31st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
The CLERK-Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled the petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That restoration of provisions of the Social Security Act that applied prior to the 1978/79 Budget is of vital concern to offset the rising cost of goods and services.
The reason advanced by the Government for yearly payments “that the lower level of inflation made twiceyearly payments inappropriate “ is not valid.
Great injury will be caused to the 920,000 aged, invalid, widows and supporting parents, who rely solely on the pension or whose income, other than the pension, is $6 or less per week. Onceayear payments strike a cruel blow to their expectations and make a mockery of a solemn election pledge.
Accordingly, your petitioners call upon there legislators to:-
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Braithwaite, Dr Edwards, Mr Fife, Mr Martin, Mr Scholes 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 childabuse materials, publications or films.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Dobie and Mr Martyr.
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 therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives will take action to require those Members who have not honoured their undertaking, to resign from the Parliament in order that the people of Australia can choose Members who will represent the wishes of the electors and who will honor any undertakings they gave.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Keith Johnson and Mr Scholes.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully sheweth:
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 Honourable Members should:
Amend the Medical Benefits Schedule so as to preclude the payment of any benefit for abortion.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Neil and Mr Shipton.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of Elias and Singer respectfully showeth:
That current requirements of the Commissioner of Taxation for the lodgement of Income Tax Returns by Registered Tax Agents restricts the trading of such agents to a period of 8 months in any fiscal year. The demands by the Commissioner for lodgement of Income Tax Returns before 28 February following the tax year is an imposition and a restriction, limiting the trading from twelve to eight months.
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the law should be amended to permit any registered tax agent to trade for a full year and lodge Income Tax returns to the close of the respective tax year.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Aldred.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That we, the undersigned, wish to express our deep dissatisfaction with the present method of adjustment to pensions, namely once a year. Cost of living figures are adjusted every three months, with the cost of goods rising accordingly or more, thus making the pension payment severely behind the times. We request that adjustment to pensions be returned to at least no more than six (6) monthly intervals.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Donald Cameron.
Royal Commission on Human Relationships
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That because the Report of the Royal Commission on Human Relationships and its Recommendations-
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray:
That the Australian Parliament will:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that your honourable House will implement such measures to maintain the Commissioners’ ‘belief in the right and integrity of the individual to make free choices in the context of human relationships, and to have access to the knowledge and skills which give such a free choice meaning’.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Dr Cass.
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled the petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That it is necessary for the Commonwealth Government to renew for a further term of at least 3 years the States Grants (Dwellings for Pensioners) Act 1 974-77, renewed for one year expiring on the 30 June 1978.
The demand for dwellings has not slackened as the waiting list (all States) of 12,060 single and 4,120 couples as at the 30 June 1977, showeth.
Your petitioners respectfully draw the attention of the Commonwealth Government to the Report of the Committee of Inquiry into Aged Persons’ Housing 1975 under the Chairmanship of the Rev. K. Seaman (now Governor of South Australia) which recommended additional funds to State housing authorities to meet the demand for lowrental accommodation in the proportion of $4 for $1 with the proviso that the States do not reduce their existing expenditure and
That the Act include married pensioners eligible for supplementary assistance and migrants as specified by the Seaman Report and that particular consideration be paid to the special needs and requirements of the prospective tenants in the location and design of such dwellings.
Furthermore, your petitioners desire to draw the Government’s attention to the hardship of many pensioner home owners caused by the high cost of maintenance.
The Social Security Annual Report 1976-77 shows that 24.6 per cent, or 283,000 home owning pensioners, have a weekly income in excess of the pension of less than $6 per week.
Your petitioners strongly urge the Commonwealth Government to establish a fund whereby loans can be made to means tested pensioners for the purpose of effecting necessary maintenance to their homes. Such a loan to be at minimal interest rates sufficient to cover administrative costs and to be repaid by the estate upon the death of a single pensioner before probate or upon the death of the surviving spouse in the case of married pensioners or where two pensioners jointly own the dwelling. Administration to be carried out by local government bodies.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Dr Edwards.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled: The humble petition of electors of the State of New South Wales respectfully showeth:
That compensation benefits payable to injured Australian Government Employees and Defence Forces personnel under the Compensation (Commonwealth Government Employees) Act 1 97 1 should be increased as a matter of urgency in view of the financial plight of recipients, particularly those suffering long term incapacity and because of the significant increase in the cost of living which has occurred since compensation payments were last adjusted; and
That statutory provision should be made for the automatic adjustment of compensation benefits.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Dr Klugman.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the present provision of payments for abortion through Items of the Medical Benefits Schedule is an unacceptable endorsement of abortion which has now reached the level of a national tragedy with at least 60,000 unborn babies being killed each year.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that Honourable Members should:-
Request that legislation be introduced in order to prevent payments for the unnecessary destruction of unborn children.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Peter Johnson.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled: The humble Petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth-
That the North Dandenong district is without a Post Office an consequently the residents of the area are greatly inconvenienced. .
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that a Post Office Agency be located at the “Stitches ‘n’ Britches” Shop, North Dandenong.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Yates.
-I give notice that at the next day of sitting I shall move:
– I ask the Minister for National Development a question. It refers to the publication today of a telex from Caltex Oil (Australia) Pty Ltd to his Department. Is it a fact that the telex that his Department received from Caltex stated that ‘Caltex has abided by the undertakings to avoid public panic by playing down the problem in its public utterances ‘ on the supply and price of crude oil and petroleum products? Did the Government obtain this undertaking from Caltex? If so, will the Minister now acknowledge that he made a deal with the oil companies to play down the seriousness of the oil situation? If not, does he deny the statement made in the telex by Caltex?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is simple. He asked whether I denied the allegation or assertion made in the Caltex telex. The answer is yes. Let me repeat what I have said many times in this House in the last couple of days. There was no deal with Caltex. There was no deal with any other oil company. If there was any agreement it was to make moderate, responsible and accurate statements as to the oil supply and demand situation in this country. That was done immediately after the 13 February meeting and it has been done ever since. If the honourable member has any complaint about the telex and obviously I have as well I suggest that he take it up with Caltex. I am not responsible if they send silly, badlyphrased telex messages.
– I preface my question to the Minister for Primary Industry by referring to the successful signing of the Israel-Egypt Treaty and the consequential large volume of aid that evidently is to flow to that area. Has the Government any details of the type of United States aid that is anticipated, and does the Minister foresee Public Law 480 or any other United States credit facilities unduly cutting across Australian exports to this area?
-There is no doubt that the whole world rejoices at what seems to be the imminent prospect of continuing peace and stability in that part of the world which for so long has been so unstable. The price of that, as the honourable gentleman’s question intimates, is an aid program to be embarked upon by the United States Administration. In the past PL-480 has, in a number of markets, prejudiced opportunities for commercial sales by Australian commodity exports. The market in the Middle East for Australian commodities is, of course, very significant. We continue to sell quite large quantities of grain, in particular, in that region and, of course, meat is another commodity which increasingly is finding access to that region. I do not see any reason for concern that these commodities will be prejudiced. For a long period there has been a very good relationship between the Australian marketing boards and purchasers in those regions. Indeed, I would foresee that, with the prospect of peace, there is hope that stability and economic well-being might return and that perhaps they could become even more valuable customers in the future.
One area in that part of the world that continues to be of significant concern in terms of commodity sales is Iran. In this House I have spoken of the difficulties that we are having in trying to ensure that we can sell meat there on a basis which would meet the requirements of its people. Unfortunately, Iran is not involved in the present treaty arrangements and one can only hope that as a result of discussions with the Government of Iran something of the prospects for the development of Australian commodity trade that appeared a while ago might be restored. I thank the honourable gentleman for his question. I can assure him that we will be examining very carefully the content of the United States aid program, but I have no reason to expect that it will do other than bring peace and stability to the area and, I hope, better customers for Australian commodities as well as America’s in the future.
– My question to the Treasurer concerns the latest statistics on the volume of money which show that, for the 12 months to February 1979, in seasonally-adjusted terms, M3 increased by 15 per cent and Ml by 12 per cent; and for the last 3 months Ml grew at an annual rate of 26 per cent. I ask: As these rates of increase are far in excess of the Budget target rate of growth for the money supply- 6 to 8 per cent- will the Treasurer advise the House whether he has simply lost control of the money supply or there has been a major change of government policy in this respect? Will the Treasurer also advise the House whether he still believes- as he has said in the past- that a reducing rate of increase in the money supply is fundamental to the fight against inflation and, if so, what the implications are for inflation of current money supply developments? Most importantly, will he tell us whether he intends taking action to reduce the money supply rate of growth to somewhere near the Budget target rate and, if so, whether he acknowledges that this will entail a credit squeeze and increased interest rates?
– I have already indicated to the House that the growth in M3 for the current financial year will be in excess of the upper end of the range announced in the Budget. The extent to which monetary policy contributes to the control of inflation is of course governed by not only the anticipated and actual level of inflation throughout the year but also the extent of growth which occurs during the year. I can assure the honourable member for Gellibrand and the House that the Government continues to regard monetary policy as being a highly significant, indeed crucial, element so far as the control of inflation is concerned and that the money supply aggregates as they now stand and are likely to be at the end of the financial year continue to receive the very close attention of the Government. The Government’s policy remains very much that monetary policy should do two things. It should contribute towards a downward pressure on the level of inflation and it should be at a sufficient level to underwrite sustained economic recovery.
– I refer the Minister for Post and Telecommunications to recent action of the Australian Broadcasting Commission by which that body increased the cost of ABC news services to country radio stations by some hundreds of per cent- in one instance from $2,860 to $10,000. 1 ask the Minister: Is a statutory body free to ignore Government policies on cost restraint particularly in the matter of maintaining important services to country Australia? Is the Minister aware that in some cases the savage increases with less than a fortnight’s notice of implementation will have the effect of virtually wiping out profitability of some stations? Can the Minister assure the House that country people will still retain access to the ABC news service with its unquestioned superiority and value?
– It is gratifying to know that some commercial stations like to take the ABC news in preference to any commercial news service. I indicate to the honourable member that the increases are stiff increases and I have therefore arranged to take the matter up with the Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission to ask him to review them.
– In directing my question to the Minister representing the Attorney-General, I refer to action currently being taken concerning the misuse of solicitors’ trust funds by legal practitioners in New South Wales. I ask the Minister: Can he give an assurance that solicitors’ trust funds in the Australian Capital Territory are being administered and maintained according to the law? Is he satisfied that the present arrangements for the auditing of solicitors’ trust funds in the Australian Capital Territory are adequate to protect the public interest? Is he aware that solicitors in the Australian Capital Territory are permitted to nominate their own auditors? In view of the New South Wales experience, will he consider reviewing the existing arrangements so that auditors of solicitors’ trust funds in the Australian Capital Territory are made accountable to the public rather than to the Law Society, as is the case in New South Wales?
-The handling of solicitors’ trust accounts in New South Wales is of course entirely a matter for the Government of New South Wales and the laws of that State. I will refer the question raised by the honourable member concerning the legal profession in the Australian Capital Territory to the AttorneyGeneral to give him a considered reply.
– My question to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications refers to the Prime Minister’s reply to a question yesterday concerning the work bans and limitations currently in force in the Australian Telecommunications Commission and the Australian Postal Commission. Can the Minister advise the House as to the present situation in these disputes and what action the Commissions are planning to take against Australian Postal and Telecommunications unions employees who refuse to carry out their normal duties?
-The Australian Postal Commission and the Australian Telecommunications Commission will take action to stop the pay of employees who refuse to perform their normal duties. They agree with the Government’s principle of no work, no pay. In addition, where employees of the Commissions are made idle as a result of industrial action, stand-down action will be taken. In pursuit of this policy, last night Australia Post stopped the pay of employees who refused to work as directed. Telecom will indicate to the union this morning that if work bans are not lifted immediately it will act on the principle that workers who will not work as directed will not be paid. The Australian people are fairminded and they will agree with the Government’s view that, if a person refuses to perform his normal duties, there is no earthly reason why he should be paid. This principle applies particularly where vital public services are at stake, as they are in regard to these postal and telecommunications matters. We believe deeply in arbitration, but we are determined to act against industrial anarchy.
– I ask a question of the Minister for National Development. Is it a fact that crude oil produced from Bass Strait fields is of a quality similar to that of the lighter crude produced by some of the members of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries? Is it a fact that, for these lighter crudes, OPEC countries will add a premium of up to $4 a barrel to the 9. 1 per cent general price rise on 1 April? Will the Government be taking the premium into account when it determines the import parity price for Australian crude oil? If so, will this add a further 12c a gallon to the price of petrol produced from local oil, taking the full increase in July to over 20c a gallon? Will Australian motorists, in that event, be hit for a total extra bill of up to $700m over a full year?
– The answers to the question are yes, yes, no; the rest of the question does not apply.
-I direct my question to you, Mr Speaker. Which officers control the microphone system in this House? Are any microphones permanently switched on or capable of being switched on or off by individual members? Can any microphone carry a voice so that it is audible over the radio but not in the chamber? Will you, Sir, take steps to prevent abuse of the use of microphones by offensive interjections, in particular, the regular gibberish of the Leader of the Opposition?
-I have over a long period made some inquiries in regard to the matter raised in the question. I constantly check the situation. The microphones are worked by the officers of the Australian Broadcasting Commission in the booth which is located in the chamber. Their practice is to make a microphone live only when a person receives the call. The exception is the Speaker’s microphone, which is constantly open. I have, as an exercise, had three tapes taken of Question Time. Those tapes have been listened to by a member of my staff for the purpose of ascertaining whether interjections which may be heard by different members of the House sitting in different parts of the House come over the speaker system. In fact, I hear, through the speakers that I have here, what is heard broadcast over the ABC. The examination of those three tapes taken at random disclosed that sporadic interjections are not broadcast unless they are made at the microphone which is live. Of course, remarks made at the live microphone would not be interjections; they would be in the form of a statement made by the person called. Since the honourable member for St George has raised the matter, I would be very happy to accommodate him if he, or any other honourable member, would like to listen to any of those tapes. He can make arrangements with my office to do that.
- Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. The complaint on this matter comes frequently from the Prime Minister, almost invariably when I have made no comment at all.
-Order! There is no point of order.
– I claim to have-
-Order! There is no point of order.
-I am offended by the unparliamentary term-
-The House will come to order. I ask honourable member’s on my right to remain silent. The honourable gentleman has started to make a statement which is not a point of order.
– I ask for your indulgence, Mr Speaker. The unparliamentary comment of the honourable member for St George in saying that I was responsible for gibberish-
– In fact the statement is not unparliamentary, but if the honourable gentleman regards it as offensive I will ask the honourable member for St George to withdraw.
- Mr Speaker, I wish you would let me finish. It is more than that. The complaint is untrue.
-The honourable gentleman-
– It is all fiction. It all happens in the Prime Minister’s mind.
-The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
- Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. In the opinion of the Opposition, the latter part of the question asked by the honourable member for St George and promoted by the Prime Minister should not have been allowed.
-Order! The honourable gentleman-
– It was not a proper question about the broadcasting of Parliament.
-The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
– It was an attempt to belittle the Leader of the Opposition.
-The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. There is no point of order.
- Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. The fact is, and you must know it-
-Order! The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. With your indulgence I would like to say that you have warned members of the Opposition on many occasions that they should desist from speaking after you have asked them to stop. Can I ask you, Sir, to enforce that ruling by taking particular action against the honourable member who just took no notice of your request?
– I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. As you must know, Mr Speaker I too have spoken to people at the Australian Broadcasting Commission- the complaint is untrue.
– Is the honourable gentleman raising a point of order?
– Yes, I am.
-There is no point of order.
– But you have spoken to people at the ABC and you must know-
-The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
– That the complaint has no foundation.
-The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
– It is all occurring in the Prime Minister’s mind.
- Mr Speaker, the honourable member for Bendigo, by making the assertion that he did on the point of order, reflected on you in the chair. I ask you to ask him to withdraw those remarks which reflected on the Chair.
-The honourable member for Banks will resume his seat. The honourable member for Bendigo did not reflect on the Chair. I call the honourable member for Hindmarsh.
– I preface my question which is directed to the Minister for Health by stating that last week the Parliament made it quite clear that it believed that the cost of abortions which fall within the law of a particular State should be covered by this Government’s health scheme. I now ask whether the
Minister has directed his attention to an excellent article written by Jacqueline Rees headed ‘Why One Baby in Five is Aborted’ which appeared in this week’s Bulletin. If he has not, will he do so? In any event, will he pay attention to the point made by the writer, namely, that if the cost of abortions is to be met by the Commonwealth Government then it has a bounden duty to spend its money in preventing the necessity of abortions by giving more money to family planning associations so that proper contraceptive means can be employed, rather than the more costly exercise of dealing with unwanted abortions?
-I think the House should be indebted to the honourable member for Hindmarsh for this question this week which is the week after the debate has taken place on the issue of the Government paying benefits for procedures resulting in the termination of pregnancies that are carried out in accordance with the laws of the States. It should be understood outside this Parliament- indeed, I think most people would agree- that the tenor of the debate last week and the vote itself should not be construed by the public at large as suggesting that this Parliament condones or approves of abortion on demand. I firmly believe that a greater responsibility is now imposed not just upon the Commonwealth Government, but upon State governments which have a responsibility for administering the laws relating to abortion, to spend more money and to ensure that there is a comprehensive and satisfactory family planning program in this country.
We have a family planning program. I think it is doing a tremendous amount of good already, although there is some suggestion that insufficient funds have been made available. The objective of the program is to promote responsible parenthood, to assist couples who wish to regulate the spacing of their children, to achieve wanted births and to avoid unwanted births. The family planning program provides finance for the educational and training aspects of family planning.
In this financial year $750,000 has been allocated to the States for the family planning associations within the States, including the Australian Catholic Social Welfare Commission for educational programs. This allocation is not just to educate patients who are to receive the benefits of the education but also to educate doctors and other people who have a very important responsibility in this area. Until the family planning program got off the ground there was an incredible deficiency of knowledge in the medical profession. In fact, the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners generally supported the family planning associations in their educational programs for its practitioners. There has been a wide acceptance that the program has already made a tremendous contribution towards proper family planning in this country.
My appeal is to the State governments to join with the Commonwealth Government. I understand that the South Australian Government is already making funds available, but all the State governments should join with the Commonwealth Government in expanding the family planning program to avoid the problem of unwanted births and to assist those childless couples in our community who want to have families.
– Are you prepared to increase your allocation?
– It is a matter for budgetry consideration. I would be very foolish at this time to give a guarantee. But there is a very keen awareness within the Government of the need for this program.
-Is the Minister for Primary Industry aware of the difficult wheat handling program which is facing the Grain Elevators Board of New South Wales as a result of the record harvest in that State? Is he also aware of the continuing industrial stoppages which are aggravating an almost impossible task for the Board? Since the responsibility is one for the New South Wales Government, can the Minister give an assurance that he will impress upon the New South Wales Premier the need for his intervention to settle the dispute so that this year’s wheat harvest may be moved and shipped?
-Already the costs of handling grain in New South Wales are higher than they are anywhere else in Australia. Not unnaturally in those circumstances the Grain Elevators Board, which is the bulk handling authority in New South Wales, has attempted to maintain a strong line against approaches that have been made by members of the trade unions who handle wheat for the Grain Elevators Board for increased pay and for changes in their terms and conditions. The difficulty is that they are already getting higher pay and allowances than similar employees anywhere else in Australia. The circumstances are such that at the start of this year’s wheat season about 400,000 tonnes of wheat were in store. Prospectively at the end of this year about 5V4 million tonnes to 6 million tonnes of wheat will still be in store of which well and truly more than half will be in New South Wales.
The Australian Wheat Board, through its shipping program, has been able to undertake a very significant increase in the rate of movement of grains around Australian ports. Already ships have been forced to bypass ports in New South Wales because of their inability to load. The inevitable consequence is that at the end of this season New South Wales, which is a major grain producer, could be faced with a hopeless position in trying to move the prospective harvest when probably better than an average harvest will still be carried over from this wheat season. The source of these difficulties is essentially the industrial troubles plaguing the ports of Sydney and Newcastle and the country storage facilities handled by the Grain Elevators Board.
The position is serious. I hope that the New South Wales Government will see what efforts it can undertake to correct the position. It is certainly true that with handling costs as high as they are in New South Wales the attitude of the Grain Elevators Board to the prospective changes in terms and conditions can be understood. At the same time, I think that the position lying as it does entirely within the industrial responsibility of the New South Wales Government cannot be ignored. Rather, something should be done to try to facilitate the transshipment of grain from ports in that State, at least to the degree that it is facilitated in other States. I intend to take up the matter with the New South Wales Minister for Agriculture, Mr Day, to see whether something can be done to improve the position.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Science and the Environment whether it is a fact that the Government is in the process of reviewing each of the existing Commonwealth Acts covering environmental protection. Is it the intention of the Government, following the completion of these secret reviews, to instruct the Minister to introduce amending legislation to each of the Commonwealth environmental protection Acts with the intention of weakening the existing legislation? If so, will the Minister table the submissions made to him by mining and other interests to allow for public comment and discussion in advance of any legislation being submitted to the Parliament? Why has the Government chosen to ignore the current investigations and hearings into environmental legislation and administration being carried out by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation?
– It is no secret that the Government has for some time been reviewing the principal environmental protection legislation in order to spell out properly the role of the States in supervising the protection of the environment in Australia, to ensure that overlapping and possible duplication of effort is avoided so that expense incurred by companies and people involved is kept to a minimum and io make the Act generally more efficient. The honourable member suggested that this review has been secretive. As the former Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development I mentioned on a number of occasions, in public announcements and speeches, that this revision and review was being carried out. There is nothing secret about it whatsoever. Anyone has the opportunity if he wishes to provide comment to the Government on any aspect of the legislation and to suggest ways in which it might be improved. In that context the Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation to which the honourable member referred has the opportunity and the right to comment. It is aware, of course, of the review that is being carried out. We would welcome any comments the Committee might make.
-Is the Minister for Health aware that a new low alcohol content beer is now on the market? Does he agree that this is a positive and responsible action taken by the Australian brewing industries in Australia?
– I am aware of the new low alcohol content beer. It is not a bad drop. I think it is a display of responsibility on the part of the brewers concerned to produce such a beer.
– What an excellent idea!
-As the Minister for Transport says, it is an excellent idea. It accords completely with the Minister’s philosophy and his concern for safety on the road. It accords also with the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Social Welfare. Honourable members might recall that Senator Baume and his Committee produced a report entitled ‘An Intoxicated Society’. One of the recommendations in that report was to encourage brewers in this country to produce beers of lower alcohol content. The Government has not yet dealt with that report but, without pre-empting a decision by the Government in the matter, I say that, from my own point of view and I am sure from the point of view of people generally, we can only welcome the action of the brewers and hope that brewers generally will provide the Australian community with the option of actually obtaining lower alcohol content beer.
– It is a big seller at the Melbourne Club.
– That shows the good commonsense of members of the Club.
– Does the Minister for Defence accept as a fact that he should be possessed of information that will enable him to inform the Parliament accurately of the amounts owing by way of offset payments for particular defence contracts, pursuant to stated government policy that 30 per cent of all defence purchases should be offered for Australian industry participation? Is it a fact that the Minister was unable recently, after a period of six months, to provide this information in reply to a question on notice? Does the Minister’s failure to provide this information indicate in respect of this matter that, firstly, he does not know or, secondly, the Department does not know or, thirdly, the Department knows but is not about to tell him or any other honourable member by virtue of the fact -
-The honourable gentleman is now arguing his question. I ask him to ask for information.
– Does his failure to provide this information indicate that, thirdly, the Department knows the answer to this question but is not about to tell him or any other honourable member, because of its failure to maintain the 30 per cent content?
– I reject the crude impeachment by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports. What the honourable member failed to put into his question is that in my reply to him I indicated that I was not prepared to allocate vast resources to do an extraordinary amount of research in order to answer his question. If the honourable gentleman has a specific contract in mind, I would be only too happy to facilitate the supply of information for him. But I appeal to the honourable gentleman to acknowledge the fact that to go back over 6, 8 or 10 years as he requested me to do would require an extraordinary amount of manpower, and I am simply not prepared to waste manpower in that fashion.
– What action does the Minister for Health propose to take in response to the growing anxiety in the community about the use of asbestos in consumer products and the possible effect on human health? Are people living in fibro-cement homes exposed to increased dangers? Can the Minister inform the House of the types of asbestos products which are dangerous to health or the form in which asbestos is dangerous to health?
– The honourable member would know that there has been considerable publicity recently on diseases amongst some Australian workers, alleged to have been caused by asbestos. The prevention and control of asbestos as a health hazard is of course a matter for State governments but the National Health and Medical Research Council has the matter under active consideration. Indeed it has produced a number of publications and they include ‘The Model Asbestos Regulations’; ‘Occupational Health Guide on Asbestos’; ‘Membrane Filter Method for Estimating Airborne Asbestos Dust’; ‘A Recommended Code of Practice for the Handling of Consignments of Asbestos Fibre in Australian Ports and Container Terminals’; and ‘A Code for the Handling of Asbestos by Small Users’.
Of course some considerable concern, has been expressed by people, as the honourable member for Petrie observed in his question, that perhaps fibro-asbestos houses could endanger health. The National Health and Medical Research Council has said that no evidence has been established that such exposure presents a definite risk to health. Indeed the National Health and Medical Research Council has given assurances, in the light of present knowledge, that the risk of non-occupational exposure to asbestos is considered extremely low. I would have to say from that advice that there is a very low health risk. However, I have asked the Chairman of the National Health and Medical Research Council urgently to constitute the ad hoc sub-committee on asbestos and to expedite its inquiry into the commercial use of asbestos and its possible effect on health. There is too much concern in the community at present -
– You set it up last August. It has not met yet.
– I realise that and I have asked the Chairman of the National Health and Medical Research Council to expedite the establishment of the Committee and its review and to report as soon as possible. I will report to the Parliament as soon as that sub-committee has reported to me. I believe there is much anxiety which may not be founded on proper and reasonable grounds. The sooner we have a proper objective assessment of the allegations that are abroad the better for all concerned.
