31st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned, members of the Sydney University Post Graduate Representative Association, and like people, respectfully showeth that the Government decision to tax Commonwealth Post Graduate Research Awards will result in:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House will reverse the decision to tax Commonwealth Postgraduate Research Awards and revert to the former policy of annual adjustments in line with the Consumer Price Index.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Lionel Bowen, Mr Connolly, Mr Hunt and Mr Lusher.
Royal Commission on Human Relationships
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled: The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That because the Report of the Royal Commission on Human Relationships and especially its Recommendations-
Therefore the Parliament has a responsibility to the families of Australia not to adopt this controversial Report and its Recommendations.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray:
That the Australian Parliament will:-
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that your honourable House will take no measures concerning the Royal Commission on Human Relationships Report that will further undermine and weaken marriage, child-care or the family which is the basic unit of our society.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Kevin Cairns, Mr Cohen and Mr Connolly.
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 say that we are concerned about the discrimination which exists against the children of those parents who are in receipt of the Supporting Parents Benefit in comparison with children of Single Parents who receive the Widows Pension. Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that Parliament take immediate steps to ensure that this year’s budget allow for Lone Parents to be given the right to receive a pension with the same benefits as are given with the Widows Pension, and we also request that Parliament take immediate action to instigate one (1) category of Lone Parent Pension to eliminate the discrimination currently experienced.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Cohen and Mr MacKenzie.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that the sales tax as applied to articles handmade by artisans is unfair.
An artisan is a handcraftsman, or a handcraftswoman, who exercises a non agricultural activity, revolving around the transformation of materials with his own handwork or that of his family.
On craft, above all, the accent must be on design, practicability and quality, where the craftsman must perforce pay highly for his raw materials and time must not be a conditioning factor in the making of an article.
This petition seeks the objective examination of the existing sales tax Acts in respect to persons seeking to earn their living by the labour of their hands alone.
Every day, skilled artisans are being forced out of their livelihood, not by the competition of machine made goods, not by high prices of materials, but by the injustice of antiquated Sales Tax Laws. The artisan, thus taxed out of his living, will then go onto unemployment benefits, or worse still, to prostituting his craft by sacrificing his professional integrity, forcing him to lower his standards of workmanship in order to conform to existing laws.
We therefore request that a Sales Tax exemption be created immediately for all handcrafted articles.
We also request that the current exemption limit of $ 1,400 and $1,000 respectively referred to in items 100(1) and 100(2) of the Sales Tax (Exemption and Classifications) Act 1 935- 1967 be immediately raised to a realistic figure, in line with current living standards and from then on to be periodically reviewed so as to keep pace with the Australian standard of living.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Bryant.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The humble petition of the citizens of Australia showeth protest strongly, against many of the provisions within the 1 978-79 Budget in particular to those items which extend the indexing of pensions to once a year and the re-introduction of the means test for over 70 ‘s.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Burns.
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:
Your petitioners humbly pray that the Members of the House assembled will
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Clyde Cameron.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned students of Watson High School, ACT respectfully showeth:
That we are thoroughly disgusted with not being able to use the change rooms due to extremely poor conditions, e.g. no heating; poor ventilation; lack of space; cold, damp floors; not enough showers; lack of bench space; flaking paint; damaged clothes hooks and overall filth.
Due to these conditions the students of our school are losing all of their Physical Education and these periods are being filled with written work.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that change room facilities at Watson High School be upgraded to improve physical education opportunities.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Fry.
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 the provision of payments for abortion through items of the Medical Benefits Schedule is an unacceptable endorsement of abortion which has now reached the levels of a national tragedy with at least 60,000 unborn babies being killed in 1977.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will so amend the Medical Benefits Schedule as to preclude the payment of any benefit for abortion.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Haslem.
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
We the undersigned citizens respectfully submit:
That the proposal that hospitals should charge long term pensioner patients the bulk of their pension will severely discriminate against pensioners, depriving them of financial independence, and in the case of married people, making it financially difficult and often impossible for a couple with one panner hospitalised to maintain their home.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Holding.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. This humble petition of undersigned Christian citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Dr Jenkins.
To the Right Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That they oppose the construction of any additional reactor at the Australian atomic energy establishment at Lucas Heights in NSW.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Les Johnson.
To the Honourable, the Speaker, and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will-
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Les Johnson.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth-
That the Government provide ASCO staff with a guarantee that:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Jull.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That citizens in rural areas are strongly opposed to the automation of manually operated telephone exchanges which is resulting in loss of employment for telephone operators in difficult economic times and the unnecessary loss of an efficient, personalised telephone service which has proven to be eminently suited to the needs of rural telephone subscribers.
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that your Honourable House will call on the Government to halt the program pending a full and open Parliamentary inquiry into the needs and desires of affected subscribers and the full economic and social effects of the automation program on country towns, rural telephone subscribers and Telecom Australia employees.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Lusher.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectively showeth:
It would be a disgrace to the fine spirit of these heroes if we thought of saving their lives. ‘
Major Kamiya the prosecutor at the Japanese Court Martial who made the above comment went on to say, inter alia-
These heroes must have left Australia with sublime patriotism flowing in their breasts and with the confident expectation of all the Australian people on their shoulders.
As we respect them, so we feel our duty of glorifying their last moments as they deserve, and by doing so the names of these heroes will remain in the hearts of the British and Australian people for evermore. ‘
A specially commissioned March called ‘The Forgotten Heroes’ was played for the first time by the Band of the New South Wales Police Force.
Your Petitioners humbly pray that the members, in the House assembled, will take the most urgent steps to approve the conferring of the medal on the men of ‘Jaywick’ and Rimau’ on behalf of the people of Australia to honor the memory of these gallant men so that future generations of Britain and Australia will know and admire what these men did and their memory will remain in the hearts of the British and Australian people for evermore.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Uren.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Wallis.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister and I refer to the serious allegations made yesterday by Mr Doug Jennings in the Victorian Legislative Assembly implicating two members of this Parliament. I remind the Prime Minister that only one of those two members, the honourable member for Melbourne Ports, has denied the allegations made against him and in doing so he has called for a full, open judicial inquiry. In the interests of parliamentary propriety and the reputations of members of this Parliament, will the Prime Minster agree to institute such an inquiry immediately, consistent with the attitude that he displayed in the case of alleged improprieties in the Queensland electoral redistribution? Finally, does the Prime Minister agree that without such an initiative on his part there is no way that the members of this Parliament named by Mr Jennings can clear their names, especially since the Victorian Government has refused such an inquiry?
-The honourable gentleman’s question contained an interesting admission. He admitted very plainly that the government behaved as it should have behaved and did what is ought to have done in relation to the Queensland electoral redistribution. I rather think that the honourable gentleman spent a considerable time of this Parliament over recent days trying to demonstrate the very opposite. I am glad to have that admission clearly and plainly on the record.
– He is a slow learner.
-Slow, but no learner. I have not seen the Jennings document which, as I understand it, was tabled in the Victorian Parliament. I do note that the Victorian Premier has dismissed the allegations as secondhand scuttlebutt. Others who have been accused by Mr Jennings have also strongly denied the wild allegations. Against the background of what has happened in the past, I cannot see why those denials should not be accepted. It is despicable when parliamentary privilege is used for what I believe are vicious and unfounded attacks of this kind, especially against the background of one or two other things that have occurred. There was a royal commission in Victoria which exhaustively went into many matters. It was open to Mr Jennings to make evidence available to that royal commission in relation to a great many matters. The findings of that royal commission in relation to affairs that occurred in Victoria have been presented.
It is my understanding that the document, such as it is, relates to events that occurred in Victoria- events which largely have been the subject of the royal commission as I am advised- and that they are matters within the purview of the Victorian Parliament. I believe that it would be a very odd circumstance indeed to have an inquiry established by the Commonwealth into a matter that was one for the Victorian Parliament, merely because a former member of the Victorian Parliament had translated his personality into the Federal Parliament. Against that background, I believe that we need to understand- let me emphasise this-that Mr Jennings has had an opportunity to give evidence to that Victorian royal commission. That Victorian royal commission sat for a very long time and made its findings. The matters are within the purview of the Victorian Parliament and the State of Victoria. They are not matters directly before this Parliament.
Let me say this in respect of my colleague, the Minister for Industry and Commerce: As I am advised, and from reading Press reports, no new matters have been revealed. The matters in relation to my colleague have been examined exhaustively. Statements have been made about them. There is no reason whatsoever to retract, as I am advised, on the basis of the reports of what Mr Jenning has said, one element of the statements that have been made in relation to the Minister for Industry and Commerce. Those matters stand as cleared and as far as I am concerned they ought to be accepted as finished. I am also prepared to accept what the honourable member for Melbourne Ports said in relation to this particular matter. I believe also that it is time this Parliament began to display some sense of decency and some sense of generosity in relation to its members. I believe that it is time the Opposition stopped trying to ferret around in its natural habitat.
-Has the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations any information for the House on the national wage case decision?
– I have just received some information. I am informed that the judgment is a very long one. Naturally I have not had a chance to see it. As I am informed, one of the central points of the decision is for six-monthly hearings to be held in future. The first of these, which is to consider the June and September quarters, is, as I understand it, to start on 3 1 October. I am also informed that annual hearings will be held to look at the question of national productivity, but no hearings on that issue are to be held until the end of 1979. Clearly, the rest of the decision incorporates many points of detail which will need careful consideration by the Government. From what I have learnt so far, the decision does not go all the way with the submissions that the Government has made but it does give a better breathing space than the existing system. It will be up to all parties to take advantage of that and to work together in the interests of economic recovery and more jobs, without a repetition of the recent spate of extremely damaging industrial disruptions, which can only slow recovery and cost jobs.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Industry and Commerce. In view of the statements made in the Victorian Parliament yesterday about business transactions involving the Minister and his family, will the Minister now, in the interests of this Parliament as well as of himself, table the full- I stress ‘full ‘ - statement of his affairs which was presented to the Prime Minister last year but which has not been made public so far?
– Whilst I have not had an opportunity to obtain a full copy of the statement by Mr Jennings which was tabled yesterday in the Victorian Parliament by the Leader of the Victorian Opposition and which apparently in some mysterious way found its way to Canberra before in fact it had been tabled in that Parliament- I observe that and people can put their own interpretation on it- I have seen most of the Press commentary in the daily newspapers this morning. Mr Speaker, I seek your indulgence to be permitted for a minute or two to set out what I think is important in regard to what the honourable gentleman has queried and indeed to the statement which Mr Jennings has put down.
I think the House will be aware that Mr Jennings was expelled from the Parliamentary Liberal Party in Victoria and from the Victorian division of the Liberal Party because he was a person considered not fit to hold a parliamentary seat. It is in that context, I say to the honourable gentleman opposite, that Mr Jennings has now come forward with a series of quite wild and fanciful allegations, not only against me but also against the Premier of Victoria, the President of the Liberal Party in Victoria, the Council of the
Liberal Party in Victoria, the Executive of the Liberal Party in Victoria, the entire Victorian Cabinet, the State members for Frankston, Dromana and South Eastern, the Federal member for McMillan, the Chairman of the Flinders Finance Committee, the State organiser of the Liberal Party in Flinders and my electorate secretary. I note also that, as the Prime Minister has mentioned in the House this morning, Mr Jennings has accused the honourable member for Melbourne Ports in this House of corruption, specifically of accepting a $30,000 bribe. It is significant that Mr Jennings’s statement was made under the protection of parliamentary privilege with the assistance of the Opposition.
– Why don’t you quote what he said about everyone else as well?
-Order! The honourable member for Reid will remain silent.
– It is significant that Mr Jennings’s statement was made under the protection of parliamentary privilege- a matter from which I have grievously suffered on an earlier occasion- with the help of the Opposition in that Parliament. It is equally significant, as the Prime Minister has mentioned, that the allegations now made were not made to the royal commission and have come forward only after the expulsion of Mr Jennings by the Victorian division of the Liberal Party. I am aware of the statement made last evening by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports. He has denied without reservation that he accepted a $30,000 bribe. I accept that denial. I respond to questions this morning only because last evening I did not have a copy, as in fact I do not now have a copy, of the statement which apparently was available to the honourable member for Melbourne Ports.
Allegations have been made against me in two areas. The first area relates to land dealings which was the subject of the question by the honourable gentleman. They are in fact the same as the allegations that were made against me in another place, the Victorian Parliament, under privilege last year. They were answered fully subsequently after the Federal election and, as the House is very much aware, the answer at that time was subject to independent examination by senior counsel after the matter had been carefully analysed and reported publicly by Irish, Young and Outhwaite and also by Mallesons. The second allegation apparently relates to the use of funds raised for campaigning purposes for the Federal electorate of Flinders. Late last evening and early this morning I checked with those people who carry principal responsibility for the
Liberal Party organisation in Flinders. I simply say that they have treated the allegations by Mr Jennings with contempt and disgust.
Let me be more precise. I am assured by the chairman of the Flinders finance committee that any suggestion of falsified receipts or misappropriation of campaign funds is utterly without foundation. For my part, I have no knowledge of any payments to the Liberal Party in Flinders which were used for any purpose other than that for which they were intended, that is, campaigning in the Flinders electorate. I would have to say to both sides of the House that I am, as I would hope all members of the House would be, sick and tired of the scurrilous muck-raking in which Mr Jennings has indulged over the past 12 months, both within the Liberal Party in Victoria and in the public domain. I am tempted to respond in kind- I must say that it is an almost compelling temptation- but I think the Australian public is sick and tired of smears of this type. I have no intention of dignifying any further in this House the quite despicable and nauseating smears which that man has concocted and which apparently the Labor Party in this House is prepared to endeavour to perpetuate.
- Mr Speaker, I seek leave to table a document entitled ‘Personal Explanation to the Parliament of Victoria by D. B. Jennings, MLA, Member for Westernport, September 1978’. I seek leave to table this document in view of the fact that the Government does not seem to have available a copy of that document.
-The honourable member is not permitted to debate the matter. Is leave granted?
-Leave is not granted.
-I direct a question to the Minister for Health. I refer to the proposed arrangements concerning the $1.52 charge to be made to process claims from health fund non members. I ask the Minister whether he will undertake to have his decision guided by at least three considerations. First, in his discussions will he ensure an equal flexibility in relation to the effective price on behalf of both tenderers, that is, the private funds and Medibank, and not assume the $1.52 charge to be merely a target to be aimed at by one side; secondly, will he treat the matter in a non-cartel manner, that is, maintain flexibility as to the arrangements in the various States, since there are different traditions in relation to public and private health administration among the States; and, thirdly, will he ensure that the price agreed to is realistic and sustainable having regard to predictable cost rises and not one arrived at for a moment and then used as a platform for future rises?
-I repeat for the benefit of the honourable member that the Government has made a firm offer to health insurance funds to pay $1.52 a claim to dispense the 40 per cent Commonwealth medical benefit to uninsured people. This offer, of course, is also available to Medibank. It is available until noon on Friday. I have chosen midday on Friday because if the funds are not prepared to accept that offer- it is a matter for the funds- obviously some other urgent arrangements will need to be made. So the Government is sticking firmly to the offer that it has made to the funds.
As to the second part of the question relating to a differential payment which might reflect the different administrative costs that may be apparent as between the States, the Government has made a flat, firm offer. We are not taking into account the differences of cost that may exist as between the States.
– No, differences as to who will look after the arrangements in the States, Medibank or the private funds- not different costs.
– I will have to take that question on notice because it is more complex than it appears to be on the surface. We have made a simple, firm offer of $1.52 to handle a claim. We base that figure, of course, upon the present experience of the Medibank organisation. The Health Insurance Commission has an agency arrangement with a well known fund in Queensland and is paying $1.52 a claim. There has never been any complaint or objection by the fund to the level of the agency fee. So the Government has assumed that that is a reasonable figure. Under the arrangement that exists between the Health Insurance Commission and that fund there is provision for an indexation arrangement to take into account the cost movements that occur. The Government will offer funds that may be prepared to co-operate a contractual arrangement which would undoubtedly take into account the movements in costs that could occur. But that will be a matter for negotiation with the funds that wish to enter into contractual arrangement with the Government.
I repeat that the offer remains in force until noon tomorrow. If there is no response from the funds by that time obviously we will move very quickly to other agency arrangements. We have had a number of offers. We have received one in particular from the Australian Postal Commission. The Commission, through the Minister for Post and Telecommunications has approached me with an offer to act as an agent for the Commonwealth in the dispensing of the universal Commonwealth benefit.
-My question which I direct to the Prime Minister is supplementary to the questions asked by the Leader of the Opposition relating to matters raised in the Victorian Parliament yesterday which, of course, cast aspersions on all members of parliament whether they be in the State or Federal spheres. I also remind the Prime Minister of the accusations which were made against the Labor Government about secret commissions and so on in relation to loans raised overseas. In view of the serious damage that has been done to the parliamentary insitution, does the right honourable gentleman now agree that it is important that all members of this House as a matter of urgency should indicate that they are prepared to disclose their income tax returns as well as the nature of the assets and liabilities of their wives and families and that this be done without any further delay? Does the Prime Minister subscribe to that philosophy?
-As the honourable gentleman knows, an official inquiry is examining that matter and it is open to all members of this House and to members of the public to give their views in relation to it. There will be an inquiry and a report, and the Government and the Parliament presumably will be able to make a judgment about it. I am sure that the honourable gentleman understands that his proposition is not as simple as he puts it. At an earlier time there was a parliamentary inquiry into this matter, and that inquiry said that members of parliament should disclose their assets but it did not extend this to wives and families. I have said on earlier occasions that a declaration that did not achieve its real purpose of helping to establish greater trust would achieve no purpose at all. If the public came to understand that it was something there in the front of the window to make people believe that the purpose was achieved, but in fact it was not achieved because there were deficiencies in the posposal then I believe the reputation of the Parliament would not be enhanced. The fact that wives and families were omitted would certainly, in the current environment, become a point for criticism. I think there were other deficiencies in relation to that also because there was no requirement for a member to disclose liabilities. It is one thing to disclose assets but a person could be in grievous financial trouble and difficulty, very grievously in debt, and therefore subject to pressure. Therefore, liabilities also should be exposed, not just assets.
The honourable gentleman might think that what I am putting, therefore, is the simple proposition: Disclose wives’ assets and family assets. But at this particular time there are many women within the Australian community who, no matter how happy their home is and so on, have independent assets and believe that they have an independent status. They believe they have a right to be treated as equals and to have assets in their own right which they bring into a marriage. Whether this Parliament should compel disclosure of the assets of a wife when they come from an origin which could be independent from her husband is a very serious question. The reverse position obviously would apply if the wife is a member of parliament. In these circumstances, there is the very real question of the rights of the particular person involved. I hope this is one of the matters to which the inquiry will address itself. I hope that it will give us advice that will be helpful.
Let me refer also to the position of children. Does the honourable gentleman suggest that there should be declarations in relation to all children? I believe it is terribly important that the children of members of parliament be able to lead and live their own independent lives. They should not be caught up in the political turmoil of their fathers or mothers, whatever may be the case. It is hard enough for the children of politicians. Surely the honourable gentleman will concede that point. They want to be able to lead their own lives in their own way. In these circumstances, what would the honourable gentleman propose? Should the assets of dependent children be made public? But what happens when a person becomes independent? What happens if they are the assets of a child who has earned those assets himself and is independent? What happens if, just because his father happens to be a member of parliament, those assets are put on some public register such as the honourable gentleman wants? There is another very real question to be considered in the modern age in which we live. If we exposed on a public register the assets of all members of this Parliament we would be giving advice and information to terrorists or would-be terrorists which would be useful to them.
– Ha, ha!
-The honourable gentleman thinks it is a light-hearted matter. In other countries kidnapping for political purposes has become common. Kidnapping for monetary purposes also has become quite common. The honourable gentleman believes that this is a light-hearted matter which can be treated as a joke in this Parliament. I have more concern than that for people and for individuals. Whatever might be happening behind him and in other places, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is not trying to treat it lightly because he knows these are serious considerations. Even a cursory examination discloses some of the problems associated with this matter and leads us to other questions. If there is a register, should it be a public register or a private register? If it should be a private register, in whose charge should it be? If allegations are made, how should those matters be investigated properly and fairly?
I understand and respect the motive behind the honourable gentleman in putting forward his suggestion. I am only putting the view that the re-establishing of the kind of trust that is necessary not only within this Parliament but also between this Parliament and the Australian community is not necessarily or easily achieved by the simple statement that there will be disclosure in one sense, shape or form. A number of considerations need to be taken into account. If the honourable gentleman analyses the particular questions involved he will ultimately get back to a situation in which there has to be some degree of trust between this Parliament and the community. I believe also that members of this Parliament do a grave and serious disservice to this nation if they seek at every point, at every hand, to destroy any possibility of trust existing.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. What is the Government’s attitude to the series of tragic incidents which have occurred in the war in Rhodesia? Does the Government condemn such incidents? Finally, what is the Government’s assessment of the political situation now in Rhodesia?
-The Government has been closely following recent developments in Rhodesia. It has noted the harder statements now being made by both sides and is very concerned at the increasing deterioration of the situation in Rhodesia. Honourable members will be aware that recently there has been a series of tragic, grievous incidents involving innocent civilians, both black and white, as a result of the continuing conflict. That can only underline the urgent need to bring an end to that conflict by the negotiation of a settlement which takes adequate account of the legitimate political aspirations of black Rhodesians to participate fully in the political processes of their country. Although initially the internal agreement signed at Salisbury on 3 March appeared to contain some positive elements and was at least an advance on the previous situation, it is now clear that it has not achieved its principal objectives. It has not brought about a ceasefire or conditions in which free and fair elections can be held. Mr Smith has conceded this himself. As he has indicated, elections which were to have been held this year will have to be delayed. Moreover, it has not been demonstrated that the internal agreement has the support of the people of Rhodesia as a whole, which must be the ultimate test of any settlement.
The Government believes that it is unrealistic to expect the ceasefire to be effective unless the chief protagonists are involved and Mr Smith has acknowledged this by his recent meeting with Mr Nkomo. We have noted that Mr Nkomo has now said that he no longer sees the AngloAmerican proposals for an all-party conference as offering a solution. This, in the view of the Government, is most unfortunate and to be regretted. Time is unquestionably running out for a peaceful settlement, but it is the earnest hope of the Government that the parties can still make the compromises necessary to bring about a peaceful settlement in the interests of all the inhabitants of Rhodesia.
– I ask the Minister for Industry and Commerce a question in respect of the Jennings allegations. Does he share my view that these allegations against himself and myself, against the Premier of Victoria, the Speaker of the Victorian Legislative Assembly and a large number of Ministers of the Victorian Cabinet are so serious that if they were to go unchallenged none of us would be fit to hold any public office in any Parliament in Australia? That being the case, in order to deal with these allegations, will he join me in making representations to the Premier of Victoria for an open judicial inquiry to be held on the broadest possible grounds in order that all these allegations can be examined and finally laid to rest?
– If I may say so with great respect to the honourable gentleman, I would not find myself in easy company if I joined him in this or in any other exercise. The simple fact is that the Premier of Victoria has already dismissed the concept of an inquiry, as I understand the Press reports. I remind the honourable gentleman of the facts, and the Prime Minister has made this very clear today. There has been a Royal Commission in Victoria. I might say gently to the honourable gentleman in sorrow and not in anger that that Royal Commission came rather close to the bone as far as he was concerned.
– That is a lie and you know it is a lie.
– It was rather close to the bone, but I say that in sorrow and not in anger.
– On a point of order, Mr Speaker; the statement made by the Minister for Industry and Commerce that the findings of the Royal Commission on land dealings in Victoria came close to the bone in respect of me is not only untruthful but the imputation is offensive and I ask him to withdraw it.
-I think the right honourable gentleman has said something which reflects on the character of the honourable member for Melbourne Ports. I ask him to withdraw.
– I really would not want to upset the honourable gentleman. I withdraw, of course.
– You are a snake!
-I ask the honourable member for Melbourne Ports to withdraw his interjection: That is a lie’.
– In deference to you, Mr Speaker, I withdraw.
-I ask the honourable member for Maribyrnong to withdraw his interjection.
– I withdraw.
– I simply seek to take three further points. First of all, I remind the honourable gentleman that these matters have been subject to very exhaustive canvass before a Royal Commission in Victoria, a Royal Commission to which Mr Jennings, the gentleman mentioned in this House this morning, had ample opportunity to put matters which may or may not have been of concern to him, but he did not do so.
– Not the allegations concerning you.
-The honourable member for Melbourne Ports will remain silent.
– I also remind the honourable gentleman that my own affairs have been subject to very exhaustive independent inquiry.
– Not in public.
– By your own Q.C.
– Opposition members can go off on that tack if they like, but the fact is that independent counsel was commissioned and carried out an inquiry. The House is aware of the result of that inquiry. I have referred to the two earlier matters concerning Mallesons and Irish, Young and Outhwaite, which did no more than confirm what was the ultimate judgment made by the Queen’s Counsel in question. I should have thought that the honourable gentleman, who himself has been subject to a rather serious charge on the basis of hearsay evidence and scuttle-butt of the type contained in the statement made by Mr Jennings, would take what I recall was the Prime Minister’s point this morning so far as the question of respect to the parliamentary institution is concerned; that is, no party in this country, whether in a Federal or State House, will be served if parliamentarians can be called before any form of inquiry as the result of baseless allegations made in a wild fashion under parliamentary privilege in any chamber of this country, the individuals named having no capacity outside the Parliament to defend themselves because the statements are not made in that context. If the honourable gentleman is really serious about the point he is seeking to take, I invite him to dwell on the observations I have just made.
-Has the Treasurer any additional information to give the House concerning the suggestion that a Treasury file on a foreign investment matter is missing?
-Yesterday the honourable member for Lalor asked my colleague the Minister for Industry and Commerce a question regarding foreign investment and QBE Insurance Ltd. Subsequently outside this House he carried on the speculation that there was some degree of impropriety, some suggestion that a Treasury file was missing. I have two things to say to the House. The first is that I have been informed by the Treasury that no file in respect of that foreign investment matter is missing. No part of any file in respect of that foreign investment matter is missing. I have also been informed by the Department of the Treasury that there is no record of any contact with or any representation to the Treasury regarding that matter either by the former Treasurer- now the Minister for Industry and Commerce- or by any member of his staff. That is information with which I have been provided by the Treasury. I remind the honourable gentleman, as I am sure he was aware or ought to have been aware before he asked the question yesterday, of the terms of an answer I gave, I think to the honourable member for Grayndler, on 10 April this year in which I indicated that the former Treasurer had approved a recommendation of the Foreign Investment Review Board in respect of the matter involving QBE Insurance Ltd.
By way of final comment I point out that I am particularly disappointed that the honourable member for Lalor should have in such an unspecified and, according to the information that has been given to me, groundless fashion, raised speculation as to the propriety of my colleague ‘s behaviour in this matter and suggested that in some secretive, 007 way, some Treasury file was missing. I think that suggestion is contemptible.
-I direct my question to the Treasurer. Will he table the file in question and, in particular, will he table a record of a conversation which took place in the last weeks of 1975 between Mr Andrew Hay of the then Treasurer’s office and Mr Pyman of the Foreign Investment Review Board indicating the interest of the then Treasurer in a transaction involving the sale of a building belonging to QBE Insurance Ltd to the American Housing Corporation Ltd?
-I will not table the file. I do not propose to be intimidated out of adherence to proper practice so far as commercial confidentiality is concerned by the sorts of scurrilous allegations that are made. I also inform the honourable member that I have been informed that the particular gentleman to whom he made reference as being an employee of the Treasury has no recollection of any contact with Mr Andrew Hay of my colleague ‘s office.
-My question is directed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Has the Australian Ambassador to Indonesia, Mr Critchley, recently visited East Timor? If so, has he submitted a report on that visit to the Government? In view of reports of widespread malnutrition in East Timor, is the Government prepared to provide further humanitarian assistance to the people of East Timor?
-Yes, I confirm that, as has been well publicised, Ambassador Critchley has visited East Timor in recent days. As the House will be aware, the Government has been giving humanitarian aid to East Timor, partly through contributions to the International Committee of the Red Cross and, latterly, through the Indonesian Red Cross. The Indonesian Red Cross has advised us that the Australian contributions have been spent on medicine, medical supplies, relief goods, the administrative costs of distributing those items and the provision of basic medical care facilities in both rural and urban areas. At present, according to Mr Critchley, there is an immediate problem facing the Indonesian Government, and that is the resettlement of some thousands of people already in Indonesian camps and the large numbers who are continuing to report to the Government. The short term and long term difficulties of this situation are intensified because of the inadequate infrastructure and great development problems in East Timor itself.
Mr Critchley was given to understand that the Indonesians did have sufficient stocks, at least in the short term, of food and medicines available for these displaced people. The major problem, as he put it, was one of distribution because of the very poor state of the few roads and an acute shortage of suitable transport. As a consequence the Government, of course, has been saying that it would be considering quickly and sympathetically the question of further humanitarian assistance to East Timor. I have approved the offer of $225,000 to the Indonesian Government as an accountable grant to be applied through the Indonesian Red Cross for the support of its humanitarian program of assistance to the people of East Timor. Discussions are currently being held with the Indonesian authorities about the possible types of equipment and supplies most needed. This is, of course, an immediate approval and we will be keeping the matter under constant review.
– I ask a question of the Minister for Primary Industry. I refer him to a statement he made on the radio program AM on 27 July 1 978 in which he said:
Genetically the Australian merino is way ahead of merinos anywhere else in the world.
If so, what guarantee will he give that the export of up to 300 merino rams will not erode Australian wool growers’ comparative advantage? Further, does the Government intend to maintain the embargo on the export of ewes, ova and semen?
-I know that the honourable gentleman is quite determined to knock in every possible way the successes of his fellow countrymen. Fortunately, in just about every country of the world there are sheep breeders who look at the Australian merino as having that genetic superiority to which I have referred. So in no way do I retract from that assertion.
With respect to the whole of the exercise of trying to assess the benefits or otherwise of the relaxation of the ban, this is something that has come out of prolonged discussion within primary industry organisations. It is quite true that of all sectors of Australian primary industry the sheep studs have suffered perhaps as much as any in trying to maintain their level and quality of production largely because of the downturn in wool incomes, rising costs and all the factors which even the honourable gentleman might sometimes understand have affected primary producers. It is true that if they can get more for their rams there is a better chance of those major studs continuing to produce that basic genetic material which is so important in the overall quality of the Australian merino. It is to that, of course, that those who are in producer organisations have addressed their attention.
All the organisations, including the Australian Wool Industry Conference, have made recommendations to us on this temporary relaxation. We believe on that advice that we should accept those recommendations on the same basis indeed as even the honourable gentleman’s colleagues in the previous Labor Government accepted recommendations with respect to the wool levy and, to a degree, the reserve price scheme operated by the Australian Wool Corporation. Of course, that was against the background of earlier referendums which had recommended that there be no such scheme.
With respect to the assessment of the benefits of the relaxation, of course, it is hard to know to what degree on a one-year basis a judgment is capable of being accurately made. But the Government sees that this relaxation should be of assistance to the major studs, and on the advice of the industry we have accepted that relaxation as being a means to help their viability. In terms of further relaxation, there is no intention of relaxing the ban with respect to ewes or semen at this stage. We believe that the relaxation will be of assistance to the major studs, and we hope that the whole of the Australian wool industry will be able to get behind the continuation of this scheme, subject to there being no injury demonstrated. It is quite true that amongst most cattle breeders, for example, there is still a search for genetic material from abroad in order to upgrade our cattle herds. I would have thought that exactly the same argument applies to the merino industry as applies to the cattle industry. I do not believe that in any way this relaxation will do any harm to the Australian sheep industry. Rather, I think that it might help to preserve that quality which the honourable gentleman seems so determined to knock.
-Is the Minister for Trade and Resources aware of the claims that Australia has missed opportunities for meat sales in the Middle East and of suggestions that greater priorities should be given to trade with the Middle East and the countries of the Association of South East Asian Nations instead of Europe? Will the Government respond to these suggestions?
– I noticed one comment which came from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition who said that Australia was not performing as it should in the Middle East and the countries of the Association of South East Asian Nations. I think that comment displayed absolute ignorance or was a bit of political prattling. Perhaps it is just sour grapes. Our performance in these areas is improving as a result of Government policies which are giving encouragement and incentives to people to go out and to explore these areas. Indeed, our policies are designed to give a thrust into the Middle East and the ASEAN countries. The value of trade with the Middle East has increased from $100m to $5 60m in the course of the last four years. Trade with the ASEAN countries has increased to $850m. This is one of the most rapidly growing areas of our trade. Australia now has 10 trading posts in the Middle East. Four years ago, we had only four trading posts. We are continuing to look around and to build up Australia’s trading posts in this area so that we will have greater trade involvement. It is absolute nonsense for the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to talk in terms of Australia not being interested or aggressive in that area.
Australia has the lion’s share of the meat trade in the Middle East, especially in sheep meat and live sheep. If the honourable member is really concerned about this trade, he ought to be doing a little more work with the trade unions which probably are jeopardising this trade more than any other single factor. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition also castigated the Government for wanting to be interested and involved in the European Economic Community. We know that during the period that the Australian Labor Party was in office it wrote off the possibility of trade with the EEC. It had given up. The Labor Government was not even attempting to try to open up the EEC markets. This Government is determined to get greater access to the EEC, especially for our agricultural products. I believe that in the course of negotiations, and certainly as a result of some of my negotiations with the EEC, there are signs that we will get increased access to these markets during the rounds of the Multilateral Trade Negotiations. This Government, in comparison with the attitude displayed by the Opposition, is certainly far more aggressive and is giving hope to Australian industries which want to sell around the world. It is sheer nonsense for honourable members opposite to make the allegations that they have been making, accusing the Government of not promoting trade. Such allegations do not stand up against the facts.
-I call the Minister for Foreign Affairs.
– In answer to a question only a few moments ago asked by the honourable member for Ballarat, I mentioned a figure of $225,000. The figure should have been $250,000.
-Mr Speaker, I seek the indulgence of the House to correct a statement that I made yesterday relating to foreign investment.
-I will give the right honourable member the indulgence.
– Thanks, sir. There are two matters before the House. The first one relates to the operations within Australia of overseas corporations whether by way of a subsidiary corporation or branch. The Bill to which I referred yesterday and which was referred to in the House on 4 November 1977 applies to the operation of American subsidiaries in Australia. There is a big difference between a branch and a corporation. A corporation is subject to the normal rate of 46 per cent tax, together with a withholding statement. The Bill relates to that type of operation. In the case of a branch, the same type of taxation does not apply. The Bill therefore relates to getting consistency between the two types of operations. I also referred to the Income Tax Assessment Amendment Bill (No. 2) itself under which a tax of 5 per cent applies. That applies to that type of operation.
With regard to the second problem, which is much more important and which concerns the statement made to the House in June 1978, the Income Tax Assessment Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1978 applies to Australians overseas who are employed by Australian corporations and who will be taxed as though, in truth, they are residents of Australia. It also applies to overseas subsidiaries of Australian corporations which at the present time escape the rebate under section 46 of the Income Tax Assessment Act and which will now be subject to a tax and, secondly, to the time factor of the year of income within which credits can be used and other matters of that kind. The statement to the House of June 1978- in particular page 8 and the following page of that statement- refers to this type of operation. It is upon this I have drawn when I have been making comments to the Treasurer (Mr Howard ) and in letters to the Prime Minister ( Mr Malcolm Fraser) when discussing or raising the matter. A Bill was not tabled at the time the Second Reading was made. Nonetheless, all I have said does not alter in any way the main thrust of my argument that this matter is so important that it must not remain a matter for the Treasury and the Department of Taxation alone. It is certainly a matter for the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations insofar as operations in Australia based on orders from the overseas subsidiary are concerned and therefore the effect it can have on employment in Australia. It also very much concerns the Department of Foreign Affairs and our relations with members of the Association of South East Asian Nations and other countries. I believe that the Ministers responsible for those departments as well as the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr Lynch), must be consulted on an official basis before a Bill is tabled in this house. Those portfolios must be drawn into the matter when it is being reconsidered. Thank you, sir.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair)- by leave- agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent a definite matter of public importance proposed to the Speaker by the Leader of the Opposition being submitted to the House for discussion before Order of the Day No. 1 , Grievance Debate, is called on.
-I have 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 Government’s failure to maintain the real value of payments to and for the States and local government for each fiscal year since 1 975-76.
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-
MrHAYDEN (Oxley-Leader of the Opposition) (11.29)- The Government has failed to maintain the real value of payments to and for the States and local government for each fiscal year since 1975-76. It has clearly embarked on a campaign to convey otherwise to the Australian community. It has engaged in an exercise of deception to create the impression that in fact in real terms the States have been benefiting in an improved way each year since 1 975-76. The facts are to the contrary.
Yesterday we saw another example of this exercise in deception on the part of the Government. Then, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), with extravagant disregard for fact, said:
I have indicated that the States basically have received an 8 per cent or 9 per cent increase in total funding from the Commonwealth. That is plainly more than enough to cope with inflation as it stands at the moment and as it will be throughout the rest of this year.
That is not true, and the Prime Minister would have known it at the time when he made that statement. A little later, in Question Time, the Treasurer (Mr Howard), faithfully tooting behind his Prime Minister like a political mini moke, said:
That is not true either. Last night, to compound the offence, the Prime Minister, seeking to correct his error only because he had been detected and brought to account at Question Time by the Opposition, said among other things, in talking about allocations to the States:
That is not true either. All of those statements, consistent with the exercise in deception that the Government has undertaken, are demonstrably untrue and are wilfully and knowingly undertaken to mislead the public, much as many other claims equally untrue have been knowingly and wilfully undertaken by the Government to deceive the public. The fact is that Fraser federalism is designed to nail the States to the fiscal wheels of disadvantage. Contrary to what has been said, the whole concept of Fraser federalism has not been thought through properly, was not properly analysed and constructed before it was introduced and will not stand up in comparison with the much more generous arrangements which were initiated in 1975 at the time when Mr Whitlam was Prime Minister.
Let me run through the facts. In spite of Fraser federalism in 1976-77 all States except Queensland fell back on the Whitlam formula. In 1977-78 Tasmania had to fall back on the formula. In 1978-79 all States except Queensland fell back on the formula. In the current fiscal year the Treasurer has said that despite the Vh per cent tax surcharge all States will fall back on the Whitlam formula for 1979-80. Tax sharing has not meant a better deal for the States. It has been used as an excuse to cut capital payments and to force double taxation on to the States. Let me give just one illustration. If Tasmania had used the tax sharing arrangements it would have received $ 13m less over the last three years than it has received under the Whitlam formula.
The States have been victims of fiscal extortion to the cool tune in real terms- I stress, real terms- of $ 1,059m in the three fiscal years of 1976, 1977 and 1978; that is, up to the current fiscal year. What I am saying is that if the Government had provided merely the same amount which was provided for the States in the 1 975-76 Budget in real terms, in each of the three successive fiscal years up to and including the current year, the States would be some $l,059m better off than they are. That is a massive case of fiscal robbery at the expense of the States in three Budgets. It is clear evidence of the way in which the States are being disadvantaged as a consequence of Fraser federalism. Mr Speaker, I seek leave to have a table incorporated in Hansard, which illustrates this point.
The table read as follows-
– I also point out that it is not only the States but also local government which has been disadvantaged under Fraser federalism. If one looks at the allocations to local government in 1 975-76, takes them as a proportion of the previous year’s personal income tax and measures those figures against the sorts of allocations made subsequently, whether one includes or excludes Regional Employment Development programs, local government has been much worse off in financial terms in the last couple of years compared with the treatment that it received in 1975-76. Let me put that another way. If it had been treated as well in 1977-78 it would have received an additional $150m. If the RED program is not included, local government would have received an additional $34m. I believe it is thoroughly reasonable to include the RED program. Quite clearly in a depressed economic situation, such as at present, it is entirely appropriate that any source in the economy which can be mobilised to generate jobs and to activate economic activity for the benefit of the economy ought to be harnessed. Local government is particularly well situated to contribute in this respect.
