31st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden) took the chair at 10 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 petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That Item 6469 of the standard Medical Benefits Table is the means by which payment is made for the slaughter of thousands of unborn babies every year.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government should ensure that Item 6469 is removed from the standard Medical Benefits Table.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Dobie, Mr Neil and Mr Ruddock.
To the Right Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. A petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
That withdrawal of government benefits under schedule 6469 for first trimester abortion would discriminate against and disadvantage the least privileged in our society.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives, in Parliament assembled, should:
Under no circumstances withdraw government benefit under schedule 6469 for first trimester abortion.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Dr Cass.
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 (Dwellings for Pensioners) Act 1974-77, renewed for one year expiring on 30 June 1978.
The demand for dwellings has not slackened as the waiting list (all States) of 12,060 single and 4,120 couples as at 30 June 1 977, 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 low-rental 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 Graham.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of undersigned subscribers to the Arcadia Valley Telephone Exchange respectfully showeth:
That we are dissatisfied with the unreliability of the telephone service available to Arcadia Valley residents.
Dating from the time that the semi automatic exchange box was installed at the road junction known locally as ‘The Washpool ‘, the service has consistently become inoperative, often for extended periods, during wet weather, with as little as a few points of rain throwing all lines out of action.
We request that Telecom Australia investigate the position and ensure that faulty equipment is either repaired or replaced, and endeavour to give subscribers the reliable service for which they pay rental.
We stress that often when the telephone service is out of action due to wet weather, so too are the roads and this causes an undesirable state of complete isolation.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that Telecom repair or replace the semi automatic exchange box at ‘The Washpool ‘, Arcadia Valley, Queensland and endeavour to give subscribers the reliable service for which they pay rental.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Katter.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That ‘The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the state’.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the government initiate a national family policy and use the concept of family impact statements as a means highlighting family needs.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Wilson.
– I wish to inform the House that the Prime Minister ( Mr Malcolm Fraser) in consultation with me has decided on proposed ministerial and administrative arrangements to apply consequent upon the Northern Territory attainment of self-government on 1 July 1978. The Minister for the Northern Territory, the Honourable Evan Adermann, will continue in that position for a transitional period of three months. It is intended that on 1 October 1978 the Northern Territory portfolio will be abolished and the residual functions will be absorbed into the Home Affairs portfolio. It is also proposed that Mr Adermann should become Minister for Veterans’ Affairs from the beginning of July. The present Minister the Hon. R. V. Garland, would, of course, remain Minister for Special Trade Representations.
I inform the House that the Minister for Special Trade Representations leaves Australia today for discussions in London, Brussels, Geneva and Paris. He is expected to return on 1 8 June. During his absence I shall act as Minister for Special Trade Representations. The Attorney-General (Senator Durack) will act as Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and will be represented in this chamber by the Minister for National Development (Mr Newman).
-Is the Minister for Transport aware of the fact that approximately one million Australians now travel overseas each year for holidays, many of them to South-East Asian and South Pacific areas, primarily because it is relatively cheaper than travel within Australia? Is he also aware that because of the traditional view that Qantas Airways Ltd should be restricted to international travel and Ansett Airlines of Australia and Trans-Australia Airlines to domestic travel, Australians are unable to include as part of their overseas tours areas of great national interest such as Ayres Rock, Alice Springs and the Geat Barrier Reef? Has the Government considered regional flying for. all three airlines to enable tour operators to include Australian tourist areas in international packages in this region?
– I am aware that over one million Australians left Australia last financial year, and I think something like 1.4 million Australians will be able to leave Australia this financial year.
– There cannot be too much wrong with the economy.
– I take the Minister’s point. It certainly demonstrates that there is more strength in the economy than the prognostications coming out of the Labor Party over the last gloomy, doomy weeks would indicate.
Having made that statement, I should point out that it is quite impossible to compare international air fares with domestic air fares. The circumstances relating to selection of routes and capacity to fill aircraft to fly on international journeys, compared with the necessity to provide regular scheduled services throughout the whole vast territory of Australia, are quite different. The two types of services therefore cannot be equated. The Government has been conscious of the domestic air fares situation, and the honourable member may know that I initiated a review of domestic air policy. The review body has completed its work and reported to me, and I hope to be able to go to the Government quite shortly on it and to make a statement at an appropriate time about future arrangements on domestic air policy.
– What about the regional flying idea though?
– That is one part of the question that is being investigated by the domestic review body and I hope that something may come out of that which might assist the honourable member.
– My question relates to the Industries Assistance Commission and is addressed to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. I preface my question by reminding the House that the integrity of the commissioners of the Industries Assistance Commission is now held in very high regard because of their efforts towards a more efficient Australia. My question is supplementary to the one asked yesterday by the honourable member for Lyne and relates to the committee which will select the person to fill the position of commissioner as advertised recently. I ask the Minister: Who are the members of the selection committee and what are their qualifications for the task of selection? What are the criteria upon which their selection will be based? Will the three-man committee be acceptable to all major interests - manufacturers, primary producers and consumers? Why did the advertisement for the position of commissioner omit any reference to the rural sector and, to use the words in the advertisement refer only to ‘the business sector, the Public Service, the academic community and the trade union movement’?
– The Industries Assistance Commission is a very important and valuable advisory body and this Government, like its predecessor, looks to the Industries Assistance Commission for advice and recommendations on a wide range of industry and related matters. I am indebted to the honourable member for Eden-Monaro for his interest in the Commission and particularly his interest in the appointment of commissioners which will take place in the near future. As I indicated at Question Time yesterday, and also in a later debate during the day, I have appointed a committee to confer with and to examine closely the applicants for the positions of commissioner. I indicated to the House yesterday- and I repeat it today for the recordthat the committee consists of three persons.
There will be Mr McKinnon, the Chairman of the Industries Assistance Commission, Mr Hartnell, a Deputy Secretary of the Department of Business and Consumer Affairs, and Mr Dahlson, a solicitor from Melbourne. Mr McKinnon has had wide experience in industries assistance matters as Chairman of the Commission. Mr Hartnell, as Deputy Secretary of the Department of Business and Consumer Affairs, has the responsibility within the Department for industries assistance matters. Mr Dahlson is a widely respected solicitor in the business community of Melbourne. I want to reiterate one point I made yesterday in relation to the responsibilities of this committee. It will be the Cabinet that will make the appointments. Cabinet has the responsibility for these appointments and will act on the recommendations that I ultimately will take to it. However, because of the importance of the Industries Assistance Commission and the need for that body to remain and to be seen to be an independent body, I felt that it was important and necessary for a group of experienced people to look at the applications, to interview the applicants and to recommend to me a short list for my consideration and ultimate recommendation to Cabinet. This is in the long-term interests of the Commission and, as I also indicated yesterday, it is open to retiring commissioners as well as to people -
- Mr Speaker, I rise to order. The reply of the Minister is lengthy and I believe that what should be done is that a statement should be made after Question Time. This is an important statement for the House. The reply is very lengthy which is against the consistent rulings you have given in the past.
-I ask the Minister to draw his answer to a conclusion.
-Thank you, Mr Speaker. I will do as you have requested in the light of the point of order raised by the honourable member for Reid. In conclusion there are two points that I want to make. The first is that the committee responsible for making recommendations to me will be required to ensure that the people recommended cover a wide area of interests and experience. The second point is that the word business’ was used in its widest sense and refers to rural activities, tertiary industries, manufacturing industries and mining. It is all-embracing. We hope, and we will ensure, that the new commissioners when appointed will be seen to be representative of all industries and areas of responsibility of the Industries Assistance Commission and also that they are experienced persons.
– I refer the Acting Prime Minister to the recall by the McGregor Royal Commission of the Leader of the Government in the Senate and to the Commission’s extended terms of reference announced by the Government on Tuesday night. I also refer to my question on Tuesday concerning a series of meetings of senior Ministers at the Lodge called for the specific purpose of discussing allegations against another Minister. In order to remove any unfortunate suspicions that might otherwise develop concerning the motives and the decisions reached at those meetings, will the Government now reconsider its decision not to require the seven Ministers who attended those meetings to give evidence before Mr Justice McGregor? If not, why not?
– I answered a number of questions from the Leader of the Opposition on this matter yesterday and I have no intention 24 hours later of adding anything further. The question of who goes before the Commission is a matter for the Royal Commissioner himself.
– Has the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations seen statements by the re-elected secretary of the Builders Labourers Federation, Mr Gallagher, that that union intends to pursue a program of guerilla warfare to gain additional payments for building workers? Are such demands within the wage indexation guidelines? What effect will the predicted industrial disruption have on employment opportunities in the building and construction industries?
– Yes, I have seen such reports. If the statements were reported correctly- and I believe they are, bearing in mind the text of. the resolution which was passed by the Builders Labourers Federation- the claims are clearly outside the wage indexation guidelines. There is no doubt in my mind that they are part of a campaign to destroy an orderly system of wage fixation in Australia. If the claims are pursued there will be a serious effect on jobs. Honourable members will remember that not long ago bans and limitations were imposed by the BLF, particularly in the State of Victoria, which brought to a stop projects worth some hundreds of millions of dollars. Thousands of men employed in the industry were put out of work and stood down. Further, confidence in the industry was shattered and, understandably, investors have been very reluctant to invest in major projects since then. Those bans and limitations, therefore, are still having an effect and still costing jobs. Very significantly, in Victoria, the rank and file members of the BLF eventually repudiated their union leadership and insisted on the right to return to work. I believe that the lessons of that campaign have not been forgotten. The ordinary Australian worker certainly does not appreciate irresponsible action by union leaders to pursue things for their own selfish purposes, often with questionable political motives in mind, particularly when it is likely to cost the worker his job and the jobs of fellow workers who depend on the building industry.
Ministers have agreed that the scheme should commence as a matter of urgency, can the Minister inform the House whether the Federal Government is also ready to commence the scheme?
– I thank the honourable member for his question. I understand the concern he would have about this matter. I suppose the quick answer is yes. The Commonwealth Government stands ready to help with salinity problems in the Murray Valley as soon as it can. I say as soon as it can because several steps have to be taken. Honourable members would be aware that the Commonwealth Government, in consultation with the three State governments, has entered into a consultant study on salinity problems.
– Not another one? How many more are we going to have?
– I might have some good news for the honourable member for Hawker in just a moment, if he waits. The consultant will report on works that could be undertaken to promote anti-salinity programs. I am pleased to say that in the past week I have received an interim report from the consultant. The interim report recommends that urgent schemes against salinity problems be undertaken quickly. Senior officers of the three State governments and the Commonwealth Government are examining the report. I hope that when I have their report I shall be able to make recommendations to the Government on what can be done in the way of urgent remedial work. The tube well scheme that the honourable member for Riverina talked about will be included in that consideration and will probably come out as one of the firm recommendations included in that urgent work.
– I ask the Minister for Transport whether he is aware that on 9 June 1928 one of Australia’s greatest heroes, Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith, landed in the Southern Cross at Eagle Farm Airport after an historic crossing of the Pacific Ocean? Does the Government propose to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of this epic event? Does it intend to acknowledge the deeds of one of the nation’s greatest sons who did more than any other man in the history of the world to open up the present airways of the world?
– It is correct, as the honourable member says, that on 9 June this year we will commemorate the fiftieth anniversay of the landing of the late Charles Kingsford-Smith at Brisbane aerodrome. Indeed, as one of the marks of that historic occasion the son of Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith, Charles Kingsford-Smith Junior, will be flying across the Pacific. I hope to be at Brisbane airport- in fact, I will be at Brisbane airport; I just hope Charles KingsfordSmith is there- at 10 o’clock on 9 June 1978 for a welcoming ceremony.
The Commonwealth Government is joining in a number of ceremonial occasions during those couple of days to commemorate what is a very significant event. Without question, the late Charles Kingsford-Smith did more for aviation than any other individual in history. The House will know that he flew the Pacific both ways. He flew the Atlantic, he flew the Tasman and he flew from England to Australia. He is, without doubt, the greatest Australian aviator ever and one of the greatest aviators in the world. It is fitting that the Commonwealth join in marking this historic occasion.
– By building a new airport in Brisbane.
– I will just leave the parochial issues to one side for the moment. The Commonwealth has also invited the wife of the late Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith, Mrs Mary Tully, to come to Australia. We have also invited the son of Charles Ulm to go to Brisbane for the occasion. We have asked Mr W. E. Hunt, a cousin of the navigator H. W. Lyons, to represent the two crewmen. We have tried to bring together a number of people or a number of relatives of those who were associated with that earlier occasion. There is to be, as well as the landing by Charles Kingsford-Smith, a commemorative air race. I think the honourable member for Phillip may know something of that. I am to flag off out of Brisbane the aircraft which are to fly to Sydney. A great number of aircraft and very keen aviators in Australia are gathering for that event. As well as that, a number of celebratory dinners will be held in Sydney, Brisbane and in Melbourne. I think the honourable member can be satisfied that we are doing our absolute best to mark this very important occasion in a proper and responsible way.
-I ask the Acting Prime Minister: When and in what manner did he first become aware that the Leader of the Government in the Senate had telephoned the Chief Electoral officer, Mr Pearson, in relation to the naming of electorates in Queensland?
– I do not know whether it is possible for me to be precise in relation to this matter, but I do not think it is very relevant because the Prime Minister has already answered a question as to when he was first informed.
– My question is directed to the Acting Prime Minister. I refer to a comment of today’s date that there appears to be little or no prospect of a further reduction in the rate of inflation of prices in this calendar year. As the source of that comment has consistently overestimated the rate of inflation in Australia over the last six quarters, I ask the Acting Prime Minister: To what extent is he filled with anguish and worry at the fact that this characteristically pessimistic prognostication appears in the editorial columns of today’s Australian Financial Review!
– On hearing of such an editorial appearing in the Australian Financial Review, my only reply is: What is new?
– That is brilliant.
– It would be for the honourable member, at any rate. It is probably the sort of editorial that he would like. I think anyone who consistently reads the Australian Financial Review- I am not one of those people- would be aware that it is rather a harping, carping miserable newspaper as far as government performance is concerned.
The facts of the matter are that this Government has an outstanding record of bringing some sense and stability to the economy after inheriting what was a near hopeless mess after the Labor Administration of 1972-75. We have stuck to a central theme- a strategy which has been the hard core of all the Government’s decisions- and that has been to get the rate of inflation down. Whilst there may be criticism of the Prime Minister and of the Government for not doing many of the things that all of us would like to see done, we have achieved the objective of getting inflation under control. We are now getting the rate of inflation down to a level comparable with the average of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries. We believe that by the end of this year, we will be at the lower range of inflation rates around the world. I think that is a remarkably comparable performance for a government to have achieved in the period of the last two years.
– My question, which is directed to the Acting Prime Minister, is supplementary to that which I asked him a few minutes ago. In view of his earlier answer that the McGregor Royal Commission determines who is required to give evidence, will the Acting Prime Minister give an assurance that if any member of the Government is summoned as a witness, the Government will not claim exemption by some form of privilege on behalf of any Minister?
-The Government had no intention of claiming privilege for members or Ministers; nor has it any intention of doing so.
-My question, which is directed to the Minister for National Development, is supplementary to the question asked by the honourable member for Riverina. It concerns the need to carry out urgent salinity controls in the Murray Valley basin and the many proposals recommended to intercept saline flows. As it is essential that these works commence before the next irrigation season, has the Minister received any formal applications from the three States of Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia, for assistance through the Federal Government’s water resources program?
-There is not much that I can add to the answer I gave to the honourable member for Riverina. I know that the honourable member for Mallee, the honourable member for Riverina and their colleagues are very concerned about this matter. I must say that the visit I had to the area to see the problems at first hand certainly brought home to me the urgency of governments tackling the problem. As I said to the honourable member for Riverina, the Commonwealth Government stands ready to assist as soon as we can first of all analyse the consultant’s report about which I spoke a few moments ago and, secondly, examine the formal requests that come from State governments.
From memory, I have had two requests from South Australia and one from Victoria in regard to salinity control under the national water resources program. If that information is incorrect I shall correct it later, but I think that is the situation. The Victorian Government has made a bid. The only one we are now waiting on is New South Wales. To summarise the answer, we have two things in front of us: The first is a consultant’s report and the second is the formal bids that are to come in. As soon as we get those and put them together, the Commonwealth Government, in co-operation with the States, will proceed to start on some of the urgently needed antisaline works on the Murray.
– I direct another question to the Acting Prime Minister, which is supplementary to the last question I asked him. I now ask: Will he give an undertaking that should any Minister or Ministers be called before the McGregor Royal Commission of Inquiry, the Government will not seek to claim privilege in relation to any discussions which have a direct bearing on the matters being investigated by the Royal Commission?
– If the Leader of the Opposition thinks that a government is going to reveal all conversations of Cabinet or private discussions between Cabinet Ministers and the Prime Minister, he has another think coming. We have no intention at all of making such information available. All these questions that the Leader of the Opposition is throwing forward seem to be hypothetical. As I said before, it is not the Government’s intention to interfere in or stifle these investigations in any way whatsoever. If the Leader of the Opposition likes to throw up possibilities he may continue to do so but he will not get a satisfactory answer from me.
– My question is directed to you, Mr Speaker. I refer to the report by the Senate Committee of Privileges on the appropriate means of ensuring the security of Parliament House. Have you, Mr Speaker, with the President of the Senate given any thought to the recommendation in that report that members of Parliament should wear identification discs?
– If you wore a Rotary badge you would be pretty safe.
-I think the honourable gentleman would have a different badge adorning his body. The question the honourable member asked is a proper question to ask notwithstanding the interjection by the honourable member for Prospect. We have instituted in the House a pass system. Members and senators do not wear the pass which is a photographic identity document. I think members may rely upon the attendants and police officers to identify them by appearance. However, I believe that it is necessary to examine the question of whether members ought to wear obviously an identification badge. This is done in Asian and European parliaments. I therefore called on the Government Printing Office to offer some suggestions for the design of a small lapel badge which would be available for members to look at. They could decide whether they wished to wear such an identifying badge.
Some members, of course, rely upon their medallions for identity but usually the medallion is carried inside a pocket. I have seen one member of Parliament who wears his quite prominently. He obviously believes that it is necessary to be identified by his medallion. I have some sketches available. If the honourable gentleman or any other member wishes to see the sketches to advance his thinking about the matter they are available in my office.
-My queston is directed to the Acting Prime Minister. I refer to the speech prepared by the suspended Finance Minister and delivered on his behalf to the Australian Finance Conference last Monday. Did that speech have Government approval? Did it detail and accurately reflect Government Budget deliberations?
– I answered a question in this area yesterday. I said that I would not make any comment at all about issues relating to the structure of the forthcoming Federal Budget. I shall not add to those comments now.
-My question is directed to the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs. In the light of Soviet Russia’s minimal human rights obligations under the 1975 Helsinki Accord, what assessment has Australia made of the genuineness and sincerity or otherwise of Soviet Russia following the fake trial and savage sentence of imprisonment imposed on Dr Yuri Orlov?
-I think all members of this House have been concerned about breaches of human rights as they have occurred around the world. They have certainly emotionally supported the general concern expressed by the President of the United States of America about the extent to which human rights are prejudiced in many countries- tragically, far too many. These countries include most of those within the communist bloc. It is, at the same time, very hard to make a judgment on the processes of law in other countries. There are different procedures, practices, traditions and systems. The system of the Soviet Union is quite different from our own.
It would seem, from the media presentation, that the trial of Dr Yuri Orlov was certainly not in accord with the standards of justice to which we are accustomed in this country- standards which we would seek to preserve and which we would hope might be extended into many other countries. As I understand it, Dr Orlov is the leader of a group within the Soviet Union that has been monitoring the Helsinki agreement. There is certainly, within the fundamental rights that lie in the precepts of the Helsinki agreement, an understanding which it was hoped might be seen as an advance in the general form of protection of human rights within the Iron Curtain countries and would lead to an advancement, a recognition, of the United Nations Covenant on Human Rights. I think that in general all I can say is that Dr Orlov ‘s trial and sentence certainly will serve to qualify Western confidence that the Soviet Union intends to honour its commitments on the implementation of human rights.
-My question is directed to the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs. One sympathises, of course, with his views on civil rights in the Soviet Union and such places but Indonesia, which is much closer to home -
-Order! Would the honourable gentleman ask his question rather than make a speech.
– Yes. Indonesia has had people in prison for many years. Will we take some steps to ensure that we keep constant pressure upon the government of Indonesia, in particular, and upon a lot of other countries in our area to try to get them to stand up for the same sorts of principles as we espouse for ourselves and would like to see obtain in other countries?
-As I have suggested there are, tragically, many countries where the standard of human rights on which we insist in this country are not observed and, tragically, some of those countries are in our own region. In my comments about the trial of Dr Yuri Orlov I made a general comment with respect to a particular case. There are no doubt in Indonesia and many other countries circumstances relating to the confinement of people that we would find quite abhorrent under our system. We cannot, nor should we, impose our system on other countries but I must, as an individual and as a member of the Government, say that we would hope that the statements that have been made by, in particular, the President of the United States of America with respect to human rights might be observed by those countries which at this stage do not observe our system relating to the rule of law and the protection of the rights of the individual. I believe that there are many countries which, tragically, do not maintain the high standards on which we in this country insist.
– I ask the Minister for Post and Telecommunications whether he is aware of the difficulties which people in many areas are having in retaining a satisfactory frequency of mail services, of the almost impossible cost of connecting telephone services, and of the many towns and districts that do not enjoy satisfactory television reception? Will the Minister undertake to make a visit to at least some of those areas to hear at first hand the justifiable claims of their residents?
– I would be delighted to visit some of the more remote parts of Australia; indeed, I think a lot of honourable members would like to make visits to some of the more remote parts of Australia- and some would like to stay there. In the course of those visits I would like to see for myself the kinds of facilities that are available to country people in the directions mentioned by the honourable member. I have no doubt that in very many ways people in the outback and in the more remote parts of Australia suffer grave disadvantages when it comes to the provision of such services. The Government has, in a number of programs, committed itself to the development of these services for such people. I think particularly of the remote area television program, of the extension of radio services, of the studies that are being undertaken by Telecom on the reduction of long-distance calling rates, of the question of local call access, and other studies being undertaken by the commissions responsible, all of which, I believe, will lead to a substantial improvement in the position of people in remote parts of Australia.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. I refer him to the Australian Government’s recent overseas loan raising of $US250m in the New York bond market. Is it a fact that the interest rate on the 1 5-year bonds is 9.17 per cent? Further, was the interest rate on securities with maturities between 5 and 1 8 years for the May conversion loan only 9. 1 per cent? In the light of these interest rates, does the Treasurer regard the rate on the latest overseas loan in the same way as the March $US350m
Eurodollar loan as being ‘particularly favourable to the Commonwealth’?
-It is true that the interest rate on the May conversion loan was 9.1 per cent. I tried to check from my House file precisely whether what the honourable member said about the New York loan was correct. My recollection is that the rate is 9. 1 7 per cent. The question whether the description which applied to the earlier loan can be applied to the $US250m loan raising to which he referred, I suppose, is a matter of emphasis, but I can say to the honourable gentleman that, given the circumstances of interest rates in the United States at the time the most recent loan was negotiated, the Government regarded the terms of that loan as being satisfactory, quite reasonable and quite acceptable so far as the competitive market position is concerned.
I think the honourable gentleman may be aware that there has been some pressure upwards, although not great, on interest rates in the United States in recent times. Given the circumstances and given the other circumstances of the market in which that last loan was raised, I stand by what I said about that in the statement that I issued last week.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs.
– Is it about apples?
-No, it is not about apples. When will the Minister be announcing his decisions on the recommendations that came from the highly successful Oil Industry Conference? Is the Minister aware that the Tasmanian Government is instituting an inquiry into the price of petrol, which I believe in the Australian context is significant and important?
– Yesterday I released the findings of two sub-committees from the conference to which the honourable member for Franklin referred. Honourable members will recall that towards the end of last year the Prime Minister announced that after the election a conference of all sections of the oil industry would be called to discuss certain disagreements, particularly in relation to alleged price discrimination within the industry. That conference was convened by me late in December and, indeed, three sessions were held, the last one just recently.
The conference established two subcommittees to consider the various aspects of the matters raised, and I am able to report to the
Parliament that a degree of acceptance and unanimity was reached in relation to some of the matters that were discussed. Unfortunately on some of the basic questions agreement was not reached. Therefore it will be necessary for me now to report to the Government in relation to the outcome of the conference, and it will be a matter for government decision, not a decision by me personally, as to what action, if any, should be taken as a result of the findings and the deliberations of that conference. In response to the last part of the honourable member’s question, I am aware of the inquiry being conducted by the Tasmanian Government into the retail price of petrol in that State. No doubt the inquiry has been prompted because retail margins in that State appear to be higher than those in other parts of Australia. I think it is significant that the Tasmanian Government has moved in this area to carry out this investigation.
-I direct my question to the Minister for Industry and Commerce. I refer to the proposals of the Government to reduce tariffs by 40 per cent. To what extent would protection be reduced in an industry such as the electrical industry with 3 1 per cent tariff protection, the printing and publishing industry with 37 per cent tariff protection and the industrial machinery industry with 39 per cent tariff protection? Are we to assume that those protection levels will be reduced by 40 per cent as envisaged? If so, what proposals are in train for the re-employment of people removed from those industries by way of structural adjustment?
– As the honourable gentleman knows, this matter has been subject, as I recall, to two detailed responses by the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister during Question Time in the House in recent days. As the House is very much aware, Australia’s attitude towards the multilateral trade negotiations proposal for formula reductions in tariff levels is a matter which is currently before the Government and which is subject to consideration. I do not think it would be at all appropriate to respond to the honourable gentleman with any definition in relation to the queries which he has posed. All I suggest to the honourable gentleman who, in recent days, has been posing a series of questions on this subject to the Government, is that he should await the determination by the Government as to its overall attitude and- if I may say to him in a spirit of genuine understanding of the problems of the manufacturing sector- not seek to create any sense of apprehension until such time as the matter can be subject to a clear and positive statement by the Government.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. I refer to the Minister’s answer to a question asked in the House on 10 May regarding the possibility of the passing of the Bentsen counter-cyclical Bill in the United States. The Bill deals with Australia’s beef imports to the United States. Will the Minister inform the House on the progress of the Bill? What action has the Australian Government taken to inform the United States authorities of the serious effect such a Bill would have on Australia ‘s cattle industry?
– It is certainly true that the passing by the United States Senate of the socalled Bentsen Bill has created a good deal of concern in Australia because of the impact it would have on our meat imports into that country. Were the Bill to be passed, in the current period alone there would be a very significant reduction and this would seem to run completely contrary to the interests of American consumers. I am told that a significant reason for the increase in the last consumer price movements in the United States was the component of beef price movements. For that reason the degree to which the importation of Australian beef, which is largely at the manufacturing end in the cheaper meat range, is inhibited will obviously further advance prices within the United States. One would think, therefore, that that would be against the interests of continuing inflation in line with United States general government policy.
The Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation formally presented a paper to the committee within Congress which was considering the Bill following its passage through the Senate. It was the sub-committee on trade of the Committee on Ways and Means. I table the submission made by the Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation as I believe it will be of interest to honourable members. In addition, I table a copy of other evidence given on 1 9 July 1977 by the Australian Meat Board on general matters relating to live cattle and certain edible meat products of cattle in relation to their importation into the United States. I believe the case put forward by the Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation is very sound. It sets out in some detail the circumstances of the Australian meat export trade to the United States. I believe it to be only fit and proper that the information that is being submitted to the United States Congress should be made available to members in this House.
– I ask the Treasurer whether he will reaffirm the commitment of the Prime Minister on 1 5 September last year that:
On 1 July 1978 there will be yet another reduction in the tax deducted from pay packets, and every wage and salary earner will benefit.
– If the Leader of the Opposition seeks reassurance from the Government that the 1 February tax cuts will proceed with respect to the financial year commencing 1 July 1978, 1 give that assurance. If he seeks assurance that the half indexation commitment contained in the last Budget will proceed on 1 July 1978, 1 give that assurance. If he seeks to suggest in his question that there will be certain detriment cases so far as the Government’s taxation reforms are concerned, I can inform him that I anticipate making a statement, probably in the course of next week, indicating that the Government will introduce in the Budget session special legislation to cure any detriment case situations that might arise through the operation of half indexation from 1 July. If the Leader of the Opposition is trying to discredit the veracity of the taxation reforms of this Government he has failed. They are significant taxation reforms. In the view of the Government the effect of the taxation reforms, in the forthcoming financial year as in the past financial year, will be to give real assistance and incentive to the general body of wage earners throughout Australia.
– Pursuant to section 26 of the Tobacco Marketing Act 1965 I present the annual report of the Australian Tobacco Board for the year ended 3 1 December 1977.
– For the information of honourable members I present the summary of resolutions and recommendations of the sixteenth meeting of the Australian Forestry Council held in Perth on 30 September 1977.
– Pursuant to section 1 1 of the Road Safety and Standards Authority (Repeal) Act 1976 I present to Parliament a report on the operations of the Road Safety and Standards Authority for the period 1 May 1975 to 9 June 1976.
– Pursuant to regulation 8A (2) of the Papua New Guinea (Staffing Assistance) (Superannuation) Regulations made on 30 May 1977 under the Papua New Guinea (Staffing Assistance) Act 1973 I present the report on the operations of the Papua New Guinea Superannuation Board and the Contract Officers (Papua New Guinea) Retirement Benefits Board for the year ended 30 June 1 974.
– Pursuant to section 21 (2) of the Papua New Guinea (Staffing Assistance) Termination Act 1976 I present the report on the general administration and operation of the Papua New Guinea Superannuation Scheme and the Contract Officers Retirement Benefits Scheme for the year ended 30 June 1977.
For the information of honourable members I present the report of the National Advisory Council for the Handicapped for the period ended December 1977 together with the text of a statement by the Minister for Social Security relating to the report.
Pursuant to section 42 of the Australian Film and Television School Act 1973 I present the annual report of the Australian Film and Television School for the year ended 30 June 1977. I draw the attention of honourable members to the qualification to the accounts in paragraph (c) on page 39 of the report.
-Mr Speaker, I seek leave to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. I have been misrepresented in an article which appeared in the Melbourne Sun this morning, under the heading ‘MPs will get pension boost’, written by Mr Laurie Oakes. In the body of that article the following statement appears:
Federal MPs have felt resentful since hearing about the lump-sum payment received by the former Victorian Opposition Leader, Mr Holding.
When he retired from State Parliament to contest the last Federal election Mr Holding received a lump-sum payout of $215,000.
Several times during speeches by Mr Holding Federal Liberal MHRs have made interjections about his ‘wealth ‘.
The thrust of the article is to give the impression that by virtue of some resentment engendered in this House legislation will be introduced dealing with members’ superannuation entitlements. First of all let me say that the facts as stated are inaccurate. The amount of $215,000 is inaccurate. I do not recall, and a quick examination of Hansard this morning does not record, as far as I could find, any interjections about wealth. I have been approached on a number of occasions by members of the Press asking me to make statements about this and the general question of superannuation entitlements of members of Parliament, particularly Victorian members of Parliament. I have pointed out to all members of the Press that for a period of some 10 years I was a trustee of the Victorian superannuation fund.
Under the obligations I had as a trustee, I had personal knowledge of the entitlements received by every member who retired in that Parliament and of his dependants. I regard that information as confidential and consider it a responsibility of all trustees to maintain the confidentiality of members who are parties to a fund which, like many other similar funds in the community, was contributory. That was the basis of the fund. I propose to maintain that position because I believe the obligations of trustees are no less simply because they happen to be members of Parliament.
-by leave- The purpose of this statement is to set out the nature of the regulation and control which the Government will exercise over the export marketing of uranium. The Parliament will recall that the Government announced on 25 August 1977 a comprehensive policy for the further development of Australia’s uranium resources. That policy was based on the findings and recommendations of the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry conducted under the Honourable Mr Justice Fox as Presiding Commissioner.
The Government’s policy is one of carefully regulated and controlled development having full regard to the protection of the environment and the welfare of the Aboriginal people. Australia’s decision, as announced on 25 August 1977, to proceed with further uranium development has received wide acceptance in Australia and abroad. Our policy was decided only after most careful consideration of the report of the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry. It is a policy based on the totality of the national interest and our obligations as a responsible member of the international community.
Our policy clearly recognises the important role Australia must play in moves against the proliferation of nuclear weapons and the strengthening of nuclear safeguards. Australia has announced a stringent policy of nuclear safeguards to govern future export contracts and we are proceeding to implement that policy through the negotiation of comprehensive bilateral safeguards agreements with other countries. We are also taking an active role in all of the major international forums where nuclear non-proliferation and safeguards are discussed. Mr Justice Fox is continuing to serve our country in this important area as Australia’s Ambassador-at-Large on nuclear non-proliferation and safeguards.
Australia ‘s policy is based squarely on our recognition of Australia’s obligations as a country well endowed with energy resources to make those resources available to other countries, many of which have no real alternative, in the wake of the world energy crisis, than to turn to nuclear energy as a means of supplying electricity to their peoples. The Ranger Inquiry laid particular stress on the orderly development of our vast uranium resources. The development of those resources, while serving the objectives just mentioned, must also be regulated and controlled so as to ensure full protection of the environment and the welfare of the Aboriginal people, and yield the economic benefits to Australia and its people that were described in the report of the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry. An important step in the implementation of our policy was the introduction of legislation into the Parliament on 10 April 1977. That legislation puts into place much of the basic framework which will govern the process of development.
In this statement I will describe the decisions the Government has taken in relation to the regulation and control of exports. Central to this aspect of our policy is the recommendation of the Ranger Inquiry that a uranium marketing authority be established. In my statement of 25 August 1977 I stated that the Government accepted the thrust of the recommendation of the Ranger Inquiry and that we would establish a uranium marketing authority or similar marketing arrangements to achieve the objective of orderly development. However, I explained that we would not take a final decision on that matter until the legal implications of foreign anti-trust laws have been fully examined. But I made clear that in the arrangements we made we would ensure that the Government had at all times proper knowledge, oversight and control over the arrangements under which Australian uranium is exported. That control would always ensure that the Government would be in a position to move immediately to terminate uranium development, permanently, indefinitely or for a specified period as recommended by the Ranger Inquiry.
Against the above background the Government has considered carefully its attitude in regard to the machinery which should govern future exports of Australian uranium and I shall now explain to the House the decisions we have taken at this stage. The export of uranium is presently controlled under the Customs (Prohibited Exports) Regulations of the Customs Act 1901. Uranium exports are prohibited unless a certificate in writing under the hand of the Minister for Trade and Resources, or an officer duly authorised by him, is produced to the Collector of Customs. This will continue.
Apart from Mary Kathleen, at present formal development approval has been granted only to the Ranger project. Should mines other than Mary Kathleen and Ranger subsequently receive Government development approval and as the flow of exports increases it may be desirable to provide for specific legislation to govern exports which would replace the existing customs regulations. But the Government sees no need in this sitting of Parliament to introduce legislation for that purpose, nor would we wish to do so prior to consultation with the States on the scope and content of any future legislation.
The procedures I intend to adopt flow directly from the Government’s determination that exports of Australian uranium will only be permitted in the national interest. In considering exports we will have regard to the principles I have already stated, some of which I now repeat briefly, namely: The orderly development of Australia’s uranium resources; making supplies of uranium available to other countries for use in the generation of electricity and for other peaceful purposes; ensuring adherence to the policies of Australia in relation to the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and the application of safeguards against the use of uranium other than for peaceful purposes.. In the exercise of his powers under the Customs (Prohibited Exports) Regulations the Minister for Trade and Resources has wide discretion. For the reasons already mentioned it is both necessary and desirable that he should continue to have such a discretion. But it is also desirable that uranium producers should be informed of the way in which that discretion will normally be exercised. I shall accordingly now indicate the procedures that will need to be followed.
The Minister’s approval for the export of uranium from a particular project will be given only after full consideration by the Government following the completion of environmental procedures and compliance with the Government’s foreign investment policy. I can say now, however, that Mary Kathleen Uranium Limited and the Australian Atomic Energy Commission will be permitted to export uranium, the latter from the Ranger deposit. The mining and marketing of uranium from the Ranger deposit were the subject of arrangements which the Whitlam Government entered into with Peko Mines Limited and the Electroltytic Zinc Company of Australasia Limited. Our Government previously stated on 25 August 1977, when approval for Ranger was announced, that the arrangements between the Whitlam Government and Peko/EZ would be honoured.
Having regard to the various considerations of national interest I have previously mentioned and the diversity of our deposits it will be necessary for the Minister to exercise some control over the quantities of uranium being exported at any one time. It will also be necessary that the Minister determine in advance that the contracts which the uranium producers propose to enter into for the sale of their uranium to overseas buyers contain appropriate terms and conditions consistent with Australian Government nuclear safeguards policy. The Minister will also determine terms and conditions relating to the duration of the contract, the quantity of the uranium to be sold under the contract, the method of shipment of the uranium, the price payable for the uranium, the manner- including the currencyof payment and the use to which the uranium is to be put by the purchaser.
It will be necessary that the Minister’s requirements on the terms and conditions to be included in a particular contract be indicated to the producer before the contract is entered into. Uranium producers will accordingly need to seek the approval of the Minister before making any firm offers or entering into any legal commitments.
When a contract has been entered into in accordance with the requirements that the Minister has notified beforehand, the producers will be required to lodge a copy of the contract with the Minister, whereupon it will be formally approved and form the basis for subsequent export approvals covering the uranium to be exported in fulfilment of the contract. I should mention, however, that contracts approved prior to 2 December 1 972 will not need further approval.
Shipments of uranium will continue to be controlled, as is the case at present, on the basis of individual consignment. I will not issue a certificate under the Customs (Prohibited Exports) Regulations in respect of any consignment unless all aspects of Government policy are satisfied. These include the requirements that the uranium is being exported from a project which has the status of Government development approval; that the export is for the purpose of performing an approved contract; and that the Australian safeguards policy is fully complied with.
I have referred to the Government’s previously stated view that a uranium marketing authority or similar arrangements should be established. In view of the complexity of the matters that must be brought to account in considering new contracts, it is clear there would be advantages in the establishment of an authority. This body would be appropriately named the Australian Uranium Export Authority. As our industry develops and mines other than Ranger proceed to the development stage there will be a need for the Minister for Trade and Resources to have available advice from such an advisory authority on the range of matters that I have just outlined. At the present stage of our development and until there has been adequate opportunity for consultations with the States the Department of Trade and Resources will be able to perform these functions. I do not therefore see a need to proceed with legislation in the current sittings, and prior to consultations with the States on the nature and desirability of legislation.
I envisage that at the appropriate time in our progress with uranium development a uranium export authority should be established to be charged with the duty of advising the Minister for Trade and Resources on the matters I have just outlined in relation to exports under new contracts. Such an authority would also carry out a number of important ancillary functions, namely: To assemble and to correlate information relating to the known reserves of uranium in Australia and in other countries; to obtain and analyse information on the supply of and demand for uranium in Australia and other countries; to analyse trends in the international uranium market; to obtain information on the commercial arrangements for the upgrading and enrichment of Australian uranium within and outside Australia. The Authority would draw upon information from available government and other sources for these purposes. The Authority would also liaise with, and provide information to, the Uranium Advisory Council.
I might add that in view of the nature of the advice that the Authority would need to provide, it would not be appropriate for its members to be chosen from the companies which were participating in the marketing of uranium. Action taken in accordance with the procedures I have outlined in this statement should not give rise to any questions under the anti-trust laws of other countries. In that connection I would add that while the Government does not wish to be taken as accepting that it is appropriate for other countries to apply their anti-trust laws extra-territorily without due regard to matters affecting our national interest, we urge our producers not to resort to arrangements which would jeopardise them under those laws. Anti-trust enforcement action that has in recent years been taken in other countries, notably the United States, has made it clear that Australian producers could jeopardise their positions under the anti-trust laws of other countries by resorting to restrictive trade practices in their marketing operations with overseas buyers.
The machinery and the procedures I have just outlined will ensure that the Government maintains strong regulation and control over uranium exports in the national interest in a manner consistent with the Government’s policy of uranium development announced on 25 August 1 977 following receipt of the report of the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry. It provides a proper basis on which Australia may proceed to the stage of new export contracts and clarifies to the existing approved and prospective projects the procedures and machinery which the Government will apply in dealing with export arrangements. I present the following report:
Uranium Export Policy- Ministerial Statement, 1 June 1978.
Motion (by Mr Adermann) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
-The Government observed the courtesy of giving the Opposition two hours notice of the statement. However, given the import of it and the impact on the Australian uranium industry I think it would have been reasonable if the Government had demonstrated some confidence in the confidentiality that the Opposition would observe and had given it much prior notice of a statement of this nature. This statement details the Government’s approach to the approval of new export contracts and, dubiously, outlines the machinery for future export arrangements. The statement asserts things which are arguable and, in some respects, not correct.
Early in the statement the Acting Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) referred to the adequacy of bilateral safeguard agreements; yet the Parliament has, at this stage, not been given the right to examine the model safeguard agreement. When asked about this question, the Government constantly says that the model reflects details of the statement made in relation to safeguards last year by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). If that is the case, why cannot the model be examined? The model is in the hands of 22 other governments around the world, yet it is not considered competent for the Opposition to look at it. As well as that, it seems that there are other questions relating to safeguards that have not been examined. For instance, in what circumstances would the Government permit enrichment or reprocessing? On that answer rests the whole policy. Does the Government allow Australian uranium to be made into weaponsusable material and kept in national hands? Apparently it does, because we have heard nothing from the Government about that.
Mr Justice Fox, who was referred to by the Minister in his statement on the International Nuclear Fuel Cycle Evaluation, does not engage in the substance of negotiatons with other countries. He is holed up in an office in London somewhere, while these things go ahead and does not engage in the substance of the INFCE. If Mr Justice Fox has opinions and if he is appointed to engage in safeguard negotiation agreements, why are his opinions not public? Why are they not expressed here so that honourable members can have a debate about his opinions? The International Nuclear Fuel Cycle Evaluation began in October 1977, but we have not had any report from the Government since that date on what it had to say at that evaluation or what conclusions have so far come from it. We have heard nothing of that. Yet, we are to accept blandly all the notions the Minister proposes in his statement on safeguards. It is preposterous that the Australian Parliament will never be in a position to make a comparison between the model safeguard agreements and any agreements signed bilaterally between Australia and prospective customer countries. It is only by the comparison which we would make that we could see whether the Government has held to the integrity of the safeguard policy or moved away from that policy.
The Minister went to great pains to mention the question of orderly development. In his previous statement about Pancontinental Mining Ltd the Minister made a mockery of any notion of orderly development expressed here and made a mockery of any commitment to the recommendations in the Fox report about orderly development. I refer the Minister to the statement he made on 12 May in relation to the Jabiluka mining project. He said:
Although looking to the eventual development of the Jabiluka uranium deposit, the Government is nevertheless committed to not making a final decision on whether the Jabiluka project should proceed until the environmental effects of the project, both physical and social, is satisfied . . .
The Minister went on to say:
Subject to the EIS on the extension of the Arnhem Highway, the Government is prepared to allow Pancontinental Mining to construct the extension of the Highway.
He went on further to say:
Therefore, if development of the Jabiluka project is approved in due course, and the land becomes Aboriginal land . . .
The Minister then spoke about Aboriginal issues. The statement made quite clear the intention of the Government to go along with Jabiluka, an intention which, I believe, is not shared by the Prime Minister. Apparently the Prime Minister is more concerned about the environmental impact upon the Magela Creek system and the East Alligator River region than is the Deputy Prime Minister. I shall quote from the Fox report precisely what is said about orderly development and contrast it with what the Minister has said today. At page 1 77 the Fox report states:
The evidence indicates that, provided no export income was lost, the policy that would maximise economic returns would be to proceed with full-scale development of one mine followed by the mining of other areas when demand expanded. This development strategy seems particularly appropriate in the Region as it should also minimise adverse environmental effects.