-I direct the Treasurer’s attention to a memorandum written to him late last year by the Australian Statistician which referred to a survey of ownership of assets and debt holdings as ‘valuable in the context of taxation and social security policy’. Will the Treasurer reinstitute such a survey planned by the Bureau of Statistics but cancelled by the Government after a cut-back in funds? Will he also reinstitute a survey of household income and expenditure and a survey of foreign investment and ownership of Australian business? Does he acknowledge that such information is vital to any reasoned consideration of a total taxation policy?
-The answer to the first part of the question is: No, I will not. In relation to the second part of the question, I believe that the statistics and information available from other sources regarding the level of foreign ownership are adequate having regard to the fact that when determining the sort of surveys to be carried out by the Australian Statistician the Government cannot ignore the obligation to apply expenditure restraint in that area as it is applied in other instrumentalities.
-I ask the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs: Has his attention been drawn to the concern of the Victorian Football League that the Trade Practices Act has been invoked in a dispute regarding the clearance of three footballers? Is there not a danger that the use of the Trade Practices Act will have a damaging effect on sport in general and on Australian Rules football in particular? Was it ever the intention that the dead hand of the Trade Practices Act should intrude into sport as well as into business? Will the Minister give consideration to having the Trade Practices Act amended to exclude sporting organisations from the provisions of the Act?
– The question raised by the honourable member for Diamond Valley appears to be based on a case that is presently before the Federal Court of Australia. In the circumstances I do not propose to make any reference to that matter. The National Football League of Australia and the Victorian Football League have both made representations to me regarding this matter and I have agreed to receive a deputation. It has also been put to me that this Parliament, when legislating in the trade practices area, did not intend that the sporting activities of Australia would be caught up by this legislation. I was not a member of this Parliament when this legislation was considered, so I am unable to comment on that proposition. I propose to ask my department to look closely at the records of the debates that took place at the time to see whether there is any evidence to suggest that the Parliament intended that sporting bodies should be caught up by the provisions of the Trade Practices Act. I also propose to have discussions with my colleague the Minister for Home Affairs, who is the Minister responsible for sport, to see what his attitude is in relation to the proposition that the Act be amended to exclude sporting bodies. I am unable to say what will result from these discussions but I indicate to the House that I take the representations seriously and I will carefully examine them.
– I ask a question of the Prime Minister. Is it a fact that allowing for the tax rebate and child endowment then applicable an average bloke- to use his new-found matey parlance-
-Order! The honourable gentleman will ask for information and will not intrude those comments.
– The average bloke supporting a wife and two children on the average wage in December 1975 had an after-tax income of $146 a week, which in current day real terms is equivalent to $197 a week. Is it a fact that the same average bloke on average income currently, supporting a wife and two children, and allowing for family allowance, receives an aftertax income of $191 a week? In view of the subsequent erosion equivalent to $8.50 a week before tax in the real living standards of this average bloke, what steps are in hand to restore immediately the real living standard of the average income earner to that applying in late 1 975?
– I would look at the particular figures that the honourable gentleman has used to see whether they are accurate or to see whether they are as inaccurate as some others that he used as the basis of another question when he quoted statistics and in fact later that day had a table incorporated in Hansard.
On the other occasion the Leader of the Opposition had sought to demonstrate that public authority receipts are now a larger share of the gross domestic product than they were under the Labor Government. He then based that question on a table which was incorporated in Hansard on 8 March 1979. I am advised that the figures in the table are in fact wrong. In 1975-76 public authority receipts as a share of the gross domestic product were 33.1 per cent and not 31.1 per cent as he then indicated. Since then the percentage-
– I raise a point of order. The right honourable gentleman is answering a different question. If he does not know the answer to the other question why does he not say so?
-The right honourable gentleman will resume his seat. The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat. Is the honourable member for Wills claiming a point of order?
-The honourable gentleman will wait until he is called before he speaks.
– I thought you had called me. I am sorry.
– I now call the honourable member for Wills.
– The right honourable gentleman is answering a previous question, which of course he can do at some other time. The question asked by the Leader of the Opposition was totally different. Could you make the right honourable gentleman stick to the point?
-There is no point of order. The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. The question asked by the Leader of the Opposition related to statistics. The right honourable the Prime Minister is answering on the basis of statistical information.
-Since then the percentage has become 32.8 per cent instead of the 33. 1 per cent and, taking the family allowances into account, the public sector percentage of receipts is 32. 1 per cent. The progress in reducing the total percentage would have been significantly greater but for the expenditure policies of State governments. The Commonwealth has set a lead by reducing outlays to a growth of under 8 per cent this year and it is not entirely within the Government’s control if State governments have other policies.
Coming more nearly to the question that the honourable gentleman asked, as a result of our tax reforms, indexation, the reform of the rate scales and our introduction of family allowances, the taxpayer, on average weekly earnings with a wife and two children, is $15 a week better off under this Government than under Mr Hayden’s tax scale.
– That is not true. You are being dishonest again. You are rigging the figures. Why can ‘t you be honest?
-Here is the chatterbox who says he does not chatter.
– Why can’t you be honest?
– He is a liar.
-Order! The Leader of the Opposition will withdraw those comments.
– Well, Mr Speaker, of course I withdraw.
– I ask the honourable gentleman to withdraw.
– Good lord! I said I withdraw and you started interrupting before I had finished.
-The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat.
– It is not my fault that the Prime Minister is provocatively dishonest.
-The Leader of the Opposition will withdraw that comment.
– I will withdraw that too.
-The honourable member for Prospect will withdraw the comment that he made.
– I said he was a liar, but I have to withdraw it.
-The honourable member for Prospect is being deliberately provocative. I indicate to the honourable member for Prospect that if he persists in that form of conduct I will have to deal with him immediately and I now warn him.
-What the Leader of the Opposition has just done makes a slight sham of his protestations earlier that he does not chatter like a chatterbox at question time.
– I ask the right honourable gentleman to proceed with the answer.
– In the three years of the Labor Government income tax rose by 34 percent -
– I raise a point of order.
-The right honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
– If you require members of the Opposition to withdraw statements when they say that Ministers are dishonest or telling lies-
-Order! The honourable gentleman will make his point of order.
-I am making it, Sir. Will you require Ministers to tell the truth in that case?
-The honourable member for Newcastle will withdraw the implication in that statement.
– I will withdraw that they are dishonest-
-The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
– In Labor’s three years, income taxes grew by 34 per cent in the first year, 41 per cent in the second year and 20 per cent in the third year. The tax rates for middle income earners, people earning $10,000 a year, was 45 percent. People earning $16,000 a year had a marginal rate of 55 per cent, and still Labor incurred massive Commonwealth deficits. The deficit rose from less than one per cent of gross domestic product in 1973-74 to over five per cent in 1975-76.
– On a point of order, Mr Speaker, I ask you under the relevant Standing Order to require the Prime Minister, with all his difficulties, to make his answer relevant to the question that was asked.
-There is no point of order. The answer is relevant.
-As we know, inflation skyrocketed to something over 17 per cent, but taxes rose much faster than prices. In 1974-75 the tax increase of 41 per cent was2½ times the increase in prices. The Government has reformed the tax scales and has brought in a rate of 33½c in the dollar on income up to nearly $17,000 a year. At that rate it was 55c under the Leader of the Opposition’s scale. In addition to that, as a result of the lift in the tax threshold, half a million people have been exempted from paying any tax whereas they were paying tax under Labor.
As a result of the Government’s reforms, indexation and reform of the rate scales and its introduction of family allowances, the taxpayer on average weekly earnings with a wife and two children is $15 a week better off under this Government than under Mr Hayden ‘s tax scales. Under Labor’s three years, taxes grew by 34 per cent, 41 per cent and 20 per cent. That is certainly a peacetime record for any government in Australia. Taxpayers are now paying $3,000m less in income taxes than would have been raised under the Leader of the Opposition’s earlier tax scales. It is worth noting that during the time of the last election the Opposition said it would abolish these reforms so that at the same time it could abolish payroll tax. The Opposition was going to take the taxes out of the pockets of the working men and women of Australia and pay those funds to companies. That is one of the promises which the Opposition seems to have forgotten in the new tax matters that are coming forward.
The Opposition now wants capital gains taxes, resource tax and punitive income taxes, and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition the other day said he wanted the $1.5m wealth tax when the Leader of the Opposition had indicated something like $200m to $300m. I know the Opposition does not like this subject very much but I welcome the opportunity to have questions on taxation matters because the record of Labor is the record of a tragic period which Australia certainly will not repeat. I ask that questions be placed on the notice paper.
– Could I request that the document being read by the Prime Minister be tabled?
– Standing Orders require me-
-They were just notes, Mr Speaker.
– It was not notes at all. It was a full document.
-Order! The honourable member for Port Adelaide will be seated. I am required to ask the right honourable gentleman: Was he reading from a document?
– It was notes only.
-There is no point of order.
– I claim to have been misrepresented -
-The honourable gentleman will resume his seat -
– On numerous -
-The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
– I rise on a point of order. Three weeks ago I asked the Acting Treasurer (Mr Eric Robinson) a question without notice concerning the collapsed financier, Associated Securities Ltd. The information sought is necessary under Commonwealth legislation -
-What is the Standing Order under which the honourable gentleman takes his point of order?
– I am going to ask for your assistance, Mr Speaker.
-The honourable gentleman will resume his seat until I call him. I will offer my assistance at a later point.
– I am going to ask you to use your powers to require an answer.
-The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
– For the information of honourable members, I present the text of the Government’s responses to the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs’ report on annual reports and the Senate Standing Committee on Science and the Environment ‘s report on annual reports.
– Pursuant to section 32 of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Power Act 1949, I present the annual report of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority for the year ended 30 June 1978.
I claim to have been misrepresented on several matters.
-Does the honourable gentleman wish to make a personal explanation?
– Yes, indeed.
-He may proceed.
– In the first instance, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) claimed that the average weekly wage earner is better off by $ 15 a week as a result of tax arrangements and other benefits- which he outlined- provided by the Government. That is not true. I seek to have -
-Order! The Leader of the Opposition is entitled to make a personal explanation about a matter on which he has been misrepresented.
– I thought you were listening to what was claimed.
-The opportunity is not available to him to pursue a debate. The honourable gentleman needs to tell me the manner in which he has been misrepresented.
– In making that claim the Prime Minister was seeking to establish that my assertion- that, in fact, the average income earner is $8.50 a week worse off -
-The honourable gentleman has indicated, by his words, that it is a matter of a dispute on fact. He has said that the Prime Minister was disagreeing with his assertion. There is no misrepresentation.
– I move:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Leader of the Opposition moving forthwith-
That this House deplores and condemns the wilful misrepresentation of the Prime Minister on tax matters as part of an obvious tactic designed to conceal the fact that the Government will have to increase direct personal tax and indirect tax as well as substantially reducing existing benefits to the community in order to fund a $ 1 ,000m revenue shortfall arising because of firm commitments by the Prime Minister already announced to the electorate to be funded in the forthcoming Budget.
I have no choice but to do this because of the well known proclivity of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) to be totally misrepresenting matters, if not dishonest.
– In order that the matter can be dealt with- the honourable gentleman obviously wants to destroy private members’ business; that appears to be his wish- we will be prepared, to suspend Standing Orders to let him move his motion forthwith.
– Forget about your General Business. It was your motion.
-That is right.
– Under those circumstances, perhaps the Leader of the House would ask leave to move for a suspension of Standing Orders which would permit the Leader of the Opposition to move his motion.
– by leave- I move:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Leader of the Opposition moving forthwith the motion of which he has just given notice to this House.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
That this House deplores and condemns the wilful misrepresentation of the Prime Minister on tax matters as part of an obvious tactic designed to conceal the fact that the Government will have to increase direct personal tax and indirect tax as well as substantially reducing existing benefits to the community in order to fund a $ 1,000m revenue shortfall arising because of firm commitments by the Prime Minister already announced to the electorate to be funded in the forthcoming Budget.
The Government is in serious trouble.
-Order! I apologise for interrupting the honourable gentleman but I have not yet seen a copy of the proposed motion, and I am sure that the Leader of the House and the Treasurer would like to see a copy also. If none is available, I ask the Clerk to arrange for copies to be made.
– It is quite clear that the Government is in serious trouble generally concerning its economic management. We have a situation in which there is some evidence of a pick-up in economic activity at a time when there is a much more substantial pick-up in the rate of inflation affecting the economy. Very largely that level of inflation is taking off because of unwise government decisions introduced in the last Budget. The general direction of economic management at the moment guarantees that unless there is a substantial, a most dramatic, change in the measures the Government is adopting, not only will inflation take off markedly but also we will be looking at a situation in Australia in which inflation at the end of this calendar year will be of the order of 10 per cent to 1 1 per cent. We will finish the fiscal year with inflation of the order of 8 per cent. So much for the firm promise of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) that inflation would be down to 5 per cent. Those things can be avoided but they can be avoided only if there is a marked change in the general direction of economic policy.
At the same time the community is about to see interest rates moving up. The long-term bond sales on the open market by the Government are some one half of 1 per cent above the ruling official rate. To use the Prime Minister’s term about economic realities, what that means simply is that interest rates are on the way up. The Government by its intervention in bond sales in the open market is indicating to the community that interest rates cannot stay down where they are now. Again, so much for a firm promise by the Prime Minister that interest rates, including rates on housing mortgages and home overdrafts, would be down by 2 per cent by November last year. They are moving ahead again.
No one on this side of the House finds any comfort at all in observing how generally government economic management of this country is falling apart. The Opposition’s spokesman on economic matters, the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis), pointed out today how out of hand money supply control is currently. What all this adds up to very simply is that the Government’s defined program for economic management for this fiscal year, as outlined in the last Budget, no longer applies. Equally clearly, the Government does not have any clear view in its own mind as to what it is going to substitute for that program outlined in the last Budget. The community needs some reassurance on this. Business cannot function confidently if it faces a situation in which inflation is about to take off, interest rates are to go up and there is general uncertainty as to exactly what the Government is going to do to regain stability in the economy.
Overlaying all of this is a very serious fiscal problem, and that simply is that because of the impulsive manner of the Prime Minister in giving firm commitments to the electorate about things that he will do at some future occasion, I presume hoping that the future will never arise, the Government now faces costs of the order of $ 1,000m which will have to be met in the next Budget- costs for a wide range of matters which the Prime Minister has outlined. These matters have to be paid for and they have to be paid for by someone in the community. It is quite clear that the Prime Minister will make those who have already been paying too much- the average income earners in the community, which is the great bulk of the wage and salary earners in Australia and the households or familes- pay. Each will have to pay in one way or the other; the former as a result of increased personal taxes and the latter as the result of increased indirect taxes. The cumulative effect of those measures will be unpleasant in terms of its economic influence. They will collectively mean increased inflation. They will mean reduced demand resulting in fewer goods being sold. That will mean more unemployment. They will mean lower living standards for people because their money will not be going as far as it used to go.
It is up to the Prime Minister to state clearly to this House and through it to the Austraiian people just exactly how he proposes to fund these commitments. For instance, is it true, as is being generally canvassed as an option in the Public Service, that rather than restoring full indexation for personal income tax as was promised by the Government two years ago in the 1977 Budget to apply from 1979 in fact the 50 per cent indexation now applying will be terminated? It is being canvassed that it will be terminated to save the Government $500m. Again the stock adjustment indexation factor which was to be fully operative in the 1979 Budget will not be implemented, according to the same source. A range of other measures are going to be adopted in a desperate scramble by the Government to somehow or other fund the shortfall in revenue that will arise because of these unwise, impulsive commitments made by the Prime Minister to narrowly based recipients in the community, privileged recipients.
There is a fair enough argument going on in the community at the present time as to who will pay for this in the next Budget. The Opposition is arguing that the Australian public is tax weary. They have had more than enough tax imposed upon them by this Government. It is a lot of nonsense for the Prime Minister to suggest that his Government is a low tax government. If we are going to see the role of government in this community- the public sector- then we have to look at the total of the government sector in the community, the total level of spending for which it is responsible. Under the Fraser Government, under the three years of Fraser administration public authority receipts as a share of the gross domestic product are higher than they have ever been in the history of this country with the possible exception of wartime. For instance, in the last three years the average is 33.3 per cent of gross domestic product as against 31.6 per cent of gross domestic product. The Prime Minister seeks to suggest that this is the fault of State governments and local government. Again the facts are that the way in which the Federal Government has arranged financial support for State governments but more especially for local government has forced them to resort to other sources to raise their financial requirements. So what he has really sought to do has been to cut back the real level of expenditure available to State and local government from the Federal Government and to force them out into the market to raise money that before was properly raised by the Federal Government. If state and local government had been funded in the past three years of the Fraser Government on the same real basis that it had been in the 1975 Budget for which I was responsible they would cumulatively have been $ 1,000m better off for those three years than they have in fact been. That encapsulates the nature of the problem confronting State and local government.
The fact is that under the Fraser Government this country has become very highly taxed and, furthermore, the level of public spending has remained at high levels compared with historical experience. There is no doubt that the Fraser Government, however, has sought to cut back in certain areas but only so that it can outlay money in other areas. A couple of years ago it sought to eliminate funeral benefits for pensioners. In its last Budget it sought to tax the income of newspaper boys. It denied families of maternity allowance. It terminated the mortgage subsidy which Labor had introduced. A whole range of benefits of support for the average people, the ordinary people in the community, the people who are bearing the bulk of revenue-raising, of tax charges in the community, are increasingly denied them. Who gets the benefits as a result of these cuts? It is the Utah Development Corporation. The export levy on coal is being phased out. That means less revenue from that source. Accordingly, funds to offset that diminution in revenue have to be raised from somewhere else. So the family pays, the children pay and the pensioners pay. This year pensioners will lose about $27m which they should have received in pension payments because the Government has terminated one of the twice annual indexation adjustments to pensions to which they are properly entitled and of which they always received the benefit when we were in government.
There are a number of things I want to refer to in this debate. Who is going to pay? We make no apologies about a capital gains tax. If one makes an allowance for the rate of turnover on average of mortgages in this country and so on, a capital gains tax can be fully operative not in ten years as Treasury says but in a much shorter time. It is more likely five to seven years. If we use the United States as a guide, as Treasury did in its submission, which is now published, to the Asprey Committee of inquiry, we are talking about raising approximately 5Vi per cent to 7 per cent of total income taxation revenue. We are talking about raising, when the program is fully operative, several hundred million dollars. In the first year of its operation there would be a substantial addition to revenue from this source.
We are proposing to provide an exemption for people with capital assets valued at less than $200,000. So, a very small proportion of the community will be affected by this tax. But a fairly high level of revenue will be generated because we are talking about the wealthiest group in the community. Who will the Government rip if off? Will it be families again, newspaper boys, pensioners- a whole range of people, including the Australian motorist who has to pay $ 1,200m additional tax because of excise duties on petrol this year- or is it intended to start going to some of those tall poppies in the community who seem to have permanent immunity under this Government, which is the representative of the privileged groups in Australia?
We stand squarely behind the wage and salary earner, families, the pensioners, the people who just are not protected- those who are vulnerable, exploited and discriminated against by this Government. We make no apologies for proposing a capital gains tax, a resource rental tax, a petroleum revenue tax or a crude oil arrangement- however one likes to call it. These and other measures which I have outlined would raise in the order of $ 1 ,000m in a year and would allow the Government to avoid plunging once again into the hip pocket of the average person in this community in the various ways available to it- ways to which it has never hesitated to resort in the past.
I wish to refer to a few quite dishonest comments which have been made by Government spokesmen. The Prime Minister is constantly asserting that if the tax scales which I introduced as Treasurer in 1975 applied today people would be paying $3,000m more in taxation than they are actually paying. I do not dispute that assertion. But we have not been in office for three years and the Prime Minister’s assertion assumes that we would have made no changes to the level of tax charges. It ignores the substantial reductions in taxes effected on several occasions when we were in office, but more specifically it ignores one simple fact, namely that if Sir William McMahon, Australia’s greatest economist- we have that on his own say so-
-The honourable gentleman will refer to a member by his electorate- the right honourable member for Lowe.
-Thank you, Mr Speaker. If the scales of the right honourable member for Lowe (Sir William McMahon) had applied- those of 1972 when we took office- in 1975 we would have collected $2,000m more in taxation than we actually collected. What the Prime Minister put forward is a spuriously irrelevant argument. What the Government is trying to do is avoid its real responsibility of accountability to this country as to how it intends to raise that $ 1,000m. Why will the Government not come clean and give a firm reaffirmation of pledges solemnly given in the past? I refer, for instance, to the firm solemn pledge that full income tax indexation would apply from the next Budget.
The Prime Minister says that the family allowance arrangement which the Government has introduced has been of extraordinary benefit to people in the community. The facts are that the people in the community with families receiving the family benefit today are worse off in real terms than they were at the end of 1975 when they received child endowment and the tax rebate for children which I introduced. For instance, a family with one child is $2.17 a week worse off and a family with two children is $2.06 a week worse off. That is the position when one compares the situation of average income earners then and now, and the bulk of the people are in that income group. The result is that these people are worse off because of the failure of the Government to index family allowances. Why has it not indexed family allowances? It has not done so for the same reason as it introduced family allowances. It did not introduce family allowances as a welfare program. It saw that the rebates for dependent children, which I had introduced, if indexed, would involve cost to the Government. So, it slid them across the board in the Budget under the new heading ‘ family allowances ‘. The Government has not indexed them since. That is why families are worse off.
That is why I am able to point out- the facts confirm it- that today the average income earner or, as the Prime Minister likes to call him in that new matey parlance he has suddenly discovered, the average bloke supporting a wife and two children is, before tax but after consideration is taken of the present family allowance compared with tax rebates for children and child endowment in effect at the end of 1975, $8.50 a week worse off. I am talking about what the average income earner earned at the end of 1976 compared with what he is getting today. To arrive at that figure I did simple calculations. I ask leave to incorporate in Hansard the relevant document on this matter.
The table read as follows-
-Again it is undeniable that people are worse off under this Government. The simple fact is that in total they are paying more revenue to governments. They are paying more tax to this Government, even allowing for the benefits they receive and so on. They are considerably worse off- $8.50 a week worse off- as a result of the actions of this Government. Families are worse off because there has been no indexation of family allowances. They are $2. 1 7 a week, for one child, worse off. Why is this Government always penalising the most vulnerable, the most dependent people in the community? Why is it discriminating against families so much?
– They abolished the maternity allowance.
– I mentioned that earlier. The honourable member must have been out of the room. Why is it responsible for plundering the taxpayers so often? This is the Government which in 1977 proposed that there would be substantial tax cuts to benefit all taxpayers. The facts are that the top 10 per cent of income earners receive more than 40 per cent of the benefit. Shortly after the Government regained office the benefits disappeared. In the first Budget it presented there was a substantial increase in taxation, and 55 per cent of all taxpayers lost the benefit of the tax cuts which became effective in February 1978. For the bulk of taxpayers, the increase in taxation exceeded 8 per cent. So much for the sorts of benefits which the Government proposes for people. It makes promises at election time and it withdraws them immediately an election is out of the way.
The Prime Minister has in the last several days undertaken an obvious campaign to try to confuse and misrepresent this situation. He is in a serious predicament. Government economic management generally is well off course from that laid down in the last Budget. As far as one can divine, the Government does not even understand where it is going. As the honourable member for Gellibrand pointed out at Question
Time today, the Government seems to have completly lost control of money supply. The evidence is that interest rates are going up already as a result of indications in response to official sales of government bonds on the open market. They have gone up half a percent above the official ruling rate established at the government sales in the conversion loan of November last year.
Unemployment is booming and will get worse. Overlaying it all is the problem of how the Government will fund in the next Budget $ 1,000m worth of promises. We make no apologies. We are determined to fight for the interests of the ordinary people of this community- the taxpayers who have been plundered and exploited too much already. We are opposed to the way in which cosy deals and conspiracies are worked out with big oil companies in this country to provide them with enormous profits and, at the same time, to allow the Government to amass enormous levels of additional revenue at the expense of the community. We believe it is about time someone stood up in the the defence of the rights of the ordinary, common people of Australia. This Government will not do that but we will.
-Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion, Mr Speaker. The motion which the Opposition has moved reads as follows:
That this House deplores and condemns the wilful misrepresentation of the Prime Minister on tax matters as part of an obvious tactic designed to conceal the fact that the Government will have to increase direct personal tax and indirect tax as well as substantially reducing existing benefits to the community in order to fund a $ 1,000m revenue shortfall arising because of firm commitments by the Prime Minister already announced to the electorate to be funded in the forthcoming Budget.
The first point to be made in respect of this matter is that the motion specifically points to the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) who is not in the chamber and who is apparently squibbing this debate. I think that is a particularly important point. The Opposition has not raised this matter lightly. We have raised it because the Prime Minister- the Treasurer (Mr Howard) also but the Prime Minister in particular because of the particular opportunity he is afforded during Question Time- has, time after time, sought to misrepresent the situation in regard to taxation. We are sick and tired of his misrepresentation of the realities in regard to income tax and taxation generally. We have raised this issue specifically so that he can stand up in this chamber, if he has the courage and the guts to do so, and defend the matter in debate rather than just using the particular advantage he has at Question Time. But apparently he is refusing to take up the challenge. He will leave it to his Treasurer while he skulks in his office. Well so be it. That is the sort of Prime Minister we have.
-Order! The honourable gentleman is not entitled to use the language: Skulks in his office’. I ask him to withdraw.
-I rephrase it, sir, to say while he sits in his office.
– You wouldn’t go real well in the Queensland Parliament.
-Order! The honourable member for Gellibrand will resume his seat. The honourable member for Prospect will withdraw that remark.
– Sorry; I will withdraw.
-I have had the necessity to warn the honourable member for Prospect on an earlier occasion. I will not warn him again.
-The fact is that the Prime Minister is particularly sensitive on this issue of taxation because he came into government posing as a Prime Minister who would provide a low tax system for the people of Australia. He continually spoke about the way in which this Government would be a low tax government- small government, low taxes. This was something that would be tremendously attractive. We all recall that during the 1977 elections the major focus of the Government’s election policy was that it would bring in substantial income tax cuts. The reality is that this Government has, since that time, had to reverse substantially its original ideas in regard to taxation and break its fundamental pledge made to the Australian people in respect of income tax at the 1977 elections. It has had to substantially increase income taxes through the income tax surcharge and also through various increases in direct taxation. The result of this is that the Australian people are far less well off than the Prime Minister promised they would be.