That is why we introduced the Regional Employment Development program. It generated jobs and it supported the private sector. We established that local government was particularly well equipped to assist in this respect. It is appropriate to include RED allocations because, as a consequence of the cutback in those allocations, the level of job opportunity available through local government has obviously diminished and the level of demand on supplies in the private sector has contracted. Even if one does not include the RED program, one still establishes that local government is some $34m worse off. The point that I am seeking to make very simply is that this exercise in deception has been embarked upon consciously. The Government is seeking to delude the Australian public so that it can impose fiscal brutality on the States and local government. It is seeking to shirk its responsibility at the expense of other levels of government.
A few things about the so-called Fraser federalism have to be understood. First of all, the guarantee of financial allocations to the States expressed as a proportion of personal income tax collected in the previous fiscal year relates to general revenue alone; it does not relate to all financial allocations to the States. In 1975-76 general revenue allocations to the States were 36 per cent of total allocations; in 1978-79 they were 45 per cent. It is not a matter of the Government being more specifically generous in this area but rather it is a clear case of the Government cutting back in areas other than the general revenue area so that the proportion of finance provided as general revenue assumes a greater proportion of the total. The rate of growth in other allocations of finance to the States has been cut back appreciably since 1975. That means that general revenue allocations merely assume, within a contracted total dimension, a greater proportion of the total. If the rate of growth in other allocations had been as great as it was during the period of the Labor Government, that amount of 45 per cent would be considerably smaller.
I am dwelling on that matter only to make the point that is very important that the States in fact are being disadvantaged, that the guarantee relates only to a proportion and not to a majority of total allocations to the States. With cuts in specific programs, such as hospitals, community health services, dental health services, roads and a myriad of other specific capital works programs, it is quite clear that in total the States’ fiscal position is being undermined. Very important trends are manifesting themselves on the revenue side of government fiscal management. The more the Government moves towards earmarked taxes, as we had with Medibank tax, or indirect taxes, the more difficult is the situation that is created for the States because the guarantee formula is related to personal income tax collections. Let me put it this way: If the rate of increase in collections of personal income tax slows down and the rate of increase in indirect taxes accelerates, with the result that the total rate of increase in revenue collection has not changed or increased, there is a slower rate of increase in the allocations to the States than there is in the increase of resources available to the
Commonwealth Government. That is happening. It has happened in this Budget and, as the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) pointed out before, it has happened not by accident; it is a part of the clear ideological objectives that this Government has set itself.
On the basis of evidence available, this really is a centralist government; it is anti-State; it is anti-local government. It is discriminating against them. They are far worse off fiscally as a result of their experiences with this Government than they were under the preceding Labor Government. In this year new additional sources of revenue will contribute about $ 1,520m, of which $845m will come from sources other than personal income tax. So the Government is already moving in this direction and the States are not allowed under the guarantee formula to participate in revenue from these indirect sources. There is no guarantee formula there; it relates only to collections of personal income tax.
Let me illustrate in a general sense- in a hypothetical but highly relevant sense- what this would mean for a State like Tasmania. Under stage 2 of so-called Fraser federalism with the guarantees, the total effect of a redistribution of revenue is simply this: For every $ 1 collected by the Australian Government in Tasmania there is a redistribution of $1.89 back into that State. That is from the Commonwealth source as things stand now. But for every $ 1 that Tasmania finds itself forced to raise as a surcharge tax there is a supplement of only 11c- 11c as against 89c. It means quite clearly that if Tasmania is to make up that deficiency it has to increase State taxes or the tax burden on the people of that State by some 70 per cent.
Let me take this matter a bit further. Let us assume that the Commonwealth reduces personal income tax collectons by $ 1,000m but then increases indirect taxes by $600m. The situation is that for its own purposes, because of the guarantee formula and so on, the Commonwealth is no worse off but the States are worse off by some $400m. Furthermore, because the Commonwealth has collected that $600m through indirect taxes it is not obliged to distribute any of that under the Fraser federalism formula. So the Commonwealth preserves its expenditure level. Accordingly, an amount of $20m would have to be raised at the State level in Tasmania to preserve expenditure levels. A State surcharge tax of $ 18m would have to be collected and the difference would be contributed by the Commonwealth. Further effects flow from this. Because of adjusted population figures the reduction in Commonwealth personal income tax would be only $ 10.6m, not the $18m that we are talking about.
Let me sum up quickly the implications of that. There would be on average for each taxpayer in Tasmania a reduction of $66 in tax payments but there would be imposed on each taxpayer on average an additional indirect tax of $40. Tasmania, furthermore, would be required to impose a surcharge on average of $ 1 13 per taxpayer. The result very simply is that the Commonwealth makes a very good fellow of itself by saying ‘We reduced personal tax by $66’, but it ignores the increase of $40 in indirect taxes because these taxes are largely hidden. However, in effective terms total Commonwealth taxes are down $26 but total taxes for each taxpayer in that State will have increased by $97. That is the sort of severe disadvantage which will be imposed in varying degrees on the smaller States. Tasmania dramatically illustrates this situation. I ask why it is that no Tasmanian member of this place has objected?
Is what I have just said likely to come about? In 1978-79 personal income tax collections will increase by 6.7 per cent and revenue by 1 1 per cent. In 1977-78 it was different- personal income tax collections increased by 9.7 per cent and revenue by 9.7 per cent. So now the situation has changed. The rate of increase in revenue this year is higher than the rate of increase in personal income tax which means that there is a real squeeze under the Fraser formula for tax sharing with the States. As the years go by although revenue available to the Commonwealth will increase at a rapid clip the rate of increase of guaranteed revenue available to the States will increase at a lower rate and the States will be forced to impose not only surcharge taxes but also taxes which are inequitable and which discriminate most severely against the smaller States. The main point I make is that the States and local government in real terms have been far worse off under the last three fiscal years of Fraser federalism.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The matter of public importance we are discussing relates to Commonwealth-State financial relations. At the beginning of his remarks the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) alleged deception by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and me in respect of the level of reimbursement by the Commonwealth to the States. In a sense I am not disturbed that the honourable member said that because his remarks give me the opportunity to talk for a moment about what I believe and what honourable members on this side of the House believe to be the greatest piece of deception about federalism which has been used by any political figure in this country over the past three or four years. I refer to the use of the expression ‘double taxation’ which had its genesis in the New South Wales election of 1 976. This expression was faithfully picked up in this debate by the Leader of the Opposition. Of course, it is wilfully and wrongfully used in the advertisements which are now being run in New South Wales in connection with the forthcoming State election.
Let me state the position quite simply and I hope without blandishment because it is important that we understand what is being alleged and that we nail the lie that double taxation is an inevitable consequence of the federalism policies of this Government. Essentially what the Leader of the Opposition in this place says and what the New South Wales Premier says is that the consequences of stage 2 of federalism are that all governments are forced with no option to impose a tax surcharge. That, of course, is not only legally incorrect but also economically incorrect. Honourable members opposite know full well that under stage 2 of federalism a State government has three options. It may do nothing, it may give a rebate or it may impose a tax surcharge. I know that the Premier of New South Wales does not want the responsibility for having to make decisions as to whether he can afford to give a rebate or whether he wants to impose a surcharge. I suppose he would like to be in the position of giving a rebate but not wanting to accept the responsibility for imposing a surcharge. I know that other Labor Premiers do not like stage 2 of federalism but the reasons they do not like it is that it brings home to State governments the responsibilities as well as the privileges of federalism.
If there is one thing that our financial arrangements are all about it is giving to the States greater flexibility to make their own decisions, to order their own priorities and to decide as they are better able to decide where moneys that State governments spend will be spent. On the other hand, in parallel with that, new federalism means that State governments have to accept the responsibility for those decisions, experience the political accountability of those decisions and accept on occasions the odium of having to do things which are unpopular. No government, whatever its political colour and be it a federal government or a State government, likes raising taxation. No government lightly takes upon itself the political unpopularity of increasing taxation. However, on occasions it is necessary that that occurs.
What I think this House must recognise in the context of this debate is that the great piece of deception about federalism, about the new arrangements between the Commonwealth and the States, is the proposition which came in the first instance from the Premier of New South Wales, which was left dormant over the last 2lA years but which, believe it or not, has been raised again by the Leader of the Opposition in this place today and has been raised again in advertisements which are now being used by the Labor Party in connection with the New South Wales election campaign. I say explicity and deliberately that the charge of double taxation made by Mr Wran is a gross piece of deception. It is legally and economically incorrect. It is irresponsible in the extreme for Mr Wran to make the charge and equally irresponsible for the Leader of the Opposition in this place to support him. The truth of” the matter is that Mr Wran does not want the responsibilities attached to federalism, only the privileges. As far as we as a Federal Government are concerned, both of those elements are part of the bargain; both of them are part of the compact between the Commonwealth and the States.
During the course of his remarks the Leader of the Opposition said a great number of things about indirect taxation. He said that if indirect taxation was introduced on a large scale by this Government it would have implications so far as existing revenue sharing arrangements are concerned. I have two comments to make about that. At this stage, the Government has taken no decision on the introduction of a broad based indirect tax. We have decided- we have made no secret of it- that the Australian Taxation Office and the Treasury should investigate the practicalities of having a broad based indirect tax, how it would work and the desirability of it, but we have made no commitment in principle or in any other way as to whether it will be introduced.
We are doing this for two reasons. We think it is time to inquire into whether it is appropriate in Australia to have a different mix of taxation. Generally speaking, we are a country that has a fairly low level of indirect tax and a fairly high level of personal income tax. I think this is a legitimate and important question which should be asked. The Government, for its part, will welcome views put seriously and constructively by the Opposition or by any other section of the community. I say to the House that when the results of that investigation are available to the Government we will assess them. If the Government wishes to proceed any further in the matter we will make available a detailed discussion paper for careful public scrutiny. I repeat: No commitment has been made and no decision has been made, contrary, to some allegations that have appeared. I am not suggesting that these allegations necessarily have come from the Opposition but they have come from other quarters. The Government has made no commitment.
Surely there is sense in having a sensible and rational investigation so see whether it is desirable in Australia, in the present circumstances, to have a different mix of taxation. Obviously if we decided to introduce a retail turnover tax or a broad based kind of indirect taxation it would have implications so far as the arrangements between the Commonwealth and the States are concerned. Obviously that would be of significance and obviously these matters would have to be looked at. But to allege, as the Leader of the Opposition has alleged- I do not think I do him an injustice- that the whole purpose of this is in some way, by stealth, to undermine the position of the States by reducing the total volume of taxation collected by the Commonwealth in the income tax area grievously misrepresents what the Commonwealth Government is about so far as indirect taxation is concerned. It is a misrepresentation of the Commonwealth’s good faith in relation to this particular matter.
What the Leader of the Opposition did not say, of course, when he was talking about the effect on Commonwealth-State financial relations of the Budget increases in indirect tax, is that as a result of some of those increases certain State charges will increase. Of course, the States, as I am advised will not receive any further funds out of the income tax increase but they will get some additional funds out of some of the excise increases as a result of the flow on increases that occur in particular State taxes. Of course, that was not mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition. He talked about the fact that the Medibank levy collection was not included in the sum on which the revenue sharing calculation was made. Surely he knows that that question now becomes largely academic because the Medibank levy will be abolished on 1 November.
– There is still a principle.
-I find it strange that it should have been mentioned. If the Leader of the Opposition is concerned about it as a matter of principle he ought to recognise that the Government is moving away from that type of thing with the abolition of the levy. Either way it seems to me to be an odd addition to a consideration of this particular problem. The other point he did not mention- I think it is something that is very important when considering this whole matter- is that under the arrangements that now exist so far as income tax sharing is concerned, at a time of revenue shortfall it is the Commonwealth which suffers the most and the States which are protected the most. Under the revenue sharing arrangements the States receive either 39.8 per cent of income tax collections or a minimum guarantee below which reimbursements to the States will not fall. It is a matter of elementary logic that if we have a revenue shortfall, if we collect less revenue than we planned to collect, as occurred in 1977-78, then in relative terms the Commonwealth suffers more than the States.
In those circumstances, to say that we have engaged in fiscal extortion of the States by implementing a system which has given minimum protection to the States at a time of revenue shortfall, a system which has rebounded more heavily on us and forced upon us political responsibility- as it should, because it is our responsibility- for making unpopular revenue decisions, and to suggest that is a bonanza for the Commonwealth at the expense of the States, is to misunderstand completely the implications of what happened in 1977-78 and the flow-on effect of the new revenue sharing arrangements with the States. What happened in reality was that less revenue was collected. The States had a minimum guarantee below which they could not fall. Therefore they had to receive that minimum guarantee under the arrangements and the Commonwealth suffered. The States did not suffer. To suggest, as the Leader of the Opposition has suggested, that that amounts to fiscal extortion of the States is an odd form of logic and misrepresents the situation. It represents total misunderstanding of the arrangements that exist between the Commonwealth and the States.
– What about local government?
– I will come to local government in a minute. I know there are differences between honourable members on this side of the House and Opposition members so far as arrangements between governments in this country are concerned. Let there be at least some basic understanding of the implications of our different proposals. I thought that the Leader of the Opposition made a fairly extraordinary claim when he said that local government is worse off under this Government than it was under the
Labor Government. I am prepared to acknowledge freely that a number of initiatives were taken by the Labor Government in the local government area which were of assistance to local government. I do not quibble about that. It is wrong to suggest that the Government is not assisting local government when it has increased the level of support for local government from about $75m to $ 140m in the first year, then to a figure of about $160m, and now to a figure of over $ 180m, as I recall it. The Government has given to local government the thing it wanted for years- that is a percentage share of a growth tax, of income tax. We have given local government the percentage it wanted. It now stands at 1.52 per cent. As the Leader of the Opposition knows, so far as income tax increases are concerned, local government in all probability, will benefit from that because the 1.52 per cent is applied in respect of the total amount of income tax collections and is unaffected by any question of minimum guarantee.
In all of those circumstances, to suggest that local government has suffered under this Government is really to misunderstand completely. What the Leader of the Opposition has not recognised in respect of local government or in respect of State governments is what federalism is all about. Federalism is all about giving flexibility to the three levels of government. It is also all about giving responsibility to the three levels of government. It is demonstrable that the Opposition and many of its colleagues in the States do not want the responsibility of federalism although they are totally happy to take the flexibility that the Fraser federalism arrangements involve.
-The discussion is now concluded.
Ethnic Groups-Political Detainees- The Environment: Waste Disposal- Economy : South Australia- Aviation Policy- Airport Car Rental Arrangements- Preventive MedicineTobacco Aurukun and Mornington Island Communities
That grievances be noted.
– It is common in a Grievance Debate to raise matters that cause concern to one’s electors. There are many electors of Macedonian origin in the Scullin electorate. What was Macedonia is now contained in Greece, Yugoslavia and Bulgaria. In Bulgaria,
Macedonians are not recognised in census statistics and a program of planned and forced relocation of Macedonians to other areas of Bulgaria is progressing. Recently a number of alleged Croat terrorists were arrested undergoing alleged terrorist training. No one is surprised that this occurred. However, a Press report in the Melbourne Age of 4 September concerning the arrests stated that the Commonwealth Police were in possession of 169 names of Croat and Macedonian terrorists. Macedonians in my electorate have been distressed by the report. They have been loyal and industrious migrants while still retaining a love for the customs, history and traditions of their old homeland. They find it abhorrent that it is suggested that any of thenmembers are associated in any way with a Ustasha-type movement. They assure me that there is no such terrorist movement among them. The Government should quell this slur on loyal Australians of Macedonian origin by denying the statement or publishing the alleged list.
I turn now to a matter affecting one of our neighbouring countries- Singapore. Constituents have approached me regarding political detainees in that country. They believe that Australia should have enough influence with that country to apply diplomatic and moral pressures to improve the situation. I have a copy of a letter from relatives of certain political detainees in Singapore which outlines the present situation there. It is dated 5 August 1978. So it is recent. It is accompanied by a note asking for assistance signed by Grace Poh, wife of Dr Poh Soo Kai, and Beatrice T. M. Chen, wife of Dr Lim Hock Siew, both of whom are medical practitioners and political detainees. I seek leave to have a copy of the letter incorporated in Hansard.
The document read as follows- 5th August 1978
We are the families and relatives of political detainees in Singapore, many of whom have been detained without trial for 10 to 15 years. They include Said Zahari (a journalist), Drs Poh Soo Kai and Lim Hock Siew ( both medical practitioners), Ho Piao (a trade union leader), Lee Tse Tong (a trade union leader and former assemblyman), Chia Thye Po (a former assemblyman), Chua Seh Kui (a student) and many others.
We write to bring to the attention of your organisation the fact that the Lee Kuan Yew government in Singapore has lately intensified its oppression and ill-treatment of political detainees, and to appeal for moral support for the struggle for justice and human rights of political detainees in Singapore.
The Internal Security Act permits the Singapore government to imprison any political dissident without charge or trial for indefinite periods. Under Singapore’s law, a person sentenced to life imprisonment by a court of law after trial and conviction is required to serve only 13 years and 4 months. But political detainees imprisoned without trial continue to be imprisoned even after15½ years. The Singapore government’s policy is to imprison a political dissident indefinitely to coerce him to renounce his political convictions and to publicly help the government to justify his own imprisonment. Various oppressive and persecutionary measures are meted out to political detainees to wear down their resistance. The Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew, has virtually admitted in public that political detainees in Singapore are being subjected to torture. It was reported in the Straits Times on 20th February 1978 that, to a query by a reporter from the Far Eastern Economic Review on whether security authorities in Singapore use technics like questioning naked or lightly clothed suspects in very cold airconditioned room forlong periods, keeping them in solitary confinement, denying them adequate sleep, and dousing them with cold water, Lee Kuan Yew’s reply was: ‘all interrogations must wear down the resistance of these persons by sustained psychological pressure, including physical fatigue’.
In recent years, the Singapore government has gradually imposed further repressive measures on the living conditions of political detainees. In 1 977, the ventilators in the cells in Moon Crescent Centre were closed, thus further aggravating the already poor ventilation of the cells and causing further physical and psychological stress to the detainees and their families. In recent months, severe curtailment has even been imposed on foodstuff supplied by families of political detainees. The prison diet for political detainees is inadequate and political detainees are compelled to supplement their diet with foodstuff from their families to ensure their health. Thus the government has not only refused to improve detainees ‘ prison rations( which are in some respect worse than that for convicted prisoners), it has also seen fit to prevent detainees’ families from adequately supplementing the prison diet. This is an obvious punitive measure to render conditions under detention more oppressive.
Since April this year, the political detainees have been protesting against these persecutionary measures, staging sitdown protests after each visit because prison authorities have refused to discuss the issue of foodstuff brought in by the families. Two one-day hunger strikes were staged in June (6th) and July ( 1 7th) when some detainees were sent to solitary confinement. We have petitioned to the prison authorities, once in early July and once two weeks later. On the second occasion a letter was also handed to the superintendent of Moon Crescent Centre requesting them to stop all punitive measures and to improve prison conditions. The Singapore government has not only ignored our petition, but has now resorted to even more severe measures to suppress this just protest. Almost all detainees have been locked up for 24 hours a day in solitary confinement in special mental torture cells in Changi Maximum Security Prison, which is normally used for convicted criminals. They are also deprived of all reading materials and human contacts. We have been refused the right to see our husband and children for at least two consecutive weeks, presumably the period they are in solitary confinement. In Singapore political detainees are allowed to be visited only by their immediate family (parents, wife/husband, children, brothers and sisters), and for half an hour each week. We can see the detainees through a sound-proof glass window with two wardens sitting behind the detainees in one room and one or two behind us in the other. We converse through telephones closely monitored by the secret police who can arbitrarily terminate the visit whould they find the conversation, such as mentioning of prison conditions ‘objectionable’. Furthermore, as a punishment, we are denied the right to see our beloved ones even under such oppressive conditions.
On 13th December 1977, Singapore’s envoy to the United Nations, together with the envoys of New Zealand and Fiji, have jointly written to the UN Secretary General, Dr Kurt Waldheim, to ask that a petition by Amnesty International calling for the release of all prisoners of conscience become an official document of the UN General Assembly. It is incredible that the Lee Kuan Yew government in Singapore has sought to pose as an advocate of human rights before the world body when it has blatantly trampled upon the most elementary concept of human rights in its own country. While on the one hand the Singapore government urges the United Nations suppon for Amnesty International call for the immediate release of all prisoners of conscience such as our beloved ones, on the other hand it not only continues to imprison political detainees in Singapore but has also subjected them to torture and ill-treatment.
We, the families and relatives of all political detainees in Singapore appeal to you and your organisation to take rapid and concrete steps to ensure that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights will have meaning and substance in Singapore. World moral pressure is urgently needed to ensure that the Lee Kuan Yew government practises in Singapore what it preaches in the United Nations. We call on all those who genuinely believe in justice and human rights to lend their support to the campaign for the immediate and unconditional release of all political detainees in Singapore.
Families and relatives of Political Detainees in Singapore
-I want to refer to some of the points that are made in the letter. The point is made that the Internal Security Act permits the Singaporean Government to imprison any political dissident without charge or trial for an indefinite period. Under Singapore’s laws a person who is imprisoned for life after a trial and conviction is required to serve only 13 years and 4 months. But political detainees imprisoned without trial continue to be imprisoned even after15½ years. In recent years there has been an increase in the repressive measures the Government is imposing on these political detainees. The letter gives instances of problems with food and of physical torture under interrogation. It states that when Lee Kuan Yew was faced with these allegations he said: ‘All interrogations must wear down the resistance of these persons by sustained psychological pressure, including physical fatigue’.
What makes this matter even more important is that in December 1977 Singapore’s envoy to the United Nations, together with those from New Zealand and Fiji, sent a joint letter to the United Nations Secretary-General asking that a petition of Amnesty International calling for the release of all prisoners of conscience should become an official document of the United Nations General Assembly. It is rather incredible that the government in Singapore has sought to pose as an advocate of human rights before this world body when its own record as far as political dissidents is concerned is so shameful. I believe that
Australia, because of its proximity and its ties with Singapore, should directly, by Diplomatic and moral pressure and by action taken at the United Nations, take forceful action to have this particular position improved.
Having said that, I refer to an issue of an environmental nature. Recently we have had a spate of discussions about how to dispose of toxic wastes, particularly with regard to uranium. I noticed recently that one of the State governments had determined an area for the dumping of liquid industrial waste. I wonder what has happened to this waste in the past. I have noted a recent report from the United States about a little neighbourhood called Love Canal and the fact that in this area some 30 years ago industry started to bury its waste in what was thought to be a safe condition. The fact is that since a particular chemical and plastics company started burying its waste there, with filling a neighbourhood of houses, schools and all the rest of it has developed. It is now becoming obvious that the chemicals from this waste have been able to develop and have a severe effect not only on plant life, such as trees, and on animals but also on humans. In that area the number of birth defects in children is greatly increased, the percentage of mental retardation in children born in the area is greatly increased, and pregnant women are miscarrying at a rate 50 per cent higher than normal. A whole string of complaints have resulted from this disposal of waste.
We are fortunate that we have a much larger area of continent, that we have a much sparser population than America. However, it is obvious that when it comes to industrial waste disposal, we need not only to take further note of how we dispose of it and where we dispose of it but also to look to what may happen with it in the future. I think that a lot of the disposal in Australia has generally been on the concept of land fill, that we have plenty of open spaces and open quarries where waste can be dumped and the overburden placed over it and this will be safe for later public or private usage. It is becoming pretty evident with incidents such as this arising that we may in fact need to review the situation. While the landfill method of waste disposal is obviously the easiest and cheapest method, there may be dangers in it for future generations. In this instance, it is pointed out that it took some time to realise what was causing the health problems in this area. Perhaps it is time we started to assess where these materials have been dumped in the past and whether they do in fact pose a threat to present and future generations.
– I enter this debate because I want to bring to the attention of the House the serious situation confronting the economy in South Australia. If the seriousness of the problem is not recognised here in the national Parliament the disaster that will befall South Australia and metropolitan Adelaide will be of a magnitude that at the present time is not fully understood. South Australia’s industrial base is being threatened, and there are a number of causes for this threat and for the weakening of the South Australian economy. First, therefore, we must identify the existence of the problem. We must recognise the fact that behind a general sluggishness in the economy is a very serious and special problem in the South Australian economy. We must look then for the causes of that problem, and today I want to identify three of those causes. The first is the disastrous policies of the State Labor Government in South Australia. Secondly, there is the increasing use of State preferences; and thirdly, the need in the development of national policies for the restructuring of Australia’s manufacturing industry to recognise the significance of important regions within Australia.
On Tuesday this week a feature article appeared in the Australian newspaper entitled Dunstan Fights to Save a Dream’. It is a bad dream. It is a dream which is destroying South Australia’s prosperity. For too long the people of South Australia, and indeed the people of Australia, have been in that dream and have failed to understand what is happening to the prosperity of a once happy, successful, industrious community. For too long the South Australian people have been mesmerised by Dunstan ‘s silver tongue. For too long they have lived in an unreal dream world. But the euphoric phase is over. The period of frustration has arrived. Unless South Australians wake up now the dream will turn into a nightmare from which the State of South Australia will explode in time into the world of reality.
Peter Ward, who wrote the article in the Australian, said that the Dunstan Government is showing hypersensitivity to criticism about the overall economic performance in that State and about letting the facts of the State’s position get out. The latter comment is certainly true. Great effort is used by the South Australian Labor Government to hide the facts from the South Australian people, and indeed to hide them from the Australian people. South Australian Labor leaders refuse to admit that frustration, pessimism, and even dispair permeate business in the State. They attempt to deceive the public by telling them that there is no justification for the gloomy forebodings of those who live in the world of reality. The Premier himself goes to great lengths, and in recent times it is alleged that he censored a speech prepared by the head of the State Department of Economic Development because the head of that Department wanted to place before the South Australian people the facts about the economic situation in that State. The newspaper writer Max Harris recently said: ‘The carnival is over. The days of wine tastings and poetry readings are over.’ In the words of Christopher Jay in another newspaper: ‘The Spartans are at Adelaide’s walls.’
We all know that Australia has been passing through a period of economic difficulty, but the problems confronting South Australia are far more serious. The State’s share of national unemployment rose to 10.3 per cent at the end of July 1978 from a relatively low 6.6 per cent in June 1976. Those shares compare with a South Australian share of the civilian work force of 9.3 per cent. There are other indicators which point to the same trend. Registration of new cars in Australia over the last 12 months fell by 1.1 per cent. In South Australia they fell by 1 1 per cent. Retail sales in Australia rose over the past 12 months by 10.6 per cent and in South Australia by only 6.5 per cent. Approvals for new dwellings throughout Australia in the quarter ended June 1978 fell by 3.6 per cent when compared with the quarter ended June 1977. In South Australia approvals fell by a disastrous 29.2 per cent. Commencements of new dwellings throughout Australia in the same period fell by 9.5 per cent and in South Australia they fell by 2 1 per cent. Unemployment in South Australia in July 1978 rose over July 1977 by 41.1 per cent compared with a national average rise of 16.6 per cent.
In his recent Budget the State Premier sought to suggest that the causes were all external. He failed to identify in his Budget Speech, which was delivered in the State Parliament earlier this week, the fact that many of the difficulties facing the South Australian economy and causing all the indicators in that State to be worse than those on the national average were promoted by the policies that he and his colleagues in government are putting into practice. The cost advantages that enabled manufacturers to compete with those in other States have now largely disappeared. Industry in South Australia has been called upon to bear an ever-increasing level of State taxes and charges to finance an oversized, under-utilised and badly organised Public Service and its fearfully expensive superannuation scheme. The cost advantages previously available to South Australia have disappeared and the State Government appears to fail to understand the importance of those cost advantages if South Australia is to be a major exporter of manufactured products to the big markets of the eastern States. I could go on about the policies of the South Australian Government but I have said enough to indicate that it is time South Australians realised that their economic difficulties spring from the policies of the State Labor Government. They should look to the Government to introduce policies that will create a climate in which business can once again prosper instead of causing businessmen and entrepreneurs to think about moving their enterprises to other States and other places.
– That is not true.
– It is true, and there is evidence throughout South Australia-
– All you want to do is knock South Australia.
– It is not a matter of knocking South Australia, it is a matter of placing before the South Australian people the facts about a disastrous State Labor Government which is destroying the prosperity and future of the South Australian people. I turn now to the second point I raised; that is, my concern about the increasing use of State preferences. In a recent edition of the Brisbane Courier-Mail an article indicated that the Victorian Government proposed to give preference in its purchases to goods manufactured in that State. That practice is adopted by many States. It is a practice that is causing a process of economic secession within Australia. It is fragmenting the Australian common market. The opportunities for industries to effectively restructure are being destroyed because State governments are causing a break-up of the Australian common market. When the Constitution was drawn up a guarantee was written into it that trade between the States would be absolutely free. The State governments are destroying that freedom of trade by granting preferences to goods produced within their own States so that other States are disadvantaged. It is time that the Commonwealth Government examined this question as it develops policies for the rational, national restructuring of Australian industry.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-We have listened to a quaint yet querulous contribution from the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson). He sits in this Parliament as the supporter of a government which is presiding over the destruction of the economic fabric of this nation. What did he do? He sought to offload responsibility onto the State governments. He wants to have a little bit each way. I am sorry; he cannot have that. He is party to the destruction of the Australian economy that is occurring under the Fraser Administration. My grievance relates to the determination of the Government to make air travellers second class citizens in this country in relation to the price and quality of airline services and related facilities that could and should be available. In particular, I shall speak about the new airport car rental arrangements announced by the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) on 3 1 August.
Since the present Minister for Transport assumed office we have seen aviation policy and administration in Australia degenerate into a shambles with consumer interests given a very low priority. In the past one and a half years we have witnessed two separate, expensive and overlapping inquiries into domestic and international aviation, both of which were shrouded in obsessional secrecy and the firm results of which the public has yet to see. On the issue of cheaper international air fares the Government nas stalled, prevaricated and procrastinated. There has been a succession of half-truths and distortions by the Government and still not one person has been able to travel overseas at the cheaper rates that have been touted for so long. At the time when the Minister was publicly encouraging Laker Airways to place a submission before him he was fully aware that Mr Laker would first have to receive approval from the United Kingdom Government to fly to Australia. But the Minister still persisted in the charade of the imminent introduction of lower air fares, effectively raising public expectations and creating chaos in the travel industry.
On the domestic aviation scene fares have risen by almost 20 per cent in just over two years, with a further substantial rise to come as a result of this Government’s mismanagement. All these rises have been personally approved by the Minister. The response of the Minister to the deteriorating air safety situation resulting from the lack of adequate funding and supervisory personnel, for which he has ministerial responsibility, has been to smear and denigrate the responsible aviation people who have drawn public attention to the seriousness of the situation.
There have been no answers, no justifiable responses, but just abuse. In short, we have witnessed an astonishing lack of frankness from the Government on aviation matters generally. Its actions have placed the public interest last. Administrators in other nations have recognised the growing importance of air travel and related activities to their citizens. They have moved to make air travel as accessible as possible to as wide a range of the community as possible commensurate with the viability of their aviation industries. That is an ojective which the Opposition wholeheartedly endorses. However, the policy of this Government has been to concentrate on maintaining the status quo and to preserve special relationships that have existed within the aviation industry at the expense of consumer interests.
I return now to the specific subject of airport car rental arrangements. The existing 10-year agreement which expires in June 1979 was drawn up in a climate which, in retrospect, must arouse suspicion about the motives and competence of the Government of the day. No amount of reasonable or responsible examination of the reasons given at the time and since can justify the decision to award a 10-year exclusive contract to one operator without review during the period of the contract. Mr Justice Northrop in the recent Trade Practices Commission case estimated that the Avis Rent-a-Car System Pty Ltd held 43 per cent to 46 per cent of the total car rental market, while Kay-Hertz Rent-a-Car held 17 per cent, Budget Rent A Car Systems Pty Ltd held 16 per cent, LetzRentaCar held 5 per cent, Thrifty Rent-a-Car held 1 per cent, with other operators making up the balance of 15 per cent to 18 per cent of the market.
In the airport car rental market, which totals approximately $20m per annum, Avis has about 45 per cent of the market, Budget 21 per cent, Kay-Hertz 17 per cent and other operators 17 per cent. The conditions of the new 5-year arrangements announced by the Minister provide for one national operator to service all government airports and a second operator on an airport by airport basis. The effect of these conditions is to advantage substantially the existing operator. The method of tendering is by offering a percentage of turnover obtained at airports. This means that new operators will have to tender a much higher share of their existing turnover- naturally they have a smaller turnover because of their percentage share of the market- in order to match the tender of the established national operator.
The Minister has given the flimsy excuse that limitations on terminal and car parking accommodation preclude having more than two operators at each airport. The question I ask is: What is so magical about two operators? There is not enough room for one operator at a number of airports, so there is certainly not enough room for two. If that is to be the guideline and limitation then certainly there is room for three. That guideline does not apply to two operators and it should not apply to three. The effect of the Minister’s decision is to advantage further the existing operator. It must be remembered that the airline industry is going through a period of growth and the conditions which prevailed between 1969 and 1974 are much different to the conditions which are projected between 1979 and 1984.
In the year just passed Avis has paid some $700,000 or 5 per cent of its turnover to the Department of Transport. As I said earlier, for a smaller operator to enter the market to advantage and to increase competition, he would have to match this figure in money terms. But in percentage terms, as a proportion of turnover, it would represent a much higher figure. I return to the expanding growth of the market in the airline industry. Naturally there will be a consequential expanding market that will flow to car rental operators. The additional competition that would result from three operators at each airport would ensure, in the view of the Opposition, a more effective level of competition between operators. It would ensure a better quality of service and more competitive rates between operators. The Government’s proposal will hinder the development of competition and be to the disadvantage of air travellers in the long term. The Minister in his statement claimed that the Government had had extensive consultation with the car rental industry. I suggest that the consultation was in accordance with Ambrose Bierce’s definition of the words ‘to consult’ as shown in the Devil’s Dictionary which states that the verb ‘to consult’ means the seeking of another’s approval for a course already decided upon. I have little doubt that that is the course which has been followed in this case.
The new arrangements are designed to maintain the status quo and their effect will be to inhibit industry growth. At the same time from the viewpoint of the Department of the Treasury there is a very strong likelihood of a continuing major loss to public revenue. As I pointed out earlier, 45 per cent of the present rent-a-car traffic goes to the existing operator at airports. The other operators who are picking up traffic and renting cars at airports pay nothing to the
Department of Transport or to revenue. Unless a system is devised to provide that a share of the proceeds of all business obtained at airports is to go to revenue, there will be not only inequity towards those who are not authorised to operate from within the airport but also a serious and substantial loss to public revenue. It seems somehow that competition is anathema to this conservative Government. The extent to which it will go to prevent competition is evidenced by the recent action of the Minister for Transport in leaning on Trans-Australian Airlines to prevent it from offering the services of Budget and KayHertz to its passengers despite the fact that Avis is controlled by TAA’s opponent in the airline market. I think that this can be interpreted from any reasonable point of view only as an abuse of power by the Minister on behalf of the Government. It is the view of the Opposition very clearly and very firmly on this issue that airlines and airline-related activities are there to serve the public and to provide the best quality of service at the lowest possible price. They do not exist to maintain industry advantage and the industry should be there to serve the community. The Government’s decision on this new contract will prove to be to the disadvantage of the Australian public. I challenge the Minister to show to the Parliament and to the public how any operator other than the existing operator at Australian airports will be able to meet in a successful manner the conditions which have been set out in the new contractual arrangements that he announced on 3 1 August.
– I have spoken in this House on a number of occasions on the subject of the health of all Australians and in particular I have argued that the role of preventive medicine must be urgently upgraded. I take the opportunity in this grievance debate to talk on one important factor affecting the health of some 3.4 million Australians. They are the smokers in this country. My concern is particularly for the youth of Australia, requiring that a massive anti-smoking campaign be undertaken in the very near future. To all those who are smokers- whether they are cigarette, cigar or pipe smokers- who are over the age of 2 1 years and who have presumably made their judgment, I do not apologise, but I do say that I am directing these remarks to the education of young people.
The Senate Standing Committee on Social Welfare published a report entitled ‘Drug Problems in Australia- An Intoxicated Society?’. In that report it is recorded that the Royal College of Physicians in its 1977 Third Report on Smoking or Health’ found that of those teenagers who smoke more than a single cigarette only 15 per cent avoided becoming regular dependent smokers. The College also found from its survey that most of the recent slow-down in the rate of improvement of life expectancy and half the difference in life expectancy between men and women can be attributed to the fatal effects of smoking. Smoking is a danger to health. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table from the Senate report which demonstrates the causal link between smoking and disease.
The document read as follows-
– I quote also from that report the following:
The Committee supports the view of the Commonwealth Department of Health, the United States Surgeon General, the Royal College of Physicians and the World Health Organisation that there is an undoubted association between smoking and a wide range of significant diseases.
What is the statistical data in relation to adolescents? A paper published in the New Zealand Medical Journal in April of this year revealed some frightening facts. It showed that 977 third year and fourth year secondary students from coeducational schools were studied. Some of the findings were: Thirty-two per cent of the pupils were regular smokers; 1 5 per cent were smoking more than 2 cigarettes a day; and 84 per cent of the smokers started smoking before they started secondary school.
In considering what should be done to educate or otherwise dissuade young people from smoking it is interesting to note that the New Zealand survey found that only 2 per cent of ex-smokers from this same example of third formers and fourth formers acknowledged that anti-smoking propaganda was only a slight influence on their decision to stop smoking. Interference with sport was given by only 5 per cent and an overwhelming 6 1 per cent stated that personal dislike was their reason for giving up smoking. Notwithstanding those findings, I do not believe that anti-smoking propaganda directed to young people should cease. I will return to that point later. What are the Australian figures? In February 1977 the Australian Bureau of Statistics published a number of preliminary summaries. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a further table which gives the tobacco consumption at that date of all smokers in Australia.
The document read as follows-
-I thank the House. Remembering that the national warnings against smoking suggest that tar intake should be kept below ISO milligrams per day to minimise health risk, we should note that only 16.9 per cent of smokers had their daily tar intake below that figure. The Morgan Gallup Poll carried out an Australiawide survey of 1,397 school children aged from 14 years to 17 years in the months between October 1977 and March 1978. They were asked whether they had smoked in the past 7 days. Only 17 per cent said that they had. The results of this survey are contrary to those released by the New South Wales Health Commission in March this year. The Commission found that 49 per cent of boys and girls between 14 years and 16 years smoked tobacco. Further to confuse the statistical position in Australia we should note that in June 1978 the findings of a South Australian survey by the National Health and Medical Research Council determined that 72 per cent of boys and 57 per cent of girls were regular smokers by the age of 1 5 years.
I refer to a further example which is taken from a report entitled ‘Technical Information Bulletin No. 54’ from the National Information Service on Drug Abuse. It was a survey conducted in the city of Ballarat with a sample of 1,094 respondents taken from forms 3 to 5 at secondary school and also from tertiary level. That survey dealt with a number of drugs including alcohol and nicotine. In relation to nicotine the paper records that almost 50 per cent of secondary students in forms 3 and 5 smoked and that one in five smoked five or more cigarettes a day. At tertiary level fewer students smoked but, as might be expected, respondents reporting a heavy rate of smoking- 15 or more cigarettes a day- were more prevalent at tertiary level than they were at secondary level.
In referring briefly to these surveys I have not particularised the basis upon which the questions were asked in each example. It should also be acknowledged that young people may well consider that their maturity is under threat and that by giving a positive response to the question Have you smoked in the past 7 days?’ their status is thereby enhanced. The fact that they have not, may, in their opinion be irrelevant.