At the same page it continues:
The marketing authority recommended in Chapter 19 would be in a position to monitor market trends, making it possible to identify appropriate times for increasing the rate of production in Australia and bringing other mines into operation.
The Government may wish to consider the possibility of compensating the shareholders of companies which experience delays in achieving returns on earlier investments. Initially, this could be done by providing for some share of profits from the Ranger venture to be distributed to other companies. However, this is a matter of government policy.
At page 322 the report continues:
If the Ranger project proceeds, but the Pancontinental one does not, the problem, with care, will probably not become acute. If the Pancontinental mine is also developed, the position could become unacceptable. We have recommended courses designed to minimise the risk and in particular have recommended that the position be progressively reexamined in the light of experience.
That is hardly a firm recommendation for the development of Pancontinental; yet the Government will go ahead knowing that in the Magela Creek system there will be two tailings dams, two acid plants, two slake lime plants, and, if one reads aspects of the Fox report about the impact of seepage and the amount of water seepage from the dams, assessments of both Ranger and Pancontinental in the Magela Creek system, obviously the Government even given the fact that it is prepared to go ahead with uranium mining in Australia, in clear contrast to the policy of the Opposition, should proceed only with Ranger and not Pancontinental. The only difference would be a larger tailings dam with higher walls and a duplication of the ball mills, acid plants and everything else, which would not take up very much more space than does the present proposal for Ranger. So there will be no orderly development of the Government’s policy. The whole notion of orderly development is fallacious. As I have said, the Government intends to go in there on a snatch and grab basis in order to ensure that Pancontinental gets the run right through with Ranger so that it can start mining as soon as possible.
The Minister mentioned the marketing authority. The Fox Commission recommends that the marketing authority should advise the Government when the start-up dme for a second mine and subsequent mines should be permitted. One might ponder the question: Why is not the legislation setting up the marketing authority being introduced now? Surely the Government has had time to consider the problems associated with anti-trust legislation in other countries and to bring in its legislation. The answer surely must be that whilst there is some argument between the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the present Acting Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) about Pancontinental, they both want to give Ranger the go-ahead. If Pancontinental gets the go-ahead, some 7,000 tonnes of uranium a year will be pumped into the Western markets of the world. There will be a production level of 15,000 tonnes a year. Those two mines will increase world production by 50 per cent. That does not take into account new mines in other countries entering into the market. Of course, all this will be done before the marketing authority is established. That is another clear abrogation of the Fox Commission’s recommendations. The Government says that it always observes the recommendations of the Fox Commission.
The Fox Commission made a clear recommendation in chapter 19 of its report for the establishment of a marketing authority. The Minister made it clear that he intends to establish a marketing authority. The question is when it will be established. It will be established after the Government has facilitated the start-up of the Ranger and Pancontinental mines and after the contracts have been written in relation to supplies from those mines. By the time they are mined out, the present Acting Prime Minister, the Prime Minister and I will have long left the political scene. Before the time arrives when we will really need a third deposit in Australia, we will be able to put our glasses down because the horse will have well and truly bolted.
The Minister in his statement made a good case for the marketing authority. He talked about control over quantities for export, adherence to Australian Government safeguard policy, terms and duration of contracts, methods of shipment, price, and the use of uranium. He said that producers will need to seek ministerial approval before making any firm offers or entering into any legal commitments. Given the fact that the Government wishes to proceed with the export of uranium, these are perfectly reasonable aims. I do not disagree with the Government in that regard. But why does not the Minister introduce the legislation? That is the point. Why is not the legislation before the Parliament? He says that the Department of Trade and Resources will be able to perform these functions in the interim. Certainly it will, but Ranger has yet to enter into contracts. Ranger’s only contracts are the pre- 1972 contracts which are presently being met from Mary Kathleen and the stockpiles. Ranger will have to enter into new contracts. If
Pancontinental embarks upon site preparation and construction it will need to look at contracts designed to finance its debt servicing obligations. Therefore, presumably all of those contracts will be written only on the basis that the supervision will come from the Department and the Minister and not from the marketing authority. Certainly the marketing authority will not have been established by the time any of these contracts are entered into. The Minister said in his statement:
I envisage that at the appropriate time in our progress with uranium development a uranium export authority should be established to be charged with the duty of advising the Minister for Trade and Resources . . .
When is the appropriate time? The appropriate time is now and not later. The statement really can be summed up in this way: The Minister is engaged in a debate about existing export controls versus new legislation. That is fair enough. That is really just gabble. Whether we have export controls in the present form or whether we have a new piece of legislation is not really a matter of great contention. In his statement the Minister seems to me to have said: ‘We need a marketing authority. Fox recommended a marketing authority. We will get one but not now. In the meantime I will set up Ranger and Pancontinental. I will approve the contracts. I will give the right to mine. I will approve the environmental standards in the Magela Creek and East Alligator Rivers Region. By the time all that is done, the marketing authority can be established and can occupy its time with debates within the industry after it has already been established by me’.
That is what the Minister said today. If he wants to do that, let him acknowledge that he is clearly flying in the face of the Fox Commission’s recommendations. We on this side of the House once again bask in the cynicism with which the Government has moved towards its uranium development and export policy. Whilst we on this side of the House would like to believe that the Government is maintaining the integrity shown in its announced statement last year, it cannot do that because we have not seen the model agreement or any subsequent agreements. So, on the safeguards side, we are not satisfied with what the Government is doing and, on the development side, the Government intends to go ahead without establishing the necessary facilities or mechanisms which were recommended by the Fox Commission. Therefore we find that the statement is just another indication of the
Government’s contempt for the general recommendations of the Fox report and that it intends to go ahead regardless of the cogent opposition to the premature development of Australia ‘s uranium deposits.
The Minister for the Northern Territory (Mr Adermann) moved that the House take note of the paper. I hope that by moving that motion the Government intended to indicate that it wants to have a debate on this issue. Certainly I have spoken for only 10 or 15 minutes. I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later stage. I hope that other honourable members on this side of the House will have an opportunity to participate fully in the debate on what is probably one of the most important statements the Government has yet made on the development of Australia’s uranium deposits.
-The honourable member for Blaxland will realise that if leave is granted for him to continue his remarks at a future time he will have left only approximately two minutes of the time allotted to him.
– In the two minutes remaining to me. I could move an amendment to the Minister’s motion. I seek leave to preserve my speaking time of two minutes. I may require it at a later stage.
-The honourable member still has time in which he can continue his remarks. The proposal to preserve his speaking time is premature.
– If an amendment is moved to the motion that the House take note of the paper, I will have the right to speak to it at a later stage. So I forgo those two minutes now.
-i do not want to delay the House now if I am given an undertaking by the Acting Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) that we will discuss this statement before the Parliament rises for the winter recess. If I am not given that undertaking, I would like to speak to the statement now. Can the Acting Prime Minister reply to me before I speak on the statement?
– I think the honourable member for Reid would be aware of the pressures of our parliamentary program and of the difficulty in being able to allow honourable members to participate in debates on the various statements which appear on the Notice Paper. If the honourable member would like to express his point of view now without abusing the privileges of the House, I think he should do so because I am not in a position to guarantee that the debate will be resumed next week.
-Regrettably I will take a few moments, but I will keep my remarks brief because I know that in this House the Grievance Day debate presents precious time for back bench members to express their criticisms of the Government. My remarks will be extremely brief. This statement was brought in following a lengthy debate in the House on the uranium legislation. Hasty amendments were introduced because six National Country Party senators in another place indicated they intended to move certain amendments. If those amendments had been moved the Labor Party would have joined with those six senators and defeated certain legislation. It is to those hasty amendments which were introduced into this House on Monday and Tuesday that the whole crux of this statement is directed, because now we will not have a uniform code for uranium mining across the nation.
The decisions in relation to nuclear codes in particular and also the environmental standards to be set will be made by the States and not by the Australian Government. In the case of Yeelirrie in Western Australia, the standards will be set by the Western Australian Government. Similarly, if there were new finds in Queensland, the standards would be set by the Queensland Government. Of course the Minister for Trade and Resources (Mr Anthony) is trying to reassure us in his statement that there will be standards. At page 4 of his statement, he says:
The export of uranium is presently controlled under the Customs (Prohibited Exports) Regulations of the Customs Act 190 1.
Uranium exports are prohibited unless a certificate in writing under the hand of the Minister for Trade and Resources, or an officer duly authorised by him, is produced to the Collector of Customs. This will continue.
The Government is trying to give an assurance that it will use this power to influence the States to toe the line. That is the situation. There are two other brief points that I wish to clear up and to answer clearly. At page 5 of the statement, the Minister says: . . ensuring adherence to the policies of Australia in relation to the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and the application of safeguards against the use of uranium other than for peaceful purposes.
The whole basis of this uranium business has to be made clear. The Government runs away from it on every occasion. Recommendation 3 of the first Fox report states, in part:
The nuclear power industry is unintentionally contributing to an increased risk of nuclear war. This is the most serious hazard associated with the industry.
That is the situation. The situation is that this Government has not faced up to the fact that while it mines uranium without the appropriate safeguards on the world scene, it is contributing to a nuclear war. The Government knows that and has no solution to the problem.
The other question that remains unresolved is that of nuclear waste disposal. The Deputy Prime Minister and the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) say that the problem of nuclear waste disposal has been solved. They know that it has not been solved. The honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) asked about the Government’s policy in regard to reprocessing nuclear waste. The Government is leaving its policy on this matter vague. In the early stages, it said that it would support President Carter in his policy which was against reprocessing nuclear waste. But the Government knows that if it stands by that decision, and it does not allow reprocessing, there is no way of storing the nuclear waste. On the other hand if the Government wants vitrification it will have to allow reprocessing. This system of storing nuclear waste by vitrification is an untried system. But in doing this, we then enter into a plutonium economy and the Government’s policy would be in opposition to that of President Carter.
The last point I wish to nail is this so-called energy crisis. The Minister persistently uses the words ‘energy crisis’. There is no crisis in energy throughout the world; the crisis is in the shortage of liquid fuel. In no way would uranium mining or a nuclear power industry assist in the liquid fuel crisis. In fact the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development sees this socalled ‘energy crisis’ around the world as a magnification of the energy problem. We can point to the OECD estimates on nuclear generation of electricity in OECD countries for 1985. Let me first of all refer to a survey carried out in 1 970. At that time the estimates predicted that 600,000 megawatts of nuclear generated electricity would be needed by 1985. In 1976, the first Fox report predicted that 400,000 megawatts would be needed by 1985. But by May 1977, OECD estimates predicted that the need in 1985 would be 225,000 megawatts- a decline of 44 per cent on last year’s estimate, or a 60 per cent reduction overall over the last seven years’ estimates. The basis of these predictions is that with the world economic situation an exponential growth is no longer going on. There is a levelling out of the world economy. There has been a fall in the demand or need for energy in the world. Frankly, I think it is madness- if I can use that term- for this Government to proceed with uranium mining in Australia when so many problems remain unresolved. That is what the Labor Party has been saying all along. Our policy is a policy of sanity. It is a policy which seeks time to solve unresolved problems. The honourable member for Blaxland also raised the question of the environmental problem in the area in which this uranium mining is to be carried out. It is one of the most beautiful and delicate areas in the whole world. The question of the treatment of the Aboriginal people in that area has been very hastily dealt with indeed. There is also the unresolved problem about proliferation of nuclear weapons. There is the unresolved problem of nuclear waste disposal.
It is to the great shame of this Government that it is proceeding with such haste. Also it is acting in a completely irresponsible way by introducing this statement. The Government has stupidly agreed to amendments, under pressure by ultra-conservative forces in the Government. I asked in this House on Monday and Tuesday whether, when the Government cannot sell its uranium overseas with its so-called stringent safeguards, it will cave in to countries like Iran, the Philippines and the European Atomic Energy Community, which will not stand by and lose their sovereignty in a bilateral agreement to a small country like Australia. If it gives in to a few conservative reactionary senators who represent the most conservative forces in this country, it certainly will surrender to those countries from which it wants to get revenue from uranium mining. The Government wants to mine and export uranium for greed alone.
– I just wish to ask two questions. Firstly, there is the question of legislation. When will that be introduced? Secondly, when will there be a resumption of the debate on this matter? I bear some responsibility for the Prohibition of Foreign Evidence Bill which was introduced into this Parliament and which blocked the United States extra-territorial jurisdiction of anti-trust laws. Also, I might add that I was severely criticised by the Government for the need for a government marketing authority. I say to my colleagues that this is the most important piece of legislation in the whole uranium debate. I am very interested to get an assurance from the Minister firstly, as to when the legislation is to be introduced and secondly, as to when there will be a resumption of the debate.
Mr ANTHONY (Richmond-Minister for Trade and Resources)- Mr Deputy Speaker, with your indulgence and with that of the Opposition, I should like to answer the very pertinent questions asked by the honourable member for
Hawker (Mr Jacobi) and by the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating). They asked why legislation was not being introduced at the moment and why it was being deferred. I should have thought that I pointed that out in the statement.
The question of appropriate legislation dealing with the export of uranium and the establishment of a marketing authority, or what we will term the uranium export authority, has been examined very closely by our legal officers. Also, opinions are being sought from the United States and from counsel there as to how best that legislation should be drafted to cope with the antitrust laws of the United States. I note that the honourable member for Hawker is well aware of the complications in this matter. We have examined it, but unfortunately the matters have only now been crystallised to the point of making decisions. This has not enabled us time to really consult with the States as to the nature of the legislation and the desirability of this legislation. Until we do that, we feel that it is improper and discourteous for us not to talk with the States, because it does have very severe implications as regards some of the authority and some of the sovereign rights of the States. I hope that during the recess period I shall have an opportunity of being able to discuss with the States the nature of the legislation I intend to bring forward as a forerunner to establishing a marketing authority which can advise the Government on action it should take.
Debate (on motion by Mr Hodges) adjourned.
– I present the Second Report of the Task Force on Co-ordination in Welfare and Health entitled ‘Consultative Arrangements and the Co-ordination of Social Policy Development’. I seek leave to make an accompanying statement.
– Honourable members will recall that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) tabled the First Report of the Task Force on Co-ordination in Welfare and Health on 17 February 1977. This second and last report of the Task Force covers those terms of reference not reported on in the First Report and makes recommendations in these major areas: Firstly, it recommends a new approach to consultative arrangements across the fields of health, welfare and community development involving the establishment of a new national consultative council; secondly, better co-ordination of social policy development through a small social policy unit for a separate department under a senior Minister and a Cabinet committee with a supporting officials committee; and finally, the need for a review of co-ordination of health, welfare and community development services in the mainland Territories.
On 19 December 1977 the Prime Minister announced that a social welfare policy secretariat would be established and that it would work through a Committee of Permanent Heads to the Social Welfare Policy Committee of Cabinet. The Secretariat now established and headed by Dr Sidney Sax is performing the coordination role envisaged by the Task Force. The Government has decided that the new Secretariat should be responsible, through the Permanent Heads Committee to the Cabinet Committee, for follow-up, as necessary, of any outstanding matters on the First Report of the Task Force on Co-ordination in Welfare and Health. The Secretariat has also been asked to advise, as necessary, on the Second Report’s recommendations relating to consultation.
Given the current moves towards selfgovernment in the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory and the key involvement of the two Territory Legislative Assemblies, the Government will draw to the attention of the two Assemblies the Second Report’s recommendation on the need to review coordination of welfare-health services in the Territories. It will suggest that the Assemblies may wish to consider this matter in the context of moves towards self-government and has offered assistance in following-up the recommendation. The members of the Task Force; Mr P. H. Bailey, Mr J. D. Rimes and Mr E. S. Lightly, are commended for their efforts. I table the Report for the information of honourable members.
Motion ( by Mr Adermann) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
Debate (on motion by Mr Hayden) adjourned.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate without amendment:
Estate Duty Assessment Amendment Bill 1978.
Estate Duty Amendment Bill 1978.
Gift Duty Assessment Amendment Bill 1978.
Gift Duty Amendment Bill 1978.
States Grants (Schools Assistance) Amendment Bill 1 978.
States Grants (Tertiary Education) Assistance Amendment Bill 1978.
Message received from the Senate intimating that it agrees with the Commonwealth Parliament’s participation in the Constitutional Convention.
Pecuniary Interests of Minister- Music Recording Industry- Dried Vine Fruit Industry-New South Wales Labor Government- Destruction of Birds by Bureau of Customs- Primary Industry -Self Employed Small Businessmen- Australian Film Industry
That grievances be noted.
– On 25 May this year I wrote to the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in the following terms:
My Dear Prime Minister,
Certain information has been given to me in relation to your Minister for Primary Industry, and his responsibilities relating to companies of which he is a director and major shareholder.
The companies concerned are Allan Walsh Pty Ltd and Allan Walsh (Hornsby) Pty Ltd. It now appears, from information contained in documents signed by your Minister, that there was misappropriation of monies in both of these companies in the years 1972 to 1975 inclusive totalling $250,000.
The documents filed by the Minister reveal that he wasa director of the companies throughout the whole of this period, and was the officer of the companies certifying to the correctness of the records filed.
In 1977, amended annual returns were filed in which the annual general meetings for the years 1972 to 1975 were claimed to be held in July 1977. The amended returns materially altered details of shareholders, directorships and auditing and claimed taxation deductions for misappropriations which were stated to have occurred in each of the years 1972 to 1975.
There has been no information given, as to how the misappropriations occurred, nor identifying the guilty party or parties in respectofsuch misappropriations. Yet in the Parliament on 4 October 1977 the Minister implied, and on the television program Willesee at Seven on 15 August 1977 stated outright, that there was no question of misappropriation involved. The only explanation offered by the Minister in these public documents was that monies were paid to an individual employed by the companies without the knowledge or approval of the directors.
Another disquieting feature now disclosed for the first time from the records of the companies is that they did not file taxation returns in the fiscal years 1 972 to 1 975 inclusive.
In my view, public interest is directly involved in respect of these companies because the Taxation Commissioner has now allowed the misappropriation as a tax loss of more than $ 100,000 in the year ended June last, which gives a benefit to the Minister as a major shareholder and principal beneficiary.
I would expect that there would be public disquiet at the fact that the Commissioner allowed the misappropriation as a tax loss on the basis that it was only discovered in the year 1977, whereas, in fact, it now appears it was a continuing misappropriation over a period of years in which the Minister was personally responsible as an officer of the companies concerned.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The Leader of the Opposition must realise that he is making remarks that normally would be required to be made in the form of a substantive motion.
– That is nonsense. I am reading a letter.
-Order! He is challenging the conduct of the Minister.
– Do not cover up for one of your colleagues. I am reading out a letter. I have a right to do so.
-Order! That is a very serious reflection on the Chair. I ask the Leader of the Opposition to withdraw the remark.
– I shall move a substantive motion about the conduct of the Chair if necessary.
-I call on the honourable member to withdraw the remark.
-No, I shall move a substantive motion about your conduct, if necessary, and substantiate it.
-The Leader of the Opposition rather exceeds his entitlement in regard to this matter. He has reflected on the Chair and ignored the ruling of the Chair.
-I understand that I have to give notice of this matter. I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move -
-The honourable member is in a position to move a motion of dissent.
-Order! I have received a notice from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) seconded by the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes), that the Chair’s ruling be dissented from. I call upon the Leader of the Opposition.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I have no choice but to move this motion. I move:
Your conduct is outrageous. I am seeking to read into the record a letter that I have sent to the Prime Minister, a proper communication. It concerns a matter of the greatest concern and I put it to you directly and bluntly- and I do it with no sense of personal comfort at all- that your behaviour reflects political partisanship.
– You are seeking to cover up for the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair).
-Order! The Leader of the Opposition is seriously reflecting on the Chair and I call on him to withdraw that remark.
– I would like to take a point of order, sir.
-Order! The honourable member for Hindmarsh will be seated. I have called on the Leader of the Opposition to withdraw his remark.
– No, just a minute; I am taking a point of order.
-The Chair has requested the Leader of the Opposition to withdraw the remark, and he must address himself to my request.
– But before you insist on your demand, I am taking a point of order.
-The Chair has made the demand.
– Look, I am taking a point of order.
-I will take the point of order of the honourable member for Hindmarsh.
- Sir, my point of order is that the Leader of the Opposition has put in a substantive motion, to dissent from your ruling. He is entitled to say what he has said because the whole gravamen of the dissent concerns your partisanship. The whole gravamen of the dissent motion is that you are covering up for the Country Party, and he is entitled to test that.
– He is entitled to ask the House to test whether it believes you are a cover-up for the Leader of the House and, unless he can state his case, how on earth is the House goint to make an intelligent judgment on what he is putting?
-The position is that the Leader of the Opposition can speak to his motion of dissent, indicating in his remarks where the Chair has departed from the Standing Orders, which require a substantive motion where the conduct of a member of this House is challenged. I do not accept that he is in that process entitled to reflect upon the Chair in unnecessary terms. The question is whether the Standing Orders have been improperly applied.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I put it to you that your behaviour inevitably leads to the observation made to substantiate the motion that has been moved by me. I have moved dissent from your ruling and I am seeking to substantiate the justification for that dissent. I am arguing that we are dissenting from your ruling because your ruling is not based on an objective application of the Standing Orders of the Parliament but rather is tainted by your own political prejudice. I have no choice but to make that observation if I move a dissent ruling. What I sought to do was to read into the record a letter, a communication between myself and the Prime Minister, and I have no choice but to do this because the Government is using its numbers ruthlesly and crudely to prevent me from having the letter incorporated or tabled. The Minister for Primary Industry and his colleagues are involved in a cover-up. I have 40 questions here which are the product of a qualified legal analysis of papers publicly available. They raise questions about breaches against the New South Wales Crimes Act and the New South Wales Companies Act of 1961-sections 173, 188 and 189 of the New South Wales Crimes Act; sections 124, 158, 159A, 162 and 375 of the New South Wales Companies Act, 1961; and yet the Minister is still in the Parliament.
– I raise a point of order. Mr Deputy Speaker, the honourable member is making allegations and assertions which go well beyond the bounds of our Standing Orders. The matters are the subject of an inquiry that was instigated by the Corporate Affairs Commissioner of New South Wales, following one that was instigated by me. I would suggest that they are not matters, therefore, that should be commented on in this House.
-There is no substance to the point of order. I call upon the Leader of the Opposition.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, the matter would have been resolved by now, and with much less focus of public attention than I am sure the Minister, or you, would desire, if I had been allowed to continue. There is little more to go in this letter. I had reached the point, for instance, Mr Deputy Speaker, where I said:
I would expect that there would be public disquiet at the fact that the Commissioner allowed the misappropriation as a tax loss on the basis that it was only discovered in the year 1977.
– The honourable member is completely flouting your ruling as to whether or not this matter should be dealt with by a substantive motion.
– I am prepared to withdraw the motion if we apply the Standing Orders properly.
-Order! The question before the House is that the ruling of* the Chair be dissented from. That question involves not a question of motivation of the Chair but simply the application of the Standing Orders. Therefore, the remarks that the Leader of the Opposition made as to the Chair’s attitude and motivation are strictly out of order. He may speak to the motion to indicate the manner in which the Chair contravened the Standing Orders in holding that, where the conduct of a member of this House is being challenged, a substantive motion is required.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I have indicated my reasons for moving this motion. I do so with no sense of pleasure. I recognise that the Government is determined to try to gag all discussion on this matter. It is odd that the Minister for Primary Industry is in this House, but other people, imputed as committing offences of a lesser nature, but nonetheless serious, are not in this House. There seems to be unevenness in the way in which this rule of ministerial probity and responsibility is applied.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I object to an allegation that I have committed any offences. I demand that it be withdrawn.
– I said it has been imputed.
– I have committed no offences and I do not take it kindly, from you of all people.
– I said it has been imputedalleged.
– By whom, where?
-A number of people, and if I get a chance I will seek to incorporate it in Hansard. Why will you not allow me to debate this matter- forty questions prepared by a legal analysis of the publicly available documents.
– Have you the guts to move a motion?
-Mr Deputy Speaker, we will seek another opportunity to raise this matter in the Parliament rather than take up more of the time of the grievance debate. I will not proceed with the motion.
– May I submit that the Chair’s original ruling was quite correct: There must be defence for members of this House- all of usagainst anyone getting to his feet and reading socalled letters that may have no authenticity whatsoever; and any reflection against the Chair on a party-bias basis is despicable. I maintain that the Chair was completely correct; that there must be protection against people reading random letters that may or may not be true or correct.
– I think the purity of that statement offends the dignity of the House. The honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Giles) is a member of a party which gave parliamentary privilege in another place to- and had printed for public distribution- hearsay documents by a gentleman named Khemlani, documents which had no substance in truth and which reflected on Ministers and members of this Parliament.
– It was done for purely political reasons.
– And the sense of purity of the honourable member stinks.
-Order! The honourable member for Corio will resume his seat. The House will come to order. There is no substance in the point of order. The question before the House is that the Chair’s ruling be dissented from.
– In the sense of trying to get some balance into what we are discussing, on the point of order 1 would like to make this submission, Mr Deputy Speaker: On 29 May the Prime Minister tabled a letter from the Commissioner of Taxation in which he clearly referred to the Minister who is the subject of the correspondence that is now being referred to by the Leader of the Opposition. So, on the basis of your ruling, I would like you to consider the fact that the Prime Minister has already tabled correspondence relating to the same matter; that it has been incorporated in detail in Hansard. It relates to that Minister and is about the same matter. Surely in fairness, then, some consideration should be given to the proposition which has been made, that other correspondence relating to the same matter could also be incorporated in Hansard. It is as simple as that.
-The point raised by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is valid insofar as the Prime Minister tabled documents; he responded to a situation at the time. I cannot accept that a continuation of this exercise is any less of an imputation against a member of this House. The purpose of the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition, in the opinion of the Chair, is to make a reflection on or a challenge to the conduct of a member of this House, and on that basis I so rule.
– There is a simple way of resolving this, and that is for the two letters to be incorporated in Hansard, as the third letter which came in succession to these two was incorporated in Hansard by the Prime Minister with my approval and endorsement. The matter can be resolved, and if there is nothing to be hidden on the part of the Government I can see no reason why this would not be accepted. I ask leave to have them incorporated in Hansard.
-The Leader of the Opposition may seek leave at an appropriate time but at present we are discussing the question of dissent from the Chair’s ruling.
– I think that in this situation we could resolve the whole matter and the motion could be withdrawn.
– On the point of order raised by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the simple difference is that -
– They will take any course other than to incorporate those letters in Hansard.
-The Opposition Whip might extend to me the same courtesy that the Government extended to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition who endeavoured to present what he saw to be a reasonable point of view in the matter. I submit that there is a significant difference between correspondence which makes specific charges against a member of this House and correspondence which does not. It is true that the correspondence which the Leader of the Opposition seeks to read from or to have incorporated in Hansard deals with the same general matter and I do not deny that, but it is equally true that the correspondence that the Leader of the Opposition seeks to have incorporated in Hansard or to read to this House makes specific charges against a member of this House. We have already indicated from this side of the House that it is our strong view that in accordance with the Standing Orders the correct and invariable practice is to move a substantive motion. Although I concede the point made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that there is a connection between the correspondence in that it relates to the same general area, there is a vital difference in that the correspondence that the Leader of the Opposition seeks to quote from or to have incorporated in Hansard contains specific charges and in terms of the Standing Orders ought to be the subject of a substantive motion.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I put to you that there is an inconsistency in principle. A new principle suddenly has been discovered by the Government now in office. I remind honourable members that in the Senate when the coalition parties in Opposition had a majority they took the opportunity of using that majority force to have documents tabled in the Senate and printed as parliamentary papers so that the lies involved in them, the deceptions which were scattered through them, could be broadcast under cover of parliamentary privilege. This is a letter which is a straight statement of certain circumstances going to the very heart of the probity of government and the behaviour of a Minister who should not seek to hide behind the corporate veil of company law.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I am not prepared to interrupt the Leader of the Opposition -
-Is the Treasurer taking a point of order?
– I am taking a point of order. I am not prepared to interrupt the Leader of the Opposition while he makes a statement on the point at issue before the House, and that is the appropriateness of your ruling, Mr Deputy Speaker, as to the inclusion in Hansard of certain material. But I object, and take the point of order, that in the course of making submissions he should not introduce into them his subjective views upon the behaviour of honourable members on this side of the House. He made the suggestion that certain people on this side of the House have behaved in a particular manner. We are not talking about the behaviour of members of the House. We are talking about the question of whether the Standing Orders of this place enable somebody to raise charges against a member of the House other than by way of a substantive motion. I also submit to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, that the actions of this side of the House or the other side of the House in another place on another occasion are not necessarily relevant. What is relevant is your interpretation of the Standing Orders.
-I uphold the point of order. The question before the House is: That the Chair’s ruling be dissented from. Is the motion seconded?
Question resolved in the negative.
– I bring to the attention of the House a matter which is very important to a large number of people involved in the music recording industry and to a number of Australian artists and their future. Yesterday the Government accepted some recommendations from the Industries Assistance Commission in relation to duties and tariffs to be applied to imported recorded music tapes. However, there is one very important matter on which the Government has yet to make a decision, and that is the future of the whole of the music recording industry and the artists involved in it. At the present time 80 per cent of the music played on the radio has been recorded by overseas artists and only 20 per cent has been recorded by local artists. Australia as a nation and this Government have to make a decision soon as to the future of the music recording industry. If we look at the industry around the world and if we look first, as we normally do, to America and the United Kingdom naturally we would believe that the position in those countries would be comparable with our position in some way. But after comparing the positions we find that there is an entirely different system in the United Kingdom and in the United States. In the music programs on the radio in those countries there is about 80 per cent to 90 per cent local content and only 10 per cent to 20 per cent imported content. Music programs on the radio in Australia have an 80 per cent imported content and only a 20 per cent local content. If we are unable to compare the situation in Australia with that which exists in the United Kingdom and in the United States we then have to look elsewhere. So we turn to another country which made a decision on this matter only a few years ago, and that is Canada.
As honourable members know, Canada is geographically close to the United States. Large areas of Canadian territory receive signals from the United States radio and television stations. In May 1970 the Canadian Government decided to have in music programs on the radio a 30 per cent local content and a 70 per cent imported content. The regulations most affected the privately owned radio stations throughout Canada, and we have a similar situation in Australia. The representatives of these radio stations in Canada were most critical of the Canadian RadioTelevision Commission’s plans to enforce Canadian content. They claimed that the country had no talent- I am referring to a CRTC reportthat the regulations would be of incredible hardship and that their listeners would desert them in favour of American stations. The report, which I have in front of me, states that some facts on what has happened since January 197 1 when the regulations came into force are as follows: Firstly, Canada moved, in the space of one year, from the 43rd position in the world to the 3rd position as far as hit-making nations were concerned. The United States was first and Britain was second. I remind honourable members that the United States and the United Kingdom have an 80 per cent to 90 per cent local content and only a 10 per cent to 20 per cent import content.
The second point that came out of the CRTC’s report was that the number of records released by wholly-owned Canadian record companies increased by some 57 per cent in 1 970-7 1. These companies doubled the amount of money spent on recording Canadian artists in that same period. The third point was that the results experienced by the few Canadian independent record companies were complemented by those of the subsidiary record companies of foreign corporations. To put this whole matter into a fair context I think it is important to note that the criterion that has been used on the Canadian record station is something which could be used in Australia. The CRTC called for submissions from the Canadian public. I believe that its guidelines were fair and if necessary they could be applied to the Australian situation. The CRTC stated:
I would like to quote a few lines from a couple of pages in this large report. The report stated:
The purpose of the Commission is simple. The Canadian broadcasting system should be used essentially, basically, predominantly to help Canadians communicate among themselves. This objective is so simple that one feels a little uneasy when repeating it: Canadian broadcasting should be Canadian and should strive for excellence . . . But it is most obvious that Canadian broadcasting is a part of Canadian life that the Canadian people have been most concerned about. This concern is something we have lived with for the last 40 years.
What has happened in the last 30 to 40 years in this country? The Industries Assistance Commission says in a report that it wants the Australian people to have an opportunity to hear overseas artists. For the last 30 to 40 years we have had an 80 per cent overseas artists content. I believe the time has come when the 190 different artists and groups which are presently under contract to recording companies in this country should be given opportunities to further their talents within this country. We should ensure that those people who are not playing the game by giving local air time to local artists are put into the position where they have to.
The Australian Broadcasting Tribunal has recommended that the 20 per cent local content be increased to 30 per cent. I wholeheartedly support this very wise and sensible forward looking recommendation. When we compare ourselves with other countries it is ridiculous that we should put Australian artists behind the eight ball. Local artists such as Helen Reddy, Lana Cantrell and Olivia Newton-John had to leave Australia in order to make a go of their wonderful talents which are now being shared by many people around the world.
The unusual aspect of this whole situation is that the total cost of making a master tape in this country is $ 10,000. This is the total cost which includes the hire of studios, the musicians concerned and so on. The cost of importing a master tape for pressing is $200. The ridiculous situation at present is that although Australian artists are earning income for this country under export earning programs- the level of income from this source has substantially increased over a number of years and is continuing to increase- these very same people are not given air play in this country. I believe that the whole problem to be faced- and a lot of people will not face up to the fact- is that we have excellent artists in this country, we have a wealth of talent which should be assisted and helped. We have an industry in which hundreds of millions of dollars have been invested.
There are a number of people who, to quote an Australian colloquialism, given a fair go could be put in a situation where they could be internationally recognised for what they are- top artists. I am not asking a great deal. I am asking the Government to give consideration to this very important matter and to ensure that a minimum of 20 per cent air play is given to Australian artists and that that 20 per cent be applied acrosstheboard at even time. At present some radio stations play 60 per cent to 70 percent Australian content in the early hours of the morning but in the peak selling time they play a minimum amount so that their average is only 20 per cent. This practice badly affects the whole industry. In conclusion I say -
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Mr FiitzPATRICK (Riverina) (12.15)- I want to inform the House that in the near future this Parliament will be called upon to make a decision that will vitally affect the viability of three of our rural industries and some of our best rural towns. I speak of the dried vine fruit industry, the wine grape industry and the citrus industry, all of which of course are interdependent industries. In 1976 the Industries Assistance Commission brought down a report on the dried fruit industry which indicated an over-supply in world markets. This, together with rising costs, meant that the industry faced a very bleak future. Early in 1976 the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) informed this House that considerable adjustment, with regional implications, would be necessary. I notice two reports in a publication called the Rural Industry Information Papers which support the views of the Minister. The February 1 977 issue of this document states:
I notice that there has been some amendment in the Rural Industry Information Papers of March 1978 which states:
The Industries Assistance Commission in its Report on Fruit Growing commented that in Sunraysia 30-40 per cent of present dried vine fruit producers have little prospect of viability as full-time fruit growers.
The paper does not quite explain why there are two different percentages. One would hope that not that many growers have left the industry in the intervening time. Obviously, it would be quite foolish for any dried fruit producer not to take any notice of these warnings. I am happy to be able to report to the House that this forecast was not entirely correct. Due to the failure of the Californian dried fruit crop there was an undersupply instead of an oversupply on the world market. As a result the dried fruit growers have had a breathing space. As a matter of fact they have had one good year and it looks like another good year is coming up. I think the House will be pleased about that because 3,800 farms depend on the viability of the dried fruit industry which, of course, is highly mechanised and efficient.
If we think of the towns that depend upon the industry I believe that no one in this House would want to see the industry fail. But this could happen unless the Government does something to protect the industry. I say this because the industry is closely allied to the citrus industry and the wine grape industry. Many farms have a mixed production of all these fruits. I am particularly concerned about another IAC recommendation which, if adopted by the Government, will not only knock this industry but also will cause a lot of disruption in many rural towns. I refer to the April 1978 issue of the Australian Citrus News. At page 3 we read that the tariff on orange juice, according to the Industries Assistance Commission, should be reduced from 65 per cent to 20 per cent. This tariff might look to be substantial, but the problem is that fruit juices are coming into this country in a concentrated form of 8!4 to one, and this gives a distinct advantage to the supplying countries due to the importance of freight in price competition. We read also that orange juice from Brazil this very month was imported into the country at 15c a litre.
The Bureau of Agricultural Economics informs us that supply/demand will be back to normal by 1979 and that there will be a further reduction to 13c a litre in the price of imported fruit juices. How much will this return to the grower when we consider that processing costs are 8c a litre and sundry costs 3c a litre, with the ad valorem tariff of 20 per cent? At 455 litres to the tonne this would give an equated return to the grower of $48 per tonne. However, the Australian Citrus Growers Federation maintains that based on the 1978 cost movement, the efficient grower requires a minimum return of $100 per tonne if the industry is to have any chance of retaining its viability. I claim that the dried vine fruit industry, the wine grape industry and the citrus industry have proven that they are efficient and produce high grade fruit, but they have had more than their share of trouble in recent times.
If we look at the wine grape industry we find that in the Leeton-Griffith area in my electorate there are 19 wineries crushing 75,000 tonnes of grapes, and I am sad to inform the House that during the 1978 vintage period we had an oversupply of grapes of 10,000 tonnes. I would like to read some passages from a letter I have received from the Wine Grape Marketing Board, to inform the House how concerned that Board is about this matter. They are in these terms:
The income from grapes represents nearly $ 10,000,000 or some 43 percent of total horticulture income.
In terms of money the importance of the industry to growers, wineries and business in general is obvious.
In terms of employment, the demand for labour which the industry generates only demonstrates the necessity of the industry to the Area.
For the first time in the history of wine grape growing there was a genuine surplus for the 1 978 vintage.
Approximately 10,000 tonnes were processed on behalf of the Board to spirit and grape juice. Growers will not be paid for this processed fruit until the end product is sold.
I point out to the House that this will leave the growers, who are already suffering a fair amount of economic depression, without the funds which are vitally needed. It is obvious that these industries have to compete against low standard products produced in heavily subsidised countries. If one takes into consideration the delay of this Government in doing something about the high salinity content of the river- and I am very appreciative of the Minister’s reply today because it will give some encouragement to these peopleone can understand why these people believe that the Government has little concern for them or about their success or failure. I ask the Government to make some definite statement on these matters to give some indication that the Government really cares for the people in this area. I believe there has been a lack of information, and I was pleased when the Minister today made a very clear statement.
Certainly these are interrelated industries. They have had a series of bad years but they have proved that they can compete. They have proved that they are efficient. I ask the Government to make some definite statements. The study of the citrus industry by the Industries Assistance Commission will affect all these other industries because they are interrelated and we must act quickly to give some assurance to the industries that we intend to do something to assist them.
-As a citizen of New South Wales I am grievously concerned about trends in my home State. The present Government- the Wran Governmentwas elected in May 1976, and if one reads those of the Press who wish to look into the crystal ball there is reason to believe that another State election is not very far away. But before we reach that stage there is to be in New South Wales a referendum on 17 June to reform the upper House.
Among the matters which I wish to mention to the House this morning is the fact that the Premier of New South Wales has misused his position to publish- ostensibly with the approval and support of, to use his own words, ‘all major political parties in the New South Wales Parliament’, a pamphlet which will be distributed, I understand, to every voting citizen in my State. What do we see ? On the front page there is the ever-smiling photograph of the present Premier.
This pamphlet, which is meant to be apoliticalit is paid for by State taxpayers money- is a pamphlet which is meant to set out, for those who care to read it, the reasons they should vote Yes in that referendum but when we examine it we find it is nothing less than a travesty of the truth. It tells us virtually nothing, contrary to the way in which referenda are carried out in this Parliament where it is normally beholden on the government of the day to permit all parties to contribute to a common pamphlet stating their cases for and against. At this point, in fairness I should mention, there has not been an organised No campaign and I do not believe there will be. Nevertheless I put it to the House that the manner in which taxpayers money was used in the production of this pamphlet is grossly unsatisfactory and a quite clear demonstration of the fact that in New South Wales we have a State Government which will go to all lengths to impress upon the citizens its point of view regardless of honour or integrity.
What the State Government should have done, what any decent government would have done, was to have brought the Opposition parties in and said, ‘This is a pamphlet which we wish to produce. Let us agree on the text and let us get it out.’ But no, we had to have Mr Wran’s photograph on the front which, by any definition, is just cheap political gimmickry. That is what I believe is the substance of the New South Wales State Government. It is a shadow and it lacks substance.
I was rather interested to read in the Sydney Morning Herald this morning an article that the Labor Left apparently hurts Mr Ducker. Incidentally, Mr Ducker is the New South Wales President of the Australian Labor Party. He recently complained that the party’s left wing was harming Labor’s chances of regaining federal government and he believed that the continued use of the term ‘socialism’ was unwarranted and basically a sellout of Labor Party principles. This is very interesting, so I went to the Library and took out the Australian Labor Party’s Platform, Constitution and Rules. I thought it would be worth while to compare the rules and the constitution of the Labor Party with the exercise being conducted in New South Wales.
Firstly, we have the State President complaining about the use of the word ‘socialism’, but then we are told quite clearly that the objective of the Labor Party is to achieve the democratic socialisation of industry, production, distribution and exchange. Of course, there are Labor Party people who do not like those words because it does lose them votes, and at least they demonstrate some pragmatism on the rare occasions when they get the opportunity. The fact is that in New South Wales today there is “a government which likes people to believe that it is slow moving and will not upset the standard conventions of the time. Although it is an Australian Labor Party Government, it says to them: ‘Don ‘t worry, we are really not socialists’.
Let us look at the record and see what legislation the New South Wales Government has passed since being elected in May 1976. The record is clear. Slow though the New South Wales State Government may be and incompetent though it certainly is, it is as organised on the road to socialism as any political body this country has ever seen. Mr Walker, the State Attorney-General, has referred on many occasions in the State House to free enterprise as being ‘hogwash’. Is that an appropriate comment from the Attorney-General who is there to uphold the laws of the State? A few months ago Mr Landa, the Minister for Planning and Environment, went out of his way, and apparently got some delight out of doing it, to close down north coast mining in New South Wales. Mr Einfeld, the Minister for Consumer Affairs, has introduced what can only be called draconian legislation which permits his inspectors to enter any business and call for any documents without prior warning and, what is more significant, without needing even a citizen’s complaint. This is draconian-type legislation but it is typical of the laws which are being put on the statute books of New South Wales.
What has been achieved by Mr Hills, the Minister for Mines? He stopped the implementation of the previous government’s policy to establish a new coal loader facility in Botany Bay. A few months ago we entered into an interesting arrangement which can only be called quasi nationalisation when he simply told a major coal company, Coal and Allied Industries Ltd, that the State Government would take over 51 per cent of its future mining operations regardless of what the company had previously put into it and regardless of the fact that the company had expended $6m on research and development. At the same time the State Government wants people to believe that their investments in New
South Wales are safe. What a travesty of the English language! We have seen the same sort of action from the Minister for Lands, Mr Crabtree. An amount of $400m was to be collected annually by his department as a result of its intended take-over of all deposits on new and old buildings purchased in New South Wales. So much for the role of the banks; so much for the role of the building societies.
This week we have seen another example of the economic and administrative inefficiency of the State Government. We have read that over 500 new homes are awaiting a water supply. The New South Wales Housing Commission built the houses in the Campbelltown area but no one can live in them because there is no water supply. That is the sort of incompetence and administrative inefficiency we have seen for too long from this State Government. In terms of coal loading alone, it has imposed a surcharge of about 90c per tonne on its export. Instead of the mining companies being able to freight coal from the southern ports of Port Kembla and Balmain, they have to move the coal to Newcastle. Absolute and utter inefficiency is the hallmark of that Government’s administration. But it goes further than that. There has been a proliferation of boards and commissions and perhaps the best example is the Building Licensing Board. Some two years ago it had a staff of ten people but now it has a staff of 300. It collects $4m per annum in licensing fees but $4m is spent on salaries. That is the quality of the Government’s efficiency in New South Wales- proliferation after proliferation.
Regardless of the reports of royal commissions and other bodies on the administration of the New South Wales Government, no attempt has been made to make it more efficient and no attempt has been made to save the taxpayer’s money. The Federal Government, through its federalism policy, has given to New South Wales a better deal than the State has ever had in its history- a 17 per cent increase in funding from Federal revenues. Yet we have seen no systematic attempt by the State Government to give the people of that State a better deal.
