fair and reasonable for a statement of some 14 pages in length to be made on the basis of the Government’s acting on a report of the Industries Assistance Commission that the Government has kept to itself? It is a closed shop. There has been no public debate or discussion, except for a select few. The whole basis of this statement is a report about which we know nothing. Why is it that the Government is unable to give the Opposition and the public generally the advantage of looking at the Industries Assistance Commission ‘s report? I think it is completely wrong in principle for a statement to be based on that premise when the Opposition at no time has had access to the report.
A number of matters have been mentioned in relation to the concept of policy but we do not see spelt out any manpower policy of the Government. It is excellent to suggest that we must have export oriented industries but what are the industries? Let us define them. Let us seek them out. Where is the policy of the Government in respect of the manpower to be employed in those industries? We can find nothing of that nature in this statement except a euphemistic sort of statement which says: ‘We will encourage the long term development of more competitive industries’. We assume that a number of industries which are now operating will be phased out. Which ones are they? If it is a matter of structural adjustment surely we should know what is involved from the point of view of the existing industries. The present malaise in the manufacturing industry in Australia is due to what is clearly shown in the report of the Jackson Committee. There has been no Government policy in regard to manpower. We recognise that some industries are inefficient and have to close, but it is ridiculous for the Government to say that it will encourage the long term development of a more competitive industrial base without having any policy on how it will be done.
Let us look at some of the specifics as outlined in the statement. The basic concept is that there will be a two-pronged support scheme. The first aspect will be an incentive grant, depending on the amount of increase in the value of the export. For example, increases in exports of up to $500,000 will attract a grant of 15c in the dollar. That we understand. The second part of the scheme makes the point that changes will be made to the export market development grants. The main change is a single grant of 70 per cent of eligible expenditure for all claimants. What is eligible expenditure? What sort of expenditure would be permissible?
We note also the removal of the provision which limits grant payments to 10 per cent of eligible export earnings. It should be recognised that we should not prop up an inefficient base which obviously will be phased out but which we cannot identify. Of course, it would follow that eligible expenditure surely should be related to the fact that there would be an increase in export quantity by way of volume and value. But it does seem that the two segments are not interlocked. In other words, we could have a declining industry apparently eligible for 70 per cent of the available expenditure. A grant of 15 cents in the dollar in respect of incentive and a grant for eligible expenditure should be interwoven, interlocked and interdependent. In other words, surely we are not going to run a scheme to help people receive a tax benefit by way of overseas trips without any value being put on the result of those trips. I think that this problem has not been spelt out in the statement.
We talk in all sincerity about the advantages of the tourist trade. Words such as ‘we welcome’ and ‘we support’ are used. But what is being done from the point of view of encouraging tourism? It is recognised that Australia is the most expensive country for a visitor to reach. We should be looking at the question of lowering the cost of travel to and from this country. This has to be done if the tourist industry here is to be competitive. Every other country does it. If we talk in terms of building a good tourist industry we have to facilitate people to getting here. One would have thought that the Deputy Prime Minister when making a statement of this nature could have indicated how the Government will help the travel industry and encourage people to come to this country.
Right throughout this statement we have the problem of a lack of understanding of where we are going from the point of view of better employment opportunities and more incentive. My colleague the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) last night talked about the failure of the Government’s economic policy. This statement talks about restoring full economic health. The honourable member for Gellibrand quite properly asked: Where is the policy in this area? Perhaps capital investment is being made in this country in one or two industries which could well create massive unemployment in that area. Surely a government should have an overall policy as to what industries it wants to develop. It should not act on an ad hoc basis and talk in general terms about restoring full economic health and creating more competitive industries. We welcome statements on this subject but we are looking for policies. The travel industry which is a simple industry to identify, can fall at the very first hurdle.
I would like to deal with a number of other matters in what is a quick summary of the situation. The Minister talked about the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation Act which will provide for a performance guarantee facility to help overcome the problems of Australian firms. Mention is made of firms failing to meet the requirement of guarantees on overseas consultancy and construction projects. I hope that we will not guarantee inefficient firms. If a firm fails because it is inefficient surely the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation will not be expected to meet that loss. In other words, if there are penalties for late delivery and matters of that nature surely we would expect a better performance than that. We would expect these questions to be spelt out in other legislation.
The big question, from the taxpayer’s point of view is what the scheme will cost. We are told that the scheme will cost $100m in the first year and this amount is apportioned on the basis of the two segments that I mentioned. But we do not seem to have any idea of what the cost will be the following year and that is something about which I think there ought to be some estimate. After all, the concept envisages forward planning up to 30 June 1982. The cost of the new scheme will be about $66m a year and the cost of the export market development grants scheme will be a further $34m, which makes a total of $100m. However, there has been no mention of what will happen in the second year. I think this matter should have been spelt out.
Reference was made to the Australian Overseas Projects Corporation Bill which was introduced last evening and which I understand will be debated shortly. In that context reference was made to proposed legislation by the Labor Government to establish a Overseas Trading Corporation. We were told how wrong the then Government was. Let me make the point clearly that if we had had comparable legislation for three or four years we would have been in a much better position than we are now. We read about our worthy Ministers not having time to talk to trade officials from other countries such as the Soviet Union. If ministers wish to talk to officials about beef or fish they have to meet them at airports. If the Labor Government had been allowed to introduce its legislation on the Overseas Trading Corporation, incentives of all types would have been available and there would have been an ability to trade on a government to government basis. However, the legislation was defeated by the National Country Party on the basis that we were not to be encouraged to trade with what were called our commie friends’. Special Ministers are now giving us reports of how they have been beating on closed doors of the European Common Market, the Japanese market or the American market. They have been bleating that they are not making any progress. It is on that basis that I say if they only had the wisdom and understanding of what it was all about, an Overseas Trading Corporation, which we still need and still should have, would have done much for the Austrlain producer whether he be operating from a primary or manufacturing base. Is it not laughable to have to pay $10 or $15 for a pound of Australian steak in Japan when our primary producers are getting about 12 cents a pound and going broke in the process.
There has been talk about marketing incentives. Let us clearly understanding the situation. If one talks to the Soviet Trade Commissioner one will be told that the Soviet Union is buying Australian exports to the value of $400m a year and that Australia is buying from the Soviet Union imports to the value of $4m. That trade commissioner will ask: ‘Do you think we can keep trading on this basis? That is probably the reason we are in this silly situation. We have been making decisions in a political forum that we should not be trading with other nations. But we are talking about humanity and the ability to trade. We are not talking about political philosophies. The Overseas Trading Corporation was based on that issue. But legislation to establish the corporation was defeated on the false issue of political philosophy. We have had massive and record levels of unemployment since that time. There has been a real malaise in the manufacturing base. If we look at the statistics of manufacturing industry we will see that the industry has declined continually since 1975, since this Government has been in office.
Whether one is looking at the electronics industry, the textile industry or the motor vehicle industry- one can name any of them- one can see that all industries are being phased out. Manufacturing industry is demented and distraught as to where we are going in this country. Australia has entered into defence contracts.
– What did you do to them?
-If the honourable member listens to me he will learn. This country has defence contracts for the construction of two destroyers with offset potential of $80m each. But we have failed to take this up. The honourable member is interested in defence and I suggest that he ask questions about this matter of his own Ministers. It is important that we exercise our potential when we talk about offset facilities. When we have the facilities in that contract surely we should use them up. This shows that the Government is barren of ideas and is unable to give incentive to Australian industry. We on this side of the House are meeting many people who are asking: ‘What is our future in terms of the manufacturing engineering base’? This is the problem. Labor Party policies have always been able to be expressed in terms of what is in the best interests of Australia. I am very mindful of the fact that when we introduced legislation in this area it was always defeated on the basis that the then Opposition, now the Government, knew what was best for Australia. But the evidence is against the present Government. Have a look at the productivity, the rate of inflation and the level of unemployment. They are the indices of what it is all about. One can see that this Government has failed.
We welcome the statement on the basis of initiatives but we look for policies in support. One just cannot put down a set of words and a set of figures and expect everything to improve. Statistics are against the Government. There is a grave problem for the future of the manufacturing base which at the present time employs over one million people. This Government has no policy. The rural industry is in a dire plight from the point of view of new markets. Promises have been made in this Parliament that new markets will be found in the European Common Market, the Japanese market or the American market. They have got to be sought elsewhere too. How can we expect to deal on a basis of new markets unless we look at what other governments want us to do. It must be done on a governmenttogovernment basis. Government supporters will have to understand that. Until such time as they do, we will be acting in a vacuum and not making any progress at all. My colleagues can point to the fact that in the steel industry, the iron ore industry, and elsewhere, there is a malaise, a decline, a concern- even from managerial people- as to what the policies of this Government really are. We look forward to the legislation that will be coming before the House but, again, I have one continual criticism: I find it deplorable and deceitful that the Government should base a statement on an Industries Assistance Commission report that has not yet been tabled in this Parliament.
Debate (on motion by Mr Aldred) adjourned.
– I table for the information of honourable members the report of the Industries Assistance Commission on Export Incentives.
Bill presented by Mr Sinclair, and read a first time.
-Mr Speaker, all of us will welcome the fact that the moment has come when I can move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill is of major significance to the Australian community. It will amend, in actual terms, the Fisheries Act 1952 and extend Australian fishing jurisdiction over foreign fishermen out to 200 miles beyond the low water mark, by creation of a 200-mile Australian fishing zone. Australian fishermen are in fact already covered by present fisheries legislation which extends throughout Australian waters as defined in the Act and which extends to the 200-mile limit and beyond.
The Government’s intention to bring down this legislation was announced by the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) in the House on 16 August 1977. It results from a firm decision by the Government to extend Australia’s jurisdiction but preferably in the context of an international agreement. It is, in addition to the continental shelf legislation already in place, the first of a number of measures which will be taken to create a full exclusive economic zone, when the nature of that zone is more clearly defined by international agreement. As to fisheries, the Government has had the benefit of a report prepared by a special working group of the Australian Fisheries Council on management strategies and policies which might be employed in relation to the 200-mile Australian fishing zone. One of the principal recommendations of the working group will permit feasibility fishing operations to commence immediately without awaiting the legal steps required to establish the zone formally. Such feasibility operations will provide a better knowledge of the resources of the zone.
However, I feel that I should issue a word of caution. Honourable members will be aware of reports which speak of the vast fisheries wealth of a 200-mile Australian fishing zone which, in area, will approximate the land mass of the continent itself. Australia does not generally have a wide continental shelf with suitable trawling grounds. We do not have the upwellings of nutrients which attract large fish populations; we do not have a gulf stream meeting a Labrador current and we do not have the fast-flowing rivers which are pre-requisite for spawning salmon. This is not to say that there are not substantial fish resources unexploited around Australia, but one should get the position into perspective. Our waters do not produce the abundances of fish which are found in other parts of the world. Our fisheries resources therefore require very careful conservation and this is a major reason for extending our jurisdiction to 200 miles.
Honourable members will know that since 1973 there have been six sessions of the Third United Nations Law of the Sea Conference. At that conference, the nations of the world have been working towards a comprehensive Law of the Sea Convention. This is probably one of the most complex and difficult political, economic and legal exercises ever undertaken by mankind. Although it appears to be moving very slowly, there has been a large measure of agreement. However, there are still some issues, notably with respect to deep sea mining in the area beyond national jurisdiction, which are not yet resolved.
One area on which there is substantial agreement is the right of coastal States to exercise fisheries jurisdiction over their adjacent coastal waters to a distance of 200 miles. In recent years a number of major countries have extended their fisheries jurisdiction to the full extent of 200 miles. Among these are the United States of America, Japan, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, New Zealand, Canada and the European Economic Community countries- in short, both major fishing nations and nations with fisheries resources.
Whilst other countries have acted before Australia, the principal reason for delay has been our desire to work towards a comprehensive Law of the Sea Convention. As honourable members will recognise, Australia has many important interests in offshore resources and it is of prime importance that we do not take any action likely to prejudice agreement with respect to any of these. We are resolved to achieve a package which satisfies the many interests involved. The position has now developed where extension of fisheries jurisdiction to 200 miles is accepted practice in international law, and such extension is no longer likely to be prejudicial to the eventual agreement in other areas being considered at the Law of the Sea Conference.
A further element in the very important exercise of extending our maritime jurisdiction to 200 miles has been our desire to take account of the other nations of our region. Honourable members will recall that at the South Pacific Forum meeting in Port Moresby in August 1977, Australia supported the island countries of the South Pacific and joined in the Port Moresby Declaration, which provided for extension to 200 miles of maritime jurisdiction by the member countries of the South Pacific Forum. It was agreed that the legislative and administrative steps required to establish these zones were to be taken, if possible, by 31 March 1978. There are obviously advantages in having all countries in the region extend their jurisdiction at about the same time. I should inform the House, that between passage of the legislation and its eventual proclamation there is much to be done by way of implementation, negotiation with other countries and promulgation of management regulations. None the less, proclamation will be made as soon as possible.
Mr Deputy Speaker, there is a particularly important feature of the Bill to which I draw the attention of honourable members. Whilst the general proclamation of the Australian fishing zone will not take place until about mid-year, clauses 2 and 25 of the Bill will have the effect of closing the Gulf of Carpentaria to foreign fishermen immediately this Bill receives royal assent. The Gulf of Carpentaria will, of course, be totally enclosed by a 200-mile zone. As honourable members know, the activities of foreign fishing vessels in the Gulf of Carpentaria have been a matter of concern for some years. Most of these vessels have been fishing in accordance with the concept of the freedom of the high seas. However, to protect our prawn resources in the Gulf of Carpentaria, it has been found necessary to introduce management schemes which have had the effect of closing the Gulf at certain times to Australian fishermen. Whilst there is no evidence to suggest that foreigners in the Gulf have been fishing for prawns, the Government considers that this area should be closed off generally to avoid conflict with the Austraiian fishery.
Honourable members will be aware that after the sixth session of the Third Law of the Sea Conference at New York in July and August 1977 an Informal Composite Negotiating Textreferred to shortly as the ICNT and which is in effect a draft Convention- was produced by the Conference Chairman. This text which was tabled in the House by the Foreign Minister on 2 March this year, embodied certain generallyagreed principles with respect to extended coastal States’ fisheries jurisdiction. I refer honourable members, in particular, to draft Articles 61 and 62 of the ICNT. A reading of these will show that whilst the coastal State has sovereign rights over the living resources of the zone it has, in turn, certain obligations with respect to management of the resources in that zone. Briefly these are, to so manage these resources that they are conserved for optimum use of mankind both now and in the future. In this regard Australia will have to assess the resources of the Australian fishing zone and determine the total allowable catches of these resources. Where Australians are unable or perhaps do not wish to harvest all of the total allowable catches, we will be under an obligation to allow other nationals to take that surplus. However, such surplus will be taken under terms and conditions determined by Australia in line with internationally agreed provisions. Accordingly, we will have the right to determine who fishes these surplus stocks and under what terms and conditions.
In this respect it is important that we do not permit foreign fishing vessels to operate in any way that might be detrimental to the interests of Austraiian fishermen. Honourable members will note that heavy penalties for illegal foreign fishing are included in the Bill, although I would note that they are no heavier than those applied by other countries. Hand in hand with penalties, we must also have some capacity to enforce the law, that is to say, to catch offenders. The vast size of the Australian fishing zone means that this is no simple task. However, honourable members will be aware that the Government is currently developing proposals to upgrade our coastal surveillance and enforcement effort. I am confident that the outcome will be that we will be able to police foreign fishing activity in Australian waters significantly and more effectively.
In establishing the Australian fishing zone it is the Government’s intention to ensure that the fisheries of this zone are developed and managed in the long term interest of Australia and Australians. Australian fishermen and fishing enterprises will be encouraged to develop the resources of the zone. As part of that policy the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr Lynch) and I recently announced a relaxation of the present vessel import policy to enable Australian fishermen to obtain large second-hand fishing vessels from overseas for development work in Australian fisheries. Only where Australians are not in a position to exploit a fishery will recourse be had to foreign expertise.
These principles have been embodied in the Bill now before the House. In particular I refer honourable members to clause 6 of the Bill and to the clauses governing the licensing and control of foreign fishermen. I should add that establishment of a 200-mile Australian fishing zone will not in any way affect Australian participation in international management bodies such as the Indian Ocean Fisheries Commission and the Indo-Pacific Fisheries Commission. The Government recognises that international controls are essential for some fisheries and we shall continue to play an active role in the various international and regional fisheries bodies in which we have an interest. In most cases our involvement in such bodies will assist in managing our own 200-mile zone.
I turn now to the Bill in detail. The heart of this Bill is the creation in clause 3 (a) of an Australian fishing zone which replaces the former declared fishing zone and by virtue of which Australian fisheries jurisdiction is extended from the present 12 to 200 miles. Within this 200-mile zone Australia will have exclusive jurisdiction over the fishing activities of both Australians and foreigners, subject to my earlier comments as to our international obligations. As will be seen in the above definition, certain waters may be excluded from the Australian fishing zone. Two types deserve special mention. First, ‘excepted waters’ are waters which are specified in a proclamation for that purpose made in accordance with the new section 7a, which is inserted by clause 8 of the Bill. The concept of excepted waters provides the Government with the flexibility to delay or exclude the establishment of the Australian fishing zone in certain areas. In such cases, the proclamation may provide for continuation of the existing jurisdiction in the specified area.
Secondly, ‘treaty waters’ are waters that are described in an agreement between Australia and another country as waters that are not to be taken to be part of the Australian fishing zone. This recognises the possibility that where Australia’s 200-mile zone overlaps that of a neighbouring country, treaties will be negotiated which will define the extent of fisheries jurisdiction of both countries. This will mean in some cases the delimiting line will lie less than 200 miles from Australia. By virtue of this provision the conclusion of such a delimitation agreement will automatically limit the extent of the Australian fishing zone as specified in the agreement.
I have earlier referred to the objectives which will be incorporated into the legislation by clause 6. As I indicated earlier, in practical terms, adherence to these principles means that Australia will be obliged to grant access to foreigners to fish for resources which Australian fishermen cannot adequately exploit. However, Australian fishermen need have no fear that the declaration of the 200-mile zone holds anything for them but advantages.
Firstly, the legislation provides the means of exercising an extensive and effective control over any foreign fishing operations within the Australian fishing zone. This means that resources which the Australian industry has the capacity to exploit fully may be set aside accordingly for the benefit of that industry. Secondly, the Government by regulation can require the provision of information concerning the undeveloped or unknown fisheries which may be developed or discovered by foreigners within the Australian fishing zone. Such information will enable Australians, if they so desire, to develop quickly the expertise and equipment to exploit such fisheries. This would in turn lead to the rapid and efficient growth of the Australian fishing industry. The licensing system which operates under the present Fisheries Act will be substantially retained in its present form, although there will be a number of alterations which are set out in clause 9 of the Bill.
As the success of certain foreign fishing operations in the Australian fishing zone will depend on the availability of access to our ports, provision has been made in clause 9 (a) for endorsement of licences to permit boats to be brought into specified ports at specified times and in certain cases to permit the landing of fish which are on board at the time the boat is brought into the port. Clause 17 inserts a new section 13BA which makes it an offence to bring a foreign boat into an Australian port except in accordance with such an endorsement. An endorsement, which is discretionary, will only be made where it is clear that it would not result in detriment to Australia. It would also be relevant in exercising the discretion to determine whether it would be to the advantage of Australian shore-based processing operations to allow the landing of some foreign catches.
Another alteration set out in clause 9 (b), relates to the conditions which may be imposed on licences. The current power is expressed in general terms and the amendment will make it clear that the conditions which may be imposed on licences include certain conditions which are essential to the efficient management of the zone. They include conditions as to the classes of fish that may be taken, processed or carried; the quantity of or rate at which fish may be taken and the methods or equipment that may be used to take, process or carry fish.
There is also provision in clause 9 (c) for the making of regulations prescribing fees for the issue of licences to fish within the Australian fishing zone and for the remission of fees having regard to the terms of any relevant agreement relating to the taking of fish in the Australian fishing zone. Scope is thus provided for the remission of all or part of the fees payable- for example, by a foreign boat whose primary purpose is to undertake research in the Australian fishing zone, the results of which would be of value to the Australian industry as well as to the foreign country.
Under the present Act there is provision for the seizure or forfeiture of a boat, equipment or fish under certain circumstances for contravention of the Act. These amendments, in addition to inserting extremely large monetary penalties for various offences against the Act by foreigners, also delete any reference to imprisonment as a penalty and provide, at clause 11, that property seized under the Act may be released on certain conditions, including conditions as to the giving of security for payment of the value of the property if it is forfeited and for the payment of relevant fines. The changes give effect to provisions in the ICNT regarding punishment for offences committed by foreigners in 200-mile zones. This is another international obligation Australia has accepted and to which I have referred earlier.
Greatly increased monetary penalties are inserted by clause 15 for having charge of a foreign boat equipped with nets or other equipment for taking, catching or capturing fish within the Australian fishing zone. Increased penalties have also been inserted for using a foreign boat for fishing in the Australian fishing zone. See clause 16. However, defences have been provided in clause 15 for fishing vessels whose passage through the zone is authorised.
I have already mentioned that clause 1 7 of the Bill creates a new offence under the Fisheries Act of bringing an unlicensed foreign fishing boat into an Australian port. The penalty for such an offence on summary conviction is $5,000 and on conviction on indictment is $50,000. For the purposes of the clause, a foreign fishing boat is defined as a boat that is designed and equipped for catching, capturing, processing or carrying fish or for supporting such operations. Various defences are provided in the new section 13ba (2) in clause 17 of the Bill. This clause also inserts a new section 13bb which makes it an offence for foreign boats to land fish in Australia, and appropriate defences are provided.
In order to administer the vast jurisdiction to be exercised under the Act, the regulationmaking powers have been expanded. Clause 23 (c) provides that matters with respect to which additional regulations may now be made are: The inspection of foreign boats, their equipment and fish; reporting of positions by foreign boats while in the Australian fishing zone; recognition and identification procedures; short methods of reference to areas of proclaimed waters; and the carrying on board licensed foreign boats of Austraiian observers and the provision or furnishing of information related to the use of licensed foreign boats in the Australian fishing zone.
There are also other amendments of a minor nature, many of which relate to providing reference to the Australian fishing zone throughout the Act as appropriate. In addition, subclauses (d) and (e) of clause 10 clarify that a boat which has been ordered or brought into port may subsequently be ordered or brought into another port. Clause 12 limits the generality of section 13 of the present Act relating to offences that may be committed in the Australian fishing zone by foreigners since there will be new provisions relating specifically to foreigners.
Clause 20 brings up to date the provisions relating to trial for offences. Clause 2 1 expands the purposes for which evidentiary certificates may be given in accordance with the revised administrative arrangements associated with the establishment of the Australian fishing zone. This Bill significantly extends an area of major commercial interest to the Australian community. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Scholes) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Sinclair, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Continental Shelf (Living Natural Resources) Act 1968. The major amendment is designed to preclude foreign fishermen using a defence available to Australians in the present legislation to avoid prosecution for certain offences against the Act on technical grounds. The other amendment is of a machinery nature only and results from certain amendments to the Continental Shelf (Living Natural Resources) Amendment Bill 1973 which were moved and accepted in the Senate. In the re-drafting consequent upon these amendments a small paragraph- (ca)- was inadvertently left in section 25 of the Act. Because of the amendments it is of no relevance and should be removed.
As to the principal amendment, section 15 of the Continental Shelf (Living Natural Resources) Act 1968 creates certain offences relating to the taking of sedentary organisms from the Australian continental shelf by unlicensed persons or vessels. The section also provides that it is a defence to a prosecution for such an offence if it can be proved that the relevant activities were not carried out for commercial purposes. This provision was originally designed to enable Australian trawlers, which may in the course of their normal activities incidentally take some sedentary species, to do so without offending against the Act. Recent experience has shown that foreign fishermen who take sedentary species from the continental shelf intend to use this provision in a manner not contemplated when the legislation was originally framed. They can take the species quite deliberately and claim they were taken non-commercially because they are used as food for the crews or the families of the crew.
The effect of this amendment, which is similar to one made in 1975 to the Fisheries Act 1952, is to make it an offence for foreigners to take sedentary organisms from the continental shelf for any purpose. This is consistent with international obligations and is a necessary step in the preservation of those sedentary species of the continental shelf which have a low regenerative capacity and which thus require special measures to ensure their protection. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Scholes) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Sinclair, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Whaling Act 1960. The amendments are principally the result of Australia’s commitments as a signatory to the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling and as a member of the International Whaling Commission. In addition the Bill gives effect, in- respect of whaling, to the Government’s decision to extend Australian fisheries jurisdiction as outlined in my second reading speech on the Fisheries Amendment Bill.
The Commonwealth has participated since 1931 in the international regulation of whaling and has had laws in force since 1935 to control whaling by Australians. The present Whaling Act 1960 gives effect to the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling 1946, as did its predecessor Act, the Whaling Act 1935. The present Act provides the legislative authority and machinery for regulating the taking and utilisation of great whales and for controlling the taking of small whales.
Extension of Australian control over fisheries to 200 miles makes control over whaling in that area both logical and desirable. This Bill effects an extension of the Government’s jurisdiction with respect to whaling by much the same means as the Fisheries Amendment Bill, the difference being that, whereas the Fisheries Amendment Bill provides for exclusive control over foreign fishing vessels within the 200-mile zone, the Whaling Bill confers a jurisdiction which is in some respects qualified. The qualification arises from the Conventions and the effect is to remove from Australian whaling jurisdiction, vessels or aircraft which are flying the flag of, or registered in, a foreign country that is a party to the International Whaling Conventions and whose use in connection with whaling is duly authorised by that country and is not in contravention of any of the provisions of the schedule to the Convention. This arrangement operates between all signatories to the Conventions and reflects the concerted approach which is being taken to the preservation of whales by members of the International Whaling Commission.
The remaining significant amendments provide the legal machinery to implement the latest management measures approved by the International Whaling Commission for the taking of whales. The measures are provisions for the prohibition of the taking of whales of a specified species, kind or sex in excess of a certain size or number. The prohibition is effected by the making of a notice by the Minister and is supplemented by a new requirement for the reporting of catch statistics when such notices are in force. A penalty of $200 for each day on which such information is not reported may be imposed. The remaining amendments are purely concerned with bringing the text of the Act into line with current drafting practice. Those parts of the Bill which relate to management measures will commence on the day the Bill receives the royal assent, while those amendments which relate to the extension of the Government’s jurisdiction to 200 miles will commence at the same time as the related amendments to the Fisheries Act 1952. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Scholes) adjourned.
Rescission of Resolution
Motion (by Mr Sinclair)- by leave- agreed to:
That the resolution of the House of 12 April 1978 making consideration of the report from the Privileges Committee relating to an editorial published in the Sunday Observer of 26 February 1978 an Order of the Day for Friday, 5 May 1978 be rescinded and that consideration of the report be made an Order of the Day for this day of sitting.
