31st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden) took the chair at 2. 1 5 p.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of we the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth-
That because this budget will further increase the number of persons unemployed, because it reduces the average worker’s spending power by $10 per week, because it will reduce the income of pensioners, because it is unfair in placing a greater burden on the poor rather than the rich, and because it is driving this country into a depression.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that
The Federal Government withdraws this budget and provides Australia, within this session of Parliament, with a revised budget that increases the level of economic activity in Australia, lowers unemployment, removes the burdens placed on the disadvantaged, and revives business and consumer confidence in the future of this potentially great country.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray by Mr John Brown, Mr James, Mr Les Johnson, Mr Les McMahon, Mr Martin and Mr West.
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 we the undersigned, having great concern at the way in which children are now being used in the production of pornography call upon the government to introduce immediate legislation:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that your honourable House will protect all children and immediately prohibit pornographic child-abuse materials, publications or films.
And your petitioners as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Dobie, Dr Edwards, Mr Millar, Mr Ruddock and Mr Stewart.
To the Honourable, the Speaker and Members of the House of Reprsentatives 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 Lynch, Mr Aldred, Mr Burns and Mr Staley.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Honourable Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament Assembled.
This petition of citizens of Australia respectfully sheweth that
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that your honourable House will take urgent steps to concur with the wishes of a majority of electors at every polling booth in Australia at the 1967 referendum by resumption from the States of the major traditional Aboriginal land areas and reserves and former reserves as at 31.3.78, to become federal Crown land pending prompt determination of freehold title for Land Trusts and eventually for defined community co-operatives.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Dr Everingham.
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 humble pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will-
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Les Johnson.
Sydney (Kingsf ord-Smith) Airport
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of we the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth: That we oppose any expansion of the facilities of Kingsford-Smith Airport which entails the building of a new runway as it would have the following detrimental effects. (a) The loss of one mile of waterfront including Lady Robinson’s Beach and a huge pan of Botany Bay (2) The loss of up to 1,230 houses and a drop in value of remaining neighbouring properties (3) The creation of more noise pollution in the area (4) The creation of more traffic congestion on streets leading to and from the airport (5) The forced diversion of Cook’s River and further damage to the ecology of the area.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Federal Government will not consider satisfying the airport needs of Sydney by extending Kingsford-Smith Airport and that any decisions related thereto are not taken before there is an opportunity for adequate consultation with any community particularly affected.
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 we the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that: The proposed introduction of a Retail Turnover Tax will-
Your petitioners humbly pray that the Members in the House assembled will not introduce indirect tax measures such as a Retail Turnover Tax or the administratively more difficult Value Added Tax as to do so would exacerbate the inequalities in our taxing system.
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:
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 we believe the Federal Government changes to the health insurance system are unjustified, costly and artifically bureaucratic.
The planned abolition of bulk billing will place an unnecessary burden on the poor and the disadvantaged in our community. The decision to reduce the rebate paid from 85 per cent to 75 per cent of the scheduled fee is an attack on real wages.
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government should reverse its decision on these matters and develop proper consultation with the trade unions and the community.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr West.
-Has the Treasurer noted in a prominent article in the National Times last weekend the allegation that allowable taxation deduction claims have been made successfully for losses by misappropriation in two companies during the year ended 30 June 1977 amounting to $71,256.1 1 in one case and $178,775.60 in the other? Has he noted that these amounts were not allowed as taxation deductions in the years in which the alleged misappropriations took place? Has he also noted that the principal accounting officer of the companies, who apparently signed the returns, is on public record as saying:
I have not admitted that I have in any way, nor has my father, misappropriated funds. What I have said is that there is money being lent . . .
As this matter affects the public purse and the amounts of tax payable by us all, will he institute an investigation to ensure that the claims have been properly made and the deductions properly allowed?
– I have had a fairly cursory look at a number of articles in the National Times. This question is in the vein of questions which have been asked by the Opposition in their obsession with peripheral politics. It is a mark of the priorities of the Opposition in this Parliament that in this current session the Leader of the Opposition has asked more questions about the financial affairs -
– I rise to order. This is totally irrelevant to the question.
– There is no substance in the point of order.
– As I was saying before I was interrupted, this is in the same vein and shows the same priorities for the affairs of this country as does the Leader of the Opposition because in the current session, until 16 November, the Leader of the Opposition asked more questions -
– On a point of order -
-They are very sensitive about this issue.
– My point of order is that the question asked by the honourable member for Adelaide was quite specific. It related to the specific responsibilities of the Treasurer in the collection of tax. I ask that you rule that he confine his answer to those responsibilities.
– There is no point of order.
-I remind the House that up to 16 November the Leader of the Opposition asked more questions about the personal business affairs of two of my colleagues than he did about the economy and unemployment.
– I rise to a point of order. Mr Speaker, I do not mind while this matter hangs around the way it is- there will be more questions. It is unfortunate, but Standing Order 145 says that an answer shall be relevant to the question. The question was in relation to a possible breach of the taxation legislation; it may not be, but that was the question. I fail to see how the answer is in any way relevant to the question. In view of the fact that the Standing Orders have been applied rather strictly against the Opposition in relation to the subjects they may raise in questions with Ministers, I would suggest, with respect, that Standing Order 145 ought to be applied with equal strictness where answers are concerned.
-The question asked by the honourable gentlemen was asked in such a way that no name was used. Presumably the Treasurer knows about whom the honourable member for Adelaide was speaking and, as I understand the relevance of his answer, he is pointing out that not only has the member for Adelaide asked this question today but also there have been questions asked the by the Leader of the Opposition relating to the same person. Therefore he is making it relevant to his answer to the honourable member for Adelaide that this is not a unique question.
– On a point of order, I would like to ask how it becomes relevant that the Minister is in effect outlining the frustration of the Parliament in seeking to obtain information in relation to business dealings of the Minister for Primary Industry; that is not relevant to this question. It is highly relevant to the conduct of this House, but we find that by the strict way in which the Standing Orders are being applied it is not possible effectively to pursue this matter.
-I have ruled on the matter. The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
– The response I gave before I was interrupted indicates that the Opposition, as epitomised by the performance of its Leader, has accorded higher priorities to fishing expeditions regarding my colleagues, than it has to matters of very important national significance. The Leader of the Opposition is now becoming highly sensitive about the fact that he has, by his own indifference to questions on matters of the economy, either indicated a satisfaction with present economic management or alternatively an appalling set of priorities so far as this Parliament is concerned.
– On a point of order, Mr Speaker, I draw your attention to Standing Order 145 which states:
An answer shall be relevant to the question.
It is very obvious that the Treasurer is deliberately not being relevant to the question.
-The honourable member will resume his seat. I have ruled that so far the Treasurer is being relevant. If he ceases being relevant I shall direct him to become so.
– The honourable member for Adelaide asked me more specifically whether I would look at certain material in an article relating to a certain group of companies to see whether anything in that material required action by me in respect of my responsibilities under the taxation legislation. I say in specific response to that question- as the honourable member well knows- that the administration of the taxation legislation is within the authority of the Commissioner of Taxation. He also knows from answers that my colleague the Minister for Primary Industry has given in this House on this matter in the past that it was as a result of the initiative of the right honourable gentleman that these matters came under investigation. I have been advised by the right honourable gentleman that both accountants and lawyers have been in regular contact with the Commissioner of Taxation regarding the affairs of this group of companies. In those circumstances, given the statutory responsibility of the Commissioner of Taxation for taxation legislation, I would find it extremely surprising if the affairs of these companies, through the voluntary action of the Minister for Primary Industry, were not already well known to the Commissioner of Taxation.
– I ask the Prime Minister Will the Government’s policy be affected by the statement made by the executive officer of the New South Wales Permanent Building Societies Association last week that society interest rates may not be reduced in spite of the moves announced at the same time last week by the savings banks?
– I think it most unlikely that the policy will be affected by that statement I think it is important for the House to understand that this matter was generally discussed between the Treasurer, the Premiers and me at the Loan Council meeting that was held in Melbourne some little while ago. It was then believed that, in view of the movement downwards in interest rates that had occurred on overdrafts and in deposit rates paid by the trading banks on larger accounts of over $50,000, the next step was a somewhat commensurate movement down in the housing area on loans from the savings banks run by the trading banks and loans from building societies. It is recognised that in one part the responsibility in this area, in a sense, is the Commonwealth’s through the Reserve Bank of Australia. In another part the responsibility is largely that of the Premiers because they have direct responsibility for building societies in their own States and obviously for State savings banks also. As a result of the discussions then held with the Premiers, the Reserve Bank has since had discussions with the savings banks, including the State savings banks. The decisions flowing from that discussion have already been announced. I can see no reason at all why building societies should not move their rates down by an equivalent amount. Indeed, it is my understanding that it is the absolute determination of all Premiers to make sure that the building societies within their States do just that. Some societies have not waited for injunctions from Premiers; they have already moved rates down.
I think it is worth noting that in Victoria the President of the Victorian Building Societies Association has been reported as saying that he believed that most societies would lower their rates within a day or so. It was reported this morning that in Queensland the largest society has announced a one-quarter per cent reduction in its lending rate following an earlier one-quarter per cent cut in October which was taken on the society’s own account and not under the present processes. In South Australia the manager of the Building Societies Association has been reported as saying that his members were anxious to bring rates down. Representatives of building societies, in discussions with my colleague the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, have indicated that they are ready to bring rates down generally. But as so often happens, people sit back and wait for somebody else to move first. If anyone suggests that other interest rates have not come down enough to allow building societies rates to fall then they are not looking at the historical record.
Since September 1977 the following reductions have taken place in interest rates comparable with the building society deposit rates: Savings bonds by IVa per cent; finance company, 90 days, by 1 W per cent; finance company, 1 year deposit, by 1 ‘A per cent; building society call, by half a percent; and savings bank investment accounts by half a percent. The present reductions in building society and savings banks rates mean that these institutions are following earlier reductions in comparable, competing rates. They are not leading the reductions; they are following other reductions. Their State and national responsibility, I believe, is to follow the lead that has been set by other institutions. It is also worth noting that, in the 12 months to September, building societies’ funds have increased by 17½ per cent and that was significantly more than the funds of savings banks or the trading banks. Again, that reinforces the view that the building societies should be prepared to move. In discussions with the Premier of New South Wales this morning, I detected in him an absolute determination that the societies in New South Wales would be moving.
-My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. Did he note in the question that I put to the Treasurer and the answer given by the Treasurer, the evidence that there is a public involvement as well as a public concern and interest relating to the group of companies over which he has de facto control? Is it a fact that misappropriation taxation deductions have been claimed successfully amounting to $71,256.1 1 in the case of Allan Walsh Pty Ltd and $178,775.60 in relation to Allan Walsh (Hornsby) Pty Ltd? When did this first come to his notice? Is it -
-Order! I ask the honourable member to resume his seat. The question that is being asked clearly relates to a matter for which the Minister for Primary Industry, the Leader of the House, is not responsible in public terms to this chamber. It relates to matters that are separate and distinguishable from his public duties. I would, therefore, rule that the question is out of order. So much of it having been asked, if the Minister for Primary Industry wishes to respond, I will permit him to do so, but the question is out of order.
– May I speak to a point of order? The Minister for Primary Industry is on public record in a Press statement of 12 August 1977 on this matter which I wanted to quote and in a television program Willessee at Seven on 15 August 1977. As this matter does deal with taxation and the public purse generally, as you would know from my question so far, I ask you, Mr Speaker, to reconsider the ruling that you have given.
-I appreciate the points made by the honourable gentleman. The question does relate to taxation but the Minister for Primary Industry is not responsible for that public matter in this House. It relates to matters that are separate and distinguishable from his public duty. Therefore, the question directed to the right honourable gentleman is out of order.
– You did give me the opportunity, Mr Speaker, to respond, if I may.
-If the honourable gentleman wishes to respond, he may.
– There were two aspects to which I do wish to respond. The first is that in no way and at no time, have I personally been in contact either with the Taxation Commissioner or, indeed, with the Corporate Affairs Commissioner. Throughout the whole of the conduct of the estate of my father, I have ensured that through independent chartered accountants and through solicitors all contacts were made at arms’ length so that there could be no suggestion that in any way through my ministerial position or through my position as a member of this place could I influence in any way what would be a normal, proper and correct assessment of liability. The second is that in the Willessee interview to which the honourable gentleman referred, I specifically mentioned that section 5 1 of the Income Tax Act which deals with deductibilitythat is, losses that were said to be by misappropriation in the view of legal advice received by the company- were not allowed by the Taxation Commissioner. As the questioning in that interview demonstrated, section 71 deductibilitythat is, the allowance of the losses in the year in which they were ascertained- was permitted.
As I responded in this House in answer to a question from the Leader of the Opposition, in order to ensure that that deductibility would not continue, the so-called ‘round robin’ of cheques of which mention has been made through the improperly obtained transcript of evidence which has been made public in this place, was made for two reasons. The first reason was to establish liability so that there would be no uncertainty amongst the shareholders as to the liability of the Sinclair Pastoral Co. The second was to ensure that there would be no continuity of the tax deductibility. In other words, all the transactions have been done in such a way as to ensure that only proper and due respect would be paid to the tax laws. In no way have I acted other than entirely at arm’s length in any contact with the tax people or the Corporate Affairs Commissioner to ensure that there was no involvement by me in a way which I would believe to be other than that for which I am responsible in my role as executor of my father’s estate or director of those companies.
– Is it correct that the Prime Minister has received an objection from State housing Ministers to a statement which was released by a Federal Minister following the housing Ministers’ meeting in Adelaide last Friday? Has the Prime Minister seen the statement which was released by the Minister? Why would the States act in such a way?
-The last part of the honourable gentleman’s question is difficult to answer because I think it is very difficult indeed to understand why States act, in a certain way at different times. They do not necessarily have a great deal of strength behind their actions. I have seen the statement of my colleague, the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development. I believe that it represents an impeccable statement of Government policy in relation to these matters. It is in fact a first class statement. In that statement the Minister pointed out that as a result of Commonwealth action in reducing the savings banks prescribed assets ratio, from 45 per cent to 40 per cent, the savings banks would be able to increase funds for the housing sector. That in fact has happened. As the Minister went on to say:
As a result of the Commonwealth’s actions the total volume of lending by banks and permanent building societies is likely to be about 12 per cent higher this year than in 1977-78 . . .
Indeed, the Minister went on to point out the importance of the Government’s policy of a reduction in interest rates. I have pointed out on a number of occasions that a 1 per cent reduction in interest rates on an average housing loan of, say, $25,000 reduces the repayment by about $17 a month or $5,000 over the period of the loan. The Minister put it in different terms and indicated that the 1 per cent reduction would mean that people who are buying their own homes would save a total of $130m a year. Whether we look at it on the individual basis or on a growth basis, it shows that the policy of running the economy in such a way that interest rates can and should come down in a sustained manner is obviously of significant advantage. The sum of $ 130m is $130m that does not have to come out of the pockets of home purchasers throughout Australia. Therefore it is very clear that one of the best ways of helping home buying is to continue to get interest rates down.
I think that the policy that was introduced earlier in which, instead of having a fiat sum that would be available from the Commonwealth, there was a base amount and a further sum that was being matched by the States was one of the best and most advantageous changes in housing finance that has been brought in for a very long while. Before that change we had been concerned that increasing sums from the Commonwealth were not being matched, even by equivalent funds from the States. They were in fact withdrawing funds from the housing area under the cover of increasing funds from the Commonwealth. To make sure that that circumstance could not occur, the Commonwealth introduced a matching arrangement. When it was introduced, contrary to the Commonwealth’s calculations, the States advised us that they would not be able to match the funds. I now find it rather ironic that a number of States are saying that they will provide more funds for matching. Obviously they have the funds to put in if they want to do so.
The Commonwealth has made its position quite clear in relation to these matters. In this year there are no further funds to come from the Budget in relation to it. I am advised that my colleague the Minister made that point quite plain in the meeting and out of it. Having regard to the fact that over the last several months there have been attempts by State Ministers to gain additional funds and there has been criticism of the Commonwealth policy, I find it very natural and reasonable that the Minister, at the end of his participation in the conference, should issue a statement setting out the Commonwealth’s position so that it could be known and understood. Our concern for housing is a very real one and I hope that that will be matched by an equivalent concern by the States because they can take additional actions. For example, the recommendation of the Housing Costs Inquiry provides a program of action for the States which would obviously assist housing consumers and housing producers.
If the program were followed through to completion it would point to ways in which the escalation rate in the costs of building houses could be reduced. I think it is worth noting that over recent years the cost of housing has often been increased by the requirements of State or local government. That was one of the matters which was of concern and which led to the appointment of that committee of inquiry. To recapitulate briefly, the Minister’s statement was an impeccable one of government policy. I am delighted that he has released it.
– I ask a question of the Treasurer: Does the Government intend to terminate the present income tax surcharge from 1 July next year? If so, would this mean a loss to revenue in 1979-80 of about $600m? Will another $100m be transferred from public revenue to oil producers because of oil pricing policies? Is it a fact that other government proposals such as the abolition of the coal export levy and the abolition of gift and estate duties will further reduce revenue, making a total reduction to revenue of about $800m? How does the Government propose to offset these shortfalls other than by resort to some broadly based indirect tax?
-That puts up by one the tally of economic questions asked by the Leader of the Opposition for the whole year. I did him an injustice before as the figures I quoted were for the whole of the year. As to the question asked by the Leader of the Opposition -
– Tell us about your retail tax.
– What about the retail tax?
– If he can quieten his raucous colleagues on the front bench I shall answer it. The first question he asked me was: What is the intention of the Government in relation to the income tax surcharge? He knows as well as I do that the legislation imposing that surcharge is expressed to terminate on 30 June. This Parliament has already passed that legislation. The benefit to revenue of the 1.5 per cent increase in the rate is I think broadly, as the Leader of the Opposition said, about $560m. The Leader of the Opposition makes other assumptions about what the revenue situation will be when the Government comes to frame next year’s Budget. I think it is just not possible for a government or a Treasurer to make definitive predictions about budgetary circumstances.
– What about the retail turnover tax?
-If the honourable gentleman will restrain himself I will come to the retail turnover tax in a moment. It is just not possible to make definitive predictions about what governments may or may not do in the broad budgetary policy area so many months in advance of next year’s Budget. I am pleased that the Leader of the Opposition is at this stage of the year showing more interest in next year’s Budget than he has demonstrated in the last Budget that I brought down.
To come to the retail turnover tax, there is nothing in what the Government has done concerning its investigation into the broad based indirect tax which raises any implications regarding the timing of that tax, if it were decided that it might be introduced. I think the Leader of the Opposition has fallen into the error of a number of people in the community who are implying that the Government has already taken a decision to introduce a broad based indirect tax. All that we have done is to decide that, as pan of an inquiry into the indirect tax system in Australia, the Australian Taxation Office ought to carry out certain investigations. The result of those investigations will be before the Government within the next couple of months. If it were decided after receiving that information to take the matter further, a Green Paper would be released for a public discussion. I would be most interested to have the views of the Leader of the Opposition upon the contents of that Green Paper if in fact it is released.
– Is the Prime Minister concerned at the implications for foreign investment in our resources, for which the Commonwealth has a major responsibility, flowing from recent suggestions of industry nationalisation?
– If the kinds of resolutions that were passed by the Australian Labor Party conference in Victoria ever became government policy for Victoria or for the Commonwealth that would clearly stop development in Australia dead in its tracks. We had a circumstance in 1972 when the Labor Party tried to pose as a responsible, sane and sober party, but it was not responsible, sane or sober for very long once the election was over and it did stop development dead in its tracks. The Victorian Branch of the Australian Labor Party has never been known as one of the most moderate branches but certainly has been known as one of the most influential in the whole of the Commonwealth. It has served notice on the people of Victoria not only in relation to the nationalisation issue, but also in relation to the question of dissidents and human rights for all those those within Victoria who might have come from Eastern Europe as well as members of religious communities who are not given adequate rights within the Soviet Union at the present time.
The conference refused to condemn the actions of the Soviet Government on the ground that the Soviet Government knew better what was happening than the proponents of human rights around the world. The resolution on nationalisation and socialisation is not an example of a party looking to the future; it is an example of a party looking back to 1921. That must be a pretty sad thing for the Labor Party, but no doubt that is where it is going to stay- in the past.
-I refer the Minister for Foreign Affairs to his answer to a question on 14 November indicating that a review of relations with the Soviet Union took place in June. I also refer him to his announcement on 20 July of the conclusion of a nuclear safeguards agreement with Finland, with a supplementary exchange of letters known as the Fernandez letters. Do these letters give approval in principle for toll enrichment in the Soviet Union of Australian uranium purchased by Finland? Did the review of relations with the Soviet Union encompass this question? What safeguards arrangements with the Soviet Union would satisfy the Government?
– We are not exchanging the model safeguards agreement with the Soviet Union, as the honourable member knows. He also knows that the review of relations with the Soviet Union was brought about by discovery of the devices to which I referred and nothing more than that.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry whether he is aware of a reported publicity campaign by Japanese beef producers arguing against imports into Japan of beef from Australia, the United States of America and New Zealand. Can the Minister say what steps are being taken either by the Government or the Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation to counter this publicity campaign, which, if successful, would act to the detriment of the Australian beef industry?
– The AMLC has been concerned for a long while to try to ensure that consumers in our principal markets realise the advantages of purchasing Australian meat. In Japan in particular, where there is an excessive mark-up from the landed price to the consumer’s kitchen, the problem is particularly acute. In order to ensure that there would be a recognition of the advantages of Australian meat, the AMLC has embarked on a publicity campaign designed to bring to the notice of Japanese consumers, particularly in the hotel, restaurant and institutional trade, that Australia can supply high quality grain-fed beef in competition with the United States, that we can also provide a quality product based on pasture-fattened beasts, and that the quality of our product is such that we believe the import quotas into Japan should be increased.
I understand that the Japanese beef producers did embark on a campaign of a fairly small character but it still demonstrates the extent to which Japanese beef producers are worried about the effect of imports. They took out full page advertisements in a number of Japanese dailies and tried to assert that in some way the Australian advertising was not really in the long term interests of Japan or of Japanese consumers. I am quite sure that that is not true in fact and that the AMLC advertising campaign will react very much to the interests of the Australian exporter.
I might add that it is of interest that the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Mr Callaghan, whose statement the other day has been referred to both by the Austraiian Prime Minister in his address to the Australian Woolgrowers and Graziers Council last night and by my colleague the Deputy Prime Minister in answer to a question in this House last week, also mentioned the fact that there is a very real link between the interests of British consumers and of Australian beef exporters. I believe that the AMLC has a responsibility to try to link those interests to the maximum in its advertising campaigns. Of course, it is just that that it is seeking to do in Japan.
– I address a question to the Treasurer concerning today’s announcement that the Government has decided to approve the takeover of Bushells Investments Ltd by the United Kingdom-based firm of Brooke Bond Liebig Ltd. Is it a fact that as Bushells has 56 per cent of the Australian tea market, its takeover by a foreign company will mean that the Australian tea market is 70 per cent foreign controlled? Is the Treasurer aware that this year the Brooke Bond company has been the subject of criticism by the British Prices Commission for overcharging on its tea by 30 per cent? Will the Treasurer explain to the House what benefits to Australia the Government sees in allowing this foreign takeover?
– The level of foreign ownership in the tea industry alleged by the honourable member for Gellibrand as a result of the Government’s decision -
-I said ‘control’.
-I am sorry, the level of foreign control in the tea industry alleged by the honourable member I think is broadly correct, but I would need to check the precise figures after Question Time. The decision by the
Government to approve this takeover followed earlier rejection of a proposal which would have resulted in a 100 per cent acquisition of the shares in Bushells Investments Ltd. As a result of that rejection, the Brooke Bond Liebig company submitted a revised offer which involved an immediate 25 per cent equity by the Australian Mutual Provident Society, together with an undertaking to move towards 5 1 per cent Australian ownership over a period of three to five years and a situation whereby the majority of the board of directors of the company were Australian citizens. In those circumstances, there was a clear willingness on the part of the company concerned to conform with the spirit of the Government’s foreign investment policy.
The honourable gentleman asked me about net economic benefits. I put it to the honourable gentleman and to the House that, in terms of this country’s reputation as being receptive to foreign investment, in terms of this economy’s capacity to attract the confidence of overseas investors in the Australian economy and in terms of the importance of the inflow of foreign investment to this country’s economic future, I think all those interests would have been very severely prejudiced if this Government had, in the light of the action taken by the company concerned, rejected the second offer. This would have been so particularly against the background that, as the honourable member ought to know, there is a long-standing agreement between the vendor shareholders in the transaction and the Brooke Bond group to give the latter organisation the first right of refusal. Against all that background, for this Government to have rejected the proposal I believe would have meant that considerable benefits to Australia might have been prejudiced. I must say that, as the honourable gentleman will understand, in all these matters different views are held as to what net economic benefits are.
The honourable gentleman referred to some criticism by the British Prices Commission regarding the pricing policy of the Brooke Bond company. I am not aware of the detail of that criticism, but suffice to say that from time to time many companies are subject to criticism by statutory authorities. Some of that criticism is justified; some of it is not. I, for one, do not propose to take the view that, because the British Prices Commission may have made a criticism of a particular company, that ought to be accepted as holy writ.
-Will the Minister for Transport investigate the possibility of international flights calling at Adelaide so that South Australians can travel overseas from their home State at fares which are no greater than those paid by Victorians, New South Welshmen, Western Australians and Queenslanders? If these arrangements cannot be made, can the domestic airfare from Adelaide to Perth be reduced so that the airfare to Europe from Adelaide via Perth will not cost any more than a Melbourne-Perth-Europe fare on an international flight?
– It is a fact that the residents of Adelaide find themselves in a position similar to that of the people of Canberra, Tasmania, my home town of Orbost and a great number of people throughout country areas in Australia in that they do not live adjacent to a city which has an international airport. I can understand the honourable member’s concern at the fact that it will cost people from Adelaide more to get overseas when the cheap air fares are introduced than it will cost people from the major capital cities which do have international airports. I draw to his attention, though, the fact that Australia is served very well with international airports, having them in all the major States. I say that without wishing to insult anybody, but certainly we have international airports in the States of Western Australia, New South Wales and Victoria- even the Northern Territory has one.
– In the more populous States.
– I am advised that they are in the more populous States. Perhaps that is a much better expression than ‘the major States’ which I used. The cost of building an international airport at Adelaide would be of a high order. I would have some difficulty in making such a recommendation to the Government at the moment, having regard to other capital works projects in the aviation field which have priority with the Department of Transport.
The second part of the honourable member’s question related to domestic air fares. I will look at the prospect of encouraging the domestic airlines to introduce a further range of lower air fares equivalent to standby fares, budget fares and discount fares which might tie in with the fares paid by people taking overseas flights. I am afraid that is about all the encouragement that I can give the honourable member at the moment.
– I am aware that a significant proportion of people seeking to visit Australia from Greece have been rejected because their applications have not been considered bona fide applications for visitor entry. Following the tabling of the report of the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs last week, honourable members will be aware that in Australia at the present time there is a considerable number of people who fall into the category of prohibited or illegal migrants. The vast majority of these people are those who have entered Australia as visitors perfectly legally and have not abided by the terms and conditions of their entry. Migration officers overseas are experienced people. If they have any doubts about the bona fides of the applications to visit Australia, they investigate those in some depth. I have to rely upon the judgment of those officers in making decisions. In relation to that, I say that I have the utmost confidence in the decisions made by migration officers overseas. The task which the officers have to undertake is difficult. There is no discrimination against any one country. Each applicant is treated on his merits. As I said, I have noted the numbers of applications from various countries which have been refused. From time to time various honourable members from both sides of the House bring these cases to my attention. In those instances, of course, I have them investigated again. However, on the record so far, the decisions made by the officers overseas have, in the vast majority of cases, stood up to investigation.
-Has the Treasurer’s attention been drawn to the editorial in today’s Sydney
Morning Herald to the effect that the Government has been unduly forcing the pace downwards on interest rates? Has the Government acted in disregard of market forces on this issue?
– My attention has been drawn to that editorial. I can agree with one part of it without any cavil. It states:
The real interests of the economy lie not in forcing down interest rates but in creating the conditions in which rates fall naturally.
The rest of the editorial is largely directed towards establishing that that has not been the case. I find that surprising. I also find surprising comments that have appeared elsewhere to the effect that the Government has been acting in disregard of market forces. It has been the policy of this Government for almost three years to create, inter alia, conditions in which it is possible to have falls in interest rates. I therefore find it surprising that when falls in interest rates occur the Government is accused, having laid the ground work for almost three years, of acting in disregard of market forces.
The honourable member will be aware that one of the objectives of the Budget strategy of only three months ago was to create a climate for further sustainable reductions in interest rates. The suggestion that the Government has tried to pluck interest rate reductions out of the air in disregard of market forces and that part of this plucking out of the air’ was epitomised by the decision not to have a November cash loan is incorrect. To those who have suggested, including the writer of the editorial in today’s Sydney Morning Herald, that there should have been a November cash loan I point out that last year there was only one cash loan yet a larger than anticipated Budget deficit was financed; this year’s response to the August loan was extremely good; a judgment as to whether a particular loan should be sought at a particular time and whether it should be a conversion loan, a cash loan or a combination of a conversion and cash loan depends upon circumstances that prevail at that time.
The suggestion in the editorial that the main purpose of not having a cash loan was to put ourselves in an artificial position to cut bank rates is false, against the background of what I have said and what the Prime Minister said in answer to an earlier question. He pointed out that the reductions in the overdraft rate that have recently occurred are not out of harmony with reductions in other rates. The reduction in the long term bond rate over a period of about 15 months to the time of the November loan was about 1 Vi per cent. A further shaving of that bond rate constituted about 0.2 of one per cent.
Against that background I reject the suggestion that the Government has disregarded market forces. Our strategy over a long period of time has been to create the conditions in which it is possible to have sustainable reductions in interest rates. Suggestions that the decision about a cash loan in November was completely tailored towards interest rate considerations are, against the background of what I have said and what the Prime Minister has said, quite unfounded.
-I think members would wish me to mention that on Sunday last, 19 November, the death occurred in Canberra of the Very Reverend Hector Harrison, O.B.E., Minister of St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Forrest. The Parliament was privileged to hold its inaugural service of worship to mark the opening of the parliamentary year in his church in 1969. The Reverend Hector Harrison was well known to many present members and senators and indeed was well known to many former members and senators, having been Minister of St Andrew’s for the last 38 years.
I have been informed that his relatives have asked that anybody wishing to do so could make tribute to him by a contribution to the building fund for St Andrew’s Church. On behalf of members I convey to Mrs Harrison and members of the family the sympathy of the House.