The reason that the Government has had to break its promises in this way is simply because its economy policies in general have failed. They have failed, in particular, in respect of stimulating the economy. As a result of that, the Budget deficit has continued to blow out. The Government has been unable to reduce the Budget deficit in the three years that it has been in office. Therefore it has had to resort to breaking its pledges on taxation in an attempt to do that. The irony of the situation is that by increasing taxes in this way the Government has further recessed the economy and therefore locked itself into a downward spiral which involves a continual resort to higher taxation, continual blow outs of Budget deficits and higher levels of unemployment. I remind the House about this matter of the deficit. Today the Prime Minister said that there were large deficits under the Labor Government. In the three years the Labor Government was in office total deficits amounted to $6.4 billion. That might sound like a lot of money but in the three years of the Fraser Government, total deficits amount to $8.9 billion. So where is this big cut in the Government’s Budget deficit which we were promised in 1975? Where are the horrors of large deficits about which we heard when Labor was in government? They have been much larger under this Government. Of course the Government is embarrassed by that situation as I have mentioned. Therefore it has had to resort to increasing taxation in the way that I have already described.
Now, those increases in taxation have also been made on a very inequitable basis. Not only have the increases made taxpayers generally less well off than the Fraser Government promised the people they would be, but also they have been done in such a-way that people on ordinary incomes- ordinary wage and salary earnershave received no benefit from the income tax cuts which were promised in 1977 and introduced in February 1978. But people on high incomes have received substantial benefits. With the introduction of the income tax surcharge 40 per cent of the benefit went to the top 10 per cent of taxpayers. Those top 10 per cent are still much better off, whereas 55 per cent of taxpayers lost everything they gained out of those income tax cuts. The whole process has been done in a totally inequitable way as well as being a fundamental breach of a promise made to the Australian people. Of course it is not just something that is in the past.
What the Prime Minister is concerned about is that this is something which is here now and which is facing him in the next Budget, because in this year, 1978-79, we find that the deficit is blowing out again. It is $70m higher than it was at this time last year despite the fact that we have been promised a Budget deficit of $500m less for this financial year. Therefore the Government clearly is faced again with a blowing out of the deficit to some order. The Government has immense problems in terms of what it will do in 1979-80 because on top of that situation it has made all sorts of promises as was mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition in respect of the various tax concessions that it will make in 1979-80. Those are very important. It has promised to abolish the coal export levy, death and gift duties and to reduce the incidence of the crude oil levy. All of this will cost $230m.
Three years ago the Government promised full stock valuation adjustments over a threeyear period. That matter comes up in 1979-80 and will cost $300m unless the Government breaks its promise. The Government has promised full tax indexation in this coming financial year which will cost $400m. It has also, of course, promised that the income tax surcharge was only for a one year period. That amounts to a $570m loss if the Government does not go on with that surcharge. Now all that means that the Government has tremendous and very expensive promises to recoup to the Australian people. We frankly think that it will not be able to keep all those promises. The one that it is least likely to keep is the one relating to the income tax surcharge.
We have challenged the Treasurer time and time again to say to the Australian people that an income tax surcharge would not be levied again in 1979-80. He has consistently refused to make that promise. Now I challenge him again. Will he say to the Australian people today that he will not renew the legislation for an income tax surcharge in the next financial year? I ask the Treasurer not to say that the legislation runs out at the end of this year. Will he tell us what he intends to do about the matter for the next financial year? That is the important issue. If he is not going to renew that income tax surcharge, then can he tell us what other taxes he will put up in order to bring the Budget deficit down? This morning’s Press reports that the Department of Finance estimates the Budget deficit at something like $4 billion for 1979-80. Clearly it has taken into account these various taxation promises of the Government. Therefore the Government will have a much higher deficit than it will have this year, unless it again resorts to increases in taxation. So the fact of the matter is that the Government has not been a low tax government at all. Its ecomonic policies have locked it into a situation in which it has had to resort to continual increases in taxes to try to keep the Budget deficit within some sort of proportion. Therefore the Government is extremely sensitive about the situation.
The Prime Minister keeps distorting the realities of what has been done. It is simply absurd to keep arguing, as he does, that the Australian people have been saved $3,000m by the introduction of tax indexation by this Government.
He says that if we had the Hayden tax scales for 1975, if there were no tax indexation on them and if there were current incomes, then $3, 000m more of income tax would be levied. That is absolutely an absurd and ridiculous argument. Firstly, although tax indexation did not apply when the Labor Government was in office, on two or three occasions substantial changes in the tax schedule resulted in this reduction in the impact of taxation. There was not a formal indexation system but there were substantial changes in the tax schedules to reduce the incidence of income tax. Secondly, since that time it has become Labor Party policy to have tax indexation. I have referred the Treasurer to this policy before but he continually ignores it. I repeat that the Labor Party policy -
– When did you pass that policy? You rejected that in 1975.
-Oh, will the honourable member please be quiet.
-Order! The honourable member for Lilley will remain silent.
-The Labor Party policy as adopted at the Perth Conference in June 1977, under the heading of ‘Taxation’, states: . . adjust the personal income tax schedule and tax rebates for changes in the Consumer Price Index.
Now, it is ridiculous to assert that there would have been no changes to the income tax schedule. They occurred when we were last in office and we now have a policy which formally accepts the system of adjustment of the tax system for changes in consumer prices. So, I ask honourable members not to keep on with this nonsense, this ridiculous and entirely misleading argument- fraudulent argument almost- that a Labor Government would have raised $3, 000m more in taxes if it had remained in government. That is utterly ridiculous and cannot be substantiated. Of course, the Prime Minister does not just do it on this broad scale. He tries to do it on a personal scale as well. We heard him again argue today, as he has argued before, that under the Labor Party taxes would be $15 a week higher for a person on an average income with a wife and two children than would be the case under the present tax system. Now that is just a ridiculous argument because again it ignores the fact that there would have been adjustment of the tax scales.
-Do not just say, oh. The fact of it is that that is our policy and it would have happened.
– It was not your policy when you went out of office, and you know it.
– It was our policy to adjust the tax scales.
-Order! The debate is not advanced by cross-fire in the chamber. I call the honourable member for Gellibrand.
– As I mentioned, it was our policy to adjust the tax scales periodically. That has now been formalised. There would have been adjustment of the tax scales. I remind the House that the tax indexation introduced by this Government, has been anything but full tax indexation. Last year it was 33 per cent. It was 90 per cent in the first year and 80 per cent in the second. In three years we have got nowhere near full tax indexation. If we had had tax indexation under the Hayden tax scales to that degree in the last three years people would still be better off. A person on $220 a week would be $3.00 a week better off under the Hayden tax scales than under the tax indexation that is applying at present. If full tax indexation had applied that person would be even better off, The whole assertion of the Government in this respect hinges on the point that there would be no adjustment of the Hayden tax scales. That is an absurd and ridiculous argument.
One further point to make is that this Government, being locked into a situation of having to increase taxes, has done so, as I mentioned previously, in an inequitable way. That inequity is exposed not only by the fact that the Government resorts to increasing income tax in an inequitable way but also because it refuses to look at alternative means of raising taxes. Ways are available- we have pointed to them- to raise tax revenue in a way which would lower the burden on the Australian people generally. It would put the burden where the capacity really resides. A resources tax, for instance, would tax the windfall and super profits of mining companies which such companies can well afford to pay and would reduce the burden on the Australian taxpayer. There should be some form of taxation of capital in this country. It is highly inequitable and unfair on taxpayers generally to allow those who earn their income from the ownership of capital and through the buying and selling of capital to avoid taxation on that income.
Most countries in the Western world have a capital gains tax. The fact that such a tax does not apply in this country is a massive inequity and increases the burden on the ordinary Australian taxpayer. The fact that this Government, despite introducing various measures to reduce tax avoidance, refuses to crack down on family trusts, for instance, is also another indication of the way in which the Government refuses to pursue a tax policy which would be equitable and fair. As its own taxation officers pointed out, refusal to crack down on family trusts as tax avoidance measures means that a substantial inequity is allowed to remain in the tax system. The Prime Minister has been massively distorting the truth in respect of taxation. It is a pity that he will not come into the House and debate the matter. It is highly objectionable when the Leader of the Opposition moves a motion condemning the Prime Minister for his misrepresentations that the Prime Minister leaves his defence to the Treasurer and has not the courage to defend his own actions.
-Mr Speaker -
– Where is the Prime Minister?
-The Minister will resume his seat. I ask that honourable members on my left remain silent.
– In moving this motion the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) based his case and his appeal to this House on being the great defender of the average Australian. It is a noble aspiration to be a defender of the average Australian. I think this House ought to examine the credentials of the Leader of the Opposition and the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) to be defenders of the average Australian. The greatest contribution that any government can make to the welfare of the average Australian at present in the economic area is to create a more stable, more predictable and less inflationary economic climate. The greatest contribution and the greatest gift of the present Government to the average Australian has been the extent to which it has been able to keep the fundamentals of this economy on the correct path.
No debate in this House can proceed on any aspect of government economic policy, on any comparison of the record of this Government and the previous Labor Government and the alternative policies of the Opposition, without acknowledging the enormous contribution that the policies of this Government have made to a restoration of economic stability, economic predictability and economic sanity in this country. This side of the House will never allow the Opposition to forget the economic chaos of the years between 1972 and 1975. We will never allow the Leader of the Opposition to run away from the consequences of the alternative policies that he is espousing at present. We will not allow the economic spokesman for the Opposition, the honourable member for Gellibrand, to run away from the speech he made to a conference of Labor economists when, in a burst of realism, he acknowledged that the Labor Party would not regain office at the next election and that its first opportunity might be in 1983. He said that one of the greatest tasks the Party faced was a massive rebuilding of the public sector and that the only way that it could do that would be to persuade the Australian people that they had to pay more tax.
How does that acknowledgment sit against what has been said by the Leader of the Opposition today? He said that the public sector had not been reduced during the time of this Government ‘s term of office. If it has not been reduced, why does the honourable member for Gellibrand believe, in another forum, that it has to be massively rebuilt? If the Opposition is really a low tax party and if it really argues that it would have a lower rate of taxation if it were in government, why does the economic spokesman for the Opposition say to a conference of Labor economists that one of the principal tasks of the Labor Party if it is returned to office in 1983 will be to persuade the Australian people that more taxation has to be paid in order to rebuild the public sector? The truth of the matter is that this Government has reduced the size of the public sector. This has been a slow job, a difficult job and a job that has been resisted by sections of the Australian community, not the least being the Parliamentary Labor Party. The public sector has been reduced because the Government fundamentally believes that the only way for a sustained economic recovery, for a maintenance of higher levels of employment and for a maintenance of lower rates of inflation over a period of time, is to restore incentive, activity and predictability of economic climate for the private sector.
There can be no doubt that there is a stark difference between the basic approach of this side of the House and those who sit opposite. We do stand for smaller government, for lower taxation and for greater personal incentive. Not only do we stand for these ideals in philosophical terms, but also we have translated our commitment to those ideals into practical reality. The level of personal income tax collections in this current financial year are predicted for the first time in over 10 years to fall in real terms. A lot of statistics have been bandied around by the Leader of the Opposition in an endeavour to demonstrate that the personal tax burden now is greater than it was when he was in government.
He has taken some hypothetical examples and he has endeavoured to equivocate on the fact that when the Labor Government went out of office in December 1975 it had no commitment to introduce tax indexation. The honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) quite rightly pointed out that the truth of the matter on tax indexation in the Labor Party was revealed at the conference in October 1975. In the face of that, the claim by the Leader of the Opposition and the honourable member for Gellibrand that tax indexation would have been introduced automatically if the Labor Party had remained in office is an absolute deception. For the Labor Party to come into this House and claim that the fact that it adopted tax indexation on the basis of an ex post facto repentance at its annual conference in 1977 retrospectively proved that it would have done so in 1975 is stretching logic and believability to unreal limits. In December 1975 when the Labor Party went out of office, it left tax scales which if they had remained in place would have meant the collection of an extra $3,000m of revenue in this current financial year. Let there be no doubt about that. We even have an admission from the Leader of the Opposition and the honourable member for Gellibrand that that is the case.
Let me return to the level of personal income tax collections. In 1978-79, they are predicted to fall in real terms, using a deflator of 7 per cent, by minus 0.3 per cent. That is the first time in more than 10 years that personal income tax collections are predicted to fall. What better comprehensive measure could there be of the overall, tax burden borne by the average Australian than that? That is a computation of all personal income tax collections. It does not include corporate tax, excise or sales tax collections. It includes the taxation paid out of the pockets of the people whom the Leader of the Opposition claims to defend in this debate. What the table to which the Leader of the Opposition referred showssimilar tables have been incorporated in Hansard several times- is that during 1978-79 there will be a fall in personal income tax collections. In 1973-74, the same section of taxation rose by 20.1 per cent on the previous year. In 1974-75, it rose by 19.9 per cent. In 1975-76, it rose by 3.5 per cent. That demonstrates more eloquently than anything else the fundamentally different approach to taxation policy by the previous Government and its inheritors today and those on this side of the House.
What we have done with the taxation system in this country through tax indexation and the rate scale reform is basically to build into the structure a protection against the ravages of inflation for the ordinary average person, the people in whom honourable members opposite are interested. We have heard a lot about high income earners in this community. It is claimed that the top 10 per cent of income earners receive 40 per cent of the benefit from our taxation changes. That is broadly correct but it so happens that, generally speaking, the top 10 per cent of income earners pay 40 per cent of the tax. In a progressive taxation system, it is a matter of elementary logic that, when the scale is restructured, the money return to a high income earner will be greater than the return to a low income earner. High income earners pay more tax in the first place. The only way that we can make a sensible comparison of the way in which people have been relieved by taxation changes is to look at the percentage reductions in the amount of taxation that people have to pay.
We heard during this debate some of the good old solid ‘soak the rich’ rhetoric from the Leader of the Opposition and the honourable member for Gellibrand. The Leader of the Opposition went closer to a doctrinaire socialist position on taxation policy than any spokesman for the Opposition whom I have heard so far this year. He talked about hitting the wealthy and defending the average bloke. He did not acknowledge the importance of getting inflation down in order to protect the average bloke. He did not have the decency to acknowledge that when his party was in government it did nothing about taxation avoidance. Nothing offends more the sensitivity of the average taxpayer in this country than to stand by and see some people exploit the taxation system to their own selfish advantage. Who has done something about that? Was it the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) when he was Treasurer? Was it his predecessors when they held the office of Treasurer? What did they do about implementing that marvellous rhetoric in Mr Whitlam ‘s Blacktown speech in 1972? After saying that existing taxation scales for the wealthy were already high enough and that what had to be done was to close the loopholes, he said: ‘We will close the loopholes. We will act. We will stop all this cheating going on’. What did his party do during its three years of Government? It did absolutely nothing. Members of the Opposition now have the temerity to come into this House and claim that they are seriously interested in tax avoidance. They claim that they are the defenders of the average man and that they are determined to stop the rip-offs occurring. The truth of the matter is that this Government has brought more equity into the taxation system than any government since the end of the Second World War. The Leader of the Opposition talked about the Utah Development Company. What he did not say was that this Government re-introduced a branch profits tax last year in specific response to what was an obvious anomaly between the taxation laws governing the operation of companies through subsidiaries in this country and those which operate through branches. In his selective fashion he did not mention that when he referred to Utah. Incidentally, it is a company which pays a very large amount of tax. It has made a major and highly successful investment in this country. That is the type of investment and the type of success story of which this country wants more. The Government makes no apology whatever for encouraging such investment.
At no stage during his speech did either the Leader of the Opposition or the honourable member for Gellibrand acknowledge their extreme vulnerability in relation to their alternative taxation proposals. The Leader of the Opposition waxed eloquent about a capital gains tax but he did not clear up the confusion whether there will be an inflation adjustment. He did not tell us how he can reconcile his statement to the ethnic communities in this country that a man who buys a house for $250,000 and sells it for $300,000 will pay a capital gains tax on the profit of $50,000 with the statement he made to the National Press Club that there would be an inflation adjustment. We can imagine what the level of adjustment would need to be if his broad alternative economic strategy were applied.
I return to what I said at the beginning of this debate. Essentially in a debate about the welfare of the average Australian and comparative economic policies, we have to compare fundamentals. This Government has, in a very large measure, restored the fundamental strength of the economy. We have not restored the economy completely. We still have a long way to go. During the last 20 minutes, the national accounts figures for the December quarter have been released. I would be the last person to say that those sorts of statistics do not have a tendency to gyrate from quarter to quarter. They do. But one thing that they show is that over the past 12 months there has been a growth in overall gross domestic product of approximately 5 per cent. In the nonfarm area, there has been a growth of 4.5 per cent. In the farm area there has been a staggering growth of 25.4 per cent. Inevitably, there will be some revision of those figures in the future but are they consistent with the sort of gloom that the Leader of the Opposition expressed when the
Budget was brought in? He said in this House that the Government’s policies were forcing the economy through the floor, that we were in the process of a deep, long recession and that only a radical change of policy would bring us out of it. The fact of the matter is that this Government’s policies have delivered to the average Australian a degree of economic predictability, security, incentive and hope about the future that we have not seen during the 1970s.
– It does the House well to remember that when the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) was running for office in 197S he did not mince matters. He did not go into any kinds of vagaries when he announced to the Australian people that it would be possible for a Liberal-National Country Party government to achieve an immediate change of direction, to restore growth rates immediately and to get the economy moving again in a way that it had not been moving over the previous three years. The reality is that during the period of office of this Government- it is now 316 years- growth rates have been at half the level that they were when the Labor Government was in office.
As the shadow Treasurer, the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) indicated, the deficits have been substantially higher than the total deficit while Labor was in office. It was suggested in 1975 that there would be an end to deficit budgeting and that we would be able to balance the Budget, not at some time in the future but immediately. But what do we see under this Government? We see ever-increasing deficits each year and we see the country being driven further and further into hock. We see the policies of this Government driving the unemployment rate in this country to heights greater than is has been since the Great Depression.
Unemployment is not simply a welfare matter that is irrelevant to the whole question of productivity and the question of getting the economy moving; it is integrally related to the problems of Budget deficits. It is because during this Government’s period of office we have had more idle resources in this country than at any other time in the country’s history, that we have had the deficit problems that are forcing Australia this year into what can be described only as a mounting fiscal crisis. This Government is going to be confronted with more budgetary problems this year than perhaps any other government when framing a Budget in the post-war period. The reason for that has little or nothing to do with what may or may not have happened 3lA years ago. But it has everything to do with the way in which the Government has mismanaged and mishandled the Australian economy in the period in which it has been in office.
It has been estimated that since the Fraser Government came to power in 1975, revenue forgone as a result of increasing unemploymentunemployment rose from 266,000 in November 1975 to 494,000 in January 1979- amounts to more than $2 billion. That is revenue forgone simply as a result of idle resources. We on this side of the House believe that resources are not abstract; they represent the people of this country who are being sacrificed by this Government for the sake of its own interests and for the sake of its own power. That is a cost to revenue of $2 billion as a result of those idle resources. One can add to that amount, $ 1,000m- another billion dollars- this year which the Government will have to pay out in unemployment benefit, and extremely mean rates of benefit they are too. This too will contribute very little to productivity and to the growth of the Australian economy.
This Government has been a recessive government which has driven the country into a recession which is having massive welfare consequences. That essentially has been the theme of the matter that the Opposition has raised today in relation to taxation. On the one side we have a government which is cutting back the real standards of living of workers and, perhaps even more seriously, cutting back the real standards of living of people who are outside the work force. That was the significance of the decision in relation to the non-indexation of pensions, a firm promise by the Government enunciated in 1975, repeated in 1977 and supported by the backbenchers of this Government. It was also supported by the Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson)-
-The honourable gentleman will remain relevant to the motion.
– Totally irrelevant.
– It is not. I think that when we are speaking about taxation we need to look at the revenue implications of the kinds of taxation policies that have been introduced by this Government. So we have these cutbacks to which I have referred. One can look at the whole area of pensions. One can look at what has happened in terms of national housing policy and the attempt to eliminate welfare housing. One can look at the kinds of cutbacks that have occurred in almost every public sector activity that affects the welfare of average people.
One must also look at the other side of the ledger. Let us look at what this Government has been doing in relation to taxation. The reality of the situation is that the Government, after announcing and firmly committing itself to policies which would have reduced the overall effect of taxation on the average wage and salary earner and particularly on the lower income groups, has not been able to get the economy moving. It has not been able to manage the economy effectively. It has not been able to produce the goods it promised in 1975. Therefore it has been forced to increase taxation. But it has done so, not in an equitable way, not in a fair way, and that is the point that we on this side of the House have been making. We are not advocating increases in taxation, but what we are advocating is a much fairer taxation system which distributes income from those who can afford to pay to those who cannot afford to support themselves fully and who are, one way or another, either directly or indirectly, dependent on government revenue.
Let us look at the evidence in terms of the impact of the taxation scales that were introduced by this Government in relation to this Budget. The evidence is there in black and white, it is not evidence that has to be dreamed up or interpreted. It exists. I refer honourable members to the research done by the Applied Economics and Social Research Institute of Melbourne University. That Institute has drawn up tables that show the effects of taxation proposals as involved in this year’s Budget, including the tax surcharge. What that Institute says, and what it says quite clearly, is that for people with incomes below $12,000, the increase in taxation is quite massive- 22 per cent. So that is an increase of 22 per cent in the case of people with incomes of around $7,500. For people with incomes of around $ 1 0,000, the increase is 1 4 per cent. But if one looks at the other end of the scale, the end of the scale occupied by so many people on the front bench of the other side of the House, there is a negative increase, in fact a real decrease of- 1.2 per cent for people with incomes over $30,000. It is simply not good enough for the Treasurer (Mr Howard) to come into this House and say: ‘Well the scales themselves are already progressive. One cannot add a further progressive note in relation to a surcharge’. Well of course one can. The purpose of introducing a surcharge rather than re-arranging the taxation scales was in fact to redistribute the burden towards those on the lower incomes, those who have suffered most from cutbacks in terms of their wages and incomes and in terms of the money that has been paid to them through pensions and allowances would suffer the most.
It seems to me that there would be no argument that this Government has been thoroughly regressive in its approach to taxation policy. All the suggestions are that in this year’s Budget we will see even more aggressive taxation. We are going to see an even further shift of taxation across from the productive wealth of the conomy to the lower income people, people who have already had their incomes damaged by the reduction in the social wage that has been effected by this Government.
One of the themes that was emphasised by the Government and certainly by the Prime Minister when he was campaigning in 1975 and again in 1977 was that this Government, whatever else it might be able to do, would introduce some certitude to the economy in Australia. It would make predictions more possible. One would be able to look at the Budget Speech of the Treasurer and one would then be able to say something about what was really going to happen in the year ahead. I guess that certainly in the Budget Speech there is certainty as regards taxation. It is quite clear that what has happened in terms of taxation is just as regressive as the Budget Speech and the Budget tables suggested it would be.
One can look also at predictions in the Budget Speech in relation to the money supply and in relation to levels of inflation. Much has been made in this House of the Government’s success in relation to inflation, yet what do we see? We see inflation in Australia running well above the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development average rate. This year inflation will be running at a rate of between 10 per cent and 12 per cent. So this Government, which claims so much in terms of introducing a degree of certainty into the Australian economy, is in fact running itself into a situation whereby there is more and more uncertainty and people cannot predict safely what will happen in the future. They do not know what the levels of inflation are going to be later this year. They do not know what is going to happen in relation to the money supply. They do not know what is going to happen in terms of our balance of payments which are now in a situation worse than they have been for many years. They do not know what is going to happen in terms of unemployment which even the former Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations predicted could well reach levels of 10 per cent in the early 1980s.
In fact more and more uncertainty is being generated in the community, not because of anything that might be said by members on this side of the House, but because this Government has not been able to produce what it said it was going to produce. When this Government came to office there was no question of there being doubts; there was no question of looking for policies. The Government said: ‘We have the answer to productivity. We will put money into investment allowances and you will see the productive engines of this economy moving’. Well, that has not happened. A lot of the money that has gone into investment allowances has gone straight out of the country. It has gone to those overseas manufacturers who made the equipment which was brought to Australia and it has not stimulated employment within Australia.
Since the 1972-75 period this Government has introduced a change of direction of income transfers and taxation. They are moving in a reverse direction. The inequities and inequalities which exist in this society are being more and more reinforced. The Opposition has not done what the former Leader of the Opposition, the now Prime Minister, did prior to 1975. When he became the Leader of the Opposition he was asked what he would do about the economy when he came to power. Did he say that he would introduce this allowance and that allowance and put surcharges on taxation and whatever? No. He said: When I have control of the Treasury and the Reserve Bank then I will tell you what I will do. The Prime Minister was as dishonest then as he is now. He refused to tell the Australian people what he was going to do because he wanted to achieve power and was prepared to do this in any way that he could. He certainly was not going to tell the Australian people honestly what he was going to do.