Consideration of Report
– I move:
With respect to the second part of the motion, there are obviously differences in attitudes towards privilege between the two chambers; yet there would seem to be a distinct advantage in each chamber, together if possible, examining the whole question of parliamentary privilege in line with the recommendations of the Committee of Privileges. The Government feels, therefore, that it is desirable, if possible, to have a reference which is acceptable to both Houses and which can be examined by a joint committee. We propose submitting as soon as possible to this chamber a reference which can then be referred to the Privileges Committee of each House for consideration before the joint inquiry into privileges is constituted. That would mean that both the other place and this chamber could, through their Privileges Committees, examine the proposed terms of reference before the joint committee is constituted. It is this aspect which led to the delay in this matter and the earlier debate. It is essential that the reference be one which embraces as far as possible all the matters that need to be examined. I still hope that we can deal with this matter as soon as possible following the resumption of the sitting after the next fortnight’s recess.
– As Chairman of the Committee of Privileges I support the comments of the Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair) that the embarrassing situation which confronted this chamber last night was caused by the Committee’s action in going outside its terms of reference and including a recommendation in its report that the whole question of privilege be re-examined by the Australian Parliament setting up its own system of examining privileges. It was a difficult moment for the Minister and for some members of the Committee, including me. We were confronted with what we believed was a problem insofar as a breach of privilege had been found by the Committee and it seemed as though the matter would simply lie on the table until early May. Some honourable members expressed the view that justice had to be done and that the matter had to be disposed of as quickly as possible. I sincerely hope that the motives of the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) and the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Cotter) have been appreciated in the cool and quiet atmosphere of today. They were well motivated and had sincere beliefs in terms of justice being done.
I have nothing further to add to that, except to say that almost a week has passed since the report was presented. The House and indeed the public are very much aware that the Committee did find that a breach of privilege existed and that Mr Isaacson had of his own accord printed a withdrawal in the Sunday Observer. The Committee had come to the conclusion that the writer of that editorial, which some honourable members in this chamber found offensive, was not worthy- I forget the exact words used but this is the gist of them- of commanding any more time of this House.
-I support the motion which is before the House. The motion has two elements, both of which are of importance. The matter of privilege is important. One of the significant results of the inquiry is that, in addition to the findings and the recommendations made- I suggest that both the findings and the recommendations are the only ones that could have been made by the Committee- the Committee raised also the question of privilege. The privileges of this House and of the Senate are those which existed in the House of Commons at the time of Federation. The situation in relation to privileges in the House of Commons clearly has changed through usage since that time. To date this Parliament has chosen not to declare its privileges but rather to depend on the constitutional reference. I am not sure that, after an investigation, we would choose to do differently. However, I do think that there is validity in having such an investigation.
Certainly the matter of the enforcement of privilege or the usage of privilege represents one of the most difficult of the Parliament’s obligations and responsibilities. It is not difficult for the Privileges Committee to hear evidence and to determine whether or not privilege or, as in this case, contempt exists. The difficulty is that the Parliament, because of present attitudes and developing attitudes in the community and in the Parliament, has no methods at its disposal which it would readily use to enforce its authority. I doubt very much, for instance, whether we would lock up the judges of the High Court of Australia for a contempt of the Parliament, as in fact happened in a case involving the House of Commons at an earlier time. I doubt that at this stage the Parliament, except in the gravest of circumstances, would entertain a motion which sought imprisonment. The Parliament is denied almost all other real penalties.
In the case of a person who has privileges, such as the right of access to this building or something of that nature, it can remove that right of access or in some other way reprimand the person concerned. But they are not real penalties. If the person concerned has in fact deliberately set out to create controversy and, having been taken up on that controversy, deliberately sets out to exploit it for purposes of sensationalism or for some other purpose, we can take the sort of action which I have described. I think it is relevant that the privileges of this House be examined and that a decision be made or at least advice sought on whether or not we can clearly define privilege and whether breaches of it can be acted upon by this House. An unenforceable power or an unenforceable right are no power or right at all.
All Parliaments have their problems, especially when they do not do what the daily Press or some community spokesman suggests they ought to do and in those cases when they are not able to meet, for various reasons, the expectations which are placed upon them. Quite often they are not able to do that either because they do not have the authority to do so, as is the case with this Parliament- the Constitution limits authority- or because the sorts of problems which exist have to date defied solution by the best minds in the world.
I turn now to the motion moved by the Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair). We will look at the form of the joint committee which is proposed to be set up. The setting up of such a committee is dependent on the agreement of another House. If the setting up of a joint committee is not acceptable to the Senate, or if there appear to be difficulties in determining the form in which such a committee could operate, I hope that the House will entertain a motion for the setting up of a select committee of this House to examine its own privileges. I tend to agree with the suggestion that the Privileges Committee, which ultimately will have the responsibility of enforcing any changes or carrying through any changes which may take place, is most likely not the appropriate body to make recommendations in relation to the authorities which ought to be given by the Parliament.
I will not say more at this stage. I comment only very briefly on the case out of which this motion arose. I think it is fair to say that Mr Isaacson acknowledged responsibility and accepted completely responsibility for the article, even though in evidence he said that he had not actually seen the article. As the editor-in-chief and the person who accepted responsibility for publication, he felt that the message his newspaper was seeking to convey in the editorial was not necessarily conveyed by the form of the editorial. I do not comment on any other part of the hearing which took place, other than to say that on the same day that the editorial appeared an article appeared in another newspaper which was not a contempt of Parliament, as I see it, but which was a contemptible article. That article was published in the Canberra Times and was drawn to the attention of the Committee. But such is the genius of the journalist concerned that he can earn his pay only by casting aspersions and reflections upon those persons who attended the opening of Parliament, namely, the wives and other guests of members, or on the Parliament itself. His given reason for doing so was that he had not been allowed to enter Parliament House because he had forgotten to bring his pass. When members of Parliament do not perform their function, they, as elected public figures, are entitled to criticism. I think it is cowardly for persons to seek to criticise other persons because they do not carry out their function.
-I have, for good reasons I hope, made no comment on the matter which I raised early in February. I sought leave of the House not to take part in the deliberations of the Privileges Committee, and I was relieved from that duty. I simply wish to say this afternoon that I am very grateful to the Chairman of the Committee and to all those who took part in examining the matter which I brought to your attention, Mr Speaker, and to the attention of the House. Firstly, I must add that I support the conclusions to which the Committee came. Secondly, I must express some regret about the incident which occurred last night. Again, once it started, I withdrew from the chamber because I did not want to take part in it. I think a misunderstanding took place because there were additional recommendations made by the Committee which were far outside the matter which was referred to it. It is correct that the recommendations were extremely important but I would have preferred yesterday evening to see the first part- the matter referred to the Committeedealt with there and then. It was for that reason that this morning I thought of placing on the Notice Paper a motion to enable me to express some regret to the Sunday Observer that the matter had not been dealt with yesterday evening. However, I did not do so.
The Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair) decided correctly and kindly understood the feelings of very many backbenchers and immediately took steps to see that this debate was brought forward. Honourable members in this House do not have any privilege other than is normally given to any other person, except in the discharge of their duties to and in this House. For example, if the article in the Sunday Observer named four or five members who were failing in their duties, those members would have had the normal recourse to law outside this House. However, by using a technique of saying ‘a few members of the House ‘ or ‘some members of the House’ without naming them, it was able to print with impunity its remarks knowing that it would not be possible for any member to take action outside the House because he was not named in the article. I construed the article, by tradition, to be a reflection on every member. For that reason I raised the matter in the first place.
As far as Mr Peter Isaacson and the other gentleman are concerned I can say only that the apology printed in the Sunday Observer was a recognition that there was no criticism of this House as a House. They were endeavouring to draw attention to the fact that some of the procedures in this House are perhaps rather swift and that not all debates in this House receive the full attention of every member. That was the valid point to make but the way in which the newspaper chose to do it was unfortunately, as found by the Committee of Privileges, not the correct way to do it.
Now I come to the point of parliamentary privilege itself. I made some investigations to see what is the situation in the House of Commons and the Senate in the Canadian Parliament regarding parliamentary privilege. I suggest that the Joint Committee of the two Houses of this Parliament that will shortly examine this subject should look with care and with a view to obtaining some guidance, at the system used in the Canadian Parliament where the rights and privileges belong to both Houses. It is not really the time for me to initiate a debate on the historical reasons for the introduction of parliamentary privilege or how it arose. I conclude by saying that I am glad I raised this matter because a House that does not know its privileges and powers put people outside in a position where they do not know their standing if they offend the House directly or, sometimes, accidentally. Therefore, the sooner we establish our rights granted and guaranteed to us in the Constitution, the better will be our relations with the media and the better will be our relations with the public outside. The prestige of this House and the Senate would be enhanced once and for all. The Constitution lays down that privilege, belong to and shall be enjoyed by both Houses. I support the motion by the Leader of the House and congratulate the Chairman and members of the Committee of Privileges for the work they have so ably performed on behalf of the House.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
-I present the second report of the Publications Committee.
Report- by leave- adopted.
Debate resumed from 6 April, on motion by Mr Nixon:
That the Bill be now read a second rime.
- Mr Speaker, 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 suggest that it may suit the convenience of the House to have a general debate covering this Bill and the Qantas Airways Limited (Loan Guarantee) 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 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 subjects? There being no objection, I will permit that course to be adopted.
-In this cognate debate we are discussing the Airline Equipment (Loan Guarantee) Bill and the Qantas Airways Limited (Loans Guarantee) Bill. The Bills are routine measures to enable Ansett Airlines of Australia and Qantas Airways Ltd to purchase new aircraft overseas. The Bills are not opposed by the Opposition. The purpose of the Qantas Airways Ltd (Loan Guarantee) Bill is to guarantee loans raised by Qantas Airways Ltd to finance the purchase of its 16th and 17th Boeing 747 aircraft to replace aging and less economic Boeing 707 aircraft. The guarantee is limited to $US80m. The purpose of the Airline Equipment (Loan Guarantee) Bill is to guarantee loans raised by Ansett Transport Industries (Operations) Pty Ltd to finance the purchase of its ninth Boeing 727 200 series aircraft in the establishment of its fleet of ten 727 200 series aircraft to replace its earlier Boeing 727 100 aircraft. In this case the guarantee will be limited to $US 10.3m or its equivalent, which represents 80 per cent of the cost of the aircraft and associated equipment.
This debate provides an opportunity to make an examination of the financial performance of the airlines and the state of Australia ‘s aviation industry. Recently, the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) tabled the annual financial report of Ansett Transport Industries Ltd relating to the operation of its air services for the year ended 2 July 1977, as provided in clause 1 1 of the 1972 airlines agreement. This report showed that Ansett made an operating profit before tax of $ 14.9m from airline activities. That profit represented 50 per cent of the company’s total profit before tax of $29.8m. Revenue from airline activities amounted to $292.4m, or 65.3 per cent of total Ansett Transport Industries revenue of $447.6m. On the expenditure side, airline activities accounted for $277.4m, or 66.4 per cent of total Ansett Transport Industries expenditure of $4 17.8m for the year. For the information of honourable members I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a document giving details of Ansett Transport Industries airline activities for the year ended 2 July 1977. The document is titled ‘Profit and Loss Statement, Balance Sheet’.
The document read as follows-
– The meagre information provided by these extracts does little to facilitate a comparison of the financial performance of Ansett and TAA. If anything, it contributes to the view expressed by some that the duopoly domestic airline system is holding Australian air travellers to ransom. What this Government has to realise is that airline services are a form of public transport. Ansett and TAA each hold regular public transport licences and the public should have as much information as possible on their financial performances so as to be able to properly assess the efficiency of their operations and their true profit levels. It is time that conservative governments stopped treating the aviation industry as a sacred cow and opened up those sacred chambers to public examination because, after all, the public pays for everything. TransAustralia Airlines makes available for public scrutiny detailed accounts of its operations, and I sincerely hope that Ansett will see fit to do likewise. There should not be a need for government regulations in this matter. Ansett would benefit from a better public understanding of its airline activities, and certainly the public would be able to recognise the problems that face the industry as a whole.
Some additional data may be obtained from an examination of the consolidated statistical summary shown on page 17 of the 1977 annual report of Ansett Transport Industries. A comparison with data from TAA’s 1977 annual report shows that Ansett ‘s revenue load factor, which takes into account passengers, freight and mail, was 62.2 per cent for the period covered by the report. Unfortunately the figures are not strictly comparable because the revenue load factor for TAA takes into account passengers only. However, on this basis TAA’s revenue load factor was 67.7 per cent. In respect of the number of paying passengers, Ansett had 4.86 million and TAA has 4.12 million. Ansett ‘s percentage increase in passengers over the 1976 figure was 1.7 per cent and in the case of TAA it was 1.5 per cent. We come then to revenue from passengers expressed as a percentage of total airline operations revenue. In the case of Ansett it amounted to 87.8 per cent and in the case of TAA 86.3 per cent. Total revenue from airline operations was $292.4m for Ansett and $234.3m for TAA.
General criticism is often voiced at the higher level of domestic air fares compared with international air fares. Again this is an area where the Minister for Transport could have assisted public debate and understanding by making public the aviation policy reviews so that the full information could have been examined and, hopefully, understood or at least interpreted. Several factors contribute to the higher level of domestic aviation costs but without full access to the pertinent costs I am unable to state to what degree they are responsible for domestic air operating costs being higher than international air operating costs. However, I know that these factors include the fact that domestic air services operate over shorter average stage hauls than international air services. For example, the average stage passenger haul for TAA in 1976-77 was 813 kilometres compared with an average haul of 7,259 kilometres for Qantas in the same period. This means that on average TAA aircraft had to make approximately nine times as many landings and takeoffs as Qantas.
A second factor is excise on aviation fuel. Domestic airlines pay excise on fuel; international airlines are exempt. This item cost TAA $ 17.5m or more than half of its total fuel bill of $32.6m in 1976-77. Ansett ‘s report shows a total figure for fuel of $ 16.7m. However, because of the nature of the items in the report I am not sure whether this includes a minor component for operations other than airline activities. A third factor is that international operators benefit from the better operating economics of larger aircraft with more advanced engineering technology. For example, a Boeing 747 aircraft is considerably cheaper to operate per seat/kilometre than the smaller and older DC9 jet aircraft used by the domestic airlines.
Another criticism frequently made of Ansett and TAA is the clustering of flight departure times, or parallel scheduling as it is known. Recently the Minister was reported as having requested the airlines to do something to remedy this practice. It was a rather cynical request, given that he has had 2V4 years since his Government was returned to office, and several years prior to 1972, in which to do something. He now makes that request. I suspect that the request was rather tongue in cheek although it was a change from his usual response to aviation issues of using expressions such as ‘crazy’ or ‘absolute nonsense’. We ought to look at the subject more closely. As I see the situation Tasmanians and
Western Australians appear to be most disadvantaged by parallel scheduling. Whilst this practice is related to market demands, that is, the airlines must provide seats when people want to travel or they miss out on the business, I believe more can be done to meet public objections to the clustering or bunching of flight departure times. For instance, the sharing of days or departure times or the pooling of revenues on carefully selected routes, as is done amongst international airlines such as Qantas and British Airways, could go some of the way towards enabling more evenly spaced departure times and so providing a more acceptable service to the public.
I must return to the point that aviation is not a sacred cow any longer. It is there to serve the community and its services and facilities ought to be designed with that purpose uppermost in the mind of the Government. The suggestions I have just made should be at least looked at. It must be remembered that there was relatively little done to rationalise air services until this was forced on airlines by the tighter trading conditions of the past few years. As regular public transport operators, Ansett and TAA have a responsibility to hold air fares as low as practicable. This could be approached in several ways. For example, it could be done by the Government ensuring that profit levels are reasonable. We have to remember that this Government at the end of 1976, 1 think, issued a financial directive to TAA to raise its profit return from 10 per cent to 1 5 per cent. Naturally, as the airlines operate in tandem that enabled the other airline to increase its fares. The airlines then had to have a higher fare structure to meet a higher -
– You have it back to front.
– It was increased from 10 per cent to 1 5 per cent, I understood.
– I wanted them to match Ansett ‘s.
– The Minister said that he wanted TAA to match Ansett. I am not sure of that and I accept his comment. What I am saying is that the raising rather than dropping of that profit level from 10 per cent to 15 per cent in effect built in a higher price structure because the price structure had to be designed to return a 1 5 per cent dividend rather than a 10 per cent dividend. This problem could be approached in several ways and I have already referred to the Government ensuring that profit levels are reasonable. Alternatively, it could be overcome by increasing load factors on aircraft or by containing costs. In the cost area the airlines and the Government should be looking at the feasibility of the establishment of joint operations in the provision of expensive flight training facilities and maintenance equipment, especially when wide bodied aircraft such as the Airbus, the Boeing 72 7X or the Lockheed Tri-Star are introduced into domestic use. These larger aircraft with better operating economics per seat/kilometre could help to offset future cost increases. Likewise the continued improvement in the efficiencies of airline operations generally will help lower the industry’s cost structure.
Continued implementation of the import parity price policy on liquid fuels will create heavy cost increases for domestic airlines. Last year, TAA told a select committee on tourism that full implementation of the import parity policy would increase its fuel bill by 50 per cent over the next 10 years. As fuel costs constitute approximately 15 per cent of total costs of that airline’s operations the impact on the cost and fare structures will be substantial.
A further area of high cost to the industry is the provision of airport and terminal facilities. Suffice to say at this stage that the Aviation Industry Review Committee, chaired by Sir Lennox Hewitt and whose report the Minister has consistently refused to make available, reported that ‘aviation buildings should be utilitarian not monumental’ and, further, that ‘the capital cost and operating cost for every passenger boarding at the TAA section of Tullamarine are more than double those the airline built and operates at Sydney airport’. A clear assessment of the decision of the previous conservative government about the standard of buildings to be erected at Tullamarine can be made from those statements. The public will be paying for them for ever or until such time as they are changed or replaced. Clearly then, in the future, airport terminals ought to be related to the public’s need. They ought to be utilitarian and not related to politicians’ egos, having in mind the fact that the costs, and any extravagance, have to be borne by air travellers.
The second last matter to which I wish to refer as regards domestic aviation concerns aircraft and airport utilisation. The Department of Transport airline statistics for the year 31 December 1977 show a continuing trend towards the improved utilisation of aircraft. In this case I shall compare the 1974 figures with the 1977 figures. The number of hours flown in that period decreased from 294,022 to 268,024- an 0.9 per cent reduction. The number of passengers increased by 0.45 million to 9.75 million. Aircraft movements at major airports also reflected an improving trend. At Brisbane airport- and I know that the honourable member for Bowman (Mr Jull) is very interested in this so I shall speak very slowly- aircraft movements increased by 1.9 per cent while the number of passengers increased by 4.2 per cent. In Melbourne, the increase in aircraft movements was minus 0.7 per cent while the number of passengers increased by 4.6 per cent; in Sydney, there was a 1.1 per cent increase in aircraft movements with a 4.6 per cent increase in the number of passengers; in Perth there was an 8.8 per cent increase in aircraft movements with a 13.5 per cent increase in the number of passengers; in Adelaide, there was a 3.5 per cent increase in aircraft movements with an 8.5 per cent increase in the number of passengers.
I wish to refer briefly to the Qantas Airways Ltd (Loan Guarantee) Bill which is the other Bill being dealt with in this cognate debate. Qantas ‘s profit for the year ended 31 March 1977 was $12m before tax. That represents a dramatic turnaround on its performance during the previous few years. The number of passengers carried in that financial year as compared with the previous financial year rose from 1.49 million to 1.59 million. This is reflected in the increase in the revenue seat factor from 61.2 per cent to 62 per cent and an increase in the revenue load factor from 56.2 per cent to 58.5 per cent. Present indications are that Qantas improved its position still further in the year just concluded. I hope that this Parliament will not have to wait a year for the results of Qantas for the financial year ended 31 March 1978-13 days ago- as it had to wait for the results of Qantas ‘s 1976-77 operations. However, the future of Qantas is bound up in the decisions on international aviation policy to be made in a few months time following the recent closed shop’ review of policy. But I shall return to that a little later in my remarks.
The other matter which I neglected to mention in relation to domestic aviation is the two airline agreement. Honourable members will recall that this was drawn up about 26 years ago. It was seen as a device to break the monopoly of the national airline, TAA, and to ensure the growth and viability of the competitive private airline Ansett or ANA- I am not sure what it was called at the time. Nowadays that policy is seen by many, both within and outside the aviation industry, to have produced a monster, a duopoly in the provision of trunk line domestic air services. It is claimed by some that it perpetuates a barrier to wider flexibility in the range of air services and lower domestic air fares. I do not propose to accept or reject those views, but simply to make some comment on air services as they exist. A much better public understanding of the advantage and disadvantage of the agreement would prevail if, as I mentioned earlier, the Minister were to make the reports of those two reviews available for public dissemination. Even at this late stage I again ask the Minister to make the reports of those committees available so that we can then have in the Australian community an informed discussion of aviation policy.
This leads me to an area a little away from the two airline agreement itself to the ancillary arrangements and particularly to the relationships of the second airlines, to commuter or smaller services that feed on the major airlines such as Ansett and TAA. A copy of a Press release has just been made available to me and I am seriously concerned at the nature of what is contained in it. To my mind, it reinforces the claim I have made consistently on behalf of the Opposition over the past seven months and that is that the reviews into aviation policy should have been by way of public inquiry. This Press release has been issued by the managing director of South Australian and Territorial Air ServicesSAATAS the airline company which has closed down its Northern Territory operation. In the Press release the Minister for Transport and the National Country Party are accused of porkbarrel politics and discrimination. It calls for a royal commission to investigate financial and government links between air companies in the Territory and the National Country Party. The Press release states: . . the directors of SAATAS -
And the Minister will obviously be well aware of this- announced they would run down their Northern Territory flying operations because the opposition airline, Connair, had been given massive and unfair government assistance.
The release continues- and I regard this a very serious matter:
Mr Cavill said that he has been consistently refused the opportunity of meeting Mr Nixon and presenting the facts and merits of important matters concerning air transport services in the Northern Territory to him. ‘We can compete against Connair but we cannot compete with the Commonwealth’, Mr Cavill said, ‘Particularly when faced with the use of arbitary power to our consistent disadvantage when we have absolutely no appeal from the decisions of or access to the responsible Minister. ‘
Reference is then made to the fact that a senator for the Northern Territory, Senator Kilgariff, and a member of this place, Mr Calder- and I think this is well known- are past directors of Connair. The Press release also refers to Mr Damian Miller, vice president of the National Country Party in Aiice Springs, as being a director of Connair. The Press release continues:
The immediate past president - and this is a very serious section of the claim by Mr Cavill- of the Party’s Northern Territory executive, Mr Eric Manuell, is a director of Rossair Aviation Sales Pty Ltd which trades as Chartair, a company which has been granted a Territory charter licence and federal government assistance. SAATAS has legal advice that with respect to scheduled station services granted to Chartair and another Katherine operator the Commonwealth has acted in a discriminatory manner actionable in the High Court of Australia.
The release goes on to say:
Mr Cavill said that in a recent telephone conversation with a senior Department of Transport official, he asked what would happen if he ‘put up the shutters one night and made a statement’. ‘There would be a lot of red faces and that’s it’, replied the official. ‘You are not getting any support at all ‘.
I have referred to that letter and quoted that Press release because they highlight the need to bring out into the open the decision-making processes of the aviation industry. I repeat that the industry is there to provide a public transport service. As each year passes, air transport will become more and more important in the daily lives of Australians and more important to the functioning of our economy.
I think it is incredible that 1 5 or 1 6 weeks after a secret interdepartmental committee inquired into the provision of aviation services in the Northern Territory and looked specifically at the problems of Connair and SAATAS a major operator- the largest operator- is now going out of business. That operator is going out of business because it believes- it has had legal advice on the matter- that it has been improperly discriminated against by the Minister and the Government because of the close political links of the National Country Party with the opponent airline, Connair. I do not know whether those claims are true or false. I am not claiming privilege to something that has not been said outside. I am referring to a Press release that was released this afternoon.
– It is about three weeks old.
– I do not know whether it is that old. I received it only this afternoon. I understood that it was to be released half an hour ago. I am acting on the advice I have been given. The fact is that a secret IDC inquiry was held and now the major operator is going out of business. Something stinks in the state of Denmark. I asked in this Parliament, by way of questions on notice, for the IDC report to be tabled. The Minister, from recollection, gave a blunt no. He gave no reason. He just said no, as is usual in his relationship with us. A most serious situation has developed. We have to look at it if we are responsibly and properly to look at the management of passenger transport in this country. The burden is in front of the Minister; it is his responsibility.
– I accept that.
– His party has been mentioned, and the Minister stands as the chief accused.
– I accept full responsibility.
-No doubt, if Mr Cavill is not correct in his claims we shall see some legal action from the Minister in another place. I submit that if the claims made by Mr Cavill and his airline are substantiated there are serious grounds for the resignation of the Minister or at least the holding of a royal commission of inquiry, which is what Mr Cavill has called for.
I turn now to international aviation, which is the pet subject of our Minister. Here again we have the same kind of situation. The Minister is a gonna’. He is always ‘gonna’ do something about it. He is always ‘gonna’ make a decision. To date he has not done so. It is like, as I read today, a long pregnancy. I think Sir Lennox Hewitt -
– Have you ever tried to run aeroplanes to make money?
– The Minister is responsible, not me. I am only here to watch him. In this area, as I have said over and over again, the statements- some based on fact and some based on less than fact- consistently made by people within the industry and outside the industry who have an interest one way or the other have confused people. In reports of recent years people in the travel industry have said that there is evidence of a deferral of travel by people who would have travelled but for these conflicting statements. As early as 1976 Air Hibiscus, Simon Warrender and several others of whom the Minister is well aware were saying that such and such a cut price service would start late in 1976 or some time in 1977. Like that long pregnancy, nothing has been born.
– I did not say that.
– The Minister did not say that. I am saying that these claims have been made. At no stage has the Minister sought to rebut or defuse some of these claims. The Government should have been doing that at the time.
– He has run away from it.
– He has run away. He has tried to be all things to all airlines. That is the problem. That has caused vast public confusion. Honourable members opposite may laugh about it, but it is a serious matter. On the AM program this morning it was reported that 20 Americans in San Francisco who had bought tickets from Qantas to come to Australia now find that they cannot travel here. Again, Qantas is getting the blame. I come back to the Minister’s responsibility. Qantas is a publicly-owned trading enterprise. It ought to be allowed to operate and it ought to be directed to operate as a public trading enterprise. There should not be any hobbles on it, if that is the right word to use.
– A beautiful word.
– The Minister says that it is a beautiful word. Qantas should not be hobbled by some sort of heavy handed financial directive. Qantas has become the bunny in many ways in the argument. We want to see the report of the international aviation review tabled in the Parliament. As much information as possible should be distributed to the community so that the true facts can be made known and people can understand what is involved.
We on this side of the House believe and have said for some time that there is a capacity for a reduction in international air fares. That ought to be done as soon as possible and done in as public a way as possible. As the Australian dollar has been teetering, as our balance of payments position continues to worsen and as we borrow billions of dollars from overseas to prop up the Australian dollar we find the debit of travel expenditure on the balance of payments has more than doubled. In 1971-72 it was $133m. It is now about $280m. There has been a net outflow of about $280m. The figure may be plus or minus a little as those are the figures of the Australian Bureau of Statistics for the year 1975-76. The latest figures might show a small reduction. When we get into a bad balance of payments position the importance of the consideration of this area will assume a much higher magnitude.