-In the House on 16 November the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) asked me, to use his words:
I undertook to make inquiries, which I have done. I wish now to report my findings. On the basis of information available I am satisfied that; (a) the Department of Foreign Affairs was aware that the attitude of Soviet authorities was that it would be inadvisable to include in the delegation any member who had been associated with the Sub-Committee; (b) the Department of Foreign Affairs gave no undertakings in relation to its knowledge; (c) it did not and did not seek to influence the composition of the delegation, and I might add; (d) neither the President of the
Senate nor I would have permitted that to happen.
– Nor the Minister.
-‘ Nor the Minister’, is the interjection by the Minister. The members of the delegation were selected by the respective parties in the usual way and the subsequent nominations forwarded to the President of the Senate and myself. The leader of the delegation was appointed by the Prime Minister.
– In the absence of the member for Corio I would ask that your answer be conveyed to him for I expect that there will be an apology forthcoming.
-by leave-On the same issue- I cannot become involved with the details because I am on the Sub-Committee and the evidence was heard in camera- the principle as you stated it, Mr Speaker, is not complete. Surely the principle is that if we are notified by a foreign government that it will put certain restrictions on the composition of a parliamentary delegation, this Parliament should refuse to send a delegation to that country. Whether a person is elected who would have been excluded or not is irrelevant. The point is that once the Government or the Presiding Officers- whoever decides on parliamentary delegations- know that a government says that A, 8 and C are not entitled to be delegates, this Parliament should have the guts to say that we are not going to send anybody to that country at all.
-I deal specifically with the matter raised by the honourable member for Prospect. I do not find anything to cavil with in anything he said other than that there was no knowledge om the part of any member of parliament at the time the delegation was formed.
– There was on the part of the Minister for Foreign Affairs.
-The honourable member will cease interjecting. There was no knowledge whatsoever on the part of any member of parliament. I do not want any decision taken as regards the sending of delegations on any possibilities. The event has occurred and the delegation went. I must say the members of the delegation were well received- I have had reports that they were well received- and I would not want any interruption in the relationships between the Soviet Parliament and the Australian Parliament.
– Nonetheless, it is a matter of some embarrassment for members of this Parliament that a delegation did go to Russia in circumstances which could easily have left the impression amongst the Russian authorities that the choice of membership of the delegation -
-The honourable member needs to make application for leave to make a statement. Is leave granted?
- Mr Speaker, I wish to move that so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Leader of the Opposition being heard on this matter.
- Mr Speaker, perhaps if the honourable -
-I suggest to the Leader of the House that he reconsider the matter.
- Mr Speaker, I seek your indulgence. Obviously the Parliament does not want to have a major debate on the matter. If the Leader of the Opposition wants to make a brief contribution we will let him do so. But obviously the matter cannot be let run without some restraint. I withdraw the refusal of leave.
-I think the manner in which this matter can be resolved is if the Leader of the Opposition indicates to me that his remarks will be very brief. I will then permit him to speak on the basis of there being no dissentient voice.
- Mr Speaker, my comments will be brief. The point I want to make is that the circumstances surrounding this matter are the cause of a great deal of embarrassment to members of this Parliament. Although the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) said that no undertakings were given to the Russian authorities that exclusionary practices would be applied in the selection of members of a delegation to Russia, nonetheless no statement was expressed to the Russian authorities that the proposition they were putting, and the principle they were trying to impose, was totally unacceptable to this country and to this Parliament. Accordingly, the situation could easily be that the Russian authorities have interpreted the membership of the delegation- in view of the fact that no member of that delegation was a member of the relevant sub-committee- as being selected on the basis of a principle firmly laid down by the Russian authorities. I repeat that that is unacceptable and there should be no ambiguity in the minds of the Russian authorities. The Department of Foreign Affairs should have brought this matter immediately to the attention of the Minister. It is a matter affecting the whole Parliament, not just the Department of Foreign Affairs or the Minister for Foreign Affairs. If the Department in fact did not communicate this to the Minister- I find it rather perplexing if it is the assertion of the Minister that the Department did not, because that in turn suggests a serious breakdown in communication and a lack of proper regard for the position and the authority of Parliament and parliamentarians as members of this Parliament- I sincerely trust that he will take action to make sure that no such breakdown occurs again. On the other hand, if the Department did communicate with him- I would like him to make it clear whether he was apprised of all the circumstances of this matter as denned by the Russian authorities- in my view, and I believe it is the view not only of the Opposition but also of most members of this Parliament, he behaved most improperly and indeed offensively to the Parliament. The matter is serious enough for the Minister to be required to make a clear statement in relation to his knowledge of this matter and when he became aware of the requirement.
– My statement -
-Is the Minister asking for leave to make a statement?
-Is leave granted?
– My statements are invariably much clearer than those of the man who has just spoken.
-Order! The honourable Minister will resume his seat. The honourable gentleman has asked for leave to make a statement. 1 ask him to wait for the process of the House before commencing to speak.
- Mr Speaker, I made it perfectly clear last week that I would brook no interference with the rights of this Parliament and with the determination that it makes on where its members go and who comprises its delegations. There was no direct request by Soviet officials to our people. As I understand it, one of our officials was told at a social function by a middle ranking Soviet official that the Soviet Union could have a certain attitude. This would not affect me in any way in choosing a delegation had it been my choice. In fact the matter rests with the parties and with the Presiding Officers. Let there oe absolutely no ambiguity on that. I made it clear last week and I reaffirm it today. The interesting thing is that this is the first time that members of this Parliament sitting opposite have taken such a viewpoint of the Soviet Union. This is in marked contrast to what occurred in Victoria the weekend before last when not even a condemnation of human rights could be supported when the most scurrilous treatment had been handed out -
– I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. We have given leave to the Minister to make a statement in relation to the allegation raised by the honourable member for Corio who is away ill- it might be for the benefit of the Minister for Foreign Affairs- in relation to when the Minister became aware of this matter and why the Parliament was not informed of it. That is the question; not what the Victorian Branch of the Australian Labor Party decided.
– I raise a point of order.
– Your side apparently accepted the proposition that you are not allowed to elect anybody on the committee. Our side did not accept that proposition.
– Order! The honourable member for Prospect will remain silent.
– The Minister has again misrepresented the decision of the Victorian conference of the Labor Party.
– There is no substance to the point of order.
- Mr Speaker, how long do we have to put up with this misrepresentation?
– It is not a point of order.
– Could I raise another point of order?
– You can raise it if it is valid. What is your point or order?
– It creates a great deal of humour. We do not like moving motions against you, Mr Speaker, but we are moving to the position where we will have to. We are entitled to some respect in this House too. We have -
– Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
– I move:
That your ruling be dissented from.
That is the first motion I intend to move.
-Order! The honourable gentleman will have to do two things. First, he will have to put his motion in writing and then he will have to explain what ruling he disagrees with.
-Your ruling that I resume my seat.
– I raise a point of order while the honourable gentleman is putting his motion in writing. I wonder whether you could explain, Mr Speaker, what ruling he is dissenting from. I do not believe there is a ruling and, therefore, I believe there can be no motion.
– I will deal with that when I see the motion.
The motion having been submitted in writing-
-The honourable gentleman does not disclose what ruling he disagrees with.
-You ruled that I was out of order and indicated that I should resume my seat. If you have not ruled that, I will continue speaking.
– I ruled that there was no point of order.
-That is consistent with my motion. You have ruled that I am out of order, that there is no point of order and that I resume my seat. I am disagreeing with that. I must commence my remarks by stating that your administration -
– I move:
That the Leader of the Opposition be not further heard.
– I am not prepared to accept the motion until I hear what is the basis of the motion for dissent from my ruling.
– I suppose the most obvious cause for my disagreement with the way in which you conveyed that ruling is very simply the biased way in which you are conducting the affairs of this House. The situation now has arisen where the Opposition does not have confidence that you are administering the affairs of this House in a fair and impartial way. Your position is such that it ought to sustain dignity. That dignity can be attracted only by the way in which you conduct your responsibilities in this House. I am afraid that members of the Opposition do not share any sense of- I do not like to use the word respect’ but we certainly lack confidenceconfidence in the way in which you are conducting the affairs of this Parliament. I am quite convinced that you have made a decision, if not unilaterally then in consultation with the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), from some several weeks ago strictly to apply Standing Orders in a way that cannot be sustained by the way in which they are defined in the Standing Orders of this Parliament.
-Order! The honourable gentleman will remain relevant to the point. I would appreciate it if he would tell me what his point of order was -
– Your bias.
-. . . which I disallowed.
-Your obvious bias and your prejudice.
-Order! The honourable gentleman will remain relevant to the point. The point is that he disagrees with my ruling. I ask him to state the ruling with which he disagrees.
– I disagree with your ruling because it is clearly the product of bias and prejudice. What I am suggesting to you -
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. I call upon the honourable gentleman to state the ruling with which he disagrees. -
– I have told you, not once but twice.
-The honourable gentleman will state the ruling with which he disagrees.
-Your ruling was that my point of order was not valid and that I should resume my seat.
-The honourable gentleman will now tell me what the point of order he raised was that I said was not valid.
– The point of order I sought to raise was misrepresentation by the Minister for Foreign Affairs. There are two scores. The first one, which you would not allow me to develop earlier, was simply that he was misrepresenting the affairs conducted and concluded at a recent conference of the Victorian Branch of the Labor Party in relation to human rights. I merely wanted to point out briefly, as was pointed out in this House last week- and therefore for him to do this again is clearly the product of misrepresentation- that the decision of the State convention of the Party was that erosions of human rights whether under right wing or left wing authoritarian systems were opposed. That means very clearly, Mr Speaker, that not only where that erosion occurs in Russia but also in areas near this country it should be opposed.
– I raise a point of order. The honourable Leader of the Opposition has not got his facts right because the point that he is raising about the Victorian Labor Party conference and the point that we raised related to a motion that was passed in the morning supporting the action of the Russian Government against dissidents. And the honourable member for Melbourne Ports was there.
– I know. I know you are lying. It is as simple as that.
-Order! When the House comes to order, we will proceed. I call the Leader of the Opposition. I ask him to remain relevant to the point of order.
– Finally on this point-there is another point- the decision of the conference was this:
This conference recognises the support for human rights and dignity is a fundamental principle of Labor foreign policy and that the ALP is opposed to all forms of authoritarian and totalitarian government whether based on the ideologies of the Left or the Right.
The other matter -
-Order! If the honourable gentleman wishes to raise another matter, I will permit him to do so.
-The other matter concerns the uncharacteristic comment of the Minister for Foreign Affairs- perhaps because he is in trouble it will become a characteristic commentimplying that honourable members on this side of the House were fellow travellers with Russian communists.
– You are.
– Many honourable members opposite would assert that. We wonder why it took the Minister five months to disclose the discovery of bugging in the Australian Embassy in Russia. On that basis, there is not too much alacrity associated with his concern for these matters. We suggest that the whole matter is a political contrivance, as it is presented today.
– I raise a point of order. The Leader of the Opposition is using a motion of dissent from your ruling to criticise the Minister for Foreign Affairs. It has absolutely nothing to do whatsoever with the motion before the Chair. I suggest that perhaps it might now be a time for you to countenance the motion that I moved earlier.
-The Leader of the Opposition should remain relevant to the point that he is making. Is the motion seconded?
-Yes. This is a most important issue. We have granted leave from this side of the House so that the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) could tell the Parliament when he became aware of the suggestion made by what he says is a ‘middle order official’ from the Soviet Embassy, which this Parliament ought to have been aware of. We gave him leave on that basis. He was then allowed by the Chair to go racing off onto other issues which have absolutely nothing to do with the issue for which we gave him leave. It appeared as though the Chair was giving him protection to do that.
The point raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) is valid. The Minister ought to be made to keep to the relevant points raised in this Parliament by the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes). The Parliamentary delegation that went to the Soviet Union could have been looked upon as one that was elected to comply with the wishes of the middle order official from the Soviet Embassy. This side of the Parliament was not made aware of the suggestion made by that middle order official from the Soviet Embassy. The Minister was aware of it but did not tell the Parliament. That is what we wanted to listen to.
– Are you speaking to the motion, raising a point of order or what?
-Order! Has the honourable member for Port Adelaide finished his speech?
-The Leader of the Opposition has moved a motion of dissent from my ruling. The ruling related to a matter which was being referred to by the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I remind the House that the Minister for Foreign Affairs rose to speak but I prevented him speaking. I asked him on what basis he was speaking and whether he sought leave to make a statement. He said that he did wish to make a statement. I asked whether leave was granted and leave was granted. The fact is that leave to make a statement cannot, under the Standing Orders, be confined to any particular issue. In fact, leave was not sought to talk about a specific issue. The matter under discussion was well known to the House. No doubt, on that basis honourable members on the Opposition side of the House gave leave. But the suggestion that my ruling is improper -
Honourable members interjecting.
-Order! The Minister for Foreign Affairs will cease speaking and the Leader of the Opposition will cease speaking. The lack of decorum from both sides of the table is appalling. While the Speaker, under attack, is defending himself there is that criss-cross of conversation. It is quite unacceptable to me and I will discipline either gentleman if he utters another word while I am speaking. The motion that was moved against my ruling has no basis whatsoever in my judgment. I accept the motion that was moved by the Leader of the House but that circumstance has passed. The question now is whether the motion of dissent from my ruling be upheld. The question is:
That my ruling be upheld.
Those of that opinion say ‘ aye ‘.
Government members- Aye.
– Those of the contrary opinion say’ no’.
Opposition members- No.
-I think the ‘noes’ have it.
– On a point of order, Mr Speaker, I am not too sure of the exact form of your question. If it was that your ruling be dissented from, of course Government members would vote no. But the form in which you put the question was that your ruling be upheld. We therefore voted in favour of upholding your ruling.
– Yes, indeed. I found it fascinating that the mover of the motion voted in the opposite fashion. I will put the question for you. I will put it in the terms, as moved:
That the Speaker’s ruling be disagreed with.
Those of that opinion say ‘ aye ‘.
– I take a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Opposition members- Aye.
-Those of the contrary opinion say ‘no’.
Government members- No.
-I think the ‘noes’ have it.
Opposition members- The ‘ ayes ‘ have it.
-Is a division required?
- Mr Speaker, I rose to take a point of order which you should have heard before you put that motion. I was on my feet.
-The honourable gentleman will make his point of order.
– It is relevant to the question. I have always understood that the practice here is that when the Speaker’s ruling is dissented from the question is put in the manner in which you first put it. You were right then but you are wrong now.
-I have to accommodate the House and put the question so that honourable members understand it.
That the Speaker’s ruling be disagreed with.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden)
Question so resolved in the negative.
- Mr Speaker, I ought to point out that no Minister rose to support you on that matter because we regarded the manner in which it was poured forth as so extraordinary that we thought that Opposition members condemned themselves.
-I appreciate what the honourable gentleman says, but I ask him to remain relevant to the point.
-Several allegations have been made in the last rather extraordinary 20 minutes or so, ranging from one extreme to the other. Let me run through them as I recall them. Firstly, an allegation was made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) that it was five months before I disclosed to the House the discovery of the listening devices. It is true that it was July when I called in the Soviet Ambassador about this matter. I weighed up then whether I would make a public statement. I determined that there was no need to do so and I indicated to the Soviet Ambassador that I would not do so. The normal thing in these matters is that we do not disclose such information. There was nothing conspiratorial and there was no other motive attached to the statement made last week. It so transpires, as members of the Press Gallery will attest, that a member of the Gallery wrote a story relating to my calling in the Soviet Ambassador, and there are other stories that the Prime Minister called in the Soviet Ambassador. The stories were not correct. The story concerning me related to devices in Canberra and it was my decision, albeit that normally one would treat this matter as a security and intelligence matter and as something not to be made public that I should clarify the issue immediately and say that it was related solely to listening devices in the Soviet Union. Having done that I have participated in no further interviews on the matter since the Press conference and I have not sought to kick the matter along. A form of paranoia took over the House today at the mention of these issues. Members of the Opposition started to accuse me of some covert motivation in raising this matter, when I was simply setting the record straight. That is the answer to that allegation.
The next allegation was made by the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young), who is whipping himself into a lather or frenzy on his side of the House, that the Opposition had not been told about this matter. The facts are that his party’s representatives, not merely the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) -some members are disagreeing with the views he put forward today- but also other members of the Australian Labor Party on the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence were told of the matter by my officials when they went before the Committee. I received a report of the meeting, and that suggestion was made in a conversation by some middle ranking Soviet official without any authority. If there had been any authorised request the matter would have been different. I reconfirm what I said last week when I was puzzled by the reference in the terminology used by the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) when he referred to an undertaking given by the Department of Foreign Affairs. No undertaking at all was given either by the Department or by myself. I reconfirm, as Mr Speaker confirmed today, that no undertaking was given by the Government. As I have said already, not only going over the past but projecting forward, no undertaking was or would be given. They are the allegations that have been made by the honourable member for Port Adelaide.
The honourable member for Corio made an incorrect statement last week when he said that the Department of Foreign Affairs gave an undertaking to the Soviet Union that no members of the Joint Foreign Affairs and Defence Subcommittee on Human Rights in the Soviet Union would be included in any parliamentary delegation to the Soviet Union. As you, Mr Speaker, have indicated after inquiry and as I can confirm after inquiry, no such undertaking was given.
I would expect that those who were in error would at least be prepared to plead mea culpa, but quite the contrary has occurred. The fact is that we have had a divergence of views from members on the other side of the House. There are those with a genuine concern regarding the suppression of civil liberties, as epitomised by the honourable member for Prospect, and there are those who need to aspire to the desires of others who would seek to suppress criticism of the suppression of civil liberties in the Soviet Union, namely, the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Holding) who goes along with the socialists in Victoria who would not condemn the Soviet Union for its brutal suppression of civil liberties. So philosophically honourable members opposite are wrong; factually they are wrong. The Government has nothing to answer for and I find their conduct this afternoon totally inexplicable.
- Mr Speaker, I seek your indulgence to say one or two words because it would be quite wrong for the Government to allow an attack of the kind that was made on yourself and on the dignity of this Parliament to go unanswered. I believe that since you have been Speaker of this House the dignity of the Parliament has been enhanced. You have sought at all times to achieve a decency in this chamber with a quietness, firmness and courtesy for which you often do not get the support that you should from some members of this Parliament. I think it is important to emphasise that, as you and I know, we have never discussed the proceedings of this Parliament. They are matters for your concern and for your prerogative. Out of my own sense of concern for the independence of the office of Speaker, I feel that these are matters that should be yours for decision. They are not matters for decision by you in co-operation or consultation with government; they are matters that belong to the office of Speaker. That is the position that I certainly would want the office to hold and I know that it is the position that you, Mr Speaker, would want the office to hold.
I think the way in which you have filled the office adds to the dignity and status of the office. The office of Speaker can do much to enhance the dignity and the courtesy of this Parliament and I believe that you, Mr Speaker, have acted in that manner since you have been Speaker. I also believe very strongly indeed that a number of members of this Parliament- the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) in particular- have not acted in a way which enhances the dignity of this Parliament or which makes it easier for you to conduct your business.
-I have given the right honourable gentleman indulgence while he has been saying nice things about me, but I cannot really give him indulgence to say nasty things about the Leader of the Opposition.
– I was just saying that I really believe that all honourable members- I personify the matter by referring to the Leader of the Opposition- have an obligation to assist you in your task and not to make your task more difficult.
– On a point of order, Mr Speaker, I can understand why you were transfixed by what the Prime Minister was saying, but 1 object to this statement that I detracted from the dignity of the Parliament.
Government members- Oh.
-I would not suspect that many Government members would support me, but I know that some support me privately. They are very helpful. We know almost as much of what goes on in government party meetings as do government members. I would ask that that statement be withdrawn. Otherwise the Prime Minister and I will enter into an exchange that will not be terribly elevating; at least, that would be the product of your allowing those sorts of comments to go unchallenged.
-I ask the right honourable gentleman to co-operate with me and withdraw the remarks about the Leader of the Opposition.
-Out of deference to your office, Mr Speaker, and to the quite extraordinary sensitivity of the Leader of the Opposition, I am happy to withdraw the statement.
-The honourable member for Prospect has indicated to me that he has a personal explanation to make. Does it relate to this matter?
– It does not relate to the question of your rulings but to the question raised by the Foreign Minister when he mentioned me repeatedly by name.
-Under those circumstances I will call the honourable gentleman at the time when I call for personal explanations.
– It is in reply to what the Minister for Foreign Affairs just said.
-I will allow the honourable gentleman to proceed.
-The point I would like to place on record is that the Government knew of the Russian proviso or veto in about February of this year. As the Minister pointed out, the Opposition, having some members on the Committee, knew about it in October this year. The delegation went in June or July this year. I leave it to the House to decide whether the Opposition could have made a judgment as to whether the delegation should go or whether the Government should have made that decision.
– On a point of order, Mr Speaker, as a member of the Committee I should point out that members of that Committee knew of this because it was in camera. There is no way that the Government members of that parliamentary Committee informed the Government of the evidence that had been received in camera.
-There has been enough debate about this matter.
– Pursuant to sections 20 and 26 of the Coal Industry Act 1946 I present the report of the Joint Coal Board for the year ended 30 June 1978, together with the financial accounts of the Board and the Auditor-General’s report on those accounts.
– Pursuant to section 29 of the Australian Tourist Commission Act 1967 I present the report of the Australian Tourist Commission for the year ended 30 June 1 978.
– For the information of honourable members I present the report of the National Training Council for the year ended 31 December 1977.
– Pursuant to section 30 of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies Act 1 964 1 present the report of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies for the year ended 30 June 1 978.
– Pursuant to section 43 of the Criminology Research Act 1 97 1 1 present the report of the Criminology Research Council for the year ended 30 June 1978.
– For the information of honourable members I present the second report by Mr Shann Turnbull on economic development of Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory entitled ‘Self-Sufficiency (with Land Rights)’.
– Pursuant to section 48 of the Australian Housing Corporation Act 1975 and section 50B of the Defence Service Homes Act 19181 present the annual report of the Australian Housing Corporation for the year ended 30 June 1976. An interim report prepared by the Australian Housing Corporation was presented on 25 August 1977.
– Pursuant to section 48 of the Defence Service Homes Corporation Act 1976 and section 50B of the Defence Service Homes Act 1918 I present the annual report of the Defence Service Homes Corporation for the year ended 30 June 1977. The delay in presenting this report and that of the Australian Housing Corporation, which I have just presented, is due to problems which arose in connection with the form of the financial statements which are required to be presented with the reports. Notification of the approval of the Minister for Finance to the form of the statements was received on 10 August 1978. The report of the Auditor-General on the financial statements is dated 30 October 1978.
– For the information of honourable members I present the interim report of the Defence Service Homes Corporation for the year ended 30 June 1978.
– On behalf of the Minister for Science, for the information of honourable members I present a report entitled ‘Australian Biological Resources Study 1973-78’, together with the text of a statement by the Minister for Science on the report.
– On behalf of the Minister for Health, pursuant to section 44 of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Act 1961 I present the report of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Commission for the year ended 30 June 1978.
– On behalf of the Minister for Health, for the information of honourable members I present the report of the Fawnmac group of companies for the year ended 30 June 1978.
– For the information of honourable members I present the report of the Postal and Telecommunications Department for the year ended 30 June 1 978.
– Pursuant to section 53 of the Overseas Telecommunications Act 1946 I present the report and financial statements of the Overseas Telecommunications Commission (Australia) for the year ended 3 1 March 1978.
– For the information of honourable members I present a report on progress in education since 1976.
– Pursuant to sections 35 and 35A of the Prices Justification Act 1973 I present the Prices Justification Tribunal annual report 1977-78 and its half-yearly report on significant price increases with which the Tribunal was concerned for the six months ended 30 June 1 978.
– Pursuant to section 43 of the Australian Heritage Commission Act 1973 I present the report of the Australian Heritage Commission for the year ended 30 June 1 978.
- Mr Speaker, I claim to have been misrepresented.
-The honourable gentleman may proceed.
-During Question Time the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) in reply to at least one question referred to a transcript from the Corporate Affairs Commission inquiry involving him which is currently under way in New South Wales and quotes made from it in this House. Specifically, he said that that transcript had been improperly obtained. I am the person who has quoted from that transcript. I have acknowledged in this House that it was supplied voluntarily by Mr Creighton Walsh. It covers testimony by Mr Creighton Walsh and a comment by Mr Finnane on that testimony. In the Sydney Morning Herald oi 16 November the New South Wales Attorney-General, Mr Walker, referred to the transcript and said that Mr Creighton Walsh had been entitled to pass on the transcript. I ask the Minister for Primary Industry, if he has any doubts about that, to refer to the article in the Sydney Morning Herald of that date. The transcript has not been improperly obtained.
-The Minister for Primary Industry wishes to make a statement on the ground that he has been misrepresented.
– I have been misrepresented, firstly by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden), and secondly in the National Times, about which I will say something in a moment. Firstly, with respect to the statement by the Leader of the Opposition, I understand that Mr Torok, the solicitor for the parties involved in the special investigation, has a statutory declaration from Mr Creighton Walsh stating that he did not supply the document to the Leader of the Opposition. I will arrange for a copy of that document to be produced and tabled in this House.
Secondly, with respect to the misrepresentations in the National Times, it has always been my view that Federal parliamentarians should respond in the Parliament, not in the courts, to misrepresentations. I must say that that view is tending to weaken as time passes. There are in the article a number of assertions which I regard as a total misrepresentation of me. For example, there is a suggestion that the author of the article has in his or her possession a copy of a transcript of an interview between myself and Mr Finnane. If that is so, I have certainly not provided such a transcript and I will be most concerned if copies of the transcript have been provided improperly, by the State Government or in any other way. I might say that since last December there have been five burglaries in most unusual circumstances of the office of Messrs A. B. Torok and Company, solicitors for the parties in this matter. There had been no previous burglaries of that office. I hope that the burglaries will be investigated by the New South Wales Police and the New South Wales Attorney-General to ensure that in no way have they been the source of any information that has been released.
It has been alleged in the National Times that I met with senior officers of the Commissioner of Corporate Affairs. I have at no stage met with officers of the Commissioner of Corporate Affairs. As I remarked in answer to a question in this House earlier today, all dealings with the Commissioner of Taxation and with the officers of the Commissioner of Corporate Affairs have been at arm’s length, by solicitors and by accountants acting on my behalf or on behalf of the companies. I might add that in that respect the whole of the inquiry, that is, the inquiry through independent chartered accountants, has been conducted with their knowledge and full approval. At all stages they have been fully cognisant of everything that has taken place. An assertion has been made in the National Times that there have been admitted breaches of the law. I have given the reason for the identification in the accounts as ‘losses by misappropriation’ as being in accordance with advice received from lawyers. Certainly there have been no admitted breaches of the law on my behalf. They have been identified in accordance with advice given by lawyers as losses by misappropriation and the accounts have been lodged in that respect.
A suggestion has been made that the comments made on the Willesee program were inconsistent with the statements made about the financial accounts. I have explained in this House that on the Willesee program I was referring to the advice from the Commissioner of Taxation with respect to section SI of the Income Tax Assessment Act, that is, that the amounts identified as losses by misappropriation would not be deductible in the year in which the losses occurred but that they were allowable as deductions under section 71 of the Act in the year in which they were ascertained. Of course, that involves also the provision that in the year in which they are recouped tax is payable on them. I have explained to the House that, in order that the year in which the losses were recouped can be established, there have been these identifications of loans to the Sinclair Pastoral Company Pty Ltd to establish that fact, without as yet finally identifying the balance of equity between the shareholders concerned. That must await the conclusions of the inquiry being undertaken by the chartered accountants, which I hope will be concluded shortly.
A suggestion has been made that a number of comments were made in an interview between Mr Finnane and Mr Creighton Walsh. Again I refer the House to a letter dated 1 1 August 1978 and, I understand, later published in the Bulletin magazine by Mr Finnane, in which he stated that as yet he had not reached any concluded view on any of the matters concerned. I believe that that statement needs to be put into perspective in relation to all the assertions made by him in his interview with Mr Creighton Walsh. A number of other matters come from conclusions reached by the writer with respect to the statement of accounts. As I have remarked in this House, until such stage as the chartered accountants have concluded their inquiry, any conclusions and any figures referred to must be incomplete. When the inquiry by the chartered accountants is complete a conclusion can be reached and proper statements will be made and issued in accordance with the obligations under the Companies Act.
-Mr Speaker, I desire to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?
– I do, sir.
– He may proceed.
– Some few moments ago in a speech to the House by the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock)- perhaps it was an exercise in the honourable gentleman’s forensic skills- he described members of the Australian Labor Party as being of two kinds: Those who were genuinely concerned with problems of civil liberties and those who, to quote the Minister’s words, were concerned to suppress evidence of oppression of dissident groups within the Soviet Union. Having made that statement, the Minister, quite gratuitously- I do not know whether it was because I happened to catch his eyespecifically referred to me by name. I find the statement made by the Minister completely offensive. In all the period in which I have been a member of parliament- both State and Federal- I have been a member of Amnesty International. I have been concerned with questions of civil liberty, whenever and wherever they occurred. The best that could be said about the statement made by the Minister is that it may have been made in the heat of debate. The worst that can be said about it is that it was the sort of cheap political smear that does not add anything to the tenor of debate in this House. Perhaps the Minister would be much better off if he confined himself to the cocktail parties that he attends with members of the Soviet Embassy -
-Order! The honourable gentleman will cease. He has made his personal explanation in relation to himself.
– . . . where he engages in those sorts of conversations.
Mr HAYDEN (Oxley-Leader of the Opposition)- Mr Speaker, I claim to have been misrepresented.
-Does the honourable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented and does he wish to make a personal explanation?
– He may proceed.
-The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) said in the statement which he concluded a few moments ago, among other things, that he would produce a statutory declaration made by Mr Creighton Walsh declaring that he had not supplied me with a copy of the transcript of the discussion he had with the special investigator for the Corporate Affairs Commission, Mr Finnane. Very briefly, the situation is that a third person, at Mr Creighton Walsh’s request, came and saw me, supplied me with a copy of the transcript and said that he had been requested by Mr Creighton Walsh to supply that copy of the transcript. He is a person of good standing in this community. Subsequently Mr Creighton Walsh spoke to me on the telephone and, among other things, inquired whether that person had delivered the transcript to me and suggested that he would arrange for other documents to be sent to me through that person. I leave the matter there, Mr Speaker. There is no doubt at all that Mr Creighton Walsh arranged for the documentation to be supplied to me and it was according to that arrangement that it was supplied to me.
– by leave- In recent months a number of initiatives have been taken by the Government, stemming from work undertaken by the Department of Productivity, in which many honourable members have expressed considerable interest. These announcements have included: The Government’s decision to proceed with the commercial development of InterScan; the big increase in government funding for industrial research and development announced in the 1978-79 Budget; and the Commonwealth’s new policy on employee participation. As November 1978 marks the second anniversary of the Department of Productivity, I believe it is appropriate that some of the Departments better known initiatives should be placed into an overall framework, hence this brief review of its most significant activities. When announcing the establishment of the Department of Productivity in
November 1976 the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) said:
This initiative has been taken in recognition of the need to provide a technology orientated agency with the responsibility of providing increased industrial productivity.