– I have informed the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) and the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) of the matter that I wish to raise today. It concerns the destruction by the Bureau of Customs of a very valuable collection of birds in the Gosford area on 22 September 1977. At the time the Minister for Primary Industry issued a Press release stating that similar collections of birds had also been destroyed at Wollongong and Cairns because of the fear that through contact with birds illegally smuggled into Australia they may have had Newcastle disease which could, if not eradicated, spread with disastrous results throughout the Australian poultry industry. I make it perfectly clear that I have no objection to the Australian Government imposing stringent safeguards to protect the Australian poultry industry or any other livestock industry that may be threatened by the importation of foreign diseases, nor do I object to the destruction of birds or animals that may be carriers of a disease that could spread throughout the rest of the nation and cripple the whole industry. Finally, I have no sympathy for those people who knowingly import or traffic in birds illegally brought into the country and who suffer financial loss through the destruction of the birds or through prosecution for their action. However, I believe there is evidence of the Bureau of Customs acting in a highhanded, impulsive and authoritarian manner regarding the destruction of a large number of birds valued at $97,000 in the Gosford area.
Mr Rudolph Muhvich of Berkely Vale had build up a very large and valuable collection of exotic birds in a 25 acre property that, I understand, was one of the best private collections of its type in Australia. On 2 September 1977 he purchased two pairs of foreign parrots from a person at Wyong Railway Station and paid $3,200 for them. On 6 September the Muhvich ‘s received a visit from four customs officers who inquired whether they kept any foreign birds and whether they could see them. After the Muhvich ‘s had answered affirmatively to both questions the officers searched the 168 aviaries on the property before locating the two pairs of birds recently acquired. These birds had been kept separately from the other birds for a week or so to ensure that they were disease free and had had no contact whatsoever with any of their other birds.
The customs officers told the Muhvich family that they would have to confiscate the birds because they had reason to believe that the birds had been smuggled into Australia. The Muhvich ‘s were shocked to hear this as they had no idea that this had been the case. The customs officers told them that they had known a load of smuggled birds were coming into Australia and had let them into the country to see where they were” sent.
A Mr Cosgrove then stated that he would have to search the house, although he did not produce a search warrant, and subsequently interviewed Mr Muhvich in a most aggressive manner, with the interview being recorded by another officer,
Mr Peacock, on a portable typewriter. The customs officer told them that the confiscated birds would have to be quarantined in Sydney as smuggled birds often carry diseases. He gave them the telephone number of a Mr Skillman and told them to inquire later about the birds and the possibility of getting them back. They were told that they were extremely lucky that the birds had been segregated from their other stock because if the birds were found to be diseased they may have had to destroy them as well.
On 7 September the Muhvichs rang Mr Skillman who told them that the confiscated birds had been destroyed but that he did not know the results of any tests carried out on them. On 10 September customs officers Cosgrove and Peacock returned the cages in which the birds had been taken from the property, informing the Muhvichs that they did not think there would be any problem with the quarantine department but that the final decision rested with Mr Skillman and other departmental officials.
On 13 September the Muhvichs received a visit from the District Veterinary Officer of Newcastle, Mr Kirkland, and the Newcastle Quarantine Officer, Mr Gilchrist, who served them with a 30 day State Government quarantine notice. Once again they told the Muhvichs that they were lucky the confiscated birds had been kept separate from the rest and asked whether they had sold any birds to anyone else. The Muhvichs informed the officers that they had sold three elegant parrots to the Wyong pet shop. They later learned that the pet shop was visited the following day and that all of its birds had been placed in quarantine.
On 15 September Mr Kirkland and Mr Gilchrist again came to the house and said that the property would have to be placed under 24 hour surveillance until a special meeting took place in Sydney to discuss the situation and that someone would be placed at their front gate from then on. The following day they arrived with a person whom the Muhvichs were told was an expert on diseased birds. He informed them that their birds were in very good condition but that they would still be placed under a 24 hour guard.
For the next few days guards lived near the property inquiring regularly about the health of the birds which remained in perfect condition. As can be imagined, this period of being guarded and treated like criminals was extremely embarrassing to the family and to the children who were severely taunted at school. On 22 September a Mr Mumford of the Division of Animal
Industry, Department of Agriculture, together with three police constables and a police sergeant, arrived and informed the Muhvichs that the birds were to be destroyed and the aviaries fumigated. The paper the Muhvichs were given carried no official letterhead and the signature on the bottom was illegible. Mr Mumford informed them that he had a telex from Canberra which gave him the authority to carry out this action although the telex was not shown to Mr and Mrs Muhvich. Mr Hancher, the family solicitor, arrived and asked Mr Mumford why he had not informed the Muhvichs about the action the Government intended to take and why they had been tricked into thinking everything was alright.
Now listen to this. Mr Mumford told Mr Hancher that his department had deliberately misled them so that they did not attempt to take counter measures. Rent-o-Kill men arrived and covered the aviaries with huge tarpaulins and killed the birds by fumigation. The family was told to go inside the house, until told to come outside. Dozens of large birds were allowed to roam free on the property and were shot. All this was witnessed by their two young sons who had just returned from school. At no time during the fumigation were any health officers present even though lethal poisonous gases were being used. The place was left in a disgusting mess, with poison bait pellets, lids from poison cans left scattered around the property and poisonous cardboard discs on the aviary floors. The stench from the fumigated aviaries was nauseating.
The most frightening aspect of the whole procedure was that the very next day their youngest son became ill and shortly after was admitted to Gosford Hospital for two weeks. As he was always a strong and healthy child, the Muhvich family have every reason to believe that the two permanent scars he now bears on his lungs are as a direct result of the fumigation carried out to slaughter the birds. Their grandchild who was present also became sick with the same symptoms as their son. The Muhvich family contacted Mr Trager of the Gosford Health Commission to seek his advice about whether the chemicals used were dangerous to humans and to ascertain what they could or could not touch and so on. They had been given no instructions or warned of any danger to other livestock or to themselves. Subsequently two of their deer died due to contact with the poison. Dead birds were found hanging from trees and wire. Nesting logs were filled with dead young birds and eggs. Dozens of breeding boxes were also filled with dead young birds which the exterminators had not bothered to remove.
Large piles of sand were left in the back garden by the exterminators who also broke fences, cut through aviary walls and broke a main water pipe leading to a loss of 10,000 gallons of tank water, which had to be purchased because the Muhvich property is not on town water. Hundreds of dollars worth of assorted bird seed was wasted because it had not been removed from the seed storage area before it was fumigated. Mr Trager of the Health Commission inspected the aviaries with the Muhvich family and commented that they had been left in an unhygienic and awful state. He arranged for Mr Kirkland and another gentleman from the Newcastle Quarantine Department to clear up the mess which they did five days later. While Mr Kirkland was there they requested that at least the damage should be repaired. Some months later they finally sent a man to quote for the job and that was the last that was heard of him.
In nine years in this Parliament I have never heard anything to match this appalling example of bureaucratic high-handedness, cruelty, callousness and insensitivity. I would have expected this sort of behaviour in Nazi Germany but not in Australia. What is so appalling apart from the manner in which the whole matter was conducted is that no tests were carried out on any of the birds before they were killed with the exception of the two pairs of parrots originally confiscated, and these were proved to be officially negative. Mr and Mr Muhvich would have been prepared to submit to quarantine of the birds, any form of tests and, if necessary, to sacrifice dozens of the birds of any species if necessary and if they had been asked.
When this matter was first brought to my attention I contacted the offices of both the Minister for Health and the Minister for Primary Industry. I had a number of conversations with the secretary of the Minister for Health who informed me that there was some confusion as to whether it was their responsibility or that of the Minister for Primary Industry. I was assured that the Muhvichs would be compensated for any losses. Now, however, I am informed that this is not the case and they are not to receive one cent of compensation for this monstrous bungle by the departments involved. I am informed that the collection was one of, if not the most comprehensive and unique collection of native Australian and foreign birds in Australia, lt was a collection of world standard. The birds are mostly irreplaceable. They were expensive and some were purchased after many years of hard work and selective breeding. The Muhvichs had been planning to open a bird sanctuary with a wildlife section in the near future. Students from their sons’ local school came in study tours to see the collection.
What has to be understood is that the collection was not just a hobby but a whole way of life for the Muhvichs. More than that, it was their reason for living. They adored the birds and spent years and their life savings to build this magnificent collection. Neither Mr nor Mrs Muhvich is young. What has happened has been a terrible shock to them, from which they will never completely recover. The least the Government can do is to compensate them adequately so that they can start again to replace their collection. I thank the Minister for coming into the House and listening to me.
-It is now almost 12.45 p.m. In accordance with Standing Order 106 the debate is interrupted.
Motion (by Mr Newman)- by leave- agreed to:
That so much of the standing orders be suspended as would prevent the consideration of order of the day No. 1, government business (Grievance debate), being continued until 1 p.m.
-My grievance today concerns the financial plight of many primary producers, with the present gap in the income security system for all self-employed people in Australia. In theory there is no income security net whatever for self-employed small business people. There is for farmers, in theory, because of the temporary alterations to the eligibility criteria of May 1976 for unemployment benefit and the introduction of household support in January 1977. Further credence is given to the distinction between these two groups of self-employed people by the recent reply of the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Fife) to the question on notice by the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) in which he asked for details of how many small businesses and farmers became bankrupt or made arrangements with creditors or were sent into liquidation during certain recent periods.
The figures are far more significant for small businesses than they are for farmers. Of course, that overlooks the difference in the ratio of fixed capital and the different way in which liquidity pressures develop for farmers from other small business people. To get the real figures one has to ask the number of forced sales required of farmers over the same period. The average farmer, because of the credit situation in relation to mortgages and fixed assets, is required by his banker or somebody else to sell his assets prior to actual bankruptcy. So, once again the situation is misleading. Because of the very limited number of approvals for both unemployment benefit and household support the gap in the income security system is there just as much for farmers as it is for all small business people.
My plea today, in detail, is for farmers but it is really for all small and self-employed business people. Evidence of the fact that the gap is there comes from recent Bureau of Agricultural Economics documents. Firstly, I shall refer to the BAE draft report on beef price stabilisation of May 1978. It estimates that for the beef industry for 1977-78 the net income for all beef producers in Australia will be $5,200. Also, 64 per cent of beef producers, that is, about 32,000, are estimated to be earning less than $5,000. Of those 32,000, 17,000 will have negative cash incomes in 1977-78. To put it in perspective: On the present income test basis for eligibility for household support or unemployment benefit, eligibility runs out at the time when the net cash income for the 12 months period is equivalent to the weekly payment of unemployment benefit on an annual basis for the same category of person. In other words, for a married person with no dependants it cuts out, following the last six-monthly increase in pension, at $4,461. For a person with two dependants it rises to $5,241. So in other words, in theory, on an income test basis virtually the majority of beef producers in Australia are eligible for household support or unemployment benefit. Those with a zero income- 17,000 of themshould be eligible for a full unemployment benefit or household support arrangement. If one adds to those in the beef industry the many people in the horticulture industry, such as the canned fruit, grape growing, apple industries and certain sectors of the dairying industry, the figure is multiplied. The March edition of the BAE journal states:
Aggregate farm income in 1977-78 is forecast to decline by 6 per cent to $ 1,900m. If the rate of inflation were assumed to be around 8 per cent in 1977-78, then real income per farm is estimated to fall by 1 1 per cent.
In other words, the problem is compounded by the continuing decline in real incomes for farmers. So theoretically thousands upon thousands of farmers should be eligible for assistance under these schemes. But what is the position? At the end of March this year, 1 1 1 farmers around Australia were receiving some degree of household support. The maximum amount available under that scheme would be the equivalent of the weekly unemployment benefit, and very few farmers ever receive the maximum amount because of the way in which the income test works. So 1 1 1 farmers are receiving support at a cost of $191,000. If those figures are compared with the figures for the previous 12 months, which was shortly after the introduction of the scheme, it can be seen that there was a substantial increase. But the point that I want to make is that the amount of assistance is still insignificant.
The situation in relation to the unemployment benefit is, if anything, the opposite. The high point for farmers who received the unemployment benefit was reached in the week ending 6 August 1976, which was soon after the scheme was introduced. The number of farmers receiving the benefit was 2,475. In the week ending 5 August 1 977 the number had fallen to 1 , 1 04. The most recent figures relate to the week ending 17 March 1978, when 869 farmers were receiving part or the whole of the unemployment benefit. For the week ending 18 March 1977, the number receiving the benefit was 796. Why is the number of farmers receiving the unemployment benefit so low compared with the number who could receive it on income test grounds?
Before I go on to deal with that matter in detail, I say in passing that the income test for selfemployed people, whether they be farmers or other small businessmen, is far more stringent than that applying to wage and salary earners. The reason is that the farmer is assessed on an annual basis whereas all wage and salary earners are assessed on a weekly basis. It means that a seasonal worker, such as a tanker driver, who is stood down from his job or somebody who is put off from his job for a few weeks at the end of the season could earn more than $10,000 during the period in which he works and still be eligible to receive the full unemployment benefit. On the other hand, the farmer is prevented from receiving the unemployment benefit if his annual income is less than half that which that other person is receiving. This is a social injustice in this country. I have submitted to the Government on more than one occasion that in order to bring some equity into the scheme the eligibility provisions for the salary and wage earner should have some regard to an annual income test as well as the weekly test so that account is taken of the large incomes which people can earn while still being eligible to receive the full unemployment benefit.
I return to the main point of the argument about why so few farmers are receiving the unemployment benefit. The answer lies in the criteria used, which are demonstrably unsuitable for country people. The assessment of household support is carried out by the State rural reconstruction agencies. One becomes eligible for that support only after an application for rural reconstruction assistance has been refused because one’s farm has been assessed as being unviable. Then the person involved has to be prepared to leave bis property within three years. Even if that person could sell his property, he may receive less for his farm than would be required to buy a house for his family in the nearest town.
One can understand the problems of these people. It is the seasonal nature of farming which really makes a farmer eligible to receive the unemployment benefit. Some forms of agriculture fit more readily into this pattern than do others. For example, dairying and fruit growing have a distinct seasonal pattern. Therefore the people involved in those industries can abide by the work test requirement of making themselves available. Hence, in the winter of 1976, 800 fruit and dairy farmers in my area were receiving part of the unemployment benefit. That situation came about, to a certain extent, through the cooperation of senior officials of the Department of Social Security who arranged suitable criteria in relation to the work test and time periods in assessing eligibility. I express my appreciation to those senior officials. The situation in the grazing industries, and the sheep and beef industries, is far more difficult. I could go on to deal with the ideological problems which have developed for the self-employed person. I refer to instances of farmers who, under the work test requirements, are given a job ahead of many other people who are unemployed simply because the assessing officer knows that he will work and that the others will not.
What has to be done? We have to change the criteria of eligibility for household support so that the affected people will not have to go through the present application and refusal system. In relation to the unemployment benefit, we have to instil a more sympathetic attitude in many officers of the Department of Social Security. I understand that a review is being undertaken by the Government at the present time. I believe that apart from conducting that review we should ask the new social welfare policy secretariat, under Dr Sax, as its first and most urgent job as part of an overall review of income security, to look at this great gap which exists in our income security net for all self-employed people and, particularly in this case, for farmers. I make that suggestion because of the great risk which faces the future of farming in this country.
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– It is impossible for even the most philistine of honourable members to avoid the international impact of recent Australian films. The Australian film industry is experiencing a renaissance, although still fragile and still uncertain. The past week in Cannes, for example, has reflected both an awareness of the new stature of Australian films and also a recognition of the difficulties faced by an infant industry which is trying to break into the profitable international markets. Nevertheless, it is true to say that Australian films such as Caddie, Picnic at Hanging Rock, Storm Boy, The Last Wave, and now the The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith and Newsfront have done more in the past two years for the international reputation of this country than have all the travels of Ministers opposite. As Alan Seymour writes:
The political and social earnings from such films, though apparently intangible, may in the long run be the better for our acceptance in the international community than immediate money in the bank.
A major contribution to this revival of the Australian film industry has been made by Film Australia, the production arm of the Australian Film Commission. Film Australia has acted as a nursery, a training ground, for many of the talents that now distinguish the Austraiian film revival. Early this year that nursery, Film Australia, requested the approval of the Australian Film Commission for funds amounting to $550,000 for the making of a film based on David Ireland’s novel The Unknown Industrial Prisoner. This novel won the Miles Franklin award in 1976 and has been described as ‘easily the best novel ever written in Australia on the problems of urban, industrial workers’. If the novel is tough on the multinational companies, it is equally severe on the trade unions. The script for the film was written by Alan Seymour, a controversial and successful Australian playwright. I have read the film script but I make no pretext to aesthetic judgment. But an actor whose judgment I respect has told me that it is a superb actor’s script.
-Who is that?
-Noel Ferrier. That is a rarity in Australian cinema. All who know the contemporary Australian film and television industry will recognise that the great weakness lies in the realm of scripts. The Australian Film Commission sent the script to nine assessors, including many of the most able and successful figures in the Australian film industry. Not one of the nine assessors recommended that the film not go into production. I repeat- nowhere in the statements made to this House by the Minister for Home Affairs (Mr Ellicott) will honourable members find this fact- that not one of the nine assessors recommended that the film not go into production.
– Will you give me the names of the nine assessors?
– I could go through them, taking them from the list I have here, but at this stage I want to spend the three minutes remaining to me in finishing my speech. Given these assessments, the Australian Film Commission, with one commissioner absent, gave unanimous approval to the project. On 13 April the Minister requested reconsideration with specific reference to commercial viability. Fred Schepsi, who is perhaps the most respected of Australian film makers, and Jim McElroy were requested to reassess the film script with specific reference to commercial viability. They did so, and both of them thought that the film should proceed. In the third week of April the Australian Film Commission met and by a vote of four to one decided- this is contained in a letter sent by the Chairman of the Commission to the Minister- as follows: . . with the impressive nature of the idea and the quality of the script it remained satisfied that the usual requirements which it has in mind in looking at the national program were met.
This next part takes up the point made by the Minister
With the exception of Mr Burke … the Commission saw that the film was different, from any film so far made by Australians and that the marketing aspects were difficult to assess. However, with the script lightened at the key points, with the casting proposals audience attractive, and with the audience still being attracted to the Australian product, it was well worth continuing.
Despite this reaffirmation by the Commission, despite a professional vote of fourteen to one in favour of the production- that vote was taken by the assessors and the members of the Commissionthe Minister vetoed the project.
I put these facts before the House because they have never been placed before it previously. The long answer given by the Minister to a question asked on 2 May 1 978 avoided nearly all of the critical points. It was a demeaning statement, to both the Minister and the House. It was contemptible in both style and substance. In style it was that of the vaudeville clown playing to the philistines; in substance it strung together a collection of quotations, which were selective and out of context, in order to hide from this House the overwhelming professional verdict in favour of the film.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drummond) Order! It being 1 p.m., the debate is interrupted. The question is: ‘That grievances be noted ‘.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
-On behalf of the Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation, I present the report of the Committee entitled ‘The Commonwealth Government and the Urban Environment’, together with the transcript of evidence and extracts from the minutes of proceedings. A limited number of copies of the report are available from the Table Office and copies have been placed in the Parliamentary Library. Additional copies will be available for general distribution in the near future.
Ordered that the report be printed.
-by leave-The report that has just been tabled is the first report of the Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation established in the 31st Parliament. The inquiry upon which the report is based was commenced by the Committee in the previous Parliament.
The Committee took evidence from 132 witnesses representing Commonwealth and State departments and instrumentalities, local government authorities, regional planning bodies, private companies, community groups and private individuals. All State governments, except Queensland, participated in the inquiry by providing written and verbal evidence. It is disappointing that the Queensland Government refused to provide a written submission or to make a State officer available to speak to the Committee. This action was contrary to the spirit of an inquiry undertaken to examine the effectiveness of consultation and co-ordination between the three levels of government.
The Committee’s report deals with a number of recurring concerns which became apparent as the inquiry progressed. These concerns are:
The perception of Commonwealth departments and instrumentalities of the direct and indirect impact of their policies and programs on the urban environment;
Population planning and research;
The delay in the processing of the 1976 census;
Commonwealth environmental legislation;
Location of Commonwealth Government employment; and
I will now briefly outline the Committee’s findings in each of these areas. The Committee found an apparent lack of perception in a number of departments and instrumentalities, including those with key policy responsibilities. Many departments had little or no idea of how their policies and programs could affect the urban environment. This lack of perception was apparent in the response to the requests for submissions and in answers to questions at public hearings. Many Commonwealth departments and instrumentalities tend to perceive involvement in the urban environment in terms of specific urban policies and programs. This narrow view takes no account of the fact that there are many areas of Commonwealth activity which have significant indirect consequences for the urban environment and the distribution of Australia’s population.
There is a tendency for public servants to become entrenched in particular departments. Many have spent their entire careers in Canberra. This can lead to public servants seeing departmental functions in terms of specific policy areas. They fail to realise that policies cannot be applied in isolation but must be related to the activities of other departments and instrumentalities, both Commonwealth and State. The Committee believes that in part the problem could be overcome if there were a greater mobility of staff between departments and instrumentalities, central and regional offices, the three levels of government and the private and public sectors. The Committee comments however that the responsibility for ensuring concern and awareness for the urban environment does not rest with public servants alone. It rests with Ministers and members of parliament, both in terms of executive decision-making and Parliamentary debate.
A major part of the Committee’s inquiry dealt with the relationship between population planning and research and the urban environment. The Commonwealth has a leadership role in the formulation, co-ordination and implementation of population policies. It can vary the size and composition of the immigration intake. It has a primary responsibility in collecting, maintaining and disseminating population data. The Commonwealth has the responsibility for funding and resource allocation in wide areas of activity, the efficiency of which is dependent on an understanding of trends in the pattern and distribution of the Australian population.
The Committee notes that in recent years steps have been taken towards the formulation of a national population policy, but is not satisfied that there is adequate departmental machinery to ensure that on-going consultation and coordination occurs between those Commonwealth Government departments that have important roles to play in the formulation of such policies. The Committee believes that the present administrative arrangements which place responsibility for population policies with the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs should be modified. A population policy is more than an immigration policy. Accordingly the Committee has recommended that the Ministry of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs be abolished and be replaced by a Ministry of Population and Ethnic Affairs. The new Ministry should be responsible for national population planning and policy, migration and ethnic affairs. An independent bureau within the Ministry should be established to formulate, co-ordinate and implement national population policies on the basis of three to five year forward programs.
The Committee believes that population projections and analyses are basic to decisions regarding levels of investment in community infrastructure. Poor co-ordination in the development and interpretation of trends can lead to costly misallocation of resources. It is disturbing that departments and instrumentalities often use thenown projections, which can be inconsistent with the national projections. Accordingly the Committee has recommended that suitably qualified forecasts on a State by State, and, where possible, a region by region, basis be prepared for circulation with Department of Finance instructions for the preparation of forward estimates. Because the Committee believes that greater consultation, awareness and research is essential in population planning, it has recommended that joint Commonwealth-State advisory committees on population be established in each State to ensure closer relationships between all levels of government.
I now turn to the 1976 census. The principal mechanism for the collection of indispensable demographic, social and economic data for the Australian population is the 5-yearly census. The method by which the data collected in 1976 was processed differed from previous collections. It was decided to process only 50 per cent of the data collected, other than age, sex and marital status, and to defer its processing for a year. The
Committee received conflicting evidence on the adequacy of using a 50 per cent sample, but finds it ludicrous to collect 100 per cent of the data at significant cost and effort, abandon half of it and take what appears to have been a hasty decision to process the other half.
The Committee is disturbed at the decision to delay processing. The data contained in the census is vital to many areas of public and private enterprise, and the older the data gets the less valuable it becomes. The Committee finds that the costs associated with the delay in terms of relevant usefulness of the data, the continued use of out-dated figures, the possible misallocation of resources and the additional processing cost due to inflation far outweigh any benefit that may have been gained by the reduction in the deficit in the 1976-77 Budget. The decision was shortsighted and taken without proper recognition or understanding of the implications for the efficiency of decision-making at all levels of government and the private sector. We believe that it should not happen again.
The Committee examined the operation of the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act and found that a great deal more attention needs to be given to the direct and indirect social impacts of basic policy decisions. Some departments, although it should be stressed not all, including key policy departments, appear to be unaware of the nature and character of the legislation and the responsibilities and obligations it places upon them. The Committee is concerned that proposals are often not considered from the outset of the planning process.
The Committee is far from satisfied that the nature and character of the Act has permeated all levels of policy-making and implementation, although there is an increasing awareness. The Committee has recommended that the environment assessment units within the Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development be upgraded and that that Department embark on a major educative campaign to increase understanding of the scope and implications of the Act.
I now turn to government employment. Decisions on the location or relocation of Commonwealth Government employment have significant and far-reaching long-term effects on the urban environment, the structure and size of urban settlements and the way in which services are provided to the community. In this context the Committee examined the operations of the
Location of Australian Government Employment Committee, or LAGE. The Committee concludes that LAGE’s approach is largely ad hoc and reactive. It appeared to the Committee that proposals reach LAGE after locational decisions have already been made.
The Committee is far from satisfied with the performance of the Property Division of the Department of Administrative Services. The Department left the Committee with the impression that it has little understanding of the impact of property decisions on the urban environment. The Committee gave serious consideration to recommending the transfer of the Property Division to a department which has such understanding. Since the decentralisation functions of the Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development have been transferred to the Department of National Development, the Committee decided that the Property Division, with its implications for both metropolitan and regional areas, could not be properly located in either department, and considers that it should, at least for the time being, remain within the Department of Administrative Services.
The Committee examined the practice of nonpayment of rates by the Commonwealth to local government, and believes that this can cause considerable hardship to municipalities with large concentrations of Commonwealth property. While the Committee recognises the complexities inherent in the proposal that the Commonwealth Government pay general rates on the same basis as private land owners, it cannot accept that these complexities are sufficient justification for the Commonwealth Government not to fulfil a clear moral obligation to make some form of compensation. Accordingly the Committee has recommended that the Commonwealth Government recognises its obligation to compensate municipalities for the loss of rates. Similarly, the Committee has recommended that the Commonwealth abide by local government regulations and by-laws. The only exception to this rule should occur when there is an overriding national interest, and then only when specific legislation has been enacted.
Finally, the Committee examined a number of aspects of regionalism. Commonwealth and State departments and local government authorities complained that details of Commonwealth expenditure by State or region is unavailable, and that lack of this data makes informed decisions difficult. The Committee sees advantage in an information system being developed which would identify proposed Commonwealth Government capital expenditure initially on a State by State basis, and later on a regional basis. The Committee has recommended accordingly.
During the inquiry the Committee was informed of a Commonwealth project called IMPACT, which involves the development of a framework of four models relating to different aspects of the national economy. This joint study is being undertaken by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development, the Industries Assistance Commission and the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations. The Committee was surprised and disturbed to learn that the Departments of Treasury and Finance are not participating. Given that these departments are the primary source of national economic and financial advice to Government, it should be mandatory for them to participate.
The Committee supports the recent decision to appoint a Commonwealth regional coordinator for the Townsville region as an experiment, and recommends that regional coordinators be appointed in other areas. It recommends that when the Commonwealth has been invited to provide representatives on State, regional or local authorities, the invitation be accepted and maintained. In conclusion, I point out that many of the issues covered in this report will be of interest to other bodies concerned with inter-governmental relations. In particular, the Committee commends its conclusions and recommendations to the Advisory Council on Inter-governmental Relations.
I wish to thank the Committee for its application to the task. There were many days of public hearings over a period of about 18 months. I thank the Committee for its co-operation. I also wish to thank a number of departments, particularly the Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development, for the assistance it gave to the Committee at all times. I wish to thank the staff of the Committee, including the Clerk to the Committee, Mr John Cummins. I also thank Mr Bob Marshman, who was seconded from the Department of National Development, for his invaluable assistance throughout this inquiry. Unfortunately, time will not permit all members of the Committee to participate in the debate today. However, in view of the announcement by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) as to the manner in which committee reports will be handled when the Government’s stance is known on this report perhaps some debate can be initiated in the future. I commend the report to the House.
-by leave-I do not intend to speak at length on this report. The honourable member for Petrie (Mr Hodges) as Chairman of the Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation has summed up the various aspects that we dealt with and the recommendations we have made. The particular area we looked at, the effect of Commonwealth Government decisions on the urban environment, would be of interest to most members of the House. The honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson) initiated this inquiry when he was a member of the Committee. A great deal of careful consideration was given to the sorts of guidelines that we should include in the terms of reference. I am sure that my colleague the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) would want the House to have an opportunity to debate this report and what flows from it. He was one of those who added so much stimulus to the discussion on urban and regional development in the Parliament.
I think all honourable members must take note of this report. They should see some of the things that the examination has pointed out. Those in charge of the business of the House must make sure that there is further debate on the matter. I know that an undertaking has been given that six months after a committee has reported the responsible Minister will have to say what action is being taken. In relation to this report I think it is far more important that the House have some discussion before such a statement is made. I am sure that a lot of input could be made by people who were not intimately connected with the inquiry.
What became obvious in the inquiry were the major changes in the urban environment, with the location of buildings, the people working in those buildings, their modes of transport and so on. When we use the term ‘ environment ‘ we tend to get stuck on the green aspects of the environment instead of thinking of all the other social and economic factors in the environment. The effects of decisions by the Commonwealth Government were major. When we examined what the various departments were doing we found that in a lot of cases they had the machinery for an examination, but what was missing was a great deal of perception of what the issue involved and a great lack of sensitivity about human beings and all levels of government. If the inquiry has done nothing more, I think it has drawn attention to that aspect of Commonwealth Government decisions.
I think this is a subject that may need review from time to time by a committee of this type.
We should check some of the areas which were not covered and some areas on which recommendations were made. I point out to the House that in carrying out this inquiry we dealt only with the public sector. After looking at the public sector one can readily realise the need there is to examine the role of the private sector and its effect on the urban environment. We should examine whether decisions for major projects, whether they be industrial, commercial or residental. are made with full knowledge of their ultimate effect on the urban environment. Let us not feel self-satisfied because we have dealt with the public sector. It has shown up so many pimples and bumps that we ought to consider how far we can look into the private sector and its decisions which affect the urban environment.
I think it is unfortunate that an inquiry such as this has to be broken by elections. With evidence that is fairly detailed and not always easy to digest it is important to have a continuity of membership. I believe that those new members who joined the Committee towards the end of the inquiry did a good job in being able to appreciate what had been put forward and in dealing with it. That they were able to catch up was a tribute to the staff of the Committee. I urge the Government to devise a mechanism so that the House can debate an important report such as this before decisions are made. We could debate whether we should concentrate on the private sector or whether there are mechanisms on which we ought to insist in the private sector.
-by leave-First of all I must congratulate the Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation. I have not had an opportunity of reading the report because it has not yet been made available to honourable members. However, I listened to the remarks of the honourable member for Petrie (Mr Hodges) who presented this statement, which I consider to be enlightened, intelligent and sensitive. It certainly relates many of the policies that we were trying to correlate when we were in government. I have but one strong disagreement with him, and I want to voice it here so that in six months ‘ time, when the Minister brings down his report, he will make a more in-depth examination of the particular situation to which I refer. The whole question of the inter-relationship of urban programs- and it was good that the Committee brought out this sensitivity- has for far too long been neglected. Not only have the Australian Government, the State governments and local governments acted within their separate little worlds but so too has the Federal bureaucracy.
The bureaucracy lives within its own boxes, so to speak, and does not inter-relate with other policy makers. I have in mind especially the question of the Department of Transport dealing with the departments that are responsible for land use. As most of the officers who were formerly in the Department of Urban and Regional Development are now in the Department of the Environment, Housing and Community Affairs, I am pleased that the latter Department will be studying this report.
On the question of population growth, especially in relation to the urban environment, one could argue that it should not be under a special population department but should be part of either the Department of the Environment, Housing and Community Development or a department with a similar influence. Population is related to what quality of life is in the urban environment. The former Labor Government’s policies were not based on the growth rate of some 1.9 per cent that had occurred between 1950 and 1972. If that growth rate had continued we would have had by the year 2000, an increase in the population from 13 million to 23 million. If we had continued that rate of growth our capital cities would have been in an atrocious situation. We argued strenuously that we should aim at a population growth, as a result of both natural increase and immigration, of some 1.1 per cent. The figure of 1.9 per cent comprised 1.1 per cent from natural causes, and 0,8 per cent from immigration. With a population growth rate of 1. 1 per cent we would have had by the year 2000, not 23 million but about 17.5 million. It so happened that that was the estimate given by the Borrie report. I wish to emphasise that Labor’s policy was not geared to attaining a population of 23 million by the year 2000, but rather a population of about 17.5 million. We foresaw that if our decentralisation policies could divert some one million people from our capital cities, it would be possible to cope with the remaining growth of 3.5 million in the capital cities; that they could be made rational places in which to live. If a rate of 1.9 per cent had been allowed to continue, even if we had diverted at least one million persons elsewhere, some nine million people would have settled in those cities and that would have made urban living standards atrocious.
I shall be brief, because I know the House has urgent business to attend to, in dealing with my last point, which concerns what we call rational development of the urban community. The Australian Government can exert an enormous influence on the growth of our capital cities. That influence must be exerted by a planning body which can obtain the co-operation of not only the Federal, State and local governments but also the private sector. Drawing upon my own experience as a Minister, I recall that when it was possible to bring the property section within the administration of the Department of Urban and Regional Development, it made available a weapon, if one wants to use that term, that was an enormous influence. It is on this aspect that I disagree with the Committee’s recommendation. One did not have to go through the bureaucratic wrangling that goes on. At least the Commonwealth properties were under the administration of the body that was also responsible for the urban environment and urban planning. Instead of building skyscrapers to house 15,000 Commonwealth employees in places like Woolloomooloo, as had been planned by the bureaucracy of the Department of Administrative Services, as it is now, we would have put them as a first stage development in places such as Parramatta, and then at other centres such as Campbelltown. Instead of proceeding with the Spring Street development in Melbourne, we would have had developments at places like Sunshine, Broadmeadows and Dandenong. Then the transport investment could be correlated with the rational development of major cities.
My last point concerns what the honourable member for Scullin (Mr Jenkins) has said. Interrelated with this is the fact that, in dealing with the private sector, the Australian Government has an enormous influence in deciding where private investment will be made in relation to the urban environment. It has enormous control over insurance companies, which have in fact distorted the make-up of our capital cities by overdeveloping the central business districts. By persuasion, by discussion, and by looking at the whole metropolis, rather than just looking at the central business district of our cities, we could achieve more rational development. The Federal Government has enormous control over foreign investment also. I must commend the Committee upon its sensitivity, upon the belief that there is need for inter-relationship between not only the three tiers of government but also between them and the private sector. I will be very pleased to read the report in full.
Report of Standing Committee on Road Safety
-On behalf of the Standing Committee on Road Safety, I present the report on motor cycle and bicycle safety, together with the transcript of evidence and extracts from the minutes of proceedings.
Ordered that the report be printed.
-by leave-The motorcycle and bicycle safety report which has just been tabled is the first report of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Road Safety, established in the Thirty-first Parliament. This report is the third in a series that the Committee has prepared on safety aspects of vehicles using public roads. Previous reports on this aspect of road safety have related to passenger motor vehicle safety- tabled on 2 June 1976- and heavy vehicle safety-tabled on 3 1 May 1 977.
A substantial part of the work associated with the motorcycle and bicycle safety inquiry was undertaken by the Committee in the Thirtieth Parliament. The present Committee took final evidence on this inquiry at two further public hearings and appointed a sub-committee consisting of three, who were members of the previous Committee, to consider the draft report. The subcommittee report has been adopted by the Committee as the report on motorcycle and bicycle safety. I mention that the two other members of the sub-committee are present in the House. One is a former Minister for Transport, the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones), who made a splendid contribution and who, I must confess, carried out a major part of the work involved in the report. The other member is the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Goodluck) who, as a former president of the Australian Automobile Chamber of Commerce, is representative of the expertise and experience we had on the sub-committee. So we had the advantage of having a good deal of talent, expertise and experience. In adopting the subcommittee report the Committee points out that that report does not necessarily convey specific views of the Committee members not being members of the sub-committee.
During the course of the motorcycle and bicycle safety inquiry the Committee held 11 public hearings, one in camera hearing and attended six inspections. The Committee was extremely pleased to receive a large number of submissions from individual motorcycle riders and bicyclists. In all, 181 submissions were received during the inquiry and 1 12 witnesses appeared before the Committee. That illustrates the intense interest in the great difficulties which exist in trying to find a solution to this tragic problem.
The Committee throughout the inquiry concentrated its attention on the nature and extent of problems related to motorcycle and bicycle safety and measures by which the safety of these vehicles could be improved. The 58 recommendations in the report cover a wide range of matters and are a reflection of the detailed attention given to these problems by the Committee. Many of the recommendations relate to improvements in vehicle safety in important areas such as design and inspection, braking, steering and handling, tyres and wheels, rear view mirrors, as well as the visibility of these vehicles and their lighting. Recommendations have also been made in a number of other areas relating to helmets and visors; applicability of road rules to riders and cyclists as well as their training and licensing; other road and environmental factors; and safety related publicity campaigns.
The Committee considers it imperative that these recommendations be acted upon and I, and I am sure other members of the Road Safety Committee, therefore welcome the recently announced decision on 25 May 1978 by the Government to have the responsible Minister report to Parliament on proposed Government action on parliamentary Committee reports. The Committee would welcome such a statement not only on the report just tabled but also on its two earlier reports on passenger motor vehicle and heavy vehicle safety.
I would also like briefly to refer to 2 other matters. In each of the inquiries conducted by the Committee, we have been impressed by the urgent need to implement a uniform accident report form throughout Australia. Honourable members can imagine how utterly impossible it is to get an overall concept, an overall pattern, regarding the increasing number of fatalities and casualties on our roads when we cannot computerise because of the lack of a uniform accident form. This is a very serious impediment. The first recommendation of this report urges States and Territories to amend their road accident report forms to include a list of common items recently endorsed by the Australian Transport Advisory Council. Comprehensive data collected on a more uniform basis will, the Committee feels, enable more accurate assessment of safety measures introduced and assist in determining areas requiring priority attention in the future.
As part of its role as a standing committee the Committee intends looking at the Office of Road Safety within the Department of Transport, which was set up to replace the Road Safety and Standards Authority. The Committee will look at the functions of the Office of Road Safety and reexamine the question of whether or not such a body should have the powers of a statutory authority.
The detailed work of this Committee over a period of years involved the examination of dozens of highly qualified and responsible witnesses some of whom, I might mention, have international status. As a homely example, Ralph Nader gave his views on the consumer side of things. We had Peter Wherrett travelling with us for some time. We also had the directors of the Mercedes-Benz Company from Stuttgart in Germany. We had world authorities associated with the Volvo organisation and so on.
– What do you think of the Volvo?
– The Volvo is an extremely safe vehicle. It is interesting to note- without indulging in commercials- that it is regarded as one of the safer vehicles, and I will say no more than that.
The detailed work of this Committee over a period of years, the examination of dozens of highly qualified and responsible witnesses, together with the Committee ‘s recommendations would all be quite futile unless there is a competent independent body which can on a national basis apply with sufficient authority the worthwhile recommendations of this Committee, and that is a very serious aspect of our commitment and a very important responsibility. In terms of human tragedy no Committee has a greater or more serious responsibility. Clear evidence of this responsibility was apparent to the Committee when it visited the wards of the Spinal Unit in the Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney. There the Committee saw numerous patients with spinal cord injury resulting from motorcycle accidents.
I would like to thank members of the present and former Committee for the contribution they made in gathering the information upon which this report is based and also, on behalf of the Committee, I would like to thank Mr Frank Hinckley, who did a job beyond what one would expect of an officer of his status, Kristin Grimsley and Margaret Ray who provided assistance as the secretariat to the Committee and to the Committee ‘s specialist advisers, Dr Wigan and Mr Milne, who always were there to provide the necessary expert comments when required. I commend the report to the House but would mention to honourable members that at this stage there are only limited copies of the report available which have been placed in the Table Office and the Library. I therefore seek leave to have the recommendations of the report incorporated in Hansard.
The recommendations read as follows-
House of Representatives Standing Committee on Road Safety
The Committee recommends that:
The Nature and Magnitude of the Problem
States and Territories amend their road accident report forms to include the list of common items recently endorsed by the Australian Transport Advisory Council (Paragraph 55).
Differing safety requirements for those motorcycles used both on and off the road be given due consideration by authorities proposing safety requirements for this class of motorcycles (Paragraph 60).
The Advisory Committee on Safety in Vehicle Design keep under review the need to take up relevant overseas design requirements for motorcycles ( Paragraph 62 ).
A requirement for licensing be a demonstration of the effective use of all brakes fitted to the motorcycle particularly the front brakes, and
The Commonwealth Department of Transport develop advisory performance specifications for this test (Paragraph 68).
Positive steps be taken to appraise developmental antilock motorcycle braking systems by experiment within Australia (Paragraph 69).
Experiments be undertaken to assess the physical performance of, and the ability of riders to make better practical use of, coupled braking systems as exemplified by Moto Guzzi with a view to encouraging wide use of this type of system if shown to demonstrate an added margin of safety (Paragraph 70).
Australian Design Rule 33, Motorcycle Brake Systems, be reviewed to ensure that proof of compliance requirements are brought within the capacity of the Australian motorcycle industry (Paragraph 72 ).
Motorcycles utilising automatic clutches and automatic transmissions without a separate device for engine disengagement should be taken into account in the revision of Australian Design Rule 33 (Paragraph 73).
Motorcycle manufacturers provide as original equipment optional fairings and luggage carrying equipment endorsed as suitable to the Australian market;
The Advisory Committees on Safety in Vehicle Design and Vehicle Performance draft regulations restricting fitment to motorcycles of accessories likely to produce problems in vehicle stability; and
The Publicity Advisory Committee on Education in Road Safety in consulting with motorcycle user groups consider the need for assembling and publicising consumer information with regard to the fitment of accessories likely to introduce stability problems to motorcycles (Paragraph 80).
A literature and research review of existing and potential problems relating to motorcycle stability and handling be undertaken by the Advisory Committee on Safety in Vehicle Design (Paragraph 81).
The Publicity Advisory Committee on Education in Road Safety collate and publicise information on the matching of motorcycle tyres to specific machines (Paragraph 89).
The Advisory Committee on Safety in Vehicle Design draft design rules on motorcycle tyres, wheels and rims; and
The Advisory Committee on Vehicle Performance prepare Draft Regulations on motorcycle wheels and rims ( Paragraph 91).
The States and Territories consider adopting Section 1 8 of the Draft Regulations (Paragraph 93).
The Advisory Committee on Safety in Vehicle Design urgently introduce a design rule requiring a motorcycle’s headlamp to be on when the ignition switch is on; and
The Advisory Committee on Road User Performance and Traffic Codes include a requirement in the National Road Traffic Code for mandatory headlamp usage (Paragraph 107).
The Commonwealth Department of Transport undertake an assessment of the benefits of combining or extending aids to increase the conspicuity of motorcycles and riders and that these devices be tested in field trials involving actual riding conditions (Paragraph 113).
The Advisory Committee on Safety in Vehicle Design investigate the effect of car blind spots and the use or omission of near-side car mirrors on motorcycle and bicycle visibility, with a view to amending Australian Design Rule 1 4, Rear Vision Mirrors (Paragraph 114).
The Draft Regulation covering the use of flat mirrors for rearward vision be reviewed by the Advisory Committee on Vehicle Performance to permit the use of convex mirrors; and
In view of the firm convictions of riders favouring headlamp usage and convex mirrors, rider representatives be invited to participate in the deliberations of the Advisory Committees on Safety in Vehicle Design, on Vehicle Performance and on Road User Performance and Traffic Codes (Paragraph 1 1 5 ).
