House of Representatives
7 June 1978

31st Parliament · 1st Session

Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden) took the chair at 2. 1 5 p.m., and read prayers.

page 3143


The Clerk:

– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be forwarded to the appropriate Ministers:

Citizen Forces: Long Service and Good Conduct Medals

The Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of the undersigned members and ex-members of the Citizens Forces of Australia respectfully sheweth:

  1. On 14 February 1975, the then Australian Government deprived the Officers and men of the Australian Citizen Naval Military and Air Forces of the distinctive and historic Decorations and Medals for long service and good conduct, namely the Reserve Decoration, the Efficiency Decoration, the Air Efficiency Award, the Efficiency Medal and Long Service and Good Conduct Medals, awarded for long and meritorious voluntary service in the Citizen forces:
  2. The proposed substitution of the National Medal for these Decorations and Medals varies the principle of selective recognition of efficient voluntary service in the Citizen forces in that it recognizes the period of service only and embraces also full time service as well in the defence forces as in the police, fire brigade and ambulance services:
  3. This deprivation caused and is continuing to cause serious discontent amongst personnel of the Citizens Forces who willingly and cheerfully give of their spare time outside their normal full time civilian careers, to serve Her Majesty and Australia:
  4. The Reserve Forces of Australia have been recognized by the present Government as a valuable- and costeffective component of the Defence Forces. Anomalously, whilst the Government is actually supporting recruiting for these Forces it has imposed and continued this deprivation which as foresaid has depressed the morale of the Citizen Forces:
  5. Her Majesty has not cancelled the said Decorations and Medals.

Your petitioners therefore humbly pray

Your Honourable House take appropriate action to resume the award of the several distinctive and historic Reserve Forces Decorations and Medals to members of the Royal Australian Naval Reserve, Citizens Military Force (Army Reserve) and Citizen Air Force. by Mr Bungey, Mr Drummond, Mr Hyde, Mr McLean, Mr Shack and Mr Viner.

Petitions received.

Medical Benefits: Abortions

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,

Petitions received. by Mr Bradfield, Mr Dobie and Mr Staley. Petitions received.

Pensioners: Home Maintenance Loans

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 the 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 the 30 June 1977, showeth.

Your petitioners respectfully draw the attention of the Commonwealth Government to the Report of the Committee of Inquiry into Aged Persons’ Housing 1 975 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 SI 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 mininal 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,

Petitions received. by Mr Connolly and Mr Morris. Petitions received.

Pensioners: Means Test

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 those who have retired and those who are about to retire, are being severely and adversely affected by inflation and Australian economic circumstances.

The continuance of the Mean’s Test on pensions causes undue hardship to them.

We call on the Government to immediately abolish the Mean’s Test on all Aged Pensions.

To ensure a pension for all on retirment and a guarantee that all Australian citizens will retire with dignity.

Acknowledge that a pension is a: ‘right and not a charity’

And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Cotter and Mr Viner.

Petitions received.

Metric System

To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled: The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth objection to the Metric system and request the Government to restore the Imperial system.

And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.

Petition received. by Mr Bungey. Petition received.

Medical Benefits: Abortions

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,

Petition received. by Br Cass. Petition received.

Aged Persons Complex

To the Honourable the Speaker, and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:

  1. That surveys reveal a substantial percentage of adults over the age of 55 years in the LoftusEngadineHeathcote and Waterfall areas of the Hughes electorate, are in urgent need of special housing and nursing home accommodation.
  2. That many families in the area are experiencing difficulty in the placing of their aged parents in suitable nursing care; many cases having to be placed in care many kilometres from their families and consequently causing great strain on the relatives concerned.
  3. That this problem is aggravated by this area’s geographical and public transport isolation from the rest of the Sutherland Shire.
  4. That Government subsidised nursing homes in other parts of the Hughes and Cook electorate have long waiting-lists and in fact, have closed their lists to further inquirers.

Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will:

  1. . Acknowledge that there is a need for the construction of an aged persons complex in this area as already acknowledged by the Federal /State Co-ordinating Committee for Nursing-Home accommodation in New South Wales.
  2. Take immediate action to provide sufficient funds in the current financial year to finance the construction and maintenance of an aged-persons complex, providing hostel and nursing bed accommodation in this area.

And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray,

Petition received. by Mr Les Johnson. Petition received.

Income Tax

To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:

That the existence of a system of double taxation of personal incomes whereby both the Australian Government and State Governments had the power to vary personal income taxes would mean that taxpayers who worked in more than one State in any year would:

  1. be faced with complicated variations in his or her personal income taxes between States; and
  2. find that real after-tax wages for the same job would vary from State to State even when gross wages were advertised as being the same; and
  3. require citizens to maintain records of income earned in each State.

Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that a system of double income tax on personal incomes be not introduced.

And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray,

Petition received. by Mr Morris. Petition received.

International Air Fares

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 Government’s continued procrastination on the introduction of lower international air fares is causing confusion and concern within Australia’s travel industry and amongst Australia’s air travellers who were postponing overseas travel in expectation of the reduced international air fares.

That the Government’s decision not to make available to the public the Report of the Review of International Civil Aviation Policy was further compounding the confusion and uncertainty and was denying Australians right of access to information on the options available.

That the Government’s policy of secrecy was suppressing public debate on the issue and was adding to the impression that the Government was reluctant to allow Australians access to lower priced international air fares.

Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that:

The Report of the Review of International Civil Aviation Policy be released and the introduction of reduced international air fares be no longer deferred in order to end (he confusion and concern of the travel industry and the public. by Mr Wallis

Petition received.

National Family Policy

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. Petition received.

page 3145


Acting Prime Minister · Richmond · NCP/NP

– I inform the House that the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations leaves Australia today to attend the 64th session of the International Labour Organisation Conference in Geneva and to have discussions elsewhere in Europe and in the United States of America. He is expected to return on 28 June. During his absence the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs will act as Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. He will also represent the Minister for Administative Services in this chamber.

page 3145



page 3145




– I refer the Acting Prime Minister to the coalition’s election promise to provide rural producers, through a primary industry bank, with ‘long-term credit to viable borrowers for up to 30 years at concessional rates of interest’. I ask: Does the Treasurer’s statement in the second-reading speech to the Primary Industry Bank Amendment Bill that interest rates will be determined after consultation between the Commonwealth and the bank board, mean that the promise to provide concessional interest rates is inoperative? If not, what will be the magnitude of the interest rate concession?

Minister for Primary Industry · NEW ENGLAND, NEW SOUTH WALES · NCP/NP

– The form of the legislation is intended so that there will be an arrangement set up outside the legislation constituting the Primary Industry Bank. The bank board will consist of representatives of those who have equity in the bank, together with representatives of the Government and primary producers. The appointment of the Chairman, the former Secretary of the Department of Primary Industry, has already been announced. The basis upon which funds will be attracted in order to make money available to lend to the prime lenders is found essentially in the gearing ratio between equity that will be contributed by the equity members of the company and private borrowings raised on the external market. The rate of interest that will be payable on those moneys, together with any offset that the Government believes necessary, will determine the rate that will be set for the money as lent by the prime lender to the actual farmer-borrower. In other words, the arrangements cannot be settled until money has been borrowed and until the interest rates at which that borrowing has been determined have been set. Then we can determine the extent to which it is necessary to provide an offset to reduce interest rates in line with the Government’s commitment. There is no basis upon which at this stage any conclusion can be reached as to the firm rate of interest that will be charged. However, the Government has implied and suggested from the beginning that it would hope that the Primary Industry Bank of Australia would make available long term funds at interest rates set at approximately the same level as for overdraft accommodation on similar amounts of money.

page 3145




– Has the Treasurer read the decision of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission which today awarded full indexation in respect of the 1.3 per cent increase in the March quarter consumer price index? What are the implications of this decision, both for employment and for the continuation of the Government’s economic stategy?


– I can inform the honourable gentleman that I have read the decision of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. I must say to the House that it is an extremely disappointing decision. For the Commission in current circumstances to have awarded what is 100 per cent wage indexation means that the Commission has paid no regard whatever to the clear link that exists between the level and the rate of wage increases in the Australian community and the level of unemployment in the Australian community. This decision will do nothing towards creating fresh job opportunities in the Australian community. Those honourable members opposite who are interjecting and protesting their support for full wage indexation, as they have done over the past two and a quarter years, are demonstrating a practical lack of concern for the levels of unemployment in Australia. Their interjecting and protests do not match the rhetoric they so frequently resort to when they are talking about the levels of unemployment in Australia.

Perhaps the most disappointing part of the Commission’s judgment is to be found on page 4 of the document. I wish to quote the words used by the Commission and I would like honourable gentlemen opposite who dispute what I am saying to listen to these words carefully:

A wage adjustment by the full 1.3 per cent would be consistent with a continued slowing down of the rate of inflation and would be the smallest percentage increase awarded since indexation began in April 197S.

I put it to the House that, if the Commission believes that 100 per cent wage indexation would be consistent with a continued slowing down of inflation, surely it would accept that a zero flow on of the March quarter increase of the consumer price index would make an even greater contribution towards the slowing down of the rate of inflation. By its own reasoning, the Commission has not paid sufficient regard to the economic consequences of the decision it has taken.

As honourable gentlemen will be aware, the Commission has said that it will resume hearings on the question of indexation guidelines on 20 June. I make it clear to the House that the Government remains firmly of the view that wage hearings under present circumstances are far too frequent. The Government will submit to that resumed hearing that less frequent wage adjustments should occur. But I should like to make it equally clear to the House that in present circumstances the Government does not see less frequent wage hearings as being a trade-off for full wage indexation. In present circumstances the Government remains firmly of the view that it is economically irresponsible to follow a policy of full wage indexation.

page 3146




– I ask the Treasurer: In view of his statement that there is a clear link between wage rises and unemployment and between a high level of wages and unemployment, will he state the basis of empirical evidence to support that proposition? Will he state also in what instances low wage countries are able to maintain full employment? If the Treasurer is unable to answer the question during Question Time, will he have a paper prepared on this matter to show clear empirical evidence to support his statement?


-I should be absolutely delighted to supply the honourable member for Wills with such additional detailed evidence in support of the proposition as he might think necessary. I doubt very much that he will be persuaded. I think the honourable gentleman will remain of the view that he will not be persuaded. But I put it to the honourable gentleman that the clearest empirical evidence possible is the fact that at precisely the time that the Government of which he was a member allowed wages in the community to go through the roof this country moved to a higher threshold of unemployment. I put it very strongly to the Opposition also that over the past 2W years, if we take into account the most recent decision of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission which was handed down today, we have had something like 75 per cent of full wage indexation from the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in national wages cases. It is the Government’s view that if our submissions before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission had been given greater weight by the Commission over the past *2V** years the level of unemployment in the Australian community would not be as high as it is now.

page 3146



Mr Peter Johnson:

-Has the Acting Prime Minister seen reports containing suggestions from various sources that the Government should relax its firm control over the economy and should introduce some stimulation of economic activity by expanding government spending? Does the Government intend to respond to those suggestions?


– There has been a good deal of speculation around the community about a change of direction in government policy. Let me make it quite clear that when this Government went to the people in both 1975 and 1976 it laid down quite emphatically that its main economic strategy was to control inflation. One of the basic ingredients in controlling inflation is to keep a firm grip on government expenditure. If we recall the disastrous years of economic management under a Labor regime we will remember very clearly that members of that regime acted as delinquents in the management of the Australian economy. During a period of three years the rate of government expenditure rose 100 per cent. It was from that tremendous fillip that all the economic problems of this country followed, such as business stagnation and the very high level of unemployment which exists today.

The Government is determined not to change its direction by trying to stimulate the economy with increased government expenditure. The Government is going to give encouragement to increased productivity in selected areas. I have announced that there will be export incentives; the export market development grants scheme will be improved; research and development grants will be considered; and we will give encouragement to and will work with the States in the reprocessing of Australian raw materials. All this means that we are directing our attention towards the private sector. The Government is directing its attention to those areas that will lift the overall productivity of this country and give us more economic strength to deal with many of the problems that exist. Those people who think that the Government is going to change course and that it is going to undermine the consolidation that it has established already in getting this country on a sound basis, in giving confidence to people to invest and in attracting overseas interests to come back and participate in the development of this country have another think coming.

page 3147




– I refer the Minister for Transport to a statement he made on 3 1 May in which he stated that financial assistance to Victorian dairy farmers should not be achieved by increasing milk prices. I ask the Minister whether he is aware that the Prime Minister, when addressing the conference of the Victorian Farmers Union on 6 July 1 977, said:

Many of the dairy farmers now in acute difficulties would be in no difficulty if Victorian liquid milk prices were higher.

Did the Prime Minister, in the same address, go on to advocate -


– Order! The honourable gentleman ought to ask his question.


– I will, Mr Speaker. Did the Prime Minister advocate that Victoria should receive the same percentage increases in prices as had been received in Sydney since 1960? I ask: Why has the Minister repudiated the Prime Minister’s statement?

Minister for Transport · GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA · LP

– I am afraid the honourable member, as usual, has a misconception of the situation. The purpose of my statement of 31 May was to draw to the attention of Victorian Dairy farmers the fact that the Victorian Government had stated that it was not prepared to join in the Commonwealth scheme of underwriting and that it was proposing to do something individually and separately from the sensible scheme that my colleague the Minister for Primary Industry has proposed as a solution to the problems experienced by the dairy industry in this country. I make it quite clear to the House that I wanted to be sure that if the Victorian Government were to increase the underwriting from 75c to 80c per lb butterfat, as proposed by the Commonwealth without joining with the Commonwealth, it would not do so simply by imposing some levy on wholemilk or increasing the price of milk and then passing that off as being a satisfactory solution to its commitment. If the honourable member had read my statement more closely he would have seen that I made the point in the statement that if there is an increase in the price of milk it ought to go to the dairy farmer unencumbered by some government decision affecting underwriting. The two things ought to be separate. If the price of milk can stand a rise, the farmer ought to receive the benefit of that separately. In addition, the farmer should receive separately the benefit of the Victorian Government’s commitment to underwrite to 80c. The honourable member will have to agree that there is no difference between the stance taken by the Prime Minister and me on this matter.

page 3147




– Has the Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence seen reports of Government secrecy over moves to phase out the Australian Services Canteens Organisation? If so, can he explain to the House the present position?

Mr McLeay:

-I thank the honourable member for asking the question and acknowledge his continuing interest in ASCO- in fact, in the welfare of the Services as a whole. The position is that about 18 months ago, perhaps 24 months ago, the Minister for Defence asked me to look at the problems of the Organisation. I think he said that he felt that I had had more experience in this area. It has been a very complex process because it is a complex Organisation. I am able to advise that on 10 May a decision was taken in principle to terminate the services of ASCO. A group comprising representatives of the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations, ASCO itself, the Department of Defence and the Public Service Board was appointed to assist the ASCO Council in the winding down of ASCO. I think that one could hardly say it is a secret. On 22 May I wrote to the chairman of the ASCO Council, formally telling him of the decision. He said he appreciated the decision and it would be very difficult to implement. On May 24 the managing director of the ASCO board of management wrote to all of the staff members of ASCO, which represents nearly a thousand people. So if we have been conducting this in a secret way, nearly a thousand people are privy to the secret. There is absolutely no secrecy about this matter at all and I suggest statements of the type that have been made in the last day or so do nothing to help ASCO, its staff or its services.

page 3148




– I ask a question of the Acting Prime Minister. Is it a fact that the Minister for Administrative Services told the Prime Minister on 17 January that he had telephoned Mr Pearson in relation to the changing of the proposed name of the electorate of Gold Coast? Is it a fact that the Prime Minister failed to pass this information on to the Attorney-General when the Attorney-General was asked to report on the allegations of the honourable member for Fadden?


– I must give the Leader of the Opposition credit for his persistence but I have to repeat that these matters are before the Royal Commission at the moment and it would be quite wrong of me to make any comment.

page 3148




-I direct a question to the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development. Has the Commonwealth Government made any arrangements to consult the Queensland Government as to where the $10m Commonwealth grant to that State for the Commonwealth Games in 1982 is to be spent? If so, will the Minister request that some of this money be spent in providing permanent housing and sports facilities in country and urban areas in close proximity to Brisbane, such as Gatton, Laidley, Toowoomba, Warwick, Killarney, Allora and Clifton? If this were done, would it be positive proof of the Commonwealth and State governments’ -


-Order! The honourable gentleman is now suggesting an answer to his own question. I think he ought to resume his seat and let the Minister answer what he has asked.

Minister Assisting the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations · BRADDON, TASMANIA · LP

-I thank the honourable member for Darling Downs for his most thoughtful question. It is a fact that the Commonwealth has agreed to provide the Queensland Government with $10m to assist it to construct facilities in Brisbane or in that area for the 1982 games. I can certainly understand the honourable member’s wish that some of that money should be used to assist people residing in areas outside the immediate Brisbane area because we are all aware of his concern for the country people of Australia and of Queensland in particular. The money which we have agreed to provide is of course to be used for the construction of sporting facilities and to construct accommodation facilities for officials and the competitors who will be attending the games.

The terms of the grant will enable the Queensland Government, in consultation with the Brisbane City Council, to make decisions as to precisely how that money should be spent. Whether the money will be spent in the manner suggested by the honourable member is really a question to be answered by the Queensland Government and, I repeat, by the Brisbane City Council as well. I suggest to him that perhaps he would like to approach the Queensland Premier and put to him the views he has expressed today to the House. As I have said, these matters are ones for the Queensland Government.

page 3148




– My question is addressed to the Minister for Productivity. I refer to recent reports that his Department is investigating the possibility of developing industry in Australia centred on locally developed technology. Is it a fact that Australia leads the world in the field of low grade solar energy technology, is well advanced in the field of high grade solar energy technology and has made important advances in the field of wind power technology? Is the Minister aware that the International Energy Agency is currently conducting investigations into the development of these energy alternatives? Is Australia prevented from participating in these studies because it is not one of the 19 countries which are members of the IEA? Will the Minister urge the Government to reconsider the question of Australia’s membership of the IEA to allow Australian scientists and companies to participate in this important work?

Minister for National Development · BASS, TASMANIA · LP

– The honourable member for Fremantle has asked a very timely question. The reason Australia did not join the International Energy Agency when it began was that it was felt the IEA was going to come into confrontation with the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries. The honourable member will recall that in 1973-74 the political situation with OPEC and particularly the countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development was fairly strained. Since then the situation has changed considerably and therefore the honourable member for Fremantle has made some rather important points. At this stage all I can say to him is that the Government has its position vis-a-vis the IEA under active consideration. Hopefully, in the near future I will be able to make some announcements.

page 3149




-My question is directed to the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs and concerns refugees. Has the Minister seen reports that a refugee distress ship, the Cat Loader will shortly commence relief work in the Indo-China Sea? What is his attitude to the work of this ship? Will it affect the number of refugees likely to come to Australia? Will the Australian Navy cooperate with the ship and give it supplies if that becomes necessary? Additionally, does the Minister expect the number of Chinese refugees coming to Australia to increase as a result of civil unrest in Vietnam?

Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs · WARRINGAH, NEW SOUTH WALES · LP

– I have seen reports that an organisation is fitting out a ship which, as I understand it, is to assist refugee vessels in the South China Sea. Again as I understand it, the objective of the ship is not to take on board the people on the refugee boats but to provide them with assistance, perhaps in the form of fuel or food or water, to enable them to continue their voyage within that area. This proposition was canvassed with me in Canberra a few weeks ago and at that stage I put the proposition that the people concerned with the project could not see a situation emerging where Australia would automatically allow the entry of any people that such a vessel happened to pick up. It was pointed out to me that it was not the intention of the vessel to pick up refugees but to assist them on their voyage.

As to the other matters contained in the honourable member’s question, I cannot give an indication of the ethnic composition of the refugee outflow from Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. The Australian Government’s attitude towards refugees is not based on ethnic composition; it is based on the fact or otherwise of refugee status. At the present time I believe that the ethnic composition of people from Vietnam coming to Australia through the accepted channels, as well as those who have come by boats arriving in Darwin, is about 40 per cent. As I have said, the attitude of the Government is not predicated on the ethnic composition of the refugees, it is an humanitarian response to the situation in which these people find themselves.

I should like to point out that Australia’s record in relation to the acceptance of refugees in the long term, where we have taken well over 300,000 people since the end of the Second World War and successfully resettled them in

Australia, and in the short term, where we have provided a lead to other countries in our attitude towards the problems of the unfortunate people in Indo-China, is such that we as a nation can be very proud of the fact that we have demonstrated in a positive and tangible way an attitude that can provide an example for other countries. I hope that other countries throughout the world will play their part in helping to solve what is a tragic human problem.

page 3149




-I direct a question to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. I refer him to the decision made by his Department last December to license 20,000 citizen band radio sets type 3-595 1C imported from Taiwan by the Australian General Electric Company. Is the Minister aware that the sets are so technically inferior that they have not been allowed into this country since 1961? Is the Minister further aware that the importation was allowed against the advice of his Department? Is he also aware that the use of the sets causes severe interference to radio and television sets? Is it a fact that, as a result of its action, Australian General Electric has collected $lm from Australian consumers?

Minister for Post and Telecommunications · CHISHOLM, VICTORIA · LP

– I will make inquiries into the matter raised by the honourable member. I am not familiar with decisions made at that stage, and it is a matter of detail. But I think it is wrong that CB radio sets can be imported into Australia when they are not able to be licensed here. I have had some discussions with my colleague, the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, about this matter and we are looking at what action can be taken in order to prevent what is in general an undesirable practice.

page 3149




– The Minister for Trade and Industry made an important visit to China. Could he tell us now what negotiations he has had with companies in Australia about broadening trade between this country and China and whether he has been successful in discussions with his colleague with a view to allowing Qantas Airways Ltd flights to Peking? These matters are of interest to us all.

Minister for Industry and Commerce · FLINDERS, VICTORIA · LP

– I think the honourable gentleman meant to direct his question to the Minister for Industry and Commerce. As I mentioned in the House and on a number of other occasions, there are very strong prospects for additional exports to China which is now a very significant market for Australia.

Mr Morris:

– You can export Australians now.


– In response to what the honourable gentleman has said I can say that China is a significant market for Australia. I have had a number of discussions with selected groups in the Australian business community to identify for them, in a clearer fashion than has been possible by way of the Press release, opportunities that certainly are available. Those discussions are continuing. I have provided to a number of business people notes on the general strategy of trading with China. I think the honourable gentleman would be aware that shortly a major iron and steel mission will go to that very significant market. That will be followed later in the year by Australia’s involvement in an agricultural exhibition in China. I think this augurs very well for the relationship between our two countries, particularly on a trade basis. I am sure the Deputy Prime Minister concurs. The trade figures during the last two years have increased from $200m plus to $400m plus and I expect that they will show a further significant lift during the present year. The question involving Qantas Airways Ltd is of course a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Transport. Discussions have taken place in relation to it.

page 3150




– I direct a question, which relates to the question asked by the honourable member for Bendigo, to the Minister for Construction as Minister assisting the Minister for Defence. Did the Minister state in a recent Press release that the Australian Services Canteens Organisation would be closed because of successive trading losses but the employees would be retained? Has he since become aware that ASCO has traded profitably for the last 5 years and would he explain why the managing director of ASCO has notified employees- about 1,000 of them- in writing that they will be retrenched, of course with a loss of full superannuation rights and other benefits? Finally, will the Government reconsider its decision to disband ASCO before any winding down of the organisation occurs?

Mr McLeay:

– I am not sure that I have all the parts of the question in order, but in the first place I have not put out a Press release at all. Anything that the honourable member has read in the Press has only been attributed to me. I have not said that there have been accumulated losses. In fact there have not been and that is on public record in Australian Services Canteens Organisation reports. I have said that we are approaching a quite substantial loss situation in the current year and ASCO cannot proceed in its present form without a very substantial subsidy from the Government. I do not think that the Treasurer’s mood is such that he would support that sort of application. So far as employment is concerned, on 24 May the managing director of ASCO sent out a memorandum to each of the employees of ASCO setting out guidelines as to the sort of program we wish to achieve. I table that document.

I think the last question that the honourable gentleman asked was whether the Government would reconsider its decision. The Government will not reconsider its decision. It is the only decision that has been taken by the Government and the other decisions will flow as the program is developed. Attempts by individuals to score political points by muddying the water at this stage will not help anybody connected with ASCO.

Mr Keating:

– Why did you not give them full superannuation rights?

Mr McLeay:

– The question of superannuation and other benefits is part of the program which will develop.

page 3150


Mr Goodluck proceeding to ask a question of the Minister for Post and TelecommunicationsMr SPEAKER-The honourable member’s question is out of order. The Minister has no responsibility to the Labor Party.

page 3150




– Does the Acting Prime Minister recall the stringent criticisms made by the members of this Government when in opposition of the acceptance of gifts by the Prime Minister and Ministers and their families, and the precise procedures set by the present Government to be followed in respect of such gifts? Why have the guidelines and procedures set by his Government for the valuation and surrender or purchase of gifts been discarded? Why is his Government now refusing to disclose, as promised, the number, value and location of gifts received by Ministers and their families? Finally, where is the gold bracelet received as a gift for launching the Australian Progress and what is its value?


– I do not know who launched the Australian Progress. Who launched it?

Mr Morris:

– I think it was your wife. I am not sure. I will check.


– It is clear that anything that comes to the honourable member’s mind is good enough. It does not matter whose name he damages in the process. If he is making any reference to the Australian Prospector which my wife launched, I am quite happy to say that she received a gold bracelet and that was handed in to the Prime Minister’s Department for valuation.

page 3151


Mr IAN ROBINSON Has the Acting Prime Minister noted the particular praise which was heaped on the Prime Minister and the Government yesterday for the Government’s success in controlling inflation? Is the Government prepared to accept the advice which was offered at the same time as the praise was given?


– I noted the remarks made by Mr Wran, the Premier of New South Wales. I want to say how very right he was in praising the Prime Minister for his policies and efforts to get inflation under control. He was right in recognising the massive task that is involved in taking difficult decisions to try to reduce the rate of government expenditure, as the Government has had to do. I also noted the comments of the Premier of New South Wales on the need for foreign investment to try to get more development going and the support needed for employers and investors if we are to get the private sector of this country moving. All I want to say about the Premier of New South Wales is that at least he is consistent. A few weeks ago when he was in the United States he made the comment that American investors could look with confidence to Australia as being a stable and reliable country and that the Liberal-National Country parties were certain to remain in office for at least another two terms.

I should like to refer also to some other comments made by the Premier of New South Wales. In his speech yesterday to a Rotary club in Sydney he referred to the helter-skelter years of the Federal Labor Government. I have to agree with him. They were years when we saw inflation go mad and unemployment attack this country as we had never seen before. We have to agree that the efforts of this Government to restore economic sanity and to get confidence back into this country are a credit to the Prime Minister and his Government. They have sought to bring about the sort of stability that all of us want.

page 3151




– My question is directed to the Treasurer and follows an answer he gave a little earlier in relation to the economic effects of wage decisions. I ask: Is it not a fact that the level by which wage movements exceed productivity movements, according to the so-called wage overhang index submitted by the Government to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, would be greatly reduced if there were a substantial pick-up in the idle productive capacity of more than 30 per cent in industry at the present time? Would not the effect of that sort of productive pick-up be that there would be a reduction in wages and an increase in profit’s share of total resources in national account terms?


– The answer to the honourable gentleman’s question is yes. The gap that exists between the two can be closed in one of two ways or a combination of both. What the Government has argued is that -

Mr Hayden:

– Just one, the wrong one.


-No, not at all.

Mr Hayden:

– Where is your productive output? The index shows you are wrong.


-What the honourable gentleman -


-Order! The Treasurer will resume his seat. The Leader of the Opposition has asked his question and I ask him to have the courtesy of listening to the reply.


-What the honourable gentleman would argue in this House is that wages should not bear any burden at all in closing the gap that exists between the two. The net result of arguing that proposition is that the gap has to be closed entirely by productivity increases. I say to the honourable gentleman that if that policy were followed it would place too heavy a burden on the other areas of government policy responsibility, such as monetary policy -

Mr Hayden:

– Why not follow it just a little bit?


-Why does the honourable gentleman not listen to my answer?

Mr Hayden:

– You did not answer my question.


-I answered the Leader of the Opposition’s question by saying yes. I thought I did it courteously and I thought he might have paid me the courtesy of listening to the response. I say to the honourable gentleman, as I said at the beginning of my answer, that it is possible to close the gap by one or other of the methods or by a combination of both. What the honourable gentleman and his colleagues are arguing is that the level of real wages in the community ought to bear none of the burden so far as closing that gap is concerned. That is the net effect of the arguments that they have advanced in respect of previous national wage case decisions. That is the net effect of the arguments that most of their colleagues in State governments have advanced in respect of previous national wage case decisions. I think that, in the present economic circumstances, to ignore the contribution that real wage increases have made to unemployment is completely unacceptable.



– Is the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development aware that the honourable member for Holt is wearing a badge on his lapel in the House today? Is the badge part of the Minister’s responsibility? Can the Minister report to the House the purpose of the activities in the Senate garden at lunch time?


-I understand that earlier the honourable member for Holt was wearing a ‘Life Be In It’ badge, probably as well as his gold medallion, so I take it that the question is related to the ‘Life Be In It’ program. The program is proving to be a most successful one. It is encouraging many Australians to be in it- that is, to be in life. At the moment the Government is spending $600,000 on this program, with considerable support from State governments, private enterprise and in particular the media. We certainly thank them for their support. It was pleasing that members of the Parliament from both chambers participated in some light recreational activity in the rose garden today, to give some encouragement to Australians to be involved in light recreational activity. That is the whole purpose of the ‘Life Be In It’ program. Its purpose is to involve people not in heavy recreation at all but just in light recreation. I cannot say that honourable members on this side of the House were terribly happy with the decision of the referee but we did show that we can be gracious in defeat as well as in victory.


– I want to thank members of the House for the encouragement they gave to the Australian community by showing that one does not have to be good to be in a tug of war. Also, I ought to explain that the decision had nothing to do with the competition but was a reward for effort.

page 3152




– I address my question to the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. I remind him that it is now five months since the Government made the shameful decision to give de facto recognition to the unlawful integration of Portuguese East Timor into Indonesia. As the Government claimed at that time that this decision would facilitate the reunification of Timorese families, I now ask the Minister: Firstly, how many East Timorese families, if any, have been reunited since the integration was recognised? Secondly, how many East Timorese people in Australia wish to return to that part of East Timor under Indonesian control? Thirdly, how many East Timorese people in Portugal have been reunited with families in Australia since the recognition?


– I cannot give the honourable gentleman the detailed replies that he seeks because the recognition was on a particular date and I would have to investigate the numbers since that date, but I will give him a reply at a later date. In general terms I would have to say that the Government’s attitude towards refugees stands in marked contrast to the attitude of the previous Administration which was in power in this country between 1972 and 1975. That has been demonstrated by our attitude not only towards people from East Timor but also towards people from the Indo-Chinese region and in fact last year towards people from over 40 different countries. We are working assiduously to bring about the reunification of families from East Timor. I hope to be in a position to make a much more definitive statement about that in the very near future.

page 3152


Minister for Primary Industry · New England · NCP/NP

– For the information of honourable members I present an interim annual report of the Australian Wheat Board for the year ended 30 November 1977.

page 3152


Minister for Primary Industry · New England · NCP/NP

– Pursuant to section 3 of the Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation Act 1977 I present a report of the Australian Meat Board for the period 1 July to 30 November 1977.

page 3152


Leader of the House · New England · NCP/NP

- Mr Speaker, with your indulgence may I advise honourable members that I do not expect that the House will rise until the normal adjournment hour after dinner tomorrow night; in other words, it will rise at about 1 1 p.m.

page 3153


Acting Minister for Finance · Bennelong · LP

– For the information of honourable members I present an interim report by the Superannuation Fund Investment Trust on the management of the Superannuation Fund during the year ended 30 June 1977.

Pursuant to section 162 of the Superannuation Act 1976 I present the report by the Commissioner for Superannuation on the general administration and operation of the Superannuation Act 1976- other than Part III which deals with the management of the Superannuation Fund- and the Superannuation Act 1922 during the year ended 30 June 1 977.

page 3153


Minister for National Development · Bass · LP

– Pursuant to section 48 of the Australian Housing Corporation Act 1975 and section 50b of the Defence Service Homes Act 1918, I present the annual report of the Australian Housing Corporation for the year ended 30 June 1975. The delay in presenting the final report is due to the problems which arose in connection with the form of the financial statements which are required to be presented with the report. Prior to 24 June 1 975, the date on which the Australian Housing Corporation came into existence, the Council kept a different system from that required by the Act and considerable difficulty was experienced in preparing commercialtype statements in an approved form covering the whole of 1974-75. Notification of the approval of the form of financial statements by the Minister for Finance was received on 8 March 1978. The report of the Auditor-General is dated 31 May 1978.

page 3153


Mr McLeay:
Minister for Construction · BOOTHBY, SOUTH AUSTRALIA · LP

Pursuant to section 10a of the Royal Australian Air Force Veterans’ Residences Act 1953 I present the annual report of the RAAF Veterans’ Residences Trust Fund for the year ended 30 June 1977.

page 3153


Acting Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations · Farrer · LP

– For the information of honourable members I present the report of the Australian delegation to the 61st Session of the International Labour Conference held in Geneva in June 1976. Appended to the report are the texts of the following instruments adopted by the 61st Session of the conference: Convention Number 144- Tripartite Consultations (International Labour Standards), 1976; Recommendation Number 152- Tripartite Consultations (Activities of the International Labour Organisation), 1976.

page 3153



Ministerial Statement

Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs · Warringah · LP

– by leaveOnly a handful of issues has, in the last few months, attracted more persistent speculation than the prospect of a revised immigration policy. Few issues have attracted so wide a spectrum of sentiment, from the extreme of the virtual open door to the absolute of the door nailed firmly shut. The question of immigration is rarely argued in detached terms. This is because each of us has a personal stake in the future of Australia which we see through our own frames of reference. The issue of Indo-Chinese refugees has brought all Australians face to face with the reality that no longer are we insulated and isolated from immigration questions of immense significance. The Government has been conscious of diverse attitudes and has, in its deliberations, tried to find that consensus from which democratic government draws its strength. Immigration ought to be above partisan political polemics, and largely it has been. I credit Opposition spokesmen with a concern for people equally as profound as that of the Government. The issue between us has never been the fact of immigration but the quantum and nature of intake. We have shown a common belief in a policy of non-discrimination. We have been at one on the principle of accepting refugees though some would put emphasis on one source, some on another.

I now state policies and programs determined by the Government as a framework for Australia’s population development. Since 1971, we have seen a portentous change in the demographic factors which determine the growth and composition of Australia’s population. The number of births has been falling steeply. Australia’s fertility level is now below long-term replacement. Australia’s immigrant intakes have fallen to post-war record lows. Since 1974 immigration policies have been very tightly defined. Migrant entry has largely been limited to nominated immediate family members, refugees, persons travelling under Australia’s bilateral arrangements with New Zealand, and a very narrowly-defined group of workers with occupational skills in continuing demand in Australia. Many people have seen it as anomalous that Australia, as a nation built on continuing migration, has so drastically changed its course. There are many people in Australia with relatives overseas with whom they would wish to be reunited in Australia. While there has been a shortage of hard data on which to reach firm conclusions regarding the economic effects of population growth and immigration, many have seen a link between post-war economic development and large-scale immigration.

It was against this background that, in 1976, the Australian Population and Immigration Council prepared a Green Paper on ‘Immigration Policies and Australia’s Population’. The tabling of the Green Paper in Parliament in March 1977, signalled great public discussion on the issues it raised. There has been extensive consultation with State governments. Each State considered the Green Paper and presented its own views in a submission to the Commonwealth. The issues were discussed at conferences of Commonwealth and State Ministers for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs over the past year. There is a remarkable degree of unanimity among the States on the importance of a continued positive approach to population building through immigration, and on related policy measures.

Submissions have been received from individuals and organisations around Australia. A community consultation program has provided individuals and groups with the opportunity of presenting and discussing their views in seminars and with a task force of departmental officers. There have been talks with union leaders, representatives of industry and commerce, and government authorities in all States and Territories. To all, I record my thanks and those of the Government for their contribution. There has never been, in Australia, so comprehensive a review of immigration. Not everybody has offered an opinion but everyone has been invited to do so. In the main, those with strongly-held views have taken the opportunity to advance those views. The importance of looking beyond our immediate problems was frequently stressed. Though the Government must give priority to resolving the prevailing economic difficulties facing Australia, it believes that population and immigration policies lay the foundations for tomorrow.

Immigration Principles

It is important that, as a nation, we clearly state the basis on which our immigration policies will operate. Accordingly, the Government has adopted a set of nine principles upon which we will act. In so doing, we hope to secure wide understanding both by Australians and by the peoples and governments of other countries of the goals, obligations and constraints of our policies. The principles are:

  1. It is fundamental to national sovereignty that the Australian Government alone should determine who will be admitted to Australia. No person other than an Australian citizen, or a constituent member of the Australian community, has a basic right to enter Australia.
  2. Apart from people admitted as refugees and for family reunion, migrant entry criteria should be developed on the basis of benefit to the Australian community, and the social, economic and related requirements within Australia. As a general rule, Australia will not admit for settlement people who would represent an economic burden to Australia through inordinate claims on welfare, health or other resources, who would endanger the community by criminal or other anti-social activities, or whose entry would be to their own detriment.
  3. The size and composition of migrant intakes should not jeopardise social cohesiveness and harmony within the Australian community.
  4. Immigration policy should be applied on a basis which is non-discriminatory. There are external restraints on the extent to which Australia can apply a non-discriminatory policy. Some countries will not allow their nationals to emigrate; other countries allow only those with exit permits to leave; some countries will not permit the emigration of skilled and professional workers. Some countries will not allow advertising for migration purposes, others will not allow immigration offices to be established within their territories, or allow immigration officers to operate within their territories. In addition, there are varying degrees of interest in migration to Australia in particular areas. The principle of nondiscrimination means that policy will be applied consistently to all applicants regardless of their race, colour, nationality, descent, national or ethnic origin or sex.
  5. Applicants should be considered for migration as individuals or individual family units, not as community groups. An exception will be refugees in designated refugee situations, although even in such circumstances the criteria for selection will be related to the characteristics of individual applicants.
  6. Eligibility and suitability standards for migrants should reflect Australian social mores and Australian law. Polygamous unions will not be accepted, or the entry of child fiances. The concept of immediate family, for eligibility purposes, will be derived from the Australian norm, that is, the unit consisting of husband, wife and minor unmarried children.
  7. Migration to Australia should be for permanent settlement although there should be no barrier preventing the departure of persons wishing to leave. The guest-worker migration flow until recently popular in the industrialised countries of Western Europe will not be adopted for Australia.
  8. While migrants will have the same rights as other Australian residents to choose their place of residence individually or collectively, enclave settlement will not be encouraged. Immigration policy will not consider communities for mass movement to Australia in situations where enclave settlement would occur.
  9. Policies governing entry and settlement should be based on the premise that immigrants should integrate into Australian society. Migrants will be given every opportunity, consistent with this premise, to preserve and disseminate their ethnic heritage.