With two years behind us there is a general understanding by those who are working with the Department of Productivity that it has done a great deal to help people in management, unions and governments to think more deeply about the nature of change and their longer-term responses to it. I believe the creation of these longer-term perspectives in the minds of such people is also improving the quality of their short-term decisions. The Department of Productivity is not, as some people might imagine a group of white coated efficiency experts with stop watches, this Government’s concept of improving Australia’s productivity performance is far wider than that, as I will show.
It is true that the Department of Productivity does encourage firms, or enterprises, to examine every aspect of their cost structure in the most thorough and challenging way possible. It does this in a variety of ways like the Industry Program Groups- IPGs- the Interfirm Comparison Program, plus the range of activities supported by the Productivity Promotion Council of Australia. I have said on many occasions that no stone should be left unturned by management in its endeavours to improve the cost structure and hence the productivity of its enterprise. In our modern, open economy, failure to improve our productivity will lead inevitably to a loss of competitiveness and ultimately jobs. That in the end, is why productivity improvement is so important.
While we are concerned with encouraging individual firms to look closely at their cost structures, the range of activity of the Department of Productivity is much wider and more comprehensive than that. It includes: The encouragement of new technology to improve the productivity performance of existing industries and to create opportunities for the development of new industries; the need to relate new technology to people at the workplace; the need for excellence in Australian design to enable industries better to compete, not only in the domestic market but also in the world marketplace; the need to look seriously at our existing patterns of work, to explore the options offered for part-time employment, flexible working hours and the like; the need to improve the quality of Australia’s goods and services; the need to improve our physical distribution systems, that is, every aspect of the packaging, storage, handling and movement of goods; the need to improve our industrial safety and health record; the need to improve the physical working environment of Australians, not simply for safety or occupational health reasons, but to provide the more satisfying and challenging jobs that a younger, better educated workforce is demanding; the need for a greater involvement of employees in decisions affecting their work through better communication and improved consultation and through new systems of work involving concepts such as semi-autonomous work groups; and, finally and most importantly, the need to stimulate industry, both management and employees, to integrate each of these elements of productivity improvement to each other instead of treating them in individual compartments as matters to be looked at and dealt with in isolation.
Reflecting the Government’s concern that all these matters should be seen clearly to be interconnected in the important contribution they make to improving national productivity, the Department was largely formed from elements which came from a number of other departments. The result is a Department which complements- rather than competes with- other economic and industry departments in the Commonwealth Public Service. Similarly, productivity programs complement and, I believe, render more effective the many other activities of this Government in support of industry, whether they be export incentives, the investment allowance, or the many other programs of support.
I will outline some of these specific productivity programs. I want first, however, to draw the attention of honourable members to a number of characteristics which distinguish the Department of Productivity and which emphasise its importance. Firstly, I emphasise that the Ministry is concerned principally with medium to longer-term issues- matters which do not tend to make headlines. The task of substantially upgrading Australia’s technological capability will not be achieved overnight. Neither will the attitudes of Australians to alternative work patterns alter magically because of a policy pronouncement from Canberra. Nor will much needed uniform legislation between State and Commonwealth governments be achieved without the co-operation of all governments and affected industry sectors. They are the kinds of issues on which we are working patiently and persistently. Whilst those in industry and the unions who are working with us appreciate very clearly what we are doing, there is a need for much wider understanding in the community of these long-term issues. Consequently, we are now planning a series of major publicity programs to augment the many industry seminars which we have helped to sponsor.
Secondly, the Department has been conscious of the need actively to involve all those people and groups who have an interest in improving productivity. In many of our programs, therefore, we have approached problem solving on a tripartite basis- involving government, management and and the unions. In this respect the Department has adopted a catalytic role, helping people to help themselves. Central to this ‘working together’ or ‘hands on’ approach has been the belief that people who know most about Australian industry and who have most to benefit from its improvement are those working in it. When problems are identified in this way management will consider afresh matters such as new markets and products, new methods of distribution and production and, perhaps most importantly, new ways of harnessing the talents of the people working in their enterprises. Equally, union officials who are informed of the real position of an industry and the issues it faces have reacted positively in order to seek solutions to what, in reality, are mutual problems. Our faith in this innovative approach has been vindicated by experience: Unions and management are seeking to explore matters of mutual self interest. It is, we hope, providing an example to a wider audience.
Thirdly, the Department of Productivity has adopted new and innovative ways of doing things. The tripartite approach in many of its programs is a case in point. Another has been the formation of a company under the sponsorship of the Australian Industry Development Corporation to carry through the commercial development of InterScan. This method is a significant experiment in government-industry cooperation. It recognised the reality that no single Australian company or consortium could have taken this development further as a commercial proposition at this stage. The new emphasis on funding for ‘public interest’ projects under the Industrial Research and Development Incentives Act is further evidence of the new approaches. Projects under consideration in this field will demonstrate that InterScan is no isolated instance of our determination to carry Australian inventiveness and innovation through to commercial viability on world markets.
There is not time today for me to outline all the Department’s current programs. However some of the highlights include the following: I have already made mention of the big increase in funds available in this year’s Budget for industrial research and development- a lift of 75 per cent to $24m. We have also significantly improved the scheme by increasing the level of grants to individual companies and providing for progressive payment of grants. We are also actively pursuing section 39 of the Act which relates to ‘public interest’ projects. These improvements to the industrial research and development incentives scheme is just one of the ways in which the Government, through my Department, is aiming to stimulate the design and introduction of new technology by Australian industries.
There are a number of ways in which my Department is attempting to improve the dissemmination of technological information. The Patent Office now provides a technology information service for Australian business from world patent literature. We have recently begun overhauling the legislation dealing with industrial property. Amendments to the patents legislation have been introduced this session, aimed at providing for patent specifications to be open for public inspection at least a year earlier than is presently the case. The Trade Marks Act has also been amended to cover services as well as goods. Legislation will be introduced next session to establish a system of petty patents aimed to cater primarily for innovation developed by small business or short term fashions.
In the past the laws regarding inventions, trade marks and designs have been formed and administered on the narrow grounds of the granting of proprietary rights. It is clear, however, that these laws are the mechanisms for encouraging innovation and productivity. Apart from the legislation we have introduced, I have also established an industrial property advisory committee to advise me, on a continuing basis, on the need for changes in industrial property law.
To exploit our own innovations and to ensure that the latest overseas technology is available to Australian industry, a technology transfer network has been established. In this regard a pilot program is underway- aimed primarily at the metal manufacturing sector- which has the object of facilitating the technology transfer of information from academic, government and private research institutions to private industry to assist in the effective exploitation and application of available technologies.
In particular industries it has been necessary to go further and to develop formal bodies. The Information Technology Council is an example of a group which has been set up to address an area of major industrial potential, which also happens to be of current popular concern. This group seeks to guide, instruct, demonstrate and provide support for the use of information technologies, including micrographics and computers, to enhance the efficiency of industry. Australia has, until now, been somewhat lagging behind in its promotion and use of computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacture CAD/CAM compared with other industriallydeveloped countries. My Department is demonstrating its confidence in CAD/CAM in the most practical way- by using it in its own factories as well as promoting it in private industry.
My department has inaugurated a number of programs aimed at improving productivity in specific industries- for example in textiles, clothing and footwear. In these industry sectors many enterprises have been particularly affected by the rapid development of similar industries in developing countries. Because of the ability of these countries to sell their products at much lower cost than many Australian made products. The Australian industries have suffered a declining share of the local market and falling employment. In August last year the Government asked me to examine their scope for productivity improvement. The Department’s approach has been to seek the co-operative involvement of all concerned in the industries- the industry associations and employers, the trade unions, and representatives of the Governments- both Commonwealth and State- and of government agencies such as the Commonwealth Scientific Industrial Research Organisation. Industry program groups- IPGs- have been formed from these three areas, the aim of the IPGs being to identify areas in each industry sector which show potential to produce the greatest improvement in productivity. In this approach the Department of Productivity acts as a catalyst to set the examination processes in action.
These industry-based IPGs provide an important extension to the well-established work of the regional, multi-industry, productivity groups. These groups are now well integrated with the Productivity Promotion Council of Australia and the Department. A recent national conference of productivity group chairmen from throughout Australia made extensive recommendations for more action-oriented activities for productivity groups. Like the IPGs, productivity groups help identify problems and assist in efforts to overcome the problems through training, workshops, and seminars.
The approach of the IPGs is largely one of self-help, with all participants contributing on a mutually agreed basis. The textile, clothing and footwear industries are made up of about 3,000 firms, employing about 120,000 people- and there are many small firms in these industries. I am pleased to be able to report that definite progress in improving productivity in these industries is being made. In some cases, the improvement is quite dramatic and provides an answer to those people who said that such industries could not survive in Australia. There is now no doubt of their surviving and the main question remaining relates to their market share. I have no doubt that the companies which participate most effectively in the IPGs will extend their market shares considerably. Similar IPGs in other industries show promise as well, although most are in the early stages of activity.
The Government has announced major initiatives in employee participation. It believes that people who are fully aware of difficulties and are involved in their solution can participate positively and for mutual benefit. A national steering committee, representing employer and union organisations, has been set up to reach a consensus about terminology and concepts and to consider methods of implementing employee participation as thus conceived. I chair that committee and would like to pay tribute to the most constructive attitude taken by all its members, whether representing the public sector or the private sector, unions, managements or government.
We are also vitally concerned with industrial safety and occupational health in the interaction of people and machines. Industrial accidents not only inflict pain and suffering on those involved, but also the costs to industry and the consumer are astronomical. Our studies have shown that a large proportion of industrial accidents are avoidable. We are actively promoting appropriate changes to current practices which will cost relatively little in terms of finance or personal inconvenience. The Commonwealth has implemented a code of general principles on occupational safety and health, much of which has also been implemented by the State governments. I would like to thank the State governments generally and the Ministers for Labour in particular for their willingness to share their expertise with us in this vital area of human and economic cost. We have also initiated pilot testing of a national promotional campaign in an attempt to change the attitudes of employers and employees. I expect this campaign to achieve a great deal over the next few years.
With all the best will and management in the world, economies cannot evolve without some dislocation in the lives of firms and individuals.
My Department has been studying such things as redundancy policies and practices, retirement planning, information sharing with employees, and trade union attitudes to varied working hours to assess the scope for amelioration of some of the problems. In short, although the Department is still quite young, I believe it is making a useful contribution to improving productivity in Australia. It is continuing to look at new and innovative ways of lifting Australia’s productivity performance. In doing so it recognises the need to raise the community’s general consciousness of benefits flowing from increased productivity. For this reason it is currently assessing the idea of having a national productivity year in 1 980 with a view to advising the Government on the matter. The concept of a national productivity year needs a great deal of thought. To be successful it would need to have wide community support. Honourable members might therefore like to give this matter some thought and advise me of their views on the desirability of such an initiative and how they think it might be best organised. Earlier this year the Prime Minister said:
It is up to all of us as Australians to commit ourselves to this country: To commit ourselves to success, to boldness, to innovation: To seek out and develop new markets here and abroad, not merely by aping products and techniques devised overseas, but by developing our own expertise.
The concept of a national productivity year could play an important role in engineering this spirit of enthusiasm in the community. The continued endeavours of the Department of Productivity will be aimed at engendering this spirit in programs of action within industry in order to improve our trading position, our standards of living and our employment prospects. I present the following papen
Motion (by Mr Groom) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
-On behalf of the Opposition I welcome the fact that the Minister for Productivity (Mr Macphee) has made this statement about his Department. That is not to say that we agree with every word of the statement or every emphasis that he has put on choosing options for his Department. This Department focuses, if only in a minimal way, on some medium and long term planning and thinking about the needs of our economy. The Opposition welcomes this but regrets that it has been done only in the most minimal way. I am bound to point out that dominating the Government is the thinking that the medium and long terms are merely a series of short terms. This is the thinking in the Treasury Department and among most Liberals. It is good to see that at least the Minister for Productivity and his Department are seeking to do something about the medium and long term problems of the country. The second major principle on which the thinking of the Department seems to me to be built is that it should intervene in the private sector for the benefit of the community generally. It is doing this as we in the Labor Party would want to do it- almost exclusively in a co-operative way, seeking the cooperation of the employers and employees with the Government. It is good to see that this principle is being applied by the Department of Productivity for the benefit of the community. These characteristics commend themselves to Australian Labor Party members. We believe in planning and in that partnership between the public and private sector to which I have alluded. It is in that way that the community generally will get the greatest benefits. It fits in with our philosophy completely.
However, the fact that a statement such as this has been made this afternoon inevitably raises some questions in our minds. Why has this statement been made by this Minister when similar statements have not been made, for instance, by the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) when an enormous amount of work needs to be done in the field of man power planning and training which is very much related to this subject? Why has the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Fife) not made a similar statement relating, for instance, to the Prices Justification Tribunal, the report of which he brought down in the Parliament today with enormous implications for us ali? The suspicious mind which I am bound to have in my job tells me that perhaps the Minister and his Department are under some sort of attack. If that is so, I place on record that we are on his side. We believe that a little is better than nothing.
The Opposition would prefer to have a department of economic development based on the existing Treasury Department which is where the power lies. The short term decisions of Treasury dominate almost everything that is being done in government for the benefit of our community. We believe that the Treasury Department ought to have a division focusing on the medium and long terms. The emphasis should not be only on the engineering and technological processes; the emphasis should not be with the Department of Productivity; it should be wider than that. It should be on economic issues, not just engineering issues. However, I repeat that a little is better than nothing. We want to see this Department survive. There may not be a need for it to be a separate department, but while it provides an excuse for the Minister for Productivity to be in the Ministry I am happy to support its retention as a separate department. I hope that we get more statements from him on this subject than we have had hitherto.
I hope that he is getting the support of his back bench on this issue. Frankly, the principles on which his Department is based fly in the face of liberalism. Liberals do not believe in interfering in the private sector. The Department of Productivity is properly and, I believe, tactfully doing just that for the benefit of the community. We in the Labor Party support that as I have already indicated. Liberals do not even believe in giving aid for such projects as keeping alive the Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Co. Ltd on the west coast of Tasmania, or so we hear, from a great number of them in the Parliament. I pay tribute to those who have spoken up for true liberalism. When the Government interferes as the Department of Productivity is doing or when it gives aid as the Opposition believes it should, to keep alive the mining industry in Tasmania that is not true liberalism. I pay tribute to those who stick to their philosophy and speak out against these things. I wonder whether some Liberals would like to speak out today for liberalism and against the attitude of the Department of Productivity. I believe that many would like to do so, but I am glad that they are being muzzled at present and that we are hearing instead from the Minister for Productivity about a lot of the good things that he is doing.
Senior Ministers are showing signs of leaving everything to market forces in spite of the disruption this will mean to the motor industry. I am now referring, of course, to the statement made recently to the Federation of Automotive Products Manufacturers by the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr Lynch) who seems to be adopting completely the market oriented, Industries Assistance Commission approach. Another statement in similar vein was made by the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. At present it is good to hear the alternative attitude being put in support of reasonable interference and intervention by a department such as the Department of Productivity in the affairs of the private sector to achieve that partnership and cooperation which is so vital if we are to increase our standards of living, achieve international competitiveness and all those things which are so vital to improve the standard of living of our people and to arrive at full employment.
I hope indeed it does not mean that the Minister and his Department are under attack because of the fact that we have had such a statement as this one. If it does mean there is a struggle going on, I hope he wins it. I hope that in spite of its flying in the face of liberalism we will have more of this sort of thing going on because it is for the benefit of the community. I want to say something about the details of the statement itself and point out just how so much of what is in the statement does indeed follow the principles that I have been laying down as part of the Labor Party’s alternative policy on manufacturing industry in general. Before doing that, I say that although so much of what is in this statement is good, there are serious omissions that I would like to draw to the Minister’s attention.
I believe it is vital for his Department to be the one to take the initiative to lay down the social guidelines that are absolutely vital in introducing technology to our community. We have the terrible fact that there is growing unemployment in our community. We realise that a lot of this is brought about by the need for more technology in order to achieve greater international competitiveness. But this should be seen in the context of the extraordinary situation of employment being penalised by payroll tax on the one hand and investment in machinery being encouraged by investment allowances on the other hand; that is just one factor that his Department ought to be drawing to people’s attention so that we can redress that imbalance and, at the same time, so that we can lay down the social guidelines on introducing the technology to ensure that there is not such growing unemployment continuing in future years as we have had under the Fraser Government. Therefore, we need economic guidelines in addition to social guidelines in introducing this technology.
We accept that a lot of the technology, the new machinery, is absolutely vital if we are going to be internationally competitive, if those particular industries are to stay alive and keep the employment that they already generate. We accept that that is so in many cases but in other cases there is introduction unnecessarily; for instance, I am referring to the introduction of small computers in my own occupation- prior to coming to this Parliament of being a public accountant, and this has not necessarily meant that there has been any international competitiveness. What it has meant is that a lot of people who may otherwise be in employment are not now in employment because of the really rather extraordinary stimulus given to the introduction of those computers by the investment allowance unnecessarily applying to them. So there has to be more balance than there is at present in this whole field. I would like the Minister’s Department to take a lead in ensuring that there is that greater balance and not to assume that any introduction of technology is good for the community. A lot of it is vital, but not all of it. A lot of it is ensuring that fewer and fewer people are employed. The Australian Labor Party would not condone that in any way.
I turn to some of the principles that I have been outlining in relation to the Australian Labor Party’s thinking in this whole area to show how the Department does fit in with them and I would mention first the pro-manufacturing stance of the Department of Productivity. It rejects the drift towards the Industries Assistance Commission’s belief that high assistance manufacturing industries have fewer opportunities of becoming economically efficient and internationally competitive. The Labor Party does not believe that is so. We believe that a lot of these industries such as textiles and clothing have a future; certain parts of them have a magnificent future so long as they are revitalised. The Minister’s Department is doing excellent work in helping to ensure this revitalisation. I do not like talking about structural adjustment as I think the Minister did in his paper. As a progressive thinker I would like him to join with me in getting rid of that phrase from our vocabulary because I do not believe there is any need for us to adjust out of certain industries. There is a place for every one of the existing industries in our economy.
However, we must ensure that there is revitalisation within industries. These industries need not necessarily go on making every line that they are making now; they want to specialise and to have a look at the export opportunities to get the economies of scale. Structural adjustment conjures up in people’s minds getting out of that area altogether. We have already got out of enough areas. This Government is responsible for our not having a shipbuilding industry and has put the final nail in the coffin of the electronics industry and many others. Enough is enough. We want to stay in those industries that we are in now, not because we just want to protect them for the sake of protection but because there is a role for them. One of the processes and aims of the Department of Productivity is helping the firms in those particular industries to revitalise.
I could go on and show how Labor’s attitudes and policies are helped time and time again by what is happening in this Department. However, I want to end on a note relating to the National Productivity Year and strike a word of warning. First we want a National Employment Year. I think there is great danger in expecting a wide community acceptance of productivity until we get to full employment. We believe that Labor’s programs will help to get us back to full employment. Certainly we have to get better productivity along with that. I believe we can think in terms of a National Productivity Year once we are somewhere near that full employment but not while some of that increased productivity is at the expense of employment. I congratulate the Minister in bringing down the statement. I cannot agree with all the emphasis but I hope the Department survives.
Debate (on motion by Mr Connolly) adjourned.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
-I present the 170th, 171st, 172nd and 173rd reports of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts.
Ordered that the reports be printed.
-by leave-The 170th Report comprises Department of Finance minutes relating to three Committee reports tabled in 1975 and 1977. The practice of presenting finance minutes was introduced as the result of an administrative arrangement made in 1953 by the then Chairman, Professor F. A. Bland and the Treasurer, Sir Arthur Fadden. The finance minute procedure ensures that action on the Committee’s recommendations and conclusions are followed up by relevant departments and reported on to Parliament. These minutes refer to the Committee’s earlier reports about delays in occupancy of leased premises- the Committee’s 153rd report- expenditure from the Advance to the Treasurer for the financial year 1975-76-our 163rd Report-and the Committee’s report on the Auditor-General’s Report for 1974-75-the Committee’s 165th Report.
The Committee has been concerned for some time over the delays in finalising Department of Finance minutes. We are pleased to note that the response to its reports in most cases has been reduced to about 12 months, which is a considerable improvement. The Committee expects to be informed of completed action taken on its recommendations. We would hope that following the recent statement of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) on the handling of parliamentary committee reports that the period can be reduced further.
The 1 7 1 st report relates to the Committee ‘s inquiry into matters raised by the Auditor-General in his reports for the financial year 1976-77. We were disturbed at the number of statutory authorities, government-owned companies and other bodies which had not submitted financial statements to the Auditor-General for examination and the tendency for many not even to report annually to this Parliament. As a consequence, Parliament has been denied details about their operations, despite the fact that there is a statutory requirement for audited financial statements to be included with annual reports. For example, the Darwin Community College had not formally submitted financial statements to the Auditor-General since the creation of the College in July 1973.
The Committee also heard evidence relating to a claim by the Department of Construction that the Department had been criticised by the Auditor-General in a public document based on conclusions and assumptions made without the benefit of professional technical advice. The Department had sought the Attorney-General’s advice on the extent to which the Audit Act authorises the Auditor-General to report on matters which are not related to financial procedures or the actual expenditure of funds. From the evidence presented to the Committee it was clear the Auditor-General was not exceeding his authority in reporting as he did. A legal opinion obtained from the Attorney-General’s Department affirmed the Auditor-General’s right to report in the terms that he did. His conclusions were reasonable in view of the delays he experienced in obtaining relevant information from the Department of Construction.
In Darwin the Committee heard evidence from the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and the Department of Education on their failure to carry out a Cabinet decision relating to the rental of Commonwealth owned houses in the Territory. On the basis of evidence presented to the Committee by departments the Committee is concerned about the adequacy of processes by which departments are consulted in the preparation of Cabinet submissions and the manner in which Cabinet decisions are later notified, if at all, to departments. The Committee doubts the adequacy of current procedures for ensuring the implementation of Cabinet decisions. We believe that a simple central system to monitor progress in the implementation of decisions should be established. We do not question the arrangement whereby each Minister is responsible for implementing Cabinet decisions which have an impact in the area of his portfolio. However, there do not appear to be any administrative procedures controlled by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet ensuring that all departments are informed of relevant decisions and giving them an opportunity to comment on relevant Cabinet submissions in advance.
As part of its inquiry into the AuditorGeneral’s reports, the Committee also heard evidence from officers of the Department of Defence, the Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development, the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal, the Australian Wheat Board and the Superannuation Board. The 173rd report relates specifically to evidence taken in connection with items of expenditure from the advance to the Minister for Finance in 1977-78. As honourable members are aware, after the close of each financial year the Minister for Finance submits to Parliament a statement of expenditure from the Advance to the Minsiter for Finance showing allocations to heads of expenditure made by him under section 36a of the Audit Act. The Committee received explanations from departments on each item shown in the Minister’s statement. In all, we examined 98 departmental explanations and sought additional information by public examination on four of them. We found that, generally, expenditure from the Advance was confined to urgent and unforeseeable requirements for which provision could not have been made in the Appropriation Acts.
I wish to draw the attention of honourable members to the introductory chapter of this report which, for the first time and with the help of one of our observer organisations, gives a more detained explanation of the history and operation of the Advance to the Minister for Finance. On behalf of the Committee I am pleased to present the Committee’s 172nd report, ‘Financing and Administration of Property Owned or Leased Overseas by the Commonwealth Government’. We began this investigation a little over two years ago confident that we would be able to finish it in a short time. However, due to many circumstances, not the least of which was a fundamental change in administrative arrangements in the midst of our inquiry made without our knowledge the inquiry had to be extended. Since 1971 administrative control over overseas property has been in no less than five departments. This further transfer emasculated the former Overseas Property Bureau into a branch of yet another co-ordinating body- the Department of Administrative Services. These obliged the Committee to delay the completion of the taking of evidence so that we might assess the adequacy of the new arrangements.
In retrospect, we have serious doubts about the justification for the change and the effectiveness of the administration of overseas property since the Bureau was abolished. The evidence before the Commitee, despite assurances given by the permanent head of the Department of Administrative Services, has led it to conclude that the new arrangements have not improved the efficiency of overseas property management. We were informed of serious delays caused by the need to refer minor matters to numerous coordinating bodies in Canberra, including the Public Service Board, the Department of Finance, the Department of Administrative Services and on occasions various interdepartmental committees, as well as major parent departments such as Foreign Affairs, Trade and Resources and Immigration and Ethnic Affairs.
The Committee has made recommendations to reduce excessive administrative control and unnecessary expense. We believe that the Overseas Property Branch, as it is now called, within the Department of Administrative Services should be re-constituted as an independent bureau reporting to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Furthermore, we recommend that authority of heads of mission in property matters be increased. The Committee does not accept the situation where the Government gives heads of mission responsibility to negotiate matters of State on behalf of the Australian Government, and yet does not authorise them to make relatively minor administrative decisions with judgment, honesty and integrity. The Committee also recommends that the Public Service Board should delegate matters relating to standards and rent ceilings to the authority responsible for overseas property.
We have made 26 recommendations and numerous other observations and comments throughout the report. Some of the most significant include the provision of funds adequate to carry out necessary maintenance. The Committee also received evidence concerning extremely high rents paid for property in certain countries which enabled landlords to amortise capital over periods as short as five years. The Committee believes that the Commonwealth should aim to own at least 75 per cent of its property requirements overseas to avoid paying these high rents and that adequate funds should be made available on a three or five year program for this purpose.
The present system of providing staff with accommodation in North America and Britain also concerned the Committee. In these countries staff are provided with allowances and are expected to arrange private leased accommodation as well as leased furniture. The Committee believes that it is neither cost effective nor efficient when an officer posted from Australia has to spend weeks, and sometimes months, seeking suitable accommodation. We have recommended that the system in North America and Britain should be replaced by leased residential accommodation taken in the Government’s name so that the Government may benefit from longer term leasing as well as enabling posted officers to become productive in a short a time as possible.
I would like to comment briefly upon the use of Australian made products at Australian overseas posts. In general, the Committee supports the principle that Australian furniture and fabrics should be preferred where they are cost competitive A strong case can be made for use of Austraiian furniture, fabrics and other products in reception and entertaining areas in chanceries and heads of mission residences. To demonstrate the variety and quality of Australian manufactured products we have recommended that tendering specifications should be designed to give reasonable access to Australian manufacturers. We have noted a recent report concerning the furnishing of the new chancery and ambassador’s residence in Bangkok. The Committee has been pleased to hear that our recommendation has been anticipated and that nearly all of the furniture will be supplied by Australian manufacturers.
Another very topical question is the use of vehicles manufactured in Australia. The Committee received evidence that at times motor vehicles, including Australian built cars, were purchased which proved to be unsuitable to the conditions prevailing at the post. The Committee favours the use of Australian designed and manufactured vehicles, but clearly these must be cost competitive and must be backed up by suitable spare parts and maintenance arrangements. I commend the reports to honourable members.
-The Opposition supports the views which the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Connolly) put so adequately. We hope that the report will be read in detail by all honourable members because important principles are involved.
-I seek leave of the House to make a short statement in connection with the inquiry of the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory into planning procedures and processes in the Australian Capital Territory.
– I inform the House that whilst the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory had hoped to present its report on planning procedures and processes before the end of this year it will not be able to do so. The Committee believes it should await the outcome of the referendum on 25 November to determine the future governmental arrangements for the Territory. To have reported at this stage on the basis of the present situation might have been seen as acceptance of the status quo and thus as prejudicing the outcome. To report in a way which took into account all three referendum options would have been far too complex a task with much of the effort irrelevant after 25 November.
The Committee simply has not had time even to attempt such an effort. As the Parliament will rise before the referendum results can be assessed and before the precise form of future government for the Australian Capital Territory is known, the Committee has decided not to table the report until the Parliament resumes in February 1979. Whilst these conditions have caused the Committee to delay presentation of the report, opportunity will be taken to examine further issues such as the means of public participation and procedures for appeals against planning decisions. These and other fundamental issues involved in the inquiry then will be related specifically to the outcome of the referendum and to the consequent decisions announced by the Government. The Committee will thus be able to make recommendations directly relevant to the future constitutional status of the Capital Territory.
Discussion of Matter of Public Importance Mr ACTING SPEAKER (MrDrummond) Mr Speaker has received letters from the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren), the honourable member for Indi (Mr Ewen Cameron) and the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) proposing that definite matters of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion today. As required by Standing Order 107, Mr Speaker has selected one matter, that is, the proposal by the honourable member for Reid, namely:
The lack of frankness and co-operation displayed by the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development at the meeting of Commonwealth and State Ministers of Housing in Adelaide on 17 November 1978.
I therefore 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-
-Last Friday, the State Housing Ministers met with the Federal Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, (Mr Groom) in Adelaide to try to overcome the serious crisis that has developed in the housing industry in Australia and, in particular, to discuss the seriousness of the crisis in the public housing sector. The housing industry as a whole is at the lowest it has been for 12 years. For instance, the Indicative Planning Council for the Housing Industry has stated that enough men and material are available to build 150,000 houses a year. This year, only 113,000 houses have been built. In the public sector, there were 10,888 commencements last year. That was a dramatic drop from the number of commencements- 16,148- in the public sector in 1974-75 under the Labor Government. This year the State Ministers estimate that there will be no more than 6,000 commencements in the public housing sector although nearly 100,000 families are on housing commission waiting lists. The Ministers agreed to seek further finance from the Commonwealth to alleviate the plight of the public housing sector.The Federal Minister had to leave the meeting early. As soon as he left the meeting, he issued a lengthy Press statement which had been prepared in Canberra, before he attended the meeting. The statement he issued repudiated everything he had agreed to with the Ministers at the meeting that day. After the State Ministers had completed their meeting, they became aware of the Federal Minister’s Press Statement. They became so angry that the re-convened the meeting and drafted a telegram to the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). The telegram is in these words:
State housing Ministers wish to bring to your attention, and to protest at, the actions of your Housing Minister following the meeting of the Commonwealth and State Ministers in Adelaide on Friday, November 1 7.
Commonwealth State relations will become a complete farce if the behaviour of the Commonwealth Minister, Mr Groom, becomes a standard.
Within an hour of having agreed to the States doing detailed work to enable submissions to be made, by Mr Groom on the States’ behalf, to the Federal Government, Mr Groom publicly repudiated the submissions behind the backs of the State Ministers.
In the conference Mr Groom gave every indication to the State Ministers that the submissions made for restoration of housing cuts would be seriously considered.
None of the relevant statements made outside the conference to the Press by Mr Groom were said to State Ministers face to face when he had the opportunity.
Mr Groom’s behaviour was grossly discourteous and destroyed the spirit of co-operation which the States tried to achieve and believed was pan of the Commonwealth approach.