The unknown factor is what will be the size of the travel explosion. If fares drop to the levels indicated by Qantas and British Airways, by what factor will the number of Australians travelling out of Australia increase and by what factor will the number of travellers coming into Australia increase? Because of the lack of information, it is a guessing game. But, whatever the guessing game, if there is a substantial reduction in air fares there will be a substantial increase in the number of Australians leaving this country on holidays and there will be a corresponding substantial increase in outgoings. In this worsening balance of payments situation it is quite accurate to say that the Treasury will be looking at proposals to put limits on the amount of funds that people travelling abroad can take with them. That aspect has to be taken into consideration. Again, the responsibility lies with the Government. If we had everything out in the open -
-You wanted to be in government.
– I am laughing at your misfortune.
– It may not prove to be a misfortune. All these matters should be looked at. In conclusion, I ask the Minister again to consider making available the reports of those committees. I believe that in many ways the approaches to some of the subjects contained in the report could be on a bipartisan or national basis. But if the Minister chooses to deal with the matter on a party political basis it will be to the disadvantage of Australia.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-I have listened with interest to the speech of the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris). I feel that a number of the points that he raised are worthy of closer examination by members of this Parliament. It is true that the two Bills that we are debating cognately are merely technical Bills. The Bills provide for the purchase of new aircrafttwo Boeing 747 aircraft by Qantas Airways Limited and a new 727 200 series aircraft by Ansett Transport Industries. There is nothing terribly contentious about these Bills. I believe that almost 100 aircraft have been bought under this system. Obviously the technicalities of these Bills are well known to the members of this House and to the Ministry. This system of financing aircraft sales has worked well for Australia over the years. I think it is probably well worth making the point- this point was originally raised by the honourable member for Shortland- that the aviation industry is, to a great degree, in a state of flux. The decisions that will be made by the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) in the coming months regarding aviation reviews are most important and will affect the whole nature of aviation in Australia in the years to come. I realise the tremendous task the Minister has before him in ploughing through the many submissions that have been made and arriving at the many decisions that have to be made in the coming weeks.
The thing that interests me about these Bills, especially the Bill concerning the purchase of more aircraft for the domestic services in Australia, is the fact that as yet we have had no real indication from the domestic carriersAnsett and Trans-Australia Airlines- as to whether and, if so, when they will move into larger equipment. I believe that on a commercial basis an early rather than a deferred decision on the purchase of wide-bodied equipment for domestic services is desirable. The decision must be made soon for a number of reasons, and not least among those are the social factors as well as the economic factors. It is true that the Boeing 727-200 series aircraft is an aircraft that still to a very great degree employs technology that goes back over some 15 years. It is true that we are facing a fuel crisis. It is true that three-engined aircraft that are presently being used are not the most efficient users of aviation fuel.
I read with interest a release that came out the other day from Frank Borman who is the Chairman of Eastern Airlines in America which, of course, has just signed a contract for about 23 Airbuses. One of the major factors that Frank Borman took into account in the decision to buy Airbuses rather than the American equivalents was the fact that they provided in the initial trial stages a saving of some 30 per cent in fuel used and 30 per cent is an appreciable figure when applied to the Australian scene and means savings of millions of dollars can be made by the mid-1980s. Whether the wide bodied aircraft for Australia ought to be more suitable than the Airbus, the Lockheed Tristar or the DC 10, 1 do not really think I am qualified to answer. But I think it is well worthy of our investigation and we should look at just what the real social value would be of purchasing wide bodied equipment. This equipment is anti-pollutant. It is certainly not the pollutant type of aircraft that is presently being employed on Australian domestic services. The fuel saving is considerable. There will be more and more congestion in Australian airports in years to come if the smaller equipment is continually used. I understand there has been a degree of interest in the use of wide bodied aircraft. However, one of the problems that is facing the airlines and indeed the governments is just what will happen to Sydney airport. I know that the Minister for Transport is most anxiously awaiting advice from the New South Wales Premier and the New South Wales Government of just what will happen there. The honourable member for Cook (Mr Dobie) knows all about Sydney airport. He has just nodded his approval and I know that he has a most varied interest in the operations of Sydney airport.
The fact is that the number of take-offs and landings can be reduced by the implementation of wide bodied equipment. This is certainly important for future airport planning in Australia. If we make a few investigations and relate our findings to the growth in the aviation industry at the moment it would seem that the people of Australia would not necessarily have to miss out on the frequency of services they enjoy at the moment if this equipment was introduced. I am talking here about the three major portsSydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. If the present growth of nearly nine per cent in aviation travel continues it would seem a reasonable proposition that by 1983 the same frequency would exist with the use of wide bodied aircraft as exists at the moment. It is very interesting to look at some of the tables that show the rationalisation of departure times between Sydney-Melbourne and Melbourne-Brisbane.
The other factor which often is not considered in debates of this kind on wide bodied equipment is air cargo. It is a fact that wide bodied equipment such as the Airbus, the Lockheed Tristar and the DC 10 carry as much cargo at the moment as does an Electra freighter. This capacity offers all sorts of opportunities for the domestic aircraft to carry as much freight as that carried by freighters. Certainly in an airport situation this would mean a lower noise factor. If we can get over some of the curfew problems we have at the moment wide bodied equipment could be used on the major freight route from Melbourne to Cairns, which I understand still exists. Such an arrangement could be to the great advantage of cost. It could be also of advantage to the North Queensland tourist trade. The Minister when making decisions regarding the aviation review might take the opportunity to look at the prospect of re-introducing the old red-eyed flights to help the tourist industry. These flights used to leave at midnight. Sometimes they were called honeymooner specials. They provided a cheaper fare, maybe anything up to a 50 per cent reduction. As I have said, such an arrangement could be of a very great advantage to the tourist industry.
As the honourable member for Shortland said, the tourist industry is a most important and vital industry at the moment. I thought his reference to the high cost of domestic fares in Australia was an interesting point. This is certainly something that has been mentioned time and time again as being detrimental to the growth of the domestic industy. It is true that air fares are high, but if we relate them to, say, the European situation we would find they may be even slightly cheaper than the straight domestic fare purchased in those countries. The point regarding the international tourist travelling on our domestic services is the fact that we do not have as yet a real system of proration of air fares, and that is something that I think is most important and something that I hope will soon be considered by the Minister to see whether we can get that package concept to make it a viable proposition for people coming into this country to fly around the country at a reasonable cost to themselves. At the moment it is quite plain that the vast majority of international tourists coming to Australia tend to fly the triangle- they fly Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne. As a Queenslander that upsets me. As a Queenslander it upsets me that Brisbane airport receives only 4 per cent of the international tourists who come into Australia every year.
Once again I would like to congratulate the Government on the decision to go ahead with the upgrading of the Brisbane airport. I am sorry that the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) is not in the House this afternoon. I know of his vital interest and he did want to speak in this debate, but he is continuing, along with the rest of the Queensland members, his efforts for the speedy implementation of the extensions to the Brisbane airport. We trust that a timetable will be coming out very soon to make sure that the airport is completed.
The tourist industry is an important one and what the honourable member for Shortland said was quite true, that when we finally do get these cheaper air fares into Australia we can probably expect an increase in the number of people coming in as well as the number of people going out. From the discussions I have had with the Australian Tourist Commission, and indeed with other members of the travel industry and the Australian Bureau of Statistics, I know that on their calculations it would seem that in 1979 we can expect a 15 per cent growth in the number of international tourists visiting Australia. That is a substantial increase. That is another reason why I believe we should be looking at the possibility of introducing wide bodied aircraft as soon as we possibly can. It is true that the people coming into Australia are finding that many of our domestic flights are becoming more and more crowded and that the present equipment that is being used by domestic carriers is being utilised virtually to its full extent at the moment in the confines of the airport limitations that we have. The 1 5 per cent growth, which would mean that 600,000 people would be visiting Australia every year, is something that we should be looking at.
One would hope that once these cheaper fares are available the Government would look at just what we are doing to promote Australia overseas. It is a very sad situation at the moment when one looks at what is happening in overseas tourist promotions. I know that there has been all sorts of troubles. I am not denying that at all, but at the moment funding for the Australian Tourist Commission overseas is very limited indeed and when the Commission is working on an annual budget of some $3m it does not leave very much to enable it overseas to promote the country and passenger growth into the country. One hopes that there will be a corresponding increase in the amount of promotion undertaken by the ATC when these cheaper fares are available.
The Minister assures me that there will be a form of cheaper fares coming in the not too distant future. Whether or not it is to be a Laker type situation or a part-charter situation is yet to be seen. But it is true, as the honourable member for Shortland mentioned in his speech, that there are people who are holding off buying their tickets for overseas travel. I know from some of the conversations that I have had with some of the international airline operators in Brisbane that it is quite a comedy at the moment with people putting their heads through doorways and asking Qantas or British Airways: ‘When does Freddie Laker start operating?’ Obviously Laker has had a tremendous public relations exercise done on his behalf and the name ‘Freddie Laker’ has become a household word in Australia in the last 12 months. Whether it is for the good of the travelling public or not, I think we will have to wait and see when the day comes that Mr Laker does lay all his cards on the table.
One would hope that this international airline review would go a little bit further than just some of the submissions that have been put around, especially to the House of Representative Select Committee on Tourism, just from Qantas. Qantas has been in a privileged position over the years in respect of civil aviation to Australia. It is playing a very rough game. The international civil aviation market place is a tough one. One realises that Qantas must be given every assistance, but I believe that Qantas should also be looking in its own backyard a little more than it has in recent years. Quite frankly, and I say this out of no malice towards Qantas at all, its public relations exercises are often greatly wanting. I think the Laker example is one that has proved this point. Laker has come in here and made al! sorts of propositions. Qantas has come back and tried to counteract him, but has changed its story many times. One has just to look through the evidence taken at hearings of the House of Representatives Select Committee on Tourism to see that on two or three occasions it has changed its attitude on cheap fares and that unfortunately not only with the travelling public but to a degree with the people of the tourist industry, it is starting to lose its credibility. That is a very sad situation. When you speak to travel agents you are told that they try to avoid Qantas because they do not really know what is happening. Obviously, if something can be done to improve the public image of Qantas within the industry, and to the Australian travelling public, well and good. That should be encouraged because Qantas is a great Australian enterprise that has had a very proud record over a great number of years. It would be a shame if that record were to be blemished purely as a result of a poor public image.
It is time that the decisions that have to be made by the Minister are considered by us all, not only in relation to the provision of cheap international fares or cheaper domestic fares, but indeed in regard to rationalisation of so many areas of Australian civil aviation. The two-airline policy was a good policy when first introduced. It helped Australian aviation get to a stage where it was a stable industry. Now, however, I think we probably have outgrown that and there is room to provide a little more latitude, not only for the two major operators but also for some of the smaller operators. As more and more of our civil aviation equipment is becoming outdated, and reaches the end of its useful life, maybe an opportunity is being provided for us to move in and start looking at some of the routes being operated at the moment. The regional carriers, of course, have already moved into some of the low revenue routes. Perhaps they can move into more and more of these. These suggestions have certainly been put up by a number of people and organisations, for action when the time comes for the replacement of the Fokker Friendship aircraft
The Minister has in the coming months some very tough decisions to make. They are decisions that will affect the aviation industry in Australia for many years to come. I am sure that he fully realises his responsibility to the Australian travelling public. After all, that must be our No. 1 consideration, as well as the No. 1 consideration of the aviation industry to provide an efficient, safe and not too costly form of travel, one that, if the present growth in aviation figures is to be believed, is being accepted by more and more Australians every day.
-One can agree with the previous speakers that both of the Bills dealt with in this cognate debate are unexceptional in nature. The guarantees are consistent with the kinds of guarantees and conditions given previously. In other words, it is a routine matter; but if we look at the fact that Qantas Airways Ltd is to get its sixteenth and seventeenth Boeing 747B, and that Ansett Airlines of Australia seeks another Boeing 727-200, it does give us an opportunity perhaps, in the Parliament, to have a considered debate about what is going on in the aviation field in Australia. That is an opportunity that we do not often get. After all, ours is a country with a large land mass and a relatively small population, most of which is concentrated in a few centres. This brings with it many problems for our aviation industry. When one looks at the amounts guaranteed in these Bills, one wonders just how this kind of operation can be mounted and a profit obtained.
I believe it is worthwhile drawing to the attention of the House a statement by Vial at page 36 of Resolving Conflicts in Transport, volume 1, published in 1977 by the Chartered Institute of Transport. On new equipment decisions, he comments that if one were considering the wide bodied jet, each airplane would cost, with capital spares, somewhere between $25m and $30m. I guess that figure would be somewhat higher now. The reaction of many people to the mention of this sort of price, ‘How on earth can you get enough to make it pay?’, is understandable. The statement continues:
A recent Press story told of the raising of an overseas loan of $ 1 1 7m by Qantas to buy three new Boeing 747B aircraft, in other words, a capital investment of $39m each.
The article quoted seating for 398 passengers, together with 1 1 .2 tonnes of cargo as the capacity of each new B747B, and it is instructive to do a little arithmetic with these figures, and some quoted in the latest Qantas annual report, and Department of Transport statistics. At the current achieved utilisation of 4,322 hours per annum, at an average block speed of 738 kilometres per hour, with a passenger load factor of S6.2 per cent, and a revenue return of 4.41c per passengerkilometre, each of the new aircraft would fly 3,384,340 kilometres a year, and bring in passenger revenue of $33,400,000. Assuming a cargo and mail load factor of 30 per cent, the current rate of revenue return of 22.4c per tonne-kilometre would bring in a further $4,250,000 giving a total annual revenue of some $37,650,000 or 96.5 per cent of the purchase investment.
He comments: ‘What an extraordinarily productive machine is the modern airliner’. In that article there is a deal of valid comment on the skill in airline management and the necessity to ensure that these capital intensive pieces of equipment are highly productive to meet traffic demand at as high a revenue load factor as is compatible with good standards of service and to devise operational and maintenance patterns which will keep fleet utilisation as high as possible while achieving minimum specified operating costs. I do not want to spend all my time reading from the article but I invite honourable members, if they want to inform themselves, to have a look at this article.
My colleague the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris) has outlined a number of arguments in the field and he has referred them to this legislation. One of the matters he raisedthe honourable member for Bowman (Mr Jull) raised it as well- was the question of the reviews of both domestic and international aviation policy. They expressed the same disquiet as those people in the industry and in the field that these reviews have been ‘in’ things, that people in the airline industry itself feel that they are divided from it, that they are not part of it, that what they put up is selectively used- it was even suggested at times selectively leaked- for less than proper purposes, and there is a general lack of confidence in the outcome of the reviews. I think it would be fair to say that surely this is an area which is of great interest to this country and in which public inquiry into its special problems would have been preferable in all the circumstances. It might even be that this Parliament could take note of some of these feelings and consider establishing a select committee to look into the aviation field because when we talk about the aircraft that are covered by these Bills, we can see that the purchase of the larger aircraft, the increased passenger loads and so on project into all other facilities that are necessary. I am not sure that we really understand just how important and how massive are those sorts of investments, those sorts of requirements, for the handling of passengers and freight, servicing of machines, handling of spares and so on.
The honourable member for Bowman made some reference to the question of cheaper fares. He indicated his special interest in the field of tourism. One wonders how cheaper fares will be handled. Australia, along with other countries, is showing a fairly healthy increase in this area. On page 1 of the annual report of Qantas Airways Ltd for 1976-77 it states that revenue for that year was up by 19.6 per cent and expenditure was up by 13.7 per cent. The figure for kilometres flown was about the only figure down. It was down by 10.1 per cent. Available tonnekilometres were plus 3.7 per cent; passengers carried, plus 6.9 per cent; passenger-kilometres flown, plus 8.3 per cent; passenger tonnekilometres, plus 8.2 per cent; cargo tonnekilometres, plus 8.7 per cent; mail tonnekilometres, plus 8.8 per cent; total revenue tonne-kilometres, plus 8.3 per cent; and revenue load factor, plus 4. 1 per cent. There was a rise all the way in the utilisation of aircraft, a rise reflected by other airlines. I noticed a recent article in the Australian of Monday with regard to the comments of Pan American World Airways Inc., in which it was said, for example, that in 1977 it had an 8 per cent increase in traffic between the United States and Australia. The article stated further that in 1976 Pan Am was able to average more than 1 1 hours a day utilisation of their 747s. This shows increasing vitality in the area that brings a lot of problems with it.
In this debate we are talking about the 747B. Why have we chosen this particular form of 747? One knows, for example, that Pan Am is using the 747SP on some of the longer flights. We could have some on the routes that Qantas follows. It is the sustained performance craft which carries slightly fewer passengers but has been used to reduce the duration of trips. Australia has this experience because of the use of these craft by Pan Am on the Australia-United States route. In the Melbourne Herald of 1 1 April and again in this morning’s Sydney Morning Herald there appeared comments about British Airways Super Jumboes with Rolls Royce motors. I notice that Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd will follow its lead. According to these reports there is obviously a much greater load factor with these craft. One would like more information as to why we make our choices.
Having had a look at the requirements of aircraft one starts to question the projections for passenger and freight handling. I can understand our friends from Brisbane and so on being concerned about these matters. Even those of us who come from the larger areas, such as Sydney and Melbourne, express some concern in this regard. With the increased use of large aircraft even on the international scale we are facing a great number of problems with passenger handling in terminal facilities. The terminal facilities are strained at present- even if only over periods and not all the time- because of the schedules. There are problems with the provision of customs and health services in our terminals.
Last year I was in an aircraft which landed at Tullamarine at the same time as a couple of other jumbo aircraft. From the time I entered the terminal until the time I exited from the customs area was one and a quarter hours. We hear a lot about tourism, quite apart from anything else such as the needs of business people. I can assure honourable members that after a long flight one and a quarter hours in the terminal is rather a long period. This delay is caused by handling problems in those areas and the problems of passenger carousels. In this regard there are other services at which we should look. I have not dwelt on the lower fares that have been discussed. In the Australian of 7 March the proposition is put forward of third class flights to Britain with an increased passenger load of 500. Among the propositions put forward is the suggestion that there could be a lesser service on the aircraft itself. It is suggested that it would be better to give the passengers just three meals in any 24-hour day rather than the expensive force feeding to which they are submitted at the moment. I am sure it would be possible to make a lot of savings in the aviation field if that sort of thing was examined.
I want to deal briefly with the question of the purchase of the further Boeing 727-200. This has proved an excellent craft on high capacity runs, particularly the Melbourne to Sydney run. It has been used on the Perth-Melbourne and Melbourne-Perth run both for passengers and freight. Here again, with increased passenger content in these larger craft, we will strike the same terminal and handling problems that have been experienced with the international craft. We will face further problems with servicing facilities for both airlines. At the moment both airlines maintain separate servicing facilities. Hangars for servicing are pretty large components. They take a lot of land and a lot of construction. Although there are varying views within the companies, one wonders whether there is not a sound argument for some communal servicing facilities. I suppose the companies would throw up their hands in horror at that suggestion.
The next matter to which I want to refer is the question of replacement. Where do we go, with regard to domestic airliners, from the 727-200. The honourable member for Bowman talked about the Airbus but I understand that the type of Airbus available at the moment is too large for Australian circumstances, so far as passengers are concerned. There are a number of aircraft which those who are interested in the subject term ‘paper aeroplanes’. There is, for example, an Airbus predicted to be capable of holding 200 to 250 passengers, which is the preferred capacity, still on the drawing board. One wonders how long it will take to get off.
Boeing, which has enjoyed great success with its 727 and 747 aircraft, also has paper aeroplanes on the drawing board to serve this widebodied capacity that would be preferable in Australia. The honourable member for Bowman mentioned the Tri-Star and the DC 10 in the context of wide-bodied jets for domestic use. I think the general feeling would be that these are too large for Australian purposes. This is a matter of concern because obviously the decision must be made soon if those wide-bodied aircraft are to be delivered sometime early in the 1980s. I understand that those aircraft that would be preferred are still on the drawing board. We should have a wide discussion about this matter before we are committed to the purchase of those wide-bodied craft. They certainly provide a greater capacity on the high passenger runs. They would provide a greater capacity for carrying freight. However, we should look at the question of carrying freight on the domestic airlines because of the problems that may arise with regard to handling and schedules. It is obvious that to obtain the maximum use of the aeroplanes they have to be used on certain routes at certain times of the day and then swapped to other routes and times. A number of companies support freight handling by airlines. In those circumstances they will have to reconsider how they operate so that their freight can be carried on these schedules.
I urge the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) to give us as much information as he has on the wide-bodied aircraft and tell us when they are likely to be introduced. We, as politicians involved with ensuring the continued proper development of the airline industry in Australia, could then have an informed debate and know what is going on.
– I shall resist the temptation to mention subjects that have already been covered be previous speakers. We on this side of the House have entered into an arrangement to get the legislation through as quickly as possible. However, when one considers that we are talking about a BUI which seeks to authorise the expenditure of $US90m, it is a great shame that we have moved away from the idea of treating these Bills as financial matters. I understand fully that by the present arrangement Qantas Airways Ltd can borrow money in its own right but as someone interested in finance I think it is a great shame that we do not have the details of the loan. Who is the lender? What is the interest rate? Until last year this was the traditional form of discussion on these types of Bills. I express my personal disappointment that that is no longer the case.
Because of the time limitations I shall pass over that disappointment and turn to more important matters in the legislation itself relating to the purchase of the aircraft. I agree almost entirely with what my colleague the very informed honourable member for Bowman (Mr Jull) said about the local air transportation industry. I should like to think that the purchase of this new Boeing 727-200 series aircraft wil go some way towards relieving the pressure on the trunk route bookings for passenger aircraft. I strongly suspect that it is already 12 months too late and that we wil be asked for many more aircraft in the next two or three years to meet the ordinary commercial demand on trunk routes in Australia.
I shall not continue with that matter. It is something we can debate at great length and in detail when the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) presents his decisions on the report on air transportation. We know he is considering very deeply and thoroughly, to the benefit of all Australians. I hope that the decision to buy this new convertible passenger-cargo 727-200 series aircraft will allow the Minister to take a more generous approach and give approval to those small companies which are keen to promote the carriage of air cargo to those parts of Australia which cannot possibly be serviced by these large aircraft. I refer, of course, to the closed charter operators. I merely point out the great need for the smaller companies which are prepared to enter into smaller cargo ports to get on with their future planning. I am sure that the Minister, with his well-known and clearly demonstrated concern for isolated and small towns, wil be looking generously at the applications already before him. I am sure that his decision will be made soon.
I now refer to the Qantas Airways Limited (Loan Guarantee) Bill, which relates to the confident purchase by Qantas of two more 747B aircraft. Living near an airport, I am glad that this aircraft is to replace the 707 aircraft, but it is only part relief for the noise problem. I am a little concerned that Qantas is now standardising into one aircraft type only, namely, the 747B. Other long haul carriers are moving into a more sophisticated standardisation, aircraft type such as 747Bs, 747SPs and DC 10s. I realise that this requires sophisticated planning. I am most disappointed to see that Qantas Airways Ltd is not doing it in this way. One can only assume that the managerial policy of the Qantas Board is to remain on its main routings only and to give up forever the sense of enterprise and spirit that was truly responsible for the successful growth of this famous and well regarded airline.
The fact that we do not have any aircraft flying across the Indian Ocean to mainland Africa; the fact that we are no longer flying eastwards to the United Kingdom via the United States of America, Canada, Mexico or the West Indies; the fact that we are contracting routes forever to a few gold-bound safe routes, suggests to me that with these additional aircraft, the purchase of which we in fact approved today, Qantas should have a more exciting look at itself and consider flying once again to Mexico and the West Indies, across mainland North America and across the Indian Ocean via Mauritius and Nairobi to European ports. Further it should consider equipping itself with such proven successful aircraft as the 747SP. In looking at these new markets one wonders how many honourable members are aware that the Mexican market, for example, has a population three times that of the Canadian market which we seem to face so eagerly. Mexico is an area which I believe Qantas vacated at great cost to Australia, if not to itself. Perhaps there is a need for younger voices in places of authority within our national, international carriers administration. Perhaps there is too comfortable an attitude that the Government will always back them no matter what commercial decision is taken. Perhaps the airline’s administration should test markets with greater vigour and certainly in greater co-operation with other Australian interests. With the level of Government support as witnessed in the Bill before the House, Qantas should be much more concerned about trade and tourism into new areas. I hope that the acquisition of these two new 747Bs will sharpen up our national carrier into testing these new routes and return to being as competitive as it was in earlier days when it was also a regular financially successful operation.
I know that there are many truly dedicated, very experienced and highly skilled people throughout the vast staff of Qantas. I am glad and very grateful that they are there. In fact, a large number of them live in my electorate. Therefore it is with no small amount of reluctance that I question whether the senior administration of this airline is acting with enough excitement and imagination in what is a very competitive and cut throat business namely international air transport. Perhaps the executives of Qantas could allay my concern in this regard. I do question whether they arc doing the right thing in equipping themselves with one aircraft type at a time when sophisticated diversity would seem to be the answer. Perhaps Qantas has already made up its mind to allow Australian domestic airlines to take over some of its shorter international routes. Whilst I believe that this would be a good idea, and that Ansett Airlines of Australia and Trans-Australia Airlines should be allowed to move into the New Zealand and south-west Pacific markets, I suspect this is a subject for detailed debate on another occasion.
Finally, I believe we should be very thankful that all our major airlines, both domestic and Qantas, have such enviable safety records over such a long period. I congratulate the staff of these companies for their dedicated application and effort in this regard. However, it is important that the parliament should continue to approve these airline equipment Bills. I hope that in the future we will receive details about the loans for careful scrutiny and debate. On the face of it this Bill has become a transport Bill. But any Bill which ask the Parliament to authorise the expenditure of $90m, to my simple economic mind is a finance Bill. I believe that we should have the details before us for a discussion at this time as we have done for the past 20 years. I conclude by saying that I strongly believe that Qantas has a magnificent record of being a great airline. What I emphasise is that some evidence of administrative imagination and excitement is required if the jumbo sized challenges of future international air transportation are to be met for the advantage of all Australians.
– in reply- I thank all those honourable members who took part in this debate. It is an important area of activity in the transportation field, both in Australia and in relation to our connections overseas. The provision of a further aircraft, of course, is a demonstration of the growth in the airline industry, as it relates both to our domestic services and to our international flights. I should deal with one or two points which various honourable members have mentioned. The honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris), who is the Opposition spokesman, has shown a flexibility in his approach to the matter of lower air fares which has not been displayed by any other honourable member in this House. For a long time he was silent altogether on the issue. Then he made a speech in the House here last year in which he expressed concern about the possibility of lower air fares and the effect that would have on the Australian tourist industry. He certainly gave no indication of support for such a proposal. But he was finally flushed out only a few weeks ago when he said in a Press statement that it had long been Australian Labor Party policy to seek cheaper air fares and that he was in favour of them. It is interesting to note that at a Labor Party policy meeting in Perth the policy paper submitted by the honourable member for Shortland mentioned nothing whatsoever about cheaper air fares and nothing at all about aviation policy. So the view of the honourable member for Shortland on transport as it affects Australia is that aviation does not rank more than a line.
– You are just being nasty.
-I am telling the facts though. The honourable member says that I am being nasty. Far be it from me to be nasty; I am telling the facts. The fact is that there is nothing contained in the Labor Party’s policy about aviation. I am just reminding the honourable member so that he can correct the situation. I suggest that he gets the Labor Party Transport Committee to help him concoct something.