The Opposition has been extremely honest in its approach to its role as an opposition. It has not only criticised the Government and suggested that its policies are not working in specific directions and indicated in detailed ways what might be the social impact of particular policies but it has also begun to sketch out an alternative direction to the Australian people. In respect to the alternative direction of taxation the Opposition has suggested that Australia should have- as every other country in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development group has- some form of taxation of capital gains. Every other OECD country has this but the Australian Parliament has not had the opportunity to consider legislation that would enable that kind of development to be encouraged in Australia. This development is not revolutionary or radical but it would bring us into line with other OECD countries. We recognise that as our economy is geared more and more towards exploiting the wealth of our limited natural resources it is not unreasonable that a resource rent tax ought to be paid on some of the excessive profits. Excessive profits are made by some mining and energy operations. They ought to be brought into the equation and redistributed to the Australian people and used to create jobs in the cities of this country in which there is so much unemployment. It is unreasonable to talk about making the tax scales more progressive. We are not trying to hide anything; we are trying to suggest to the Australian people what our policies are 18 months before they will have the opportunity to vote. I believe that the Australian people will recognise that at least the Labor Party is on about a fair deal and helping the ordinary wage or salary earner to get equality for his dollar and not have it ripped off him by tax scales that are extremely inequitable.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Members of the Australian Labor Party must be a group of masochists to bring on a debate such as this at a time like this. Time and time again I hear members of the Opposition raising matters such as this in order that they can fall into the deep pit. I have observed this debate with great interest. We had a heavyweight, the Treasurer (Mr Howard), against a couple of bantamweights and, I suggest, a wind-up mouse. The honourable member for Batman (Mr Howe), the wind-up mouse, does not know what some of the words he used mean. He would not know what the words ‘fiscal’ and ‘responsible ‘ mean but he probably would know what ‘crisis’ means because he belongs to the group of people who brought this country into a great crisis in the three years that people regret so much throughout our community. The Labor Party does not know where to jump. It does not know whether to applaud the Government. In recent speeches the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) implied this by grudgingly admitting that the economy is moving ahead. The Opposition does not know whether to applaud the Government or to condemn it with trumped up rubbish such as this taxation debate. The Opposition’s charges are absolute rubbish as was proved by the figures that were introduced by the Treasurer this morning. Opposition members do not know whether they want higher taxes, as the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) has told us they do. I quote what the Treasurer alluded to from the speech made by the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) to the gathering of labour economists in Brisbane last year. What he said needs to be repeated to Australians time and time again so that they do not fall into the trap of thinking that a Labor government might be legitimate. The honourable member for Gellibrand said:
If Labor does not gain office next election then by 1983, when we could next hope to gain office, we would face a mammoth task in rebuilding the public sector and maybe an equally mammoth task in convincing the electorate that it should pay a higher level of tax to enable us to do so.
What does the Labor Party mean by that? That is what the honourable member for Gellibrand, the spokesman on Treasury matters, said. He wants to convince the Australian people that they will have to pay higher levels of tax. And Opposition members have the temerity in this House to criticise this Government when it increases taxes! This allegation is a stupid untruth. Does the Opposition want low taxes or does it want what the previous Leader of the Opposition said in 1972 in the Blacktown speech? Does it want to soak the people of Australia to pay for increased programs of all sorts? That is what was said in 1972 and what I have just quoted was said in 1978. In all cases the Labor Party admits that it wants to soak the little man and the rich man of Australia to pay for extravagant programs. I was amazed to hear the Leader of the Opposition say that the Opposition wants a marked change in economic policy. When has the Labor Party put up a viable economic policy that would be a good alternative to the policies operating at present? Never. It has suggested policies that are non-viable and that would require a marked increase in taxation to pay for them. A sensible policy has not been put up by the Opposition since it went out of office. One would have thought that the lessons of the years it was in office would have shown the Opposition that the Australian people did not want those policies that we had to live through for three years. Before the election of 197S taxation galloped upwards every year. In 1972 Mr Whitlam said: ‘We will raise the level of expenditure by taking the increase in taxation that will inevitably come from inflation’. That is what Australians were told. They fell into the trap and voted the Labor Party into office and that is the price they had to pay. What has happened since 1975? In real terms taxation has started to go down this year. I will not repeat figures that have been mentioned by the Treasurer but this year in real terms personal taxation is down. This has been the case every year that the present Government has been in office. Something has been done to help the little man, the man whom we represent, to ameliorate his taxation problems. In every year that we have been in office there has been tax indexation. Honourable members opposite cannot run away from that.
I regret that we have not received very many pats on the back in the Australian community for this. People received this benefit in their pay packets on the first of July every year. They received this benefit in 1976, 1977 and 1978. On 1 July every year every taxpayer in Australia has found that he has paid less tax. Honourable members cannot avoid those facts. What is the use of the Labor Party moving a motion such as that trying to suggest that it is not the truth. Every working man in Australia knows that that is the truth. Every person in Australia knows the truth about family allowances too. Perhaps that is a peripheral area. I do not believe that it is and neither do the women in Australia, who represent 50 per cent of the population. The family allowance system allowed people who were paying hide or no tax immediately to receive something meaningful in the post every month. Many women with families were paying almost no taxation after the normal concessions. There were plenty of those people with five children who immediately received $25.50 a week. Those people remember the family allowance and it is no good denigrating it. It was a positive move by the Government, which believes in the average Australian and which believes in helping the person on a low income. All these taxation measures are in that direction. The family allowance was a positive move by this Government to help those people. I admit that it did not help those people on higher incomes who were paying higher taxation, or helped them only marginally, but the person on a low income was helped substantially. Those people well know and remembered it at the 1977 election.
All sorts of things were brought in by the bantam weights in this debate. Things were said about the money supply. I would just like to know what the Leader of the Opposition means when he talks about our problems with the money supply. Of course there are problems with the money supply in an economy that has bottomed out; an economy where the degree of confidence has risen so markedly. Of course there are problems with the money supply because people now want to go and borrow money to invest in order to create jobs later on. We have problems with the money supply and we are battling with it as any responsible government would. What does the Leader of the Opposition intend to do with all his spending programs? How is he going to fund them? What is he going to do about the money supply? Is he going to do what the previous Government did and let the money supply go out by some 20 per cent in a year? Is that what he has in mind, or is he going to fund all these extravagant new programs that he keeps talking about by raising taxation, the very thing for which he is criticising this Government in this debate. Really, for the Opposition to raise a motion such as this just defies all credibility. The people of Australia who are listening to this debate and who read about this and know the attitude of the Labor Party know what is going on.
At the end of the speech made by the Leader of the Opposition, in a very moving statement he said: ‘It is time somebody stood up in defence of the rights of the ordinary people of Australia’. When has the Labor Party stood up for the rights of the ordinary people of Australia in the last seven years? When has it stood up for the ordinary businessman, the grocer or the fellow who has gained so many advantages from the present Government which has kept down the prices of the replacement goods that he has to buy? When has the Opposition ever stood up for the rural industry which is injecting massive funds through increased profits into the Australian economy at the present time? Opposition members should go out and talk to the working people who they allege they represent and ask them what they think about the things that were done to them during the period that the Labor Government was in office. They have shown what they thought about the Labor Government’s policy at the ballot box in two successive elections.
The ordinary little man of Australia, the ordinary Aussie who wants to get out and have a go, does not want to ride on the back of some other person who also wants to get out and have a go. The Opposition kicks the little man when he is down. It kicks the little man with high taxation and in speeches, such as the one in 1972 where it said that all the extravagant programs would be funded out of the little man’s pay packet. The Opposition kicks the little man with statements such as the one made by the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) who said that he will convince the electorate that it should pay a higher level of taxation. The Opposition kicks the little man by making sure that investment in this country does not get carried forward, with the result that jobs disappear. It kicks the little man by cutting out opportunities for industry, such as the mining industry, which virtually closed down its expansion operations during the Labor Government ‘s period of office. It kicks the little man, but at the same time Opposition members stand up in this House day by day saying that they represent him. The little man of Australia knows that Opposition members do not represent him. I think that increasingly the word is getting around that this Labor Party does not represent the old values; it does not represent what it used to represent. It does not represent the little man at all. It represents the people who want to ride on the backs of other people. It wants to take money from a person who is prepared to have a go, to just give it away and spend it so easily. What does it want to do with the tax surcharges this year? All through the debates of the last few weeks, and through Question Time, we have heard so-called probing questions from the leader of the Opposition who keeps asking: What are we going to do? What are we going to do with the surcharge?’ Does he want the surcharge to be taken off? Does he want us to go ahead with the things that we have promised we would do? Does he want us to increase confidence in this country, or has he a vested interest in stopping recovery? We suspect that that is the position, and that is what the little man also suspects. The policies of the Labor Party would destroy investment. These policies would destroy the confidence that has appeared in this country in a very fragile way during the last couple of years- a country that was frightened to death during the years of the Labor Government. The mendacity of the Labor Party on the question of taxation makes me feel ill. When one hears the honourable member for Batman (Mr Howe) accusing us of running high deficits, one wonders. One remembers so clearly that when the Government came into power in 1975 we had a situation where the deficit would have run into some $4,000m or $5,000m, not $2,000m or $3, 000m. We were committed to reducing that deficit. The honourable member for Batman should not talk about deficits is he does not understand what the word means.
Opposition members interjecting-
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! I ask the honourable gentlemen on my left to remain silent.
– Yes, they are rather noisy. They have been doing a lot of shouting but that will not take away the fact that they no longer represent the little man in Australia. The more that is said in this place the better. I am just reminded that when the Labor Party members accuse this Government of charging higher tax it is very much like Satan rebuking sin. They are just trying to have the Australian people on. They are a high tax party, and they have no sense of repentence in that fact. They want to soak the
Australian people in order to fund extravagant programs. I know that the Australian people will not fall for it again.
– I rise on a matter of privilege which concerns the alleged misconduct of a member of this Parliament in terms of Erskine May, nineteenth edition, page 144 in the third paragraph under the heading ‘Other forms of misconduct’. I ask that this matter be referred to the Privileges Committee. It relates to a telex which is presently circulating in the Press Gallery.
-Order! Is this point of privilege relevant to the question before the House?
– No. It is a matter that I must raise at the first opportunity and this is the first opportunity that I have had to raise it.
-I call the honourable member for Chifley.
-The telex reads as follows:
The Chief Justice of NSW, Sir Laurence Street today called an MP action in personally intervening in a case a grave impropriety ‘.
Sir Laurence said the MP, Mr Reg Gillard, Federal Member for Macquarie had written to him personally, presumably to ‘influence the outcome’ of a case concerning a Bathurst solicitor who was struck off the roll.
Vincent Francis Gordon was struck off by the Solicitors’ Statutory Committee because of trust fund offences and had appealed to the court of appeal against this decision.
His appeal had been dismissed.
In his letter to Sir Laurence, Mr Gillard said, ‘It would be sincerely appreciated if some leniency could be extended to Mr Gordon in this matter’.
Sir Laurence said today that he had no doubt Mr Gillard was well-intentioned in writing this letter and he accepted Mr Gordon had no part in it.
The regrettable fact however is that a personal communication was made to me presumably with the intention of influencing the outcome of the case. It ought to be a wellknown and jealously observed precept that no person should ever attempt to influence because of justice -
I think it should be ‘the course of justice’.
Justice is administered in open court and in reliance upon evidence and arguments publicly presented, the Chief Justice said.
It goes further:
Sir Laurence said of course the letter would not affect his judgment but he was embarrassed at receiving it.
Sir Laurence made copies of the letter available to the Press and it says that Mr Vince Gordon had been known to Mr Gillard for 20 years and that Mr Gillard had admired his (Gordon) community work.
The letter continues:
I am aware of the action which has been taken against Mr Gordon and knowing him as I do I feel that the penalty imposed is extremely harsh. I believe it would be far better if he were allowed to continue working in -
It says* He- his profession.
That is what the letter said.
– Are you alleging malevolence?
– I am reading the telex. It states:
Gordon and his partner John Wilson, who practised in Bathurst, Orange and Blayney were struck off the roll on March 1 by the Solicitors Statutory Committee for trust fund offences.
There are other telexes which are circulating around the Press Gallery now on this matter. I raise the question in terms, as I said, of Erskine May’s Parliamentary Practice, 19th edition, page 144, third paragraph, under the heading Other Forms of Misconduct’. I ask that the matter be referred to the Privileges Committee to determine whether there has been a breach of privilege.
– On the matter just raised by the honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage), as I understand, it refers to telexes that relate apparently to statements made by the Chief Justice of New South Wales. He of course has his own bailiwick of responsibility which is quite outside the province of or control of or any relationship to this chamber.
Any member of this House living in the State of New South Wales has a function outside this chamber which, I suggest, is not a responsibility of this House. I suggest that, in terms of the relationship of any member, the only areas within which parliamentary privilege can pertain are those which affect the exercise of a member’s authority or responsibilities as a member of the House of Representatives. I see nothing in the accusations made which bears any relationship to our Standing Orders or to the constitutional responsibilities of a member of Parliament or which in any way reflect against my colleague, the honourable member for Macquarie (Mr Gillard). In those circumstances, I suggest that there is not sufficient basis on which the matter should be referred to the Privileges Committee for consideration.
On the other hand, if you feel that in view of his responsibility in the matter you should refer it to Mr Speaker for his consideration, I can understand that being done. But I believe there is absolutely no basis whatsoever for any reflection against the honourable member for Macquarie and I believe there is no cause for this House considering this matter any further.
– On a point of order.
-There is no point of order before the Chair.
– To the point raised. The Leader of the House makes the point that the honourable member for Macquarie sent that letter in a private capacity. To me this is ridiculous because obviously the matter was raised and the only reason for the honourable member for Macquarie being -
– On a point of order.
-There is a point of order before the Chair.
– It was not a point of order. He was speaking to the point raised. It was not taken as a point of order.
-The honourable member for Bendigo will resume his seat. The honourable member for Prospect will resume his seat. It is not yet established whether there is a prima facie case to answer. Therefore, I propose to consider the matter, discuss it with Mr Speaker and report to the House at a later time. The matter is therefore in abeyance. The question before the House is -
-I will take a point of order there to get you to make a ruling. The Leader of the House -
-Order! The Chair has indicated there is no ruling immediately forthcoming. The matter is in abeyance.
– But surely we can take a point of order on that point and then you have to rule?
-The Chair has ruled.
– What? Has the Chair ruled that no matter what point of order I raise now, without you being aware of it, it is knocked over? That is certainly a peculiar way of running business from the Chair.
-Statements have been made on the matter. It is not established as a prima facie case -
-I am not saying that -
-Order! The matter raised by the honourable member for Chifley has been noted. There will be a report back to the House whether a prima facie case is established.
– My point of order is this: The Leader of the House was allowed to address you on the question whether a prima facie case is made. Why is he allowed to address you, yet I am not allowed to address you?
-The practice is that the time of the House not be unduly intruded upon until a prima facie case is established -
– By Opposition members.
-The matter was raised by an Opposition member. I draw that to the attention of the honourable member for Prospect.
– But why was the Leader of the House who himself has done exactly the same sort of thing so far as a solicitor in Tamworth is concerned -
– Why is he allowed to come into this debate -
-. . . when he is obviously personally involved?
-Order! The honourable member for Prospect will resume his seat.
– I ask the honourable gentleman to withdraw that inference which is totally inaccurate and grossly false.
-Order! I call on the honourable member for Prospect to withdraw the remarks that imputed the reputation of the Leader of the House.
-I do not see what I can withdraw. I have made the point that the Minister is -
-Order! The honourable member for Prospect cast an aspersion on the Leader of the House. If he desires to reflect on any member of this House, he must do so by substantive motion. I call on the honourable member for Prospect to withdraw.
– I raise a point of order on that matter. I think it would clarify the matter if you could describe exactly what the terms were which were unparliamentary to which you are taking objection. I listened and I did not find anything that I would have described as such. But if the Leader of the House feels aggrieved and is prepared to describe exactly what it is that upsets him -
– I am sure -
-The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat. It is not the responsibility of the Leader of the Opposition to determine whether a remark should be withdrawn. The Chair heard the remarks and requires them to be withdrawn. The Chair is not required to repeat the remarks. The honourable member for Prospect need only say that he withdraws.
-A factual statement has to be withdrawn and I do withdraw it.
-Order! The honourable member for Prospect compounds his misdemeanour. I call on him to withdraw forthwith the imputation against the Leader of the House.
– I withdraw any imputations but I do not withdraw the factual statement.
-The honourable member for Prospect will resume his seat.
– I raise quite a different point of order. I put it to you that it would be quite legitimate for the Opposition to ask that, when discussing the matter of privilege which has been raised, Mr Speaker and you should completely disregard the contribution made by the Leader of the House which was made at a time when it should not have been made because you had not decided whether a prima facie case did exist. The Leader of the House should not have been allowed to speak to the matter.
-The point the honourable member for Port Adelaide raises -
– Further, on that-
-Order! The honourable member for Port Adelaide will resume his seat. There is no substance to the point of order -
– There is substance.
-The Chair has discretion to conduct -
– But you cannot have discretion one way.
– You cannot -
-Order! The honourable member for Port Adelaide will not interrupt. The matter raised by the honourable member for Chifley seeks to initiate certain procedures. It is the practice of the House not to engage in prolonged debate on a matter until a prima facie case has been established. The matter will be referred to Mr Speaker and the House will be reported to in due course. The matter is now in abeyance.
-Mr Deputy Speaker -
Motion ( by Mr Bourchier ) put:
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker-Mr P. C. Millar)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question put:
That the motion (Mr Hayden’s) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker-Mr P. C. Millar)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Sitting suspended from 1.10 to 2.15 p.m.
-It is now past 12.45 p.m. The time allotted for precedence to General Business has expired.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Repatriation Acts Amendment Bill 1979.
Jurisdiction of Courts (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill 1979.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I claim to have been misrepresented.
-The Leader of the Opposition may proceed if he claims to be misrepresented.
-Yesterday at Question Time the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) made references to statements in relation to tax matters for which he said I was responsible. There were certain misrepresentations which I would wish to clear up immediately. I refer to only three matters of many that I could mention. The first is that he said:
In elaborating his economic plans in this House, at no time has he referred to tax cuts for lower income earners. Therefore, he is trying to deceive -
I draw the attention of the House to the alternative Budget which I outlined in the Budget debate last year. I then gave details of such a proposal. In another part the Prime Minister said:
No mention was made of the effect of inflation.
That is the effect in relation to a capital gains tax. He continued:
It is clear that the Labor Party has no intention of allowing for an inflation factor.
What I did say at the National Press Club the week before last was this:
In striking the tax rate . . .
That is, in relation to a capital gains tax- regard will have to be given to bunching and the effects of inflation on realised capital gains. For instance a flat rate could be levied at half of the top marginal tax rate or only half the gains would be included in income.
I made the point clearly enough there. There is nothing in this Press statement to which the Prime Minister referred which is inconsistent with that. Finally, the Prime Minister said:
The Press release also indicated that the plan of the Leader of the Opposition includes reducing the rate of inflation which it stated is now more than 8 per cent to 2.S per cent.
It is true that the Press statement does have that statement. It should be ‘reducing the rate of inflation, now more than 8 per cent, by 2.5 per cent’. It is regrettable that the Press statement went out with a typographical error. I realise how serious this matter is, how wrathful the Prime Minister is as a consequence of it and the need to propitiate his anger. There will be a public autodafe in the parliamentary square at 6 p.m. today when the miscreant will be appropriately dealt with.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek leave to make a statement.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
-Yes I do, by the honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage).
-The honourable member may proceed.
– It has been brought to my notice that the Chief Justice of New South Wales, Sir Laurence Street, has called a letter written by me to him -
– I raise a point of order. On the subject to which the honourable member now refers I understand that Mr Speaker is to decide whether a prima facie case of privilege is sustained as a result of the honourable member for Chifley raising this matter before lunch. I would have thought that had there been any personal explanation it would have come after Mr Speaker has told the House of his decision.
-The Chair has considered the matter that the honourable member for Port Adelaide has raised and in the circumstances it has decided that the honourable member for Macquarie is entitled to make a brief statement on the point on which he is misrepresented.
– I will start again. It has been brought to my notice that the Chief Justice of New South Wales, Sir Laurence Street, has called a letter written by me to him a grave impropriety. The letter was written to testify publicly as to my high regard for Mr Vincent Francis Gordon of Bathurst, which incidentally is not in the electorate of Macquarie. The letter was written without Mr Gordon’s knowledge and was similar to many I have written as Mayor of Lithgow and as the member for Macquarie. It was certainly not my intention in any way to embarrass the Chief Justice and I have written separately to him to extend my apologies. I stand by the comments I made in my letter to the Chief Justice and regret that his receipt of it should have proved in any way embarrassing. Indeed, I am very pleased in this place again to reiterate my respect for Mr and Mrs Gordon and would hope that note can be taken of their community standing in consideration of penalties recently imposed on Mr Gordon.
-by leave-I present the Report of the Australian delegation to the Inter-Parliamentary Union spring meeting in Lisbon in March-April 1978 and the 65th IPU conference held at Bonn in September 1978 and I move that the Report be printed.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– I seek leave to make a short statement in connection with the Report.
-The Inter-Parliamentary Union is a significant and important body and its activities and deliberations, as set out in this Report, should command the interest and strong support of the Parliament and all honourable members and senators individually. The IPU dates back to 1889. Although two world wars and other events have caused temporary interruptions to its activities the continuity of the existence of the IPU has been maintained since then. The meeting held at Bonn in September of last year was the 65th Annual Conference of the Union. The IPU is a world-wide- indeed, the only world wide- organisation of parliaments. The membership currently stands at National Groups from 76 countries, as listed in the Report, of which 70 were represented at the Bonn conference. The United Nations, of course, is an organisation of governments and commands resources, clout and world attention accordingly. In this respect the IPU should be seen as one significant body complementing the work of the United Nations. In a message to the IPU at the opening of the Bonn conference Mr Kurt
Waldheim, the United Nations SecretaryGeneral, said that the IPU had not only consistently supported the work of the United Nations but also had faithfully transmitted its concerns to the national level and helped to implement the decisions taken by it. That role was vital and crucial to the success of the United Nations if it was to achieve the goals set forth in the Charter.
In fact the IPU has been leader, initiator, as well as transmitter. Very early in its history it was the IPU which initiated the basic proposals for the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907, in which rules for the humanisation of war- if one can so speak- were set forth, and on the basis of which the International Permanent Court of Arbitration for the peaceful settlement of disputes was established.
More recently the Union made a notable contribution- springing from a resolution of the 59th Conference at Paris in September 1971- to the formulation and acceptance by governments of the Helsinki Agreements to facilitate rapprochement and co-operation between European countries with different political and economic systems. Many of the IPU’s suggestions were included in the Helsinki Final Act, adopted in 1975.
I say this because it bears on a point that needs to be recognised, namely, that viewed through Western eyes there is inevitably some scepticism, and indeed perhaps an air of unreality about an organisation of parliaments from such a range of countries as the present membership of the IPU, including as it does most countries of the Eastern Bloc as well as other states with a dubious claim to the practice of parliamentary democracy as we know it. In fact, however, the approach of the Union in this matter, which has resulted in the present membership, is very much the strength of the organisation, as the contribution to the Helsinki Agreements bears witness.
One does not have to participate in the IPU for very long to appreciate the great store which west European countries in particular set on the Union as a major forum for the exchange of views and a meeting of minds of West and East. When you are there on the spot you become very aware of how delicate, imminent and important to western Europe the maintenance of the strategic balance is. It is not seeing ‘reds under beds’ to report that it is said that political freedom in Europe is ‘ three days wide ‘-the time for a Soviet tank thrust to the Channel ports. Here in Australia we are very remote from the scene and the day to day consciousness of these great issues, but the political strength and integrity of western Europe is of key interest to all Australians.
The state of things is epitomised by the Berlin Wall. Most members of this IPU delegation undertook the salutary experience of passing through the wall, that anachronistic but very real and elaborate structure put there not to keep anybody out, of course, but to prevent the East Germans and others escaping from paradise to the West. On that, it might be said on the one hand, and not without justification, that the wall underlines the incongruity of a regime that would perpetrate such a tiling participating in an inter-parliamentary union. On the other hand, the wide membership of the Union embracing the East German state- and other states of the Russian bloc- provides a base from which to work away, within the limits of the concerns and influence of the IPU, at breaking down or mediating between the differences in ideology and political system of which the wall is symptomatic. In all the circumstances, the importance in the councils of the IPU of issues of East- West relations is easily understood.
The IPU is also an important forum for the furtherance of the so-called North-South dialogue, that is, Third World issues. The interrelationship of East-West and North-South issues is starkly brought out when the two are debated together, as was the case at the Bonn IPU Conference. In this respect I refer honourable members to the resolution on Arms Control and Disarmament to be found at page 99 of the report and that relating to the developing countries to be found at page 1 1 1. In urging increases in assistance to developing countries, as the latter resolution does, the dilemma of our times is pointed up by the fact that in 1975 the nonOPEC developing countries received some $17 billion in official aid and, at the same time, spent some $24 billion in the military area. One would like a formula which tied increased aid to reduced military expenditure, but that is in the realms of a dream world. In the real world there is no other course open than to push ahead in both areas simultaneously.
In respect of Third World issues, much attention last year was focused on the establishment of the Common Fund. There can be no doubt that in Third World eyes the issue of the integrated program for commodities and the Common Fund is seen as the critical test of the political will to increase assistance to the Third World. The position is that among developed countries, notably West Germany, there has been a good deal of scepticism concerning the proposal, not to say opposition. Australia, however, on the basis of our general commitment to assistance to the developing countries and our own self-interest in fair and stabilised prices for commodities, is committed to supporting the Common Fund. In these circumstances- this is noted in the Report- Australia at the IPU, as in other world forums, has been able to play something of a mediating role between the major Western countries on the one hand and the developing countries on the other. It is accordingly welcome news that only last week agreement was reached at Geneva to establish the Common Fund with an initial sum of $750m.
I make two points briefly in passing. Firstly, the two resolutions to which I have referred and others which were passed at the Bonn Conference and which are set out in the report at Annexure C are necessarily compromise texts to a greater or lesser degree. This was particularly true of the resolution concerning colonialism in relation to which, as is noted at page 35 of the Report, the delegation associated itself with significant caveats entered by the United States and United Kingdom delegations. Secondly, in the Report we do not comment in any detail on the power groupings that were evident at the Conference. Of course, the crunch point is the roll call vote, and it may be of interest to the House if I were to table conference documents giving details of the voting patterns on particular issues from which power groupings, in votes taken at the Conference, may be discerned.
I hope that what I have been saying conveys something of the flavour, the atmosphere and the concerns of the IPU conferences. One is bound to add that the conferences do not cover all the activities of the IPU. As well as its consideration of major world issues, the IPU makes a continuing contribution in more specific areas. In particular, there is its program of assistance to parliamentarians in prison or otherwise subject to persecution. The work of its Special Committee on Violations of the Human Rights of Parliamentarians is referred to at page 39 and in Annexure D of the report. An account of the day to day ‘between conferences’ so to speak, activities of the Union is given in the report of the Secretary-General. That is referred to at pages 17 and 37 of the Report which is before the House, but is not otherwise elaborated upon. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard, as an appendix to my speech, the summary introduction to the section of the Secretary-General’s report which deals with the activities of the Union.