The Commonwealth policy on housing ignores the needs of low income people and seriously disadvantages the building industry.
The resolutions passed by the conference with the unanimous support of Ministers from every State were:
An immediate increase in Commonwealth funds: An adequate forward commitment of Commonwealth funds for future financial years.
This document, in addition to containing information collected by the Commonwealth for forward estimates, would include:
Supporting statistics for the last four quarters, covering:
It was signed by the following:
Four out of those seven Ministers are LiberalCountry Party Ministers. That is how serious the situation is. But it is even worse than the Ministers set down. Let us examine the real facts. In 1977-78, $390m was made available for housing. This year $3 16m will be made available. Repayments of advances to the States last year were $27.7m; this year they will be $30.9m. Interest payments last year were $134m; this year they are expected to be $ 147.8m. Therefore the net funds that were available last year were $228.3m; this year they will be $ 137.3m. In money terms there has been a 39.9 per cent reduction in funds or, in real terms, there has been a 44 per cent downturn on last year. The net amount at constant prices in 1974-75 was $278.1m; this year it will be $92.8m at 1974-75 constant prices. In other words, there has been a reduction of 66 per cent during that period, or it is one-third of the 1974-75 level. I seek leave to have this table incorporated in Hansard so that those students of housing who want to study the facts can study them in Hansard.
The table read as follows-
– I also would like to have incorporated in Hansard a table showing housing commencements and completions by State housing authorities from 1974-75 to 1977-78.
The table read as follows-
– One will see that in 1974-75 under the Labor Government 16,148 houses were commenced; last year under this Government 10,888 houses were commenced. As I suggested earlier, in fact about 6,000 houses will be commenced this year. This Government is caught in a very serious predicament; it is in a crisis situation in the housing industry. Already I have talked about this year being the all time low in 12 years in the housing industry. The Prime Minister has promised a reduction of 2 per cent in interest rates. This was an election promise, but in truth it was an election gimmick. He knew the serious situation that would arise at the time of making that commitment. The dollar is under pressure and he knew that it would come under pressure. There is currently a deficit in the current account of the balance of payments of about $3,500m because the Government cannot get the capital inflow that it needs. It is already borrowing in excess of $2,000m this year.
Interest rates overseas generally are increasing. Reduced interest rates here may exacerbate
Australian liquidity and worsen the balance of payments. Since late 1977 interest rates in the United States of America, the United Kingdom and the European Economic Community have moved up sharply relative to interest rates in Australia and those in strong balance of payments countries, such as Germany and Japan. If there is a broadly based downward movement in private sector interest rates in Australia it could tend to reduce the net inflow of capital from the traditional major sources, such as the United States of America, the United Kingdom and the Eurodollar market. At the same time declining interest rates will encourage a speculative outflow of capital from Australia overseas. Yet this Government is strongly committed to increasing private capital inflow into Australia. Such are the contradictions of Australia’s dependent role in the international capitalist economy and such are the contradictions of conservative economic strategy in these times.
The Government budgeted for a target growth rate of 6 per cent to 8 per cent in the money supply for 1978-79. Currently the growth in the money supply is miming at about IS per cent. In the second half of this financial year there will need to be a squeeze on the availability of credit to achieve the money supply target of the Budget. The conjunction of a lowered interest rate and tight credit will not help the building industry at all; rather it will lead to a further depletion of capital that is available for new housing. During Question Time this morning the Prime Minister tried to stress that the Government’s policy to reduce the prescribed asset ratio for savings banks from 45 per cent to 40 per cent will in fact stimulate the housing sector. Again this is false. Let us look at the facts. At present the minimum ratio is still above 50 per cent- it is about 52 per cent. This has occurred despite the reduction in the official minimum ratio from 50 per cent to 45 per cent in May 1977 and a further reduction to 40 per cent which was announced by the Treasurer (Mr Howard) in the Budget this year.
There are several reasons why this reduction will not give the stimulus to the building industry that is anticipated by this Government. The savings banks will want to hold on to their Commonwealth Government securities with the prospect of capital gains and the suggestion that interest rates will fall. There is no developed market to allow the savings banks to sell their semi-government securities. This means that savings banks are locked in and will hold these securities until maturity. Therefore the savings banks will prefer to redirect the growth of deposits towards meeting the new ratio rather than to reduce the level of their holdings of government securities to meet this new ratio. Increased loans will not particularly find their way into new dwelling construction. At present only 30 per cent of housing loans from savings banks are being used to finance new dwellings.
Let me quickly look at the question of the stimulus to the housing sector because of the unemployment situation. The deterioration of the building and construction industry is now evident. Commencements and completions are at a twelve year low. In November 1975 when the Government took office employment in the building and construction industry was 381,300 persons; in August 1978 the number of persons employed was 348,000- a fall of over 9 per cent, or 32,000 people. Between August 1977 and August 1978 there was a decline of 8,200 people in employment in that industry. Therefore we know how serious the situation is. Apprentices are not being absorbed into the industry. If there is any stimulus at all to the housing sector there will not be the skilled tradesmen to take over the development. The Minister and the Government stand condemned on this issue.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drummond) Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I was amazed and, frankly, very disappointed when I read of the accusations that have been made against me by the State Ministers following the Commonwealth-State housing Ministers’ conference in Adelaide last Friday. I think it is important that people know what was contained in the statement that I released. It states:
State Housing Ministers’ calls for a massive increase in Commonwealth funds for housing are quite unrealistic, the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, Mr Ray Groom, said today.
An injection of this size would work against the whole Commonwealth strategy which was already having demonstrable success in reducing inflation, cutting interests rates, improving the availability of finance as well as bringing about improvements in industry stability and overall economic recovery.
The call for increased Commonwealth funding was made by State Ministers at a Commonwealth/State Housing Ministers meeting in Adelaide today.
It’s about time that the States realised that Commonwealth money doesn’t solve everything’, Mr Groom said.
They have failed to appreciate the Commonwealth’s objectives for both the housing industry and the economy generally.
The most effective single action the Commonwealth can take for the housing industry is to get inflation down.
Calls for additional funds at a time when, in the interests of reducing inflation, the Commonwealth is attempting to limit expenditure are neither helpful, nor realistic’, Mr Groom said.
The Commonwealth had demonstrated its concern for the housing industry and had acted to ensure there was an adequate supply of finance.
The Commonwealth had reduced the Savings Bank prescribed assets ratio from 45 per cent to 40 per cent so that savings banks could increase funds to the housing sector.
As a result of the Commonwealth’s actions the total volume of lending by banks and permanent building societies is likely to be about 12 per cent higher this year than in 1977-78” . . .
The recent reductions which the Commonwealth had made in interest rates on bonds could also be expected to flow through to housing interest rates.
The States do not seem to realise that the Government’s moves to lower interest rates represent an enormous potential saving to home purchasers’ . . . An interest rate reduction on home loans of 1 per cent would mean that people buying their own home would save a total of about $ 1 30m a year.
The Commonwealth’s actions to reduce inflation, maintain an adequate supply of finance to the housing market and to reduce interest rates would have a beneficial effect on housing activity.
State Ministers who criticise the level of advances provided by the Commonwealth for welfare housing conveniently ignore the range of funding sources provided under the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement.
Apart from Commonwealth advances States have other funds available to them which have been generated from the operation of the program, and any funds they themselves may care to contribute.
The total Commonwealth advances of $3 16m this year, would make possible total State expenditure on welfare housing of the same order as in 1 977-78.
If States feel that more funds should be provided, they should look to their own Budget resources which have been considerably boosted by for instance the tax-sharing arrangements now in operation’ . . .
The Commonwealth has done all it can for the housing industry within the economic constraints which it faces’ . . .
Rather than calling for further Commonwealth assistance it is up to the States to take some action themselves.
They do have their own funds which, if they were genuinely concerned about housing, could be allocated to housing programs.
There are other things the States could do which involve minimal expenditure. For example, the Recommendations of the Housing Costs Inquiry provide a program for action by the States which would assist both consumers and producers.
Until the States demonstrate their bona fides, calls to the Commonwealth for assistance sound very hollow indeed’ . . .
That was the statement that I issued following the meeting. I believe that that statement was temperate in its language; it was mild and it was accurate. As the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) said at Question Time today, it was an impeccable statement of policy which had been previously announced by the Government and it was an entirely proper statement. In no way did I breach the confidence of the meeting in making that statement. It was totally consistent with the views I expressed during the conference. That is a point that I want to stress. I object to the comments by the State Housing Ministers that I did not say these things to their faces but in a Press statement outside. That is untrue. I wish I had the transcript before me to place before the House so that honourable members would see that what I said at the meeting was quite consistent with the statement I issued after the meeting.
I made the point during the meeting that it was so important that we should get the inflation rate down further, that there was a clear correlation between the inflation rate and interest rates, that it was important to control strictly government expenditure to achieve a reduction in interest rates and a reduction in the inflation rate, and that the industry’s problems would not be solved merely by more government expenditure on
Budget or by some short term palliative or stimulus. I indicated to the Ministers at that meeting that if there were an answer to the problems of the industry it was in general fiscal and monetary policies and not in some short term measure which was suggested. I gave no cause for the Ministers to think -
– Why didn’t you make a joint statement?
-I will come to that in a moment. I gave no cause for the Ministers to think that our Budget strategy for 1978-79 would be changed. In fact, on any reasonable interpretation of what I said, I was indicating quite the contrary. Therefore I say there was nothing in what I was saying at the meeting which was inconsistent with what I said after the meeting when releasing the Press statement. Frankly, I think the response was a gross overreaction and overexaggeration. I suspect that the Ministers concerned, when they read what they have said, would regret their statements. I think they would regret having attacked me and the Committee in this way for its policies.
Many subjects were discussed during the meeting. There was, of course, the request for extra funds. It was a little like the previous Housing Ministers Conference held in Hobart a little less than 12 months ago when the Housing Ministers asked for a doubling of funds. They wanted twice the amount of funds that they were currently receiving, an increase from $400m to $800m. I said in a Press statement after that meeting- they did not react in the same way then- that that was not a reasonable request in all the circumstances and that it was not realistic. I said that it ignored economic realism. I said that at the earlier conference and there was no reaction to that statement. A whole range of subjects were dealt with and some had merit. Those matters will be placed before the Government so that they can be given proper consideration. We talked about aged persons housing and about the matching funding principle and objections were raised by the States, some of which obviously were very genuine. That is a different issue to the issue of total funding. The question of the amount is different to the principle of matching. Certainly, the principle of matching is something which I think we should consider. We should look at the points that the States made.
They pointed out the need for forward commitments. Again that is a matter that must be considered. Aboriginal housing and the new agreement, which will be signed quite soon, were discussed. We are now waiting on Queensland to agree on certain clauses but we would expect that agreement to be signed shortly. That agreement was discussed in some detail. The current position of the industry from State to State was analysed and we considered what actions might be taken. We looked at the total situation and each State had an opportunity to express a point of view and we listened very carefully to what they had to say. Of course, there was the question of the follow-up to the Housing Costs Inquiry. Ministers conferred on what action might be taken to follow up the important report which has been handed down. We talked also about the general economic situation and general economic issues. Some of these matters have merit and obviously they must be considered. I made it abundantly clear at the meeting that the massive increase in expenditure which was requested for this financial year was not realistic and certainly was not the answer. That was the point that I reiterated in the Press statement that I issued.
Where is the impropriety that is implied in the comments made by the State Ministers? Each Minister attending a meeting such as that must have the right when he leaves the meeting to issue a statement. The honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) mentioned a joint statement.
– That is right. That is the real spirit of Commonwealth-State co-operation.
– Sure. It would be very nice if the State Ministers would agree to include in such a statement the sorts of points that I made in that meeting and the sorts of points that I make now. That is one of the problems -
– Don’t you know what Commonwealth-State relations are all about?
-It is important that we have good relations. I suggest to the honourable member that he confers with some of his Labor colleagues who happen to be Ministers and explain to them the importance of that point of view. Any Minister who has attended these meetings realises that it is difficult to get across the Commonwealth point of view in any joint Press statement that might be released afterwards. We had a joint Press statement that was prepared the night before by the Ministers without my knowledge. It was in a brief that some of the Ministers had. It was a draft and I understand that at the time I left the meeting it had not been considered. It was there and I believe that they intended to consider that draft until other things took its place following the release of my statement. 1 want to quote some of the paragraphs from this joint statement that was to be issued:
Housing Ministers from all States meeting in Adelaide today unanimously called on the Commonwealth Government to make available substantial additional funds to the housing industry as a matter of critical urgency.
The Ministers said they deplored the savage cut . . .
The Ministers went on to say that the situation was disastrous and so on. Was this a joint statement which was prepared beforehand? One thing one learns when one attends a Commonwealth-State Ministers meeting is that it is important to be prepared. There is no reasonable opportunity for a Federal Minister to make known his point of view. That was why it was necessary for me to issue a Press statement. That matter was raised at the meeting and it was agreed that the Ministers had the right to issue Press statements. The comment that what I said was tantamount to rejecting all the requests made at that meeting is plainly wrong and patently inaccurate. There are a number of matters that must be taken up. I believe that the Ministers concerned showed extraordinary sensitivity in taking the action they did. No Minister can be muzzled from making a statement that he believes is proper, accurate and reasonable following a meeting of that kind, and I would not suggest that any individual State Minister should be prevented from making that sort of statement. It was consistent with what I said.
It is important to see the statement in its proper context. One of the objections made by the States was that some of the contents of the statement were not to their satisfaction in that I was calling on the States to take some action themselves and to look at their own budgetary situation. It is important to look at the States’ budgetary situation. All States, except possibly Tasmania, appear to be in a sound financial position. One must compare their situation with that of the Commonwealth, where we are looking at a deficit of $2, 800m, and see who has the capacity to direct more funds towards housing. I am just as concerned as the States are about housing, and about welfare housing, but let us look at the facts and see what capacity the States have. As I have said, all States with the possible exception of Tasmania appear to be in a sound financial situation budgetwise. Four States had small deficits or surpluses on revenue transactions in 1977-78. South Australia had a $24.9m deficit, $ 18.4m of which was financed by accumulated reserves, leaving an accumulated deficit of $6.5m at 30 June 1978. Tasmania had a $6.4m deficit. Let us look at the States’ current public balances as at 30 June 1978: Victoria has $291. lm; Queensland $549. 8m; South Australia $93m; Western Australia $380. 5m; Tasmania $ 12.4m; and the New South Wales figure is not available.
Those figures indicate a quite satisfactory position from State to State. As to revenue Budgets, New South Wales had a relatively minor Budget deficit of $2.1m; Victoria $5. 5m; Queensland $0.4m; South Australia and Western Australia a balanced Budget; and Tasmania a small deficit of $1.9m. So the States themselves do have the capacity to direct further funds to housing, and to welfare housing in particular.
I want to indicate briefly that the total amount of funds available for welfare housing in the States is at least as good as last year, on the figures we have. On the advice from the States, it is better than it was last year. I acknowledge that the States have made some effort to direct their funds into this area and I think they could make a greater effort. The total amount of funds is more than it was last year, I put those figures before the State Ministers and no one disagreed with them.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Armitage)Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
– It is an extraordinary thing that six different Ministers representing the different States in Australia should get together -
Motion (by Mr Hodges) proposed:
That the Business of the Day be called on.
– He cannot face the six Ministers and he cannot debate the point in this House. He is a coward.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I ask that the honourable member be requested to withdraw his remark that the Minister answering in the debate is a coward.
-Did the honourable member make that remark?
– I ask the honourable member to withdraw it.
– On the basis of the facts, I think there was some justification for the statement.
– I withdraw, Mr Deputy Speaker.
That the Business of the Day be called on.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker- Mr J. L. Armitage)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 9 November, on motion by Mr Nixon:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The purpose of the Air Navigation (Charges) Amendment Bill 1978 is to provide for an increase of 15 per cent in air navigation charges payable by all domestic aviation operators from 1 December 1978. The increase in charges is expected to yield an additional $2m in revenue in the current financial year. It should be noted that the increased air navigation charges will not apply to international airline operators. The Opposition does not oppose the Bill.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. It is virtually impossible to hear what the honourable member is saying at the moment. Could we have some technical adjustment made to the broadcasting system?
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Armitage) Would the gentlemen in the broadcasting box please make sure that the amplification is correct? I think it would be made a lot easier for honourable members to hear the honourable member for Shortland if there were less audible conversation in the House.
– The Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) in his second reading speech described the Bill as a machinery measure. Whilst this may be true in strict legalistic terms, the services to aviation for which air navigation charges are payable go to the very foundation and structure of Australian air passenger and air freight services. This debate thus provides an opportunity to examine in some detail the cost recovery program of successive conservative governments, the range of services provided to the aviation industry by the Department of Transport, the level of utilisation of those services by the various air service operators and the provision of the two airlines agreement in relation to Ansett Transport Industries Ltd and Trans-Australia Airlines. The Minister stated in his second reading speech that this financial year $2m is the expected addition to revenue resulting from the increased air navigation charges that are provided for in this Bill. This figure appears to be in conflict with information provided in the statement he released on Budget night relating to anticipated aviation revenue collections for 1978-79. On page 7 of that statement the Minister stated:
Growth in international air traffic is expected to yield an extra $2.1m while additional revenue from general aviation and commuter aircraft is expected to increase as a result of higher air navigation charges by $200,000.
He went on to state that traffic increases in the domestic trunk airline sector and rural airline sector would produce a $1.3m increase in revenue. No reference was made in the Minister’s second reading speech to the amounts detailed in that statement and I have been unable to reconcile the details of his Budget statement with the figures mentioned by the Minister in his second reading speech. The Budget statement showed also $7.7m as the amount of increase to be earned from domestic trunk airlines and rural airlines, but no detail was provided of how that $7.7m was to be collected, except that it was stated that it would result from the Government’s move to full cost recovery in those sectors over the next two years. There are obvious discrepancies between the Minister’s Budget statement and his second reading speech on this Bill. In view of the seriousness of the subject and of the severe impact that increases in air navigation charges have upon the aviation industry, particularly when reflected in high domestic air fares, I ask the Minister: At the conclusion of this debate, or as soon as convenient, will he provide the Parliament with a detailed reconciliation and explanation of the information on air navigation charges revenue included in his Budget statement and his second reading speech?
The Government when in opposition, particularly the present Minister for Transport, made great political capital of the cost recovery program introduced by the Australian Labor Parry Government during 1972 to 1975. The real difficulties with cost recovery arose because a conservative government, having written into the two airlines agreement of 1958 a clause providing for full recovery by the Commonwealth of the cost of facilities properly attributable to civil air transport, did nothing to implement that policy, nor did successive conservative governments, with the result that the percentage of recovery of costs in 1972-73 was 49.6 per cent. The effect of this was that civil aviation in Australia was allowed to develop on a false cost structure. Attempts by the Labor Government in 1972 to 1975 and since 1975 by the present Minister for Transport to increase the rate of cost recovery have caused unforeseen difficulties for the industry.
Table 1 1.1 of the first report of the 1978 Domestic Aviation Policy review shows that total costs for the provision of civil aviation facilities rose from $58.531m in 1968-69 to $207.414m in 1976-77. The rate of recovery rose from 43.6 per cent in 1968-69 to 61.2 per cent in 1975-76 and dropped back to 58.3 per cent in 1976-77. Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard table 1 1 . 1 to which I referred.
-Is leave granted?
– Leave is granted, Mr Deputy Speaker, but may I make the point that I am not sure whether the rest of the honourable member’s tables are attributable. I will be happy to give leave to have all of them incorporated when the honourable member comes to them, but I am not sure that some of them are attributable.
– May I ask the Minister, through you, Mr Deputy Speaker, what he means by attributable? They are photocopies taken from the report.
-Yes, you may.
-The handwritten table does not show from where it came.
– When I come to that table I will explain, Mr Deputy Speaker.
-Is leave granted for the table to be incorporated in Hansard! There being no objection, leave is granted.
The table read as follows-
-Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. The associated table from the domestic aviation report, table 1 1.2, shows the rate of cost recovery for each of the sectors of the industry for the financial years 1974-75 and 1975-76, with estimates of apportionment for 1976-77. I seek leave to have table 11.2 incorporated in Hansard also, Mr Deputy Speaker.
The table read as follows-
– This table shows the following rates of cost recovery in percentage terms for the years mentioned: In international operations in 1974- 75, 86.5 per cent, rising to 1 14.7 per cent in 1975- 76 and to 122.9 per cent in 1976-77; in the domestic trunk airline sector, 75.2 per cent in 1974-75, rising to 80.4 per cent in 1975-76 and falling to 75.9 per cent in 1976-77; in the rural airlines sector, 24.2 per cent in 1974-75, rising to 29.7 per cent in 1975-76 and then to 27.4 per cent in 1976-77; in the commuter sector and other general aviation sector for 1974-75, 17 per cent combined and, for commuter aircraft alone, 7.2 per cent in 1975-76 and 6.8 per cent in 1 976- 77; and in the other general aviation sector, 17 per cent in 1974-75, 15.2 per cent in 1975-76 and 14 per cent in 1976-77. In total industry terms, there was 54.8 per cent cost recovery in 1974-75, 60.6 per cent in 1975-76 and 59.6 per cent in 1976-77.
The footnote to those tables indicates that there could be minor discrepancies in apportionment. If there are substantial differences in that regard, I again ask the Minister at some later stage to provide the Parliament with a reconciliation of those tables with the information provided in his second reading speech. I realise that later information could have been provided or that there could have been a tightening up in relation to some of those figures.
Since the change in government, the Minister has legislated for the following increases in air navigation charges: In March 1976, a 15 per cent increase retrospective to 1 December 1975 for domestic and international aircraft; from 1 December 1976, a 15 per cent increase for domestic and international services. Some other changes were also associated with the application of those charges. This Bill, which will be operative from 1 December 1978, provides for a 15 per cent increase in all domestic services, excluding international airlines. In all, these -
– What about last year? You did not mention last year.
– No, there was not an increase last year, as I am advised. In all there has been a cumulative increase of some 52 per cent in air navigation charges in just three years. This increase, together with increased fuel prices flowing from this Government’s decisions on import parity pricing, has boosted domestic air fares by 27 per cent, in cumulative terms, in just over two years. A further increase is to follow the implementation of the increased air navigation charges authorised in this Bill.
The objective of the Government’s high air fare policy- its determination to slug air travellers- is to price air travel beyond the reach of a large segment of the Australian community. In this cavalier approach to aviation policy, the Government is clearly oblivious of the importance of the level of air fares to the people of Western Australia, Tasmania, the Northern Territory, north Queensland and country provincial centres. I remind the Minister and the Government that for people in these areas air travel is in most cases the basic and only form of long distance public passenger transport. The position could well arise where people will be marooned in country centres, cut off from their families, and the better health care and cultural faculties of the metropolitan areas, as a result of the rapid increase in fare levels.
I put it to the chamber that the Government is quite out of touch with the needs of people in these areas and that it is committed to maintaining the status quo in aviation arrangements in this country. The present arrangements provide, in the main, for a system that was designed to meet the needs and aspirations of an earlier generation. The costs incurred in providing services to the aviation industry include the provision of airports and associated terminal and navigational facilities. That is a matter with which I do not have time in this debate to deal in detail.
The report about which I asked the Minister in the House last Thursday week related specifically to the planning and development of the two airport engineering branches in the Department of Transport. The Minister may have had time to look at the report since I questioned him, but obviously when I asked the question he did not know what I was talking about. He did not know of the inquiry or the review that has been going on since 1974. He certainly did not know of the trenchant criticism that review has made of the Department of Transport; it has been called a disaster area. It shows that there is no national program whatsoever for airport construction or development in this country.
I stress in a few words that those basic, fundamental costs to domestic and international air services have a strong bearing on the level of air fares. All the airports have to be capitalised. If they are under-utilised they are over capitalised. Whichever way it works out, the cost of maintaining those services and funding the capital invested has to be met by the air traveller in terms of higher air fares. We on this side of the House believe that fares and costs can be controlled- even reduced- through better utilisation of aircraft investment and better utilisation of civil aviation facilities. I again stress to the Minister and to his colleagues behind him that civil aviation was introduced for the benefit of air travellers and not for the benefit of governments as a means of collecting revenue, a means of levying taxes or a means of discriminating against those people who have to travel by air.
The latest figures from the Department of Transport show that, for the year ended 30 September 1978, there was an increase in the number of passengers carried per hour flown by the airlines. I shall quickly advert to some of those statistics. The figures that I have show a comparison between the year ended 30 September 1978 and the year ended 30 September 1977: For Trans- Australia Airlines, we find an increase of 4.7 per cent in hours flown and an increase of 6.8 per cent in the number of passengers carried; for Ansett Airlines of Australia, the increase is 7. 1 per cent in hours flown and there is an increase of 10.4 per cent in the number of passengers carried; for East- West Airlines for which the situation is slightly different the increase in hours flown is 8.7 per cent and the increase in passengers carried is 8.3 per cent; for Airlines of New South Wales we find an increase of 3.7 per cent in hours flown and an increase of 7.7 per cent in passengers carried. So, in that case the increase in passengers carried is more than double that in hours flown. The general picture for the remainder of the airlines is that, where there has been an increase in hours flown by aircraft in these fleets, there has been a greater increase in the number of passengers carried. This indicates to me a better utilisation of aircraft investment and a better sharing of costs of operation of the airline. That ought to be reflected in more efficient operation.
I turn quickly to the September quarter in order to contrast the yearly figures that I have just mentioned with the September quarter figures in relation to passengers embarked and growth in airline traffic. When the Minister announced an increase in air fares in July, he had a lot to say in justifying that decision. He said that the airlines are doing a good job. In fact, at that time a spokesman from his office said: ‘The airlines are pretty reasonable about these things.
They usually ask only for what they are properly entitled to’. Up to that point- the fifth increase in air fares- the Minister had rubber stamped all previous applications for increased air fares; he had approved them in full. When this fifth application was made, he said: ‘They are really entitled to more but we are giving them this and they will pick up the rest in traffic’. When the sixth application for an increase was approved on 29 September, the Minister fell into a sea of silence. We are yet to hear from him. Perhaps we will flush him out this afternoon. However, to date he has buried himself deeply; he must be about 45 fathoms down.
The September quarter figures show that there is a continuing growth in airline traffic. These figures compare airline traffic for the September quarter 1978 with that for the September quarter 1977. They show for TAA an increase of 3.9 per cent in traffic, for Ansett a 4.5 per cent increase, for Airlines of New South Wales a 13.5 per cent increase, and for MacRobertson Miller Airlines a 10.3 per cent increase. I do not wish to go through all the figures. I seek leave to incorporate that table in Hansard. It is derived from the provisional statistics of the Department of Transport on domestic scheduled airlines.
The table read as follows-
-The interesting point arising out of a comparison of the figures in that bulletin which the Department issued is that there has been a continuing growth in airline traffic since 1974. If one looks at the growth in the number of passengers per hour flown one finds that between 1974 and 1978 there has been an increase of about 20 per cent. If we take the number of hours flown by an airline and compare that with the number of passengers carried, we find that the airlines carried on average 31.3 persons for each hour flown as at September 1974 and that that figure had climbed to 37.4 passengers per hour flown as at September 1978. So, that improvement of 20 per cent is a rather dramatic one.
I turn now to freight. We find that freight carried in 1974 was 0.4 tonnes per hour flown. That has moved up only to 0.43 tonnes per hour flown, an increase of approximately 7 per cent by 1977. So, obviously, there is some room for an increase in efficiency in the transportation of freight by the domestic airlines. Whether the market is saturated or whether better means could be used for developing this service, I do not know. I seek leave to incorporate that table in Hansard. It also is derived from the statistics from which the previous table was derived.
The table read as follows-
– The airlines have made various statements about the growth rate in airline travel. According to reports I have seen recently- the Minister will not tell us anything; he is in his sea of silence- the airlines say that the growth rate has slowed down and that, therefore, they have to make some sort of contractionary decision in relation to air services. I will come to the situation in Queensland later.
Let us look at the movement in air traffic. We find that in 1974 airline traffic increased by 13.1 per cent; in 1975 it rose by 5.7 per cent; in 1976 there was a decrease of 3.3 per cent; an increase of 4.6 per cent occurred in 1977; and an increase of 8.5 per cent took place in the year ended September 1978. Only in one year has there been a decrease in airline traffic. The increase which occurred in the year ended September 1 978 represents the largest increase since the year ended September 1974. So, it is a little hard to reconcile those figures with what the industry is seeking to say about a downturn in growth. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table showing the utilisation of airports.
The table read as follows-
-If we look at those figures which are derived from the provisional statistics of the Department of Transport, we find that in almost all cases- I do not wish to go through all the figures- there has been an increase in aircraft movements at all of the major airports, but that there has been a greater increase still in the number of passengers passing through those airports. So, there has been better utilisation of airport terminal facilities, except in certain cases. I do not intend to go through all the figures because they appear in the table, but I shall mention the cases in which the opposite occurred.
In the other cases which I will mention the opposite has occurred. The increase in aircraft movements has been greater than the increase in the number of passengers through airports. These airports are of particular significance to the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Groom) who is at the table. Devonport and Wynyard, are the first ones mentioned. They are of particular significance to Tasmania. The Government is determined sooner or later, in one way or another, to close down one of those airports. Other airports are Perth, Townsville, Port Hedland and Darwin. An examination of the table will show what I am saying to be correct.
– Complete nonsense.
– The Minister said ‘complete nonsense’. I refer him to the table. When he has had time to read it, he will see that what I am saying is correct. There has been a growth of domestic airline traffic in each year except 1975-76.
The other matter I want to raise- I am pleased that the Minister for Transport is in the chamber- relates to the same area, and that is the limit of compensation for air travellers. It is very significant to raise the matter at this stage because I am hopeful that the Minister will take the opportunity in the remaining few days of this session to put forward legislation to correct this obvious anomaly. As I have mentioned to the chamber, there has been a growth of traffic. More than 10 million people are moving through domestic airports. Yet the limit on compensation under the Civil Aviation (Carriers Liability) Act 1959, as amended, is less than half what it should be. The limit is $45,000 which is the equivalent of four years average earnings. When the limit was introduced in December 1955 it was equivalent to eight years average earnings. We on this side of the House believe that families could be beggared. They could find themselves poverty stricken if the thing nobody wants to happen occurred.