Compulsory motorcycle inspection be required prior to re-registration or transfer of ownership (Paragraph 120).
The Commonwealth Department of Transport sponsor and assist in the development and subsequent evaluation of pilot rider training and testing programs (Paragraph 126).
Model testing procedures and standards for rider and driver licence applicants be developed by the Commonwealth Department of Transport (Paragraph 131).
The Publicity Advisory Committee on Education in Road Safety develop and evaluate a range of publicity campaigns relating to motorcycle safety; and
Consideration be given to including rider representation in the development of the publicity campaign (Paragraph 138).
The Commonwealth Department of Business and Consumer Affairs and relevant State authorities give consideration to requiring that eye protection equipment sold to riders comply with the requirements of Australian Standard 1609, Automotive Eye Protection (Paragraph 151).
The Standards Association of Australia give consideration to the inclusion of anti-scratching requirements within Australian Standard 1609, Automotive Eye Protection (Paragraph 152).
As visors are often manufactured from polycarbonate the Standards Association of Australia include in Australian Standard 1609 a requirement for an informative brochure or label to be provided specifying safe cleaning materials and containing a warning on deleterious effects of hydrocarbons (Paragraph 153)
Relevant State authorities re-examine the need to retain differential speed restrictions on motorcycle riders with pillion passengers in view of the alleged additional risks involved when such vehicles are restricted to a lower speed than other traffic (Paragraph 155).
The National Association of Australian State Road Authorities sponsor further research to:
Road planning and construction authorities consider the differing safety requirements of motorcycles and other motor vehicles in future road construction and placement of road furniture (Paragraph 164).
The Standards Association of Australia helmet committee review Australian Standard 1 698, Protective Helmets for Vehicle Users, as soon as possible and that the review process seek to include the views of user, importing and manufacturing groups (Paragraph 175).
The Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs allow import entry to protective helmets particularly suited to speciality uses (Paragraph 180).
The Standards Association of Australia consider the need for separate standards on protective helmets suitable for use in an appropriate range of uses. Alternatively, the same purpose could be achieved by defining appropriate helmet categories, with appropriate testing requirements within an updated Australian Standard 1698 (Paragraph 181).
Customs Regulations be appropriately amended to allow import entry of helmets to be tested for compliance to Australian Standard 1698 (Paragraph 182).
The Advisory Committee on Road User Performance and Traffic Codes examine appropriate solutions to the problem of helmet sales which comply to superseded helmet standards or for which approval to Australian Standard 1698 has been withdrawn subsequent to marking (Paragraph 184).
The Commonwealth Department of Transport introduce a system of post-accident analysis of motorcyclists’ helmets; and
Compliance to Australian Standard 1698 of helmets available in the marketplace be monitored by a government sponsored independent testing agency and that the results be widely disseminated (Paragraph 1 85).
Responsible organisations support Dr Yeo’s proposals for collection of relevant information from spinal units throughout Australia and for a joint study by the Traffic Accident Research Unit in New South Wales and Dr Yeo into the relationship of helmet type and spinal cord injury (Paragraph 189).
Consideration be given to requiring imported bicycles to meet the requirements of Australian Standard 1927, Pedal Bicycles, as revised, and to having compliance to the standard required under Section 62 of the Trade Practices Act (Paragraph 221).
The Standards Association of Australia give serious consideration to amending Australian Standard 1927 to require two braking systems on bicycles and to provide for appropriate levels of wet weather braking performance. (Paragraph 224).
The Standards Association of Australia immediately review Australian Standard 1 927 with a view to including requirements to control unsafe features of Dragster or Hi Rise handlebar bicycles (Paragraph 226).
A study be undertaken by the Commonwealth Department of Transport to assess the advantages and disadvantages of compulsory registration of bicycles in Australia (Paragraph 247).
The benefits of roadworthiness checks on bicycles be also considered in the study on compulsory bicycle registration recommended by the Committee (Paragraph 250).
Further research be undertaken examining the feasibility of developing a training curriculum suitable for use as a cyclist training guide throughout Australia (Paragraph 255).
Stricter enforcement of road rules applying to cyclists be implemented (Paragraph 258).
Consideration be given to whether registration procedures should include tests for cyclist competency and licensing in the study recommended by the Committee on compulsory bicycle registration (Paragraph 264 ).
The Publicity Advisory Committee on Education and Road Safety consider the need for appropriate publicity campaigns on bicycle safety (Paragraph 268).
The safety value of the various types of bicycle ways including the use of footpaths be investigated under Australian conditions by the Commonwealth Department of Transport (Paragraph 275).
Cyclists be advised of the safety benefits of protective helmets by publicity or other suitable means; and
The possibility of requiring cyclists to wear helmets be kept under review (Paragraph 289).
The minimum age for granting a licence for moped riding be one year less than that for a motorcycle licence (Paragraph 306).
The requirement that moped riders wear crash helmets should be retained (Paragraph 310).
– I thank the House.
-by leave- In rising to speak to the motion on the tabling of this report by the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) I should like to be associated at the commencement of my remarks with his remarks made at the conclusion of his speech thanking the members of the Standing Committee on Road Safety secretariat and advisers for the work that they put in in assisting the Committee in the preparation of the report and in compiling the submissions and evidence which were brought to the attention of the Committee. I particularly mention the standard of the submissions and the interest displayed by the people who prepared those submissions. After all, it is of no use setting up committees unless the people who are expert and interested in the field into which the Committee is inquiring are prepared to give their time and to work in preparing submissions. Unless they were prepared to do that the whole inquiry would fall down and we would be left to our own resources. I think that at all times we should express our appreciation to the people who draft these submissions and for the work that they put into them because, in the main, in respect of all of these committees they are dedicated people who have a particular interest in what they are doing.
The point I want to deal with as far as the report is concerned is that once again this report, together with all the other reports that this Committee has brought down, draws attention to the tragedy- and I emphasise this point- which has resulted from the Government’s dismantling the Road Safety and Standards Authority. Today that Authority’s first report was finally tabled in this House. It is only a very minor report because the Authority was functional for only a very short time. I am concerned that although the Authority was in existence from 1 May 1975 to 9 June 1976 it has taken the Minister almost two years to table the report in this place. I would like the Minister to give me some explanation at some future time as to why it took so long to bring to the attention of this House the fact that that Authority was under way. I take it that the Government dismantled the Road Safety and Standards Authority as an economy measure which saved it the magnificent sum of $ 1m. The total cost of setting up the Authority was approximately $10m and the estimated annual cost was about $ 1 m, which is about one-fortieth of what it will cost the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) to buy two Boeing 727 aircraft. It is strange to see the priorities of this Government as to where money should be expended. On the one hand it can spend money on luxury aircraft for the Prime Minister and his Ministers, but on the other hand it could do something of credit, value and assistance for the community. I will deal later in my speech with the number of people who are killed each year in the never ending war that is taking place on Australian roads and roads throughout the world.
I would like to refer to the substitution of the mythical Office of Road Safety within the Department of Transport. One can appreciate the benefits that can flow from such an office within the Department of Transport. However, this office is subservient to the wishes of the Minister and the Department as a whole. Whilst I have great regard for the integrity of the men within the Department and their interest in road safety, they are still governed by government policy and by what the Minister decides the Department will do. Just imagine what the result would have been if one had tried to suppress or gag two of the commissioners of the Road Safety and Standards Authority. I will not deal with Mr Frank Yeend, who I consider was a first-class chairman of the Authority. One of the commissioners was the then Alderman Clem Jones, a former lord mayor of Brisbane. Fancy anyone thinking he could suppress Clem Jones from telling the truth and giving the facts of what was happening as far as road safety was concerned. The other commissioner was Professor Cummings, a man who has a great interest in road safety and who is a recognised authority on this subject in Australia. Those two men no longer are able to sit on the Road Safety and Standards Authority and help to make recommendations to the Government.
I now wish to refer to a committee set up not by the Labor Government but by the Liberal Government to inquire into road safety. This Committee, which was made up of experts on road safety and on the motor industry as a whole, brought down a first class report in the dying days of the McMahon Government. I read that report as did other members of the Labor Government and we were only too happy to implement its recommendations. I always remember what Mr Justice Meares, the Chairman of that Committee, said when I indicated to him what our Government’s intention was. He said: The difference between your Government and the former Government was that they could have done something about it but did not whereas your Government which could have done something did in fact do something’. I think this is something that always has to be borne in mind. What is the use of setting up inquiries if the government of the day does not do something about the recommendations that are made? What is the use of bringing experts together to advise government if their advice is ignored? That is what has happened as far as the Road Safety and Standards Authority is concerned. The Authority made a first-class report which was ignored completely by this Government. The Authority has been dismantled in order to save a paltry $ lm a year. The Authority, through its recommendations, could have done something to save lives. It could have saved people from being maimed or confined to wheelchairs for the rest of their lives as invalid pensioners. Yet the Government does not worry about spending millions of dollars when it seeks to buy comfortable VIP aircraft for the Prime Minister.
I now wish to refer to the 1976-77 annual report of the Department of Transport which indicates the number of people being killed on the roads. So that honourable members can read the figures I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard table 2 and table 3 contained on page 18 of this report.
-I have added the preliminary figures for 1 977. They are from the Parliamentary Library and are authentic. Once again, the figures show that over the last ten years the figure for road deaths has more or less consolidated at around 3,500 a year. The figure for 1977 was 3,572 as against the figure in 1976 of 3,583. There has been substantial increase in the number of people injured in road accidents. The figure for 1977 was 91,635 as against a figure of 87,808 the year before. It is interesting to add up the figures to see the number of people who have been killed on roads. Since 1967 35,794 people have been killed on the roads and 898,062 have been injured in road accidentsthese are pedestrians, people travelling in cars, on motor bikes and motor cycles. We realise how important the Committee on Road Safety is and what an important authority the Road Safety and Standards Authority would have been.
The other matter I want to deal with- I do not want to take up too much time- is the heavy vehicle safety report of the Road Safety Committee that was tabled in this House in April 1 977. That report contained 28 major recommendations. I was not a member of the Committee which sat during the term of the Labor Government. At this point of time there is no visible evidence of any action of major consequence taking place as far as the recommendations of that Committee are concerned. I am concerned that not only are recommendations of committees such as the committee of experts basically ignored by this Government but also there is not sufficient activity in relation to the recommendations of standing committees and select committees of this place. What is the use of members of committees sitting and taking evidence if the Government or the Minister does not take notice of the recommendations? If the Government is not going to take notice of the recommendations it could save taxpayers’ money because the committees cost money to operate.
I come back to the present report which once again highlights the variety of State traffic rules and regulations and the need for uniformity. The Australian Transport Advisory Council at which State and Federal Ministers for Transport meet drew up a traffic code some years ago. The best that one can say is that the code is being honoured in the breach rather than in its observance. Time and again, as our Committee goes around the States taking evidence, we find clear evidence of the conflict and difference between traffic rules and regulations. The honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter), drew attention to the need for a uniform code for traffic so that uniform statistics can be kept and so that we do not get into a situation where one State compiles statistics on people who are 2 1 and another State on people who are 23 and this sort of thing. There is a great need for the States to get together with the Commonwealth to observe this traffic code. The Federal Government may have to provide some finance to ensure that this traffic code is implemented and adopted by the various States. To me this would be sensible expenditure by the Government because I believe that in the long run it could have the effect of reducing the number of accidents. I recall some time ago that the Committee at one of its first hearings when it was formed back in 1972-1 was then a foundation member of the committee- heard evidence from Australian Capital Territory authorities to the effect that people were involved in accidents in the Australian Capital Territory because the traffic rules for Canberra were different from those in New South Wales, Victoria or any of the other States for that matter. So there is clear evidence that a uniform traffic code would save lives and save people from injury. I call on the Minister to do something positive even if it means the Federal Government has to provide finance.
I do not propose to go through all the recommendations made by the Committee. However, there are a number which I consider to be of importance. One is the question of standards for motor bikes. Admittedly, most of the motor bikes in Australia today are imported. There are varying standards of construction. The various authorities in Australia that are responsible for the Australian Design Rules for motor bikes should be requiring manufacturers to build into motor bikes all the best standards that are applicable overseas. Do not let us get any idea that the manufacturer does not build for the market. Australia is a substantial market for the motor bike manufacturer. Therefore if the Commonwealth Minister for Transport were to direct the people that are responsible for putting together the ADRs that he wanted the maximum safety built into motor bikes, then believe you me the motor bike manufacturers would heed that requirement.
Another method of requiring manufacturers to build safety into their motor bikes would be to provide that unless those bikes met the requirements laid down here in Australia they would not be permitted to be imported and certainly would not be registered. I consider this is a most important recommendation, and I hope that the Minister will do something about it. He can. I hope he will.
On the question of braking and training, an important matter that was brought to our attention during the inquiry was the question of brakes. There are ADRs covering braking. What is the requirement? One of the things that we found out was the number of motor cycle riders who are afraid of their front wheel brakes. We even had representatives of the motor cycle sections of the various State police forces who said they never used them. There is clear evidence from people who are expert and experienced in handling front wheel braking that that is the best form of braking in all circumstances as far as motor cycles are concerned. Yet not more than about 10 per cent, if that, of the motor cycle riders today are game to use their front wheel brakes because they have the impression that if they use their front wheel brake they will finish up over the handlebars, when in actual fact that is not the position.
For that reason alone I consider that there are justifiable grounds for requiring motor cyclists, when getting their licence, to demonstrate their capacity and ability to use front wheel braking. This Wil not cost anyone any money. That is the thing that one always runs into when dealing with the matter of safety. As soon as one starts to talk about safety, improvements to vehicles, improvements to motor bikes or whatever it might be, one immediately gets a reaction against it: How much is it going to cost? Requiring people to demonstrate their ability to use their front wheel braking system does not cost anything, but I believe that in the long term it can save lives and can save injury to people.
A very important recommendation of the Committee is the last one, and that deals with the question of mopeds. A moped is a slow, low speed vehicle. The Committee recommended that the licensing of riders be continued and not abandoned and that the minimum age for a licence be reduced to one year below the age at which a person can get a motor bike licence. Young people, particularly those under 2 1 years of age, have a shocking record of accidents on motor cycles. This is an excellent opportunity to train them on a low speed vehicle rather than on a high speed vehicle. They often want to ride all sorts of powerful bikes. I think it is an excellent opportunity to do something about it.
Another thing that struck me in this inquiry, as I have found in most of these road safety inquiries, was the resistance and reaction of people to compulsion. The reaction against helmets has been overcome. It is now compulsory to wear helmets, but there was a very strong reaction against that in the early stages. Everyone agrees that if riders can be persuaded to ride their bikes with their headlights on and to wear conspicuous clothing other motorists on the road will be able to see them and in this way probably avoid accidents. Yet when one talks about it being compulsory for them to put their headlight on, or that when they turn on the ignition the headlight automatically comes on, one gets a very strong reaction against it. I hope that all governments, including the State governments, which are mainly responsible for this matter, ignore this opposition and get on with the job and require it to be done.
The other thing that is important to keep in mind is alcohol. On this basis I look forward to the next inquiry, namely driver behaviour, and I hope one of the first things will be the effect of drugs and alcohol on people. The annual report of the Department of Transport, at page 1 19 - without quoting it- refers to the fact that more than 50 per cent of all accidents involve alcohol. If that is the position, when are we really going to do something about it? Certainly there is the breathalyzer, but unless the legislation is enforced it is not worth the paper that it is written on.
I strongly support those people who have advocated random testing. I am a wowser, but I do not mind anyone having a drink. I do not mind anyone driving when he is full of booze, so long as he kills himself and not other people on the road. That is my reaction to it. No one has a licence to drink as much as he likes and kill his fellow man. For that reason it is up to the police forces of this country to be authorised and to be instructed to carry out random testing, to make sure that people who are on the road are not in a condition whereby they can kill their fellow man. It is up to the police to carry out that sort of surveillance. What would be wrong with the police being around or adjacent to hotels and clubs at the time when accidents peak? Look at the number of deaths that take place around the 6 o’clock period.
Here is an opportunity to help people who need help and to protect people from those who need help. So I strongly support random testing, because I believe it is one way of compelling people- if they will not do it voluntarily- to stop drinking and driving which kills people. In conclusion, I say that I look forward to the Committee’s findings of the next inquiry, which I think will be an excellent one, on driver behaviour. I thank the House.
-by leave-First of all I would like to congratulate the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter), the Chairman of the Standing Committee on Road Safety, and also the Deputy Chairman of the Committee, the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones), and all members of the Committee. I was rather surprised that the honourable member for Newcastle spoke as he did. All members of the Committee worked in a spirit of co-operation. Today, unfortunately, he took the matter into the political arena once again and, I thought, made a few very unfair comparisons. I will forget about that because I have not got very much time.
I agree with one point that he made, that it is a very important committee and that the report brought down is important. I am afraid that today road deaths are not given the publicity that they should be. If somebody was killed in a war there would be a hue and cry. Ten people die on the roads every day, and one of those ten dies as a result of a motor cycle accident. I believe that in some States of Australia young people are sent out to get killed on the roads, because they go out quite unsuspecting, unable to handle a motor cycle; they do not know enough about the roads and they do not know how to handle a motor cycle in a given situation. To me, that is cardinal.
I firmly believe that every young rider of a motor cycle should have a pre-training test before he or she is allowed on to the Australian roads. Sometimes I read where a young person of 15 or 16 years of age has a motor cycle for two weeks and is then killed. Unfortunately, some are injured in such a way that they create many burdens to the community in respect of hospital costs et cetera. An emotional situation which affects their parents is created. It is a growing problem. It is one of which the Committee is aware. We have all worked in a spirit of cooperation, hoping to overcome the problems of road safety, hoping to overcome some of the tragic deaths that occur on our roads today.
I congratulate the Chairman of the Committee for his diligent work. I also congratulate the Deputy Chairman of the Committee because he has a great insight into road safety. He has contributed, but today he made reference to the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) spending Sim on an aeroplane, when that does not even concern road safety. Let us get on with the job of overcoming road deaths in Australia. Let us forget about the pettiness of politics and get on with the job of reminding the people that we all have a moral obligation to reduce the number of deaths on our roads, deaths that should not occur but do because we as bumbling politicians do not work in unity and do not talk to the States about having uniform road laws or pre-training courses.
-by leave-In addition to thanking my colleagues on the Standing Committee on Road Safety for their cooperation and courtesy during the conduct of the inquiry into motorcycle and bicycle safety, I thank the staff of the Committee for the very good work it has done, for its dedication during the long hours of work that were involved, particularly in the preparation of the draft and final reports. I want briefly to take up the point raised by the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Goodluck) in relation to politics in road safety. I am very sorry to have to tell him, but politics are a part of road safety. Both major political parties have in their policies on transport a reference to road safety. Each party has a specific policy on road safety, so it is rather naive to expect that politics will not enter into road safety or into the priorities of the government in office. I reinforce the point made by the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) that this Government gives priority to a $40m program to reequip the VIP fleet.
I refer to the annual report of the independent Road Safety and Standards Authority which was abolished by this Government in 1976. On page 4 the report dealt with the repeal of the Road Safety and Standards Authority Act and stated:
As part of its drive to achieve savings in administrative costs, the Government decided to incorporate the Authority into the Department of Transport and its officers were therefore transferred back to departmental strength on 27 May 1976.
In the Budget Papers for the current year there is almost no evidence of a saving of any magnitude following the abolition of the independent authority on road safety. That fact has to be taken into account in considering the report of the Committee. On the last page of the report which was tabled today- it is rather coincidental that it was tabled today- the letter from the AuditorGeneral certifying the accounts of the Authority states that the accounts for the period from 1 July 1 975 to 9 June 1 976 were submitted for report on 11 April 1978, almost two years after the abolition of the Authority. Two years after that body was dismantled it is now very late to be looking at the results of its operations.
I now refer to the point made by the honourable member for Franklin about publicity. I do not know whether he is aware of it but one of the reasons for the lack of publicity about road safety is that some 12 months ago an officer of the Department who is not a member of the Australian Journalists Association, although doing the work of a journalist, was appointed to a position in the public relations section of the Office of Road Safety, as it is now called. As I understand the position as it was about 10 days ago, the AJA has placed a ban on information distributed by the Office of Road Safety because of the Government’s failure to appoint a member of the AJA to that public relations position. I do not want to play politics but I reinforce the remarks of the honourable member for Franklin. Road safety is too important for information to be banned or held back from the community. I ask the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) to look at the position and try to provide an effective remedy.
In the evidence taken by the Committee leading to the preparation of the report which has now been tabled, the Committee heard of the high incidence of alcohol in road accidents, particularly in accidents involving young people, and in this respect I want to go outside the area of road safety and reinforce the remarks of another speaker and air my own very strong feelings about the related matter of alcohol. I support much of what the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) said in respect of alcohol. I am not a wowser and I do not deny the right of other people to consume alcohol, but if they want to consume alcohol they have a responsibility to the community and to other road users to consume it in a manner, and to make their way home or to wherever they are going in a manner that does not endanger other members of the community. In recent months there has been a rather insidious new element creeping into this alcohol problem. I refer to advertisements for alcohol. I will not name the breweries but honourable members will know the breweries involved. There have been frequent television advertisements promoting the sale of alcohol in which organised youth recreational activity is associated with the consumption of alcohol.
– Very improper.
-It is very improper. It is quite dangerous to the community and to me it is immoral. It brings into direct conflict the problems which face Australian youth. On the one hand they are induced to consume alcohol, apparently on the assumption that recreation activity for youth and alcohol go hand in hand. On the other side of the equation is the high incidence of death amongst young Australians. If the community is to accept public revenue from the sale of alcohol and if the private sector is to obtain revenue from the sale and advertising of alcohol, then we all have a responsibility not to endanger the lives of young people by promoting their consumption of alcohol. Eighty per cent of single vehicle road crashes involve alcohol as a major contributing factor and there is a disproportionate number of young people involved in serious injury or death as a result of the consumption of alcohol. So I say on behalf of the young people of Australia to those who market the product, please do not try to promote the belief that success in organised sport and success in life are dependent upon or are in any way associated with the consumption of alcohol. The consumption of alcohol is certainly not a measure of achievement in this country despite the fact that many people would have us believe that it is.
The last matter that I want to mention relates to the recommendations of the Committee. As the honourable member for Newcastle mentioned earlier, there is little evidence that the recommendations contained in the Committee’s two previous reports have been followed through. I welcome the statement made recently in this chamber by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) that the Government has undertaken to require a Minister within six months of a report being tabled in this Parliament to deliver an address to the Parliament on what action has been taken by his Department in relation to those recommendations. It is pointless wasting the money of the public, the time of honourable members and committee staff, and the time of the people who present submissions on a voluntary basis, if the Government is not prepared to pick up the recommendations of committees. This Government’s move as outlined in that statement is to be welcomed and I support it. I hope that the recommendations of this Committee in respect of motorcycle and bicycle safety will receive the full support of the Minister for Transport.
-On behalf of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence I present an interim report on Australia, Antarctica and the Law of the Sea. I seek leave of the House to make a short statement in connection with that report.
-In speaking to this report which was prepared by the Territorial Boundaries Sub-Committee of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, I note that this is the third committee report tabled in this House today. The bipartisan nature of our report reflects the attitude to the work of parliamentary committees in Canberra whereby the two political parties can agree and make contributions for the national good. I would hope that this would be recognised in the reporting by the media of the reports which are tabled today.
In presenting the interim report of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence on Australia, Antarctica and the Law of the Sea, I express appreciation to the Deputy Chairman of the main Committee, Senator the Honourable Reginald Bishop, who chaired most of the final meetings of the Committee which approved the report, in the absence overseas of the Chairman, Senator the Honourable Sir Magnus Cormack. I also pay tribute to Sir Magnus for his help and support in the work of the Sub-Committee and wish him well in his impending retirement. I pay tribute to my colleagues on the Sub-Committee. The honourable member for Hawker (Mr Jacobi), an Opposition member who was a member of the sub-committee in the previous Parliament and this one, is a man with great knowledge in this area. Honourable members should note that a member of the Government is paying tribute to a member of the Opposition.
– Hear, hear!
-I notice a ‘hear, hear’ from another member of the Committee, the honourable member for Leichhardt (Mr Thomson) who represents the National Country Party. So, it is an all-Party report and I pay tribute to my colleagues of all parties on the Committee. In March 1977 the Joint Committee gave the SubCommittee a reference in the following terms:
To consider investigate and report generally on the effect on Australia’s maritime boundaries of current developments of the Law of the Sea including extension of the territorial sea, fishing and/or economic zones including exploitation of resources and particularly how these developments might affect Australia’s Antarctic Territory and the problem of pelagic fisheries in the EEZ.
Last year the Sub-Committee commenced to receive evidence and submissions, the work being recommenced after the election and the reconstitution of the main Committee on 7 March 1978. The Committee is aware that developments in the field of Law of the Sea have not been finalised. Before an acceptable regime or rules of international law can be established more negotiations must be undertaken.
Members will be aware that as I speak the three Bills which will amend the Fisheries, Continental Shelf, and Whaling Acts respectively, which were recently passed by this House, are still the subject of debate in the Senate.
The seventh session of the Third Law of the Sea Conference, which was expected to be the final session, from which a convention would be drafted, has been adjourned to meet again in New York in August. The committee felt that an interim report should be presented to outline some of the difficulties involved and to show the progress made to date on the development of a Law of the Sea regime as it affects Australia and the Australian Antarctic Territory.
The interim report traces early developments in attempts to regulate both the use of the world’s oceans as a highway for shipping and utilisation of the ocean’s resources both living and non-living. These efforts culminated in the establishment by the United Nations, of the Third Conference on the Law of the Sea. Australia has attended all the sessions of this Conference. The first session of the Third Conference was held in New York in 1973, the seventh session as mentioned has just recently been adjourned in Geneva. It is hoped that one of the members of the Committee, the honourable member for Swan (Mr Martyr), will attend that meeting as an observer. Notwithstanding this there has been some general international acceptance of some of the new developments. The most important of these is the almost universal acceptance of the right of coastal States to declare 200 mile exclusive economic zones or fishing zones around their coastlines.
The interim report deals with a number of Law of the Sea matters directly affecting Australia, including Australian existing policy; foreseeable changes in Australian legislation; effects on the Australian fishing industry, exploitation of minerals; surveillance; Antarctica and foreign policy implications. The report because of its interim nature does not contain recommendations for future Government policy. The report does, however, put forward a number of suggestions and conclusions including:
The committee is satisfied that the Government is treating the question of the Law of the Sea Conference with the degree of seriousness and granting it the degree of priority which this subject deserves. The committee is not convinced, however, that the Government has given this issue the publicity which is necessary if the issues are to be understood by the general public The committee feels the Government should prepare a White Paper which in addition to stating the Government’s policy will also canvass the enure issue of the Law of the Sea Conference, and the Government hopes for a new multilateral Convention resulting from the Conference;
– Hear, hear.
-I note that the honourable member for St George applauds that comment. Other suggestions and conclusions included:
The advantages of establishing a joint CommonwealthStateIndustry committee to prepare guidelines for joint venture fishing enterprises;
Doubt that sea bed mining excluding hydro carbon developments will be undertaken in Australian waters in the foreseeable future;
Necessity for international agreement on the exploitation of the resources of the Antarctic;
Need for a co-ordinated policy on future surveillance arrangements.
A map entitled ‘Australian Maritime Boundaries’ is published with the report. I believe that it is one of the first maps showing the likely 200 mile zones. The lines on this map are not intended to prejudge any negotiations between nations. It is published to show the important nature of the issues involved. I trust that the new procedure for parliamentary reports as announced by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in this House on 25 May will be adopted regarding this report, namely, that within six months there will be a ministerial statement. I commend the report to the House.
-I seek leave of the House to incorporate in Hansard a document that was really relevant to the previous debate. I apologise. I did not have it ready in time. It is a copy of the road safety policy of the Victorian Branch of the Labor Party adopted in October 1977. 1 have spoken about this to the Minister. I should be grateful if it could be incorporated in Hansard.
The document read as follows:
Road deaths and injuries are a major national disaster. Currently 90,000 people are injured and 3,700 killed on Australian roads each year, imposing an intolerable burden on families and the community. In Victoria, the totals are 18,000 injured and 800 killed each year- a cost to the taxpayer of over $340m.
Road trauma is a result of an increasingly motorised and competitive society, where citzens’ interests are subordinated to market forces. Their influence on those under 30 in their use of cars and motor cycles is reflected by the fact that 63 per cent of injured belong to that group, 50 per cent are under 25 and 25 per cent are between 1 7 and 20 years.
Victoria’s motor accident death rate- per 10,000 vehicles or per 100,000 population- is about 10 per cent lower than the rest of Australia and the injury rate is about one-third lower.
There are slightly more fatal accidents in the metropolitan statistical district compared with the rest of Victoria and more than twice the number of ‘injury only’ accidents in the metropolitan area.
An average of 85 per cent of drivers killed and 72 per cent of drivers injured in Victoria are male. About 73 per cent of road users killed and 63 per cent of road users injured are male.
Aggressive or drunken driving is overwhelmingly caused by male drivers. Over 50 per cent of the road trauma is associated with blood alcohol levels of 0.05 and over.
Excessive psychological dependence on the car has made it an increasingly expensive status symbol, an example of mobile privatism’- where the isolated driver may feel that his car is an extension of home- an outlet for anxiety, masculine aggression (machismo), and compensation for sexual frustration, or a sense of personal inadequacy rather than a rational mode of transportation in urban areas.
Faster and more powerful vehicles need rapid reflex response for safe use. However, ageing, fatigue, alcohol, loss of concentration and other related factors slow down human reflexes significantly. The widening gap between vehicle capacity and reflex response in drivers, pedestrians and other road users must be compensated for by greater understanding of how road systems work, improved driver education and reduced psychological dependence on the car.
Labor will plan education programs at all levels and in the mass media to emphasise defensive driving and the concept of driving as a team sport in which survival depends on cooperative use of road space, not on competitive use. Such programs would direct attention to anti-social and selfdefeating elements in driving, such as speeding and the use of alcohol, drugs and analgesics. Its safety education program will however be concentrated on those groups most at risk; children, old people, pedestrians, cyclists and motorists.
Labor will initiate immediate research into the specific factors in driver behaviour causing high incidence of road accidents.
Labor will ask the Commonwealth Government to restrict advertising campaigns for vehicles which emphasise that speed = power, and other factors encouraging aggressive driving.
Labor will increase penalties for using alcohol, drugs and analgesics by drivers, as, for example, under Swedish law.
Labor will repeal laws of regulations requiring provision of substantial car parking areas at hotels. To cope with peak drinking hours at hotels where public transport is available, provision of or access to a shuttle bus service shall be a condition of the issue or renewal of hotel licences.
Labor will introduce a system of graded licences in which further tests will be required before licencees are permitted to drive fast, powerful or poorly protected vehicles.
-On behalf of the Standing Committee on Expenditure I present the report of the Committee on the Defence Service homes scheme together with minutes of the proceedings, the transcript of evidence and published exhibits.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– by leave-The report which has been tabled is the first from the Expenditure Committee established in the 31st
Parliament. It is the fourth report of the Committee.
Continuing the general practice of the Committee the first section of the report is a summary of the report’s salient features. I suggest that honourable members who are interested in the report could get a full perspective of the contents by reading the four page summary and the recommendations page.
As honourable members would know, the Defence Service Homes scheme- DSHS- came into operation in 1919 as part of a series of repatriation measures for those who served their country in the First World War. Since then the DSHS benefits have been extended to those who served their country in World War II, other campaigns and serving members of the forces as well.
Basically, DSHS assists eligible persons to acquire a residential dwelling. It does this by giving these persons housing loans of $15,000- the maximum- which sum, although it does not go anywhere near to covering the cost of say a standard 3 bedroom house, nevertheless gives such persons significant concessions because of the low interest rates charged, that is, about 4.5 per cent. The scheme makes a significant call on public sector resources, and costs over $ 16m a year to administer. Not only is total expenditure in excess of $ 130m in 1977-78 but it is likely also that because of the nature of DSHS similar sums of money will be required in perpetuity.
Against this background the Committee’s inquiry has been concerned primarily with an examination of whether:
There is a more effective way to deliver the benefit than by giving housing loans at concessional interest rates,
The scheme is being administered economically and efficiently.
Before referring to the program alternatives the Committee considered in relation to DSHS, there are some general comments I wish to make. Evaluation of programs requires an examination, among other things, of whether there are alternatives which might yield desired results at lower costs. This work falls within clauses 1 (b) and 1 (c) of the Committee’s terms of reference. Such an interpretation was supported by the Secretary of the Treasury and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet in in-camera evidence in May- June 1 976.
In examining program alternatives the Committee has taken the stated policy objectives as given. The question the Committee has asked is, given the desire of governments to reward war veterans, to attract persons to the Services and to compensate servicemen for housing-related disabilities, and given the fact that the reward or compensation is accomplished by a housing loan, why is it not possible to compensate and reward by means of a non-repayable cash grant? The cash grant proposal, then, is another way of achieving the policy objectives. The Committee tested the feasibility of this proposal against a number of criteria, the more important of which were whether the grant would cost more than the concessional interest housing loan and whether it would benefit recipients of DSHS benefits.
Consequently, we first examined the nonoptional or exclusive cash grant; in other words, the total replacement of loans with grants. We found the exclusive grant had a lot to offer. For example, it would lead to a significant reduction in administrative costs in the long-term, would generally benefit most recipients and particularly benefit those eligible persons who in addition to the DSHS loan also borrow from high interest short repayment period institutions- to the tune of over $50 a week. But for a number of reasons the Committee decided that the introduction of a totally exclusive cash grant to be premature. What was found to be feasible was an optional grant; that is, a system which allowed the eligible persons to choose between a loan and a grant. Our analysis shows that an optional grant of about $5,500 is equivalent to the concessional interest rate loan and should also benefit most eligible persons. Appropriate recommendations have been made.
Such recommendations have been made after careful and systematic evaluation of the program. It is true that some of the calculations are of necessity based on broad judgments. But what should not be lost sight of is that since the grants scheme costs very little to administer, it provides the opportunity for converting significant administration costs into benefits for recipients and savings for taxpayers. It is surely axiomatic that such a proposal would make public sector spending more effective and productive. While a cash grant should allow for significant reductions in administration costs, this would happen in the longer term. The Committee therefore examined whether the scheme is being administered efficiently. In one area of administration- the processing of applications for first loans- we used an objective measure of efficiency, namely, the number of man-days used to process an application, and compared one State’s performance with that of another. On the basis of these interstate comparisons we concluded that the number of staff should be reduced by 14.
We also examined very closely the question of whether the payment of $1.6m at concessional interest rate of something like 2.3 per cent to the Australian Postal Commission is the most economical and effective way of collecting repayments from DSHS borrowers. The Committee established a prima facie case for other alternatives which could save as much as $lm a year. Additional work to that which we have initiated will be needed before our proposals become fact. We are satisfied that this can be done. There is also the question of establishing a process- a mechanism- by which parliamentary oversight and scrutiny can be continued. There are two ways of doing this. First there is a case for the Auditor-General to review the administrative efficiency of DSHS, say, in 1979-80. We have suggested this. We have also recommended that annual reports contain a series of efficiency ratios which will assist in general oversight. Whenever an organisation which the Expenditure Committee is examining reports to the Parliament annually, we will, as a general principle, examine the possibility of these reports including efficiency measures. The Parliament has the right to be informed. These are merely some of an integrated series of recommendations.
The Committee has recorded its appreciation to the staff which assisted in this inquiry. I would also like to thank Hansard staff, the Australian Government Publishing Service and the Government Printer for printing this report and Miss Tania Gorman for the secretarial support she has provided.
I am delighted to inform the House that the Committee is functioning in an atmosphere of bipartisan co-operation. I wish to thank members of the Government parties and of the Opposition for their contribution to the long and persistent work of the Committee. I thank the SubCommittee which comprised the honourable member for Henty (Mr Aldred), the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr John Brown), the honourable member for Berowra (Dr Edwards) and the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Stewart) and the former member for Riverina, Lieutenant-Colonel John Sullivan, who was a member of the Sub-Committee of the Committee set up in the Thirtieth Parliament. We are all aware of the importance of our work which is basically that of making this Committee, the first of its kind in the House since Federation, an effective instrument of parliamentary scrutiny. In particular I thank the Deputy Chairman of the Committee, the honourable member for
Grayndler, for his untiring efforts in this regard. I welcome this opportunity to inform the House of the Committee’s work and to urge honourable members and the public to scrutinise and to evaluate our proposals so that they can be made effective to help the Australian people.
-by leaveThe Defence Service Homes scheme has been operating almost 60 years. It began in 1919. Thus its operation spans two world wars and several smaller wars. Defence Service homes benefits have thus applied to serving members of the forces for more than half a century as part of repatriation benefits. Basically, the scheme helps eligible persons to finance a home. Housing loans of up to $15,000 at low interest rates- 4.5 per cent- are made available under the scheme. The scheme is expensive, as well as being worthy. In 1977-78 the scheme will cost $130m, that figure including $16m in administration costs. It seems that the administration costs represent more than 10 per cent of the total value of loans. Also it seems that such funds will be needed permanently.
Therefore the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Expenditure has examined primarily whether there is a better way of giving these benefits than by making loans at concessional rates and, secondly, whether there is a way of administering the scheme more economically. The Government wants to reward war veterans. It wants to attract suitable people into the Services, and it wants to compensate servicemen and servicewomen for the difficulties which their jobs may impose on them in relation to housing. The basic question is how that can best be done. Why do we not make a cash grant instead of a loan at cheap interest rates? After detailed examination of the possibilities and problems, the Committee found that an optional grant was feasible; that is, any eligible person could choose between a loan and a grant. Our analysis showed that an optional cash grant of about $5,500 is equivalent to the maximum concessional interest loan of $15,000. The Committee has thus recommended that this option be made available, particularly since a grant scheme will cost very little to run and will certainly cost very much less to administer than the loans system. Considerable savings to taxpayers in the form of reduced administration costs should result from this.
In regard to the administration of the loans system, we found that there is room for improvement. We concluded that the staff should be better rationalised. We believe also that further savings of up to $ 1 m a year can be made by improving the system of collecting repayments from borrowers. The details of this have still to be worked out. Basically it seems that it would be cheaper to take away from Australia Post the facility to collect repayments because it is now receiving $1.6m a year for carrying out that task. We suggest also that the Auditor-General should conduct a review of the efficiency or otherwise of the Defence Service homes scheme, for instance, in 1 979-80. Also the annual report on the scheme should, we feel, contain efficiency ratings which will help in oversight of the scheme.
The inquiry has been a bipartisan one. I agree with the Chairman of the Committee, the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns), when he says that there was an atmosphere of great co-operation in the Committee’s work. I conclude by saying that as a new member of this House I found great stimulation in taking part in the work of this inquiry. I consider that the findings of the Expenditure Committee being implemented or at least recognised would add greatly to the effectiveness of this very laudable scheme. I pay tribute to my fellow Committee members and the Committee staff, and I pay particular tribute to our Chairman, the honourable member for Lilley, for his gentle guidance.
-by leave-I join with the Chairman of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Expenditure, the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns), in commending to the House the work of the Committee. As he pointed out, the ultimate purpose is to establish the Committee as an effective instrument of parliamentary scrutiny, and I believe that the Committee is well on the way to being that. In the spirit of goodwill prevailing I support the two previous speakers in commending the atmosphere in which the Committee conducted its deliberations. As the Chairman said, it was an atmosphere of bipartisan cooperation.
I take the opportunity also to stress the point that in the Committee ‘s report there is no suggestion of reducing the benefits available to exservicemen or to serving members of the forces. The Committee has looked closely at the existing arrangements and has come up with this suggestion that in lieu of a housing loan scheme which, in effect, gives a benefit in respect of interest rates- which of course will vary with fluctuations in general interest rates- an alternative might well be a cash grant. This would have a number of benefits, not the least being a significant saving in administrative costs which, as the Chairman rightly stressed, has the advantage that it provides the opportunity for converting significant administrative costs into benefits for recipients, with a saving to taxpayers. In order to keep these remarks very brief, I mention only that the proposal that the Committee has come up with should have the effect of enabling a larger number of ex-servicemen or serving personnel to benefit. I commend the Committee’s report and its work to the House.
– by leave- The recommendation in the report of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Expenditure with regard to administration is a very sound one. When the Defence Service Homes scheme came under the responsibility of the Australian Housing Corporation, the then Government looked at this question of administrative costs. They were quite high, as the report points out- $ 1 6m a year. Page 7 of the report shows that even though at present there are 1,046 positions there are, in fact, only 967 staff employed. The honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) mentioned government revenue and that when public expenditure is spent, it should be spent wisely. I think there are many ways in which we could cut down on the administrative cost of war service homes. Certainly when I was the Minister responsible for this matter, the late Alex Ramsay, who was the chairman of the Australian Housing Corporation reported to me personally that many savings could be made in the administration costs of war service homes. I commend the Committee’s report for its concurrence in this regard.
I wish to warn the House about this proposition of an optional grant. Anyone on either side of the House who has ever been in Cabinet knows that for years Treasury has been trying to do away with this subsidised proposal of 3% per cent interest. For instance, during Labor’s term in office, Treasury put forward proposals that we do away with the 3% per cent interest rate and increase the rate to one per cent below the long term bond rate. That request was refused by the Labor Administration. We also know for a fact that such a proposal was approved in Cabinet by the present Government but was later overruled by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). So we have this situation where Treasury wants to do away with this concessional rate of interest. As has been pointed out, this concessional rate of interest has been maintained for a very long time. We raised the amount of the loan from $9,000 to $12,000 but still retained the interest rate at 3% per cent. However, when we further increased the amount of the loan from $12,000 to $15,000 we increased the interest rate on that $3,000 increase to 7 1/4 per cent.
I also want to warn the Government that that $5,500 cash grant in lieu of the subsidised interest rate will not be enough to bridge the deposit gap to enable most people to purchase a home in the western suburbs of Sydney or metropolitan Sydney or Melbourne, where, on average, homes cost between $30,000 and $35,000. Even with the $2,000 homes savings grant scheme and the $5,500 grant- I take it people will be able to receive both- people will still have great difficulties in purchasing their home.
I wish to give some facts about the grant, if people opt to take it, and the effect that inflation will have on it at today’s prices. At today’s prices, $5,500 represents about 1 8 per cent of the price of a $30,000 house. At an inflation rate of about 4 per cent per annum over 10 years, the value of the grant will be about $3,720 in today’s prices, or only 2Vi per cent of the house price. At an inflation rate of eight per cent per annum over 10 years, the value of the grant will be about $2,550 in today’s prices, or only about 8te per cent of the house price. Like the homes savings grant scheme which has been eroded by inflation, this grant proposal will be seen in a similar situation. Therefore I warn the House against accepting this proposal because it is a long term attempt by the bureaucracy to do away with this concessional interest rate of 3% per cent available to defence personnel.
There is another aspect at which this Committee and the House must look as regards this Defence Service Homes scheme. If there is anything we should be considering it is the question of a means test on applicants. We should be considering whether or not a colonel can get a loan as well as a private. It seems to me that this question of the means test would be a much better proposal to look at when dealing with this defence services homes proposal.
-Mr Speaker has received a letter from the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The July 1 crude oil price increase in the context of the Government’s failure to establish a secondary taxing mechanism on oil production profits.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places.
More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places-
-The Government at the time of its last Budget foreshadowed the introduction of a secondary taxing structure, a resources tax to be levied upon the oil production industry and the prospective uranium industry. At the same time it announced an increase in the price of crude oil on a formula that permitted up to 10 per cent of crude oil production in certain locations to be priced at import parity. It was in the context of this increase in crude oil pricing and the consequent boost to corporate revenues that the Government promised the introduction of this secondary tax mechanism.
On 1 July this year, under the terms of last year’s policy, certain oil producing companies will be permitted to price an additional 10 per cent of their production at import parity- that is a cumulative 20 per cent of their production priced at world parity. Although 1 July is now not far away, we have heard nothing definite from the Government about the introduction of its promised secondary tax. Is it to be yet another election promise, another clear abrogation of a specific undertaking to be broken by this Government?