These nine principles have a common basis: The interests of Australia and its people, together with compassion and international responsibility.

I turn now to changes in policy. Many submissions on immigration policies and criteria have stressed the need for two major changes. First has been the need for some relaxation in the current very tight criteria for the entry to Australia of family members. The difficulty here is that a very high proportion of family migration consists of unskilled workers and their families. The opportunities in Australia for unskilled workers make it difficult to justify a major policy relaxation causing a substantial rise in unskilled immigration. Nevertheless, the Government believes that it is practicable to introduce changes to make it easier for family members to qualify for migration to Australia. The other major criticism of existing policy hits at what was seen to be the narrow occupational controls on the entry of all migrants other than those in the immediate family group, refugees and those entering under

Australia’s arrangement with New Zealand. Many people, including members of this Parliament who make representations to me on behalf of individuals, find it difficult to accept that Australia should refuse entry to applicants with qualities, including energy and initiative, to make a success of life in Australia. In the past, many such people have helped to shape Australia, economically, socially and culturally.

Family Reunion

The Government, acknowledging shortcomings in existing policy, will change entry criteria. Provision will be made for concessional entry of certain categories of relatives who are not within the immediate dependent relative category but who, as a result of their particular circumstances, merit major concessions; for example, the last remaining family member overseas and relatives able and willing to assist on a continuing basis where death or permanent disability of relatives in Australia is causing hardship. I have already said that there would be serious problems for Australia if the existing very relaxed criteria for the entry of immediate family members were extended to all or a major proportion of more distant relatives. Studies of past trends indicate that such a policy, if applied over a prolonged period, would be likely to result in intakes totalling hundreds of thousands of persons a year. This is insupportable. At the same time, we respect the wish of many people to join brothers and sisters and other relatives already in Australia. The need has been to devise a policy which can make it easier for family members to qualify for admission to Australia, without bringing about a migrant intake heavily biased towards the unskilled, and so large as to over-strain Australia’s absorptive capacity. It is the Government’s intention to do this through changes to the procedure by which applications for migration are assessed.

These changes, the details of which are still being finalised through testing in Australia and overseas, will involve the application of numerical weightings, or points, to the assessment procedure. Applicants nominated by relatives in Australia will be given ‘points’ for the nomination. These changes will help to facilitate broader family reunion. But as long as all members of this House are agreed that some occupational and numerical control is required of the migrant intake, especially when programs are on the small side, it will not be possible to admit all people just on the basis of relationship to a resident of Australia. Past policy has allowed the entry of parents of working age notwithstanding the disposition of the family. In future, family disposition will be taken into account.

People seeking the entry of relatives are generally required to provide maintenance and accommodation and in other ways to assist with their resettlement. This necessarily requires that the sponsor or nominator be well established in Australia. The recent policy review has shown a serious incidence of problems among newlyarrived migrants whose sponsors or nominators were unable to provide the assistance and guidance expected of them. Past policy required that sponsors and nominators have at least one year’s residence in Australia before being eligible to introduce relatives other than spouses and children. In future, the residential qualifications will vary according to the nature of the sponsorship or nomination and may be waived where compassionate factors are present.


During most of the post-war period, fiancesmale and female- have been eligible for entry provided the claimed relationship was assessed as genuine. Fiances have been required to leave Australia if the marriage did not take place within a prescribed period. Since the tightening of controls on migrant entry in 1974, we have seen a rapid growth in numbers gaining entry on the basis of a claimed engagement to marry a resident of Australia. In 1974-75, the number totalled about 1,000. This year, it is expected to be over 4,000. There is growing evidence that people unable to meet normal entry requirements are misrepresenting themselves as fiances in order to gain approval for migration. A high proportion do not marry on arrival. There have been instances of women in Australia being exploited by men overseas using the relationship simply as a basis for migrating. The Government does not intend to intrude into the personal relationships of people claiming to be engaged or to impede the reunion in Australia of bona fide engaged couples. Nevertheless, the procedures will be revised to help detect and exclude those who are engaged in such deceit and exploitation. The revised procedures will apply from today.

Independent Applicants

The majority of applicants for migrant entry to Australia do not seek consideration on the grounds of family reunion, refugee status or other special factors; they are people who are motivated to seek resettlement for economic and social reasons. Such motivation may stem from a desire to leave countries where political, economic and social institutions are insecure, or where social and economic rigidity operates against individual ambitions and potential. The motivation may be a simple appreciation of the high standard of living enjoyed in Australia. Australia is seen as a prosperous country offering good prospects to people with initiative and as a desirable place to raise their children.

A further factor influencing migration is the ease of international movement. Many skilled and professional workers seek the challenge of migration to expand their expertise or to utilise qualifications and experience which are underemployed in their own countries. Australia has much to gain by providing for the entry of those independent applicants possessing skills, qualifications or experience and the personal qualities of initiative and adaptability to facilitate successful settlement. Through the entry of such people the migrant intake includes a desirable proportion of professional and skilled workers. This will balance the family reunion and refugee intakes in which a high proportion of the workers may be unskilled and nonEnglishspeaking. It will also offset the outflow of professional and skilled people seeking career experience overseas.

The number of independent applicants for migration to Australia is large- hundreds of thousands a year. Many lack the skills, education and other characteristics to succeed in Australia. The new approach to migrant, selection will be based on numerical weightings of factors considered to be indicators of capacity to settle successfully in Australia. Applicants will be screened first against a group of economic and employment factors. If they meet minimum requirements, they will be interviewed and considered against a series of personal and settlement factors. This system will ensure that the migrant intake remains consistent with Australia’s absorptive capacity and that those.who are accepted have the abilities to settle successfully. The criteria relating to the entry of independent applicants will also apply to relatives of residents of Australia who do not qualify for inclusion within the immediate family reunion of special family reunion provisions. However, as indicated earlier, credit will be given for the presence of a relative who is prepared, and has the means, to assist and accommodate them.

Employment Nominations

Most independent applicants are approved for entry to Australia without specific employment being arranged in advance. There are instances, however, where prior employment has been arranged by means of an employment nomination lodged in Australia by an employer. In some cases, the employer has been in touch with the applicant, while in others the employer is prepared to accept applicants provided they meet certain skill and experience specifications. Applicants included in employment nominations will be required to meet the same criteria that apply to independent applicants although credit will be given for the nomination. Arrangements will be made to ensure that such nominations are genuine and meet a demand that cannot be met satisfactorily in Australia or in a particular locality. Where an employer has made genuine but unsuccessful efforts to recruit locally, he will be permitted to lodge an employer nomination with the Department- of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs.


In the past, immigration has contributed greatly to Australia’s stock of business initiative and entrepreneurial know-how. Many of Australia’s settlers have applied their experience, technical competence and capital to add new products and services- and even new industriesto the Australian economy. While the numbers of such people are small, their contribution has been great. Immigration policies will continue to provide for the entry of entrepreneurs, provided they have the necessary technical and business experience and capital required for the enterprise they are proposing to establish, provided their venture is potentially viable and provided the likely economic and employment effects are favourable.


Australia has traditionally provided sanctuary to people in distress. Over 300,000 such people have been resettled in the past three decades. As I announced last year in my statement to Parliament on Refugee Policy and Mechanisms, Australia will continue to take a positive approach to accepting refugees for resettlement.

Trans-Tasman Travel

Australia has long enjoyed a special relationship with New Zealand. This includes provision for the free-movement between the two countries of their citizens and of certain other residents of each country. In discussion this year with the New Zealand Minister for Immigration, we affirmed our determination to preserve these special links while controlling the abuses. Officials from both countries are working jointly towards measures to achieve this goal.


Similarly, Australia and Britain have had a close relationship which has continued to flourish despite focusing on our respective- very widely separated- regions of the world. Many Australians with parents or grandparents born in Britain enjoy the right of entry to that country under the special ‘patrial’ provisions of British immigration laws. Australia has reciprocated by providing concessional migrant entry for British citizens with an Australian-born parent or grandparent; this provision will remain.


Australia is seen by many people overseas as an attractive country in which to retire. Many bring with them retirement pensions or income earning assets which allow them to be fully selfsupporting. Such people add to the Australian domestic market and do not contribute to unemployment. However, as aged or aging people, they can be expected to place above average demands on various public facilities, particularly medical services. Moreover, as residents, they add to the general infrastructure costs met by society. Whilst Australia would not wish to exclude such people as a matter of course, it cannot neglect the potential demand they place on the Australian taxpayers unless they, too, make a contribution to taxation and other revenues commensurate with the demands they make. Australia’s policy will thus be to accept such people only where they can be expected to be fully self-sufficient throughout their years in this country.

Implementation of Policy

At the conclusion of this statement, I shall be seeking leave of the House to table details of the new categories and criteria. In general, the commencement date for the new policy will be 1 January 1979.

Committee on Overseas Professional Qualifications

The Government is conscious of the importance of facilitating the recognition in Australia of qualifications gained overseas. The Committee on Overseas Professional QualificationsCOPQ has made much progress in extending the recognition of overseas qualifications at the professional level. The Galbally Review identified the need for similar work on overseas higher technical and sub-professional qualifications. In consequence, the Government has decided to extend forthwith the terms of reference of COPQ to cover technical and sub-professional qualifications. I shall be seeking leave to table these revised terms of reference.

Triennial Programming

Throughout the post-war period, immigration has been planned on an annual basis, having regard to the absorptive capacity of Australia and the availability of suitable applicants overseas. Each program was subject to review in the light of changing circumstances. In the immediate post-war years programs were set to achieve a one per cent rate of growth through net migration, which, together with an expected one per cent rate of natural increase, was intended to yield a 2 per cent rate of population growth for Australia. Annual net migration gains rose as high as 2.04 per cent of population in 1949-50 when a net gain of 162,000 was achieved. In the 1970s, the net gain has been very small, with a 30-year record low of 0.15 per cent in 1975-76. State governments and major employers have stressed the importance of predictability in the level and composition of the immigrant intake as an important feature of manpower planning and as a basis for planning future government works and services and private sector investment spending. Ideally, as in the case of natural increase, it is desirable to maintain a steady rate of immigration. If the rate must be changed for any reason, then it should change slowly. To achieve this desirable stability, and to provide a reliable basis for planning in the private and public sectors, the Government has decided to implement triennial rolling immigration programs, beginning with the period 1978-79 to 1980-81. The use of a rolling program approach allows for flexibility on a year-to-year basis in achieving overall targets for the three-year period. Programs will be constantly monitored and, within the concept of triennial programs, there will remain the flexibility necessary to vary the composition of the migrant intake to meet particular demands.

The varying levels of emigration have also to be considered in determining programs. In 1977-78, a gross intake of around 77,000 is expected to yield a net migration gain of about 70,000. The Government has decided that the net annual gains in the first triennial program should also be 70,000. It is estimated that a gross intake of 90,000 will produce a net gain of 70,000 in 1978-79. Of the total intake of 90,000, the gross worker intake will be 35,000. Taking account of likely worker outflows, the net worker gain will be of the order of 27,000. Critical to the success of future immigration programs will be the co-ordination of manpower, population and development policies at the local, State and Commonwealth levels. In particular, the immigration program will be planned with special regard to government policies on retraining and assistance to industry. The effects of technology transfer, the needs of growth centres and specific regional needs will be reflected in each program. In view of the important place of accurate labour market information in the new approach to selection of migrants, it has been decided that assessments of labour market information should be developed progressively on a threemonthly basis for major regions and occupational categories.

Change of Status

People granted temporary entry into Australia for any purpose are expected to fulfil the obligation they sign to leave Australia by the end of their authorised stay. There has been provision for categories of temporary entrants to apply for, and be granted, permanent resident status under certain conditions. Widespread abuses have developed. The categories of visitors who may in future apply for change of their status to permanent residence while in Australia will be tightened as from today to reduce the incidence of circumvention. Nonetheless, our revised policies will be no more stringent than those generally applied by other countries. Details are included in a paper I shall seek leave to table.

State Government Involvement

States have differing population and labour needs and immigration programs must have the flexibility to meet those needs. Nevertheless, all States support continued immigration at medium to high levels, provided the nature of immigration is consistent with State and regional needs. Accordingly, State governments will be consulted on the level and content of each triennial program and the annual revision of the program. In addition, State governments will be able to initiate their own nomination schemes for the recruitment of immigrants to meet State needs.

Australian Population and Immigration Council

The Australian Population and Immigration Council, which has played a major role in the review of immigration policies and programs and population issues, will continue to be the prime consultative body on these matters.

Program Monitoring

To date Australia has not had experience of the implications of a non-discriminatory policy with large intakes of migrants. Whilst future policy will be based on the application of selection criteria on a non-discriminatory basis, regular monitoring of the impact of migration on the Australian community will be undertaken to ensure that the composition of migrant intakes sustains cohesion and harmony in Australian society.

Overseas Promotion

At present there is no shortage of applicants overseas. However, many do not have skills or qualities which would enable them to find employment and integrate readily under present circumstances in Australia. With promotional action, including advertising, and the provision of assistance incentives, it is expected that sufficient applications will be received from persons with occupational experience and personal qualities enabling successful settlement in Australia to meet programs of the level the Government is setting.

Demographic Studies

The Government is determined to ensure that, as far as practicable, population growth optimally serves Australia’s various interests. Prevailing trends in fertility, mortality, immigration and emigration will be carefully monitored. The implications of the various trends will be studied against their capacity to support the achievement of various national goals. There will be continuing study of international migration and other demographic trends in other countries. The effectiveness of the new policies and any future developments in policy will be subject to continuing evaluation. The first steps have already been taken to implement this approach, through the Australian Population and Immigration Council. In November 1977, the Council brought out the first issue of ‘Population Report’, which is to be a series of papers outlining current population trends and drawing the attention of planners to their likely future implications.

Demographic change proceeds slowly. Policies now being implemented and those which will be adopted in the future will have a permanent impact on the most important characteristic of the nation- its people. I have seen some comment that the immigration emphasis will be solely on numbers. Nothing is further from reality. Broadly the policy emphasises compassionate family reunion consistent with the absorptive capacity of our society; selected intake of breadwinners and their families who can offer skills shown to be in short supply and other qualities; and refugee intake on a scale consistent with our position among nations. One could attach vast numbers to those three areas. The interest from overseas is enormous. Honourable members opposite know the pressures they, as much as my colleagues, live under to secure admission of many persons not readily meeting entry requirements. But we are not chasing numbers. We are in the business of strengthening Australia by diversification, by meeting anticipated needs, by meeting family obligations.

Review Panels

Each year applications from hundreds of thousands of prospective migrants are not approved. Over 40,000 requests for review of decisions covering over 150,000 people are received annually. This large volume makes it impracticable for existing administrative appeal and review bodies to undertake this major task. It has been decided in principle that review panels will be established within the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. The advice of the Administrative Review Council will be sought and review panels then established.


In simple terms, this program underlines the Government’s faith in immigration as an element in economic growth. It recognises the need for caution in current conditions but is sensitive to family reunion, humanitarian, and international responsibilities. The Government has adopted a long term approach to population growth in which immigration is the only controllable factor.

Policies for the future are never arrived at easily. Inevitably, there is not enough up-to-date information available for policy-making to be on a comprehensively informed basis. Nor is there ever an optimal time for forward planning; in boom conditions, expectations frequently outstrip realism; in depressed circumstances, there is a tendency for future needs and opportunities to be obscured by immediate problems. There is sometimes a temptation for authorities to put off decisions because of a shortage of data or because the time seems inopportune. Such negativism fails to recognise that a decision to make no change, or even to make no decision, is a decision nevertheless, and one which might have more serious consequences than those which would flow from a more positive approach.

Recent years have been difficult for Australia; low levels of economic activity, high unemployment, high levels of inflation, all signify a marked transition from the conditions prevailing in the previous two decades. And yet, even with these difficulties which require urgent attention and which affect every citizen, Australia remains a desirable country, still young, and rich in potential. While there are costs to population growth, these have to be weighed against the costs of stagnation and decline.

The policies announced in this paper confirm the Government’s commitment to future population growth with immigration playing a major role in determining the rate and composition of that growth. Between now and the end of the century population and immigration policies will need to adapt progressively to changing circumstances. It has been decided that fundamental reviews of policy should be undertaken every five years with the first such review in 1983.

Australia and its people are extremely fortunate. We have a vast land area with a low overall population density, a large share of the world’s mineral resources; stable and efficient administrative systems, a high level of personal prosperity and material security, an extensive system of social services and a spirit of egalitarianism which promotes an exceptional level of social and economic mobility. We must continue to have confidence in ourselves and the future- to meet the challenge of our destiny- to build together a nation rich in diversity, yet united in purpose. I table the various papers to which I have referred.

Motion (by Mr Hunt) proposed:

That the House take note of the papers.


-As is typical of this Government with its policy of stifling informed debate, the Opposition has not been given a copy of this major statement in sufficient time to allow for a detailed analysis of the proposed policy. In defence of the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) I agree that he has conformed with the convention in the sense that when a statement is to be made it is provided a couple of hours beforehand. But in this area, discussion has gone on for so long about its being a major restructuring and involving very deep questions that require a lot of community debate. It was preceded by the Green Paper and we were promised that there would be a White Paper. I therefore find it a bit disappointing that the Minister led us to believe- or at least I had hoped- that we would have the opportunity to be considering a White Paper and finally we would finish up with a classical or typical ministerial statement. I accept it, but I simply register that it is a bit disappointing that the Minister was not able to adhere to his original intention- as I understood it, anyway- to allow a more significant debate by virtue of producing a White Paper.

Nevertheless, the Opposition commends the Government on finally producing an agreed immigration policy; that is, I take it, agreed amongst themselves, because even in the last couple of weeks there has been some discord between various Ministers over this question. I shall not elaborate on that at this stage. For what purports to be a major statement on the Government’s immigration policies it says remarkably little and virtually none of it is new. As far as the intake is concerned it would appear that the populate or perish arguments of many of the Minister’s advisers have been exposed for the nonsense they are and I am pleased to note that the Minister has not been taken in by them. Nevertheless, the Government is proposing a substantial increase in the immigration intake to 90,000 people a year.

The Minister states that a gross intake of around 77,000 in 1977-78 is expected to yield a net migration gain of about 70,000. Is this indicative of the accuracy of the Department’s previous estimates of a net intake of 40,000 to 50,000 for 1977-78-because that is what the Department had been saying up till now- or is it a sleight of hand increase in the intake well in excess of the publicly stated targets? If it is the latter, can we expect that the gross intake of 90,000 in 1978-79 will in fact produce a net gain of closer to 85,000 than 70,000. Is the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs practising a policy of increasing the numbers by stealth? I have cited the Minister’s figures and the Department’s figures. They are not my own calculations. They do not tie up and the only conclusion I can draw is that in fact we will get more people than we have been led to believe.

According to the Minister ‘this program underlines the Government’s faith in immigration as an element in economic growth’. This is a far cry from his previous statements arguing that immigration provides an economic stimulus and increased employment opportunities. He has drawn back from the rather dogmatic statements that he has made previously. Despite the mauling the Department’s economic brief took at the hands of Treasury, the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet- and I would guess others- the Minister is still able to propose a substantial increase in the intake; not as high as he would have liked perhaps, or as has been indicated before, but substantial all the same. To increase our immigration intake when Australia faces a high and, in seasonally adjusted terms, rising rate of unemployment and a growing indigenous work force is totally irresponsible, in our view.

We are facing long term unemployment of unprecedented proportions as the supply of labour outstrips employment opportunities and prospects. The highest rate of unemployment is among the unskilled workers, although recent reports have also found higher than average unemployment among some skilled workers. The highest rates of unemployment are to be found amongst the young. The most vulnerable persons in a difficult labour market are the immigrants, especially the young and the women, because of their dependence on the manufacturing sector, their low levels of skill and their language difficulties.

The Government claims that there is a shortage of skilled workers which can be met only by increased immigration. But in 1977-78, while 41 per cent of migrants were in the occupationally eligible category, less than one third of these were workers- 13 per cent of the total intake. That is a very small percentage on which to base an argument for an increase. How many skilled labour vacancies actually exist in Australia at the present time? The old approved list of occupations for the entry of migrants compiled by the Department’ of Employment and Industrial Relations included occupations for which- let me quote the Minister- ‘there is some degree of unsatisfied need which may vary from time to time in a particular State’. Is that the indication of a long term shortage in a particular occupation? This list indicates some shortages in one State whilst there are surpluses in others. So in many instances vacancies could be filled more efficiently and more cheaply simply by instituting a more practical and meaningful government assisted relocation program.

On the basis of the list, skilled workers are recruited until the anticipated shortages are filled. We have no definite figures at any time, just a vague feeling. With the time lags involved, with immigrants on the way and therefore not counted- they do not arrive overnight, it might take six or nine months to organise for them to come- the result could well be an over-supply in some categories. I suggest that often that is the case. In other words, there is no direct relationship between the number of immigrants recruited and the number of known vacancies or vacancies likely to occur in the foreseeable future. There is no check to see whether the anticipated vacancies did occur or whether the skilled migrants filled the vacancies for which they were theoretically recruited. We do not have the statistics, but there is a suggestion that a very significant proportion of vacancies advertised for skilled workers are available for a very short time. They do not represent long-term vacancies, they represent short-term vacancies, because they indicate the movement of skilled workers from one job to another. For every movement in one direction there is a movement in another direction, so in fact the number of genuine longterm vacancies for skilled workers is probably much lower than the statistics suggest.

The proposed points system, which allows the recruitment of people with so-called high settlement potential, will exacerbate these problems as it will also permit the more ready entry of those whose skills are not in short supply in Australia. Immigrant skilled labour is also supposed to add to labour force mobility, although the vast majority tend to gravitate towards the capital cities. In fact, skilled workers from overseas tend to be very mobile in the international sense, which is why we experience such high losses in these areas. They are mobile all right; but leave Australia nearly as fast as they arrive. For example, in 1976-77 immigrants from Britain and Ireland formed 62.4 per cent of total departures, and those are countries from which Australia traditionally has obtained most of its skilled migrants. In our view, if we retrained workers who did not have overseas ties they would be much more likely to remain in Australia and thus reduce the continual need we have for recruiting more skilled workers. More significantly, selective immigration has tended to have a negative effect on our training programs. Despite the Government’s rhetoric to the contraryand I am not blaming the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs for this because it is not his responsibility- immigration has acted as an alternative to training or retraining our own work force.

The exploration of long-term solutions to unemployment has been put off partly because the Government and the employers can avoid the difficult decisions by claiming to overcome shortterm skill shortages through immigration. Today’s unemployment problem is not merely a reflection of the low level of economic activity but, even if it were, an increase in the immigration intake would not have any significant effect on the level of economic activity. Because there are idle resources and stockpiles of goods at present, any increase in demand for, say, consumer durables or housing by newly arrived immigrants is unlikely to require increases in production which would lead to a greater demand for labour. Of course, that assumes that the newly arrived immigrant worker can find employment. Once again, the statistics are not very definite, but there seems to be a very firm suggestion that new immigrants have a far higher incidence of unemployment than people who have been here for longer periods. In other words, it is more difficult for the new immigrants to find jobs and often they have to depend upon our social welfare system. Their reserves run down, and it is therefore difficult to make the assumption that their need for consumer durables, housing and so on will increase the demand for those things. They have wasted their resources in simply surviving while they try to find jobs.

It is claimed that by enlarging the domestic market immigration will increase the efficiency of industry through economies of scale.’ But any economies of scale that can be reaped by increasing our population from the present 14 million to, say, 18 million rather than 16 million by the end of the century are hardly relevant; and that is at the end of the century. So the argument for economies of scale here and now is irrelevant. Immigration is also supposed to increase business confidence and hence investment by providing a guarantee of continuous growth in the domestic market. As I have suggested, that is a terribly long-term thing. Economic recovery by new investment stimulus is more likely to result from recovery in demand for our exports rather than from the dubious stimulus to domestic investment attributable to marginal increases in the size of the market from immigration. After all, the proposed level of immigration would represent a growth rate in the market of less than half of one per cent over the present rate of increase; hardly of much relevance to manufacturers unable to sell their goods today.

How can the Government justify increasing the number of people recruited for supposed skill shortages or those with high settlement potential when there is such an enormous backlog of need and unmet demands among our migrant communities, which have been most recently documented by the Galbally report? The programs offered by the Galbally committee are frequently imaginative and innovative and are welcomed by the Opposition, although the funding of migrant English is barely adequate. I might add that I am yet to understand fully all the financial implications. I fear that in fact the migrant communities have been sold a pup. The ideas are good but in actual financial terms, if my understanding of the promises of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) is correct, the migrants are going to receive less, not more, than they received this financial year, unless the Government changes the promise stated by the Prime Minister and incorporates a factor to take into account inflation. The Minister shakes his head. I trust that he has managed to persuade the Treasury that that should be done. If that is so, I congratulate him.

Mr MacKellar:

– You have not understood the report.


– The fact remains that that is not what was said in the report. The figures given in the report did not take into account, as it was stated by the Prime Minister, the effects of inflation and so the figures did not represent an increase. I take it from the Minister’s interjection that that has been resolved and that the migrants will get some modest increase. In other programs such as the initial settlement program, cost estimates by the Galbally committee were based on the current immigration intakes, and even then it would take three years to cover the estimated bare minimum of those needing such a service. Will the Government now undertake to increase funds for those programs in line with its increase in immigration as proposed by the Minister? How can an increased selective immigration program be justified to those people who have already migrated to Australia? In my view, the increased selective program, the points system, will make it more difficult for migrants already here to bring their own family members to join them. The Minister claims to be broadening the family reunion category, a move we would applaud -


Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.

Debate (on motion by Mr Ruddock) adjourned.

page 3162


Motion (by Mr Sinclair) agreed to:

That the House at its rising adjourn until 10 a.m. tomorrow.

page 3162



– I have received a letter from the President of the Senate advising that, in accordance with a resolution of the Senate of 3 1 May 1 978, Senators Button, Durack, J. R. McClelland, Robertson, Webster and Withers have been nominated to be members of the Commonwealth Parliament delegation to attend the Australian Constitutional Convention.

page 3163


Discussion of Matter of Public Importance


-Mr Speaker has received a letter from the honourable the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:

The failure of the Government to adequately respond to the rural crisis.

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-

Leader of the Opposition · Oxley

– Two and a half years of Liberal and National Country Party Government have left the rural community of this country desperate and disillusioned. This Government which professed such a special affinity with the farmer has turned its back on rural Australia. Of all the cynical statements that have emanated from this Government and this Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), none evokes more bitter irony today than the following promise in his 1 975 policy speech:

We will give the rural community the confidence and certainty it so desperately needs.

Confidence and certainty have never been further from our rural producers than they are today. In 1975, the Prime Minister even promised government assistance for a scheme to settle young farmers on the land. Nothing has been heard of it since; and no wonder. The Henderson report found that nearly 36 per cent of those people with incomes below the poverty line were living in rural areas. Given that only 6 per cent of the nation ‘s work force is employed in our rural industries, this means that about half of all rural workers live in poverty. This is a staggering figure in a country that considers itself so affluent. Yet the position of lower income rural families continues to decline. The Government and the Minister responsible do no more than posture and stall.

Yesterday we had the spectacle of the Prime Minister and his highpowered touring team selling a complete non-event to the Australian Press as if it were a great new initiative on behalf of Australian farmers. What arrant nonsense! The Prime Minister and his news managers are pretending that in a single discussion session they have suddenly won United States ‘ support for an Australian policy to liberalise the world’s trade in agricultural products. This is in fact the same American proposal which Australia agreed to support during the visit of a special presidential trade envoy only three months ago. It is but the latest mirage created to delude our rural producers.

In his first Budget speech, the then Treasurer, Mr Lynch, asserted in 1976 that farm industry was in a state of collapse. Two years later real net farm income is some $50m, or 6 per cent, lower than at the time that statement was made. If rural industry was in a state of collapse two years ago, obviously it is now in a state of disaster. If that is the case, it is the Government’s policies which are responsible. Farm income this year in real terms will be $l,025m, according to the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. In 1975-76 it was $ 1,088m. So much for the then Treasurer’s posturing. He should have stuck to his land deals which, at the time, unlike the farmers of this country, were turning over a very generous profit.

Net farm income this year will be lower than in any year since 1970-71- a year, I should like to remind honourable members opposite, when they were also in government. This is the real measure of this Government’s concern for rural industries. These people, I again remind the House, are the supposed friends of our farm industries. With such friends, who needs enemies? Two out of every three Australian beef producers will have cash incomes below $5,000 this yearless than $100 a week. One in three beef producers will have cash incomes below zero.

The Australian sugar industry is caught in a two-way squeeze. The quantity it can sell will be compulsorily reduced by 15 per cent under the terms of the International Sugar Agreement. Prices to growers, even without inflation adjustment, are lower than in any year since 1973. In real terms prices this year have fallen by 16 per cent to the lowest point in a decade. Horticulture and dairying remain severely depressed. Dairy marketing arrangements are in a state of chaos since the Victorian Liberal Government torpedoed the Federal Government’s underwriting proposal. The farm sector can absorb a bad year or two; but it has now had four bad years. Its position is getting worse and the Government has no policies to deal with the continuing deterioration.

Among the major rural industries, none is more severely depressed or has lived longer with depression than the beef industry. Australian cattle numbers increased rapidly during the boom years of the early 1970s. Over-expansion and reckless optimism were fostered by the men of conventional wisdom who still populate the

Liberal-Country Party front benches. None was more guilty than the present Acting Prime Minister (Mr Anthony). Throughout 1973, he stridently asserted that there was ‘an urgent need to increase production’. He forecast that demand for meat ‘will rise so fast that we will be flat out trying to keep up with it’. Eight months later, severe quantitative restrictions were imposed by all our major customers and beef prices were halved. The industry’s real need in 1973 was the reverse of Mr Anthony’s prescription. In 1978, we have the Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation to solve the problems of the beef industry. Yet beef producers widely believe that the Corporation cannot or does not secure maximum returns to producers. This is criticism of the Corporation’s limited marketing role and its export entitlement scheme.

The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair), was forced to react to these criticisms. On 20 March this year, he said:

I do not believe producers are receiving any benefit, or at best they are receiving little benefit from higher prices that are being achieved at export.

The Minister alleged that windfall profits of 24c a lb accrued to export quota holders and that there was ‘something fundamentally wrong with the present diversification scheme’. He is the Minister but he is doing nothing effectively about this matter. His colleague, the Premier of Queensland, declared only a fortnight ago that the AMLC should be instructed by the Government to use some of its powers to improve cattlemen’s trading position. The fact is, however, that the Government has no power to instruct the AMLC. The Labor Party tried to write that power into the Act and to give the Corporation a more active marketing role. The Government rejected our amendment and we received no support from Mr Bjelke-Petersen.

What is more important, if the Minister for Primary Industry believes, as he stated on 20 March, that the diversification scheme is ‘fundamentally wrong’ and that the producers are being cheated out of 24c a lb, how long does he propose to tolerate that situation? Will he now amend the Act for the benefit of the great majority of beef producers? Or is he afraid of offending present holders of export quotas, such as Mr Andrew Grimwade and Sir Rupert Clarke, both Melbourne Club colleagues of the Prime Minister? The Prime Minister has developed the habit of pre-empting his Minister on agricultural policy. Fifteen of the 89 Press statements issued this year by the Prime Minister have been on agricultural matters. Many of them have been issued without the Minister’s knowledge. If the

Prime Minister demonstrates such lack of confidence in his Minister, he should remove him from the portfolio.

Fortunately, the Australian sugar industry is insulated from the full effects of the world depression by long term contracts negotiated by the Labor Government in 1974-75- contracts which the present Prime Minister was only too ready to denigrate at the time. The Acting Prime Minister is now trying to conceal the sugar industry’s problems by misrepresenting the International Sugar Agreement. He claims that the Agreement has established what he calls ‘a price range’ and that it will ‘mean a lift in returns to the world sugar industry of the order of $2,000m ‘. The Acting Prime Minister has misled Australian sugar producers. There is nothing in the new agreement to prevent the price of sugar falling to zero, providing that the signatories stick to the agreed export quantities.

Australian sugar producers are caught in a two-way squeeze. There will be a 15 per cent reduction in the amount of sugar they are able to market and there will be substantially lower prices. More than 3 million tonnes of cane will have to be left in the fields this season. Yet the Acting Prime Minister was telling growers during last year’s election campaign:

The big things really worrying the Australian sugar industry are now behind us.

He could scarcely have been further from the truth. The Government has been no more truthful in other areas. Mr Fraser promised to equalise the price of petroleum products between city and country. In fact, the Government legislated for a restricted freight subsidy which will not equalise prices. It will have no effect on fuel prices for nine out of ten country people. But the series of Government induced rises in petrol prices- I repeat, rises induced by this Government in the price of petrol- cost the average farmer $300 last year and will cost him $600 next year, $900 in the year after, and so on. The Prime Minister promised to extend the limit for the provision of free telephone line plant from 12 kilometres to 16 kilometres. The Government is welshing on that promise too. It says that Telecom has not interpreted the Government’s undertaking correctly. It is not Telecom’s job to interpret. The 1975 Telecommunications Act requires the Government to put up the money and Telecom to comply with its directions. What Telecom has declined to do is collaborate in a subterfuge, a cheap and tatty subterfuge, to transfer the cost from government expenditure to Telecom accounts.

In 1975 Mr Fraser promised a rural bank to provide ‘long term credit … at concessional rates of interest. Only last week, two and a half years later, the legislation brought into the Parliament did not meet that promise. The responsible Minister said interest rates were yet to be determined. At the Rural Press Club two weeks ago, the chairman of the Primary Industry Bank, Mr Walter Ives, said it will not provide long term finance and low interest rates, it will provide one or the other but not both. The Minister for Primary Industry today indicated that the extent of the relief would be the rate of interest normally charged for overdrafts from the trading banks. That is some concession for primary producers. Assessments adding rent for farm houses to taxable income have been made on some farmers. In reply to questions, the Treasurer (Mr Howard) has attempted to hide behind the Commissioner of Taxation. The Government, not the Commissioner, is responsible for tax law. If the Government wants to tax farmhouses, it will have to do so itself. If it does not the Government must amend the Act. The Commissioner cannot do that. The Government ought not seek to pass the blame on to others.

The Government has no positive ideas on income stabilisation. Labor supports full investigation of optional income insurance on a regional basis. It would provide security for farmers but entail little government expenditure. Instead of posturing before the European Economic Community, the Government should be pushing Australian agricultural products in the Middle East and in South and South-East Asia where there is real growth potential. Instead of working actively to expand these avenues for trade the Government has presided over a serious deterioration in our relations with our immediate neighbours, especially the countries belonging to the Association of South East Asian Nations. Because of the way in which this Government has pursued policies in other areas it has to raise increasing barriers against the export of goods from the ASEAN group. The result now is that Australia faces a near constant threat of retaliatory action from them. The Government refuses to face the facts of the situation it has created. Now we see some of our neighbours making more positive efforts to find new suppliers of commodities which traditionally have been supplied by Australia. One of the most striking cases in point is Malaysia’s interest in buying future sugar supplies from Cuba instead of from Australia.

I intend to discuss these matters further with leaders of South and South East Asian countries during the next few weeks. It is a great pity that the Prime Minister is not doing the same instead of flitting about Europe looking for pots of gold at the end of the rainbow or else charging at immovable barriers in what the European Commission officials have come to call his ‘wild buffalo diplomacy’. It is a great pity that the Minister for Primary Industry could not divert a little of his attention from his private business interests, with all of their misappropriating diversions, and attend to the problems of primary industry in the country today. The Government ‘s cynical judgment is that the farm vote is a captive vote, irrespective of what it does. Commonsense and humanity would dictate to any Government less insensitive that this one that the neglect cannot continue.

Minister for Primary Industry · New England · NCP/NP

-In September 1977 there was a radio broadcast from Charleville in central Queensland. In talking about cattle the speaker said it was a tragedy that stock numbers were too high, that there were far too many people on small area holdings, and that those small farmers were seriously adding to the problems of Australian rural industry. The speaker went on to say:

They are undercapitalised. They are uneconomical; they will never be economical.

He further said:

There has got to be a structural assistance program so that those people can move out, so their beasts can be reduced from the total number of beasts running in this country, and accordingly so other people in the pastoral zone can get a better price.

It is as simple as that. It is not very good news to people in the high rainfall belt, but you have got to be realistic.

Certainly, if we were in government we would detail such a program.

So said the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden). The present Leader of the Opposition, from the very beginning, had no understanding, sympathy or support for the small Australian farmer. Paradoxically the figures that he has given today have all been completely refuted by the latest statement that has come from the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. I know that it is a bit hard for him to keep up to date but I am afraid that as of 8 May the figure for the gross value of production, the farm income, is so much better than it has been that all the intent of his speech is destroyed. What is happening is that that large list of rural initiatives which this Government has undertaken is now beginning to pay off. Gradually we are reversing the product of the policies which he implemented as Treasurer and which he was party to as a member of the Whitlam Government when it adopted the Coombs report.