– You have not read it. You are guessing.
– I have a copy of it with me. Does the honourable member want me to table it? He should get his Transport Committee to work up a policy for the Labor Party. He should come to a conclusion as to whether he wants cheaper air fares. In the speech he made today he reverted to his speech of last October when he was hedging his bets and not declaring himself. When making a speech in the Parliament the honourable member has a perfect opportunity to tell the world what is the Labor Party’s view on the two airline policy and to give us an indication of what knowledge he has of the industry. Obviously he has none because he offers no view at all on the two airline policy as it stands. So quite clearly the House can expect very little of a contractive nature from the honourable member for Shortland. I think the Labor Party Transport Committee ought to have a look at its chairman to see whether he is worthy of keeping that position. Now that we have a newcomer from Victoria who was shadow Minister for Transport in the Victorian Parliament we might get an injection of a spirit of opposition or of competition in the Labor Party Transport Committee and have some really good stuff coming out of it.
Having said all that, let me turn to the second point raised by the honourable member for Shortland. It was related to the South Australian and Territorial Air Services. He referred to a Press statement of SAATAS and claimed it is of today’s date, but I think it was issued some three weeks ago. SAATAS made some very wild claims in that statement. They lack accuracy and fact, and they are rather tragic. The first claim is that I have refused to see the director of that company. That is the first I have heard of that. I sent a telex to Mr Cavill of SAATAS on 30 March inviting him to meet me, but he has not bothered to reply to that telex. I do not understand why he is now saying that one of the difficulties has been that I will not meet with him. Everybody in the aviation industry knows that my door is always open and that I will always see people.
If the SAATAS board takes a decision to pull out of certain routes in the Northern Territory, that is a commercial decision which it must take. I must tell the House that SAATAS was one of a number of tenderers for routes in the Northern Territory. It was beaten by other tenderers who had put in lower tenders for the various routes which became available when Connair Pty Ltd withdrew from a great number of routes. I cannot help SAATAS if it cannot compete with Chartair and other operators in the Northern Territory. If the commercial judgment of SAATAS cannot win the route by offering the lowest possible tender, I believe that there is nothing a Minister for Transport in this House can do about it.
The claim was made that the Government in some way has supported Connair as distinct from SAATAS. Let me deal with that. The fart is that Connair runs a regular public transport with scheduled services throughout the Territory. SAATAS is a charter operator. There is a vast difference between the requirements of the two services. For SAATAS to say that it is in some way damaged by the operations of Connair, which has an entirely different form of service to provide in the Territory, is just nonsense. The fact is that the decision of SAATAS to pull out of the Territory was a commercial decision, and there is nothing that this Government can do about it or should do about it. Other operators are prepared to fill the gap.
All honourable members are interested in the matter of cheaper air fares. A number of suggestions have been made about how they might be achieved. One of the things which has concerned me- the honourable member for Shortland referred to this- is the confusion that exists in the minds of the public as a result of statements made outside this House by operators who, in their own way and wanting to promote their own airline, have made suggestions about cheaper fares.
– Would-be operators.
– Some are operators, but I shall come to that in a moment. Air Hibiscus is one. The honourable member for Shortland properly raised that one. There are others, such as Pan Am and British Airways, which are not without guilt and are proffering to the public a suggestion about cheaper fares without first coming either to me or perhaps even to their own governments. In point of fact, the Pan Am suggestion was, as I have described it before, simply a gimmick. It offered a cheaper air fare for 125 seats a week to America when 3,245 seats were available. To proffer that as a genuine attempt to provide cheaper air fares for a few people who might be able to take advantage of it I think is no more that a gimmick. I will not be satisfied to accept such a limited proposal by any airline company. Of course, as the honourable member for Shortland rightly said, the damage has been done- people outside in the market place believe that these fares are available and should be available, and there is some confusion.
One mistake the honourable member for Shortland did make was for him to say that I have done nothing about this. I have received a letter from the travel agents association thanking me for the public statements I have been making. I must send copies of my statements to the honourable member so that he can keep himself informed.
– Are they not secret too?
– I shall come to this challenge of secrecy in a minute. The fact is that outside in the market place airlines such as Pan Am and British Airways, which have proffered these gimmick fares, do nothing to assist the major question which is before the country.
Let me turn to the other matter of great substance and importance, namely, both the Domestic Aviation Review report and the International Civil Aviation report. The honourable member for Shortland attacked me for not making these reports public. I have made it clear before that when I invited submissions to both these inquiries I invited them from a wide ranging cross-section of the Australian people. To anybody who was interested I said that I would appreciate a submission from them. A great number of submissions have been received. These people took up my invitation to give us the real commercial information which would help us to come to a proper decision in this matter, in trying to achieve what we all desire in the structure of air fares out of this country.
The truth is that we have a great number of submissions which carry a great deal of confidential commercial information which would not have been made available to us in a public inquiry and which would not have been made available to me as Minister if they thought that I would blithely place it on the table. I am in quite a dilemma. It is not my wish to be secretive about this, despite the charges of the honourable member for Shortland. I have to maintain the integrity of the submissions put before me. I will not break the confidences of those people who were good enough to provide information for me so that the Government might come to a rational and sensible conclusion. I am having a look at this to see what can be done. That is the reason the reports are not tabled at the moment.
The other implication in the honourable member’s speech is that I have been somewhat tardy in dealing with this matter. I find that amusing, to say the least, because both reports were handed to me at 9 p.m. on Friday, 31 March, in my Melbourne flat. At 10 p.m. I read a Press release from the honourable member for Shortland saying ‘Why does the Minister not make a decision?’ There is no question about him; apart from the usual charges of conspiracy, secrecy and these sort of words that he usually uses, he now blames me for being tardy. Having had the report in my hand for one hour, the Press rang me to ask me what I thought about Mr Morris’s charge about tardiness. The report contained several hundred pages and had been handed to me one hour before. I shall say no more about it.
– That is a great tribute to you.
-It may well be a great tribute. I had to take the matter to the Government for a final decision. I could not do that on a Friday night one hour after I received the reports. The question raised by the honourable members for Scullin (Dr Jenkins) and Bowman (Mr Jull) in respect of the possible future replacement of present domestic aircraft with wide-bodied aircraft calls for a major commercial decision. At the moment the airlines are studying closely the impact that these aircraft may have. As I understand it, neither TAA not Ansett believe that they can fit these aircraft into their fleets for several years; 1981 or 1982 would be the earliest possible time. Clearly, when such a decision is taken it will have a very heavy impact on the commercial domestic airlines. The Government is of course in no position to make any comment about one type of aircraft or another at this point. Until the airlines decide that they are ready to purchase such aircraft and start looking to make a decision on it, the Government will not become closely involved, apart from being kept informed about what aircraft are available in this area.
I thank again all honourable members who have taken an interest in this debate. Aviation has a very important part to play in Australia. It is a major industry. It provides our only real link with countries around the world. Therefore, it is significant and important that the Parliament should debate the issue before it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Nixon) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 6 April, on motion by Mr Nixon:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
-Is it the wish of the House to proceed to the third reading forthwith?
Motion (by Mr Nixon) proposed:
That the Bill be now read a third time.
– I received leave. You were not listening.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. Leave was sought; it was not granted. You did not look to the Opposition; you looked to the Minister.
-Is leave granted?
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 6 April, on motion by Mr Nixon:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The purpose of this Bill, the States Grants (Urban Public Transport) Bill 1978, is to provide $300m to the States over the five years from 1 July 1978 to 30 June 1983 by way of non-repayable grants for the upgrading of public transport systems. Essentially, the legislation is a refinement in the light of experience of the pioneer urban public transport legislation enacted by the Whitlam Labor Government in 1974. The Opposition does not oppose the Bill. However, I wish to make a number of points. A major deficiency is the total inadequacy of the funds being made available over the five-year program outlined earlier. Despite the claim in the second reading speech of the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) that there will be an increase of more than 50 per cent in financial assistance for urban transport in the current program, close examination of the Bill shows that that claim cannot be substantiated. I will return to that point a little later.
I remind honourable members that even after the rapid growth since 1949 in Australia’s population and the expansion of major urban areas, and even after years and years of talk and representations from State government, nothing was done in 23 years of successive conservative governments to face up to the problems that had developed for urban passenger transport. In the McMahon conservative Government’s last hurrah, the 1972 Budget, no provision was made for urban public transport. The first allocation of federal funds for urban public transport was contained in legislation introduced into this House by the Whitlam Labor Government in 1974. That the States were appreciative of that initiative is evidenced by a Press release on 19 February 1973 by the New South Wales Liberal National Country Party Minister for Transport in which he said:
The important thing is that the public transport system in Sydney will be transformed -
-You had a Liberal State Government. You can understand what happened. He said:
The important thing is that the public transport system in Sydney will be transformed and I give full marks to the Federal Transport Minister, Mr Jones, for the part he has played. He is the first Federal Transport Minister in the history of Australia to have obtained Commonwealth assistance for public transport.
The acceptance of a share of federal responsibility for the financial burden of providing and upgrading urban public transport was part of the Australia Labor Party’s policy of co-operative federalism. The offer of assistance for urban public transport was coupled with a proposal to maximise rail, road, sea and air transport coordination through the Interstate Commission under an Act which this Government and this Minister have refused to proclaim and an offer to accept transfer of State railways to the Commonwealth in response to requests by the conservative Premiers of Victoria and New South Wales at the dme. The non-achievement of those objectives was not the fault of the Labor Government. The reasons lay in the disruption of stable government and the proper parliamentary processes by the conservative-controlled Senate and a complete lack of co-operation by conservative State governments. The States that cooperated fully received substantive budgetary advantages which this Government and this Minister attempted unsuccessfully to reverse.
As with his efforts since 1 975 to distort the historical basis and origin of the urban public transport financial assistance scheme, the Minister sought in his second reading speech to imply that this legislation provides for the States a multiplicity of advantages that were not available under Labor’s pioneer legislation. We should recall that under Labor’s 1974 legislation the following are some of the aspects that were established and are carried forward in this Bill: Firstly, programs being put forward by the States; secondly, financial assistance to the States on a two-thirds/one-third basis; thirdly, fiveyear funding arrangements as set out in the program annexures to the Urban Public Transport Agreement Act 1974; and, fourthly, processes for consultations with the States, and my inquiries on this subject amongst the States have confirmed that it was procedures established by the Whitlam Labor Government for successful ministerial and officer level consultations that have been a major factor in advancing the scheme.
I should like to interpose at this point and pay tribute to the officers of the Federal Department of Transport and their State counterparts who have been involved in these consultations over the years. It is a complex area and there has to be a lot of give and take. A lot of obstinancy and obstruction has been caused not by the officers but by politicians, and I think it is proper that we make some sort of recognition of the services those officers have provided. Finally, in this Bill there is provision for corridors linking regional centres with capital cities. I turn now to some of the major criticisms of the Bill. In his second reading speech the Minister for Transport blithely referred to the $300m being provided over the next five years as being more than 50 per cent greater than the total funds of slightly more than $190m provided for the current scheme. What the Minister failed to say was that in Labor’s original proposals it was envisaged that a total of $500m would be made available over the five years to 1978 subject to increased allocations to cover cost escalation in that time.
– What would that have made the deficit?
– The Treasurer (Mr Howard) would not know. It is out the window, he said.
– No, what would it have made your deficit?
– I suggest that you ask the Treasurer. It is no wonder that the Government is in trouble when it has members on its side with maths like that. It is true that in 1975-76 no provision was made for funding new projects but there was an agreement that expenditure on such new projects would be funded in subsequent Budgets. At the same time, $2.5m was made available to meet cost escalations for 1975-76. On coming to office the Minister reneged on those arrangements and cancelled the cost escalation provision of $2. 5m. That only $190m was provided for the current scheme is the direct responsibility of this Government and the Minister. It was his action and Government’s decision. The truth of the matter is that only $200m is directly allocated under this legislation and it is allocated in the following manner: $70m to New South Wales, $60m to Victoria, $35m to Queensland, $20m to South Australia, $10m to Western Australia and $5m to Tasmania. I will return to discuss Tasmania later. The balance of $100m is to be distributed amongst the States at the rate of $20m a year on a needs and priority basis as set out in sub-clause ( 1 ) of clause 8 of the Bill. That provision reads:
An additional amount of $20,000,000 is available, in respect of each year to which this Act applies, for allocation among the States, as the Minister determines, having regard to the needs of public transport in urban areas in each of the States in that year, for the purpose of increasing the maximum grant for each of the States in respect of that year.
In the Minister’s own jargon this means that $20m will be up for grabs each year. The key words in the clause are ‘as the Minister determines’. The Parliament well knows the depths of wisdom that are plumbed when the distribution of public moneys is left to a National Country Party Minister to determine. However, there is no certainty nor undertaking that all the States will share in the distribution of the $100m. It could well eventuate that some States will not get any share at all. The Minister’s claim that the distribution of the $100m as envisaged will provide greater flexibility is in effect a transparent cover for the creation of another pork-barrelling exercise by the Country Party.
What clause 8 of the Bill means is that the Minister will be able to distribute largesse as he sees fit and patronise favoured son State governments at the taxpayers’ expense. I have no doubt that subsequent events will show that the needs and priorities of conservative State governments will prove to be greatest in election years. The method of distribution, while it may provide a little more flexibility in administrative procedures, is wholly unsatisfactory from an equity and public accountability viewpoint. It could be that the allocation of the $20m as proposed may result in another bunfight such as we have seen recently in relation to Aurukun and Mornington Island. In fact some of the States, recognising the unsatisfactory nature of clause 8, made lengthy submissions to the Minister urging that the full $300m of the program be allocated at the beginning and that it be incorporated in the schedule of this Bill. The Minister’s rejection of those submissions reinforced the fears that clause 8 will set up an annual pork-barrelling exercise.
However, there is another unsatisfactory aspect to clause 8 which is linked to the failure of the Minister to make provision for cost escalation of projects. The Minister has indicated to the States in response to requests for cost escalation provisions that the States may make estimates of cost escalations of projects and include these in their original estimates. In effect this means that the $100m to be provided is for cost escalation. If this is the case, then it is a wholly unsatisfactory way in which to be disbursing taxpayers’ funds and I believe that it is a matter that ought to be examined by the Auditor-General and certainly by the Department of Finance. It appears that the provisions of clause 8 are intended to be interpreted by the Minister in a variety of ways not specified in the Bill.
I ask the Minister to explain to the House precisely how he intends to implement clause 8. If it is his intent that the $ 100m is to be used as a disguised cost escalation, then the $200m allocated in this Bill is comparable with the $ 190m for the current program. The increase in allocated urban public transport funds for the next five years is then $ 10m, or about five per cent- not more than 50 per cent in increase, as claimed by the Minister. Whether we consider the total allocation of $300m in this Bill in money terms or in real terms, it is clear that that is not an amount about which the Government can feel proud. But it is in line with the general performance of this corrupt conservative Government.
– Oh! That is just plain nasty.
– Events are proving that it is a corrupt Government, and as each day goes by we will see more evidence of the corruption that surrounds this Government. I emphasise that the total Federal commitment to urban public transport for the next five years is limited to $300m. Given that the average inflation rate in that period will be close to double figures, it follows that, in real terms, the States face a diminishing share of Federal funds for their urban public transport programs. This is borne out by statistics prepared by the Legislative Research Service of the Parliamentary Library on the share of gross domestic product allocated to urban public transport in the period 1 974-75 to 1977-78. They show that Commonwealth Government expenditure on urban public transport expressed as a proportion of gross domestic product was 0.08 per cent in 1974-75, 0.06 per cent in 1975-76, 0.08 per cent in 1976-77 and the estimated figure for 1977-78 is 0.07 per cent. So we see a decline from 0.08 per cent in 1974-75 to 0.07 per cent in the current year. The actual expenditure is shown in the table as $63m. We must remember that the maximum provision under this Bill is $60m per year over the next five years. The drop in 1975-76 is explained by under-expenditure on the part of the States due to long lead-in times on projects.
As mentioned, the Bill provides a fixed amount of $60m per year for the next five years. Hence the gross domestic product figure for 1978-79 will be considerably less than the 0.07 per cent shown for 1977-78. It is disturbing to note that this share of gross domestic product going to urban public transport will decline still further in each of the four successive years. This Government’s low priority for urban public transport expenditure is highlighted when we recall that the Treasury will collect an extra $ 1 80m from motorists this financial year as a result of its import parity pricing policy on liquid fuels, a policy which is supposed to promote conservation of liquid energy supplies. One of the most effective means of improving energy utilisation efficiency is the upgrading and installation of public passenger transport services. Studies by the Independent Commission on Transport in the United Kingdom have shown that a one per cent transfer of passenger traffic from the private car to buses would reduce the total oil consumed by cars and buses by 0.5 per cent. It we extend that proposition we find that a ten per cent shift in passengers from private cars to buses means a five per cent saving in total fuel consumed by those cars and buses. Clearly, increased Federal government funds are needed to provide urban public transport as an alternative to high energy cost private car transport. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard the figures provided by the Parliamentary Library.
The table read as follows-
-What is clearly lacking is a national transport energy plan designed to conserve energy supplies in transport. The slide in funds revealed by the statistics on the share of the gross domestic product going to urban public transport exposes as false the Government’s claim of concern for urban public transport.
There are two other matters on which I seek clarification from the Minister. In clause 3, the Interpretation clause, under the definition of a project’ item (a) reads: to improve the quality, capacity, efficiency or frequency of the public transport system . . .
It seems to me that the inclusion of the word safety’ would have been appropriate at that point. It may be that it will be covered in the ministerial guidelines referred to in clause 5, but I should appreciate an explanation on this point from the Minister. Secondly, in clause 4, which deals with urban areas, no mention is made of the population definition of 40,000 to 100,000 referred to in the explanatory notes. I should have thought that the population figures could have been set out in the Bill. Again an explanation from the Minister would be of assistance to the Parliament.
All State governments are confronted with heavy investment programs to improve the range and quality of their public transport services. The extension of eligibility for financial assistance to include provincial cities like Ballarat, Bendigo, Gosford,Wyong, Toowoomba, the Gold Coast, Townsville, Rockhampton, Cairns and Launceston and the Blue Mountains area is welcomed.
People in the provincial cities have just as much need for efficient public transport services as those in the major cities. What this Government has to realise is that the deterioration and deprivation of the public transport systems, resulted from this neglect over a period of 23 years to 1972. State governments are now faced with enormous public transport investment programs to remedy the neglect of those 23 years. New South Wales recently let a tender for 500 Mercedes-Benz buses at a cost of $40m.
But I wish to deal more specifically with Tasmania and the shabby treatment it has received under the provisions of this Bill. The Minister will recall that the Bill provides $lm per annum to Tasmania a total of $5m. The Minister will recall also that he has had correspondence from the Tasmanian Minister for Transport seeking a revision of the amount to be allocated. If we compare what Tasmania is receiving under this legislation with what it received as its share from other legislation, we notice that, as regards urban roads, Tasmania receives 5 per cent of its total funds for 1977-78. Under the Transport Planning and Research Act, Tasmania receives 2.7 per cent of total funds. It is interesting to note that Tasmania is disadvantaged in this way yet no one is in the chamber to represent that State.
– Ha, ha!
-Well, there are five Liberal Tasmanian members and not one of them is in the chamber. But in this legislation if the $5m is taken as a percentage of the total allocation of $200m, it amounts to 1.66 per cent as mentioned earlier, there is no guarantee that the State will receive any of the $20m per annum that is up for grabs. I point out to the Minister that Tasmania, in comparison with the other States, is being disadvantaged. The Minister will recall that the Tasmanian Minister for Transport recently wrote to him, saying:
On the basis of demonstrated needs the State population and allocations in other transport programs the guaranteed allocation to Tasmania should be at least 3 per cent of total appropriation.
I wish to refer briefly to some of the projects with which the Tasmanian Government is confronted. There are the new Volvo buses for Launceston and Hobart under the continuing bus replacement program and the purchases from the Commonwealth of the bus depot at Mornington on the eastern shore of the Derwent. Honourable members will recall that that building was originally constructed from ‘disaster’ funds. Tasmania faces the funding of expenditure carried over from 1977-78 with the purchase of 10 Volvo buses for which insufficient funds were allocated in the current financial year by the Commonwealth. It faces also the urgent need to establish a new bus depot and workshops to replace existing facilities in the Hobart area. The Commonwealth accepted this project as a commitment under the previous program for the establishment of new facilities at Springfield early in 1975. The Commonwealth authorised the purchase of suitable land and provided financial assistance to obtain it. Despite repeated representations from Tasmania for additional funds to complete the projects in successive years, the Commonwealth has refused to make further moneys available. I know that the Minister for Transport will state in his reply that it is the State Government’s fault and that the five Liberal Party members from Tasmania will jump up and echo his remarks. But let us face up to the facts of the situation.
– I will give our friend Mr Low, a burst tonight.
– At least one honourable member from Tasmania has come into the chamber to help to put a case for that State. In these issues Tasmania is having loaded on to it, like all the other States, responsibility for the administration of services that were previously the full responsibility of the Federal Government. It must follow that the ability of the States to carry out programs such as the urban public transport program is severely limited. It is not good enough and it is no answer for honourable members opposite to rise in this place and say that Tasmania or New South Wales is receiving $Xm in untied grants. That is not the answer. Honourable members opposite know very well that that is not the answer. This Government does not have a genuine interest in Tasmania. It must be remembered that the Australian Maritime College was approved for establishment at Launceston by the Labor Government. The previous conservative government abolished the freight subsidy concerning Tasmania and the Minister for Transport withdrew the Australian Trader from the Bass Strait service. The honourable member for Franklin (Mr Goodluck) went on strike at the time but on full pay. I am sure that the waterside workers would like to go on strike under those conditions.
Let me get down to the serious side of the issues that face Tasmania. I have outlined five of the substantial public transport projects that the Tasmanian Government has to meet. Let us put an end to the cheap politicking from the members of the Liberal and National Country Parties and have a genuine and responsible approach to meeting Tasmania’s financial problems. We do not want a repetition of the ferry pontoon fiasco. I conclude on this note: The amount of funds being made available by way of fixed allocation for the next five years represents about a 5 per cent improvement on the current program. There is no quarantee in the legislation that the $ 100m that is up for grabs at the rate of $20m each year will be distributed to ensure that some of the money will go to each State. We believe that the power placed in the hands of the Minister represents a pork-barrelling exercise, but because of the more attractive features of the Bill and because it will give at least some assistance to urban public transport- for that we must be grateful- the Opposition does not oppose the Bill.
-The States Grants (Urban Public Transport) Bill 1978 is a significant piece of legislation. It fulfils the promise of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in his 1977 election policy speech of the provision of a new assistance program for urban public transport, through non-repayable grants to the States, amounting to $60m a year for five years. Before the Australian Labor Party came to power in 1972 its members made a great deal of political capital out of the urban public transport needs of the major cities in Australia. The Fraser Government came to office at the end of 1975. In the 2 years since then it has provided $109m to the States for urban public transport projects. That represented an expenditure of 40 per cent more than the $79m which the Labor Government provided during its three years in office.
– All they do is talk.
-That is right. As the honourable member for Swan said, all that honourable members opposite do is talk. An amount of $60m is to be provided each year under the Bill which is now before the House. Therefore, an amount of $ 169m will be made available by the LiberalNational Country Party Government in its first 3 years in office compared with the $79m provided by the Labor Government over a similar period. That is a 1 14 per cent increase in expenditure. Of course, it is worth noting that this commitment by the Fraser Government has been made in a time of expenditure restraint whereas the money provided by the Labor Government was made available at a time of free and fairly lax financial management. It is very much a case, as the honourable member for Swan (Mr Martyr) said, of the Fraser Government getting on with the job while the Labor Party mostly talked about it. This is further demonstrated in this Bill.
This legislation will appropriate $300m for urban public transport projects. We propose to increase federal assistance for urban transport by some 58 per cent over the current program which provided for expenditure of $190m. This is a clear demonstration of the concern of this Government to do all that it can to improve public transport in Australia’s major urban centres. It is a particularly significant increase when once again viewed against the difficult budgetary situation.
The legislation contains some provisions similar to the present agreement but will incorporate significant new features to provide for a known guaranteed level of future funding and to allow easier administration to meet States’ wishes, in accord with our commitment to federalism.
The decision to commit the Commonwealth Government to a five-year funding program is particularly important. The Fraser Government’s vision in recognising the need for long term planning in this area is to be commended. This Bill will enable States to enter into long term contracts secure in the knowledge of guaranteed levels of assistance from the Commonwealth. Under current arrangements the level of Commonwealth assistance was determined in the annual budgetary context. One example of relevance to South Australia is that contracts for the supply of buses have been guaranteed assistance from Commonwealth sources under the current arrangements only in respect of works carried out on units delivered within the one year. Under the new arrangements any State will be able to secure a guarantee of assistance for contracts covering a five year program.
The Bill, therefore, gives each State a basic guaranteed allocation. Over the five years of the program this guaranteed amount will total $200m of which South Australia will be granted $20m at a rate of $4m per annum. The remaining $100m of the Commonwealth’s contribution is available for allocation to the States at the rate of about $20m per annum. Each State’s share of this unallocated amount will be decided annually on the basis of needs and priorities assessed in the light of proposals put foward by the States. Such an approach will allow us to respond to changing needs and circumstances and priorities throughout the five years of the program. It provides an essential element of flexibility for the Commonwealth and the States.
The Government faced some difficulty in determining the appropriate allocation of funds between the States. There is no comprehensive urban public transport document which provides a clear basis for determining needs and priorities. I refer, for example, to the Bureau of Roads report on road funding. The Bureau of Transport Economics report entitled ‘Urban TransportCapital Requirements 1977-78 to 1979-80’ provides only an indication of the gross order of States’ needs and not what would be feasible or desirable for the States to undertake in that trienium. Consequently, various alternative ways on which funds could be allocated were investigated. The approach adopted in the legislationa partial allocation of funds between the States and the remainder to be decided by the Minister- means all States are guaranteed a basic share of the program.
It will still be incumbent upon the States to provide properly supported justification for all projects, including those to be funded within the guaranteed allocations. The remaining funds can be distributed according to needs and changing circumstances. The allocation between the States of the $200m is of necessity an arbitrary one. It represents a best judgment. It compares favourable with the States’ shares of population in urban areas, with approved and expected final allocations under the current program and with taxation reimbursement shares. The Bill provides for a process of consultation between the Commonwealth and the States after submission of proposals and before decisions are made on the projects the Commonwealth will support. Approval of a project may extend up to the full period of the program, that is, five years. All proposals are to be supported by information required to determine, firstly, the economic and social value of the proposal; secondly, the relevance of the proposal to overall urban transport objectives and policies; thirdly, the relevance of the proposal to urban development policies; and finally, the environmental impact of the proposal.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting, I was addressing my remarks to the States Grants (Urban Public Transport) Bill. I did mention how not only this Bill but also the financial commitment of the Fraser Government to urban public transport projects showed, the Government’s far greater commitment to aiding the States in this area than that of the previous Labor Government. On the basis of a three-year comparison, the Fraser Government will have provided $169m compared with some $79m by the previous Whitlam Labor Government- that is, 114 per cent more. It must also be recognised that this money provided by the Fraser Government has been provided in a time of expenditure restraint, whereas the lesser amount provided by the Whitlam Government was provided in a time of free and easy spending. I also addressed some remarks to the new and changed provisions under this legislative initiative and how they differ from the previous arrangements with the States in regard to funding for urban public transport projects.