To make a comparison with the surveys could lead to inaccurate conclusions. However, it is clear that many students are smoking tobacco in circumstances where they will become addicted to the drug of tobacco. One can also state that many young people are becoming addicted to the drug and that their risk of attracting disease is multiplied by an alarming ratio.
I turn now to the report by Peter McFarlane in the Melbourne Age on 13 September. It appears that the Australian Cricket Board has accepted a $2m sponsorship from cigarette manufacturers and promoters Benson and Hedges. Under the terms of that sponsorship contract the cigarette promoters will present to the Board $600,000 in 1979-80, $650,000 in 1980-81, and $750,000 in 198 1-82. 1 readily concede that the magazine advertising of Benson and Hedges is well designed and usually displayed with magnificent photography before expensive artifacts gently reflecting the gold of Benson and Hedges. But it is not one tobacco company which I believe should be criticised for the promotion of the product which is so closely linked with cancer and other diseases.
All cigarette packets must carry the words Wanting- smoking is a health hazard’. This slogan is now so familiar that many would now read those words as they read the name of the manufacturer- almost totally irrelevant in the message it is trying to convey. As the promoters of sport and recreation, the tobacco industry should lobby to change the wording to read Warning- smoking is a healthy hazard’. I should like to conclude by referring to some correspondence I have had with Dr Nigel Gray, the Director of the Anti-Cancer Council of Victoria. In February 1977 Dr Gray made very clear what the Anti-Cancer Council of Victoria considered about the advertising, linking and promoting of cigarette smoking with sport and recreation. I quote from Dr Gray’s letter
We are particularly concerned that the Federal Government’s decision to eradicate television and radio promotion of cigarettes has been partly, and quite substantially, circumvented by the tobacco industry through their sponsorship of sporting events, their development of a strong association with sporting bodies which has resulted in these bodies becoming something of a public lobby on behalf of tobacco, and also because of the fact that the constant presentation of this association between smoking and sport on television replaces, to an important extent, the image-building advertising the industry was able to utilise in years gone past.
In conclusion, I refer again to the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Social Welfare entitled ‘Drug Problems in Australia- an intoxicated society?’ The report contains a number of recommendations which are very relevant to the subject I have been speaking about today. However, I shall quote only three of them. Recommendation No. 46 states:
That the Federal Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, and the State Ministers responsible for youth, sport and recreation, appeal to sportsmen and sportswomen throughout Australia not to lend their names and prestige to the promotion of tobacco products.
Recommendation No. 47 states:
That the Commonwealth Government make any grants to sporting and cultural bodies conditional on their not accepting money from manufacturers and retailers of tobacco products and investigate the possibility of indemnifying such bodies for loss of revenue, at least in the short term.
Finally, recommendation No. 48 states:
That the Commonwealth Government consider refusing tax deductibility for expenses incurred in the promotion of tobacco products.
-I commend the previous speaker, the honourable member for McMillan (Mr Simon), for the remarks he has made. While tobacco is a major drug problem in Australia and a greater menace to health than illegal drugs, there is an even bigger problem and that is the alcohol problem. I commend to the honourable member a study of the recent action of the Swedish Government in removing alcohol from beer.
I propose to speak today about the Federal Government’s failure to honour promises to Aurukun, promises going back much further than the dispute which erupted earlier this year. In March 1976, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) stated that discussions at Aurukun had ‘helped form views on the needs of the situation at Aurukun and in particular the need for the Commonwealth Government to ensure that the Aurukun community is involved in negotiations about the terms of, and arrangements for, any mining development on the reserve’. This need was ignored and this failure established what has become a tradition of broken promises by this Government. On 22 March this year, the Minister, announcing the Australian Government’s intention to take over the two Queensland reserves, stated:
The Government is satisfied that the people of Aurukun arid Mornington Island strongly oppose the proposed takeover and that the Queensland Government’s decision was taken without prior consultation of Aboriginal opinion in the communities.
It is no longer good enough for officials and governments to decide what is in the best interests of Aboriginals. Aboriginals must be free of paternalistic bureaucratic control. All Commonwealth policy and action is designed to that end.
The Government obviously has lost its concern. Without announcement it has altered its policy in a gradual, insidious way to try to minimise protest. Following abolition of the reserves by the Queensland Government and the establishment of the two shires, the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle), who represents the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs in another place, stated in answer to a question on 12 April:
The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has already stated publicly that if the proposed legislation and the lease arrangements which will be legislated for by the Queensland Government are not satisfactory to the Commonwealth, the Commonwealth will use its constitutional powers of acquisition in order to ensure that the rights and interests of the people of the two communities are fully protected.
On the same day, in the House of Representatives, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) gave ‘a completely unequivocal assurance’ that the rights and prerogatives of the two communities could and would be safeguarded. So much for the Prime Minister’s unequivocal assurances. It is all history now. It has been conveniently forgotten by the Federal Government. Why the Prime Minister’s phenomenal memory has become so convenient I shall touch on if time allows. When the Queensland Government introduced its amending Local Government (Aboriginal Lands) Bill it was criticised by the people of Aurukun and Mornington Island and by the Uniting Church in Australia. The Minister stated that the Commonwealth would have wished for other amendments but felt that selfmanagement could be achieved under the legislation. This marked the end of effective Federal Government interest in the issue. It established the practice of quiet acceptance by the Federal Government of all that the Queensland Government dished out to the people of Aurukun and Mornington Island. Again, memory lapses have become convenient, as I hope to explain.
-The honourable member does not have much time. The debate ends at 12.45 p.m.
– The Minister did reaffirm that the communities were free to employ whoever they may choose as their advisers without interference by any government or government officials. Obviously, the Minister was misled and he submitted to that humiliation with hardly a murmur. He further stated that the Commonwealth would be watching closely the implementation of the new legislation.
-Order! It is now 15 minutes to one o’clock and, in accordance with Standing Order 106, the debate is now interrupted. I shall again put the question:
That grievances be noted.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 13 September, on motion by Mr Howard:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I think it is well known that I have some differences with the Government about the policy measures that should be adopted in order to get Australia back on the road to recovery. I do not claim omnipotence for anyone, whether he be a bureaucrat or a back bencher in the Parliament. But I do believe that alternative policies should be sought and that they should be thoroughly considered by the officials. I made a speech on 28 August at the University of New South Wales. It was not really a speech because I had no notes. I spoke because no other speakers were available from the Liberal Party. I recommended that we should not concentrate specifically on inflation as the one element that had to be handled and given priority but that we should look at our problems from a three-fold point of view. This involves giving equal weight to unemployment, inflation, production and productivity. I am glad to be able to say that that view, which I have been espousing for a long time, has become commonplace now within the academia of New South Wales and Victoria. In my view we would be far better off if there were a larger deficit, particularly a larger domestic deficit. This would be done by reducing costpush indirect taxes. Such a policy would not only have an impact on the inflation rate but also would stimulate demand. I believe that it is this stimulation of demand which is so urgently needed. It could be funded by borrowing internally. The internal deficit is running at approximately $ 1,800m. The amount of $575m was obtained from the non-banking sector for the recent Government loan. This showed that we would be able to handle another Government loan this year- although I hope we do not- and certainly another loan before February which would cover the internal deficit completely.
It must be stressed that we would have to take great care in allocating the funds. They would have to be allocated in the areas where we know there is a surplus capacity. In many industries surplus capacity amounts to over 20 per cent. The funds should also be applied in areas where unemployment is highest and in industries which do not have a substantial overflow into imports. Those industries are engineering, construction and transport. I am glad that other people are taking up the cudgels. I remind the House of the cost of the present type of Government policies. For every one per cent of increased production in real terms there is a gain to the economy in production of the order of $ 1,000m. Accordingly, a three per cent increase in production would result in a gain to the economy of nearly $3,000m.
In my speech at the University of New South Wales I also spoke about what I regard as the most critical matter that we face today. Success will depend upon it. I refer to the relationship between wages and productivity and, in particular, the wage overhang, which, in real terms is 8 or 9 per cent. We must look at this aspect not in money terms, as has been done too frequently in the past, but in real terms. The wage overhang has been argued before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, usually in money terms and included in argument put by counsel for the Treasury. But now, even in a throw-away line, the Treasury has accepted that we must look at the problem in real terms. However, that is not the argument I want to put to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, and the House. My proposition is that we must now use the abilities of the independent economists in the universities and outside the bureaucracy to put this argument before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. In recent weeks, Professor Fred Gruen, Professor Max Corden of the Australian National University, and Professor J. N. O. Perkins of the University of Melbourne have argued this case in a convincing way. Their argument would have a real impact on the Commission. It is no good relying on the consumer price index and reducing wages in money terms to meet the change in the index. We have to get the wage overhang of 8 per cent in real terms down by that percentage. I believe that instead of relying on the case presented to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission by
Commonwealth counsel, who do not understand either the techniques or consequences of these matters, Fred Gruen, Max Corden and perhaps J. N. O. Perkins should be recruited to put the case for a real reduction in wages of the appropriate amount. I think it is probable that the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, unless it is looking at so-called constitutional responsibility rather than combining it with the effect on the economic recovery and the future development of this country, would listen to and accept the views of these very talented men.
The second point I want to make is that so much of our economic recovery is expected to depend upon the reduction of household savings. I for one do not believe that we can get household savings much below the 1 5 per cent level it is at today. I know that there are arguments one way or the other, but, as I have to syncopate most of my arguments, I cannot argue the matter other than by saying this: We know that a 1.5 per cent increase in personal income tax will come into force in November. That is not putting it correctly as set out in the Budget itself. The Budget points out clearly that the increase will be 1.5 per cent on the standard rate of tax of 32 per cent, giving an actual increase in tax of 4.6875 per cent. Correspondingly, the 46 per cent taxation rate will be increased to 47.5 per cent, giving an actual increase of 3.2608 per cent. The 60 per cent rate will be increased to 6 1 .5 per cent, giving an actual increase of 2.5 per cent. Honourable members will notice that the rate diminishes as the money income increases.
There is another point that has to be made very clearly in this respect, that is, that we must also look at not only the tax rises but also the loss of home interest deductions, the excise rise and the benefits of the vehicle sales taxes. An exercise that I believe to be well worthwhile is to put that in actual money terms. An income of $120 a week will be taxed an extra $4.88 a week, an income of $220 a week will be taxed an extra $6.33 a week, an income of $400 a week will be taxed an extra $9.82 a week and an income of $1,000 a week will be taxed an extra $25.82 a week. I am glad to see that the rate of taxation in this respect is ascending rather than descending. I certainly approve of that. Taking into consideration the rashes of strikes that are occurring now, which obviously are co-ordinated, designed and activated by members of the Australian Metal Workers Union, such as Carmichael and Halfpenny, who are hell-bent on destroying the economy of this country, I do not think that we can expect people to do other than save.
The third point I want to make is about our gross domestic product. The Treasurer said in his Budget Speech that the Government was hoping for a growth rate in the gross domestic product of 4 per cent. The Government also says that that will be due to a large extent- more than half- to the primary industries. I think that is critically important to us. I want to state clearly that a mistake has been made in arriving at a figure of more than 2 per cent in the primary industries. Treasury has forgotten the lag in payments for the wheat crop overseas. The Bureau of Agricultural Economics does not think that the increase resulting from primary production will be as high as 1 per cent. To that extent, the figure of 4 per cent has to come down considerably. Even then, most people would say that there is no prospect of a growth of more than 2.8 per cent in the non-farm sector. I do not believe it will be that high. I have very grave doubts that it will be as high as 2 per cent. The figures for retail sales published in the last few days show that the rise, or was it fall, in constant prices in the March quarter was only 0.2 per cent greater than for the December quarter. This does not give us ground for confidence that we will achieve a gross domestic product rise of the size expected by Treasury.
I deal now, again in a synoptic way, with the money supply situation. I believe that the idea of achieving a 6 per cent to 8 per cent increase in the money supply is suspect unless certain precautions are taken. We have to remember that the Budget deficit on internal accounts was $ 1,670m. This is the critical one- I can never understand why these days the Treasury gives emphasis to the overall deficit and relates it as well to what happens overseas. We were able to get $575m from the non-banking sector of the public as a contribution to the first loan. I have no doubt that we will get at least another $400m. Based upon that, the basic liquidity from the Budget will be $700m. But we have to consider the second component, which is the deficit on private account in our overseas balances which, for the first six months of last year, amounted to $ 1,200m. There was a negative or nil amount for the final six months. Taking that into account, from a liquidity basis aspect, and if the same happens this year, there will be a $0.5 billion deficit. What does that mean? It means that there must be complete sensitivity on the part of the Reserve Bank to ensure that the liquidity of the trading banks is not restrained in such a way as to restrain advances which have a real effect on economic growth. I know that the Reserve Bank is very sensitive in these matters. But I believe this must be a constant preoccupation of members of parliament and, above all, of the Treasury. Where do we get to? We have already reduced our statutory reserve deposits to $700m. Following the speech I made at the University of New South Wales, the Reserve Bank released 0.5 per cent or $90m of banks funds from the statutory reserve deposits. I hope that in future it will be sensitive enough to act quickly as a basis of establishing confidence amongst the banks and the business community. The banks themselves will make a contribution of $45m. In addition I believe the Reserve Bank will have to reduce the liquidity ratios, which are now at a minimum of 18 per cent. I have no doubt that they will have to reduce them to at least 1 5 per cent over the course of the year.
Another matter I want to mention is interest rates. We are in trouble here. I have before me a chart that shows that, while Australia’s interest rates in the form of the Australian 6-month bank bill are coming down, overseas interest rates, such as those on the Eurodollar 6-month bill, are rising. If they overlap- they have only a very small percentage to go before they do overlappeople will not borrow overseas, so we will not be getting the capital inflow that we want. But they will be seeking it in Australia thereby pushing up interest rates. This is a tremendously serious problem and one to which I think the Government must give very close attention.
I turn now to the balance of payments. As honourable members would know, at the end of the financial year we had $3,0 16m in foreign assets with the Reserve Bank. That was after borrowing $ 1 ,820m. We had to allow $387m for devaluation and $275m for appreciation of the value of gold. On current account, our deficit was $2,480m. I have no doubt that this year it will be considerably greater by at least $250m. I do not think there will be recovery overseas in the course of the next two years. That view is fairly commonly held.
I deal now with one other problem that is of major importance. It relates to the terms of trade. A look at our terms of trade in the last three years shows that import prices have gone up by 50 per cent while our export prices have gone up by only 20 per cent. That trend is likely to continue for probably the next two years or a little longer. This creates grave doubts as to the validity of Treasury estimates of the figures as to our gross domestic product, our growth rate, including the growth rate of non-farm product, and the various other assumptions on which these figures have been based.
Last, I wish to refer to the employment position. This is not entirely an economic matter. For years, the Treasury has based its attitude to inflation and employment on what is called the Phillips curve; that is a trade-off between employment and inflation. I do not believe that the Phillips theory now applies with the rigidity and the accuracy that the Treasury feels it does. I think that by February next year we will have an increase of at least 80,000 in the number of unemployed. To me, this is intolerable. We are dealing with young people who form the greatest number of unemployed. We need a determined effort by the community as a whole to ensure that those young people have the opportunity of being placed in employment and are not treated as economic statistics for the benefit of achieving theoretical Budget success. I thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for your slight indulgence. I have tried to syncopate everything that I wanted to say.
Sitting suspended from 1.1 to 2.15 p.m.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Motion (by Mr Groom)- by leave- agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders by suspended as would prevent the honourable member for Adelaide and the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations speaking for a period not exceeding 30 minutes.
-To the motion moved by the Treasurer (Mr Howard) four weeks and two days ago, namely, ‘That the Bill be now read a second time’, on behalf of the Australian Labor Opposition, I move the following amendment:
That all the words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: this House condemns the Budget as disastrous, dishonest, inequitable and inhumane in that it:
will intensify and prolong the already severe economic depression;
will increase unemployment, official and disguised, by at least 80,000;
represents an abdication by Government of its responsibility to attempt to restore full employment;
further depresses the business sector, particularly the small business sector;
indicates the Government’s total disregard of the social destructiveness and economic wastefulness of unemployment;
hinders the fight against inflation by adding significantly to the overall level of prices through substantial increases in indirect taxes; (vh) blatantly redistributes income from those in need to the most privileged sections of society;
will increase the degree of economic hardship for the poorest and most disadvantaged groups in our community;
indicates the Government’s cynical disregard for honesty and integrity by reneging on important promises, and
considerably understates the true extent of the Budget deficit’.
The key words describing this Fraser Government’s third Budget, as indicated in this amendment which I have just moved, are disastrous, dishonest, inequitable and inhumane. There has been mounting evidence in the intervening four weeks and two days since the Treasurer made his Budget Speech to justify the use of these four words and indeed to justify each of the 10 clauses of the Opposition’s amendment. This Budget is disastrous mainly because it is contractionary at a time when Australia’s economy cries out for expansion and moderate and carefully controlled stimulus. Need I say more than to remind the House that outlays, government expenditures, are planned to increase by only 7.7 per cent at a time when receipts, that amount which is being taken by the Government from the community, are planned to increase by 1 1 per cent. That net loss to the community of 3.3 per cent is not the only evidence of contraction; it is also important to note the nature of the areas where government funds are being spent and from where they are being collected.
There would be more of an employment creating effect if $ 10m was spent in the area of the Minister at the table, the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Groom) who is responsible for the building and construction industry, than if that same $10m was spent to buy another piece of defence equipment from overseas. Of course there is more of an unemployment creating effect, less of an employment creating effect, if taxation is squeezed from those people on lower incomes who spend what they have, rather than from people on higher incomes, who have more of an inclination to save what they have. Taxes from middle and lower income earners come out of their spending. Taxes from higher income earners of course tend to come from what they save. One does not have to be an Einstein to know that the nature of expenditure in this Budget is such that, for instance, the building and construction industry is starved of stimulus, is starved of government expenditure, or that the burden of taxation falls most heavily on the have-nots of this nation rather than on the haves.
In other words, the quality of the receipts and payments in this Budget, as well as the quantity, add up to the Budget being contractionary. We of the Labor Opposition do not use this word contractionary’ simply in order to be able to claim another headline. We use that word because it denotes the fact that the Budget will increase unemployment. Contraction of this sort leads to vastly increased unemployment; it adds to the present disastrous level. With hidden unemployment, we know that disastrous level now is at least 500,000 Australian residents. If they are not all in dole queues they are at home, recognising that they are unable to get a job and therefore, because other incomes are coming into their households, they are finding it just useless to register for a job. We now have a Budget which is adding to that real figure of 500,000 existing unemployed. In other words disaster is being compounded on existing disaster. Let the House and let the people of this nation not just take the word of a member of the Opposition on this subject. Let me read from a document from the Australian Industries Development Association, the heart of big business in this community, which reached me yesterday. With regard to the Budget it states:
Vehicle producers aside, it is difficult to find any sector of Australian industry that could be said clearly to benefitimmediately from the 1978-79 Federal Budget. Sales and cash flow will be cut back in some sectors most directly affected by the increases in excise; reductions in consumer disposable income will cut into the sales of many industrial groups; money will remain tight and interest rates high; direct industry assistance through the Budget will be less; and the overall effect of the Budget on activity levels and employment is demonstrably contractionary, at least initially.
I accept that the article states ‘immediately’ and at least initially’, but surely at a time when 500,000 people are unemployed we have to devise economic policies which are not only of lasting benefit but also of immediate benefit. I will demonstrate to the House that the alternative Budget strategy which was outlined by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) does just that. It ensures that there is lasting benefit for a healing economy and an increased level of activity as well as immediate benefits.
– That is a slightly different point from the one you made before.
-The Budget is dishonest.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The honourable member for Denison is not occupying his proper place in the House. His interjections, therefore, are more out of order than ordinarily would be the case.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I hope that I will not incur your wrath if I say that I welcome the inane interjections. Whether I take them up will be a matter to be decided as I continue my speech. I have already explained how this Budget is contractionarily leading to increased unemployment. I have also described the Budget as dishonest, and in a few brief words before I get on to the main part of my speech I want to explain why I call it a dishonest Budget.
It is dishonest because, among other things, it makes false claims about the rate of growth of the gross domestic product of this country during the 1978-79 financial year, which is the period covered by this Budget. The Budget also understates considerably the true extent of the deficit.
There are many other reasons why the Budget is dishonest. One can turn to the statements containing the promises made to this nation by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and other Ministers of this Government. For instance, I refer to the statement that they would not meddle with Medibank. This dishonest Budget has completely upturned these statements. Enormous promises were made about taxation prior to the last election less than a year ago, which tended to persuade the Australian community to vote for the Liberal and National Country parties. They said that they would reduce taxation. We all know now what the effect of their promises have been- namely, increased taxation not reduced taxation.
As I have stated, the Budget is also inequitable and inhumane because, as I will illustrate during the course of my speech, it forces the middle and lower income earners to bear unnecessarily the burdens of this wasteful economic policy which the Government is perpetrating on the Australian community. It is not a fair Budget. There is no equity in it. There is no justice in it. I will illustrate as my colleagues who have spoken in this debate have already done, how the burdens fall on pensioners and families, particularly families with young children who are the recipients of the family allowance which was substituted a couple of years ago for tax rebates based on the number of children in a family. Other rebates have been indexed to take into account inflation. But the family allowance has in no way been indexed. That is just another example of the way in which this Budget is inequitable and inhumane.
The Government’s strategy, of course, is to put the lid on the economy. Its strategy is to keep economic activity at a low rate and to increase the level of unemployment. The Government is wilfully creating increased unemployment because it wants to frighten the work force of this country to take a real reduction in wages and the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to accept its strategy for a reduction in wages. The Government has foisted this strategy on the Australian people because it asserts that this is the only way to bring down the rate of inflation.
The Opposition believes- this has been pointed out in the past- that this strategy will mean not only a direct increase in unemployment because of less employment in the public sector but also a lack of confidence in the community and a lack of the necessary desire to spend on the part of Australians which would bring this country back to economic health. The Government’s strategy is also one of desiring, through a decrease in the rate of inflation, overseas investment in this country. The Government believes that if it depresses the economy, puts a weight on the economy, puts a lid on the economy, it will lead, as I have said, to a reduction in the inflation rate and therefore more overseas investment. We reject that strategy. We believe that it is wrong.
I want to explain why the Opposition rejects the Government’s strategy and why it asserts so clearly that that strategy is wrong. The Government’s strategy will create many costs to the community, such as the costs of the enormous increase in unemployment measured in terms of the broken lives of the unemployed, particularly the young unemployed. That problem was outlined by the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young), the shadow Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, when he spoke during an urgency debate a couple of days ago. Not only does this strategy create this wasted generation but also it leads to a desire by people to save rather than to spend. We assert that it is not a reduction in the inflation rate which will lead to confidence and to people spending, but a reduction in the level of unemployment. We believe clearly from all the evidence that because of the insecurity created by increased unemployment in our community, people are timid at the present time. There is a feeling of insecurity and a feeling that this is the time not to spend but to save. While we have this attitude in the community we shall not have a return to economic health. We shall not have that confidence which will result in an increase in productivity or an increase in spending. We will not have an increase in confidence which will bring our economy back to economic health.
Every statistic which has come from the Australian Bureau of Statistics in the last four weeks and two days since the Treasurer (Mr Howard) made his Budget Speech confirms the assertions that the Opposition has made and the beliefs that it holds. I would like to quote from the editorial of the Australian Financial Review of 13 September. The editorial, referring to the statistics that relate to retail sales and also to the rate of saving in this community, stated:
The June quarter statistics of retail sales, together with the evidence provided on the behaviour of the household savings ratio in the National Income figures published last week, are not a good augury for the success of the Government’s economic policy with respect to output growth in the current financial year.
That editorial ought to be read by every member of this Parliament so that he can be persuaded that the strategy which we now have in this country- the strategy we have had from the Liberal and National Country parties and the Fraser Government over the last 2ft years- is the wrong strategy. I repeat that information which has come before the Parliament and the people in respect of the Budget strategy confirms the view that we hold. This information makes us more resolute in our attitude that it is the wrong strategy. The inflation rate can be brought down without this attitude of salvation only through stagnation. We do not need this contractionary policy, this putting the lid on the economy of this country so as to reduce the rate of inflation. The Opposition shares the desire to reduce the rate of inflation but believes that there is another way to obtain that result without the great cost that is being inflicted on the community through the present methods of the Fraser Government. We believe, for instance, that a modest expansionary policy at this time would lower unit costs and take up some of the slack, for instance, in the manufacturing industry which at the most is operating at about 65 per cent capacity. We believe that proper and worthwhile spending in the public sector would bring about improved productivity in that sector and reduce the social costs which at the moment are very high in relation to each unit of production.
Of course it is important that we have public expenditure on roads, railways, wharves and many other areas of this country. Without taking into consideration the social factors and the improvement in the quality of life of Australian people, we need that expenditure in order to reduce the social costs of this nation, in order to increase productivity, in order to bring down the rate of inflation and the unit costs which are so much a part of our rate of inflation. We assert also that the Government’s strategy is wrong because overseas investors will not be as impressed by the rate of inflation as they are by the fact that there are markets for their goods. As an important middle income country- a country which is in the middle range in terms of gross national product- we ought to be playing our part to ensure a return to health in the world economy. It is important that we should stimulate our economy by persuading others in the world, particularly those nations which are the motors of the world economy, such as Japan, the United States and West Germany, to play their part in stimulating world demand. It is that world demand which itself will lead to markets for the products of this country. That is what overseas investors want more than anything else. They do not want to be looking merely at a reduction of the rate of inflation in this country. I repeat: Inflation is an evil. The Opposition recognises it as an evil but we believe that we can reduce that rate of inflation, as, indeed, it was being reduced in early 1976, because of Labor’s policies in the 1975 Budget. We believe it can be reduced by policies other than this policy based on the principle of salvation through stagnation.
As I mentioned earlier, our alternative strategy involves the macro-economic area as outlined by the Leader of the Opposition. I remind the House that we are not devoting attention only to the macro-economic area but also to the microeconomic area of industry policies where we believe this Government is not making sufficient effort and is not instituting sufficiently innovative policies in order to overcome what is not only a cyclical difficulty in the economy but also a structural difficulty. We must recognise, as the Leader of the Opposition has said, that our grave rate of unemployment is due not only to cyclical difficulties in the world economy and wrong macroeconomic policies in this country but also to the structural changes that are being brought about by technological developments in this country. Our policies, as we are developing them, deal not only with the macro-economic area but with the micro-economic area as well.
I should like to focus for a moment on the alternative Budget brought down by the Leader of the Opposition as it relates to the macroeconomic area. In short, we reject the 1930s mentality; the idea that merely bringing down the rate of inflation will bring about that salvation which we all want. We have to remind the House and the people that in the 1930s there was virtually no inflation. In the 1930s there was a lowering of wages by means of the Premiers plan. In the 1 930s there were low interest rates but that did not bring about economic health in this country. Heaven forbid that we should have to wait for a war, as happened in the 1930s, before economic health is restored. Surely we have to be innovative and ensure that we have alternative economic policies rather than wait for such a happening to bring us back to full employment. There was no recovery then through this strategy; there will be no recovery now unless the policy changes.
Let us adopt a more sophisticated approach than that adopted in this Budget. I remind the House of the plans of the Opposition to spend more money. We could spend up to $1 billion more in areas such as capital works and housing where there is a multiplier effect and an employment producing effect. We could spend more on manpower programs. We could spend more, indeed, in offsetting the evils of this Budget which has taken money from those who would spend. The net effect, of course, would not be an addition of $1 billion to the deficit because the increased level of activity would mean a flowback to the Government of increased revenue. We are prepared to go out and sell to the community the idea that an increased deficit can be justified at this time in the interests of the community.
We accept that there are difficulties and that there is a need for education in this area; that with an increased deficit there is a requirement for increased public sector borrowing. There are also dangers of inflationary expectations. We believe that if there is a proper education campaign in the community- recognising that these are the policies for economic health, recognising that there is no reason why an increased borrowing requirement brought about by the deficit that we have in mind should add to interest rates- these things can be achieved without any adverse effects. It means also that we, as a Parliament, have to recognise that there are difficulties with our reserves, our balance of trade, and our expansionary situation. But once again, if expenditure is regulated carefully so that it is being spent mainly on goods and services that are produced in this country and which will not add to our import Bill, such difficulties could and would be overcome. We should adopt such an expansionary program rather than the dull budgetary strategy which we are debating here this afternoon.
The Opposition alternative is thoughtful. It is modest. It takes into account the public sector borrowing requirement. It takes into account the reserve situation. It takes into account the inflationary expectation situation. It is a policy that could and would work if it were instituted in this country. It would have an enormous effect on the confidence of the people in this country, the people who need to be persuaded to spend. We need a government which shows that it is fair dinkum about unemployment; a government which shows that it is concerned to see that unemployment will be reduced as well as the rate of inflation. If we had such a government we would have a lowering of the savings ratio; we would have a return to confidence and spending on the part of the Australian community- spending which would restore economic health in Australia.
This Budget, as outlined by the Treasurer, does not only contain errors of commission such as those I have outlined. It also has many omissions. I refer again to the micro-economic area in which there is a need for more innovative industry policies. The Opposition welcomes the boost to the motor vehicle industry and the cut in sales tax in that area. We welcome also the export market development and industrial research and development subsidies which are contained in this Budget. To the extent that we understand the scheme, we also welcome the project Australia strategy which has yet to be outlined in detail to this House and to the nation. But these are crisis times which require more than just those schemes which I have outlined. We require some economic planning to determine the industries to which most of our efforts should be direct at this particular time. Surely we are all in agreement that there must be an upgrading of the minerals situation. Surely we are all in agreement that there must be much more research and development on which we can base Australian industries at this time. We should put aside far more resources than are outlined in this Budget for expenditure on research and development and export market development allowances in order to ensure that there will be new industries in this country based on exports, based on our research and development and based on the upgrading of the minerals situation.
I understand that the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) is to follow me in this debate. I hope that we will find more than the panacea of the holding of a conference of Ministers for Labour in November in the ideas he will put to the House in his speech. I have been disgusted to find that the calls by Premier Wran of New South Wales, by the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Mr Hawke, and so many others for a heads of government conference- a dialogue anyway- on this grave problem of unemployment have been rejected. As a result of the conference of Ministers for Labour at which the Minister of Labour and Industry from South Australia put up a scheme relating to the termination of employment, a special conference of the Ministers for Labour has been called for November. Now we find that that is the panacea for finding the answers to the grave unemployment problem. Maybe we will have the Crawford report by then. Maybe we will also have the Williams report. But it is not good enough to wait for a conference of the Ministers for Labour that is two months away to attack these grave problems. We need a return to a sensible Budget policy, as outlined by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden). We need some more innovative industry and manpower policies, as I have suggested in my speech today. I trust that the House will support the amendment I have moved.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment.
– Let me try to put the present employment situation in perspective and offer my view of some of the more intractable of our difficulties. Where are we going in terms of employment and unemployment? Are we going to recover the situation we enjoyed in our labour market in the 1960s or are we to expect that the current situation will continue to persist for at least a number of years? Claims and counter claims based on information about the labour market are continually being made. Some suggest it will recover quickly. Others suggest it may never return to what Australians have commonly accepted to be full employment. The confusions and assertions tend to obscure and outweigh the careful analyses. There are reports of unemployed young people, in particular, who cannot find work despite their constant search for it. Employers want experience but are not prepared to give them a chance to acquire any. There are reports of some disillusionment, loss of morale and anti-social behaviour among young people. Equally, there are continued employer claims that they cannot get suitable workers even to fill unskilled jobs. There are continual assertions that a number of the unemployed, particularly young unemployed, do not want to work or are very selective about the work they are prepared to accept, preferring to live in company with others on unemployment benefit. This is said to be underlined, for example, by their dress and attitude at job interviews.
Criticisms of the adequacy of the present unemployment benefit levels are also matched by concern at the increasing cost of benefit payments, which in 1977-78 were already in excess of $700m, and the feeling that these funds should be capable of being used more constructively in the interests of the unemployed and the community.
In the 25 years which followed World War II, Australia experienced high levels of growth in population, the labour force and employment. Because of the strong demand for labour, associated with a strong domestic economy and growing world trade, Australia absorbed into employment a rapidly growing labour force. This was accomplished despite underlying substantial changes that were taking place in the structure of industry and in the composition of the labour force. Between 1954 and 1971 more than 1 .6m people were added to the labour force. In the 1960s, the labour force grew by about 120,000 each year.
There were three main influences on labour supply over the period from 1950 to the late 1960s. First was the immigration program. Second was the influx of married women seeking employment which, in itself, was to some extent linked with the high level of migrant intake. Numerous sets of data illustrate the greater participation of females that took place. Most pertinently, the number of females in the labour force rose from 23 per cent in 1954 to 32 per cent in 1971. Over the same period, the married women component rose from 7 per cent to 1 8 per cent. The third main influence on labour supply related to changes in the teenage labour force. Up to around 1 966 there was an increase in the numbers entering the labour market. After 1966, however, the trend for young people to stay on longer in full time education was reflected in the reduced growth rate of the teenage labour force. Put another way, the increases from the growth of our teenage population were temporarily absorbed by educational institutions and did not immediately emerge to seek entry into the labour market.
On the labour demand side, the performance of the economy in providing sufficient jobs to absorb the considerable increases in the labour force was impressive. Overall, manufacturing and particular areas of the tertiary or services sector provided most of the new jobs, although as the 1960s progressed manufacturing growth declined while the services sector continued to increase and the mining area, though still relatively small, also rose. This was a period of relative economic stability, reflected in comparatively low rates of inflation and a fairly stable relationship between wages and profits, with real wages rising more or less in line with the growth in productivity over the longer term. Here was a period of stability conducive to economic and employment growth.
In the early years of the 1 970s the labour force continued to grow strongly, with migrants and married women still contributing to the increase at rates which maintained the trend towards the changed labour force structure developed in the two previous decades. The changing pattern in new job generation, which began to emerge in the second half of the 1960s, with the decline in importance of manufacturing industry and the rise in importance of the services sector as providers of new jobs, continued largely unabated. Economic growth continued at rates sufficient to keep unemployment low. The changes in the labour market which occurred from 1974 and which have continued since, reflect largely the continuing impact of fundamental imbalances in the economy, emanating from the 1973 and 1974 wages explosion, directly due to the policies of the Labor Government. The effect of this was a dramatic reduction in levels of investment, activity and employment.
While the labour force continued to grow, the annual increase in the numbers of additional jobs which the economy was able to generate slowed. What had previously been a slowing in the rate of new job creation in manufacturing between 1971 and 1974 became a marked contraction of job opportunities in that sector. Between June 1974 and June 1977 over 58,000 jobs per annum were lost in manufacturing as a direct consequence of the Labor Government’s policies. Moreover, employment remained virtually stable in wholesale and retail trade, while the public sector continued to grow. Overall, the previous rate of job creation was not maintained. As economic growth slowed and real unit labour costs remained abnormally high, unemployment increased significantly to reach unprecedented levels for the post-war years. The groups of people hardest hit by the slackness in the demand for labour were and are those with few skills, lack of work experience, broken job histories and low levels of education.
Young people, Aboriginals and unskilled workers still have the highest rates of unemployment. Non-metropolitan areas generally have fewer jobs than elsewhere, and this factor tends to aggravate the difficulties of the groups hardest hit. In August this year an estimated 332,800 people were unemployed looking for fulltime work- 6.2 per cent of the fulltime labour force- and another 63,200 were unemployed looking for part time work- 6.3 per cent of the part time labour force. Of the males aged 15-19 in the full time labour force, 17 per cent were unemployed in August 1978; 17.6 per cent of female full time workers in this age group were unemployed. In July 1978 the average duration of unemployment for those seeking full time work was over 27 weeks. Unemployment in the Aboriginal labour force is probably at least five times the national average. At the end of August 1 978 the Commonwealth Employment Service had 22 persons registered for every vacancy; while the ratio for juniors was 27 for each vacancy. One factor which is often overlooked in judging these figures is the participation rate in the work force.
In mid-1954, it was 57.6 per cent, in 1965 58.9 per cent, and in 1975 61.4 per cent. Today it stands at 61.2 per cent, so even though there has been a slight fall in the participation rate since the peak of 62.2 per cent in February 1976, we are still providing jobs for a greater proportion of our work force than in most of the post-war years.
Recession has, of course, also hit other industrialised countries. The industrialised world is indeed in the worst recession since the Depression of the 1930s. Australia could not have expected to escape the repercussions of the international recession. However, we might have reasonably expected from our situation, for example in regard to oil, and from a history which has taught us to expect a time lag before overseas developments affect us, that the recession would not have occurred as early as it did and would not have had the severe effects it has had. Both the timing and severity of the recession in Australia were far more directly a product of what was happening here in 1973 and 1974 than what was then happening overseas. The plain fact is that at that time we decided in Australia to pay ourselves more for doing practically the same amount of work. Our wages rose well ahead of increases in our productivity. Between June 1973 and March 1978 average earnings increased by almost 100 per cent. During the same period productivity rose by about 10 per cent. In other words, the rate of increase in our earnings outstripped our increase in productivity by a factor of 10 to 1. Inevitably, prices rose and employment was affected. Only if the laws of economics had been suspended could the result have been otherwise. Indeed, they most certainly were not. In that same period, June 1973 to March 1978, the consumer price index increased by over 80 per cent and employment increased by only 2.4 per cent. In a very real sense the community is now paying the price for the excesses of those years.
Even in its present depressed state, of course, the labour market is not static. There will always exist some vacancies at any particular time, whatever the level of unemployment. However, there is no escaping the fact that we are suffering from a gross deficiency of jobs. There are people genuinely and earnestly seeking employment who cannot find it. At today’s wage rates there is a substantial shortage of jobs for those who are unemployed but who want to work. We owe it to ourselves to face the fact. If we can acknowledge that we have a real and substantial problem of unemployment in our community, and begin to understand the reasons why, then we as a community are more likely to adopt a cohesive approach.
The Community recognises wage increases as a primary source of inflation. However, for those of you who think that the wage indexation decisions of the past couple of years are getting things rapidly right, let me mention a couple of sobering facts. Between December 1975 and December 1977, the minimum weekly wage has risen by no less than $31. If we compare the recent situation with the recession of the early 1960s we find that between December 1961 and December 1963 the minimum award wage rose by only 97c. Unemployment during that period averaged around 2 per cent. While the minimum award wage has increased between December 1975 and December 1977 by some $31, unemployment has been between 5 per cent and 7 per cent. Comparisons between the two periods must, of course, be made with caution. The labour force was smaller in the earlier period, the rate of inflation was a good deal less, and the value of money higher. Nonetheless, taking all these factors into consideration, the conclusion appears inescapable, and this is supported by recent comments of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
The Government has demonstrated its concern for the problems of the young. I acknowledge that there are differences of view about the role of government. Differences in political approach and philosophy are to be expected and are perhaps a sign of the basically healthy state of our system. Whatever these differences of view, however, I want to point out that with all the widespread variations in approach to the contemporary problems of unemployment in the industrialised countries of the world, not one has yet solved all the problems.
During the time of the Labor Government, we saw wages outstrip productivity, inflation and inflationary expectations increase at an alarming rate, and demand, investment and confidence fall. As a Government we believe these problems are fundamental to the present predicament in the labour market. We have, therefore, consistently advocated maximum restraint in wages increases and sought to improve productivity. We have adopted policies to reduce inflation and improve demand, investment and confidence. There is increasing acceptance that our policies have achieved substantial improvement, particularly when it is recalled that we inherited a deteriorating economy and worsening world trade. We have also implemented specific programs which support and complement our economic strategy for tackling unemployment. For example, we appointed the Norgard inquiry and are now taking steps as a result to develop the Commonwealth Employment Service into a modern and efficient employment and counselling service. We have introduced a number of manpower programs to overcome labour market difficulties- particularly those of young people. These programs provide people with skills and work experience to enhance their prospects of stable employment.