The BAE says that the gross value of rural production in 1978-79 is forecast to increase by 16 per cent to a record $7,920m. Gross returns from the livestock industries are forecast to increase by 7 per cent with reduced output being more than offset by improved prices. Gross returns from crop industries are forecast to increase by 29 per cent with a moderate improvement in prices and substantially higher output. The prices received for all major commodities, with the exception of fruits, are forecast to rise moderately during 1978-79. In most cases increases of less than 10 per cent are forecast. However, saleyard prices for beef are expected to improve by around 20 per cent during the season. That was before the present expected relaxation of import controls in the United States. Only 5 minutes ago a cable from United States congressmen suggested that the United States would probably permit an additional 1 1 3 million kilograms of meat imports into that country this year. I am afraid that the timing of the honourable gentleman, like everything else he does, is out. It is wrong and most of his advice is inaccurate. The important thing is that as a direct result of the policies of this Government we find that the BAE is able to forecast a significant improvement in farmers’ conditions in 1 978-79. The BAE went on to say:

The rate of increase in prices paid by farmers for inputs is forecast to continue slowing down in 1978-79, reflecting a reduced rate of inflation in the economy as a whole.

That is where our policies began. We said from the beginning that the only way in which we will be able to make the rural community profitable is by reversing those ridiculous policies of the Labor Government. We began our rural policy by containing inflation; it has demonstrably worked out and the BAE has identified that as significant reason for projected improved farmers ‘ returns next year.

The BAE went on to say that prices paid by farmers are forecast to increase by around 7 per cent in 1978-79 compared with about 10 per cent in 1977-78 and compared with a high of over 30 per cent when Labor was in office. Total farm costs are forecast to increase by almost 8 per cent to $5,300m. But since gross returns are forecast to rise by more than costs, farm incomes are expected to be significantly higher next year. Aggregate farm income is forecast to rise by 38 per cent to $2,620m. Average income for farmers is expected to be $15,680, an increase of 40 per cent and only slightly below the record level of 1973-74 which, I might add, was set in spite of Labor and not because of it.

That does not mean that we contend that all farmers are now profitable again. What it does mean is that the Leader of the Opposition has completely misled the House as to the product of all those things which this Government has done to help the rural producer. In a table comparing the gross value of production, farm costs and farm incomes one can see distinctly the improving situation, which shows income per establishment rising from a low of $8,835 in 1975-76- the year after we came into office- to $11,657 to 1976-77 and $11,198 last year, which was largely affected, of course, by the worst drought ever suffered across much of southern Australia. The projected figure for 1978-79 is $15,680. The figures speak for themselves.

I do not want this afternoon to go through chapter and verse all the things that we have done for the rural community. However, I want to do two things. I want, firstly, to say that in each of the major industries there has been a significant advance as a result of programs initiated by this Government. All one needs to do in looking at the commodities situation is to look at the picture in the wool industry. Today the wool industry is operating at a whole clip market average of 309c. That price is significantly above the 284c reserve. It has been achieved because of the potholing effect of the operations of the Australian Wool Corporation and because of the strong support this Government has given to the wool price reserve. This is in complete contrast to that ridiculous decision of the Labor Government which, all honourable members will recall, caused the wool price reserve to be reduced from 250c to 200c over a weekend. This led to a complete destruction of confidence in the Australian Wool Corporation. What we have done consistently, commodity by commodity, is underpin the producer to try to create circumstances which will give him a reasonable chance to get back onto his feet and to operate as profitably and as equitably as anyone else in the Australian community. I am afraid the Leader of the Opposition completely fails to understand that.

We have started with a broad expanse of programs covering the whole economy at large. I have mentioned our inflation controls. Without going into them, we have specifically looked at other areas where primary producers, amongst others in the producing sector of the economy, are affected. I refer to the policies concerning personal income tax reduction, tax averaging, the indexation of personal income tax, the abolition of estate duty, the introduction of income equalisation deposits, the investment allowance, private company profit distribution, the valuation of trading stock, family allowances, pensions, unemployment benefits for farmers, assistance to local governments, rural roads and telephones. They were all made across the board but they are all general policies that are designed significantly to reverse the attitude and approach of the Labor Government.

Regrettably, a number of farmers in the general area are still seriously disadvantaged financially. It is for that reason that we established the Primary Industry Bank of Australia. The Leader of the Opposition carried on today about that Bank. I suggest that he should make his judgment on how the Primary Industry Bank works after it is operating and not now, before it is actually functioning. I believe that the Bank will provide a significant long term avenue for advances to the rural community. Of course, we have kept up our rural reconstruction loans, which are designed to help those farmers who are at the lower end of the viability plane and who, unfortunately, are unable to operate on their own.

In the whole range of initiatives of this Government, both domestically and externally, a sympathetic approach has been taken to the producing industries. That is the second point I wish to make. The parties on this side of the House, in marked contrast with the Labor Party, have a very real concern to ensure that productive industries again will be able to achieve reasonable viability. The whole of the barb of the Labor Party’s policy when in government and demonstrably now in opposition is, firstly, to try to see to what degree it can provide amenities outside the area of the producing community for those people who are in need, although I do not know whether it really worries about those people who are in need. Its policies are designed basically in accordance with its philosophic approach, which, in spite of the changes I read about on the weekend, seems to be the socialisation of the means of production, distribution and exchange. The important aspect in this regard is that this Government is worried about the producers. We are worried about trying to get a balance in the economy to help those in the community who need assistance.

Mr Keating:

– Eat your heart out.


-I do not doubt that the honourable member for Blaxland needs some assistance on many occasions. But, as far as the community is concerned, we believe that the producing sector must be allowed to operate profitably if it is to survive. I am afraid that the farmers were disadvantaged seriously by the socialisation programs and policies of the Labor Party. This Government ‘s approach -

Mr Keating:

– Tell us about the decline in rural industries this year.


– The honourable member for Blaxland has not been in the House throughout the whole of this debate. He ought to try to catch up. I have just produced figures from the Bureau of Agricultural Economics which completely refute all the arguments of his leader.

Mr Keating:

– But you will not tell us about that.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jarman)Order! The honourable member for Blaxland will cease interjecting.

Mr Keating:

– He is saying these things but he is not aware of what is going on.


-Order! The honourable member for Blaxland will cease interjecting.


-We have been able to approach our major overseas markets and improve our access to them. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has been instrumental in ensuring that there is adequate recognition of the problems of Australia’s commodity exporters. Indeed, I do not believe there has been a Prime Minister in recent years who has taken the same aggressive stance to try to ensure that among those countries with which we have traditionally enjoyed export opportunities there should again be reasonable access. The product of what is happening in the United States at the moment is a very real illustration of that. It is not only a matter of access to the United States market, which I illustrate with respect to the reported improvement or relaxation of the meat import quota, but also involves the multilateral trade negotiations and having another major agricultural exporter, to wit, the United States on side with us.

Abroad and at home our policies in the broad have been designed to try to help and assist the rural producer. But, commodity by commodity, we have also done an enormous amount. Through the beef industry incentive payments scheme, more money has been provided to a single agricultural industry than ever before. It has been provided simply because the industry has been in a disastrous plight. Unfortunately many producers- particularly those in Queensland and in northern Australia where the bluetongue virus has prejudiced their selling opportunities- are still suffering. But the assistance given by this Government has not only enabled those men to stay on their farms with their families but also given them a prospect of carrying on to the point where it seems the beef market is about to improve significantly.

Of course there are major problems with regard to trying to ensure that in the lift of export returns the producer gets his fair share. I am strongly of the opinion, however, that we will see an improvement with the acceleration of classification and with the assistance that we have provided in a range of areas from the brigalow land settlers moratorium, the beef incentive payments and the bluetongue assistance to the export incentives provided for the first time for the export of meat, the tuberculosis and brucellosis eradication campaign, the establishment of the Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation, the suspension of the Labor Government imposed meat export inspection charges and the carry-on loans to beef producers. The beef man today is moving into a position where again he can enjoy some of the reasonable measure of profitability which he deserves.

In the dairying industry, similarly, this Government has reversed completely the ridiculous policies of the Labor Party. The Labor Party pulled out all assistance at a time when the dairying industry was losing an export market opportunity. This Government has introduced an underwriting scheme that is designed to give assistance to farmers in a time of marketing change. In the sugar and fruit industries we have provided significant assistance through the International Sugar Agreement. We have accepted recommendations for sugar price increases and, of course, are about to initiate an Industries Assistance Commission inquiry into the whole structure of the marketing and distribution of sugar in Australia.

We have maintained a stabilisation scheme in the apple and pear industries. In the canned fruits, dried vine fruits, wine and brandy and citrus industries the Government has provided direct assistance. In the grains industry we have provided for the first time, through the Australian Wheat Board, for advance payments to be lifted to a record level. We have provided for cash discount payment on the forward payments that growers otherwise might have had to wait years to receive. We have gone into oilseeds research and, of course, we have now introduced the tobacco stabilisation plan. Without going into the tremendous developments in fisheries, I would say that it is this Government that has declared the 200-mile fishing zone and it is this

Government that will ensure that the fisheries industry will be another major primary industry which will be contributing to this country’s wellbeing.

Right across the panorama of the rural sector and the primary industry sector this Government has given sympathetic support to enable producers again to operate profitably. The result is demonstrable in that report that I have just read from the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. We are still concerned about sectors of each one of the rural producing areas but we are quite determined to assist them and to put people in the rural community again into that position in which they would have been if the Australian Labor Party and the Leader of the Opposition had not destroyed so many of their incentives in that period during which they were in government.

Mr HAYDEN (Oxley-Leader of the Opposition) Mr Deputy Speaker, I claim to have been misrepresented. There are three matters on which I. claim to have been misrepresented or which are important enough to respond to, although there were many other matters which were total misrepresentation. The first one that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) referred to was an allegation that the Australian Labor Party Government reduced- he said- the guaranteed floor price for wool from 250c a kilo to 200c a kilo.

Mr Sinclair:

– You try and tell any wool grower that that is not the truth. Come off it. Be honest with yourself. You could not lie straight in bed.


– It is not true. It was retained at 250c a kilo and we outlayed $370m in support of that program, but this Government has not outlaid a cent.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jarman)Order! The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat.


– There are two more matters.


-The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat for the moment. I draw the attention of the House to the fact that the Leader of the Opposition has a right to explain where he has been misrepresented and he has a right to do so in silence. I would like silence to be observed.


– There are two other matters.

Mr Sinclair:

– I take a point of order. I did not accuse the Leader of the Opposition of having personally reduced the wool price reserve. I believe that under our Standing Orders an honourable member can seek to make a personal explanation only in respect of an item in which he has personally been misrepresented. There is no personal misrepresentation, unless the honourable gentleman is now accepting responsibility for that decision which every Australian farmer knows only too well was made.


– I uphold the point of order raised by the Leader of the House. I was allowing the Leader of the Opposition some wider scope because of his position as Leader of the Opposition.


– The second occasion on which he made a serious misrepresentation was when he alleged that the figures I cited had been superseded. He did not understand that the figures I cited came from the same source that he usedthe 8 May forecast from the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. The difference was that I used real money terms as distinct from the inflated money terms that he used. Perhaps he does not understand the distinction. I will send him a short note.

Mr Sinclair:

– Can you write? That is good.


– It will be in monosyllables so that he will understand it. The other matter concerns his opening comments about statements I made at Charleville last year in relation to the beef industry. All of the statements I made were based on the factual findings publicly reported in a survey on the beef industry compiled by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. Quite clearly, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) does not trust him. He does not trust his Department, but I do.


-I support the matter of public importance raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden), that the Government has failed to respond to the rural crisis. It was very disappointing to hear the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) skate over the serious problems, which really highlighted his own abysmal performance in looking after the interests of primary producers. One of the sad features of his speech was that he talked mainly about primary producers and rural producers and said very little about the rural community. Of course, the Opposition is talking not just about the crisis amongst primary producers but about the crisis in the whole of the rural community. Those people now have the dubious privilege of becoming the new poor, or the poverty stricken sector, in the Australian community.

It is not just the rural producers but the whole rural community that is affected. The families of the producers, the families of rural workers, the businesses in the country towns, the builders and other tradesmen are the people who feel the brunt of the failure of the Government to protect the rural industry. They have to move out and try to start a new way of life. This is an historical process and we do not blame the Government for it, but I think that the Government has failed to acknowledge the significance of the historical change, of people moving out of the rural sector. It has failed to acknowledge that when there is a decline in the rural sector and people move out, populations decline, businesses close down, schools close down, transport services are suspended, petrol costs rise and generally costs of living rise. The other very important historical factor is the change in the age structure of the people who are left on the land. An interesting survey by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics showed that the 25 per cent in the older sector are now over 63 years of age, and even in the 25 per cent of the younger sector the average age is 34. This move out of the rural sector has serious implications for the whole of the Australian social structure. One cannot blame the Government for that. It is an historical process that has gone on for a long time throughout the whole world.

However, we blame the Government for its failure to acknowledge the long term problems, for its failure to come to grips with the long term solutions that are required and for its persistence with either benign neglect or temporary bandaid measures to deal with these problems. This merely perpetuates the status quo in the rural industries and leaves people who are trapped in the rural sector with no real option of getting out. Quite often these people have huge assets on paper which they cannot realise. Of course, there was a time when they could move out, cut their losses and get into some other employment, but that option is not available to them now because of the present employment situation. Under the Labor Government they could come to Canberra and get a job. They certainly could not do that now, and I would not advise any rural producers to try to do that, because there are 7,000 people unemployed here. So they do not have that option now to get out into some other way of life or some other occupation.

It was rather ironical to hear the Minister talking about those areas of the primary sector which are stable. Of course there are some very stable areas in the primary sector. I refer particularly to the wheat industry and the wool industry. If one looks at the history of those industries one will find that their stability is due to the legislation introduced by previous Labor governmentsALP initiatives dating back to the post-war Chifley Government. These initiatives have established stabilised marketing conditions without undue restrictions on the procedures and allowing them their traditional freedom of choice as to how much and what they grow. At times we have had to license wheat growers, but that is not a problem now. Both the wheat industry and the wool industry are stable industries thanks to the foresight and the legislation initiated by Labor governments, not by Liberal and National Country Party governments.

By contrast with these two stable industries there are many disaster areas in the rural industries. The Minister quite rightly referred to the fact that the beef industry is a disaster area. What has happened to the beef industry is a calamity. The horticulture industry is in a mess, as are the pome fruits and dried fruits industries. The dairy industry is struggling on with the aid of stabilisation funds. The sugar industry is having a bad time. Vegetable producers are at the mercy of contract canning companies in the main. Poultry farmers are in a mess. The Victorian Egg Board is sending eggs up to Canberra and selling them at a loss in order to undercut local producers in Canberra, contrary to an agreement made with the Australian Agricultural Council that it would not indulge in price cutting in Canberra.

Let me refer again to the beef industry. I know that the Minister is concerned about the beef industry, but what has the Government done? It acted far too late in relation to the bluetongue problem, and this has had a devastating effect on sales of live cattle overseas. It has played right into the hands of the meat exporters who now have no competition in the north and can offer the producers any price. The attitude is: ‘Take it or leave it’. Over the last few years the beef exporters have done extremely well out of the poverty of the producers. That position will be exaggerated now with bluetongue cutting off the live market for many of the producers. Some of this problem could have been avoided if the Government had allowed the chief veterinary officer of the Northern Territory to go overseas and explain the problem to overseas markets, but this was not allowed. The Government stopped from going overseas the officer who was trying to save the producers some of their markets. The Minister has never responded to this charge, but this man was not allowed to go overseas to save the market until it was far too late. The Minister has failed to properly appraise the Australian primary producers- the beef producers- of the potential risk of the bluetongue virus that has been discovered in New South Wales. I believe it is similar to a very virulent form of virus that is found overseas, and it would be a great calamity if it moved into the sheep industry. The Minister has tended to play this down.

Then we have the disgraceful episode of amending the structure of the Primary Industry Bank to virtually hand it over to the private bankers. When we tried to move an amendment to give primary producers greater representation on the board of the Primary Industrys Bank, all our friends from the National Country Party sat there like dummies and would not support the amendment. They would not support extra representation for their own people on that board. I except the honourable member for Lyne (Mr Lucock). He was the only one who was prepared to support a very reasonable amendment. I think that the Minister was quite misleading when he tried to imply that the International Sugar Agreement puts some sort of floor price on sugar. It does not. The situation with regard to superphosphate is quite farcical. Last week the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) said that he was trying to justify the support of the Duchess project by saying that Christmas Island will run out in 1984-85. This week he says that it will last until about 1 989. He is using that as an excuse for not supporting the Duchess project. I think Australian primary producers are entitled to a very clear statement of what the long-term prospects are for superphosphate supplies in Australia. We have not had that clear statement. All we have had is a complete reversal of the Government’s attitude to the Duchess project.

It is not just the Minister who has sold out the primary producers and their National Country Party colleagues in this Parliament. Our roving Prime Minister has also sold them out with his interference with the Industries Assistance Commission and his rejection of their arguments against unjustifiable tariff protection on some manufactures, which imposes great costs on primary producers. The Prime Minister’s policy and the Deputy Prime Minister’s policy of rushing into the mining of our national resources has for primary producers very serious implications which have been completely ignored by the Minister and by the Government generally. It will put great pressure on costs in the primary industries and eventually it will lead to revaluation and will make the primary industries much less competitive in international markets. It is interesting to quote from an article in the Age by a Mr Dennis Hussey that by 1990 there will be about 25 per cent fewer farms in Australia. This will be one of the results of this attitude towards mining.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jarman)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.


-I have not for some time heard anything more cynical than-the raising in this House of this matter of public importance by these people opposite. I remind them of a very well known proverb concerning glass houses and the throwing of stones. While I am on the subject of cynicism I want to say something else in response to a remark by the honourable member for Oxley, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden). He was so concerned about the plight of rural people that he could not refrain from using his speech to make some very uncharitable and untrue remarks about two Ministers- the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr Lynch) and the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair). I remind the Leader of the Opposition that he once said on a public affairs program that he did not believe in the use of personal attacks. I am getting sick to death of this House and the privilege that goes with it being used as an opportunity for slander. Privilege is not a licence to slander.

Mr Keating:

– Well, you were here for three years while, it went on. What are you talking about?


– The use of this debate as an opportunity to slander other men is just a demonstration of the cynicism of those who raised this matter. I turn now to the troubles of the rural industries. They undoubtedly have some troubles; there is no doubt about that, but we ought to look at their causes. The farm sector has been declining as a share of the total Australian economy ever since about 1870- maybe longer, but beyond that the statistics get very hairy. The fact that it is declining and has been declining in recent years is not new. What happened was that as a result of galloping inflation and a low level of domestic demand, the decline accelerated following the years of the Whitlam Administration. That is why, as was pointed out to us quite correctly from the other side of the House, there is a disproportionate amount of poverty among the rural community. They said that 36 per cent of all poverty was within 6 per cent of the population that lived in rural areas. That may be so, but the statement is a little meaningless unless they define what their poverty line is. But we will take the statement as read. The reason for this disproportion is that the relative earnings of those who ran small businesses, including farms, were reduced drastically by the wage-hike of the Whitlam era. The cost of that wage-hike was borne by two groups of people. There were those who depended on the earnings of their own businesses- some of them are now amongst the unemployed- and those who were on wages and as a result of the wage-hike became the unemployed. That is why the rate of decline as a percentage of the total economy of rural communities has drastically accelerated.

Inflation went through the roof. Surely the honourable member for Oxley will not deny that the free-spending policies of” the Whitlam era were responsible for inflation going through the roof. Should he seek to deny it, I shall remind him of words that he uttered in his own Budget speech.

The rural community is dependent for its livelihood on two markets, and I include the livelihood of those people who service farmers, as well as farmers themselves. I remind the honourable member for Fraser (Mr Fry) that I am speaking of the whole rural community dependent on the export market. Its ability to compete in that market is dependent on costs within this country and the relationship that those costs bear to other communities that would supply those same commodities overseas, whether those other suppliers are in the consuming country or in some other supplying country that might meet that market. The reason our export industries are in so much trouble is that our competitive edge was worn away by a cost-hike that was thrust upon them. Some of our rural communities cater for the domestic market. The domestic market has shrunk because of the low levels of activity that were foisted upon it by crazy economic management that led to high levels of inflation and high levels of unemployment. Until we manage to get the whole economy going again in a manner that will enable every Australian to prosper, the rural community must inevitably bear some of the cost of the follies of the past.

The rural community, more than most communities, is dependent upon the opportunity to make continuing investment. It is dependent upon reasonable interest rates. I admit that the word ‘reasonable’ defies definition. But there is no doubt that present interest rates are historically high. There is also no doubt that at present interest rates are coming down. That cannot be denied and I will explain why that is so. It also cannot be denied that interest rates went up because of inflation and because the Budget deficit was increased. The load that has been thrust upon the rural community is very much the result of foolish actions of the past. A part of those foolish actions was the driving up of interest rates through excessive deficit funding and through high inflationary expectations.

Mr McLean:

– Did not the honourable member for Oxley mention this?


-The honourable member for Oxley did not mention that. I am surprised that he should have passed over it. These interest rates are coming down. Few actions or developments would do more to aid rural communities than a reduction in interest rates. Those interest rates will come down because inflation is being reduced and because the Budget deficit has been brought down. Those two factors, inflationary expectations, which are determined by the current inflation rate and the Budget deficit, determine the price of money. The rural community will find that its prosperity will increase, as the Bureau of Agricultural Economics has forecast, because of the sound economic management of the present Government. Nothing can be done which will improve the lot of rural people more than those measures that will benefit the economy as a whole, which will result in economic health for the entire community and which will provide the opportunity for Australia to grow again.

In the time remaining to me, I will deal with some specific actions that have been taken for rural industry. I will deal first with bluetongue disease. Contrary to what was said by the honourable member for Fraser, the Government tackled this problem quickly. Bluetongue was probably the one problem that rural industry has not inherited from the Labor Administration. I do not think that even the honourable member for Oxley or the honourable member for Fraser would suggest that the Government introduced bluetongue to this country and I do not think that honourable members opposite can reasonably suggest that the Government is not tackling the problem.

Finally I refer to industrial relations. Markets have been lost to the Australian community because trade unions have refused us access to markets which otherwise would have been ours. I wonder whether we will ever regain those markets, particularly the wheat contracts with Chile.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jarman)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. The discussion is concluded.

page 3172


Leader of the House · New England · NCP/NP

– by leave- I move:

I move this motion with some regrets. I have a very strong view that to the maximum we ought to try to preserve opportunities for private members to raise matters in the Parliament. However, there is a general mood amongst honourable members that the Parliament should rise as early as possible tomorrow. I have intimated that I do not think it is likely that the House will rise before dinner and I expect that it will sit through to the normal 1 1 o’clock adjournment time. But by cancelling General Business tomorrow, we have a far better chance of concluding the sitting of the House earlier than would otherwise be the case. In those circumstances, I believe this motion is justified. I give honourable members an assurance that only on an exceptional occasion will I take action of this kind. I strongly hope that we can always maintain both our Grievance Day debate and our General Business day debate.

Smith · Kingsford

– It is with regret that the Opposition notes what the Government has had to do. The notice of motion No. 4 under the heading of General Business has been on the Notice Paper virtually since 22 February 1978. That is more than three months. Whilst the Opposition can understand the problems of the Government, I think it is unfair that honourable members who have put considerable work into what would be a healthy debate on very important matters will be delayed in putting their views for perhaps another three months. It is important, if we are to have an effective and democratic Parliament, that consideration should be given particularly to matters of General Business or to Grievance Day debates on a Thursday and that those debates never be done away with. The Opposition will not push the vote on this motion to a division; however, I say again on behalf of the Opposition that although this action might be deemed to be due to an exceptional circumstance we think it is one that should not be repeated. The first notice of motion to be moved by an Opposition member under the heading of General Business is by the honourable member for Port Adelaide, Mr Young. The honourable member is unavoidably absent from the Parliament and to that extent the Opposition can give ground on the matter. As I am the second person on the Opposition side so affected by the motion, I am quite reluctant to agree to this course. I express dissatisfaction at the fact that this motion denies the rights that honourable members have and which can be exercised only on certain daysnormally a Thursday. In the future, the Opposition will press its argument to the point of severe disapproval, should the Government intend to repeat its performance today and move a motion similar to the one it now requests the House to pass.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

page 3173


Second Reading

Debate resumed from 6 June, on motion by Mr Sinclair:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

Minister for Primary Industry · New England · NCP/NP

- Mr Deputy Speaker, may I have the indulgence of the House to raise a point of procedure on this legislation. Before the debate is resumed, I suggest that it may suit the convenience of the House to have a general debate covering this Bill, the Dairy Industry Stabilization Levy Amendment Bill and the Dairy Produce Amendment Bill as they are related measures. Separate question, of course, will be put on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate. I suggest, therefore, that you permit the subject matter of the three Bills to be discussed in this debate.


-Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering the three measures? As there is agreement, I will allow that course to be followed.


-This debate now becomes a general debate covering the three cognate pieces of legislation. The principal amending legislation is the Dairy Industry Stabilization Amendment Bill. The other two Bills are consequential to this piece of legislation. They are the Dairy Industry Stabilization Levy Amendment Bill and the Dairy Produce Amendment Bill. I will deal specifically with the main piece of legislation, the Dairy Industry Stabilization Amendment Bill, which is designed to provide for the implementation of the principles of stage 2 of the marketing arrangements for the dairy industry from 1 July 1978 through a system of selective underwriting. The major reason for the introduction of the legislation is the depressed state of the Australian dairy industry and the upheaval within the industry flowing from depressed international markets for manufactured milk products. This has arisen largely because of the common agricultural policy of the

European Economic Community, particularly the subsidisation of uneconomic production which has been stockpiled. In the last couple of years that production has been released on the world markets wreaking havoc upon the international manufactured milk industry.

The implications for the Australian dairy industry have been substantial. The Government has introduced some change in its proposals to deal with the reconstruction of the dairy industry. Stage 1 was introduced on 1 July 1977. It provided for the imposition of a levy to protect the domestic price structure to allow each manufacturer an equalised return on both domestic and export sales. This Bill provides for the objective of selective underwriting to tailor production with proper markets. That is the position in theory. Whether that will happen in fact is another matter. The underwriting policy will aim at reducing production of less profitable products while encouraging increased production of more profitable products, such as fresh milk products, whole milk powder, et cetera. At this stage in the debate I move the Opposition’s amendment to the motion for the second reading of the Dairy Industry Stabilization Amendment Bill:

That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: ‘whilst not opposing the Bill, the House calls upon the Minister for Primary Industry to explain how quantitative limits will be imposed at factory level without State Government co-operation ‘.

We move that amendment because it appears that the major State concerned in this matter, Victoria, has in fact run out on the proposals of the Federal Government in terms of this underwriting or quota scheme to establish levels of production from various factories throughout Australia. I shall read from an article, which appeared in the Melbourne Age of 31 May, which sums up the situation. The article is headed ‘State goes it alone on dairy scheme’ and reads:

The State Government has decided not to join the Federal Government ‘s new dairy underwriting scheme.

Instead, it will set up its own assistance scheme to ensure Victorian dairy farmers receive a level of $ 1 .76 per kg butterfat on prescribed dairy products already underwritten by the Federal Government to $ 1 .65 per kg.

Outlining the scheme to the annual conference of the United Dairyfarmers of Victoria yesterday, the State Agriculture Minister, Mr Smith, said his Government would direct funds to farmers through the Victorian Dairy Industry Authority to make up the difference in price.

Two weeks ago, the Federal Government announced the scheme, for the 1978-79 season, saying it would be prepared to underwrite prescribed products to a level of $1.76 if the States would share the total cost on a $2 to $ 1 basis.

Alternatively, if the States did not take up the offer, the Commonwealth would meet the full cost of underwriting butter, skim milk powder, casein, cheese and whole milk powder at the equivalent of $ 1 .65 per kg at the farm gate.

This makes a mockery of the intent of the legislation. Yet the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) is persisting with the introduction of legislation to effect quantitative restrictions on butter production to fulfil the stage 2 objectives, knowing full well that in fact Victoria is not going to be a party to it. Some time ago- on 28 Aprilanother report, which is still relevant to this matter, appeared in the Melbourne Age. I think that knowledge of this is required of honourable members. Under the heading ‘Underwriting could be $20m ‘, the article states:

How much will the Federal Government offer the Australian Dairy industry as an ‘underwriting’?

According to some industry estimates ( based on projected output figures and price expectations supplied by the Australian Dairy Corporation), the ‘need’ could be as high as $40m for 1978-79.

It is unlikely, however, that the Federal Government will agree to put up much more than half of this.

This week the Minister for Primary Industry, Mr Sinclair, announced that the Federal Government was giving consideration to a system of selective underwriting of dairy products as an alternative to the failed second stage of dairy industry marketing arrangements.

The failure came when Victoria’s Minister for Agriculture, Mr Ian Smith, strongly backed by the. Victorian dairy industry -

Listen to this, Mr Deputy Speaker- gave the Federal Government’s national dairy plan the raspberry.

Under the sub-heading ‘secrecy’ the article continued:

Since then, Mr Sinclair has been excluding Mr Smith from his discussions on alternatives.

When consulting Victorian dairy industry people about such plans, Mr Sinclair has been swearing them to secrecy.

As a result, the Victorian Government appears to be hearing about Mr Sinclair’s plans secondhand from Victorian Federal politicians.

The on-going ‘marketing arrangement’ charade reached a high point yesterday when ‘a working party of the standing committee of agriculture’ (an offshoot of the Australian Agricultural Council) met in Canberra ‘ for an urgent investigation and report’.

What may come from the Canberra meeting- from which heads of departments report back to Ministers- is an underwriting formula which could pump $20m or slightly more into sustaining the national dairy industry.

And that has uncomfortable shades of the old dairy industry subsidy- which has since been railed against as overly protecting the industry from market forces!

So here we have legislation to introduce quantitative restrictions on the production of” milk products in factories throughout Australia when the major dairy State will have nothing to do with the arrangement. In our amendment we ask the Minister to come into the House and to explain how the Government can enforce quantitative limits on production at the factory level without State government co-operation.

The Government has in mind that quantitative restrictions will be applied also to butter byproducts, such as skim milk powder and casein. But the quantity of butter to be underwritten in 1978-79 will be limited to 96,000 tonnes. Manufacturers will be free to choose whether they produce skim milk powder or casein. Of course, it is understood that over-quota production will receive only the average export pool return. An amount of 96,000 tonnes represents about 84 per cent of the two-year average of production and, I believe, about 87 per cent of the estimated production for 1977-78. The underwriting for butter will be allocated on the basis of each factory’s production in the base period. That is how the plan will operate, if, of course, the States agree to it.

The Commonwealth Government has announced its preparedness to finance the underwriting on a $2 for $1 basis- the $2 representing the Commonwealth contributionfor butter, skim milk powder, casein, cheese and whole milk powder at the equivalent of 80c per lb butterfat at the farm gate for the 1978-79 season. If, as I said earlier, the States fail to take up the offer the Commonwealth will meet the equivalent of only 75c per lb butterfat. As we know, the whole issue rests on the acceptance by the States of this proposal. Presumably Victoria has signalled its punch that it is not going to be in the scheme. So the Commonwealth is hoping to threaten the Victorian dairy industry and the Victorian Government by saying that the Commonwealth will underwrite the equivalent of only 75c per lb butterfat and the balance will have to be found by the Victorian Government or the Victorian dairy industry. Of course, as we know, there is so much dissention between the Country Party in Victoria and the National Country Party in this Parliament- between the Victorian Minister for Agriculture and the Federal Minister for Primary Industry- that the State is not prepared to do any business with Canberra on this issue. The Victorian Government has made it quite clear- as is indicated in the Press release on the Federal Government’s announcement, which was published in the Melbourne Age on 3 1 May, which I read- that it will go it alone and ensure that there is an underwriting of $1.76 per kg of butterfat and will pay the difference over and above the $ 1 .65 per kg or 75c per lb which the Commonwealth is prepared to pay under this scheme. Another devastating little admission, which I think bears noting, appeared in the Minister’s second reading speech. He said:

The marketing arrangements which have operated for many years for manufactured dairy products have tended to operate against product innovation and the development of effective marketing techniques.

Just a few minutes ago, during the debate on a matter of public importance relating to agriculture which we brought before the House, the Minister extolled the virtues of the dairy industry subsidy which was phased out. Yet in this second reading speech- I paraphrase what he said- he said that it was the dairy industry subsidy–

Mr Sainsbury:

– Tell the truth. That is not what he said.


– That is what he said. He said that it was the dairy industry subsidy -

Mr Sainsbury:

– He said that it was phased out without reasonable alternatives.


– That is not what he said.

Mr Sainsbury:

– He did. Read Hansard.


– The reasonable alternative was a $2 5 m dairy reconstruction scheme, or did the honourable member for Eden-Monaro miss that slight fact? Was he not conscious of that fact?

Mr Sainsbury:

– You only just mentioned that.


– The honourable member should have known that that was what I was referring to.

Mr Sainsbury:

– There is no substitute in terms of money.


– Honourable members opposite should just keep their places; they will have a chance to participate in the debate a little later. They should just shut up.

Mr Lloyd:

– You have already made so many misstatements.


– Honourable members opposite should just shut up for a while. The point is this: The Minister tacitly admits that it was the dairy bounty- that indiscriminate bountywhich operated for many years to protect the industry against market forces. Anybody who mentioned phasing out the dairy bounty was touching sacrosanct ground. But what have we seen over a period? The dairy farmers were led up the garden path. Between the early 1 970s and the late 1970s the dairy farmer population in Australia has been halved because of the disastrous policies which have been followed by a succession of Liberal-Country Party governments, particularly because of the policies of the

National Country Party which wants to capitalise gains and socialise losses. But in the socialising of losses -

Mr Lloyd:

– What did you do to keep the dairy farmers on their properties?


– We put in $25m, as we did with the wool industry. We put our money where our mouth was. We provided $370m to stabilise the wool industry and we provided $2 5 m for the dairy reconstruction scheme. That is more than this Government ever provided.

Mr Lloyd:

– You left it in a far worse state.


– The honourable member for Murray lives in Victoria. He has seen dairy farmers walk off their farms. What has he done about it? The Victorian Government walked right out on this Government.


-(Hon. Ian Robinson) - Order! The honourable member will address the Chair.


– Well, Mr Deputy Speaker, these humbugs in the National Country Party -


– If the honourable member addressed the Chair he would not be worrying about humbugs. I suggest to him that he should address the Chair.


– One cannot help but worry about them. They are noisy. Have you not noticed that, Mr Deputy Speaker? In fact, what has happened is that the Victorian Branch of the Country Party and the Victorian Minister for Agriculture have disowned the Minister for Primary Industry and the Federal Government and have gone their own way about fixing up the dairying industry. If it were not for the intervention of reasonable people like Tony Webster and a few others, God knows where the dairying industry would be. Left to the policies of the National Country Party it would be in the languishing state in which we found it in 1972-73. The Minister for Primary Industry continued:

The marketing arrangements which have operated -

I like the trite terminology- for many years for manufactured dairy products have tended to operate against product innovation -

How is that? . . . and the development of effective marketing techniques.

In fact, what the Minister is saying is that the dairy bounty encouraged this kind of activity and production when it was known that there was no guarantee of continued access to the world markets for manufactured milk products, particularly in view of the fact that the policy of subsidisation in France, which is the cornerstone of the common agricultural policy of the European Economic Community, will not change. France will go its own way in the EEC and in Europe no matter how much bleating there is from countries like Australia. I do not for one minute say that the Australian dairying industry was not efficient. It was efficient. Its members were reasonable businessmen. They tried very hard. But they trusted a group of politicians in Canberra to give them the right message and those politicians were giving them the wrong message. Those politicians were saying: ‘Keep your production up in this area. You will be right’.

That is the same message as the National Country Party gave the beef producers in 1971-72. The present leader of the National Country Party said right throughout 1971, 1972 and 1973 that the beef producers should produce more beef, that what was needed was more production and that there was too much demand and not enough production. This was said at a time when meat prices were increasing and this Parliament established an inquiry into the price of meat. What was the answer from the National Country Party? It said there should be more and more production. Now we see a succesion of Ministers going cap in hand to various countries, including the United States and the EEC countries, looking for market access for beef. The reason for this is that the policies of the Leader of the National Country Party fostered over production in this industry, just as they did in the dairying industry. Now, of course, we are trying to find our way out of this problem.

Even now, when we have reached some important agreement about the general direction that the industry should be taking, the major State will not have a bar of the Federal Government’s policy. Whose responsibility is that? I suppose it is fair to say that there is some responsibility on the Victorian Government to deal with Canberra, but there is also responsibility on the Minister for Primary Industry to involve the States in the scheme. Victoria is the major State and the Minister has failed competently to involve it in the scheme or failed to reach a point of understanding and agreement with the State by which the industry can be stabilised and by which certain products are encouraged by these quantitative restrictions and other less competitive products are discouraged.

The Opposition would like the Minister to participate further in this debate. He rarely enters into debates about primary industry. For the first time in about Vh years he was present during the discussion of a matter of public importance this afternoon. He is the phantom of this Parliament. He comes in here to move the gag but he never enters the chamber to speak during discussions of matters of public importance or urgency debates. I can see members of his staff sitting in the chamber with grins on their faces. I have spoken in this place as the shadow Minister for Agriculture and the Opposition’s spokesman in this chamber on agriculture when the shadow Minister has been a member of the Senate and rarely has the Minister for Primary Industry entered the chamber to debate the issue with me. This time we ask him to come into the chamber and explain to us, either in the second reading stage or the Committee stage of this debate, just how this scheme will work, given the fact that Victoria will not have a bar of it.