The permissible 20 per cent crude oil production priced at import parity will provide a massive increment to corporate profits without any significant increase in costs. The increases will be something of the order of $ 120m on top of the massive increase of $ 150m given last year by the Government by way of the first stage implementation of its pricing policy. It is true that there would be a handsome increase in company tax liability on the additional profits, but this is not of sufficient magnitude, given the enormous profit generation.
If the Government is not prepared to introduce a secondary tax simultaneously with the 1 July, 10 per cent increment, then there should be no increment until the tax mechanism is established. This view does not deny the validity of the claim that marginal pools of oil cannot be developed at $2.33 per barrel. Of course some reserves are small and difficult to mine and will require capital investment that would be uneconomic at $A2.33 per barrel. That is without dispute. But last year’s increase certainly takes care of this problem with the average price per barrel being raised well beyond $A3 per barrel. Any further increase is but fruit for the sideboard, that will not be swallowed up exclusively in developing known marginal pools.
It must be remembered that these increases in prices are granted by express government decision which provides revenues to companies at the public expense. As these increases are in no way linked to the cost of production there is a clear obligation on the part of the Government to see that the financial rewards reaped from the mining of a national asset are divided equitably between business and the community. Some will argue, and to some extent cogently, that the low pricing of indigenous crude oil will lead to the profligate use of this finite valuable resource, where higher priced crude oil will be conserved if the price is increased. In the broad sweep of long term energy pricing I would certainly support this view. However, given the inelasticity of demand with, say, motor sport, I do not believe that a slow climb to import parity pricing for indigenous crude oil from existing fields will in any significant way change the pattern of consumption.
Should there be a justification for the slow climb towards import parity, it must be that marginal oil pools could then be developed and that cash flows will be enhanced to provide funds for new intensive exploration for oil and gas, particularly off-shore. Certainly Australia’s two most successful energy companies, the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd and Esso Australia Ltd should be encouraged to turn their expertise and resources towards new exploration endeavours. Obviously expanded cash flows from their Gippsland operations could facilitate new ambitious exploration. This should be one of the prime motivations for a change in the Government’s oil pricing policy. But allowing for these objectives it is clear that even with a secondary tax there would be a sufficient residue of after tax funds in the hands of these companies to finance new exploration and development. Already one year of incremental earnings from the new pricing policy has provided handsome dividends to oil companies in Australia that have not been subject to secondary tax and which can be used for the new developments currently being undertaken.
World parity pricing is the creation of a handful of Middle East governments. It in no way represents the costs of production. In fact, about 93 per cent of the world parity is made up of Arab state royalties and taxes. Australian companies cannot claim import parity for their produce and take the enormous cash flows to their breasts as though in some way it represented their costs of production. Import parity is what we have to pay for oil if we do not have sufficient of our own. It is thus important that our energy pricing structure should relate to the world market in this commodity if we are to have a national basis for development and consumption.
This does not mean, however, that our energy companies are to be treated to a feast because they happened upon oil reserves prior to the Arab oil price hikes of 1973. There should be no further increases in crude oil prices until there is a proper division of the wealth between the producers and the public. The cost burden and the inflationary impact of crude oil price increases should not be borne by the motorist, the farmer, the manufacturer and the consumer to the exclusive advantage of a handful of companies, without there being an acceptable quid pro quo. We on this side of the House urge the Government to give notice of the introduction of legislation to establish the promised secondary tax and to do so before there are further increases in the price of indigenous crude oil.
Uncertainty will be the major impact of a continuing delay in the introduction of such legislation. In the past uncertainty has been the most crippling factor in oil exploration in this country. Whichever way the Government moves it should be to establish once and for all what kind of tax mechanism will be imposed upon this industry. Of course, we on this side of the House recognise that there must be a greater exploration activity in Australia. This year there are promising signs of renewed exploration effort which could identify new fields in Australia. Obviously, that exploration cannot be developed in perpetuity at $2.33 per barrel. That is why both major parties believe that new fields ought to be priced at import parity. That is the price we would pay for oil which we did not have ourselves. The exploration effort needs to be maintained and encouraged. Cash flows from the old fields, particularly for companies involved in oil production from existing fields, can facilitate a much greater and more concentrated exploration effort on their part.
The problem with Australia’s deficiency in liquid fuels is that our demand is rising faster than our potential supplies. Whilst the recently announced increments to reserves, particularly in the Gippsland area, are welcome they will permit only a continuance of the current level of production from the Gippsland fields for three to four years beyond the time it was expected that production from those fields would decline seriously. Until the middle 1980s Gippsland production will remain fairly static. But the demand is growing constantly. The yawning gap between demand and production in Australia will mean that Australia will be required to import more and more Middle East crude. Middle East crude is a heavy gravity oil. That means that after cracking only a small proportion of motor spirit will be obtained compared with the light indigenous Australian crude oil. This will mean, therefore, that Australia will need to start looking again at its refining capacity and the possibility of conversion refineries. I recall from the report of the Royal Commission on Petroleum that the cost of the eleventh refinery in Australia, a conversion refinery, will equal the cost of the previous ten. These are the consequences of not identifying enough indigenous oil reserves in Australia.
Our immediate approach to energy has to be to try to identify more reserves and, at the same time, look specifically for natural gas. I do not suggest for one moment that we should try to do this by keeping the price of energy depressed. I have always thought that fixed prices are clear inhibitors to exploration and development. However, Moonie and Barrow Island and particularly Bass Strait are currently producing at such a level that when prices were increased from $2.09 a barrel to $2.33 a barrel in 1975 the oil companies were to a large measure compensated for the inflationary erosion of their cash flows. Their investment expectations in 1968 were maintained. I know that marginal pools cannot be developed for $2.33 a barrel and that new exploration in the Gippsland area will not be undertaken at that price. However, the price rise which has already been granted facilitates more exploration but the increases which the Government is now giving which in no way place an additional cost on the company mean massive cash flows at a time when other groups in the community are suffering the deprivation of serious cutbacks in government outlays.
We are not denying the companies the increases. We take the line which the Industries Assistance Commission took a couple of years ago that the increases were warranted in the company of a secondary taxing structure. That is our argument with the Government. If it continues with its policy and increases the price of oil on 1 July by an additional 10 per cent of the production price at import parity that increase should be made in the company of a resources tax. The Government has had almost 18 months to think about this tax after the IAC reported to it on crude oil pricing. It is now the responsibility of the Government to bring legislation into the House, to demonstrate its bona fides and to fulfil the promise it made in the last Budget introduced by the then Treasurer, Mr Lynch. In those circumstances we would lift any objection we have to a slow rise to 50 per cent import parity, particularly for the Gippsland field.
– I welcome the opportunity to have this matter of public importance before us today. I do so for two reasons. Firstly, it will give me a chance to describe the effect that pricing has had on the oil industry. In fact, I go so far as to say that the oil pricing that we have now adopted, and which I am glad to hear that the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) generally agrees with, has had a substantial effect on the oil industry, both in development and in exploration. I will demonstrate that in a few moments.
The other reason that I was pleased to hear that this debate was coming on was perhaps to learn what the Opposition had in mind in regard both to resource tax and to pricing. On pricing, I understand that the Opposition is generally in agreement with the Government, and for that I am glad, but what is still lacking from the Opposition is an indication of what it would actually do about a resource tax. All we know is that the Opposition would apply a resource tax generally across the whole range of minerals, whether they be energy minerals or not. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) has made that very clear, but we still have no indication of what the Opposition would do in the way of applying a resource tax. I will return to that subject towards the end of my remarks.
Perhaps we could first speak about the resource tax and what the Government has said it will or will not do. To have the record absolutely straight, it would perhaps be best to quote from the November 1977 statement on national energy policy
Careful consideration will be given to the design of any secondary tax on crude oil to ensure that it will not detract from the economic viability of oil fields yet to be developed.
If I heard the honourable member Blaxland correctly, he was accusing the Government of making an election promise that a resource tax would be introduced, or having said in relation to the Budget that a resource tax would be introduced. That is not so.
– It is so.
-The Government is considering the application of a resource tax; we are doing that actively now. Secondly, in doing that we are talking to companies to see what the impact would be of various scenarios for imposing such a tax. Lastly, we are looking at overseas models as well. What we said in presenting the Budget was that in the interim the excise on oil would be increased, and that was done. It is not as if the companies are not being taxed now; they are. I think we should remember when we are talking about a resource tax that the cash flows of which the honourable member was speaking are subject to quite heavy tax right at this moment. They are subject, in relation to parity oil, to a tax of $3 a barrel and in relation to liquefied petroleum gas of $2 a barrel. Royalties levied by the States on well-head value are between 10 per cent and 12 te per cent. Company income tax stands at about 46 per cent. To give honourable members some idea- these are not accurate figures; I would not like to be held to them, but they are pretty close- in this financial year, 1978-79, that will yield to the States and to the Commonwealth revenues of about $860m. Next year, allowing for, say, a 6 per cent inflation factor, they will produce about $890m. These are not small amounts; they are very large. So let us make a realistic appraisal of these cash flows and what governments, State and Federal, take out of them.
Let me turn now to the pricing situation. The honourable member for Blaxland has made fairly clear what the pricing situation is. Let me make it also clear that we have no intention of changing what we have indicated, namely, that between now and 1980-81 about 50 per cent of old oil will move to world parity; and that every six months that price will be fixed by the Government. Presently it stands at about $ 12.62. It is important that we make no bones about this. Australia cannot continue to be a low-priced oil consumer. I think the honourable member also made that clear -
– I agree with you.
– We are agreed on that. So we have adopted a predictable movement towards parity oil. We have been very aware also of the effect of this on inflation, aware of the effect on the very people the honourable member was talking about- the farmers, the taxi drivers, the fellow who is driving a motor car out there right now. Therefore, it is to be graduated. However, there is no question but that, by the middle of the 1980s, such a person will have to pay the price that the rest of the world pays for the motor spirit he puts into his motor vehicle, and for the diesel fuel that he puts into his tractor. We have tried to do it in a responsible way, so that we would be able to help people reach that position without having too much impact on their pockets. More importantly, it is predictable from the point of view of investment. The companies that will come to this country, or those who are within it, and who will explore, both offshore and onshore, who will be putting money into risk capital for development, need to know where they are going. Therefore, we do have now a framework, a proper environment, in which people can invest.
That is the general situation on prices, but their impact can also be seen in certain areas. Firstly, it has increased the use of the known reserves. Secondly, it has increased the exploration activity going on in this country. Thirdly, we are now seeing signs of new development taking place because of it.
– I agree.
– Thank you. Probably also we are heightening the encouragement of people to look at alternatives. Pricing is very important to the development of a conservation policy. Let us look at each of those in turn and back up that statement with some facts. The figures on increased development are something like these: The companies operating in the Bass Strait have announced an increase in reserves which add up to about 115 million barrels, previously known but uneconomic, under that $2.33 price.
– They knew that a long time ago.
-They may have known it but at $2.33 nobody was going to haul it out of the well. We all know that as well. Secondly, since the new policy was announced, 300m barrels have been technically re-assessed. A new price was required to make it a practicable proposition. I do not agree with the honourable member that it is not significant to move from 30 per cent self-sufficiency which was extended for 1985 at Budget time 1977 to something like 45 per cent in 1985-which is equal to an extra two or three years of self-sufficiency in oil resources. That is no mean feat.
– It is significant; I agree with you.
– So we are agreed on that proposition. Let us move to the second aspect, that of increased exploration. It would be interesting to quote from the latest Australian Petroleum Exploration Associations annual report:
Recognition by government of the need to move to world pricing and in effect to a free market system was welcomed by industry and the impact of this action on exploration is clearly reflected in the upsurge which has now begun.
The figures are pretty impressive. They are: 1976, $54m these are actual figures- 1977, $99m, and for 1978, $125m. The latter was based on the predictions of the Australian Petroleum Exploration Association and the Bureau of Mineral Resources. That upsurge in exploration, again, is significant and does derive from the Government’s pricing policy. I could, of course, be rude and begin to compare that with the figures for the 1972-73-74 period, when they fell away completely.
I spoke about also additional investment in development. I believe that the honourable member also referred to the fact that companies were putting money back into development. On Barrow Island, about $4m extra is being invested in drilling. I cannot give an estimate of what that means in extra oil back on shore but it will be significant. In Bass Strait where Esso-BHP are operating, I am sure that the honourable member knows an extra investment of $700m has recently been announced in respect of West Kingfish and Cobia. That is to come on stream by 1982 and is important. In addition, Esso-BHP are hoping to drill four to eight extra wells this year to try to increase the production capacity of the area. That investment in development cannot be ignored; it is significant.
There are two other areas related to alternative energies, to be considered. I am sure honourable members opposite realise that although in regard to such matters as the development of alcohol from sugar beet or sugar cane, or liquefaction- we know the mechanics, the chemical operations involved; we can improve them and reduce the cost- the main impediment to encouraging people to go into alternative fuels is the price, the economics of it. Liquefaction costs $20 to $25 a barrel of oil. The cost for ethanol from sugar beet stands at around $310 a tonne compared with say $140 a tonne for crude oil. So by moving the price towards world parity- to the realistic price- people who have an interest, be they researchers or in commercial enterprises, will be willing to support development. We have heightened activity in this areainterest and it is because of the economics.
I turn finally to conservation. The conservation program we are designing with the States is getting ahead. I have received a report from the task force from the States which was put together following the Australian Minerals and Energy Council meeting in Hobart earlier this year. It does not look bad. It is now out with the States for final confirmation. We will be talking about publicity and education campaigns, help for the industry and all the rest of it that will put together an important and significant conservation program for the nation in co-operation with the States, but- and this is a big ‘but’ and depends on whether you argue just how elastic prices are in this case- the price will encourage people to take notice of the campaign. It will encourage industry to tura away maybe from oil furnaces and look at the probability and the costs of using coal, natural gas or something else. So price is important. They are the reasons that the Government will not turn from its present policy and why it is so important that we continue with that policy for the betterment of the nation in reaching that objective or improving our selfsufficiency in liquid fuels and in encouraging a switch to alternatives as well as research and development for those alternatives.
– Will you bring the tax in though?
– I made that clear at the beginning. We are still considering it. The announcement will be made in due course. Let us just have a look at Labor’s policy for a moment. I am glad that the honourable member has cleared up something that puzzled me. His leader was talking at the 28th Electricity Conference the other day. In that speech he said exactly what the honourable member has said today. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) said:
We must ensure that industry’s needs for energy are fulfilled at a price which reflects full resource cost, and which takes account of the long-term availability of various fuels.
I could not think of a better description of why we are operating in the way we are in respect of the pricing policy about which we have just been talking. But then, what is puzzling, particularly in view of the honourable member’s speech today which I think indicates that we have agreement, is that throughout the speech there is a clear inference that Labor will have none of the pricing policy at all and that it is not on.
– No. He said it is inflationary and it is. It is inflationary. You have to admit that.
– Well, we have to accept that. It is a price. It has to be a realistic attitude when we arrive at that point in 1985, but what I do find puzzling is that the Leader of the Opposition said:
Fiddling the oil price mechanism- as the Government has done- is only of limited help and represents a thoroughly disjointed policy initiative.
Nothing can be further from the truth, and I hope that that has been demonstrated here today. It is a predictable policy. It has been laid down; it is clear. I hope I have amply demonstrated the effects of that pricing policy. I just wanted to make that clear. Perhaps the Leader of the Opposition will see the error of his ways after he reads Hansard tomorrow.
I now deal with the resources tax. I would be interested to know what the Opposition has in mind in respect of a resources tax. Maybe after this debate the honourable member for Blaxland would like to inform the nation just what Labor does mean. Can he tell us what sort of a threshold Labor intends?
– You give me leave and I will expatiate on it.
– There are plenty of places you can do it outside. Then we will have a chance to examine it. What does Labor mean by a resources tax?
- Mr Deputy Speaker, if the Minister gives me leave I will explain the Opposition ‘s policy forthwith.
-(Hon. Ian Robinson) - Order!
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I would just like to run through those items again. What does Labor mean by a resources tax? Is it going to keep the excise on or is it going to take it off? What is the threshold for this resources tax? What minerals will actually be affected by it? What is going to be the rate of that tax? What allowances will Labor make for the threshold.
– I will address myself to this.
– I will be very interested to see the answers. As I said at the beginning of my remarks, I welcome this debate. It has given me a chance to make the Government’s position clear, firstly, as to where it stands on the resources tax and, secondly, and more importantly, the effects of our pricing policy. The pricing mechanism is a very important plank in the development of an energy policy. The effects of that pricing policy that I have been talking about today- the effects on exploration, future development, the use of our oil reserves, on improving conservation programs and on energy research and developmentare absolutely essential. They are absolutely essential to the development of a proper energy policy.
-(Hon. Ian Robinson)- The discussion is concluded.
Approval of Work: Public Works Commit tfe Act
– I move:
That, in accordance with the provision of the Public Works Committee Act 1 969, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and on which the committee has duly reported to Parliament: Redevelopment of airways facilities, Adelaide Airport, SA.
The proposal is for the construction of a new operations building, an associated services building and an air traffic control tower on the western side of Adelaide airport. The estimated cost of the proposed work, is $2.35m at April 1978 prices. The Committee in reporting favourably on the proposal made the following recommendations in relation to external cladding material and site landscaping. These are:
Recommendation No. 5. The proposed use of deep corrugated asbestos cement external cladding should be reexamined with regard to alternative light weight claddings with the purpose of utilising the most satisfactory material bearing in mind visual, durability and economic factors.
Although the Department of Construction examined various alternative types of materials selecting the asbestos cement cladding it will undertake a further review of this matter in consulation with the Department of Transport and the Committee will be further advised.
Recommendation No. 6. The Committee suggests that consideration be given to landscaping in the form of low maintenance shrubbery being used to screen the buildings from Tapley’s Hill Road and to help reduce traffic noise intruding into the proposed buildings.
The design already provides some landscaping work but the departments of Construction and Transport will examine the provision of further landscaping together with the additional costs involved. The Committee has agreed that there is a need for the proposed new airways facilities at Adelaide airport and has recommended that they be provided as expeditiously as possible. Upon the concurrence of the House in this resolution, detailed planning can proceed.
-As a member of the Public Works Committee I wish to endorse the motion that has been moved by the Minister for Construction (Mr McLeay). The Committee examined the proposed works very thoroughly indeed and felt that the proposed works were fully justified in every respect. In fact, in view of the growth in air traffic through the Adelaide airport and the projected growth in future years it is evident that to maintain adequate safety standards the construction of the buildings which are a part of this proposed work is essential. I am not saying in any way that there is a danger at this stage as far as safety aspects are concerned, but there certainly would be some prospect of danger if the volume of traffic through the airport continues at the rate at which it is growing and the rate at which it is projected.
The proposed work provides for the construction of a new air traffic control tower and also an operations building to incorporate the flight service centre, area approach controls and control equipment. The proposal also allows for the installation of more up to date and modern air traffic conrol equipment. It was clear to the Committee that the facilities at the Adelaide airport in no way match the operations facilities at the Melbourne Airport which the Committee also inspected.
May I say that the Committee received full reports from the unions whose members will be working in the proposed new facilities and they also very strongly supported the proposed work. There is one further point I should like to make and that is the fact that in no way does this proposal prejudge the expansion of the Adelaide airport. This was a matter of major concern to a number of citizens who appeared before the Committee. It was pointed out that these facilities are necessary at this stage even to handle the present volume of air traffic and particularly in view of the future air traffic build up at the airport. There is an agreement between the Commonwealth Government and the South Australian Government which has set up a joint government advisory committee with the function of reporting and recommending on the future development of airports for the Adelaide region. It was quite clear to the Public Works Committee that irrespective of the way in which the joint advisory committee reported there would still be a need for the airport at Adelaide in its current location at least to the year 2005. The Committee bore this fact in mind to a great degree when it made its recommendations in this respect. Paragraph 62 of the report states:
Even if it is decided to establish a new airport, the new area approach control centre and the flight service centre to be accommodated in the proposed operations building could continue to operate from their planned locations until their economic life is reached.
Paragraph 63 states:
The new control tower would also reach its economic life if Adelaide airport is retained in its present or in a reduced form. If, however, the present airport is abandoned, any remaining economic life of the control tower would represent only a very small proportion of the total investment at Adelaide airport which would need to be written ofl” in the event of such a decision.
Despite the fact that the costs, or a proportion of the costs, of these facilities will be recovered through a cost recovery program it was very clear that both the Department of Construction and the Department of Transport had a very keen anxiety to keep costs to an absolute minimum. I commend the departments for that attitude. I support the motion.
-I prevail upon the House because the proposal affects my constituents. I would like to ask one question of both the Minister for Construction (Mr McLeay) and the honourable member for Canning (Mr Bungey): who is the Chairman of the Joint Committee on Public Works. When the Committee examined this matter did it consider the contingency of the extension of Adelaide airport? Is this matter under consideration, or has it now been rejected?
Mr BUNGEY (Canning)-by leave-The Joint Committee on Public Works did not consider this matter although it was told that there are plans to extend one of the runways across Tapleys Hill Road. We were advised that there is certainly no firm proposal at this stage for this to happen. We were also told that the advisory committee would make a report. The Public Works Committee made its recommendations on the basis of the current runways being used.
– When do they expect to report?
– I understand that the report will be made available later this year to both the State and Commonwealth governments.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill received from the Senate, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill, and the two related Bills, namely, the Statutory Rules Publication Amendment Bill and the Seat of Government (Administration) Amendment Bill are intended to deal with a situation that has arisen because there have been occasions when copies of regulations and other statutory rules and ordinances of the Australian Capital Territory have not been available for purchase, at the place specified in the notice in the Gazette of the making of the ordinances or statutory rules, at the time the notice was published.
The validity of such notices in these circumstances has been raised in proceedings in the High Court in respect of alleged offences against the Banking (Foreign Exchange) Regulations and the purpose of the Ordinances and Regulations (Notification) Bill is to remove the possibility of invalidity flowing from the unavailability of copies. In the particular case, the offences in question occurred more than a year after copies were, in fact, available. The point in that case is, consequently, a technical one, and the Government is greatly concerned about the effect of its success. If successful a whole range of regulations and ordinances would be struck down. However, the Bill expressly provides that the validation it provides for is not to affect existing prosecutions under the Banking (Foreign Exchange) Regulations, thus excluding the High Court proceedings referred to from the scope of the Bill. Those regulations will nevertheless be validated for the future so that in any new proceedings the technical point will not be available as a possible defence. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Willis) adjourned.
Bill received from the Senate, and read a first time.
– I move:
Whilst the Ordinances and Regulations (Notification) Bill will ‘validate’ any existing ordinances and statutory rules that might conceivably have otherwise been held invalid, this Bill is directed, as is the Seat of Government (Administration) Amendment Bill, to achieving a more satisfactory situation for the future. In summary, it provides:
The effect of the Bill will be to ensure for the future, so far as is practicable, that copies of statutory rules are available for purchase at the time of notification, while recognising that special cases will arise where subordinate legislation has to be made to have immediate operation, notwithstanding that copies are not immediately available for purchase. The Bill ensures that Parliament will be informed of cases where copies are not available on the date of notification and of the reason for this. Honourable members will appreciate that the provisions made by the Bill in relation to the future position will be more satisfactory than the existing position. A positive direction to have copies available at the time of notification is provided for, supported by a requirement to explain any failure to do so to the Parliament. At the same time, the validity of subordinate legislation will not be in jeopardy on a technical ground. I believe the provisions included in the Bill will result in the best practical solution to the difficulties that have arisen. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Dr Everingham) adjourned.
Bill received from the Senate, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill makes, in relation to the notification of ordinances of the Australian Capital Territory, provisions for the future corresponding to those contained in the Statutory Rules Publications Amendment Bill. As in the case of the latter Bill in relation to notification of statutory rules, the provisions made by the Seat of Government (Administration) Amendment Bill will result in a more satisfactory position in relation to notification of ordinances of the Australian Capital Territory. A positive direction to have copies available at the time of notification is provided for, supported by a requirement to explain any failure to do so to the Parliament. At the same time, the validity of subordinate legislation will not be in jeopardy on a technical ground. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Dr Everingham) adjourned.
Bill received from the Senate, and read a first time.
– I move:
The Acts Interpretation Amendment Bill is the first of the set of Bills relating to the December
Administrative changes. The Bill plugs a small gap which has been found in the provisions inserted in the Acts Interpretation Act in 1976 to facilitate translation of references to Ministers following administrative changes. It will be of assistance in future Administrative changes. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Dr Everingham) adjourned.
Bill received from the Senate, and read a first time.
– I move:
The Administrative Changes (Consequential Provisions) Bill, together with the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve Amendment Bill which I shall deal with separately, makes necessary textual changes in legislation following the administrative changes of 20 December 1977, and writes into the statute book the ‘deemed’ changes made by the Orders under section 19B and 19BA of the Acts Interpretation Act made on and after that date.
The Schedules to the Administrative Changes (Consequential Provisions) Bill specify some 550 separate amendments of some 180 Acts which need to be made because of the ministerial and departmental changes made following the election last year. It is important that these changes be made so that the proper references will appear on the face of the respective Acts and not merely left to follow from a general ‘translation’ provision in Orders under the Acts Interpretation Act.
With a few minor exceptions, the amendments made by the Bill and its Schedules merely give effect to the Orders that were made under the Acts Interpretation Act or make associated amendments which were not able to be made by such Orders, for example, renaming the body corporate established by section 62B(2) of the Audit Act. In one or two cases other minor administrative changes that have been agreed as desirable have been made, for example, in the case of the Criminology Research Act, the reference to the Treasurer in one provision- section 28 (4)- has been changed to a reference to the Attorney-General.
The Bill provides for a number of saving provisions that are necessary because of the change from Treasurer to Minister for Finance, particularly in the Audit Act and in Regulations and Directions under that Act. Because of the extensive ramifications of the Audit Act and those Regulations and Directions throughout the whole fabric of the control of finances, it is vital that these saving provisions be made.
The Bill makes provision for the various Orders under the Acts Interpretation Act to which the changes made by the Bill relate to cease to apply except in relation to Regulations or Directions. The reason for this is that all the amendments of Acts that are necessary should have been identified and dealt with in the Schedules of the Bill. All departments have been consulted to ensure this. However, there could be some provisions of Regulations or Directions that have not yet been identified and these will need to be dealt with by amending Regulations or Directions when they are identified.
The provisions made by the Bill I am sure will commend themselves to honourable members. As I have indicated, they are of a machinery nature and will up-date the statute book. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Dr Everingham) adjourned.
Bill received from the Senate, and read a first time.
– I move:
The Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve Amendment Bill makes some provisions which were found necessary in consequence of the changes in the administration of the Audit Act and are supplementary to those made by the Administrative Changes (Consequential Provisions) Bill. It has been thought better to place these supplementary provisions in a separate Bill.
The December Order under section 19BA of the Acts Interpretation Act and the confirming changes now being made to section 62B of the Audit Act by the Administrative Changes (Consequential Provisions) Bill would, if no special provision were made, have the effect of transferring power of investment of moneys standing to the credit of the Reserve from the Treasurer to the Minister for Finance. The Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve Amendment Bill makes such special provision. It proposes to ensure that the Treasurer will continue to have full responsibility for the Reserve, and to that end provides specific investment powers for the Treasurer and creates a separate corporationconsisting of the Treasurer and his successors. The Minister for Finance will, however, continue to be able to invest in treasury bills moneys of the Reserve that are not required by the Treasurer for investment or other purposes. By virtue of the Bill, the Reserve will cease to be a Trust Account under section 62A of the Audit Act, but will remain part of the trust Fund. The Bill includes some necessary saving and machinery provisions, including a power of delegation by the Treasurer in respect of his powers under section 6- investment of the Reserve- corresponding with the power to delegate already given to the Minister for Finance by section 70a of the Audit Act. Like the Administrative Changes (Consequential Provisions) Bill, the provisions made by this Bill are of a machinery nature, designed to give effect to the December administrative changes. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Willis) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 25 May, on motion by Mr Howard:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Bill now before the House is a minor and uncontroversial piece of legislation. What it does, principally, is to provide some new exemptions from sales tax, but also to restore some exemptions that had become inoperative. It has four main provisions. Firstly, it exempts from sales tax sun screen preparations that are certified by the Director-General of Health as providing an acceptable level of protection from solar ultraviolet rays. Secondly, it restores sales tax exemption on imported goods where the exemption had become inoperative due to changes in the tariff to which they had been related.
Thirdly, it harmonises sales tax exemptions on goods imported by persons arriving in Australia with corresponding customs exemptions, and there are two aspects of this. The first one gives sales tax exemption to Australian domiciled crews of ships or aircraft on a once a year basis.
At present they are exempt from customs duty on a once a year basis but only passengers are exempted from sales tax. The other aspect of this harmonisation provision is that sales tax and customs duty exemption currently applies for vehicles or boats imported by a person who has owned and used the vehicle or boat overseas for 15 months, but unlike sales tax, the customs duty law provides that where the vehicle or boat has been owned for up to 14 days less than 15 months, exemption applies on a sliding scale. This Bill simply extends that sliding scale exemption for up to a 14 days shortfall to sales tax as well. The fourth provision of the Bill is designed to give servicemen from Papua New Guinea limited sales tax concessions for importation of such items as personal effects, furniture, household goods and cars, and is required under the Status of Forces Agreement between Australia and Papua New Guinea.
The provisions of this Bill are quite unexceptionable to the Opposition. We particularly applaud the first provision that I mentioned- the exemption of sun screen preparations from sales tax- because clearly skin cancer is a matter of considerable concern in this country and anything that can be done by the Government to prevent the spread of that disease is certainly worthwhile. The Opposition supports the legislation.
-The purpose of this Bill, which the Opposition supports, is to amend the Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Act to provide some new exemptions and to change some existing exemptions for imported goods. Honourable members will recollect that in a joint announcement the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) and the Treasurer (Mr Howard) on 30 March 1978 indicated that sunscreen preparations that provide effective protection from damaging ultra-violet rays would be exempted from sales tax. The present rate of sales tax applicable to these preparations can be as high as 27 Vi per cent where the preparation is classed as a cosmetic, and if it is not classed as a cosmetic the rate is 15 per cent. As honourable members are or should be aware, drugs and medicines are already exempt from sales tax and it is proposed that these sunscreen preparations should also be exempted because of their importance as a preventive health measure against skin cancer, sunburn and general skin damage.
I was interested to note that to qualify for the new exemption a preparation will need to meet two requirements. It will have to be put up and sold for use as a substance to be applied to the skin for the purpose of screening out solar ultraviolet rays. I was also interested to note in the Schedule to the Bill the expression that the preparation has to be ‘put up’. I do not know what that means or what is the intention of it, and it is something that I would like the Treasurer to explain to the House when he replies to the second reading debate. There is some queer terminology in a lot of the income tax and sales tax Acts but I have never heard that expression before. A further worthwhile provision in the Bill is that a certificate must be given by the Director-General of Health certifying that the product is a preparation that provides an acceptable level of protection from solar ultra-violet rays. I emphasise the words ‘an acceptable level of protection’. Available in the community today there are many hundreds of preparations which allegedly have value in providing screening from the sun but so many of them are purely useless cosmetics which serve no real purpose.
I take the opportunity provided by the debate on this Bill to highlight the dangers of skin cancer. I commend the Government for the steps it has taken to exempt certain preparations from sales tax providing certain criteria are met. I do not suppose that it is a magnificent gesture to eliminate the present sales tax rate of 1 5 per cent, but it is a step in the right direction. It gives the imprimatur of the Government to action taken to reduce the prevalence of skin cancer. It is sad but true that Australia has one of the highest rates of self-induced skin cancer in the world. In medieval times the people worshipped the sun god. I am afraid that in Australia, even though the sun is not out today, there is a cult surrounding the worshipper of the sun god. It is also true that there is much deceptive advertising of certain preparations which are alleged to be of value in deactivating the effects of the rays of the sun. The life-giving rays that stream through our atmosphere from the sun are the principal cause of skin cancer which afflicts many thousands of people in Australia today. The relationship of sunshine to skin cancer is a graphic example of people getting too much of a good thing. Too much sunshine can be very harmful.
The sun’s energy spectrum contains rays that damage the skin and destroy its elastic fibres causing wrinkling, permanent brown patches, scaling and, what is well known to nearly everyone, sunburn. Doctors who practice in the warmer parts of Australia, particularly in northern Queensland, are very familiar with the wrinkled prune look. Looking around this House, some of the northern Queensland members have almost that wrinkled prune look themselves. It is an effect of the climate of the area of Australia to the north of the Tropic of Capricorn. The people who have that wrinkled prune look appear to have the prematurely aged skin which we often see among chronic sunbathers
-The honourable member should not reflect on another member.
– It could be a commendation because the prune is very well thought of in many countries. Therefore, if someone has a wrinkled prune look I do not know that it is a criticism. The most serious danger associated with over-exposure to the sun is skin cancer which is caused 4>y the sun’s ultra-violet rays. By far the most common form of skin cancer, that which I refer to as a superficial cancer, is curable in 95 per cent of cases because it rarely spreads beyond the site where it arises. I know a little about this subject because I suffer from skin cancer myself. About one per cent of self-induced sunlight superficial skin cancers do eventually kill their victims, and over-exposure to the sun is now believed to increase the chance of developing a far more serious form of skin cancer called malignant melanoma which spreads quickly to other parts of the body. It is a very serious problem in some parts of the world and it is becoming increasingly more serious in Australia. It is for that reason that I highlight the problem of skin cancer.
The purpose of this Bill is to try to do something to prevent an increase in the incidence of skin cancer in Australia. As with other cancercausing agents, the sun has a cumulative effect. We do not get skin cancer from one long exposure to the sun but rather from years of repeated exposure. The amount of natural pigmentation in the skin determines how vulnerable we may be to the damaging effects of sunlight. The skin pigment, melanin, absorbs the sun’s ultraviolet rays and partially prevents this radiation from reaching the cell layers where skin cancers arise. Thus, black-skinned people are less likely to develop sun-caused skin cancer than are white-skinned persons. We rarely see Aborigines with skin cancer. They may have other diseases but they do not seem to get skin cancer. Persons of northern European ancestry, especially the Irish, the Scots- there are a number of members with Irish and Scottish ancestry in this Houseand Scandinavians are the most susceptible to skin cancer. It seems to be the pigmentation in their skin which makes them most susceptible. Generally, persons with fair, ruddy or sandy complexions are the sun’s most likely victims, but anybody who chronically overdoes exposure to sunlight is liable to get skin cancer.
However, there are those who either choose to be or must be out in the sun for long periods and this is particularly so in country area. The farming community is sensible because it protects itself from over-exposure by its clothing, such as large-brimmed hats. I have heard it said that the size of the brim of a farmer’s hat is in inverse proportion to the amount of his bank overdraft. In other words, if he has a small brim he has a large bank overdraft, and if he has a large brim he has a small bank overdraft. The largebrimmed/small bank overdraft man protects himself from skin cancer and is doing a good job of it. There are effective agents which people in country areas and certain people in city areas use to block out areas of exposed skin from the sun’s rays. However, there are other methods of blocking out the sun’s rays and one is the sunscreening process which is what this Bill is all about. It is unfortunate that if we try to select a sunscreening agent we will find a bewildering array of creams, lotions, oils and sprays most of which, it is true, are valueless in screening out the sun’s damaging rays. Most commercial suntan lotions, creams and sprays are useless against skin cancer because they allow the ultra-violet rays to reach the skin; otherwise people would not tan at all. They are an inadequate protection against skin cancer. The best protection is obtained through the use of agents called sun screens. The purpose of the Bill, provided that various sun screens fall within certain criteria, is to eliminate the sales tax on those particular products. As I have said, white Australian have the highest incidence of skin cancer in the world. I suppose one could say that a good tan is socially desirable. One honourable member, judging from the sun tan he has and has maintained in the winter, must use either a special type of preparation to induce colour to his skin or sun tan under an artificial lighting system. It does him credit- he certainly looks the part. I suppose that a good sun tan is socially desirable but it is not a good investment for future good health or future good looks. It will protect one, to a certain extent, from the discomfort of sunburn but health workers warn that exposure of the skin to solar ultra-violet radiation has been firmly established as the main cause of skin cancer.
It is important that I draw to the attention of honourable members some of the technical details of sun screen preparations. The sun’s ultraviolet radiation which reaches us has two components: The shorter wave length is known as UVB. Those waves are mainly responsible for burning. The longer waves are known as UVA. They produce a darkening of the pigment which is already in the skin but they do not usually initiate the production of new pigment. To avoid sunburn, or to lengthen the time one can remain in the sun before developing sunburn, one should use a sunburn preparation which blocks out as much UVB as possible. I suppose I could now be classed as starting to advertise effective sun screen lotions. I have had the opportunity to read a good consumers’ bulletin called Choice. In a table in that publication various sun screen preparations are listed in groups as recommended in the latest report from the Commonwealth Department of Health. The table is based on testing done at the University of Queensland, by doctors Groves and Robertson. It is interesting to see, when one looks at the table- I shall not ask for it to be incorporated in Hansard because it is too voluminous- how many hundreds of sun screen or tanning preparations there are and how many, after testing done at the Commonwealth Department of Health, have been found to be innocuous or useless. In other words, they are purely cosmetic preparations.
– What are the recommended ones?
-There is a series of recommended preparations. The one I use is Phiasol That does nothing for the skin, except keep out the sun. That is its purpose. There are many preparations and they are classed in various groups. I commend to honourable members a look at the December 1 977 copy of Choice which gives in groupings those preparations which are recommended and those which are not. I am afraid that those that are not recommended are in the majority. Unfortunately, with advertising being as it is, it is important to make preparations appeal either to the ego or to the advantage of the person who is to buy it. I shall give descriptions of advertising used for some preparations. One description reads: Bronze lustre tanning lotion for normal skin, sun sensitive skin, and so on. Another description given is: Golden tan. Honourable members can imagine the thoughts of people who walk into a chemist’s shop and see the description: Golden tan. A preparation like that, after testing, was classed as being absolutely useless for the purpose for which it is sold.
If the skin lacks the ability to tan, there is at the present time no known agent that is capable of inducing a protective tan. A tan develops through normal mechanisms of the body and its appearance is neither speeded up nor induced by any sun screen preparation. So, with all the guff that one reads about the effects of various preparations, they are purely cosmetic. It is all codswallop, if I may use that word. I suggest to honourable members and to the Government that what is needed is a far greater stimulus to draw the attention of the Australian people to the dangers of skin cancer. Though the step the Government has taken in eliminating sales tax on certain items of skin cream preparations is a step in the right direction, I do not think it is the ultimate. If one sees the effects of skin cancer, particularly on the aged- people who live in the country areas who are susceptible to it- it is a horrifying sight. It is the in thing these days to have advertising campaigns on the effects of smoking on lung cancer. I suggest that more people in Australia are affected by skin cancer, due to our climate, than are affected by lung cancer. I do not know what the death ratios are but I suggest that in Australia there is just as much a case for the Government- not necessarily through the Treasurer, possibly through the Minister for Health- to make a far greater effort to draw to the attention of the people of Australia the dangers of over-exposure to the sun. I commend the Government for this first step which it has taken in respect of this Bill, in the elimination of sales tax on these sun screen preparations. I hope and trust that in the future the Government will do something in other ways to bring the dangers before the people.
A matter has been drawn to my attention. Possibly, bearing in mind the climate of Australia, this matter should be considered. There is no Chair within universities in Australia which deals with skin complaints. That is something that the Government might consider. It may have a look at creating a Chair at one of the universities to deal with skin complaints which are prevalent in Australia. Possibly it could be within one of the medical schools.
I draw the attention of the Government also to the whole matter of sales tax. It is a regressive tax. I should like the stage to be reached in which there is only one type of taxation in Australiaincome tax based on the capacity to pay. Sales tax is not based on the capacity of a person to pay. Each and every person pays the same rate of sales tax, irrespective of income. That is something to which attention should be given. I admit that the Labor Party did not do it when it held office but it was considering it in its almost three short years in office. The Labor Government was considering the elimination of sales tax altogether and the replacement of it by one simple tax, a progressive income tax. Sales tax is regressive. I commend the Bill to the House.
– I commend the Government and the Treasurer (Mr Howard) for this sensible Bill. I support the points made by the honourable member for Banks (Mr Martin). I note, with distress, that he has a sensitive skin. That may explain why so many honourable members have been able to get under it so much lately. He made a point about the Federal Government providing some sort of tertiary support for the investigation of skin complaints. My understanding is that the schools of tropical medicine, for example, the one at the University of Sydney, are involved in that area. I am not certain of the extent to which a Chair within universities to deal with skin complaints would be duplicating a set of activities which are already well and truly in existence.
The point I should like to make about the sales tax amendments, apart from congratulating the Government on the sensible one about skin preparations to prevent skin cancer, is that another section of amendments relates to restoring the exemptions that existed for calendars, catalogues, prices and printed matter. The House may be aware that exemptions existed in respect of some of those items as a result of customs tariff arrangements. When those arrangements were changed, a change was brought about also in sales tax exemptions relating to these imported goods. There may be some concern in the printing industry in Australia that these present amendments will create a situation of open slather in relation to the importation of various printed items. My object in speaking today is to assure the House and the printing industry in Australia that in fact this is not the case. The whole point of these amendments is simply to restore a situation which existed previously.
These exemptions relate mainly to printed matter, such as imported travel literature designed to promote travel overseas and certain imported catalogues, price lists and comparable printed matter which is not designed to advertise the sale of goods or services by persons in Australia. So the pretty-pretty calendars, or whatever description one would apply to them, which appear to come from various overseas countries will not be exempted from sales tax under these amendments. The items which will now be exempt include calendars, paper catalogues, paper price lists and printed paper advertising matter; printed matter, being samples of goods solely of overseas origin put up for use as or in sample books; lists and year books of foreign hotels published or sponsored by official tourist agencies and timetables of transport services operating abroad; blank ATA carnets prepared in accordance with the Customs Cooperation Council convention on ATA carnets. It is clear that these matters relate only to services provided overseas and printed matter from overseas relating to those services. So the Australian printing industry certainly has no reason for concern in relation to employment in that industry as a result of these amendments.
However, I ask the Treasurer to consider very seriously introducing some further amendments to the sales tax legislation. In particular I ask him and the Government to correct what I consider to be an even greater anomaly than those corrected in this legislation, and that anomaly relates to the fact that sales tax is effectively charged on freight in this county. It has an impact which can be very serious indeed particularly in rural areas, and it can certainly be deleterious to the attemts to decentralise business into far-flung regions of Australia. The way in which it operates is that sales tax is charged at the point of sale. Let us look at the position in, say, Mount Isa, which is a fair way away from many other centres. The price charged in Mount Isa by the merchant when he sells to his customer clearly includes the large freight content involved in getting the product to its destination. The sales tax is charged on the price of the goods in Mount Isa. Obviously then sales tax is charged on the freight content of that price.
I believe that is a thoroughly bad principle. It means that many companies which are major consumers of products in remote areas in inclined to purchase those products themselves in population centres such as Sydney and Melbourne and then freight those products to their remote area, in that way avoiding paying sales tax on freight. This is a matter which certainly has exercised the minds of members of two government parties committees with which I am involved. I hope that the Government will recognise the soundness of the point that we have raised.
This may well not be the appropriate time to look into this matter. I imagine that the correction of this anomaly would not present great revenue problems to the Government. I know that the Government always has to consider where the money will come from if back bench committees keep recommending the correction of anomalies which bring in revenue for the Government. Nonetheless, I urge the Government to look very seriously at this matter because of its impact on rural areas. I admit that I represent a rural electorate. I do not regard it as offensive self-interest that I should press this matter because I believe it is only just and fair that the anomaly should be corrected. I imagine that people living in major population centres would recognise the merit of this case. I repeat that I support the legislation. I congratulate the Government on introducting it, but I do hope that serious consideration will be given to correcting the anomaly which I have just raised.