The document read as follows-
The Union’s action and programmes have developed further during the past year.
In addition to the current problems dealt with at its statutory meetings, relating to disarmament, the Middle East, international terrorism, trade and debt of the developing countries, decolonisation and the struggle against illiteracy, the Union has increased its efforts regarding the solution of specific questions relevant to a particular region or country or regarding the defence of parliamentarians.
The IIIrd Inter-Parliamentary Conference on European Co-operation and Security demonstrated in May 1978 that important results could be obtained at the parliamentary level in order to consolidate and deepen the implementation of the Helsinki Agreements, and entrusted the Union with a central role in that connection.
From the first year of the application of the program for the defence of persecuted parliamentarians the Special Commitee which is its mainspring has been able to treat a large number of cases and enable the Council to adopt resolutions which may be deemed to have contributed to the release of three imprisoned parliamentarians.
Through the activity of its Working Group on Chile, the Union is actively contributing to continued international action for the re-establishment of respect for human rights in that country which has been the subject of its constant concern since 1973.
Continuing its action for the solution of the problem of Namibia, the Union has implemented a technical assistance project for the United Nations Institute which is training in Lusaka the executive personnel of the future independent Namibia.
With regard to environment, the program of action to combat the pollution of the Mediterranean has entered a new phase which promises to be particularly active with the establishment of a Sub-committee of coastal countries that should be in a position to tackle the difficult problem of the prevention of damage caused by industrial and domestic wastes.
Desiring to increase its statutory role in the achievement of the objectives of the United Nations, the Union devoted its Vth Inter-Parliamentary Symposium, held at Geneva in April, to the study of the relationship between Parliaments and the United Nations. The ensuing dialogue between parliamentarians and Government officials, on the one hand, and heads or members of the secretariats of the major international organisations, on the other hand, resulted in appropriate observations and recommendations for the improvement of a situation which, in the opinion of most participants, is not entirely satisfactory.
Publication by the Union of reference, periodical or occasional works on the working of representative institutions has developed, and their distribution and the use made of them by parliamentary and academic circles is constantly increasing.
The implementation in 1977 of a new system of information seminars for officials of secretariats of National Groups has yielded positive results and should contribute to facilitating and strengthening the action of the Union’s members.
The technical co-operation program initiated by the Union for the strengthening of the infrastructure of Parliaments of developing countries has been continued with the implementation of an upgrading project for the services of the Indian Parliament through twelve travelling fellowships financed by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).
The Union’s financial situation remains sound; it has been possible to increase its activities within a relatively stable budgetary framework.
– I draw attention to a number of recommendations which the delegation makes. They are set out on pages 5 1 to 52 of the report. The purpose of these recommendations is to assist in translating the resolutions agreed upon at IPU conferences into some action in this place and the country at large and to make Australian participation in the activities of the InterParliamentary Union more effective. I will not set out the recommendations in detail. I add only that they are primarily of an administrative nature and can be achieved at little cost.
In conclusion, I pay tribute to the deputy leader of the delegation, the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones), for his hard work and unfailing strong support. I extend my thanks to all members of the delegation, and to the secretary to the delegation, Mr Arthur Higgins, and the advisor to the delegation, Dr Ron Howard for the great assistance they gave us. We were a harmonious group. It is good to see that the common loyalty to Australia brings together delegation members of different political persuasions when overseas without restricting the scope for some mild playing of party politics as sometimes shows through in the speeches of delegates reproduced in the Report.
-The honourable member for Berowra during his speech made mention of tabling certain documents. Is he seeking leave to have those documents tabled?
-Yes, Mr Deputy Speaker.
-by leave- I join the leader of the delegation, the honourable member for Berowra (Dr Edwards), in expressing my thanks and appreciation, first of all, for the hospitality extended by the two host countries, namely Portugal and the Federal Republic of Germany. I draw attention particularly to the exceptional hospitality which was extended by the Federal Republic of Germany to all delegates and their assistants of various national groups, who must have totalled in the vicinity of 3,000 to 4,000 people.
That was the first conference of that type that I have attended, so I cannot speak for the type of hospitality that has been provided to previous delegations. But I strongly counsel countries to reduce the extent of the hospitality that was certainly extended to us by the Germans. It must be of embarrassment to some of the poorer countries, where conferences should be held and must be held in years to come, to think that they have to try to match the exceptional hospitality that was extended to the delegates and to their parties in attendance. I say that in all sincerity. We enjoyed the hospitality, but I think it was too rich. The staff who accompanied us, Mr Higgins and Dr Howard, were of great assistance to members of the delegation. I thank the leader of the delegation for his kind words at the conclusion of his speech. I reciprocate by saying that, as a Liberal, he is not a bad bloke to work with.
I suggest to the Government that when it appoints these delegations it should look to the British system. For years the late Brigadier Ward- unfortunately he passed away after the Bonn Conference- was a tower of strength to all British delegations. Whether a Conservative government or a Labour government was in power, the members of the British delegations were appointed on the same basis as are delegations from this Parliament. A Conservative government naturally appointed a Conservative delegation leader, and a Labour government had a Labour leader. The Labour Party delegation leader, who has been attending conferences, assured me that Brigadier Ward was of great assistance to him as leader. I believe that that is a system at which we should be looking instead of following the policy of rotating our assistants. Every conference one attends, one finds a new set of people accompanying one. For example, last time we had with us Mr Arthur Higgins. Next time we will have Mr Nicholls with us, and next year it will be somebody else. I think it is time that we had a look at the British system of having one official permanently in attendance. I accept the fact that the advisers are professionals in the Department of Foreign Affairs and that they have to accept promotions when they come their way because they then move on to a higher strata in the Department of Foreign Affairs. So we cannot exactly insist that the same man be there as adviser. What I suggest is that when there is a change- a change is taking place this year- there should be an overlap. For example, Dr Ron Howard should accompany this year’s delegation. In this way he can advise the new adviser, who will be with us, who are the people to talk to in the other parties and governments. There is no doubt that Dr Howard, who had been with previous delegations, knew the people to talk to, who to go to, who to see to find out what was going on, how votes were going and what was to be the strategy employed by various governments. At least he could find out what was going on. I say this with no disrespect to the new man coming in. Now he has to learn the ropes. There is nothing like having an old dog teach the tricks. I suggest to the Government that it might still be well worth the expense of bringing Dr Howard back from his new appointment in South America to have a look at this matter.
The Inter-Parliamentary Union is made up of 79 parliaments. In having a look at them we find, at a rough calculation, that no more than 22 could be called democratically elected parliaments. The rest of them, whether they be parliaments of the Left or parliaments of the Right, are all dictatorships. They are elected under a very restricted mode of ballot. In the 22 countries that I refer to as democratic I even include countries which are run something akin to the way in which Queensland is being run where, under the electoral system my Party could not win an election in a million years. But I am using that as an example to show that the overwhelming number of delegates is from parliaments which have a very restricted system of voting. I was interested in the way in which the business of the debates at this conference was conducted. I do not accept it when people say that these trips are a jaunt because I believe that members of the delegations are fair dinkum. That is why I feel that the Australian delegation could be advised better than it is, by the provision of additional people to advise delegates. I will come to a point later on with regard to the briefing of delegates which, I think, is worth having a look at. After all, this Parliament is represented by both sides of the House. Half the delegation is comprised of members of the Government and half members of the Opposition. It does not matter a hang which is the Government at the time. When we were in government between 1972 and 1975 half the delegates were from each side of the Parliament. So I ask honourable members to remember one thing and that is that Government members are not there forever. No government is there forever. No party is in power forever. Let us have a look at the future position so that at least both sides can be adequately briefed when they go to these conferences.
When one has a look at what goes on at this conference it seems that blocs are built up and that double-crossing takes place. We saw a situation in the committee of which I was a member, where the Americans and other people made a deal. When the matter came to the committee for endorsement everyone said: ‘She is right. Countries A and B have made a deal on this and this is the result’. When the matter came to the drafting committee for adoption the double-cross became evident. That occurred on a number of occasions in Lisbon and the same thing occurred in Bonn. So I see that the 79 countries which are represented there are playing for keeps. It is not a game of fun and everyone is working like hell to make sure that his point of view is brought to the fore and carried by way of resolution. That is the way I believe it should be, having been a delegate from this Parliament to the United Nations and now to the IPU. The IPU is a place where parliamentarians meet and make decisions. The United Nations is where public servants, acting on behalf of governments, meet and make decisions. So the situation at the IPU is such that the Eastern bloc, the Western bloc, religious blocs, and oil blocs form these groups and vote continuously as a bloc. It did not matter a hang what the motion was about. On disarmament we saw a situation of close voting over two particular issues. The Russians were trying to get the American’s neutron bomb listed and condemned. At the same time the Americans were responding by condemning the Soviet SS20 armament system. So there was a situation finally of a very close vote. When it came to the Middle East, terrorism and colonialism, that close voting was still apparent, but it was on different grounds. With regard to the Middle East the oil bloc was taking effect and we saw what are commonly called democratic or Western bloc countries voting or abstaining because of the fact that they had to import their oil from the Middle East. This had a major effect on the way they voted. With regard to colonialism the IPU appeared to debate that issue on the basis of white supremacy over colour. I think that if we have a look at the world today we see that there are many cases and many countries where this has to be looked at, but not on the basis of white dominance over colour being evil and wrong. At the same time there is just as bad a situation existing where there is coloured dominance over colour and it is not far from this country either. These are issues that have to be worked out.
One of the jobs that I believe the IPU does well is protecting members of Parliaments in countries where there are very restricted voting systems. I refer basically to Chile where there was the catastrophe of the government being overthrown by a reactionary extreme Right wing government. Today numerous parliamentarians are still in prison without trial. I honestly believe that if it were not for an organisation like the IPU those fellows would have disappeared. There would have been all sons of reasons why they no longer existed. It is because the secretariat of the IPU knows of their existence, knows their names and knows what prison they are in that those people are still alive today. We saw the same thing in countries close to Australia where former parliamentarians were still in prison. They had never been brought to trial. When the pressure was really put on we saw that country do something about this. It heeded the warnings that were being issued to it by the IPU. So I feel that the IPU does have a major effect.
With regard to the briefs which I mentioned earlier, at the moment the delegation receives two briefs. One is from the department and it is obviously a brief prepared for Government members. A brief is prepared by the Parliamentary Library Research Service which I think could be put into the independent category. Honourable members can deal with it either way. But one brief is missing for the Opposition. Once again I warn honourable members on the Government side that they are in Government today but tomorrow they could be in Opposition. So we have to look to the future and not at the present. A brief should be prepared for Opposition members. In other words there would be a Government brief, an independent brief and a brief for the Opposition so that at least Opposition members would be better briefed than they are at the present time. As one who went from Opposition to Government as a Minister, I know how quickly governments change or how quickly departments change. Within 24 hours of becoming a Minister I was told the policies that the Government and its members had been pursuing in this particular facet of Government administration. So I ask honourable members not to say that departments can prepare briefs only for the Government. They can prepare them for the Opposition just as easily. I strongly suggest to the Government that people be authorised to do just that. There are two points I want to make in conclusion. I would like to mention the two parliaments that I visited at the conclusion of the IPU conference.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! There is far too high a level of conversation on my right. I ask honourable members to remain silent. -
-One of the parliaments I visited was the Parliament of Europe and I found this most interesting. I had the opportunity of talking to numerous people from various political groups which have formed in the Parliament of Europe. These people were interested in what was happening in Australia and in our various attitudes to matters concerning them. The day I was there a discussion on Australia, as stated in the report, was held. It was the equivalent of a discussion on a matter of public importance. The people who took part in that debate wanted to know my comments on the matters that had led up to that MPI being brought forward. The forum is of value. I think it will be of greater value to members of this Parliament when the general elections take place under a new constitution in June of this year. The members of the Parliament of Europe will no longer be representing governments but will be representing constituencies the same as we do and as they do in the parliaments of their countries at present.
I refer finally to the Council of Europe. The President of the Council of Europe on this occasion gave the Australian delegation which comprised Senator Rae and myself an assurance that in future we would be invited to participate in all debates the Council engaged in which concerned us, such as atmospheric or river pollution. These subjects are concerning Europe as a whole. Delegations from Australia, Canada, the United States, New Zealand and Japan which are all associate members of the Council of Europe will be invited to participate in the debates if they wish. Previously these delegations have been permitted to take part only in the debate on the annual report of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Now with a bit of commonsense the delegations will be able to take part in all debates. I thank honourable members for their attention.
-by leave-I will not waste the time of the House by thanking all of the people associated with the InterParliamentary Union Conference. As far as I am concerned the positive aspects can be taken as read. I rise to dissociate myself from one aspect of the recommendations of the report and to incorporate a table in Hansard. The section from which I wish to dissociate myself concerns recommendation No. 1, which, in part, states that the Parliament and the Government should give close attention to the resolutions of the InterParliamentary Union conferences. The recommendation goes on to say that the Government should respond. As the honourable member for Newcastle pointed out, only a small proportion of countries attending IPU conferences have anything approaching a parliament as we understand it. I ask leave of the House to incorporate in Hansard a table which outlines political rights in the member countries.
There are 76 member countries. A figure ‘1’ labels a country as having the highest level of political rights and the figure ‘7’ for all practical purposes, labels countries as having no political rights. The table has been prepared by an organisation called Freedom House. The table shows that the organisation is even handed and condemns countries allegedly from both sides of politics. I ask leave to incorporate that table in Hansard.
The table read as follows-
Albania 7, Algeria 6, Australia 1, Austria 1, Belgium 1, Brazil 4, Bulgaria 7, Canada 1, Costa Rica 1, Cuba 7, Cyprus 4, Czechoslovakia 7, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea 7, Denmark 1, Egypt S, Finland 2, France 1, Gabon 6, German Democratic Republic 7, Germany (Federal Republic of) I, Greece 2, Haiti 7, Hungary 6, Iceland 1, India 2, Indonesia S, Iran 6 (at the time), Ireland 1, Israel 2, Italy 2, Ivory Coast 6, Japan 2, Jordan 6, Kenya 5, Lebanon 4, Liberia 6, Luxembourg 1, Madagascar 5, Malawi 7, Malaysia 3, Mexico 4, Monaco, Mongolia 7, Morocco 4, Nepal 6, Netherlands 1, New Zealand 1, Nicaragua 5, Norway 1, Panama S, Paraguay 3, Poland 6, Portugal 2, Republic of Korea S, Romania 7, Senegal S, Sierra Leone 3, Singapore 3, Spain 2, Sri Lanka 2, Sudan 6, Sweden 1, Switzerland 1, Syrian Arab Republic 3, Thailand 6, Tunisia 6, Turkey 2, United Arab Emirates 3, United Kingdom 1, United Republic of Cameroon 6, United States of America 1, USSR 7, Venezuela 1, Yugoslavia 6, Zaire 7, Zambia 3.
-The table shows the points that are given for political rights in the member countries. Albania is given seven points, Algeria six, Bulgaria seven, Cuba seven, Czechoslovakia seven, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea seven, Egypt five, Gabon six, the Democratic Republic of Germany seven, Haiti seven and so on. It is hardly the sort of organisation which presents worthwhile recommendations to this Parliament. I think that it would be ridiculous for this Government to go to the trouble and to the embarrassment of responding to those propositions.
In a sense I must apologise to the House for not spending much of my time, even though I was a delegate, at the Inter-Parliamentary Union Conference in Bonn. I attended at the beginning and at the end. In between I took the opportunity of a train ride- I emphasise ‘train ride’- to Berlin. Some may say that that trip confirmed my prejudices more than anything I would have seen at the conference where all people pretend to be democratic. We know very well that the delegations from the vast majority of the countries always vote unitedly because they have only a government point of view to put which is reactionary in the real sense.
I took a train trip to Berlin. It is important that I emphasise that I travelled by train. One does not see much by flying to East Berlin. I think that one of the basic rights that human beings ought to have is the right to leave their own country. The train to West Berlin travels through East Germany, the so-called German Democratic Republic. The train has sealed windows and doors. At the final stop before West Berlin the Volpo or Volkspolizei come alongside the train with Alsatian dogs. The dogs muzzles and leads are removed. The dogs are placed underneath the rear of the train and they proceed to the engine, with the guards walking alongside, to make sure that nobody is hanging on underneath to get out of the Democratic Republic. It is easier to search underneath a bus. A mirror is pushed underneath the buses to make sure that nobody leaves the German Democratic Republic. I suggest that some of our parliamentarians ought to do what I did instead of flying around and being entertained and impressed by official statements.
I re-emphasise that I dissociate myself from the proposition that we ought to respond formally to these recommendations. At the most, on any one issue we were always fighting a defensive battle. Some propositions which were put up could be reduced slightly in impact. Chile, South Africa and Israel are not the only undemocratic countries. There are plenty of other undemocratic countries. I am not suggesting that some of the countries referred to are not undemocratic. The countries that I have referred to are not the only ones that are not undemocratic. Let us look at the proposed venue of the future meetings as outlined in the report. The 1979 meeting is to be held in Prague, the 1980 meeting in Berlin in the German Democratic Republic and the 1981 meeting in Havana, Cuba. I suggest that it is completely inappropriate for an organisation called the Inter Parliamentary Union to hold its meetings in those places.
-by leave-The honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) mentioned the untimely death of Paul Ward. I register my deep sorrow and regret. Those who have had a privilege of attending an inter-parliamentary union conference know the value that Paul Ward was to the organisation. I support the comments of the honourable member for Newcastle concerning the value of the work to Parliament of a person such as Paul Ward. I refer also to the matter that I have raised at IPU meetings in this place. I have suggested that the IPU should have a permanent secretary. I congratulate the honourable member for Newcastle for making that point. I think we should have a look at that matter. He also raised the point about a separate briefing for Opposition members. I remind him that the present practice was carried out when we were in opposition. I accepted the role I was given when I attended conferences as a member of the Opposition. I was going away to represent the Government of Australia and not just the Opposition. I supported, on that basis, the stance of the Government on foreign affairs matters. I think that the matter of evenhandedness is involved in this approach. I ask the honourable member for Newcastle to keep that in mind. Honourable members should not apply their own views to a particular situation.
I regret that the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) spent little time, even though he apologised, attending the IPU conference. It is a worthwhile organisation and provides a tremendous forum for us to meet fellow colleagues irrespective of their country. It gives us a chance to meet them personally and also creates, I believe, a lot of goodwill. The honourable member for Newcastle spoke about delegations voting in blocs. He said that they voted along government lines. I remind him that I have yet to see him cross the floor and not follow his party vote.
-I have received a letter from the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The failure of the Government to provide an assurance that it will not permit any exploration, testing or mining on or in the vicinity of the Great Barrier Reef.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places.
More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places-
-Mr Speaker -
Motion (by Mr Fife) proposed:
That the business of the day be called on.
– This is a disgrace. This is the third time that this matter of public importance has been gagged. It is the fourth time it has been knocked off in two or three weeks.
-The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
– I take a point of order.
-The honourable member for Newcastle will resume his seat.
That the business of the day be called on.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– by leave- At the outset I remind honourable members that an advisory committee on science and technology was established in 1972 when I was the Minister responsible for education and science. This action was taken by the coalition Government in the light of experience and developments overseas. It followed discussions with leading industrialists, the Australian Academy of Science and senior government scientists. The Committee was disbanded by the Labor Government in February 1973 and was not replaced until mid- 1975, when an interim Australian science and technology council was established, pending the passage of legislation. On 9 February 1976, a small group of distinguished scientists and industrialists was formed to advise me on the role of a permanent science and technology council. The report from this group was presented in April 1976. After consideration of the report I announced that the interim ASTEC would be given the primary task of reporting on arrangements for a permanent science and technology council. After consulting widely and considering the issues in detail, the interim ASTEC produced a report entitled Future Arrangements for an Australian Science and Technology Council’. The Government accepted this report, and I announced the formation of the permanent ASTEC in Parliament on 19 April 1977. I also announced then that ASTEC would be a statutory body. The legislation to establish it was passed by the Parliament last year.
During its period of operation the interim ASTEC provided valuable advice to the Government on a wide range of matters, including: Australia’s participation in the first world-wide series of experiments of a major international research program known as the global atmospheric research program; whether Australia should install facilities to receive and process information from Landsat, the United States earth resources satellite; and arrangements for surveys of our biological resources, particularly our unique and extensive flora and fauna. With regard to the global atmospheric research program, the Government accepted interim ASTEC’s advice that funds be provided for Australia’s participation in an international program to improve knowledge and understanding of the global circulation system.
On the Landsat program, the Government’s decision to establish receiving and data processing facilities in Australia at an estimated cost of $4.2m was in line with interim ASTEC’s advice. Following ASTEC’s advice on biological resources the Minister for Science announced on 20 August 1978 that the Government had approved long-term arrangements for recording Australia’s flora and fauna. These included a new advisory committee for the Australian biological resources study.
Since the permanent ASTEC was established, its substantial commitment has been the preparation of the report ‘Science and Technology in Australia 1977-78’, on which I will have more to say shortly. As well as this major task, however, ASTEC has also been occupied in providing advice to the Government on a wide range of matters. Some of the more important include the report of the Independent Inquiry into the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. ASTEC’s comments on this major report assisted the Government to decide on the report’s recommendations, and on the future form and role of CSIRO. I tabled these comments in this House on 1 1 May 1978. ASTEC has also, at the Government’s request, reported on energy research and development in Australia. I presented that report to Parliament on 4 April 1978.
ASTEC’s advice, in conjunction with that provided by the National Energy Advisory Committee, was instrumental in the establishment of the National Energy Research Development and Demonstration Council. In May 1978, the Government asked ASTEC to report on the role and level of activity, of the Bureau of Mineral Resources. ASTEC’s report, containing detailed recommendations on how BMR’s resources should be deployed to best meet national goals, was tabled on 21 November 1978. ASTEC’s recommendations on BMR are to be considered by the Government shortly.
In June 1978, the Government requested ASTEC to report on the direct funding of basic research. The Government is examining this report now as a matter of urgency and, for the information of honourable members, I present that report. Other activities undertaken by ASTEC are described in the Council’s first annual report covering the period from its formation to 30 June 1 978. 1 also present the annual report today for honourable members ‘ information.
I turn now to ASTEC’s report on ‘Science and Technology in Australia, 1977-78’. The Council has prepared its report in two volumes. Volume 1 contains the Council’s views and recommendations. Volume 2 comprises a series of chapters, each describing the present situation in a particular area of activity. Because of the many and complex issues involved, this task has been a demanding one and has taken some time to complete. For this reason, volume 1 was produced in two parts. Volume 1a was tabled on 26 September 1 978. It contains ASTEC ‘s views and recommendations on the organisation of Science and Technology in Australia and on the specific areas of fundamental research, industrial research and development, the marine sciences and technologies and health. Volume 1b contains ASTEC’s views and recommendations on agriculture and forestry, mineral resources, manufacturing industry, services and environment. For the information of honourable members, I present Volume ib and Volume 2.
The Government, for its part, has now completed its consideration of the recommendations of Volume 1A. I take this opportunity to announce the Government’s decisions with respect to those recommendations. Volume 1A of the ASTEC report is a valuable survey, which has assisted the Government in its consideration of Science and Technology programs. In this volume, ASTEC has identified four main areas of concern in Australian science and technology: Industrial research and development; marine sciences and technologies; fundamental research; and health.
One of the economic consequences of the increased inflation of the 1972-75 period was a serious downturn in manufacturing industry in Australia. This resulted in a reduced level of research and development being carried out in industry. ASTEC’s examination of industrial research and development concluded that increased government incentives for industrial research and development were warranted. The Council placed such importance on this matter that the Chairman, Professor G. M. Badger, wrote to me prior to the last Budget requesting that the Government give urgent consideration to the Council’s recommendation that the level of government support for industrial research and development be increased.
The Government took action in the Budget in accord with the broad thrust of this request. A joint announcement by the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr Lynch) and the Minister for Productivity (Mr Macphee) following last year’s Budget gave details of increases in funding for industrial research and development. The extra funds are available under the Industrial and Development Incentives Act 1976 and amendments were introduced during the last sittings of Parliament to improve the Act’s effectiveness.
In 1978-79, an estimated $2 4m has been provided, for industrial research and development. Compared with expenditure of $ 13.7m in 1977-78, this is an increase of 73 per cent. The increased allocation is financing an expanded program of commencement and project grants under the Industrial Research and Development Incentives Scheme. As well, it is supporting major industrial research and development projects, which are in the public interest, with potential national and international application. The Government is also aiding the implementation of a number of pilot programs in the areas of technology transfer and the commercial exploitation of Australian inventions.
Manufacturing industry, the mining industry, and the rural industries generate much of Australia’s wealth. The productivity of these industries is critical to our prosperity and improvements in technology by innovation and by technology transfer are of great importance to our domestic and international competitiveness, and the level of employment. In this regard, I would draw honourable members’ attention to the Crawford report’s broad endorsement of ASTEC’s views on the importance of stimulating innovation in Australian industry. I am sure that the House is aware that the Australian invention, InterScan, has been accepted as the international aircraft landing system of the future. This great development confirms that Australia is carrying out research at the forefront of science and technology and is able to apply that research to practical uses.
However, our economic future will depend also on our success in devising numerous innovations perhaps of a less dramatic nature, but in the aggregate of undoubted importance. Our success with large-scale mining operations in remote regions, for example, has only been possible following development of our railway systems to a stage where as a result of technological advances in the design of rails and bearings, they are able to support the huge trains and heavilyladen trucks which carry minerals from the mines to the coast.
Another important innovation is the development by CSIRO of a Sirotem, an instrument to detect mineralisation buried under thick overburden. This is an important development for mineral exploration in tropical and arid environments. Sirotherm, a process for the desalination of water, jointly developed by CSIRO and ICI Aust. Ltd, is currently being examined by the
Department of Productivity with a view to possible funding under the public interest section of the Industrial Research and Development Incentives Scheme.