The vocational training programs under the National Employment and Training scheme have been expanded and brought closer to the productive requirements of industry and the employment needs of individuals. Special training programs for the disadvantaged have also been expanded under NEAT and a new employment and training strategy launched to assist Aboriginals. The number of trainees under NEAT, including the Special Youth Employment Training Program, has increased dramatically since we came to Government in 1975, and indeed has outstripped our expectation. With little more than doubling of expenditure, numbers in training at the end of June 1978 were more than six times the level of December 1975. There has been a major change in the nature of the training- from formal courses to on-the-job training which is more directly related to industry’s needs. Over 90 per cent of the training assisted under NEAT is now on-the-job training. Only one-third of the total in training in December 1975 were training on the job. The apprenticeship support programs have been redesigned to improve the output of tradesmen by increasing intakes and reducing wastage rates. We have provided a significantly greater share of education resources to the technical and further education sector.
The particular emphasis we have given to providing training for the young is best illustrated by the Special Youth Employment Training Program. We have used this program to assist the transition from education to work of those young people who have experienced more difficulty than the majority of their contemporaries. We have made provision for remedial education assistance, under the Education
Program for Unemployed Youth, for those young unemployed people who are particularly disadvantaged in obtaining satisfactory employment. In addition, support has been provided for the unemployed young through the Community Youth Support Scheme. More than 60,000 young people have been assisted under SYETP since we introduced the program in October 1976. Approximately 45,000 young people have been assisted under CYSS since the inception of the program.
Geographic imbalance in job opportunities has been one of the few structural labour market problems which has been consistently visible over a long period. The Government introduced and subsequently expanded a scheme of assistance for relocation of individuals. There have been many suggestions that we should also have established job creation or unemployment relief schemes. Some people see these schemes as a simple and costless answer to unemployment. The argument is usually on the lines that instead of paying unemployment benefit for no return, grants be made to local authorities to employ the unemployed on local services. Unfortunately, this is far from a costless solution, as our predecessors’ experience with their Regional Employment Development scheme demonstrated. Employing the unemployed at the minimum wage, which presumably is what the community would expect, with all the overheads associated with employment- workers’ compensation, accommodation, tools, materials, supervision, administration of such matters as wages, recordkeeping, et cetera- would far exceed the savings which might be made in unemployment benefit payments and increases in taxation. And, of course, not all the unemployed are unemployment benefit recipients. The overall cost per person would very likely be of the order of $200 to $250 per week. That would necessitate very considerable additional public expenditure that would have to be provided by reduced expenditure elsewhere, increased taxation or an increased deficit. Obviously such action at this time would worsen the prospects for economic recovery and increased job opportunities. It might well increase, rather than decrease, unemployment.
Despite the success of our manpower programs overall, problems of unemployment have continued. In recent months the number of civilian employees has been falling, and as of June 1 978 was marginally less than the number a year earlier. The trend in private sector employment, where the major improvement in employment opportunities must take place, has also been steadily downward; it has fallen 48,000 in the last twelve months. The major influence on this movement is the contraction of employment in manufacturing industry evidenced by a decrease of 34,000 jobs over the year. While the actual decline in employment was concentrated in the manufacturing industry, employment growth across all industries has been stagnant over this period. Increases in employment in the government sector have cushioned the fall in private employment over the past year, but this expansion in the number of government employees has slowed significantly in recent months.
There seems to be an increasing trend to self employed and employer categories. This group grew by 57,000 or 6.9 per cent in the period May 1976 to May 1977 and by 7,000 or 0.9 per cent from May 1977 to May 1978, at a time when the number of wage and salary earners was falling. The Government is watching this development closely. At the same time unemployment among persons looking for full-time work, as measured by the Australian Bureau of Statistics surveys, rose by 46,500 in the 12 months to August 1977, and rose by a further 49,500 in the year to August 1978. The bulk of the increase was among persons aged 20 and over- 73,200 over a two-year period. Commonwealth Employment Service figures confirm this general trend. There are no signs of any immediate significant improvement in the employment situation. On present indications it seems likely that a new peak will be reached in January-February 1979. Whether it will depends largely on the actions of employers and trade unions. The basic choice now, from which there is no escaping, is between higher wages for those in jobs or work for those who are not. This is a choice which trade unions and their members in particular should think about very seriously. Employers have recognised that labour is an item of high cost and, in many instances, have found it more profitable to replace labour with capital. Even as business profitability improves and demand and investment pick up, employers are not likely to take on additional labour as readily as in the past. Initially employers will make most use of overtime rather than create new jobs.
The level of unemployment next year depends largely on our ability to restrain wage increases which is the best way to enable employers to take on additional labour. We have to recognise, too, that even with an increase in the number of jobs, unemployment may not decline. People not now actively seeking employment may be expected to do so. The United States experience is worth looking at. In the past year, 4 million new jobs were created, but unemployment fell by only 1 lA million in the same period.
What then are the prospects for a growth of job opportunities sufficient to restore the pre- 1974 situation of the labour market, or something akin to it? It is not an easy question to answer, but a reasonable approach is to consider the number of new job opportunities necessary to match present and likely future demand for jobs based on recent experience. Let us assume a continuation of current immigration policies resulting in a net contribution to the labour force of approximately 20,000 a year; a return to the pre- 1974 trend in female participation rates by about 1981, remembering that our female participation rates are still significantly below those in a number of industrialised countries; and that young people participate in education and the labour force at present rates. Given these assumptions, the labour force is likely to grow by about 1 10,000 annually between now and 1 985.
If new jobs were created at an average of 130,000 a year for each of the next 5 years, we could expect to reduce unemployment to about 4.5 per cent. This could be achieved providing the improved labour demand did not attract abnormal additional numbers of people into the labour force. In this regard, I remind honourable members of the recent experience in the United States of America. If we achieved that rate of growth of job opportunities consistently for the next five years, we would match the very best of our post-war experience.
When one considers the growth patterns in employment opportunities prior to 1974, the levels of industry assistance and average productivity performances, it would appear unlikely that more than 10 per cent new employment will be generated in the manufacturing industry or that rural or mining industries will produce large numbers of additional jobs. The bulk of the new jobs will have to come from the services sector. Even here there are significant obstacles to increased employment. For example, the present system of penalty payments is a deterrent to the creation of more jobs in some important areas. It appears unlikely that additional jobs will emerge in wholesale and retail trading- a stronger generator of jobs in the early 1 970s- at the same rate as they emerged before the recession. A major contribution should continue to be expected to come from community services, an area which has seen a strong growth in jobs throughout the last 30 years, but of course in order to expand these services we must have a strong economy with a high rate of growth.
Leaving aside building, looming over the whole tertiary sector are changes in computer and related technology and the effects are beginning to bite. To the extent that evidence of the growth of labour saving innovations and capital investment indicate a substantial and permanent shift in attitudes towards incurring labour costs in the production of goods and services, the difficulty of matching our best past performance becomes even more difficult. Put simply, if we overcome our present problems and restore economic growth to more normal levels, we still face a formidable problem. The Government is nevertheless convinced that the best results will be achieved through the pursuit of its present economic policies.
There will also need to be a willingness on the part of everyone to be receptive to new ideas. There have been suggestions of work sharing, part-time employment and flexible retirement. But we must recognise that, while these may be options, they are not soft options if they are to make a genuine contribution to alleviating unemployment. Their full implications and consequences need to be carefully considered and fully understood. If these new employment concepts are accepted only where there is no loss of income or other inconvenience they offer no option for improving the overall employment situation. The Government, for its part, is prepared to consider with an open mind, new approaches to the employment problem within the established framework of the economic strategy needed for Australia’s recovery, with continued stress on real solutions to our problems and not simply stop-gap expedients.
Unemployment is a social as well as an economic problem. Some 16 per cent of the labour force aged between 15 and 19 years of age is unemployed. The periods of unemployment are lengthening noticeably and the percentage next year of unemployed in this age bracket could be even higher. By the early 1980s the situation could be one where, in addition to the problem of 15 to 19 year olds being unemployed, there will be a growing proportion of people in their early 20s who will have little work experience or prospects of employment. In other words, the social problem could significantly increase. If this situation develops, as it has in a number of other countries, there will be real dangers to the fabric of our society. In these circumstances, the attractiveness of Australia as a place to live and as an investment prospect- indeed, its credibility as a stable community- would be weakened. If that happened, the real advances we have made would be seriously at risk. It is not sufficient to shrug it off as a problem for government alone to counter. It is a challenge to which we must respond and there are not easy options to the problems facing us if we are to avoid the substantial social and economic costs of widespread high and prolonged unemployment. The Government acknowledges that a substantial problem of unemployment exists, and we are concerned about it. That concern, I am sure, is shared by every thoughtful Australian.
With its awareness of the problems ahead, the Government has already commissioned important studies under Professor Williams on education and training, and under Sir John Crawford on structural problems in industry. Their reports, which are due later this year, are expected to throw further light on problems we face and, it is hoped, provide possible directions for longer-term policies. But we can be sure, however helpful the advice of Professor Williams’s committee and Sir John’s study group, that neither will provide a panacea. We face a most difficult time and we should not be deceived by superficially plausible economic arguments that the solutions to unemployment are easily found and painlessly administered. Unemployment and its attendant consequences concern the whole community. All of us will have to share the cost of the remedies.
For workers, it means responsibility and restraint in wage demands or jobs will be priced further out of the reach of the unemployed. For the employer, it means a responsibility for the interests of people, as well as profits, or they may find a growing loss of confidence in our economic and social systems. For government, it means a responsibility for continuing policies which contribute to sustained economic growth and increased employment. For all of us as Australians, it means having an understanding of our problems, a willingness to tackle them and, above all, a confidence in our own country’s future.
– I think that the unusual feature of the Budget debate this year is the fact that we do not have to depend on the Opposition to highlight the many shortcomings and the moral bankruptcy of the Fraser Government’s Budget. It is interesting to see the many Government back benchers who have not been backward in criticising the harsher aspects of the Budget and its many basic injustices. It is particularly interesting to hear the honourable member who is seen by some as a future Prime Minister, the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman), voicing his criticism of several aspects of his present leader’s Budget. He complained rather bitterly about the Government’s decision to tax post-graduate research awards which would put the recipients into situations of hardship; and I must say that many of my constituents have been placed in this situation by this very unjust decision.
He also complained about the Government’s decision to index pensions annually and he complained that this was one of the many broken pledges of the Government. He made the rather interesting suggestion that perhaps we should have two-yearly budgets and he took the precaution of saying that there should be a proviso that there should be no reimposition of tax remissions during that period. This is very interesting in view of the history of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) on the question of personal taxation, as such a proposal would certainly inhibit the Prime Minister’s tendency to renege on policy commitments every few months. Then yesterday evening we heard the honourable member for Deakin (Mr Jarman) criticise the iniquitous retrospective taxation of long service leave and holiday leave credits. Today the Australian Industries Development Association offered some very caustic criticism of the Budget strategy in its September bulletin.
Despite all these shortcomings of the Budget being pointed out from the back bench and from traditional supporters of the Government, the Prime Minister still claims that the people of Australia support his Budget and that the divisive elements within the Australian community are less apparent now than they were two years ago. He said this, of course, in the face of the recent public opinion poll in the Bulletin which shows a 56 per cent disapproval rate of the Prime Minister and a mere 31 per cent approval. So who is kidding who in these opinions? To whom is the Prime Minister talking to get an opinion about how the public sees his Budget?
This is also, of course, in the face of the overt public demonstrations in Australia’s major cities against the Budget, most of which, I must say, were quite spontaneous. They were not promoted by the Australian Labor Party and Government members should realise that the Budget itself has provoked people to demonstrate. The Budget has committed violence on the pay packets of lower and middle income earners in Australia and this has provoked people to demonstrate. I can assure honourable members that they do not need the ALP to provoke them to demonstrate.
The public outcry has not been without some effect. The Government has gone cold on major aspects of arrangements for the administration of the new health insurance scheme. It now wants Medibank Private to handle people without private insurance who want to claim the universal benefit. This stems from the prospect of having to retrench several thousand Medibank employees, quite a few of whom live in my electorate, a move which would cause great hardship in the Public Service but which would be consistent with the Government’s vicious and unsympathetic attitude towards the Public Service generally, an attitude which no doubt inspired the Chairman of the Public Service Board to retire recently at very short notice. It also points up the Government’s rubbery financial estimates regarding the new health insurance arrangements. Management by private funds, some experts predict, would cost at least $20m more than if it were handled by Medibank Private. We can only hope that the Government will also rethink its decision to allow doctors to play God in determining who in our community is socially disadvantaged. What a degrading and demeaning procedure to impose on senior citizens and other disadvantaged people who are in need of medical services!
The Government has also gone cold on its proposal to tax family allowances according to children’s earnings. Whilst the intention of this proposal is commendable the effect of it on ordinary families where a child shows some initiative by earning income from such activities as selling newspapers is not at all commendable. It robs people of that very quality of resourcefulness which the Fraser Government is always protesting that it wishes to inculcate.
The ill thought out implications of this proposal is, I believe, symptomatic of the Government’s entire approach, an approach which has been characterised by rash judgments and deliberate moves to penalise low and middle income earners in favour of the wealthy. It is apparent now that a worker on, say, $175 a week will shortly have to pay a tax increase of 7.3 per cent whilst a worker on $300 will be taxed an extra 5.6 per cent and, of course, the privileged few will face an increase of only 3.2 per cent. So there is no question of what the Government’s intention is. Workers are now penalised too if they drink, smoke, drive a car or take their families on an interstate holiday. They are penalised if they are single parents, migrants or Aboriginals. They are penalised if they want to build a house. If they are building or construction industry workers they face the problem of joining a long dole queue. If they hope to become public servants they join a very long waiting list. If they are teachers wishing to rejoin the profession they face a wait of up to four years. Of course, if they are female and run a home as well as work full time they are doubly disadvantaged. Child care facilities are often expensive and inadequate through no fault of the people who run them. It appears that the Government would rather bribe women not to work than live up to its responsibility for providing child care. Women are blamed for unemployment figures being so high, along with arguments that wages across the board are too high.
The facts are, of course, that the economy is sick and that the Government is neurotically clinging to the idea that by reducing the rate of inflation all problems will be solved. The Government should try to tell this to some small businessmen. Only big business has gained from this Budget, a Budget which is based largely on the assumption that overseas investment is another panacea for all our ills. Of course, it is important that overseas interests find Australia to be an attractive investment prospect, but surely it is equally important that small businesses are allowed to survive. The plight of many small businesses in the Australian Capital Territory is graphically evident. Planners are being blamed for the over-supply of retail and business space in Canberra when, of course, government decisions should be blamed. The problem is much more complex than that. Canberra has suffered a dramatic and deliberate slowing down of the growth rate, as has the entire country. The economic downturn together with the persistent refusal by the Government to inject funds into the public sector has contributed to this and surely the time has now come for some action. If the private sector is unable to recover sufficiently to provide jobs for the thousands of unemployed Australians, it is clearly up to the Government to provide a stimulus in the private sector by an injection of public funds into such productive areas as housing, highway construction, the upgrading of public transport, sewerage schemes and so on.
When the Opposition talks about public sector spending it does not mean, as the Prime Minister invariably claims, that we are proposing a massive increase in the Public Service. We mean to increase government spending in productive areas under government control which, in turn, would create jobs in the private sector. This would get the economy going again by stimulating employment generating projects, not by putting more people on the public payroll.
In Canberra we constantly experience meddling in affairs which should rightly be the province of an elected government. We have an elected body, the Legislative Assembly, in the Australian Capital Territory which has no power. Although the Government has given many undertakings in the past to give that body some power, it has now repudiated the commitment. The Government will submit the people to a rather phoney type of referendum. That referendum is to be held on the same day as the Legislative Assembly election although the powers of the Assembly have not been designated. The people of the Australian Capital Territory are being asked to elect representatives to that body whose powers are not clear. In addition, candidates are being asked to stand for election to a Legislative Assembly which has no powers. Its powers will be dependent on the results of a referendum which will not be known at the time the election is being held. In Canberra the Commonwealth Government has interfered with increases in rents for government houses and flats. It has increased parking charges, motor registration fees and bus fares, and it has meddled in a whole range of matters which would normally be the province of a government elected by its citizens. The Government interferes in these matters but it refuses to intervene where it should intervene, that is, to stimulate growth in order to reduce the dole queue. Of course, we still have almost 6,000 people unemployed in the national capital.
In yesterday’s edition of the Australian Financial Review I noticed a report that Government officials already are becoming sceptical about the optimistic forecasts for exports which are to be found in Statement No. 2 of the Budget documents. Contrary to forecasts by the Treasury of a strong recovery in the farm product, the Bureau of Agricultural Economics expects less than a one per cent growth in rural export earnings this financial year. At the same time, imports are continuing to increase strongly, rising by 4 per cent after adjustment in the three months to August. Consequently, Australia had a record balance of payments current account deficit in August. So much for the Government’s expectation.
The Government does not even expect an improvement in the unemployment position which can only mean that unemployment will continue to rise at record rates. I can only re- iterate the headline that appeared in the Australian Financial Review the morning after the presentation of the Budget which stated ‘Head for Hell with Good Intentions’. Perhaps even that headline was too kind. I cannot find too much evidence of the Government’s good intentions and we may well ask this question: Is it good intentions which prompted the Government’s decision to tax social welfare beneficiaries such as accident victims who are being rehabilitated? Is it good intentions which prompted the Government to increase the tax of tuberculosis victims? What about the good intentions that prompted the Government’s decision to freeze unemployment benefits for unemployed single people, to index old age pensions annually or to subject those people over 70 years to a means test? Are these good intentions?
The Government has exhibited its good intentions only to those people who are already well off. The Government has given windfall profits to the oil companies. Esso-BHP, for example, will gain an additional $150m approximately in 1978-79 by way of import parity arrangements at the expense of government revenue. Whilst I am on the subject of Esso-BHP, I think it is appropriate to tell the House that today I received a number of reports claiming that there are grave deficiencies in the quality of Esso-BHP petrol originating from Bass Strait which we are subsidising so heavily. My understanding is that motor vehicles using this fuel in Canberra today are malfunctioning and stopping in the streets without any apparent explanation except that the carburettors are clogged up with what appears to be poor quality fuel. I hope that the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Fife) will take prompt action to investigate these very serious charges, especially when we are considering a Budget which is so kind to the Esso-BHP Consortium.
The Government’s failure to introduce a resource tax on windfall company profits is not offset by the Budget’s increased production levy. The increased levy is paid by the consumer. It is paid initially by the refinery but it is then passed on to the motorist, the industry, et cetera, whereas a resources tax would have been paid by the producer. Likewise, but on the home front, the Government has seen fit to increase spending on private schools and to cut spending on government schools. Funds for universities have been cut. The Government is threatening to interfere with the well established world-wide practice of providing study leave for academics.
Taken as a whole, this Budget lacks any indication that the Government has a firm plan in mind, either in the medium or long term, to set Australia on the path of economic recovery and social stability and well-being. It demonstrates the Government’s obsession with inflation. It seeks to link, by implication, Australia’s economic recovery with increased overseas investment which it sees as being the direct result of a reduced inflation rate. There is no evidence for this. The Government continues to blame unemployment on wage levels. Yet evidence exists to show that unemployment has become a structural problem, not only in our society, but in all the capitalist economies of the western world. The problems of redundancy caused by technological advances are part of this picture. The Government will have to come to grips with this issue. This Government has shown in this and previous Budgets that it is incapable of such investigation. Indeed, it has reverted to policies aimed at shifting the balance of wealth back towards profits and away from the people. Its obsession with reducing the public sector has more to do with fears of socialism than with economic good sense. This is a reactionary and harsh Budget hastily thrown together without thought for the very urgent problems which are facing Australia today.
– I am pleased to enter this Budget debate and to defend a Budget that we believe to be in the very best interests of this nation. What has become very obvious in the course of this debate is that the members of the Australian Labor Party shy away from economic discussions. They hate to be reminded of the disaster that they brought upon Australia during their period in office. Today they still gloss over the very serious consequences of inflation and the evils that it brought to our economy and to our social status. Ever since this Budget session commenced, we have noticed great concentration on personal attacks and on character assassination instead of on economic affairs. The Opposition has kept the media flooded with these sorts of matters. It almost seems to be a deliberate strategy to try to avoid making comment about economic measures. I have never known a Budget which contained some unpopular features to be less analytically looked at by an Opposition than is the case with this Budget. I think it indicates that the Labor Party just does not want to face up to or be reminded of its incompetence in economic management.
This Budget marks a further advance along the road to recovery of the Australian economy which certainly reached a very serious state by the end of 1975. The 1978-79 Budget continues and consolidates the responsible policies which are gradually eradicating the damage that was done during Labor’s term of office. In fact, the policies of those years have largely dictated the shape of this Budget. It is the damaging consequences of the Hayden and Crean Budgets that this Howard Budget, together with the Budgets of 1976 and 1977 and, I suspect, some Budgets yet to come, is designed to try to counteract and ultimately correct. Clearly, Australia’s economic growth rate is too low and unemployment is too high. Inflation is central to the problems of insufficient growth and unemployment. This point is not understood by those people who say that this Budget does nothing to attack the problems of unemployment. We have been selective in some of the actions that we have taken in this Budget. For instance, the reduction in sales tax on motor cars was a deliberate attempt to stimulate Australia’s biggest industry, the automobile industry.
The whole purpose of this Budget is to achieve further progress towards re-establishing the economic climate which will create more growth and more jobs. The whole purpose of all the Government’s economic policies is to rebuild Australia’s economic strength so that there will be more jobs. The Budget reflects the Government’s basic strategy, the whole of which is designed to create a situation in which the private sector’s economic health is restored and its ability to provide employment is restored. Those people who attack the Budget for what they see as its failure to respond to the unemployment problem clearly do not understand what is required. The kind of response suggested by the Labor Party might achieve a temporary, superficial improvement in the employment situation, but it would make the basic problem worse and even harder to solve on a lasting and long term basis.
Those who argue that we can accept higher inflation in order to reduce unemployment are deluding themselves. There is only one way to economic health and that is to get the rate of inflation down and at the same time return real wages to a more reasonable level. The past year has seen considerable progress in bringing down the rate of inflation. For the first time in eight years our inflation rate has come into line with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development average. In fact it is better than that. It is crucial that this progress continue. Under our policies it will continue. It is vital to our industries that it does and that their competitiveness at home and overseas is improved.
The policies we have been obliged to adopt are not easy policies. There is a lot of Hayden and Crean damage to repair. In framing the Budget we realised that the difficult and unpopular decisions that were brought down in this Budget just had to be taken. There was no escape from it. Keeping the Budget deficit down is the only way in which to beat inflation. An increased Budget deficit would inevitably mean a rise in inflation. That would mean a reversal of the reduction in our inflation and, of course, our efforts to get down interest rates. In short, it would mean a return to the conditions thrust upon Australia by the Labor Party.
The Opposition advocates the injection of money into the economy, claiming that this would help Australia. Such policies are a cheap way for governments to buy popularity, but they are a very costly way for the community in the end. Surely Australians know that large increases in government spending would mean increased inflation and unemployment and falling real incomes. Twice in the last three years the electorate has firmly rejected such a course of economic management, regarding it as being irresponsible. Spending restraints have been the keynote of the Government’s policies. In spite of the need to cut back on spending, we have given careful thought in the Budget to the productive industries- our economic lifeblood and the source of economic strength upon which all Australians ultimately depend.
Let us look at what has been done. Many people find it easy to ignore some of the actions the Government has taken in recent times. They say that this Budget does not provide enough. There are not enough goodies in it. Let us look at what has happened over the course of the last nine months. A convenient way might be to run through some of the points covered in the policy speech I delivered on behalf of my Party and the Government during the last election campaign. They are policies that have been implemented in the course of our being in office this year. We announced a new national water resources program. The legislation for this program has been passed and the State Premiers have been invited to make submissions on the projects. We undertook to reintroduce the fuel freight subsidy scheme which was abandoned by the Labor Party. Nobody in the Labor Party should ever open his mouth about the price of country fuel. That scheme has been reintroduced and it will cost about $40m this financial year. We announced a 5 -year program to upgrade the national railway network. A start is being made on that program. We said that in the life of this Parliament we would abolish probate duty. Duty on property passing to a spouse, child, grandchild, parent or grandparent was abolished from 21 November 1977. Legislation we brought in last April provides for all Federal estate duty to be abolished in relation to the estates of people who die after 1 July next year. The same arrangements apply to gift duty as to estate duty.
We said that we would provide further help to the embattled beef industry- and help has been given. There have been better terms of carry-on finance; there has been money for the implementation of carcass classification; there has been consideration with the States of a better selling system; and there have been grants to producers under the incentives scheme totalling something like $100m. We have been out selling and negotiating to get better sales and better access to markets round the world. This is now starting to bring results, with better prices for the producers. We have increased the wool floor price. Over $17m has been provided in the Budget for dairy underwriting and further funds will be provided in the future. The Primary Industry Bank has been established after a long and complex period of negotiation. Under a Labor Government in 1975-76 local government received $80m. Under our Government in 1976-77 the figure was $ 140m. In 1977-78 it was $ 165m. The figure for local government this year is almost $180m. This is a measure which has been of immense help to local government to hold down rates.
We undertook to introduce a new program of general decentralisation aid to supplement growth centre programs. The Budget contains $ 10.5m for this purpose. The new exports incentives scheme and the export market development grants, which have been greatly improved, together will provide some $ 100m to exporters of manufactured goods and many primary goods to encourage them to go out and sell on overseas markets. The benefits, of course, will go to those exporters showing extra sales- extra sales that Australia needs. In addition, provision has been made for expanding the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation. Funds have been provided for the Australia Overseas Projects Corporation which will enable a consortia of Australian firms to bid for major capital projects overseas. All of these things were promised and they are being done.
We promised to help people who have to travel long distances to seek special medical care. A total of $5.2m has been provided in the Budget for this program. It will be of great benefit to people in remote areas and is something that has been required for many years. We promised to provide extra help this year for isolated children to enable them to receive an education. There is $ 14.6m in this Budget to help 20,000 children in isolated areas. Various improvements in the telephone services are being provided by
Telecom, as promised by the Government, and we want to see more improvements. These are some of the things the Government has done in fulfilment of the promises it made before the last election.
The thing worthy of note is not that we have honoured these promises- that is only to be expected- but that we have been able to do so within the very severe limits imposed upon us because of the financial difficulties we inherited from the Labor Party. In a period when great restraint has been necessary the Government, through good management and most careful attention to its responsibilities, has been able to provide very worthwhile and significant assistance to those areas where it has been most needed.
Of course, the things just mentioned related only to specific areas and to matters brought forward at the last election. Since we have been in office we have instituted measures to bring in a new deal between the Commonwealth and the State governments. Our revenue sharing arrangements have given unprecedented generosity to the States. They have helped nearly all the States to balance their budgets, and have enabled them to hold down taxes. Indeed, some of the States have been able to give very considerable concessions. Our taxation reforms have been of immense importance. This year, against our wishes and our inclinations, unfortunately we have been forced to increase personal income tax. But even with that increase, taxpayers are much better off than they would have been if the notorious Hayden tax scales had still been in operation.
Of course we have brought in the family allowance, a major innovation of tremendous benefit to Australian families. I know that mothers around this country will not forget it. Tax indexation is another major reform offering continuing relief to taxpayers. Investment, the lifeblood of industry and of employment, has been revived as a result of the Government’s sound economic management and because of the investment allowance. These are just some of the initiatives we have been able to take in following the path of recovery- a difficult path but one to which we are firmly committed. But the most important thing of all, on which we have firmly fixed our sights and to which we have directed all our efforts, is the control of inflation and consequently of interest rates. These twin aims of the Budget and all our economic policies are absolutely of fundamental importance. Success in these objectives is vital if we are to restore Australia’s economic strength.
The Government has complete confidence in its economic policies and that confidence is firmly backed by Australian and overseas investors and international opinion. The Budget demonstrates the Government’s determination to pursue the fight against inflation by keeping the deficit under control. This strategy is supported strongly by investors on the Australian stock exchange, subscribers to the most recent Commonwealth loan, financial opinion in Europe and by leading overseas Press opinion. There is real confidence because of the resolution displayed in the Budget that the rate of inflation in Australia and interest rates will continue to fall. (Extension of time granted). This will result in greater competitiveness for Australian industry, increased investment in the productive enterprises, renewed industrial and economic growth and more jobs. That is what getting inflation under control does. This is the only way that lasting economic strength can be achieved and permanent jobs provided.
The lower interest rates which will follow reduced inflation will change the thinking of investors. People will realise that it is better to seek a return on their money by putting it into productive industries instead of looking for a return through higher interest rates in other areas. Once the fear of inflation and the need to protect savings against it are removed, money will be freed for useful purposes, employment generating purposes. There has been a lot of shallow reaction to the Budget but no one can question its two fundamental objectives- to get inflation down further and to get interest rates down to a realistic level. It is significant that one of Australia’s leading primary producer representatives, a man who is not frightened to express his point of view, Sir Samuel Burston, has said that the Budget brought down last month was absolutely necessary in the present economic circumstances.
It is typical that the Labor Party in its attitude to the Budget should ignore the fundamental requirement of business confidence. The Budget and its deficit are perhaps the key indicators to investors inside and outside Australia of the Government’s attitude to fiscal and monetary prudence and the Government’s determination to win through on inflation by sound, basic economic management. An expanding deficit would have signalled loudly and clearly that the Government had given up the fight against inflation and would have let interest rates rise. The economy would have been permitted to drift into further stagnation. This Budget is the right Budget for Australia at the right time. It is a
Budget that puts first things first. It is a Budget that has been recognised around the world as maintaining a correct approach to Australia’s problems. The Government has complete confidence in this Budget and in all its economic policies because it knows that what it is doing is absolutely right.
If it takes patience and perseverence there will be no let-up in the resolution of the Government to follow that course and it will not be sidetracked by the nitpicking attitude of members of the Labor Party. If they want to continue their personal vendettas against people in trying to sidetrack from their responsibility for sound economic management, then let them do so. We will be quite proud to stand behind our Budget and our economic strategy because we know that in the long run this is the only course for Australia; it is the right course, it is the course to help all those people who are unemployed and who have been looking for jobs and who have been betrayed by the Labor Party. Labor demonstrated during its three years in office that it had no competence or ability whatsoever in economic management.
-When I heard the words of the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) I could not decline the challenge.
– You agree with them?
-Many things that the Deputy Prime Minister said I do not necessarily disagree with. Of course it is very important that the rural sector of Australia should have proper services because, as I argued very recently in a paper on job absorption, if we are to tackle the problem seriously one possible way would be to reverse the tendency towards concentrating population in cities. It is difficult to be other than sceptical about decentralisation because, as we all know, there is a very strong urban tradition in Australia, going back to its foundation. We rank with Japan as the two most urbanised countries in the world. In Australia 60 per cent of our population live in 6 urban districts.
If we are to solve the problem of unemployment it may be necessary to attempt at times to reverse the economies of scale. As Adam Smith first pointed out, there are economies of scale where there is a comparatively small number of people concentrated in one area producing large amounts of goods. It may be necessary to reverse economies of scale and to have more people producing fewer goods. If we are to absorb the potential work force it may be necessary to do much more about decentralising and attempting to spread the population. In other words, the job opportunities in, say, 25 cities with 100,000 people each are likely to be very much greater than the job opportunities in one city of 2,500,000 people.
– What if the people don’t want to move?
-The honourable member for Wilmot very perceptively asks: What if the people don’t want to move?’. Exactly. What I was saying is that I think that the urban tradition in Australia is so strongly established that it will be extremely difficult to get them to move. That is why I think that decentralisation, which is certainly one way of spreading development throughout the country, realistically has little chance of being carried out. What concerned me was the assertion of the Deputy Prime Minister that the most important factor in determining the Budget was the question of business confidence. Of course it is a factor but it is not the only factor. There are two contrasting value systems which have developed in Australia. One is essentially based on a competitive view of the economy and the other is based on a co-operative view. The view of the Government parties, the Liberal Party and the National Country Party, is essentially that life is a struggle for resources; that life is essentially competitive; that there are winners and losers; that, broadly speaking, the Liberal Party and the National Country Party represent life ‘s winners and the Labor Party essentially represents life’s losers, the battlers in this economy. I believe that very firmly. I would like to illustrate this point and dwell on it for just a few moments. As I did not know I would be speaking in this debate until about two minutes ago I did not have the opportunity to ask the Minister for Special Trade Representations (Mr Garland), who is sitting at the table, whether I could have some material incorporated in Hansard. However, I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a short paper on the basic differences in emphasis between the two major Australian political parties which I have called Them and us/us and them’.
-The Budget which is before us and to which an amendment has been moved by the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) illustrates the fact that the policies of the Budget are not aimed at spreading the resources of this community more equitably. I want to talk very briefly about the major objections that I have to the Budget and why I am happy to support the amendment. The Budget lacks credibility. Let us not forget that there has never been a Budget with so many leaks beforehand.
– Remember what Hayden told Hawke?
-There was never an example under the Labor Government of leaks of this magnitude. It was possible by reading newspapers and by looking at the kit that obviously was prepared by the Liberal Party secretariat for the benefit of members of the Liberal Party before the Budget was presented to this House to realise that everything in the Budget was well known, that it had been discussed and that it had been leaked. Every single point to which we object had been leaked. There was no confidentiality about it at all.
It is also a Budget which challenges the credibility and integrity of the Government. First of all, it is a Budget based on broken promises. We were told by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) that Medibank would not be scrapped, that it would be retained. What we are now told, of course, is that Medibank Standard is now kaput; it has been destroyed. Everything that was predicted in the newspapers in fact came to pass. The newspapers were absolutely correct. The predictions about the dropping of sales tax on new vehicles and the increases in the price of petrol, cigarettes, beer and spirits were all correct. There has been a complete lack of integrity on the part of the Government that produced this Budget. Everything was leaked beforehand. It is the great leaking Budget. The second major thing that I find objectionable about the Budget is that it lacks any indication of a capacity to see
Australia’s economic situation in a broad context.
– What about Tasmania?
-Never more so than with Tasmania. It is a shortsighted, short term Budget. Let us look at the things that are not in the Budget Papers. First of ali, there is no reference to a national energy policy. This is not surprising because there is none.
– There is.
-A few noises were made the other day by the Minister for National Development (Mr Newman). What I am concerned about is that there has never been a document on a national energy policy prepared and presented to this Parliament that we can examine and debate. There is no national energy policy. We also asked for a national resources policy. Where is it? Where is the basis for the allocation of resources? It has never been given to us.
– Or a manpower policy.
-That was my next point. The honourable member for Adelaide is absolutely correct. Where is the national manpower policy? Where are these jobs that were spoken of a few minutes ago? In what areas will they be created? As I have said so often in the House, there is no vestige of a national manpower policy which indicates plans for tackling the problems of post-industrialism and the problems created largely by technical change which will lead to job displacement first in manufacturing and then in the service industry. There has been nothing in this respect because this intellectually bankrupt Government has not really thought out the implications at all.
Fourthly, there is no reference to the current inequalities in the distribution of wealth. The Budget imposes gross inequalities of sacrifice. I spoke about this subject in my first speech on the Budget and I do not want to go into detail about it in talking on the amendment. The whole Budget is an exercise in cynicism based on half truths. For example, the basis for the restructuring of Medibank is that benefits would be paid on standard fees, that is, that the Commonwealth would pay up to 40 per cent from revenue and the consumer can insure for an additional 35 per cent leaving him to cough : p 25 per cent at the time of the service. Bli. as honourable members know, a recent survey in Victoria indicated that only half the number of doctors in that State were charging standard fees. So lower income earners above the poverty line are likely to be disadvantaged.
The temporary tax increase of 1.5 per cent is designed to hit the middle and lower middle income earners more than the rich. This is because the increase had to be set against the famous tax cuts which operated from 1 February 1978. These February 1978 cuts have now been eliminated for those earning between $120 and $240 a week, and even despite the Vi per cent surcharge the rich will still get very substantial savings.
One of the tragedies- exemplified very clearly in the speech of the Deputy Prime Minister- was that the problem of unemployment, and in some way even the problem of productivity, is seen purely in an Australian context. Of course it is essential that we have regard to the affairs of our own country first. But one would think in listening to the kind of patter that comes from Government Ministers that in some way the economic problems that we have were unique to Australia, that they did not occur in any other country and that they were in some peculiar way introduced into the whole world uniquely by the Whitlam Government. We are left with the impression that if it had not been for the Whitlam Government the economies of the Western World would have no problems at all; that it all dates back to the Whitlam Government. This is a dangerously simplistic point of view. I think that it is essential that we demythologise a lot of our thinking on many economic subjects, that we do not see things purely in Australian terms and that we have regard to the experience of countries with comparable economies, and member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development are good examples of this. I think that it is a tragedy that this Budget does nothing to encourage public sector employment.
-‘ Good’ says the honourable member for St George. That is an extraordinarily simplistic view. Several honourable members have spoken during the Budget debate about their recent experiences in Japan. Those of us who went to Japan were left with a number of abiding impressions. One of them is the unanimity of the view that one must make the best use of government as an employment generator, that one cannot simply say: ‘Look, there is private enterprise over here and government over there and we want to keep them as far separate as we can ‘. That is regarded as nonsensical. It is conceded that in many ways the greatest single generator of employment and of development in many areas will be the government.
– Who pays for it?
-The community as a whole pays for it.
– By taxation.
-That is absolutely correct. It pays for it through taxation because taxation is or at least ought to be one of the great instruments for the redistribution of wealth. This Budget completely ignores the impact of technology. This is not being done in Japan. That country is very well aware of this factor.
I think, too, that the other tragedy of this Budget is that it recognises that there are enormous gaps and discrepancies in the level of wages earned in Australia and it wants to avoid any movement towards the redistribution of wealth. The real reason why the Whitlam Government was destroyed in 1975 was that it was the first government within living memory which attempted any form of redistribution of wealth. That was the failure of the Whitlam Government in the eyes of its opponents. That is why it can never be forgiven- for attempting a redistribution of wealth.
I conclude by saying that I believe that not nearly enough is being done for disadvantaged areas such as the western suburbs of Melbourne or the south-western suburbs of Sydney. In many areas like my electorate, where there are huge numbers of people whose mother tongue is not English, not nearly enough is being done to provide services. In my own electorate, in the heartland of St Albans- an area covered by the St Albans Community Health Centre- we find that 34 per cent of the population is Yugoslav, 32 per cent Maltese, 12 per cent Greek, 10 per cent Italian, 2 per cent German, one per cent Polish, one per cent Russian, one per cent Ukrainian, 0.75 per cent Czechoslovakian and 6.25 per cent British and other nationalities.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Hurford’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– In accordance with Standing Order 226, the Committee will first consider Schedule 2 of the Bill.
- Mr Chairman, with your indulgence, I extend congratulations to my colleague the
Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) as today is the twenty-first anniversary of his election to this chamber. There are not too many who achieve that honour. We share with him the pleasure and hope that his next 2 1 years in Parliament will be just as effective as the first 2 1 years.
I suggest that it might suit the convenience of the Committee to consider the items of proposed expenditure in the order and grouping shown in the schedule which has been circulated to honourable members. Consideration of the items in groups of departments has met the convenience of the Committee in past years. I also take the opportunity to indicate to the House that the proposed order of consideration of the departmental estimates has been discussed with the Opposition, which has raised no objection to what has been proposed. The schedule reads as follows:
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, and Department of Administrative Services, together.
Department of the Treasury, Department of Finance, and Advance to the Minister for Finance, together.
Department of Foreign Affairs.
Department of Health, Department of Social Security, and Department of Veterans’ Affairs, together.
Department of Aboriginal Affairs.
Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs.
Department of the Northern Territory, Department of the Capital Territory, and Department of Home Affairs, together.