If the family breadwinner were injured in some way, not necessarily fatally but severely, as a result of an aircraft accident on the ground or in the air and lost the capacity to provide income, under the legislation as it stands the limit of compensation of $45,000 which includes medical and legal costs is totally and woefully inadequate. It does not provide in any reasonable way for the circumstances in which families could find themselves. I remind the Minister that when this legislation was originally amended, under the Cotton formula of 1 970, the protection which is part of the whole civil aviation system was based on a comparison of average weekly earnings with the base year of 1955. As I have pointed out, under that formula the limit should be $91,000. 1 ask the Minister in the interests of millions of people, particularly the many thousands who will travel over the Christmas period, to put forward that simple amendment in the remaining few days. The Opposition will support it and encourage its passage through the chamber. It will raise the limit of compensation to $90,000. This Government has raised domestic air fares by 27 per cent in just over two years. The cost to the airlines of raising the limit from $45,000 to $90,000 is the price of a public telephone call, 10c per passenger. The Government may well say that the International Civil Aviation Organisation has set a limit of $45,000. ICAO prescribes minimums, not maximums. It is up to the Government of our own nation to assess the circumstances and determine what is a reasonable figure. I put that proposition to the Minister in all sincerity as a matter that needs to be looked at urgently.
I have already repeatedly pointed out the shambles into which aviation policy in this country has degenerated under the Fraser Government. There is no better example of that shambles than Trans-Australia Airlines proposed withdrawal from country air services in Queensland. This resulted in threats by the Queensland Premier to cancel TAA’s licence in Queensland. It came about one week after the Mininster released a second report on domestic civil aviation policy. Several aspects of the proposal concern the Opposition such as the degradation of the quality of service provided to people in country areas of Queensland, the withdrawal of Fokker 36-passenger aircraft and their replacement by 15-passenger Metro liners operated by a pilot and an attendant- a much smaller crew. The pilot will have to do several landings and take-offs by himself. He will probably help load the luggage, help passengers out and do a number of other ancillary tasks as well as fly the aeroplane. Obviously there will be a fatigue burden upon the pilot in those circumstances that must, in some way, cause concern. It is certainly causing the pilots concern.
The bombshell on Queensland air services burst following the address of the General Manager of TAA, Mr McKenzie, to TAA pilots in Brisbane last month on the financial results of country services in Queensland for TAA. I make this critical point: Mr McKenzie in his address to the pilots mentioned political pressures. I want the Minister to tell us what those political pressures were. He knows all about them. Mr McKenzie referred to political pressures that were bringing about TAA’s decision to withdraw from Queensland. Those political pressures have not been spelt out. When the bombshell burst the
Minister feigned ignorance of the elements involved. Yet under his extensive powers as Minister for Transport the law stipulates that neither TAA nor Ansett Transport Industries Ltd can cease to run a service without consulting him with a view to substituting a charter operator.
The Minister, in my view, sought to mislead the public as to his role in the withdrawal of TAA. The details of Mr McKenzie’s address were passed to a National Party member of the Legislative Assembly in Queensland who arranged a deputation to the Premier. In the presence of that deputation the Premier rang the Minister for Transport and advised him of the Queensland Government’s reaction to any proposed withdrawal by TAA of country services in Queensland. I understand that the Minister told the Premier in that telephone conversation that TAA would not withdraw. However, again I put it to the Minister that he can tell us exactly what was said in that conversation. I think that the people of Queensland as well as the Parliament are entitled to know. It is easy to imagine. Joh picked up the phone and said: ‘That you Pete? What’s this business about TAA pulling out of Queensland? It’s not on’. That is roughly how the conversation was described to me as a member of the deputation heard it. The pilots are concerned, naturally, at the prospect of 35 of them losing jobs and at the reduction in training capacity by the removal of the Fokker fleet for training pilots who move up the line to captaincy of larger aircraft. The country people in Queensland are concerned at what kind of air services they will have if TAA withdraws. The Minister has a responsibility to inform, give leadership and provide reassurance to the people of Hughenden, Richmond, Julia Creek, Cloncurry and Mount Isa to mention just a few of the ports involved.
There is another aspect of concern in the proposed TAA transfer to Bush Pilots Airways Ltd with whom I understand from media reports it has negotiated. Recently the Minister appointed Mr David Buchanan, a former general manager of Mount Isa Mines Ltd, to the Board of Trans-Australia Airlines. The Minister said at the time that Mr Buchanan ‘would bring a wide business background to the Board of the Commission ‘. He said that Mr Buchanan was President of the Queensland Chamber of Mines and that as such he must have dealings with Mount Isa Mines. The Minister did not state that Mount Isa Mines has an application before the Foreign Investment Review Board for the purchase by Mount Isa Mines of a major shareholding of 20 per cent in Bush Pilots Airways. I make no criticism of the role of Mr Buchanan. Let me make it clear that I am concerned and the Opposition is concerned that there could be an appearance of a conflict of interests in his membership of the Board of Trans-Australia Airlines at a time when TAA is negotiating with a company of which Mr Buchanan is a former employee and with which he must have communication in his capacity as President of the Queensland Chamber of Mines.
That appearance of a conflict of interests is the Minister’s responsibility. He should be aware of all the pertinent facts when appointing a TAA commissioner, especially if there is even the remotest chance that a conflict of interests could be seen to result from the appointment. I ask the Minister to clarify in detail Mr Buchanan’s position. If there is no conflict of interest in the proposal of Mount Isa Mines Ltd to purchase a 20 per cent interest in Bush Pilots Airways Ltd I think the Minister should present the case in a way so that it can be seen to be so. There should not be even the slightest suggestion that a member of the board of Trans- Australia Airlines could be impugned in any way by the possibility of conflict of interest.
I want to conclude by referring to the soaring domestic airfare levels. Since the Minister’s announcement of the July 6 per cent increase in fare levels, he has been engulfed by the sea of silence I mentioned earlier on fare levels. His refusal to announce the 5 per cent increase on 29 September was a cat and mouse game: ‘You say it first’. ‘No, I will say it after you’. ‘No, you ring up the airlines’. I rang the Department to find out what air fare increases have occurred since 1975. In the course of getting that information from the public relations section I was advised of the increase of that day. It was a very difficult and round-about way to find out and it was a cover for the Minister’s lack of courage on that occasion, I thought, but I do not want to use my words again in criticism. Let me quote a comment of the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory, Mr Everingham, when that increase was made. I refer to the Sydney Morning Herald of 30 September 1978:
The people of the Northern Territory, north Queensland and Western Australia will be hit hard by this price increase.’.
We believe that the Government has a responsibility to make air travel as accessible and as available as possible to the Australian community. We certainly pursue that objective from this side of the House. That objective has all the more relevance and urgency when air travel is the only form of long distance transport available to people in those regions. We will pursue the course of trying to bring about the regime of Australia’s airline system that will make air travel more accessible to the Australian community and to bring about fare levels- not the stand-by sops the Government has introducedthat will enable people to commute to the metropolitan regions.
Sitting suspended from 5.58 to 8 p.m.
-Prior to the suspension of the sittings for dinner we heard the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris) outline some of the details involved in the Air Navigation (Charges) Amendment Bill which we are discussing in the House tonight. He spoke of the high cost of the aviation recovery program to the Australian traveller. Of course this piece of legislation, which increases air navigation charges by 15 per cent, is a result of the Government’s Budget initiatives. In the few minutes available to us this evening I think it is worth while following the points that the honourable member was making about the high cost of domestic travel. He cited air navigation charges as one component of the high cost of domestic travel.
In a debate in the House just last week I said that I expected an application to be made for an increase in domestic air fares shortly and that we could probably expect an increase in air fares of something like 5 per cent before Christmas. But I think it should be pointed out that air navigation charges account for only about 4.5 per cent of the total cost of the operation of domestic airlines. If we are to be serious about reducing the high cost of internal travel in Australia we should look at a number of other areas, especially considering the introduction of low overseas fares that will start in Australia- following the announcement by the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) todayprobably from 1 February next year.
A combination of factors contribute to the high level of domestic air fares in Australia. I named some of them last week. I mentioned that curfews are a problem and that full utilisation of domestic aircraft cannot be made in Australia because of the curfews that operate at Brisbane, Sydney and Adelaide airports in particular. With the introduction of quieter aircraft the situation could be monitored to allow nights late at night and early in the morning to be introduced to help pick up the slack and to provide cheaper air fares in that way. But more than just curfews is involved, such as the use of wide-bodied equipment. I am glad to see that the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) is in the chamber tonight and that he will participate in this debate. He agreed with me last week in his contribution to the same debate. He said that it was about time that domestic carriers took the initiative to introduce wide-bodied equipment into Australia with the consequent savings that could be made by Australian air travellers. There are some other glaring examples of what could be done and what contributes to the high cost of domestic fares. This is well pointed out in the report of the House of Representatives Select Committee on Tourism that was presented to the House just a couple of weeks ago.
– Who was the Chairman?
– The honourable member for Grayndler made a real contribution to that report. I am glad that he is in the House tonight for the debate. Some examples were given in the report which may not be generally known, and indeed have not been pointed out in this debate, and which go to contribute to high air fares. For example, I refer to the case of the taxation treatment of the domestic airline carriers concerning leasehold improvement to their property at airports. At present the airlines and other airport users are not allowed to claim the amortisation of leasehold improvements at Commonwealth airports as a taxation deduction. Because of the shortage of Commonwealth funds increasing numbers of buildings at airports are being financed and built by the aviation industry on land leased from the Commonwealth. These buildings are erected at every aerodrome but they cannot be sold or converted to alternative use. Furthermore, the leases are usually for only short terms of about 10 years duration. Obviously this must be a real contributing factor to the composition of the domestic air fare, one that is helping to make it an expensive proposition.
I believe that overall the Government takes about 20 per cent of any domestic fare in some form of taxation or Government charge. We cannot really argue that we should reduce that or throw it out altogether. But if we look at this question and take measures which could be added to the initiatives that have been suggested in the domestic aviation review we certainly should be able to go part of the way to providing cheaper travel for the people of Australia and, more importantly, for the international visitors who will come here as a result of the innovations the Government has brought in with international air fare reductions. One can only hope that the numbers of international travellers who will be visiting Australia next year will increase considerably. I for one certainly do not support the claim by the Australian National Travel Association that the new cheap international air fares will only draw people out of Australia.
I believe that we will have a boom in international travel in coming years. We will see big increases in visitors, especially from the United States of America, Japan and Europe. The annual report of the Australian Tourist Commission was presented in the House this afternoon. It pointed out that there has been record growth in traffic, especially from Europe, United Kingdom and Ireland. That is a healthy sign. Since 1973 we have seen a decline in the number of visitors coming to Australia from the United States of America but with a $450 excursion fare I am sure that that situation can be overcome. Perhaps we should concentrate a little more on the overall prospects for cheaper air fares and some of the benefits this could have.
In the past year or 18 months we have seen innovative air fares introduced on American domestic trunk routes and there has been much de-regulation of the pricing of those fares. Although some people are terribly critical of this I think the facts probably speak for themselves. In the first 12 months of the operation of these new fares in the United States American Airlines, one of the big carriers, recorded a 71 per cent lift in net income as a result of the excursion fares available. Overall, revenue passenger miles in the United States were more than 20 per cent higher in the first quarter of this year than in 1977. Airlines such as Delta Air Lines and Continental Airlines Inc. have upgraded their fleets. They have introduced wide-bodied equipment and excursion fares. They have had incredible growth rates in profits ranging from between 6 to 18 per cent. The increase in passengers carried has been much higher. These facts all point out the great need to implement many of the recommendations of the civil aviation review which will help more people travel around Australia.
The high cost of providing airport services is a real problem. That has been shown by the studies of the Major Airport Needs of Sydney Committee and the projected cost of the new international airport in Brisbane. Already work is under way on Perth airport. This is incredibly expensive. But more and more people will be travelling and we must have those faculties to handle the increased numbers of both international and domestic tourists in Australia. On Saturday in Brisbane the Minister for Transport opened the cross river rail link. While in the city he inspected the site of the new Brisbane international airport to have talks with a number of people involved with the project At long last we got an indication that things might be rolling. I congratulate the Minister here tonight on his statement to the Press in Brisbane last Saturday afternoon in which he said that we would see bulldozers on the site of the new Brisbane airport by early 1980, that much of the preliminary work is getting under way, that part one of that airport certainly would be constructed at least by 1986, and that section two hopefully would be constructed by the end of that decade.
That was the first real indication from the Minister that we would see some action in that area. I suppose that the case of Brisbane airport is just one that points up a number of problems involving wide-bodied equipment and the large numbers of people who will come into and circulate around Australia in the years to come. We must have the capacity to be able to service them. Cheap fares must involve a minimum number of stops and a maximum number of people on wide-bodied equipment. Obviously an airport such as Brisbane- which is most sensitive, being in the middle of the tourist State of Australianeeds to have facilities to be able to handle the people involved. I thank the Minister for making those statements and giving the commitment that we will see bulldozers on the site of the Brisbane international airport in 1980.
The honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris) also mentioned the problem in the far western areas of Queensland with the proposal by Trans-Australia Airlines to cease some of its services currently operating. This once again points to the need for a very close examination of the type of equipment that is being operated by the domestic airlines at the moment. The Fokker Friendship aircraft- a most incredible aircraftsince 1959 has provided a very good service. I understand at the moment that approximately 38 passengers must travel on each Fokker Friendship flight for the cost of operating that flight to be met. It is not the efficient aircraft that it has been made out to be. Although one can feel very great pity for some of the people in western Queensland because they will lose some of those services that TAA presently provides, it probably makes a lot more sense if we look at the rationalisation of some of the services that frankly have not been and cannot be fully patronised in those areas. Bush Pilots Airways, a northern Queensland airline, has already indicated that it is interested in taking over some of those services. Certainly in areas in which it has been operating, particularly in the far north of
Queensland, it has provided a very real service for the people in as far flung areas. Although not being able to travel to and from the capital city or to the coast on a Fokker Friendship aircraft may be a bitter pill for the people of western Queensland to swallow, perhaps it is one of the sacrifices they have to make. If an efficient service and a more regular service can be provided by organisations such as Bush Pilots Airways using smaller aircraft, at least the people will have that very necessary means of communication to and from the capital city and to and from the coast.
As I said earlier, this piece of legislation effects the Government’s Budget proposals that were brought down in August. It is an annual charge. It is a charge that will help recover a little more of the incredible costs associated with civil aviation in this country. But I do insist and point out once again that everyone involved in aviation, whether it be from the Government’s point of view or from industry itself, will have to make some very close examinations in the near future if we are to maintain the efficiency of our domestic airline services and if we are going to be price competitive with our domestic airline services, especially in light of the moves that have been made on the international scene. Perhaps the initiatives on the international scene may in fact force the domestic carriers into making these examinations and providing a much cheaper and a much more efficient form of travel for the people of Australia as well as our overseas visitors.
-The Bill before the House-the Air Navigation (Charges) Amendment Bill 1978- contains basically one provision. It provides for an increase of 15 per cent in air navigation charges during 1978-79. Legislation to amend the air navigation charges is brought down invariably each year as part of the Budget strategy of the government of the day. One of the elements which concerns me about the second reading speech of the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) is the conflict between his figures and the Budget figures on civil aviation. At page 2622 of Hansard the Minister said that expenditure on civil aviation in 1977-78 was $172m and that revenue was $85.9m, which represents a cost recovery rate of 49.7 per cent. That shows a deficit on the Minister’s figures of $86. lm. I have examined the Budget figures and at page 104 of the 1978-79 Budget, the actual expenditure for 1977-78 is shown.
I refer now to the actual figures which were available to him and his staff when the Minister’s second reading speech was written. There should not be any conflict whether the figures were available. I refer again to page 104 of the 1978-79 Budget Speech. The actual expenditures in 1977-78 were: Administrative and operational services, $ 167.6m; buildings, works and equipment, $ 19.4m; air services subsidy, $0.8m; and other services, $2. 7m. The total actual expenditure was $ 190.5m compared with the Minister’s total of $172m. On the revenue side, air navigation charges totalled $73.4m and other recoveries totalled $26. lm. Because of the limited time available to me tonight, I do not propose to list other expenditures such as airport rental and things of that type. The total amount recovered was $99.5m.
It is fair and reasonable to add to that figure the customs and excise duties on aviation fuel which last year were $48. 3m if one takes the total maximum amount. Of course, quite a sound logical argument can be advanced that part of that $48. 3m could reasonably be paid into Consolidated Revenue because, for example, 66 per cent of road tax is paid into Consolidated Revenue. I think that that is a factor that has to be borne in mind when we go through the exercise of balancing income against expenditure in civil aviation to determine the degree of subsidy- the size of the deficit, if one likes to put it that wayand the cost recovery percentage. By adding the $48.3m, we have a total revenue of $ 147.8m representing a deficit of $42.9m or a cost recovery rate of $77.6m.
The Minister once again is holding this Parliament in contempt and, typically, is being discourteous by not being present in the House when a piece of his legislation is before the House. I notice that members of his staff are in the House making notes of these figures. I would appreciate it if the Minister could come up with an answer why the Budget figures and the figures in his speech do not coincide. I read the Minister’s second reading speech before I came into the House this evening. This afternoon I rang his office to inquire whether there had been any error in the speech and, if so, whether it had been corrected at some time. I had not seen such a correction. I alerted the Minister’s staff to the position. I raised the question a moment or two ago concerning what percentage of aviation fuel tax should be paid into Consolidated Revenue. If we apply the same formula to aviation fuel tax as is applied to road tax, the deficit would then grow to $59. lm and the recovery rate would be 68.9 per cent. Whichever figure one takes is still far in excess of the figure quoted by the Minister in his second reading speech.
What does the deficit of $42.9m-I am taking my figure, not the Minister’s figure- represent? It represents a subsidy of slightly more than $3.20 to every person who flies in an aeroplane, either domestically or internationally. It represents quite a substantial subsidy on air travel. That brings me to the point whether it is a fair and reasonable subsidy. Is the deficit a fair and reasonable deficit? Is the Minister’s cost recovery figure of 49 per cent or the Budget figure of 77.6 per cent fair and reasonable? People within the general aviation industry- the pilots, hostesses and LAMES, that is, the licensed aircraft maintenance engineers- have said to me: ‘If it is good enough to subsidise other forms of transport, why cannot our form of transport be subsidised?’ I think that is a fair and reasonable point of view to express. There is no reason why the airline traveller should have to pay a 100 per cent cost recovery whilst the road user does not pay the full 100 per cent. We cannot ascertain what the cost recovery is for road users. So far as public rail transport is concerned, I believe that the total deficit in this area is something akin to $600m a year. What does that represent by way of subsidy? What are the priorities of this Parliament, whether this Government or the next Labor government is in office?
I come back to the point that I have been making for some considerable time, that is, that it is time that this country had an interstate commission that could examine these questions and come up with just what are the true costs of transport. A country the size of this one with a limited population of slightly in excess of 14 million people cannot afford the luxury of an inefficient transport system. We have to bring into operation the mode of transport that is the most economical, the one that can do the best job. In 1976 three ships were run by Australian Steamships Pty Ltd, a Sydney company that operated between Sydney, Melbourne and Fremantle. The owners of that shipping line saw me when Labor was in government and said that unless the railways were prepared to increase their freights, they would have to take those three ships out of service.
At a meeting of the Austraiian Transport Advisory Council in Adelaide in August 1975 all the railway commissioners who were present stated most emphatically that they were making a profit on their services. The Commonwealth Commissioner said that his railway was malting a profit of 22Vi per cent on the operation between the east coast and the west coast. Since ASP pulled those three ships off the route and sold them overseas there has been an increase of about 50 per cent in freight rates between the east and the west coast because the basic competition had been removed; so much so that I believe shipping lines at present are looking at the possibility of reintroducing an east-west coast service once again by sea.
We come back to the question of an interstate commission. That body should and would be free under the Bill that went through this place in late 1975 when, I am sorry to say, this Government did not proclaim the legislation even though I know from personal discussions with the present Minister when he was the shadow Minister for Transport that he agreed with it. In fact that Bill ceased to be the Labor Government’s legislation; it became the then Opposition’s legislation because it changed it around in the Senate to suit the then shadow Minister as to what he believed an interstate commission should comprise. I honestly believe that the present Minister would like to see an interstate commission operating so that the true costs of transport in the various modes can be correctly assessed and the most economic form of transport can be introduced. It is in this way that we would be able to determine the viability of the cost recovery program that was initiated by previous governments and maintained and extended by the Labor Government and even by this Government which wants 100 per cent cost recovery on the main trunk routes. That is more than the Labor Government was after. It was not pushing for 100 per cent cost recovery on the main traffic routes. This Government is doing so.
I go back to the point: Is it fair and reasonable? I do not know the answer because I do not know what is the true cost of transporting freight and passengers by rail. Not only does the present Minister or any of his predecessors not know but also I am certain that the transport Ministers in the various State governments do not know. I believe it to be a fact that none of the railway commissioners know what it truly costs to carry a passenger or to transport freight. It is time that some authority was able to put a price on such services and determine whether State railways are overcharging or undercharging to the detriment of a more economical mode of transport. I gave the example of ASP’s three ships being taken off the east-west operation.
I believe that there is no opposition to the legislation but I honestly believe that something has to be done to determine what is a fair go. Are the road operators paying correct road taxes in the form of fuel tax and registration? What should they be paying? These people all complain that they are being over taxed. Nobody really knows what is the true cost of providing the road system and the structure that is necessary to carry the operators. I would be grateful if the Minister in his reply would answer those questions. Why is there a difference between his figures and the Budget figures? It is not minor; it is major. He says that there is a deficit of $86m. The figures given by the Treasurer (Mr Howard) show a deficit of $42m on aviation operations.
I would like to refer to a few other matters in the limited time that is available to me. One matter concerns the recent negotiations that have been taking place between this Government and its American counterpart with regard to the American airline, Continental Airlines Inc., being permitted to operate into this country. I am of the opinion that it should not be permitted into this country. Of course we simple mortals outside those conferences and machinations are never aware of what goes on behind the scenes. For example, when Airlines of America first operated into this country some years ago a part of the trade-off was that America would buy more Australian meat. If it was not to be on that basis, other restrictions would be imposed on Australian exports of meat and sugar to the United States of America. So the pay-off was that the Americans were granted permission for Airlines of America to operate into Australia. Is that sort of trade-off being made today with Continental Airlines? If it is not, why is it that the Carter Administration is so keen to get it admitted into the Australia-America operation? What is the pay-off in the United States of America? These are the questions which we do not know and we should know before decisions of this importance are taken. At present Qantas Airways Ltd operates seven Boeing 747 flights a week to the United States; Pan American Airways operates nine Boeing 747 flights a week as well as two freighter flights. I believe that Continental would want an additional four flights a week. That means that American airlines would have 13 services a week into Australia but the Australian operator would have only seven. Will that bring about a reduction in fares? My guess is that it will not. In support of that proposition, let me draw the attention of honourable members to a few matters contained in various reports that Qantas has published. On page 7 of its 1974-75 report it is stated:
At the beginning of 1974-75, the Company viewed the over-capacity situation on the Southern Cross route with some concern. Therefore, despite withdrawal of American Airlines’ flights between Australia and the United States from March 1974, and cessation of British Airways’ Pacific services early in 1975-
I do not have time to read the rest of it but it goes on to say that notwithstanding that fact, in that year which was a very good year as far as aviation was concerned, Qantas had only a 53 per cent seat factor on the Sydney-San Francisco service. That was a record year for jet services on that route. Yet in the same year the overall seat factor for Qantas was about 62 per cent. The same point was made in annual reports in 1973-74 and 1976-77 in which Qantas expressed concern at the over capacity that existed on the Southern Cross route. I know that prior to 1972 the seat factor was down to as low as 35 per cent and 36 per cent. That meant that two out of every three seats on the aeroplane were empty.
Is that what we want to go back to? I believe that wc could have cheaper fares if the aircraft were filled. Fares cannot be reduced when the aeroplanes are carrying empty seats. It is bodies that pay; not empty seats. I would be disappointed if this Government has succumbed to the pressures of the American Government just to suit some behind-the-scene conniving and planning that has gone on in America to give Continental the right to operate into Australia. If the Americans want to pay off someone in America, let them do it in America, but not at our expense. As I said, I would be disappointed if this Government succumbs to that sort of pressure from the Americans and permits them to operate. If it does permit them to operate, let us keep the level of operation at the present level of nine to seven; let Continental Airlines take up some of the services operated by Pan Am. I think Pan Am will be squealing like hell if that happens.
The other matter to which I would like to refer is the recent Major Airport Needs of Sydney Committee report concerning Sydney airport and the Committee’s proposal to restrict and almost eliminate general aviation and commuter operation services into that airport. I think this is a crazy idea. I feel that throughout Australia there has to be a changeover from some of the larger aircraft on less populous routes to smaller aircraft to give a frequency of service. In my own district at one stage we had one Fokker Friendship service a day each way- one service out of a morning and one service in of a night. Some time around 1972 a small operator started flying Cessna 402s. The result is that from then to the present time the number of services daily between Newcastle and Sydney has increased to 24 services each way operated by Masling Air Commuter Services Pty Ltd, Trans-Australia Airlines and Aeropelican Intercity Commuter Air Services Pty Ltd. All those services are carried out by small aircraft.
The honourable member for Bowman (Mr Jull) drew attention to the situation in Queensland with regard to country services. I feel that people in those areas would be better off with a 10-seater aircraft as against a 36 or 40- seater aircraft. Therefore I strongly support the right of commuter operators to operate into Sydney, h would be suicide if those aircraft were forced to operate from Bankstown, Schofields, Camden or one of those out-of-town small airports in Sydney. The only way that the people of Newcastle, Wollongong and other commuter centres that are being serviced by these aircraft can get a decent transport system access to the main trunk route is through a commuter service operating through the main Sydney airport. It is all right for those people who live in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane to talk about the trunk routes. It is not all right for those people who live out of those centres. They want the right; they want access to the main trunk routes.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-In this wide ranging debate I would like to draw the attention of the House to the recent report produced by the Department of Transport entitled ‘Domestic Air Transport Policy Review Report Part 1 ‘. I think this is probably one of the most significant documents in regard to domestic aviation that has come before the Parliament. It is a detailed examination of the vital factors that affect the travelling public of Australia who use our airlines. It is my intention to draw attention to the most significant recommendations and in so doing to encourage the adoption as quickly as possible of all the major recommendations presented in this report. It is seldom that I have found since I first became a member of the House that reports of this type are completely satisfactory or contain the relevant and key features that members of Parliament and in fact the public would like to see in such documents. I think this is an excellent report and one of the most significant and best researched documents that I have seen for a long time.
The Committee in its findings drew attention to the evaluation of airline efficiency within Australia and the need constantly to monitor the efficiency of our two major airlines. This report deals basically with the two major airlines. The suggestion that a monitoring of overseas developments and a comparison with Australian services be undertaken is something that I think we should applaud. Facts and figures are very hard to obtain in this field and it is only by comparison with overseas airlines used in a domestic capacity that I think we can successfully ascertain the functional efficiency of our two airlines. A Bureau of Transport Economics report commented on by Dr Hocking in relation to this study showed that the overall level of fare discounting offered by Ansett Transport Industries Ltd and Trans-Australia Airlines is considerably less than that offered by all of the airlines examined except in the Third World countries. I think this comment is highly significant. I think the innovations recently introduced by the two airlines are to be recommended. However, the cost of travelling in Australia is extremely high and it would be my recommendation that we try to get out of the Third World group of domestic airlines and move a little further forward in comparison to our present stage of development. In making those comments the BTE concluded:
I think people who travel on aircraft and use aircraft frequently would commend that sentiment. The report continued:
The Committee therefore recommends that AAA and TAA be encouraged to provide more innovation in fare structures.
We have seen a start of that process with the introduction and gradual extension of stand-by fares in Australia. I note with some regret that both airlines are going to remove stand-by fares over the Christmas period and that they may tend to reduce the advantage of stand-by discounting. I think that action should be resisted as strongly as possible. No restrictions are imposed at the moment on the deployment of aircraft on particular routes. The total capacity of each airline on the competitive routes is required to be identical. I think that is a detrimental feature for the travelling public. Of course, closely linked with that feature is the system of parallel services that has been a real detriment, a real inhibition to travel in Australia. I know that the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) did a great deal to try to break that system. I believe that the long routes- the routes to Perth, the Northern Territory, Darwin , perhaps to South Australia and northern parts of Queenslandneed to be examined very closely so that there may be an opportunity for the two airlines on a six-monthly basis to service those areas at different times. Western Australian members often speak of the problems they face in effectively being offered only one service each way per day when actually there should be at least two services each way per day. The members of the Committee who compiled this report concluded as follows: . . that the stage has been reached in the development of Australia’s trunk route services for more competition between the airlines including a less rigid approach to fare approvals.
I think different types of services can be offered. I see no problems with one airline in Australia wishing to offer the travelling public a sky train approach if the public were willing to accept that. The timetable performance left the Committee cold when it came to examine that situation. The Committee felt that the public convenience is not being served by the present arrangements. The provision of special flights needs to be examined. I think it should be formally recognised and recommended that Air Navigation Regulation 106C should be amended to include such a reference to special nights. The Committee also concluded: . . that the public should be informed as far as practicable of the scheduling of special flights and recommends that reference to this aspect also be included in ANR 106C.
Special flights meet special purposes. If we are going to encourage tourism in Australia, particularly for overseas visitors and particularly for those people who wish to travel north in the winter or perhaps south to Tasmania in the summer, special nights need to be encouraged. Travel within Australia must be one of the most challenging and exciting features of the country that young Australians can explore. I encourage young Australians wherever possible to pursue an examination and acquire a knowledge of their own country. Some of the suggestions put forward by the Committee would follow through that recommendation and provide young people with that capacity.
On examination of the role of Trans- Australia Airlines, the Committee found that it was serving a very worthwhile purpose and voted strongly for its continuation. I think that most members of this House would agree that a proper role for government and private enterprise in this field, considering the conditions and huge distances within our country, is a factor that should be continued and supported. The rationalisation of the provision of services is dealt with in great detail. I think that one of the most debilitating factors of the two-airline agreement is the way in which the agreement has been allowed to develop through the rationalisation committee and the arbitrator so that the size of bread rolls and even the colour of serviettes are discussed before the arbitrator and everybody goes out and does the same thing. This is tragic in that it does not give people a proper choice and they cannot compete effectively one against the other for customers. The rationalisation committee and the arbitrator should be removed, on the recommendation of this Committee, and I endorse that proposal. It would not destroy the two-airline policy but it would give the airlines a proper capacity to compete at a level which would not damage their profitability to any extent but would force them to think of the public. That recommendation is one that I would support most strongly.
The report is a very comprehensive one and deals with the types and levels of fares that are available and the ones that it sees as being important. Other recommendations on the details of the carriage of airmail and those concerning postal services and the Postal Act are relevant. I think too that the Government’s policy on the carriage of domestic freight should be relaxed. It does not seem reasonable at this stage of our development to pursue any longer the attitude we have in relation to freight, and it should be divided from the domestic travel industry. A subsequent report on regional airlines and the provision of commuter services in fact complements the report I have brought into the House this evening. I believe that an examination of both those reports would be a worthwhile exercise for members. I think that the adoption by the Government of the reports, over a period of time and not in such a way as to delay benefits to the Australian public, should be commenced immediately. I do not wish to delay the House by a further examination of this report. However, I reiterate its importance, the vital nature of the subjects that it touches, and the great impact that the recommendations could have on the travelling public of Australia if they were introduced.