As I understand the position, all State governments have greeted these new proposals for urban public transport assistance with great enthusiasm. I understand that they are particularly happy with a five-year allocation of funds rather than an annual allocation of funds. Even the South Australian Minister of Transport, Mr Virgo, is pleased, so the legislation must be good. I am glad that Mr Virgo has taken the advice which I offered him on the last day of the last Parliament and has acknowledged the initiatives of the Fraser Government with regard to urban transport. Previously, the South Australian Government had tried to cover its own inadequacies in this sphere by blaming the Commonwealth Government. Of course, that will not wash with the public, and that was shown very clearly in the result in that State at the last Federal election. The public is more intelligent than that. I hope that the Dunstan Government will now get behind what the Federal Government is trying to do and acknowledge its achievements. South Australia gained considerable benefit from the previous agreement and will do likewise under this Bill.
Projects approved in South Australia from 1973-74 until 1977-78 amounted to nearly $30m, involving a Commonwealth contribution of nearly $20m. Projects have been approved for $ 16.63m associated with the upgrading of bus operations and fleets, consisting of the acquisition of 195 buses plus 59 Volvo bus bodies, 67 Leyland Swifts and 121 Volvo B59s are included in that 195. The remainder of that 195 is made up of prototypes and buses acquired by private operators. Funds have also been applied for minor capital works consisting of the purchase of land for depots, light service vehicles, buswashing equipment, building improvements and the construction of 120 passenger shelters.
Another major project which was approved was the extension and duplication of the Christie Downs railway, involving $7. 16m. This serves the rapidly growing outer suburban area to the south of Adelaide within the Kingston electorate. It was completed in August 1977, but it should be noted that this completion occurred with very little acknowledgment of the Federal assistance involved. Funds of half a million dollars were approved for making improvements to the upgrading of the Glenelg tram route, consisting of the installation of warning devices at 10 crossings and overall upgrading of the tramways reserve. This, of course, is another project which is of particular importance to Kingston residents.
In 1975-76, 1976-77 and 1977-78, South Australia had approved by the Federal Government the reallocation of its funds to assist in the acquisition of further Volvo B59 buses. Reallocation of funds in 1975-76 permitted the acquisition of 45 Volvo buses at a cost of $3m, of which the Commonwealth’s two-for-one share was $2m. In 1976-77 a reallocation cancelled the electrifiction of the Adelaide to Christie Downs railway which allowed $4.839m -of which the Commonwealth share was $3. 226m- for the acquisition of an additional 73 Volvo buses. In 1977-78 another reallocation permitted the cancellation of parts of the project termed ‘other capital works’ and provided $205,000 towards the acquisition of another three Volvo buses. These reallocations of funds from one project to another should be noted. These reallocations are undertaken at the initiative of the State Government with the Commonwealth Minister’s approval, but in one instancethe abandonment of the electrification of the Christie Downs railway- the State Minister of Transport, Mr Virgo, blamed the Federal Government because that project was not going ahead. The figures that I mentioned earlier show very clearly that the electrification project was abandoned because the State Government gave higher priority to the purchase of extra buses and sought Commonwealth approval to reallocate about $5m from the electrification project for the purchase of buses. It is this sort of misrepresentation by the State Minister of Transport to which I made reference earlier.
– Not Mr Virgo?
-Mr Virgo, yet again, and I hope this enthusiasm for this legislation, which seems to be apparent, signals an end to that sort of behaviour from him. One project which was undertaken with Commonwealth funds under the existing arrangements by the South Australian Government deserves condemnation, and that is the takeover of all private bus operations in and around Adelaide. This blatant socialist initiative has caused a significant deterioration in the standard of service available to people who previously were dependent on private bus services. The State Transport Authority has shown since that takeover that it is not capable of providing the same service to the people that the private operators previously were able to provide. One area that is drastically affected in this regard is around Christies Beach in my electorate of Kingston. As a result of numerous complaints to me about the inadequacies of transport facilities following the takeover of private operators, the State Liberal candidate for Mawson, Tony Boyle, organised a series of public meetings on this issue last year. Attendances were so significant that Mr Virgo was prompted to promise improved facilities, but since the State election last year these promises have remained unfulfilled. I trust that the present Federal Minister for Transport, Mr Nixon, will use some influence under this legislation to ensure that the South Australian Government gives the southern areas a high priority for better bus services. The Minister has nodded his approval in that regard, and I am glad to have it.
– He is an understanding Minister.
– He certainly is an understanding Minister. He is a top class Minister in this very important area of transport. Of course the takeover of those private operators was approved as a project under the Whitlam Labor Government. Had the Fraser Government been in office then, I am sure that approval would have been denied and an efficient private service would have been retained in the southern areas.
On that basis I hope that the present Federal Minister will carefully scrutinise any proposals from South Australia under the new legislation.
One project for which funds may be sought involves the implementation of the recommendations of the North East Area Public Transport Review. This review has proposed the establishment of a transport corridor in the Torrens River Valley. I have received a significant number of representations objecting to this proposal even though the project is not in my own electorate. Therefore, I believe that the Federal Minister should very carefully examine any possible proposals in this regard before approving funding.
The current agreement has seen undoubted benefits flow to urban public transport. We have seen new rolling stock in trains, trams and buses added to the fleets of public transport operators. Railway track extensions and additional tracks have been constructed to increase the capacity of systems. It is now not unusual to see people allow older rolling stock to pass so that they can catch the new bus, train or tram that is following. I believe this is a clear indication of the value the community attaches to the improvements in comfort and ride provided by the rolling stock funded under the urban public transport.
Within my own area of Kingston substantial increases in ridership have occurred since the Christie Downs railway was opened. Patronage at the Christie Downs station is already exceeding 1975 predictions by 30 per cent. Particularly pleasing is the fact that more than 50 per cent of the users previously travelled to central Adelaide by car. The success of this project is a clear indication that well planned public transport improvements can increase patronage, particularly by attracting previous car users.
The need for adequate urban public transport is beyond dispute. Road congestion, car parking and pollution problems reinforce the need for a transport system which provides alternative means of urban mobility. We must never neglect those members of our society who depend upon public transport services. The funding and administrative arrangements provided by the Fraser Government under this Bill are a significant improvement in our methods of assisting the States to improve those services. I commend the Minister for Transport for this initiative and support the Bill.
– This States Grants (Urban Public Transport) Bill in many ways is a remarkable achievement by such a conservative government. This Government is renowned for its attack on the public sector. Its cutbacks have been extremely harsh, but this Bill will provide $300m to the States over a five-year period, commencing 1 July 1978, by way of a non-repayable grant to upgrade urban public transport. Of course this program was first introduced by the Whitlam Labor Government to operate from 1 July 1973 for a five-year period and will end on 30 June 1978. During that period an amount of between $ 1 90m and $200m will have been made available. In the 23 years of the conservative government, from 1949 to 1972, the whole infrastructure of the cities was eroded. The Labor Government brought abour a great change in this area, and I was personally involved in bringing about that change. I think it is to the credit of the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon)- a Minister in a conservative government- that this sum of $300m is being made available. It is also to the credit of his Department. I put that on record.
I think it is disturbing that this same conservative Government has destroyed programs of urban and regional development. It has eroded infrastructure to the extent that in many cities today it is only a skeleton. For example, there is the sewerage program. After all sewerage is a transport system.
– It is not a transport system.
– It is a transport system. Honourable members may laugh. If the system is controlled, effluent will flow in a rational way so that our environment is protected. In metropolitan Melbourne where there has been much growth on the outer fringe of that city septic systems overflow in wet weather and effluent runs into creeks which in turn flow into Port Phillip Bay. In those 23 years prior to an Australian Labor Party government that sort of pollution occurred. The Labor Party Government tried to overcome that problem. One in every seven families in Sydney and Melbourne still live in unsewered homes. The Labor Government spent $1 13m on sewerage work in the last year of its administration, but this Government scuttled that program; it completely destroyed it. Labor’s land commission programs which were integrated with the urban public transport system, costing some $50m, were also completely destroyed and undermined. The provision of money for growth centres to take the pressure away from the major cities, particularly Sydney and Melbourne, was scaled down by over $60m a year.
Area improvement programs which were designed to raise the quality of life in local government regions were also scrapped. This was a program in addition to the enormous amount of money that was provided to the area of local government by the Grants Commission.
The national estate financial program, established to look after what has been created by man and nature- that which is unique and beautiful- was undermined. All these things were eroded or destroyed, but this trenchant Minister was able to hold off those conservative forces in the Government at least to be able to make this contribution to urban public transport. The proposition really is not as good as the Minister stated in his second reading speech.
– Oh, Tom!
-I an not trying to be unfriendly. In his second reading speech the Minister stated:
I should also make another important point here. The new program departs from existing arrangements in that there is no automatic provision for the Commonwealth to support the cost escalation as an additional contribution to each project.
This means, in fact, that the Government is making $300m available in 1 978 money terms when for the previous five years an amount of $l95m was made available. Of course one could get more for the dollar then than one will get for the dollar in the next five years. That, to some extent, downgrades the value of the money provision. Still I commend the Minister. At least he has increased expenditure in this field although expenditure on welfare housing under the Commonwealth State Housing Agreement has been pegged over the last three years at the same static amount. Again, the Minister has been able to fight for his slice of the cake of the budget for urban transport. A point I would stress- I make it in fairness- is that the deficits of both urban and State railways exceed $500m and the States find it extremely difficult to carry the enormous burden of making available the one-third of funding that is required under the proposal.
The Minister said that the Government will provide $300m and that the States must find $ 1 50m. He knows it will be extremely difficult for the States to meet that commitment. With the former Minister for Transport, Mr Charles Jones, I was jointly involved in the Labor Government’s urban public transport program. If the Labor Government had been retained and had negotiated a new agreement after 1978 the proposal we would have put forward is that the Government would make available as well the one-third that the States currently are required to provide. It would have been by way of a repayable loan. I ask the Minister to give some consideration to the proposition that where the States find it hard to meet their one third cash component, the Government could at least grant them the loan at the normal long term bond rate interest. I put that as a constructive point of view.
The other point I intend mainly to deal with is the inter-relationship of urban public transport with the remainder of urban living. The honourable member for Kingston (Mr Chapman) spoke about conditions in a city like Adelaide which is unable to operate its public transport systems efficiently because of the over-use of the motor car. The motor car has become a cancer in the hearts of our major cities, particularly in areas like Sydney and Melbourne. When one looks at a city like Sydney, which stretches 20 miles south, 20 miles north, 35 miles south west and 35 miles west, one sees that no matter how much money is spent on urban public transport systems, no matter how efficient the railway rolling stock and the signalling system, it cannot be efficient if it is geared to a peak load. Campbelltown is 35 miles from the central business district of Sydney and 52 per cent of the people who reside there work in or near the central business district of Sydney. One can imagine the transport system. Empty vehicles leave Sydney in the morning, pick up passengers and return to Sydney packed to the hilt. How can a transport system be efficient if it is geared to carry peak loads?
There has to be a spirit of co-operation between the Australian Government and the State governments. Sub-metropolitan centres have to be developed. When the Labor Government was in power in entered into arrangements with the then conservative governments of New South Wales and Victoria. It agreed to develop, jointly with the New South Wales Government, submetropolitan centres in Sydney at Parramatta, Penrith, Liverpool and Campbelltown. In the case of Parramatta the Labor Government took the initiative and entered into an arrangement to develop a sub-metropolitan region. It undertook to create a Commonwealth centre at Parramatta in which at least 4,500 public servants would be employed. This also has been deferred for nearly 3 years by this government. This would increase employment opportunities for the people in the region. The Labor Government also wanted to make the building a cultural centre, embracing theatre, the arts and social amenities for the region. Not only would people in the outlying districts have more job opportunities; they would also have the right to go to the theatre and to many educational and social functions which they cannot now attend without going into the central business district. These sub-metropolitan centres should be gradually developed. The transport system would not then be geared to carrying a peak load. The load would be more balanced. In the morning people would be travelling in all directions east, west, north and south, instead of one way towards the central business district.
This is what saddens me about this Government. When I was Minister for Urban and Regional Development I found it extremely difficult to get agreement with what I called the transport mentality. Some people still want to live in a world of boxes. They want to live in their own little departmental world. They think that transport problems can be solved in isolation. They cannot accept the proposition that there has to be an inter-relationship. When we deal with urban matters, just as when we deal with environmental matters, we have to bear in mind that everything is connected to everything else. I say to the honourable member for Kingston, who seemed to be concerned about the fact that sewerage was a transport matter, that the second principle in relation to the environment is that everything has to go somewhere. Unless sewerage systems are organised in a rational way they will operate in an irrational way and assist to destroy the environment. It is about time that this Government stopped thumping the Whitlam Government’s advanced, progressive and interrelated policies of working in cooperation with State governments and local governments to try to make our urban communities more rational places in which to live. I say to the Minister that he should encourage and give support to his colleagues in other places to try to build up and strengthen the whole urban infrastructure. Eightyfive per cent of the Australian population lives in urban communities. Unless we protect those people the living standards of the great majority of Australians will be lowered and serious consequences will flow from that development.
What I have said about Sydney has its correlation in the situation in Melbourne. When we were in government, Melbourne’s needs were treated in a way to achieve understanding and co-operation. I am an anti-centralist; I have always acted in a spirit of co-operation with my State colleagues. I believe that the only way that we can overcome urban problems is to work in a spirit of co-operation. In the case of Melbourne, we wen; able to reach agreement with the Hamer Government to create sub-metropolitan centres in places like Sunshine, Broadmeadows, Watsonia, Epping and Dandenong. As I have argued, the peak load situation which exists in Sydney will continue to occur in Melbourne particularly because of the stupidity- if I can use the term- of over-investment. I refer to that stupid priority given to expenditure on the building of the underground rail loop in the central business district of Melbourne without looking after the remainder of Melbourne’s urban rail system. Prior to 1972, 75 per cent of rolling stock in use on the urban infrastructure railways of Melbourne was built before 1928. The enormous amount of money that is now being poured into the underground system in Melbourne will eat the heart and soul out of the public resources that are available for the upgrading of the urban public transport system and the Victorian transport system as a whole.
That is the message that we should convey. To some extent it is the Minister himself who fights for his quarter with the Cabinet, Again, I do not always agree with him- he knows that I find points of very broad disagreement with him- but his actions are a credit to him because he is a National Country Party man. He has been fighting for the case of urban public transport. That, to my mind, is a good point for which we should give him credit. What we must start to do is look more broadly at the issues involved. It really concerns me to come into this House and to hear young honourable members who have really received great benefits from the fruits of the Whitlam Labor Government in their electorates -
Government supporters- -Ha, ha!
– Honourable members can laugh like jackals if they like. The honourable member for Kingston knows that the urban railway lines that were constructed in his electorate were not the result of the programs of this Government. They were the result of the programs of the Labor Government. The honourable member knows that the land commission program and the planning that went on in this area were products of the Federal Labor Government. The honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Cadman) knows that the work that was done in the western region of Sydney, including the enormous amount of money expended on and planning in the area- I refer to the Toongabbie Creek proposals and so many of the programs within his electorate at that time- were part of the area improvement program. Publicly he applauded us at that time within his electorate. But the praise does not appear in Hansard. Labor’s initiative in relation to the depressed areas in the whole of the Parramatta basin came from the Whitlam Labor Government and from the Department of Urban and Regional Development. These programs were carried out under the initiative of the Labor Government. Whenever we see progress being made by a Ministry from either side of the political spectrum we should give some credit to it and have some understanding of the issues involved instead of acting as a pack of jackals. I am grateful for the crumbs that fall from the table of the Minister. The people of Sydney, Melbourne and our other urban communities are also grateful for the crumbs that fall from the table of the Minister and the conservative government.
We do not oppose this legislation. We are glad that the Government is continuing the programs initiated by the Whitlam Labor Government. It is a great pity that more of those urban programs were not followed through in the way in which they should have been, instead of the present Government following its destructive pattern of cutting back the expenditure in the public sector.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-The honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) has given us a feast of crumbs and fruit. The crumbs about which he spoke as coming from the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) have been in the oven for some time. The Minister has been supporting the concept behind the States Grants (Urban Public Transport) Bill for a period which extends well before the time of the Labor Administration in 1972. That fact is well known to the honourable member for Reid. It is sad that the three-year interruption prevented us from giving the people of Australia an opportunity to enjoy earlier the benefits being bestowed by this legislation.
I wish to raise two matters in the time available to me. Firstly, I wish to make specific reference to the definition of ‘urban area’ in the Bill and, secondly, I wish to make some general comments on the need for a national transport policy in Australia. The purpose of the Bill is to grant financial assistance to the States for the purpose of public transport in urban areas. The term ‘urban area’ is defined in two ways. Firstly, it covers areas such as the Sydney statistical division and the statistical divisions of Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and so on. Secondly, clause 4 of the Bill provides:
The Minister, after consultation with the appropriate Minister of a State, may . . . declare a specified area in the State to be an urban area for the purposes of this Act.
One area which I respectfully submit should be declared an urban area at the very earliest opportunity is the Latrobe Valley area in Victoria. It is an area which is certainly well known to the Minister, because a substantial part of the population of his electorate in the city of Traralgon and the shire of Traralgon in fact reside in the Latrobe Valley statistical division. It has a population of 58,380, if one takes an aggregate of the city of Moe, the city of Traralgon, the shire of Morwell and the shire of Traralgon. To that number should be added the population of other small towns in the shire of Narracan. It is Australia’s sixteenth largest urban area and it is the largest and most centrally located urban area within Gippsland, which has a total population of 174,890. I mention briefly that the Latrobe Valley sub-region is not a singly, contiguous urban area but rather a number of separate and very closely interrelated cities, towns and villages situated in an approximately 30-kilometre long section of the 22-kilometre wide valley of the Latrobe River. To many planning authorities that would be the ideal relationship, namely, to have an urban situation in which a number of towns and villages comprise the totaly area rather than having one massive urban conglomerate.
The House will know that the State Electricity Commission of Victoria operates from the Latrobe Valley, which has the largest brown coal deposits in the world. It produces 80 per cent of Victoria’s power needs. The Gippsland area generally, if I can just refer to the significance of its energy resources, has approximately 25 per cent of Australia’s primary energy reserves, including 30 per cent of Australia’s coal reserves, 90 per cent of Australia’s proven oil reserves and approximately 25 per cent of Australia’s proven gas reserves. Those figures refer to the Gippsland area generally; but specifically the Latrobe Valley area, I respectfully suggest, ought to be declared an urban area under clause 4 of the Bill.
The second matter I which to raise is the need for a national transport policy. I shall look at some of the international examples of what has been done in the area of transportation policy. In Toronto, Canada, any suggestion that government funds should be spent on facilities for the use of motor vehicles is met with strong opposition. There is a community and political commitment to concentrate on and improve public transportation.
The provincial Government of Toronto has been innovative in setting up the Urban Transportation Development Corporation. That authority is a private company whose shares are owned by the province of Ontario. Its primary purpose is to encourage the growth of* public transport systems in Canada and to conduct technological research. For example, it has developed and marketed a small bus for use in dial-a-bus systems. The Toronto Transit Commission has operated an experimental dial-a-bus service since 1973. One year previous to that the
Commission was responsible for 300 million transit trips.
I am indebted to Mr R. W. Hewison, a former Director of Neighbourhood Planning in the City of Toronto, who highlighted the emphasis placed on public transportation in Toronto in an article in the February 1978 edition of the Royal Australian Planning Institute Journal. The Toronto Transit Commission has the second highest per capita transit use in North America and, behind New York and Chicago, is the third largest public transport operator in the North American area. Notwithstanding many creative initiatives in the public transport area, Mr Hewison concludes that greater emphasis must be placed on the relationship between land use and transportation. That is the very point which I applaud in the comments made by the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren). The Transportation Plan Review in Toronto looked to the year 2000 and posed a number of problems and suggested solutions, many of which are relevant to Australia. I briefly refer to them, as outlined by Mr Hewison:
The question of whether the Central Area of Toronto will continue to grow unabated or whether growth can be successfully diverted to other centres must be resolved.
A transportation system focusing on a highly concentrated downtown has problems of congestion and an inherent inefficiency due to directional imbalances in flow during peak periods. A decentralised land use configuration with high density clusters and not too much dispersion is easier to serve.
On the basis of present behaviour it will be impossible to accommodate all demand for car travel in the year 2000. The use of transit will have to increase to compensate for deficiencies in road capacity.
I am now talking about Toronto and not Australia, although these words could apply equally to Australia. Mr Hewison ‘s article continues:
Everyone who wants to travel by car in the peak period in the year 2000 will not be able to do so. Transit alternatives will have to be provided for car users if the quality of transportation services is not to deteriorate.
Finally, he stated:
The car will continue to be used for a wide variety of off-peak trips in the year 2000, and should be viewed as a complement to transit. There is no evidence to indicate that it will disappear, and transportation planning must continue to take into account both automobile and public transit requirements. I turn now to the situation in the United Kingdom. In 1976 the United Kingdom Government considered a two volume report on transport policy and in June 1977 published a White Paper on that same subject. The earlier report dealt essentially with rail and road transport. The main conclusions published in the White Paper are:
Expenditure in support of public transport and to moderate increases in fares will not be reduced, as had been planned, despite the declining share of public expenditure which can be devoted to transport. This will mean more support for buses, and less for road construction; more responsibility for planning transport to meet local needs should be devolved to local government since the most practical and democratic approach to co-ordination is local; greater emphasis should be placed on getting value for money, both in the financial regimes for the public sector industries and in the framework for decision-taking on particular schemes and services; there should be a more systematic and open involvement of people, Parliament, transport operators and unions in the continuing debate on transport and the formulation of policy; and this should be promoted by the
– Looking briefly at a couple of those statistics, which measure in thousand million passenger kilometres and as a percentage, the percentage of private road usage in 1 954 was 38.8 per cent. It increased to 79. 1 per cent 20 years later. Rail usage dropped from 19.9 per cent to 8.2 per cent. Bus and coach usage dropped from 41.1 per cent in 1954 to 12.2 per cent in 1974. Air statistics are not significant for the purpose of this argument. In the United States of America the Secretary of Transportation published in 1975 a statement on United States national transport policy. In January 1977 the Secretary published a report similar to the United Kingdom projections to the year 2000. That report was entitled National Transportation Trends and Choices- to the Year 2000. Some of the conclusions from that report are even more relevant to Australia than either the Toronto or the United Kingdom projections. I mention some of the issues which were discussed and thought to be important for consideration by people in America concerned with transportation policy. The report stated:
To what extent should present investment be diverted to provide solutions to expected energy shortfalls in the future?
To what extent should uneconomic rail services and existing rail facilities for passengers and freight be retained regular provision of information by Government and the industries.
The difficulties which the United Kingdom Government experienced and which prompted the White Paper are clear when we look at relevant statistics on transport usage over a 20-year period. Mr Deputy Speaker, I ask leave to incorporate in Hansard a table showing passenger transport in Great Britain.
The document read as follows-
against a possible future need brought about by failure to meet liquid energy needs?
To what extent, and in what ways, should public policies seek to reinforce trends toward urban density patterns which are deemed more energy efficient?
To what extent, and in what manner, should public policies be directed to restrict automobile use and to support public transport operations, to assist fuel conservation?
It is against this background that I suggest it would be timely to prepare, publish and debate a transport policy White Paper in Australia. Much good planning work is being carried out in Australia. I am not suggesting by any means that that work has not been done. In this session, for example, the Minister for Transport tabled a report of progress made to 30 June 1977 under the Transport (Planning and Research) Act 1974. A quick perusal of the projects listed in that report indicates the extent of the extensive research and development projects undertaken and continuing in every State of the Commonwealth. Under that Act the Commonwealth contributes two-thirds of the cost of the projects approved for assistance whilst the remaining cost is met by the States. The States also carry out the implementation of any program.
In 1947 the Australian Transport Advisory Council was established. Excellent work has been carried out by ATAC since that time.
Therefore, I believe there are very good reasons why we should at this stage adopt a paper which can be debated in the community on the question of public urban transport in this country. Victoria is now incorporating into the deliberations of its transport department the use of the bicycle. Previously the use of the bicycle would have been laughed at. Only recently I saw in China a traffic jam develop between bicycles in Canton. That is quite an experience, and I hope we never get to that stage. I certainly believe that there is a need for bicycle paths, pedestrian paths and so on in our urban complexes. These would take us away from the overuse of the automobile.
There is also a need to study systems which have been discussed at length in this country by Mr John Loder. He has published extensive papers on personal automotive transportation which he calls a PAT solution for Australian cities. There are many instances of local authorities approving planning schemes for the development of urban areas around the country which, at this stage, ought to be making allowances for rights of way for the use of personally automated transportation, whether or not they are similar to Mr Loder ‘s scheme. Many countries are spending hundreds of millions of dollars developing systems similar to those recommended by Mr Loder. One need look only at the situation in Japan, Germany or America. People in those countries are not spending money for the fun of it. They recognise the need for mobility of people in the community and the way to do it with the least expense, least inconvenience and least frustration in a very involved and complex world.
I go back to an American example. The Bart Bay Area Rapid Transport system in San Francisco is another exercise which should be evaluated in 1978 terms to see whether any scheme such as that can be applied in any of the urban systems in Australia. I commend the Bill to the House and implore the Minister to take up those two points- firstly, to declare the Latrobe Valley an urban area, pursuant to the powers given to the Minister under section 4 of the Act, and also to prepare a White Paper on transportation policy for debate in the community.
-There was much in the speech of the honourable member for McMillan (Mr Simon) with which I could only thoroughly agree. It is unfortunate that the sentiments that he expressed and the view that he took of transport do not appear to be reflected either in the second reading speech of the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) or in the Bill before us. Let us reflect back for a moment to 1974 when the Present Minister was the shadow Minister for Transport. At that time he made what could only be regarded as a thoroughly patronising speech. He repudiated completely the suggestion that the Minister at the time is in any way responsible for what would appear to me and indeed to most Australians to be one of the most important developments in relation to cities- the introduction of this particular legislation. He also suggested that in his speech the Minister had not given due account to the work that was done by the Bureau of Transport Economics and that his speech was technically weak.
It seems to me that we have to remember the work of previous Ministers and we have to recognise that the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones), when Minister for Transport, brought a vision to the whole subject of urban transport. As the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) has suggested, it is good that at least in some respects that vision is being carried through into this Parliament, through this extension of the legislation which was first introduced in 1974. It is interesting to reflect also on another speech that was made in that debate when the honourable member for Cowper (Mr Ian Robinson) suggested of the legislation introduced at that time that it demonstrated ‘a complete absence of an overall plan or a fundamental approach to the problem with which it is purporting to tackle’. Indeed, it was just that point that the honourable member for McMillan was making. He was suggesting that we ought to place the whole area of transport within a much broader context, and that it is time to look at transport, not in isolation but as a national planning issue.