Department of National Development, Department of Trade and Resources, and Department of the Special Trade Representative, together.
Department of Industry and Commerce, Department of Business and Consumer Affairs, and Department of Productivity, together.
Department of Primary Industry.
Department of Transport.
Department of Education.
Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development, and Department of Construction, together.
Department of Employment and Industrial Relations.
Department of Science.
Postal and Telecommunications Department.
Department of Defence.
Attorney-General ‘s Department.
– Is it the wish of the Committee to consider the items of proposed expenditure in the order suggested by the Leader of the House?
-The Opposition agrees to this course, as the Leader of the House has suggested. With your indulgence, Mr Chairman, I would like to take the opportunity of extending a ‘happy birthday’ to the Deputy
Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) on his coming of age. I hope that now he is of age it will mean a change in his attitudes and ways.
– There being no objection, it is so ordered.
Proposed expenditure, $ 15,549,000
Bill presented by Mr Sinclair, and read a first time.
Mr SINCLAIR (New England-Minister for
Primary Industry) (4.20)- I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Dairying Industry Research and Promotion Levy Act 1972 in order to remove any legal doubts in regard to two aspects. The first relates to the imposition of the Commonwealth levy on whole milk and butter fat which is produced in Australia and supplied by the producer to a cooperative dairy factory for processing by the cooperative on behalf of the producer. The second aspect relates to the obligation of co-operative dairy factories to make deductions equal to the levy from amounts payable to producers in respect to whole milk and butter fat supplied by a producer to a co-operative dairy factory for sale or processing by the co-operative on behalf of the producer and to pay such amounts to the Commonwealth. The Dairying Industry Research and Promotion Levy Act 1972, as amended, imposes a levy on whole milk and butter fat produced in Australia and sold by the producer. To facilitate the collection of the levy, the Dairying Industry Research and Promotion Levy Collection Act 1 972, as amended, provides that a person who purchases whole milk or butter fat from the producer becomes liable to pay the levy on behalf of the producer if it has not already been paid.
The need for the amendments to the abovementioned Acts relates to circumstances where wholemilk or butter fat is not actually purchased by a co-operative dairy factory but is delivered to the co-operative and then either sold by the co-operative on behalf of the producer or processed by the co-operative for subsequent sale. Doubts have been raised as to the liability of the co-operative in these instances to pay levy to the Commonwealth. Clause (4) of the Bill amends the Dairying Industry Research and Promotion Levy Act 1972 so as clearly to provide that whole milk or butter fat which is not sold by the producer but is supplied to a cooperative dairy factory for sale or processing by the co-operative on behalf of the producer, is deemed to have been sold by the producer and purchased by the co-operative for the purposes of the Dairying Industry Research and Promotion Levy Act 1972, as amended, and the Dairying Industry Research and Promotion Levy Collection Act 1972, as amended. The Bill also provides for the above amendment to come into operation on the first day of the month after the month in which the Act receives the royal assent. The levy which is imposed under the Dairying Industry Research and Promotion Levy Act 1972, as amended, is used to finance the research activities of the Dairying Research Committee and to finance the administration and promotional activities of the Australian Dairy Corporation. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Morris) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Sinclair, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill, which is complementary to the Dairying Industry Research and Promotion Levy Amendment Bill 1978 which I have just introduced, is to regularise deductions in respect of the levy that have been made by cooperative dairy factories and paid to the Commonwealth since the introduction of the original Dairying Industry Research Levy Act on 1 July 1972. Clause (3) of the Bill validates actual past payments in respect of the levy made by cooperative dairy factories to the Commonwealth since the introduction of the Dairying Industry Research Levy Act 1972 as if the amendments proposed in the Dairying Industry Research and Promotion Levy Amendment Bill 1978 had been in force at the time the payments were made to the Commonwealth. There are no other changes. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Morris) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Sinclair, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Livestock Slaughter Levy Act 1964 to increase the maximum rates leviable on cattle, buffaloes, sheep, lambs and goats slaughtered for human consumption. Concurrently, I will be introducing a Bill for parallel amendments to the Live-stock Export Charge Act 1977. The Government has agreed to amend these two Acts at the request of the Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation- AMLC. The maximum rates leviable per head under the Slaughter Levy Act will be doubled in the case of the meat research component, quadrupled in the case of the meat processing research component, and doubled in the case of the total levy possible for the above components plus the component for the administration of the Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation. The Bill provides for the following increases in maximum amounts leviable for the different species:
Meat Research Component- from 25c to 50c in respect of cattle and buffaloes; from 3Wc to 6%c in respect of sheep, lambs and goats.
Meat Processing Research- from lc to 4c in respect of cattle and buffaloes; from 0.1c to 0.4c in respect of sheep, lambs and goats.
Total of Meat Research, Meat Processing Research and Administration of the Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation Components- from 75c to $1.50 in respect of cattle and buffaloes; from 7.5c to 1 5c in respect of sheep, lambs and goats.
The maxima are being raised at this time, primarily to enable doubling of the operative rates for the meat processing research components, which are currently set at the maximum permissible under the Act. These increases in the operative meat processing rates have been recommended to the Government by the Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation after consultation with, and with the support of, the Producer Consultative Group, the Exporter and Abattoir Consultative Group and the Australian Meat Research Committee. These industry groups are unanimous in wishing to increase the funds available to support meat processing research at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation meat research laboratory at Cannon Hill, Queensland. The increases in the other maxima will enable future increases in the operative rates to be undertaken by changes to the regulations.
The need for an increase in the meat research component of sheep and lamb slaughter levies has already been foreshadowed by the AMLC and industry groups. Increased levies to finance AMLC operations may also be needed shortly. The AMLC is presently discussing with industry its forward expenditure budgets and income requirements. A significant amount of the funds provided to the Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation from the slaughter levies and export charges are spent on promoting increased demand for Australian meat and livestock. In this respect, the Government believes it is most desirable that Australia’s exports to the Middle East be expanded and is hopeful of increasing expenditure on promotion of exports to these markets. I will shortly be meeting with leaders of industry organisations to determine the best way of achieving this objective.
The Bill, in common with the Live-stock Export Charge Amendment Bill, does not make provision for increasing the cattle disease eradication components of the levy. Honourable members will be aware that in his Budget Speech the Treasurer (Mr Howard) announced that the Government would review these components later in the year. However, any decision on whether or not there are to be changes will not be taken now but in relation to discussions that will ensue when those changes are under further consideration. At present the operative rates for the levy components referred to in this Bill are:
There is no operative rate at present for buffaloes and the Government does not propose to set a rate at this stage.
– Hear, hear.
– I can understand the honourable gentleman’s concern, particularly in relation to Tasmania. This has been done for several reasons, including the marginal economic viability of the buffalo meat industry and the Government’s desire not to hinder efforts to reduce the buffalo population of the Northern Territory for disease control reasons. Money raised through the two research components of the levy are used to finance a continuing high level of scientific and economic research in the livestock industries. This research ensures that there is a steady stream of information available to both producers and processors to enable them to improve their management and marketing practices. The Government matches research funds expended from monies raised from producers through the two research components on a dollar for dollar basis. Money raised through the components designated for administration of the Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation are used to finance all aspects of the operations of the Corporation. The Corporation is essentially responsible for the control and regulation of external marketing of Australian meat, meat products, edible offal and livestock. The Corporation also encourages and provides assistance for promotion of meat and meat products both in Austrafia and overseas. The Government does not supplement funds raised from producers for these purposes.
As honourable members will appreciate the Livestock Slaughter Levy Act provides for proposed changes to operative rates of levy to be implemented by regulation. Before making regulations prescribing operative rates of levy the Governor-General is required to take into account any recommendations with respect to the amount submitted to the Minister by the Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation. Recommendations for amendments to the operative levy rates are made to the Minister by the Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation after consultation with the Producer Consultative Group, the Exporter and Abattoir Consultative Group and, where appropriate, the Australian Meat Research Committee. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Morris ) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Sinclair, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Livestock Export Charge Act 1977 to increase the maximum rates which may be charged on live exports of cattle, buffaloes, sheep, lambs and goats. Livestock export charges comprise components for meat research, for financing the Australian Meat and Livestock CorporationAMLC and, in respect of cattle and buffaloes, for financing the national cattle disease eradication scheme. These components are identical to components of the livestock slaughter levies, as to both purpose and maximum rates of charge. There is, however, no component of the export charge equivalent to the meat processing research component of the slaughter levy. Such a charge would be inappropriate for live animal exports. The increases in the maximum rates of charge provided for in the Bill parallel those in the Live-stock Slaughter Levy Amendment Bill 1978. Maximum rates of charge for research and AMLC administration are to be doubled. The disease eradication component of the charge is not altered. As I have mentioned, any modifications in that area are a matter for subsequent discussions with industry and would not be under consideration at this time.
As with the livestock slaughter levies, the operative rates of export charge are set by regulation. Before making regulations prescribing operative rates of charge the GovernorGeneral is required to take into account any recommendations with respect to the amount submitted to the Minister by the Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation. Recommendations for amendments to the operative rates of charge are made to the Minister by the Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation after consultation with the Producer Consultative Group, the Exporter and Abattoir Consultative Group and, where appropriate, the Australian Meat Research Committee. The current operative rates of charge are the same as for the similar components of the livestock slaughter levy. Subject to industry recommendations, the Government expects that livestock export charges and livestock slaughter levies will continue to move in parallel. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Morris) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Sinclair, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to give effect in the Australian Capital Territory to amendments to long-standing arrangements between the Commonwealth and the States concerning the eradication of exotic animal diseases. These arrangements are designed to enhance Australia’s ability to deal with outbreaks of serious exotic animal diseases. This is a real risk because of the increased speed of transport and volume of movements of animals and animal products throughout the world and also the increased associated risk of the introduction of insects which are vectors of disease.
In the agricultural field there has been for many years a well co-ordinated system of committees under the Australian Agricultural Council and the Standing Committee on Agriculture. Through these forums full consideration is continually given to ways and means of eradicating serious exotic diseases, should they ever gain entry to Australia. As a result, detailed plans have been formulated for the eradication of these serious exotic diseases, agreement having been reached between the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Premiers of all States for joint action. The principle is that no matter where in Australia a disease may occur, the Commonwealth and each of the States, including the Northern Territory as a State for this purpose, will contribute finance in agreed proportions to enable measures to be taken for speedy eradication. The States will together contribute 50 per cent of the money required and the Commonwealth the balance. The Australian
Capital Territory share is borne by the Commonwealth so that in effect the Commonwealth contribution becomes approximately 50.5 per cent of the total cost. The relative State contributions are on an agreed basis related to livestock populations at risk and each State has enacted legislation as necessary to cover their responsibilities. It should be noted that it has been agreed that the arrangements will apply only in cases where programs are carried out with the full support of the Australian Agricultural Council ‘s consultative committee on animal health matters.
I turn now to consider the Bill in detail. The Bill supersedes, and in clause 2 provides for the repeal of, the Foot and Mouth Disease Act 1 96 1 under which a trust account was established for purposes connected with the eradication of foot and mouth disease in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. In 1965 that Act was amended to include two diseases which are clinically indistinguishable from foot and mouth disease, namely, vesicular stomatitis and vesicular exanthema. To provide flexibility and to limit the need for future amendments the Bill does not specify the diseases to which it applies. Rather, clause 4 provides a mechanism whereby the Minister for Primary Industry may specify the diseases which for the time being are to be covered. The diseases which will be specified are those which, by agreement between the Prime Minister and State Premiers, are included in the arrangements. Apart from foot and mouth disease, vesicular stomatitis and vesicular exanthema, the following diseases will be covered:
It is because of the risk of Newcastle disease that Australia has prohibited imports of poultry and poultry meat;
I add at this stage that the strains are of a virus and not a disease. The virus identified in Australia has not, in natural circumstances, generated disease in any animals anywhere in Australia. Another disease to be covered is:
The Bill reflects the recent decision of the Australian Agricultural Council to extend the existing arrangements to apply not only to eradication campaigns, but also to control campaigns. Such campaigns would be used when a national eradication campaign is impractical but it is nevertheless desirable, in the national interest, to implement measures aimed at confining a disease or a disease agent, to localised areas, containing it in those areas and eradicating it from all others. Such measures would be taken in accordance with control programs instituted and carried out with the full support of the consultative committee of the Australian Agricultural Council. Sub-clause 5(1) empowers the Minister, on behalf of the Commonwealth, to enter into arrangements with the States for the purposes of controlling and eradicating exotic animal diseases. Sub-clause 5 (2) deems any existing arrangement to be an arrangement made under sub-clause ( 1 ). The clause is designed to give a clear legal basis to the current arrangements existing between the Commonwealth and the States.
Clause 6 provides the mechanism whereby the Minister may specify the locality in which a campaign is to operate, the disease to which the campaign is to be directed and the period during which the financial provisions of the Bill are to apply. I will refer to this clause again shortly. Clauses 7 to 10 of the Bill provide for a trust account into which contributions by the Commonwealth and the States can be paid and from which the expenses of eradication and compensation to stockowners in the Australian Capital Territory may be paid. The Foot and Mouth Disease Act 1961 provided also for payment of compensation to stockowners in the Northern Territory, but the present Bill reflects the recent constitutional developments in the Northern Territory and thus relates only to the Australian Capital Territory.
Under clause 1 1 compensation may be claimed where livestock die or where livestock or property is destroyed during an eradication or control program and there is in force a declaration by the Minister under clause 6 in respect of that disease for that particular area. By virtue of clause 6 such compensation may be paid in respect of loss arising from action taken from the time an outbreak of a disease is first suspected to exist, by providing that the Minister may make a declaration of an area, in respect of a disease, retrospective. This is an important component in control programs as it is essential to guard against delay in taking appropriate action immediately an outbreak of a disease is suspected. This may involve the slaughter of stock which would impose considerable hardship on the owner concerned unless he is compensated for the loss involved. This is a small price to pay to safeguard the national interest. Conversely, clause 6 also enables the Minister to cut off, from a specified date, the period during which the financial provisions apply. This recognises that there may be occasions when it becomes obvious that a disease has become so well established that control or eradication measures are no longer worth while. This will minimise unnecessary expenditure, while providing some flexibility so that stockowners are not unfairly deprived of compensation.
Clauses 12 to 17 also deal with compensation and cover such details as: The persons who are eligible for compensation; the time within which claims for compensation must be lodged; the non-payment of compensation to persons who have been convicted of an offence against the law of the Australian Capital Territory relating to diseases of livestock; the non-payment of compensation under the law of the Australian Capital Territory relating to diseases of livestock where compensation has been paid under clause 1 1 of the Bill; the amount of compensation, this being an amount equal to the market value of the livestock or property before its destruction or death; and the legal right to recover compensation which is payable under clause 1 1. Clause 18 provides a $200 penalty for making false or misleading statements or doing fraudulent acts for the purpose of obtaining pecuniary benefit while clause 19 preserves the laws of the Australian Capital Territory relating to diseases of livestock except insofar as their application would result in double compensation. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Morris) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Sinclair, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the principal Act to provide for price support of returns to growers of dried sultanas for the three seasons 1978, 1979 and 1980. In extending stabilisation, the Government proposes to modify in some respects the principles of the scheme which applied to the seasons 1971 to 1976. A major change is that the arrangements are to apply to returns from dried sultanas only and not to currants and raisins, the production of which is small in quantity and mainly sold on the domestic market. In agreeing with a request from the industry for their exclusion from the arrangements for 1978-80, the Government has decided that this would not preclude their re-inclusion should a further scheme for stabilisation of dried vine fruits be considered beyond 1980.
Payments into and from the Sultana Stabilisation Fund will depend upon the extent to which returns received by growers are higher or lower than a specified base price. The Government and the industry have agreed that the base price for the 1978 season will be $515 per tonne on a sweat box basis. This figure takes account of the fact that producers’ costs have been rising and is also consistent with general market expectations. The figure of $5 1 5 per tonne is 20 per cent higher than the base price for sultanas that applied under the stabilisation scheme for the 1976 season. For the 1979 and 1980 seasons, the base price will be adjusted by the absolute amount of the net changes to cash costs of growers and will include an imputed figure for the farm operator’s labour as calculated by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. This procedure is consistent with that used for adjusting the home consumption price of wheat. If the average seasonal return for sultanas is above the base price plus $10 per tonne, growers would pay the excess, with a limit of $20 per tonne, into the Sultana Stabilisation Fund, except when production does not exceed 50,000 tonnes- under the old scheme it was 60,000 tonnes- when no industry contribution is payable.
If a payment out of the Stabilisation Fund is due in a season and there is insufficient industry money in the Fund, the Commonwealth will provide finance to make the payment to the extent necessary to raise the average return to the base price less $ 10 per tonne. However, two constraints limit the amount of the Commonwealth contribution. First, the maximum Commonwealth contribution is to be $25 per tonnepreviously $23 per tonne- and, second, such contribution is limited to an output not exceeding 60,000 tonnes- previously 75,000 tonnes. The maximum Commonwealth contribution in any one season is thus $1.5m. As for previous schemes, the maximum of growers’ contributions held in the Sultana Stabilisation Fund is to be $4m, with any surplus being distributed to growers on a first-in-first-out basis.
Honourable members may recall that I announced last November that the Government would continue a scheme of stabilisation for this industry, subject to mutually satisfactory arrangements being agreed with the industry. My announcement followed the Government’s consideration of a recommendation by the Industries Assistance Commission that stabilisation arrangements be discontinued after the 1977 season. This measure reflects the Government’s decision not to accept that recommendation.
I am sure that the proposals set out in this Bill will give added confidence to the sultana producing industry in tackling the rapidly changing production and marketing situations confronting it. They provide protection to sultana growers against severe price downturn in world markets and they have the full support of the Australian Dried Fruits Association, which includes in its membership about 98 per cent of dried fruit growers. The Government intends, in consultation with the dried vine fruits industry, to review the operation of the stabilisation scheme at the end of the 1979 season to determine long term action. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Morris) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Sinclair, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill is complementary to the Dried Vine Fruits Stabilization Amendment Bill which I have just introduced. The purpose of the principal Act is, in order to meet the objectives of the dried vine fruits stabilisation scheme, to impose a levy under certain conditions on dried fruit received for packing. Levy imposed is the amount by which the average return for a variety for a season exceeds by more than $10 the base price for that season. It is not payable in a season unless the quantity received for packing exceeds a minimum quantity. This Bill reduces the minimum quantity in respect of sultanas received for packing in any of the seasons 1978, 1979 and 1980 by 10,000 tonnes to 50,000 tonnes. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Morris) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Macphee, on behalf of Mr Fife, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of the Bounty (Metal- working Machine Tools) Bill 1978 is to give effect to the Government’s decision to provide assistance, by way of a revised bounty scheme, to the metal working machine tools industry in Australia. Honourable members will be aware that assistance, by way of bounty, at the rate of one-third of the factory cost of the machine, is currently accorded to the manufacture in Australia of certain machine tools and drilling machines under the Metal Working Machine Tools Act 1 972 and the Bounty (Drilling Machines) Act 1978.
Following advice from the Industries Assistance Commission in its report No. 155 of 23 December 1977 on metal working machine tools it has been decided that, in order to maintain at least the nucleus of a machine tool industry in Australia, the assistance currently provided is to continue and bounty assistance at the same rate is to be paid to Australian manufacturers of nonportable power operated metal working machine tools of the metal removing, forming or shearing type. It has also been decided, with a view to influencing the maintenance of design activity in Australia, that an additional bounty, at the rate of one-quarter of design costs incurred in Australia, will be paid to Australian manufacturers involved in the design of machines covered by the Bill. The revised scheme, which is to be operative as from 25 May 1978, will cease on 30 June 1984 or such later date as is fixed by proclamation.
Clause 2 1 of the Bill continues the Government ‘s policy of expanding, wherever possible, the jurisdiction of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal in relation to administrative decisions which affect the rights or entitlements of persons under Commonwealth legislation. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Morris) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Macphee, on behalf of Mr Fife, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of the Bounty (Drilling Machines) Amendment Bill 1978 is to make consequential amendments of a transitional nature to the Bounty (Drilling Machines) Act 1978, phasing out the bounty scheme under this Act from 25 May 1978. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Morris) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Macphee, on behalf of Mr Fife, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of the Metal Working Machine Tools Bounty Amendment Bill 1978 is to make consequential amendments, of a transitional nature, to the Metal Working Machine Tools Bounty Act 1 972, phasing out the bounty scheme under this Act from 25 May 1978. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Morris) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 24 August, on motion by Mr Hunt:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-I am pleased to enter this cognate debate, and the first Bill is the States Grants (Home Care) Amendment Bill 1978. The purpose of the Bill is to provide for direct matching grants for the States for a range of home care services and for the salaries of approved welfare officers employed at or in association with senior citizen centres. The Bill provides for a continuation of subsidies on a two for one basis for the capital cost of senior citizen centres.
The States Grants (Home Care) Amendment Act was introduced in 1969 on the basis of a recommendation at the 1968 Health Ministers Conference. The Act broadly provides three forms of assistance: One, the home care service schemes which provide housekeeping and other domestic assistance to aged persons in their own homes; two, the building and equipping of senior citizen centres; and three, the employment of welfare officers by or in association with senior citizen centres. For this program, which I support completely, there is an increase of 12.28 per cent in the Estimates for this financial year over expenditure for the last financial year and I believe quite firmly that it is money well spent. I believe that it is of paramount importance that we help people to stay in their own homes, provide valuable counselling services and also give enjoyable entertainment to our elderly citizens in good senior citizen clubs. I support those objectives, and I believe that everybody in this House would support them.
The purpose of the other Bill we are debating, the Homeless Persons Assistance Amendment Bill 1978, is to extend for a further period of 12 months the provisions of the Homeless Persons Assistance Act which is due to expire on 13 December 1978. This is to allow for full consultation with the State governments and for future arrangements to be made to meet the needs of homeless people in the light of the experience gained from the program to date. No honourable member will doubt the necessity to provide accommodation assistance to people who, for various reasons, have found themselves in the difficult situation of being homeless for a long period or for a short period. I believe that this is money well spent and that the Bill should receive full acceptance. The principal Act provides for capital grants to be made to eligible organisations, which are defined as non-profit organisations, local governing bodies and charitable or benevolent trusts, towards the full cost of the purchase, construction or rental of buildings, including the purchase of furniture and equipment.
The legislation also enables the Commonwealth to pay 50 per cent of the salary of a social welfare worker employed at a homeless persons assistance centre. Approved organisations may also be paid a daily subsidy, at a prescribed rate of 75c a day for each homeless person for whom both food and accommodation are provided and a subsidy of 25c a day for each meal supplied to non-resident homeless persons. An amount of $9.8m has been approved for expenditure under the Act to date. Of this amount, $3. 5m had been expended by 30 June 1978. An amount of $3.6m has been allocated for expenditure in 1978-79 and the remaining $2. 7m will be carried forward for expenditure in 1979-80. Expenditure on rental and salary subsidies for the period 13 December 1974 to 30 June 1978 totalled $646,665.
No honourable member will dispute the fact that this money is urgently required to provide vital assistance for people in need. But I think that a very important proviso must be placed upon this expenditure. These centres should be the subject of the closest possible scrutiny to make absolutely certain that the people who are going to them are receiving the correct assistance and that they are well behaved. The people working in the centres should be of the highest possible calibre and be able to direct in a way that will assist these unfortunate people to become better citizens. I think that the good Minister for Health (Mr Hunt), who is at the table, will know what I am driving at. I firmly believe that we should have these centres and that they should be conducted in a christian way that will assist the people going to them. We should make absolutely certain that the children who are also housed at the centres are not placed in a position in which they will be influenced by some minority groups.
I would now like to deal again with senior citizens, the people who have reached an age at which they need special assistance. Although I hate to classify, they can be classified very differently. Some have been more fortunate than others. Some have been able to save money and probably have been able to afford assistance in some way or another. Others, because of various reasons, such as the fact that they have raised a very large family or have suffered unfortunate circumstances, have reached an age at which they are completely dependent on other people for assistance. I believe, and I have never varied from this point of view, that when a person is elderly every effort should be made by the people in power to provide the care and attention needed to make the rest of that person’s life happy and, to a degree, contented.
The intensely political nature of the lobby and political groups concerned about old people’s welfare is one of the things that strikes the politician. They are extraordinarily well organised. Their publicity machines are permanently primed. They respond with quickness to Press inquiries, submit quickly to a government inquiry and co-operate to the point of badgering. But much of their thinking is so conditioned by their history of involvement and by the daytoday exigencies of providing housing or nursing care that they are often incapable of bringing a fresh critical eye to the serious situation of housing the elderly in Australia. A good example is the argument about nursing homes. Stated simply, one side says that we have too many nursing homes and we rely on them, like an elephant’s graveyard for the old, when people get too difficult for their families to manage. What an extremely sad situation. I know, and so do many people in Australia, that some families cannot wait to get their elderly mother or father out of their home and into an institution or a nursing home. It is sad, but it is true.
We are living in a very selfish age. I think that we can learn a lot from other countries where it is believed that the elderly mother or father is an integral part of the family structure. Young people can learn a great deal from the elderly. The elderly want to be part of the family and part of the happenings associated with bringing up children. Some mothers do not like interference from elderly people and I can understand that. They believe that the elderly interfere with the bringing up of the family and feel they are a burden to them. They sometimes use their powers of persuasion to get their husbands to find accommodation elsewhere for the elderly parents. It seems that some people just cannot wait for their parents to die. I am sorry that I must make that point. They want, firstly, to get rid of them and, secondly, to get the little things that may be of advantage when they die.
The other side of the argument states that there is a desperate shortage of nursing home beds. They are a necessary last stopping place for elderly people who are so ill that they require constant nursing and care. Everyone would agree that when an elderly person reaches the stage of requiring this assistance there should be places, and of course there are, where they can go. I firmly agree that both sides of the argument, when explained fully, are very convincing. We probably need to ignore temporarily both arguments and take a fresh look at the nursing home situation; to consider its history in this country and try to understand how and why we rely on nursing homes so much. The economic argument alone for doing this is compelling since more than one-third of the Commonwealth Government’s budget for aged persons goes towards subsidising some hundreds of thousands of people who are at present in nursing homes. It might be surprising for people to know that Australia has more nursing home beds per 1,000 people than any other country. This, plus the fact that the vast majority of the homes are run for profit by the private sector, makes them the subject of controversy. I do not mean to criticise them or to say that they are not being run in the best interests of the elderly people. Some are run very efficiently; some are very charitable; some do the utmost to provide decent accommodation and loving care for the elderly of Australia.
The concept is anomalous; they are neither hospitals nor homes but they promise the benefits of both. Their reality is often horrific. We have all seen elderly ladies and gentlemen lying in beds or sitting in the sun, staring into infinity, just waiting to die. It is a tremendous responsibility for everybody involved in government to make absolutely certain that they are sure of the path to be followed for the elderly of Australia. I draw attention to a Federal Government survey released on 14 April 1976. This survey seems to have been forgotten but I believe it is most significant and important. It showed that 100,000 aged people are living in sub-standard houses, some of which are structurally inferior and infested with pests and vermin. It further disclosed that 24,200 people over the age of 60 years are living in houses or flats which are beyond repair. Such is the effect of inflation. This is one of the problems of high wages. Such is the problem of people on fixed incomes who are unable to pay for the repair, et cetera, of their homes.
The survey investigated living conditions of aged people in country and city areas and concluded that the proportion of aged people living in unsatisfactory conditions was higher outside capital cities. The State with the highest percentage of aged people in unsatisfactory housing was Tasmania, where 19 per cent of such people were involved. I am ashamed of that because I am from Tasmania. The honourable member for
Denison (Mr Hodgman), who is in the chamber, is also from Tasmania. I am not being critical of anybody, not even the Tasmanian Government It is just a situation that needs reversing; it is a situation that requires assistance. In fact, the Minister for Construction (Mr McLeay) and the Minister for Health, who are both at the table, were present at the opening of a community centre in Hobart at which they impressed the ordinary, average person with their complete sincerity and their understanding of the problems. After the three difficult years we have had since that time it is now starting to be driven home that the Minister for Health is a sincere man who is understanding and appreciative of the problems of the sick and elderly people of Australia.
The survey showed that many homes suffered from major sanitation problems and building and construction failure. Such is the tragedy of inflation that it is difficult for aged people to keep their home in a good state of repair. Old age is sometimes referred to as the tragedy of life. It is tragic when elderly people are battling to survive and to live a decent, respectable life in their retirement.
I make no secret of the fact that I am unhappy with some aspects of the Budget, particularly those aspects relating to the pensioners of Australia. I believe that the quarterly adjustments to the consumer price index should be paid quarterly. I also believe that if a person is over the age of 70, irrespective of the means test, he or she should get any increases that are due to him or her. Even to live to the age of 70 is quite remarkable today. The stress and the strain and the difficulties of living in the complicated world that we know today take their toll.
– You will get there.
-I do not think so but I hope so. It is very easy for me to speak personally because I lost both of my parents at a very early age. Unfortunately, my wife’s father died two years ago at the age of 83, but my wife’s mother, who is 82 years of age, is always welcome in our house. We always try to make it home to her. We sometimes have to put up with the problem of the aged interfering in the way in which we raise our children. I believe that our attitude should be the attitude of the majority of Australians. If it were we would not have the critical situation of aged people trying to find accommodation and wondering where they are going to spend the twilight of their lives. I also believe this should be a subject with which every politician in this House should become vitally involved. We should learn a lesson from those countries which have shown a distinct inclination to assist their elderly people. I detect in my mother-in-law’s case the point that I made earlier- she wants to belong. I know that she is symbolic of many hundreds of thousands of elderly Australians. They want to belong and they want to stay in the family structure. I believe that if this Government continues with the thrust of its assistance it will be beneficial to all those senior people.
– I would like to say at the outset that I do not think it is of any use trying to avoid our responsibilities by blaming high wages and inflation for everything. This country is wealthy enough to resolve the problems of the people in a situation of hardship if it has the will. Nor is it good enough simply to say that the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) has sincerity and understanding. I know he has, but that is not good enough. We want some positive policies and action and I do not see them embodied in this legislation. I do not see this legislation as making progress towards the solution in accordance with the increasing wealth of this country, of the problems of the people who are aged, helpless or homeless. Whilst I support what might be called the sentimental approach of our friend the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Goodluck), I do not think it is good enough to stand up and espouse the cause of the need for action unless we are prepared to look at the whole situation. I think the care of the aged, the homeless, and the helpless and the way we go about it is the mark of a civilised society. In many ways Australia does some of these things very well when it sets its mind to it, but in many other areas it displays what might be called benevolent ignorance or benevolent neglect.
What is the score as far as Australia is concerned? At this point in history I think Australia is the wealthiest country per capita on the globe. I think that each one of us has behind us more resources and potential in such things as mining production, primary industry and manufacturing industry than most other people on this planet. I think that we are applying ourselves to the solution of the problems being discussed here this afternoon with less verve than many other countries with which we are normally associated. I think the whole philosophy of our approach to social welfare and the security of human beings is under discussion here today. Our whole society is under challenge unless we resolve this problem.
High wages are part of the reason why people are able to prepare for their old age and for their retirement. I am one of those who, all their working life, have been fortunate enough to be the beneficiary of a protective system of superannuation. I refer to my time as a State public servant in Victoria and as a potential superannuant of this institution. I have always made a substantial contribution towards my retirement through the various systems. It is interesting to note that our society is able to supply a satisfactory emolument in retirement or old age to perhaps somewhere between 20 per cent and 25 per cent of the population. It might even be more than that if we take into account the people in private superannuation funds and the people in statutory authorities paying into superannuation schemes and so on. Then there are the other people, such as the totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners, for whom we have been able to make satisfactory financial arrangements, as we have for war widows. But I suppose that something like one million people at least are still on the edge of poverty while in retirement these days.
– Don’t forget that you lose 1 V/i per cent of your income, whether you like it or not.
-That is true. We pay 1 Vi per cent of our salary into a superannuation fund but our salary also comes from public funds. So it is a kind of continuing round-about system. I think we have to start to look at the situation of a reorganisation of our duties in this regard and the way in which our whole social and economic system functions. The arithmetic is that there are 14 million people in the country, of whom six million or thereabouts are employed. Of the other eight million, some three million to four million are children not of working age. Some two million or three million are probably in retirement and the rest consist of family people who are not at work. We have to resolve the difficulties of the re-arrangement of income and government funding in order to accommodate all the other people. I do not think that that ought to be a terribly difficult matter. But we are not going to face it if people in this House stand up and demand a reduction in taxation. I think the taxation system in Australia is inequitable. I think it is nonsensical that people can make millions of dollars and remit them overseas and then make a very small contribution to this country’s welfare. I think it is nonsensical that people can make immense capital gains and pay nothing in tax. I think that the acquisition of wealth in this country is not treated equitably in the taxation system. This is responsible for putting us in the difficult budgetary situation in which we find ourselves today.
The time has come for us to examine this matter in much greater depth. It would be presumptuous of any of us- even me- to say that we know what is the actual technical solution, but I say emphatically that if my taxation were to rise and if as a result I were to see a solution of these social problems, I would pay it happily, and I would not mind betting that most people in Australia would be in the same situation. We live in a fairly commonsense, fairly mature and reasonably thoughtful community. It is a community in which people can raise immense sums from door knocks for the Red Cross, children’s hospitals or even the Winston Churchill appeal which was held a few years back. Millions can be raised by door knocks in Austrafia. We live in a country which built the magnificent Opera House in Sydney from proceeds that might be called raffles. Therefore I do not think that financial solution of these problems is impossible. We have to get around to doing it in a new way.
I want to take issue with one principle which usually finds its way into these matters, that is, the question of matching grants. I think it is bad enough when we ask States to meet us on a matching grant basis, whether it is $1 for $1, $2 for $1 or $4 for $1. It is the perpetuation of inequality. I think the statistics would show that Victoria is the wealthiest part of Australia. It ought to be. If it had the same sort of decent government as do the people of New South Wales, South Australia and Tasmania, it would be. But there are still differentials between States. In some areas of social welfare Queensland lags. In other areas other States lag. There is no equality in Australia between State governments’ actions in this regard. While matching grants are given inequality will be perpetuated.
I have held the belief for a long while- I think ever since I entered this Parliament- that the only way for this Parliament to ensure that the people receive equal treatment from one end of the continent to the other is to accept the direct responsibility. But I support the view that other existing agencies can carry out the actual administrative and technical arrangements on the spot for us. I believe that in the past we have neglected the capacity of municipalities to do this work. I think that the capacity, the administrative skills and competence of municipalities are patchy. Some are first class, some are stodgy and some are probably incompetent. But in fact we often load upon them demands to act on our behalf for which we make inadequate financial arrangements. I am against matching grants as a principle.
Once we look past the administration of State governments where one may say that the inequalities are less apparent to the actual localities which so many of us represent, the inequalities are magnified. I represent an industrial area of Melbourne. I would think that for each square kilometre, hectare or acre the area is more productive than most other pans of this continent because it has a high concentration of very productive factories. Its productivity has nothing in particular to do with the skills of the people because across the continent they are not much different. It is also an area which is grossly deprived in so many respects. Its natural physical environment is less desirable than many other parts of the country. Also, despite the great productivity of the area the average income of the people is lower and therefore their capacity to produce funds through their municipality or by private effort through local organisations and to take the benefit of matching grants that flow to them is lesser.
The inequalities that exist between, say, Coburg and Camberwell or between Brunswick and Balwyn are magnified. I think that we have to face that responsibility here. I would ask the Minister to do what he can to start and to keep that philosophy flowing. He represents a fairly large slice of Australian real estate, some of which is well endowed and some of which is not so well endowed. I think that our job here as a parliament is to try to iron out the inequalities in Australia. I support the remarks of the honourable member for Franklin about the responsibilities of the people who administer these areas for us. In many respects I think that the participation of private organisations or non-official organisations is desirable.
I am not one of those people who think that the solution to all social problems lies in actual official efforts although I must say that in this city I found that the Department of the Captial Territory was a particularly thoughtful instrument for carrying out social measures. In many respects it was just as thoughtful- it may even have been more so- as some private organisations. It is true that private organisations can get into the hands of people who have pretty hard line social attitudes. The homeless people’s service which is part of this Homeless Persons Assistance Amendment Bill is very important indeed. I think it was during the term of office of the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) as Minister for Health that this scheme got under way as a formal governmental exercise. One of the most depressing features in the last few years of course has been the increase in the number of young people who are floating in the community. Therefore what we are doing here tonight I think is meagre indeed compared with the needs of the system.
The housekeeper service seems to me to be under threat. I would regard the housekeeper service and home care services as fundamental social and economic exercises. For those people who like to place economic values on these items the reduction in effort in housekeeper and domiciliary services is an indication to increase the institutionalisation of people. ‘Institutionalisation’ is a dreadful word. Perhaps I had better put it this way: the people become refugees in institutions rather than residents in their own homes. I would say from my experience and observation that there is now an increasing awareness of this problem throughout the community. Even where there have to be institutions perhaps local country hospitals and so on could be more adequately supported than they are in the supply of accommodation for people who can no longer look after themselves. I do not think I am as critical of the children as was my friend, the honourable member for Franklin.
We have become rather stodgy in the way that we look at housing, particularly at government level, over the last 20 or 30 years. On the whole, as the facilities inside houses have increased, we have decreased the size of the houses. There is no doubt in my mind that a great deal of the social tensions between families- I would think that a good deal of the break-up of marriages- comes from the inadequacy of the home to be able to give people reasonable privacy or comfort in need or to allow parents or anybody else to feel at home. Any system which allowed people to get funds more easily to expand their houses in order to support parents would be a very great social advantage indeed. I see it as a total system. In the golden age when I administered this city that was one of the pressures which I attempted to apply to the system, as I have no doubt that my friend the Minister for Health did in his time. I asked why the rooms were a particular size. I was told that the point is that if we cut a foot off every room in 1,000 houses we would have another 10 or 12 houses for the same money. If that idea could be carried to its logical conclusion, we could take out the baths or take off the door knobs in order to build another half house.
One of the depressing features of this city is that as we have got wealthier, as the country has become richer and as we have got a greater capacity to do things, the actual standard of public housing here has decreased relative to those houses that were built, say, in the 1930s. I would think that many of the houses that I see around here that were built in the 1930s by the Government were of a much higher standard than the general housing of the rest of the community. I would think that whilst the quality of the work and the finish in government houses is as good as one will find anywhere else, on the whole they are smaller than most people want. So I am not content to praise this meagre legislation. I do not see that the increase from $13. 8m to $15. 5m takes up the challenge that has been issued to us by reports on poverty and so on.
I do not think that we are doing anything much at all financially about homeless persons in this legislation. As I have said, we made an allocation of about $9m originally; we have used $3. 6m and another $3. 6m has been allocated. In fact the allocation of $9m which was made some time back has not been totally used. There might be all sorts of reasons for that. Are we administering it in too tight a way? I hope that the Minister will gird his loins, get out his white charger and take on the rather pedestrian cabineteers who make the final decisions in these matters. I think that the people- I am thinking particularly of the homeless people who are social refugeeswill have to look for a long while before this Government solves any of their problems. I have put in a word for elderly citizens’ centres and particularly for social workers.
One of the disastrous effects of continuous changes in policies and depression of government action is the impact that has upon the professional people who have committed themselves to the social welfare area. Over the last 18 months or more- perhaps for two years- they have all felt that they are living on borrowed time, and that is not good enough. So I hope that the Minister will take to heart those things that have been either implied or actually said here and that he will not rest on his laurels. I do not think we need to talk about financial constraints. What we need to talk about is social aspirations.
I am totally unhappy about the dismantling of so many Labor Government programs or the failure to carry those programs forward with the impetus which they once had. I suppose it is asking too much of this Government to change the direction of its action. I can only hope that the rest of the citizenry of Australia will wake up to the Government as soon as practicable. If this does not happen I hope that at least people like the honourable member for Franklin and other honourable members who have spoken in this debate will see that it is time to get on with the job and make the Government front up to its responsibilities.