-This Bill gives us an opportunity, which has been taken by speakers before me, to discuss some of the broader aspects of airline policy, particularly domestic airline policy. Recently we have been swamped with promises, as yet unrealised, concerning the introduction of cheaper overseas air travel. However, that debate has tended to overshadow the much more serious question, in my view, of the high cost of domestic travel. The domestic airlines have been very slow to respond to the demands of government and the travelling public to introduce a lower regime of air fares. If it had not been for the actions of the former Minister for Transport, the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones), who was responsible for introducing the off-peak fare, we might still be back in the dark days when only one fare existed and one either took it or left it. We have moved some distance from that point, but I suspect that we are now moving into the area of gimmickry as the airlines try to pretend that they are responding to the demands of the travelling public.
I want to point particularly to the recently introduced standby arrangements, which were heralded as a great breakthrough. Savings of up to 40 per cent would be available to people if they were prepared to wait in a queue at the airport from which they were originating their travel until such time as an empty seat became available. We in Western Australia waited patiently for the extension of this facility to Perth, and since it has been introduced we have been able to make some examination of it. I think that that examination reveals that the scheme is practically worthless to the people of Western Australia. I want to make a quick comparison concerning the various fares available between, say, Perth and Sydney and return. The economy fare- that is, the unrestricted return fare Perth-Sydney-Perth or the other way round- is just under $450. The budget fare is about $380, or some $67 less than the economy fare. Below that we have the standby fare of $366, which is just $14 less than the budget fare. Then there is the APEX fare- the advance purchase excursion fare- of about $336, which again is $30 less than the standby fare.
To explain quickly, the budget fare requires the traveller to purchase a return ticket and imposes some restrictions, particularly near the weekend, in terms of when the traveller can travel between Sydney and Perth. The advance purchase excursion fare requires the purchase of the ticket 30 days in advance and no refunds are available in the event of cancellation. In addition, the APEX arrangements will be cancelled over the peak Christmas period. As far as the standby fare is concerned, there is no assured travel at all. Not only might a person not get on the flight at the point where the travel originates, that is, Sydney or Perth, but may be stranded on the way at either Adelaide or Melbourne. In fact, the traveller has to get off the plane at one or both of those places and queue up again for a seat on the next sector of the route. The traveller may have to ‘overnight’ at either or both those cities and may be separated on the way from his baggage. We all understood that with the standby arrangement a very important principle operates that ‘you pay your money and take your chance,’ but I do not think we are all aware that another principle operates as well; that is, that you pay your money and take a change’. It might be that a toothbrush and a change of smalls become necessary to enable a passenger to complete his journey in any sort of comfort.
Surely the domestic airlines can do better than that. For the sake of $14, no one is going to choose a standby instead of a budget fare. Bearing in mind that the restrictions on the budget fare are designed to encourage travellers to move to the off-peak area, it is very unlikely that a standby passenger would be able to get a seat on anything but an off-peak flight anyway. Therefore there are no advantages in terms of the greater choice of travelling time between the standby and the off-peak budget arrangements. A passenger is not going to be any worse off in terms of the choice of travelling times as a result of choosing the budget fare instead of the standby fare. For a saving of $ 14 a passenger has to put up with at least two and perhaps three queues before boarding a plane and before boarding again when the journey is broken compulsorily. Again, there are two or three chances of being left behind, either at the point at which the travel originates or en route. There are one or two chances of being stranded overnight between the originating city and the city of destination, and there are two or three chances of being separated from baggage.
– What happens to their luggage?
-If a passenger starts at Sydney his luggage could end up in Perth several days before he does and he might be stranded at Adelaide or Melbourne in the clothes he stands up in. That is the point. Then, of course, there is the choice of whether one, in leaving Sydney, goes via Adelaide or Melbourne. One can imagine a traveller agonising over whether to take an available seat to Melbourne or wait in the hope that a seat to Adelaide might become available. The point is that if the traveller does choose the seat to Melbourne, say, exactly the same agony arises there, that is whether to take an available seat from Melbourne to Adelaide, or to wait in the hope of a direct flight from Melbourne to Perth being available? In making all these choices the traveller has no idea, when choosing one interim destination or another, whether the chances of getting to the final destination will be improved. The traveller has no idea of whether any chance exists of getting from Melbourne to Penh or whether it would be better to travel to Adelaide in the hope of obtaining a flight out of Adelaide to Perth.
Two points arise from this chaos. First of all, surely it ought to be possible for a passenger who is intending to fly under the standby arrangements to be able to arrange to complete his trip with the one purchase of a ticket. Surely at Sydney it ought to be possible to buy a ticket for a seat which will guarantee travel all the way through to Perth, having queued up in Sydney in the first place. Surely we can dispense with this nonsense of his having to queue up once or twice more in Melbourne and/or Adelaide. The second point is that, given the extra inconvenience of there being no guarantee of travel, surely the concession for the standby fare can be further reduced. It seems ludicrous that on the one hand the standby price is only $ 14 less than the budget fare and on the other hand it is $30 more than the advance purchase fare. Surely this indicates some distorted set of values on behalf of the airline companies. It does reveal to me that the standby fare was never supposed to work but was introduced only as a ruse to convince people that the airlines were doing something about reducing the cost of domestic air travel.
When we bear in mind that standby passengers under any circumstances are only taking up seats which otherwise would have been empty, there is a very powerful argument to suggest that the concession for those people who are prepared to travel in that way should be much greater than it is at the moment. Certainly I think the fare should be less than the other lowest available fare, that is, the advance purchase excursion fare. If the standby fare were less than the APEX fare it would be at least $45 less than the budget fare, which would be far more reasonable. I raise this point because I think we have been rather preoccupied with the argument about the cost of overseas travel. I think that we need to direct far more attention to the very serious matter of the high cost of domestic transport. People in Western Australia particularly are concerned to see the introduction of a realistic new regime of cheaper air fares within Australia.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Fife) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 15 November.
Consideration of Legislation Committee report.
Amendments made by Legislation Committee.
Section 4d of the Principal Act is amended by omitting sub-section (2) and substituting the following sub-section:
Legislation Committee amendment No. 1 -
In proposed new sub-section (2) of section 4d, after ‘be,’, insert ‘or, but for the provision of any contract, arrangement or understanding or of any proposed contract, arrangement or understanding, would be, or would be likely to be, ‘.
Legislation Committee amendment No. 2-
In proposed new paragraph (b) of section 45a (2), omit made available as a result of, substitute ‘in pursuance of, and made available as a result of, ‘.
After Division 2 of Part V of the Principal Act the following Division is inserted: “Division 2a- Actions against Manufacturers and Importers of Goods “ 74a. ( 1 ) In this Division- express warranty’, in relation to goods, means an undertaking, assertion or statement given or made in connexion with the supply of the goods, or in connexion with the promotion by any means of the supply or use of the goods, the natural tendency of which is to induce persons to acquire the goods; manufactured’ includes grown, extracted, produced, processed and assembled. “(2) In this Division-
Legislation Committee Amendment No. 3-
In proposed new section 74a ( 1 ), in the definition ‘express warranty’, after ‘statement’, insert ‘in relation to the quality, performance or characteristics of the goods’.
Legislation Committee Amendment No. 4-
In proposed new section 74a (2) (c), omit ‘or’ (third occurring).
Legislation Committee Amendment No. 5-
In the proposed new section 74d ( 1 ) (d), after ‘consumer’, insert ‘or any person who derives title to the goods through or under the consumer’.
Legislation Committee Amendment No. 6-
In proposed new section 74d (1), after ‘consumer’ (third occurring) insert ‘or person who so derives title to the goods’.
Legislation Committee Amendment No. 7-
In proposed new section 74d ( 1 ), after ‘consumer’ (fourth occurring), insert ‘or person who so derives title to the goods’.
Legislation Committee Amendment No. 8-
In proposed new section 74d (2) (a) (i), omit ‘the consumer or some other person ‘, substitute ‘any person ‘.
Legislation Committee Amendment No. 9-
In proposed new section 74f (3), omit ‘a corporation took reasonable action to ensure that a consumer acquiring goods’, substitute ‘the corporation took reasonable action to ensure that the consumer acquiring the goods’, substitute the corporation took reasonable action to ensure that the consumer acq uiring the goods ‘.
Legislation Committee Amendment No. 10-
In proposed new section 74g(2), omit paragraph (a), substitute the following paragraph:
an undertaking, assertion or statement in relation to the quality, performance or characteristics of goods was given or made in connection with the supply of the goods or in connection with the promotion by any means of the supply or use of the goods; and ‘.
Legislation Committee Amendment No. 11-
In proposed new section 74g (2) (b), after ‘been’, insert given or’.
Legislation Committee Amendment No. 12-
In proposed new section 74H (a), omit ‘liable under this Act to compensate’, substitute ‘under a liability to’.
Legislation Committee Amendment No. 13-
In proposed new section 74h (b) (i), omit’also’.
Legislation Committee Amendment No. 14-
In proposed new section 74h (b) (ii), omit ‘also ‘.
Legislation Committee Amendment No. 15-
In proposed new section 74h omit ‘and the seller may, by action against the manufacturer in a court of competent jurisdiction, recover an amount sufficient to indemnify him in respect of his liability to the consumer’, substitute ‘and the seller may, in respect of the manufacturer’s liability to indemnify the seller, institute an action against the manufacturer in a court of competent jurisdiction for such legal or equitable relief as the seller could have obtained if the liability of the manufacturer to indemnify the seller had arisen under a contract of indemnity made between the manufacturer and the seller’.
Legislation Committee Amendment No. 16-
Omit proposed section 74j, substitute the following section: “ ‘74J. (1) Subject to this section, an action under a provision of this Division may be commenced at any time within 3 years after the day on which the cause of action accrued.
For the purposes of this section, a cause of action shall be deemed to have accrued-
in the case of an action other than an action under section 74h, on the day on which the consumer first became aware, or ought reasonably to have become aware-
in the case of an action under section 74B- that the goods were not reasonably fit for the purpose referred to in that section;
in the case of an action under section 74c- that the goods did not correspond with the description referred to in that section;
in the case of an action under section 74D- that the goods were not of merchantable quality;
in the case of an action under section 74E- that the bulk of the goods did not correspond with the sample in quality or the goods had the defect referred to in that section;
in the case of an action under section 74F- that the goods required to be repaired or that the part was required for the goods, as the case may be; or
vi) in the case of an action under section 740- of the failure of the corporation to comply with the express warranty referred to in that section; or
in the case of an action under section 74H, on-
the day, or the first day, as the case may be, on which the seller referred to in that section made a payment in respect of, or otherwise discharged in whole or in part, the liability of that seller to the consumer; or
the day on which a proceeding was instituted by the consumer against that seller in respect of that liability or, if more than one such proceeding was instituted, the day on which the first such proceeding was instituted, whichever was the earlier.
In an action under a provision of this Division, it is a defence if the defendant proves that the action was not commenced within 10 years after the time of the first supply to a consumer of the goods to which the action relates.”.
Legislation Commitiee Amendment No. 1 7-
At the end of proposed section 74k, add the following subsection: “(3) Nothing in this section applies to a term of a contract referred to in sub-section 74L (4). “.
Legislation Committee Amendment No. 18-
Leave out proposed section 74l, substitute the following section: “ 74l. ( 1 ) Notwithstanding section 74h but subject to this section, in the case of goods other than goods of a kind ordinarily acquired for personal, domestic or household use or consumption, the liability under that section of a manufacturer to a seller is limited to a liability to pay to the seller an amount equal to-
the cost of replacing the goods;
b ) the cost of obtaining equivalent goods; or
the cost of having the goods repaired, whichever is the lowest amount.
Sub-section ( 1 ) does not apply in relation to particular goods if the seller establishes that it is not fair or reasonable for the liability of the manufacturer in respect of those goods to be limited as mentioned in sub-section ( 1 ).
In determining for the purposes of sub-section (2) whether or not it is fair or reasonable for the liability of a manufacturer to a seller in respect of goods to be limited as mentioned in sub-section ( 1 ), a court shall have regard to all the circumstances of the case and, in particular, to-
the availability of suitable alternative sources of supply of the goods;
the availability of equivalent goods; and
whether the goods were manufactured, processed or adapted to the special order of the seller.
Ths section is subject to any term of a contract between the manufacturer and the seller imposing on the manufacturer a greater liability than the liability mentioned in sub-section ( 1 ).
In this section, the expression “ manufacturer “ and “ seller “ have the same respective meanings as in section 74H.V.
– I move:
In so moving, I wish to comment on two matters which were raised during the consideration by the Legislation Committee of this Bill. The first was the need, or otherwise, for the phrase ‘being circumstances beyond the control of the corporation’, which comes at the end of proposed new sub-section 74F (4) of the Bill. It was suggested that these words might limit the width of the test of reasonableness contained in the proposed new sub-section. A counter-view which was put, however, was that these words, applying as they do to particular circumstances at the relevant time, would not limit the width of the section, but in fact would ensure that, in looking at whether a corporation acted unreasonably, the courts shall take into account in particular circumstances which might be acts of God, industrial action, or the failure of a resupplier to exercise due care and diligence, which are beyond the control of the manufacturer. The Committee accepted this counter view in general, but I undertook to examine the desirability of a possible rearrangement of the words of this proposed new subsection as was suggested in Committee. I have examined the matter and I have concluded that there is no ambiguity in the present wording and therefore no further amendment is proposed.
Secondly, the Legislation Committee raised a question of whether proposed section 74H, together with proposed section 75L, might have the effect of making a seller loath to settle with a consumer making a claim. It was thought by the Committee that a seller might not be able to be indemnified by the manufacturer until a court has found the manufacturer liable to indemnify him. My view is that the proposed provisions would not operate with this effect. While an action under Division 2 of Part V of the Trade Practices Act may be taken against the seller, he now will have the surety that he can claim such equitable or legal relief from the manufacturer as he could have obtained if the liability of the manufacturer to indemnify him had arisen under a contract of indemnity between them. In the case of goods other than goods ordinarily acquired for personal, domestic or household use or consumption, the extent of the liability of the manufacturer is clearly set out in new section 74L. Thus, the seller will be aware in this case of the extent of the manufacturer’s liability to indemnify him and he can take suitable limitation action himself against the consumer under section 68A of the Act if necessary.
It was suggested in the Legislation Committee that the onus be placed on the manufacturer to take all reasonable steps to satisfy the circumstances which are given to him and described in new paragraphs 74L(a), (b) and (c). I have examined this matter and I consider that to do so would place too heavy an onus on the manufacturer and would not effect the degree of certainty which will exist between the seller and the manufacturer so far as indemnification is concerned. Therefore, no further amendment to the Bill is proposed.
– I thank the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Fife) for his detailed response to the issues raised in the Legislation Committee. We are still finding our way as to how best to deal with matters before legislation committees and indeed, I might add, to deal with matters arising from legislation committees. I am sure that the Minister will concede that, if there had been time, it would have been of great advantage to me if I had had advance notice of his responses to the various matters raised. I mention that at this stage not with any feeling of resentment or of in any way being cross with him, but merely in the hope that we will all examine how best to deal with legislation committees and with matters arising from legislation committees.
Within the past quarter of an hour I have had delivered to me details of a proposed amendment. It is proposed that this amendment will be moved during the consideration of the next Bill, the Trade Practices Amendment Bill (No. 2), which will be looked after by my colleague, the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young). I misread the amendment. I was expecting that at least one amendment would have arisen from the matters raised by the very learned and hard working members of the Legislation Committee on this Trade Practices Amendment Bill. Apparently that is not to be so.
We will be examining in greater detail in Hansard what the Minister has said so that we can come up with a more considered response next time a similar Bill is before the House of Representatives. In the meantime, I merely thank the Minister for looking at the report of the Legislation Committee and making a detailed response to it. I trust that that response covers all of the matters raised by the Legislation Committee.
Bill (on motion by Mr Fife)- by leave- read a third time.
– For the information of honourable members, I present a report of the Australian Science and Technology Council on the Bureau of Mineral Resources, Geology and Geophysics dated October 1978.
For the information of honourable members, I present a supplementary report by the Australian Science and Technology Council on the Bureau of Mineral Resources, Geology and Geophysics dated November 1978.
Debate resumed from 26 October, on motion by Mr Fife:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– by leave- I foreshadow an amendment to be moved in the Committee stage to the Trade Practices Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1978. The purpose of this amendment is to alter the proposed paragraph 45D (18)(a) which gives a defence to conduct challenged under new sub-section 45D ( lA). Paragraph 45D ( IB) (a) is designed to give a defence to proceedings under new sub-section 45D (1A) where conduct is specifically exempted by the authorisation or notification provisions of the Act. The provision, as it now appears, is unnecessarily wide and possibly would have the unfortunate and clearly unintended effect of requiring a defendant actually to prove a breach of other provisions of the Act and thus incriminate himself so as to fit within this defence provision. This amendment will make it abundantly clear that new paragraph 45D (IB) (a) gives a defence only to conduct that is authorised by the Trade Practices Commission or is the subject of a notification to the Trade Practices Commission which has not been revoked.
-The Opposition is opposed to the existence, the extension or the extension or the use of the Trade Practices Act in trying to settle industrial disputes. Nothing epitomises the Government’s policy in industrial relations more than the way in which it tries to use the Trade Practices Act. Nothing epitomises how sloppy this Goverment is than the way in which it introduces legislation in relation to trade practices. On every occasion that we have had to debate the Trade Practices Act in this Parliament it has been necessary for the Government, in spite of the fact that the amending Bill may be quite simple, to bring in further amendments at the time when the debate is to take place. The further amendment of which the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Fife) has given notice tonight is of no great significance to the Opposition because we are totally opposed to the existence of that section of the Act.
If the imposition of penalties could solve industrial disputes in Australia, there would be no industrial disputes because we have applied to trade unions a wide ranging group of penalties that does not exist in any other part of the world. But those penalties are not helping to solve industrial disputes in this country. It is unbelievable that this awesome power contained in section 45D could now be extended to be placed in the hands of so many more people and to be used in a way that could bring this nation to its knees. We have seen this demonstrated in the last few days by a very small distributor of oil in the countryside of Victoria who used section 45D to try to solve with the Transport Workers Union of
Australia an industrial dispute that had its impact in the three eastern States of AustraliaVictoria, New South Wales and Queensland. Had this distributor continued his litigation, there is absolutely no doubt that he could have brought the country to a halt. It is a power of which he was not aware a few weeks ago.
Now we find the Government extending that power because the strict interpretation of section 45D before this amendment foreshadowed by the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs may not have allowed it to rope in the Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union in the case of the export of live sheep. There are no building bridges with this Government; it is burning them down all the time. There is no negotiation or conciliation; they are out the window. Either the Government wins by brute force or it does not win at all. What a failure this Government’s policies have been!
There was no mention in the Minister’s second reading speech where this amendment is directed. There was no mention of the major industrial disputes in which so many people have taken an interest. The Government thinks it has no cause to tell us why it feels compelled to move this amendment. It is brought in, as are so many pieces of legislation introduced by this Government, in order to deceive us. Therefore, one must necessarily look around for the reasons why the Government would introduce an extension to the provisions of section 45D. Where is the success of the section? Can the Government indicate where conciliation has not beaten the penalties that are contained in section 4SD. What will happen when the first employer or now the first growertakes action under section 45D which will stop this country completely? Is that what the Government hopes for? Has this Government no comprehension of what industrial relations are about? Does it not understand how these relations have to be pursued? That the Government should ask every small employer or grower to understand the ramifications of the action that he is taking is unbelievable.
As I said earlier, the Government is giving power almost to every employer in the country to take action against a trade union when, in the first instance, there is no mechanism for conciliation. The oil distributor in Seymour went straight to the Trade Practices Act for redress. Obviously, he was guided by professional advice- anti-trade union professional advice. That practice will be followed by all the people who might enter into a dispute involving the export of live sheep. Major companies which are involved in the operation of the labour intensive industries in this country would not dare take the action that may now be taken by some of the small employers in this country.
– It is because they have departments of industrial relations, they have people who are expert in the carrying out of industrial relations, they have people who understand the trade unions and who are dealing with the trade unions every day, and they think it is in the interests of this country not to stop industry. That is why they would not take such an action; it is as simple as that. However, that was not the case with the chap at Seymour or with all of the small sheep owners around the country. Of course, some people will like to take this action. Obviously, as soon as this legislation becomes law, and there is a dispute again on the waterfront, someone will be backed financially to take action against the meat workers union. But the Government does not have the decency or the honesty to tell us what this legislation is all about. It did not even understand that it could not extend the existing Act to cover what it now considers to be a breach. Australia’s trade has to be brought into it to cover in very general terms the actions of people involved in this country. What was the meat workers union about? It had a terrible case. It was trying to save the jobs of its members. It was not asking for extra money, extra long service leave, extra annual leave or extra sick leave. All it was trying to do was to present a case to preserve the jobs of its members.
– Subsequent investigations didn’t bring that out.
– Our little friend used to be an office boy for the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd. He is telling us that he knows all about it and what has to be done. BHP would not take the action that some of these people may now take. As I said earlier, if the Government thinks that it can solve industrial problems by penalties it should solve them easily. Australia has more penalties than any other country. The Government is now extending the penalties. Do Government members know what will happen in this country? It does not matter who takes the action; as soon as a union is fined $250,000 Australia will stop. It does not matter what the Malcolm Frasers of the world say or what twisted views they may have on how problems ought to be solved; if the Government tries to use the Trade Practices Act to solve industrial problems it is doomed to failure. So it should be. It is as we predicted.
The Minister did not have the guts or the decency to tell us in the second reading speech what the Government was about. After the dispute it sent a delegation to the Middle East. There are still areas of dispute between the parties involved. The Government should sit down to try to talk with all the parties about what has to be done. If the export of live sheep is going to cause redundancy of employees in the meat workers union at the abattoirs around the country the matter is worthy of consideration. Companies can do things in this country that they cannot do in their home countries. General Motors-Holden’s Pty Ltd and the Ford Company et ceteras can sack people with a week’s notice in this country. They cannot do it in their own country. We can pontificate about what is best for Australia and the best way to save the lives of people who work in the abattoirs, but because we have found a new market for the export of live sheep those workers do not matter. It is more important to look after the sheep owner. Both are extremely important. The Opposition does not ignore what has been the plight of people on the land and the wild fluctuations in their incomes. We understand that. We also understand that we will not find a solution to the problem that has come upon us so quickly in the last three or four years by punitive action. It just will not work. The Government ought to understand that.
– What is your answer?
– I wonder what the honourable member for Maranoa would do when some of the small growers take action to stop the export of merino rams. Does he want the Trade Practices Act used against those people? Does he want to see the small grower who lives at the behest of some of the major breeders in the country fined $250,000 because that grower gets together with the Australian Workers Union to stop the export of merino rams? This is the sort of power that the Government is now writing into the Trade Practices Act. The trade union movement will have to look closely at the way in which members of the National Country Party operate. The Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) told the growers not to bring their beef to the market until the price goes up. What about using some of the laws to people against those who decide collectively to carry out the whims of the Deputy Prime Minister?
The purpose of the proposed amendment is obviously to facilitate proceedings against unions, their officials and members. It was not necessary merely to provide extra avenues for proceedings against unions, their officials and members. However, the proposed amendment makes proceedings much easier. Under the proposed amendment it will no longer be necessary to prove that any substantial loss or damage is done to the business of a corporation. It will be sufficient merely to prove that the conduct complained of was engaged in for the purpose of having or likely to have the effect of preventing or substantially hindering a third person from engaging in trade or commerce. For example, it will no longer be necessary as in the recent Tillman’s Butcheries Pty Ltd v. the Australasian Meat Industry Employees’ Union case for the complainant to prove that the union, its officials or members had caused substantial loss or damage to the business. The Act is widened so that it is applied to, say, the live sheep dispute in Adelaide. Elder Smith-Goldsborough Mort could institute proceedings as in Goldsborough Mort v. AMIEU in the Adelaide case; Clausens, the shippers, could complain; and a third company which was taking delivery of the sheep on the ship could also complain.
I understand the complexities of this case extremely well. As one of the members who service the stevedoring industry in his electorate I understand the work generated by the export of live sheep. Employees in small engineering works, waterside workers, shearers, foremen, stevedores and transport workers would get additional work as a result of the export of live sheep. We do not underestimate the importance of the extra income to the people selling the sheep. We understand both sides of the story. We understand well- this is something the Government is ignoring- that we will not throw members of the meat workers union on the dole heap. It has now become the great theory of this Government that it can sack people out of industry willy nilly and make them part of the 400,000 or 500,000 unemployed as long as it gets to where its economic policies want to take it.
Quite simply, this provision will not work. Does the Government think that if it takes action against the meat workers union all the unions involved in the stevedoring industry will capitulate, go down on their hands and knees and say: Malcolm, we are sorry. Now we will load the ship because you fined the meat workers union $250,000”? This legislation will bring into confrontation the person taking the action or the industry involved in taking the action and the whole trade union movement. The unions have made a decision as a result of the last Australian Council of Trade Unions Congress that they will not stand by and watch unions penalised under this section of the Trade Practices Act. It is another example of this Government’s madness in industrial relations. One had only to sit in this chamber a few short weeks ago to hear the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) speak about the Telecom dispute. He said: ‘They must go back to work. They cannot win. They will not win. Money lost is money lost. They will not get their wages back’. When Mary Gaudron sat down with the parties involved for 13 hours there was a substantial victory for the Telecom employees. Who solved the air traffic controllers dispute? The trade union movement solved it. What solved the oil dispute last week in spite of the action and encouragement given to the small employer at Seymour in Victoria? Common sense and conciliation solved the dispute. With the further extension by this Government of the coverage of the Trade Practices Act conciliation goes out the window. The Government does not want it. There is no compulsion on anyone taking action under the Trade Practices Act to force them in the first place to sit down with the parties involved to see whether they can find a settlement. John Moore has done more for this country in the last three years than Malcolm Fraser will do in a hundred years.
-Order! The correct term is the right honourable the Prime Minister as the honourable member for Port Adelaide knows.
-I have a lot of friends who call him different names. The Opposition is fully opposed to the extension of the coverage of the Trade Practices Act as contained in section 4SD. It will continue to vote against it.
-The honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) said that the Opposition was opposed to the use of the Trade Practices Act to settle industrial disputes. So is the Government, but it is not trying to solve industrial disputes with the Trade Practices Act and particularly with section 45D of that Act. In the case of matters arising under that section of the Act we are not dealing with genuine industrial disputes but with boycotts against a company and traders by people who are not connected with that company or those traders and are engaging in activity which is more in the way of unfair, collusive, anticompetitive activity rather than true industrial relations activity in pursuit of better wages and conditions. Indeed, section 4SD of the Act does not apply to disputes between employers and employees about wages and conditions as they are quite specifically excluded from the operations of that section.
The Labor Party supports provisions in the Trade Practices Act which prevent companies from engaging in anti-competitive and collusive activities which damage another person’s business unfairly. On this side of the House we also support such provisions in the Act, but those provisions should apply even-handedly both to companies and to associations of employees if they engage in analagous conduct. The proposed amendment before the House applies not just to unionists- as the honourable member for Port Adelaide would have you believe- but to any person acting in concert with another person in contravention of the section. It relates to a person acting in concert with another person and is not something directed against trade unionists in particular. It could be a wide range of people, acting in concert with each other to offend against this particular section of the Act.
The honourable member for Port Adelaide was at pains to try to point out in his usual blustering style that the insertion of the original section 45D into the Act had created only confusion and disruption and had not been of any assistance in the industrial arena. However, several legal practitioners in the trade practices area have confirmed to me that the existence of section 4SD in the Act has been of great use in forcing a number of illegitimate boycotts to be withdrawn. There have not been actual cases that have been brought to court in those instances but the very existence of that section has given a very valuable weapon to those who have been in the position of trying to conduct a fair and reasonable business activity and have been faced with boycott activity by groups of people who have been determined to put them out of business or to damage their business substantially.
This proposed amendment to section 45D of the Trade Practices Act which we are debating now provides a specific prohibition on a person, in concert with another person, engaging in conduct for the purpose and having or likely to have the effect of preventing or substantially hindering a third person from engaging in interstate, territorial or overseas trade or commerce. Under the amendment before us the plaintiff will not have to prove that the purpose of the defendant’s engaging in the conduct was to damage a corporation. He need prove only that one of the defendant’s purposes was to prevent or substantially hinder a corporation’s interstate or overseas trade or commerce. The existing section 45D relates to conduct engaged in for the purpose of or likely to have the effect of causing substantial loss or damage to the business of the corporation or of a substantial lessening of competition in any market in which the corporation is involved where the corporation supplies or acquires goods or services. It seems to me that the existing provision rests on the Commonwealth’s corporations power. The new provision introduces the trade and commerce power into section 45D and to some extent therefore may offer some protection to individuals who have been wronged under the section, and not just to corporations.
The live sheep dispute showed the need for some re-definition of section 45D to cover circumstances when it was felt doubtful that they were covered under the existing section 45D. Therefore this new provision covers some inadequacies which have become apparent in the degree of protection from unfair tactics by way of secondary boycotts. The new prohibition is even-handed- as I have said before- as it applies to business conduct as well as to employee conduct. The amendment provides for defences to the prohibition in certain circumstances and the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Fife) has already foreshadowed an amendment to the Bill before us which will clarify the Government’s intention in that respect. The amendment will make it abundantly clear that the new section 45D(1B)(a) gives a defence only to conduct that is authorised by the Trade Practices Commission or is the subject of a notification to the Trade Practices Commission which has not been revoked. There is also a defence in that a defendant may claim a predominant purpose for which he engaged in the conduct concerned was to preserve or further a business carried on by him.
Black bans and boycotts which hinder Australia’s trade are against the community interest. I think that despite all the blustering we hear from members opposite, the vast majority of Australian citizens would agree with that proposition. The amendment the Government is putting forward is designed to prohibit people from engaging in conduct for the purpose of preventing or substantially hindering overseas and interstate trade or commerce. The conduct to be prohibited- as the Minister said in his second reading speech- strikes at the heart of the prosperity of Australia and affects us all. It affects our sea and air links. These links ought to remain open so that we can export and import goods at times most favourable to our seasons, to our economy and to our balance of trade. The costs to business and to the Australian community of a hindering of interstate trade and commerce are enormous. Quite apart from the direct costs incurred at the time, there is the long term effect of the damage to Australia’s reputation as a reliable trading partner.