Situations do change, and they change quite dramatically. The importance of this legislation and the importance of public transport is very much greater now, great as it may have been at the time the Australian Labor Party Government introduced the legislation. There is on the part of conservative governments always a tendency to believe that if they creep along incrementally somehow they will manage to keep up with history and be able to match actions with events. I think there is a real sense in which, in the transport area, that will not be the case. There is a sense in which history is rushing upon us, and if we do not make urgent decisions and shift priorities we will be in very serious trouble.
I base this argument very much on the whole question of energy. The annual report of the Department of Transport noted that ‘the transport sector accounts for about 37 per cent of final energy consumption and about 60 per cent of consumption of petroleum products’ and that ‘the vast bulk of this transport energy is being consumed by the private motor vehicle’. The Minister, in a speech delivered in Houston, said that transport decisions cannot be divorced from energy considerations’, but in the second reading speech and in the approach of the Minister to this legislation we have not a single reference to the problem of energy.
We might have expected that the Minister would provide some justification for the increase- perhaps a minor increase, but nevertheless an increase- in spending on urban public transport. In his speech he has offered only justification for the fact that road congestion, car parking and pollution problems reinforce the need for a transport system which provides an alternative means of urban mobility. As an after thought I add that we should not forget those members of society- the old, the young, the poor and the handicapped- who make the supreme sacrifice and either travel on public transport or stay at home.
I think the fundamental issue that has to be related to transport is the whole situation of energy. Australia is not an energy rich country. Whilst we control something like 6 per cent of the world’s supplies of coal and whilst we have in terms of black coal 240 times the world’s annual production level and in terms of brown coal 90 times the world’s annual production level, the reality is that we have only 0.25 per cent of the world’s petroleum reserves. In 1976 we had only nine times the world’s annual production rate. Australian cars are guggling down for all manner of purposes, some appropriate and some inappropriate, 947 litres per car per year- perhaps only half the American rate, but we do not have its power to lever events in the Middle East.
I believe the most compelling arguments for increased spending on public transport flow from this coming shortage of oil and its critical importance to the movement of people and goods in Australia. The fundamental argument is simply that in terms of energy efficiency, public transport makes the most effective use of limited resources. I have here a table which sets out kilometres per equivalent gallon of petrol for various types of transport ranging from taxi to man on the bicycle. As one looks at the range one can see just how energy efficient public transport is. For example, the urban bus travels 48.6 kilometres per equivalent gallon of petrol compared with 37.5 kilometres per gallon by the private car. Mr
Deputy Speaker, I seek leave to incorporate the table in Hansard.
The table read as follows-
– The Government’s planned expenditure of $300m over the next five years and its plan to match that expenditure with State expenditure of $150m represents a significant improvement in public spending in the area of transport. Nevertheless, we need to recognise that the priorities have not been changed. These figures represent a ration of an order of at least $10 spent on urban roads for every one dollar spent on urban public transport. In the 1973-74 Budget it was proposed to spend $3 1 6m on roads compared with $ 1 1 m on rail and $3 1 m on urban public transport. In 1977-78, this Government will spend $538m on total road transport, $84m on rail transport and $51m on urban public transport- that is, the position of rail and public transport has improved in percentage terms from a very low base, but the bias of expenditure is clearly against urban rail transport and public transport for those areas of Australia in which it has the best chance of achieving some success.
I wish to raise a number of general problems with which the Government will have to grapple. Some of them have been referred to earlier in the debate. I think that we have to recognise- I think that the honourable member for McMillan recognised this-that we have built cities that are maximumly difficult to service via public transport. We do not have the higher population densities in inner city areas which are typical of other cities of the world and which provide one of the bases for cost-efficient public transport. There has never been in any city in Australia, a proper relationship between land use planning and transport planning.
Also, we have a division of power between Federal and State governments which makes it extremely difficult to take a national approach to any problem. I am aware that it is currently unfashionable to talk about national approaches to domestic problems, but flexibility aside, is the Minister able to assure this House that the States are really attacking their transport problems in a way which is designed to meet the best interests of a national energy policy? As I read the Minister’s statement, he is against the grand plans of the 1960s. But what has replaced that approach? It certainly cannot be said that in my own State of Victoria there have been developed progressive policies which are designed to get people out of cars and into public transport. Even if the Minister is thinking along the right lines, what guarantee do we have that he can get Cabinet to agree with him? In Victoria, we have Mr Rafferty suggesting that he wants to see more money spent on public transport. On the other hand, we have every other Minister in each other State government presumably looking after his own ministerial bag.
Thirdly, what will we do about the deficits that the States face and particularly the cumulative debt? It is all very well criticising as Utopian the Whitlam plan to take over State railways. There are problems in that but what is the point of the Commonwealth spending piddling amounts of money over a five-year period while the whole system goes out the window at the time it is most needed? I am not sure of the precise figures in respect of State railway debts. But clearly those debts run into hundreds of millions of dollars. One estimate I have seen suggests debts totalling more than $500m. It is not simply the debt which is involved; it is also the interest payments which on those debts represent very significant amounts of money. The grants that are to be made under this program will be of little or no assistance in meeting the problem of massive deficits within the States.
The Minister’s second reading speech makes no refernece to the detailed analysis carried out by the Bureau of Transport Economics of the capital requirements of urban public transport for the period 1977-78 to 1979-80. The Bureau makes no final determination of what the figure should be but does note in its report that while substantial increases in the rate of expenditure on public transport can be justified, the pressure on State financial resources of very rapid expansion in urban public transport must be recognised. However, the Bureau gives a figure which
I think it may be worth citing. It suggests that the economically warranted State capital city public authority expenditure that can be justified amounts to about $630m in 1974-75 prices for the three year period. Further, additional capital expenditure of about $2 15m is required over the period for public transport projects already under way in these cities. This is what is suggested by the Bureau of Transport Economics, the body that the Minister chastised the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) for failing to laud in his 1974 speech on a similar Bill.
I want to say this as clearly and as strongly as I possibly can: It seems to me to make absolute nonsense of employing expensive professional resources in the form of the expertise in bodies such as the Bureau of Transport Economics or other bodies of that type if one makes no reference to their recommendations in legislation or debate in the Parliament and if one simply ignores them and suggests that the figure that is chosen is a figure that has been agreed to by the Commonwealth and the States. I ask the Minister: What is the relationship between the work that has been done by the Bureau of Transport Economics, a highly professional body, and the decisions actually taken in terms of arriving at the amount of money which it is proposed to spend on the program as a whole and the program in the various States? The report notes the forward lead times and the detailed planning which is required in moving towards increased levels of expenditure on urban public transport. That needs to be set against the reality that in the mid-1980s we will be facing a major energy problem in this country. Transport could make a major contribution towards resolving that problem, at least partially.
It is not simply a question of attempting to come to terms with this problem in five years time. We need to come to terms with it now. I believe that there is a very strong case for the Government to develop as quickly as possible some overall approach to transport that places considerable emphasis on the whole question of energy. If criticism could be made of the report of the Bureau of Transport Economics, it would be that the Bureau failed to take account of and state the importance of the issue that I have been raising. We have built and developed within Australia a transport system based on the private motor vehicle which has shaped our cities. That is a reality; that is a fact. To change thai pattern and to change the shape of the cities will require massive expenditures.
I do not think that we on the Opposition side of the House ought to make any apologies for the large expenditures which were envisaged within the area of urban affairs. The problems which have been allowed to develop, to grow and to accumulate over a long period have now become massive. They may be insoluble. I believe that the reshaping of transport systems is fundamental to the health of Australian cities and of the people who will live in those cities in the future. I believe that the Bill is continuing a shift in the right direction which began during the life of the Australian Labor Party Government. I hope that during the period of the operation of the Bill there will be a reconsideration of urban public transport within the context of a national transport plan.
-The debate has certainly been most refreshing and interesting. It has been refreshing in the sense that it has been good to see genuine interest expressed from both sides of the House in improving the problems of urban transport. It has been interesting in that the speakers for the Opposition, whilst appreciating the problems of urban transport, have used this forum to launch a wide ranging debate in which they have been critical of the Government’s activity in associated areas like sewerage and energy. This indicates that members of the Opposition really have not read the States Grants (Urban Public Transport) Bill which is designed to provide moneys for capital works and for the purchase of such things as vehicles to help in urban transport. The legislation was not designed to provide finance in the energy field or to educate people into alternative transport usage. It is somewhat disappointing to find that one side of the Parliament is prepared to play politics on what is a vital and important matter when we have this refreshing approach of genuine agreement by both sides of the Parliament about tackling a problem.
The core of the argument on the Bill was illustrated by the honourable member for Kingston (Mr Chapman) and also by the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon). The relevant words were used by the Minister and repeated by the honourable member for Kingston. We had to wait until the closing phase of the second reading speech- good things are kept until the last- to find the real thrust of the Bill. The Minister stated:
Road congestion, car parking and pollution problems reinforce the need for a transport system which provides alternative means of urban mobility. We must never neglect those members of our society who depend upon public transport services.
That passage gives the key to the Bill. It indicates that now we have a Minister for Transport who is concerned about people who do not have private transport and are compelled to use public transport. The honourable member for McMillan (Mr Simon) also hit on a fundamental problem when he spoke about the need to educate people to use public transport. I cannot see any possible reason for the endless streams of traffic in the big city areas. There are motor cars with one person inside. The honourable member spoke about the use of the bicycle. Of course, all these things are part of another survey which can be undertaken.
But I want to bring this discussion back on to the rails. The Bill provides funds for capital works and associated activities to provide services to members of society who depend upon public transport. It is interesting to note that no credit was given to the Government for increasing the allocation available over five years from $190m to $300m. Of course as the Minister for Transport quite rightly said, with the subsidy from the States the sum will total $450m split up in two ways with certain sums to be allocated over a five year period and certain sums to be allocated on a yearly basis. We have the best of a two way mix. We have funds allocated which will allow the States to plan on a long term basis because certain projects require this type of planning, and we have sums allocated on a 12 monthly basis so that jobs which require urgent completion, which maintain or attract a priority by virtue of being part of the developmental process, can be funded as a matter of urgency. We find that the Opposition endeavoured to claim full credit for bringing in a plan of this type. It is interesting to recall that in the 1972 election both the McMahon-Anthony Government and the Opposition advocated an urban transport policy. So, the present Opposition cannot claim to be the architects of the scheme. Let us say that both sides in the 1972 election campaign had urban transport very high in their priorities.
I compliment the Minister for Transport for presenting to this Parliament a Bill which gives positive proof that we mean what we say when we talk about federalism and a meaningful cooperative spirit with the States. There is the absolute minimum of interference, yet at the same time this Parliament- the Parliament that supplies the money- has the opportunity of finding out where the funds are being spent. That is good. It is good government because it would be wrong for us, as the tax gatherer, to throw away our responsibility to the Australian people to ensure that each dollar that they pay in taxation is being spent wisely and well. It is good to see also that the fundamental principle behind this proposal is that the States have to get on with the job of providing the services. That is one of the thrusts of this particular legislation.
In case some honourable members opposite might believe that their own States have been spending all the money that has been allocated to them, I believe it is appropriate to give some facts and figures about what has happened in recent times. In 1974-75 the States had budgeted the sum of $67.0 lm for this purpose; yet, they spent only $45.03m. In 1975-76, an amount of $40. 3m was made available but the States were able to spend only $33. 8m. Last year the States spent $58.4m out of a total program of $64.6m. That indicates that it is absolutely necessary for this Parliament to ensure that the money that has been made available is being spent. The problem is urgent. The problem requires a solution. Unless it is solved we will find that the cities will be choked.
Funds will be available not only for capital works but also for the purchase of buses. I congratulate the Minister for indicating once again, as our Government always indicates, that Australia consists of more than the large metropolitan areas of Sydney and Melbourne. We find that in previous legislation most of the money was spent in the large metropolitan areas. In my State of Queensland not one dollar was spent outside the Brisbane metropolitan area. That indicates that the then Government was composed of little men with little minds. They could not see that other areas were having problems. I congratulate the Minister for extending the umbrella of cover and applying the provisions of this Bill to cities with populations in excess of 40,000. I am delighted to find that my own city of Toowoomba is included in that allocation. I hope that the authorities in that city get round to putting in an application for financial assistance to provide bus services over weekends. I regret very much that elderly people who depend on public transport at weekends to go to hospitals to visit their sick relatives or to visit their relatives and friends in their homes do not have access to public transport. Possibly the States could be meaningful partners in overcoming the problems of urban transport by giving a subsidy to bus operators who provide bus runs at weekends. The country areas also have significant problems in this regard. Because we have acted as the catalyst in providing funds I hope that the States will not depart from their responsibilities. I hope that they will realise that special areas of consideration are their responsibility. I call upon the States to help at weekends either by providing buses themselves or by providing fare structures that enable buses to operate at that time.
I understand that my time has almost expired. I conclude on this note: It is very good to find that honourable members have joined in the spirit of this Bill. However, it is slightly disappointing that some honourable members, no matter how important a Bill may be, cannot resist the temptation to show their political millinery. How anyone could have the audacity or, if I may say so, the cheek to. say that the same -
– The honourable member for Reid?
-You have named him. I would be much kinder. I am a kindly, gentle sort of person. How someone can say that $300m is a mere crumb is beyond me. Let me say that one reason for the galloping inflation in this country surely is that the Labor Government did not know what it was doing, did not worry about obtaining value for the dollar and spent money as if it were going out of fashion.
– in reply- I join with the previous speakers in thanking other speakers for the kind remarks that have been made in this debate and also for the good spirit in which honourable members have debated the legislation. I must add my piece to what the honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh) has just said. So that history is not improperly recorded, I inform the House, for the benefit of those who do not know, that it was as a result of an Australian Transport Advisory Council meeting in South Australia in July 1972 at which I tabled a report of the Bureau of Transport Economics on the needs of urban public transport that the first Bill of this nature was introduced in 1973 after the change in government. So the capacity of the Labor Government to introduce a program was facilitated by action that we had taken at an earlier time. There is an old saying that success has a thousand fathers. I suppose it applies equally on this occasion. Another matter which I must put straight for the record is the amount of funds allocated. I do not recall any Minister in the previous Administration promising, as claimed by the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris), to provide about $500m for such a program. There was certainly no public statement on record at that time. In point of fact in the three years of office of the previous Administration, I regret to say, the abysmal sum made available for urban public transport amounted to only $79m. It was not until we came back into office in the last two years in which the previous piece of legislation operated that we increased funds to the $190m that was finally made available. It is as well to get the record straight on these matters.
The honourable member for Shortland was concerned about the sum of $20m which at present has not been allocated. I put aside the snide remarks about pork-barrelling. The fact is that the legislation provides that the money will be made available to all the States. Indeed knowledge of it will be given to the Parliament and the States will be able to put up their programs. This part of the Bill was discussed by Ministers at the last ATAC meeting and agreement was reached on it after questions were asked by the various State Ministers. With reference to escalation, in the first instance we do not have the rabid inflation that we suffered under the Whitlam Administration, running as high as 20 per cent. Inflation is on the downturn; we have halved that inflation rate and we believe that we will continue to lower it. It is now possible under good economic management for the States to be able to submit programs in which they ought to be able properly to judge the full cost. Certainly I accept that they could not do that under the Whitlam Government simply because of the bad economic management of the day and the fact that they could not measure the inflation rate from day to day. The States experienced very serious difficulties managing their programs. Under our economic management we genuinely believe that the States can measure the costs of their projects with some accuracy and can place them before the Government for approval.
The honourable member for Shortland also raised a question as to why safety is not included under clause 3 in the definition of ‘project’ which mentions quality and efficiency of the program. Safety is an automatic and natural component. Insofar as urban public transport is concerned, its safety standard is the direct responsibility of the States. We would look at the criteria of quality and efficiency to ensure that safety is recognised by the States.
– Can it be used as an argument to increase safety?
– I am sorry, I could not hear the honourable member’s interjection. I will have to take up the point with him later. A question was raised by the honourable member for Shortland, the honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr
McVeigh) and the honourable member for McMillan (Mr Simon) in relation to the new provision for urban public transport funds to be made available to cities with populations of 40,000 or more. Quite a number of cities outside the great metropolitan areas take advantage of that provision. It is a statistical division used by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in the census and it has been included in other Commonwealth legislation. There has to be a line of demarcation somewhere and this method was adopted in the earlier program. I think it was also adopted in the sewerage program of the previous Minister for Urban and Regional Development. A population of 40,000 was the level above which funds would be provided by the Commonwealth. It is believed that for cities with populations of less than 40,000 the States ought to be able to take care of the transport problems.
The honourable member for McMillan raised an interesting suggestion that the Latrobe Valley as it is properly known, extending south as far as Traralgon, ought to be treated as one statistical division thus giving it a population in excess of 40,000 and being eligible for the grant. The Bill certainly does not provide for that in that it states specifically that it must be a single urban area with a population in excess of 40,000. Because of the honourable member’s interest and my personal interest in this matter, I will look at his suggestion and see what can be done about it. The honourable member for Shortland raised a number of questions with respe1 to the share given to Tasmania. I think that shows how easy it is to distort facts with figures. The fact is that under the previous program introduced by the Labor Government, Tasmania’s budgeted share was 2 per cent. Of course the honourable member can work out for himself that under this legislation the Tasmanian share is 2.5 per cent.
– You are quite wrong.
– If I am wrong, I am receiving bad advice from the best advisers that any Minister or department in Canberra can receive.
– An amount of $5m out of $300m is not 2W per cent.
-I will let the honourable member work out the figures for himself. He also raised the question of the Mornington bus depot. That program is presently being considered for inclusion in the 1977-78 program. So I can put his mind at rest on that point. The honourable member also criticised the Government for not continuing the Springfield bus depot project. I should make the point that the previous Administration had a five-year program, yet all it considered in that five-year program was the acquisition of the land. It restricted any assistance to land acquisition, so one must question its sincerity in respect of that project.
Because there are one or two Tasmanian members now present I must mention the charade concerning the pontoons in Tasmania. It is an indisputable fact that the Tasmanian Government was the sole cause of those pontoons being removed. It handled the business. It was responsible for their removal, and it made a thorough mess of the situation.
– That is not true.
-It is an indisputable fact. The honourable member for Kingston (Mr Chapman) raised the prospect of the north-east corridor being included in the program. I assure him that if the South Australian Minister includes it, certainly it will be properly evaluated. I must point out that in the first instance it would be desirable for him to speak to Mr Virgo and make sure that he does include the program in the projects in South Australia he wants considered.
I thank the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) for his complimentary remarks. I make the point that as a Minister he was a great federalist. I saw him in action on a visit to the Latrobe Valley. I am not sure whether it was on my invitation or the invitation of the member of the day. He demonstrated quite clearly on that occasion that he was prepared to work with local government authorities and with State Ministers. He has not changed. In all the years he was Minister he kept his word in any exercise of co-operation and certainly was not the centralist that a number of his colleagues were, which finally led to the downfall of the Labor Government. He raised a couple of very important questions that go to the heart of transport planning and urban planning. There is a relationship between this Bill and urban planning, and there is a lot of work done by the Australian Transport Advisory Council and the State Ministers on the impact of urban transport expenditure of this nature on urban planning and urban growth as a whole. There is a direct relationship that cannot be ignored.
I was criticised by the honourable member for Batman (Mr Howe) for not making more of that aspect in my second reading speech, but of course one cannot cover every important philosophical point in a second reading speech, which is a technical speech related to the Bill in a direct fashion.
– What about the States?
– The States are co-operating with us. We have joint planning committees to try to evaluate the impact of urban public transport programs in the major cities, and in that way I think we are covering this point. The honourable member for Reid may not believe that it is a satisfactory way of dealing with this matter and that the method may be improved, nevertheless there is a willingness on the part of the States to pick up the major point raised by the honourable member for Batman in their attempt to cover it. The honourable member for McMillan was concerned also with the total question of transport planning. It is a valid question to raise. As I said, it was not something I was able to cover in the second reading speech. Perhaps on another occasion we will have a much more philosophical debate on that question. Mr Deputy Speaker, the Whip is vitally concerned at the way time is passing. In conclusion, I thank all honourable members who took part in the debate.
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 Nixon) read a third time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation for proposed expenditure announced.
Bill presented by Mr Eric Robinson, and read a first time.
– I move:
I present Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 1977-78 which, together with Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 1977-78, which I shall introduce shortly, comprises the Additional Estimates for 1977-78. In these Bills, Parliament is asked to appropriate moneys to meet essential and unavoidable expenditures additional to the appropriations made under Appropriation Acts (Nos. 1 and 2) 1977-78.
The additional appropriations total $365.452m. Of this, $283.232m is sought in Appropriation Bill (No. 3) and $82.220m in Appropriation Bill (No. 4). The additional appropriations sought in the Bills are offset to some extent by savings in other appropriations made by Appropriation Acts (Nos. 1 and 2). These savings which have resulted partly from the Government’s determined efforts to achieve expenditure savings wherever possible, are expected to amount to $209m. A document detailing these savings under the relevant appropriation headings has been distributed to honourable members.
Notwithstanding the additional appropriations that are now sought, current expectations are that total outlays in 1977-78 over the whole of expenditures, including those financed from special appropriations, will exceed the Budget estimate by only a relatively small margin.
Taking account of the urgent additional and unforeseen requirements that have arisen since the Budget, this situation reflects the Government’s adherence to its policy of expenditure restraint, a policy which it has firmly resolved to maintain.
I now outline the main areas where there has been found to be an unavoidable need for the additional appropriations that are the subject of Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 1977-78. The most significant area relates to salaries and wages. Honourable members will recall that the Budget contained an allowance of $90m for prospective salary and wage increases for commonwealth employees but that that amount was not appropriated in individual salary votes. Parliament is now being asked to appropriate a net $77m in respect of increases in award rates since the Budget.
Appropriations of $7m are included for the rearrangement of functions between departments and the creation of a Department of Home Affairs last December. These appropriations are offset by savings in original appropriations. Under the heading of Other Services, additional funds totalling $3. 6m are sought for migrant education services, and $6m for aged persons homes and hostels. An additional $14m is included for the Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development for payments under the Home Savings Grants Scheme. The Department of Employment and Industrial Relations requires an additional $30. 7m to meet an increase in payments to employers and trainees under the National Employment and Training system.
Other additional provisions include $5. 7m for the Australian National University for cost supplementation, $5.7m for the Community Health Program, $2.1m for the Community Youth Support Program, $3.7m for the Australian Broadcasting Commission and $8.6m for the Australian National Railways. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Dr Everingham) adjourned.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation for proposed expenditure announced.
Bill presented by Mr Eric Robinson, and read a first time.
– I move:
I present Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 1977-78 in which appropriations totalling $82. 220m additional to those made by Appropriation Act (No. 2) 1977-78 are sought for capital works and services, payments to or for the States, and other services. As I explained when presenting Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 1977-78, the proposed appropriations are needed to meet essential and unavoidable expenditures for which provision was not made in Appropriation Act (No. 2) 1977-78. 1 now mention some of the major items in respect of which additional appropriations are sought in the Bill. An amount of $2. 04m is being provided for additional expenditure on capital works and services for the Cooper Basin gas field. An amount of $3m is also required to meet increased applications for loans from the Australian Capital Territory Commissioner for Housing.
Additional requirements for payments to or for the States include $20m to meet Commonwealth commitments to the States in respect of recent natural disasters, principally drought relief, and $2m to cover increased costs of the Tasman Bridge reconstruction and associated assistance for which the Commonwealth is liable under the agreed arrangements. An amount of $28. 18m is also included for payment into the Uranium Stockpile Trust Account. This additional amount is fully offset by an increase in revenue. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Dr Everingham) adjourned.
Consideration of Senate’s amendment.
In proposed section 154 (7), leave out ‘one of whom shall be an eligible employee or a pensioner’, insert ‘of whom at least one shall be an eligible employee or a pensioner, or by 3 non-presidential members, of whom at least one shall be an eligible employee or a pensioner and at least one shall be a senior non-presidential member’.
– I move:
As I foreshadowed during the debate on the Bill, further consideration has been given to clause 61, in consequence of which an amendment was introduced into the Senate on 10 April 1978. The amendment removes the requirement in the Bill that a presidential member should preside over all administrative appeals tribunals hearing superannuation cases. It will be recalled that I mentioned that this requirement could lead to delays in the hearing of these appeals. The amendment provides that tribunals hearing superannuation cases shall, in the absence of a presidential member, consist of three members, at least one of whom shall be a senior nonpresidential member and at least one a contributor or pensioner. The Government is satisfied that the interests of the Commonwealth will be sufficiently protected, notwithstanding that a senior non-presidential member presiding over a tribunal hearing a superannuation case could, either directly or indirectly, be a beneficiary of the scheme.
-The Opposition regards this amendment as a sensible one which improves the Bill, and we therefore do not oppose it.
Amendment agreed to.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Debate resumed from 6 April, on motion by Mr Viner:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition appreciates some of the motives and some of the effects of the Aboriginal Councils and Associations Amendment Bill which amends the Aboriginal Councils and Associations Act. However, we do have certain misgivings. To that end we are circulating four proposed amendments. The first of those amendments seeks to delete clause 4 of the amending Bill. We will discuss at the Committee stages our reasons for seeking to do this. In general we are uneasy about the effect of the amending Bill in limiting the capacity of a group of Aboriginals to apply to the Registrar or, indeed, inhibiting them from applying to the Minister to have declared an Aboriginal council for their area. They are entitled to do that under the provisions of the existing Act, even though there is a local authority in their area, or a local authority is proposed for their area, to which they may make such application.
As the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) said in his second reading speech, the amending Bill seeks to resolve issues of concern to State and Territory governments. I strongly suspect that the issues involved are not of concern at all to any Territory government but of concern purely to the governments of the States of Queensland and Western Australia which seem to be suffering from an embattled complex- a complex that they have been beleaguered in some way by the Federal Government, that they have to stand up and struggle for their threatened State rights so called.
I can understand that there are advantages in decentralisation. As was mentioned in an earlier debate this evening, the Labor Government did much to decentralise matters of urban transport and to institute regional improvement programs. We did much to decentralise health and welfare services. We did not go bull-headed for centralism, as some honourable members opposite seemed to imply during that earlier debate. I can see some disadvantages in having centralised control of certain matters concerning Aborigines, but the fact remains that the prime responsibility for Aboriginal affairs rests squarely with the Federal Government. That opinion was expressed by a referendum of the Australian people in 1967.
We feel that the aspects of this amending Bill to which we take exception are inclined to undermine that responsibility and to throw responsibility back on the States. I see no reason why an Aboriginal council, if it wishes to have self-management, which has been the topic of debate on Aboriginal affairs over the past few weeks, should be deprived of the right contained in the original 1976 Act. Of course, the Registrar can inform the State of what is going on, just as the Minister can.
Under clause 5 of the Bill the Minister is required to notify the State or Territory concerned of any intention to set up an Aboriginal council in an area which is a local authority area, or an area which a State or Territory proposes to make a local authority area. In other words, the Minister has to tell the State of his intentions in advance. I think that this is good, courteous mutualism which ought to occur in a federal system. I am not against that. I am not one for playing cards close to the chest. It was my policy as a Minister, and I believe it was the policy of most Ministers in the Labor Federal Government, to consult fully. In fact, we adopted that sort of approach in respect of the Hospitals and Health Services Commission Act and other Acts. We were required to consult before doing anything that would impinge on State authorities. So we do not greatly object to that aspect.