-This debate was adjourned for about a fortnight. I should make it quite clear that the Opposition is opposing the States Grants (Home Care) Amendment Bill because it represents a repudiation of Commonwealth Government responsibility, a withdrawal of support for home care services which are vital to the care of the aged and a transference of financial responsibilities from the Federal Government to local government bodies in the main which are not in a position to afford it and which to date have been denied the increase of 1.5 per cent to 2 per cent of revenue which they were promised. This is part of a transference of financial responsibility in advance of a transfer of finance so that the additional funds that eventually will go to local government will have been absorbed by the withdrawl of other Commonwealth facilities.
The Bill is opposed by the Opposition because the Opposition believes that it is bad legislation and bad planning and represents bad government. Under this legislation services which would enable people to maintain themselves in their own homes with a little bit of assistancenot very expensive assistance- will be withdrawn or increased in cost with the end result that much more expensive facilities will be utilised in order to care for those aged persons under conditions which are less favourable to them and which they find less satisfactory.
– in reply- The honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) used phrases such as ‘it is an example of bad government’. Who is the honourable member to say that the record of this Government is bad? Quite clearly the former Government proved to be absolutely disastrous in the field of economic management.
– You have doubled unemployment.
-Well, the Labor Government started the great snowball rolling down the hill.
– You said you could cure it.
– You are destroying this country.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drummond)Order!
– The Labor Government wrecked the efficiency of industry and the economy of Australia.
– You have been in government for two years, you have made a mess of it, and you will not admit it.
-Order! The honourable member for Corio will cease interjecting.
– The conscience of Opposition members must be pricked very sorely because their record in government was so poor that they almost brought the Australian economy to ruin. The people in the community whom they purported to try to help were the great sufferers. This is what Labor did to the people who could least afford to help themselves. The Labor Government wrecked the economy of the country to such an extent that the resources available to government were insufficient and assistance could not be given even to those in greatest need. One wonders where this country would be if the Government of which the honourable member for Corio supported had remained in office. Quite clearly the economy of Australia was in absolute tatters and ruins when the present Government came to office in December 1975. So let us stop this hypocritical nonsense and talk about the present Government being a bad government.
– Your Prime Minister -
– Well, he is not talking to the Bill.
– The honourable member for Corio made the point that the Opposition is opposing the States grants home care program because the States will be asked to find -
– On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker, you have called me to order a number of times. I am quite prepared to accept your rulings but I think that the Minister should use this opportunity to reply to what has been said in the second reading debate and make his remarks relevant to the Bill.
-Order! I call the Minister.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I am replying to rather unfair criticism levelled at this Government by the honourable member for Corio. I am not going to let the honourable member get away with such utter rubbish when the proceedings of the House are being broadcast.
The Opposition is opposing the States grants homes care program because this Government through its federalism policy is asking the States to contribute, under the Act, an additional $5m and local government to contribute a total of $550,000. Since this Government came to office it has entered into a new financial arrangement with the States under which at long last they will have a growth tax. They will be able to enjoy the benefit of 40 per cent of all income tax revenue collected within the States. Local government also shares in the income tax revenue that is collected. It will receive more than 1.5 per cent of all income tax revenue collected, and in the life of this Parliament it will enjoy 2 per cent. I think there is nothing wrong with the philosophy of trying to get Commonwealth, State and local government at the grass roots level to try to assist the needy people of the Australian community. No one government has the total responsibility to care for those in need. This is a total community responsibility reflected through the actions and activities of Commonwealth, State and local government. I would be appalled if State governments did not face up to their responsibilities of caring for the important needs of people within their own States.
I understand that at present two StatesWestern Australia and Tasmania- have responded, saying they would contribute on a dollar for dollar basis under the States Grants (Home Care) Act. The State Premiers did not give any positive response at the Premiers Conference. But I have every reason to believe that the State governments ultimately will face up to their share of the responsibility. Will anyone tell me that $5m will break the State governments? Really and truly, what are we talking about? We are talking about $550,000 from local government around Australia. The Government which the honourable member for Corio supported adopted a big Canberra father attitude under which the Commonwealth Government would give benevolent handouts. God help the State governments that are going to run away from meeting a reasonable share of their responsibility for assisting the needy sections of the community who live within those States. Let us not hear any more rubbish along the lines put forward by the honourable member for Corio.
The Bill gives effect to the policies that were announced at the Premiers Conference. It is quite clear that the State governments are in the best position to assess the requirements for home care services and to determine the priorities of need within their States. In most other areas the States have quite willingly taken that responsibility and accepted that challenge. It has been suggested by some speakers from the other side of the House that the Government suddenly is withdrawing from funding home care services and that this is causing large numbers of aged and infirm people to look to nursing homes and other institutions for help. The fact is that the Commonwealth will continue to match every dollar allocated by the
States for approved welfare officer and home care services. So that gives the lie to the sort of propaganda which we have heard such a lot of in recent weeks in relation not only to this Bill but also to other legislation. The truth of the matter is that under the States Grants (Home Care) Act a total of $9.3m was allocated for home care in 1977- 78, and $10.4m has been allocated in 1978- 79. So far as welfare officers’ salaries were concerned, $900,000 was allocated in 1977-78 and $ 1.1m was allocated in 1978-79. Also, $4m was allocated for senior citizens’ centres capital assistance in 1977-78. In 1978-79 a further $4m was allocated with the State governments being asked to make a fair contribution.
I should like to refer to a matter raised earlier in the debate by the honourable member for Batman (Mr Howe). He asked why the vote under the Homeless Persons Assistance Act was underspent in the financial year 1977-78. The reason for this was that there was a shortfall in expenditure due to litigation against two major projects in Brisbane estimated to cost $3. 9m. Thus, lead times were longer than anticipated. Secondly, voluntary agencies did not have the capacity to absorb the additional funds. Thirdly, claims were not submitted for the completed projects within that financial year. So it was not any fault of the Department of Social Security that the total vote was not expended. When I introduced the legislation in this House I gave the details of expenditure and so on. Honourable members will recall that when the honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd) was speaking to this measure he mentioned that the Government was now in a position to lift the embargo on approvals of new welfare officer positions in home care services which has been in force since October 1975. This was done and the States were advised accordingly. This move will enable assistance with some additional 79 positions as well as an additional 22 positions to assist with home care services. Consideration will be given to any subsequent application for further home care services which may be proposed by the State Governments.
The change in the subsidy rate contained in this Bill has been widely publicised in an attempt to denigrate this Government and to indicate that this Government is neglecting its commitment to the care of our elderly citizens. The facts show clearly that this is not so. The amounts allocated in this year’s Budget constitute significant overall increases in assistance for domiciliary services. Overall, there has been an increase of 12.28 per cent for the States grants home care program in the estimates for this financial year when compared with the expenditure for the last financial year. For the home care service component of the program there has been an 83.5 per cent increase in estimated expenditure for this year when compared with that for the financial year 1975-76 when this Government came into office. The Government fully appreciates the need for domiciliary care services and has shown its concern in a most positive manner by providing additional funds on a basis which has enabled the services to be available over a much wider area.
I should also like to respond to the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Goodluck) and thank him for his contribution to the debate. He is well known for his genuine interest in people. I thought that his contribution to the debate was very worthwhile and significant because he is always prepared to speak his mind. If he thought that the legislation before the House was mean, if he thought it would not go to the roots of the needs of people he would have said so. I very much appreciate that support he gave for the Bill. I think that it reflects the general community support for this measure and for the steps that the Government has taken in ensuring that both State and local governments play their parts in looking after the needs of people in the housing area.
– No wonder they call you Brer Fox.
– The honourable gentleman who interjects has many nicknames but I would not like to smear the Hansard record by spelling them out at this stage. Let us not throw stones at each other. I think that these are perfectly good pieces of legislation. I am certain that the States and local governments will willingly make their contributions toward ensuring that these domiciliary care services and home care services are made available to people who are in need of them. Tremendous progress has been made in this area since this legislation first came into operation in 1969. 1 would like to thank all honourable members who have made a contribution to this debate. I dismiss as utter rubbish the comments by some members of the Opposition who are trying to stir and are trying to make out that the Commonwealth is running away from its obligations to those in need. That is a lot of nonsense.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (The Deputy Chairman- Mr P. H. Drummond)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Clauses 1 and 2- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 3 (Grant of financial assistance in connection with home care services).
-Clause 3 of this Bill deals with the grant of financial assistance in connection with home care services. It is a very simple, very short clause. It states:
Section 6 of the Principal Act is amended by omitting from sub-section ( 1 ) ‘two-thirds ‘ and substituting ‘one-half.
The effect of this amendment is to reduce substantially in sharing terms the commitment of the Federal Government to the funding of home care services. It reflects in very clear terms an abandonment of aged people and an abandonment of the full share of responsibility by this Government to provide financial assistance for aged persons, particularly sick aged persons. It has to be seen in the context of the financial priorities of this Government. I put it to the Committee that it is simply an exercise in doublespeak to talk about matching dollar for dollar with the States when in effect what the Government is doing by the implementation of this clause is abandoning one-third of the Federal Government’s share of responsibility for the very important and humane task of assisting financially the provision of home care services to aged people, particularly sick aged people. I know that many aged people in my electorate are nonplussed by the attitude of this Government and the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) towards them. They are unable to reconcile legislation such as this. This specific clause details a reduction of one-third in the share of Federal responsibility in caring for sick aged people in their homes. They are unable to reconcile that kind of priority with the priority that provides for $600-a-night luxury hotel suites abroad for the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and with a priority that entails plucking $40m out of the air to re-equip the VIP fleet. They are the very simple things to which aged people who are the recipients of these programs and whose welfare will be affected by the implementation of this clause can relate and they are the things they cannot understand. I put it to the Committee-
– Tell us about how much you were prepared to spend.
-If the Government Whip were to control himself he would do this Parliament, the Australian nation and you, Mr Chairman, a great service in facilitating responsible -
-A point of order, Mr Chairman. I merely said that the honourable member ought to consider -
– Order! There is no point of order.
– . . . what the ex-Prime Minister used to spend before he casts aspersions.
– Order! The honourable member for Bendigo will take mind of the fact that when the Chair is addressing the chamber he will remain silent.
– I thank you for your wise guidance in this matter, Mr Chairman. I remind the Committee that it was the same Government Whip who, through a series of similar incidents, caused great disruption and is primarily responsible for the political demise of the previous Chairman.
– Order! The honourable member for Shortland will address himself to clause 3.
– Returning to clause 3, I was making a comparison to the Committee that the scale of priorities of this Government is such that the Government has seen fit to reduce from twothirds to one-half its share of financial responsibility for the provision of home care services.
- Mr Wran will be in for it.
– Order! If the honourable member for Bendigo persists with his interjections I shall have to deal with him.
– He does not reckon you have the numbers.
– The same remarks apply to the honourable member for Corio.
- Mr Chairman, I know that this subject, this very simple comparison of the financial priorities of this Government, is irksome to honourable members opposite but I appreciate your assistance in giving me an opportunity to speak.
– Somebody ought to help him.
– I warn the honourable member for Bendigo.
– I take a point of order, Mr Chairman. I ask you what you warned me for. I did not say anything.
– If I was in error in improperly identifying the source of the interjection, I apologise. I call the honourable member for Shortland.
-I think the Parliament of this nation would be better served by the exit of the Government Whip.
– I ask the honourable member for Shortland to address his remarks to clause 3 and not to be provocative.
– The point I am trying to make to Government members is that the reduction in the share of the financial responsibility of this Government for the provision of home care services for aged and aged sick people from twothirds to 50 per cent clearly delineates the financial priorities of those who sit opposite. This Government on the one hand is taking away money, abandoning its share of responsibility for caring for aged sick people, and on the other hand providing $600 a night hotel suites abroad for the Prime Minister. It can provide $40m out of the air for the re-equipment of the VIP fleet so that those opposite can travel in luxury. To suggest, as was put earlier, that what the Government is doing is giving the States an opportunity to match on a dollar for dollar basis financial responsibility for caring for the aged is a direct deception. It is an attempt to deceive aged people, no matter how that objective is pursued. Those people who are listening and those who are recipients of these programs of care and assistance- Meals on Wheels and all the other items that come under the provisions of the legislation- know very well what the Government is about. They know that their services are being downgraded by the implementation of this legislation.
Let me connect this legislation with the similar abandonment by this Government and by the same Minister of the school dental health program and the community health centre program. In total, what it amounts to is an abandonment of assistance by the Federal Government of those programs that deal specifically with people who are ill and aged and dependent upon the community for assistance and proper health care. In short, clause 3 entails a direct attack on the aged people in the community. No matter how the Minister tries to disguise it as matching dollar for dollar, no amount of doublespeak will disguise the true intent of the legislation and this Government’s priorities towards sick and aged people. It is a brutal piece of legislation. It is a callous clause that is before us. We oppose it on this side of the chamber, and I have no doubt that the aged recipients of assistance under this legislation will become fully aware of the Government’s priorities and intentions.
– I do not know how many people will weep tears of blood because we are calling upon the States to make a little greater contribution towards the care of people within the States. It is a fact, of course, that since this Government came to office the new Commonwealth-State financial relationships have enabled every State government to balance its Budget without any difficulty. The States are far better off. I would be very interested to know whether the New South Wales Government will in fact live up to its responsibilities. We have thrown down the gauntlet and we will see how honest the Government of New South Wales is. We will see whether it will meet its share of responsibility for the care of homeless people.
The Federal Government subsidy has in fact been reduced by one-sixth of the total FederalState expenditure. To give an example, for an expenditure of $24,000, under the 1977-78 Federal-State funding arrangements the Commonwealth met $8,000 and the State government $16,000. Under this arrangement $12,000 will be met by the Commonwealth and $12,000 by the State. So the States will be up for an extra $4,000, or one-sixth of $24,000. Time is being wasted in this House by a speech such as the one we have just heard from this character, who is trying to stir up the aged persons of this country with a lot of absolute rubbish. The honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris) would be about the greatest stirrer ever to enter this Parliament and undoubtedly he has a lot to answer for.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting before dinner we were talking about the new arrangements which will apply under the States Grants (Home Care) Act and the way in which the funding of the program will apply during this financial year. At the Premiers Conference in June and, of course, since then, it has been made perfectly clear to the State governments that the Government, in line with its policy on federalism, recognises that both State and local governments are well placed to assume greater responsibility for locally based programs of this nature. We expect both the State governments and, to a lesser extent, local governments, to play their responsible roles in assisting in the provision of services for people, such as the aged and the infirm, who require assistance from the community. Providing the State governments act with responsibility within the framework of the federalism policy there is no reason to believe that there will be any reduction in the level of welfare officer and home care services. Indeed, it could be anticipated that the States will allot a high priority to these services.
– Tell us what happens when you have run out of money.
– I am sure that the honourable member for Melbourne who interjects will agree that the Victorian Government has accorded that sort of priority to people in his State.
– What happens when local councils pass the buck?
– They, of course, will be only too willing to make a contribution to help people in their own homes. For the benefit of honourable members, particularly the one who interjects, I repeat an example which I gave earlier. The Federal Government’s subsidy is in fact reduced by one-sixth of the total Federal-State expenditure. I give a simple example to the honourable member. I hope he will listen because it might help him to understand the equity which is involved in this arrangement.
– Ask the honourable member for Isaacs who is sitting behind you. He will tell you.
– Order! The honourable member for Melbourne has the right to address the Committee on the clause if he so desires. In the meantime, the Minister for Health has the right to address the chamber, in common with all members, in silence.
-Thank you, Mr Chairman. The honourable gentleman is a gentleman. I am sure that he will appreciate the value of the example which I am about to give. For instance, let us look at a program costing $24,000. Under the 1977-78 arrangements the StateCommonwealth contribution was based on the ratio of, say, $8,000 to $16,000. But under this arrangement the ratio will be $12,000 to $12,000. The States will have to pay for an additional $4,000 out of a total grant of $24,000. This means that a State is contributing one-sixth more than it would have done in the previous year. I go to this trouble to try to assure people who may have been disturbed by some of the outrageous and exaggerated statements which were made about the Commonwealth Government deserting the needs of the aged and the infirm under this program. That is not true. We are trying to make sure, under the new federalism arrangement, that both the Commonwealth and the State governments, and to a lesser extent the local government authorities, will live up to their responsibilities at the grass roots level in assisting those people in the community who are not capable of caring for themselves.
I think that is a fairly reasonable proposition. After all, we should be working in a team relationship. I appeal to honourable members opposite to give support to the programs, for one of which they are largely responsible and for one of which a former Liberal-National Country Party government was responsible. They were two very worthwhile programs. What we need more than anything else is community cooperation. That co-operation should flow through to the Commonwealth, State and local government representatives so that we get a total community and co-operative approach to make sure that the resources which are available in a community are spent upon those who most need support.
-The Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) has confirmed what I said before dinner, namely, that the Commonwealth is withdrawing from a responsibility into which it entered and which it accepted when the original Bills were passed through the Parliament in 1969. Those arrangements provided that the Commonwealth would meet certain costs if certain services were developed within the community, under conditions laid down by the Commonwealth. This is not a 1972-75 arrangement. It is a 1969 arrangement. A considerable infrastructure and commitment has been built up around those arrangements contained in the original legislation. The Minister has said that this proposal is part of new federalism. It seems to me that most of the losses of Commonwealth support are in areas such as this which usually involve relatively low-cost programs which assist people in ways which help to avoid larger costs in areas from which the Commonwealth is withdrawing.
The Minister has said that the States have a responsibility to pick up the tab. There is a wide range of matters in which that is the attitude of the Commonwealth. It is withdrawing from everincreasing areas. Funding to the States is not increasing at the same rate. Yesterday during Question Time we had an example of selective quotation. The final figures given by the Treasurer (Mr Howard) snowed that in at least one State the actual rate of increase this year was lower than the inflation rate, and so there was a net loss. This year local government has not received an increase in assistance from the Commonwealth. Where the State does not pick up the tab- not only in this area but also in a wide range of other services-local government will either have to pick up the tab or increase its costs or reduce important services. That is what this is all about. We have to decide whether services such as home help are important in the community.
– What about self-help?
-Self-help is one of the good things if one has enough money to be able to afford it as the honourable member for Petrie has. But a lot of people in the Australian community do not have that opportunity.
– What about the money they squander on the TAB and on drink?
-If the approach of the honourable member for Petrie and of the Government to assistance for the needy in Australia is epitomised in that type of inane remark, then God help any person in Australia who has a genuine and real need.
– My personal record is better than yours.
– He is a pharmacist and a robber.
-You have just said -
– Order! The honourable member for Corio will address the Chair and the honourable member for Petrie will remain silent as will the honourable member for Melbourne.
-It is the easy way out to talk about people, who like to live a normal life and do the things that other people do, as being squanderers, layabouts and drunkards. But this legislation is about home help service in the form of housekeeper services, meals-on-wheels and other services. Very few of those people are seen to be doing anything other than trying to survive in their own homes and to avoid being placed in an institution. That is the sort of service we are talking about. It is the service which keeps people in their homes, in dignity and out of institutions where they do not want to be. We are talking about $5m in the one instance and a considerably lesser sum in the other instance, the welfare officer situation. The Government has taken a policy decision- that is its right- but do not try to slide out of it by saying that the Government is not removing its funding in this area and that it is somebody else’s responsibility, because that is what the Government is doing. Do not expect honourable members on this side of the chamber to sit back and keep quiet, having listened to the demands and platitudes of honourable members opposite over a number of years with regard to this type of area. The principal Act was introduced by a Liberal-National Country Party Government, the funding arrangements were set by a Liberal-National
Country Party Government and this Government is now moving to remove those funding arrangements in a manner which can only cause difficulties. The Government is saying that the States will pick up the tab and it has already acknowledged that it does not have any agreement for that.
– In 1969 it was a dollar for dollar basis.
-It is not a dollar for dollar basis now, and the existing arrangements were built up on that type of funding.
– We introduced the program on a dollar for dollar basis.
-I am aware of that. We know how mean the Government is. What the Minister is asking us to accept is that we should thank him for taking a couple of dollars off people. The Government is saying ‘If the States do not pick up the tab, bad luck’. It has no agreement that the States will pick up the tab. In a number of areas, because of the financial arrangements, these types of services have been extended and are now available where they were not and would not have been available except for the existing funding arrangements which the Government is now removing. The States, as I have said, have not agreed to pick up the tab. The Government never asked them to make that sort of agreement before it brought in the legislation. It has merely said ‘We will reduce our contribution’.
– That is not right. This was announced at the Premiers Conference.
– It was announced but not agreed, not negotiated. The Government has no agreement. That is what I said. The Government is using as an excuse the fact that it has told the Premiers that it is pulling out and, therefore, under the new federalism its arrangements must be adopted by the States as a matter of compulsion. That is what the Government is saying. The alternative is that this type of service will be reduced within the community in areas where local government bodies do not have the funding available to meet the difference in the costs of providing those services.
– The Commonwealth does not have a bottomless pit.
– Order! I call the member for Corio.
-We are talking about $4m or $5m.
– What about the Pharmacy Guild?
– Order! I ask honourable members to respect the right of every honourable member to address the Committee or the House, as the case may be, in silence. Every honourable member has the right to address himself to this clause if he has the mind to do so. I ask honourable members, in the interest of the decorum of the Committee, to observe the Standing Orders. I call the honourable member for Corio.
-The facts are that as a policy decision the Commonwealth has decided to remove itself from an area where, we would say, important human factors are involved and where cost factors in the long term can be greater to the Commonwealth because of the inability of people to remain in their homes, which situation can be created by the withdrawal of domiciliary services such as those contained in this Bill. If the Government wishes to do that, that is all right, that is its responsibility. But at least honourable members opposite should say that that is what the Government is doing and not try to cover it up by suggesting that the Government is doing the States a favour by handing over a financial obligation.
– I can hear you.
-I am glad that the Minister can.
– Well, don’t shout.
-I would have hoped that something would have sunk into the skulls of honourable members opposite by now. Unfortunately they have money to hand out but it is not for those people who are covered by this type of legislation.
- Mr Chairman, just briefly I think I should respond to the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) to whom I give the benefit of the doubt because I think that he is probably one of the more honest characters of the Opposition. For his own benefit he needs to know that it was a Liberal-National Country Party Government which introduced the States Grants (Home Care) Act in 1969 and the ratio which was imposed at that time was a dollar for dollar as between the Commonwealth and the States. The States were very happy to come in with the Commonwealth, even at that time, to meet the needs of the people. In 1972 the ratio was amended to two-thirds funding by the Commonwealth and one-third by the States. The State governments cannot have it both ways. They want to be involved in a growth tax, they want a share of the income tax collected and they have, in fact, for the first time since the abolition of the income taxation rights for States become eligible to receive 40 per cent of all the income tax collected. So as a matter of justice it was felt that these programs should be brought back to a dollar for dollar basis with the States. No State Minister or State government, whether Liberal Party, Australian Labor Party or National Country Party, has refused by letter to accept its responsibility. From looking at some of the budgets which have been brought down recently I have every reason to believe that the State governments are not going to avoid, run away from or duck their responsibilities to meet the Commonwealth’s dollar under the States Grants (Home Care) Act.
I do not know why we are going on and on. Clearly politicians of all political colours, whether they be Commonwealth or State, recognise the importance of trying to assist those people who cannot help themselves in their own homes. So let us not be holier than thou and believe that all wisdom and all compassion begin and end in this Parliament in Caberra because in most of the State governments and in local government around Australia there are people who are in contact with the ordinary people at the grass roots level and who are only too willing to make a contribution to try to help those less fortunate than themselves.
Clause agreed to.
Remainder of Bill- by leave- taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Hunt)- by leave- read a third time.
Debate resumed from 16 August, on motion by Mr Hunt:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Opposition is not opposing this Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Hunt) read a third time. EXCISE AMENDMENT BILL 1978
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Debate resumed from 16 August, on motion by Mr Fife:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-This is another piece of legislation in respect of which the Government, or at least the National Country Party, has repudiated undertakings given to the Australian electorate and, in particular, to supporters of the National Country Party.
– Absolute nonsense. You are the people who turned around and completely reversed what has been done on this matter.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The honourable member for Hume will remain silent. I call the honourable member for Corio.
– The nitrogenous fertilisers bounty legislation was the subject of an Industries Assistance Commission report presented in September 1975. The report was condemned immediately by the present Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair), members of the National Country Party in general and by most members on the then Opposition benches. The report was not adopted by the then Government and the bounty, which was then $80 a tonne, was reintroduced for a further 12 months.
Nitrogenous fertiliser is very significant in the sugar industry as you, Mr Deputy Speaker, will know. It is also used significantly in cereal grain production and in other primary production areas in Australia. The price of nitrogenous fertiliser in the period since August 1974 to the present has increased from $97 a tonne to around $ 1 5 9 a tonne. It will increase another $ 1 4 a tonne as a result of the Government’s policies relating to the price of fuel oils- fuel oils are basic to the manufacture of this commodity- and by a further $9 a tonne as a result of this legislation. In other words, in the last month the Government has taken actions which will increase the cost of nitrogenous fertiliser to the user by $23 a tonne. That will happen as a result of legislative action in this Parliament.
I heard an honourable member on the
National Country Party benches say that it was rubbish to say that the Government had repudiated undertakings given to the electorate. It may be that things said by honourable members when they were in Opposition have no meaning now that they are on the Government side. Certainly, there is a significant body of evidence that is a fact. But these are the words used by the present Minister for Primary Industry and I quote them without any elaboration because they speak for themselves. The then Opposition spokesman for Primary Industry, the present Minister for Primary Industry, said this:
I can give an unqualified assurance on behalf of the Country Party, that in government with the Liberal Party we will restore the bounty on superphosphate and ensure that the nitrogenous fertiliser bounty continues.
I hope that honourable members on the National Country Party benches heard what I said. I will repeat the statement:
I can give an unqualified assurance on behalf of the Country Party, that in government with the Liberal Party we will restore the bounty on superphosphate and ensure that the nitrogenous fertiliser bounty continues.
A few weeks ago in the Senate, Senator Webster, who represents the Minister for Primary Industry in that place, had this to say:
A review of the outlook for those industries using nitrogenous fertilisers is being undertaken at present to determine the appropriate arrangements to apply during 1979. When this review is completed the Government will consider the matter and make a decision.
My understanding of the situation is that significant problems exist within the industries that use nitrogenous fertilisers and that the price to growers has been reduced significantly in comparison with what it was two years ago. One can only assume that the Government, having undertaken that review which the Minister for Science (Senator Webster) indicated would take place, has decided that the industry no longer warrants its support. In 1976, the first year after this Government took office, the bounty was reduced from $80 a tonne to $60 a tonne. This legislation will reduce the bounty from $60 a tonne to $40 a tonne. That represents a 50 per cent reduction in the bounty in four years.
The present Minister for Primary Industry made it very clear- he made an unqualified statement when he was in Opposition that the bounty would not be removed. The reductions are moving almost in line with the recommendations of the IAC report presented in September 1975. It is not unreasonable for this House to assume that, in fact, this is the intention of the Government. Certainly, the Government is removing from the grower a benefit in respect of nitrogenous fertiliser amounting to $20 a tonne. The Government also is increasing the price of fertiliser by approximately $14 a tonne as a result of the decisions it has made in respect of oil pricing.
The sugar industry is the major industry using nitrogenous fertilisers. It uses about 37 per cent of the total quantity of nitrogenous fertilisers used and the number of growers in the industry is significantly less than in other industries where the usage is at about the same level. The sugar industry is currently facing declining prices and has little expectation of increased sales and increased returns to the grower. We have heard mention of the fact that the superphosphate bounty is being restored, albeit at a declining rate, for the next five years. But this nitrogenous fertiliser bountry, which most likely affects far fewer members of the community, is being gradually eroded away. This is not happening in the way in which the superphosphate bounty will gradually fall into limbo, by the attrition of time, but through actual reductions in the bounty and by government sponsored increases in the base price of fertilisers.
The Opposition opposes this legislation. It is contrary to undertakings given by the Government to the Australian electorate. I hope that those honourable members on whose behalf the statement I referred to earlier was made by their then spokesman on primary industry will show enough integrity in this House to vote in accordance with the undertakings they gave to the electorate when they were seeking election to this place. I hope that they vote in accordance with what they said their actions would be in this Parliament if they were elected. One can derive from this legislation the impression that the Government has decided that the sugar industry in particular can fend for itself. The end result of the changes that I have mentioned in the pricing arrangements for nitrogenous fertilisers will be requests for significantly increased prices on the domestic market. This would be counterproductive to the Government’s claimed aim of reducing price rises and inflation.
That is not the only justification for opposing this Bill. The Bill will also reduce a benefit, contrary to the Government’s undertakings when seeking election. The Government’s election mandate ought to be something for which honourable members opposite accept responsibility. The legislation will also reduce on bounty when the Government has decided that another bounty should stay for five years unaltered. The Opposition opposes the Bill. It believes that it represents a dishonest presentation by the Government of what it claimed to represent when it sought the support of the Australian electorate. I hope that those honourable members of the National Country Party who believe that they have a responsibility to the undertakings they gave to the people whom they asked to support them will also oppose this Bill.
-I must say that it is with some reluctance that I rise to speak on the Nitrogenous Fertilizers Subsidy Amendment Bill on behalf of the National Country Party and, of course, the Government as this Bill will serve to amend the Nitrogenous Fertilisers Subsidy Act of 1966. Before I proceed, I wish to make some comments with regard to the statements made by the previous speaker, the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes). As far as his remarks about this Bill being contrary to an election platform or policy are concerned, I am unaware of whether that is so. I should imagine that the conservative parties, when in opposition, would have spoken out against the abolition at that time of the bounties for superphosphate and nitrogen, but let us be fair in our criticism. We are trying to debate this measure carefully, much as I am reluctant to debate it at all, and let the honourable member for Corio say exactly what was the Labor Party’s position regarding these bounties. I do not need to remind him- I think he would already knowthat the abolition of the superphosphate bounty was a reality and the recommendation on the nitrogenous fertiliser bounty was that it be phased out in accordance with the Industries Assistance Commission’s report. Members of the Labor Party, in saying that they oppose this Bill, must do so out of a feeling of being hypocrites to the very bone.
This is a measure which, in itself, I cannot in my own heart support individually. I do so in the context of it being part of a Budget in which we are endeavouring, as a government, to give benefits to rural industries through reduction of the rate of inflation.
– Who is the hypocrite?
– The honourable member for Melbourne would know a lot about inflation because it was running at a rate of 16 per cent during his Government’s term of office. If we can reduce the inflationary impact and if we can reduce the impact of interest rates, we will be doing something constructive not only for rural industry but also for all Australians. I do not need to remind the honourable member for Melbourne what would be the situation now if inflation had continued over the last three years at the rate which his Government set as a norm- 1 6 per cent a year.
As I have said, it is with reluctance that I speak on this Bill because it marks a further decline in the support, as limited as it is, to rural industry as a whole throughout Australia. This stands in contrast to the mounting and increasing support for our manufacturing and secondary industries and to some sectors of the mining industry. Within the framework of the Budget, which decreases nitrogenous fertiliser support by $20 per tonne, we find support for the motor car industry by a decrease of 12Vi per cent in sales tax. We also find further loans being made to the Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Co. Ltd. These examples are mentioned for no other reason than to draw the attention of the House to the declining support for Australia’s rural industries. This support is declining at a time when rural industries are facing as great a difficulty or greater difficulties than the more favoured manufacturing industries. Difficulties are being experienced in costs. There are also difficulties as regards inflation and wages, as was the case in the Labor Government’s term of office, and difficulties in maintaining levels of export markets and prices on export markets. In most situations these increased costs cannot be passed on to the consumer. So they will not affect the consumer price index.
I recognise that this legislation is the result of a 1975 IAC report to phase out this subsidy over a period of three years. This was to be done by a reduction from $78.74- not $80, as was mentioned by the honourable member for Corio- to $60 in 1976, $40 in 1977 and $20 in 1978. The payment of this subsidy was to cease as at 31 December 1978. As I mentioned before, if the then Labor Government were still in office it would have accepted that IAC report and by the end of this year the subsidy would have been completely phased out So at least we can congratulate the Government on slowing down this phase-out. But the direction of the alteration is unmistakable and of great concern to those users of fertiliser in rural industries. Too frequently consumers, city dwellers and their parliamentary representatives have the incorrect and distorted impression of what is called the protection of country and rural industries. This is not unreasonable when there are insufficient rural votes to indicate to city dwellers what are the actual facts. Within this House the votes from the rural industries would be about 40 out of 124 altogether.
The nitrogenous fertiliser bounty involves an expenditure of $ 10m this year. Also, $17m has been provided for underwriting manufactured dairy products and approximately $40m has been provided for the superphosphate bounty. The protection of sugar by the embargo costs the Government nothing, but over the past 10 years this has been a means of bringing to the consumer of Australia a cheaper price for sugar than might otherwise have been the case. The Budget also provides $40m for the beef incentive scheme. Once again, as has been the case since 1974, the consumer benefits in return as regards the price of meat on the table. He pays a price considerably less than the cost of production to the grazier. There would be other minor subsidies and assistance, but in total, divided between the 6 per cent of Australians who maintain the rural industries at full efficiency and high productivity, they pale into insignificance in comparison with the subsidies received by manufacturing and secondary industries.
I should like to mention the figures cited in Hansard in May 1977 regarding the protection afforded to some of these industries. In the case of shipbuilding it was said to amount to $19,000 per man per year. It was said to amount to $13,000 per man per year in the case of waterside workers. The current dispute on the wharves is probably increasing that figure. The protection to the car manufacturing industry was said to amount to $5,000 per man per year. In view of the present sales tax reduction and the increase in duty on imported cars, that figure has yet again increased. The then honourable member for Wakefield, Mr Kelly, said that in 1976 secondary industries were protected to the extent of $ 159m by way of direct subsidies and $4 billion by way of indirect subsidies through tariffs. Where are the tariffs that protect Australian rural industry? There are none. But free trade across the Tasman does affect our dairying and forestry industries and quite a few others. The cross that rural industry bears is that, much more than any other sector, it bears the burden of the protection as regards the purchase of motor vehicles, tractors and farm equipment, replacement tools and parts and fuel prices. This is particularly so now for, as inevitable as the fuel price rise is to reach world parity prices, this unavoidable cost will fall harder on the rural producers than on any other sector of our community.
The decreasing subsidy on nitrogenous fertiliser is a very small return- I mentioned a figure of $ 10m- for the other tariff costs that rural industries bear in greater proportion than the consumer because these costs are normally borne and absorbed and not passed on to the consumer. That has been the history of rural industries in Australia. This in itself recognises that these increased costs and charges influence our CPI not one bit, for the consumer does not pay because the producer absorbs the cost.
Let there be no mistake: The rural industries welcome the assistance, as meagre as it is, that was originally rendered by this Act but issue the warning that to survive and to provide the cheapest rural products for the tables of Australian domestic users some assistance must be granted in order to allow those industries to be compensated- to get no more than compensation- for the higher costs, the hardships and the difficulties under which they operate in order to protect and to assist manufacturing industries and consumers themselves. Unfortunately it is seldom realised that the great subsidies that city people believe are granted in every rural industry are in fact a very lean and miserable amount . with which to offset the difficulties of rising costs, secondary industry protection and declining prices. Rural industries can absorb no more costs. There is now, in rural industries, no financial fat to carry the producer over the lean periods in the manner that has been traditionally attributed to rural people by city dwellers.
Rural industries recognise that the Budget is directed to helping and stabilising the on-farm costs by reducing inflation and interest rates. Perhaps some will recognise, in the reduction of this subsidy on nitrogenous fertiliser, the rural industries’ contribution as their sacrifice in the national interests yet again to stabilise the economy wrecked by the Labor Government. Some farmers might think this way but the majority will not, particularly in view of the handouts to other less needy sectors. It is important for consumers to realise that this increasing cost and the crude oil levy cost to primary producers will be costs that are absorbed and not passed on. So there will be little increase in the CPI in this area. The flow-on, however, to the CPI in the secondary industries and transport areas, which are also great users of fuels, will be of major consequence.
More than in any other sector the rural industries have made their contribution in keeping the cost of food products to a minimum and often, possibly in the majority of cases, under the consumer price index increases. I shall give just one example- the sugar industry which is a major user of nitrogenous fertiliser. It uses approximately 30 per cent of the total, although it is not the major user as a previous speaker said. Those members who are wheat growers and who have rural seats in wheat growing areas would realise that wheat and the cereal crops use a greater proportion of nitrogenous fertiliser than sugar does.
– Only because there are more of them.
– That might be so. I am just correcting a mistake that was made. It does not alter the situation. The sugar industry is typical of our rural industries. I think the honourable member will probably agree with me later about the wheat industry. While inflation has added, through the CPI, 134 per cent to prices from 1967 to 1977, the return to sugar cane producers and millers has increased from $140.54 a tonne to $150 a tonne, only a 7 per cent increase in 10 years. This is the sugar that is used on our domestic market. On the export market the price of sugar has dropped from $305 a tonne in 1974 to $152 a tonne today. It is just half of what it was four years ago. This has happened mainly in the time that has elapsed since the 1975 IAC report was presented. What we need now, and we need it desperately if we are to follow the indications of the IAC, is a further updated report to reflect present circumstances. Additional costs of nitrogenous fertilisers and fuel used will this year add approximately $2 a tonne of cane, and this is approximately 10 per cent of the estimated sale price of the product. So, far from being the profitable and wealthy industry that consumers imagine the sugar industry to be, for over 12 months sugar farmers and millers have been living off the profits of previous years- export market profits- and have been selling their product both on the domestic and export markets at prices below cost. But the illusionary reputation of wealth still remains in the minds of many southern people.
Let us look at the other major user of nitrogen. Of course that is the wheat industry. In the current year it will use 45 per cent of the nitrogenous fertilisers. The fortunes of this industry also have been reversed in the years since the IAC report was published. For instance, in 1973-74 it took 0.83 tonnes of wheat to pay for a tonne of urea. In 1 974-75 it took 0.85 tonnes of wheat to pay for a tonne of urea, and that was when the subsidy was operating in full. In 1975-76, with the reduction in the subsidy of $ 18-odd, it took 1.25 tonnes of wheat to pay for a tonne of urea. In 1976-77 it took 1.65 tonnes of wheat to pay for a tonne of urea, so it almost doubled in four years. With the reduction in the subsidy of $20 a tonne and the increase in the production costs of nitrogen because of the crude oil levy, it will need perhaps two tonnes of wheat to pay for a tonne of urea after the subsidy is further reduced. In 1 973 urea cost $85.20 a tonne and in 1977 it cost $ 16 1 a tonne.
Nitrogen unfortunately has no substitute and does not build up a bank in the soil if unused. It has to be applied yearly and at a greater rate as land becomes longer used for agricultural purposes. Its cost should be receiving added subsidisation, not less subsidisation. The only form of subsidy to which the sugar industry, and the wheat industry, I believe, have been entitled is now being reduced by this Bill. These are not just isolated instances. For example, the dairying, fruit and beef industries are all subject to the same pressures on costs and the variances of the market. After the manufacturers, the agents and the middle men get their share, they get what is left over as their price for the product. Often it is not a fair price.
Let us look also at other aspects and difficulties of the rural industries. A business telephone rental in the city is $120 a year. The suggested annual rental for a radio telephone in the outback is $500. The telephone calls are trunkline all the time and are subject to a larger cost and limited time. Yet a Sydney based Labor parliamentarian from this House complained last week when it was suggested that local city calls be surcharged after six minutes of use. I think the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Fitzpatrick) would probably agree with the sentiments expressed in that regard. In spite of freight subsidies, the price of petrol is higher by far than the discounted price of petrol in Sydney, Melbourne and Hobart. For the primary industries there is no alternative to the mobile fuels and thus there is no escape. It would be more sensible to provide essential rural and primary industries with fuel at discounted prices and to surcharge the cost to domestic users in capital cities where discipline in usage of our dwindling fuel resources is most essential. There is limited access to television in rural areas and they suffer the worst road conditions in this nation.