I particularly draw to honourable members’ notice three ASTEC proposals aimed at building Australian industry’s technological base and stimulating innovation. The first suggests that governments and agencies should give greater attention to the placement of research and development contracts with industry. The Council believes that ‘a closer and more fruitful association between industry and Government laboratories must be beneficial, and that the placement of research and development contracts in industry will substantially assist this association’.
The Government, recognising that this proposal could enable industry to develop and maintain improved research and development capacity is attracted to this concept, and believes that further examination is required. We have therefore requested ASTEC to undertake a more detailed examination of the proposal in consultation with the appropriate government departments and agencies, so that the cost-effectiveness and longer-term possibilities are analysed in some detail.
The second proposal relates to special measures to encourage technological efficiency and innovation in small companies by the promotion and formation of research associations. This broad policy issue is currently being considered by the Government as a result of its decisions on the CSIRO inquiry report. ASTEC ‘s contributions will assist this process.
The third proposal relates to institutional arrangements for encouraging the development of research findings. The Crawford Committee has also recommended that a body to promote innovation be established. The Government is examining the operating experience of research development corporations such as the United Kingdom National Research Development Corporation, to see whether this mechanism would be suitable to Australian conditions.
ASTEC has also recommended ‘that greater attention be paid to the marine sciences and technologies in Australia’. The Government accepts this recommendation. It recognises the great importance of the marine sciences and technologies in our future well-being. I remind the House that the Australian Institute of Marine Science was established under a previous coalition government when I was Minister responsible for Education and Science. The importance of marine science in this regard has increased in recent years; particularly in relation to off-shore energy resources and the utilisation and management of resources in our expanded off-shore economic zone.
The Government has accepted ASTEC ‘s suggestion that an Australian Marine Sciences and Technologies Advisory Committee, (AMSTAC), be established. The Committee will investigate and report on the co-ordination of research and development and the establishment of priorities in this area. I am pleased to advise the House that this Committee will be chaired by Professor A. J. Birch, a distinguished scientist whose wide research experience will be invaluable in this important task. Because of the need to avoid the proliferation of science advisory committees outside the purview of ASTEC, AMSTAC will be established as a standing committee of that Council. It will work closely with relevant Ministers, particularly the Minister for Science and the Environment.
As a general rule, advisory committees such as AMSTAC will be established as standing committees of ASTEC, particularly in areas of science and technology where a number of ministerial portfolios are involved. ASTEC has also recommended an increase in funds for projects of merit and promise in health research and basic research. In the current year, pending consideration of the ASTEC Report on Basic Research, funding for the Australian Research Grants Committee and the National Health and Medical Research Council, has been maintained at the same levels, in real terms, as last year. Other decisions taken by the Government with respect to the ASTEC Report, relate to the rationalisation of funding procedures particularly in regard to the use of scientific equipment and facilities through greater emphasis on the centralised use of equipment, and the need for co-ordination mechanisms for special requests for new equipment to avoid overlap and duplication.
I take this opportunity to announce details of the membership of the statutory ASTEC. As honourable members will be aware, the Australian Science and Technology Act of 1978 received royal assent on 22 June 1978 and it was proclaimed in February 1979. The members of the statutory Council are: Professor G. M. Badger, A.O., F.A.A., F.T.S., (Chairman) Research Professor of Organic Chemistry, the University of Adelaide; Professor Sir Rutherford Robertson, C.M.G., F.A.A., F.R.S. (Deputy Chairman), formerly Director, Research School of Biological Sciences, Australian National University; Professor B. D. O. Anderson, F.A.A., Professor of Electrical Engineering, University of
Newcastle; Sir Samuel Burston, O.B.E., President, Australian Woolgrowers’ and Graziers’ Council; Dr L. W. Davies, A.O., F.T.S., F.A.A., Chief Scientist, Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Ltd; Mr A. W. Hamer, F.T.S., Deputy Chairman, ICI Australia Limited; Professor B. E. Hobbs, Professor of Geology, Monash University; Dr P. S. Lang, Member, Commonwealth Council for Rural Research and Extension; Mr B. T. Loton, Chief General Manager, The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited; Professor Sir Gustav Nossal, C.B.E., F.A.A., Director, The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research; Sir Arvi Parvo, F.T.S., Chairman and Managing Director, Western Mining Corporation Ltd; Mr L. G. Peres, Reader in Political Science, The University of Melbourne; Mr K. C. Stone, Secretary, Victorian Trades Hall Council; Professor R. Street, F.A.A., Vice Chancellor, The University of Western Australia; and Mr J. G. Wilson, C.B.E., Chairman, Australian Paper Manufacturers Limited.
The Government is pleased to have so distinguished a body to provide advice on matters of national importance in the broad areas encompassed by ASTEC’s charter. I should like to commend the work which has been carried out by ASTEC over the last two years, and thank the members of the Council for their time and effort. In particular, I should like to thank the retiring member, Sir Louis Matheson, for his important and valuable contributions to the Council’s activities. Sir Louis served as Chairman of the interim council, and when the permanent ASTEC was established, readily agreed to the Government’s request that he serve for a further period as a member of the Council. I should also like to mention the valuable work of the present Chairman, Professor Geoffrey Badger. Professor Badger has held this position since early 1977 and during this period, has ably guided the Council in its deliberations. The Government is most grateful to him for his leadership of this important advisory body, and I am glad to be able to inform the House that he has accepted appointment as chairman for a term of five years.
In many senses this should give Professor Badger a real and particular personal pleasure because over many years through the Academy of Science and in other forums he has led the fight to have a sensible and properly based science advisory council established in Australia. I think in 1967 a Science Advisory Council paper, in the preparation of which he was instrumental, was published by the Academy of Science. This was debated at the science and industry forum a year later. It was clearly that document, sponsored by the Academy of Science, which sparked the move to the point that we have now reached.
Professor Sir Rutherford Robertson has been Deputy Chairman of the Council since its establishment early in 1977. His wise counsel has also greatly contributed to the success of ASTEC, and the Government is very pleased that Sir Rutherford has agreed to continue as deputy chairman. In view of the importance of the primary industry sector in Australia, the Government has thought it best to increase the expertise of the Council in this field. Accordingly, Dr Patrick Lang has been appointed as the new member. Dr Lang is a member of the Commonwealth Council for Rural Research and Extension, and also a member of the Universities Council of the Tertiary Education Commission.
In conclusion I should like to express again the Government’s appreciation of the work being done by ASTEC. The role of the Australian Science and Technology Council is a particularly challenging one at this time, and will become more so in the years ahead with the increasing importance of the role of science and technology and programs of research and development which will lead to improved productivity and in turn to a stronger international trade, through better products and more efficient techniques. But research and development can do more. It can be the key to new industries and employment opportunities, create new vistas for society and improve production in all industrial sectors. ASTEC will be an important aid to the Government in developing strategies to achieve these goals. I present the following paper:
Australian Science and Technology Council- ReportMinisterial Statement, 29 March 1979.
Motion (by Mr Fife) proposed:
That the House take note of the papers.
– The Opposition welcomes the presentation of the Australian Science and Technology Council reports, particularly additional volumes IB and 2 of its overview report ‘Science and Technology in Australia 1977-78’. The reports contribute a great deal of detailed information and seem to be valuable contributions to consideration of the development of a wide range of science policy. Obviously because of the time which has been available to me to consider these documents any observations I make will have to be preliminary. Nonetheless, I repeat that the Opposition welcomes the presentation of the ASTEC reports.
– I would be grateful if the Leader of the Opposition could excuse me. I would normally listen to him but I have an engagement I -
– On the contrary, I am shocked that you would even apologise.
-Order! The language used by the Leader of the Opposition, whilst not unparliamentary, is without any charm.
-Oh come on, he hardly ever stays here and you let him -
-Order! The Leader of the Opposition will not speak while I am speaking. I cannot ask him to withdraw but I ask him to observe the standards of the House.
-Mr Speaker, with respect, I moved a censure motion against the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) this morning and he walked out of the House. It is par for the course but it is not worth while delaying the proceedings of the House.
-The Prime Minister made an apology which I thought was in suitable terms. 1 think it was unnecessary for the Leader of the Opposition to respond as he did. I call on the Leader of the Opposition to speak to the motion.
– In the fields singled out for special attention by ASTEC-namely, the role of fundamental research, industrial research and development, marine science and technologies, agriculture and forestry, mineral resources, manufacturing industry- the services sector and environment were wisely chosen as priorities. It is pleasing to see this partly because the Opposition had criticised an earlier ASTEC report on energy research and development for its failure to make substantial findings and recommendations. It is also pleasing to see this because the Opposition was largely responsible for the interest raised in science policy making in Australia and especially for the establishment of ASTEC on its current statutory basis following extensive and intensive investigation.
In relation to marine science and technology, ASTEC’s recommendations do not go far enough. The Government’s decision announced by the Prime Minister is also inadequate and furthermore inconsistent with its attitude to the Australian Institute of Marine Science. It is interesting to note that the latest annual report for 1977-78 of the Australian Institute of Marine Science indicates that the staff ceiling of 65 was set by Government policies, as against a planned staffing of 130 by June 1977. Apparently the priority rating of the Government in this important and established area of research and development falls well short of the pronounced assertions of commitment just made by the Prime Minister. The effect of all this has been to waste much of the potential of the Austraiian Institute of Marine Sciences and to reduce the expenditure on facilities to almost white elephant levels. I repeat that this is no reflection on the people who are staffing the research centre at Townsville. It is a direct result of Government staff ceilings.
When one enters the institution one is immediately impressed by its attractiveness- the wide corridors, the high ceilings, the spacious floor area- but there is a sparsity of people to research and to work within the institution. This policy of the Government indicates the low priority placed by the Government generally on the field of research and development. More importantly, all that the Government has done is to announce the establishment of an advisory committee on marine sciences and technology. What is lacking is any indication of linking research and development policy with marine industry. One ought to note that this is one area in which we do have a national responsibility. We should have an industry policy and research and development policy in this area developed in tandem and ready for definition prior to the declaration of the 200-mile fishing zone.
This area is an area of technology where we should place emphasis on the use of Australian skills and resources. Quite clearly it offers new opportunities for industry development and enterprise. In order for it to be developed adequately and successfully there is a need for a sufficient research and development program to support the whole concept. That is sadly missing. There is, overall, a need to participate in carefully selected industries using technology as the top end of skill. The development of marine science resources has been chosen by me to illustrate that this is an obvious area for attention by the Government and also to illustrate quite clearly- in this area where there ought to have been a high priority established- that there is a low visibility of government commitment as against what was promised and expected as the basic minimum for a reasonable level of activity.
I move on to the composition of the Australian Science and Technology Council. I note the retirement of Sir Louis Matheson. I join with the Prime Minister in expressing appreciation of the public service that Sir Louis has been able to contribute as an eminently public figure, highly skilled in his field. The previous criticisms which were expressed by the Opposition in relation to the membership of ASTEC still stand. For example, there are still no women. There is an inadequate social science input and there is almost no representation from community interests. Perhaps, as a result, insufficient attention is paid, for example, to a consideration of computing, the advocacy of ASTEC of further use of computers in Australian industry, and to social aspects including the need to safeguard employment opportunities and matters of that ilk.
On the subject of industrial research and development ASTEC agreed with the general thrust of earlier recommendations by the Jackson Committee on future policies for the development of the manufacturing industry. The ASTEC recommendations went into more specifics and were, I believe, soundly based. I am pleased that the Government has reacted reasonably favourably too, but I am rather surprised that it should still show such extreme caution and lack of urgency about this matter. It is particularly surprising that there has not been a more positive response from the Government to the first recommendation dealt with by the Prime Minister. This is the one proposing what ASTEC calls a ‘closer and more fruitful association between industry and government laboratories’. I regret that it is not clear from the Prime Minister’s statement what he has in mind in asking ASTEC to undertake a more detailed examination of its proposal with the appropriate government departments and agencies. I hope that it means that ASTEC is being given wide enough terms to produce a firm blueprint for this sort of development, and that it is not being pitch-forked into a running war with the bureaucrats.
It is also a matter for regret that the Government has not acted with more enthusiasm to the recommendations designed to help and encourage the research and development activities of small companies. Again, there is no real commitment given by the Government. The Prime Minister merely says that the broad issue is under consideration and ASTEC’s contribution has been a help. He cannot expect that vagueness of that sort will give any hope or encouragement to small business, which is potentially one of the most innovative sectors of the economy. The same applies to the third recommendation that of promoting a new body to promote innovation in industry generally. Jackson, Crawford and now ASTEC have all seen the need for such a new institution but the Government is still doing no more than to look at overseas models. There is no sign in the Government’s reaction to these proposals on industrial research and development that it recognises the urgency of the need for effective action in this field. We still do not have a large enough total effort in industrial research and development, and what we do have is too fragmented and too little directed.
In a number of critically important areas, we are the captive of foreign technology and technological development. I would like to see an active encouragement of foreign investors to undertake more research and development in Australia. There is a strong argument that in many fields there should be a firm obligation on them to do this sort of work locally. I am not suggesting by this that they should simply contribute further to fragmentation. It is the Government’s responsibility to provide a suitable framework within which all of these activities should take place. The Jackson Committee pointed out nearly four years ago that in contrast with our approach, Japan, a vastly bigger economy, adopted no more than 12 major research projects each of them highly relevant to national needs and capabilities. The report reads:
Our most important suggestion is that national procedures are needed so that a large part of that (R and D) effort, both government and private, will be directed to the achievement of national objectives.
This is going beyond the scope of ASTEC’s mandate but it is something that should be receiving far more attention from the Government. In present circumstances particularly, it is ridiculous that resources in such scarce supply should be wasted by duplication of effort or misdirection or, indeed, by any cause at all. Innovation, through research and development, will be one of the essential bases of our industrial future. I regret that the message has not got through to this Government. This is a valuable contribution to public consideration on a very important aspect- the development of science and technology in Australia and the application of research and development programs in support of that development. I sincerely trust that, before this parliamentary session finishes, we will be given an opportunity fully to explore this aspect in debate, in a most constructive way because of the quality of the report which has been submitted to us by ASTEC, the matters that have been proposed and the supporting evidence that has been put forward to endorse those recommendations, and that we will be given the opportunity to explore those matters fully in this Parliament.
Debate (on motion by Mr Hodges) adjourned.
– by leave- In October last year, I said that, in the present fiscal situation, we could no longer proceed with all the objectives in the 1 976 Defence White Paper at the pace we then contemplated. I pointed nevertheless to: The provision in 1978-79 for a defence outlay larger in real terms than any achieved since the last Budget of the McMahon Government; and a continuation of the work that has rescued our defence capabilities from the downwards slope on which they were launched in 1973. The Government has lately reviewed the content of the Defence program, and given the Defence Administration directions within which it is to plan the spending program in the remainder of this year and the years ahead.
In the continuing war on inflation by the Government I have to accept continuing restraint. Nevertheless the new program provides for a continuing growth in real terms in defence expenditure. Announcement of figures for 1979-80 must of course await the budget. Nevertheless real growth will not be less than 2 per cent. The program calls as well for some change in emphasis. The maintenance and improvement of the operational effectiveness of the defence force in the years ahead is to be the first aim. Consequently, the growth in spending on capital assets will continue, and it will be in equipment rather than buildings. More, however, will be spent than in the recent past on maintenance spares and other stores needed to relieve some restraints on service training activities. Growth in manpower will continue to be held down. Growth in other assets will be stimulated. Discussion about the capacities Australia may need in the future, the threat contingencies we supposedly might not be able to meet, and the supposed deficiencies today, must never overlook that we already possess substantial defence assets. There is a perception developing in some sections of our community that we lack significant military capability, This is completely false. It is far from the reality, as I propose to explain.
As the House is aware, the Government has commissioned an intelligence assessment following recent unsettling events in the Middle East and in Indo-China and its frontier with China and elsewhere. There will be a subsequent strategic review to discern whether change in our defence capabilities needs to be planned for the future. In the meantime there are some fundamental propositions which deserve consideration. They suggest seven requirements that our defence effort must satisfy:
We must sustain a defence force which supports our diplomacy so that both in combination effectively deter interference with Australia’s sovereignty by the military forces of a foreign power.
We must sustain a defence force containing men with the right skills, possessing the right weapons, that could train and develop an expanded force as and when a major threat to Australia begins to emerge.
We need a force that can undertake surveillance and patrol duties, provide assistance to the civil community as and when needed and respond to limited military tasks and requirements that can arise at short notice.
We need a defence force that will protect our supply lines in the maritime areas near to Australia’s principal ports; or that could make some contribution to assisting allies protect our more remote sea routes should there be no significant local threats.
We need a defence force with capabilities affording the Government of the day the option of giving defence help to regional friends with whom we have common security interests, should they wish this- whether this be the south-west Pacific, Papua New Guinea, or other countries to our immediate north.
Subject to our giving priority to capabilities needed for operations in our own environment, our defence force should also provide the Government of the day with the practical option of contributing to Pacific defence in accordance with the ANZUS Treaty.
It should also enable governments to contribute to United Nations international peace-keeping.
I turn to the characteristics of such a force. The size and shape and equipment of our Defence Force should be assessed in Australia’s own geopolitical environment- and this for three reasons:
Like every country Australia must sustain its military standing in its geographical neighbourhood through which attacks upon its territory could be launched.
Australia’s isolation from other continents, and our physical environment of sea and air space and archipelagic territories, carry a number of pointers for our defence capabilities; as do the physical characteristics of our own continent.
It is in respect of armed threats within our own geographic environment that our allies could be expected to look to Australia to be reasonably self-reliant, and to make a maximum effort to look after its own security. (Quorum formed). Therefore the first testis the strength of the force vis-a-vis the countries that are within striking distance of Australia. This should be assessed realistically, not on the basis of prejudice, suspicion or ignorance. Fortunately our present relations with our neighbours on the fundamentals of security are so good as to render this a somewhat theoretical question. Moreover the objective of both our diplomacy and our defence policy is to sustain the mutual interest that Australia and these countries all possess in protecting ourselves from armed attack by external powers. If there is success in sustaining the recognition of a common interest Australia has the prospect of an environment which adds protection to the defence of Australia, rather than creates a defence hazard for us.
Nonetheless the shaping must address all credible contingencies- including the contingency that in some calamitous situation we might again find, as was once our experience, territory to Australia’s north occupied by a country with hostile intent towards us. Australia’s force must exploit the advantages of the sea and air spaces which would separate us from the bases of such an enemy. We cannot assume that all threats could necessarily be disposed of at a distance. I do suggest nevertheless that we would be well advised to reflect a little more carefully than some commentators do upon our present and future capabilities. I read recently a suggestion about our being ‘invaded’ within a small number of years. It is time some straight talking was done about this kind of proposition. ‘Invasion’ is not a term to be used loosely by responsible people. I take it, therefore, that it was meant seriously and was intended literally to connote the onslaught of tens of thousands of foreign troops on this country for the purpose of taking it from us or of forcing an Australian Government to bend to the will of a foreign power.
Let us think what that means. It means, firstly, the possession by a foreign power or alliance, hostile towards us, of maritime strength sufficient to overcome our own and gain substantial mastery of the seas around us, and the air space over them. The question is not- and I cannot emphasise this enough- the question is not whether some wooden boats or light aircraft can sometimes reach some lonely Australian shore undetected when only a small part of the military, and I stress military, means of surveillance and interception that we actually possess is deployed against them, and never for the purpose of destroying them. There are very few nations which possess today the capacity to project maritime power across thousands of miles and produce, at the other end of a very long line of communications, the kind of force on the sea, in the sea and over the sea that could overwhelm our own maritime capabilities in our own home waters and the air space above them. The two superpowers could do it if they had motive and unrestrained mind and opportunity; and there are two or three European navies which still have a fairly substantial trans-oceanic capability. Those nations are thousands of miles away. Happily, we can number most of them among our friends and allies. Invasion of our country would scarcely be an enterprise on which any country would embark excepting in the context of, or at the great risk of precipitating, very much larger global events.
To be sure, the Soviet Union has the capability to attempt the invasion of virtually any country in the world, as for that matter does the United States. If one were allowed flights into fancy sufficient to conjure up a world in which no-one else existed but the Soviet Union and one other country, it would require no brilliant insight to demonstrate that the Soviet Union possesses overwhelming conventional military power visavis any one of a hundred or more potential victims. But I put it to this House that that kind of fancifulness does not happen to reflect the real world.
One could think of a second tier of maritime powers. It is not difficult to flip through Jane’s Fighting Ships to find second or third tier navies that possess more units than ours: fast, inshore, missile-armed patrol boats, for example, tailored to the operational requirements of the inland waters of the Baltic and the Mediterranean, or the enclosed waters of the South East Asian archipelago. One can distil plenty of parliamentary questions out of researches such as these. It is quite another matter to distil a credible, transoceanic strike force that could overcome our own sea-borne capabilities on, in and over the seas around our own country, defeat our land-based aircraft, blockade us and shepherd an invading force to our shores, and go on supplying and resupplying it.
Once you go to the second tier of maritime nations you are entering a league- and make no mistake about it- whose members do not possess blue-water capabilities significantly greater, if any greater at all, than our own. There is no way that a member of this second tier of maritime powers could acquire the kind of maritime strength necessary to dominate the sea approaches to Australia without its naval program becoming blindingly obvious, and without the process taking that country an appreciable span of years, and I stress the word years.
We, in the meantime, possess maritime capabilities which, by standards relevant to our immediate strategic requirements, are substantial, and will remain so. Let me say something about them, and also about our strike capabilities, reminding the House at the same time of my earlier comment about our needing to sustain a force that would deter interference with Australia’s sovereignty and protect our supply lines in adjacent maritime areas.
HMAS Melbourne is, by super-power standards, small and aging. Yet in the context of Australian defence she represents for several years to come an important defence asset. Carrying Skyhawk fighter aircraft, Tracker antisubmarine aircraft and Sea King anti-submarine helicopters, she can fight and destroy surface ships, submarines and enemy aircraft hundreds of miles from our shores. Our three guided missile destroyers, Brisbane, Hobart and Perth can hit very hard, not only with their missiles but each with two five inch guns, which can have half a ton of projectiles in the air before the first shot lands. Each ship’s firepower is far greater than a World War II cruiser’s. Behind them are our six River’ class destroyers with twin four point five inch guns, anti-aircraft missiles, and the Ikara anti-submarine missile, which can drop a torpedo into the lap of a submarine at very long range.
The question- and I refer now to some current Press stories- is not whether our ships should sink a small barge when they are using a variety of munitions, mostly anti-aircraft, to test the fire power that they could bring to bear if used in that role at a long range, on a ship’s superstructure. It would have been a truncated and unrewarding exercise if the barge had been disposed of when our ships first fired upon it. The question is whether, using their primary weapons in their primary roles, our vessels could stop enemy ships. And that, I suggest, is an altogether different matter.
Augmenting our maritime forces, starting next year, will be the three FFGs, guided missile frigates, building in the United States of America. These ships will bring to Australia new strengths and new weapons. They are to be armed with Harpoon- the most modern anti-ship missile in the world- the latest surface-to-air missile, and will be able to carry two helicopters, acting as the eyes’ of the ship, targeting Harpoon over the horizon where radar cannot see. They are firmly in the program.
Supporting these forces, and enabling them to stay at sea for long periods, are the replenishment ship Supply and the destroyer tender Stalwart. The program provides for replacement of Supply. Those are the major surface ships.
Under the sea, our six Oberon class submarines are particularly effective. Their present and future weapons systems will make them the most advanced conventional submarines in the world. Extremely difficult to detect, they can hit hard hundreds, and if need be thousands, of miles from our shores. Ten years ago the Royal Australian Navy was barely in the submarine business. Today, it is there in a way which, by any but super-power standards, and certainly by regional standards, is highly significant. The program provides for fitting the capacity to launch Harpoon anti-ship missiles while submerged.
Modern patrol boat facilities at Darwin will both match and maximise the capabilities of the IS new patrol craft that are in the program and will begin to enter service in the next 12 to 18 months. Likewise a new patrol boat base will be built at Cairns.
The facilities at Cockatoo Island Dockyard now provide an excellent capability for refitting two submarines concurrently. Previously, that was not practicable. Until June 1978 we had no substantial naval facility in the west. Since then the facility at Cockburn Sound has been commissioned and is capable of supporting the deployments of our fleet, and, indeed, those of our allies. It enables our ships to be deployed for long periods away from their home fleet bases on the east coast.
What I have just described is not a picture of impotence or unpreparedness.
The Royal Australian Airforce’s two squadrons of Orion aircraft form a remarkable force. The word ‘reconnaissance’, in its World War II sense, fails altogether to convey what each of these airborne platforms of surveillance and detection can already do. With Harpoon missiles and the Barra Sonobuoys to come- and they are in the program- the Orions will have remarkable powers both to seek and to destroy at long range in the approaches to Australia- and beyond, if that should be the mission. Plans are being developed to modernise the older Orions, to give them too a better surveillance capability- with commencement within the five year program.
In the program period we have included initial provision for capabilities that will be needed when the aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne retires. I do not yet have the recommendations of the Chiefs of Staff Committee or financial advice on what form those capabilities should take. But it is neither necessary, nor desirable, to make such decisions prematurely. The relevant technologies and the performance of V-stol aircraft using seaborne platforms are still unfolding, and their futures depend on decisions still to be made in countries such as America and Britain. It is necessary for us to look at the whole matter of tactical airpower at sea and to weigh up the alternative ways of projecting it by land-based aircraft.
I put it to the house that our maritime capabilities in our region do not lag behind the second tier of maritime nations, and are not in danger of slipping behind them. Under this Government they will certainly not do so.
Let me mention some other aspects of maritime preparedness. We plan a program of construction, in our own dockyards, of new surface vessels for maritime defence. Studies are being made of overseas designs with a view to assessing what alternative levels of capability and cost are likely to be available for choice of a design appropriate to Australia’s particular geographic and strategic circumstances. We have to foresee operational requirements well into the next century.
The basic facilities as Learmonth airfield have been extensively upgraded so that it can be used as a forward base. Already it has supported maritime surveillance operations off the Western Australia coast and operational exercises by the strike and fighter forces.
We will proceed with the development and prototype construction of the unique minehunting catamarans and so redress the deficiency that now exists in our mine counter-measure forces. We are also examining how best to improve our minesweeping capability.