What we do object to, however, is that all these amendments are being brought in without consultation with the Aboriginal people who are affected. The amendments are all concerned with States rights. They provide for all sorts of consultations with the States, but nowhere do they provide for consultation with Aboriginal land councils and other people who have an equally legitimate right to consultation. For instance, nowhere is it stated that consultations must be held with the National Aboriginal Conference.
Then there are amendments which state that the Minister may refuse requests for alterations to the functions of the Aboriginal councils and that he may refuse requests for the alteration of objects of councils. Although the Registrar has to give reasons, the Bill does not provide for the Minister to give reasons. Of course, his reasons might be the same as those which the Registrar has presented to him and he might feel that he ought to have the prerogative not to give his reasons because he can always allege that he has taken the advice of the Registrar. But that does not meet the disquiet of Aboriginals around Australia in their belief that this Government has gone soft on its principles.
In support of my contention that this is not a move by the Territory authorities but is purely a move by the States of Queensland and Western Australia which are so vocal on this matter of States rights, let us look at some of the provisions of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976, the complementary and consequential legislation for the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. I point out that this legislation does not embrace just Labor Party policy. On 25 November 1975 a conference of the Liberal and National Country parties was held and those parties spelt out that they would ensure that traditional Aboriginal owners gained an inalienable title to their lands. Nowhere in the legislation which has come before this House during this session has that been spelt out. It has not been spelt out in the discussions between the Queensland Government and the Federal Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. The same joint party policy states that Aboriginals should determine how their lands are to be used and preserved. There is no qualification. That is straight forward enough.
– It was qualified as to the Northern Territory, was it not?
– There are qualifications in the Northern Territory legislation.
– No, that part of the policy was qualified as to the Northern Territory.
– It is not qualified in the second reading speech of the Majority Leader who introduced the legislation in the Northern Territory. He said:
In recognising land rights we will ensure:
That traditional Aboriginal owners gain an inalienable title to their land, that they also determine how their lands are to be used and preserved, that they have the same rights as any other owner to determine who enters their land whether the person is Aborigine or non-Aborigine . . .
That is not ensured in any of the legislation brought before us this week or in recent weeks.
– But that policy in that speech was in relation to the Northern Territory.
– No, it was not.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Armitage)Order! The honourable member for Dundas and the honourable member for Capricornia will address the Chair. I ask the honourable member for Dundas not to interject. Instead of having a private debate across the chamber, the debate shall be addressed to the Chair.
– Thank you for your assistance, Mr Deputy Speaker. It was not the Aboriginal Affairs policies of the parties for the Northern Territory. The Aboriginal Affairs policies of the Parties were spelt out. In respect of Aboriginal land rights, the document contained the statement that I have just quoted. If the Majority Leader in the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly representing those parties does not choose to qualify his statements, I can take his words at face value, as I have taken the word of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs in this House at face value, believing that he means what he said. The Majority Leader in the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly also stated:
That sites significant, according to Aboriginal tradition be preserved and protected.
There are, as the honourable member for Dundas (Mr Ruddock) indicated by way of interjection, certain provisions for other people to give the rights of entry to Aboriginal land. The Opposition has no objection to those provisions. There are certain legal requirements where obviously the Aboriginal Council, which has local authority functions basically, is not the appropriate authority to determine access. One example is when a policeman is investigating a murder. In that case and in respect of many other matters the action required does not come within local authority functions.
Considerable public debate occurred in the Northern Territory, as it is now occurring throughout Australia, when this legislation was introduced. The Federal Parliament set up a joint parliamentary committee under the chairmanship of Senator Bonner. Its report was tabled in 1977. It recommended principles to be followed in the complementary legislation in the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. Unlike the progress of legislation through this House, during the drafting there were wide-ranging discussions held with Aboriginal groups, with representatives of land councils and with other interested persons. There is no move for a land council in Queensland. The Queensland Government opposes it. This Government appeases the Queensland Government. It looks as though it will do the same in regard to the Oombulgurri people in Western Australia.
The provisions in the Northern Territory legislation take account of the sea within two kilometres of the low water mark of Aboriginal land. Under the provisions coming forward in Queensland entry to its waters would be left presumably to the State Department of Harbours and Marine. In the Northern Territory, provision is made for entry permits to be granted by the local people, the traditional owners of the land, for persons other than Aborigines, as well as for Aborigines. Such a provision is not made in Queensland nor in any of the legislation we have considered during this session. There is provision for prosecutions by a land council upon the request of the people in the community affected for breaches of the Act. Nowhere do we find that sort of capacity in the local communities at, for example, Aurukun or Mornington Island or any of the communities in the States covered by the amending Act. Whilst we see some good features in the amending Bill, we see it as a further step in the appeasement program. It is a sort of dialectic tango engaged in by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs in which he takes two timid steps forward when he is pushed by public outcry. Then he tries to take three sly ones backwards when nobody is looking and when he can cover up the fact that he is appeasing the States lighters.
– That is unkind and unfair.
– It is said to be unfair by honourable members opposite but it seems to be the way in which Aboriginal communities are thinking. I think that the Minister ought to accept the view of those persons, and not just my view, because that is how it has appeared to them. This is the sort of reaction I have gained from them in recent days to the actions of the Minister and to the public statements made by him in conjunction with Queensland Ministers. The Minister should take account of this reaction if he really means what he says, that is, that he is acting for the Aboriginal people and not for States rights. He has to start getting his priorities right. He may have acted with the best of intentions, and I give him credit for that, but I do not think that I am being unkind in making that judgment. I am just showing him how it appears to other people.
The record of the States in these matters is not a very pretty one. This matter was raised in the debate on an earlier Bill this session when the Opposition moved certain amendments. Before the debate came on I offered to the Minister the opportunity to discuss some of our amendments with me and to explain them fully. Our debating time was very limited and perhaps he did not understand the full import of the proposed amendments. He informed me that he saw no possible fruitful outcome from having such discussions. I suggest that that was an unkind reaction. It would be to the advantage of Aboriginal people if there were more informal consultation outside the House to arrive at a bipartisan attitude to these matters that is in conformity with the feelings of the Aboriginal people.
One of the incidents that makes us particularly uneasy about this defence of States rights and the falling in with the wishes of the states occurred in Mareeba in Queensland. The Mareeba Aboriginal housing project was initially funded in 1973- 74 with a grant of over $67,000 to the Mareeba Shire Council. The reason it went to the Council was that there was no Aboriginal cooperative body to which the funds could be made available. One of the conditions was that the administration would be handed over to such a body when it was developed. Between 1 973-74 and 1976-77 15 houses were built by the Mareeba Shire Council with Commonwealth Government funds totalling over $474,000. The conditions were that the Council would negotiate with the Queensland Government for the release of Crown land. It would construct, own, maintain and collect rents for the houses. It would act as trustee until the future establishment of an Aboriginal housing society in which the rights and responsibilities would be then vested. The Mooraridgi Community Advancement Cooperative Society Ltd was established in 1974- 75. Funds provided to that organisation from that year to 1976-77 totalled over $314,000, with $41,000 being allocated in 1977-78 and a program estimated to cost $50,000 for 1978-79. To date 12 houses and flats have been purchased. On 28 October 1977 the Mareeba Shire Council announced that it had asked the Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Islander Advancement to assume responsibility for the reserve. This was a clear undermining of the intention of Federal governments of both political colours to hand over responsibility to the Aboriginal community. The local government usurped that function in appealing to the State Government to take over.
Let me deal with the background to this matter. There were reasons why the local government appealed to the State Government and not to the Federal Government. It was annoyed. For instance, it was the same Mareeba Shire Council that had bulldozed down sub-standard houses which it said were a health menace, and so deprived Aboriginal people of homes. That led to this whole story, this whole move to provide housing. After the houses were built, the Mareeba Shire Council complained about the tenants. According to the Council, something like two-thirds of the homes were occupied by unsatisfactory tenants. They were unsatisfactory for one reason or another- they were not paying rent, the windows were broken, there were noisy drinking parties or there were too many people living in one house; all the sorts of tilings that happen with people living in a poverty situation. There were the usual complaints from people who do not see some of the difficulties of Aboriginals coming into an unfamiliar culture, an unfamiliar kind of housing and handling it without assistance and training, which are not always available. Yet the Council said that the rents should be raised.
The Council had many complaints but in the event it handed over control to the State. On 29 November 1977, Mr Wharton, who was then Queensland Minister for Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement, indicated that his Government stood ready to accede to the Council ‘s wishes. I am not accusing Mr Wharton of any malice, any deceit or any underhand dealing in this matter. He probably saw the Council’s complaint as a legitimate one. But the fact is that the Minister had no brief to act in the way in which he did. It was a provocative act of the State. Surely his advisers knew the status of those houses and where the money had come from to build them. Surely it would have been no great trouble for the Minister to find out from the Mareeba Shire Council the conditions under which it held ownership of those lands before he indicated that he was ready to accede to those wishes.
Lo and behold, on 21 January 1978, the Queensland State Government, in its Gazette notified that control and management of the reserve at Mareeba had been transferred to the Director of Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement. That is the record of local government in Queensland, even after this Government had made moves to give self-management to Aboriginal communities. So does anyone wonder that Aborigines and the Federal Opposition are uneasy about these amendments to the legislation.
– You do not believe in selfmanagement?
– I believe in selfmanagement by the Aborigines, not by the Mareeba Shire Council asking the State Government to take over, to set the rents and to evict people at its behest. I believe that the Mooraridgi Community Advancement Co-operative Society Ltd established for this purpose is the appropriate body to set up self-management. The Minister is aware of this. I am not accusing him of deliberate delay, but after all, this has been going on for a long time. He did not have to wait until this issue came up. Indeed the Mareeba Shire Council was already showing its noncooperative attitude, its breach of the agreement with the Federal Department, back in October 1977. 1 know that it takes a long time to get legal action in these cases. Nevertheless, there are people concerned and there are people being evicted from houses. I believe that while this sort of thing is going on in Queensland the Minister should not be moving to make it easier for States to do this sort of thing.
The Minister is ostensibly going to come to a mutual agreement with Queensland about the terms of the setting up of the local government authority at Aurukun and Mornington Island. The terms of the joint statement by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Queensland Premier in the last day or two are that there will be self-management through the operations of local government, in order to achieve mutual agreement between the relevant Ministers. The joint statement says that the Queensland Government has offered to consult with the Commonwealth Government. It does not say that the Queensland Act will be subject to the approval of the Minister. Yet the Minister has made it clear in his Press interviews that if the Act is unsatisfactory there will be resumption of land. I give him credit for that. I think it is appropriate to resume land. Again, there is this flavour of appeasement running through the legislation. It seems that at all costs we must not resume land for the Aboriginal people if the State does not like it.
The Northern Territory Legislative Assembly seemed to think that it was quite all right for Aborigines in the Northern Territory to have inalienable tenure of their land. We do not even have any agreement with Queensland as to the terms of the leases that will be given to the Aurukun and Mornington Island people. I do not see any future in this pussyfooting, as I have described it. I know the Labor Government was guilty of this also. I believe that we delayed for far too long when we were in power. We should have resumed the Aboriginal reserves in all States to give the Aboriginal people selfmanagement. Honourable members can call that centralism if they like, but I say it is decentralism We would have given the sort of selfmanagement about which the present Minister is talking. I believe that that is the way to go about giving Aborigines self-management and what was in the minds of the Australian people when they voted in the referendum in 1 967.
To sum up, the Opposition has no objection to the Bill in general terms. We will move specific amendments at the committee stage. We do not believe that the suggested amendments detract materially from the general good intentions of the Bill. We believe that they represent a holding operation which is the sort of caution we think the Minister should have before he strengthens the position of the States in these matters and certainly which he would be ill advised to ignore before he has had the fullest consultation with the Aboriginal people, the land councils and other bodies, as the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly did before it brought down its land rights legislation.
-The readers of Hansard and the listeners to this debate could be forgiven for being confused about the purpose of the Aboriginal Councils and Associations Amendment Bill because what they heard was a speech about Aboriginal land rights. Yet the Bill is a Bill to amend the Aboriginal Councils and Associations Act. It says nothing about Aboriginal land rights. It was never intended to say anything about Aboriginal land rights. The original Act dealing with Aboriginal Councils and associations said nothing about Aboriginal land rights. Of course, the amendments proposed by the Opposition tonight say nothing about Aboriginal land rights. Regrettably the speech of the honourable member for Capricornia (Dr Everingham) was totally irrelevant to the subject matter of the Bill. If one intended to be unkind, one could have legitimately taken a point of order on the relevance of the material to this debate and to this Bill.
The Aboriginal Councils and Associations Act of 1976, when introduced, was intended to provide a suitable vehicle for the incorporation of Aboriginal communities, particularly those in remote areas and traditionally orientated communities which might find difficulties with western European legal concepts such as might be found in the Northern Territory or in the States. It was never intended to provide a separate local government system for Aboriginals. I will give a number of examples of this later.
I think it is important that honourable members understand what could be the result if a situation arose in which limited numbers of Aboriginals wanted to establish autonomous local government authorities in areas in which States already had established local government authorities or intended to establish local government authorities. The introduction of this legislation is being pursued tonight because State governments and the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly have requested amendments to take into account their framework of law and their system of local government authorities. Certain amendments have been requested to deal with legal concepts, particularly the concept of altering the register which is held in a State to register titles. There was provision whereby in certain circumstances the Registrar of the Aboriginal Councils and Associations could have gone into a State and directly altered its title system. There is an amendment to deal with that sort of machinery matter.
There are a number of other procedural amendments. Finally, there are some amendments which take into account the request of the former National Aboriginal Consultative Council to have a right of appeal in certain circumstances against the decisions of the Registrar of the Aboriginal Councils and Associations. There was a view among the Aboriginal people that they ought to have this right of appeal to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs against the decisions of the Registrar in certain circumstances. This Bill gives effect to their request.
I think that effectively deals with the criticism of the honourable member for Capricornia who implied that Aboriginals were not being consulted about this legislation or about the way in which the concept of Aboriginal Councils and Associations would work.
It is important that we look at the amendments proposed by the Opposition tonight because they go right to the crux of the legislation. The total Bill would be of little consequence if clauses 4 and 5 were deleted as proposed by the Opposition. It is worth while looking at section 16 of the Aboriginal Councils and Associations Act. As it was drafted, it was thought that there was provision in section 16 (3) for existing local government authority interests to be taken into account. But that section was inadequate. I shall read that section because it becomes perfectly obvious why this amendment must be proceeded with. Subsection (3) states:
Before constituting an area under sub-section ( 1 ) as an Aboriginal Council area the Registrar shall take into account any proposal under a law of a State or Territory for the extension of the area of local government.
That sub-section took no consequence whatever of the fact that a local government area might already exist in that district. What a ludicrous situation. The section as it reads states that we should take into account any proposed extension of local government to that area. But if there is already a local government authority operating in that district it will not be taken into account. That shows how necessary the amendment is. Proposed new sub-section (aa) states: (aa) the area to which the application relates is not, and does not include, an area to which local government extends, or to which it is proposed to extend local government, by or under a law of a State or Territory.
That proposed new sub-section makes it clear that when the Act is amended the existing rights of local government authorities will be taken into account and not just if there is a proposal to extend local government to that area. The further amendment in clause 5 provides for a system under which the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs will consult with State authorities. The honourable member for Capricornia implied that only Queensland and Western Australia might be concerned about these amendments. I think it does not behove him, as a spokesman for Aboriginal interests for the Opposition, to criticise when he did not take time to find out the views even of his State Labor Party colleague. I am sure they would have spoken to him. The fact that he did not find out their views implies, of course, that either he did not consult with them or they are not on speaking terms with him. It must be one or the other. The fact of the matter is that if he had approached Mr Jackson in New South Wales, who attended the Australian Aboriginal Affairs Council, or Mr Payne, the Minister from South Australia, he would have found out that at that Council meeting they spoke out as strongly as the other States about having their local government interests taken into account.
If the honourable member for Capricornia had taken the opportunity to meet with his namesake, Mr Everingham, the Majority Leader in the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly, he would have found out that the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly Majority is as concerned about this matter as are his State Labor colleagues. I think that is a very important point. I believe that it behoves him to look to why his State Labor colleagues were as vehement on this matter as were the governments of Queensland and Western Australia; it is very obvious when one reads the particular Act to which I referred earlier. If he reads section 1 1 of the Aboriginal Councils and Association Act he will find a list of matters that a separate Aboriginal Council can deal with in an existing local government area. It can deal with matters relating to housing, health, sewerage, water supply, electricity supply, communications, educational training, relief work for unemployed persons, roads and associated works, garbage collection and disposal, and welfare and community amenities. It is stated earlier in that section that it needs only 10 Aboriginals in a particular area and desiring to form an Aboriginal council to get a request to the Registrar. The fact of the matter is that 10 Aboriginals, say, in Redfern in Sydney, in one of the areas of land that Aborigines occupy, could apply to form a council in the area of the South Sydney Council.
They could attempt to run all their own local government functions.
Does the honourable member for Capricornia suggest that the interests of the South Sydney Council should not be taken into account, or that the interests of the New South Wales Government in providing proper local government management should not be taken into account? One could go on. Aboriginals live in many sorts of conditions, many environments. There are people living in fringe dwelling situations, in the middle of cities and in remote areas. Quite logically, those who live in a city like Sydney and want to live in a metropolitan area with that sort of life cannot expect to be able to provide for themselves an electricity supply, their own separate sewerage system or perhaps their own separate garbage collection and disposal. We can imagine what sort of a system there might be in the middle of Sydney if a group of 10 Aborigines took it upon themselves to provide those services and to opt out of any other regulation which may apply. That is quite ludicrous. The State governments have a right to be concerned, and all the State governments have expressed that right. It is perfectly logical to expect the Commonwealth Government to take into account the views put by State authorities.
I do not wish to go through all the issues raised by the honourable member for Capricornia but I pose this question: I wonder whether he would be so vocal in seeking to have the Commonwealth exercise its constitutional power in relation to Aboriginals in all areas that is what he is looking at if, for instance, we had a Prime Minister of Australia called Mr John Bjelke-Petersen. The honourable member for Capricornia has to look logically at the principle in these matters and not make up his mind about whether the Commonwealth should have power in a particular area because he likes the Premier of a particular State. We cannot decide on the division of powers and responsibilities and the way in which good government should proceed if we make up our minds on the basis of whether we like a Premier of one State, his government or otherwise. It appears to me that that is the logic of honourable members opposite who speak in these sorts of debates.
This item of legislation is important. The Opposition has complained loudly in the past that we have not proceeded towards the implementation of this legislation before this date. It was only a little while ago that questions were being asked about it. It is an urgent piece of legislation and because of the delay that occurred in the proceedings in the Parliament yesterday, quite obviously we are proceeding today with considerable haste to get this legislation through as quickly as possible. Therefore the debate is going to be a little truncated. There will not be the number of speakers on each side of the House who would have liked to have spoken. I know that my colleague and friend the honourable member for the Northern Territory, Mr Calder, had an important contribution that he would have liked to have been able to make in this debate tonight but because of the problems that occurred in this House yesterday and delayed Government business he will not be able to make that important contribution. I think this ought to be noted and his constituents ought to know of the interest that he has in this subject and the importance that he attaches to it. In order that the debate may proceed as expeditiously as possible I also am cutting my remarks short so that this Bill may be passed tonight and these important amendments proclaimed at an early date.
-Mr Deputy Speaker -
Motion (by Mr Bourchier) put:
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (The Deputy Speaker-Mr P. C. Millar)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
-The question now is: That the Bill be now read a second time. Those of that opinion say Aye, to the contrary No. I think the Ayes have it.
– I would like my dissent recorded.
-Is a division required?
– Not necessarily, but I would like my dissent recorded.
-The honourable member’s dissent will be recorded.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3- by leave- taken together.
-Clause 2 of the Bill states:
This Act shall come into operation on the day on which the principal Aa comes into operation.
We have seen tonight a typical example of the way in which the Government handles this kind of legislation. There is no chance of this legislation being passed for at least three weeks as the Senate has adjourned for two weeks. The people in this Parliament who are most vitally concerned with this legislation have had inadequate time to consult on or consider it. The National Aboriginal Conference, which has been meeting in Canberra over the last week or so, has not been consulted about this matter. The fact is, of course, that this legislation destroys the spirit of the original legislation introduced in this Parliament and passed through this House, I think, on 5 November 1975. So, I wish to move an amendment to make the clause read:
This Act shall come into operation after adequate consultation has taken place with the National Aboriginal Conference.
Motion (by Mr Bourchier) put:
That the question be now put.
The Committee divided. (The Deputy Chairman- Mr P. H. Drummond)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- The question now is that clauses 1 to 3 be agreed to.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN -Order! Your amendment was not accepted before the closure was moved.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN-It had not been proposed and accepted by the Chair in any manner or form. As you were moving it the honourable member for Bendigo moved that the question be now put.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN-The question is that clauses 1 to 3 be agreed to.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- There is already a question before the Chair, that clauses 1 to 3 be agreed to, and the closure has been agreed to so I intend to proceed with putting those clauses.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN -Order ! I have ruled that the closure has been moved on clauses 1 to 3. Now I am going to proceed to put that to the Committee, that clauses 1 to 3 be agreed to. Those in favour will say aye, to the contrary no.
Clauses agreed to.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN-It being past 10.30 p.m., I shall report progress.
– I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I require that the motion be put forthwith without debate.
Question resolved in the negative.
Section 1 6 of the Principal Act is amended-
– I move:
As indicated briefly at the second reading stage of the debate, the Opposition feels that this Bill deprives unnecessarily an Aboriginalgroup of the right to form an Aboriginal council or to apply for one to be formed even though there happens to be a local authority in the area or proposed for the area. As the honourable member for Dundas (Mr Ruddock) has said, the original Act provides in section 16(3).
Before constituting an area under sub-section ( 1 ) as an Aboriginal Council area, the Registrar shall take into account any proposal under a law of a State or Territory for the extension to the area of local government.
The Act did not state that just because there is a proposal for extension of local government to the area the Registrar could not still approve it as an Aboriginal council area. It simply says that he shall take that proposal into account.
– He did not take into account that it is an existing council.
– That is correct. I take the point of the honourable member which he made in his earlier speech, that it did not specify that he should take into account a local government area already in existence when the application is made. But surely that is an unnecessary provision; surely any person with common sense would do so anyway. But that is not what the amendment says. It does not say he shall take it into account; it says that he shall not accept the application. I think that is an unnecessary curtailment of the rights of the Aboriginal people to form an Aboriginal Council even though a local government exists in the area. I realise, as the honourable member said in his earlier speech, that it is possible in such a case that functions will overlap. The functions specified in relation to an Aboriginal council are virtually those of local government, but that does not mean that the Registrar could not register a council which provides a selection of those functions. For example, not every local authority provides an electricity supply, and there may be a proposal to establish one. Not every local council provides relief work for unemployed persons, and there may be a proposal to set up that sort of activity. I believe that the situation should be as flexible as possible.
Our amendments are designed to provide for the maximum and not the minimum of flexibility in relation to applications. As we will point out when we move our later amendments in which we ask the Minister to give reasons, we believe that the Minister should be concerned with increasing communication and consultation with and increasing the education of the Aboriginal communities as to the reasons why he makes a decision against an application. The purpose of the amendments we are proposing is simply to increase the degree of consultation with the Aboriginal communities and not to increase the degree of consultation with local authorities. There is nothing in the existing Act which would prevent from occurring the sort of consultation for which the amending Bill provides in clause 1 6.
– The honourable member for Capricornia (Dr Everingham) made some remarks concerning the attitude of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly towards this legislation. I want the Committee to know some facts about the situation. The honourable member may well talk about the position in Queensland and Western Australia, but this legislation is not necessary in relation to the Northern Territory. After 30 June the Northern Territory will have the authority to give these Aboriginal Councils and associations municipal responsibilities. That situation is contrary to the one put forward by the honourable member for Capricornia. The Northern Territory Legislative Assembly’s Majority Leader has travelled around these areas in the Northern Territory and has been speaking to the members of the Aboriginal councils. I would not be surprised if in the very near future we see local councils coming into operation. I just wanted to put the matter straight: The Majority Leader of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly is ahead of this legislation and ahead of the honourable member for Capricornia in making these offers to the Aboriginal councils.
-Mr Deputy Chairman -
Motion (by Mr Hodges) put:
That the question be now put.
The Committee divided. (The Deputy Chairman- Mr P. H. Drummond)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Section 17 of the Principal Act is amended by omitting sub-section (4) and substituting the following sub-section:
– I move:
Omit the clause.
We in the Opposition indicated at the second reading stage of the debate our misgivings with regard to this matter. The honourable member for Dundas (Mr Ruddock) suggested that we would not be doing this if, for example, there were a Prime Minister here called Mr BjelkePetersen. I point out to him that if we had such a Prime Minister he certainly would not allow such an amendment to be passed by this Parliament. He would not want to telegraph his punches in something that was said in regard to a certain event recently. If the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs does not want to indicate to the State of Queensland that he is setting up an Aboriginal council, in view of the fact that the State of Queensland may then proceed to declare a local government area, I think that option should be left open to him. I do not want confrontation, but I think sensible Ministers do not want such a restriction on them. I commend the amendment.
-This clause and the amendment go right to the heart of the legislation. It may be well for me to explain to the Committee exactly what are the origins of this matter.
– How long will that take?
-If the honourable member for La Trobe listens for a while he will perhaps learn. If necessary, we will post him a copy of Hansard. When the Labor Government set out some five years ago to establish satisfactory financial arrangements for the Aboriginal people to enable them to handle their own affairs, it found that there was no satisfactory State legislation, and of course at that stage there was no
Commonwealth legislation. Our object was to give the Aboriginal communities financial support for those things which concern them, basic services such as housing and so on.
I think it is quite wrong for honourable members opposite- the honourable member for Dundas (Mr Ruddock) should be well aware of this- to think that what is proposed in this amendment is an attempt to superimpose upon the normal local government situation in Australia an extra autonomous local government system. It is nothing of the sort. It is an attempt to give to the Aboriginal communities an opportunity to conduct their own affairs in accordance with their affinities, desires and aspirations, which is the case with so many other groups in this country. It has been traditional since the beginning of the settlement of Australia for organisations- I think the religious ones are the best examples- to do this. In many parts of Australia the Catholic Church, the Anglican Church, the Presbyterian Church and a number of Congregational units have been able to establish for themselves schools and various instrumentalities which are complementary to the ordinary services provided by the State and municipalities. This does not involve only Queensland. However, I agree in many respects with what the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) said, that it should not be necessary for this to be done in the Northern Territory.
In some country towns in Western Australia or New South Wales, 500 or 600 Aboriginal people might live in a community and perhaps 250 to 300 of them might live in what could be termed a reserve on the edge of the town. There are perhaps 30, 40 or 50 families scattered around the town. They are a community in their own right. The object of the Labor Government legislation was to give them an opportunity to work as a community- supply amongst themselves services which they considered desirable- to make themselves free of the State and local governments. The point about this legislation is that it destroys the Commonwealth’s capacity to do that and to ensure that it happens.