– I support the comments made by the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Baume) in relation to sales tax on freight. I was pleased to hear some expressions of support for that proposition from honourable members opposite. It is one of the most iniquitous taxes which is imposed, and it is a situation which certainly should be remedied by the Government without undue delay. I also commend the honourable member for Banks (Mr Martin) on his suggestion that there should be a chair in some university which deals with skin diseases. I think that the number of people who are affected by skin diseases fully justifies that being done. I am very happy to support the suggestion he made.
The purpose of the Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classification) Amendment Bill is, in part, to give effect to the announcement that sunscreen preparations which provide effective protection from damaging ultra-violet rays would be exempted from sales tax. I think it is obvious to almost everyone that this action needs to be taken. It should have been taken previously. When it is related to the incidence of skin cancer in this country each year, it is patently obvious that this action should be taken. Drugs and medicines are already exempt from sales tax, so I believe that sunscreen preparations should also be exempted, provided, of course, that they meet the requirements of being effective in doing what they are meant to do. They have to be sold for use as a substance to be applied to the skin for the purpose of screening out solar ultra-violet rays. Also they have to provide an acceptable level of protection. I commend the Government on introducing this legislation. I am sure that it has the support of the House generally.
Later in my remarks I shall refer to the statistics relating to the incidence of cancer in the community generally, particularly in Queensland, which is my home State. The medical facts in relation to skin cancer and its association with exposure to ultra-violet rays are such that I cannot deal with them all. The incidence and the mortality rate of skin cancer in Australia and the extent to which the citizens of Queensland are the most affected are important matters also and must be recognised. Both socially and occupationally Australians can be expected to be exposed to ultra-violet radiation. This is the case, particularly when someone is occupied in sport, especially swimming. I might say that in the outlying areas, which do not have the number of cloudy days that some of the other areas have, a lot of people are exposed to ultraviolet radiation. Therefore it is necessary that every encouragement be given to those people to take all the preventative measures which may be available to them.
The background data that I have certainly indicates the need for the use of every effective protection that we can provide. The majority of the sunscreening agents have been tested at the University of Queensland for the purpose of determining their relative efficacy in cutting out the transmission of ultra-violet rays. Whilst the efficacy in use depends upon the frequency of application and the conditions of exposure of the body- for example, heavy perspiration or swimming, and rubbing off on beach towels or clothing- those preparations which have the greatest barrier effect in such testing, other things being equal, will offer the greatest protection to the user. I hope that some note will be taken of these factors.
Within the many preparations regarded as being effective barriers, there is a wide range of costs. Obviously at all levels of costs it is important that the increased costs due to sales tax should not act as a deterrent to the use of an agent which will decrease the incidence of skin cancer. The removal of sales tax under this Bill should be regarded as a positive measure for preventive health. The Bill will be of particular benefit to the residents of and the tourists visiting the northern States where the incidence of ultraviolet radiation is at its highest. However, as well as benefiting some sun lovers in the southern States it will encourage the use of sunscreening agents by skiers on southern snows during the imminent winter season. Therefore the speedy action of the Government in removing this tax on these effective preparations should be commended by everyone.
The serious effects of exposure to the sun involve the development in some individuals of some skin cancers of three major types. Two are non-melanoma types and the other is a melanoma type. Together, the first two types of skin cancer constitute the most frequently detected cancer in man. They are also the most easily and most successfully treated human cancers. Something that should be promoted is the early treatment of any type of cancer. It is fairly obvious that early treatment of skin cancer should be undertaken as soon as possible. On the other hand, melanomas are a serious life-threatening hazard. Recent information indicates that only two-thirds of new melanoma patients survive for five years. Most non-melanoma skin cancers occur on lightskinned persons, particularly those who repeatedly burn with little or no tanning. The non-melanoma skin cancers are mainly found on exposed areas, especially on the head, the neck, the arms and the hands. It is a very distressing sight to see, as I have, those who suffer from this type of cancer- particularly people in the western areas. It of course is something that, if it can be prevented, should be prevented. I refer not only to the humanitarian aspects of it. I refer to the very great need for people who are engaged in industries where this sort of incident is likely to happen to be protected. They should be encouraged to use that protection.
Population-based incidence data, from Queensland, giving the incidence rate per unit area of skin, shows significant excess melanomas on the generally or occasionally exposed sites of the face, leg, neck and arm in women and of the face, ear, neck and back in men. They also show proportionally fewer tumours on parts of the body that are virtually never exposed. The accumulated dose of critical ultra-violet radiation is likely to be greater for those living nearer the equator- and that is understandable. Tables of melanoma and skin cancer mortality in the eastern States of Australia show a gradient between Queensland and Tasmania- again, with the incidence being higher in Queensland and that is very easily understood.
On my information, there are no really adequate skin cancer data available for Australia. That could be disputed, but that is my information. However, I understand that new cases of skin cancer recorded in Australia each year may be as high as 100,000. At least 50,000 new cases of histologically proven cases of non-melanoma skin cancer were seen by private skin specialists alone in the period June 1975 to June 1976. This situation certainly should give rise to concern. So in addition to this legislation being introduced to provide an exemption from sales tax on these protective creams, I hope that those people who have the opportunity to dispense news might take advantage of demonstrating to the community at large- and they will be serving a very useful purpose in doing so- the figures that are available in relation to the amount of skin cancer that is incurred. Apart from the human factor, which of course is the main one, one must look at the economic factor related to treating people who perhaps would not have needed to be treated had they known how to prevent this cancer from occurring, or at least had they been able to use whatever measures were available to do so.
I have here a table setting out the melanoma mortality rates per 100,000 for the years 1971-75. In Queensland, the rate was 21.2 male and 14.2 female; New South Wales, 20.6 male and 12.6 female; Victoria, 1 1.9 male and 1 1.6 female; and Tasmania, 10. 1 male and 6.6 female. Other skin cancer mortality in the eastern States from 1971-1975 on the same ratio per 100,000 was : Queensland, 13.3 male and 4.4 female; New South Wales- and note the very big drop- 7.6 male and 2.6 female; Victoria, 5.7 male and 3.7 female; and Tasmania, 5.0 male and 4.6 female. Those figures indicate the need for both the removal of the sales tax and the promotion of a campaign to ask people to use those preparations. I should like to point out that this Bill states:
In the interests of economic administration, the law provides that sales tax and duty are not to be collected on imported goods where only small amounts of revenue are involved.
Therefore, Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek your indulgence to refer to another matter in relation to sales tax exemption. I refer to the need for exemption from sales tax for a machine known as the optacon machine which gives aid to the blind. It has been tried. It is a print reading machine. Whilst there have been some arguments that the exemption from sales tax for this machine might benefit those people who can afford it, irrespective of an exemption, in my opinion it is just a case of an exemption from a charge that the Government imposes. I think that people who suffer in this way should not have to pay sales tax on the machine. The number of people involved is comparatively small. The cost to the Government would be very small indeed but it would be of great benefit to those who are able to use the machine. At least we can do that much to help those people who need such a machine.
I hope I have said enough to indicate the tremendous need for the encouragement, by whatever means possible, of the use of sunscreening preparations which are effective in the performance of the duty for which they are required. I also wish to commend the Government for this measure. I hope that in conjunction with the sales tax exemptions there is that encouragement of the use of these preparations about which I have talked. I also agree with the point made by honourable members on both sides of the House that the general application of sales tax is something that should be very carefully reviewed. I feel this is something to which the Government should give very earnest consideration. I support and commend the legislation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr MacKellar) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 3 1 May, on motion by Mr Sinclair:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition supports the States and Northern Territory Grants (Bluetongue Virus Control) Bill. However, we rather regret that many of the measures adopted here have not been planned in advance. We have known for several years now that the risks of bluetongue, foot and mouth and various other exotic diseases coming into this country were increasing. Stringent quarantine measures have been asked for by the industry, particularly the cattle and sheep industries, over a period of five or six years. As Minister for Health for a period in charge of quarantine matters, I was privileged to initiate some moves to prepare for an eventuallity such as the outbreak of bluetongue by the provision of animal virus laboratories, high security virus laboratories and on off-shore animal quarantine station and so on. Many of these measures are still in the pipeline. I wonder whether they could not have been hurried along a little and whether by this time we should have some prepared to meet an outbreak of a disease of this kind which could have been called into effect on this occasion. However, the crisis has occurred. Something has to be done. At least this legislation is a start.
I think that some aspects of this Bill, for example, the funding arrangements, could be reviewed. I trust that the Government will review them from time to time. People in the Northern Territory in particular who are moving towards self-government are concerned that the financial arrangements for the Northern Territory after 1 July have not been spelt out. They want to know who will raise funds of a type normally provided by the States which to this time have been a Commonwealth responsibility. This Bill is just one example of that grey area of doubt, concern and even alarm in some parts of the Territory, including people in the Majority Party of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. I think the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) ought to try to clarify for those people what their status and obligations will be in regard to funding arrangements after 1 July.
The Bill attempts to provide for three of the major cost burdens that will be placed on beef growers and on government testing faculties. The second reading speech of the Minister did not tell us exactly what the extent and function of the laboratory facilities will be. The amounts provided are fairly modest sums as laboratories go. They are $100,000 for the Northern Territory, $75,000 for Queensland and $50,000 for Western Australia. Those are maximum amounts for laboratory equipment. Presumably the equipment will go into existing laboratories. There should be a public announcement soon of what those facilities are and what they will be able to do. Will they greatly accelerate the enormous delay that takes place? I understand that it takes two years between the initial collection of specimens on the suspicion that some kind of bluetongue virus may have broken out and the final identification of the virus. As the virus is now already in Australia, will this obviate a lot of the very costly high security provisions that were contemplated before the virus got here? In other words, will the identification of the virus be much cheaper in these laboratories than if we were trying to identify de novo?
If we were not sure that the virus was already here and we were testing potentially infected specimens either from within Australia or from the forthcoming off-shore quarantine station, we would require very high security measures to prevent the spread of the virus into the rest of the community. The amounts of money being paid to offset mustering costs, movement of stock, blood testing and, particularly, movement testing including animals for export, will all be considered by the industry as being very much less than the costs that will be sustained by the cattle producers particularly because of the marked shrinking of their markets. There has been a restriction of overseas markets which may not selectively affect people in the Northern Territory but which will affect the industry as a whole. In particular there has been a restriction of markets within Australia, because of the reluctance of buyers in the southern States to take cattle from the north whether they be stud stock or other stock.
Compensation for risks which are beyond the control of the primary producer- a kind of national insurance- ought to be provided by the Government particularly with a view to forestalling a more serious outbreak which could occur in the future. It is unfortunate that the former Labor Government did not clamp an excessive profit tax, a sort of compulsory insurance, on the beef industry when there was a boom in order to build up a reserve fund. I imagine that we would have been less popular if we had done so. Any government would be if it took that sort of action. The market for beef or any of the ruminants susceptible to this virus such as sheep or goats is not now buoyant. There are no areas in which prices are buoyant or above normal which would justify taxing the industry. We have to look at the serious possibility that the Australian taxpayer will have to shoulder the risks of some other disease breaking out.
It is not at all unlikely that foot and mouth disease will come to Australia in our time judging by the experience of other countries and the greater risks we are subjected to by the increasing movement of people into Australia. They could be carrying, for example, undercooked meat which they did not declare to customs officers. If there was an outbreak of foot and mouth disease in Australia and it was allowed to go undetected for as long as the bluetongue virus did, Australian livestock industries could face a loss of about $ 1,000m. It is unlikely that the disease would go undetected. Fortunately or unfortunately, the bluetongue virus has not caused symptoms in cattle whereas foot and mouth disease would arouse suspicions much earlier and hopefully before it had spread beyond control. Even so, we could not be sure that it would not spread to buffalo or wild ruminants that we cannot control. We might never be able to eradicate it from this continent. It would greatly reduce the value and the scope of our export markets and the number of countries which would be willing to take our exports. It would greatly increase costs of production because of the need to vaccinate throughout the country.
I commend the legislation. However, I suggest that the Government ought to be stimulating discussion with the industry on contingent plans for an outbreak of some other virus that may be far more deadly than this one. Perhaps some form of contingent funding ought to be looked at. I hope it will be possible for the Government to improve on the variety and extent of the funding available of the kind that is outlined in the Bill. The beef industry has taken the brunt of the outbreak of bluetongue, not because of the effects of the disease on cattle but because of the anxiety that the virus may be transferred to the sheep industry. Initial tests have shown that the virus could be highly virulent. It could cause considerable commercial damage to the sheep flocks of Australia.
I trust that the Minister will keep us fully informed on this, expecially as it seems that there is more than one strain of virus now in Australia. The outbreak in New South Wales, being of a different strain, presumably has come in through a different channel. I would hope that some fairly strenuous investigations are proceeding, to see if it is not just a mutant of the same virus; whether we can track down the avenues by which these viruses have entered Australia and thus, hopefully, prevent further strains from entering in the same way.
-I welcome this Bill, which will help partly to offset the very great costs and the disastrous effects of the discovery of this disease in Australia. The honourable member for Capricornia (Dr Everingham) did say that it had taken a long time to find out about this disease. I do not believe that the system’, the Government, the Bureau of Animal Health or anyone involved can be blamed for this.
The history, very briefly, is that in 1975, as part of a routine check, some 3,000 insects were collected at Boatrice River in the Northern Territory. These comprised 11 different species of midge or culicoides. These were mixed together and used in Australia in testing for various diseases and viruses generally. As a routine measure, the mix was sent to Yale University for testing, and it was at that University that the first suspicion that we might have a bluetongue virus in Australia was confirmed. On 24 October 1 977 that confirmation was conveyed to Australia. Immediately, the problem was referred to the world reference bluetongue laboratory at Onderstepoort in South Africa, which confirmed that Australia had a new type of bluetongue virus, which they named CSIRO- 1 9.
No one knows how long this disease has been in Australia. As the honourable member for Capricornia so rightly said, it has never shown any signs of affecting cattle. Therefore, we have never had any reason to believe that we had it. It was almost by accident that we discovered that we had this potentially disastrous disease. It is spread by biting midges, the little sandflies which are very prevalent in Australia, particularly in tropical Australia. It is not yet known which of the 1 1 species tested actually spreads the disease. It cannot be spread by cattle. It can only be spread by insects biting cattle, transferring the disease to other cattle and thence to sheep. Cattle cannot spread the disease to sheep. It is not like influenza or any of these other virus diseases.
The problem is that if it were a virulent form of virus it could have a disastrous effect on the sheep industry in Australia. Because of that, the Government very rightly, in consultation with the States, took some stern measures. A program of testing herds in northern Australia was commenced immediately. When it was discovered that the virus was much more widespread than was originally thought, a large area of the Northern Territory, part of northern Western Australia and most of the Cape York Peninsula in Queensland were declared a bluetongue control area. Controls on the movement of cattle out of that area were instituted. As the honourable member for Capricornia so rightly said, this had a disastrous effect; on the beef producers of that area, those in the bluetongue control area north of the bluetongue line, as it has come to be called.
I should emphasise that although we have the virus in Australia there has been no indication at all of any disease in cattle. The honourable member for Capricornia said that there were indications that the virus was highly virulent. I understand that that is not so, that it is thought not to be a very virulent type. Tests on sheep so far have produced only the mildest reactions. I will come to that point again in a moment. The problem, particularly, is that producers north of the bluetongue line, in the control area cannot move their cattle out of the area without mustering and testing. This is a very expensive business indeed.
The Bill provides compensation for mustering and testing, and the payment of $3 a head up to a maximum of $3,000 per property to offset mustering costs incurred to assist bluetongue control. I am advised by industry organisations in the Cape York Peninsula area that on the coast it costs probably not much more than $2.50 a head to muster stock, but that in Cape York it costs up to $9.50 a head. That means that people on the coast will be adequately compensated for their mustering costs. Those in the more distant areas, on the larger properties, will certainly not be compensated fully. I am not sure how it could be done. I wish that there could have been some differential between those with different costs of mustering. The payment will certainly be a help. It is to operate from 1 January to 3 1 December, for the whole of this year. Secondly, the Government proposes payments to producers of $5 a head to meet the cost incurred in survey and surveillance blood testing, which is necessary. Before cattle can be moved out, a percentage of each herd must be tested, and only those cattle which are declared free of the virus may be moved.
Costs for mustering and testing differ greatly. I am told that on very large properties in some areas this could be up to $19 a head, so that a payment of $5 a head will only partially compensate such producers. The problem in the very large properties is that the cattle have to be mustered over a vast area, brought into a holding area and tested. They have to remain in that holding area until the tests are completed. In the beginning that took quite a long time. Now I am told that tests can be done much more quickly; that results are coming back in about 10 days when there is no positive reaction, and a little longer when the reaction is positive. Again, a payment of $10 a head can be made for movement testing, including testing for export.
It is very difficult to compensate for the loss of markets, the loss of profit, that producers have suffered. I would like to give just one or two examples of the problem. In Cape York Peninsula late last year eight properties organised the export of live cattle direct from the coast at Marina Plains to Hong Kong. Three shipments were arranged for the first six months of this year- 1,000 head per shipment, for a total of 3,000 head. The price then being received at point of shipment was $85 a head. That is about $35 a head more than they would get if they mustered the stock and sent it south to the nearest abattoir, it would have cost another $10 a head to move them. They are now losing a great deal of money because they cannot export the cattle to Hong Kong, which has closed the market to any cattle from the control area in Australia, north of the bluetongue line. It is a disaster to these properties because they cannot sell their cattle, or find it very difficult to sell them, anywhere else. The northern abattoirs have been booked out for some time and I understand that the eight properties concerned are finding it very difficult indeed to sell any cattle. They have to take whatever price they can get for the cattle that they do sell.
I am not sure how the Government can compensate producers who are affected by the control measures. I have written to the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) explaining the problems to him and asking him to investigate whether there is any way by which some special compensation can be arranged for producers who have been affected. In another case an owner with a very good brahman stud had arranged to the export of bulls to Indonesia. His property is just a few miles north of the bluetongue line. He has not been able to sell any of his bulls to Indonesia because Indonesia has closed off any imports from within the bluetongue line irrespective of whether they have been tested and found to be free from the virus. That producer is losing approximately $500 a head because he cannot sell stud bulls to Indonesia. The control measure has had a disastrous effect upon him.
I cite those two examples to let honourable members know the very difficult problems that are being faced by sections of the industry because of the proclamation of the bluetongue line. As the honourable member for Capricornia so rightly said, this disease does not affect cattle but it does affect sheep. The control measures which are having such a disastrous effect on the producers in the area are there to protect the sheep industry and of course partly to protect the live cattle export industry in Australia. I hope that the Government will consider introducing some form of special assistance for people who are very gravely disadvantaged and in respect of whom the present measures, satisfactory as they are in many areas, do not really fill the bill. I should say that there are many producers in the far north of Queensland, and I think, in the Northern Territory who are satisfied that the Government has taken this action, but of course people always want a bit more. Generally the reaction that I have had over the last few days to the Bill has been a favourable one from the majority of producers.
The discovery of a bluetongue virus in New South Wales has added to the problem. It is a different virus from the one discovered in Queensland. As the honourable member for Capricornia said, it is not known how that virus came to be in Australia. It is possible that the other virus in the far north of Queensland and in the Northern Territory was brought into this country by insects which have come from other countries to our far north. This is a very possible explanation. However, the fact that a bluetongue virus has been discovered in New South Wales does change the picture. I hope that the investigations which are being carried out at the moment will prove that the viruses that have been discovered are not virulent. There are many types of bluetongue virus in the world which are not virulent. The virus has been found in many countries, including Canada and the United States of America. It is fairly wide-spread in both those countries but, as I said, many of the types of bluetongue there are not virulent. If we can prove that the types discovered in Australia are not virulent perhaps we can very quickly open up some of those export markets in Indonesia, Malaysia, Hong Kong and other countries which at present are closed to Australia. This is having a disastrous effect on the export of live cattle to those markets-
It is also possible that we may discover that bluetongue is more widely spread in Australia than we think it is. The discovery of the problem in New South Wales is an indication that this may well be so, although hopefully it will have a short-term effect on the export of livestock at the moment. It may mean the removal of the bluetongue line and the removal of the bluetongue control area from North Queensland, the Northern Territory and northern Western Australia because it would seem pointless to have that control area if it were found that the bluetongue virus is much more widely spread in Australia than we at present think it is. The great hope is that we will discover that the virus is not a virulent type; then our markets can be opened up once again. It is only live exports that are affected at the moment. It has not affected meat exports. The virus cannot be transmitted by meat, wool, hide or any other animal products. It can be transmitted only through live cattle
I commend this Bill to the House. It is an effort by the Government to help producers who are very badly affected by the proclamation of the bluetongue control area. I hope that the Government will continue its efforts as quickly as possible to solve this problem in the ways that I have suggested. If it is not solved the beef industry, which is in a very difficult position because of a loss of markets and because of drought in some areas such as the far north of Queensland, will tend to collapse. I commend the Bill to the House.
-I am very pleased to support this legislation because it is one of the few progressive pieces of legislation which I have seen come into this House in recent times. I think we should be grateful to both the honourable member for Capricornia (Dr Everingham) and I the honourable member for Leichhardt (Mr i Thomson) for stressing the tremendous potential danger of this disease, the disastrous effects it is already having on the beef industry in certain parts of Australia and more importantly the < potentially calamitous effects it could have if it got into the sheep industry. I am afraid that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) has been less than frank in pointing out the potential dangers, and certainly his second reading speech did nothing really when it comes to telling the people of Australia and this Parliament what the potential danger is. In the second reading speech the Minister claimed that the Government is making payments to producers to prevent the spread of bluetongue. What the payments will do of course will help to identify the extent of the bluetongue virus in the cattle and to monitor its presence. These payments certainly will not prevent the spread of the disease, as is implied in the second reading speech.
As the honourable member for Leichhardt has pointed out, this virus was detected because some sandfly midges, as they are known, were collected in 1975 and were sent overseas in a routine sort of process. Over two years later we suddenly discover that this potentially calamitous virus is present in these samples. The tragedy of the situation is that we had to wait for two years to find out the potential danger of this disease. We know that the sandfly has been identified as a vector. As the honourable member for Leichhardt pointed out, in the sample that went overseas there were a number of sandfly varieties, and even now we do not know which variety carried this virus. So the situation in that respect just points up the gross inadequacy of our facilities carrying out these tests in Australia. It is quite frightening to think that we had to wait for two years to discover this potential threat, bearing in mind the implications of this disease. I want to say more about that later.
I should like to point out the fallacy in the speech of the honourable member for Leichhardt in relation to the potential threat in New South Wales. He pointed out that another virus had been identified in cattle in New South Wales, but he did not point out that this is a different virus from the one that has been identified in the Northern Territory and that if it is the one that we suspect it to be then it is one that is extremely virulent in sheep in overseas countries. This does not seem to have been made public. I believe that is the situation. We are waiting to verify whether what we suspect- that is, that that virus is of the virulent type- is correct. It is not true to say that the viruses that have been identified in Australia are harmless or potentially harmless. In relation to the virus discovered in New South Wales, in fact the position is quite the opposite. The Minister in his second reading speech goes on to say that there is absolutely no evidence of bluetongue in Australia. Whilst this may be true in the field the Minister would be aware- I think he should inform the House- that the disease has become evident in sheep in Australia when artificially infected in the laboratory. So there is evidence it could become prevalent. There is present in Australia the virus that will infect sheep in suitable circumstances. So the potential danger is very great and the Minister should not just gloss over that possibility as he has done in his speech. I do not think he has done justice to the pastoral industry in New South Wales in particular in playing down the importance of the possible significance of the detection of the virus in cattle in that State. I think he should have informed the House that the virus detected in New South Wales is believed to be one of a type which is known to be extremely virulent in affecting sheep in overseas countries. The tragedy, of course, is that there will be another delay while we verify the identity of those viruses. All of these events point to the fact that the Government is lagging behind the event.
There is no specific provision in this Bill to apply the subsidies to New South Wales. The subsidies apply only to the Northern Territory, Queensland and Western Australia. I would like to refer to the rather sad history of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories project which has been lagging along since as far back as 1968. We are now paying the price for the procrastination and the humbug that went on about that project. I think it was apparent in 1968 that these sorts of facilities would be necessary to deal with the bluetongue situation. But it was 1 973 before the plans were changed to accommodate work on exotic diseases in large animals. It was not until 1976 that further essential changes to the plan were made. Now we are told, of course, that it will take many years, even when those facilities are completed, before we will be able to develop a vaccine to deal with this potential threat of the bluetongue disease. So we have lagged years and years behind. Now the threat has suddenly come to light and we have been caught napping. It is worth mentioning that the report of the independent inquiry on the operations of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories and the capital works program contained some very scathing remarks about the way in which policy decisions were arrived at and planning took place on that project.
The honourable member for Leichhardt mentioned the devastating effects that the bluetongue threat had on the beef industry in the Northern Territory because it has virtually cut off the market for live beef to many South East Asian countries. Of course, he did not say that this has played right into the hands of the carcass exporters because it now removes any competition they had in the market and the producers are at the mercy of the exporters, as they have been for many years. I have pointed out in the House on many occasions the way in which the share of the consumer’s dollar has moved towards the middle man or the exporter rather than the producer. The producer’s share has dropped by some 50 per cent and the meat processor’s share has gone up by some 300 per cent over a certain period. I think the trend has continued over the last couple of years. This will just make the situation even worse. The producer could either sell his livestock to the meatworks or send it overseas. That option is not available now and he is at the mercy of the meat processors. The meat processors, of course, have a limited market or outlet. The other worrying aspect is that because of this situation many properties are severely or extensively overstocked. If there is a very dry period, particularly in the centre of Australia, the whole place could become a dust bowl and losses of gigantic proportions could occur. There is the potential for further calamity in the beef industry.
I would like to refer briefly to the three strands of support that the Government is offering to the producers. The Government will offer a mustering bounty of $3 a head. However, there is to be a ceiling of $3,000 which makes this proposal relevant only to fairly small producers- people with up to 1,000 head of stock to muster. I suppose that this bounty will help to keep the wolf from the door of the small producer. But the bounty will be rather irrelevant to people who may have 50,000 or 100,000 head of stock. The subsidy, with a limit of $3,000, will not be very significant in their case.
The Government also proposes a $5 per head subsidy to meet the costs incurred in survey and surveillance blood testing and a $10 per head subsidy for movement testing to export markets. This form of assistance is certainly much less discriminatory. I think it is quite commendable. A total of $15 per head is most significant in anyone’s language. The Government’s intention to provide funds for the acquisition of virus testing laboratory equipment is, of course, acceptable but again it has come too late. These funds should have been provided years ago. We should not wait for an emergency before we make such funds available to the cattle industry.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting I was referring to the difficult situation in which the beef industry finds itself throught the lack of suitable facilities for dealing with the emergency that has now arisen in relation to bluetongue. Whilst it is commendable that the Government has now provided funds for the laboratories to be set up so that the testing can be carried out much more quickly, it is a case of too little too late. The laboratories should have been established. There are plenty of people who said they should have been, but nothing was done until the emergency arose.
Another thing I would like to comment on briefly is the fact that whilst it is fair enough for the States to share the cost- this is what the Bill provides for- I think it is rather unfair that the Northern Territory, which is bearing the brunt of the bluetongue problems, should be asked to share the cost on the eve of its going into a state of self-government. It would have been much more appropriate had the Australian Government continued to support the bluetongue program for a somewhat longer period in the Northern Territory in view of the extra difficulties that the Territory faces in moving on to a degree of self-government.
Another problem is that it is one thing to subsidise the producers- that is very commendable -to meet some of the costs associated with the bluetongue program, but it is another thing to expect the public servants, the staffs of the various government bodies who have to administer the scheme, to do so without any increases in their numbers. I understand there are grave staff shortages in areas where various government bodies are concerned with the actual testing for bluetongue and the results of the tests have been delayed considerably because there are not enough people physically to handle all the work that is required. There have been considerable delays between taking the actual blood samples from the animals and finding out whether they have the virus or not. I think to be fair to the various State agriculture departments or the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation or which ever bodies are involved in the testing process, reasonable adjustments should be made in staff ceilings and in funds to sustain more staff.
In conclusion, I would suggest that the Minister and the Government have never been the initiators in the bluetongue campaign. They have never taken the lead in dealing with the problem. They have always been pushed along by primary producer organisations such as the Cattlemen’s Union of Australia and the Northern Territory bluetongue committees. These people are to be commended for taking the initiative and putting pressure on the Government and forcing it to take some action. Instead of playing the lead and taking the initiative, the Government has been very remiss. It has had to be pushed into action all the way along the line.
I believe the Minister has been less than frank in informing the Parliament and the primary producers of the potential calamity in our sheep industry. If there is a potential for the virus which has been identified or found to be present in cattle in New South Wales to be transmitted to sheep, that is a very dangerous situation. I think the Minister should have been much more frank in pointing out to the public of Australia and this Parliament the potential danger in that respect. The Minister in his second reading speech said that the New South Wales incident indicates that we are not necessarily dealing with a static situation. That is a gross understatement of the facts. We are dealing with a very dynamic situation and one of great potential danger to the sheep industry and this is what the Minister should have been saying to the Parliament.
– I commend the Government and the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) on this measure. Although the honourable member for Fraser (Mr Fry) said that the Minister had to be virtually jockeyed into making these provisions and putting them up, he was well aware of the situation. Why would he not be? He is a cattle man himself. So I commend him for doing it. Having been in the forefront of the bluetongue pressure committees that were operating from those areas that are affected, I would have a fair idea. But many things had to be done before he could produce what he has produced.
Having said that, I will mention the scheme and possibly some of its shortcomings as I see them. The Bill offers relief to the cattlemen who have been caught up in this unfortunate bluetongue problem. It is right across the Top End, Queensland and the north of Western Australia. The Bill is aimed at assisting the cattle producers in that area. Because of the dreadful downturn in the beef industry many of these producers just have not got the money or the wherewithal to put together their horse plants and stock camps or to pay the stockmen. Most of them are operating on a very fine line. Some of them do their mustering when they get their half grown-up families home from school. The boys go into the stock camp. Some of them have had to take their boys away from school, they help each other. That is the situation.
Many of them would have been just getting ahead of the depressed cattle and beef markets with their exports of live cattle when this bluetongue problem arose and away went the market in Hong Kong and various other places. That was what they were building up and what they were interested in. That would have got some of them out of a lot of bother. Where they go now I do not know. This program at a cost of $3.7m, of which I think the Commonwealth is putting in $2.5, will not recompense any of them for their lost markets- that is the dreadful situation that they are in- but it will go to assist them to put some cattle together.
The $3 a head for mustering, testing and so on, when one comes to think of it, would probably be of great assistance to a considerable number of cattlemen, especially those on the east coast, who do not have such large numbers of cattle or such vast areas. To take a sample for bluetongue on a place like Anthony Lagoon, where it did show up, and where there would be 30,000 or 40,000 head of cattle or next door on Brunette Downs, which would have 50,000 or 60,000 head of cattle, is a different matter. To do a test on those properties they could probably do it by four spotting areas, say a hundred beasts here and a hundred beasts there. They certainly will not be making any money out of it. The same remarks would apply to payment of $5 per head for survey and surveillance blood testing.
Even if a greater cost than anticipated is incurred, I urge the Government to complete the testing program on a property rather than that the tests be not fully carried out and short changing the fellow on the land, saying to him: ‘That’s it, that’s your 1,000 head at $3 a head’, or $5 a head if survey and surveillance blood testing is involved. It may well be that by granting the extra money to do the additional survey we will get this problem under control. We should not be niggardly and stop the testing when we reach the figure that is laid down. I urge the Government to look at that matter with sympathy and to consider these cattlemen who have virtually been broken by this bluetongue virus problem. It is a problem which really has nothing to do with them. It does not affect the beef but they are in the forefront of this testing program because Australia is frightened of the virus spreading to its sheep population, and not without reason. Nevertheless, the northern cattlemen are carrying the brunt of it. Whether they will get through it I do not know but the payments to be provided could be of help to them and the Government is to be commended for bringing this legislation in.
The Minister for Primary Industry has been accused of everything under the sun, from being niggardly to not caring. However, he has cattle in the north of New South Wales and would know more about this problem than any parliamentarian apart from perhaps me and some of the honourable members from Queensland sitting behind me. The Minister has said that there is no evidence of the bluetongue disease, so we are faced merely with a clinical situation. That being so, I urge the Government to find out whether this disease is present in other countries. I have been a Territory cattleman and I have seen this three day sickness or ephemeral fever, which is what the authorities were testing for when they located the bluetongue virus. I am convinced, and have been for a long time, that this virus has been around the Top End of Australia and certainly in countries to our north for any length of time that we might care to nominate. If not, where has it come from?
During most of the wet season from December to May we have a north west wind blowing and it could carry these insects to Australia. I am certain that if we keep going up wind we will find some country which has the same virus. No one can tell me that the countries which form the Association of South East Asian Nations are not riddled with this virus. So we should be making every effort to find out which other countries have the virus because if we could, there would be no reason for at least those countries not taking our cattle. In fact, people living in those countries own cattle properties in the Northern Territory and cattle have been exported from the Northern Territory to those countries.
Despite the fact that our cattle industry is under this dreadful handicap and is under threat, this outbreak, disastrous though it is, could well be a blessing in disguise in that it might alert Australia and our veterinary and animal health services to the fact that we have these diseases on our doorstep. The disease that we are afraid of most is foot and mouth disease but there are other diseases such as rabies which could be a problem in this country. Some of the other diseases if they got into our cattle, buffalos and pigs, could place Australia in real trouble- certainly far more trouble than we are in now. So I make an urgent plea to the Government to treat the present campaign as a dummy run. I am certain that the animal health authorities would be well aware of the advantages in this and I urge them also to redouble their efforts.
I said earlier that this program would cost $3. 7m of which the Commonwealth was going to provide $2.4m. After July the Northern Territory will assume a considerable amount of selfgovernment taking over many additional responsibilities, and I noticed in the Minister’s second reading speech, and other honourable members have mentioned it, that the Northern Territory then will have to bear, as will the States, its share of the cost of this program. At the moment the Majority Leader in the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly is in Canberra. I hope when he is having his financial talks with the Government that he will consider this matter very seriously because, apart from the fact that this will be an extra cost to be sprung on the Northern Territory as it moves into selfgovernment, the Northern Territory cattlemen and the Northern Territory itself will be among the major losers. The cattlemen in the Territory are just the innocent bystanders, as are most people. Probably the villains of the piece are the departmental advisers who discovered this problem, but it is their job to discover these things and they are certainly working hard to find the answers. This is just one of those unfortunate situations. I ask the Government to look sympathetically at the Northern Territory because it will have to pay a large part of the cost of this program when it assumes its new financial responsibilities. The Government should make every effort to trace this problem back to its country of origin because if this can be done we may get some of these markets opened up to us again. That is what we are working towards.
The establishment of the National Animal Health Laboratory, which has been on the stocks for a long time, has finally been approved and work is now to go ahead. Some speakers from the Opposition have blamed the Government for not having gone ahead with the proposal, but if it had been approved earlier it still would not have been in operation to handle this situation. I know that it is further back now than it would have been if it had been approved previously, but we still would not have been in a situation to do anything practical whatever about bluetongue. With those few words, I support the Bill.
Mr FitzPATRICK (Riverina) (8.2 1 )- I am pleased to be able to speak on this Bill for a few minutes because many sheep breeders and cattle breeders in my electorate will be pleased to know that a Bill is before the House to provide for the acquisition and installation of laboratory equipmentvirology equipment- in Western Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory to improve the cattle blood testing services. In spite of the way the honourable member for Northern Territory (Mr Calder) tried to smooth over it, as the honourable member for Capricornia (Dr Everingham) has pointed out, it is disappointing that we have not been told why it is necessary to acquire this laboratory equipment and install it at this stage. One would have thought that it would have been done already and that we would have been told more about the equipment, what type it is and why it is such a big effort to acquire it.
Since entering Parliament I recall having heard almost constantly about foot and mouth disease and bluetongue disease whenever the beef cattle industry is being discussed. Time and time again it has been stated that there is every possibility that these diseases could break out here, in spite of all the precautions that may be taken. One would expect that all the precautions would have been taken and that, in addition, the installation of this virology equipment would already have been undertaken. The Bill does not indicate that all precautions have been taken. Those responsible should know that the best way to alleviate panic, or fear, which often comes when we are threatened with an outbreak- I do not think that it is right to say that we have an outbreak, because we have not at the present time, but certainly we are threatened with one- is clearly to indicate that we are ready to meet the occasion. The honourable member for Fraser (Mr Fry) has told us that not only was it necessary to purchase this new equipment and install it, but also that there is a shortage of trained staff. Surely that is something that is more serious than the lack of any supervision. One cannot train staff for this type of work overnight. One would have thought that the staff would have been trained already and waiting to carry out the job.
The honourable member for Leichhardt (Mr Thomson) has given the House valuable information about how the virus was discovered. I thought that what he said was useful and will help us to understand the situation more clearly. It is a little hard for laymen to decide whether there has been a scientific discovery or whether we should point a finger at someone for being lax. It may be a little bit of both. There may have been a scientific discovery, but there appears to have been some laxity as well. One thing in our favour is that I do not think there has been any cover-up. I think it would be safe to say that those who compete with Australia in the meat market would cover it up more than it has been in Australia. On my overseas trips I have found that the precautions taken at Darwin seem to be as thorough as those taken in other countries. I find it hard, nevertheless, to understand the honourable member for the Northern Territory when he claims that because the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) is a cattleman everything should be in order and he would have taken all necessary precautions. Surely this is not a job for a cattle producer. It is a specialist job and one that would require some scientific training. I agree with him to the extent that those responsible should have gone overseas to investigate this type of disease. As I said before, it is obvious that at some time there is likely to be an outbreak in Australia.
I feel that the producers in my electorate will be pleased to know that the Bill will enable the Commonwealth to enter into a financial arrangement with the States and the Northern Territory for making payments to cattle producers affected by the control measures instituted by animal health authorities to prevent the spread of the bluetongue virus. I think it is well known that the growers are not in a position to carry any extra expense to control the measures instituted by the health authorities. Therefore, it is with some satisfaction to me that the Bill provides for that. I think it was a matter of the greatest satisfaction for all honourable members to hear the Minister say that although there is the presence of bluetongue virus in Australia there is absolutely no evidence of bluetongue disease. That was a very important statement and one that cannot be emphasised too strongly.
A few years ago inspectors from America were in Australia inspecting our abattoirs and saying that they had to be brought up to standard if we wished to export meat to the United States of America. Many producers in Australia were then saying that that was only another way of blocking our meat exports to the United States. I think there were probably some grounds for that belief. Therefore, it was not surprising for many producers to learn that, following official notification of the presence of the virus a number of importing countries placed bans or restrictions upon the import of meat and livestock from Australia.
It is comforting to know that a number of these restrictions have been eased significantly following technical representations by the Bureau of Animal Health. We are told that there is still a serious limitation on trade to the affected areas, particularly in relation to livestock exports to countries to the north. I think it would be fair to say that the situation is full of danger for our producers, even without any evidence of bluetongue disease. One could understand what it would be like if Australia really had an outbreak of the disease. Given a free and unrestricted market, I think it has been proved by Australian beef and mutton producers that Australia can supply better quality meat, often at lower prices, than many of its competitors. Naturally those competitors would keep Australia out of the market on any flimsy excuse. That is the greatest danger. I might be going too far, but I think that some of Australia’s competitors would not be very unhappy that this virus has been discovered in Australia. It is of concern to all of us that a growing trade in live cattle to South East Asia, particularly to Hong Kong, has been lost, while access to the Malaysian market is restricted.
The Government is also to be commended for agreeing to participate with the States and the Northern Territory in a program to provide financial assistance to cover the additional costs of mustering and holding stock while these tests are being carried out and the cost of sprays and dips. It was interesting to learn from the honourable member for Leichhardt that he felt that those producers on the coast were amply compensated. He added some information for the House to the effect that those producers further inland were not amply compensated. I must join in asking the Government to compensate those people, because the stamping out of this virus depends on the producers not only in that area but also in the whole of Australia. The House has been informed previously that this is more a sheep disease than a cattle disease. One wonders what would happen to what is probably our greatest export market if this disease were to get into our sheep. Therefore one cannot expect the cattlemen in an isolated area to carry the full cost of treatment for this virus. Because bluetongue is a serious disease and because of the density of the sheep population, I think it is important that all sections should co-operate to ensure that the disease is eliminated. I wish the Government and the animal health authority every success in their attempts to isolate and eliminate this virus.
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 Killen) read a third time.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Debate resumed from 31 May, on motion by Mr Howard:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Income Tax (Arrangements with the States) Bill 1978, which is now before the House, is a legislative hoax. Under the guise of offering the States greater financial freedom as part of an ill-defined concept of new federalism, it in fact represents the implementation of the final stage of an elaborate plan to slash the size of the public sector. Although it offers the hope of lower levels of income tax, it in fact will lead to substantial increases in income tax. Although it is put forward as a step towards co-operative federalism, the fact is that the States do not want it. Although it is put forward as a matter of highminded principle, it is in fact a device to pass to the States the approbium of being responsible for increased taxes. It is accordingly thoroughly deceptive legislation, and we on this side of the House strongly oppose it.
Before I go further, I want to protest about the way in which this Bill was brought before the House. It was introduced only yesterday afternoon. It is an extremely important measure. It is a measure which in 1975 the Government proclaimed as being a cure all for a lot of our problems. It has been talked about a lot since that time. But the Bill has been before the House for only one day, and that just simply has not allowed us sufficient time to go through the very complicated detail of the Bill. Although one can quickly grasp the concept of the Bill, it has been impossible for the Opposition to thoroughly understand it or to go through all its detail in the time which has been available to us. To proceed in that way shows a contempt for the Parliament and for the democratic process.
The Bill abandons the uniform income tax provisions which have applied in this country since 1 942. It provides for the States to pass legislation enabling them either to implement a tax surcharge on federal personal income tax rates or, at least in theory, to implement a tax rebate. Such a surcharge would be added to the States revenue or a rebate would be subtracted from it. The Bill also provides extensive conditions to be complied with by the States in respect of their income tax legislation. It amends the Income Tax Assessment Act in various respects to provide the complicated administrative arrangements needed for the Commonwealth to collect the surcharge or apply a rebate on behalf of the States, and it gives authority to the Commissioner of Taxation to administer State tax laws.
The implications of this legislation cannot be properly assessed by looking at the Bill in isolation. It is very much part of a total concept of federal financing and must also be looked at in the context of the Government’s budgetary policy. I wish to turn then to look at the federalism package so that we can properly understand the nature of this legislation which is before us. I have mentioned previously that the new federalism concept, as it is called, was put before the nation first in September 1975. It was put forward by the then Opposition as representing a philosophical approach based on the desirability of decentralising government, giving greater freedom to lower tiers of government and increasing their budgetary independence and responsibility. That is all rather high sounding and noble stuff.
But to give effect to these ideals there were to be two basic fiscal reforms. Firstly, State and local government were to be given a fixed share of personal income tax collections. For the States this was to be in place of the financial assistance grants from the Commonwealth. Those grants were untied in regard to the form of expenditure but were varied annually according to a formula which was periodically renegotiated. For local government the set share of personal income tax was to replace the equalisation grants previously made on a basis decided by the Commonwealth Grants Commission. The second feature of it was that the States were to be given the right to levy a surcharge or rebate on Commonwealth personal income tax collections. That is what we have before us at this time.
The first stage has been implemented, with the States now having an entitlement to 39.87 per cent of the personal income tax collections for the previous year. In order to assess properly the impact on the States of the new federalism as it operates and as it is likely to operate, we need to look at those previous arrangements. Previously there was a number of forms of payments to the States. Under the general heading of general purpose revenue grants there were, firstly, financial assistance grants. These are the grants I have already mentioned which have been replaced by the share of personal income tax. They were calculated on the basis of formula involving the population increase in each State, the increase in the level of wages, and the betterment factor. Secondly, under this general purpose revenue grants heading, there were special grants paid on the recommendations of the Grants Commission to States which claimed they were unable to function at a standard similar to that of Victoria and New South Wales. Thirdly, there was the special revenue assistance under which the Federal Government now and again gave ad hoc grants to the States to overcome the financial difficulties that they had.