The Opposition does not oppose the legislation. We would like to see some reconstruction or stabilisation of the dairying industry. It is not only commercially sensible but also, on humanitarian terms, the only decent thing that can be done for the people who have operated on uneconomic properties or in uneconomic areas of production. The point is that the scheme is based on the premise that quantitative restrictions will be enforced. If they cannot be enforced, what is the purpose of this legislation? If the major State is out of the scheme, how will it work? The Opposition would be interested to see the Minister for Primary Industry come into the chamber for the second time today and explain to us how the legislation will work and not just have the Parliament go through the useless motion of giving passage to legislation which the Government knows full well will never see the light of day. I urge the House to accept the amendment I have moved on behalf of the Opposition, which is in the following terms:

AH words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to substituting the following words:

Whilst not opposing the Bill, the House calls upon the Minister for Primary Industry to explain how quantitative limits will be imposed at factory level without State Government co-operation.

We do not want to be harangued about our concern for primary industry. We do not want another slipshod debate with accusations being thrown around. All we want is a simple explanation of how this legislation will work, given the fact that the State of Victoria has said that it will not be imposing quantitative restrictions on dairy factories throughout that State and given the fact that it has said that it will go its own way by paying $1.76 per kilogram of butterfat regardless of what the Commonwealth says. I invite the Minister for Primary Industry to re-enter the debate at the second reading stage or the Committee stage and explain how the legislation will work given the factor I have mentioned.


-(Hon. Ian Robinson) - Is the amendment seconded?

Mr Fry:

– I second the amendment.

Monaro · Eden

– I shall deal firstly with the amendment moved by the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating). It is a nonsense amendment because it asks the Minister for Primary Industry to explain something and, of course, in the normal course of events that could not be incorporated in the legislation. The position is that if a particular State decides that it will not enter into these arrangements, the States that remain will receive quotas and selective underwriting under the legislation. There is not much more that one can say about the legislation. That is a full explanation of the position. I think that anybody who has read the legislation and understands it and who understands also the very real problems that many of the States have experienced in accepting the positions of other States in regard to this matter would realise that there are problems within the States. It should be appreciated that this matter has to be approached with a great deal of sympathy. It is not a matter of knocking the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) because Victoria has decided, as it has the right, not to enter into the arrangements, although, of course, it is hoped that it will do so. There is no certainty about Victoria entering into the scheme.

I am surprised that the Opposition has not been able, in its criticism of this legislation, to provide any positive alternatives. The Opposition would realise, of course, that this legislation has come about only after a very long series of meetings between the Federal Minister and the State Ministers. It has come about after many discussions and many different points of view being put forward by the State Ministers. This legislation has not been easy to come by. At this stage it is to be regretted that we did not have longer to discuss this legislation in the party rooms before it came into the House, but it has had to be introduced before 1 July because of a commitment by the Federal Government. It is being debated rather hastily because the States have taken so long to come to any sort of agreement. The Opposition refuses to come up with positive alternatives. It has not put forward any means by which the States’ problems could be overcome. It has not provided any good alternatives to what I regard as a second rate compromise that the Federal Government has had to accept, namely, selective underwriting. We have had to accept that because, as with so much legislation of similar nature, under the Constitution it is imperative that the States agree or enter into the spirit of the legislation in order for it to work across Australia. I just despair that the Opposition cannot see that we are trying to assist the dairy industry, we are trying to get the States together. All the Opposition can do is knock one person or another, without coming up with positive alternatives.

The States, I suppose, in these matters tend to be parochial. That has certainly been the case throughout a whole series of Agricultural Council meetings over the past year or so, even prior to the introduction of stage one of the dairy arrangements which came into effect at the beginning of the last fiscal year. The Federal Government has certainly made a genuine attempt to rationalise the dairy industry. The first Industries Assistance Commission report and the second Industries Assistance Commission report by Professor Crawford very clearly pointed up some of the mistakes that have been made in the past by governments and pointed up good viable means of getting the dairy industry back to some sensible production levels and therefore sensible returns to producers. I do not think that any of us in this place would deny the fact that the returns to dairy farmers in the past few years have been ludicrously low, especially given the hours of work and the capital involvement of dairy farmers. The Federal Government has shown its good faith, in the face of these very strong disagreements amongst the States, in putting forward this legislation which, as I said, is really a second rate compromise but the only one that the Federal Government is able to achieve in the face of the States’ opposition to the earlier propositions.

The honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd) in informal discussions in this place over a number of weeks has pointed out, and quite rightly too, that despite the fact that perhaps there are five States which see Victoria as the bete noire of this situation, we should recognise that that State does have a large number and in fact almost a majority of dairy farmers in this country whose livelihoods, for better or worse, depend upon enforcing a reasonable arrangement in this legislation.

We in New South Wales take perhaps a different point of view, though we should understand the Victorians. In New South Wales we say that over a period of time we have cut down production, realising that we do not want to create, say, a mountain of skim milk powder that we cannot sell. We have probably been more prudent. That is certainly what we think. From that point of view I can see that the New South Welshmen would always disagree around the table with the Victorians. Nevertheless, we do live in a federation, we do live in a country where we all call ourselves Australians, and perhaps reluctantly at times when I am supporting the very important dairy industry sector of my electorate I have to acknowledge that whatever mistakes have been made in the past the Victorians are in a situation, the Victorians are in a position where they, for better or worse, are producing relatively efficiently and they have to be thought of. That is why I think there is a great need for give and take and perhaps to a slight extent I would disagree with some of the people in my electorate who say ‘damn the Victorians ‘.

Perhaps I should point out also- having been kind to the honourable member for Murray who will speak on our side after I do- that the Victorians have had a recent history of seasonal production which is obviously more efficient in terms of cost of production per litre. They do not have to worry so much in Victoria about winter production as we do in New South Wales where we have a far greater proportion of milk going to the liquid milk market. In Victoria the low season production level is something of the order of 14 or 15 per cent of the high season, the highest level of production in the high level months in the summer. In New South Wales we have some 58 per cent of the high season production being produced in the low season. That indicates very strongly that in New South Wales we have to keep up our production in the winter for market reasons, for reasons of the sorts of markets in which milk is being sold. In Victoria they can afford to have some relaxation in the winter and for that reason costs can be kept down.

I think that some of the myths that have been created in the argument over the monthsnamely, that Victoria is a particularly efficient producer- should take account of the fact that I have just mentioned. I know that the efficiency argument is all important in some areas in this milk debate, but perhaps we should remember at times that there are other places where, with very similar country and with very similar size of holdings, with very similar numbers of milking cows, with very similar degrees of efficiency with respect to management, there are some other places apart from Victoria which really do produce just as efficiently.

The history of the dairy industry has been one of a considerable number of errors at both State and Federal level. The interjections during the speech of the honourable member for Blaxland that has just finished noted that the Labor Government in its time of office made a distinct error in just wiping out a dairy industry subsidy that perhaps in its effect was not the most efficient way of assisting the dairy industry in its then problems, but one which should not have been wiped out in a vacuum situation. There is no subsidy or arrangement that can be wiped out by a decision of Government without some sort of” compensation or without some sort of phasing out arrangement. The longer I am here the more I am made aware of that fact in so wide a range of problems. Nevertheless, the Labor Government wiped the thing out in its wisdom; perhaps in its urgent desire to increase the Public Service and to do so many other things that it thought important for this country.

Our sort of government has made errors, in my view, in the past. At one stage when it looked as if the skim milk powder market overseas would be profitable, perhaps forever, we entered into arrangements in the re-construction area where people were encouraged by the incentives to buy bulk tankers to get more milk into the factories. It appeared to be profitable at that time.

Mr Lloyd:

– That was in Labor’s time.


– The honourable member for Murray has pointed out that that was actually in Labor’s time and perhaps I am being a little bit harsh on my side. But we have entered into arrangements where we have tried to direct the market in one way or the other because, quite conscientiously, we thought that we could do best for the industry. Really in the long term we do best for the industry by saying to the industry ‘Make up your own minds, we will help you in areas of great need’. But oftentimes we do not do things like that.

There were times when, after the early equalisation arrangements that worked up until last year, we impliedly encouraged the industry to operate inefficiently in some areas. Equalisation to a great extent promoted unwanted product. There were occasions where factories were in fact living off the backs of enterprising, careful and prudent manufacturers in other areas who perhaps were manufacturing for the local industry, whereas the people that I am talking about living off the backs of those people were perhaps operating on an export market where returns were low; nevertheless they knew very well that they could increase the returns through the equalisation system. These were decisions of government that were made in good faith in favour, it was thought, of the dairy industry but which nevertheless did not really work efficiently. That is why this legislation, which I say for the third time is a second-rate alternative, will increase the possibility of the industry becoming more efficient.

Australia happens to be an efficient dairy country. In terms of the statistics set out in the first IAC report, as I remember them, we were demonstrated to be second only to New Zealand in cost of production, and even that is arguable. Certainly we have a much lower cost of production than any other country apart from New Zealand. Despite the fact that we have an efficient dairy industry, it appears that we cannot deliver milk and milk products to the European Economic Community. Its barriers, of course, are reminiscent of ours, and hopefully ours are under question. That appears to be the present strategy. There is no good reason in terms of world economics that we should not be able to deliver a lot more milk to the EEC, but because of the artificial barriers set up around the world we are precluded to a large extent. Because of those barriers, and despite the fact that we produce very efficiently, we still cannot export enough product. We must remember that we need to adapt and that is what this legislation begins to do. We need to constrict our production within our own environment so that those people who exist on dairy farms can obtain a fair income. The thrust of this legislation is to screw down production levels, although not by a great deal in the first year, so that the returns on reduced production within a market that is prepared to pay fair prices for that reduced production will be adequate to keep farmers and their wives and children at a reasonable level of income.

I note in the legislation and in the Minister’s second reading speech that whereas butter is the main area for production quotas at this stage, cheese will come under the quotas if a review is necessary, and I regard that as being a very important rider. There is at the present stage a view that we can increase our production of cheese to a reasonable extent without creating downward pressures on the price. I am a little sceptical about that. I think that we need to keep the cheese production level very much under scrutiny. There is always the risk that we will reach the situation that we reached before in relation to butter and skim milk powder where, because of increasing production both here and in other countries, the returns became very low and caused the present plight of the dairy industry. I note also that the thrust of the legislation follows the views of the Australian Dairy Farmers Federation, which recently sent a telex to the Minister setting out its ideas on how selective underwriting should work. This legislation follows that very closely, although I point out that it does not follow it exactly because at this stage it does not impose production limits for products such as cheese. As I have said, perhaps we should look at that closely in the next year. At the present time the cheese industry is reasonably viable and quite a number of cheese producers are exporting at good prices. There are also a number of cheese producers- I happen to have a very important one in my electorate- who are producing for the domestic market on the basis that they have cornered a high quality market. They would not want to be prejudiced by a flood of cheese coming on to the market and cutting down their level of price return.

To some people the legislation may be difficult to understand in terms of the levy and subsidy arrangements. If more time for debate had been available I would have had great pleasure in setting this out for the purpose of having it recorded in Hansard, but I find I cannot do that. It is probably sufficient to say that when I first read the legislation one of my great fears for my own area in Bega was that people who have the drive to go out and find high price export or local markets would be prejudiced by the legislation and would come back to a level where the assessed domestic price would suffice for their total payment. That is not the truth. There is scope for people who have the enterprise to go and sell on a different market or in a higher level market to reap most of the gains of that enterprise. I want to record the fact that I am pleased about that although, and I say this for the fourth time, it is a second-rate alternative pushed on to the Federal Government by the States because the States in their wisdom cannot agree on what they want in the dairy industry at this stage.

The legislation does provide for some pooling of effort. That is good in the long term. It provides for some sort of self-help arrangement within the industry and, as with some other rural industries, we believe that that is a good springboard from which enterprise can operate. We recognise that it is not ideal because quotas will be based on production, for instance, which might have been distorted in the past couple of years for one reason or another, such as the propensity in Victoria to over-produce. Nevertheless, within that context the legislation is important. It will bring about a means by which people within the States can work towards a more efficient dairy industry in which the ordinary dairy farmer, because of the strength of this Government and its resolve to assist, can see his way clear to making a reasonable return in the long term. I very much support the legislation.


– I support the amendment, which is a very reasonable one. It states:

While not opposing the Bill, the House calls upon the Minister for Primary Industry to explain how quantitative limits will be imposed at factory level without State Government co-operation.

I was interested in the frankness of the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Sainsbury) when he conceded that this is a second-rate alternative. That is an understatement, of course. It is hardly an alternative at all, but at least the honourable member conceded that it is not what he would like it to be. I think that the request in our amendment that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) should come in and explain precisely what he means by this Bill is reasonable. He never does, of course. We make what we hope is an intelligent contribution to debate on Bills such as this and we ask pertinent questions, but the Minister consistently fails to come in and give sensible replies to our queries. I hope that on this occasion he does come into the House to try to explain what he means, because the scheme is incomprehensible in the way that it is written in the Bill.

The honourable member for Eden-Monaro said that he could not understand why the Opposition could not see the merits of the scheme, which he himself described as being a secondrate alternative. It is not only the Opposition which cannot see the merits of the scheme. Some very important bodies also cannot see its merit, and they include the State Government of Victoria. An article in the Age on 3 1 May stated:

The State Government has decided not to join the Federal Government’s new dairy underwriting scheme.

Instead, it will set up its own assistance scheme to ensure Victorian dairy farmers receive a level of $ 1 .76 per kg butterfat on prescribed dairy products already underwritten by the Federal Government . . .

Outlining the scheme to the annual conference of the United Dairyfarmers of Victoria yesterday, the State Agriculture Minister . . . said his Government would direct funds to farmers through the Victorian Dairy Industry Authority to make up the difference in price.

Alternatively, if the States did not take up the offer, the Commonwealth would meet the full cost of underwriting butter, skim milk powder, casein, cheese and wholemilk powder at the equivalent of $ 1 .65 per kg at the farm gate.

That is the opinion of the State Government of Victoria. Certainly it cannot see the merits of the scheme. Turning to some of the producer bodies, an interesting statement was made by the Chairman of the Victorian Dairy Industry Authority, Mr Des Cooper in response to a statement by the Federal Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon). A newspaper article reported Mr Cooper as saying that the Federal Minister’s warning to Victoria not to raise milk prices was mischievous and nonsensical. The article stated:

Victorian Dairy Industry Authority chairman Mr Des Cooper said the statement by the Federal Minister for Transport, Mr Nixon, was irresponsible and unforgivable.

On Wednesday, Mr Nixon warned the Victorian Government not to increase milk prices to fund its own dairy marketing scheme, after its decision not to join the federal dairy underwriting plan.

Mr Cooper said the VDIA was the pricing authority for milk in Victoria and at present he did not envisage any price rise for milk.

In view of those statements, I think the Minister for Primary Industry has a responsibility to say when there is that degree of opposition from a State government and from the milk marketing authority in Victoria how this scheme will work. He owes an explanation to the House. The other Bills are consequential, of course; they affect the marketing of manufactured dairy products. Liquid milk marketing or market milk marketing are not affected by the Bills although some State marketing arrangements integrate the products.

We know that for many years the dairy industry has been plagued by excess production which sold at ruinously low prices. We know that not many years ago the government of the day was encouraging extra production in Victoria but now the chickens have come home to roost, as they say, or we are locking the dairy door after the bull has escaped and we are trying to put the problems right. The industry is in a terrible mess. A propensity to produce too much of the least saleable products, butter fat and its by-products, instead of the more saleable products, cheese and whole milk powder, from the raw milk is the underlying cause of this problem. The Industries Assistance Commission recommended a quota scheme under which producers would receive higher prices for limited quantities and lower prices for quantities above quota production. This legislation is aimed in many ways at socialising the dairy industry. It is doing it through the side door but of course it is being strongly opposed by a State government.

The national aggregate entitlement scheme under which the quota is based has not been accepted by the Victorian Government. It sees this as trying to control its industry through the back door and take it out of its hands. It certainly does not approve the underwriting methods as proposed by this Government. Of course State co-operation is essential because the Government cannot legally apply quotas without it. The basic objective is fair enough, that is, to provide incentives and disincentives to produce or not to produce end products which can or cannot be sold at reasonable prices.

The Federal Government is using a financial lever to get this co-operation but, if the States do not agree, the underwritten price will fall to 75c a lb, which would have to be found by the Commonwealth. There would also be no quantitative restrictions. As the Victorian Government has already rejected the proposal, the objective is virtually unobtainable. This is a pity in a way because the scheme has some favourable aspects. But it points up the grave conflicts between the National Country Party and the Liberal Party of Australia in this Parliament and the conflicts between the Federal Parliament and State parliaments. As I said, the Bills have some commendable aspects. For example, they are directed at reducing the production of less profitable products, such as butter, while encouraging increased production of more saleable commodities. Of course there is a drastic difference between the aspirations of the Bill and the reality.

As the honourable member for Blaxland has already stated, the legislation simply will not work and the Minister should answer this criticism. The States, especially the major milk producing State of Victoria, have already indicated that they just will not be in it. In the longer term of course the Bills completely fail to address themselves to the major structural problems confronting the dairy industry. The Bills are directed to the factories, not to the producers. They are non-selective in that they do not discriminate between the various factors affecting specific dairying areas. They fail to differentiate between the areas requiring assistance and those that are presently viable, and between those areas which are climatically suitable for dairying and those which are not. No provision has been made for those producers in areas which cannot afford the transition from the production of one commodity to that of a more profitable one. These areas will be forced out into the cold. As usual, this is another ad hoc band-aid sort of measure that does not address itself to the long term problems. Despite some of the admirable features of the Bills, we just do not see how it will work without State government co-operation. We expect the Minister to indicate to us how it will work in these circumstances.


congratulate the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) on this commonsense and generous stage 2 proposal for a national dairy industry in Australia. I believe the Minister has been persistent, constructive and sympathetic to the complex problems of the dairy industry over a very difficult two and a half years since we returned to Government. In those two and a half years I believe he has done more to assist the dairy industry in Australia than any previous Minister for Primary Industry. That belief is reinforced by this proposal that we are debating today. In adopting this constructive line, he has been roundly abused by all sectors of the dairy industry for being constructive and low key. In particular, he has been abused by every State government or State Minister responsible for agriculture because in every case that Minister could not rise above a parochial attitude to the dairy industry.

If the problems of the dairy industry are to be satisfactorily resolved, this must be done on a national basis. Those people who think it is a simple matter to resolve these complex problems should remember that the dairy industry, along with the deciduous fruit industry, has had to make far greater adjustments following Britain’s entry into the European Common Market than any other industry has been called on to make. That goes for any secondary industry and certainly any service industry. I believe those industries have suffered more than they should, but they have achieved remarkable results on their own behalf in that adjustment process.

I remind honourable members of the position in the dairy industry when this Government regained office in December 1975 /January 1976. The Labor Government had removed the dairy industry bounty. That not only removed the price support mechanism for the dairy industry but it also endangered the future of the voluntary equalisation mechanism because no longer was the bounty there to buttress it. With the removal of that bounty the whole dairy industry was threatened by a failure or breakdown in the domestic pricing arrangements so that the export parity price or, if honourable members like, the worst export price would also become the domestic price- a completely untenable situation which can be laid completely at the door of the Labor Government.

Mr Keating:

– What about the reconstruction scheme?


– Give me a moment. I will come to the dairy reconstruction scheme, if the honourable member will give me time. Also when we regained office, the Labor Cabinet had even refused to consider over several months a request by the Australian Dairy Farmers Federation to introduce an underwriting scheme to stop the bottom falling out of the manufacturing sector of the dairy industry because of the collapse in the world price for skim milk powder. When Labor removed the dairy bounty, as the honourable member for Blaxland said, it introduced a dairy reconstruction scheme. One should look at the difference between a reconstruction scheme and a reconstruction scheme plus price support. I remind Labor members that there already was in vogue a reconstruction scheme for the dairy industry when we were in office. It was called the marginal dairy farm scheme. There was nothing new in what Labor did. All that scheme did was to provide some assistance to help people in the adjustment process.

As the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Sainsbury) reminded the House, part of that reconstruction money was used for the short lived boom in skim milk powder, which only exacerbated the problems of the industry. I remind Labor members that not only is reconstruction continuing for the dairy industry through the rural adjustment scheme, but also have we introduced something which they would not introduce, that is, the special carry on loan provisions for the dairy industry. I do not want to hear any more from them about the great steps they took for dairy reconstruction when they did not do anything more than our Government was previously doing and we are still doing in the adjustment process. They completely removed any price support mechanism. If we said to them that there should not be a basic wage, a minimum wage, in Australia, they would think that was a treasonable thing to say; yet they did exactly the same thing to the dairy industry when they removed the dairy industry bounty.

Let us look at what happened to prices. In the 1975 season in most factories in Victoria the opening price for butterfat for whole milk was 60c per lb. With the crash in the skim milk powder market it fell to 50c per lb. At that time the ADFF went to the Labor Government and that Government did not respond. By the time we got into office the dairy factories were being forced to reduce their price to possibly as low as 40c per lb. That was a dramatic reduction- from 60c at the start of the season, which, incidentally, was lower than the final price of the previous season. By March 1976 we had acceded to the Australian Dairy Farmers Federation request, to which Labor refused to accede, and introduced underwriting at 50c per lb. That reintroduction, incidentally, has cost this Government virtually nothing. It put that minimum price prop back into the industry and the industry was able to continue on its own behalf. At the same time the Minister requested a special Industries Assistance Commission report on the industry from Sir John Crawford.

The first IAC report on the dairy industry, instigated by the Labor Government, produced nothing. The IAC, after taking mountains of evidence, virtually told the industry to go and sort out the situation itself. In the 1976-77 production season the underwriting figure was increased from 50c to 60c, and finally to 65c. That also has not cost the Government very much. When Sir John Crawford brought down his report he recommended stage one, compulsory equalisation, which, I remind honourable members, was put at risk by what Labor had done a couple of years earlier. That came in in the 1 977-78 season which is now ending. At the same time underwriting was increased from 65c to the current level of 75c. During the same period, the last 12 months, there has been great debate on stage two of the Crawford proposals; that is, a national aggregate entitlement and market share entitlements for each dairy farmer. Here we have seen the sad situation of State parochialism, of confrontation rather than compromise. If anything is to succeed in our Federal context it has to be achieved by reasonable compromise. The Minister for Primary Industry took this all on the chin and did not reply to some of the abuse that was thrown at him. He kept trying to reach a sensible compromise so that we could have a genuine national dairy industry in this country.

The failure of the States to agree at the January Australian Agricultural Council meeting this year meant the end of the market share entitlement proposal. Without State complimentary legislation and administrative arrangement support the scheme obviously was not on. The Victorian Government, the State Minister of Agriculture and some of the dairy industry leaders in Victoria are to be blamed as much as anybody else for this sad example of State parochialism. In my area- I represent more dairy farmers than anybody else in this place- dairy farmers are saying: ‘We really did want this market share entitlement scheme; that was the best scheme for us’. Mr Bill Pyle, the leader of United

Dairy-farmers of Victoria, said at the UDV conference in Melbourne last week:

Victoria should stop being as parochial and short-sighted as other States and take the initiative towards a logical and unified national approach.

He also said that he did not blame politicians for dairying’s problems; that blame rested squarely on the industry. Some of these people are now acknowledging that their tactic of last year when they opted for confrontation rather than compromise was the wrong tactic. They now acknowledge that perhaps a reasonable and sensible compromise with the national aggregate entitlement scheme might have been the best approach.

I want to give some credit to the Australian Dairy Farmers Federation which in the last couple of months, when it saw that an impasse had been reached in the situation, supported the selective underwriting proposal put up by the Minister as an alternative proposition when the national aggregate scheme had seemed to flounder because of State intransigence. What the Minister has put before us with this legislation is actually a simplified or less restrictive version of the selected underwriting which the Australian Dairy Farmers Federation supports. The Federation support of this proposal has, I believe, made it easier to go forward or perhaps has made it more palatable.

I support this proposal because it interferes less with commercial operations than any proposal which has been put forward before. It is also a proposal which is closer to the original IAC concept of opening up the industry to market forces. It gently pushes the industry away from butter rather than directs or demands it to go away from butter. Nobody can be sure of the production level in Australia this coming season; what markets there will be; what the consumption level will be on the home market; and what the responses of the various sectors of industry will be to these proposals. I say that the Government was wise to push gently because there is great danger in any government poking its nose too far into any industry and deciding what is best for it. It is better left for the industry to sort that out for itself.

What is the proposal which we are calling stage two? There is a Commonwealth Government guarantee of approximately 75c at the farm gate for all the cheese that can be produced, particularly gouda and cheddar which are the two leviable products- I do not anticipate that there will be any government support needed for them- and for all the whole milk powder for which there is firm markets. It is debatable how much support will be needed for whole milk powder. For butter there is a 96,000 tonne restriction on the level of underwriting. I want to emphasise to the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) who is now departing from the chamber that that is not a quantitative restriction. It is an amount of production which will receive government underwriting support at the 75c level.

Mr Keating:

– I rise on a point of order. To ensure that there is no reflection upon me I inform the House that I am leaving the chamber only momentarily.


– (Hon. Ian Robinson)- There is no point of order.


– After that momentary pause I will continue. I want to remind everybody that the figure of 96,000 tonnes was recommended by the Australian Dairy Farmers Federation. It has its support. The equalisation mechanism for underwriting of domestic and export production will be involved to that extent. It is not an actual physical restriction on production. If anybody wants to produce butter beyond that figure he may but he will receive the assessed average export price for that product, which of course is a lower figure. Therefore there is a financial disincentive to produce beyond that level rather than an actual quantitative restriction. I believe that the 96,000 tonne quota is a figure that if administered flexibly will be met sensibly by the factories around Australia. That is the information which is coming to me. This scheme will be left to the Australian Dairy Corporation and to the Minister to administer and I believe that with goodwill and flexibility that matter will be sorted out.

There are a couple of important points of clarification that I want to make concerning this quota. The Minister made clear in his second reading speech that the 96,000 tonne quota applies to dairy companies rather than to branch factories of the same company. Obviously it is sensible for multi-factory dairy companies- most companies are now set up in that way- if they are to respond to market pressures to move away from butter, to divert some of their processes, either in part of the factory or perhaps in the whole factory, to some other product. They should not be penalised for so doing. Nobody can stop a dairy factory which may have produced its quota of butter from selling surplus milk to another factory which is under quota and thus allow it to produce butter up that quota. I think that would be sensible too because we are not sure whether 96,000 tonnes is the spot-on figure. It appears to be the closest figure that anybody can gauge. Nothing would be worse than not having enough production to meet commercial markets for butter.

There is also provision for factories facing special circumstances to have the Administrative Appeals Tribunal decide in the last resort whether they should receive some special quota. It is possible that there could be a slight increase in the 96,000 tonne quota because of special quotas coming from an Administrative Appeals Tribunal hearing. The Minister, by offering an underwriting of 80c per lb butterfat to dairy farmers if the States will come in on a $2 Commonwealth to $1 State basis on the complete level of underwriting, would guarantee to farmers the figure for which they have been asking and about which, incidentally, many of the States have been critical of the Commonwealth previously.

The Federal Minister has challenged the States to put up or shut up about this figure of 80c. In doing so, he has relieved those States of the present $2 for $1 arrangement concerning certain dairy products. We are told that Victoria will not go into the scheme with the Commonwealth. Victoria is not the only State which has adopted this approach. I do not know whether any of the States as yet have said they will agree to the figure of 80c in the Commonwealth proposal. But that does not in any way invalidate the Commonwealth’s scheme because the Commonwealth’s scheme, at the 75c level, does not require any State support. There is no need for complementary State legislation. The levy mechanism will work and it will do so for the underwriting limit of 96,000 tonnes. So any talk about whether a State is in the scheme in principle is irrelevant. It shows an ignorance of the dairy industry and this legislation. If a State like Victoria wants to go ahead and come up with an underwriting of 80c through its own finances and in its own way, I would say, on behalf of the Victorian dairy farmers I represent, that that is what we would expect the Victorian Government would do. If Victoria wants to do it in that way instead of going along with the Commonwealth, to a certain extent that is its business. But it may be the wrong decision for Victoria to take because it might actually cost Victoria more money. I think it may have been a little hasty in taking that action.

There are some dangers, though, in possible Victorian attitudes. I refer to the possibility of a conflict between the Victorian Dairy Industry Authority, which is a State authority that markets liquid milk in Victoria, and the Australian

Dairy Corporation, which has Commonwealth statutory power for the export of manufactured dairy products, about the promotion and marketing of manufactured dairy products in Australia. I hope that this does not eventuate because, once again, it would show the parochial nature of the dairying industry when a national approach is needed. Also, if the Victorian Government, in providing the topping up from 75c to 80c, endeavours to support over-quota production of butter up to the underwriting figure, it should be warned that it could be endangering the whole scheme.

Mr Keating:

– That is what is wrong with it.


– It is not. The scheme will still progress. The honourable member for Blaxland does not understand anything about the dairying industry. The Labor Party, as we are now seeing, continually knocks anything that this Government does in relation to primary industry, but the Labor Party never puts forward alternative proposals. I believe that that is simply because, apart from its ideology and apart from its priorities, it just does not understand the rural situation.

The States have a particular responsibility to the dairying industry, which I hope they will fulfil. The liquid milk market or, if one likes, the city milk market has not been included in this proposal. Therefore there is a great responsibility on the States to equalise that city milk market for the benefit of all the dairy farmers in each State, rather than the situation which exists in some States at the moment. I remind dairy farmers and governments in States other than Victoria of a couple of points. One is that the market share entitlement scheme included an allocation for liquid milk- city milk- which is the growth section of the dairy industry in Australia and which is the best paying section of the industry. This one does not. Therefore, those States which at the moment say they do not like this scheme very much ought to examine it again because this scheme makes no reference to the very important city milk sectors of, say, New South Wales and Queensland. Therefore, there are real bonuses for other States in this scheme. This scheme is to operate for one year only. I am pleased about that because we do have a transition period in the dairying industry.

In conclusion, I say to the honourable members who have talked about production in Victoria and about dairy farmers in Victoria that more dairy farmers have left their dairy farms in Victoria than in any other State. The problems of the dairying industry cannot be laid at the door of the Victorian dairy farmers, most of whom have been farming as long as farmers in other States. There is only one answer to the problems of the dairying industry, that is, the adoption of a national approach rather than the parochial approach shown by the States. For that reason I very much support this legislation, which produces a national approach to the problems of the dairying industry.

Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.

Mr FitzPATRICK (Riverina) (8.0)-The legislation before the House contains many vicious clauses, and one can well understand why Government supporters kept interjecting during speeches from this side of the chamber. It appears to me that they are very concerned to see that the truth is not revealed. They are more inclined to conceal the truth, and this has become a habit in debates in this House in recent times. Long before he rose to speak, the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Sainsbury) attacked the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) and tried to prevent him from putting the Australian Labor Party’s view before the House. Then he accused the honourable member for Blaxland of not putting forward the Labor Party ‘s policy.

Mr Roger Johnston:

– Well, he didn’t.

Mr FitzPATRICK- Of course he did. The honourable member for Eden-Monaro claimed that the honourable member for Blaxland had not put forward an alternative policy. I make the point that no one can put forward any suggestion if he is not allowed to speak. The honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd) used a lot of flowery phrases in his speech about the great legislation that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) had brought down and then he wanted to know what the Labor Party had done. Strangely enough, he was one of the honourable members who was interjecting all the time that the honourable member for Blaxland was speaking, and when the honourable member for Blaxland wanted to leave the House temporarily the honourable member for Murray was very hurt that he missed a couple of words of his speech. That is not a very fair minded attitude to adopt.

Anyone who knows something about the dairy industry would be pleased that the Government is preparing to implement stage 2 of the marketing arrangements for the dairy industry from 1 July 1 978 through the introduction of a system of selective underwriting. I emphasise that that does not mean that people have to approve of every clause of these Bills. Let me point out one of the reasons why the Opposition supports selective underwriting. The report of the Industries Assistance Commission of 23 October 1975 stated:

In the last IS years the Australian dairy industry has undergone substantial change. The industry is now vastly different from, and much more efficient than, that which existed at the time of the 1960 Committee of Inquiry into the Dairy Industry. Since that Inquiry, the number of dairy farms and dairy cows has fallen but total milk output has increased.

It pointed out that there has been a substantial fall in the number of small herds and that the number of farms with more than 100 milk cattle has increased. It went on to indicate that these changes have vastly improved the farm and factory sectors. The output per cow has improved, the number of factories has decreased, but the total throughput of milk has increased substantially. On page (i) of the report the Industries Assistance Commission stated:

These changes have greatly improved the efficiency of both the farm and factory sectors. There has been not only improved productivity as measured by output per cow, hectare or farm but also substantially improved relative efficiency in comparison with other Australian rural industries. The industry has lower production costs than most overseas producers and over the longer term requires a relatively low level of assistance.

I think that the IAC is vastly in favour of the dairy industry and is encouraging the Government to give the industry some assistance. This report on the dairy industry, when compared with reports we receive on the car industry, the manufacturing industry or the shipbuilding industry, is a clear indication that, given a chance, the dairy industry can perform particularly well. Notwithstanding the degree of adjustment that has already taken place, it is quite obvious to everyone that the industry is still faced with a lot of major problems which, I would say, are due to inflation and to the need to develop marketing arrangements which provide for more stability. In his second reading speech the Minister, referring to the severe economic pressures on the Australian dairy industry, said:

A major factor has been the depressed conditions in the international market for dairy products. This situation is largely attributable to the effects of the common agricultural policy of the European Economic Community through its price support policy which has led to the over-production of dairy products and their subsequent disposal on overseas markets at heavily subsidised prices to the detriment of the Australian dairy industry.

Let me give an indication of what the dairy industry has to compete with. The Minister mentioned the 1976 report of the Industries Assistance Commission and spoke about the stabilisation scheme. In the 1975 report the Industries Assistance Commission had already suggested a stablisation scheme. It said:

The Commission also makes recommendations on export stabilisation for the dairy industry, protection of dairy products against imports, the position of Australian dairy exports on overseas markets, competition from margarine, fluid milk arrangements and the Australian Code of Practice for Dairy Factories. It also commends the concept of a proposed national dairy herd improvement scheme and considers that, subject to a favourable outcome of a detailed benefit-cost study, the provision of some Australian Government financial assistance would be justified.

So we have plenty of examples of recommendations being made by expert committees set up to investigate the dairy industry and suggesting certain lines of assistance. But those who have been studying or who know something about the dairy industry would know that the first inquiry was made in 1959 and, as I mentioned, the first report was brought down in 1960. It recommended wide ranging changes. The 1975 IAC report pointed out that these recommendations were not adopted by the Government. This situation is similar to the River Murray schemes which have been recommended time and again but which have never been adopted by the Government. It was in 1974 that the Labor Government introduced legislation to implement pan of the 1960 report. Also at that time the Government gave the IAC the task of reexamining the dairy industry in the light of conditions at that time. The dairy industry is in such a sad plight that no one should try to make political capital out of it. It seems to me that Government supporters do this to cover up for the weaknesses of this Bill and their lack of concern for the dairy industry. Let us examine the facts and see how much truth there is in this claim. As the Industries Assistance Commission pointed out on page 2 of its report of 23 October 1975, previous inquiries were carried out in 1959 and 1960, as I have already mentioned, and there were recommendations of wide-ranging changes. The government of the time never adopted those recommendations. Everyone in this House knows what brand of government we had in 1 960.

The Government cannot cover up for poor performance by blaming the Opposition. The Labor Party was in power for only 3 years out of 26 and in that time we had to fight 2 elections. Also, we had a hostile Senate and a lot of Bills were held up in that chamber. Even so, the Labor Government still did a lot for primary industry. Notable among what it did was the provision of a floor price for wool. We set aside $350m to bring in a floor price for wool. Also, in one year we allocated $38m for the dairy industry. It was notable that the very next time this Bill came up for review the Liberal-National Country Party Government allocated only $3.5m for this purpose. Whatever way one looks at the Industries Assistance Commission report it indicates the tragic neglect of the dairy industry by successive Liberal-National Country Party governments. As I have mentioned before, it indicates that 14 years have been lost, whereas gradual adjustment could have been made and the dairy industry could have found itself in a much better position.

The Minister indicated in his second reading speech that the Industries Assistance Commission recommended that stage 2 of the dairy industry marketing arrangements should provide for a national aggregate entitlement scheme. It was very disappointing to hear the Minister go on to say that after prolonged discussions by the Australian Agricultural Council and the Standing Committee on Agricultureincluding consideration of a series of working party reports, some of which no doubt I have mentioned- it was not found possible to introduce the national aggregate entitlement scheme because of the difficulties which had arisen in obtaining an agreement between the States on the calculation of the size of the initial national aggregate entitlement and its allocation amongst the States. Once again we see the old dodge of this Government blaming something on the States or on three years of Labor Government. What we want is a national government that is game to do something and not cover up all the time.

It is particularly noticeable that the Federal Government is using a financial lever to get the States to co-operate. It has mentioned that if the States do not accept this, the underwrite price will fall to 75c per lb. According to a newspaper report, the Victorian Government has already decided not to accept this. I say this is a pity because the dairy farmers have been waiting for this for a long time but it shows just how sincere this Government is when it talks about federalism, co-operation with the States and so forth. If one wants to know how the Federal Government handles these matters one should look at the Sydney Morning Herald, which indicates that a Federal Minister’s warning to Victoria not to increase milk prices described as mischievous and nonsensical by a Victorian dairy leader yesterday. I want to read a relevant part of the report. It shows how much consideration and honesty is in this Government. The report reads:

Mr Cooper said the VDIA was the pricing authority for milk in Victoria and at present he did not envisage any price rise for milk. ‘There was a IS per cent price rise for carton milk three weeks ago because of a duty unfairly imposed by the Federal Government on paper board used in the manufacture of cartons, ‘ Mr Cooper said.

That is a shocking thing. The Federal Government is trying to accuse the Victorian Government of increasing the price of milk when the increase was because of a duty on cartons. I believe, with other honourable members on this side, that the Minister should come into the House and answer the amendment moved by the honourable member for Blaxland. He should refute some of the statements. The dairy industry has proved that it is efficient. It is a vital part of the Australian rural industry. I hope that the Government will have a look at these things to see whether there is some way by which they can co-operate with the States and not hide behind the States to knock back this legislation.