Certainly this is not a story of more subsidies; it is one of continuing inequity when compared to the city counterparts of rural producers. When one considers the massive subsidisation afforded to Japanese and New Zealand primary producers, or, if we take the worst example, those producers within the European Economic Community, one wonders how Australian farmers remain in business or remain competitive on foreign markets. It is only the continued improvement in farming techniques, self-help research projects and the sweat that is used to increase productivity that allows primary producers to survive. It is a myth to believe that primary production exists on government assistance. Overseas situations where massive government funds are injected are quite the reverse of Australian practices.
In this debate I do not wish to widen the gap between city and country people. I would seek to narrow the gap by giving a fair understanding of the life in country Australia and the difficulties that people face there. No doubt there are problems in the city which are unique to the city and which require understanding by country Australians. Our problems can be solved only by a better understanding of the difficulties of others; an understanding by the consumer of what the final price of a product comprises and where the cost of subsidies and tariff protection actually originate. They originate from secondary industries and not from primary industries.
In conclusion I request that the Government go no further in this reduction of subsidy and that consideration be given to its increase as economic conditions allow. Also I request that the IAC up-date its report to examine farming difficulties in 1978-79 and that we go no further in implementing the out of date 1975 report. Alternatively, I suggest that all manner of protection and assistance afforded to manufacturing, secondary and mining industries be examined and corrected before any further attempt is made to reduce or eliminate the nitrogenous fertiliser bounty.
Mr FitzPATRICK (Riverina) (8.48)- I think that firstly we should clear up the doubt that the honourable member for Dawson (Mr Braithwaite) has in his mind regarding the statement that the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) made concerning the election promise made by the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair) to the effect that the National Country Party would continue the nitrogenous fertiliser subsidy if it was in government. I just want to read what was stated by the honourable member on 8 May 1974. 1 think that members of the National Country Party would know the date of the election in that year. He said:
I give an unqualified assurance on behalf of the Country Party that, in government with the Liberal Party, we will restore the bounty on superphosphate and ensure that the nitrogenous fertiliser bounty continues.
That should relieve the doubt that the honourable member for Dawson has on that matter. Those of us who remember the debate on the nitrogenous fertiliser subsidy that took place in September 1974 will recall how critical members of the Liberal and National Country parties were, not that the Labor Party had retained the full subsidy of $78.74 a tonne but because we had extended it for only another full year. At that time we were told that the Liberal and National Country parties would go full steam ahead and not only maintain the full subsidy but they would increase it for a much longer period so that the man on the land would be able to plan ahead and know what his costs would be. The wheel has turned full circle and we find the Liberal and National Country Parties in government and still going flat out, but in the opposite direction. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) in his second reading speech on the Bill informed us that the subsidy would be continued for only another full year but not at the full rate of $78.74 a tonne and not even at the present rate of $60 a tonne, but at the very low rate of $40 a tonne. The Labor Party’s policy of maintaining the full subsidy of $78.74 deserved and in fact received the support of all sections of the industry. If the subsidy had maintained the same relativity to the price of nitrogenous fertiliser it would now be $120 a tonne. The price of nitrogenous fertiliser at that time was only $97.20 a tonne, but it is now $159.60 a tonne and still rising. The honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair) was so keen about the action taken by the Labor Government that in a speech, which is reported in Hansard of 76 September 1974, he said:
It is true that as far as production levels are concerned here is an argument that one type of fertiliser has advantage over another. It is true that if we are having a look at the rise in inflationary pressures in Australia production or the lack of it tends to be a material element. I submit that any type of stimulus to production is a way by which inflationary pressures can be countered. The reason that the Opposition supports this Bill, although I must say that we are disappointed that its provisions will expire on 31 December 197S, is that we believe that this legislation provides a way by which production can be stimulated and, as a result, inflation itself contained.
I do not think anyone could have put a better argument for the long term continuance of the nitrogenous fertiliser subsidy introduced by the Labor Party which, as I have already said, would now be $120 a tonne. Of course, he was right. A stimulus to production is the best way to maintain inflationary pressures. The man on the land will tell you that stimulatory assistance is more necessary today than it was ever before.
The Labor Party believes that the full nitrogenous fertiliser subsidy is necessary and justified today. But what do the Liberal and National Country parties believe? Do they believe that the profit margin of primary producers has increased since 1974, or are they just hiding behind the Industries Assistance Commission recommendation that was put down in 1975?
Judging by their attitude to the nitrogenous fertiliser subsidy and also to the crippling burdens inflicted by the Budget on primary producers it is hard to gauge just what the Government’s attitude is on these matters.
So that we can better understand these questions I want to examine the reason why the nitrogenous fertiliser subsidy was introduced in 1966. Its stated aims were: To reduce the costs in major user industries; to assist the users to compete in export markets; and to encourage nitrogenous fertiliser in newer applications where cost might be a deterrent. The Liberal and National Country parties supported these aims in 1966. They supported them again in 1974, so much so that the honourable member for New England made the statement that was quoted by the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes). The honourable member for New England was so keen that he gave an unqualified assurance on behalf of the National Country Party that the full level of the subsidy would be maintained.
Regardless of the change of direction of the National Country Party and the Liberal Party, and regardless of the broken election promise, this decision could not have come at a worse time for primary producers. People in our agricultural sector have a right to claim the full subsidy. They have a right to say that the full subsidy is more necessary today than it was ever before. They make this claim because costs have increased. To ascertain what has happened with prices and margins one can turn to page 93 of the document entitled ‘Rural Industry Information Papers, March 1978’ which sets out world price movements. The document states:
Since 1973, there have been large variations in the London Daily Price (LDP) quotation for raw sugar, as indicated by the annual averages set out below.
The document gives the following figures: In 1973 the annual average London daily price was £Stg98 per tonne; in 1974- that is the year that the Labor Party maintained the full subsidy of $78.74- it was £Stg301; in 1975-that is the year the IAC brought down its recommendation- it was £Stg214; and in 1977 it went down to £Stg115. When sugar prices have reached their lowest point the nitrogenous fertiliser subsidy has been reduced. No one cay say that under these circumstances the sugar industry does not have the right to protest. This has occurred even before the measures contained in this very vicious Budget in respect of primary industry have had a chance to take effect. Queensland members of the National Country Party can please themselves what attitude they take on the Budget and the nitrogenous fertiliser subsidy.
But I do not think they can cover up much longer by telling half truths about what happened when the Labor Party was in power. The man on the land, who nearly faces ruin, wants to know what the Government is doing today.
– What did you do?
– We introduced the floor price for wool. We gave a greater subsidy to the dairy industry. But that is not the matter before the House. Honourable members opposite only want to dodge the issue.
– You were going to abolish the nitrogen subsidy.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder!
- Mr Deputy Speaker, on a point of order, is the honourable member allowed to interject in that manner?
-The honourable member for Grey may have noted when he rose to his feet that I was in the process of asking the honourable member for Murray to remain silent.
– If I were the honourable member for Murray I would condemn the Budget. I would condemn the removal of this superphosphate bounty because the man on the land will not be fooled any longer. What the man on the land wants to know is what the Government is going to do. Many primary producers in my electorate have asked me to protest about what is happening in this Parliament in respect of matters which affect their livelihood. So serious is their situation after three years of mismanagement of the economy of this country by the Fraser Government that now they need every little bit of assistance they can get not only to fulfil the basic aims of the nitrogenous fertiliser bounty when it was introduced in 1966- that is, to reduce costs in the major user industries and to assist the users to compete on export marketsbut also to enable them to hold their share of the domestic market. Once again I would like to quote from the document entitled ‘Rural Industry Information Papers, March 1978’ to show what is happening to some of the primary industries in my electorate. I refer this time to page 45. Under the heading ‘Farm Adjustment’ the document states:
The Industries Assistance Commission in its Report on Fruitgrowing commented that in Sunraysia 30-40 per cent of present dried vine fruit producers have little prospect of viability as full-time fruitgrowers.
The Commission commented that, in the Riverland area of South Australia, about one-sixth of multi-purpose grape growers have little prospect of viability.
The Commission canvassed redevelopment prospects in the Riverland area, canvassing options such as replanting to citrus, and amalgamation of small blocks.
The report indicates that the dried fruit industry is in a very serious situation and that industry uses a lot of nitrogenous fertiliser. The report indicates also that the Industries Assistance Commission is just as out of touch with the real situation in the agricultural industry as is this Government. In that report it advocates replanting to citrus but in a later draft report on the citrus industry it recommends that the present ad valorem tariff of 65 per cent on imported orange juice should be removed and replaced by a 20 per cent duty. I stress again that the citrus industry is a big user of nitrogenous fertiliser. The IAC knows that if the duty is reduced to 20 per cent duty this would cripple or ruin the citrus industry in Australia because it cannot compete with the price of imported commodities. So, in turn, the IAC recommends that the citrus industry be restructured and alternative crops planted. I should like to refer to what the citrus growers in my electorate have to say about this. A letter from the Mirrool Citrus Growers Association in the Griffith area had this to say about the recommendation of the IAC:
As it is many growers of citrus have already ‘restructured ‘ from being growers of apples, canned fruits, prunes and now red grapes, with all the trauma that involved. At present the only likely viable crop open to them is also illegal, and very few men have been tempted by that, thank goodness. However a price like this will mean growers, and I mean all growers in Australia, unable to produce economically and going bankrupt.
That is the situation in the citrus industry. It is quite obvious from reading these reports that the Government is hitting out blindly in all directions at primary industry. There is no sense or reason in this approach. It is nonsense for the IAC to tell primary producers to restructure when there is nothing to which they can turn. The Government should come out in the open and clearly state that it will not accept the IAC recommendation on the citrus industry because if it is accepted it will ruin that industry. It is nonsense for the Government to claim that it is saving the primary producer by reducing inflation when the primary producer knows that his costs are getting higher and higher each year and that his income is getting lower. How have they been saved? It is nonsense for the Government to claim it is saving the primary producers when more and more of them are going bankrupt.
What the man on the land needs is some definite evidence that the Government is aware of his tragic situation and that the IAC is aware of the situation. In these letters the people told me that they cannot read anywhere in the recommendations of the IAC where notice has been taken of the submissions they have made. It appears to be that way. I think that this is the wrong time to put up the fuel costs of the man on the land and that this is the wrong time to reduce the nitrogenous fertiliser subsidy. I ask honourable members in this House to have another look at this Bill and to give some real encouragement to the man on the land.
-I listened with interest to my friend the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Fitzpatrick) put forward the best case he could on behalf of the people of his electorate. Other honourable members have done that and other honourable members will do just that. The honourable member for Riverina ignored the importance of the overall effect of the Budget. There is no way that any farmer or anyone who is not involved in the public service sector can look at this Budget as other than the best means they have for future survival. It is as simple as that. One could argue about the effect of fuel prices on wheat farmers, the lack of increase for sugar producers, for whom I have great sympathy, and the impact of the nitrogenous fertiliser bounty on wheat growers, fruit growers and everyone else. Nevertheless, the thrust of the Budget, although we are not debating it tonight, is such that those people eventually will be better helped by this Budget. They will have a better take-off base than any other section of the Australian community. Fuel costs and freight charges affect all people in country areas, contrary to the opinion of the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) who felt that people in city areas were hit the hardest. There is no doubt that he is wrong and that it will hit- I accept that it will hit- people in rural areas.
The Labor Party’s opposition to this Bill tonight is one of the most blatant pieces of political shenaniganism that I have seen for some time. I will elaborate on this further at a later stage. I should also like to refer to views expressed on this issue by members of the Labor Party on another occasion. Before I deal with that I should like to talk in my capacity as chairman of the very important joint parties rural committee. I point out that we welcomed the representations made to us by representatives of the sugar industry and I have deep sympathy for the position in which they are placed. Honourable members heard the facts described by the honourable member for Dawson (Mr Braithwaite) a little while ago. Thanks to the frightful period we experienced when the Labor Government was in office, the costs of sugar growers increased by 135 per cent. Since that time they have received a 7 per cent increase- if my memory is correct- in the price of sugar. They have a legitimate case to put to the Industries Assistance Commission. Their case will be aided by the Bill before the House tonight. In fact, it will help them considerably because it represents an added cost that I am sure the sugar industry will not forget when it presents a case to the IAC.
I would like to thank the Queensland Cane Growers’ Council for going to the trouble of coming from Queensland to meet with us. A healthy exchange of views took place at that meeting. That Council also is very interested in the Bill before the House tonight. But we should not adopt the short-term viewpoint that the honourable member for Darling adopts on occasions.
– I am the honourable member for Riverina.
– I am sorry, the honourable member for Riverina. I was getting the honourable member for Riverina muddled in my mind with Al Grassby. They are so similar in type.
– I will certainly withdraw if the honourable member takes offence.
– They dress alike.
-That is right. I prefer the honourable member for Riverina, who used to be the honourable member for Darling, but that may not be everybody’s judgment. Before we get too carried away with excitement over this single issue we would do well to look at the IAC report and at the reasons why the IAC recommended a three-year phasing out of the nitrogenous fertiliser bounty. The reasons given by the IAC have some validity. I do not question that. I think honourable members would do well to stop and think about whether subsidisation of any industry amounts to a misallocation of resources. It does not suit me any more than it would suit the honourable member for Riverina to say that labour-intensive industries, which both he and I represent, do not need protection. I accept that they do. If we look to the health of the national economy in the future one cannot help but wonder whether subsidies should be given in areas that are highly labour-intensive, especially if the consumer price index continues to rise at the rate it rose under the Labor Government some years ago. One cannot help but wonder whether there is any future in that sort of industry or whether the resources of the Government should go to those industries that are not so labour-intensive. I have referred to the problems confronting the IAC in this regard. I say that it is a respectable argument in the national interest. It might not suit the honourable member for Riverina. It might not suit me. But the simple truth on a single issue is that any help we can get for labour-intensive industries we will try to get.
Let us stop at that point and consider the historical significance of what has happened in relation to the nitrogenous fertiliser subsidy. It was introduced originally- the honourable member for Dawson (Mr Braithwaite) was quite correct- at the rate of $80 a ton. This was adjusted, contrary to the remark of the honourable member for Riverina, to $78.74 a ton. At around that time- in its 1 975 report- the Industries Assistance Commission came down with the concept of phasing out completely that subsidy over a three-year period. At that stage, from memory, there was an election and the current Government said that it would retain the bounty on superphosphate for a period of years- I have forgotten how many. After two or three years we brought it down to $60 a ton, where it has remained until this Budget was brought down. It was announced in this Budget that the subsidy will be extended until December 1 979- that is 1 5 months away at least- but at a reduced rate of $40 per tonne of nitrogenous content. After the IAC report first came down we had the typical attitude of the Labor Government and Ministers of that time of saying nothing about it. There was no way in which the farmers of Australia could read into the Whitlam Government’s attitude at that time anything other than that it would agree with the recommendation in the IAC report to phase out the bounty over three years. The honourable member for Riverina can argue his head off as much as he likes but by saying nothing the Labor Government accepted the fact that the concept in the IAC report would be accepted.
– That is rubbish.
– It is not rubbish. Not one member of the Labor Government ever said anything against that IAC report. We of the then Opposition did. We set down the criteria of what we would do in government and we did it. We did not accept the cutting out of the nitrogenous fertiliser bounty over a three-year period. The Labor Government was judged by its silence.
– I take a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. The statement made by the honourable member for Wakefield is incorrect because it was a part of our policy.
-There is no substance to the point of order.
– I will be interested if, when I sit down, the honourable member for Riverina can quote me anything in that policy that said that the Labor Government would do other than abide by the IAC report. That was the position at that time, that was the position the growers accepted and that was the position that we of the then Opposition accepted. Let me go a little further to show what a sham honourable members opposite are up to tonight. What did the State governments suggest? The Liberal Ministers for Agriculture with whom we consulted supported our view that the nitrogenous fertiliser bounty should not be phased out.
– You mean members of the Government parties, don’t you?
– I am sorry, I should have said members of the Government parties. Let me quote what the Minister for Agriculture in South Australia said. It is typical of the sort of advice that was flowing in to the Labor Government as it was tottering on the brink of defeat and to this Government when it came to power.
– Tell us what Dr Patterson said.
– I have never heard of that nonentity! Let me quote a remark from the South Australian Minister -
– He was the Minister at the time.
– Nobody can remember him or what he did. It is no use the honourable member gabbling because I am dealing with the facts.
– It is no good your telling lies.
-What about -
-Order! The honourable member for Melbourne and the honourable member for Murray will remain silent.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I object to the honourable member for Melbourne saying that I am telling lies when I am not and I ask you to make him withdraw that comment.
-The Chair did not hear the remark over the confusion of interjections but if the honourable member for Melbourne admits to the contravention of Standing Orders, I ask him to withdraw.
– I will admit to it and I will withdraw.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I maintain that the honourable member for Melbourne should get to his feet and apologise like a man and not slink into his seat.
-Order! I am giving the honourable member for Melbourne a reasonable opportunity to respond to my instruction to withdraw.
– I do Mr Deputy Speaker, and I respond in due deference to you. I did not slink into my seat. It is not my usual practice. The honourable member for Wakefield, who got under the guard of the previous honourable member for Wakefield, ought to slink into his seat.
– He did not acknowledge that Dr Patterson was the previous Minister.
-The honourable member cannot debate the point. The honourable member for Melbourne has withdrawn. The honourable member for Wakefield may proceed.
– I was about to quote what the South Australian Minister for Agriculture said at that time in order to demonstrate the sham that is being foisted on this Parliament tonight. This is the sort of advice that came forward during that period- in 1975. The Deputy Premier of South Australia, the Honourable Des Corcoran, reading a report brought down by the Minister for Agriculture, who was in a different House, said:
Most of the State’s cropping regime depends on nitrogen supplies by legumes and the use of nitrogenous fertilisers occurs mostly only in Queensland where it is supplied to the sugar crop. My colleague -
That is, the Minister for Agriculture- . . feels that the recommendation by the Industries Assistance Commission to phase out the nitorgenous fertiliser bounty over three years is sensible.
That sums up the Labor Party’s view throughout Australia at that time. For members of the Opposition to get up tonight on a hollow sham and try to play politics over this issue is beneath contempt. I am ashamed to have to join forces with them in any shape or form. This sort of cheap political by-play does not belong in a national parliament and I consider the view they are taking tonight to be inconsistent and absurd. Let us hear from one or two of their federal members on the subject of bounties. Senator Cavanagh believed that the bounty was going to the people who did not need it. I would not have quoted that comment if the honourable member for Riverina had not introduced the superphosphate bounty into his speech- I think by mistake- a little while ago. One can go on. Senator Walsh took exactly the same view. Who is Senator Walsh? We know but I doubt whether anyone in the outside world knows that Senator Walsh is the agricultural anything. He takes the same view. Where are members of the Opposition now with their stupid, cheap stand? They are punk and they know it.
– A point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Is the honourable member talking about the nitrogenous fertiliser bounty? If he is, he is not telling the truth.
-Order! The honourable member for Riverina will hold his peace until I give him the call. I call the honourable member for Riverina on a point of order.
– I am sorry, Mr Deputy Speaker. I think the honourable member is trying to mislead the House. I guarantee that none of those -
-There is not substance to the point of order.
– He is not telling the truth.
– Perhaps I can explain it even to the honourable member for Riverina.
– Are you talking about the nitrogenous fertiliser bounty?
-Cool off, old fellow. I said that I would not have brought that up except that the honourable member for Riverina introduced the bounty on superphosphate into his own speech. I cannot see how even the Labor Party would have a different principle on bounties. There is deathly silence from the Opposition.
– Because all the superphosphate bounty went to the Prime Minister. That is why we had a different policy.
-Order! Perhaps it is not inappropriate that there are so many interjections in a debate on a fertiliser Bill, but I ask honourable gentlemen to consider the decorum of the House.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I can assure you that I was not trying to sheet it home in any shape or form. I think I have made the point that I really set out to make. This exercise by the Opposition tonight is nothing more than political chicanery. On their past record, Opposition members are open to accusations of insincerity on every remark they have made tonight. Nobody wants increases in fuel prices. Nobody wants increases in the price of liquor. Nobody wants increases in the prices of all sorts of things, but the Budget the Government has brought down is the proper Budget to put Australia on a sound foundation and allow the private sector industries to have a reasonable chance to take off in the future. Anyone who takes an opposing view tonight, in spite of his lack of judgment, in my view has not got the best interests of his country at heart.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr MacKellar) read a third time.
Bill returned from the Senate without requests.
Debate resumed from 16 August, on motion by Mr Ellicott:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-I doubt that I have ever seen so short a Bill with such momentous consequences put before this House. It is doubtful that a Bill with such dangerous potential has ever received such a blase approach as that of the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Ellicott), who delivered his second reading speech in 22 1 words. Most of the speech was a rehash of the wording of the Bill and it made no attempt to convey to the House the reasons behind this important and far-reaching change to the financial undertakings of the Australian Capital Territory Electricity Authority. Put simply, the Bill means that the Government is opting out of its responsiblity to supply loan funds to the Authority and is forcing the Authority onto the open loan market, with a government guarantee for repayment of the open market loans. For those reasons, the Opposition opposes the Bill.
– Come on!
– We do oppose it. The Government has a responsiblity, and I will explain precisely why the Opposition opposes the Bill. The Minister for the Capital Territory laughs and says: ‘Come on! ‘. He thinks we are doing this just as an exercise, but that is not so. This is another fiddle -
– It is not within my power to borrow.
-That is all right. You might not have the power to borrow, but the Budget fiddle is involved in this philosophy. The Minister is laughing his head off. He went to the Government asking it to retain its responsibility to provide certain funds to the Authority to make up the difference between borrowings and the Authority’s capacity within the tariff area. He asked for 10 per cent, but that was not on. He was told by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) that nothing was on and that any funding the Authority gained was going to be through its own resources. The Authority was going to get nothing from the Federal Government, and that raises a number of points that I would like to make in relation to the whole question of the Australian Capital Territory.
The second reading speech might have been expected to spell out the reasons for the policy change in this area because for a period of time the Federal Government did provide certain funds out of Consolidated Revenue. It is the Opposition’s view that the Minister had a responsibility in his second reading speech to go further than 221 words of regurgitation which told us nothing. We thought he would have explained why the Government was abandoning its responsibility to supply these funds at comparatively low interest rates, based on the overseas loan market to which the Government has access. Alas, we are left to surmise, and our surmising leads us to suspect that the move is another in the Government’s restrictive economic policies aimed at reducing the Federal deficit. It is literally that because it is just a fiddle of what was provided in the first instance. The Government is forcing bodies such as the Electricity Authority to go to the loan raising area and pay interest rates which will eventually find their way to the people in the form of increased tariffs over a period of time.
The Australian Telecommunications Commission was placed in precisely the same position, and what did that lead to? The capitalising of its operations led to a situation where Telecom had to go to the open market. Over a period covered by at least two Budgets it found itself in a situation where it had to compete in the international fund raising area. The Government ensured that two things would happen. First of all, Telecom will never again have any connection with the internal structure of the Government’s Budget. It was thrown on its own resources as an individual commission raising its own funds. The result was that Telecom was placed clearly in a position where it had to become capital intensive, and capital intensive it became. It raised funds and had to pay interest rates. Arising from that, computerisation became an issue surrounding the recent Telecom dispute, not specifically because of that decision but arising from it, and the Telecom commissioners took the action that they did.
The Australian Capital Territory Electricity Authority is being placed in precisely the same position. The Minister at the table sits there blithely saying: ‘What a stupid thing to raise.’ Yet he has placed the people of the Australian Capital Territory, and particularly the people directly involved in Canberra, in a situation involving self-management and financial responsibility, and the price they pay for selfmanagement is directly involved. This is just another fiddle in the Budget. The honourable member for Canberra (Mr Haslem) sits in his seat with a self-satisfied smile like Robinson McHugh, who used to poison people. The honourable member should add up for the people of Canberra and tell them what selfgovernment will cost.
– Are you against it?
– No, I support it very strongly, but the honourable member is against it. Nobody would go to the point of supporting a referendum on the basis of the document which was distributed during October last year. Nobody could support self-government on that basis because one would have to be a Philadelphia lawyer to work out what the document literally means about self-government. I challenge the honourable member for Canberra and the Minister for the Capital Terrtory, who is discussing something with one of his advisers, looking very learned, to ask the people why they are suspicious about the self-government proposal. They are suspicious. A referendum will never be carried. I think the honourable member for Canberra will support me in that suggestion. It is such a vague concept and the people of Canberra are apprehensive about the cost of selfgovernment. The cost of self-government has to be clarified to the point where it is not an issue.
Self-government must be the right of every individual Australian. It cannot be left to a referendum. But it is not a right if we superimpose the matter of cost. The cost will not be clearly set out in the way in which it was set out by the previous Minister for the Capital Territory. The cost has to be set out clearly and unequivocally. The matter of the Australian Capital Territory Electricity Authority is another issue. The costs involved in self-government for the Australian Capital Territory self-government are relevant to this legislation. The Minister, who is still consulting his adviser, in 221 words disposed of his responsibility in this matter.
So here we have a very serious problem. When we talk about self-government for the Australian Capital Territory we are talking about Canberra as the company town. The Government ought to ensure that the people of Canberra do not undertake that financial responsibility and buy a pig in a poke? It is a shame and a sham to put a referendum about self-government to the people of Canberra if the Government will not spell out clearly and unequivocally how it will overcome this issue of cost. The cost will multiply because of the legislation which is before the House tonight. This is a clear example of what the Government is all about. The Bill superimposes on Canberra the cost of supplying electricity to this institution and to all the institutions for which the Minister has responsibility.
– I will put you in one of them if you are not careful.
– That is what we expect from the Minister. He has a sanctimonious view about institutions. He says that he would put me in one. I would have thought that we would both be in an institution together. If we were both in an institution arguing the issue of self-government in relation to financial responsibility I know who would come out clean. It would be I and not the Minister. I am sorry that the Minister’s sanctimonious approach has reached that level and that he has made that observation. But I return to the issue involved.
-The interjection invited a comment.
-I am sorry. All I meant was that I have been in the chair 10 minutes and the honourable member has mentioned the word ‘electricity’ once. I would appreciate it if he would get back to the Bill.
– The point I am making is that the cost of the Electricity Authority is superimposed on the cost applicable to the Canberra community and it relates to the fiddle in the Budget. The Government is providing that the Electricity Authority may go to the open market in order to borrow. It will have to pay interest rates and this cost will find its way back to the consumer. This is relevant not only to the Bill but also to the burden of financial responsibility on the people of
Canberra in relation to self-government. I think this is most relevant. I think it was most improper for the Minister to make the observation that he made. I think it was proper for me to respond in that way.
-I was not objecting.
-I am glad you were not. The Opposition opposes this Bill in principle. Are we saying to the people of Canberra that the Electricity Authority will borrow on the open market and that it will have to compete? Its capital development will be on the same basis as Telecom Australia ‘s. The Government is going to place on the Authority the responsibility to become capital intensive. But who will take that responsibility? It is hypocritical of the Minister to pose the question of the referendum. Are these matters to be covered by the referendum? Will they be put to the people of Canberra collectively? Up to this time the Government has not even said whether there will be a separation of the election for the Legislative Assembly and the referendum. Has that been said yet?
– There was a Press release at 2 o’clock today.
– That is marvellous. It is like extracting a tooth. The decision has to be declared by the honourable member for Canberra and not the Minister. He sits at the table grinding his teeth and making inane comments while the honourable member for Canberra announces that there will be a separation of the election and the referendum. I pose a question to the Minister which he will surely have to answer. The anticipated increase in cost will influence the cost of building in the Australian Capital Territory. The Minister has said that there will not be a cost. If there is an increase in cost because of the way in which funds will be raised, who will meet the cost?
If we follow the logical line of the Federalism policy down to the grass roots, who pays? Only one person pays, and that is the individual ratepayer in the area. I ask the Minister to give an assurance to the ratepayers that they will not pay. I am sure that he will not. He will put some suave proposition about how that will not happen. If he does give an assurance I will welcome it. Will he assure the people in Canberra that they will not suffer financially as a result of this? Will he give them an assurance that there will not be an increase in the cost of electricity, the cost of home building and the like arising out of this Bill? I ask him to get up and say that, not to dodge around the issue and go through all this rubbish about self-government and how the Government will do this and that. He should give the residents of Canberra the right to declare themselves. I ask him to do that. When he does so the Minister should spell out clearly and unequivocally the financial cost to each of the individuals involved, not necessarily specifically as a result of this Bill -
– Not in dollars and cents; in broad principle.
– The broad principle, as far as the Minister is concerned, is not good enough. He has to give an assurance that there is not going to be an increase in cost arising out of the implementation of this Bill. But he has to go further than that. I think that tonight is the night when he has to declare that there is to be a division between the referendum and the election for the Assembly. He has to spell out clearly and unequivocally that self-government, the right of every Australian, will apply to the Territory without additional cost. If he cannot do that, he has to do better than that ridiculous document which was presented by the previous Minister and which went into four pages that nobody could understand, especially, I suppose, the Minister. If that is to be spelt out, then it must be spelt out clearly and unequivocally in terms that can be put in a referendum. I do not believe that that can be done anyway. The first of the three propositions which have been suggested by the Minister is blatantly dishonest because quite frankly we cannot reach that situation. His first proposition is contained in the whole ramifications of the Staley document, if we can refer to it as such. The second one is, quite frankly, another arrangement which does not mean anything at all. The third is designed to maintain the status quo, which I think the Minister wants at any cost, because there is no way known that that referendum could be carried in the current circumstances.
– You underestimate your own powers of persuasion.
– It is not a matter of powers of persuasion, as the Minister puts it.
– Set up on a Manuka corner and you will be right.
-The Minister talks about setting up on a Manuka corner to talk about this. I could not persuade anybody. We should not be in the position of having to vote for self-government. That should be a matter of right, surely. Is it not a matter of right for people to have selfgovernment?
– We have got it now.
-In the Australian Capital Territory?
– Is the Minister prepared to stand up and say that?
– Yes. I will say it tonight. It is a form of self-government.
– It is a form of self-government! He is equivocating again.
– That is why you have two worthy members, one on either side of this House.
– He is equivocating again. It is no more self-government than the local town council. The Assembly has no authority. Can the Minister spell out clearly and unequivocally what authority the local Assembly has? The Minister should tell us in this House this evening what he envisages will be the rights of the elected people in respect of the three categories of selfgovernment to which he has made reference. I challenge him to do so.
Finally, whilst the second reading speech by the Minister for the Capital Territory might have consisted of 221 words, it really shows in a clear and unequivocal way that he has far more responsiblity because this is only another way of passing the buck. We hear all this rubbish about federalism. What has been done under the guise of federalism is unbelievable. One can argue and rationalise anything. If we look at the situation of the Prime Minister and the Treasurer (Mr Howard)- I acknowledge that it is a long and involved sequence of events but it goes to the point- and look at home help, Meals on Wheels and the like, we can see that the buck can be passed down as far as it will go. But when it gets to that point the local council has to make the decision as to whether, in all due honesty, it can abandon the community. The local council has not got any money at all but it has to continue because it is obligated, not because its members have been elected but because people are starving to death. The Minister blinks his eyes, but I will take him down to Melbourne and show him a few cases which clearly spell out what I am saying. I am suggesting that Canberra is going to be in the same category; it may be relatively different. But what I am putting to the Minister is that the electricity authority is one classical example of how the Government shifts the responsiblity for reducing the deficit- the sacred cow of the Government- by having the local electricity authority take its chances on the loan market and then repay the moneys. So it is a fiddle of the deficit and will not appear as part of the deficit. What really happens is that the final responsiblity gets to the consumer. That is one example and that is why it is so terribly important. I use it as an example to flush out the Minister so that he can come clean about this issue of self-government.
Despite the protestation of the honourable member for Canberra, the Minister has not yet said officially whether we are going to have a referendum about self-government and then elect some people on the same day so that only God will know what they are elected for. The Minister can smile as much as he likes. It is all right for him to speak to the members of the Press or whoever he likes because he has no responsiblity to them. He has a responsiblity to this Parliament. He has a responsibility to say how the referendum is going to operate, to allow a debate on the consequences and ramifications of self-government, to say how the referendum will apply, what the terms of reference will be, what the questions will be and how they will be presented. He has a responsibility here, not to the honourable member for Canberra or to the Press. It is here that he has a responsibility to state those sorts of issues.
– What about talking about the ACT Electricity Authority.
-I am talking about the ACT and the responsibility of the electricity authority. The Minister does not have to dictate to Mr Deputy Speaker because he knows what it is all about. I am quite within the bounds. If the Minister wants to take a point of order, he may do so, but the fact is that that -
– I just don’t want you to waste your time. You have only four minutes left.
– It might be a waste of time to the Minister because that is the sort of attitude that he takes as the Minister for the Capital Territory. He probably will not be here for very long, he might be in some area in the High Court, but while he is here he has a responsibility -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Armitage)Order! I realise that the two honourable gentleman have been having a nice cosy chat but I suggest that we try to come around to the Bill a little.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I have explained to the Deputy Speaker who occupied the chair previously that the issue of the Australian Capital Territory Electricity Authority is part of the Budget. It is not only pan of the Budget but also part of the question that is being asked by every individual in Canberra and the
Australian Capital Territory about what will be the financial cost of self-management. So it is related to exactly the same position. I am putting to the Minister that he has to supply an answer on this very simple issue which he answered in 22 1 words and he has to spell out clearly and unequivocally the assurances he is going to give to the people of the Australian Capital Territory as to the cost of self-government. That is the point. So it is not irrelevant. It is clearly relevant to what I am saying. Under those circumstances I believe that it is a matter of not just simply saying that there is going to be a referendum. I am sure that the honourable member for Fraser (Mr Fry) would support me in suggesting that if the matter goes ahead in the way it is at the moment people are going to opt for the status quo simply because of ignorance rather than to take the responsibility that they should perhaps take.
Quite clearly, the Opposition opposes the Australian Capital Territory Electricity Supply Amendment Bill. The Government should spell out what sort of responsibility it will take in relation to the electricity supply undertaking. What are the rating prospects in a company town? What are the financial arrangements in any proposition for self-government in the Australian Capital Territory? What will be the cost to the individual ratepayers in Canberra? I notice that the Minister is again seeking the assistance of his adviser. I wonder whether we will receive answers to these questions tonight. I am sure that I will get some superficial answer along the same lines as the 22 1 -word second reading speech. But clearly and unequivocally there are other questions to be answered.
The Minister must state in the context of this Bill what he proposes to do in respect of similar Bills that might come before the Parliament. What we see now is a fait accompli. If this Bill is passed and the principle of the ACT Electricity Authority going on to the open market for its money is accepted it will be another exercise in ad hockery when the position is viewed in terms of the ultimate objective of self-government. I could go to great lengths on this issue of variation of the electricity tariff. I notice that the Minister is looking desperately at the clock. But there are other questions involved in this Bill. It is opposed by the Opposition because it clearly is a cynical attempt to sidetrack the electors on the real issues contained in the Bill.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Armitage)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I would like to commend the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Ellicott) on the speech of 221 words that he made when introducing the Australian Capital Territory Electricity Supply Amendment Bill in the House. In those 221 words the Minister outlined the absolute thrust of this Bill whereas the shadow minister for the Capital Territory, the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes), has just ensured that every person in Australia who may have been listening to this parliamentary broadcast has turned to another radio station. The honourable member said very huie in 30 minutes. The people of the Australian Capital Territory, half of whom I represent by holding the electorate of Canberra, do not expect the rest of Australia to treat the national capital in any way different from the way that the States and municipal areas are treated. Apparently the Australian Labor Party feels that the funding of the electricity supply in the Capital Territory should be met continually from Consolidated Revenue. Honourable members opposite feel that the many millions of people who do not live in the Capital Territory but who are proud of it as their national capital should continue to pay through tax rip-offs for the cost of supplying electricity and capital equipment for the people who are fortunate enough to live in my electorate.
I do not think that the Government is showing ad hockery. It has adopted a positive long term policy of bringing the Capital Territory, the nation’s capital, into line with what happens around Australia. Certainly, when the referendum on the subject of constitutional development is held later this year, some people will say that they would prefer to have other people pay their bills. But I think that the 2 10,000 people in the Capital Territory predominantly believe that they can pay their way. Average earnings in the Capital Territory are the highest in Australia. We have the best urban environment in Australia. Probably, in many ways, it is the best in the world. We are very lucky to live here. But we heard the honourable member for Melbourne, in 30 minutes of agonising, trying to explain to the people of the Capital Territory that they may have to pay a Utile more because of this measure.
Frankly, I believe that they may have to pay a little more because the funds which will be raised by the Australian Capital Territory Electricity Authority will now be raised on the open market in a way which is similar to the way in which the funds are raised in the electorate represented by the honourable member for Melbourne- that is through the State Electricity Authority in Victoria. But why should we in the Capital Territory expect any different treatment.
It is claimed that this is another Budget fiddle. This Budget has been introduced at a time when Australia’s economy is in very difficult circumstances. When I travel around Australia I gain the impression that the normal man in the street recognises that the Budget is hurting the hip pocket nerve but on balance he feels that it is probably necessary and that in the longer term he and his children will be better off under the responsible government which has been brought to this country after a very necessary change of government in 1975.
I would also like to say how pleased I am to be supporting this Bill introduced by the Minister for the Capital Territory. I am proud of the Government which had the good sense to appoint a Minister who is regarded around Australia as a man of honour and integrity. I just wonder what the people of Australia, or more particularly the people of Canberra, would think if the present shadow Minister for the Capital Territory were to have the responsibility of administering the national capital.
The Labor Party is very quick always to take people’s money in the form of taxes and to redistribute it without asking them. The honourable member for Melbourne has said that there is something wrong with holding a referendum in the Capital Territory on the issue of selfgovernment; that it is the people’s right to have self-government and that we should not ask them whether they want it. I agree with the honourable member. I believe that it is the right of the people in the National Capital to order their own affairs. I, as an individual, am deeply offended when members of Parliament from interstate tell us how Canberra should be run. I do not think it is right that Ministers in the national Parliament should be ordering our day to day affairs. I think that that should be done by people who are elected by the voters in the national capital. For that reason I will be strenuously supporting the second question in the referendum which calls for passing over to the local Legislative Assembly the responsibility for municipal powers, to be followed later, probably, by the passing over of further powers.
I will not be supporting the proposition that the Capital Territory should immediately go to a State-like organisation- that we become a Statelike body. I will not be doing so because I feel that the Legislative Assembly would be well advised to take over certain aspects of selfgovernment for the Capital Territory and then win the confidence of the people of the Capital Territory and of Australia that the nation’s capital can be run in a business-like way. But to suggest that a referendum is a bad thing, that people should not be asked what they want, seems to me to smack of the very thing which caused me to stand for Parliament in 1975. Between 1972 and 1975 we had three years of government when we were told what was good for us and when our social structure was changed, or tried to be changed, by people with doctrinaire views who were not willing to consult with the mainstream of Australia. When the mainstream of Australia was consulted in December 1975 and again in December 1977, the Government of which I am a member was put into power in a resounding way. For the benefit of those people who are listening to the parliamentary broadcast of this debate tonight and who do not know, I say that I am the first Liberal member ever to hold a Capital Territory seat in the national Parliament.
– You might be the last.
– As the honourable member for Fraser comments, I might be the last, but I doubt it, because, in spite of the feeling all round Australia that Canberra is made up of a whole lot of idealistic ‘Lefties’, I can assure those honourable members present tonight and the Minister for the Capital Territory that that is not so. The people of Canberra are truly as reasonable as the people of the rest of Australia. They want to lead the country in the right direction. The 60,000 public servants who work in this city are all very inclined towards doing a good job for Australia and helping this country.