The second general category of grants is general purpose capital funds. Under this heading are the loan capital funds, which come from the Loan Council which comprises the Prime Minister and the Premiers of each of the States. The Loan Council approves the borrowing program for the Federal Government and each State Government, except in the case of temporary and defence purposes. These funds are utilised by the Commonwealth and the States to finance various capital works. Also under this general heading are capital grants from the Commonwealth. The Federal Government provides a proportion of these State Loan Council borrowing programs by way of interest free capital grants. A third category is specific purpose grants. These can be for capital or recurrent purposes. These specific purpose grants by the Federal Government come under section 96 of the Constitution. By this means the States are bound to follow certain expenditure patterns laid down by the Commonwealth in making that grant. So there have been quite a number of means by which the Federal Government has provided funds to the States.
It is extremely important for everyone to understand- particularly Government supporters who do not seem to understand it, judging by the comments made both by way of interjection and by way of substantive statement in the debate a couple of weeks ago on the Stage I provisions- that what has been done by the implementation of Stage I of these new Federal financing arrangements is the replacement of only one of those many forms of Federal grants to the States. That is the financial assistance grants. There are still many other forms of grants to the States. That is quite an important point to understand, and one of which many Government supporters do not seem to have any concept. It is only the financial assistance grants that have been replaced by the personal income tax share. So what happens to the rest of these grants is tremendously important to the States. It is no good just saying that there have been big increases in the amounts going to the States by way of the personal income tax share, although that has not been a great success either.
What is of crucial importance is what happens to all the other forms of payment. I wish to look at that matter now because they comprise 64 per cent of the total payments to the States and are therefore extremely important to the States. The previous arrangements which operated under the Whitlam Government meant that the States fared very well indeed in terms of the total amount of funds they received from the Federal Government. Between 1972-73 and 1975-76, general purpose funds increased by 64 per cent, that is, the total of general purpose grants to the States increased by 64 per cent compared with the increase in inflation at that time of less than 50 per cent. So there was a substantial real increase in general purpose funds at that time. This was despite some off-setting reductions in general purpose payments to the States as a consequence of Federal takeover of responsibilities such as the railways in Tasmania and South Australia and also despite the fact that there was an off-setting reduction in general purpose payments to make up for the fact that the Federal Government took over total financing of some State responsibilities such as tertiary education. In the same period of the Whitlam Government, specific purpose funds increased enormously. Between 1972-73 and 1975-76 they rose from $932m to $4, 153m, that is, they much more than quadrupled in that time. So the States did not fare badly at all under the Labor Government. Indeed, their revenues increased quite rapidly.
I refer now to an article by Professor Russell Mathews, who is the Director of the Centre for Research on Federal Financial Relations at the Australian National University. In a book entitled The Politics of ‘New Federalism’ he has an article entitled ‘Revenue Sharing and Australian Federalism’. He says at page 48:
Mr W. R. C. Jay has shown that, as a proportion of gross domestic product, general purpose Commonwealth grants increased from 4.34 per cent in 1973-74 to 5.09 per cent in 1975- 76, specific purpose grants from 2.43 per cent to 4.94 per cent and net advances from the Commonwealth from 1.47 per cent to 1.97 per cent. While the States were greatly expanding their role as providers of services (education and health expenditures increased from 5.92 per cent of gross domestic product in 1973-74 to 8.61 per cent in 1975-76), their net increase in indebtedness fell from 0.45 per cent of gross domestic product to 0.35 per cent. All States except New South Wales recorded revenue surpluses in 1975-76, and all expected to be able to balance their budgets in 1 976- 77 despite significant reductions in taxation. By the end of 1975-76, a revenue surplus of over $50m was in prospect for South Australia.
It is completely obvious from that statement by Professor Mathews that the States did extraordinarily well in the period of the Whitlam Government. Their revenues increased faster than they had ever increased before and the state of their general finances was better than ever before at the time the Whitlam Government was removed from office. So there is no doubt whatever that the previous arrangements served the States well. It has to be admitted, however, that the States were not completely satisfied- and probably they never will be. They particularly regarded the expansion in specific purpose payments as a proportion of their total funds from the Commonwealth as an irritating restriction. They were also unhappy about the financial assistance grants formula and sought improvements in that. At the June 1975 Premiers Conference, the Labor Government sought to accommodate the States in both of these respects. Financial assistance grants were in fact improved. For 1975-76 the then Labor Government added $220m to the amount provided by the then formula and also increased the betterment factor in the formula from 1.8 per cent to 3.0 per cent. Thus the financial assistance grants in 1975-76 increased by 29.8 per cent. Those are the completely untied grants from the Commonwealth to the States. So that was hardly parsimonious action on the part of the then Labor Government.
The Labor Government also proposed that there shoud be more co-operative planning between the Federal and State governments. It proposed 10 forms of co-operative planning as a basis for discussion. I again quote from Professor Mathew’s article in which he says:
The Commonwealth proposed ten forms of co-operative planning as a basis for discussion, including: better coordination of government programs; forward planning and assessment of needs and priorities; the development of more effective machinery for intergovernmental co-operation; the collection and interchange of authoritative information on major plans and programs; and consideration of ‘the scope for some relaxation of conditions attached to specific purpose assistance to the States as more satisfactory cooperative planning arrangements are developed ‘.
Unfortunately those discussions did not come to anything very productive before the Whitlam Government was removed from office. But at least they show that the Labor Government did wish to achieve closer co-operation with the States and involved them more closely in program determination and funding. Indications were given of a willingness by the Federal Government to relax conditions on specific purpose grants. So it was quite an accommodating approach by the Labor Government in 1975 towards the States, both in terms of the funds made available and in terms of the moves towards greater understanding and co-operation for the future. A very conciliatory and cooperative approach was being taken. It is absurd to say that these were the actions of an utterly centralist government, as has been alleged time and time again by people opposite and by some people in State governments.
The use of specific purpose grants, as I have mentioned, created some objections amongst the States. They were used principally to overcome the grievously neglected state of the social infrastructure. They were tremendously important to the Labor Government’s program. There was no other way in which we could expand expenditure in these areas, which were tremendously important to the Labor Government- areas of enormous neglect in the period of the previous two decades under conservative governments. Those areas referred to the whole of the social infrastructurethe need to build up education, health services, urban and regional development, welfare housing, social security and welfare. All these very badly neglected areas could be assisted only by way of specific purpose grants. That is why they increased so rapidly at that time. Of course it should also be mentioned that the States took a lot of the kudos for the expenditure which they undertook with funds given to them by the Labor Government at that time.
Under Stage I, the States, as I have mentioned, have been given a separate portion of personal income tax receipts for the year 1976-77, replacing the financial assistance grants that had been generously increased under the Labor Government. However, in the very first year in which the previous operations were changed to the new federalism concept, the new arrangements showed what can be expected in the future. The States will have to fall back on the guarantee they extracted from the Government that for the four years to 1979-80 they will not receive any less than they would have received under the revised 1975 formula for financial assistance grants, that is, the Whitlam formula. But for this guarantee the famed new federalism would have given them less in the way of general purpose revenue funds. In 1 976-77, the first year of new federalism, the States had to rely on the Whitlam formula so that they would not get any less than they would have received under that formula had it continued to apply.
Nevertheless, these untied grants have continued to increase at a reasonable rate. That is shown in Budget Paper No. 7. On page 6 there is a table showing payments to or for the States. It shows that general revenue funds for recurrent purposes increased by 19.6 per cent in 1976-77 and by 16.6 per cent in 1977-78. Those are the figures that have been used in previous debates by members opposite to show that new federalism is great for the States and that their funds are increasing at a rapid rate. Those figures apply to less than 40 per cent of the total amount of funds going to the States. They are by no means the whole story. Other payments to the States show a totally different picture. Specific purpose payments for recurrent purposes in 1976-77 increased by only 4 per cent although they went up by 19.6 per cent in 1977-78. General purpose capital funds went up by only 5 per cent in 1976-77 and 5.7 per cent in 1977-78. That was well below the rate of inflation. Specific purpose payments for capital purposes went down by 9.7 per cent in 1976-77 and 6.5 per cent in 1977-78.
The total payments to the States show a very different picture than the figures which have been pointed to previously by honourable members opposite for general revenue funds for recurrent purposes. Total payments to the States increased in 1976-77 by 6.9 percent. In 1977-78 they increased by 1 1.6 per cent. Over that twoyear period they have increased by 19 per cent which is less than the rate of inflation for the same period. The rate of inflation measured by the consumer price index was 23 per cent. If one takes the implicit index for government capital expenditure it was 19.7 per cent. The implicit index for government current expenditure shows that it was 2 1.9 per cent. These are price indices. Whichever index one takes, either the implicit indices or the CPI, there was a real reduction in total grants to the States in the first two years of the term of the Fraser Government.
This is a tremendously important point to accept. It is absolutely undeniable. That is what has happened under stage I of new federalism. This is clearly because the 60 per cent of payments to the States which are additional to the proportion of income tax guaranteed to the States have been increased at a much lower rate than the general revenue grants which come from the set proportion of personal income tax receipts. The area which has suffered the most has been specific purpose grants. Furthermore, it is very likely that these grants will be cut back further in the coming Budget despite the statement by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) last September that there would be no further cuts in government expenditure. The reason for this is that the deficit is blowing out. The Government’s Budget strategy has gone awry. It feels obliged to start hacking away at government expenditure once again.
Already we know that the deficit will be approximately $3 billion this financial year. The Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research has estimated that the Budget deficit, if everything remains unchanged- expenditure, tax rates and so on- will be $3, 750m for the coming financial year. The Government knows that those figures are roughly correct. It is panicking and talking about the need to slash government expenditure. For the reasons I gave in an earlier debate this week on the Loan Bill we think that is bad economics, but that is not the point with which I am concerned at this time. I am concerned with the fact that it is quite clear that the Government intends to cut expenditure further, particularly grants to the States. A few nights ago, on Monday of this week, the suspended Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson) made a temporary resurrection. A speech was made to the annual dinner of the Australian Finance Conference on his behalf. I should like to mention a couple of things in that speech which was presumably written on behalf of the Government as he wrote it as the Minister for Finance. He said:
We have reached the situation now where hard decisions are having to be taken to cut into some programs which, while not unattractive in themselves, simply cannot be accommodated within a responsible overall fiscal policy . . .
To begin with, it is sometimes forgotten that State governments are large spenders . . . Their spending too needs to be contained if the relative size of the public sector is to be reduced . . . The States will receive around $4 billion in the form of specific purpose payments in 1 977-78.
These latter payments grew very quickly under the Labor Government- increasing more than four-fold between 1972-73 and 1975-76; and will no doubt come in for close scrutiny in the course of the search for expenditure savings for next year.
There we have it straight from the Minister for Finance who was presumably speaking on behalf of the Government despite his temporaryor perhaps permanent- suspension that the Government intends to cut expenditure particularly in the area of specific purpose grants to the States.
– He said ‘close scrutiny’.
– He was certainly talking about the need to take hard decisions as to where to cut back on programs. There is no doubt at all that he was talking about cut backs in expenditure. Specific purpose grants to the States accounted for 43 per cent of total payments to the States in 1977-78. If the Government slashes into that amount further the States will be very adversely affected as they have been already. It is in this context that the Stage II legislation is being introduced, the context of government pruning its expenditure, especially in grants to the States for specific purpose programs. It is thus putting great pressure on the States to utilise the permission they are now being given to apply an income tax surcharge. It is clear from the second reading speech of the Treasurer (Mr Howard) that the Government intends the States to increase taxes. The Minister stated:
However, it would seem from recent comments by some Premiers that some States are unwilling to accept a greater share of responsibility for raising the money they spend.
Quite clearly he is suggesting that they ought to be prepared to levy taxes and have some responsibility for the money they raise. The Minister continued:
All the Commonwealth can do, and is seeking to do, is to provide the necessary framework to enable the States to help themselves. The next step is up to the States.
That is a clear invitation, if not an instruction to the States, to get into the arena and start levying income taxes to help themselves to the taxpayers ‘ money. That is what he was saying. He forgot to add the last few words. It is quite clear what the Government has in mind with this legislation. It has introduced a Bill to give the States permission to increase income taxes. It is telling them that they ought to utilise that power -
– Or grant a rebate.
– I cannot hear myself speak with that din coming from the other side of the House. It is telling them they ought to utilise that power to increase income taxes on the Australian people.
– Or grant a rebate.
– The honourable member just entered the chamber. He does not know what has been said before. He has not understood the first thing I have said.
– I have been listening to you on the broadcast for the last 15 minutes and you are absolutely hopeless.
– I have been correcting some of the stupidities of your speech a couple of weeks ago.
-Order The honourable member for Denison will wait until he makes a speech himself. He will then see how the House judges his remarks.
– The Fraser Government is shifting the burden of financing government expenditure from itself to the States. It cut taxes and made a great play of that at the last Federal election. It is now forcing the States into a situation where they must either offer a greatly reduced level of government services or increase income taxes in which case the State Government, not the Federal Government, will have to bear the wrath of the people. In this respect the Australian Financial Review on 14 May 1976 quoted a Treasury document which came to the same conclusion. It stated:
The political bite in the new federalism for the States was lucidly set out in a Federal Treasury paper on the subject reported in the Sydney Morning Herald in May.
The paper, prepared for the February Premiers Conference, warned that the whole scheme could be ‘summarised as the Commonwealth handing over the dirty work of increasing taxes to the States ‘.
That quote from a Treasury document in 1976 sums up exactly what this Government is abouthanding over the dirty work of raising taxes to the States. It is interesting that the Treasury was so frank as to put that to the Government. The States could well be faced with a large amount of this dirty work referred to by the Treasury. From the past behaviour of this Government, and given its Budget deficit problems and its clearly expressed intentions as expounded recently by the temporarily-resurrected Minister for Finance, the Government is likely to cut severely indeed into specific purpose payments in the next Budget, especially when, as a result of this legislation, it can tell the States to raise the money themselves if they need it.
It is therefore by no means beyond the bounds of possibility that it could cut specific purpose payments by something like 20 per cent, which would reduce payments to the States by $880m. If the States were then to make up that lost revenue by raising income tax, the average tax increase would be about $3 a week. This realistic example demonstrates the possible impact of this legislation and points particularly to the hollowness of the Government’s election promises about tax cuts. Tax cuts were a major part of this Government’s election campaign. It had fullpage advertisements with telephone numbers to ring in capital cities to ‘find out what your tax cut is going to be ‘. All this could be wiped out by the legislation that is now before the House.
We were told that there would be an average tax cut of $3 a week, and now we see that reductions in specific purpose payments by this Government could in the near future force the States into increasing taxes by something of the order of $3 a week. Clearly, this is a government of Indian-givers; it gives with the one hand and takes away with the other. That is happening in area after area. In fact, it is happening to the States in another important respect right now. The Government gives the States the right to borrow outside of the Loan Council. That is something that the States have been asking for, but you can bet your bottom dollar that whatever the States get outside the Loan Council will be deducted from what they get from within the Council and from the capital grants made by this Government. They will get nothing for nothing. What is given to them on the one hand will be taken from them on the other, just as will be the case in relation to income tax in this country. The Fraser Government is exposed by the kind of legislation that is now before the House.
– What is your policy?
– I know that Government supporters are angry about this, but it is the fact, nevertheless, that we have seen through their ploy. Another important fact is that the States simply do not want this legislation. The Bill, which has been introduced as part of a new federalism, as part of some co-operative arrangement between the Federal Government and the States is being introduced despite the strong protests and objections of the States. They do not want a bar of this legislation. What sort of cooperation is that? What sort of co-operative, responsible federalism is it if the Commonwealth is imposing on the States something that they do not want? They were not totally happy with the previous arrangements but would prefer them to what the Government is imposing on them now. That is something with which Government supporters will have to live.
All Premiers except one, the Premier of Western Australia, have made it clear that they are opposed to this legislation. That fact, plus the potential for losing control of economic management through giving an important macroeconomic lever to the States in the form of income tax, provides further reasons for opposing this legislation. I therefore move:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: this House condemns the Government’s proposed Federal financial arrangements, on the grounds that
, the real level of payments to the States will be reduced;
the States will be forced to introduce a State income tax;
there will be cuts in employment opportunities offered by State governments, thus adding to the unemployment problem;
capital works will be further reduced with damaging effects on the building and construction industry; and
the standard of services offered at the State level will decline.
-(Mr Giles) - Is the amendment seconded?
– Yes, Mr Deputy Speaker, and I reserve the right to speak at a later time.
-In speaking to this Bill, the Income Tax (Arrangements with the States) Bill 1978, it is fitting to start by reading a short paragraph from one of the monthly papers put out by a leading Australian institution. It states:
Since Federation in 1 90 1 , the States have experienced successive reductions in their financial independence. The present Commonwealth Government is now making an explicit effort to reverse this trend and restore to the States a greater measure of independence in the raising and disposal of their revenues.
The reference there was to the present Fraser Government. That is exactly what this Government’s policy of federalism is about. The honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) presented many facts. When he reads his speech tomorrow he will find that many of those facts actually support the Bill. The quotation I have just given refers to successive reductions in the financial independence of the State. There is no great acceleration in those successive reductions in independence than occurred in the years 1972 to 1975, during the Whitlam era. I heard the honourable member for Hume (Mr Lusher) asking the honourable member for Gellibrand by way of interjection, ‘What is your policy?’ I can tell him what the Australian Labor Party’s policy was, as given in the words of the Prime Minister of that time, Mr Whitlam. In his instructions to his fellow Labor State Premiers he said: ‘Your duty is to bring about your own end’. Yet honourable members opposite indicate that federalism policies were invented by them. How could the honourable member say that the Labor Government thought about federalism when, as was reported quite widely, the Labor Prime Minister said to the State governments: ‘Your duty is to bring about your own end’. There is no doubt that the thoughts favouring centralism that they had at that time still exist; there has been no change.
The Bill which represents Stage 2 of federalism, is part of the total federalism package, a package that, in direct contrast to what has been claimed by the Opposition, has received acceptance, at various Premiers Conferences, by all Premiers. There has been basic acceptance of the federalism policy. The Government is reversing the trend of the past. I know that the honourable member for Gellibrand said that during the years 1972 to 1975 specific purpose grants were increased- in other words, tied money that was going to the States. The States had no control over how they would spend it. Certainly, the money went there, but it had to be spent exactly in the way that the centralist government that we had in Canberra at the time said that it had to be spent.
This Government’s federalism policy is concerned with sharing fairly with the States income tax collections and, let us not forget the third tier of government, the local governments of Australia. This is important to continuing CommonwealthState relations. Stage 1 of federalism came into force approximately two years ago. That has brought a greater percentage of untied money to our State governments. I know that federalism is an extremely hard policy to explain to people. It is complicated, but it is good for Australia. Unfortunately, with the advent of federalism, of fair-sharing of income tax with our State and local government colleagues, the State governments, especially the Government of New South Wales, have played politics. Honourable members will all remember how, in the New South Wales election of 1976, Premier Wran successfully sold to the people of New South Wales the fear of double taxation. This legislation does not mean double taxation. I will talk more about that later. The people of Australia in any State need have no fear that this will mean double taxation. It does not mean that at all, yet that is what was implied by the honourable member for Gellibrand.
With federalism you have to look underneath the surface to work out what it means and many of the facts that were put forward by the honourable member for Gellibrand were the basic facts of federalism. Federalism gives the States greater amounts of untied money. When the States are given a greater amount of untied money they cannot at the same time be given greater specific purpose grants, otherwise the Federal Government would still control their finances and that would defeat the whole purpose of federalism. Over the two years since fed.eralism has been in operation the States have had on average for each of those years an 1 8 per cent increase in untied money. I know, as was pointed out by the honourable member for Gellibrand, that some specific purpose grants have not increased at the same rate; they have increased at a lower rate, and that will always happen. In explaining federalism to people it is impossible to look at specific purpose grants in isolation. One always must look at the specific purpose grants and the greatly increased general revenue payments and add them together. One will then find that the States have been doing pretty well, and I will cite figures later on to prove my point.
The responsibility, as I said, must be returned to the States and the States must accept this responsibility for having a hand in what money they get and for having a greater hand and responsibility in how they spend that money. To allow the States to continue to blame the Commonwealth Government when money is not available, at the same time taking credit when the money is being spent, with a lack of responsibility in the raising of money, only induces extravagance and financial irresponsibilities. There are massive examples of State irresponsibilities but one that I will put to the House involves my own State of New South Wales where, over the last few years, the State Government has been increasing its State Public Service at an average rate of 9 per cent per annum while the Federal Government- the Government in Canberraexercising sensible restraint, not cuts, has been holding the increase in the Commonwealth Public Service to just below the 5 per cent mark. If only the States would follow the Commonwealth’s general lead in vigorously reviewing their expenditure patterns it would minimise the need for them to seek additional revenue from the Commonwealth or to increase their taxes and charges in the usual, established manner by which the States are able to collect revenue. I refer to payroll tax, increased service charges and all the rest.
Let me back up what I am saying and destroy what the honourable member for Gellibrand said. He said that this Government is ‘starving’ the States. We are not starving the States. Before I entered the chamber tonight I took the opportuity to obtain a few figures on State finances, and I will refer to my own State of New South Wales- a Labor State and a State that, if the Federal Government were starving the States, surely would be in the No. 1 breech position. These figures which I will cite do not cheat. They are the States half-yearly figures as at the end of December. These figures can be seen before they have time to doctor their books at the end of the financial year. At the end of December- the first six months of this financial year- my own State of New South Wales had a surplus of $78m.
– How much?
– It had a surplus of $78m for the first six months of this financial year. At the same time, the Federal Government in Canberra, paying out money to the States generously, is looking at a coming deficit of $2,500 billion. Yet through our generosity the New South Wales Government had a surplus of $78m as at the end of December, the first half of the financial year. Federalism is something that is going to be of tremendous benefit to Australia. I have already spoken of the increased general purpose grants to the States. I have just told the House about the surplus that the New South Wales Government had at the end of December. Let us have a look back through the years at New South Wales Budgets. In citing these figures I ask the people who are listening tonight to bear in mind that the Federal Government is looking at a deficit of $2,500 billion. For the year 1977-78 the New South Wales Government is budgeting for a surplus of just over $2m. Last year it had a surplus of just over $2m. In the previous year it was almost a break-even figure, a small deficit of $500,000. I now refer to the earlier years- the years before our federalism policy came into operation. For the year ended 1975 New South Wales had a deficit of $36m. For the year ended 1 974 it had a deficit of $ 1 3m. If this Federal Government is starving the States, how is it that a State as inefficient, unfortunately, as New South Wales is able to balance its books so well? I have not the slightest doubt about federalism working.
This legislation introduces stage II of our federalism policy. This is what the Australian people have to get into their heads. Sure, the legislation gives the States the power to impose a surcharge but, far more importantly than that, it also gives the States the power to give a rebate to the people, the people in their own States and the people of Australia. When the States study this legislation and when the States really realise the powerful weapon it puts into their hands they will understand the importance of this legislation. If I were a State Premier I would be making rebates as quickly as I could because the State which comes in first with a rebate systemand this legislation gives the States power to do this- is the State which will attract business opportunity, investment and movements in population from the other States in the same way as Queensland has been attracting people as a result of abolishing death duties. New South Wales, if it had any brains, could do the same thing. Any State could take the initiative. I contend that this legislation gives a great opportunity to the States that wake up first, the States that wake up to the fact that we have put a powerful weapon in their hands, the States that wake up to the fact that they can give their people an income tax advantage. The State that wakes up to that first is the State that will benefit most from this great legislation that is now before the House. Time does not permit me in this debate to speak much longer on the Bill. I fully support this legislation. It is great legislation.
Those people who talk about it as an invention of this Government to hoodwink the people are all wrong. This is great legislation and, as I said before, the State that wakes up to this first will get a great advantage over the other States in Australia.
Debate (on motion by Mr Armitage) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr Howard)- by leave- agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the introduction and passage through all stages without delay of the Parliamentary Contributory Superannuation Amendment Bill 1978.
Bill presented by Mr Howard, and read a first time.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the superannuation scheme provided under the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Act 1 948. The amendments have regard to suggestions that have been made from time to time by senators and members, and also to the provisions of the various schemes that provide superannuation benefits to members of the States’ parliaments. The Bill provides additional retirement benefits for those senators and members who, during their parliamentary career, become Ministers or office holders in the Parliament. All State parliamentary schemes have such a provision. So too did the Commonwealth parliamentary scheme prior to the amendment that was made to it in June 1973. Members will be required to contribute 1 1 te per cent of the additional salary, or allowance in the nature of salary, received as a Minister or office holder. This is in addition to the present contributions of 1 Ite per cent of the parliamentary allowance currently required to be paid under the Act. In broad terms, the retiring allowance otherwise payable on retirement will be increased by the ratio that the parliamentary allowance plus additional salary received bears to the parliamentary allowance payable during the whole of the member’s parliamentary service. When the previous ministerial scheme was introduced in 1 964, service as a Minister or office holder prior to the commencement of the scheme was recognised in certain circumstances. This Bill does likewise but also provides that recognition of such service will be subject to the exercise of an option for repayment of contributions previously refunded under the old ministerial scheme and the payment of contributions for service since June 1973. In respect of service after the date of royal assent to this Bill, all existing and future Ministers and office holders will be required to pay the additional contributions.
The Bill also provides for the discontinuation of the existing Prime Ministerial retiring allowances scheme and for Prime Ministers to contribute in the same way as Ministers and office holders. Appropriate options have been provided for members who have qualified for benefits under the existing Prime Ministerial scheme. Another amendment will enable members to qualify for maximum retirement benefits after completion of 18 years parliamentary service in lieu of the 20 years required under the existing Act. In addition, members’ entitlements in future will have regard to days served in excess of a complete year. It is, of course, rare that the completion of a member’s service occurs on the anniversary of first appointment.
Existing members will also be able to qualify for a retiring allowance on completion of 12 years service or service in four parliaments should they voluntarily retire from the Parliament. The present Act requires the member to have served 12 years and to have attained age 45 before becoming entitled to a retiring allowance on voluntary retirement. Unlike the State parliamentary schemes, the existing Commonwealth scheme does not allow a member to commute any part of a retiring allowance. Whereas some State parliamentary schemes provide for 100 per cent commutation, this Bill provides that a member who retires after the date of royal assent to this Bill may elect to commute up to 50 per cent of his or her retiring allowance. Commutation will not, however, affect the rights of the member’s widow or widower to an annuity.
Another amendment provides for the future halving of the level of contributions related to the basic parliamentary allowance after a member has had 18 years parliamentary service. The reduction in contributions, in respect of service after the date of the royal assent, will be from 1 1 te per cent to 5% per cent of the parliamentary allowance payable from time to time. The Bill also provides for the non-cessation of annuities when a widow or widower of a member or a retired member remarries after the Bill receives the royal assent and for the payment of benefits to dependent children where a member or a retired member has died or dies unmarried. I commend the Bill to the House.
– This measure seeks to amend the existing legislation relating to superannuation payable to members of parliament as and when they retire. There is some urgency about the matter because some members of the Senate will be retiring on 30 June next. There is no retrospectivity in respect of this provision and unless this measure is passed now senators retiring from the Senate on 30 June would not be eligible for benefits. The Opposition has considered the matter and does not oppose the legislation.
A number of trustees meetings have taken place in respect of this matter and various propositions have been submitted from time to time. There has not always been unanimous agreement on how one can best run a retiring superannuation scheme. It is significant that the contribution of members is 1 1 14 per cent which is well above the average contribution paid to other schemes. It is also significant that really what this scheme will do in effective terms will be to reduce the eligibility period for receipt of the maximum benefit from 20 years to 18 years. This is not a very substantial reduction but it is a very significant one in terms of what one might call the life of a parliamentarian. For example, a senator will need to serve three senatorial terms of six years to qualify for the maximum benefit. Under the present scheme he would virtually have to serve for four terms or 24 years in order to qualify for the maximum benefit. Under this legislation a member of the House of Representatives will need to serve six terms of a normal threeyear parliamentary period in order to qualify instead of having to serve a period of, say, 2 1 years to qualify.
Other matters contained in the legislation are of some practical significance. There is no reason that a member should have to attain the age of 45 in order to qualify. It is very appropriate that this change should be proposed because members are coming into Parliament at a much younger age. If we want to get the best men in Parliament, it is important that we guarantee that they enter Parliament in the prime of life and not in their declining years. The Bill has penalties for people who are, if I may say so, reaching the latter period of their effective parliamentary life.
In practical terms the Bill still does not meetmembers of the Opposition are not objecting to the Bill; in fact we are making the position clear so that the Australian people will understand what is involved- the standards that apply in certain States at the present time. The really significant change in the Bill is the ability of members of parliament to commute their retiring allowance. In this Bill there is a factor of 10 per cent being the multiple that one can apply to the amount one is able to commute. However, the limitation is 50 per cent of one’s entitlement. It is significant that members of the Victorian and South Australian Parliaments are able to commute 100 per cent of their retiring allowance, so there is a much higher commutation position in those two States.
The Bill also seeks to give benefits to dependants. I think that everybody would understand what is involved here. If a member of parliament, who has contributed to a superannuation fund dies, it is normal, reasonable and in accordance with precedent that the same benefits that would have been available to him should be available to his dependent widow and children. The scheme proposed by this Bill provides for that category of dependant. The Bill seeks to abandon what is known as the Prime Ministerial retiring allowances scheme. The Opposition does not raise any objection in this respect. We do not have that many Prime Ministers and we are aware of the fact that they would not mind subscribing to a common fund in view of the beneficial entitlements. The Bill also provides for a ministerial scheme. The Labor Government disbanded this scheme on the basis that it believed that there was no need for it. The present Government has decided to reintroduce the scheme for Ministers and office holders. A further contribution will be required from those Ministers and office holders who wish to avail themselves of the scheme. However, let me make it clear that if a person does not wish to avail himself of the scheme he need not make a contribution. Those who wish to avail themselves of it must indicate their intentions within three months. Retrospective contributions, if necessary, will have to be made in respect of money earned as an office holder.
Members of the Opposition discussed this matter at a Party meeting from the point of view of whether we would agree with the terms of the legislation, and we have agreed with the proposition put by the Government. If this Bill is not passed some of our members who are retiring on 30 June will not be entitled to the benefits which we think they deserve and to which their families would be entitled if unfortunately the member died. We therefore believe the Bill deserves the speedy passage that the Government is now seeking. We only wish that the Government had had the chance to introduce the legislation at an earlier date. As you are aware, Mr Deputy Speaker, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) indicated that the only way in which the terms of the Bill could be agreed upon was by some form of negotiation. I do not know why he picked me to negotiate on behalf of the Opposition. Nevertheless, my Party had enough confidence in me to ask me to indicate our position that the Bill is acceptable to the Opposition for the reasons I have outlined. Accordingly, we support the measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Howard) read a third time.
-I support the amendment to this legislation moved by the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) which is:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: this House condemns the Government’s proposed Federal financial arrangements, on the grounds that
the real level of payments to the States will be reduced;
the States will be forced to introduce a State income tax;
there will be cuts in employment opportunities offered by State governments, thus adding to the unemployment problem;
capital works will be further reduced with damaging effects on the building and construction industry, and
the standard of services offered at the State level will decline’.
In supporting that amendment we make it very clear that the Opposition strongly opposes the introduction of stage 2 of the so-called new federalism. Some of the arguments offered here tonight are very specious indeed. The honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Connolly) tried to make the submission that the States had agreed to stage 2 of the new federalism concept. Nothing is further from the truth. All States, with the exception of Western Australia, strongly oppose it.
It is a different thing for the States which have said: ‘This is forced upon us. We strongly oppose it’. New South Wales and I think Tasmania have said that they will not co-operate in the proposal at all but if it is introduced they have outlined 35 basic points of agreement as to what is necessary for the scheme to work. That is a completely different thing from agreeing to the scheme. To the contrary, they strongly oppose it in every State with the exception of Western Australia.
Let me deal with some of the comments that have been passed. An old friend of this Government is the Premier of Queensland, Mr BjelkePetersen. What has he said? I read from the Canberra Times of 13 April:
Both Mr Bjelke-Petersen (Qld) and Mr Dunstan (SA) had earlier referred to the stage-two proposal as ‘a three-card trick’ . . . But Mr Dunstan went on to explain, ‘The Prime Minister is trying to use the States as an instrument of his policy to reduce government expenditure, and to make us take responsibility for it’.
That is the basic issue. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) is endeavouring foist onto the States responsibility for his policy of reducing government expenditure in various fields of welfare and so on. Let me read what Tasmania had to say. In the Mercury of 4 May we read:
The Acting Premier and Treasurer, Mr Batt, said yesterday he would write to all senators appealing to them to reject Fraser Government legislation which will give States the power to raise their own income tax.
But he said that if the legislation went through, he could give no guarantee that, eventually, Tasmania would not be forced to impose a State income tax.
That is a double tax and that is what I will come to shortly. The government is putting forward some extraordinary arguments to make it appear that this is not a double tax. In the Sydney Morning Herald of 1 7 April we read:
The NSW Government will not co-operate with the Commonwealth over the introduction of legislation for the second stage of the Fraser Government ‘s new federalism policy.
Instead, it will seek a review of existing tax-sharing arrangements between the Commonwealth and the States.
The Premier, Mr Wran, sent Telex messages yesterday to the Prime Minister, Mr Fraser, and the five other Premiers expressing total opposition to stage two of the arrangement and calling for the review.
Next we come to Victoria. In the Canberra Times of 1 8 April we read:
The Victorian Premier, Mr Hamer, has rejected speculation that his government will introduce a State income tax.
He made it quite clear. The report continues:
His comments followed a statement by the NSW Premier, Mr Wran, that his Government would oppose the introduction of stage-two.
South Australia has made its attitude very clear, as have New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmaniaright across the board until we come to Western Australia. At this time that State is in favour of it. It will wake up.
Let us look at the second reading speech of the Treasurer (Mr Howard). At page 2818 of Hansard Tor 3 1 May 1978 he is reported as saying:
Before turning to the detailed provisions of the Bill I wish to deal with the constant assertions of our political opponents that the Stage 2 arrangements amount to some form of double taxation’.
He goes on to say:
The first point to be made, of course, is that this legislation puts absolutely no compulsion on the States. It merely provides the framework to enable the States, as they may choose to pick up taxing or rebating options.
This is an extraordinarily specious argument-
Only when a State chooses to impose a tax or to allow a rebate, and legislates accordingly, will this legislation be brought into use. Some Premiers, as is well known, have urged the Commonwealth to reduce income tax. The enactment of this legislation will allow those Premiers to reduce income tax in their States.
A typical Fraser smart Alec reply. The facts are mentioned in the Treasurer’s second reading speech. He said:
In this connection, honourable members will recall that the House recently passed an amendment Bill which is currently in the other place and which provides for the States to receive a fixed amount of $4,336.1m in 1977-78 and for their tax share from 1978-79 onwards.
The operative word is ‘onwards’, from then on to be 39.87 per cent of the preceding year’s collections.
Taking into account that Government’s policies in respect of tax indexation it means that the States’ share of income tax will be steadily eroded over the years because their share will not be updated in terms of inflation. So sooner or later they will be forced into the situation of having to impose a double tax, an income tax of their own. It is the concept behind this legislation and honourable members opposite know it only too well. They are deliberately a party to it. They are trying to force the States into this situation. As was also mentioned by the honourable member for Gellibrand, of the total revenue which the States receive from the Commonwealth only 40 per cent comes from taxation, the remainder being provided by way of specific purpose grants from the Commonwealth, which have not been indexed against inflation in any respect. So the States’ share of Commonwealth revenue is steadily receding and it will recede even further under this legislation.
Every honourable member will have received appeals from the parent organisations of the various local government bodies throughout this country that the Government lift the total share of tax revenue given to local government to 2 per cent. We are all well aware of the very cogent argument set out in correspondence to us from the local government organisations. At present local government is receiving a little over 1.5 per cent of tax collections- I forget the exact amountand it is asking for 2 per cent. Yet this Government is endeavouring to make a big thing out of its decision to give local government a little more than 1.5 per cent of total tax revenue. Under the Labor Government, taking into account the various schemes which that Government financed for local government and bearing in mind that this was the first time in history that local government had had direct access to the coffers of this nation, local government received 2.3 per cent of total tax revenue. This figure included the financial assistance that local government received under the urban improvement program, the capital grants scheme and the various schemes which were operated under the previous Labor Government’s Department of Tourism and Recreation. If we add to that the funds which local government received under the Regional Employment Development scheme, local government received in all 2.8 per cent of total tax revenue. Local government is now asking only for 2 per cent instead of the 1.5 per cent or a little more of tax revenue that it receives today. This is not an unreasonable request.
Local government is beginning to realise only too well that this is a three card trick and that it has been caught up in it. In the beginning many local government organisations thought the federalism policy was a great idea until they realised just how badly off they were under it. The honourable member for Barton (Mr Bradfield) placed a great deal of emphasis on his argument that this policy decentralised administration. That is utter nonsense. The Whitlam Government set about decentralising administration in relation to local government when it introduced the regional council concept to give greater autonomy to local government. Who was it that squealed the most when that happened? The conservatives in this country, the then Opposition, the present Government. They squealed the most because it would have taken away full control of local government from their friends who at that stage controlled most of the States. This was particularly so with Queensland and the Government’s friend, Mr Bjelke-Petersen.
The argument put forward by the honourable member for Barton was completely erroneous.
I turn now to the argument in the Minister’s second reading speech and set out in the explanatory memorandum that the Government’s proposal will not involve double taxation. That is arrant nonsense. The amount which the States receive from the Commonwealth will gradually be reduced in real money terms because of the lack of indexation against inflation and the States finally will be forced to impose an income tax. They will resist doing so as long as they can. Five out of the six States undoubtedly will resist it, Western Australia being the only exception. However, sooner or later they all will be forced to do it or reduce the level of services which they at present offer. This is spelt out in the amendment which was moved by the honourable member for Gellibrand. It will also mean a reduction in employment and a reduction in State capital works. All this must occur unless the States decide to introduce an income tax of their own, and that in itself will mean the end of the one tax system we have known.
– It it not a one tax system and never has been.
– Did the honourable member say that we have never had uniform tax?
– It is not a one tax system.
-It has been in relation to income tax and that is what I am referring to. The honourable member is well aware of that. I suggest that he not try to wriggle around the issue in that way. I am talking about uniform income tax. Uniform taxation was one of the great reforms introduced in the early war years. It was a reform that was guarded jealously by previous Liberal-Country Party governments, including the Menzies Government which made sure that the High Court did not agree to any proposal by any State to end uniform taxation. The Treasurer when introducing this legislation presented the very specious argument that this does not mean the end of uniform taxation. He argued this on the ground that there will be only one tax collecting authority, that people will receive only one income tax assessment and that that assessment will show the amount of State tax and the amount of Federal tax. The fact is that it means the end of uniform taxation because from now on the Commonwealth will lose basic control over the revenue policies of this country. We could have a situation where in New South Wales there was one level of income tax levied and in Western Australia, South Australia or
Queensland a completely different level of tax levied. So for all intents and purposes, no matter how honourable members opposite try to play around with technicalities, this legislation means two things: An end to uniform taxation as it applies to income tax -
– The honourable member says ‘good ‘. Sir Robert Menzies would turn in his grave if he could hear what honourable members opposite are saying. It also means the introduction of double taxation and, without a doubt, the States Will be forced in the years to come to levy a second income tax. This in turn will mean not only that it will be much more difficult to have a planned economy in this country but also that the people will suffer because if the States do not do it the services which they offer, the capital works which they undertake and employment by the States, will be dramatically reduced. That will occur in any event because the States will naturally resist the temptation as a result of the political problems involved in introducing double income taxation. For those reasons I strongly support the amendment moved by the honourable member for Gellibrand. The Opposition is violently opposed to this retrograde step by the Government which is taking us back to the 1930s. We strongly oppose stage 2 of the so-called new federalism. We hope that in another place somebody will use a little sense and reject it.
– I feel compelled at the outset to demolish one argument that was put forward by the honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage) and by the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis). It relates to the statement that the States do not want federalism. Obviously neither of those speakers has researched the subject very well, because what the Commonwealth is about at the moment is endeavouring to keep the States honest. It wants some consistency from the States. If one looks at what happened at the Premiers Conference of February 1970- all the present Premiers with, I think, the exception of Mr Wran of New South Wales are signatories to this documentone finds what the position is. Only one, I believe, has shown any consistency in regard to the submission put forward by the Premiers, that is Sir Charles Court of Western Australia. I quote from part VI, Proposed Remedial Measures and Fiscal Re-arrangements of the States’ case:
Not only do we believe that the States must have an access to revenues with the flexibility and growth features of income tax, but we accept that the States must take direct responsibility for raising a substantial proportion of their revenue requirements by means of income tax.
I think that proves beyond doubt that at the Premiers’ Conference in 1970- as I have said possibly five of the present Premiers were signatories to that document- it was clearly stated that the Premiers accepted responsibility to raise a substantial proportion of their revenue by means of income tax. That is the first point I wish to make. We have to keep the States as honest as possible. That is what the Commonwealth is about with stage 2 of the federalism policy in the Bill.
The honourable member for Gellibrand made the usual cry or bleat that is heard now, particularly from Labor Premiers, in relation to double taxation. It is absolute nonsense; there is no double taxation involved in stage 2 of the federalism policy at all. At the moment the States levy their own taxes, as they have in the past. Stamp duty has amounted to something like 20 per cent of the revenues that States raise. Land tax and motor vehicle registrations represent approximately 20 per cent of the States’ taxes. Payroll tax, which is reducing in some States, has amounted to approximately 25 per cent of the total revenue raised by the States. The States have been dishonest In recent times they have seen fit to reduce State taxes.
I wish to develop an argument firstly in relation to Federal grants to the States and I shall, in some respects, orient my comments to the State of Queensland. Federal grants take two forms: General grants with no conditions, and specific grants with set conditions. In return for giving up income taxes, the States received Federal grants. These grants have benefited the smaller States such as Queensland whose own income tax rates were twice as high as those in New South Wales and Victoria. In 1977 Queensland received, in general revenue grants, $33 1 per head of population while New South Wales received $235 per head. As well, smaller States can apply to the Commonwealth Grants Commission for special consideration. Since 1971 Queensland has done that and has received almost $140m above its normal entitlements- $ 140m which New South Wales and Victoria have not received and for which those States could not apply.
Queensland, with 15 per cent of Australia’s population receives, in general revenue grants, excluding specific purpose grants, 17.1 per cent of the total income tax cake. Queensland, along with South Australia, falls below the overall Australian index. This means that Queensland in 1973-74 had a personal income per capita of 91.4 compared to Victoria at 103.8. In dollars, it means that personal income per head was $3, 1 84 in Victoria and $2,821 in Queensland. In 1972-73 Queensland was able to raise only 32.5 per cent of its total revenue needs. Thus, from the facts, it is sheer nonsense for Queensland to say that it would be better off with its own income tax powers.
It should be pointed out that the States, even prior to the new federalism, had the legal power to resume State income tax, but if they did so they would lose the very generous federal grants whose formulae more than compensates for their loss. Politically, the previous system has allowed the States to whinge and whine about how they need more money and how they have no access to a growth tax and to blame the Commonwealth for their lack of funds. Thus, the States can, on the one hand, say they are not getting the funds from the Commonwealth for projects such as dams, and on the other hand, join the choir of complaints about high income tax. The Premier of Queensland, Mr Bjelke-Petersen, on 20 April last year said that income tax should be cut by 10 per cent. How magnanimous a gesture- a Premier of a State telling the Commonwealth Government to cut income tax by 10 per cent. Would he be willing to see Queensland take a corresponding cut in Commonwealth grants?