– It was not my intention to speak to this Bill because I know that the House will be pressed for time to get legislation through in the next couple of days before the end of the parliamentary session. The honourable member for Riverina (Mr FitzPatrick) is a good old friend of mine. He is one of the genuine people on the Opposition side of the Parliament. But he quite disappointed me tonight in the way that he raised certain matters in this debate. On the one hand he was trying to say that this matter should be beyond party politics, but on the other hand he was not recognising- in fact the Opposition amendment confirms this- that the Australian Labor Party has not come up with any alternative. All it is trying to do by its amendment is to put a wedge into the frail situation which the Government certainly admits exists in the dairy industry in Australia today.

The Labor Party, for one reason or another, has no alternative to this legislation. Members opposite have referred to the lack of consultation with State governments and the dairy industry and dairy producer authorities. But this is just not true. As we know, during the last two years, and particularly in the last year, there have been many meetings of the Australian Agricultural Council on this very subject. The greatest possible consultation has taken place and it is a great disappointment to members on this side of the House that for reasons we understand there was no way by which the industry and the States could decide on a plan. I congratulate the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) for going ahead and virtually saving this industry from the certain self-destruction that it seems to wish.

We know how difficult it has been for the Government to produce this Bill. I admit quite frankly that the legislation probably suits no State or no diary producer. One could almost say that the dairy industry is one of the favoured rural industries in Australia. The Federal Government is underwriting its operations to a massive extent. At the same time, this legislation still will not please most people in the industry. In particular, it does not suit Western Australia. We would rather have had the original stage 2 proposition.

Let me tell honourable members why this is the case. Western Australia is in a position different from that of most other States, mainly because it has a very small manufacturing industry. If there are to be further cuts in Western Australian manufacturing industry, a certain position is likely to develop in times of stress. This became very evident when cyclone Alby struck the west and south coast of Western Australia on 4 April 1 978. After 6 hours of winds, there was a shortage of fresh milk in Perth during the following days. In Western Australia, at time of stress, we are extremely close to not having enough milk to supply the fresh milk market in Perth. Further cuts in the manufacturing side of our industry in Western Australia could mean that in the period immediately ahead- next year or the year after- we could be in a position of not having enough milk to supply the Perth fresh milk market. The producers in Western Australia argue, quite legitimately I believe, that there should be no cut in the Western Australian manufacturing entitlement. I have risen in the debate on this occasion to put that point to the House and to say that States such as Western Australia are participating in the legislation reluctantly. We hope that the other States, in particular the major producing State of Victoria, recognise that this industry is receiving a tremendous amount of Commonwealth support. Such States should endeavour to tidy up their affairs and to play the game on a national basis.

Minister for Primary Industry · New England · NCP/NP

– in reply- I thank honourable members for their contributions to the debate. The honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) should realise that there are ways by which honourable members can hear what goes on in this chamber without necessarily being present in the chamber. I think it is desirable that I should explain to the House just how it is seen that the quantitative limits will be imposed at the factory levels without State government co-operation. I do so to reply to the amendment moved by the Opposition at this second reading stage. I think that it is essential also to give the background to the matter. The States were prepared to introduce complementary legislation with the consequential over-quota levies that would have flowed had we introduced national aggregate entitlements and State aggregate entitlements.

Without going into the whole of the original concept, the idea was that there would be a national aggregate entitlement and each State would be given a State aggregate entitlement. Levies would be imposed on production over the State aggregate entitlements. The levies were to be distributed on recommendations from the Australian Agricultural Council. Those levies certainly were not capable of being applied by Commonwealth legislation alone. Therefore, we were in a position in which, if anything were to be done to restrain production, we had to try to devise a system which could have applied under Commonwealth legislation. This scheme is premised on such an objective. The idea is that there will be quantitative limitations. We believe that it is a scheme which will have a meaningful relationship in two respects. Firstly, it will give dairy farmers an income which will enable them to sustain their farms and give them a period of adjustment at a time when markets are uncertain. Secondly, because there will be no levy and because there will be no system of imposing restraint, it was necessary to try to devise a way by which farmers realised that production over a quota needed to be identified separately from production within the quota.

A quota in this instance will be set by an underwriting entitlement. Perhaps the word ‘quota’ is not the correct word to use. But for that portion of a farmer’s production that is covered by underwriting, he will be receiving a significantly higher sum than he will receive for any production that is outside that allocation. The legislation is not dependent upon State production quotas or upon State legislative powers. The legislation is based upon the Commonwealth Government’s taxing and financial powers. No complementary State legislation is required. The basic element of the legislation is that, if underwriting ceilings are fixed for a prescribed product, the stabilisation paymentsthat is levy proceeds plus the Government underwriting- will be limited to the product underwriting quotas that are established in proportion to each factory’s production in the base period adopted. Any production in excess of a factory’s quota will receive only the average export pool return.

The honourable member for Forrest (Mr Drummond) and other honourable members who have spoken in the debate have stated that in the implementation of the scheme there will be some areas of difficulty. Therefore, the Government is proposing that the regime will be established on a set of principles which will be tabled in this House. Of course, the Parliament has the power to disallow those principles if it so wishes. The set of principles will enable an identification of a basis by which an individual factory’s production quotas will be set. There could be some instances in which, for various reasons, exemptions will be required to those quotas. In my second reading speech, I identified a number of the causes in respect of which we see there might be a need for the Australian Dairy Corporation to make a judgment whether they might be so varied.

I can assure the House that it is the intention that the principles will be laid down largely in consultation with the Australian Dairy Corporation and the Australian Dairy Industry Authority. In other words, the people who are involvedthose people who have emerged from the industry and who are responsible for the industry- will be the people laying down the principles on which the quotas themselves will be allocated. I will answer a specific question asked by the honourable member for Blaxland. The honourable member has asked how the scheme will work if one State Government seeks not to participate in it. Let me say at the outset that although I understand there has been only one government that has responded on the matterthat is Western Australia and it has raised some questions- no State government at this stage has rejected the scheme. I believe that there have been a number of statements in the Press from the Victorian Minister for Agriculture. But we have received no communication other than the asking of a few questions. The Victorian Government has not rejected the Commonwealth’s proposals. I understand that the Victorian Minister has indicated that his Government will not contribute directly to the Commonwealth Government’s cost sharing proposals. In other words, the dairy farmers in Victoria will be receiving their 75c per lb butter fat at the farm gate instead of 80c per lb. But the Minister has said that he will develop a scheme which will give Victorian dairy farmers that additional 5c per lb. I do not know how he will do that. The Minister says that he will do it through the Victorian Dairy Industry Authority. It remains to be seen how this is to be done.

If a State does not take up the offer of the Commonwealth Government, the Commonwealth will be providing the equivalent of 75c per lb butterfat at the farm gate for the 1978-79 season. The farmer will be receiving the underwritten amount for that production that is within the allocated dairy factory quota. Beyond that, they will be receiving only the amount that they would receive on the free market. Of course, there will be a significant difference in the proceeds. We believe that, because of that difference in proceeds, there will be a distinct disincentive for farmers to produce that additional milk. Let me explain why there will be a disincentive. I think that all honourable members realise that, in terms of producing milk, the position depends upon how many cows the farmer has in lactation, how much feed the cows receive and a number of matters, all of which involve costs. If the return from having additional cows in lactation is insufficient, we are certain that there will be a disincentive to produce. However if that does not work and to ensure that any problems that do arise do not continue in the scheme, we have provided for the scheme to be reviewed at the end of this 12-month period. That should provide an opportunity to ensure that, if there are problems in the application of the scheme, they can be corrected.

It has been suggested that some States such as Victoria could adopt measures in an attempt to defeat the purpose of this scheme.. For example, they could heavily subsidise over-quota production. My viewpoint is that it would be rather difficult to think that any State would act so irresponsibly. Every State in Australia has a very substantial interest in the well-being of its domestic dairy industry. It certainly would not be in its interest to act in that way. However, if in the most unlikely event a State did act in such a manner the Government would need to review the selective underwriting arrangements. In effect, the Government could not stand by and allow any independent action by a State on the underwriting of dairy farmers returns which would be incompatible with the interests of the dairy industry as a whole.

There are other ways by which this scheme could be made to operate. The Commonwealth could always have recourse to section 96 grants if any State really wanted to play it tough. So there are ways, I believe, by which it would be possible for this scheme to ensure that a distinct difference is drawn in the minds of the dairy farmers between that part of their production which is covered by underwriting and that part which is not. As it is within the Commonwealth’s powers to ensure that this will happen, I believe that the scheme will work and can work. Therefore it has much to be commended.

I suggest, therefore, that the Opposition’s amendment has no real relationship with the circumstances which exist in the dairy industry at this stage. I know that the Opposition does not like underwriting. I know that generally it has removed assistance from dairy farmers and that therefore the Opposition probably would be fundamentally and philosophically opposed to the assistance which we believe dairy farmers need for this period. What we are seeking to do is to give dairy farmers an incentive to produce to the point of production where the produce can be sold profitably. We hope that over a period the level of that assistance can be tailored down progressively. I know that- there are problems in various States- in Victoria, which is a major producing State; in Queensland, which I know has real problems in the industry;, and in Western Australia, which I believe has acted most responsibly in responding to this call, even though it is a significant net importer of butter and butter derivatives.

I believe that this scheme will work. It is the only one which I can see will give us any chance realistically to relate the level of dairy production in Australia to reasonable market opportunities. It is for that reason that we have introduced the Bill in this form. I am sorry that it has been introduced so late in the session. It is late because it has taken such an extraordinary amount of negotiation in areas in which there has been fundamental conflict. I believe that it is unfortunate that amongst the State governments there are still some reservations about the scheme. I am delighted to say that the Australian Dairy Farmers Federation, the producer representative body throughout Australia, has endorsed the scheme. I therefore commend the Bill in its present form to the House.

Amendment negatived.

Original question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

In Committee

The Bill.


– I raise an aspect of clause 6 of the Dairy Industry Stabilization Amendment Bill on which the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) might wish to expatiate. Clause 6(3) states:

Where the Minister has determined quotas in respect of factories for a production period in respect of dairy products of a particular kind or particular kinds, a stabilisation payment is not payable in respect of dairy products of that kind. or of any of those kinds, produced at a factory during that period unless the factory is a factory in respect of which such a quota has been determined.

In the Minister’s reply to the Opposition’s amendment to the motion for the second reading of the Bill he did not make abundantly clear whether it will be the Commonwealth which will be able to fix the quota of a factory. It seems to us that the blanket underwriting of 75c per lb of butterfat would be indiscriminate and would not be a disincentive to overproduction of certain commodities, such as butter, and an encouragement for the production of other more desirable commodities, such as fresh milk products and whole milk powder, if the’ scheme could be flouted by the fact that a State might not fix quotas and might not participate in the scheme.

Whilst the Minister might say that he has had no contact with the Victorian Government, the point is that the Victorian Government might be so contemptuous of the scheme that it does not intend to contact him. In the view of the Victorian Government its Press statements might suffice as an indication that it will not accede to becoming part of the scheme in respect of the Victorian industry. As the Victorian manufactured milk industry is the largest in Australia, it would seem to us to be important that Victoria should be involved in the scheme. Can the Minister fix the quotas for each factory; or is the amount of 95,000 tonnes fixed as a general quota for the Commonwealth and is it then up to each State to score off the Commonwealth, as for instance Victoria would be doing if no quotas were fixed for factories and if it then devised a scheme which would take the price from 75c to 80c per lb butterfat?

Minister for Primary Industry · New England · NCP/NP

– If the honourable member cares to look at clause 5 of the Dairy Industry Stabilization Amendment Bill he will see that principles on which quotas are to be determined are to be established after consultation with the Australian Dairy Corporation. In fact, the Corporation will be very intimately involved in setting down the basis upon which individual factories will have a quota determined. The idea is that principles will be laid down as to how many factories in each State will receive a quota and to what degree. Although the actual determination under clause 6 will be made by the Minister, the recommendation of the ADC will be the basis upon which that determination is made.

Mr Keating:

– So the Federal Minister will fix the quota on the Corporation’s recommendation?


– He will actually make his determination on its recommendation. But the principles will also be laid down and an opportunity will be given to the Parliament to consider how those principles should apply and whether there are problems. It will be for the industry to determine whether there are difficulties in the application of the principles.

Mr Keating:

– So the 75c will apply to a particular factory nominated in accordance with the Corporation ‘s recommendations? . Mr SINCLAIR-Yes. That is right.

Bill agreed to.

Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.

Third Reading

Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.

Bill (on motion by Mr Sinclair) read a third time.

page 3190


Second Reading

Consideration resumed from 6 June, on motion by Mr Sinclair:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

Question resolved in the affirmative. Bill read a second time.

Third Reading

Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.

Bill (on motion by Mr Sinclair) read a third time.

page 3190


Second Reading

Consideration resumed from 6 June, on motion by Mr Sinclair:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

Third Reading

Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.

Bill (on motion by Mr Sinclair) read a third time.

page 3191


Second Reading

Debate resumed from 6 June, on motion by Mr Street:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

Leader of the Opposition · Oxley

– The real intent of this Bill is twofold. First, it is designed to overcome the Government’s embarrassment that it does not have sufficient funds to ensure full payment of ministerial salaries this financial year. Secondly, and more significantly, its passage will ensure that the Government does not in future have to seek parliamentary approval of any new increase in Ministers’ allowances. For these reasons, there is a certain amount of sensitivity within the Government over the terms of the amending Bill. It has been slipped in on the eve of the Parliament’s adjournment, presumably in the hope that it might be overlooked in the last minute flourish of legislation.

The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has signalled his embarrassment by his absence from the Parliament. It is typical of the right honourable member for Wannon that he is missing.

He is always missing when issues that call for public explanation or public defence of his Government’s actions come before this House. During the 1 975 election campaign, the present Prime Minister expended a lot of hot air in his self-righteous denunciation of the size of the Whitlam Ministry. After the elections, he did in fact reduce the numbers by three to a Ministry of 24. But reality caught up with the political rhetoric, and two years later the Fraser Ministry had progressively inflated to the original 27. We no longer heard any more about top-heavy ministries and so-called waste and extravagance. The Prime Minister was even ready further to enlarge his Ministry to 28 last December until Senator Sheil talked his way out of a job.

In retrospect, the Prime Minister can be thankful that his National Country Party colleague in another place has too long a tongue. The vacancy created by Senator Sheil ‘s dismissal has never been filled.

If it had been, or if Senator Sheil had kept his place, the additional appropriation now sought by the Bill before the House would have needed to have been larger. The reason, of course, is that the Ministers of State Act 1 952, which this Bill amends, allows for a ministry of 27 but, under the pressure of higher salaries, does not provide an appropriation of funds large enough to pay all

  1. Unless this Bill is passed, the appropriation this financial year will fall short of the total sum needed by some $23,000. In many respects, it is a pity that this does not happen. Perhaps then this Government and its financially well-insulated Ministry of 27 would come to understand why the ordinary wage earner of this country rejects the Prime Minister’s repudiation of wage indexation. Unlike the Ministry, the ordinary worker cannot simply draw up a piece of legislation and vote himself the extra money to which he believes he is entitled. This point should be remembered the next time the Government is preparing its case for the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission.

There is no logic and very little administrative sense in the changes the Prime Minister has made in ministerial portfolios over the last Vh years. They have been dictated entirely by political considerations. The Department of the Special Trade Negotiator- later renamed the Department of the Special Trade Representative was created a year ago when there was already a large and powerful Department of Overseas Trade. “The point was simple: The Prime Minister wanted one of his own proteges, the present Treasurer (Mr Howard), to conduct ministerial level trade negotiations. He was not prepared to entrust the job to Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Overseas Trade (Mr Anthony). That remained the case, even when the honourable member for Bennelong was elevated to the position of Treasurer.

After last year’s December elections another Prime Ministerial protege was moved into the Special Trade Representations portfolio, in the person of the honourable member for Curtin (Mr Garland). Previously, the honourable member for Curtin had been warming-up, as it were, in the portfolio of Veterans’ Affairs after his spell of involuntary retirement from the Ministry. He continued to manage that portfolio after Senator Sheil talked his way from grace, and he did it without strain or apparent administrative difficulty, despite prolonged absences from Australia on his wanderings around Europe. That is fair measure of the workload of the Veterans’ Affairs portfolio. It can be handled as a dual responsibility by a Minister who spends more time overseas on his other alleged duties than he does in this country. Yet that same portfolio was to be given to Senator Sheil without any other duties attached, even though it would have enlarged the overall size of the Ministry to

  1. The fact that the honourable member for Curtin has been able, for six months, to run the Veterans’ Affairs portfolio from the other side of the world emphasises how unnecessary it is for this portfolio to have its own Minister. It can be comfortably handled as a secondary responsibility by some other Minister.

The Prime Minister sought to do otherwise only because of political expediency. The Liberal Party and the National Party in Queensland had been locked in a bitter struggle over the split-up of portfolios in the State Cabinet. To find some way out of the impasse, their Federal colleagues arranged for an additional Queensland National Country Party member in the Federal Ministry. The whole deal fell through only because of Senator Shell’s severe attack of foot in mouth, which is a common complaint among members of the National Country Party. Now it is announced that another Queenslander from the National Country Party, the honourable member for Fisher (Mr Adermann), soon will be out of his job as Minister for the Northern Territory because of the Territory’s pending selfgovernment. That would be an obvious and ideal way for the Prime Minister to further his professed aim of reducing the size of the Ministry. But there is nothing to indicate he even considered the proposition seriously. The honourable member for Fisher will become Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, despite the fact that it has been demonstrated to have a workload insufficient to occupy one Minister’s attention on a full time basis.

Having diverted the main responsibility for trade negotiations away from the Deputy Prime Minister, the Prime Minister then set about taking away other responsibilities and giving them to another Liberal Minister. The Departments of Overseas Trade and National Resources, both large policy departments by any standard, were forced to merge, with a resultant confusion that still has not been sorted out. The residue of the Department of National Resources not absorbed in the merger became the Department of National Development, once again ensuring that there would be no reduction in the overall size of the Ministry. Two years ago, with a considerable flourish, the Prime Minister created the Department of Productivity.

At the time the Australian Financial Review commented:

Next stop in the field of ad hoc political conjuring tricks will probably be a Department of Business Confidence.

In the same editorial the newspaper continued:

Productivity is by definition about output per person. That in turn is about industrial efficiency.

Can anyone seriously argue about that? Can anyone expect one Government department to attack such a problem in isolation from the whole general thrust of government policy? The Minister for Productivity (Mr Macphee), an additional appointment to the Ministry, was given a virtually impossible task. In any event, less than a year later, one of his most important individual responsibilities- that covering employment training policy- was handed over to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street). Admittedly, before that change, neither Minister knew for sure who was responsible for specific aspects of training policy. The Department of Productivity has had clashes of that sort with other, more entrenched sections of the bureaucracy ever since it was created. This simply reflects the fact that it was created as a reshuffle of the bureaucracy, to avoid a reshuffle of the Ministry. Every conflict that is resolved in favour of another Department eats away a little more of the Department of Productivity ‘s slender reasons for existence. At every stage of changes in the Fraser Ministry, the Prime Minister has gone out of his way to ensure there is no reduction of numbers. He was even prepared to expand them beyond the level which attracted his feigned fury so often in the years of the Labor Government. It is that feigned fury, and the double standard the Prime Minister has displayed since, that should be clearly on the record. The Opposition does not oppose this Bill. We simply draw public attention to the cynical political point-scoring that has gone before it.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

Third Reading

Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.

Bill (on motion by Mr Newman) read a third time.

page 3192


Second Reading

Debate resumed from 6 June, on motion by Mr Hunt:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

Minister for National Development · Bass · LP

– May I have the indulgence of the House to raise a point of procedure on this legislation? Before the debate is resumed on this Bill I would like to suggest that it may suit the convenience of the House to have a general debate covering this Bill, the Health Insurance Amendment Bill, the Health Insurance Levy Assessment Amendment Bill and the Hospitals and Health Services Commission (Repeal) Bill as they are associated measures. Separate questions will of course be put on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate. I suggest therefore, Mr Deputy Speaker, that you permit the subject matter of the four Bills to be discussed in this debate.


-Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering the four measures?

Dr Klugman:

– Yes.


– I will allow that course to be followed.


-Two of the Bills before the House- the National Health Amendment Bill and the Health Insurance Amendment Bill- generally speaking deal with matters which the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) forecast in his statement about two weeks ago to introduce changes which allegedly will reduce the cost of health insurance, the cost of health care to the Australian population. We have discussed those changes previously and the Opposition has repeatedly pointed out that we disagree with the points which have been made by the Minister and by this Government, the particular points which were to reduce costs, and that it was an unfair method, the net result of which would be an increasing cost burden on the sick and the poor due to the Government’s dismantling of Labor’s Medibank scheme.

In dealing with the Bills today I point out that the Opposition strongly supports the introduction of the travelling allowance and overnight stay allowance scheme which is proposed as part of the amendments to the National Health Act; that we do realise that persons living a long way away- defined in this legislation as 200 kilometres away- from the nearest specialist needed some subsidy and we agree that this is a much better method of dealing with it than the proposals which have often been suggested by persons writing to us. I am sure all of us have received letters asking for the inclusion of availability of tax deductions for those travelling. Tax deductions of course help people who pay fairly high taxation. They do not help people at all if they do not pay tax and yet the people who do not pay tax are obviously the poorest people in the community in many cases, apart from those who have taken advantage of the Curran scheme and similar schemes and they need these sorts of allowances.

The Opposition, however, completely rejects the major changes and those we are dealing with in this legislation are the abolition of bulk billing, the reduction of the refund- which means of course an increase in the patient contributionand the introduction of deductibles. The Australian Council of Social Services produced a statement when these Bills were introduced in the House and I think in some ways it summarises the views of many other people who have contacted me, and my own views as to what is the effect of this legislation. We must remember that the Australian Council of Social Services is an organisation of welfare people who are involved with the poorer sections of the community. In that statement the Council said:

ACOSS views with extreme concern the changes in the health insurance system announced yesterday by the Minister for Health. The Council said that the abolition of bulk billing, for all but pensioners -

It should really be eligible pensioners- and the increased gap between fee and benefit will cause considerable hardship to low income earners in the community. Those who are not so readily identified as the pensioner but who will find it very difficult to pay for their medical care at the time they receive the service. They include the unemployed and others receiving government benefits, such as the lone parents; low wage earners supporting large families, and people with chronic recurrent illness which results in short periods of absence from work and consequent loss of wages. ‘These people will be worse off under the new system than they were even under the old Supplementary Benefits Scheme -

That is back in the early 1 970s- although that proved notoriously unsatisfactory’, the Council said. The abolition of bulk billing will also increase the overall cost of health care, as it will add considerably to the cost of administration, especially for Medibank Standard, for which the Government itself is directly responsible.

ACOSS continues that it is totally opposed to the principle of front end deductibles which serve only to assist the younger and healthier section of the community and will inevitably result in additional costs to those in most need of service, unless all the health funds are to become insolvent. They conclude by saying:

Instead of a balanced approach, the new measures will cause undue hardship to the poor and chronically ill. The new measures will not control health costs and are not the solution to the problems of Australia’s health system.

The Opposition will move an amendment to the National Health Amendment Bill and I formally move it now. I move:

On the Health Insurance Amendment Bill I foreshadow that when that particular Bill is at the second reading stage I shall move:

That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: ‘the Bill be withdrawn and re-drafted to exclude (a) reduction of the level of benefits from 85% to 70% of the scheduled fee, (b) the abolition of bulk billing for all except eligible pensioners and their dependants and (c) the introduction of optional deductible schemes, and be re-introduced immediately to include the other measures’.

The first Bill on the Notice Paper is the National Health Amendment Bill. It provides for health insurance organisations, private health funds, to operate approved medical and hospital deductibles and it foreshadows that guidelines will be issued at a later stage by regulation. The Opposition opposes this on a number of grounds. I think some of the grounds were outlined in the discussion paper which was supposed to be the basis of this legislation.

The discussion paper was tabled about two months ago and the Minister assured us that it was to be the basis for changes. Paragraph 149 on page 69 of the paper, dealing with deductibles, states:

Unfortunately, no information is available to determine exactly what size of deductible within tolerable limits would begin to have an important effect on the demand for medical care.

It is quite obvious that the Government will be working in the dark. It talks about bringing out guidelines after discussion with the funds, but obviously it does not know what to put in those guidelines. The same discussion paper, referring to deductibles, points out that in a community where there is health insurance, especially universal health insurance, premiums must be calculated on the basis of community rating. Not only do the healthy subsidise the sick but the single person subsidises the married person, the young subsidise the old, the middle-aged person subsidises both young families and old contributors, small families subsidise large families, and males subsidise females in most age groups. The paper goes on:

While risk rating would be cheaper for the single, young and healthy than community rating, it has usually been held to be unfair to discriminate on grounds beyond the individual ‘s control.

That is one of the Opposition’s main objections to the introduction of deductibles. When the Minister originally forecast the legislation I hoped that he would ensure at least that the funds would be reasonable in the introduction of deductibles by insisting that each fund, if it did bring in deductibles, still had to continue a scheme for persons who wanted to have insurance cover for everything. However, I see that in his second reading speech, when referring to the optional deductibles that he foreshadowed in his statement to the House on 24 May, the Minister stated:

The proposed new provisions allow health insurance organisations to plan and with the approval of the Minister for Health, operate benefit tables in addition to, or in place of, the basic medical and hospital benefits tables now operated by registered organisations. These new arrangements can apply to both medical and hospital benefits.

I think this is wrong. I think that deductibles are wrong in any case, but it is particularly wrong in this case because it will encourage some funds to concentrate only on healthy people. At the present time if a large fund such as the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia or Medibank Private offered deductibles it could assume that the healthier persons subscribing to the fund would take out the deductibles- younger people, single people, persons with small families, people who have reason to believe that it is a fair bet that they will not be spending $ 100 or $200 on health care during the year. They will go for the deductibles and the rest will stay in the general fund, covered for anything. Obviously, the net result of that, if the persons to whom I have referred are accurate in their forecasts that they will have fewer claims, will be to leave a much larger than expected proportion of claims with the others. Whilst some people would get a discount, others would have to pay more. But at least that would be balanced by the fund itself because if it increased the charges to the general population the fund would lose a large proportion of those people who are left after those who want to opt for deductibles are taken out. The funds would now be careful about the deductibles. We know that a fund can be started that offers only deductibles and not a general cover, and surely some smart operator will start a fund for healthy people and his organisation will show a profit and do very well. I think that is completely unfair, and I believe that the Minister ought to have a look at it when he is considering the guidelines for the introduction of deductibles.

Although the Opposition does not want any funds with deductibles, if we are to keep any semblance of universal health insurance we do not want funds to be able to offer huge deductibles. For $20 a year I could offer a deductible of say $5,000, where a contributor would pay the first $5,000 of his health expenditure, and I would be taking no great risk. The result of that would be that a large number of persons, who think they are fit and well and who believe that they contribute an unnecessarily high proportion of their income towards the upkeep of health care for Australians generally, would join that fund and would really be opting out of the universal health system.

Mr Hunt:

– That is just not on.


– I am glad to hear that. I hope that the money limit will be quite low. If the money limit is very low then we do not interfere at all with expenditure on hospitals. As we know, hospitalisation is quite expensive. The average bed day cost of hospitals has now reached $ 1 50, and if there is a low limit for deductibles then people will not be constrained at all by it.

The other point that I have raised before and which I consider to be quite unjust and unfair is that persons who opt out are generally the healthier people in the community and the healthier people are often the wealthier people. They will be able to get a tax deduction for any health expenditure they incur. So if they back themselves as not having a great chance of becoming ill but nonetheless incur expenses during the year, they will be able to deduct those expenses from their taxable income in most cases. In effect, they will get a government subsidy through a tax deduction of 32c in the dollar if they earn less than $16,000, 46c if they earn more than $16,000 and 60c if they earn over $32,000. However, the person who pays his contribution to a fund does not get any tax deduction for it. Again, that is unfair.

To summarise, I feel that discriminating in favour of those who rarely need medical treatment and against those who need it often should not be the purpose of any national health scheme worthy of the name. Whether the Government admits it or not, it is toying with the idea of moving further and further away from the concept of universal health insurance towards a system of partial insurance which will place an unfair financial burden on those most in need of medical care. It is back to the bad old pre-Medibank days when uncertainty reigned supreme, and I think that is an important point.

I understand that tomorrow we will be debating the proposition about Bills going into the Committee stages where a few of us will sit around the table where we might be able to have some rational discussion. In the Bill the Minister makes it a condition for registration that a private fund should not bulk bill. How can he possibly justify that? We do not know whether bulk billing has any effect on costs. Figures were provided earlier this year, that we do not know the effect of bulk billing. Even if the effect is adverse, surely there is no reason why we could not look at the claims experience of the Hospitals Benefits Association, for example, which as far as I know is the only fund in Victoria which has gone in for bulk billing. It could continue bulk billing, which would help to give us a rational answer without any cost to the taxpayer. There would be no cost to the taxpayer because we do not subsidise medical insurances in that sense as far as the HBA is concerned. It could continue bulk billing. The HBA would soon know whether it was being defrauded or whether unnecessary services were being used by the people whose visits were bulk billed or unnecessary services were being performed by the doctors who bulk bill. Surely it would be a reasonable proposition to allow bulk billing to continue with respect to that private fund at least.

I think the abolition of bulk billing which is proposed in this Bill and in the second Bill more generally is a very retrograde step. Surprisingly enough, I have had a fair amount of support on this matter from a significant number of medical practitioners who have rung me or visited me. I know that the Minister has met with and been contacted by a number of medical practitioners who work in with persons who do not have much money or do not have the ability to fill in claim forms. As I understand, what will happen in those cases is that, because of the ideological attitude of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and his insistence on the abolition of bulk billing, we will rely on ‘pay doctor’ cheques. Those cheques will be sent to the patient, care of the doctor’s address. The net result is ridiculous.

A large extra administrative cost is involved. Cheques must be made out to each patient. A large number of individual cheques must be sent out. Obviously that involves much more expense than the present system. The Minister admits this fact when he refers to the figure of $7m, which I think is an under estimate, for the extra cost to Medibank of the abolition of bulk billing.

What will happen? Instead of doctors passing to the patient assignment forms available for bulk billing at present, in the case of those patients who will no longer be eligible for bulk billing the doctor will have Medibank patients sign Medibank claim forms. The doctor’s secretary will make out an account, fill in the Medibank claim form for the patient, put the doctor’s address on that claim form and a letter will be sent from Medibank to the patient, care of the doctor’s address, containing a cheque made out in the name of the doctor. The proposal is ridiculous. I can only believe that it has been agreed to by either the Prime Minister who knows little about this issue or the Deputy Whip, the honourable member for Petrie (Mr Hodges) who, as a chemist, knows that chemists will collect, when the doctor so wishes 60c for each claim on top of everything else. In respect of each claim form and each ‘pay doctor’ cheque, in addition to the extra cost already involved, Medibank will have to pay the chemist 60c. Four or six claims will not be made on one account. Claim forms will be submitted individually because the chemist wants to collect his 60c on each. I do not blame him for that. But I think it is ridiculous to penalise patients- and, in some cases, doctors who are prepared to work for lesser fees in poorer areas or with poorer patients -and to incur additional expenditure in the form of the extra bureaucracy required in Medibank or in the payments to chemists who will benefit from the change. I oppose next the increase from $2 to $2.50 in the patient contribution for each pharmaceutical benefit. Again it is an unnecessary increase, especially at this stage. There will be an increase from $2 to $2.50, a 25 per cent increase. There is also an increase in the gap, which the patient has to meet, from 15 per cent to 25 per cent, an increase of 66 per cent. These are huge increases. It is not right to talk about a 10 per cent increase in the gap. The difference of course is 66 per cent. The patient has been paying 1 5 per cent but he now has to pay 25 per cent. That is 10 per cent extra contribution on the original 1 5 per cent, a 66 per cent increase in his payment. These are large increases. They will no doubt be passed on in the consumer price index. They will no doubt annoy the Government when they are passed on.

Mr Charles Jones:

– It will shed crocodile tears.


– Yes, and it will try to persuade the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission not to pass on the increase. We are dealing with -

Mr Charles Jones:

– The Treasurer is a phoney. It is a r corrupt Government.


– Yes, I agree with the honourable member for Newcastle. It is a corrupt Government. In the Health Insurance Amendment Bill, we are dealing with a number of amendments. As I pointed out earlier, we accept some of them but the amendments to which we object are the gap increase, the abolition of bulk billing and the question of deductibles. The other point that I make on the question of the increase in the gap or the decrease in the refund is that the Government has very proudly stated that there has been no increase in taxation. Of course there has been an increase in taxation and, more specifically, there has been an indirect increase in the levy. The levy of 2.5 per cent remains the same but what the patient receives for that 2.5 per cent levy is specifically less. Therefore there is obviously a real increase in the levy.

Mr Hunt:

-It is still only 2.5c in the dollar.


– I know it is 2.5c. If the Government gave people nothing for that 2.5 per cent, would the Minister still say that it was justified because after all it is still only 2.5 per cent? Surely patients are paying 2.5 per cent for a purpose. They pay taxation for a purpose. If the Government reduces what it gives people in exchange for taxation, that has exactly the same effect as increasing taxation.

Mr Hunt:

– You are saying that, as the incomes go up, the levy should go down.


-No. What I am saying is that the levy goes up with incomes. It increases automatically with income up to the ceiling because it is imposed as 2.5 per cent of a rising income. What I am saying is that the 2.5 per cent levy has remained a 2.5 per cent levy, but for that amount the patient now does not receive the same refund as he used to. Instead of receiving 85 per cent of the scheduled fee he receives only 75 per cent of that fee. Obviously there has been a real increase in the levy.

Mr Hodges:

– That is more than he is worth.


– I would like to reply to some interjections but I also wish to raise a couple more points. I raise objection to a policy of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The ABC is under a fair amount of pressure from the Government. I am not suggesting that it is under pressure from the Minister for Health. I was invited to appear on a Monday Conference program which was to be recorded on 30 March this year to be televised on 3 April. The Minister was unavailable on that night and I suggested that possibly the chairman of the Government members health committee or Senator Peter Baume might be the appropriate person to discuss the question of health insurance and health costs with me on that program. I was informed by representatives of the ABC that, as I was the shadow Minister, it was not possible for the ABC to use anybody other than the Minister to oppose me on that issue and, therefore, the -

Mr Hodges:

– He would be more than a match for you.


– I am not disputing that. They are not my words. I would have been happy to appear with the honourable member, the Minister, Senator Baume or anybody else.

But representatives of the ABC refused. They said that that was their rule. Shadow ministers could not appear with any person other than the Minister concerned. It now seems that the Minister will appear on the program. A representative of the ABC rang me and told me that I could have a ticket to go along and ask one question. I did not accept that proposition. I think that it is wrong for the ABC to take that sort of attitude, and I hope that people can see that it is wrong.

I wish to make one point regarding the Hospitals Contribution Fund of Australia, one of the funds affected by this legislation. It is sending out letters justifying its attitude of not wanting to pay for persons in nursing homes. I would like to read from a letter which the HCF last year sent to contributors in nursing homes. It wrote to many nursing home patients in August 1977, after the changes had been announced, inviting nursing home patients to join HCF specially for nursing home benefits. The letter was headed ‘Important Message to Nursing Home Patients ‘ and stated:

The HCF, as one of Australia’s oldest and most experienced health funds, offers patients full nursing home benefits under its basic hospital table. This table also provides benefits of up to $40 a day to cover accommodation costs in a public or private hospital. . . . To join HCF ‘s basic hospital table, simply complete the application form in the attached brochure and hand it to the nursing home proprietor. If you are already in another private fund, you may transfer to the HCF . . .

That extract is from the letter sent out by the HCF and now it is complaining because people in nursing homes belong to the HCF and are making claims. What a ridiculous and hypocritical attitude that is on the part of the HCF. (Extension of time granted). I thank the House. There is a lot of material in these four Bills and I have much to say on the general issues. I think the Minister will agree that I have an interest in this issue of containing health costs and yet providing the maximum and best possible care for the Australian population.

The Opposition very strongly rejects the parts of this legislation which do certain things against the interests of the Australian public. Those points are specified in the amendments moved by the Opposition at the second reading stage. It is quite clear from the legislation that the legislation does not have to be proclaimed at any one time; in fact, there is provision for delaying the proclamation. There are different times for proclamation of different parts of this legislation. I hope the Minister will again reconsider some of these points because they are significant. There are people in this community who are not well off and do not have anybody to speak for them, even though we on this side of the House do try to speak for them. Generally speaking they are not vocal and often they are very deserving people. I know that the Minister met last Thursday with a group of doctors and others led by Professor Webster. I have before me a submission from Professor Webster and others associated with the meeting. The point they made in their criticism of this legislation is that certain groups will be specifically adversely affected. I would like the House to think about these groups. They are not necessarily in any particular order. The submission refers to them as follows:

  1. Migrants: problems of forms, confusion and communication.

I think that is an important point because forms become necessary. It becomes more difficult for them to make claims and to know what to do about payment of medical fees. Many more of them will now have to attend outpatient departments where often they will have even greater problems in making themselves understood. The submission continues:

  1. Large families: higher health costs, problems with red tape.
  2. Aborigines: hard hit by loss of medical services.

They will be hard hit by the loss of medical services. The submission continues:

  1. Unemployed: health costs, sense of futility and hopelessness.

They are already inflicted with this. We have people on the unemployment benefit who are worse off than some aged pensioners who are still entitled to fringe benefits. The total income of a couple entitled to fringe benefits can be in the order of $ 1 3 1 a week including their pension. We have unemployed parents with young families sometimes consisting of a number of children who would not have anything like that income and yet they are not entitled to take advantage of some of the benefits of our health legislation. The same applies to the chronically ill and handicapped who already have continually mounting health costs. They are not classified as invalid pensioners but they are in receipt of the sickness benefit. The sickness benefit is a relatively low benefit. They are not entitled to the pensioner health benefit card and therefore they are not entitled to either free pharmaceutical benefits or help in the form of bulk billing. This applies also to people with special disabilities. I think there is a large number of people in that group. The same applies to single parents.