Honourable members would know, especially as a number of them have been members of committees which have travelled around Australia looking at this situation, that one of the great difficulties all through the two centuries of European settlement in this country, has been to ensure that government authorities- State, municipal or Federal- carry out their duties to the Aboriginal people with the same verve and the same energy as they adopt towards the rest of the community. The legislation was a considered attempt and, I think, an important attempt, to supply Aboriginal communities with the sinews of war in this regard. There were lots of difficulties associated with it in the first instance. I remember that we gave consideration to whether there were complementary Acts throughout the States that could be used or whether there was any possibility of using legislation by which organisations could be incorporated in the Australian Capital Territory, but those Acts would not have had the force of law beyond the boundaries of the Australian Capital Territory.
I put it to the Committee, to the Minister and to the Government, and I hope that the Senate will consider it, that it is fundamental to the operations of the Aboriginal community that in many respects the people be released from dependence upon the State governments and upon municipal governments. This legislation is just another instance of the Government’s appeasement of the States, to use the word which was used by my colleague the honourable member for Capricornia (Dr Everingham). ‘Appeasement’ is too soft a word; it is a total surrender. I can see that the Government will have to obtain the approval of the appropriate Northern Territory Minister to consider some of the ramifications of the clause otherwise there will be no possibility of this legislation taking real effect. I appeal to honourable members in the chamber at this moment to give the matter serious consideration. For instance, my friend the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) would be well aware of the situation in various parts of his electorate where Aboriginal communities need to be able to work amongst themselves, regardless of what the rest of the community does. I am confident that if honourable members opposite consider this matter in relation to their own Aboriginal communities they will see that it is fundamental that the Commonwealth has the full responsibility and that the Commonwealth maintains its responsibility and duty. They will then reject the clause.
At this stage, after so much consideration in the Parliament I am disappointed that the Government should be going backwards on this issue. It is a complete departure from the spirit of the original legislation. I remind honourable members that they will find discussion of the original legislation in the Hansard records for 1975. The legislation passed through all its stages in this chamber and it was ready to go to the Senate when the Parliament was dissolved. The legislation before us, brought in in 1 976, was simply a rehabilitation measure. Now processes have taken place and pressures have been brought to bear upon the Government and the Minister has gone backwards again. One of the most disappointing features of the last two years has not been the non-acceptance of Labor’s policies but the destruction of so many of the programs initiated during the period of the Labor Government.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 6 to 8- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
Section 33 of the Principal Act is amended by adding at the end thereof the following sub-sections: “(8) Where the Minister is not satisfied that the request should be complied with, he shall refuse the request and shall notify the Aboriginal Council in writing, accordingly.”.
– I move:
As I have indicated earlier, the Opposition believes that nothing is to be lost by increasing communication with, explanation to and consideration for Aboriginal communities. I submit that the amendment could very readily be accepted without any further consideration. It should need only stating to be commended to the Government. We are asking only that the words giving his reasons ‘ be inserted, in which case the relevant sub-section will read:
Where the Minister is not satisfied that the request should be complied with, he shall refuse the request and shall notify the Aboriginal Council in writing, accordingly, giving his reasons.
The ‘reasons’ referred to are the Minister’s reasons why he does not accede to a request by an Aboriginal council for alteration of its functions. I think it is in the spirit of the amending Bill and of the original Act.
– I should like to add to the remarks of my colleague, the honourable member for Capricornia (Dr Everingham). I think that once again this amendment goes to the spirit of the legislation: Consultation with the people and their consideration. I should like to ask the Minister for Productivity (Mr Macphee), who is at the table, why the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) is not in the chamber during consideration of this legislation. If something serious has prevented him from being here, I can understand that; but if it is simply that other business concerns him, I think that is a very poor exercise. I hope that the Minister at the table can give some adequate explanation why, on an issue such as this, where we have substantial amendments to place before the Parliament, the Minister responsible is not here.
– The legislation could have been debated yesterday if you had been reasonable.
– The point is that this legislation has been going around and around.
– The point is that it was put off because of the nonsense of yesterday.
-The honourable member for Dundas should be the last person to talk about anything being debated in this House. On every occasion that the question has been put he has voted for the gag against everybody and anybody. The facts are -
Motion (by Mr Macphee) proposed:
That the honourable member for Wills be not further heard.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Dr Jenkins)The question is ‘That the honourable member for Wills be not further heard’. Those of that opinion say aye, to the contrary no. I think the ayes have it.
Opposition members- The noes have it.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Is a division required?
Opposition members- Yes.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Ring the bells.
The bells being rung-
- Mr Deputy Chairman, I raise a point of order. There was an arrangement between the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen) and this side that we give the honourable member for -
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! There is no point of order. The honourable member for Bendigo will resume his seat.
– Well, it is about time the Opposition played the game.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! I call the honourable member for Bendigo to order.
The Committee divided (The Chairman-Mr P. C. Millar)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 10 to 15- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
Section 52 of the Principal Act is amended-
– I move:
In proposed section 52 (2c), after ‘accordingly’ insert giving his reasons’.
The reasons for this amendment are the same as those I gave in relation to the previous amendment. We simply ask that when the Minister does not agree to the alteration of the objectives of an Aboriginal association he should not only notify the association in writing but also give his reasons. We believe it is a self-evident fact that the amendment will do nothing but help the association and the Minister to co-operate in a cordial fashion.
Clause agreed to.
Remainder of Bill- by leave- taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Macphee)- by leaveread a third time.
Debate resumed from 6 April, on motion by Mr Eric Robinson:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The purpose of the Tasmania Grant (The Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Co. Ltd) Amendment Bill is to increase the level of Commonwealth assistance to Tasmania to continue the operations of the Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Co. Ltd.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. As I understand it the 1 1 o’clock rule operates unless it is suspended by the House. It was suspended last night but it has not been suspended by the House today and the automatic closure is not superseded by the Standing Orders.
-I uphold the point of order.
– If that is the case the business of the House will have to stop.
-Order! The Votes and Proceedings indicate that in fact the motion to suspend the Standing Order was on a sessional basis, for the remainder of the session, so I was in error in upholding the point of order. There is no substance to the point of order.
– I take a point of order. The motion moved yesterday was for the remainder of the sitting, not the session.
-I uphold the point of order. That is correct.
Suspension of Standing Orders
– I move:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent Standing Order 48A (Adjournment of the House) and Standing Order 103, 11 o’clock rule, be suspended for this session.
– The terms of this motion now are for the remainder of the session’.
-That is correct.
– We would agree to the motion for tonight, but not that motion. We have to obey the Standing Orders, irrespective of anything else. We will facilitate it for the remainder of the sitting but not for the remainder of the session.
– Very well. We will do it for the sitting tonight, if you will agree without a division. We will save 15 minutes and we will all go home to bed. In those circumstances, Mr Deputy Speaker, I would be delighted to amend the motion to this sitting, for tonight. I move:
That Standing Order 48A (Adjournment of the House) and Standing Order 103, 1 1 o’clock rule, be suspended for this sitting.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– The purpose of this Bill is to increase the level of Commonwealth assistance to Tasmania for the continued operation of the Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Co. Ltd. The House will recall that last November legislation was put through the Parliament to give Commonwealth assistance on a fifty-fifty basis with Tasmania for the continued operation of the mine, pending the final report of the Industries Assistance Commission on copper mining. This Bill provides for assistance up to 30 June this year. By that stage, it is hoped that the final report of the Industries Assistance Commission will have been presented. The basis of the present legislation is that the Commonwealth commitment can only go to a limit of 50 per cent. But as this arrangement is continuing longer than that first envisaged between the parties- that is the Government of Tasmania and the Commonwealth Government- the Government of Tasmania correctly said to the Commonwealth that the Commonwealth should carry a larger proportion of the responsibilities. Hence, a new agreement was entered into. The Government of Tasmania has agreed to forgo payroll tax collections and the Commonwealth is then meeting the balance of the expenditure. Therefore, the need arose to amend this Bill to remove the fifty-fifty limit.
– Because Tasmania reneged.
-Tasmania did not renege. Tasmania made an arrangement before the interim report was presented. It believed, as the Federal Government believed, that the arrangement would not need to stand for very long. But when the interim report came out and it appeared that there was to be yet another year the Government of Tasmania and the Leader of the Opposition in Tasmania, who was also privy to these negotiations, at that stage put it to the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) that it was unreasonable for Tasmania to carry such a burden. We are talking about $2m a year for a very small State. If the honourable members from Tasmania are talking about supporting Tasmania and if they are arguing tonight that the Tasmanian State Government should stay in the agreement- I think that is what they are arguing but I might be wrong in that assessment- then they are trying to take $2m out of the pockets of fellow Tasmanians. The Tasmanian Government came to the Prime Minister and said that it was an unreasonable arrangement. The Prime Minister agreed with it. This Bill reflects the basis of the new agreement, and that is, that the Commonwealth Government should pick up the balance of the moneys beyond payroll collections which Tasmania will pay towards the continued operations and underwriting of the Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Co.
There is the view on both sides of the House that there is a need to maintain the viability of this mine, and that is because of the fact that it is the employment base of the Queenstown area and maintains not only the town but also the railway system, North- West Acid Pty Ltd, TIOXIDE and all the other industrial concerns of the region. It is no news to many honourable members that recently in Queenstown a new community college has been built, and a hospital and a lot of other social infrastructures could not be left rotting in the event of closure of this mine. The difficulty with low copper prices and low grade ore is that it is impossible at the moment to make the mine pay. What we are seeing is an underwriting to the point where the earnings of the mine will be sufficient to meet its outlays and the mine will be able to continue in operation and therefore maintain the viability of the town.
It is to be hoped that the final report of the Industries Assistance Commission will shed some light on the future of Mount Lyell rnining operations or indeed on the future movement in copper prices- whether they might continue to the point where they reach a threshold which I think from memory is about $ 1 ,275 a ton, in which case the mine would again continue to be viable. Before the downturn in copper prices the company spent about $48m putting in a new drive to open up a new ore body. That infrastructure is there and is available. I think that with an additional $10m it can be brought into production. If that were the case and if there were an improvement in copper prices, it may be that we will see the continued operation of this mine for another 20 or 30 years, which would be very much to the satisfaction of most members of this House and of course to the people of Tasmania, particularly the people of Queenstown.
It is a pity that Consolidated Gold Fields of Australia Ltd happened to divide the Renison Ltd tin operation from the operations of Mount Lyell, because whilst Mount Lyell held shares in Renison Ltd, given the boom in tin prices in the last couple of years, I think Renison Ltd was declaring a profit of about $18m to $20m. The Mount Lyell mine was running at a deficit of $4 to $5m. Forty-seven cents in the dollar for company tax written off against the earnings of Renison Ltd would mean that for a $2m cost to profits Mount Lyell could have been maintained. I accept the company’s assurance that it sold Renison Ltd in good faith and not to leave the Mount Lyell Mining and Railways Company destitute so that its books would show it running at a loss and it would then be able to go to the governments, both State and Federal, and require them to carry the load. Nevertheless, I make the observation that if Mount Lyell still held the shares of Renison Ltd there would be no need for the Commonwealth Government or the State Government to underwrite this mine at all. It would be underwritten on the earnings of Renison Ltd. That is now not the case, and we have a mendicant situation on our hands. The only way to respond to it sensibly is to take the view that the people of that district require the mine to maintain their employment and viability.
I hope that in the future the price of copper moves to a point which will enable the new drives and the new infrastructure to be used so that the mine can continue operations and reach viability. If that is the case and the price of copper improves there could be, as I said earlier, 20 to 30 years of continued operation. There are no real alternatives to employment in that region of Tasmania. For the moment, the House awaits eagerly the final report of the IAC on copper rnining. In the meantime we should agree to the passage of this legislation. I hope that during the course of this debate honourable members from Tasmania will not take the cheap political approach and say that somebody ran out on the agreement. The agreement is to keep the town going, and so far that has happened. We all should be pleased that that has happened.
It is not a satisfactory situation to have the Commonwealth Government or the State Governments paying $3m to $4m to a private company- in this case Consolidated Gold Fields- which holds shares in the Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Co. It is better if the company can stand on its own two feet. If the IAC report in the final analysis does not make any positive recommendations or recommendations which will solve the problem, the Government must look at some other form of management to keep the operation going, perhaps by the people of the town looking at the net value of assets over liabilities, buying it out and running the mine themselves as a co-operative. That would be the last resort. Nevertheless, the IAC may be able to shed some light on the matter. I certainly hope so. In the meantime the Opposition supports the legislation.
– I would like to thank the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) for his very constructive speech pertinent to this amendment. I do not want to become involved in the wrangle about who will not lend support to the Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Company except that I would like to say that if Mr Lowe is so very concerned about cooperation, he will have to make absolutely certain that he does not allow his treasurer to make such rash statements when decisions such as this are being debated. I am afraid they caused great alarm within our Party. I am extremely pleased to see in the chamber the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) and the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Burr) who have stayed back so late to participate in this debate because they have a real concern- a genuine concern- for the people of Queenstown. This debate concerns people; it concerns keeping them in Queenstown and keeping them in employment. Also it is very pleasing to see the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Cotter) here. The honourable member and myself may have clashed on a certain issue, but he is big enough to realise that this Bill does not relate to Kalgoorlie; it relates to
Queenstown- a little town in Tasmania. If we send that town to the wall, where will we relocate those people and what will we do with them? Tasmania is quite different from Kalgoorlie. I would like to thank the honourable member for smiling because that signifies that he will support this legislation, as will the Opposition.
I think the greatest tribute that I can pay tonight is to the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Groom). Unfortunately he cannot speak on this legislation. As the honourable member for Braddon, he was concerned during the critical period and I think he endeared himself to the people of Queenstown as a quiet and sincere man, ready to assist them at every opportunity, ready to talk to the miners, ready to talk to the people of Queenstown and to make absolutely certain that their town will continue as a viable town and contribute to the economy of Tasmania. I am extremely pleased to see the Government giving this assistance to the people of Tasmania. The honourable member for Braddon did a fine job and I hope that he is listening to this debate tonight and realising that all his hard work has come to fruition. I also hope that the people of Queenstown realise that there is a genuine concern for them by everybody in this House and in fact by everybody in Australia who realises that in difficult economic times those people deserve the assistance that sometimes may not be given to other organisations. A peculiar situation such as this one deserves that assistance. In all fairness I will allow the honourable member for Kalgoorlie to take up the rest of the 1 5 minutes that was allotted to me. I hope he will remember tonight that many Tasmanians are listening to this debate. Tasmania has an unemployment level of 7.2 percent. We are concerned -
– Caused by this Government.
-That is a stupid statement from the honourable member for Melbourne Ports. We are progressing well here tonight and it is getting very late. I will now hand over to the honourable member for Kalgoorlie.
Mr FitzPATRICK (Riverina) ( 1 1.30)- It is a sad state of affairs when an important mining Bill such as this is brought on for debate in this House at this hour of the night, particularly when one considers that the welfare of the nation depends to a large degree upon the successful development and extraction of our minerals. I support the remarks of the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating). The Australian Labor Party does not intend to oppose this Bill because it realises that there are many humane and proper financial reasons why this amount of money should be made available. We remind the House of the doubts we expressed when a similar Bill was introduced late last year. We do this only because we wish to highlight the responsibility of the national Government to assume a fair and long term policy in regard to our mineral resources and to ensure the best use of our mineral resources, keeping in mind that they constitute a wasting asset and that with the depletion of highly concentrated, high grade ore, much dependence will have to be placed on low grade ore bodies. We have, therefore, a responsibility to protect the low grade ore bodies so that they can ultimately be extracted economically.
I remind the House that before this takes place the national Government has a responsibility to ensure that the maximum yield from limited resources is extracted from mines that are coming to the end of their profitable lives, and this could be the case with some of the mines to which the Opposition has referred. It applies also to marginal mines. I think it is important to remind ourselves of this, because at page 4 of its interim report on copper ores and concentrates the Industries Assistance Commission stated that the Mount Isa mine made no request for assistance. There is a danger that some people will say: ‘Why should we worry about marginal mines or mines that cannot run at a profit? Why do we not let the big mines produce the ore at a profit and not cost the taxpayers anything?’ That is, of course, a short-sighted approach, as we must remember that mines such as the Mount Isa mine are very fortunate in that they extract two differenct ores through the one shaft. It is a very high grade ore body. It should be remembered also that as time goes by the ore will be further away from the shaft. Even without any bad luck, such as a big collapse in the levels or an explosion in the shaft, it will be more costly to extract the minerals from the mine.
When we consider these things we must remember also that Australian copper production amounted to only 214,000 tonnes in 1976, which was only 2.7 per cent of the world’s output. Nonetheless, we have a responsibility to see that we extract all our copper ore resources. We are fortunate to be one of those countries endowed with a wide range of minerals. However, this imposes on us a greater international obligation to mankind to develop and extract our mineral resources so that mankind will receive the maximum degree of benefit from them. One of the great problems in our mining industries today- we do not have time tonight to touch on all the problems- is the amount of ore that is left behind in mines. The difference between breaking even, mining ore profitably and mining ore unprofitably is marginal. There should be greater concern to see that all the ore is extraced
That is one of our reasons for supporting this Bill to assist the Mount Lyell mine.
I remind the House of some of the arguments put forward on the last time we debated this matter that the mine at Cobar should have received the same consideration. On that occasion no answer was given by the Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson). I hope that tonight he will give us some explanation why the Gunpowder mine did not receive assistance. Page 3 of the Industries Assistance Commission report indicates that the Gunpowder company made an appeal to the Government and the State to assist it in keeping the mine going until the report of the IAC was brought down. It is not my intention to occupy time that other honourable members might use, but I should like to wish the workers in Mount Lyell every success. I hope they are as successful as the mines were in Broken Hill, that the mine will keep going and that further ore bodies will be found.
– I make it quite clear from the outset that I find it very hard to support this Bill. I support it only on the grounds that two commitments were made. Firstly, a commitment was made last year when the original Bill was passed to support the Mount Lyell operation until 30 June 1978 and, more recently, a pre-election commitment to support the operation of Mount Lyell until that date. I can support continued assistance to the Mount Lyell operation only until that date. Clearly, the people of Tasmania and the people of Queens- town who are involved in the Mount Lyell operation have to realise that every day a mine operates is a day closer to the end of its operations. In the case of Mount Lyell the end is nigh. I do not believe that a government should get into the field of blind support for an operation that is clearly uneconomical. It opens up a whole area in which I do not believe a government should be involved.
The ore body at Mount Lyell has reached a point where it is not likely to become viable for many years. The grade of ore fell significantly. Even in recent years there was a drastic attempt to upgrade it or, in mine language, to high grade it. The ability to high grade Mount Lyell ore is now over. The level of high grading resulted in a rise in grade of only about 0.3 per cent. That is not sufficient to make the Mount Lyell operation viable. It is not likely to do so. I have spoken to a lot of people including miners from Queenstown involved in the Mount Lyell operation. They concede that the Mount Lyell mine as such is not likely in the foreseeable future to become a viable operation. Many of those miners are now in my area of Kalgoorlie. I am able to speak with them at some length. It is completely wrong that an operation such as Mount Lyell which has its hand out for a government subsidy is actively recruiting miners throughout Australia. It is not just a question of maintaining employment in Queenstown. The company is actively advertising for miners including trainee miners throughout Australia. The reason it is advertising for trainee miners is that if it employs nine of them it comes in for a special government subsidy under the Commonwealth Rebate for Apprentice Full-time Training Scheme.
There is so much wrong with the Mount Lyell operation that it should be looked at very seriously. I am pleased that the Industries Assistance Commission is carrying out an inquiry but I cannot personally support any form of assistance for the Mount Lyell operation in the form of a government handout beyond 30 June. I appreciate the points made by the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Goodluck) and his colleagues and the sympathies that he has expressed in this matter, but I say to them that they must understand that the gravy train has stopped.
– Tell them what happened in Kalgoorlie.
– It must come to a stop. There is a distinct, exact parallel in the case of Kalgoorlie and in the cases of Windarra, Laverton and Norseman. Why do not those areas qualify for a government subsidy? The mines closed down, all the employees in the work forces were retrenched and 90 per cent of those people lived in the adjacent towns. There is no valid reason for saying that we should be maintaining the Mount Lyell mining operation simply to maintain the people in Queenstown. I believe that the Queenstown area has great potential as far as tourism is concerned and an on-coast fishing operation could be established at Strahan which is not far away. I would rather see any government subsidy go into an area such as that or an industry that has long term viability to enable employment to be maintained there. The Mount Lyell precedent could lead us right into the Broken Hill South application relating to the Duchess deposit. That is another matter again.
We will have problems if we continue supplying a subsidy. The level of subsidy available to the miners at Mount Lyell has amounted to approximately $7,000 a man during this period. That is $ 150 a week a man. That is not a bad level of subsidy. Where does it go? It goes as an open cheque to the Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Company Ltd. It has gone down a hole. The Mount Lyell mining company, a subsidiary of Consolidated Gold Fields Australia Ltd, would have been a viable operation if it had been properly constructed. It was able to shed its Renison Ltd and other holdings. It is interesting to note that Renison Ltd made a profit of $ lim odd which is sufficient to carry the Mount Lyell operation, but the principals of the Mount Lyell mining company are not prepared to commit any further shareholders’ funds to the Mount Lyell mine. Why should the taxpayers of Australia do so?
Unless we realise that Australia has to get off this gravy train, get away from the handout mentality, there will be no end to tax rises. The people of Australia, and, more particularly, the people of Tasmania, have to realise this. I do not believe that the people of Tasmania have been hard done by in the light of the facts- the assistance to the apple industry, the freight subsidy and other areas of assistance. I have been in favour of that assistance but I am not prepared to pour money down a hole in the ground. Coming back to where I started, every day a mine is operating is a day closer to its end. I do not oppose this Bill, but I heavily qualify its passage. I cannot support any assistance to the Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Company Ltd beyond 30 June this year.
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 Macphee) read a third time.
Motion (by Mr Macphee) agreed to:
That the House do now adjourn.
-The House stands adjourned until Tuesday, 2 May next, at 2.15 p.m., unless Mr Speaker shall, by telegram or letter addressed to each member of the House, fix an alternative day or hour of meeting.
House adjourned at 11.46 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 22 February 1978:
-The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
I refer the honourable member to the Prime Minister’s answer to question No. 3 on 4 April 1978, House of Representatives, Hansard, page 966.
asked the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice, on 22 February 1978:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
am asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 22 February 1978:
Which departments are represented on the working party established to examine proposals for legislation to ensure that contributors to registered medical benefits and hospital benefits organisations have a democratic right to elect the directors of the organisations. (Hansard, 20 May 1976, page 2275, 26 August 1976, page 601, 20 October 1976, page 2020, 1 December 1976, page 3085, 22 March 1977, page 471, 2 June 1977, page 2522 and 4 October 1977, page 1608.)
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Departments of Business and Consumer Affairs, Employment and Industrial Relations and Health are represented. The Department of Productivity is also participating in an advisory capacity.
asked the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice, on 23 February 1 978:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Department of Health: Expenditure on Travel and Subsistence (Question No. 261)
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 1 March 1978:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The amounts and percentages shown, relate to expenditure incurred by the Department of Health and exclude travel and subsistence costs met by the Health Insurance Commission, the Hospitals and Health Services Commission, the Capital Territory Health Commission and the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Commission.
asked the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice, on 1 March 1978:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The amounts expended on fares and travelling allowances in 1976-77 are setout below:
The percentage of the Department’s expenditure on travel and subsistence were:
The question did appear on the Notice Paper of 5 October 1977 as question No. 1652 but lapsed due to the dissolution of the last Parliament.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 1 March 1978:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Department also has a primary medical rehabilitation role in the Northern Territory. Limited medical rehabilitation facilities are available, at this time, at the Darwin and Alice Springs Hospitals and through Community Health Centres in Darwin. The East Arm Leprosy Hospital provides specialised rehabilitation, services. However, plans have been prepared for a comprehensive rehabilitation unit at Darwin Hospital and are at present under consideration.
asked the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice, on 1 March 1978:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 8 March 1978:
What sum was paid by his Department, or by Departments, formerly encompassing the functions now performed by his Depanment, to each airline for air travel within Australia during 1976-77.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister, representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 8 March 1978:
-The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
I refer the honourable member to the Prime Minister’s answer to question No. 468 on 4 April 1978, House of Representatives, Hansard, page 978.
asked the Minister for Construction, upon notice, on 8 March 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister, representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 8 March 1978:
-The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
am asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 16 March 1978:
What discussions has the Government initiated with (a) States in the Pacific Ocean, (b) States in the Indian Ocean, or (c) Other States concerning the issues to be discussed at the Special Session of the General Assembly on Disarmament to be held in May 1978.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Government has initiated exchanges with a wide range of countries, both on a bilateral basis and in the Preparatory Committee for the Special Session of the General Assembly on Disarmament, on the issues to be discussed at the Special Session. Discussions have taken place with over forty countries, including all the nuclear powers and countries from all major regions of the world. Such consultations are continuing.
The recent Commonwealth Heads of Government Regional meeting also provided an opportunity for consultation on issues relevant to the Special Session on Disarmament. I draw the honourable member’s attention to the reference to the Special Session in the communique of that meeting.
am asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs upon notice on 1 6 March 1 978:
What initiatives, if any, is the Australian Government contemplating for the Special Session of the General Assembly on Disarmament to be held in May 1 978.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Government believes that the Special Session of the General Assembly on Disarmament can give new stimulus and focus to international efforts in the whole field of arms control and disarmament. Australia, as one of the ViceChairmen of the Preparatory Committee, has played an active role in the preparation of the major documents for the Session. It has emphasised the need for development of a set of basic principles to guide arms control and disarmament negotiations and for a realistic program of action as a contribution to a new international consensus on priorities for future negotiations. The establishment of meaningful priorities by the Special Session would act as a catalyst in promoting negotiations in specific areas of concern to the international community.
The Government is particularly concerned to see the Special Session promote nuclear arms control objectives, in particular the strengthening of the non-proliferation regime and the achievement of a comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty.
The Special Session will also examine ways in which the existing international disarmament negotiating machinery can be made more effective. The Government believes that changes can be made in the Conference of the Committee on Disarmament (CCD) in order to make it a more representative and more effective negotiating body. To this end, it has initiated consultations with a wide range of countries.
asked the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, upon notice, on 13 April 1978:
With reference to his answers to questions Nos 1820, 1822 and 1823 (Hansard, 8 November 1977, pages 3110 and 3111) concerning quota holders in respect of apparel, textile, footwear and passenger car imports, has he decided to publish the names of quota holders, their individual quota entitlements and details of quotas transferred; if so, when will this information become publicly available.
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
In the interests of facilitating transfer of import quota entitlement the Government has decided to publish the names and addresses of all import quota holders every six months. This will apply not only to apparel, textiles, footwear and passenger motor vehicles but also to all goods subject to quota control whether by tariff quotas or import licensing.
This information which comprises approximately 7,000 names and addresses has been prepared and forwarded to the Government Printer for inclusion in the Commonwealth Government of Australia Gazette and it is expected that the actual publication will be made at the end of this month.
The question of whether or not publication of individual entitlements should be made is still under examination. The views of interested parties will be taken into consideration before a final decision is made.
The publication of actual quantities held by individual quota holders raises the question of commercial confidentiality and this aspect will be closely examined by my Department. A decision will be made on this aspect as soon as possible.
While the names and addresses of quota holders achieving quota by transfer will be included in the published lists, they will not be separately identified.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 13 April 1978, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1978/19780413_reps_31_hor108/>.