The Bill now allows the Queensland Government, or any other State government, to reduce income tax on its residents. All that is required of the States is for complementary legislation to be passed in the particular State. Too many people think that the Commonwealth has a bottomless pit of funds. I have made this comment frequently in the House and in the public arena. Sir Robert Menzies said: lt has proved necessary to point out publicly that the Commonwealth ‘s financial and economic powers are not unlimited.
We heard a good exposition from the honourable member for Barton (Mr Bradfield) earlier on the financial position of the Commonwealth last year and favourable position of the New South Wales Government. A similar favourable position exists today in all States. The States refused to take up the offer of Sir Robert Menzies to return income tax powers. That offer was made at a special Premiers Conference on the matter. Sir Robert Menzies said:
It became quite clear that no Slate really wanted its taxing powers back.
If it did, it could no longer blame the Commonwealth for lack of money and high taxes. On 12 April of last year Mr Bjelke-Petersen asked the Federal Government to return income powers to the States. Yet, he subsequently made statements that he will not use the surcharge provisions of the new federalism. I ask honourable members to consider the duplicity of statements from the Premier of Queensland. Those statements were cheap politicking, on both occasions, to fulfil his own cause. I want to take the Queensland Press to task because I believe that if there were a more vigilant Press in Queensland it would be able to delve into what is being said and point out the duplicity of the Premier to the people. Thus, whenever the States have been given a growth tax, as they were in 1971 with payroll tax, they have tended to reduce it for political purposes. For instance, in 1976-77 Queensland reduced payroll tax so that it lost $ 12.5m in revenue. In 1977-78 it reduced payroll tax at a cost of $7.9m. I do not want to canvass the rights or wrongs of payroll tax, Mr Deputy Speaker, but I just say to you that they are the facts. Yet Queensland cries poor.
I shall now move to deal with specific purpose grants which, it is claimed, distort State priorities and infringe State rights. There has been a distinct growth in these grants, from 1960-61 when 23.7 per cent of the total revenue grants to the States were specific purpose grants to 1974-75 when the figure reached 43.6 per cent. However, not all specific purpose grants distort State priorities or lead to extra costs to the States. If a State has to provide a matching grant in order to obtain Federal assistance or if it has to reduce its spending elsewhere in order to establish a certain administrative machine, then that is true. It is important to realise that specific purpose grants do not have to be accepted by the States, as was pointed out by Chief Justice Owen Dixon in his judgment in the second uniform taxation case. Furthermore, many of the specific purpose grants in relation to welfare merely made the States the disbursing agents for areas of activity in which the States have long had an interest, or which resulted from State requests. For instance, the Commonwealth, through section 96 grants, contributes to the payment of State debts. As well as that, the Commonwealth helps the States to carry out their traditional activities, such as those involving hospital costs where the Commonwealth pays 50 per cent of the States total public hospital recurrent costs- that is, approved budgets under the Medibank Hospital Agreements. In 1977-78 Queensland received $125m under this scheme, and the scheme greatly assisted all the other States. Queensland, with its free public health services, had been spending a high proportion of its income on health, but with these new section 96 grants of assistance, Queensland has had much of its expenditure freed in this area.
I want to move into another area and particularly take up the point which was made by the honourable member for Gellibrand. He said that double taxation is involved. It ought to be pointed out that under this legislation each State may increase its share of income tax raised within its boundaries by introducing a surcharge. The State has that right if it desires to exercise it. Alternatively, on the other side of the coin, it may reduce its share by a rebate for its taxpaying citizens. Thus we have the democratic principle that a government should be responsible not only for spending the taxpayers’ income but also for raising additional funds through a surcharge. This ensures that the main beneficiaries of a government project will also be the main group responsible for its funding. In other words, there is accountability. This idea of giving the States a share of income tax and the power to have surcharges or rebates was put by a joint submission, which I mentioned a little earlier, to that 1970 Premiers Conference. I take up the point again in relation to the Queensland Premier, Mr BjelkePetersen, who was one of the signatories to that document. In his recent rejection of new federalism he seems to have conveniently forgotten his earlier support for such a scheme.
The third aspect of the new federalism is that if a small State levies an income tax surcharge, it will receive an equalisation grant from the Commonwealth so as to bring its yield from the surcharge up to the average per capita yield which would have been raised if the surcharge had been imposed in New South Wales or Victoria. Obviously the smaller, less wealthy States are being protected.
I conclude by taking up a point in relation to local government. I am a firm believer in the concept that local government has to stand on its feet and that it is a partner in the Commonwealth’s federalism policy. Local government has to have the intestinal fortitude to put forward to its ratepayers three-year or five-year programs. I have before me a document which I believe has been distributed to most honourable member and senators. It comes from the Australian Council of Local Government Associations. That Council is urging, lobbying the Federal Government to increase the 1.52 per cent which applies now as a share of personal income tax from the Commonwealth to local government to 2 per cent in this coming financial year. It was an election policy promise of this Government to increase that figure of 1.52 per cent to 2 per cent over a period of three years. But the pressure is coming from local government at this stage. Having served for a number of years in that sphere of government, I know the problems that are faced in relation to services that are being demanded by the community. Of course, local government is responsible also for imposing a number of conditions, particularly in new sub-divisional areas, well above what I believe are necessary for its citizens. That is another story.
I want to deal with the level of rating, because I believe that rates must be kept up by local authorities in this country. If we are to see the situation arise where a property owner is to be subsidised out of general revenue to any great extent, it will mean that the benefits that accrue to the property owner over the years will be met to some extent by the average taxpayer. I believe that the ratepayer has to stand on his feet and pay his fair share; and that is almost in total the cost of running a city, of providing services, of treating water and sewage and so forth. There are a number of inequities in all systems. I believe that if the Government succumbs to the pressure being applied at the moment to increase at a rapid rate that figure of 1.52 per cent, the inequities will be greater. I believe that local authorities have to have the intestinal fortitude to face their electors and their property owners and to ensure that the level of rates that they levy are in keeping with the standard of services that they provide and with the rate of inflation which is being experienced at the time. I reject the amendment moved by the Opposition and support the legislation which has been introduced by the Government.
– I support the amendment moved by the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis). The Income Tax (Arrangements with the States) Bill 1978 represents the second stage of federalism. The whole philosophy of the Fraser Government is to transfer the taxing powers to the States and, of course, to local government. The honourable member for Petrie (Mr Hodges) just said that he believes that local government authorities should increase their charges to their ratepayers. He forgets that many people in local government areas are over taxed at the moment; they cannot afford to pay any more. I refer particularly to those people who live in rural areas. In his second reading speech the Treasurer (Mr Howard) said:
The broad purpose of this Bill is to enable each State, if it so chooses, to legislate to increase its revenue from personal income tax or to give- at a cost to the State- a rebate on personal income tax to residents in the State.
I hope to prove that if the States are to maintain the standards that they have set and to catch up with the backlog of capital works, particularly those concerning urban environment, it will be necessary for them to increase the taxes they impose, because they have been starved of funds by the Federal Government, particularly over the last two years. This afternoon the honourable member for Petrie presented a report on behalf of the Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation which had looked into the matter of urban environment. I read that report this afternoon. It is a credit to this Parliament and to honourable members on both sides of the House. In its report the Committee deals with the interrelationship between the urban environment and the necessity to maintain services; with the need to inter-relate services if we are to have a better urban environment. I hope to prove also that in every area with the exception of one in relation to which I have already commended the Government, the Federal Government has drastically cut back expenditure. It has cut back expenditure so drastically that in some cases the services have been eliminated completely.
I cite as an example the backlog in the sewerage program. In that area alone, during the three years of the Labor Government, an amount of $250m was made available to the States to catch up on their backlog. Because of the debt burden which had been created between 1950 and 1972, there was a backlog in the sewerage programs in most cities. For instance, only 50 per cent of homes in Perth were sewered. The remainder were unsewered. In the case of Melbourne and Sydney, at least one in seven families were in unsewered homes in the 1970s. During those 20 years, that is, from 1950 to 1970, the sewerage authorities had enormous debt burdens but the internal debt burden of the Commonwealth remained almost static. State debts increased sixfold. Local government debts increased by 2,000 per cent while the debts of sewerage authorities increased by 2,700 per cent. Authorities in Perth had to pay something like 52c in each dollar collected; in Melbourne, it was 58c in each dollar; in Sydney, it was 52c in the dollar; in Newcastle 53c in the dollar and in Brisbane, over 50c in the dollar. That means that for every dollar collected by way of these charges, the authorities had to pay back that amount just in interest repayments.
The Labor Government tried to work in cooperation with the States, try to reach an understanding so that the States could improve the urban environment and State infrastructure to bring them to a higher standard. Of course there was a hue and cry that this was centralism. I have said over and over again that when I was the Minister for Urban and Regional Development there was no confrontation with any State authority. At all times we sought a co-operative way of solving urban problems. The only way in which to do so was with the three levels of government- Federal, State and local- working together in a co-operative way. That was the spirit at the time. But again propaganda was peddled to the effect that money was being poured out from Canberra. In regard to the question of money for sewerage authorities, we were generous to the extent that in the last year of our term of office, for instance, we paid out $ 1 1 3m to the States. Thirty per cent of that money was by way of non-repayable grant. The other 70 per cent was made available at the long-term bond rate of interest repayable over 50 years.
The situation now is that the whole of the sewerage program has been cancelled. That program has to be financed by semi-government authorities. The grant component has completely vanished. Further, those authorities have to finance the program at an interest rate at least one-half to three-quarters of a per cent above the long-term bond rate. The Labor Government’s terms were for repayment over about 40 years. Now the longest term they can get is 15 to 20 years. What does this mean in the long term? It means that the ratepayers themselves have to pay higher charges. It is an additional indirect tax on the taxpayers.
I turn now to the overall situation as regards the treatment of the States by the Fraser Government over the last two years. Let us look at the effect that this new federalism- when I talk about federalism, I mean Fraser ‘s federalism- is having on the financial resources of the States. It is necessary to take into account all payments, not just those covered by tax sharing. If we consider all payments to the States through the Budget, we find that they have not kept up with the inflation rate in the last two years. For example, in 1975-76 net payments amounted to $8,477m. In 1977-78 the estimated net payments were $9,98 1m, an increase of 17.9 per cent. In the two years to the December quarter, the implicit deflator for all public expenditure increased by 20.4 per cent. This means that the States would need an additional $230m to restore the level of funding in 1977-78 to the same level in real terms as in 1975-76.
Alternatively, let us look at the situation from the consumer price index point of view, as some Government supporters are wont to do. In the two years to the March quarter, the CPI increased by 23 per cent. Therefor the States would need about $450m to restore the real level of funding from the Commonwealth in 1977-78 to the levels of 1975-76. Expressed as a share of the gross domestic product- another way in which we can look at this matter- total payments amounted to 11.9 per cent in 1975-76. In 1977-78 the estimated share fell to 1 1 per cent. In other words, it fell by almost one per cent. The Government would have to provide another $800m this year to restore the share of GDP to the levels of 1975-76. 1 repeat: We would have to provide another $800m this year to restore the share of the GDP to the level of 1 975-76. So it is obvious that by any measure one may choose to use, the States have become worse off under Fraser’s new federalism. Loan Council payments have been cut by 10 per cent in real terms during the last two years. I wish now to give some details in regard to urban programs. I have a table which sets out figures by way of real terms for 1975-76 in a percentage form. These programs have been cut more than any other programs. So that people may be clearly informed of this situation, I seek leave to have the table incorporated in Hansard.
The table read as follows-
-I thank the House. Let me refer to growth centres which at that time came under the administration of my Department of Urban and Regional Development. We made provision for this expenditure in our 1 975-76 Budget which covered the year in which we were defeated. In terms of 1977-78 money values, expenditure on growth centres in 1976-77 was reduced in that one year period by 58.1 per cent in real terms. However, over the two-year period from 1975-76 expenditure was reduced by 82.5 per cent in real terms. A similar situation applied in respect of urban rehabilitation where the corresponding reductions in expenditure were 58.2 per cent and 77.1 per cent in real terms. The same can be said regarding urban flood mitigation programs in relation to which the relative reductions in expenditure were 5.9 per cent and 35 per cent in real terms. The honourable member for Petrie should be aware of this because most of the money was spent in Brisbane.
In addition, the new Liberal-Country Party Government abolished our area improvement program for which, in the last year of our Administration, we made $l7m available. Our proposed expenditure in regard to the land commissions was reduced by 9.6 per cent in real terms in the one year period to which I have referred previously to 23.2 per cent in real terms for the two year period. A similar situation applied in regard to the program of sewerage works for which, in the last year of the Labor Administration, we made $1 13m available but the Fraser Government, in its first year of office reduced that amount by almost one half to $50m. This year the Government has eliminated that program. The only urban program that has been extended- I commended the Government earlier in regard to this- is the urban public transport program. In the one year period to which I have referred earlier, the allocation was reduced by 2 1.9 per cent in real terms but this year the allocation has been increased by 20. 1 per cent. The only way that the States can carry out those urban programs and maintain their standards is by increasing income tax or indirect taxes. That is the basis of this legislation. A Minister intimated that funds to the States for public expenditure would be cut this year. He could not have made such a statement if he had not had the authority of the Cabinet to do so. If the States have to increase their taxes to pay for the increased burden that is being thrown on them by Fraser federalism the Government will say that legislation has been passed which will enable the States to meet their commitments.
It is about time that people at the grass roots level, the taxpayers, understood what Fraser federalism is: If they really want improved services they will have to pay for them themselves. The honourable member for Petrie said that local governments can increase their rates. People are saying that if the States want to increase their services they can do so by increasing income tax. They will have the power to do so. This is the basis of the new federalism. Mr Fraser says that if the States want responsibility they can pay for it. We think there is a different way. This was set out in the report by the Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation which was tabled today. It talked about the interrelationship that is necessary between the three levels of government if we are to have a better environment. That is what happened when the Department of Urban and Regional Development existed. There has to be a rational plan for the nation as a whole. There has to be co-operation between the Australian Government, the State governments, local government and the private sector. The major part of the funding should come from the Australian Government. Overall planning by the Federal Government in cooperation with the other two tiers of government is the best way to develop rationally our urban communities and State services.
– That is straight out centralism.
-I am glad for that interjection by the honourable member for Denison. Those parrots on the other side of the House have been saying that so often. I spoke to a local government authority this week. It was agreed that the Department of Urban and Regional Development was anti-centralist. It was seeking greater authority for people at the grass roots level in the regional sphere. Real centralism does not occur only in Canberra. It occurs also in the capital cities such as Sydney, Melbourne and Perth. Their base is always in the central square mile of the business district. The real administrative and economic power lies within that area. If we are to overcome that problem we have to encourage people in regional and local government areas to play a greater pan in the decision-making process.
There were positive aspects in the area improvement programs. They were local government programs based on the concept of regionalism. There was a spirit of co-operation in the decision-making process. It is only on that basis that that process can take place. Again, I refer to that spirit of co-operation between the three tiers of government. But the basic revenue raiser should be the Federal Government and there should be a greater sharing of that revenue. I believe that the arguments of the honourable member for Gellibrand should be supported by this House.
-In speaking to this Bill I do not want to canvass the issues that have already been raised, but I would like to deal with some of the arguments raised by the Opposition. Firstly, I pay tribute to the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson) for the work that he has done in connection with federalism as a member of the Government’s federal affairs committee. He has moved from State to State and talked with the local government bodies of the nation in connection with the new federalism scheme. He has been a tower of strength behind the scenes in relation to this matter. I believe that a lot of the work that we have in front of us is a tribute to his perseverence in overcoming many of the States’ suspicions and to the fact that he was pioneering a new scheme that is being introduced in the form of this Bill.
I wish to deal with the Opposition’s amendment as they appear before us in 5 brackets. I shall do so in an effort to destroy the logic of the arguments that have been put tonight by the Opposition. The Opposition suggests that the real level of payment to the States will be reduced. There is no indication of that; in fact the indication has been since stage 1 of the federalism scheme came in that the real value of payments has actually increased. The suggestion that the States will be forced to introduce a States income tax is absolute hogwash. The Bill itself is only enabling legislation; it does not force a tax upon the States. The suggestion which has been made today and at various times of election that the federalism policy means double taxation is absolute hogwash. As far as I know, the double taxation issue arises in only one area of the Income Tax Assessment Act at the moment, that being the area of company taxation, where there is also a tax on the distribution of dividends. That is what I feel actually is double taxation. There is only one imposition of taxation in this case. It will be for the States to determine how big that taxation will be. It will impose a discipline upon the States; it will impose an efficiency upon the States, which is desperately needed at this time. I feel that the aspect of double taxation should be laid to rest once and for all. In this regard federalism means just the size of the taxation. It is only one form of tax and it depends upon the States as to whether they want to make it higher or lower than what the uniform rate will be as it applies throughout the nation. No force is being applied. It is just enabling taxation.
The third point raised by the Opposition is that there will be cuts in the employment opportunities offered by the State governments. The last count of which I have heard of the size of the Federal Public Service indicates that since our time in government we have reduced the number of public servants by some 12,000. But the States have not had the same disciplines imposed upon them; they have been still spending freely. At that stage what had been saved in the Federal area had been more than taken up by further employment in State areas. Whilst I do not believe that federalism will mean a cut in State services or in employment, I believe that there could be room for the States to look at aspects of their own Public Services. The final point made by the Opposition is that the standard of service offered at the State level will decline. Again, I believe that this measure will improve the State services. It will not make them inferior in any State. The responsibility will lie with the State as to how it spends its money- not only how it raises it but also how it spends it. I believe that final responsibility is the best discipline to impose in order to achieve efficiency of service.
I wish to mention some of the points which were raised by the previous speaker in this debate, the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren). I ask the Labor Party whether it believes that a program, once implemented, must go on forever. Should its priorities never change? I refer to the implementation of sewerage programs. Provincial cities throughout this nation with a population of 20,000 or less have been able to move into the area of sewerage and have been able to implement and pay for schemes without any Federal assistance whatsoever. So why should we have a continuing drain on the nation’s finances just for one pet scheme? There are schemes which I prefer to see through Australia- programs on roads, programs on water resources- which I believe have a far greater influence on the production of revenue.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! It being 10.30 p.m., I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the negative.
– I believe that there are programs that the nation should be considering in preference to these urbanised programs that are designed for capital cities, and I would put sewerage on that list.
The program that was implemented by the Labor Government in its time, and the money that has been spent, have brought about an improvement in these areas, let us share some of this wealth around. If we are to do it, let the States themselves determine their priorities, so that the funds that are being allocated at this stage can be spent in that direction. I believe that there will be improved services, that there will be other priorities that the States will adopt, but let it be on their own heads, once they accept a priority, they stand condemned for not perhaps insisting that the priorities be in the proper order, or perhaps according a high priority to a program of lesser importance. For that, let them suffer such blame as there may be.
The Bill is concerned with Stage II of the federalism plan. Stage I had reached the point where 33.6 per cent of personal taxes had been allocated to the States, with the promise that in 1978-79 that percentage would increase to 39.98. Also, local government has received an allocation of 1.52 per cent. Over the next three years that will be increased to 2 percent. Let us bear in mind that this is not a percentage of the total revenue derived by the Federal Government. It is merely a percentage of personal taxation collections.
An interesting point comes out of all this. How much in the dollar can the Australian taxpayer afford to pay, and how should that money raised, how should that limit in taxation, be spent between the three levels of government? We have certainly put in the terms of this legislation and also in the terms of stage 1 the percentages that we feel ought to be returned to the States and to local government; but that is only a determination made by a few people. What is the real situation? That is something upon which I often ponder. So I take up tonight the cudgels for local government, which bears the burden of providing so many services. In fact, in the second reading speech the comment is made that of the amount of total public sector outlays in Australia, the Federal Government is responsible for 47 per cent, the States for 46 per cent and local government for 7 per cent. The tax sharing arrangement, the 33.6 per cent given to the States and the 1.S2 per cent given to local government means, I believe, that local government throughout Australia has more than an uphill task in trying to finance the difference between 1.52 per cent and the 7 per cent which represents its outlay.
I also appreciate that there is not a standard of efficiency that is common to local governments throughout Australia. There is not one local government that one can say is doing its job with a standard of efficiency that can be equally spread throughout Australia. There are efficient local governments, and there are inefficient local governments. More than likely it is the efficient local government that has been denied the benefits of expenditure by the Federal Government on sewerage programs, loan programs and the like; and these have been given to the inefficient. So I make that acknowledgment first.
The interesting part of this Bill is that we have been able to define in clause 7 ( 1) (a) (i) when a person is a resident for the purposes of the State imposing a surcharge or making a rebate. I often wonder whether the old, outmoded system of taxing land values is appropriate for the occasion for local government. I do not believe that it is, because the determining factor is not how much one can take out of that dollar of income but how much a person can stand over and above bis fair share of tax payments for the payment of rates and the like. There must be another way. There must be a way which gives equity to local government residents rather than taxing them basically on land values.
The suggestion that we are able to define a resident for the purposes of this State surcharge or rebate makes me wonder whether we could, on a regional or local government basis, also determine a resident so that perhaps there could be a surcharge made for a local government or a rebate given in order that they can tide themselves over this situation in which they are forced to go back onto land owners to collect their taxes. There is a limit. Land rates are the final end of the chain. Everything has been taken off the income dollar before the rates come out- the federal taxation, State surcharge, State licences. It is local government that then gets the last chop of the cherry. There is a definite limit on how much a ratepayer or a taxpayer can stand to give finally to local government. So I suggest that probably we ought to look at this definition of resident to see whether we can get an income tax to fund fully, not just partly, the activities of local government.
Part of stage one was also the build-up of various State grants commissions. I wonder whether these grants commissions could do more in the spread of the tax dollar from the Federal Government right down the line. For instance, I know that when the grants commissions travel about the States looking at situations on roads, they are probably looking at situations involving sewerage, water and things like that which involve nothing more than a duplication because all they are there for is to distribute only that portion of the money that comes from the Federal Government- the 1.52 per cent. It has been suggested in this Parliament that the State grants commissions, because they know the local areas and the State situations better than the Federal people, might be the bodies appointed to oversight the distribution of road funds, projects such as sewerage and things like that. I just throw that in as a suggestion. It is something that could be looked at to a greater extent.
I certainly agree with the honourable member for Petrie (Mr Hodges). He brought up the increase of the allocation from 1.52 to 2 per cent. I believe that local governments throughout Australia would be satisfied if that increment of 48 per cent was made over three Budgets to give them an increment of 0.16 per cent a year. We see the people in Victoria suggesting to the national body of local government that this increase be given in one full sum. Certainly I do not deny that these people require it but I have already mentioned the basis of the efficiency of some local governments as compared with others. I believe that it would be right and proper for this amount to be given in increments and not in one sum. We must also remember that while we are talking about this Bill and sharing taxes that it is not the only government contribution that is made. In some areas I have mentioned roads. Greater priorities could be given to such things because it is communications throughout Australia that will bring in revenue to our coffers more than will the provision of sewerage services in capital cities.
I fully support the intention of this legislation. It has been mentioned- I do not mind saying it again- that it is a means of removing centralist power from the Federal Government and putting it back in the areas where it belongs, in areas where the States and local people can make their own determinations, set their own priorities and then be held to account for the rectitude of their actions subsequently. This legislation is a protection against centralism of power in Canberra. Heavens knows, between 1972 and 1975 we saw sufficient of that to realise it could not work to the benefit of Australians generally. We have to break down this power into the various areas. Australia is a peculiar country, in this regard and I see no way out of the responsibilities of the three tiers of government.
I give the Bill my full support. I have no intention of agreeing to any of the proposed amendments. The comments that have been coming from the Opposition in this regard speak more of emotionalism than they do of the reality of the istuation. Stage two of this scheme is the second step on the path to return powers to the States, where they justly belong.
-I agree with the honourable member for Dawson (Mr Braithwaite). I view the amendment, of the Opposition as an exercise in cant and hypocrisy. It can be branded only a diabolical combination of fraudulence, scare tactics and political chicanery of the worst kind. What is it that motivates the Opposition to behave in this way? It is jealousy and envy because this Government has restored to this country the federalism which Labor took away from the people between 1972 to 1975. The amendment moved by the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) is an act of hypocrisy in itself. It starts off with the scare tactic by claiming that the real level of payments to the States will be reduced. What a lot of rubbish. The honourable member for Gellibrand has not even noticed that under the amended arrangements for the new federalism, the proportion going to the States from income tax collections is to be increased from 36 per cent to 39.7 per cent. So how there can be a reduction when there is an increase of roughly 3 per cent is completely and absolutely beyond me.
The honourable member for Gellibrand claims that this Stage II legislation has been condemned by every State Premier, except the Premier of Western Australia. Nothing could be further from the truth. At three Premiers Conferences in 1976 every State Premier agreed to the guidelines laid down, including the introduction of Stage II. I draw to the attention of the House the fact that between the second and the third of those Conferences there was a change of government in New South Wales. Whilst Sir Eric Willis was the Premier of New South Wales for the first two Conferences, by the time the third Conference came along Mr Wran had become the Premier of New South Wales. Did Mr Wran ask for any of these provisions to be reconsidered? Did he ask for any of them to be re-drafted? No, he did not. He had won his election on false pretences, on a scare campaign of double taxation. Mark my words, he will try it again later this year. He will go to the people of New South Wales and repeat the untruth that under Stage II of the federalism policy it will be mandatory for the States to impose a surcharge. Mr Wran’s hypocrisy must be exposed and must be nailed to the wall here and now, because this great champion of lower taxation, this man who says he wants to reduce the burden on the people of New South Wales, has to my certain knowledge never made a public statement conceding that under Stage II of the federalism policy he can in fact exercise his rights to grant a rebate.
I briefly want to refer to some figures to rebut completely the extraordinary speeches by the honourable member for Gellibrand and the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren). First and foremost, this financial year an amount of $4,336. lm has been provided to the States under the tax sharing arrangements. That represents an increase of 16.8 per cent- well above the inflation level. Yet the Australian Labor Party continues to say that payments to the States are being reduced. What have we done in respect of the Loan Council? The Loan Council funding for the States in 1977-78 was increased by $685. lm; an increase of 14 per cent. Yet Labor still claims that we have reduced payments to the States. There has been an increase of 18.1 per cent in payments to local government. Total general purpose payments, total specific purpose payments and total payments to local government for the States are in excess of $10 billion, which approximates half the total Budget outlays.
The second part of the amendment says that the States will be forced to introduce a State income tax. I can do no more than draw the attention of honourable members to the short and precise reply by Sir Charles Court to that lie, because the day after Mr Wran repeated his propaganda he Sir Charles Court nailed him to the wall and Mr Wran has lost his tongue ever since. The third part of the amendment says that there will be cuts in employment opportunities. If any party in this Parliament is an expert on unemployment it has to be the Labor Party. This is the sort of prophesy of doom upon which Labor supporters thrive. This is the sort of scare tactic that they have been running around this country with ever since we gained office in 1975 and were reelected in 1 977. Not only are they centralists, not only are they socialists, but also they are prophets of doom, Jeremiahs and Jonahs waiting by the minute for the next unemployment figures, hoping that they will be able to stand up and say: ‘Look, the figures have gone up’. This Government is committed to a return to full employment, unlike the people on the other side who have used political tactics to turn unemployment into the cheapest political issue that this country has known, and that is why Labor polled so badly in 1975 and in 1977. I have nearly finished. Quite frankly there is not much to answer from the other side of the House. Paragraph (d) provides that capital works will be further reduced. What does the Opposition hang that part of the amendment on? It refers to a speech delivered on Monday night in which the Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson) simply reiterated that this Government intended to stick to the economic policies which have already cut inflation in half in this country in less than three years. This is the sort of scare tactics in which the Labor Party revels. The fact of the matter is that we will have an increase in capital works in this country only when we return to economic prosperity. We will achieve that result by pursuing the present policies. Last but not least paragraph (e) states:
The standard of services offered at the State level will decline.
What a lot of poppycock. Last year every State government in Australia finished with a Budget surplus and every State was able to reduce State taxation. Members of the Opposition should not talk about the States having to cut back on their services. The States have more money in their pockets today than they have ever had before. Not only are the States not cutting down on services; the fact is that State services are on the up. We heard the old line from my old friend the honourable member for Reid who still believes that centralism is the answer. He still believes that socialism is the answer.
– He is a socialist
-Of course he is a socialist. He does not deny it. The trouble with the Labor Party is that it is not only small but also it is miserable, mingy, and tired. The members of the Labor Party are like a cracked record made back in the 1920s. They are the prophets of doom, the people who are so annoyed and so furious that we have restored federalism to this country. I believe that the amendment moved by the Opposition is not worth the paper on which it is printed. It deserves to be torn up, which I now do. I hope that it is thrown out with a thumping majority on this side of the House.
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Willis’s amendment) stand pan of the question.
The House divided. (The Deputy Chairman-Mr P. C. Millar)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Ellicott) read a third time.
Motion (by Mr Fife) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
Motion (by Mr Fife) agreed to:
That the question be now put.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.56 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for Environ ment, Housing and Community Development, upon notice, on 8 March, 1978:
What sum was paid by his Department, or by Departments formerly encompassing the functions now performed by his Department, to each airline for air travel within Australia during 1976-77.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Payments in 1976-77, as shown in the accounting records of my Department, were:
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 14 March 1978:
Are any statistics available on the number of persons suffering from pesticide poisoning resulting from residues in food or from crop spraying; if so, what are the main offending chemicals, and how many persons have (a) died, (b) been seriously affected and (c) been mildly affected by each of these chemicals.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
There is no evidence of any adverse effects arising from consumption of the minute quantities of pesticide residues currently permitted in food.
The National Health and Medical Research Council (NH & MRC) has set stria maximum residue limits for pesticide residues in food, as set out in the NH & MRC Standard for Residues of Pesticides in Food, a copy of which I have placed in the Parliamentary Library. These limits have been established after critical examination of all available toxicological data and take into account the views of expert bodies both in Australia and overseas. The limits are maintained under continual review, and there is a large safety margin incorporated into all of the limits set. State and Territory Departments of Health and Agriculture and the Commonwealth Department of Primary Industry are all involved in the consideration of these standards. The NH & MRC Standard for Pesticide Residues is in conformity with the internationally recognised Standard of the FAO/WHO Codex Alimentarius Commission.
The NH & MRC Standard has been adopted generally throughout Australia, and current consideration of the remaining areas where minor differences exist should shortly produce complete uniformity.
In addition to the routine analysis of foods for pesticide residues by State Government Analytical Laboratories, the NH & MRC in collaboration with States and Territories has, since 1970, monitored the levels of pesticides in the Australian diet, through its Market Basket Survey. Monitoring is in accordance with the recommendations of the FAO/WHO Joint Expert Committee on Pesticide Residues.
Monitoring has shown that levels of pesticides in food in Australia are within the acceptable limits.
National statistics on poisonings from crop spraying are incomplete but surveys have been conducted and reported in the literature. One report by G. R. Simpson in the Medical Journal of Australia, of 14 December 1974, covered 887 subjects including pilots (and others associated with aerial operations), growers, farmers, pest control operators and others associated with rural industry. The survey of 887 subjects revealed that five people were seriously affected and a further sixteen had been exposed to the extent that they needed to be removed from further exposure. The pesticides used included camphechlor, DDT, endrin, monocrotophos, parathion, azinphos, methomyl, methidathion, vamidothion, leptophos, aminocarb, methyl demeton and mevinphos.
a ) The Australian Bureau of Statistics has a record of all deaths occurring in Australia. Deaths due to pesticide poisoning are recorded in the International Classification of Diseases category ‘Pesticide, Fertilizers or Plant Foods’. This category excludes intentional poisoning but does not indicate whether the poisoning was due to the operation of crop spraying or identify the specific chemical concerned. Deaths recorded in Australia for 1 97 1 to 1 975 are as follows: 1971 six; 1972 two; 1973 two; 1974 ten; 1975 seven. Of these deaths 18 occurred in the age group 1 5 years and over.
and (c) National records of poisonings due to pesticides are both difficult to obtain and diagnostically imprecise. My Department has been for some time attempting to overcome the difficulties of obtaining complete information on all cases of poisoning. Included in its considerations is the extended use of computerisation for reporting to facilitate continuous monitoring and immediate corrective action should any adverse trend appear.
Statistics are collected in Queensland and Western Australia on persons treated as in-patients in hospital.
Totals of cases of accidental poisoning due to pesticides, fertilizers and plant foods included therein were as follows:
am asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 15 March 1978:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I am informed that the principal activity of the Cooperative Farmers and Graziers Direct Meat Supply Limited has been as a meat service works. Therefore, it would not appear that it is a corporation to which the Financial Corporations Act is intended to apply.
The Government has not given consideration to extending the scope of the Financial Corporations Act beyond the kind of corporations to which the Act presently applies.
Tribunals Associated with Department of the Northern Territory (Question No. 723)
wn asked the Minister for the Northern Territory, upon notice, on 4 April 1978:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 5 April 1978:
Are visitors to Australia charged for treatment as hospital patients in recognised public hospitals; if so, what is the daily
-The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows:
Charging practices in respect of overseas visitors admitted to recognised hospitals in the States are determined by the State Hospital Authorities. On the assumption that the visitor is not covered by Australian private health insurance, the State Hospital Authorities have provided the following information:
New South Wales
Recognised hospitals charge visitors to Australia $40 or $60 per day as appropriate for a shared ward or single ward respectively.
Recognised hospitals charge visitors to Australia $40 or $60 per day as appropriate for a shared ward or single ward respectively.
Charges are raised for overseas visitors accommodated in standard wards of recognised hospitals. The charge is based on the daily average cost per inpatient for the previous financial year of the hospital concerned.
Daily charges raised by recognised hospitals are:
A professional service charge of $20 per day is also made where a patient opts to be classified as a hospital patient. Compensable in-patients are charged $115 per day in teaching hospitals and $60 per day in non-teaching hospitals.
Daily charges raised by recognised hospitals are:
The daily charges raised by recognised hospitals are- $40 per day plus $20 per day medical service charge.
Australian Capital Territory
The daily charge is as follows:
Charges are set from time to time by the NT Legislative Assembly. Current charges are:
(The above charges are the same whether or not the visitor is a compensable case).
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Science, upon notice, on 6 April 1978:
-The Minister for Science has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
The high priority which the Government accords marine science within our national scientific effort has been given further tangible expression over recent months. Australia’s first marine research vessel, specifically designed to meet our scientific research needs, is to be commissioned in the next 2 to 3 months by AIMS. The 24.4 metre vessel will greatly facilitate AIMS’s research programs to cover the whole of the Great Barrier Reef region rather than employing smaller vessels to work only in inshore waters as is the cast at present.
Last August, the Government announced the go-ahead for the Department of Science to arrange for design and planning studies for an Australian Antarctic relief ship which is also to have a capability to conduct Antarctic marine science research.
CSIRO is also examining the possibility of having an oceanographic research vessel built to meet part of its longterm needs and to provide some facilities for Australian scientists outside the Organisation. In the meantime, CSIRO is meeting its urgent need for research vessels on an interim basis by chartering R.V. ‘Sprightly’ of 43.3m length for oceanographic studies and F.R.V. ‘Courageous’ of 28.3m length for fisheries studies. The facilities provided by these vessels are supplemented by those of several smaller vessels which CSIRO owns.
In addition, the 90m length RAN research vessel HMAS Cook, a classic oceanographic research ship, is due for completion in late 1980. It is anticipated that civilian scientists will have some access to these facilities, as with other RAN research vessels.
As is well known, a comprehensive review of marine science in Australia is being carried out at present by the Australian Science and Technology Council (ASTEC) in the context of its overall review of Science and Technology in Australia. The Government will be much better placed to address the question of further research vessels following consideration of ASTEC’s review.
Australian Prisoners of War in Japan: Exposure to Radiation (Question No. 920)
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 1 1 April 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Service records do not indicate the number of Australian Prisoners of war who were in Nagasaki at the time of the atomic bomb explosion in August 1 94S nor do these records show how many of these prisoners of war are still living or have died as a result of the explosion.
However, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs advises that a survey was carried out by C. A. K. Chee and P. L. T. Ilbery from the Cancer Institute in Melbourne of radiation damage to the lymphocytes of the then surviving Australian prisoners of war who were in Nagasaki at the time of the explosion.
Based on this report the answer to your question is as follows:
(a) 22 as at October 1975.
Not known. Of the original 27 prisoners of war who were in Nagasaki at the time of the atomic explosion two died from cancer of the stomach in 1 965 and 1 970 respectively, one died from cancer of the bladder in 1965, one died from an aortic aneurysm in 1969 and one was drowned in 1974. It is not known if the effects of the atomic explosion contributed to these deaths as the survey was not commenced until 1974.
Planning for the Use of Sewage (Question No. 944)
asked the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, upon notice, on 2 May 1 978:
What action (a) has the Government taken and (b) does it propose to take to implement the proposals of the report Planning for the Use of Sewage’ presented to his predecessor in 1977.
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The report was commissioned and funded by the Commonwealth to stimulate informed debate within the community generally and by those authorities charged with the provision of sewerage systems. It has achieved that objective.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 2 May 1978:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Under the method of calculating average income for the purpose of determining rates of tax payable on the taxable income of a primary producer for the year ended -30 June 1977, the amount of taxable income of any year within the average period in excess of $16,000 was disregarded. This meant that the maximum rates under the average arrangements were the general rates applicable to an income of $16,000.
Only the first $16,000 of taxable income was, however, taxed at the average rates. The amount (if any) of taxable income in excess of $16,000 was taxed at the same rates as it would have borne if it were taxable income of a person to whom the averaging provisions did not apply.
For the year ended 30 June 1978, two methods of averaging may apply- the one outlined above, or, if it would result in a lower amount of tax, that method in combination with the new method of averaging that was introduced in conjunction with the new system of personal income tax on 1 February 1978.
Under the new averaging method, the whole of the taxable income is taxed at the average rate applicable to the average income or at the rate applicable to the taxable income, whichever is the less. In calculating average income for this purpose, the whole of the taxable income for each year of the average period is taken into account, not just the first $16,000.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 2 May 1978:
In what cases are trading banks authorised to approve establishment of letters of credit for import transactions without prior reference to the Reserve Bank.
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
As a general rule, trading banks may establish import letters of credit on behalf of Australian residents without prior reference to the Reserve Bank except where the documentary letter of credit:
is established more than six months prior to expected date of shipment of goods to Australia;
has a validity in excess of twelve months;
provides for drafts to be drawn before shipment- if more than one month before expected date of arrival of goods in Australia;
provides for payment later than six months after arrival of goods in Australia;
is of a revolving nature.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 2 May 1978:
What percentage of the total amount of letters of credit established for import transactions were approved by (a) the
Reserve Bank, (b) the Commonwealth Trading Bank and (c) each of the other banks authorised to act as an agent of the Reserve Bank during each year since 1 969.
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
No statistical series is maintained which would provide the information sought by the honourable member.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 5 May 1978:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Borrowing requirements in the public sector arise when outlays exceed receipts and, for the purpose of this answer, are measured by sector deficits as defined by the Australian Statistician.
and (3) The figures sought are set out in the table below. Further information, including that pertaining to consolidated sectors, can be found in the above publication.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice.on 9 May 1978:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Owing to the wide distribution of Newcastle disease throughout the world, such consent has not yet been given in any instance since the introduction of the legislation.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Science, upon notice, on 9 May 1978:
-The Minister for Science has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister of Special Trade Representations, upon notice, on 23 May 1978:
Has he travelled overseas since 1 1 November 1975.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister of Special Trade Representations, upon notice, on 23 May 1978:
Has he travelled outside Australia by aeroplane or ship since 1 1 November 1975.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Yes, by aircraft and yacht.
am asked the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, upon notice, on 22 February 1978:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: 1(a)-
It should be noted that in the first year of the program, financial assistance was limited to towns with a population in excess of 60,000 and that figures for minor towns were estimates. 1 (b) The estimated backlog of sewerage connections in each State at 30 June 1977 is not available to my Department.
The National Sewerage Program was a co-operative program between the Federal and State Governments, and as such it is not possible to indicate the number of sewerage connections which were specifically provided with National Sewerage Program funds.
New South Wales
Metropolitan Water Sewerage and Drainage Board (Sydney/Wollongong)
Hunter District Water Board
Gosford Shire Council
Wyong Shire Council
Penrith City Council
Blue Mountains City Council
Bathurst City Council
Orange City Council
Tweed Heads Shire Council
Armidale City Council
Dubbo City Council
Goulburn City Council
Queanbeyan City Council
Tamworth City Council
Wagga Wagga City Council
Broken Hill Water Board
Lismore City Council.
Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works
Geelong Waterworks and Sewerage Trust
Cranbourne Sewerage Authority
Dromana Rosebud Sewerage Authority
Dandenong Sewerage Authority
Frankston Sewerage Authority
Melton Sewerage Authority
Mornington Sewerage Authority
Springvale Sewerage Authority
Sunbury Sewerage Authority
Ballarat Sewerage Authority
Bendigo Sewerage Authority
Warrnambool Sewerage Authority
Sale Sewerage Authority.
Brisbane City Council
Albert Shire Council
Beaudesert Shire Council
Bundaberg City Council
Caboolture Shire Council
Cairns City Council
Gladstone City Council
Gold Coast Shire Council
Ipswich City Council
Landsborough Shire Council
Mackay City Council
Maroochy Shire Council
Maryborough City Council
Moreton Shire Council
Noosa Shire Council
Pine Rivers Shire Council
Redlands Shire Council
Thuringowa Shire Council
Townsville City Council
Mount Isa City Council
Toowoomba City Council
Rockhampton City Council
Metropolitan Water Supply Sewerage and Drainage Board-Perth
Bunbury Town Council, Kalgoorlie/Boulder Shire CouncilWork was carried out by the Department of Public Works.
Adelaide, Whyalla, Mt Gambier, Port Augusta- Work was carried out by the Engineering and Water Supply Department.
Hobart City Council
Glenorchy City Council
Clarence Municipal Council
Kingsborough Municipal Council
St Leonards Municipal Council
Lilydale Municipal Council
Municipality of Burnie
Devonport Municipal Council.
am asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 16 March 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
All tanks have been serviced under warranty and in some cases repairs have been carried out under the warranty conditions. Such costs are not included in any calculation of normal operating costs.
It is not practicable to maintain operating costs for individual tanks, however as at 1 November 1977, Army records show that a total of $1.2m worth of spare parts had been issued for repair of the tanks then in use. At that time these tanks had run some 66,000 km. These same tanks consumed an average of 5,764 litres of fuel per 1,000 km, at a cost of $415 per 1,000 km.
At present annual tank running for the fleet is planned to be a total of 1 1 1,000 km. It is quite misleading to attempt to judge average annual costs per tank from this data until more actual consumption information is available.
Spare parts have been, and are being purchased to provide an initial stock level in each appropriate depot and workshop, based upon German advice and the results of an Australian technical examination in Germany, taking into account the annual ordering cycle and the provisioning lead time of up to 36 months. At present some $5.5m worth of spare parts have been delivered and a further $9. 7m worth are on order, to provide this initial stock and to replace the first usage mentioned above. This total asset represents some three years’ consumption at present rates.
Once initial stocking is complete, all follow on purchase of spare parts will be based on actual usage and forecast requirements.
It is obvious that the operating cost of the tanks will rise as they are used and become more worn. However at this time it is not possible to calculate these future costs in any meaningful way, because of the limited and varying local experience to date. Projections of German advice and experience in Europe indicate that tank operating costs will be of the order of $40,000 per tank in use, per year, for the next few years. The basis of this projection is given below.
LEOPARD TANK OPERATIONS COST ESTIMATE
The tank manufacturer has indicated the following basis for provisioning spare parts to support Leopard:
Taking a mean figure of 4 per cent of prime equipment cost leads to the following judgments on annual operating costs for 1,000 km running per tank:
It must be understood that this is primarily a projection of costs, based on German experience in Europe, with a difference logistic support environment. It is not a valid basis for initial stocking to meet the Australian logistic environment, and needs.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 1 June 1978, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1978/19780601_reps_31_hor109/>.