I pointed out the other day that there are nearly 800,000 recipients of social security benefits who will no longer be able to benefit from bulk billing. In addition to persons who are actually receiving social security benefits, other people who are poor and who are sick, intermittently ill, sometimes with chronically ill children, are in receipt of very low incomes. They will have great difficulty in coping with the extra costs imposed by the decision taken by this Government. The total saving about which the Government speaks is $ 17m although it tends to change that figure from time to time. Certainly, the original figures we were given were $24m in savings and an extra cost of $7m because of the abolition of bulk billing. I think honourable members will agree that it is a very small saving. The Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) represents the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) in this House and he must be aware of the potential extra cost involved in moving people from the health field into the social security field. I feel that this is likely to happen.

This brings me to the other piece of legislation that we are debating tonight, the Hospitals and Health Services Commission (Repeal) Bill. I support the repeal of the Hospitals and Health Services Commission but not because I was dissatisfied with the sort of thing that it did. I think it did excellent work whilst it was in existence and whilst it was going flat out. The Commission appeared to me to consist of rational people who looked at problems and tried to find rational solutions for them. Dr Sax, who was the head of that Commission, did an excellent job and has now been appointed as the head of a new social welfare policy secretariat. That emphasises the relationship between health and social welfare. We are talking about the relationship between health and social welfare because we know that ill health is one of the main contributing factors to persons finishing up on invalid pensions and on other kinds of pensions and benefits, including unemployment benefits and special benefits. It seems to me quite remarkable that having appointed such a person and such a secretariat this Government then introduces legislation which, from the point of view of the Government and the Department of Health, at best will shift costs from the Department of Health to the Department of Social Security. It ignores the sorts of problems and hardships that it will be imposing on those people in the community who are least able to deal with them. I understand that this legislation does not have to be proclaimed immediately; in fact there is provision for certain sections of it not to be proclaimed for some time.

I hope that, before the Minister gets himself involved in transferring money from expenditure on straight health care to pay for extra people to work- to look at claims, to handle claims and to put things in envelopes- and to pay chemists who have a pharmacy close to a medical practice the extra 60c for filling in claim forms, he will have another look at the matter, talk to people who generally speaking do not support us politically, people such as medical practitioners, and those who work with some of the disadvantaged people in the community, and think about it again. Perhaps he will then come to the same conclusion as the Opposition has come to. We therefore ask him to withdraw the legislation and reintroduce it, omitting the unfair things which it brings about.


-Is the amendment seconded?

Mr Les McMahon:

– I second the amendment and reserve my right to speak at a later date.


-Before addressing myself to three of the four Bills that we are debating tonight in cognate fashion I want to make a few comments about the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman). I believe him to be a good and kind hearted member of Parliament and I extend that description to him in his former profession of medical practitioner, but I am indebted to the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Carlton), who described him- he came over to deliver the description to me just a while ago- as the soporofic doctor of gloomy prospects. On occasions when he addresses this House he reminds one of patients to whom tranquillisers and hypnotics have been administered -not only those of medium action but also, if one may say so, those of long term action.

I want to take up one point he made in relation to that very noble profession of pharmacy. It is a much maligned profession but it adds a great deal to the health of this nation. The pharmacist is a very important person in the health team. I think that the honourable member for Prospect would agree with me on that point. But he was rather critical of the abolition of bulk billing and the fact that, in his estimation, the pharmacist would benefit to a great extent. I put it to the House that the cost of the filling in of 1 5 of those claim forms for which the pharmacist will receive 60c- the honourable member spoke to me about this recently and I could not verify that the pharmacist would receive 60c for each of the claim forms that he filled in- is the equivalent of a visit to a doctor. There may be a pharmacist who is dishonest in filling out these forms, but that is a matter that can be policed.

I suggest that the honourable member take a look at those doctors who are exploiting our scheme and have exploited it in the past and I believe that he will come up with the answer that it would be better to abolish bulk billing when the patient is really not disadvantaged or when only a very few of them are disadvantaged to a minor extent. It is preposterous to suggest that pharmacists in this country will be encouraging patients to come into their shops in order to complete forms at the rate of 60c a time. The chemist provides an essential service to the community far in excess of that for which the honourable member for Prospect gives him credit. Doctors are charging about $8 to $10 for an ordinary visit. I believe that the pharmacist, in the provision of the service to the community for which he will receive 60c a time for filling in a form, provides a great deal of value.

I want to address myself particularly to a few matters in relation to three of these Bills. Firstly, in relation to the general pharmaceutical benefits patient increase from $2 to $2.50, 1 believe that there could be some hardship for some people in our community. I want to put forward to the House at this time two methods by which I believe the hardship can be alleviated. It is true that low income families- in his speech the honourable member for Prospect recognised that there are low income people, particularly those on unemployment benefits- could be disadvantaged by some of the changes, but I put it to the House that these people on low incomes, those whose pensions do not enable them to benefit from what are commonly called the fringe benefits, could go to their doctor if they are chronically ill or have a long term illness and claim from their doctor the right to one month’s supply of pharmaceuticals and two repeats.

On this point I want to take to task the many doctors throughout this nation who are too lazy to apply to the Director-General of Health to receive the necessary authority to allow them to prescribe one month’s supply and two repeats for one fee. There are too many of them. I should hope that the Australian Medical Association and indeed the Press would give some publicity to the fact that a doctor can apply, on behalf of chronically ill patients or patients with long term illnesses, to the Director-General for an authority to allow him to prescribe, for the one fee of $2.50, one month’s supply and two repeats.

Mr Hunt:

– And sometimes up to 6 months.


-As the Minister for Health says, in special circumstances, sometimes up to 6 months supply. A lot of people do not realise that that is the case where there is a hardship endured by people who are chronically ill. I believe that that is a matter to which the medical profession should address itself. That is one provision that exists and that has existed for some time which is available to the medical profession.

I want to put forward another proposal which I hope will be given some consideration by the Minister and his Department. It relates to people who are generally considered to be disadvantaged. The proposal I put forward is a scheme similar to the one that was in operation prior to 1975, when we came to government. It relates to a subsidised health benefit scheme. I believe that the scheme that operated then- although it was abolished because of the expense to the government at that time, particularly the administrative expense- could be reintroduced for the disadvantaged. One must look first of all at its history and see how the scheme evolved from the time it was introduced in 1970 for certain low income families.

I understand that this proposal was put forward in a revised form by the Pharmacy Guild of Australia to the medical profession for consideration. Prior to its abolition in 1975 it was costing about $2m per annum, with $ 1.3m of that being for administrative costs and $0.7m for actual benefits to patients. I believe that, with some modification, the very high administrative costs could be reduced. If this scheme were reintroduced it would be of considerable benefit to low income and disadvantaged groups. The plan would provide for these disadvantaged people to receive pharmaceutical benefits for a figure per item that could be determined- it may be $ 1 per item- with a further $ 1 .50 to be met by the Commonwealth. I believe that methods can be devised whereby those high administrative costs that amounted to in excess of 50 per cent of the total cost of the scheme could be reduced considerably.

The next point I wish to make is in relation to the increase of $2 to $2.50 which will mean that a number of items will be deleted from the pharmaceutical benefits list. I would have hoped that the Government could have seen fit to delay the increase from 1 July to 1 August, because we will have a situation where something of the order of 250 items, or about 30 per cent of items, will be deleted from 1 July because they will then be below the $2.50 mark. That is assuming that there are no price increases; but on 1 August we will see price increases that will result, I understand, in something of the order of 1 50 of these items going back on to the list. It is rather unfortunate that we will have deletion of items to that extent and then a reintroduction of so many of them after the price increase. This will be a difficult period for both doctors and pharmacists as well as patients, because this explanation will have to be made to them by both professions.

At this point I believe it is appropriate that I should inform the House- because I do not think it is generally known- that pharmacists will receive a higher professional fee for their service and a lesser mark-up on costs for all of the drugs dispensed. At the moment, for ordinary preparations- ordinary tablets and capsules and what we term ready prepared preparations- the pharmacist receives 33 W per cent plus a professional fee. This mark-up is to be reduced from 33 Vi per cent to 25 per cent and concurrently there will be an increase in the professional fee. I believe this is a step in the right direction for the profession. There is greater recognition of the professional fee on extemporaneously prepared items. Although I understand it amounts today to something like four or five per cent of total items, the profit margin will be reduced from 50 per cent to 33 ]A per cent and, of course, there will be the increase in the professional fee. That is not the end of the story because injectables that previously did not attract a fee will in future attract a dispensing fee.

So there is a complete restructuring of the remuneration of pharmacists, the profit mark-up and the dispensing fees, which I believe will in the future be of considerable benefit to the profession. The House is probably aware that there is an independent body operating now under the chairmanship of Mr Justice Ludeke. That Committee is comprised of members of the Department of Health and of the pharmacy profession. Those increases will apply shortly and there is an increase in fee that will be retrospective. It is an increase of 9c and it will be retrospective to 1 July 1977.

The next point I wish to make- and I believe it is an important one- I make as a member representing a city electorate, although the point relates to a benefit that applies to country people. I know the Minister for Health is extremely concerned and has been extremely concerned with the plight of many people in country areas. City dwellers do not fully appreciate the difficulties that arise when country people have to seek specialist attention in the city or in the larger provincial cities and towns. This initiative of the Government is to be applauded. City people can seek the attention of the medical profession right across the board, from the general practitioner to the best specialist in the land, without any hardship at all. Indeed, it may cost them only the expense of taking their motor vehicle to the doctor’s surgery, or of ordinary suburban public transport. But take the case of the individual in a country area who has to travel many hundreds of kilometres after being referred by a general practitioner. There is not only the cost of the fares but also the cost of accommodation, quite apart from the cost of any service that may be rendered as a result of that trip. I believe that all political parties in this nation support a decentralisation policy. As I see it, this is a great initiative of this Government and I commend the Minister for Health for introducing this proposal in the National Health Amendment Bill of 1 978.

The next point I wish to make is in relation to the restriction of benefits for services by registered medical practitioners outside Australia. We had the fiasco in this country of one Milan Brych, who is operating in the Cook Islands as a socalled cancer specialist. Without canvassing to any great extent the treatment, ability or success rate of this particular doctor, I want to say that our system in this country, which has operated now for a number of years, has always recognised the registration of the doctor in the particular country in which he operates. In this particular instance we have seen what I believe to be an unscrupulous man who will not reveal his treatments to the world. An analogy has been drawn by the Premier of Queensland between Milan Brych ‘s case and that of Sister Kenny, but I say to the House that they are totally different propositions.

Sister Kenny operated many, many years ago and her treatments were fully known to the medical profession, although not recognised by the profession of the day. That particular case is entirely different from the case of Milan Brych. At least Sister Kenny’s treatments were known and the medical profession of the day made its position quite clear. The difference between that situation and the one that exists with the case of a Milan Brych is that he will not reveal his treatment to the medical profession for assessment and evaluation. Are we to allow people to go to those islands, pay for expensive treatment and accommodation and fares, and have them hoodwinked by someone I believe to be a fraud? Good heavens, this is 1978.

I do not believe that any nation would agree with a continuation of that policy. If a so-called medical practitioner has a treatment that he believes is of value to mankind, he should make it known quite openly. The opportunity was given to this particular individual by the Minister for Health, Mr Hunt, and by the Queensland Minster for Health, Dr Edwards. I want to commend both Ministers for their stand in relation to this charlatan. We cannot have this son of fiasco repeated. Indeed, this is a very emotional subject. When people’s health is at stake, of course they become emotional. Perhaps in no instance do they become more emotional than in the case of cancer sufferers, particularly those who have terminal conditions.

Finally, I want to move into the areas of the changes to the health insurance system. The objectives of the Government have been made quite clear by the Minister. We are encouraging responsible use of one of the best health services in the world, and that ought to be recognised by all Australians. It is one of the best and most responsible health services in the world and we must encourage a responsible use of that service. We must ensure that we do not have abuse or over-use. I repeat that we must not have an abuse or over-use of health services. The honourable member for Prospect knows only too well that in this country we have scores of doctors who are only too ready to abuse the system. If that happens, this Government and any future government must move to minimise the abuse.

Of course, we must obtain the best value for the taxpayers’ money. Surely nobody would deny this. We must promote competition. This is the sole purpose of the options that are left open to the private health insurance funds in relation to front end deductibles. The changes are quite clearly identified. The patient will pay a maximum charge of $10. As I have stated in this House repeatedly, there must be a substantial identifiable cost to the patient otherwise he will treat the service lightly. I repeat that there will be no disability for pensioners and for repatriation patients. This is a very important point which should be publicised.


Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.


-The second reading speech to the National Health Amendment Bill delivered yesterday by the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) was in many ways very odd. The proclaimed and obstensible object of the Bill is to reduce health costs. Ever since I have been in the Parliament- for the past six months- we have been told about this impending legislation whose object was to reduce health costs in this country. Yet the bulk of the Minister’s second reading speech was devoted to how the Government planned to add a further $7m to the health bill by the provision to assist persons who live in isolated areas to obtain specialist medical treatment. 1 welcome that expenditure to assist such people. Indeed, I think that a notable inequity has been defined and action has been taken to deal with it. I am not sure that I approve of the rather monstrously bureaucratic plan by which it will be implemented. I certainly think that the details of the proposal will need to be looked at. Nevertheless, the main thrust of the Bill is supposedly to cut the spiralling cost of health in this country. If any member of the public read the Minister’s second reading speech, he would never guess that that was the intention of the legislation. A few thousand people a year will be affected by the outback provisions. Probably a quarter of a million people a year will be affected by the abandoning of bulk billing for all but eligible pensioners. Again, the public would never guess this discrepancy from the balance of the Minister’s speech. The tax, in effect, of every Australian paying the health levy goes up as a result of the reduced returns through the coinsurance proposals of the Bill. But again, the Australian public would never guess that from the balance of the Minister’s speech.

I think at best the Minister’s speech yesterday was incongruous and at worst hypocritical. I confess that on the evidence of recent weeks the latter from this Minister would not be unexpected. The whole operation behind these measures has been described already by one leading national newspaper as an exercise in professional hypocrisy. The Minister continued yesterday the practice of which he was justly condemned a fortnight ago; that is, ‘treating the question of health policy solely as a public relations exercise in minimising political damage, using some transparently dishonest means of doing so’.

It might be argued that this is an unfair description of the Minister’s speeches, that he devoted much space to the outback provisions of the Bill and to the problems of Dr Milan Brych because in his various preliminary speeches and utterances which have been orchestrated over several months he had already dealt fully and completely with the problems of co-insurance, bulk billing and front end deductibles. Therefore he would only bore us by dealing with those issues again and so he took new issues which disguised the thrust of the Bill.

However, that excuse which some honourable members seem to wish to offer for the Minister neglects utterly the widespread and cogent criticisms directed at his announcements of 24 May 1978, criticisms not made simply from the Opposition but from the Australian Medical Association, the private health insurers and many social welfare groups. Let me take up some of those criticisms raised following the last major statement by the Minister on 24 May and not answered in the second reading speeches of the Minister yesterday. What response is made in these measures to accommodate the criticism that at least 800,000 social security beneficiaries will be excluded from bulk billing? What response does the Bill make to the prediction of the Victorian secretary of the AMA that doctors would not co-operate in any scheme giving them only 75 per cent of the scheduled fee in full payment? If the answer to this is that the Bill now provides interestingly enough an 85 per cent refund on bulk billing for eligible pensioners, what are the implications of these medical attitudes for the ineligible poor? Will the private funds reduce contribution rates as indicated by the Minister on 24 May or will they behave as predicted by the president of Voluntary Health Insurance of Australia? Mr Moon said that they would not be reduced. How does the Minister respond to the widespread accusation that the continuation of gap insurance will simply permit the well off to be fully compensated for medical service while the less well off will be penalised? Does the Minister yet have any response to the claim of the secretary-general of the AMA that front end de-, ductibles will simply ‘shift the burden of cost to the poorest and the sickest*?

All of these issues were raised following the statement of the Minister delivered on 24 May. Not one of them was answered in the Minister’s speeches delivered on 6 June. The issues were evaded under a smokescreen of the outback provision which I applaud, the anti-Brych clauses and the opting out provisions for Australians living overseas. The Minister’s speeches yesterday were structured, as the Australian Financial Review noted of his 24 May statement, ‘in a deliberately deceptive fashion’.

I want to attend this evening to the central issues and the implications of these measures, issues and implications ignored by the Minister in his speeches. We have heard ad nauseam from the Government and honourable members opposite about the spiralling cost of health services in this country, a rise which has occurred in nearly all advanced industrial societies in the 1970s. But we have heard much less from honourable members opposite about the sources of this rise and been given much less in the way of any analysis of the causes of the escalating costs. I think that when I have finished my speech, the reasons for that sort of silence from honourable members opposite will be obvious. What are- I can afford only a brief span on thisthe chief sources of the rise in health costs in

Australia? Above all, the greatest rises have occurred in the hospital sphere mainly because of the massive increase in costs per patient.

Mr Hodges:

– Wages.


-One of the reasons for it was the wages and salary rises paid to hospital staff, particularly nurses and lay staff, after a century of neglect. I make no apology for those rises. After a century of neglect, nurses and lay staff in hospitals began to get what was their due. Secondly, sophisticated technology in hospitals has caused the cost per patient to rise. Thirdly, there has been a rise in the ratio of staff to patients. These factors have added to this major problem of the cost per patient. In addition, in the last decade there has been a marginal but steady increase in hospital admissions.

A second cause of the cost escalation has been much greater community expectations about access to the latest medical technology and no doubt financial incentives to doctors to recommend the use of such technology. Let me say to the Government that I believe it has begun to deal at least with the fringes of this problem in the action that it took in respect of pathology services and in these measures insofar as they deal with screening services.

A third major reason for the rise has been the fairly significant increase in doctor’s fees over this period. Finally, we have a rise in the utilisation of medical services. When we talk about the rise in the utilisation of medical services, it is the provider of the service- the doctor- who is the chief initiator of increased utilisation. The original visit by the patient is patient initiated. But all of the consequent actions- further consultations, specialist referrals, diagnostic servicesare doctor initiated and doctor generated. If we look at the figures, we see that it is the area of doctor-generated utilisation of services which has risen most rapidly in recent years. This is where the greatest acceleration has occurred.

It is difficult to calculate, but we know that only a very small proportion of total costs are derived from patient-initiated activity. The estimates vary from about 5 per cent to 10 per cent of the total health bill. Yet all of these much vaunted measures which have been talked about for six months and over which the Government has cogitated probably for two years as to how to control health costs, deal with none of these major problems except the last- that minor problem produced by patient-initiated services. The great bulk of the problems is ignored by these measures which are supposed to represent a major step forward in dealing with spiralling costs. 1 think it is for this reason that this supposedly ambitious effort to contain costs produces such pathetic results. According to the Minister for Health, in his statement of 24 May, these measures will save $24m. Then again, in this particular measure there is -

Mr Hodgman:

– That is a lot of money.

Dr BLEWETT Yes, as we were told last week, I think it represents roughly the cost of one VIP plane. In addition to the saving of $24m, another $10m will be saved through the screening provisions in these measures. I am not quite sure whether the Minister’s estimate includes allowance for the extra cost which will be incurred as a result of the abandonment of bulk billing. Certainly the Minister puts the cost at $7m. My information is that the minimum extra administrative costs arising from the abandonment of bulk billing will be about $ 10m. As part of that amount, approximately 700 extra staff will be necessary to deal with a much more complicated system of handling payments which will result from the abandonment of bulk billing. Again, the amount of $24m, which the Minister gave us on that previous occasion, does not allow for the $7m now to be paid out in outback allowances. So, it is a bit hard to calculate, but the savings of these much vaunted major schemes to deal with what we all admit is a massive problem- a bill of $6,000m-will be between $17m and $24m. Even those savings are highly disputable given the reaction of many of the authorities- the Australian Medical Association and the private insurers- to this measure.

It is obvious that cost containment is scarcely the object of the exercise, if that is all the savings it will achieve. What are the real objectives of this operation? First of all, I suggest that it is aimed at a shifting of the burden from the public sphere to the private sphere, which as one sees when one examines it, involves basically a shifting of the burden from the healthy and better-off to the sick and the poor. Secondly, in many ways it is a surrender to certain ideological and interest group pressures. Bulk billing, which is one of the objects of this operation, has always been antipathetic to conservative members of the AMA. They have opposed it from its introduction. Even before they knew what effect it might have, they were opposed to that particular procedure. Of course, it has been disliked by the private insurers because it has given Medibank a competitive edge on most of them.

Certainly, there does not seem to be very much evidence of cost containment in this bulk billing proposal. Let us look at the evidence. The Minister’s argument is:

The Government has decided that bulk or direct billing arrangements for medical benefits be abolished except for people with pensioner health benefit entitlements. This should reduce the over provision of services and fraud.

Yet no evidence in support of that assertion has been presented in this House by the Minister or by any members of his Party. Indeed, rather the opposite has occurred. If we look at the reports which have been presented the average claims for bulk billed patients are less and the average number of services are less than for non-bulk billed patients. Moreover fraud seems to be more easily detected through the computer processes associated with the bulk billing procedures. I shall quote again- on a previous occasion the honourable member for Petrie (Mr Hodgman) seemed to object to my quotation- from a statement which is reported to have been made by the Deputy General Manager of Medibank, Mr Bob Wilcox, who contradicts the Minister on this point. He is reported to have said:

There is no substance in the claim that it contributes to over-servicing. Direct billing patients seemed to get fewer services than others. And fraud is more easily detected.

We know also that a report about bulk billing has been prepared within the Department. There has been an examination of this issue. That report has never been issued. I suspect that the Deputy General Manager of Medibank has seen the report and drawn his conclusions from it. If my assumption is incorrect, let us see the arguments and evidence contained in this internal report

Again, front-end deductibles reveal that the primary concern is not cost containment. One of the chief ministerial laments in the last six months- I sympathise with the Minister- is that the Minister does not have the statistical evidence to deal with the problem of health costs -to deal with overall planning as to what is to be done about these problems. He is waiting on the statistics. This lament occurs frequently. Frontend deductibles will in fact make the whole statistical problem far more difficult. Indeed, deductibles may make the collecting of adequate statistics impossible if it is adopted by a lot of people. If this happens there will be no statistical information on those people who use the frontend deductible system. There will be no check on them until they pass over the limits of their frontend deductibles. Therefore, the collection of statistics, which is already a problem, will simply become a more difficult problem with the introduction of front-end deductibles.

On all this evidence, what the Government is involved in is not an exercise in cost containment; it is an exercise in mutilation and destruction. Medibank Mark 2Vi represents one further step in this Government’s determination to destroy Medibank. Medibank Mark 2V4 represents one further step whereby a simple, efficient, universal, equitable and comprehensive health scheme is gradually being undermined. I think that there is a real danger in this society that we might ultimately produce two health schemes: One with a whole range of choices and options for the well off and another rather limited second rate scheme for those people less well off. That is the danger towards which we are moving with these kinds of developments.

Finally, I want briefly to look at each of the major changes about which I have been talking in terms of the Sax criteria. Dr Sax suggested that we should judge changes to the health plan by simplicity, efficiency, equity and comprehensiveness. It does seem to me that we should apply these principles. Dr Sax argued in favour of them because we are all concerned with efficiency. He argued for simplicity because the overwhelming evidence is that the more complicated we make schemes the more they lead to inequities. We have seen that throughout social welfare services and other services in this country. At least we on this side of the chamber support equity and comprehensiveness. I am not sure about the views of the Government on equity and comprehensiveness. Let us take first of all the widening of the gap. This clearly is simple because it carries on the present scheme but makes the gap wider, although already a complication has been added because the Minister has been forced, at the moment at least, to distinguish between two moieties- 25 per cent for most people and 1 5 per cent for pensioners.

It is argued that this change will produce efficiency; that it will in some way reduce overutilisation. Canada tried this experiment. There did seem to be some immediate results but the evidence seems to indicate that this efficiency did not prevail over time although there were some short run advantages. With respect to equity, the proposal does seem to be inequitable because the new provisions seem unlikely to deter the welltodo but will place an excessive burden on the average family man. Then there is the question of universality. Who will be deterred by these provisions? Will it be the trivial hypochondriacs or will it be the poor sick? If it is the latter, the costs may well go up in the long run because of the cost of treating those people at a later stage. Again, even if there were some gains in efficiency by these proposals, they would be immediately undercut by the decision to continue gap insurance- indeed, I believe to extend gap insurance as I understand that Medibank Private will now move into the field of gap insurance. This proposal to undercut the procedures has been very clearly condemned in the Discussion Paper on Paying for Health Care put out by the Hospitals and Health Services Commission:

One of the reasons for proposing increases in co-insurance and co-payments, and the introduction of deductibles, is to induce an awareness among patients and their doctors that prices should be brought into consideration when decisions are being taken about the relative benefits and costs of particular investigations and treatments.

That is something which the Government wants to do. The Report continued:

This particular economic incentive can be ended by insurance against out-of-pocket costs due to co-insurance, copayments and deductibles. Such insurance should be discouraged. Registered benefit organisations should not offer it.

One part of the Government’s scheme is contradicted by the other part. At this stage I ask the Government to reconsider each of these proposals in terms of efficiency, equity, simplicity and universality. I believe that whilst they may mean marginal gains in efficiency, they are inequitable and threaten the universality of the current schemes.


-I feel that the honourable member for Bonython (Dr Blewett) made a few contradictions, something for which he condemned the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt). He criticised the Minister for Health for presenting his second reading speech in such a way as to indicate that the Government intends, as it does, to cut the costs of the scheme to some extent and, at the same time, to introduce a benefit for people living in isolated areas. The honourable member for Bonython went on to say that he supported this benefit. If there is a contradiction, then the honourable member supports that contradiction. In supporting the provisions contained in the National Health Amendment Bill, there is no question in my mind- I have a fair experience of people living in difficult and poor circumstances- that amongst the most under-privileged people in Australia today are the people who will benefit by this new arrangement. I commend the Bill without reservation. The provisions contained in this legislation are a concession to the people living in isolated areas. The honourable member for Bonython made a great point of this. This legislation is bringing about a state of equity that did not exist prior to its introduction.

I commend the Minister and the Government for having the courage to introduce this benefit at a cost of some $7m at a time when its main objective has been to restrict government expenditure and try to control the galloping inflation that was inflicted on this country by the reckless and incompetent economic policies of the previous Government. There is no doubt about that. Honourable members opposite should go back to the authorities and newspapers that they quote from time to time to see what they were saying about the Labor Government when inflation was running rampant. The people who were hurt most by inflation were the people whom honourable members opposite purport to represent. The people in any country, not only in Australia, who are most disadvantaged and who suffer most as a result of raging inflation are the poor people. Honourable members opposite can argue about that if they wish. I do not want to continue in that vein but it is an accepted fact throughout the world.

The National Health Amendment Bill, which is the Bill to which I shall speak in the main, fulfills an undertaking given by the Government to assist people living in isolated areas who are in need of specialist medical attention. For long enough the cost of travel and accommodation has deterred people from seeking essential medical attention as early as desirable. Surely it is recognised that early treatment is necessary and, in many cases essential, for the successful treatment and cure of people who are suffering from illnesses that require specialist medical attention. Early treatment so often is an essential factor in the’ restoration of their health. For that reason this Bill is to be very warmly commended, not only from the economic point of view but also from the humanitarian angle. Worry about the cost of travelling to where specialist medical attention is available adds to the burden of people of modest means who are ill. I have seen examples of this. I am speaking from experience, which is one of the greatest teachers of all. It is for that reason that my colleague the honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd), the chairman of our health committee, has given way to me in order that I may speak, on behalf of those people, of the great need for this measure. I commend the Government for having introduced it.

The isolated patients travel and accommodation scheme will bring a large degree of economic justice to people living long distances from specialist medical attention. It is not possible to have specialists stationed in areas with small populations so the only alternative for these people is to travel to where the specialists are situated. I commend the Government very warmly for introducing this benefit to patients living in those isolated areas. If we are going to talk about equity, even though these people will receive this additional benefit they will still be required to pay $20 towards the cost of their fare and they will still suffer some disadvantage in comparison with patients living in the metropolitan area.

Mr Hunt:

– It is a pretty big gap.


– I agree that there is a gap. This is one of the things I want to emphasise very strongly. So far as equity is concerned, let us consider a patient who must seek this medical attention. That person may be a parent. Not only does that person have to travel and stay away from home; he or she must make provision for their family while they are away. The family must be attended to. That is reasonable but it is sometimes forgotten. When I speak of the aims and objectives of people living in isolated areas, often I feel that their circumstances are not understood and that lip service is given to the principle of equity. People agree with this and then promptly forget about it. Too many people in this country do that.

I emphasise again the humanitarian aspects of this Bill. In this day and age people should not have to suffer from lack of specialist medical attention by virtue of the fact that the cost of travel and accommodation is beyond their capacity. As I have said before, when they have to travel to seek attention they have the worry of financial problems added to their illnesses, which does not help to restore them to health. People with limited finance living in isolated areas who need specialist medical attention can be counted amongst the most under-privileged people in this nation. They need and deserve the assistance that this Government is giving them under this Bill. Another point I want to make is that it should never be forgotten that a responsibility rests upon the shoulders of the whole of the Australian community to utilise the productive capacity of all the areas of this nation. Because of that we owe a debt of gratitude to those people who are prepared to live in areas where medical, educational and recreational facilities are either non-existent or very limited in scope. I have concentrated on that aspect of the Bills.

One cannot speak about medical assistance to people in isolated areas without referring to the wonderful work of the Royal Flying Doctor Service. The Government has given financial assistance to the Service as well as to the community health program and the mobile dental clinic conducted under the school dental program. I would like to join with the Minister for Health who paid tribute in his second reading speech to those people employed in these services who provide such essential care to people living in isolated areas.

Mr Katter:

– Not forgetting Dr Harvey Sutton.


– The honourable member for Kennedy referred to Dr Harvey Sutton, who, in his own right, has done such a lot for the people in those outback areas of his electorate in particular. The people in the outback are to be complemented on what they have done, despite the problems and difficulties that they have to put up with and despite the adverse seasonal conditions and low prices that many of them have to contend with, in relation to providing funds for the Royal Flying Doctor Service. The people in the outback organise functions to raise funds for the Service. Among the most renowned of those, particularly in my electorate of Maranoa, are the functions held at Thylungra Station, which is situated between Quilpie and Windorah. They have been outstandingly successful financially and socially and demonstrate the deep appreciation of the people in that area for the skill, dedication and service of the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

The financial assistance given by the Government to those areas that I have mentioned is something for which it should be commended and something which is helping to provide a better health service and to maintain the health of the community in those areas. The isolated areas which will be serviced by the Bill that I am referring to can be identified by reference to the local government areas described in regulations under the National Health Act. As would have to be the case if this legislation is to be something for the people it is specifically designed to help, urban and near urban areas will be excluded from the scheme. To become eligible for the benefits under the scheme a person must be referred for specialist medical treatment and has to live at least 200 kilometres from the centre where the specialist treatment is available. That is the way in which the legislation it defined. I think it is a reasonable designation of where the benefit should apply. The patient must obtain prior approval of the Director-General of Health and satisfy him that the relevant criteria to qualify have been met. That is another example of the way in which the Government has endeavoured to provide this benefit and at the same time to ensure that the benefit is not abused. But those qualifications will be dispensed with, and it is essential that they should be, where there is an emergency. In such circumstances subsequent approval can be obtained. So an emergency situation is covered as far as that is concerned.

The travel allowance payable normally will be an economy class fare by the most direct route of road or rail service and will be met fully, except for a $20 contribution by the patient to the fare. I would like to make a comment with regard to the way in which these fares and the provision for travel are provided for under the Bill. The information I have is that if a patient travels by road and that is the most direct means of surface transport- it has to have that qualification- a car mileage allowance will be paid at the Public Service rate. I ask the Minister to confirm whether that in fact is so.

Mr Hunt:

– That is correct.


– If it is correct, it means that such patients will be getting a fair remuneration for using their car and coming in the most direct way. If the patient travels by road when rail is the most direct means of surface transport the lesser of the two amounts- that is, the rail fare or the car mileage allowance- will be paid. So again a check is to be made to ensure that there is no abuse of the privileges that are being provided for these people, who certainly deserve them. If a patient travels by air without the necessary medical practitioner’s certificate the allowance for the most direct scheduled surface transportwhether this be rail, car or bus- will be paid, but if the medical practitioner decides and will confirm that it is necessary for the patient to travel by air, that provision will be made for the patient.

There is a great deal in this Bill which is going to be of benefit to those people in the outback areas. I make no apology for spending the time that I have spent in elaborating on it. I think it is high time that those who represent the people in the outlying areas spoke up and let it be known that they stand for people who are underprivileged in this country. The honourable member for Petrie (Mr Hodges) mentioned the underprivileged people in the city areas. I recognise that they are to be found there, too, and I accept the fact that they need to be provided for. But too often the people living in outback areas, in isolated areas where there is not a great vote capacity, are forgotten. I believe that it is the duty of the people representing them to come in here and tell others of their needs.

Dr Klugman:

– Why do you not do it? You never do it. You never come in here.


-The honourable member for Prospect cannot be here too often because I constantly do it. He should come into this chamber a little more often. He would be a little better educated if he did so, particularly when my colleagues and I are speaking. It would be very beneficial to him. I commend it to him very warmly indeed.

I am concerned that the patients who qualify for assistance under this scheme might feel that they would have to pay for their hospital care in the same way as nursing home patients now do. I draw the attention of the Minister to this matter. There are scaremongers who are trying to give this impression. They do not seem to have any worry about the concern they cause to people suffering from illnesses. I would like the Minister to give an assurance, so that there can be no doubt about it, that the payment for hospital care will not apply to these patients and so allay the fears that the scaremongers are trying to create. It is only the long term patients for whom no nursing care benefits are available. Yet already we find these rumours going around. I hope they can be scotched. I would like the Minister, in the course of his reply to what I have said, to comment on what I have said in that direction.

There are three other Bills before the House but I do not intend to deal with them. I have concentrated on the particular factor of the benefits that are being provided- after a very long time, too- to the people living in outback areas. Wherever any benefit is provided for them we find that there is no opposition to it. I appeal to the members of this House to get behind the people who are trying to provide benefits and services in the outlying areas because there is a need for them and they are justified. We help underprivileged people not only in this country but also in other countries throughout the world. While we do that I hope we will never forget the people who contribute so largely on a per capita basis to the gross domestic production of this country on an economic basis, the assistance that is being given to them on this occasion by this Bill and on any other occasion is justified. It is not a benefit that they do not deserve, that they have not earned. When one looks at the lack of benefits that are available to them in comparison with other areas- even where I live for that matterone can see that they are not getting more than their fair share of government expenditure. I say to the honourable member for Bonython (Dr Blewett) that the money that is being provided under this Bill- $7m- is some compensation to those people for the many things that they lacktelevision, proper communications, air services and mail services. You name it and you will find it.

Mr MacKenzie:

– Roads.


-Roads, as the honourable member from Calare said. They are being denied these things. They are living under conditions that most people in this House and most people listening to me tonight would not be prepared to live under, but it is a way of life for them. I say thank God we have got people with that determination, with that desire and with that appreciation of that way of life to fulfil the responsibility that I have already stated in this speech, that is, the responsibility of utilising all the area of this great nation of ours and thereby preventing the envious eyes of others who would say: ‘If Australians are not prepared to do it, we will come in and take over’. On behalf of those good people I say thank you to the Government and the Minister for the benefits that those people will accrue from the Bill that has been brought forward for debate tonight. I commend the Bill.

Mr Les McMahon:

-At the beginning of my speech, although there is such a short time to go, might I say that I think the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) made a very good speech. However, in fairness to my colleagues -

Debate interrupted.

page 3207


Ministers’ Overseas Visits- Supply of Apples to the Parliamentary Refreshment Rooms- The Soviet Union- Concessions at Airport for Car Rental Companies- Corporate Crime -Taxation -The Glebe Estate

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! It being 10.30 p.m., I propose the question:

That the House do now adjourn.


-Mr Deputy Speaker, I think it is time that the good names of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) were protected in this Parliament. Anybody who listened tonight to the program This Day Tonight -

Mr Martin:

– Tonight?


– Yes, tonight. Members would be rather interested in the transcript I have of that program. Under the headings ‘Skit’ and ‘Carter’, referring to President Carter, the transcript states:

Yeh we ‘II take care of that situation right away, in fact I ‘11 get Cyrus Vance, my Secretary of State, to do it. Sorry, I’ve got a call here on my red phone, so you’ll just have to hang on. Hello. What did my brother Billy do? He drank what? How much? Oh that much. Well, give him some salted peanuts and send him back home.

Mr James:

– Who can he mean?


– That was his brother, not Bjelke-Petersen. That was someone else. I think that this is a very serious skit. We have to look after the good name of the President of the United States and his brother as well. The transcript continues:

Yeh. Thanks a lot. Bi bi. Sorry about that. Now, who are these guys? Yeh there is John isn’t there? You know, John Fraser. Oh, it’s Malcolm. But I called him John last time. Oh. Did he really say that? Well, who is John? Is that that other guy? You know, the one with the suntan. Oh he ‘s not John either. Well, who is John?

Obviously it is referring to the Minister for Foreign Affairs.

Mr Les McMahon:

– Is he with him? Did he go with him?


– He is over there too. It goes on:

Oh, there is no John, but you’ve got a George. What Georgio? What’s he do? Oh, he writes John’s, I mean, Malcolm ‘s speeches. Well who writes for the little suntanned guy? Oh no-one? He’s just the Foreign Minister, I see. Well, what are they doing here anyhow? Oh I must have missed that. Yeh. Well I’m glad we’ve sorted that out. Yeh. That’s good. Alright, peace and laughin ‘, God bless you, bi bi. I ‘m sure there was a John in there somewhere.