Also relevant to our maritime capabilities is a plan to increase the hydrographic survey work that we undertake around our coast both for defence and national purposes. More hydrographic vessels will be acquired. These will be built in our naval dockyard at Williamstown, Victoria.
The process of converting the ex-Leyland plant at Zetland into a centralised stores depot for the Navy is well advanced. Computercontrolled stock retrieval systems will contribute directly to the Navy’s operational effectiveness.
The overall modernisation of Garden Island Dockyard in Sydney is part of the program. It is to commence during the next two years and will upgrade the efficiency and capabilities of the dockyard. It will be done in a manner which will enhance the appearance of the island and reduce air, noise and water pollution. It will include facilities to repair and maintain systems on the three new guided missile destroyers.
Again I suggest that our maritime capabilities do not lag behind and are not in danger of doing so. I suggest once more that the requirement to maintain sufficient force to deter interference with Australia ‘s sovereignty is being met and will continue to be met.
Let me turn to some other matters. Seven years in service, the F-111s are proving, and will continue to prove, to be a good investment as a strike force. There is nothing within thousands of miles of this continent that can match them. It is time that we reminded ourselves that these aircraft can, at long range, at great speed in all weather and at night, penetrate defences and deliver thenweapons loads. That does not suggest a nation unable to hit back- and to do so with telling effect. Our strike force nevertheless will need updating, particularly with more versatile weapons, and this will be started during the current program. We plan extensive improvements including fitting for new electronic warfare equipment, air-to-surface precision guided missiles, and more modern target acquisition and tracking systems, all based on the latest digital computer technology. These would require new avionics equipment. In the meantime we are, right now, in the process of equipping the strike force with a reconnaissance capability superior to anything we have ever had before.
To maintain and service aircraft and their systems such as these, which are likely to remain at the forefront of military technology for a long time, Amberley has been developed as a base of the most modern kind. There is not a comparable base within thousands of miles. Many parts of the defence program command less attention because they are less glamorous. I might give an instance. A works program is at this time greatly extending the fuel storage capacities at major Royal Australian Air Force bases. By January 1980 total capacity will be almost double what it was in 1977. Amberley’s has already gone up fourfold; work at Richmond- about a fivefold increase- is nearly completed; expansion at Williamtown- nearly fourfold- will be finished early in 1980.
I emphasise yet again the asset we continue to have in the Mirage fighter force. The aircraft will serve us well for some years to come, overlapping later with the new tactical fighter aircraft to be selected from types either in inventory, or still to be developed, in the United States or France. As I informed the House on 8 March last, a RAAF operational and technical specialist mission leaves today, closely followed by an industry team, to pursue in depth the evaluation of contending TFF aircraft including the development of plans for Australian industry participation. In the meantime, there is provision in the program for retaining the effectiveness of Mirage into the late 1980s. New air-to-air missiles will be acquired with the new fighters; and the Mirages too will be equipped with new air-to-air missiles to maintain air defence capability through the 1980s. More helicopters will need to be ordered in the next three years to carry out a wide range of tasks in the Defence Force. We have to improve our capabilities over what we possess in our Wessex utility helicopters. We need new training helicopters to replace our older Iroquois in that role. We plan to improve our helicopter search and rescue capability. We are studying how much commonality is possible in the interests of economy and a workload for industry. The Department of Defence is working with Australian aircraft industry as we define the fixed wing aircraft to be acquired in the late 1980s for basic and advanced air training. Our Canberra aircraft are used for such tasks as photographic survey work and target towing work. Their use in survey programs in Papua New Guinea and Indonesia has been invaluable. We will provide in the coming years for these roles.
I return now to the suggestion which I read recently that the prospect of our being invaded within a small number of years had implications- the suggestion was immediate implications- for the size of the Australian Army. May I refer again to our need to have a defence force with the men in the right skills, possessing the right weapons, that can train and develop a force expanded in size, should a direct threat to Australia begin to emerge. This applies to the Army and I hope most honourable members would by now be satisfied that we are not yet in a situation where invasion of this country needs to be taken as a serious, imminent possibility. In the interest of rational defence debate, we must resist a somewhat old fashioned concept of measuring the country’s military capability in terms of the number of men in our Army, or the number of men we could contribute to overseas expeditionary forces in a major conflict in a distant theatre.
Lest it be said tomorrow, ‘Killen knocks the Army’, let me say here and now that we shall always need an army large enough to embrace and keep abreast of the most modern skills of land warfare and to provide a basis for expansion, while being ready for lesser contingencies that may require the deployment of some part of it. On all the advice to successive Australian governments, the size of regular army should be between 30,000 and 40,000 plus a substantial, reasonably well-trained reserve. We have a total army of 54,000 today- 32,000 regulars and 22,000 reserves. It is highly professional and so regarded internationally. It trains hard. It is the core of leadership and skill around which, in some future defence emergency, we would build. We have the largest full-time army this country has ever maintained in peacetime. The reserves are at a satisfactory level at 22,000 effectives.
I digress for a moment to take exception to some exaggerations to the effect that the Army is so limited as to be unable to do this or that. To be sure, extraction of 300 engineers, or 700 logistic personnel for overseas service, causes disruptions and extra costs and puts training schedules out of phase and balance- and a good deal more so than is commonly realised. But there is an enormous difference between these things being tackled in a considered, compassionate and orderly way, consistent with the way any other section of our community would arrange its affairs in peacetime; and the way they can be done, and would be done, in an emergency. It is absurd, when spreading invasion scares, to assert as I read in one recent Press account, that ‘as Australia can muster only a few thousand troops if we were invaded, we would be far from ready’. This is no less silly than my saying that, as I could not put my horse in the Melbourne Cup if it were held tomorrow, I should shoot him tonight. The Melbourne Cup is not being run tomorrow. Please let us have a sensible and serious debate about defence, and about how thousands of millions of taxpayers’ money should responsibly be spent, which is based on worthy propositions, not a competition in scare mongering or political grandstanding. There are things which should prudently, and I stress ‘prudently’, be done in respect of our ground forces in the program period.
The Government aims to improve the air and sea mobility of the ground force within Australia, and the capacity of the Services to move a modest force over the seas and sustain it in limited operations. Next year the new amphibious heavy lift ship HMAS Tobruk will be commissioned. She will operate out of new facilities to be built in Brisbane. She will give the Defence Force a capability for moving men and equipment to any location around our coast without the use of port facilities. We already have a substantial air-lift capability in fixed and rotary-wing aircraft and have recently acquired a fleet of new C-130 aircraft. Special emphasis will continue to be put on preserving a storehouse of expertise in the various corps which would enable such a force to be built up from the bottom if a threat called for it. We have already improved our armour. And may I say here that the one point which critics contrived to overlook last November is that it will sometimes be a wise course in Australia ‘s circumstances to hold and maintain certain equipments on a care-and-maintenance basis instead of working all of them, full time, all the time. In the program we shall be acquiring new trucks and additional lighter vehicles that will improve mobility and logistic support capability.
The Army’s present 5.5 inch gun will be replaced early in the program by new 155mm towed howitzers incorporating the significant technological advances that have been made in range and delivery accuracy. Other support equipment will be acquired to enhance the Army’s mobility in the field. We will also be furthering the Army’s own independent electronic warfare capability, and acquiring new combat surveillance equipment in order to keep up with technological advances in this important area.
I mention some further planned developments applying to the Defence Force as a whole. We intend to adopt the latest improvements in simulators for training. This applies not only to our fighter and strike aircraft but we are acquiring simulators for training our new P3C aircraft personnel, adapted to the Barra Sonobuoy Antisubmarine Warfare system. Many command and control tasks on board our guided missile destroyers can be simulated on shore, and investigations are proceeding into similar equipments in relation to the FFGs.
Communications equipment is important. A project now under way will ultimately give our land forces modern light-weight portable and secure radios for field operation. Ships communications systems will be augmented with advanced radio systems and new teleprinters. The secure communication network in Australia, already announced, will be extended. The initial phase in Queensland and Victoria will be extended in the next few years to cover both New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory.
I do not feel what I have just outlined conveys a sense of the ineffectual, or the mismanaged. What is being done comprehends an efficiently managed and thoroughly thought-through review of this nation’s defence capabilities, setting priorities right within the financial limits that have to be imposed.
I would like to say something more on that point. Some honourable members may be aware that each month I chair a meeting of the Council of Defence. It comprises my colleague the Minister assisting me, the Minister for Administrative Services (Mr McLeay), the Secretary of the Department of Defence, the Chief of Defence Force Staff and the three Service Chiefs. I preside at the Council meeting. The meeting discusses a monthly summary of defence business. The document spans the full range of activity of the force and the Department. It covers, to mention but a few examples, the main exercises in hand and in prospect; progress in service training programs; Defence Force activities in assistance to the civil community; surveillance operations; dealings with our allies on strategic matters; progress in scientific research; progress with equipment projects; problems with tenders or quotations; recruitment trends; service activities abroad, for example, with the United Nations; and the effects of budgetary constraints, labour disputes, accidents, impending legislation and other matters. Despite the stringent economy of words the report is never fewer than 20 pages.
I relate this not out of complaint but because I appreciate the enormous span of activity which is managed daily and with great professional competence by the commanders of the Defence Force and the officials of the Department of Defence. I have actively encouraged debate in this country about defence issues. My friend, the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes), was gracious enough recently to acknowledge that. But I have to say that I sometimes despair of some of the results.
I may have overestimated the willingness of the media to discriminate between the compulsive critic and the informed and balanced critic; or to discern the man who has a valuable, intellectual contribution to make, from the lobbyist seeking to advance a material interest of his own, or of his sponsors. Perhaps I have had too much faith in the proposition that taking party politics out of the defence debate is an objective that can be achieved, and that discussion of defence matters will rise above the level of sensationalising the views of the precious and the disgruntled. This Parliament would benefit from more open mindedness and willingness to listen. I am personally distressed by the prejudice that I sometimes hear expressed towards defence administrators.
Let me be clear about one thing: It will always be easy to point to areas of our defence structure that need, or will sooner or later need, attention. As requirements are met or problems solved, new ones will take their places. But the central judgment will always be: How soon, how fast, in what order of priority and at what cost. These judgments- the defence decisions- will be made in the Cabinet rooms, or the offices of the two Ministers in charge of defence matters. They are not made by civil servants or military officers. I want to add something about distribution of spending in the defence budget. We need to refresh our perceptions of some of the fundamental matters involved in defence administration.
I turn to manpower. Manpower is our largest single defence cost, and our most important asset. In 1977-78 it accounted for 54 per cent of all defence spending. Yet ours is not a manpower-intensive defence posture and there are obvious reasons why it cannot be so in peacetime, which I should not need to dwell upon. But there is a point I want to put with some force: The more complex the equipment we bring into service, the more expensive our manpower will be. The quality of manpower needed pushes defence further into the high cost bracket. Not merely to remain competitive with the civilian sector and provide wage equality, but in terms of training, retraining, specialisation, broader education, higher education.
A core force concept such as we have will not work unless it embraces also the concept of that core force maintaining exceptionally high professional standards. I would like to comment here about a related matter which is not widely understood. It is sometimes said that our peacetime defence force is ‘top heavy’. Of course it is. I do not think this is an area where we can indulge ourselves in parsimony. There is a long lead time for producing senior commanders, staff officers, top-flight NCOs upon whom we would depend to lead an expanded force in war.
We would be in dire trouble if the career structure in, say, our Navy, allowed only a handful of men to achieve an Admiral’s rank and pay.
What of officer retention rates under those circumstances- not to mention the quality of the professional advice available to governments? It is always to be remembered that the task of defence administration under peacetime standards of financial efficiency and scrutiny, properly demanded by this Parliament and by law, calls on experience and professionalism in the Public Service as well as the Services.
The nature of defence administration has been attracting the attention of some commentators. On that subject I invite consideration of an address, delivered a fortnight ago by the country’s most senior military officer, General Sir Arthur MacDonald. He said inter alia:
There seems to be an impression that the secretary’s responsibility for financial administration and control of expenditure empowers him to decide, on his own initiative if you like, what equipment is bought and what is not- despite the views of the Chiefs of Staff or the Chief of Staff of the service directly concerned. This, of course, is nonsense, and it might be an appropriate stage for a few words on the committee structure within the Department No one person is the complete expert on any major defence issue.
Those words of General Sir Arthur MacDonald should be heeded by some of the commentators in the country. He continued:
Indeed the skills and knowledge of a number of uniformed and civilian experts can be required to make a sound judgment on a matter which might call into play strategic considerations, operational requirements, defence science and technology, the capabilities of industry, financial programming and contractual aspects. Committees are a necessary part of defence as they are of any large organisation, in order to bring together the range of views which need to be taken into account in determining complex questions.
This is the opinion of a man who has served this country in peace and war for 40 years. He continued:
Incidentally, contrary to popular opinion, there has not been an increase in the proportion of civilian to service personnel in defence. Since 1973 there has been a significant decrease.
I would also like to take this opportunity to make one point perfectly clear I do not believe that the role of the Public Service in the department is as all powerful as many outside defence say it is. Such a misconception does little credit to the knowledge and understanding of those who propagate it. It underplays the absolutely fundamental responsibilities and contributions of uniformed personnel at all levels. Personally, I find this particular criticism quite insulting and if anyone has information which would stand up to scrutiny I would be interested to hear it.
Those are the views offered on one narrow but very important aspect of defence administered by General Sir Arthur MacDonald, the Chief of Defence Force Staff.
I come back to manpower. Our defence manpower costs in this country are about the same as in other countries with which we might compare ourselves. In the United States, for example, they are 57 per cent when calculated on the same basis as our own; in Canada, 60 per cent; in Britain, 45 per cent. Our Defence Force development polley has insisted, nevertheless, that the manpower expenditure rates must continue to come down. There is no way this can be done quickly. There are prior requirements to satisfy. I have mentioned some of them: Retraining, new specialisation and higher education. There is usually a price in manpower to pay when a new equipment is introduced into the Force.
I have spoken earlier in this House regarding the canard about an army of bureaucrats. But it still persists. I would ask the patience of the House while I seek once more to dispose of the matter. (Quorum formed). I was dealing with the canard about an army of bureaucrats. I would like to give some further facts to the House. Thirteen per cent of all defence expenditure today goes to civilian salaries and wages. Five years ago the figure was almost 1 7 per cent. Something like 6,500 defence civilian jobs have been given up or transferred to other functions in recent years. Of the 30,700 who remain, about 5,600 are dockyard employees and 22,800 fall into other categories including professional engineers, naval architects, scientists, technical officers, draftsmen, tradesmen, artisans, storemen, drivers and the like; or else they work in regional offices providing accounting, clerical and other support; or they comprise the staffs of computing services, the Joint Intelligence Organisation, and the like. Comparing like with like, there are in the Australian Defence structure 450 civilians to every 1,000 servicemen. In the United Kingdom, there are 825; in the United States of America, 490; and in Canada, 420. Some 2,300 civilians- Public Servants- occupy positions in the central divisions and branches of the Department of Defence, which, contrary to the most obstinate myth, do not comprise a massive bureaucracy. The civilian functions at Russell Hill are today more streamlined and more coherent, than they have ever been. The fact is that 68 per cent of defence civilians are employed directly under the service chiefs of staff. The fact is that, did they not exist, the functions they perform would have to be carried out by servicemen diverted from tasks more directly relevant to the role of the Defence Force. Five years ago, total manpower costs stood at 6 1 per cent of defence expenditure. Today they are down to 54 per cent. The 7 per cent reduction in manpower costs has been achieved even while well-deserved improvements to service terms and conditions were being made and while qualitative improvements, in the nature of long-term investment, were also being made- and continue to be made- in Australian defence manpower. Let me cite but three examples. We have today a Joint Services Staff College providing mid-career education for the senior officers of the future. We did not have one 10 years ago. We have today a Joint Warfare Establishment. We did not have it four years ago. We have today a Naval Staff College. We did not have it one year ago.
I turn to the question of officer retirements. It is one assiduously pursued by some commentators. Almost every organisation contains people who will leave it earlier than their compulsory retiring age. Their number will, for a time, increase perceptibly in organisations which introduce procedures to make retirement possible in the last few years of service with little financial penalty. Every organisation will also contain people who, before acquiring pension rights, decide to quit, whether out of dissatisfaction or because of the attraction of alternative employment, or for any of dozens of other possible reasons. Every large organisation will have particular areas in which, at particular times, it would hope for a good retention rate, and other areas where a higherthannormal turnover may even be welcome.
The defence force is very much like the rest of our society in these respects, and one would not have it otherwise. I suggest the figures for officer resignations are not significantly different from those among the professional groups in any large industrial undertaking. They vary a little from time to time and from specialisation to specialisation, but they have in the past two or three years mostly been about what one would have expected in most respects, in most categories, most of the time. They are not the subject of abiding concern to the chiefs of staff. Even if they seem to exercise one or two observers whose own resignations from the Defence Force did not leave the unbridgeable gaps they might have supposed.
I have spoken about manpower and 54 per cent of defence expenditure. Another 27 per cent or thereabouts goes on running costs. The money feeds, clothes and houses the Defence Force, buys the consumable stores and maintenance spare parts, the computing services, and the maintenance services. It pays the rent, power, freight, fuel and other bills. The House will not want an interminable list. In Russell Hill jargon it finances the activities of the Defence Force. It funds their main function in peace-time, which is to train for war with equipment kept in serviceable condition. It funds, additionally, the operations that they conduct in peace-time such as surveillance and patrol, United Nations peacekeeping and assistance to the civil community. The Defence Force is a busy force. It has intensive training and other programs. There is constant activity. But it all costs money. A patrol boat costs about $1,000 per day to run; a DDG, $18,000; an Orion aircraft, $2,300 per hour to operate; a Mirage aircraft, $2,900 per hour to operate; and a CI 30, $1,300 an hour. To give some point to those figures I point out that they exclude manpower costs.
The progressive refitting of the submarine squadron accounts on average for about $17m annually. Qualitative improvement nevertheless is constant. If some facilities are old and in need of attention, others, such as Puckapunyal, in general terms, and the base at Amberley that I have mentioned, are as modern as one could wish. There exists a very high-level technicalapprenticeship training scheme, producing tradesmen for the benefit of the Defence Force and, indeed, the nation as a whole. Time will not permit me to do more than mention defence cooperation with other countries, which takes up a further one percent of the defence Budget. Yet I might remind the House that within the region our military reputation stands high. Fierce competition exists for places on Australian military training courses. Some 600 to 700 foreign students attend such courses each year. Nearly 2,000 members of the Defence Force serve in neighbouring countries, transferring knowledge and expertise.
Let me mention but one more example: Over the past 10 years Australian Army surveyors, with Royal Australian Air Force and Royal Australian Navy support, have contributed more to knowledge by the governments concerned of the physical features of the archipelago to our north than was gathered in the hundreds of years of colonial administration. With 54 per cent of the defence expenditure allocated to manpower, 27 per cent to running costs and 1 per cent to defence co-operation programs, we are left with 18 per cent for capital equipment and facilities, including 14 per cent for equipment. The latter is the crunch-figure. Whilst never ignoring the importance of trained men in service, the provisions for capital equipment and weapons systems are an absolutely fundamental measure of our preparations against future uncertainties. The corresponding figure in 1974-75 was 6 per cent. It has gone up every year since then; and in the context, moreover, of larger overall defence budgets. It will rise in the years ahead.
To be sure, some part of the investments funds are being used to foot the bills for equipments decided upon in earlier years. I will not be ungenerous about that. Some of the planning that was in train when we came to power, some of the decisions that had been taken, were completely justifiable. It was right, for instance, to decide to buy FFGs and P3Cs from the United States. Of course, there were gaps to be filled between taking decisions and actually placing any orders. Some quantities were inadequate and needed adding to. I remind the House that this Government made good the shortcomings in both the instances I have cited, and in others. I do not wish to introduce a polemic note, but the question will intrigue the House, as it has intrigued me, as to how our predecessors had planned to pay for their decisions- if and when translated into orders. In any event it fell to us to provide the money. We have done that, and very much more as well. Capital equipment investment for the future has more than doubled under this Government. It continues to rise.
I turn to the patrol frigate program. Three patrol frigates- FFGs as they are so styled- are being built for Australia by United States naval shipbuilders. The practice is, as the House will know, periodically to review the estimated cost of these works. I can now inform the House of the latest position after a review with the United States Navy. The revised estimate of the average sailaway cost for each ship is $132m in August 1978 prices. This is an average increase of about $9m for each ship over the previously announced estimates. The contract which the United States Navy has with the shipbuilders is of a type which provides the builder with an incentive to deliver on time and to contain costs. Progress in the construction program is encouraging. The performance of the lead ship has fully justified the confidence of the United States and Australian navies in the capabilities of these ships. In August 1978 prices the total project cost for the three ships is currently estimated at $642m.
It is not generally understood that the project cost covers a great number of matters and extends to a wide range of activities. The cost includes outfits of missiles and torpedoes, spares, maintenance equipment, assistance to secure Australian industry participation, travel and overseas allowances associated with training, training equipment and helicopters. I make a specific reference to the provision of funds within the project cost concerning helicopters. The figure I have given includes the provision of $95m for helicopters. As I have explained, helicopters add substantially to the operational capability of the FFGs. No final selection of type has yet been made. I believe it may prove possible to satisfy the RAN ‘s requirement at a lower cost than the figure I have given. In the interests of project control, cost estimates issued from time to time henceforth will combine the costs of the three ships as this facilitates better project control.
Some grossly inaccurate statements have been made with respect to the FFG project. The position deserves to be made clear. In October 1978 I informed the House that the total project cost for the three FFGs was estimated at $600m. That figure was expressed in 1977 prices. That figure of $600m expressed in August 1978 prices would be approximately $649m. There has been, in fact a reduction in real terms of $7m in the FFG project.
I want to conclude with some general comments. As I have said we possess substantial capabilities and the core of the Defence Force we may need in the future exists in the Navy, Army and Air Force. In strike and defensive capabilities we obviously have limits in numbers, but we have the skills and equipments needed as a basis for expansion. There are some discernible deficiencies but the significance of them has always to be weighed, as I have earlier suggested, against the likelihood of an international situation arising where we could be caught unprepared. As long as it can be assesed that no potential military adversary of Australia has a significant long-range capability, the present limitations in the size of our continent-wide surveillance and air defence systems can be accepted. But obviously this is an area which must be kept under review, and it will be kept under review. The defence programe is currently and in the immediate future allotting unusually large sums to various technologies for gathering data and information about our maritime and terrestial neighbourhood. These include activities by us both undisclosed and disclosed. The latter includes the over-the-horizon radar, long-range aircraft with their various sensors, naval patrol vessels, and submarines equipped with advanced sonic facilities. I believe it is right to continue to place this emphasis on surveillance and information gathering in our defence program even though not insignificant sums are thereby diverted from direct combat capabilities, whether manpower or weapons.
The region of South East Asia and the SouthWest Pacific does not contain at present a longdistance offensive capability which could be regarded as a threat to Australia’s capacity to defend itself. In the event of a deterioration to the point of a threat to Australia, we have many requirements which would need to be satisfied but we would have the singular advantage of a defence force that has mastered the very high technology equipment which is now held in the Navy, Air Force and Army and around which the country would build as the threat developed. The Government has not thought it necessary to provide, as yet, in the program for aerial refuelling, airborne early warning capabilities. It is our judgment that it is right to place this later in our consideration. There are approximately 1.3 million categories of items in service inventories. The management of those inventories is a prodigious task. It is an absolutely vital one.
There are some holdings of equipment spares and maintenance stores that are lower than I would like them to be. There are some categories of ammunition stocks that I would like to increase. I would prefer to see more orders being placed by my officers than financial limitations enable them to do. There are some service activities that have been disturbed. Discussion in Cabinet leaves me confident that we will be able to make a significant increase in expenditure on these items in 1979-80. 1 can say with equal confidence that increased levels of expenditure will be maintained in successive years. Meanwhile, I want to give the House an assurance that the intrinsic defence capability of the country has not been impaired by such shortages as exist. Assessments of the adequacy of stocks of spares and maintenance stores to be held by the Services must take account of certain favourable resupply arrangements we enjoy. Many items are produced locally; some in our own factories. It deserves to be acknowledged that some 55 per cent of defence expenditure on equipment, spares, maintenance, repair and overhaul is spent in Australia. Where we must purchase from abroad it is usually under special government-to-government arrangements. In the case of purchasing from the United States, these arrangements provide our Services with the great advantage of direct access to the large stocks of the United States Services without the necessity to re-negotiate with manufacturers.
I accept the Government’s judgment- as I may add do our chiefs of staff- that, on the balance of things, we shall have to persevere with some continuing restraints on service training activities and that in the present international circumstances the risks in doing so are acceptable. We shall meanwhile steadily raise our acquisition of major equipments. The Government will sustain the campaign against inflationwhich I may say would be no friend of the defence effort of the country if it defeated us. The personality of Australia has changed very greatly in the last generation. We may not always be conscious of the nature of that change but change there indeed has been. In 1952 there was genuinely held concern by many people in this country that Australia should participate in the ANZUS agreement without the United Kingdom as a member of that agreement. Time and tide wait for no man. The past can instruct. It is the future which concerns.
As the nation has changed, so indeed has its responsibilities. For the greater part of our national existence we depended substantially for the preservation of our national integrity upon the United Kingdom and the United States. Events have required us to meet that concern from substantially our own resources. We are doing just that. Australia today has a defence capability which is consistent with our responsibilities and our circumstances. Australia has an intelligence gathering and assessing capability singular in quality. We have a surveillance and interdiction capability completely reflective of our determination to preserve our national sovereignty. We have developed technological military capabilities which are unique in our area. We have developed the skills and trained personnel to support them. The cost of this endeavour is clear. The complexity of it should be acknowledged.
There is in the service of the Defence Force of this country a professionalism quite exceptional in the country’s history. That professionalism does not and will not tolerate complacency; it is critical of mediocrity of performance; it is anxious to correct shortcomings; it is responsive to events; it gives advice promptly and bluntly. That professionalism has put at the disposal of this country a defence capability which is certainly not under-estimated by people who live outside it.