We talk about the open market and we talk about free enterprise. We talk about pulling our weight. This afternoon I had the privilege of attending the opening of the new Totalisator Agency Board’s headquarters in Canberra. That building is probably the most beautiful building in Canberra. It is an imaginative building. It provides working conditions for people which I think would be unsurpassed in the national capital. But it is not a building which has been built by the Government: It is a building which has been built by the TAB and a board of people who have taken up that position to represent the interests of the Capital Territory- and they have done an exceedingly good job. Another building in Canberra which was recently opened- in fact a further stage of the development has been opened- is the Belconnen shopping mall. That is another excellent example of what can happen when the Government permits the community to go forward, to go out into the open market and raise money to build things for other people in Canberra. The cost of borrowing that money is then attributable to the actual enterprise.
That will happen with the ACT Electricity Authority. The enterprise will be one which continues to provide electricity in a very efficient manner to enable the people of Canberra to heat their homes in winter and to take an active part in ensuring that energy conservation goes forward. The Capital Territory uses electricity generated in the Snowy Mountains and also electricity taken from the New South Wales grid. Electricity is distributed in Canberra; it is not generated here. I should imagine that the electricity reticulation system in Canberra, would be one of the most modern and well-organised in Australia. We were the forerunners in making sure that those unsightly electricity poles did not decorate the streets of the national capital but were put along the back fences. More recently, of course, much of the electricity is being placed underground. The ACT Electricity Authority is probably the most efficient semi-government instrumentality in the Capital Territory. Builders who operate in the Capital Territory and the education system, which uses the services of the ACT Electricity Authority for the servicing of much of its plant and equipment, always say that they can get very quick and good service from the Authority.
I commend the move by the Government to bring reality to the Capital Territory. Proud as I am of being a member for the Capital Territory, I must always say that this is a very unreal city. It would be wonderful if the rest of Australiaindeed the rest of the world- were to have anything like the urban amenities that we have, but it does not. The real world is outside Canberra. I think that the Government should insist that a city which is now half the size of Tasmania in population and which is one of the most wealthy areas, on an average, in the world should do as is done throughout the rest of this nation. I believe that the Government will get great credit from the people of Australia for taking this move to ask the ACT Electricity Authority to go into the market place, to justify its borrowings and to allocate its resources on a much wider background.
With regard to self-government, I was surprised that the shadow Minister for the Capital Territory, the honourable member for Melbourne, was unaware of the efforts that have been made over the last week or so to ensure that what was probably an unfortunate Government decision to hold a referendum and an election for the Legislative Assembly at the same time was reversed. I compliment the Minister for the Capital Territory on being flexible enough to see that there was a groundswell of opinion in both the Liberal Party and the Labor Party locally and also in the parties that are not represented in this Parliament by people from the Australian Capital Territory- the National Country Party and the Australian Democrats- to have the referendum held before Christmas and the election next year. I am also surprised that a member of this House who takes on the responsibility of being the shadow Minister for the Capital Territory was unaware that a Press release had been issued this afternoon.
– The Minister has a responsibility to this Parliament, not to you or to the Press.
– The Minister has a responsibility to the people of the Capital Territory and I think he acquits himself very well in that regard. I believe that once a Cabinet decision is made on an issue on which there is a substantial amount of controversy in a community information on it should be given to the people through the news media as soon as possible. I commend the Minister on getting that Cabinet decision, which I understand was made this morning, to the people so quickly.
The ACT Electricity Authority will continue to prosper. There may be some increase in charges because these funds have to be borrowed on the open market. I have no advice at this stage as to whether that is the case. The electricity charges in the Capital Territory are among the cheapest in Australia. Many people are changing over to electric heating because of that fact. Industries in the Capital Territory are using electricity to prosper. I believe completely that the development of this city will not in any way be changed, nor will the standard of living of the people be changed, by this measure. In fact, I think that the autonomy that has been given to the Authority by allowing it to raise its own money will be to the benefit of all the people of the Capital Territory. I support the Bill.
– I wish to oppose the Australian Capital Territory Electricity Supply Amendment Bill. I do so on a number of principles which have already been spelt out by my colleague the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes). I would like to endorse the objection of my party to this Bill in principle on those grounds. Firstly, we object to the way in which the Bill has been used to create yet another fiddle in the Budget by reducing the Budget deficit. This has become a very common tactic of the present Government to take items which traditionally have been in the Budget out of it so that the deficit will be that much less for this year. The introduction of this Bill is just another example of that action. It has been said that the rates of borrowing will not increase the charges. This may be so but I do not think it can be denied that the act of taking this item out of the Budget means that there will be another borrower on the market and this must add to the pressure on the market for funds and increase interest rates rather than lower interest rates. So it is not true to say that it will not affect the cost of borrowing. The possibilities are that it will increase the cost of borrowing. Of course this will have to be reflected in the tariffs charged by the Electricity Authority.
The other matter of principle on which I oppose the Bill is that it is another very clear demonstration of the way in which the Government manipulates and uses the various authorities in the Australian Capital Territory for its own purposes, without regard to or without consulting the people of the ACT. Of course it must involve the question of self government. My colleague was right in using this matter to demonstrate the very bad deal that people in Canberra get by not being consulted and by not having proper, representation. I think most people are aware that this is the only community in Australia that does not have a degree of self government. It is about to become the only community in Australia that will be given the opportunity to reject the idea of self government by a referendum. This has never happened before, to my knowledge, in the history of Australia. Certainly it is most inconsistent of the Government to try to evade the issue in Canberra by putting it to a referendum when it did not insist on a referendum being held for residents of the Northern Territory which now has a large measure of self government. In that case a referendum most probably would have rejected the idea.
I think our history of rejection of referendums shows the tactics which the Government is employing in this situation. There is no doubt that it gave very firm undertakings on many occasions that it would give self government to the people of Canberra. There was no indication that the matter would be put to a referendum. It is like giving the people a referendum on whether they should be taxed. I think people will tend to vote against self-government simply because they do not know what is meant by the term. The Government at this stage has done nothing to tell people what it means by self government.
Getting back to the Bill, I do not think there is any question that there is need for money to expand the Electricity Authority. The Authority has had a history of very rapid growth. It is interesting to look back to the time when the Authority was set up in 1962. It is interesting to read the remarks of the former honourable member for Macquarie, Mr Luchetti, who was a very highly esteemed member of this House for many years. He made the point that the Government has passed over an excellent opportunity to bring self government to the ACT by permitting directly people to participate in the management of an important undertaking. Instead the Government established an authority that was not directly responsible to the people but to the Government and to the Minister. It is interesting to note that 16 years after those remarks were made by Mr Luchetti the position is exactly the same. While the ACT Electricity Authority has an elected representative on it- a very capable representative in Mr Peter Vallee who is an elected Australian Labor Party member of the Legislative Assembly and who represents the elected representatives on the Authority- he still has no power. The Authority is not directly responsible to the elected Legislative Assembly; it is responsible to a Minister who, of course, is not elected in the ACT.
If we look at the speech that was made when the Authority was introduced, we find that it had 19,321 consumers. It made some pretty accurate forecasts in that it expected that there would be 100,000 people in Canberra by about 1969 and 30,000 consumers. That forecast was almost spot on. Of course now there are about 210,000 people living in the ACT and 74,605 electricity consumers. So the Authority has had a very remarkable growth rate. It is understandable that it must still have access to funds in order to continue its expansionary program. I have had quite a lot to do with the Authority and I am a great admirer of the way in which it has carried out its task. I think it is a very highly efficient organisation. It has been a very sympathetic organisation with regard to my constituency matters. I know that on occasions it has to threaten to cut off the electricity supply to people, but whenever I have offered to pay a bond to have the electricity put back on an employee of the Authority has always rushed out to reconnect it immediately. It is very responsive in those situations in which sometimes unfortunate people find themselves
The Authority has also been quite successful as a land developer. Electricity House is one of our finest buildings in the Civic Centre. It has the privilege of being the home of the permanent head of the Department of the Capital Territory. Of course the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Ellicott) has a suite in that office for his use while he is in Canberra. The Authority has done very well in that respect. If I have a criticism of it- this comes from my experience- it is that it has not always paid sufficient attention to environmental aspects in its expansion throughout the ACT. It tends to cut huge swathes through the hinterland when somebody does not stop it, in order to leave a very clear area around its power supply lines. Recently there was some industrial trouble. A green ban was put on a project on the foothills of Mount Majura until the Authority gave more firm undertakings that the environmental quality would be protected. Those problems were then overcome. On many occasions it tends to cut down a tree because that is the easiest way to achieve its objective rather than to prune the tree. It has been open to some criticism in the past on those grounds.
My main criticism of the whole set-up of the Authority is that it is very parochial in terms of the particular form of energy that it is selling. This is understandable. I think that in this day and age we should be moving towards a more rationalised and planned use of all our energy resources and we should not be handling just one particular form of energy in isolation. I must pay a compliment to one of the most progressive Ministers we have ever had in the Australian Capital Territory, my colleague the honourable member for Wills, Mr Gordon Bryant. When he was the Minister he put up a plan to establish an ACT energy authority. The idea of that authority was that it would rationalise and co-ordinate the uses of all forms of energy in the ACT. Contrary to my colleague the honourable member for Canberra (Mr Haslem) who said that he wanted to bring us into line with what happens in the States, I think that was a wonderful opportunity for us to demonstrate to the States the advantages of rational planning in the use of energy instead of the present situation where various sources of energy are competing with each other for the market and all of them are trying to exhort people to use more energy, whether it be electricity, gas, petroleum or heating oil.
I think this is a very unfortunate approach to the whole problem of energy. We all know that it is a diminishing resource and I think there is much room for rationalising and co-ordinating its use. Another example of this parochial attitude was the time when the natural gas pipeline grid was passing very close to Canberra- it went to Gunning which is just a few miles out- and we were endeavouring to have an extension of the line into Canberra. I understand that one of the reasons why it did not come into Canberra was opposition from the ACT Electricity Authority. This is understandable from the authority’s point of view but I do not think it is a valid reason from the point of view of the overall use of energy.
We had another example today of the sorts of problems that can arise with energy use. We had reports that petrol from a particular source was causing a lot of trouble to cars in Canberra. The National Roads and Motorists Association has had a rash of complaints from people whose cars just stopped for no apparent reason. It has been found that the carburettor was clogged up and the needle valves were blocked up. Obviously there is something wrong with the fuel. All I can say at this time is that the fuel appears to come from the Esso-BHP Bass Strait oil wells. I do not want to point the finger at any distributor because this matter might not have anything to do with the retailers. It might arise from a problem at the source. We all know that oil from different wells varies tremendously in quality and that it needs to be refined. Often additives are put into the fuel, particularly during wintertime. It could be that some additive may not have been as compatible as it was thought it would be. This is quite a problem in Canberra at the moment. Because we do not have control of our own affairs, we do not seem to be able to do much about it.
The NRMA, for instance, claims that it is reluctant to test the petrol because of legal implications even though in the past two weeks it has received 200 service calls related to blockages in cars believed to be caused by poor quality fuel. The NRMA has also received complaints from some local motor dealers who have had customers returning to complain about poor servicing when the fault in fact may have been in the petrol. The problem may be due to dirty carriers. We do not know what it is. However, this has been going on for a couple of weeks and apparently nothing has been done about it. If we had an Australian Capital Territory energy authority I am sure that sort of problem could be dealt with much more expeditiously. The consumer would know where he was and certainly the distributor would know where he was. At the moment the situation is very unsatisfactory. I ask the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Fife) to look at this matter and investigate it urgently.
We have heard much talk about solar energy. A unique research project in solar energy is being conducted at the Australian National University. A completely original concept of transporting and storing solar energy has been developed. I understand that the whole project is about to fold up in a few months because of a lack of funds from the Government. Here is an inexcusable situation. This is a very important new area of research. A lot of work has been done and a working model has been established. However, the project is threatened. It may have to be closed down because of a lack of a few hundred thousand dollars. All of these sorts of things could be better dealt with if we had not an Australian Capital Territory Electricity Authority but an Australian Capital Territory energy authority to rationalise and co-ordinate all of the energy uses in the Australian Capital Territory.
I want to leave the Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Ellicott) enough time in which to respond. The Opposition acknowledges the need for funds to be allocated to the ACTEA. I think that this body has done an excellent job in the past and I am sure that it will do an excellent job in the future. The Opposition opposes this Bill on the principle that the authority is being used. The amendment is merely a little bit of juggling to reduce the Budget deficit. This measure demonstrates quite clearly the lack of a voice that the Canberra people have in the running of the Australian Capital Territory’s domestic services. They should have a very loud say in that matter. I hope that the Minister will clarify this matter. I hope that he will say what he intends to offer the people in respect of self-government. But I am afraid that it is just an exercise to get the Government off the hook and to allow it not to fulfil its obligations to the people of Canberra in relation to self-government and to put this matter back on the shelf for another six or 10 years.
– in reply- This debate which relates to the Australian Capital Territory Electricity Supply Amendment Bill has ranged over many other subjects. Indeed, the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes) for half an hour dealt with many matters which passed beyond this Bill. Notwithstanding what the honourable member said, this Bill will not really increase the cost to the Canberra consumer at all. It has been the practice of the Commonwealth over the years to ensure that the Australian Capital Territory Electricity Authority receives its funds through the Treasury and that it pays, of course, the long term bond interest rate. What is intended in the future is that the authority will borrow its moneys outside, and again it will be able in the ordinary course to obtain those funds at the long term bond interest rate. Of course, the interest bill increases depending on the amount that is borrowed. For instance, in 1978-79 an amount of about $2.8m is to be borrowed. The amount has not been as great as that in previous years. For instance, the annual interest charge in 1 976-77 was $ 1. 1 m and in 1 977-78 it was $ 1 .3m. The interest charges have been approximately 4 per cent of the income of the ACT Electricity Authority. So there is nothing in the argument put forward by the honourable member for Melbourne.
This Bill will simply enable the authority to borrow on the outside market. The legislation will give the authority power to do something it could not do before. The legislation has nothing to do with a Budget fiddle to which the honourable member referred. All the legislation simply does is to enable the authority to do what authorities do right around Australia. Why should not the authority borrow on the open market? Why should it have to be tied to the Treasury all the time? Why should it not get out on its own, get into the open market and get the best deal it can in relation to funds and other matters?
It is not the object of this Government in effect to put its statutory authorities so close to government that they cannot move. As the honourable member for Melbourne pointed out correctly in one part of his speech, the Government in effect has given the ACT Electricity Authority powers similar to those of Telecom. One has seen the advantages that Telecom has been able to gain from these powers, and we are even seeing some reductions in telephone charges. The honourable member for Melbourne knows that but he will not admit it. He says that the charges are going up all the time, but in fact in some areas they are going down.
Honourable members opposite seem to want me to refer to self-government. Quite clearly this debate has nothing to do with self-government. The honourable member for Melbourne did not even know that this morning I announced that the referendum and the election in the Australian Capital Territory will be held on different dates. That only indicates, as the honourable member for Canberra (Mr Haslem) pointed out, the great flexibility of this Government. But the honourable member for Melbourne had not even heard about this proposal. I spoke about it on television tonight and I talked to the Press about it. Still the honourable member has not heard about it. I even sent a notification to his office. However, he did not read it. What is wrong with the honourable member? What has he been doing today? Of course the Government has announced it.
– I raise a point of order. It is that the Minister is misleading the Parliament when he says that I was advised.
-There is no substance in the point of order.
– The point I am making is that the Minister has an obligation to give the facts to the Parliament. As the shadow Minister I have not received the notification to which the Minister referred.
-Order! There is no point of order.
-I can only regret that the honourable gentleman was not in his office today. In the short period of time I have left- I might have to extend the debate a little past 10.30-1 want to refer to the fact that the honourable gentleman does not seem to have read the statement that I put out in relation to self-government.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! It being 10.30 p.m., I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the negative.
– I was saying that the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes) did not seem to be aware of the fact that the Government had announced the financial arrangements which would clarify the position for the people of the Territory in relation to selfgovernment. They were set out clearly in the statement I made in August in which I announced the Government’s decision in relation to this matter. The financial principles that were laid down are intended to enable the people of the Capital Territory to know more preciselynot in dollars and cents, but much more precisely- what the obligations of the Territory will be and what the obligations of the Commonwealth will be under the proposals for selfgovernment. There is a tendency on the part of honourable gentlemen opposite to cling to the principle that self-government is something that is non-negotiable. I do not know whether honourable members opposite know what that means but I assume that they do. It is a reflection, I should have thought, on the honourable member for Fraser (Mr Fry) to say that it is nonnegotiable. He is a representative of selfgovernment in the Territory. The Territory is part of a self-governing Commonwealth. The High Court of Australia has upheld the rights of members from the Territory to be here and to vote in full.
The Government is proposing an alternative form of self-government. The Government has indicated its willingness to grant self-government to this Territory. But, in the correspondence that I have received since I became Minister for the Capital Territory, an overwhelming number of people have indicated their desire to have a choice as to whether they operate under the present system or under some other system of government. The attitude that the Government has adopted is simply to give the people of Canberra the right to say what sort of government they will have. I would imagine that many of the people here will vote for some form of government. Others will vote, no doubt, for the status quo, but that will be their own choice. The status quo itself is a form of self-government. There are a number of other matters to which I could refer but the hour is late. I have endeavoured to answer the basic matters that have been raised by honourable gentlemen opposite. Once again, as I did during my second reading speech, I commend this Bill to the House.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Ellicott) read a third time.
Motion ( by Mr Ellicott) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I want to express my concern tonight about the decision made today by the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. It recommended doing away with the quarterly national wage case hearings and, in their place, holding hearings twice yearly in April and October. This decision is a continuation of the practice of stealing money out of the pockets of the Australian workers and transferring it to the private sector that has been adopted by the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. The Arbitration Commission since November 1975 has stolen more than $ 1,000m from the Australian workers. Most of this has been transferred to the private sector. It has been transferred from the pockets of the workers to the private sector. The Arbitration Commission’s decision will have an effect on the individual. People in receipt of average weekly earnings have lost between $14 and $16 a week because of their not being granted the full indexation they should have been given due to price increases.
I believe that today’s decision and at least another 10 decisions of the Commission during the last three years are so bad that the Australian workers will start to revolt. I believe there will be a great deal of revulsion among the workers as a result of the Commission’s decision. The industrial disputes that will occur in the months ahead will have been caused deliberately by the decisions of the Arbitration Commission. These decisions have been a mounting issue. Not only have past decisions failed to transfer the increase in prices to the workers but also today’s decision is stretching the period between increases from three months to six months. The workers will have to wait that much longer and will have to meet the price increases that occur in the intervening period.
I have said that money is transferred from the workers to the private sector as a result of the Commission’s decision. At least 75 per cent of the work force is employed in the private sector; the other 25 per cent is in government employment. However if one examines reports of the Taxation Commissioner one sees that more than 200,000 companies in the private sector lodge tax returns each year. Fewer than 400 companies- less than one-fifth of one per cent of all companies- actually earn more than 50 per cent profit. When I say this decision will transfer money from the workers’ pockets to the private sector I am talking about the corporate sector and at least half of those are foreign owned. I am talking about the sector that this Government really represents. I have said clearly that this
Government is a class government. It represents the wealthy interests and the large corporations.
Pressure has been applied directly and indirectly on the Arbitration Commission. The Arbitration Commission has succumbed to the Government in not implementing full tax indexation and not retaining quarterly hearings. Out of the 10 hearings that have been held since November 1975, in only one did the Commission transfer the full price increases to the workers. That, together with the extension of the interval between hearings from three months to six months, will create many problems and cause industrial disputes. When those industrial disputes occur- when the workers protest against the actions of the Commission- then the Commission will have to face up to the industrial unrest it will have created within this country.
– I rise tonight to seek Federal Government support for the Victorian State Government in its bid through the Australian Olympic Federation to the International Olympic Council for the 1988 Olympic Games. Lord Killanin has indicated on several occasions that he is aware that the city of Melbourne is considering an application for the 1988 Olympics. He visited Melbourne in November of last year. We all know that Melbourne is the premier city of Australia and the only city that can run the Olympic Games. We proved it in 1956 and we will prove it again in 1988. The city of Melbourne has previously held a successful Olympic Games and a willingness is demonstrated by sport, business, professional, government and media personnel to support the holding of a further Olympic Games in Melbourne. I have already taken up this matter with the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Groom), who is right behind the move to get the Olympic Games for Australia in our bicentennial year of 1 988.
I believe the benefits to Australia would be great and would create casual, part time and full time employment for some 23,000 persons. An Olympic village would be built and after the Games it could be turned into an elderly citizens ‘ village. I believe the Patterson River in my electorate would be ideal for the Olympic rowing events. I have spoken already to the Chelsea City Council on this matter and it has indicated to me that it is prepared to spend money to bring it up to Olympic standard. The staging of the Olympic Games in Melbourne would cost approximately S600m. If it were to be held in Sydney it would cost over $2 billion, as was indicated by the Games held in Montreal. I therefore ask honourable gentlement to support me in my approach to the Federal Government to ensure that we in Australia get the Olympic Games in our bicentennial year of 1988. It would be one of the great tourist attractions of that great international year that we are going to have in Australia. I hope that the Federal Government will support the Victorian Government in its efforts to hold the Olympic Games in Melbourne in 1988.
– Tonight I wish to raise a matter concerning the education of migrant adults and children in Brisbane. In doing so, I request the Government to give favourable consideration to the acquisition of more space for the facilities used for migrant education in Brisbane. Presently those facilities for migrant education which happen to be in my electorate are located on the first and second floors of Phoenix House, Adelaide Street, Brisbane. They have been at those premises since September 1973 and, very simply, they have outgrown their offices. Migrant education officers have sought additional space for some time. I understand that they want one more floor in the building. Phoenix House has 13 floors, seven of which are vacant at the present time. The agents for Grace Church Holdings, the lessee of the property, have told me that they have set aside one floor in anticipation of extension of the migrant education facilities.
I understand that the Department pf Administrative Services has been fiddling around for over two years with lease documents for the first and second floors and, because of the effect of contractionary government policies on the acquisition of Commonwealth property, is unlikely at the moment to take over another floor. It is worth noting that at one stage the Government was considering the possibility of taking over the whole building. Although the present cost to the Government of leasing the floor would be $4.20 per square metre, I am led to believe that the Government might be able to secure the space for an amount substantially less than that. The amount is negotiable and I would suspect that, with most of the building still vacant, the bargaining edge would be on the Government’s side.
Migrant education includes the education of adults as well as the preparation of their children for primary and high schools. The facilities are so poor at the moment that the children have to be dispersed around the schools in the Brisbane area, thereby creating an intolerable burden in regard to co-ordination. To cater for the needs of migrants the facilities should be located in the one space. With empty unused space all around them, how can people working in crowded, inadequate circumstances, but nevertheless committed to what they are doing, want anything else but more room? Surely that is not too much to ask.
I am told that the Liberal Party’s Education Committee chaired by Senator Kathy Martin will be conducting a fact finding tour around Australia looking at Aboriginal and migrant education. On 1 and 2 November, I believe that Committee will be in Brisbane. I earnestly hope that it will support the proposal to extend migrant education facilities at Phoenix House, that it will acknowledge the real need for more capital expenditure in the area of migrant education and that it will help make available two demountables for the migrant education facilities at Corinda- which is in the electorate of the honourable member for Ryan (Mr Moore), who is presently overseas. I am sure that, were the honourable member here tonight, he would join me in my plea for a better deal for migrant education in Brisbane. I am also sure that honourable members from both sides of the chamber understand the urgent need for migration education, not only in my electorate of Griffith but also throughout Australia. I trust that the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Chaney) will assist the migrant education officers in Brisbane by granting them the extra space they require.
– It is not often that I rise to speak in the adjournment debate. I do so not as an exercise but only when I feel strongly about something. I was very concerned to read articles which appeared in the newspapers today. The article in the Australian is headed: ‘Lynch, Holding are accused’. Another article is headed: ‘Jennings blasts top MPs’. Yet another is headed: ‘Holding’s pay-off claim’. I have known both of the men named for some 30 odd years. I have known the honourable member for Melbourne Ports, Clyde Holding, and the Minister for Industry and Commerce for many years. I am concerned that one man in the Victorian State Parliament in Melbourne can use parliamentary privilege to blacken the characters of two men from different sides of the chamber. I am not being party political on this matter. I am concerned because this affects not only the two gentlemen concerned but also their families and the whole parliamentary institution which all of us believe in so much.
As my friend the honourable member for Moore, Mr John Hyde, said to me earlier tonight, parliamentary privilege is not a licence to slander. This Mr Doug Jennings from Victoria, has used the parliamentary system to blacken the names of two people in whom I have the greatest faith. I say that of Clyde Holding even though he is on the opposite side of the Parliament to me as I say it about Phil Lynch. That this man can use the parliamentary system to blackguard and slander men who are serving their country in the way in which they see fit and want best to serve it is a very sad state of affairs. I think Mr Doug Jennings should be ashamed of himself. I hope that all the people of Australia will make the same decision about him that I have made.
– I raise a matter which I find of serious concern. I hope that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner), who is at the table, will report my remarks to the two Ministers concerned. I feel that the case I raise is one of inequity. Recently a former resident of the United Kingdom who served with the Royal Navy in circumstances in which he was arguably a member of the Royal Navy. In 1975, he sought, and subsequently in 1976 was granted, a service pension. He was marginally over the age of 60 years. I point out to the House that in all probability he would have qualified for a number of other benefits had he not obtained the service pension. Almost certainly he would have qualified for an invalid pension, and certainly he could have obtained sickness or unemployment benefits. I make that point because of the circumstances I want to raise.
The gentleman concerned made his application on the basis of having served on Royal Navy ships. He was an employee of the Admiralty in circumstances which in his opinion were the same as those of a member of the Royal Navy. He was interviewed in 1975 by what is now the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and was subsequently granted a service pension in about April 1976. He received that service pension until he applied for fringe benefits and then asked for review of the denial of those fringe benefits in mid- 1977. As a result of a review by the Repatriation Commission his service pension was cancelled. That was on a test of eligibility and is arguable. He has been notified in a letter from the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Mr Adermann) that the amount of service pension payable to him during the period in which he was deemed to have been eligible by a decision of the Department is recoverable as moneys incorrectly paid by the Department for a pension for which he is now not eligible. The point I make is that because the original pension was granted, whether in error or not, and certainly not through any responsibility of the person concerned, his eligibility for other forms of benefit was not tested. Therefore he is not now in a position, if the pension which was paid to him for a period of approximately 18 months is cancelled and has to be refunded, to seek recognition of his right to another form of pension which would have been paid in almost identical circumstances and at exactly the same rates.
If the legal position is as stated in a letter I have received from the Minister, then the legal position is wrong. A gentleman who has been granted and has accepted as a right a pension and who almost certainly would have been eligible for other forms of benefit under other Acts of this Parliament should not be placed in a position, because of a change in definition or a change in the manner in which he is assessed some considerable period later, of being fined the equivalent of 18 months payments of that pension. He was most likely entitled to a pension under other Acts of this Parliament- a position which was not tested- but may not have been entitled to a pension under the Act of Parliament for which he was accepted.
– I want to raise a matter in relation to South Australia which is of some concern to me. Quite frankly, I am sick to death of the whingeing complaints from the South Australian Labor Government. The Premier of South Australia recently brought down the State Budget and, as usual, blamed the Federal Government for the inadequacies of his own Administration. I wonder how long Premier Dunstan thinks that this boring repetitiveness will cover up the scandalous waste and maladministration which are occurring in South Australia. Honourable members might think that this is a case of a Liberal politician speaking against his Labor State Premier, but I want to record what the Advertiser said after the State Budget was brought down. It refers to the Dunstan Budget and the excuses Dunstan mentioned, and then states:
There is, however, scope for differences of opinion as to the causes of the hard times on which he says we have fallen. For the Premier, the answer is clear. Predictably, he has once again attributed all our difficulties to the Federal Government’s policy of economic restraint.
This is not me talking, it is the Adelaide Advertiser. It goes on:
There is, naturally, nowhere in his statement an acknowledgment that there may have been any shortcomings in his own Government’s financial management. Yet the need for restrictions on the State’s own spending once the comforting reserve of funds from the country railways transfer deal was exhausted has been apparent for sometime.
The final paragraph in the editorial states:
Perhaps the most welcome thing to emerge from this State Budget is the Goverment ‘s specific undertaking to review its present range of activities and to move towards an improved accounting system to ensure the most efficient possible use of the State’s limited financial resources.
And not before time, I might add. It would not be so bad if the State Labor Ministers were honest in their criticism. Unfortunately, that is not the case. The South Australian Minister of Local Government in announcing the federal grants to local councils in South Australia- in announcing the distribution of Commonwealth money- not only announced the distribution but announced it dishonestly and untruthfully. Really, one just cannot understand how he continues to retain his portfolio.
– You know the battle I have had with him.
– It is impossible.The federal grant for South Australian local councils this year is $ 15.4m which is an 8.5 per cent increase on last year’s grant of $ 14.2m. Yet in announcing the grant the South Australian Minister of Local Government, Mr Virgo, said:
In real money terms, this is no increase at all.
What does that mean? Does that mean that last year inflation was running at 8.5 per cent? Any fool in Australia knows that inflation was running at 7.9 per cent. I ask Mr Virgo how he can claim that there was no real increase. Clearly the rate of inflation was lower than the increase to local government. I believe that in these times of restraint the Federal Government has shown a good deal of thought and compassion for local government. The Federal Government has looked after local government even though it has had to restrain expenditure in many areas. What do we hear? We hear whingeing complaints from the South Australian Minister of Local Government. Unless he can explain this basic falsity- it is nothing more; it is a lie, Mr Deputy Speaker -
– My council is very happy.
– Of course it is happy; it has got an increase. Yet for political gain this State Minister says these things which are totally untrue. I believe that he should not be a Minister.
-In the two minutes available to me in this debate I wish to draw to the attention of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner), who is sitting at the table, to an article which appeared in yesterday’s Australian under the tide ‘ Pinkney ‘s Australia’ and headed ‘Schools hit by deluge of sex’. The article was written by a very senior journalist, John Pinkney. Whilst time does not permit me to read all of the article, might I say that it refers to the activities of the new Centre for Equal Opportunity in Melbourne’s Moonee Ponds. This centre is funded, it is said, by Schools Commission money. It has been described by Professor Lauchlan Chipman as a ‘nonsense project’ and a ‘misappropriation of public money’. The article states that the centre distributes a number of pamphlets and newsletters to teachers and students in schools in Victoria. I will just read very briefly some of the fare that is on offer. The article states:
One newsletter suggests some lively topics for classroom debate. High on the list is Rubyfruit Jungle- ‘a book on growing up lesbian ‘.
Another recommended booklet discusses ‘the situation of homosexual students and teachers (and) infringements on their civil liberties.’
The erotica-obsessed publication also advertises a homosexual bibliography, distributed by the Gay Teachers’ Group- and a vital essay titled, The Socialised Penis.
It is important that teachers read this article,’ advise the reviewers.
The article goes on in some detail. I simply want to say- I say it in all seriousness- that if this article is true and if this sort of activity is going on and is being funded by Commonwealth money I believe that this Government has a duty to step in and take appropriate action. If it is not true, then I think Mr Pinkney has a lot to answer for. Having drawn this to the attention of the Minister and having faith in him, I leave it at that. I simply say that this article has been published in an Australian national newspaper. If it is true, it is nothing short of a scandal. If it is not true, then I think Mr Pinkney ought to do a little explaining.
Order! It being 1 1 p.m., the debate is interrupted. The House stands adjourned until 2.15 p.m. Tuesday, 19 September 1978.
The following notice was given:
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice, on 22 February 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 8 March 1978:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, upon notice, on 8 March 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
My Department does not operate staff canteens.
Radioactive Material at Hunters Hill (Question No. 689)
asked the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, upon notice, on 15 March 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Income Tax: Expenditure on Social Security, Health and Education (Question No. 1048)
asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 5 May 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
(a) In 1974-75 income tax paid as a proportion of household income was 14.9 percent and in 1975-76 15.2 per cent. (Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, National Income and Expenditure 1977-78).
Figures below for the Commonwealth include specific purpose payments to the States; those for the States include expenditure from specific purpose payments from the Commonwealth.
asked the Minister for Industry and Commerce, upon notice, on 9 May 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Department of Industry and Commerce was created on 1 December 1976. Therefore the above figure is applicable to the period 1 December 1 976 to 30 June 1 977 only.
asked the Minister for Industry and Commerce, upon notice, on 10 May 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Automotive: Rt Hon. P. R. Lynch, M.P. (Chairman), Mr A. G. Dean, M.P., (Mr H. G. P. Chapman, M.P.), Mr C. J. Hurford, M.P., (Mr G. D. Scholes, M.P., Mr B. O. Jones, M.P. ).
Chemicals and plastics: Hon. W. C. Fife, M.P. (Chairman), Mr D. M. Connolly, M.P. (Senator M. E. Lajovic), Mr C. J. Hurford, M.P., (Dr R. Klugman, M.P., Dr H. Jenkins, M.P.).
Electrical: Rt Hon. P. R. Lynch, M.P. (Chairman), Senator A. J. Messner (Mr P. D. Shack, M.P.), Mr C. J. Hurford, M.P., (Mr J. Armitage, M.P., Mr V. E. Innes, M.P.).
Eelctronics: Hon. I. M. MacPhee, M.P. (Chairman), Mr P. D. Shack, M.P., (Dr H. R. Edwards M.P.), Mr C. J. Hurford, M.P. (Mr J. Armitage, M.P., Mr L. K. Johnson, M.P.).
Footwear: Hon. W. C. Fife, M.P., (Chairman), Mr H. G. P. Chapman, M.P., (Mr P. F. Johnson, M.P.), Mr C. J. Hurford, M.P., (Senator J. Button, MrC. Holding, M.P.).
Forest products: Hon. I. M. MacPhee, M.P. (Chairman), Hon. I. L. Robinson, M.P., (Mr D. T. McVeigh, M.P.), Mr C. J. Hurford, M.P., (Senator J. Mulvihill, Dr H. Jenkins, M.P.).
Heavy engineering: Hon. I. M. MacPhee, M.P. (Chairman), Mr M. Baillieu, M.P., (Mr J. R. Short, M.P.), Mr C. J. Hurford, M.P., (Mr P. F. Morris, M.P., Mr S. West,M.P.).
Metal manufactures: Rt Hon. P. R. Lynch, M.P. (Chairman), Senator M. E. Lajovic, (Mr A. G. Dean, M.P.), Mr C. J. Hurford, M.P., (Mr M. J. Young, M.P., Mr L. R. Johnson, M.P.).
Printing and allied: Hon. I. M. MacPhee, M.P. (Chairman), Mr R. F. Shipton, M.P., (Mr A. G. Cadman, M.P.), Mr C. J. Hurford, M.P., (Senator D. McClelland, Hon. G. Bryant, M.P.).
Processed food: Hon. W. C. Fife, M.P. (Chairman), Mr J. J. Carlton, M.P., (Mr M. Baillieu, M.P.), Mr C. J. Hurford, M.P., (Mr K. Fry, M.P., Mr J. Brown, M.P.).
Small business: Rt Hon. P. R. Lynch, M.P. (Chairman), Mr K. Aldred, M.P., Mr C. J. Hurford, M.P.
Textiles and apparel: Hon. W. C. Fife, M.P. (Chairman), Mr P. F. Johnson, M.P., (Senator A. J. Messner), Mr C. J. Hurford, M.P., (Hon. L. F. Bowen, M.P.,MrC. Holding, M.P. ).
Travel and tourist: Senator P. Rae, Mr B. Cohen, M.P., (Hon. F. Stewart, M.P., Mr J. Brown, M.P.).
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 23 May 1 978:
Did he state in answer to question 1230 (Hansard, 2 November 1976, page 2243) that the Advisory Committee on Safety in Vehicle Design had under consideration the recommendation by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Road Safety relating to a formal approach to individual vehicle companies requesting detailed cost information and other relevant information for the purposes of design rule formulation.
If so, (a) has he been advised of the results of the Advisory Committee’s consideration of the recommendation and ( b) what are the results of the recommendation.
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for the Capital Territory, upon notice, on 30 May 1 978:
When did he travel overseas during the period 1 1 November 1975 to date.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: 17 July to 3 August 1976 (private visit during ministerial leave). 14 August to 4 September 1977 (Ministerial visit as Attorney-General).
asked the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, upon notice, on 2 June 1 978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, upon notice, on 8 June 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is:
I am informed that clauses 6.0 and 7.0 of the National Youth Council of Australia ‘s Constitution specify that:
Other Associations and Councils of young people.
The National Youth Council of Australia’s Annual Report for 1 977 lists the following member organisations:
Association of Apex Clubs of Australia
Australian Union of Students
Baptist Youth Fellowship
Australian Young Labor
Girls Brigade Australia
Inspect- Youth Environment Group
Joint Board of Christian Education (Commission on Youth Work)
Lutheran Youth of Australia
National Council of Young Mens Christian Association of Australia
National Young Christian Workers
Order of Knights
Plast Ukranian Youth Association of Australian
Re-organised Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
Young Liberal Movement of Australia
Young Women ‘s Christian Association of Australia
The following bodies are listed as associate members:
Australian Association of Youth Clubs
Scout Association of Australia
Youth Workers Association of Victoria
The remaining information sought is not available from my Department, however, I would emphasise that Commonwealth assistance is made available to meet the administration costs associated with the maintenance of a national secretariat only.
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 15 August 1978:
Will he allow the Parliament to see the calculations, reports and recommendations which formed the basis of the Government’s recent decision to permit Ansett Airlines and TAA to impose a further fare increase upon travellers using Australia ‘s domestic airlines.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
No. The information requested is of a confidential commercial nature and accordingly cannot be made public.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 15 August 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 1 7 August 1 978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Morning- Monday-Friday, 1 7 employees
Morning- Saturday-Sunday, 1 2 employees
Afternoon- Monday-Friday.17 employees
Afternoon- Saturday-Sunday, 10 employees
Night- Monday-Friday, 3 employees
Night- Saturday-Sunday, nil.
It is a matter for the contractor to determine the number of staff required to provide cleaning services in accordance with the contract specification.
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 22 August 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: (1), (2) and (3) Discussions have been continuing with the States on the study plan. At a meeting of Advisers to the Marine and Ports Council of Australia on 16 August 1978, three of the six States sought further discussions on some aspects of the current plan. In the expectation that agreement on the study plan will be reached shortly, it is anticipated that the study will be completed late in 1 979.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 22 August 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: ( 1 ), (2) and (3) A statement about the matter was made by the Prime Minister on 22 August 1978 in answer to a question without notice. I would refer the honourable member to page 525 of the Hansard of that date. I am advised that Commonwealth and Queensland officers are proceeding with the preparation of a joint report on the matter with the aim of having that report completed as quickly as practicable.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 23 August 1 978:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, upon notice, on 23 August 1978:
-The answer to the Honourable the Leader of the Opposition’s question is as follows:
The United States Government has acted mainly on the basis of studies by the National Academy of Science. Many scientific aspects of the theory are still uncertain and are subject to extensive worldwide research.
Recently the Australian Environment Council, with the strong support of the Commonwealth Government, decided to establish a National Advisory Committee on Chemicals to assess the environmental effects of a wide range of substances. This national body will work in close consultation with established Government, industry and research groups. Chlorofluorocarbons are likely to be one of the chemicals whose environmental effects will be evaluated by the Committee. Should the evidence indicate that chlorofluorocarbons are of concern it would recommend appropriate control measures to the Commonwealth and State Governments.
asked the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, upon notice, on 23 August 1978:
-The answer to the Honourable the Leader of the Opposition’s question is as follows:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 24 August 1 978:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 14 September 1978, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1978/19780914_reps_31_hor110/>.