Anyone who has visited some of our major trading partners overseas will realise the damage to our long term economic prospects by our reputation in some places on the basis that we cannot deliver goods on time as contracted because of black bans and boycotts which delay the flow of trade; thus we cannot meet contractual dates for the supply of goods. The damage is not restricted to losing a couple of orders at a particular time but extends to our reputation in a long term sense. When section 45D was introduced into the Act last year the Government’s views regarding the reasons for it were based on two fundamental principles. I turn again to the Minister’s second reading speech where he said first that the Government considered that boycotting of the commercial activities of particular persons is generally undesirable conduct on which the Trade Practices Act should take a firm line. Again I would emphasise that the majority of Australians would agree with that propositioncertainly not members opposite. The Minister went on to say that the Government believed it is essential that the Trade Practices Act should take an even-handed approach to boycotts and apply, so far as possible, to both business and employees alike. In other words, if a company adopts or a group of companies adopt unfair trading activities designed to harm another company, they should be prevented from doing so.
Similarly, if groups of employees try to prevent the delivery of raw materials or to hinder the trading activities of a company, unless it is something that arises out of a direct industrial dispute over industrial terms and wages and conditions, they should be prevented from doing so. The Bill now before the House embodies those two fundamental principles. The type of behaviour this Bill is aimed at, for example, is that by an outside group trying to prevent the delivery of goods from a company to a customer interstate or overseas. As such it will be applauded by the community. It will give added protection to those who are trying to carry on their business in a normal and profitable way. It will certainly not detract from the right of employees of any company to take part in industrial action to improve their wages and conditions. That needs to be rammed home again and again in view of the red herrings which are continually brought up by the Opposition in this respect. I believe that this Bill will have the support of the Australian community. It will certainly have the support of those who have the best interests of our economic development at heart, and it ought to have the support of this House.
– Some of the mee sugar coating that the honourable member for Casey (Mr Falconer) put on the cake ought to be removed and he should be revealed for what he is. The address that he made to this House tonight was so far from the truth that it was not even funny. He skirted around the whole subject and finally had to home in and state what was the target for section 45D of the Trade Practices Act in the first instance, as was stated in the debate in this House 18 months ago in May 1977. No secret was made then of where the target was for section 45D and there has been no secret in practice in the 18 months since as to what the purpose of the Government was in first introducing section 45D. Nobody in Australia is under any illusionperhaps except the honourable member for Casey- as to the intent and purpose of this section. I join with the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) in condemning this sloppy Government. We reject completely the whole concept of 45D and therefore we reject completely this amendment to it which is contained in the Bill. We must condemn the Government again for its sloppiness. Every time the Government brings in a Bill to this House the Minister responsible has to make an amendment to it half-way through the debate. What a sloppy bunch of Bill drafters are in the Government.
I make a point regarding what the honourable member for Casey said. I understood him to say that it is not intended to interfere with the ability of employees to protect their wages and conditions. That is the tenor of what I think he said. I refer to the most recent use of section 45D. A small petrol retail distributor in Victoria eventually brought every motorist in Victoria to a position where he could not use his car. This was not caused through the action of a union but by the use of section 4SD and because a writ was taken out against the union. The honourable member for Casey, in all his wisdom, said that unions have a right to defend the wages and working conditions of their members. We agree. The honourable member nodded his head. He obviously does not know what the dispute in Seymour was all about. It was all about protecting the working conditions of unionists and their wages.
An agreement was reached with Esso Australia Ltd that petrol carted to that depot would be carted by tanker drivers employed at the tanker drivers’ rate of pay under the Federal award. The small distributor wanted to cut the throats of those tanker drivers and slash their wages by employing men under the State award.
The honourable member defends the right of unions to defend the working conditions and the pay rates of their members. He claims that they have a legitimate right to do that. He obviously condones the action of this man- who incidentally was a Liberal Party candidate in an election, a man named Gorman from Seymour- in taking out an action under section 45D. He caused Sir John Moore to lose a whole night’s sleep trying to settle the blasted dispute. It would not even have started if it had not been for that section of the Act. I refer to an article in today’s Australian of Tuesday, 2 1 November. I will read the article in full. It is interesting in the light of what has been said about settling disputes. It states:
A claim by a meat company that its business had suffered because of a black ban imposed by unionists was rejected in the Federal Court in Sydney yesterday.
Mr Justice St John said the only evidence of loss or damage was ‘inconclusive and scanty’.
The company, Tillmanns Butcheries, sought an injunction and damages against the Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union and five individuals under the Trade Practices Act.
This was because of certain members of the union refusing to slaughter animals destined for the company’s butcher shops for three weeks in December last year.
The slaughtermen were employed by Canberra Abattoir.
The company claimed the union had breached Section 45 of the Act and that it had caused substantial damage to business and lessening of competition.
It was the first time a company had brought a court action under the section.
The judge dismissed the claim for an injunction and damages.
That was the first time an action had been heard under that section. Yet that same section has been used more than once in Australia to start industrial disputes. It has not settled one dispute yet; it has started them. The whole tenor of Australian industrial law is one of conciliation. Under the Constitution the Australian Government’s power in industrial matters lies in conciliation, not in thumping unions. It is there to settle disputes; not to start them. The approach of this Government is to start disputes which it cannot settle. It set up the machinery for people to start disputes but it did not set up any machinery to settle them. Nobody is going to cop that sort of situation. The only people who might are those who have no industrial muscle at all. The Government is talking about inviting a fight. If we talk about inviting a fight we are going to talk about muscle. What this Government is about is bashing up industrial cripples. The Government will find that there are not too many industrial cripples in Australia if it pulls in the whole trade union movement.
As the honourable member for Port Adelaide said, the Australian Council of Trade Unions has taken a consolidated decision on this matter. Not individual unions but every trade union in Australia affiliated with the ACTU has pledged itself to oppose this part of the legislation wherever it rears its ugly head. If this Government thinks that it can take on the combined might of the trade union people of Australia, the organised working people of Australia, it has another thing coming. If it takes that course it will certainly do what it has wanted to do for a long time, that is, to bring this country to its knees. The Government will bring about violence in the community.
When I listened to the honourable member for Casey quoting from the second reading speech of the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Fife) it seemed to me that he was saying that the only thing that matters in this world is that some contract is satisfied somewhere along the line and to hell with the people who have to do the work to make sure that the contract is satisfied, to hell with their working conditions and anything else that is connected with them. The suggestion was: They count little so long as we can meet our contract.
For the information of the honourable member, I am not exactly a stay-at-home. I have been around the world. I have visited other countries. I do not know where he gets his information about Australia having a reputation for not being able to deliver on time. I do not know with whom he spoke but in the places where I went and the people with whom I spoke certainly never raised this sort of attitude. If people do hold this attitude it is through this Government’s propaganda which it puts out in Australia and which is picked up by overseas news services and sent around the world. It is small wonder that some people around the world trunk that we are in a state of constant industrial turmoil in Australia, when this Government provokes that sort of situation. The Government cannot succeed. The Opposition, with the support of the combined trade union movement in Australia, strongly opposes the action that has been taken.
I make one other point that highlights the recent dispute at Seymour more than anything else. It involves the lodging of a writ by Mr Leo Gorman which brought about a situation in which the tanker drivers in Victoria finally stopped work altogether. There was mad panic interstate as petrol supplies were exhausted. That dispute did not end in the Federal court with that writ being heard by a judge. It did not finish there! As a matter of fact, the dispute which caused last week’s petrol crisis in Victoria ended in the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission when Commissioner H. Neil ruled that members of the Transport Workers Union would make deliveries from the Esso Spotswood plant. That is where it finished- in the proper court, the proper forum. It finished before a commissioner of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. Commissioners are people who have been trained to resolve disputes, not to start them. There is no provision in the Act for there to be any consultation or conciliation whatsoever. Rather, it is a sledge-hammer, full frontal attack and the trade union movements will not accept it.
I am not sure which amendment I am speaking to because they keep popping up all the time. Every time we sit down the Government introduces a new amendment. I am speaking to the Trade Practices Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1978 which uses the words: ‘preventing or substantially hindering a third person’. Nothing could be more lukewarm than that. It is a net that has been set very wide. The honourable member for Casey can put all the nice icing that he likes on the cake but the cake is simply full of vitriol. One lick of the icing and, boy, you are dead. The trade union movement will not wear that any more than the Labor Party will in this place. Having said that, I oppose the Bill. I will oppose any amendment to this particular Bill that the Minister likes to wheel up.
-The purpose of this Bill, as previous speakers have indicated, is to amend the Trade Practices Act of 1974 and, in particular, section 45D. It will broaden the scope of secondary boycotts, caught by that section, especially those affecting overseas and interstate trade and commerce. In his second reading speech on 26 October the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Fife) made it quite clear that the amending Bill was introduced to counter conduct which disrupts Australia’s interstate and overseas trade. It is important to Australia as a trading nation that its sea and air links remain open so that we can export and import goods at times most favourable to our seasons, our economy and our balance of trade. If overseas and interstate trade is prevented from functioning, there are added costs to business and to the community.
The immediate reason for the introduction of the legislation is, no doubt, as a result of the ban imposed during April this year by the Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union on the export of live sheep to the Middle East. It is important that we maintain and increase our export of livestock to the Middle East- a trade which has been built up over the years. Owing to the action of members of the AMIEU, this was prevented not only in the port of Adelaide but also, in northern New South Wales, in the port of Newcastle. We have seen ships delayed from two to three weeks. This has considerably increased the cost to those handling the stock and has given Australia a poor reputation in the Middle East which seeks the delivery of livestock. Furthermore, the industry has gone through a very serious downfall in prices. We find this action being taken at a time when the primary producer can get a fair price for the livestock being exported overseas. This dispute could have brought the waterfront- I am talking now about the dispute at Port Adelaidethroughout Australia to a standstill and could have resulted in flow-ons in the meat industry.
At present, section 45D prohibits collusive boycotting conduct engaged in for the purpose and having the effect of, firstly, substantially damaging the business of corporations, or, secondly, substantially lessening competition in any Australian market. Experience with the recent livestock dispute indicates certain limitations of that section in such situations. Some of these limitations would be overcome if section 4SD were amended to prohibit collusive boycotting conduct engaged in for the purpose and having the effect of substantially restricting the ability of a corporation to engage in interstate and international trade or commerce. I might add that this livestock trade is worth $300m to Australia and it is bringing in a very important overseas balance of trade. Clause 4 of the Bill provides for the insertion of new proposed sub-section ( lA) in section 45D. It states: a person shall not, in concert with another person, engage in conduct for the purpose, and having or likely to have the effect, of preventing or substantially hindering a third person . . .
I understand that there is to be an amendment to this proposal by adding the words ‘from engaging in interstate or overseas trade or commerce’. Proposed new sub-section (IB) of section 45d provides a defence where the conduct did not constitute a contravention of other restrictive trade practices provisions or where the dominant purpose for which the defendant engaged in the conduct was to preserve or further a business carried on by him. Clause S amends section 76 and ensures that a person is liable for only one pecuniary penalty even if a contravention of two or more provisions of Part IV occurs. Clause 6 redrafts sub-section (7) of section 88 of the principal Act relating to the granting of an authorisation by the Trade Practices Commission for conduct that may come within section 45d.
This Bill will give protection to those engaged in trade overseas which is necessary to build our export trade. We must at all costs protect our export trade in this country. I do not need to tell this House that our great primary industries are still the most valuable export earners for Australia. To have any interference by the unions in the export of these products causes this nation and the people who live in it great concern. The AMIEU, of course, says that by the export of livestock overseas it will not have the necessary number required for slaughter in this country. That is a lot of rubbish because until about 12 months ago we had 32 million head of cattle in Australia. No one can convince me that there will be a shortage of stock for slaughtering purposes. The position of sheep is exactly the same. It is no argument to be put up that there will not be sufficient stock to slaughter. I hope that the members of the AMIEU will realise this and that in future they will not hold up the export of our livestock or any of our meat and processing in that industry. I support the Bill.
-Once again we see this anti-Australian Government seeking to attack the trade unions. The latest attack, the Trade Practices Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1978 is the same sort of anti-union legislation as the Conciliation and Arbitration Amendment Bill of last year which set up the useless and inflammatory Industrial Relations Bureau and which also provided for the deregistration of trade unions, the fining of trade unionists and the freezing of their lawful funds and property. It is also similar to the anti-Public Service legislation of August 1977 which legalised the standing down and sacking of public servants. It was this legislation which, as the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Mr Hawke, said only today, led the International Labour Organisation in Geneva just one week ago soundly to condemn this Government and this Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) as being authoritarian and prone to using the same repressive tactics against the legitimate labour movement as the Pinochet movement in Chile. The freedom of association section of the ILO went on, I understand, to express the earnest hope that this sort of legislation would never be proclaimed or used in Australia. No doubt the ILO would issue the same condemnation of this Bill, the Trade Practices Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1978, if it was aware of its similar anti-labour movement ramifications.
Let me briefly examine the Government’s sorry history in this matter. In December 1976 the present Treasurer (Mr Howard) attempted to introduce legislation that would have fined trade unions $250,000 for hindering or preventing the supply of goods or services by the employer to a corporation if the hindering or preventing of supply would have a substantially adverse effect on the business of the corporation. However, this original legislation lapsed when that Parliament was prorogued. In May 1977, after a great deal of industrial confrontation that was caused by this Government, that same man watered down some of his vicious original proposals but nevertheless retained the substance of the BUI. At that time the Government dropped its proposal to fine individual trade unionists up to $50,000 but it pressed ahead with proposed fines of up to $250,000 for unions which took uncompetitive action against business and which engaged in secondary boycotts. The then Minister said:
Collective secondary boycotts are prohibited where they have both the purpose and effect of either substantially damaging a particular business or substantially lessening competition in a market. Secondly, the Government believes that the Trade Practices Act should take an even handed approach to secondary boycotts and apply, so far as possible, to both business and employees alike.
What humbug! The Minister continued:
Where employees are taking action for a dominant purpose substantially related to the remuneration, conditions of employment, termination of employment, hours of work or working conditions of those employees, or fellow employees of the same employer, the secondary boycott is not prohibited.
That is what he said. This of course was the legislation under which the Utah Development Corporation instigated litigation against the Seamens Union of Australia for attempting to ensure that Australian crews were employed on vessels carrying the 12 million tonnes of coal, worth $620m, that Utah exported to Japan in 1977. One could argue that under the Minister’s interpretation- seeing that these employees were certainly struggling around conditions of employment and the right to work- this legislation should never have been successfully used against the Seamen’s Union of Australia. Now this Government finds that after all its attempts to suppress the trade union movement, its section 45D legislation is still deficient. This latest amendment to section 45 D reads in summary:
It will be a contravention for a person to engage in concerted conduct with another person for the purpose and the effect of preventing or substantially hindering a third person, not the employer of the first mentioned person, from engaging in interstate, territorial or overseas trade and commerce.
The Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Fife) in his second reading speech on 26 October this year, said that he wanted the changes to section 45D to be more effective in respect of secondary boycotts. He said that conduct of this sort strikes at the heart of the prosperity of Australia and affects us all. He was certainly saying that it was against our best interests as a nation. Let me quickly prove to this House that not all of the boycotts of this nature which have been imposed by the Australian trade union movement in the past have been against the best interest of the nation.
For instance, let me remind the House that in December 1938, long before my time on the waterfront, members of the Seamen’s Union in Port Kembla imposed a ban- this Government would call it now a secondary boycott- on the export of pig iron to Japan. It is known in history as the Dalfram dispute. Wages were low in those days. It was at the end of the Depression and jobs were difficult to get. Nevertheless, even in that far off time Australian workers had the good sense to know when a government was acting against the national interest. The late Sir Robert Menzies earned his sobriquet of ‘Pig Iron Bob’ during that dispute as he attempted to impose the Government’s will on those workers. But the workers had reasoned correctly. They had reasoned that Australians might receive Australian pig iron back from Japan in the shape of bombs and shells. But the Tory government of the day successfully beat them into submission and the pig iron was exported. Some of it may have ended up back on Darwin in 1942. Who was right in 1 93 8- the Government or the men?
Similarly in 1946 the Dutch colonialists, after World War II, attempted to regain their empire in the East Indies. If there was one single trade union boycott that had a decisive effect on world history it was the Australian maritime boycott on the loading of arms in Australian ports on Dutch ships that were bound for the Dutch East Indies. I was not on the waterfront then but I can remember seeing a film of that dispute, showing one or two Dutch ships attempting to break the embargo. But they were not successful and the Indonesian independence movement won. It was not very long before the Menzies LiberalCountry Party Coalition Government was setting up diplomatic relations with Indonesia. Today Australian governments sometimes point out to the Indonesians the beneficial effect that the Australian bans in 1946 had on their struggle for independence. Perhaps this Government should explain to the Indonesians that it was really the good sense of the rank and file workers that prevent Dutch colonialism from using Australia as a base for Dutch attempts to reimpose colonialism on the Indonesian Archipelago. Was not the result of the 1946 boycott proved correct by world history?
Let us take another example. In the 1960s, during my own dme as a waterside worker, I saw maritime bans on shipping bound for Vietnam. Perhaps the best known of all was in the early days of the Whitiam Labor Government when the then President of the United States, Richard Nixon, that pillar of righteousness and fair play ordered the renewed bombing of Haiphong and Hanoi What a howl of protest went up from members opposite when Australian unionists once again imposed a ban on American shipping. The unionists were also proven correct by history. We now have good diplomatic relations with Vietnam and that country has an ambassador in Canberra.
Liberal politicians were in favour of the bombing of Haiphong and Hanoi, but Australian workers were not and it was the Australian workers who were proven correct. I remember very well the September of 1973. I remember that at that time as a waterside worker I was attending an all-ports federal conference. To our sorrow we heard that the armed forces in Chile had overthrown the democratic government of President Allende and had imposed a military dictatorship. Thousands of trade unionists, workers and citizens were being murdered and persecuted. We spontaneously imposed a trade ban on that government and it endured for a number of years. However, it may not have been one of the most successful bans in that it did not remove Pinochet government. That will happen one day; nothing is more certain than that. In the meantime it was the Australian people who were right in refusing to recognise and trade with a government of murderers. They, not Liberal politicians with their craven attitudes and those people who wish to gain in the short term, will receive the accolades of future historians.
I mention these matters to illustrate that quite often governments are wrong and the ordinary person is right. It is fine for the Minister to argue that the Government is determined to legislate to deal with conduct which prevents or hinders Australia’s legitimate trading or commercial activities. Let us examine the case in which Australian seamen took on the Utah company. Are not the Australian seamen entitled to man Australian ships carrying Australian coal to Japan? The United Nations Committee for Trade and
Development has said that any nation is entitled to carry 40 per cent of its exports and imports on its own ships. The Austraiian Government supports the Japanese Government, commercial interests and cross-traders of the world in attacks on Australian employment but will not take action to see that at least some Australians are employed on these iron ore and coal ships. Instead of that it wants to use this legislation to attack these people who are really only fighting for jobs in the face of massive recession and in the face of lost job opportunities and the certainty of 500,000 unemployed next year plus 300,000 drop-outs from the labour force. Surely Australian workers are entitled to fight for the right to work.
Why is it that the Australian National Line- I would like an answer to this question from the Minister when he sums up this legislation tonight- after having purchased four large bulk iron ore carriers in the vicinity of 130,000 tons dead weight each are still trying to get a cargo for two of them in the Japanese iron ore trade? I believe two of those ships are still anchored in the Norwegian fiords after two years. It would be an act of national loyalty, not an act of sabotage, for workers to strike to see that those ships obtained cargoes.
Let me recapitulate on the latest oil fiasco in Victoria. We saw a country petrol seller, Mr Gorman, take action against the Transport Workers Union under the controversial section 45d of the Trade Practices Act because that union was saying that workers transporting fuel to Mr Gorman’s depot should be paid under the Federal and not the Victorian State award. Last week we saw the usual huffing and puffing, union baiting and stirring by this Government. In the end, as usual, it was a conference that reached a compromise on this matter. I suppose in a sense it can be argued that it was the threat of action under section 45D that caused the Transport Workers Union to reach the compromise. On the other hand it can be equally argued that it was the wildcat action of Mr Gorman in invoking section 45d that caused the strike in the first place.
Therein lies the root of the argument expounded by our shadow Minister tonight. It is not the big companies really with large sums at stake that will probably be the main users of the new Bill. I exempt Utah from that statement because it is a rule and a law unto itself. In the main the small business operators like Mr Gorman, the small operators who think nothing of the national interest but only their own particular interest, will be the ones who will invoke action under section 45D. They will not have so much to lose, but they will have the power to cause the most massive disruption. This Government must think twice before placing such a weapon in the hands of irresponsible small business operators.
I conclude by urging Ministers to stop and think of the nation for once instead of trying to stir up and cause more trouble for the trade union movement. They should not take sides all the time with sectional interests or accept the views espoused by members of the Country Party- people in agriculture and mining interests. They should think for once of the nation and of the trouble that they will cause. What about their getting on with the job of restoring the economy for once? If they cannot do it they should resign and let the Labor Party do the job for them by resuscitating the economy with selective government expenditure and social services in the right area. They should not take the advice of the extreme right wing back benchers who are spoiling for a fight just to take the emphasis off their own inadequacies.
– It sometimes makes me sad to hear from members of the Opposition speeches of the sort we have just heard. They have obviously learnt absolutely nothing since 1903. Union affairs bear no reality to today’s world. It is an extremely sad situation. In the United States and in other countries no union ever worries about being subject to the normal laws of contract.
-They wouldn ‘t do this in the House of Commons.
– If the honourable member would just hold his tongue and listen he would perhaps learn something. It is extremely sad to hear speeches of that sort. I agree with the Opposition in relation to one matter only and that is the matter of penalty clauses. I never happen to agree with penalty clauses. I thought that in law they would be unenforcable and would turn union leaders into martyrs. I would far prefer in a question of damages for the court to decide what damages should be extracted from the person who got himself involved in a secondary boycott.
I remember asking a question of Mr Halfpenny at a public meeting in Melbourne where many directors were present. I put one simple question to him. I said to him: ‘I do not understand why you and your union friends, or some of you, always object to being subject to the law of contract or the law of the land. What do you think about that?’ He replied, I think quite fairly: We in the unions do not intend to be subject to any law or any laws of contract’. Indeed, they wish to be outlaws. That is the exact reason why this Liberal Government has decided in its best wisdom to protect the rank and file members of the unions against the tyrannical power of a few- not all-union leaders who choose, not for the benefit of their workers but for the benefit of themselves, very often deliberately to throw this country into complete confusion.
A first class example was the Yallourn power strike. I can say only that unless we can get some common sense and ask the unions to act responsibly and to accept that it is necessary for contracts in major industries today to be subject to the normal laws such as those which exist in the United States we will have absolutely no hope of improving the country’s economic position. Therefore I support in part what the Government is trying to do by way of this legislation. I do not think it is perfect and I quite understand the historical feelings of the Opposition.
– Historical or hysterical?
– Historical- it comes right down from 1904. We simply must understand that the Opposition does not intend ever to be bound by any law of this land. I am sorry, but I believe that people in this country are bound by laws and I believe they should be bound by the law of contract where fair contracts are entered into. At the last election this Government received a great deal of support from the rank and file of working people in this country. What is more, I know it and they know it. If I did not get up and say these things tonight Opposition members would say when it came to the backing of it: ‘He is always willing to talk around the electorate but he will never get up and say these things in Parliament. ‘ There are thousands of unionists in this country who are deeply grateful for the policy of the Liberal Party in endeavouring to bring some sanity-
– Don’t you read the gallup poll results?
– I do not mind about gallup polls. I am talking about what the people on the shop floor feel when somebody puts them out of a job. I know perfectly well that this legislation is well intended. It may not succeed in what we want it to do but at least it goes part of the way to asking the moderate, sensible union leaders to realise that the contracts Australia makes overseas shall be honoured; if there is a union contract requiring something to be done, that contract should be subject to the law. If honourable members and unions want to be outside the law, then I am sorry, but there is no help and no hope for them. Minister, I believe that what we are trying to do in our policy is logical. It is correct and it is understood by the rank and file as being fair. Therefore I support the Bill, but I have great reservations concerning the penalty clauses in the original Act.
– I think that what has been said by the honourable member for Holt (Mr Yates) can be disposed of as a heap of rubbish. Certainly one would have to be ah imbecile to believe what is spelled out in the second reading speech. The whole question here is that the legislation is designed to prohibit persons from engaging in certain conduct for the purpose and having the effect of preventing or substantially hindering overseas and interstate trade or commerce, and it refers specifically to the unions concerned. The issue here is that over a period of time the laws relating to industrial relations under the Conciliation and Arbitration. Act contained a process that allowed the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission within its constitutional authority to resolve disputes of an interstate character. That was its role; that is what it was supposed to do. However, this Government has endeavoured to get the Commission to do its dirty work, to be another arm of government, to be a controller or a regulator of the economy, and to take out the big stick where necessary to keep the unions submissive.
The penalties in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act were put to rest during the 1960s when the trade union movement indicated clearly and unequivocally that they were not going to work any longer. Those penalties having failed, and the Government having failed in getting the Commission to act in that way, it moved in another direction to bring into the common law field the penalties imposed on unionists for action taken by their membership in legitimate disputes. It moved into another field for the purpose of bleeding the unions white and once again keeping them submissive. The Government had failed to do that by invoking penalties under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act.
The Government is hell bent on providing the modus operandi for the introduction of penalties outside the Act to which I have referred, and it will fail again. In all the industrial disputes that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has dashed into over the last twelve or eighteen months, including the Telecom dispute and a range of others, he has finished up looking like a perfect ass. The disputes have been resolved in the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, and so will every other industrial dispute. The Transport Workers Union dispute had its genesis in other States. It is not the first time that such a dispute has occurred. It is not a coincidence that
Lang Hancock has a couple of henchmen and phoneys in Western Australia who initiated similar action a few months ago. It is not a coincidence that the son of this fellow Gorman admitted during the petrol dispute that his father had financial backing for his action.
This Government is prepared to use bludgers, pimps, scabs, anybody it can get its hands on, to do its dirty work and to set up the unions on that basis. I might add that the Government does not even practise the courtesy of going through the procedures by serving the unions in a proper way. For instance, the Federal office of the Transport Workers Union has not to this day received a summons over the Gorman case. Yet the Government has justified its support for Gorman on the basis of the law. As to law and order, we have heard the Prime Minister time and time again talk about law and order. So far as the law and order involved in the use of section 45D or any other section are concerned, it is not going to work. It will bring about a confrontation with the Prime Minister and the fascist types that we have on the back bench, and some on the front bench. How the Government uses that legislation is not going to work. The Conciliation and Arbitration Commission would love to handle a dispute where it has just handed out a $250,000 fine to a unionist or a union! The dispute would never be resolved, and I hope such disputes never will be resolved. The trade union movement has an obligation to its membership and to the movement generally to stand up and fight it out, and that it will do.
The Gorman dispute falls into the same category as the one promoted by Lang Hancock. This legislation is only a follow-up to legislation that the Government has not been able to use since it gaoled O’Shea. That was the finish of it. If a trade union official was gaoled in this country again the confrontation would be on. We would see whether every unionist in the country would support the Government. Under these procedures the Government is heading to disaster. People in this country who know anything at all about industrial relations would shy away from it. It has been rightly said that it is not the large corporations who want to use this legislation. They think it is a joke because they know that ultimately the only place for settlement of disputation in an industrial sense is the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. Once the Commission is sidestepped, the Government is courting disaster.
One other matter I would like to mention in relation to the Transport Workers Union is that it is vulnerable. The dispute had got to the point where it could see the light at the end of the tunnel in relation to settlement. Discussions were to take place in the Commission in the afternoon and a settlement was in sight. The next morning the union received another notification under section 45d from a messenger service in Melbourne. In my view, that messenger service breached the postal Act by delivering mail. The Government has not rushed to the defence of what is regarded as an exclusive carrier in this field. No action has been taken against the messenger service, but the Government will support a secondary boycott. The honourable member for Holt can shrug. I will explain this to him if he does not understand. The postal Act debars individuals from handling certain types of communications, if the honourable member can understand that. This particular crowd and others are engaging in that practice. In effect, they have served summonses on the Transport Workers Union. Having got through the Gorman dispute, the union is looking down the barrel of another one. The dispute is not going to be settled unless the Government takes this type of legislation out of the area where it can be used as a bludgeon to batter unions into submission. That is not going to work. Inevitably there is going to be a confrontation, and the Prime Minister and others on the Government side have endeavoured to promote it time and time again. Time and time again they have tried to latch on to industrial disputes and they have failed. They have been made to look absolute goats. We have seen the honourable member for Casey (Mr Falconer) stand here and try to convince this House that this legislation has nothing to do with industrial legislation; that it is not meant as industrial legislation at all; that all it involves is companies, boycotts and the prevention of bona fide operations of other companies. That is a load of poppycock and he knows it.
I undertook not to speak for any longer than I have spoken. A whole range of things could be said about this legislation to point out why we oppose the amendment to section 45d of the Trade Practice Act. The Government should hearken to a note of warning. Penal provisions never worked in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act and they will not work in this legislation. This legislation will provide a lot of justification for a confrontation with the Government by unions. There will be more power to the unions’ arm if and when it is required. All the crocodile tears that are wept about the place will not prevent that. If the unions are fined $250,000 or if the Government takes the next step and gaols a union official it will be on and that will be on the heads of the people who have supported this legislation.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker- Mr V. J. Martin)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I have an amendment which relates to clause 4. Clause 4 reads:
Section 4Sd of the Principal Act is amended-
by inserting after sub-section (1) the following subsections: ( 1a) Subject to this section, a person shall not, in concert with another person, engage in conduct for the purpose, and having or likely to have the effect, of preventing or substantially hindering a third person (not being an employer of the first-mentioned person) from engaging in trade or commerce-
between Australia and places outside Australia;
among the States; or
within a Territory, between a State and a Territory or between two Territories. ( le) In a proceeding under this Art in relation to a contravention of sub-section ( 1 A), it is a defence if the defendant proves-
that the conduct concerned did not constitute a contravention of sub-section 43 (2), 4SB (2), 46(1) or 47(1), section 48 or sub-section 49 ( 1 ) or (4) or SO ( 1 ) by reason of the operation of another sub-section of section 45, 45b, 46, 47, 49 or 50 or of the operation of section 88 or 93; or
that the dominant purpose for which the defendant engaged in the conduct concerned was to preserve or further a business carried on by him. (lc) The application of sub-section (lA) in relation to a person in respect of his engaging in conduct in concert with another person is not affected by reason that the other person proves any of the matters mentioned in sub-section (IB) in respect of that conduct.’; and
by omitting from sub-sections (2), (3), (4) and (6) sub-section (1)’ and substituting ‘sub-section (1) or (1A)
This amendment will make it abundantly clear that proposed new paragraph 4Sd ( 1b) (a) gives an offence only to conduct that is authorised by the Trade Practices Commission or that is the subject of a notification to the Commission which has not been revoked.
Amendment agreed to.
Bill, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report- by leave- adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Fife)- by leave- read a third time.
Unemployment- Publication of Book by Former Member- Sir John Kerr- Zambia- Car Rental Industry- Housing- West Heidelberg Youth Project
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Martin)Order! It being past 10.30 p.m., I propose the question:
The the House do now adjourn.