Mr Deputy Speaker, I want you to know that my name is John and I want it to be clearly understood that I had nothing to do with this. It was not I they were referring to. After all, we know that the Prime Minister and the Minister for Foreign Affairs are in the United States at the present time. We realise that the President of the United States did not even know they were coming. We realise that they are not making much of an impact upon the United States. I also notice that the Prime Minister has a room at the top- right at the top- for about $241 a night; but I still make the point- I am sure the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) would agree with me- that the good name of the Prime Minister of this country and the good name of the Minister for Foreign Affairs should not be maligned in this way. We know that they are both lightweights, but we have to cop that. Unfortunately, the people made that decision, and we have to try to back them up as best we can, even though that is a very difficult job indeed to do.


-Mr Deputy Speaker -

Mr Lloyd:

– Tell us about apples.


-Actually, I am going to speak tonight about apples. This is a very serious matter. I have received quite a few complaints and I have been ridiculed to a certain degree about the quality of the apples being sold in the parliamentary dining room and in the parliamentary canteen. I can tolerate a certain amount, but on this occasion, after an apple which was rotten was almost thrown at me, I decided to look into the situation. I do not see the dining room or the canteen as being any different from any shop in Canberra or anywhere else in Australia. They are supplying apples and other fruit to the community. A lot of visitors who come to Parliament House and a lot of people who work here buy apples in the dining room and the canteen and I expect them to buy fruit of good quality.

Mr MacKenzie:

– From New South Wales.


-My friend mentions New South Wales. I rejected the fact that they were Tasmanian apples, but at this time I have to eat humble pie. I went downstairs and looked at the case of apples, which was from Tasmania. There were 96 apples in the case and I cut some of them apart. To say the least, they were rotten. My friend the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) who is here tonight, and I were absolutely bewildered and disgusted.

Mr Armitage:

– Where did they come from?


-They came from Tasmania. I checked the records. I checked the serial number on the box and, if I might have a little bit of silence because I know that the honourable member is interested in apples, I will relate what happened to the case of apples from the time they were picked in Tasmania until they were consumed in the parliamentary dining room. The apples were picked on 4, 5 and 6 April 1978 at a property at Huonville in Tasmania. They were placed in storage on 7 April 1978, which was the final date approved by the Department of Agriculture in Tasmania. The apples were of the highest quality and were packed on 18 April 1978. They were subsequently freighted to Sydney on 20 April. I ask honourable members to note that they were freighted by an agent. The grower supplied the apples, of course. They were packed by the grower and then an agent in Tasmania took over and freighted them to Sydney in New South Wales.

In Sydney they were purchased by an agent, who at the expiration of approximately a fortnight sold them to another agent. In turn, that agent sold them to another agent in New South Wales who in turn sold them to an agent in Canberra, who finally supplied the apples to the parliamentary dining room. The point I make is that it took six weeks for the apples to be finally consumed in Parliament House- six weeks and four different agents. Unfortunately, we Tasmanians have to suffer because our apples are not of the highest quality due to the steps I have mentioned. The apples went to Sydney and from Sydney to Canberra and were handled by four different agents. I could tell honourable members the price but I will not at this point.

Mr Hodgman:

– Have a royal commission.


-Actually it is serious that it should take fresh fruit so long to get to the consumer, having been handled by four different agents. How the dickens can we compete with New South Wales apples? I know that New South Wales has taken over as the largest grower of apples in Australia, but I repeat that it is an appalling situation and I hope we will be able to overcome it.


-This is the first opportunity I have had to answer what I consider to be very unfair criticism of a nation that is friendly towards Australia made by a man on the Government benches for whom I have had considerable admiration since he became a member of this Parliament. I refer to the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman), who on 30 May launched a vicious attack against the Soviet Union. In the Hansard of that date he is reported as saying:

Soviet Russia bears an awful responsibility to humanity for what it has done and is continuing to do on the African continent.

He went on to criticise the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics about its suppression of some of its dissidents. Whether the Soviet Union is right or wrong I think it ill behoves a supporter of the Government to attack the Soviet Union, a friendly nation, in the manner in which he did when one takes into consideration what is happening in some of the nations more friendly towards Australia, such as Indonesia which is at our doorstep. I would like to quote from an Amnesty International document which came into my possession last week. It states:

Of the 886 prisoners released from Tanjung Kasau Prison, near Medan, 161 were reported to be ill . . . This would seem to fit in with the pattern of releases elsewhere. Those released from Nirbaya Prison in Jakarta were nearly all old while the Bandung newspaper, Pikiran Rakyat, 19 January 1978, reported the release of two 77-year-old men in the city. The only prison where age does not seem to have a significant criterion is Bukit Duri women’s prison in Jakarta where the releases included a young woman of 30 who would have been a teenager at the time of her arrest.

I have never heard any member of this Parliament question the integrity or authenticity of articles from Amnesty International. It goes on to point out that Indonesia has been releasing prisoners suffering badly from tuberculosis; 1 6 cases of leprosy were reported; and prisoners suffer from cancer and other serious illnesses.

The barbarity of the Argentinian Government towards its people would shock members of Parliament if they cared to read the information available in the Parliamentary Library. In Saudi Arabia slave trade is still very prominent. I think that these countries should have deserved the withering attack of the honourable member for Denison before the Soviet Union. The honourable member has earned a reputation in this House of being an independent Liberal, a man with a degree of conscience, a man who stood up and raised his voice about the barbaric treatment by the Indonesians of the little East Timorese, who are still fighting for their independence. But apparently the honourable member feared that he might be branded as being too pro-Left, a pro-communist. He should not fear that. He bitterly and unjustifiably, in my view, attacked the Soviet Union. Other nations that have come in for criticism by Amnesty International are Brazil, Argentina- which I mentioned earlier- Chile, the torture in Greece under the old military regime a few years ago, Korea, Nicaragua, Pakistan, the Philippines and even other Commonwealth countries such as Singapore, where practically the whole of the Opposition has been put in gaol. I think that these countries merit -

Mr Ruddock:

– And the Soviet Union.


-Yes, the Soviet Union is right at the end of the list. I appreciate the comments of the honourable member for Dundas who is a fair-minded member of Amnesty International. I hope that the honourable member for Denison will earn back the admiration of some of the members on this side of the Parliament by following the principle of the honourable member for Dundas and criticising these other nations, which are more deserving of that criticism. The Soviet Union has its faults; so have we.


-Honourable members will be aware that tenders are being called for the concessions at airports for car rental companies. The new arrangements are to operate from mid- 1979. Members will also be aware that each of the main companies concerned have taken different positions as to what will be a viable number of companies to operate these concessions. As a Liberal I believe in the competitive free enterprise system but currently we do not see a competitive system operating at airports. What we see is a monopoly and I am against that. What we need is a system that would generate not only a good financial return to the Commonwealth, but also a good degree of competition as well as serving the needs of the travel industry. To me it would seem that the greatest degree of choice, that is, having the three major companies at each airport, would be the best for the Commonwealth, the consumer and the travel industry. I hope the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) will favour this system when he makes his decision.


– I draw the attention of the House to what I consider is an excellent article in the Bulletin of 16 May 1978. It states:

Leading Sydney company liquidator Roy Pegler . . . believes indeed that the growth of corporate crime is positively encouraged by the ineffectual attack mounted against it. . . . the attack on corporate crime is hopelessly inadequate . . . the lack of attack on corporate crime is not only inadequate but encourages its growth … the pursuit of corporate crime through the equity division of the Supreme Court is not, except in very few cases, successfuland even if a conviction is obtained the penalties are not a deterrent to those who indulge in this conduct.

A case involving a constituent in my area will highlight just how disastrous to the ordinary investor are those deficiencies- the absence of adequate corporate or securities legislation. The case concerns the collapse of Cambridge Credit Corporation in September 1974. It involves the total loss of the life savings of a 66-year-old man. He put $21,125 into Cambridge Credit. It had been this man’s intention to be independent throughout his life and at least to retire reasonably well on the returns from his investments. How does a man feel when his hard-earned life savings and his independence suddenly disappear and there is nothing that he can do about it? He cannot comprehend how a company such as Cambridge Credit, claiming assets and goodwill in excess of $180m, could collapse over night, depriving 38,000 debenture holders of their investments without being answerable to the law. Certainly the present laws which allow gross mismanagement of funds to occur without any redress must and ought be changed.

I believe it was remarked by Mr Justice Waddell that in view of the large sum of $1 10m involved in the Cambridge collapse, the Corporate Affairs Commission should take out proceedings against the directors and auditors of the company for misrepresentation. From the contents of the letter from my constituent, it would certainly appear that the auditors of Cambridge Credit Corporation should accept their responsibility in this matter. In early 1973 my constituent was informed by Fell and Starkey, the accountants for Cambridge Credit, that his investment with Cambridge Credit was $ 17,087 when in fact it was $2 1,200. The feeble excuses offered for the discrepancy of more than $4,000 make it obviously evident that a most reprehensible audit had been carried out. The collapse of Cambridge, along with many other companies that fall into receivership, is too often a case of incompetent mismanagement, even fraud, by those people managing the company. We often see the names of a number of those people in the Honours List on 1 January each year. It is time that the interests of ordinary people, such as my constituent, Mr Ashbourne, were protected and that our corporate laws were overhauled. In the matter of Cambridge Credit, I call on the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Fife) to initiate an investigation into the company’s affairs. 1 wish to mention one or two other points briefly. There is a critical need for uniform national law in company, corporate and securities law. Unquestionably, it hinges on the prices that governments are prepared to pay in achieving it. One can relate this matter to the indisputable philosophical differences between this side of the House and the other side. The position to which I strongly hold is that corporate operations ought to be monitored and to some extent regulated to protect the individual and the community. Honourable members on the other side of the House believe that private enterprise ought to make its own ground rules. The situation in Queensland is a classic example. It is a dog-eat-dog situation in the market place. The consumer is scarcely a bone of contention in the struggle. At least in South Australia consumer laws have been structured to protect the consumer, but in Queensland the situation is quite the reverse.


Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.


– With budgetary considerations now being matters of immediate interest I wish to present the case for changes in two taxation matters. The first involves the zone allowance under section 79a. Properly used as a taxation incentive, this section has possibly the greatest potential for decentralisation over any other device available to governments. The zone allowance involves people, not companies, not industries not multinationals. It involves people, and this is important because it is the human factor that decentralises, that becomes the pioneer, that has the capacity to take up a challenge and exploit it to its fullest potential, or suffers the reversal of fortunes which is a natural consequence in broadening our industrial and rural and mining horizons.

At present there is no incentive because little change has been effected in the boundaries of the zones since the section’s inception in the value to taxpayers of the zonal rebate or allowance for over a decade. In fact in the latter case it has actually depreciated. If the value and potential of our mineral, rural and labour resources are to be realised, this Government has a duty to encourage people to harness this human potential, to encourage people to get out of our capital cities where over 50 per cent of our population resides and where breed the seeds of complacency. Many times in the past when a major revision such as the one I now contemplate has been suggested, the custodian of the public purse, the Treasury, has annihilated all argument by putting up the constitutional difficulty. To this I say, if the section has survived for this long without challenge, why now beg the question?

I suggest that, for the coming Budget, a review be properly undertaken of all aspects of the zone allowance. To extend the boundaries or to adjust them to ensure that the communities for which the allowance is intended, are allowed the benefit or encouraged to obtain it. For instance I have in my electorate two mining townships, established only in the 1970s, that are denied the benefit through the fact that the boundary for a zone is just a short ten miles north of the towns. Those living in these towns are denied television, entertainment, and recreational facilities available to those living in cities and communities on the coast. There people have these advantages and receive a zonal rebate as well. They suffer the climate, the terrain and the isolation of mining decentralisation, without a cent of compensation for their sacrifice. On the contrary they now face the penalty of being taxed on their subsidised rentals of the company houses they occupy, whereas they understood that this subsidy would be one of the benefits they would receive.

The other provision of the Act which is now a penalty is Division 7 relating to additional tax on undistributed private company profits. I draw the attention of honourable members and the Government to the fact that when Division 7 was introduced the situation of the private company was much different from the circumstances of today. For instance, private companies enjoyed a consessional rate of taxation, less than that paid by public companies. Today the tax rebate at 46c in the dollar is exactly the same. The management and shareholders, being younger companies then, had common interests where there was a tendency to retain profits in companies for expansion. Most of the high earning private companies today have divorced shareholding and management. Inflation did not sap the liquidity of private companies 20 years to 30 years ago as it does today and has done through the 1970s where retained profits are essential to finance stocks and debtors and replacement plant all constantly escalating in cost through inflation.

The supply of outside or banking funding could not have been as tight or rigid 25 years ago as it is today, where private companies in many instances cannot receive the funds they now need to survive. That private companies are not allowed, because of these changes in circumstances, to be treated the same as public companies and have Division 7 removed altogether is an anomaly. After all, 46c in the dollar is the equivalent of a taxable income to an individual of approximately $57,000. At that figure the average tax is 46c in the dollar. The Government is getting more through company taxation than it is from equivalent sole proprietors or partnerships without even taking into account taxation on dividends distributed to shareholders. To help small business, the removal of Division 7 would be more than equitable. To phase it out or to reduce its effect could be well implemented by giving incentives to private companies to develop, expand or employ. The options are limitless. I hope that these two penalty areas will be revised in the course of framing the coming Budget by the Treasury, the Treasurer (Mr Howard) and the Government.


– I raise tonight the matter of the savage rent increases in the Glebe Estate in Sydney, New South Wales. This estate was purchased in 1974 from the Church of England by the Australian Labor Party Government. It consisted of 750 properties and was purchased for approximately $17.5m. In 1974-75, $1.5m was spent on maintenance and renovation by the then Labor Government and a further $500,000 was added to that figure in that year. In the following year, a further $2m was spent on maintenance and rehabilitation. In 1976-77, the first full financial year of this Government, only $1.2m was spent. This year the Government has made available $ 1 .5m.

The rehabilitation of this area has been undertaken at a very slow rate. Many residents in the area are living under appalling conditions. I will cite an example of the savage rent increases that are being imposed. A rent notice which was received by a tenant in the area stated:

A new rental policy for the Glebe project has been determined by the Government.

Rents for dwellings in the Project will be set at market levels, with rebates being available to families on low incomes.

Full details of the rent policy and eligibility for rebates are contained in the attached Information Bulletin No. 22.

I seek leave to have this document incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The document read as follows-




New Rent Policy

There has been no general increase in rents for dwellings in the Glebe Project since it was acquired by the Commonwealth Government some 4 years ago.

The Government has decided that rents in the Project are to be set at market level. This policy is in line with rents for other Commonwealth dwellings and is also being adopted by the Housing Commissions in the States.

Rebates will be available, as at present, to families on low to moderate incomes.

The increases in rents are to be spread over three years. After discussions with the Residents Advisory Committee, it has been decided that for the first year, the increase in rent will be a maximum of $8.00. In the second year the increase will be a maximum of $9.00, and a maximum of $10.00 in the third year.

As requested by the Residents Advisory Committee, all houses on the Estate have been reassessed for current market rentals.

The new rents will be due and payable on Monday 5 June 1978.

Tenants who are currently entitled to rebates will not have their rents increased, nor will tenants who are currently paying market rents.

The market rent has been assessed for each dwelling on its present condition. Any improvements that may have been made by the tenant have not been included in the assessment of the market rental.

The market rent for each dwelling will not be reappraised until three years hence, except in the case where a dwelling is substantially rehabilitated.

Where a tenant is dissatisfied with the rental assessed on a dwelling, the tenant may request a revaluation. The tenant should write to the Project Office requesting a revaluation with reasons to support the request.


Rebates, calculated on the formula used by the New South Wales Housing Commission, are available to tenants on low to moderate incomes.

Rents for a single pensioner or a pensioner couple, whose only income is a Commonwealth aged, widow, invalid or war disability pension, will not exceed 18 per cent of the gross pension.

For other tenants, the weekly rent will not be more than 20 per cent of the combined gross income of the tenant and spouse, plus $5 for each resident in the dwelling who receives a gross income of $25 or more .per week.

If you feel you are entitled to a rebate, you should contact Mr Peter Hughes at the Project Office and complete an Application for a Rebate form. His telephone number is 660-1722.

Rebates commence on the Monday following the approval by the Project Office of the completed application form.

Cases of Hardship

Where tenants, due to circumstances beyond their control, would have extreme difficulty in meeting in full the increase in rent, the tenant should have no hesitation in contacting the Project Manager.

O. SAVIMAKI Project Manager

May 1978


-I thank the House. The letter continues:

The market rent on the dwelling tenanted by you has been assessed at $60 per week.


For the first year, your weekly rent will be you present rate of $23.00 plus $8.00 for a total of $3 1 .00.

Honourable members will note that that is a 33V4 per cent increase in one year. The letter further states:

The new rental becomes due and payable on Monday 5 June, 1978.

In relation to the question of the rents that have been charged, I cite an example which was brought to me of a woman whose house has not been rehabilitated is at present paying $18 a week. She has been told that the new rent will be $48 and that she will progress in stages to that rent over three years. At present there has been no rehabilitation work on or no betterment at all for that house. When we purchased these homes from the Church of England, they were run down. Many of them are still run down. 1 ask members of Government committees to go with the honourable member for Sydney (Mr Les McMahon) to have a look at these houses. In many cases they are in an appalling condition. The rehabilitation work started by our Government has been continued by this Government at a very slow pace.

The main point to which I refer is the manner in which these rent increases were carried out. A public meeting was held which the honourable member for Sydney, I and 500 other people attended. I am telling the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Groom)- I am glad he has now come into the House- that amongst those 500 people great fear and lack of security prevails. The attitude and the hypocrisy of the public servants concerned and, I am disappointed to say, the attitude of the person in charge of these matters at Glebe are bad. I know that the Minister has deferred the rent increases for one month only. But basically a basic lack of understanding on the part of the Australian Government exists. I have no time to argue here the whole question of market rent but, as honourable members know, this issue has been inflated to false importance. I dealt with it in the Housing Bill. The market rental is at a quite false level. Therefore, I believe that there has to be a great deal more understanding of the problem. I believe that any person whose house has not been rehabilitated should not have to pay any increase in rent until such time as that house has been rehabilitated.


– I rise to say briefly that, whilst I have a genuine affection for the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James), I do not intend to withdraw one single word of what I said the other night about Soviet Russia or on previous occasions about the denial of human rights in Indonesia, Uganda, Uruguay and a host of other countries, but I stand on my record -

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! It being 1 1 p.m., the debate is interrupted.

Mr Groom:

– I require that the debate be extended.


-Does the Minister propose to speak on matters raised in the adjournment debate?

Mr Groom:

– Yes, very briefly.


-The debate may continue until 11.10 p.m.

Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development · Braddon · LP

– I wish to respond very briefly to the points made by the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) in his short address to the House. I want to make one or two comments about rent increases in the Glebe Estate. As I think the honourable member has recognised, I have agreed that the rent increases which were announced last year should be postponed until 3

July. I went to the Glebe Estate early in the year, accompanied by the honourable member for Sydney (Mr Les McMahon)- who I see is in the chamber- following his representations, to meet with the residents’ advisory committee. We had a most informative meeting with the members of that committee and I listened carefully to their comments and to those of the honourable member.

Following that meeting it was decided that the properties in the Glebe Estate should be reassessed to determine what should be the appropriate rental value. Valuers were then appointed and the properties have been assessed, except that at the moment, I am told, a further 182 properties remain unassessed. I am told that those remaining properties should be assessed by 10 June. I think that that was the date mentioned. I expect that a final decision will then be made on the appropriate levels of rental. I want to make a couple of points about rent increases. Rents generally have not been increased for dwellings in the Estate since the Estate was first acquired back in August 1974.

Mr Uren:

– Will you agree that the rents should not go up until the buildings are rehabilitated?


– I will make a comment about rehabilitation in a moment. I am advised that the revenue from rents will be approximately half the expenditure on the Estate in this current financial year of $ 1.49m. That is a substantial amount of money. I am afraid that there will have to be a movement towards market-related rents- this is the general policy applying in housing areas around Australia- in which this Government and the State governments are involved but the impact of any increases is to be softened as much as possible by the application of rebates and by a gradual increase. This will certainly apply to Glebe. We do not believe that any genuine hardship will result from these increases. Of course no one likes to increase rentals but, as I say, we believe that there will be no hardship as such. If the honourable member for Reid or the honourable member for Sydney can bring to my attention particular cases where they believe there is real hardship I will certainly undertake to examine them very carefully.

On the question of rehabilitation, which the honourable member mentioned, the Commonwealth is very much aware of the need to continue the rehabilitation program for the Glebe Estate. That point was brought home to me on my visit, as I have mentioned.

Mr Uren:

– Do you agree that if they do not have a bathroom the rents should not go up?


-I am about to answer the honourable member’s question. Obviously the state of the dwelling is a matter which must be taken into account in determining the appropriate level of rent. Of course that has been taken into account. We want to continue the program of rehabilitation. As I said, the valuers have been around, as agreed with the local people, and they are determining what will be an appropriate level of rental. I must say frankly that I doubt whether, following these assessments, the level of rental will be lower than previously indicated in the letter which was circulated. I also mention that another letter is being sent out to tenants explaining in further detail the decisions that have been taken. Within the need for continued restraint on expenditure, which has been expressed as policy on many occasions, we as a government will certainly ensure that essential maintenance and rehabilitation work is continued in the Glebe Estate. As I said, the state of the dwelling -


-Order! The Minister’s time has expired. If no other Minister seeks the call, the Minister may resume his remarks.

Mr Groom:

– I have finished.


-The debate having concluded, the House stands adjourned until 10 a.m. tomorrow.

House adjourned at 11.5 p.m.

page 3215


The following answers to questions upon notice

International Labour Organisation Convention No. 107 (Question No. 74)

Mr E G Whitlam:

am asked the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 22 February 1 978:

Has there been correspondence between the Queensland Premier and himself on the ‘ownership of land ‘ aspects of International Labour Organisation Convention No. 107- Indigenous and Tribal Populations, 1957, since April 1976 (Hansard, IS February 1977, page 87 and 2 June 1977, page 2555); if so, with what result.

Mr Malcolm Fraser:
Prime Minister · WANNON, VICTORIA · LP

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

Details of correspondence between a Premier and Prime Minister are normally regarded as confidential.

Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders: Wages (Question No. 137)

Mr E G Whitlam:

am asked the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice, on 22 February 1978:

  1. 1 ) Can his Department estimate the extent of compliance with the provisions of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (Queensland Discriminatory Laws) Act 1975 that an employee who is an Aboriginal or Islander shall be entitled to be paid wages at a rate not less than the rate at which wages would be payable to him if he were not an Aboriginal or Islander.
  2. What measures are taken to secure compliance with the provisions of this law.
Mr Viner:
Minister Assisting the Prime Minister · STIRLING, WESTERN AUSTRALIA · LP

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. 1 ) No accurate estimate can be given of the extent of compliance (or non-compliance) with the provisions referred to.
  2. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (Queensland Discriminatory Laws) Act 1975 does not provide for direct Commonwealth Government action to secure compliance with its provisions. It creates a right in the hands of any Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander in Queensland to protect himself against discrimination. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Legal Service is able to, and does, assist individuals who wish to recover wages that should have been paid to them under the provisions of this law.

Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders Legal Service (Question No. 168)

Mr E G Whitlam:

am asked the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice, on 22 February 1978:

  1. 1 ) Has his attention been drawn to the article in the Legal Service Bulletin of December 1976 which states that the Aboriginal Legal Service in Queensland faces such serious problems in providing representation and advice that (a) over 6,000 Aboriginals who live on isolated reserves in the Cape York Peninsula receive only one visit per year from were circulated: officers of the Cairns Legal Service, (b) 5,000 Islanders of the Torres Strait live over 500 miles from the Cairns solicitor while the people of the outer islands have never been visited by a Legal Service Officer, (c) the Legal Service does not have the resources to represent any of the estimated 400 people who appear each month before the twelve Aboriginal community courts on isolated reserves and (d) the Cairns solicitor is required to provide representation and appear at 1 7 Magistrates Courts as well as Circuit Courts of the District and Supreme Courts
  2. What is the present situation.
Mr Viner:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. 1) I am aware of the article, and of the considerable demands on the resources of the Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders Legal Service (Queensland) Limited in the provision of an adequate service to the Cape York Peninsula and Torres Strait Island areas.
  2. The situation has improved somewhat since December 1976. In particular: two solicitors are now employed in the Cairns’ office of the Service; an office of the Service has been opened on Thursday Island and a field officer is based at that location; and the number of people appearing before Aboriginal community courts is diminishing, because prosecutions are now usually being made before Magistrates’ Courts. The Service advises that this situation directly results from a magistrate’s judgment in 1977 which determined that members of the Police Force were not empowered to enforce Aboriginal community council by-laws.

The Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders Legal Service (Qld) has been allocated $880,000 in the current financial year. Each of the Aboriginal Legal Services is responsible for determining priorities for the use of its resources. They have been urged in particular to give attention to ensuring that Aboriginals, especially juveniles, obtain appropriate legal representation in criminal matters; to meet the needs of rural and remote area Aboriginals; to improving Aboriginal /Police relations; and to the possibility of using the services and resources of other agencies, where these are appropriate and accessible including those of Aboriginal and community welfare organisations, the Australian Legal Aid Office, the Law Society and the Public Solicitor.

Income Tax (Question No. 235)

Mr Willis:

asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 28 February 1978:

  1. What were total personal income tax receipts in 1975-76 and 1976-77 and what are they expected to be in 1977-78.
  2. By what percentage did personal income tax receipts increase in 1 976-77 in comparison with 1 975-76 and by what percentage are they expected to increase in the 2 years to 1977-78.
  3. What was the ratio of income tax payable to household income in 1973-74, 1974-75, 1975-76 and 1976-77 and what is it estimated to be in 1 977-78.
  4. What was the ratio of gross PA YE payments to wages, salaries and supplements in 1973-74, 1974-75, 1975-76 and 1 976-77 and what is it expected to be in 1 977-78.
Mr Howard:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. 1 ) Total income tax revenue from individuals in 1 975-76 and 1976-77 and the estimate for 1977-78 given in the statements attached to the 1977-78 Budget Speech were as follows:
  1. Income tax revenue from individuals in 1976-77 increased by 19.9 per cent over that for 1975-76 and it was expected that the increase in this revenue in 1977-78 over 1 975-76 revenue would be 39.8 per cent.
  2. Estimated income tax payable as a percentage of household income for the 1973-74 to 1976-77 financial years was as follows:

Estimates of income tax payable by households and household income for 1977-78 will not be available from the Australian Bureau of Statistics until August this year.

  1. Gross PAYE revenue as a percentage of wages, salaries and supplements for the financial years 1973-74 to 1 976-77 were as follows:

Tax instalments deducted generally exceed tax payable by employees on assessment, the overpayment being refunded in the year following that in which the PAYE deductions were made by the employer. Nevertheless, the trend in gross PAYE collections will provide the first guide to the impact of the new standard rate scale introduced on 1 February 1978 in combination with the earlier decision to automatically index the rates of tax and dependant rebates. Gross PAYE collections depend on the current tax scale, and unlike net PAYE receipts and receipts from provisional taxpayers, are not influenced by adjustments in respect of assessments on the previous year’s income.

The preliminary estimate of wages, salaries and supplements for 1977-78 will not be available from the Australian Bureau of Statistics until August of this year. The available evidence suggests, however, that gross PAYE revenue as a proportion of wages, salaries and supplements will be about the same in 1977-78 as in 1976-77. In 1978-79 when the standard rate scale will apply for a full year the ratio is likely to decline.

Aboriginal Public Servants (Question No. 324)

Dr Everingham:

asked the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice, on 1 March 1978:

  1. Has his attention been drawn to recommendations made by Dr Coombs and the Hiatt Report, that targets be set for percentages of Aboriginal public servants at various levels in his Department and others.
  2. What percentages of Aboriginals were serving in each level of (a) his Department and (b) the Australian public service, in each of the last 3 years for which figures are available.
  3. Is he able to supply similar details in respect of State public services.
  4. What targets were set for each of those 3 years.
Mr Viner:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. 1 ) Neither the Royal Commission on Australian Government Administration nor the Committee of Inquiry into the Role of the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee recommended that targets be set for percentages of Aboriginal public servants at various levels in my Department or other Departments.
  2. Detailed statistics are not available in the form requested. The annual Statistical Bulletin entitled ‘Employment of Aboriginals in the Australian Public Service’, issued by the Public Service Board records the percentage of Aboriginals in departments according to category of employment, State, designation group and sex. Copies of the bulletin for 1 October 1 977 are available from the Parliamentary Library.
  3. No.
  4. No specific targets were set.

Aboriginal Affairs, Maningrida (Question No. 557)

Dr Everingham:

asked the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice, on 8 March 1 978:

  1. 1 ) Has Mr Yunupingu visited his office or officers to express the view of the Gunwinggu people and others that his sacking of Messrs Cooke, Bond and Gillespie was a tragedy.
  2. Under which statutes and in the implementation of which publicly announced policies was the sacking carried out.
  3. What steps has been taken to acquaint himself with the wishes of the Aboriginal communities involved.
  4. What steps have been taken to reverse the damage done.
Mr Viner:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. No.
  2. ) The honourable member is referred to my public statement of 16 January 1978.
  3. Officers of my Department have been consulting with the Maningrida community both before and since the decision to terminate grants to the Council, and I have received written and oral reports from Departmental officers as well as representations from the Aboriginals at Maningrida.
  4. The reports referred to in (3) indicate that the situation in Maningrida is developing satisfactorily.

Staff Canteens (Question No. 573)

Mr Bungey:

asked the Minister representing the Minister for Education, upon notice, on 8 March 1978:

  1. 1 ) What staff canteens are operated by the Department of Education
  2. ) What is the pricing policy of each canteen.
  3. Are charges for (a) cleaning, (b) electricity and power, (c) fuel, (d) rent or lease, (e) repairs and maintenance, (f) replacement of plant, furniture and fittings and (g) depreciation of plant, furniture and fittings included for determination of canteen prices; if not, what was the estimated cost of each of these items in each canteen during 1 976-77.
  4. What staff is employed in each canteen, and what were the total wages and salaries paid to staff in each canteen in 1976-77.
  5. Are all wages and salaries paid to canteen staff included for determination of canteen prices; if not, what percentage of total wages and salaries paid to canteen staff were included for determination of canteen prices for 1976-77.
  6. What decision has been made by the Department of Education concerning subsidisation of each canteen and what was the estimated cost of such subsidisation to each canteen for 1976-77.
  7. Are the public and relatives and friends of departmental staff permitted to use each canteen.
  8. If there are restrictions on its use how are they implemented in each canteen.
  9. What staff from other Commonwealth Departments and instrumentalities regularly use each canteen.
  10. Are there any arrangements made by the Department of Education for any staff canteen to be operated by private enterprise; if so, which canteens and under what terms and conditions.
Mr Staley:

– The Minister for Education has provided the following reply to the honourable member’s question.

The Department of Education does not operate any staff canteens.

Atomic Energy Research Establishment: Research Procedures (Question No. 599)

Mr Les Johnson:

asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice, on 9 March 1978:

Has the Government completed the document entitled ‘A plan to cope with Accidents at the Research Establishment’ referred to in the answer to question No. 174 (Hansard, 2 June 1977, page 2S44); if so, (a) when will this document become available to the Parliament and (b) will the document be available for distribution to employees of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission and to residents living within a prescribed distance from the Atomic Energy Research Establishment at Lucas Heights.

Mr Newman:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

The AAEC has completed the document and it has been distributed within the AAEC and the relevant New South Wales authorities. The document sets out the responsibilities and procedures to be adopted in an emergency, not by individuals, but by the several organisations. An explanatory paper is now being prepared for public circulation and this will be made available to honourable members. In the unlikely event of an emergency, appropriate direction would be given by the authorities involvedUse of Aboriginal Languages in Tape Recordings and Films (Question No. 609)

Dr Everingham:

asked the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice, on 9 March 1978:

  1. What is the estimated cost of (a) the preparation of cassette tapes of his message translated into the Gunwinggu language, (b) the translation of films on uranium and (c) the distribution and replaying of these tapes and films throughout the Northern Territory.
  2. What are the comparable costs of tapes and films translated into Aboriginal languages for general community use, in projects funded by the Government for teaching (a) manual, domestic or trade skills, (b) literacy or numeracy, (c) hygiene, (d) nutrition and (e) Aboriginal culture, history or language.
  3. Will equal facilities be provided at public expense for presenting the case of (a) the Opposition, (b) the Northern Land Council, (c) mining interest and /or (d) conservation organisations to those who are to hear the Government’s messages.
Mr Viner:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. (a)$300.

    1. No translation has been undertaken of films on uranium.
    2. The tapes referred to have, in many cases, been distributed through my Department’s normal distribution network. Costs cannot therefore be separately identified.
  2. My Department normally does not undertake the translation of such tapes and films.

The use of tapes in Aboriginal languages is a new innovation. Some use was made of them in the conduct of the NAC election in 1977 and further use of such tapes in other areas is under consideration.

  1. No. The purpose of the tapes was part of a continuing information program maintained by my Department.

Mereenie Oil and Gas Field (Question No. 620)

Mr Jacobi:

asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice, on 9 March 1978:

  1. 1 ) In view of the recent forecast by the National Energy Advisory Committee that natural gas usage in Australia is expected to increase from 8 to 1 6 per cent of Australia ‘s total energy requirements by 198S, will he take positive action to ensure that the Mereenie oil and gas field in the Northern Territory is fully explored in the national interest.
  2. Will he ensure that the exploration effort needed is directed in such a manner that, if successful, the Mereenie field is made productive by 1985 to supply markets in Adelaide, Sydney and Brisbane.
  3. Will he give consideration to securing additional funds from revenue for this vital exploration in the same manner in which the South Australian Government found it necessary to intensify exploration in the Cooper Basin of South Australia.
Mr Newman:

– the answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: ( 1 ), (2) and (3). The economics of gas production from the Mereenie field are still open to some doubt. In any event the possibility of producing the oil in this field is also a matter for consideration. In this regard if the oil is recovered first, the gas will provide the primary drive for recovery and it would be possible for the gas to be recovered separately later. Conversely, if the gas is recovered first then it is unlikely that the oil could be recovered.

Further appraisal, including drilling, will be necessary before decisions on the scope for future production can be taken.

It is understood that further appraisal has been deferred until production leases are granted and this is subject to the resolution of relevant Aboriginal lands rights issues.

Any further specific questions in relation to the development of the Mereenie field should be directed to my colleague the Minister for the Northern Territory who has the direct responsibility in such matters.

Aboriginal and Islander Affairs, Queensland (Question No. 645)

Dr Everingham:

asked the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice, on 14 March 1978:

  1. 1 ) Has his attention been drawn to widespread condemnation of ( a) Queensland ‘s totalitarian Acts and administration which restrict the rights, initiatives and opportunities of Aboriginals and Islanders and (b) the current investigation of attitudes to those Acts.
  2. What steps have been taken by the Commonwealth and each State, to (a) abolish laws which breach international conventions, the Racial Discrimination Act and announced Commonwealth policies, and (b) to implement outside the Northern Territory the Woodward Commission’s recommendations on land rights as legislated for the Territory.
  3. 3 ) When were these steps taken.
Mr Viner:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. 1 ) I am aware of criticisms of the Queensland legislation and its administration of Aboriginal and Island affairs and of the Aboriginal and Islander Commission appointed by the Queensland Government to advise on legislation affecting Aboriginals and Islanders.
  2. and (3) (a) State and Commonwealth Governments have progressively over many years amended and repealed legislation which was considered to discriminate against Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders.

The Commonwealth Parliament enacted the Racial Discrimination Act in 197S to implement the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. Section 10 of that Act provides, in effect, that all persons regardless of race, colour or national or ethnic origin, have equal rights in law, notwithstanding that a law, or part of a law, of the Commonwealth or of a State or Territory might provide to the contrary. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (Queensland Discriminatory Laws) Act, also enacted by the Commonwealth Parliament in 1973, was designed to override specific provisions of Queensland legislation that discriminated against Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders.

  1. In my second reading speech on the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act I said that ‘I am sure this progressive step will be studied with interest in the States with respect to their land ‘.

In response to requests by the Pitjantjatjara Council for the grant of title to the Central Reserves of South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory, a working arty of officials was established last year by agreement with South Australian and Western Australian Ministers to examine and report to Ministers on the possibilities of coordinated legislative action. The South Australian Government subsequently established a separate working party to examine the matter and its report is expected to be available shortly. The joint working party will convene again when that report is published.

Supervision of Insurance Brokers (Question No. 687)

Mr Jacobi:

asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 15 March 1978:

  1. 1 ) What progress has been made regarding his commitment to introduce legislation for the regulation of insurance brokers.
  2. ) Will he confer with the Attorney-General to determine whether the Law Reform Commission reference on brokers has been completed.
  3. If the report has been completed, (a) when does he expect to receive it and (b) when will it be tabled in the Parliament.
  4. If the report has not been completed, is this noncompletion preventing his Department from formulating legislation.
Mr Howard:

– The answer to the honourable member ‘s question is as follows:

  1. The formal position is that the Government is not committed to any particular form of legislation in this area. Submissions have been made to the Government by the Insurance Brokers Council of Australia and other insurance bodies and meetings have been held between industry representatives, government officials and myself. The State governments are also being consulted. At this stage, no final conclusions have been reached on the policy issues involved.
  2. and (3)1 understand that the final report of the Law Reform Commission inquiry into aspects of insurance law, which will include material relating to insurance intermediaries, is not expected to be completed until some time in 1979. A decision on tabling the report will be made by the Attorney-General at the appropriate time.
  3. The findings of the Law Reform Commission could have significant implications for the question of legislation relating to the supervision of insurance brokers. However, it is my intention that, to the extent practicable, work on the formulation of possible approaches to the matter of supervision should continue pending receipt of the report of the Law Reform Commission. My Department is maintaining close liaison with the Commission. An announcement of the Government’s decision will be made as soon as practicable. ‘Croatian Embassy’ (Question No. 776)
Mr E G Whitlam:

am asked the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, upon notice, on 4 April 1978:

  1. 1 ) Has the self-styled ‘Croatian Embassy’ sought and/or secured registration under the Australian Capital Territory Business Names Ordinance.
  2. If so, what steps have been or are being taken to have the registration cancelled as the registration of the Rhodesia Information Centre under the New South Wales Business Names Act was cancelled in 1973.
  3. 3 ) When was the attention of the Attorney-General ‘s Department drawn to the expressions of concern on 23 December 1977 by the Minister for Foreign Affairs at the establishment of a self-styled ‘Croatian Embassy’.
Mr Fife:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. No.
  2. Not applicable.
  3. My Department became aware of the statement immediately after its release.