Mr FitzPATRICK (Riverina) (10.31)- I rise tonight to support a proposal designed to get Australia working again. It is a proposal which is both positive and possible. With in seasonally adjusted terms 422,000 officially unemployed in October, there is a crying need for the Government to honour its responsibilities to the nation. I refer to a proposal put forward by the Council of Local Government Associations- a body which represents a big voice at the street level in our community and a body which represents 866 local government councils. If I understand the situation correctly, the Federal Government, through the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) and the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Fife), has viewed the proposal with some enthusiasm. I have even heard it said that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has expressed enthusiasm. However, I have some doubts about that. If that is the case, I must congratulate the Government and urge it to accept the idea of creating work programs for the purpose of soaking up the numbers of people who are caught in the human tragedy of unemployment.
In its submissions, the Council proposed that councils administer work projects to be coordinated by committees representing State governments, councils, industries and unions. Councils would submit projects to the committees after consulting with the Commonwealth Employment Service. The criteria used for each scheme would involve consideration of high labour content projects of lasting benefit. Mature people would be used to teach younger people their skills. In short, it represents a renewal of the objectives contained in the former Regional Employment Development scheme, but the proposal is that there be greater local control and responsibility in relation to projects and finance.
Many of the centres which formerly were in the electorate of Darling now form part of the electorate of Gwydir. The Regional Employment Development scheme- the RED schemeinjected new life into economically depressed areas of western New South Wales. My friend, the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron), who was Minister for Labor and Immigration at that time, was responsible for the introduction of many of these schemes. Little leaf cleaning or gutter sweeping was done in these areas under the RED scheme because the local councils did a magnificent job in putting forward projects providing lasting facilities for the benefit of the whole community. Youth clubs, hospital extensions, doctors’ residences, school buildings, church halls and parks were the legacies of the former RED scheme. Dignity was restored to the unfortunate unemployed who received pay packets. I congratulate the honourable member for Hindmarsh who was the Minister of the day.
I admit that it was not only the Labor Government which introduced these schemes. When drought was gripping many pastoral areas of Australia in 1971, the McMahon Government showed its compassion by injecting funds for the purpose of keeping in work those men who were forced off the land. If Billy McMahon can do it, why cannot Malcolm Fraser? It is timely that this Government should be looking at reviving such schemes. The employment level in Australia under this Government is falling. That did not happen under the Labor Government. The employment figures show that, in 1972, when Labor came to office the number of civilian employees was 4,535,800. When Labor was sacked three years later, the number of people employed had risen by 202,300. In the three years that this Government has been in office, the level of employment has dropped to 4,707,900. There are fewer jobs and more people looking for them. It is is time to tackle the giant problem of people not being able to find work.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-During the weekend just passed I read a book that came into my hands.
– Just by accident?
-No, not at all. It was written by a former member of this House, the former honourable member for Wakefield, the Honourable Bert Kelly. Whilst I realise that this is not an appropriate forum in which to conduct a book review, I think that something of Bert Kelly’s style ought to be understood by this House. Bert Kelly was a very dear friend to me, particularly when I first came into the Parliament.
– He still is.
– He still is a very dear friend of mine, certainly. But at that time I was in even greater need of friendship than perhaps I am now. That might surprise my friends. The point about Bert Kelly’s style is that he was a man who was prepared to follow an argument to its logical conclusion. He was prepared to follow an argument to where it led him. There was a man who was prepared to give leadership, both to this Parliament and to the community. There was man who saw worth in logical and sensible policy over and above popularity. There was a man who thought that he had the obligation to provide reasoned argument to the Australian people and to this Parliament. I suggest that as a result there was a man who will be remembered long after many have been forgotten- and many pass through this place with barely a ripple. There was someone who in fact has managed to influence the course of Australian history.
Over the weekend I read also comments by Kissinger on the process of democratic government and where possibly we are heading. He made the point that the democratic process is leading to tactical short term policy formation and that these short term policies are leading to incompetent government. He said that governments in democratric countries become locked in by their opinion polls, that they constantly watch the opinion polls and that their policies constantly become more and more short term, while the opinion polls register the fact that they are incompetent. They are led into government seeking immediate popularity but they govern badly, and that bad government is reflected in unpopularity. Governments generally, particularly democratic governments, might reasonably take arguments where they lead and endeavour to follow those arguments through in order to provide consistent reasoned government for their people. In short, they might show the sort of courage that Kelly showed in following, sometimes as a minority of one, an argument through to its logical conclusion. I suggest that Bert Kelly has done Australia a great service. I suggest further that others who display similar intellectual integrity and courage might have the opportunity to provide the same sort of leadership and to do the same sort of service to this country.
-Ten days ago, 1 1 November, was the third anniversary of what we would all agree was the most traumatic and divisive constitutional crisis in this nation’s history. Of the three major protagonists in that crisis, one has fled into a comfortable exile in the English home counties, a most appropriate resting place for one of his social pretensions; the second has retired from politics to a great Australian institution, a most appropriate home for an Australian of his intellect and breadth of vision; the third, the one most responsible for the perversion of our parliamentary customs and traditions, remains as Prime Minister, a continuing symbol of the bitterness and division unleashed by the events of November 1975. Until he is brought down and removed from power, that bitterness and division will remain in our society. Tonight, I am concerned not with the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) but with his ally on that fateful day. The ex-Governor-General, Sir John Kerr. It has scarcely been possible in the last 10 days to escape that jolly -
– I take a point of order. Is it in order for the honourable member for Bonython to attack someone whom his party’s previous leader appointed to that position?
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! There is no point of order.
– It has been scarcely possible to escape that jolly, cherubic countenance. His picture stares out at one each day from practically every newspaper in this country. We cannot avoid facing up to him. The selling of Sir John Kerr has been a most high powered commercial operation. One of the things we can all say is that the fulsome coverage Sir John has had in the last 10 days contrasts sharply with the shabby treatment of the Press when he disappeared into exile in Paris 1 1 months ago. Perhaps there is a need for this kind of commercialisation of Sir John. It is probably a stark necessity. As with President Nixon, there is a great danger that there will be a campaign in this country known as ‘Don’t buy books by crooks’.
Personally, I am not much interested in what we have read to date, that is the autobiographical elements of Sir John’s memoirs. The rise of the boilermaker’s son from Balmain to chief lackey and hatchet man of the Australian establishment is not one I find a very edifying example of Australian life; nor do I find particularly interesting the description of the various parts of France and Britain where he happened to write his memoirs. If Sir John Kerr is to retain any shred of respectability there are at least three questions we should demand that his memoirs answer. Honest judgment of this man will depend on the answer he provides to these questions. Let me suggest the three questions we should look for once he has passed the rise and rise and once he has passed his obsession with his Parisian sojourns, his hideouts in the Auvergne and in his home county present situation. These are the three questions I think we should expect the memoirs to answer. They are, in fact, the only important things likely to emerge from this document. Firstly, why did he seek advice from the Chief Justice against constitutional precedent without the knowledge and in defiance of the wishes of his Prime Minister? Even his most ardent defenders, those people who are prepared to defend him at least intellectually- I am not talking about the rabble- cannot defend this action. Even men like Professor O’Connell, who has been a very active defender says that that act was an example of deviousness which he cannot defend. He cannot defend this action. That is the first question. Why did he do that in defiance of constitutional precedent and the advice of his own Prime Minister?
Secondly, why did he act on 1 1 November rather than wait for a possible political solution which would have left the Vice-Regal office untarnished? There was no immediate difficulty over Supply. It had a fortnight to run. Sir John knew from the then Leader of the Opposition that he merely had to grant a dissolution to get the Budget through that day. Therefore, there was another fortnight to go in which he could have-
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I want to know whether the attention of the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) has been drawn to the situation in Zambia a couple of weeks ago. I think that it proves the point that some of us have been trying to make for a long time. I do not want to attempt to justify the rights or wrongs of the Rhodesian situation. With the greatest stretch of imagination I do not think it could be said that the white farmers in Zambia were a threat to Nkomo, Mugabe, or any of the terrorists and guerrilla boys who have been trying to put on pressure in Rhodesia and who have been successful in making some of the craven politicians in the United Kingdom such as David Owen and Callahan bow down to the very things that they are trying to enforce.
I would like the Minister for Foreign Affairs to look at what has happened. White farmers in Zambia have been abducted and murdered by these terrorists. This in no way advances their cause in Rhodesia. This proves what many of us have been saying that the terrorists and guerrillas are interested only in their particular grab for power. They are not interested in the black people nor in any people in Rhodesia. There may be some criticism of Smith and the things he has done or failed to do. Every time Smith has made a concession and every time his colleagues have made a concession these people have demanded more and more. The whole situation in Rhodesia has to be looked at from this point of view. I think it is a blot on our own thinking as well as that of the United States and the United Kingdom that the situation has been allowed to deteriorate to such a point that the tragedy of the shooting down of a Viscount was allowed to pass with no protest from anyone in the United Kingdom, the United States or anywhere else. It was disgraceful how the foreign affairs Minister in the United Kingdom literally passed this incident off by saying that this sort of thing was always likely to happen. If 10 or IS years ago someone had said to me that a foreign affairs Minister in the United Kingdom would have said anything like that I would not have believed him.
I commend to some people a sermon preached by the Dean of Salisbury at a memorial service for those people killed in that crash which he called ‘the deafening silence’. If everybody would read that sermon they would have a true concept of the tragedy in Rhodesia today. There would be a greater effort by countries in the Western world to try to find a solution. Quite frankly, what has been done by Nkomo and Mugabe proves that they are not interested in the blacks in Rhodesia or the welfare of the people in Rhodesia. They are interested only in their own grab for power. The sanctimonious hypocrisy of the World Council of Churches has been shown completely and absolutely by the action of the Salvation Army. I congratulate that organisation on the action it has taken. I believe that we must re-examine the situation not only in relation to what is happening to the people in Rhodesia but also in relation to the whole of southern Africa. If we allow this situation to pass the future of this country and its younger people will be threatened at some stage.
-Honourable members will recall that I recently asked a question of the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) regarding the takeover by Trans-Australia Airlines of Hertz Rent-A-Car Pty Ltd. They will also recall that I received what must be considered to be an unsatisfactory reply. It completely evaded the issue of why a government body was taking over a company which had a poor performance record, why it was encouraging the extension into the car rental market of the anti-competitive two-airline policy and why it was investing in rather than divesting itself of companies and commissions which I suggested in this House should return to private enterprise. With TransAustralia Airlines’ acquisition of Hertz last week the Australian car rental industry has completed a period of polarisation quite unique in the world. I know of no other Western democracy with even a semblance of anti-trust legislation that would permit airlines to own car rental companies.
– How about your interpreter?
– You haven’t got a brain in your head. In Australia today our 2 major airlines who operate within a regulated non-price competitive industry have transferred some of their massive profits into a related industry to which they have bought collectively 62 per cent of the market share. That is bad enough but as almost 50 per cent of the car rental revenue is generated from air passengers, the airlines are in fact influencing a captive market to use their subsidiary companies. This seems to me to be a classical example of why it becomes necessary in Western democracies to legislate restrictive trade laws. That giant organisations like Ansett Airlines of Australia and TAA can buy a market share in a related industry from profits earned in a protective environment would appear to contravene the very principles of the Liberal Party philosophy. It is anti-competitive and could well have a devastating effect on the infrastructure of the car rental industry in this country. At the very least every effort must be made to ensure that the forthcoming car rental airport franchise allows a minimum of 3 operators. Otherwise subsidiary companies of TAA and Ansett will merely pay lip service to competition, a role familiar to both airlines.
In respect to government authority, or as explained by the Minister, a subsidiary of a government authority expanding its operation into private industry, all supporters of the Liberal Party’s philosophy ought to be concerned, particularly in this instance. It is a blatant example of a public authority using taxpayers’ money to acquire a very unprofitable and unsuccessful subsidiary. How can it be justified? The court hearing that subsequently followed Ansett ‘s announced intention of buying Avis highlighted the extremely low profile taken by Hertz who on every count were unco-operative with the Trade Practices Commission. The same can be said for TAA who elected not to give evidence. So I have concluded that it was a foregone conclusion that the day Ansett decided to get into the car rental business TAA would follow with Hertz. Philosophically it seems wrong that airlines operating in a regulated protected environment can expand their activities into allied industries where private companies are already providing efficient services.
I now draw honourable members’ attention to an article which appeared in the Australia on Tuesday 7 November entitled ‘Tourism and the Chookyard Philosophy’, relating the experiences of a Mr Jim Kennedy of Queensland, a person not unknown to some people in this House I believe, in the operation of his tourist resort of South Molle Island in the Whitsunday group. He is an independent operator in the tourist business, but unfortunately two airlines are in the island owning business too. It will not take much imagination to understand what is happening to him. He is seriously disadvantaged. He says, and I quote the article:
Here I am with no rights to run an airline and with no subsidies, competing with the Government to run a resort’.
He goes on:
The airlines should be doing what they were set up to do instead of spending a fortune trying to set up tourist resorts ‘.
I go further and say they should be doing what they are set up to do instead of spending a fortune buying up car rental companies. Mr Kennedy said their expertise lies in running airlines not resorts, yet while they spend a fortune setting up resorts TAA is talking of cutting out unprofitable airline routes. It is like Australia Post saying it cannot make money out of the Mount Isa Post Office and shutting it down. I believe Mr Kennedy has said it all. For goodness sake, let the Government encourage private enterprise. Let us encourage competition and let our leaders remember the Liberal Party philosophy and indeed its platform of supporting free enterprise. I ask all honourable member to join me in helping to rectify this situation-
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-This afternoon, both during Question Time and during the debate on a matter of public importance, we saw the desperate efforts that the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Groom) was forced to make, given the degree to which he had been discredited by the handling of that particular portfolio. We have seen particularly the weakness of his situation within the Government -
– I rise on a point of order. My point of order is that by his reference to this afternoon, the honourable member is clearly referring to a matter of public importance debated in this House. It is not permissible to canvass the substance of that matter in the adjournment debate.
-The honourable member for Batman has not yet contravened that Standing Order, on my reading.
– The issue, being one of many that one might refer to, was the quite deteriorating relationship that exists between the Commonwealth Government and the States. I do not need to canvass at all the debate this afternoon to indicate that in that particular area we clearly demonstrated the quite obvious inability, and increasing inability of this Government, to achieve consensus for its policies and to achieve co-ordination as between its own policies and the State governments within the country. A polarisation has developed. While that may be understandable in the case of a junior, most recently added Minister, I think it is extraordinary that one of the most senior Ministers of the Government, the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street), is himself demonstrating in terms of his handling of his portfolio what I believe to be an ineptitude which is not all that dissimilar to the case of the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development.
The particular case that I refer to is one that I referred to last week in an adjournment debate. I want to come back to it now. It is the case of a particular project in the area of employment and training, a program which I think the Minister would be the first to say is one of the finest programs of its type that exist anywhere in the country. It is one that senior members of the Minister’s Department have described to me as a first class program. I am referring to the West Heidelberg Youth Project. That particular project’s difficulty is that it does not quite fit into any of the Minister’s categories. He has a number of programs, most of which in their own right are to some extent discredited, but this particular program is one which everybody who has had anything to do with regards as a highly successful program. It deals with young people who in other circumstances would have found it extremely difficult to enter the work force and through this particular program have been enabled with its educational, youth work and community support component to move from school to work in quite a large number of cases. This is currently to be scrapped, precisely on 27 November.
The reason it is to be scrapped is not that anyone suggests it is not a good program, but simply that this Government is incapable of coordinating either the levels of government or particular departments concerned. It has been suggested that the program ought to be transferred to Technical and Further Education from where it is currently funded by the National Employment and Training scheme. There may be a case for that, but under the guidelines governing programs under TAFE it is not possible for a program funded by TAFE to employ youth workers who are the key to this particular program. TAFE has not been geared up to fund programs transferred from NEAT even though a policy decision was made to do that. So there is not any money available. While the Victorian Government and, in particular, its Ministers are sympathetic to the program, they are suggesting that fundamentally the funding responsibilities for this particular program are with the Commonwealth and not the States. Again it seems that a government which prides itself so much on co-ordination is not able to come to any arrangement with a State department. The net result of all this is that the local government authority is forced to step into a situation of Federal Government responsibility because the Minister is not able to run his own Department.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I want to draw the attention of the House to the fact that while the honourable member for Batman (Mr Howe) was making an attack on two of our Ministers, I checked to see whether he had taken the usual courtesy that a member takes when he is going to make an attack on a member. I found that he had not advised the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations.
– I rise on a point of order. I advised the Minister last week. He did not appear. I did not believe it was necessary to inform him again.
-There is no point of order. It being 1 1 p.m. the debate is interrupted. The House stands adjourned until 2. 15 p.m. tomorrow.
The following notice was given:
Mr Eric Robinson to present a Bill for an Act to grant financial assistance to New South Wales in relation to Chrysotile Corporation.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 16 August 1978:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Following publicity given last year to claims that large numbers of Papua-New Guineans were entering and residing illegally in the Torres Strait area and northern Queensland an immigration task force visited the area on a number of occasions and found the claims to be greatly exaggerated.
Nevertheless the information obtained by the task force has formed the basis for recommendations to interested Ministers on measures to overcome illegal immigration in the area, keeping in mind however the traditional rights and movements of Papua-New Guineans in the Torres Strait. I am not aware of the numbers of Papua-New Guineans involved in traditional visits to the Torres Strait Islands nor of the numbers of Torres Strait Islanders who make traditional visits to Papua-New Guinea.
Persons from Papua-New Guinea who are identified as arriving in the islands for the purpose of working at an occupation or who intend to stay on Thursday Island for a period are given malaria prophylaxis, or curative medication if found necessary as a result of a blood smear. Passive case detection is also carried out by oversighting reports of cases of fever noted in the islands by head men or State officials. Necessary follow up measures are instituted as a result of these reports.
Habitations on the outer 14 islands are sprayed with a residual insecticide annually to eradicate mosquito vectors. If an active case of malaria is encountered the whole of the island on which the case occurred is given insecticidal treatment and pockets of water (where mosquito larvae can hatch) are drained.
Cases of leprosy diagnosed on the islands are removed to Thursday Island Hospital for treatment. Household and close contacts are given periodic examination at from six to twelve monthly intervals for at least five years after last contact with an infective case.
Persons suffering from venereal disease are also removed to hospital on Thursday Island and given treatment until non-infectious.
By arrangement, school teachers on the islands provide information to the Animal Quarantine officer, Thursday Island on matters of quarantine interest including movements of animals and animal products and any unusual animal behaviour, illnesses or deaths. Interviews with the island people and examinations of animals are conducted during periodic visits to individual islands in the Torres Strait by the Animal Quarantine officer from Thursday Island and Animal Quarantine personnel from Queensland.
The Department chartered the vessel M.V. Lumen to undertake quarantine surveys in the Torres Strait/Cape York Peninsula area during October 1978. It is anticipated that additional use of this vessel for quarantine survey purposes will be undertaken during 1978-79. The vessel owned by the State Department of Aboriginal and Islander Advancement is also used occasionally for quarantine surveillance.
As announced by the Minister for Transport in July 1978 aerial surveillance of the northern coastline (including certain islands in the Torres Strait) will be carried out daily as part of an upgraded coastal surveillance program with the prime object of detecting activities of quarantine significance. Pending full implementation of this program, ad hoc flights over the larger islands in the Strait close to Australia have been carried out by Quarantine personnel since August 1978 approximately two to three times each week.
A regular monitoring program for exotic plant insect pests (and particularly the melon fly which is established throughout Papua-New Guinea) has been undertaken since 197S on islands through Torres Strait and on Cape York Peninsula.
In all surface surveillance activities, Quarantine officers place considerable emphasis on education of the local inhabitants as a factor in disease control and quarantine security.
Local arrangements provide for the Medical Superintendent, Thursday Island Hospital and State health personnel to locate, diagnose and arrange treatment of diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis, venereal and other infectious diseases in local inhabitants and in Papua-New Guineans entering the Torres Strait Islands. State health personnel also follow-up and assess contacts of persons found to be suffering from tuberculosis, venereal disease and leprosy. No known arrangements exist for similar controls of Torres Strait Islanders entering Papua-New Guinea.
asked the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, upon notice, on 12 September 1978:
When will he provide an answer to my question No. 123S placed on notice on 24 May 1 978.
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I refer the honourable member to the House of Representatives Hansard for Tuesday, 19 September, page 1 172.
asked the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, upon notice, on 13 September 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The expenditure in 1977-78 for these purposes totalled $12,420,249. Thus a further $4,749,751 has been provided in 1978-79 to extend the teaching of English to adult migrants, including refugees, from non-English speaking backgrounds.
and (c) Within the $ 10,252,000 for courses and classes in the on-going general program, an initial provision of $520,000 has been set aside for courses-in-industry and $2 1 5,000 for the Home Tutor Scheme. These provisions may be adjusted during the financial year by the reapportionment of funds from other activities.
There is overlap between the on-going general program and the on-arrival initial settlement program. Some new arrivals attend, as their initial English language learning opportunity in Australia, courses and classes arranged as part of the on-going general program and funded from the broad allocation to that program. (2)(b) The proportion of funds available for child migrants and refugees which has been allocated to teaching English to newly arrived migrant and refugee children is not calculable. Responsibility for the provision of education services for children rests with the education authorities in each State and Territory. This responsibility extends to the education of migrant and refugee children, including newly arrived children.
Most of the funds provided by the Commonwealth for child migrant and multicultural education in the schools are provided through the General Recurrent Grants program of the Schools Commission. The amount earmarked in that program for 1978 is $26,255,000. This earmarked amount is the minimum that may be spent for migrant and multicultural education in the schools from the General Recurrent Grants Program. Other Commonwealth funds provided through the Schools Commission may also be used for that purpose, where appropriate. The Schools Commission funds are appropriated through separate State Grants legislation.
The Galbally Report recognised that the existing level of Commonwealth funding for migrant and multicultural education in the schools was insufficient and said that the Review Group could not assess the extent of need. The Report recommended the allocation of a further $10 million over the next three years and that a Commonwealth-State working party be established to advise governments on arrangements for the collection and analysis of financial and educational information for planning and evaluation purposes. These recommendations have been accepted by the Commonwealth.
The contingency funds provided through the Department of Education under Division 270/3/14 ($800,000) and under Division 835/1/08 ($191,000) for emergency classroom accommodation are directed especially te help at the initial settlement stage of refugee children. Teaching and learning materials are also provided for child migrants and refugees by the Department of Education and $900,000 is provided in Division 270/3/13 for that purpose. The proportion of those funds that might be expended on the initial settlement stage as distinct from the child migrant program generally in the schools is not calculable now.
The Galbally Report recommended funds on the basis of that Report’s estimate of the cost of providing 3,000 places at an average course length of six weeks full-time. The Report assumed a base position of 3,000 places funded from previously established arrangements.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 14 September 1978:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Department of Construction: Liaison with States (Question No. 2108)
asked the Minister for Construction, upon notice, on 19 September 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: (1), (2) and (3) I refer the honourable member to the Prime Minister’s answer to Question No. 2090 (Hansard, House of Representatives, 17 October 1978, page 1972).
Department of Productivity: Liaison with States (Question No. 2112)
asked the Minister for Productivity, upon, notice, on 19 September 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I refer the honourable member to the reply given by the Prime Minister to question No. 2090 (House of Representatives Hansard, 17 October 1978, page 1972).
Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development: Liaison with States (Question No. 2117)
asked the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, upon notice, on 19 September 1978:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, upon notice, on 20 September 1978:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister, representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 27 September 1978:
-The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
(a) The Department of Social Security owns 40 computers.
asked the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, upon notice, on 27 September 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 27 September 1978:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice, on 28 September 1978:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice, on 1 1 October 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice, on 1 7 October 1978:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, upon notice, on 17 October 1978:
Iwasaki land to accommodate the Iwasaki project while refusing freehold to and enforcing local government on Aboriginals who are traditional landowners.
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice, on 18 October 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice, on 19 October 1978:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice, on 25 October 1 978:
-The answer to the honourable member ‘s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, upon notice, on 9 November 1978.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 15 August 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 15 August 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows-
Saturday: as for Monday to Friday for first three hours overtime duty; thereafter double time rate instead of time and a half rate.
Sunday: double time rate calculated on the officer’s salary (363/4 hour divisor) with a maximum hourly rate based on the maximum salary of Clerk Class 4.
The key entitlement provisions for the various categories of leave concerned are outlined below:
Legislation to amend these provisions is currently before the Parliament.
With the exception of paid maternity leave, all of the above types of leave are widely applied in the private sector but all private firms would not necessarily provide all forms. In some cases individual entitlements provided by private firms are lower than those in the Australian Public Service and in other cases they would be of the same or a better standard. In the circumstances it could not be said that the Australian Public Service entitlements are standard entitlements in the private sector.
asked the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 15 August 1978:
On how many occasions in the past five years has the Public Service Board given its approval for a public servant to accept, in addition to his salary, a fee of any kind in connection with the Public Service.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
It is assumed that the honourable member is referring to Public Service Regulation 38 which reads:
An officer shall not demand, or, except with the approval of the Board, receive for his own use any fee, reward, gratuity, or remuneration of any kind whatsoever, other than his official salary and allowances, for services performed by him either in or out of office hours, in connection with the Service.’
I am informed by the Public Service Board that a central record of submissions made to the Board under this Regulation is not maintained and any such cases would be processed on separate case files. However, a search of the Board’s records has been made and no approval during the past five years could be found.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Education, upon notice, on 14 September 1978:
– The Minister for Education has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
The report Australian Studies in School Performance- The Mastery of Literacy and Numeracy was the first attempt at establishing a level of performance in basic literacy and numeracy for Australian children. The results do not show that the present programs are ineffective; nor are the results particularly surprising. Education systems have been aware of the needs of migrants and Aboriginal children for a long time and as far as the States are concerned, the responsibility for the education of all children within them is vested with State Education Departments; it is thus their primary responsibility to consider and react to the findings of the report. Any assistance the Commonwealth provides in this area is supplementary to that offered by the States. There are, however, measures which have been and are being taken to assist migrant and Aboriginal children which relate to the findings of the report:
The findings of the study were available in the report of the Select Committee on Specific Learning Difficulties. The Chairman of the Committee, the honourable member for Mitchell, visited the States with Mr S. Dunn, Chairman of the Education Research Development Committee in mid 1977 and discussed the action that the States were taking in relation to the recommendations of the report. The States are taking steps to identify children with learning difficulties and to monitor standards within their own States. The Australian Education Council will also be examining strategies to adapt their systems to the needs of Aboriginals and migrants. 1978 Conference of Presiding Officers (Question No. 2077)
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 14 September 1978:
What were the (a) cost, (b) duration and (c) attendance figures of the 1978 Conference of Presiding Officers in Canberra.
– I have received the following information from the Clerk of the House of Representatives:
Twenty-nine of those attending were accompanied by their wives.
Public Servants on long term sick leave (Question No. 2444)
asked the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 11 October 1978:
How many Second and Third Division officers of the public service were on long term sick leave as at (a) 31 December 1975, (b) 31 December 1976, (c) 31 December 1977 and (d) 30 September 1978.
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Service-wide statistics for staff on long-term sick leave are not currently recorded on a divisional basis. Separate figures for the Second and Third Divisions are thus not available.
Full-time staff employed under the Public Service Act (excluding staff of the Departments of the Parliament) on longterm sick leave numbered (a) 769 at 31 December 1975, (b) 1 189 at 31 December 1976, (c) 151 1 at 31 December 1977 and (d) 1232 at 30 September 1978.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 12 October 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
New South Wales- a joint arrangement between Commonwealth and State Meat Inspectors operates at export abattoirs (except one at which the Commonwealth provides the total inspection service);
Victoria- a joint arrangement between Commonwealth and State Meat Inspectors operates at less than half of the exPOrt abattoirs; the Commonwealth provides the total inspection service at the remainder of the export abattoirs;
Queensland- a joint arrangement between Commonwealth and State Meat Inspectors operates at less than half of the export abattoirs; the Commonwealth provides the total inspection service at the remainder of the export abattoirs;
South Australia- the Commonwealth Meat Inspection Service provides the total inspection service at export abattoirs and provides the total inspection service on behalf of the South Australian Government at most local abattoirs;
Western Australia- a joint arrangement between Commonwealth and State Meat Inspectors operates at less than half of the export abattoirs; the Commonwealth provides the total inspection service at the remainder of the export abattoirs;
Tasmania- the Commonweath Meat Inspection Service provides the total inspection service at export abattoirs.
It is proposed that a Committee of Inquiry be formed, with the agreement of the Commonwealth and State Governments, to determine, amongst other things, whether any duplication does occur and to recommend solutions if necessary.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 25 October 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Principal Parliamentary Reporter has advised as follows:
An index to Hansard is prepared by the Hansard staff with the assistance of two part-time indexers. The index is compiled concurrently with the Parliamentary sittings and is ready for collation about two weeks after the end of a sessional period.
The index is circulated first in roneoed form, mainly for urgent official use. Sixty copies are produced and recipients include Party Leaders, the Parliamentary Departments and the Parliamentary Library. This is a proof index and is usually available about a month after the conclusion of the sittings to which it relates.
The proof index is then thoroughly checked against the Weekly Hansards by the Hansard Staff, a process which takes three or four weeks, and is then ready to be printed.
A final printed index is first produced in pamphlet form about six months after the sittings. The total printing is approximately 1,100 of which 700 are for Bound volumes. All subscribers to the Weekly Hansard receive a pamphlet index but recipients of the Weekly who are on senators’ and members’ complimentary lists or on the official free list do not receive it. A stock of pamphlet indices of the debate of both Houses is kept by the Sales and Distribution Section, Australian Government Publishing Service, P.O. Box 84, Canberra, ACT, 2600, for sale to the public. The House of Representatives index costs 90c and the Senate index 60c. Pamphlet indices are also held at the Hansard office and are available to senators and members who inquire for them.
Finally, the Hansard index is included at the back of Bound Volumes which usually are published about nine months after the sittings to which they relate.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Science, upon notice, on 8 November 1978:
-The Minister for Science has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
Dr J. R. Philip Associate Member, CSIRO Executive (Chairman)
Professor J. H. Carver- Professor of Physics, University of Adelaide
Dr W. I. McG. Tegart Manager, Melbourne Research Laboratories, The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited (now Executive Assistant to the Chief General Manager, The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited)
Dr Hill W. Worner Member, CSIRO Executive
Bearing in mind that the Director will retire in 1 979 and taking into account the Government ‘s decisions on the recommendations of the Independent Inquiry into CSIRO, the recommendations of the CSIRO Working Party on Assistance to Manufacturing Industry and the recent occupation of the new laboratory at Lindfield, to:
asked the Minister for the Capital Territory, upon notice, on 16 November 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I am informed by my Department as follows- No.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 November 1978, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1978/19781121_reps_31_hor112/>.