Companies and Securities Legislation (Question No. 782)

Mr Jacobi:

asked the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, upon notice, on 5 April 1 978:

  1. 1 ) What positive results have been reached by consultation with the States towards the establishment of a National Securities and Exchange Commission during the eight years since the establishment of the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange.
  2. When his predecessor foreshadowed joint Commonwealth and State companies and securities legislation on 7 July 1 976, what was the anticipated date for the introduction legislation.
  3. What is now the anticipated date for the introduction of this legislation.
  4. In view of the necessity to bring stability, confidence and honesty to the investment market, will the Government enact legislation to (a) prevent trading malpractices including insider trading and short selling, (b) provide for the registration of companies listed on stock exchanges, (c) provide for registration of stock exchanges, (d) define the powers and duties of stockbrokers and (e) provide full and fair disclosure requirements in the issuing of prospectuses and other information.
  5. What provisions will the intended national companies legislation contain in the following areas: (a) protection of minority shareholders, (b) the conduct of directors and controllers, (c) the powers of companies and (d) reform of the present system of annual accounts.
Mr Fife:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: (1)1 refer the honourable member to the statement made by my predecessor to the House on 17 March 1977 when he informed the House of the details of the agreement reached between Commonwealth and State Ministers responsible for corporate affairs matters at their meeting in Canberra on Friday 1 1 March 1977. At that meeting Ministers agreed to recommend to their respective governments adoption of a general framework for a co-operative Commonwealth/State scheme for legislation and administration in the field of company law and securities industry regulation. Since that time, we have been continuing our negotiations with the States on various aspects of the co-operative scheme and, in particular, on the text of a draft Formal Agreement which will set out the essential terms of the agreement between the Commonwealth and the States. It is hoped that a final draft of this Formal Agreement will be available for discussion at the next meeting of Commonwealth and State Ministers, to be held 13-15 May 1978.

  1. and (3) There is, at this stage, no firm date for the introduction into this Parliament of the Commonwealth legislation that will be required to give effect to the Commonwealth ‘s legislative obligations and the scheme. In addition to the Commonwealth legislation, each State will enact legislation ensuring that the Commonwealth legislation has full force and effect in that State. Because of the numerous complex matters that require resolution and because of the large amount of drafting work that will be involved, it has not yet been possible for Ministers to work out a firm date for the commencement of the co-operative scheme. However, all Ministers are agreed that the scheme should operate from the earliest practicable date.
  2. and (5) The substantive companies and securities legislation that will be introduced into the Commonwealth Parliament will be based on the Companies Acts and Securities Industry Acts at present in force in New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia. In addition, the legislation will contain any amendments to these Acts that have been agreed to by Commonwealth and State Ministers. At their next meeting Commonwealth and State Ministers hope to be able to decide which amendments should be included in the initial legislation and which proposals should be deferred for further consideration after the commencement of the co-operative scheme.

Music Recording: Chart Rigging (Question No. 786)

Mr Hodges:

asked the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, upon notice, on 5 April:

  1. 1 ) Has his attention been drawn to an article in the Australian of 23 February 1978 concerning the rigging by certain record companies of the pop music charts in the United Kingdom by strategic purchases of records from the limited number of retail outlets used in assessing the charts.
  2. If so, is he aware of any similar rigging by Australian record companies and has his Department conducted any enquiries as to whether this sort of activity is occurring.
Mr Fife:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. Yes.
  2. I have been advised that no complaints have been received by my Department, the Trade Practices Commission or State consumer protection authorities concerning attempted chart rigging by Australian record companies or by anyone else. I am also advised that preliminary investigations by the Commission have revealed that there is no evidence of any similar chart rigging by Australian record companies.

Foreign Investment (Question No. 790)

Mr E G Whitlam:

am asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 5 April 1978:

  1. 1 ) Has an interdepartmental committee been established to review all those matters which might inhibit foreign investment in Australia.
  2. If so, (a) on what date was it established, (b) which departments and authorities are represented on it and which department provides the chairman, (c) what are its terms of reference, (d) when is it expected or required to report and (e) will its report be tabled.
Mr Howard:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. and (2) The Government has under study matters which might inhibit foreign investment in Australia. Advice on these matters has been received from relevant Departments, including advice from a task group of officers of the Departments of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Trade and Resources, and the Treasury. Such advice to the Government is, of course, confidential. The Government will announce at the appropriate time any proposed changes in policy or procedures.

Aboriginal Land Fund Commission: Ministerial Directive (Question No. 798)

Mr E G Whitlam:

am asked the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice, on 5 April 1978:

What have been the dates and terms of ministerial directions to the Aboriginal Land Fund Commission other than the direction of 27 May 1975 (Hansard, 16 March 1978, page 893).

Mr Viner:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

There has been only one ministerial directive to the Commission apart from that of 27 May 1975. This was given by me on 10 February 1978 and instructed that: the Commission inform the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs of its intention to enter into any negotiations for a property before an initial approach is made to a vendor, and, in conjunction with this advice; the Commission provide the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs with a statement outlining the reasons in support of the purchase (including the social and economic objectives), and the financial implications for the Commission and the Department. The statement should also contain information about the Aboriginal corporation involved, in sufficient detail to enable the Minister to satisfy himself as to whether the members are members of a Community of Aboriginals; the Commission be in receipt of the views of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, before taking a decision to purchase a property.

Defence Establishments: Local Government Rates (Question No. 80S)

Mr Les Johnson:

asked the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice, on 5 April 1978:

What (a) local government rates and (b) ex gratia payments in lieu of rates are paid to (i) Liverpool, (ii) Sutherland and (iii) Campbelltown Councils, N.S.W., in respect of land held for Defence purposes.

Mr Street:
Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations · CORANGAMITE, VICTORIA · LP

– The Minister for Administrative Services has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:

In respect of land used for Defence purposes the Commonwealth paid the following amounts to the respective Councils in the years shown:

Pastoral Properties purchased for Aboriginal Communities (Question No. 810)

Mr Shack:

asked the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice, on 5 April 1 978:

  1. What were the respective purchase prices of the following pastoral stations purchased by the Commonwealth Government on behalf of various Aboriginal communities: (a) Kildurk (b) Pippingarra, (c) Mount Welcome and (d) Eudamullah
  2. What were the subsequent respective capital ingoings.
  3. What are the current respective running costs of the stations.
  4. What were the respective numbers of sheep shorn or stock mustered immediately prior to the purchase of these stations by the Government.
  5. What are the current respective numbers of sheep shorn or stock being mustered on these stations.
Mr Viner:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. 1 ) (a) Kildurk $829,000; (b) Pippingarra, $138,000; (c) Mount Welcome, $ 1 96,000; (d) Peedamulla, $3 1 6,000.
  2. Kildurk $62,052; Pippingarra, $48,500; Mount Welcome, $ 157,900; Peedamulla, $203,792.
  3. 3 ) Kildurk- expenses for the financial year ended 30 September 1977 totalled $118,739. Pippingarra-bUdgeted expenditure I977-78-$62,200 including $15,000 capital expenditure. Mount Welcome- budgeted expenditure 1977-78- $82,140 including $6,995 capital expenditure. Peedamulla-budgeted expenditure 1977-78- $90,153 including $6,600 capital expenditure.
  4. Kildurk-estimated at 9,000 cattle in 1973. Pippingarra 9,200 sheep were shorn in June 1974. Mount Welcomeboundaries as they existed prior to acquisition have changed considerably. A portion of the original Mount Welcome has been resumed and neighbouring Chirritta and Woodbrook Stations have been added to Mount Welcome. Mustering and shearing figures before and after acquisition are therefore not comparable. Peedamulla- estimated at 23,000 sheep in 1 974, when station was purchased.
  5. Kildurk-estimated at 11,000 cattle. Pippingarra 6,990 sheep. Mount Welcome- 16,667 sheep, including an estimated 1,500 stragglers- 700 cattle (estimated). Peedamulla- 15,547 sheep, including an estimated 2,000 stragglers- 600 estimated.

Purchase of Property for Aboriginal Land Fund Commission (Question No. 830)

Dr Everingham:

asked the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice, on 5 April 1978:

  1. 1 ) Did Peter Douglas Channell attempt to buy Glenore Station, south of Normanton, Queensland, on behalf of the Aboriginal Land Fund Commission.
  2. Did he assure the Queensland Premier in June 1977 that this would not happen; if so, on what grounds was this assurance possible and for what purpose was it given.
  3. Will the proposed new role of the Commission deny it the opportunity to buy through agents so as to preserve confidentiality; if so, will this place it at a disadvantage by comparison with major foreign mining interests and Mr Iwasaki who hold extensive freehold land and leasing rights in Queensland.
Mr Viner:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. Yes, Mr Channell negotiated for the purchase of Glenore Station on behalf of the Aboriginal Land Fund Commission.
  2. No.
  3. The Commission is able to buy through agents when this is appropriate.

Aboriginal Hostels, Townsville (Question No. 832)

Dr Everingham:

asked the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice, on 5 April 1978:

  1. Is there a hostel for Aboriginals in Townsville under State control which is on average about 90 per cent unoccupied because the management reserves it for persons visiting Townsville for hospital attendance except after occasional strenuous representations.
  2. Has any housing, medical or other co-operative in Townsville power to provide hostels for short-stay itinerants, people with alcohol problems, children needing foster care or the aged; if so, what stage have their proposals reached and what Government support is available.
  3. What mobile dental facilities are available for Aboriginal communities in the Townsville region.
Mr Viner:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. 1 ) The State Government maintains the Aitkenvale hostel in Townsville. Questions about its operation might be directed to the Queensland Minister for Aboriginal and Island Affairs.
  2. Aboriginal Hostels Ltd operates a hostel in Townsville. Any organisation may submit proposals for hostels. My Department has made a grant to the Townsville Aboriginal and Islanders Community Health Service to purchase premises for an alcoholic rehabilitation centre. A proposal for a night-shelter is being considered for grant support in the next financial year.
  3. I understand that the State Government has mobile dental clinics regularly visiting outlying centres to treat school children.

Commonwealth Property: Payments in lieu of Municipal Rates (Question No. 860)

Mr Barry Jones:

asked the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice, on 5 April 1978:

What amounts by way of act of grace payments were paid in lieu of municipal rates by the Commonwealth Government in the years (a) 1975-76 and (b) 1 976-77 to the cities of (i) Altona (ii) Keilor, (iii) Sunshine and (iv) the Shire of Werribee, Victoria.

Mr Street:

– The Minister for Administrative Services has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:

  1. The City of Altona- 1975-76, nil; 1976-77, nil.

    1. The City of Keilor- 1975-76, $42,165.06; 1976-77, $54,915.61.
    2. The City of Sunshine- 1975-76, $9,749.42; 1976-77, $4,523.65.
    3. The Shire of Werribee- 1975-76, $16,007.96; 1976-77,51 1,589.36.

Aviation Gasoline (Question No. 862)

Mr Morris:

asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice, on 6 April 1978:

  1. 1 ) What is the estimated usage of avgas in Australia for each of the years 1977-78 to 1984-85.
  2. What are the present sources of supply of avgas.
  3. What is the expected source and availability of supplies of avgas in each of the years 1977-78 to 1984-85.
  4. Is he able to say what is the present price of avgas and the projected price of avgas in each of the years 1977-78 to 1984-85.
Mr Newman:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. 1 ) Forecasts of demand for aviation gasoline are set out in Table 15 shown in the Demand for Primary Fuels Australia 1976-77 to 1986-87, a report published by the Department of National Development.
  2. In the fiscal year 1976-77 aviation gasoline was obtained from the Mobil /Esso Altona Refinery and imports from Bahrain, Iran and Singapore.
  3. Sales of Altona refined aviation gasoline in the fiscal year 1976-77 amounted to 361,000 barrels and although some increases in production may be achieved at that refinery, no additional aviation gasoline refinery production is planned elsewhere in Australia. Any remaining demand will have to be imported.
  4. List prices of aviation gasoline delivered into aircraft at capital city airports, based on prices authorised by the Prices Justification Tribunal from 8 March 1 978 are:

International Labour Organisation Convention No. 107: Discussion with Aboriginal Affairs Council (Question No. 877)

Mr E G Whitlam:

am asked the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice, on 6 April 1 978:

  1. When did he become aware that the report of the Queensland Treaties Commission, which was examining ILO Convention No. 107- Indigenous and Tribal Populations, 1957 (Hansard, 2 June 1977, page 2555), had been tabled in the Queensland Parliament on 9 December 1976.
  2. Was the convention subsequently discussed by the Aboriginal Affairs Council; if so, with what result.
  3. What other unratified ILO conventions have been discussed by the Council and on what dates and with what results.
Mr Viner:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. 1 ) The tabling of the first report of the Queensland Treaties Commission in December 1976 was not brought to my attention. Matters relating to ILO Conventions are primarily the responsibility of the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations.
  2. No.
  3. None.

New Zealand Peas and Beans (Question No. 885)

Mr Lloyd:

asked the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, upon notice, on 17 April 1978:

Has his Department received any complaints about alleged dumping of New Zealand peas and beans which is contrary to the spirit of NAFTA and the special Pea and Bean Panel; if so, what action has been taken.

Mr Fife:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

No formal complaints have been received by the Department of Business and Consumer Affairs about the alleged dumping of New Zealand peas and beans.

However, there is a long history of co-operation and consultation between Australia and New Zealand on trade in these commodities involving the industries as well as governments, and there has been consultation concerning recent trends in imports from New Zealand.

The Joint Pea and Bean Panel was established to enable the respective industries to consult on such matters. This Panel falls within the responsibility of the Minister for Trade and Resources.

Footwear Imports (Question No. 886)

Mr Lloyd:

asked the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, upon notice, on 7 April 1978:

  1. 1 ) Who are the holders of licences for the importation of footwear and what are their quotas.
  2. Which organisation is considered to be the most representative of footwear retailers, and what weight is given to its view when allocating import quotas.
Mr Fife:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. The Government has decided to publish the names and addresses of all import quota holders every six months.

The lists of import licence holders in respect of footwear were published in the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette on 28 April 1978.

The question of whether or not individual entitlements should be published is still under examination as it raises the aspect of commercial confidentiality. This aspect will be closely examined by my Department and a decision will be made as soon as possible.

  1. The views of all interested parties, both organisations and individual companies, on any aspect of quota administration are given full consideration.

Customs Procedures relating to Air Crews: Narcotics (Question No. 889)

Mr Jull:

asked the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, upon notice, on 7 April 1978:

  1. Do air crew undergo a separate Customs clearance from general passengers at Australian international airports; if so, in what way do these Customs procedures differ.
  2. How many members of airline crews were detained at Australian airports for attempting to import narcotics during the years 1976 and 1977.
  3. By which airlines were those detained employed and how many convictions were recorded.
  4. Is there an agreement between international airlines for dismissal of staff convicted of drug offences.
Mr Fife:

– The answers to the honourable members ‘s questions are as follows:

  1. 1 ) Yes. They are cleared separately from general passengers. Apart from that distinction they are cleared in much the same manner. They complete an individual declaration (Form B 465) whereas passengers complete an individual statement (Form G 137). Their baggage is selected either by random or intuitive means for examination.
  2. Nil for both years.
  3. Not relevant in view of the answer to (2).
  4. I am not aware of any agreement.

Narcotics: Detection at Airports (Question No. 890)

Mr Jull:

asked the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, upon notice, on 10 April 1978:

  1. 1 ) How many persons were apprehended by Customs Officers for trying to import narcotics into Australia at:

    1. Sydney international airport,
    2. Brisbane international airport,
    3. Melbourne international airport, *
    4. Perth international airport,
    5. Darwin international airport, and
    6. Cairns airport during the years 1976 and 1977.
  2. What was the estimated street value of narcotics seized in these cases.
  3. How many convictions were obtained in respect of those detained in these cases.
Mr Fife:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. The number of persons apprehended by Customs Officers (as a result of a personal and/or baggage search) for trying to import narcotics into Australia at the listed airports during the years 1 976 and 1 977 is as follows:
  1. Where possible the Department avoids placing a commercial value on individual drug seizures as it is believed that this tends to encourage persons to become involved in drug smuggling and trafficking.

Additionally, the black market (or street) value of these drugs varies greatly depending upon quality, availability and level of distribution. However, the overall value of the total quantities involved in these seizures would be several million dollars.

  1. The number of convictions obtained in connection with the above apprehensions is:

Pending prosecutions relative to the above apprehensions are:

The following seizures were made at airports from other sources, e.g. cargo, unaccompanied baggage or drugs abandoned on aircraft or in passenger lounges:

Properties purchased or sought by Aboriginal Land Fund Commission (Question No. 895)

Mr E G Whitlam:

am asked the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice, on 7 April 1978:

  1. 1 ) Will he bring up to date the information he gave on 1 8 August 1977 (Hansard, page 481) on properties purchased


by the Aboriginal Land Fund Commission, together with the date of purchase.

  1. What other properties has the Commission unsuccessfully sought or proposed to purchase and what was the reason for the Commission ‘s lack of success in each case.
Mr Viner:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:


Ball Bearing Industry (Question No. 902)

Mr Lloyd:

asked the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, upon notice:

  1. 1 ) Is it a fact that a Tariff Board investigation into the ball bearing industry commenced in 1972, and as yet, over 5 years later, no final report or Government decision has been made.
  2. If so, will he request the Industries Assistance Commission to expedite the final report, which follows the draft report of September 1977, so that the chronic uncertainty in the industry can be ended.
Mr Fife:

– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:

  1. 1 ) and (2) The Government presently has the Industries Assistance Commission’s (IAC) final report on the ball bearing industry under consideration. The report was received by the Government on 2 May 1978. The ball bearing industry was referred to the Tariff Board on 6 November 1972 as part of the miscellaneous industrial machinery reference. The IAC issued a separate Draft report on the ball and roller bearing industry in September 1977 and supplementary public hearings for industry comment were held on 25 October 1977.

Prior to the present report there had been two reports on short term assistance for the industry. The sector producing precision ground steel ball bearings received temporary additional assistance for one year from 1 March 1975, following a Temporary Assistance Authority report. The temporary additional assistance was removed by the Government after the IAC had reported on short term assistance, as required by the IAC Act (prior to the 1 978 amendments ).

Aboriginal Legal Service, New South Wales (Question No. 913)

Mr E G Whitlam:

am asked the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice, on 1 1 April 1 978:

What steps are being taken to have Aboriginal field officers in the New South Wales Aboriginal Legal Service help Aboriginal inmates of New South Wales prisons communicate with departmental officers, visiting justices, medical officers, officers of the Probation and Parole Service, social workers and legal representatives in accordance with the recommendations of the New South Wales Royal Commission into Prisons.

Mr Viner:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: 1 am informed that field officers of the four Aboriginal Legal Services in New South Wales now funded by my Department do seek to visit prisons if requested by Aboriginal inmates. 1 understand that the field officers are generally admitted to the prisons, but have been denied access at certain times without explanation.

I have written to the Honourable W. M. Haigh, M.L.A., the New South Wales Minister for Corrective Services, seeking advice on any action taken to implement the recommendations of the Royal Commission into New South Wales prisons which relate to Aboriginals. I will make any additional information available in due course.

Aboriginal Housing, Mareeba (Question No. 955)

Dr Everingham:

asked the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice, on 2 May 1 978:

  1. 1 ) Did the Mareeba Shire Council, Queensland, in 1973 destroy substandard Aboriginal homes claiming they were a health hazard without taking effective steps to provide alternatives.
  2. Did the Shire in February 1977 evict 10 out of 1 S Aboriginal tenants from houses the Council had built in 1973 with Australian Government funds on leased Queensland crown land.
  3. What active influence has the Australian Government exercised over (a) the land, (b) the lease, (c) the houses and their maintenance, (d) the rentals, (e) householder training and (f) development of an Aboriginal housing society or other self-management project in the area.
  4. When does the Government expect to establish selfmanagement for the Aboriginal community.
  5. What have been the causes for delay in enforcing selfmanagement as provided for in the original agreement with the Shire.
Mr Viner:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. 1 ) No. I am informed that when the dwellings were destroyed arrangements were made to provide interim accommodation and to erect new permanent dwellings.
  2. No.
  3. The Queensland Government is responsible for the land. Lease terms and rental charges were discussed between the Mareeba Shire Council and officers of my Department.

Costs of constructing the houses were met by grants from my Department. My Department has provided grants to the Mooraridgi Housing Co-operative Society for a homemaker service since October 1976 and has supported the Society since its establishment. Regular liaison has been maintained between officers of my Department, the Mooraridgi Housing Co-operative Society and the Mareeba Shire Council.

  1. and (5) Legal questions relating to land tenure caused delay in fulfilling the conditions of the grant as originally approved in December 1973. Requests from the Society and from the residents of the reserve where the houses are situated are being considered and decisions will be announced as and when appropriate.

Imports: Letters of Credit (Question No. 973)

Mr Clyde Cameron:

asked the Treasurer upon notice, on 2 May 1978:

On how many occasions has the Reserve Bank refused an agent trading bank authority to establish letters of credit for import transactions since 1 January 1970.

Mr Howard:

– 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.

Electoral: Distribution of Votes in St George Division (Question No. 976)

Mr Neil:

asked the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice, on 2 May 1978:

What were the first preference voting figures for each candidate, together with the informal and total vote, in the 1 977 Senate election in (a) the Electoral Division of St George and ( b ) each sub-division within that electoral division.

Mr Street:

– The Minister for Administrative Services has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:

The information sought by the honourable member is set out in the following table compiled by the Australian Electoral Office.

Electoral: Distribution of Votes in St George Division (Question No. 978)

Mr Neil:

asked the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice, on 2 May 1978:

  1. What were the first preference voting figures for each candidate, together with the informal and total vote, in each election since 1960 in the following subdivisions of the Electoral Division of St George: (a) Moorefield (b) Hurstville West, (c) Lakemba, (d) Belmore and (e) Campsie.
  2. Were the boundaries of these subdivisions affected by redistribution during that period; if so, how.
Mr Street:

– The Minister for Administrative Services has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:

  1. First preference voting figures for each candidate together with informal and total votes in each subdivision for elections of the House of Representatives and the Senate in the period 1960 to 1975 are contained in the publication Election Statistics (formerly Statistical Returns) for New South Wales published by the Electoral Office after each election. The publication Election Statistics for the December 1977 elections will be issued within the next few months but the information sought is available from copies of Election Form 62 sent to honourable members recently.
  2. The boundaries of the subdivision of Moorefield have been changed once during the period, 1960-1977. The boundaries as proclaimed in Gazette No. 42 of 1 September 1955 stood until changed to those proclaimed in Gazette No. 83 of 29 September 1966.

The boundaries of the subdivision of Hurstville West were not altered during the period 1 960- 1 977.

The boundaries of the present subdivisions of Lakemba South, Belmore, and Campsie in the Division of St George were all created as proclaimed in Gazette No. P 10 of 1 November 1977. They comprise parts of subdivisions of the previous Division of Lang (the subdivisions of Lakemba, Belmore and Campsie).

Aboriginal Affairs: Consultation with Oombulgurri Community (Question No. 995)

Mr E G Whitlam:

am asked the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice, on 3 May 1 978:

  1. Have there been consultations with the Oombulgurri community or with persons acting on its behalf.
  1. If so, on what occasions, about what subjects and at what level have there been consultations, and what has been the outcome of the consultations.
Mr Viner:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. My Department is in constant consultation with the Oombulgurri community in relation to the provision of funds for the support of the community and in relation to other matters.
  2. As the consultations are numerous and often detailed, it is not practicable to supply the detailed information which the honourable member requests. However, if the honourable member seeks information in relation to any specific matters, I will attempt to obtain the information for him.

Commonwealth Bank Employees: Housing Loans (Question No. 1011)

Mr Armitage:

asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 3 May 1978:

Why are female employees of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation not eligible for Officers Homes Advances, keeping in mind that the male employees are.

Mr Howard:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

As this matter concerns the administration of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation, I have sought the advice of the Managing Director of the Corporation. The following information, provided by him, gives details of the housing finance schemes applicable to different groups of Corporation staff and explains why some groups of staff have access to housing loans under the Officers ‘ Homes Advance (OHA) scheme, while some other groups have access to Commonwealth Savings Bank loans on concessional terms and conditions-

The Commonwealth Banking Corporation’s OHA scheme is designed primarily to assist married men officers who, as a fundamental condition of employment, are required to be prepared to serve at any of the points of Corporation representation. The scheme, especially in relation to such matters as eligibility criteria, terms of loans and interest rates, is subject to regular review. One such review is currently being undertaken.

As things stand at present, other groups of officers eligible for loans under the OHA scheme are single matureage officers of either sex (usually those over 30 years of age) who appear to have settled for careers in the Corporation.

The groups of staff that are ineligible for OHA facilities include married women officers whose husbands are not

Corporation officers, young single men and women officers, probationers, full-time temporary service staff and part-time staff. The reasons for defferentiation among staff concerning eligibility for OHA facilities include those associated with differing mobility obligations and with differing needs for housing loan finance.

The basic considerations for regarding married women officers as being ineligible for OHA facilities are that, as a group, they generally have comparatively short working Eves and few, if any, are subject to transfer involving a change of domicile. However, in recognition of their value as serving officers of the Corporation, provision has been made for married women officers, jointly with their (nonCorporation officer) husbands, to have access to Commonwealth Savings Bank loans on terms and conditions that are advantageous to the officers (and their husbands) compared with facilities normally available to Savings Bank borrowers.

Repatriation General Hospital, Hollywood: Security Arrangements (Question No. 1027)

Mr Dawkins:

asked the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, upon notice, on 4 May 1978:

  1. 1 ) Has an assessment been made of security arrangements at the Repatriation General Hospital, Hollywood, Western Australia; if so, who made the assessment.
  2. Are the current security arrangements considered adequate.
  3. Is his Department acting to improve the security arrangements by the employment of extra staff.
  4. If so, (a) what will be the classification of the extra staff, (b) when will they be appointed, (c) will the extra staff be appointed from outside the Department and (d) what will be the implication of such appointments for the Government ‘s staff ceiling policy.
Mr Newman:

– The Acting Minister for Veterans’ Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:

  1. 1 ) Yes. An assessment of security arrangements at Repatriation General Hospital, Hollywood, has been carried out by the Hospital Work Study Officer in consultation with the Commonwealth Police Force, the State Police Department, the security staff of Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital and representatives of local security firms.
  2. The Security Assessment report is still under consideration.
  3. A recommendation relating to staffing is under consideration and will be determined in conjunction with the assessment of resources available within current approved ceilings and consideration of other matters relating to security at the hospital.
  4. (a) The classification for hospital security staff areSenior Hospital Patrolman- $8,772-8,942; Hospital Patrolman-$8,205-8,449. (b), (c) and (d). Matters relating to appointment, sources of recruitment and effects on staff ceilings must necessarily await decisions yet to be made on the recommendations in the Security Assessment Report.

Employment in the Mining Industry (Question No. 1042)

Dr Cass:

asked the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, upon notice, on 5 May 1978:

  1. On what evidence does he base his estimate that 50,000 jobs will be created in the mining industries in Australia.
  2. Over what period will these jobs be created.
  3. What evidence is there for assuming a multiplier effect of seven jobs being created elsewhere in the economy for each new job in the mining sector.
  4. What evidence is there of the multiplier effect being in operation in Australia due to migrants breaking bottlenecks in employment opportunities.

Mr MacKellar The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. and (2) I have not made an estimate that 50,000 jobs- or any other number- will be created in the mining industry in Australia. I used that figure as one part of an illustration of how the Australian mining industry employment multiplier might stimulate employment in other industries. The illustration, which appeared in a newspaper article, demonstrated the importance for the rest of the economy of developments in the mining industry.
  2. My statement about a mining industry multiplier was that’. . . studies of the Canadian mining industry indicate that the employment multiplier . . . could be as high as seven.’

A study by the Mining Association of British Columbia has estimated that in 1973 a mining industry employment multiplier of 2.5 operated within that province and a multiplier of 7.7 within Canada as a whole. It estimated also that these multipliers rose to 2.8 and 7.9 respectively in 1974.

Studies by F. T. Moore and J. W. Peterson, the late Alex. Hunter and others indicate that in Australia the regional multiplier could be as high as 5.4 for refining, processing and fabrication industries; conservative estimates for most sectors range from2.13to3.18. The iron ore industry in the Pilbara has estimated that for every job created in the mining industry itself, there have been approximately four jobs created in other industries in the area- e.g. in servicing, education, communication, transport, etc.

On the basis of these figures, a mining industry multiplier for the total Australian economy may well exceed that calculated in the Canadian study.

  1. Evidence of a multiplier effect in other sectors of the economy is also provided by some of the Australian studies mentioned in (3) above. Alex. Hunter, for example, estimated that even in public utilities there is likely to be a multiplier of at least 1.75.

More recent evidence of the multiplier is given by industry surveys carried out in late 1976- early 1977, as a result of which it has been estimated that for every extra tradesman employed, jobs are created for from one to four workers of lower skill.

Capital Raisings 1976-77 (Question No. 1047)

Mr Willis:

asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 5 May 1978:

  1. 1 ) What was the total level of new capital raisings by the Government during 1976-77.
  2. How much and what proportion of these capital raisings was acquired under the 30/20 rule from life assurance companies.
  3. How much and what proportion of these new capital raisings was from the savings banks under the regulations governing the proportion of their funds which must be invested in government securities.
Mr Howard:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. 1 ) The increase in Commonwealth Government securities on issue in Australia during 1976-77, including Commonwealth securities issued on behalf of the States, was $2,407m. In terms of Australian currency equivalent, the increase in Commonwealth Government securities on issue overseas was $545m in 1976-77. For further details see Budget Paper No. 6, Government Securities on Issue at 30 June 1977, Table 3.
  2. and (3) Life assurance offices’ holdings of Commonwealth Government securities on issue in Australia increased by SI 72m or 8.4 per cent during 1976-77. Savings Banks’ holdings of such securities fell by $141m or 5.0 percent during 1976-77. The net increase in holdings by life assurance companies and savings banks combined was $31m, representing 1.3 per cent of the total increase in Commonwealth Government securities on issue in Australia.

Electoral Roll, St George Division (Question No. 1053)

Mr Neil:

asked the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice, on 5 May:

How many (a) additions and (b) deletions to the electoral rolls occurred in each subdivision of the Electoral Division of St George during 1 977, and what were the totals.

Mr Street:

– The Minister for Administrative Services has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:

The information sought by the honourable member is set out in the following table compiled by the Australian Electoral Office. The table is in two parts: prior to redistribution and after redistribution. This is because there were changes made to the boundaries of the Division in the 1977 redistribution.

Public Servants: Payment of Telephone Charges (Question No. 1103)

Mr Bungey:

asked the Minister representing the Minister for Education, upon notice, on 9 May 1978:

  1. 1 ) How many officers and employees of the Department of Education have their home telephone rentals or charges fully or partially paid by the Department.
  2. What was the cost to the Department of this expenditure in 1976-77.
Mr Staley:

– The Minister for Education has provided the following reply to the honourable member’s question.

  1. $8,870.

Public Servants: Payment of Telephone Charges (Question No. 1108)

Mr Bungey:

asked the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice, on 9 May 1978:

  1. 1 ) How many officers and employees of his Department have their home telephone rentals or charges fully or partially paid by the Department.
  2. What was the cost to the Department of this expenditure in 1976-77.
Mr Viner:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. 1 ) Fifty-six.
  2. $11,908.97.

Public Servants: Payment of Telephone Charges (Question No. 1112)

Mr Bungey:

asked the Minister for Construction, upon notice, on 9 May 1 978:

  1. 1 ) How many officers and employees of his Department have their home telephone rentals or charges fully or partially paid by the Department.
  2. What was the cost to the Department of this expenditure in 1976-77.
Mr McLeay:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. In accordance with Finance Direction 23/7, rental charges for home telephone services and a proportion of metered calls are met by the Department of Construction only where it is clearly demonstrated that there is a need for the facility to enable staff to effectively carry out their official functions.

The Department carries out new works and repairs and maintenance spread over a very large geographic area. It also operates public utilities in the Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory and essential services in Commonwealth establishments. It is important that both key staff and employees can readily be contacted; many of these personnel are on call out.

As at 9 May 1 978 the Department paid the rental and part of the call charges for 2 1 3 officers and 220 other employees.

  1. The cost to the Department in 1976-77 was $44,500. Payment made by officers and employees was $47,600.

Public Servants: Payment of Telephone Charges (Question No. 1123)

Mr Bungey:

asked the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, upon notice, on 15 May 1978:

  1. 1 ) How many officers and employees of his Department have their home telephone rentals or charges fully or partially paid by the Department.
  2. What was the cost to the Department of this expenditure in 1976-77.
Mr Groom:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. 1 ) Forty-three officers and employees.
  2. The Department’s expenditure on official telephones in private residences in 1976/77 was $ 10,035.75.

Taxation Inquiry Officers (Question No. 1128)

Mr Scholes:

asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 9 May 1978:

How many persons are employed as tax inquiry officers in the commercial area.

Mr Howard:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

The Australian Taxation Office has 200 staff throughout Australia engaged primarily in answering inquiries from the public. These officers are supplemented by deployment of staff from other areas during busy periods of each year.

Advisory and Consultative Committees Responsible to Minister for Education (Question No. 1139)

Mr Lloyd:

asked the Minister representing the Minister for Education, upon notice, on 10 May 1978:

  1. 1 ) What advisory or consultative committees has the Minister established or continued which include members of parliament.
  2. Which members and senators are included on these committees.
Mr Staley:

– The Minister for Education has provided the following reply to the honourable senator’s question.

  1. 1 ) and (2) There are no members of parliament on any advisory or consultative committees responsible to me as Minister for Education.

Bureau of Mineral Resources, Staffing: National Energy Policy (Question No. 1215)

Mr Jacobi:

asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice, on 24 May 1978:

  1. Has his attention been drawn to a letter by Dr D. H. Tucker to the Australian on 12 May 1978, which highlights the effects of cutbacks on the operation of the Bureau of Mineral Resources.
  2. If so, will the Government order an open review of BMR operations as suggested by Dr Tucker.
  3. Will the Government conduct a similar review of the operation of other authorities coming under the control of his Department.
  4. Does the situation at BMR provide another indication that lack of staff is the real reason for the Government being unable to develop a national energy policy.
Mr Newman:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. Yes.
  2. At my suggestion the Prime Minister has requested ASTEC to provide advice on the future role of BMR and the appropriate level of activity, taking as a starting point the report of an internal review committee which was completed recently.
  3. No reason for such action is seen at this time.
  4. No. The Government is rapidly developing a national energy policy, along the lines announced last year.

Handmade Silver Goods and Pottery: Sales Tax (Question No. 1254)

Mr Sainsbury:

asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 25 May 1978:

  1. 1 ) What is the rate of sales tax levied on handmade silver goods and pottery.
  2. What revenue has been collected from these items in the last 5 years.
Mr Howard:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. 1 ) There are no specific provisions in the sales tax law relating to handmade silver or pottery. Generally speaking, handmade goods of silver fall within the 2TA per cent rate under provisions relating to goods such as silver plate, jewellery, articles of personal adornment, sleeve links and serviette rings.

Handmade pottery articles in the form of ornaments, jardinieres or vases are taxable at the rate of 2716 per cent. Other pottery articles of a kind ordinarily used for household purposes, e.g. fruit bowls and jugs, are taxable at the rate of 2Vi per cent. Handmade pottery articles not falling within either the 2716 or 2Vi rate are taxable at the rate of 15 per cent.

  1. Statistics of sales tax revenue derived from sales of handmade silver goods and pottery are not available.

Copyright: Reproduction of Printed Material for Use by Handicapped Persons (Question No. 998)

Mr E G Whitlam:

am asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice, on 3 May 1978:

  1. Is consideration being given to amending the Copyright Act to enable reproduction of printed material for use not only by visually handicapped persons but also by persons, such as multiple sclerotics and quadriplegics, who cannot use written works?
  2. Is he able to say in which countries such amendments have been made to the copyright laws?
Mr Viner:

– The Attorney-General has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:

  1. Yes.
  2. I refer the honourable member to part (2) of my answer to question no. 684.

Sugar Price (Question No. 1052)

Dr Everingham:

asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice, on 5 May 1978:

  1. 1 ) Does a recent statement by the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, that indexing the home price of sugar seemed reasonable, reflect the Government’s attitude.
  2. As he assured the House on 23 February 1978 that the Government had not delayed processing the sugar industry’s request for an early decision in this matter, and as he assured me in his reply of 10 April 1978 to my letter of 10 March 1978 that delay due to awaiting further information from the industry no longer applied, will he now state when the decision is expected.
Mr Sinclair:

– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

  1. and (2) A series of discussions has taken place between Commonwealth Government representatives and Queensland Government authorities and sugar industry representatives, on the industry’s application for an increase in the price of sugar.

The two governments have now agreed that the maximum prices of refined sugars to manufacturers will increase by $30 per tonne from 5 June, with the prices of other grades increasing according to respective proportionate values.

It has also been agreed that there will be a full scale public inquiry, under the auspices and using the resources of the Industries Assistance Commission, into the whole ramifications of the sugar industry, including structure, costs, domestic pricing, marketing and distribution arrangements.

The inquiry will be headed by Mr W. A. McKinnon (Chairman, Industries Assistance Commission) and its two other members will be Mr C. L. Harris (Chairman, the Sugar Board) and Mr R. S. Livingston (Secretary, Commonwealth Department of the Northern Territory). The inquiry will report as soon as possible and in time for its recommendations to be considered and, if accepted, implemented by 1 July 1979.

Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 7 June 1978, viewed 22 October 2017, <>.