It is my hope that that defence capability will not be diminished by those who live in it. I present the following paper:
Motion (by Mr Fife) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
Motion (by Mr Fife)- by leave- agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the honourable member for Corio speaking for a period not exceeding 63 minutes.
-The Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) has made a long and detailed statement on the Government’s defence considerations. I think the statement is something less than a policy statement on defence. As I understand that the debate will continue at a later stage I do not intend now to endeavour to reply to the whole statement. The statement contains some significant new developments and some significant omissions from previous statements. In the last few sentences the Minister made the point that the past can instruct and it is the future which concerns. Throughout the statement he made two points fairly regularly. One was that he hoped the defence debate in Australia would be a bipartisan debate on a high and significantly non-political plane about the actual performance or otherwise of defence. Interspersed with that point were a number of criticisms, of his own critics or the critics of the Government, and references to past performances by the Labor Government. There were no references to past performances by conservative governments. That may be accidental but it indicates the lack of a bipartisan approach on the part of the Minister.
I shall deal with the references which the Minister made to the past because they are very relevant. It appears that the Government’s stand on almost everything that comes before this House is based on what might have happened or what did happen between 1972 and 1975 and what it alleges has happened since. In the latter part of his speech the Minister referred to capital equipment purchases. He said that a lower sum was spent on capital equipment during the years 1972 to 1975 than was the case subsequently. He made a veiled reference to the fact that the Labor Party would not have paid for the equipment it ordered during the period it was in government. I find that statement remarkable. One thing I am sure of is that Australian governments of any colour have met their obligations wherever and whenever they have been placed. It ill becomes a Minister of the Crown to suggest that any Government would not have met those commitments.
– I said that I was curious as to where the money had come from.
– I presume that it came from the same place as the money will come for some of the things that the Minister has not mentioned in his program which the defence budget will have to meet in the not too distant future. I shall not refer to events prior to the Minister’s occupying a position in the Ministry. In 1969 the then Minister for Defence, Mr Fairhall, in his speech on the Budget made the point that the Government had been forced, because of economic circumstances and the relatively advantageous equipment position of the Defence Force to make a real reduction in defence expenditure of 5 percent.
In 1970 when the present Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) was the Minister for Defence he announced a program of defence procurements which included a light destroyer patrol, 84 observation helicopters, 42 utility helicopters, 1 1 vertical take-off and landing aircraft, four support helicopters, a naval communications station at Darwin, the overhaul and modernisation of gun mounts on guided missile destroyers, two Oberon class submarines, six low cover radars, one logistic cargo ship for the Army, 10 additional Skyhawks for the Navy and two twin engine support and training aircraft. The first item on that list was subsequently cancelled in 1974 by Mr Barnard and replaced by the FFG program. That program is now in existence. The ships are about to be completed. The 42 utility helicopters were cancelled before the Labor Party came into office. The short take-off and landing fire support helicopter gunships were cancelled by the Gorton Government. I think the Minister for Defence was a Minister at that time. The overhaul and modernisation of gun mounts was transferred to Australian industry by the Labor Government when in office. The radars were cancelled and reinstated. The logistic cargo ship was reinstated after being cancelled by the Labor Party. The twin support and training aircraft were in the same position.
During the last five years of conservative government prior to the change of government in 1972, $344m of new capital equipment was purchased. In the three years of the Labor Government the amount ordered or committed was $7 16m- an increase of nearly 100 per cent. Since the present Government has been in office, the percentage of gross national product devoted to defence has fallen. By way of comparison, the percentage of gross national product devoted to defence during three years of Labor Government was 2.63 whereas it was 2.6 during the period of the Liberal Government. One can make those figures mean anything. In the last Budget, the percentage of Budget outlays on defence, which most likely is the most relevant figure, fell from 8.9 to 8.7. The Minister says that he is about to correct that situation. I would like to believe him.
The Minister says a lot of things in this statement which are so similar to the things said in the 1976 statement, that it is not funny. On that occasion the Minister made it quite clear that the Government felt that more effort must be devoted to defence and that a new program would be developed for defence expenditure, the total cost of which was estimated at $ 12,000m. It was indicated also at that time that the major portion of that expenditure would take place in the first three years of the program. That did not occur. The program consistently fell behind. I am glad that the Minister was able to inform us that he has a clear undertaking from the Cabinet that there will be a 2 per cent increase, in real terms, in defence expenditure. I would have preferred it if he had been able to tell us that defence would hold its share of Budget outlays or of the gross national product because those two areas tend to differ. Very often increases in real terms depend on how one works out one’s figures. Defence expenditures are not necessarily relevant to domestic prices in Australia. In our major defence purchases, we do not necessarily operate within Australia. Rather we operate outside Australia and on a growing, rather than a declining cost market.
The Minister made a fairly extensive statement on what he saw as the likely threats or the likely defence contingencies facing Australia in the not too distant future. It is quite clear that the statement is intended to defuse some of the more extravagant and some real criticisms which exist and which will continue to exist. Defence has always been an area in which there will be people who seriously and conscientiously believe that every man between the age of 18 or 19 and 90 should at least serve in the military forces for at least a large part of his life. That concept has not a great deal of relevance to current defence requirements. It has very little relevance to Australia’s defence position at the moment. I think that unfortunately those who advocate such a policy, no matter how well-meaning, are in fact advocating a policy which would weaken rather then strengthen Australia’s defence position. The resources which would be taken up in such an effort would be far greater than could be compensated by increased spending. The equipment which would have to be made available and the time for professional training of senior officers and officers who would be required to engage in such an activity would be such as largely to render impotent the Defence Force as a real military force in time of need. There is a concept of social obligation thinking in those who put forward that sort of proposition.
There are a couple of other things which are important in this area. For example, the Minister has also made it clear that he sees no likely threat to Australia. He has made a very strong attack on those people who make any mention of invasion. Except for very minor contingencies- and I think the Minister has mentioned the type of contingency on other occasions- I agree with him. As the Minister has indicated, there is a very low possibility of any nation or group of nations in our area having the potential to mount an invasion force against the Australian mainland. There is an equally low possibility that such a nation or group of nations could successfully undertake such a venture. I think it is true that the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the United States are the only countries which could do so in a relatively short period. There are few others that could undertake such a venture without a massive military expenditure, a fairly significant change in their political positions and a fair time scale well in excess of the 5-year period usually spoken of. I think it is also true that it is unlikely that either the Soviet Union or the United States would engage in any military venture against Australia in isolation and, I would hope, not in combination with any other group of people. We do face, and we will always face, the possibility of some minor hostilities and even the likelihood of such hostilities being mounted by someone who is not really capable of posing a significant military threat to Australia, but who could cause significant difficulties. Those are threats which the Defence Force has to and must take into account and which we, as a nation, must be prepared to meet.
I am somewhat concerned about what the statement did not say. Although it mentioned planning for the retirement of HMAS Melbourne, it did not give any significant indication of the advance planning for the maintenance of the Austraiian naval force, which is the major maritime defence capacity that Australia has. It did not indicate significantly any timetable or real plans for the modernisation of the F-111 aircraft to bring about a full use of the potential that the aircraft has. It has a very great potential. It can only exercise that potential if it is equipped with the types of weapons which are mentioned in this statement. I am somewhat concerned that on the last occasion when the Minister made a statement relating to aircraft he indicated that the Mirage aircraft would be updated in a manner which would extend their life and increase their capacity in order to provide support for the tactical fighter force program when that was completed. It now appears that apart from the changing of the weaponry of these aircraft, other alterations have been dropped. That is most likely not an unreasonable proposition, but I would hope that the same thing does not occur in the case of the F-111s because, whilst there is a low level of threat, it would be too late to start equipping them with modern, precision weapons and the capacity to utilise their potential once a threat develops.
In setting out what the Minister sees as the real needs of an Australian defence force and the contingencies for which we must be prepared, there have been some strange statementsstatements that concern me. They sound very much like those statements that were made before I became a member of this Parliament in the 1960s. I refer to statements like: ‘We must sustain a defence force which supports our diplomacy so that both in combination effectively deter interference with Australian sovereignty’that is a reasonable proposition- and ‘We need a defence force with capabilities affording the Government of the day the option of giving defence help to regional friends with whom we have common security interests’. We on this side of the House say that that sort of option should be written into properly negotiated treaties whereby Australia’s legal positions and obligations are clearly understood and the rights of those countries with whom we would be seeking to act in unison would be clearly set out.
There is another statement which merits the same type of criticism. That is:
Like every country Australia must sustain its military standing in its geographical neighbourhood through which attacks upon its territory could be launched.
There is no doubt that our diplomatic relationships with countries nearby have to be maintained at reasonably high levels. Equally, there is no doubt that, if necessary, we should be able to defend ourselves from attack from those quarters. This statement sounds very much like a movement back to forward defence, but I am not sure that our Defence Force can be adequately planned, structured and equipped to fight on overseas territory or to defend Australia. It is extremely important for us to make a decision on whether we are involved only in the defence of Australia or whether our Force has to have a multi-role capacity which would require a totally different concept in planning. This concept is not envisaged at the moment and, if adopted, it would significantly change the manner in which our Defence Force would develop.
The Minister for Defence has effectively dismissed major threats against Australia. He has wrongly made comparisons between the efforts of one government and the efforts of another. In making his comparisons he has not retreated from claiming that equipment purchases which were initiated when the Labor Government was in office were correct. Currently those purchases form a major part of the equipment and the potential of our Defence Force. If during a short period a government spends a low proportion of its defence budget on capital equipment it is reasonable to assume that that is because the government which preceded it did not initiate equipment programs in the major areas. Equipment purchases, as we have seen with almost all of those made in recent years, are not concluded in a few days, a few weeks or even in a few years. Most items of equipment which were ordered in the 1969-72 period would have been delivered during the period the Labor Government was in office. The order for payment for the heavier items of equipment would have fallen due during that period. I exclude the purchase of the Oberon submarines which had a longer lead time. Items of equipment ordered during the period the Labor Government was in office almost certainly would not have been delivered during the period of that Government. The Leopard tanks, the Orions and other equipment which the Minister indicated as being satisfactory were actually ordered, or the projects were substantially concluded, during the period when Mr Barnard and Mr Morrison were Ministers for Defence.
Several matters in the report are of interest. The Minister indicated the requirement for an Army of between 30,000 and 40,000 personnel. We can safely say that 32,000 comes within that range. The Minister said, however, that we have an Army preparedness of 54,000- citing 22,000 reserves. I dispute that. Whilst we may have 22,000 reserves I do not think that the capacity or the input exists for those 22,000 reserves to form an effective part of an Australian military force in a short period of time after mobilisation. The reserves are very much in the limbo of the defence areas. Whilst they are often spoken about they are not being provided with the levels of training, the incentives or the equipment which would project them in the way that the Minister projects them in his statement. I spoke about this matter on the last occasion when defence was before this House and I do not intend to do so in any significant fashion today. To suggest that the 22,000 reserves are in any way related to the 32,000 in regular military service is dangerously to overestimate the potential of the manpower available to the Australian Army.
The naval position is of real concern. The major element of the fleet, the Melbourne, is due for retirement in six years. I am not sure whether economically or by any other means the date could be extended but a decision as to whether it is to be replaced certainly has not been announced, if it has been made. The means by which the role of the Melbourne is to be undertaken is of very considerable concern especially to the Navy but also to anyone who is interested in a balanced defence force. Today a real problem exists as to how certain roles should be carried out. There are alternatives and options which did not exist a few years ago and which do not necessarily meet the traditional structure or traditional lines of demarcation between the various forces.
The Melbourne capacity replacement- I term it that way because I do not want to be involved in the replacement syndrome- if such is deemed to be required by our strategic situation, must be coupled with the potential age of most of our surface vessels- the blue water navy to which the Minister referred. We have three major ships under construction and these will come into service between now and 1985. At this stage no other vessels appear to be under consideration and there is no public discussion- I make that distinction- about a possibility of other types of vessels being considered for the Australian Navy. No other means are being suggested whereby we could cover that capacity and also meet the serious problem of almost all of our major fighting ships becoming due for retirement within the next 15 years. More than half of our major ships were built before 1960 and all of them came into service before 1970. This dates every one of them. The first of our Oberon submarines is currently in its half life refit. This effectively means that in the next 12 to 15 years we will have to look to replace those vessels which are now potentially our frontline defence weapon against maritime forces.
The Minister mentioned the Cockatoo Docks and Engineering Co. Pty Ltd which is seeking to interest the Defence Department in an ongoing program of replacement of those submarines when it falls due. I do not think that anyone who is seriously interested in defence would suggest that we can afford not to replace or to add to our submarine fleet. The Minister suggested fitting Harpoons to submarines for underwater usage. I understand that there are some difficulties involved and I would have liked the Minister to indicate some timetable for that development. Unfortunately public debate in Australia is not as easy as the Minister supposes and responsible public debate is even more difficult. It is made difficult by the lack of real information which is made available on Australia’s defence and the lack of advanced discussion on Australia’s defence needs and intentions. The Minister may well meet with his committee once a month. He may be extremely well informed of what is going on in defence areas. However, not only do decisions have to be made and justified in the cabinet room but also there is a need for a much broader acceptance of those decisions, a broader acceptance of their correctness and a broader knowledge of the basis on which those decisions are made.
The Minister has made it quite clear that he does not believe that this Parliament should carry out investigative work in the defence areas. He has said that he accepts responsibility to the Parliament. Unfortunately, I must say, the Parliament and its members have to accept responsibility to the public. With the sort of decisionmaking necessary in defence I do not think it is reasonable that he and I- given that he makes it quite clear that I can have such briefings as I wish- should be the only persons in this Parliament to have access to major discussions or information on defence matters. The decisions are too important and mistakes can be too costly for it to be left to one or two individuals, no matter how much goodwill there is or how competent or incompetent those individuals happen to be.
Other countries can discuss their defence matters publicly and in great depth without any serious threat to their security; without any serious threat to their actual defence force. In fact the defence force ultimately becomes stronger because these sorts of public discussions encourage and lead to better understanding. I am not one of those people who believes that the best decision is made in a situation when everyone agrees. It is rare indeed that such decisionmaking comes out right. The Minister made mention of the Press. I think it is unfortunate that the Press does not encourage greater debate within the political parties and within the Parliament. It discourages debate by using the time honoured tactic of always placing someone who is in disagreement in the position of dividing his political party or dissenting from the established view. Progress in science and in any form of endeavour is based on dissent from the established view.
There is a significant problem facing Australia in the naval areas. We are not going to solve it easily. This statement does not even mention this problem other than in a passing reference to the Melbourne. Australia lacks- this statement does not seem to indicate any cure- significant defence potential in the whole of the northern area of Australia. In the 1976 statement there were indications that a patrol boat facility would be built between Cockburn Sound and Darwin. This is no longer mentioned. It has apparently been dropped.
The Minister indicated that Learmonth will be updated or has been updated to major capacity for aircraft movements I would point out to the Minister that for the next six or seven years the Mirage aircraft is going to be our front line fighter aircraft. I understand that we have just purchased a new area for defence/exercises and if we can maintain it against the mineral companies we will have a valuable asset for training. I think it is fair to say that an operational Mirage cannot reach that area from Learmonth or Darwin to participate in these exercises. There is no other airfield in that area which would enable a Mirage, operationally loaded, to participate. Sometimes we have to think about those sorts of things. I realise that a new fighter aircraft is in the pipeline, but the pipeline is a very long one. It started way back in 1969, and it is now 1979. The Mirages range is not going to increase. It has already been indicated in this statement that we are not going to attempt to increase this range.
There are a number of areas which I would like to question. I do not intend to deal with the technical areas. There are a couple of things that I would like to say to the Minister and on which I congratulate him. They are matters which I had hoped that he and his supporters would have been prepared to say when they were in Opposition. They gave the then Minister for Defence, Mr Barnard, quite a bad time in regard to the non-foreseeable threat propositions, which came as a shock to the system at that time but which have been confirmed in each strategic review since that time. It is no good asking that the present Opposition accept that sort of proposition and ask us not to argue about differences or suggest that we are being political when in fact the Ministers of that day were attacked almost daily on the proposition that the then Opposition knew was a correct assessment of the strategic situation in Australia.
– Gordon Freeth made comments to that effect in 1 969.
– And he lost his seat!
– Well, there you are. At least you have admitted it.
– His comments were about the Russian navy being no threat.
– There you are.
-It does not alter the fact that his comments were right. You look at what was said on defence from 1972 to 1975. He was also attacked by a number of prominent Ministers at the time. The Opposition hopes that the statement and the Minister’s indications in the statement represent a change of heart in public debate on defence. This statement contains a lot of proposals but very few concrete statements of actual performance. It contains some proposals which were set out in 1976 and which have subsequently slipped rather remarkably. It does not contain what I would suggest are any concrete suggestions for the manner in which defence expenditure in Australia is to be managed or guaranteed. It is no good and it is very dangerous to say that a certain amount of money will be available over a five-year period and subsequently those funds are not made available. The tragedy of the 1976 statement is that the Government’s willingness to spend was seriously overstated. It is a waste of resources and does serious damage to the morale of those people responsible for planning if the expenditure that they are entitled to expect is not forthcoming, as happened in the 1976 program.
I would like to suggest one concrete thing that ought to be considered by the Minister and the Government. The question of major capital equipment items should be the subject of legislative appropriation on an individual basis, rather than general appropriation from an overall defence budget. By those means the Parliament would be involved not only in the appropriation but in the continued cost of those items. The Department would know exactly where it stood. I think this occurs at least in Canada. It is a means of control and allocation which may stabilise defence equipment on major items. In the next 1 5 years- that is not very long- this Parliament and the Australian Defence Force will be faced with the need to retire what, at today’s prices, would amount to something between $3,000 billion and $4,000 billion worth of capital equipment. That makes no mention of maintenance and neither does this paper.
The military establishment and personnel at Darwin are still suffering from the effects of Cyclone Tracy. Apparently maintenance has been dropped by the Government as a significant proposition. I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later time.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– For the information of honourable members I present a report of the Industries Assistance Commission on the Australian Citrus Industry.
Bill presented by Mr Fife, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of the Bill now before the House is to amend the Bed Sheeting Bounty Act 1977 to increase the limit on the amount of available bounty to $600,000 in each 12 month period from 1 November 1977 and to revise, from 27 September 1978, the eligibility criteria in respect of bountiable sheeting to enable either the manufacturer thereof or another person to make up such sheeting into bed linen in Australia. The Bill reflects acceptance by the Government of recommendations by the Industries Assistance Commission contained in its reports on ‘Further Short Term Assistance Arrangements For Textiles’ (No. 147 of 25 October 1977) and ‘Conditions For Eligibility For Bed Sheeting Bounty’ (No. 179 of 7 August 1978). The measures contained in the Bill are designed to enable Australian manufacturers to compete more effectively against duty-free imported sheeting fabric.
The increase to $600,000 in the amount of available bounty is being made as a result of changes in the market which have increased the Australian manufacturers dependence upon polyester/cotton sheeting. The revised eligibility criteria will enable Australian manufacturers to obtain maximum utilisation of the available bounty. I commend the Bill to Honourable Members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Hurford) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 28 March.
Consideration of Legislation Committee report
Motion (by Mr Fife) proposed:
That the report of the Legislation Committee be adopted.
-There are two issues which arise out of the report which is, in effect, a report from the Legislation Committee of the Parliament to this chamber. The first issue is: Was the Fraser Government sincere in wanting a prices justification tribunal at all? In summary, the second issue is: Was it worth while for a Bill such as this one to go to the Legislation Committee? I deal with this in terms of amendments which I moved at the legislation committee stage on this Bill. I remind the House and anybody else interested in this matter that the Legislation Committees are relatively new as far as this Parliament is concerned.
Instead of having the Committee stages when amendments are moved to Bills in this chamber, representatives of the Government and the Opposition meet in committee rooms to look in a quieter atmosphere at the particular proposals. To date the Bills that have gone to legislation committees have not been controversial Bills on which the Parliament would divide or in which the Opposition has serious philosophical differences with the Government. In this case it was different. There is a real difference of opinion, it seems, between Government supporters and Opposition members on the need for a prices justification tribunal.
My colleagues and I from the Labor Opposition proposed nine changes at the legislation committee stage. Eight were suggested amendments, two of which, in the end, I did not move for reasons that I will come to; the other proposal was to oppose a clause in the Bill would have the effect of removing from the Act a section which the Opposition believes ought to stay in the Act.
Before going into the details of the particular initiatives that the Opposition took at the legislation committee stage, I want to make it clear that my colleagues and I believed that all nine initiatives were within the Government’s objectives. The Opposition accepted that indeed the second reading stage of the Bill in this House laid the framework for what the philosophies were of the Government and the Opposition respectively, and the Opposition sought to abide by the spirit of setting up legislation committees by moving only amendments which we thought were within the spirit and philosophy of the Government. The Government had the numbers at the second reading stage and the Opposition moved an amendment at that second reading stage. It was defeated but we hoped that some improvements could be made to this Bill, accepting the overall philosophy of the Government. I do not want to canvass what happened at the second reading stage but the House will remember that the Opposition believed that the Bill should not have had a second reading because it abolished the requirement for companies to notify price increases to the PJT.
We believed that the changes to the Bill would not help to reduce inflation, the reduction of which was vitally necessary at this time when it was increasing in the community. We believed that the Bill exacerbated industrial turmoil because the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission exists as an agency acting as a watchdog in the whole area of wage and salary determination; that for balance we needed an agency in the whole area of prices determination, namely, the PJT, and that it was being made a ‘toothless tiger’ by what was happening in this Bill.
Finally, the Opposition did not like the clause in the BUI which proposed to change the Prices Justification Tribunal Act even further than the Government had already changed the Act in its three years of existence, in making the Minister more involved in the decisions of the Tribunal. In other words, the Opposition asserts that this Bill greatly increases the power of the Minister. Accepting that the Opposition was defeated on that, it then moved certain amendments which it believed should have been accepted, even within the Government’s own philosophy. I wish to go through those amendments. Three of the amendments were to clause 6. A major criticism of the PJT has been the lack of guidelines in the legislation as to the meaning to be attached to the words ‘What is a justified price?’ This has led to some inconsistency in the Tribunal’s decisions and some conflict with the decisions of related, regulatory bodies. I refer to the Trade Practices Commission and the Industries Assistance Commission.
We believe that our three proposed amendments to clause 6 overcame this by seeking changes to proposed new section 16 of the Act. Incorporating such general guidelines in new section 16 would also have facilitated an attempt to limit the extent to which the Minister’s supervision of the Tribunal could be used for political purposes. Amendments could be made to ensure that ministerial intervention or directives were related to the functions set out for the Tribunal.
Also the Opposition’s amendments 1 to 3 related to new sections 17 (4) and 17A of the Act and would require the Minister to give due regard to the general objectives of the Tribunal, as set out, and to justify his intervention, his directives, in terms of those functions. However, apparently there was no way in which we could get a satisfactory hearing, despite the spirit in which we approached the matter, before the Legislation Committee. The Committee divided on party lines. It did not even need to put the matter to a vote other than on the voices. It was clear, even at that early stage that the Government would not accept in any way the amendments proposed by the Opposition. In fact, such was our frustration that that was as far as we got on Thursday night, 22 March. Government members, because of a debate that was proceeding in the chamber, even decided at that stage that we need not proceed further that night.
The Legislation Committee met again last night and I moved further amendments. Amendment No. 4, to clause 7, related to notification requirements. We believe that section 18 of the Act needs to be amended so as to reinstitute the requirement of prior notification of price increases by prescribed companies defined as those with an annual turnover of $30m or more which are in a position to use their market situation to set unjustified prices and whose prices, charged during a substantial period, could not be judged as fair and reasonable.
Inevitably, in view of what had gone on earlier, that amendment was not accepted. In fact, I have to tell the House that we then discovered that Government members had caucused and come to the conclusion that they would solidly oppose, for opposition’s sake, all of our amendments. Not one Opposition amendment was accepted. However, I shall proceed to give the details so that the House will be fully informed. I notice that my time is almost at an end. I believe that I am to have a second opportunity to speak, and I would wish to do so.
Amendment No. 5 relates to clause 8, interim price increases. New section 18B should be amended so as to limit the circumstances under which the Tribunal will be permitted to allow interim price increases while an inquiry is in progress. We wanted also to amend that part of the Act to make such permission conditional upon the company’s undertaking to adhere to the Tribunal’s recommendation. The details of our submission can be seen in the Hansard report of the Legislation Committee’s proceedings, but later I shall explain it in more detail.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jarman)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. If anyone else wishes to speak, I will give him the call and then call again the honourable member for Adelaide. As apparently no other honourable member wishes to speak, I call again the honourable member for Adelaide.
-I thank the House for the opportunity to continue my remarks uninterrupted by taking advantage of a second period of 10 minutes. We moved amendment No. 5, which relates to clause 8 and to interim price increases, because of our conviction that once companies increased their prices it was almost impossible- whatever the Tribunal decided- to roll those prices back. In fact, there is on the Tribunal moral pressure not to disagree with the price increases. As an illustration, I point out that a lot of the companies that are involved are in the wholesaling field; they are not selling directly to the public. Once they, as wholesalers, have increased their prices, the increases are fed into the prices of retailers and passed on to the public. There is no way in which refunds can be made later or, indeed, prices can be rolled back. Therefore, we believe that our proposed amendment to clause 8 was very necessary.
I turn now to our proposed amendment No. 6, which is related to clause 9 and to inquiries initiated by the Minister. Section 19, which is amended by clause 9, should be so amended as to institute, in the case of ministerially-initiated inquiries, a pre-inquiry procedure. Such preinquiry procedure would be in all ways comparable with that which obtains in respect of inquiries that the Tribunal itself will be able to initiate. To a great extent we took the wording from new section 1 9aa, which provides for that to be done. It is what I call a ‘once over lightly treatment’. Those honourable members who were with me on the Prices Committee of the Parliament will know that it is very necessary in price surveillance to have a pre-inquiry procedure for the purpose of obtaining as much information as possible so that an objective decision can be made whether it is worthwhile to look further into the justification for a given price. The Opposition was convinced that that procedure should be applied to ministerially-initiated inquiries as well as to Tribunal-initiated inquiries, but apparently there was no way in which the Government would accept that proposal either. The Opposition’s amendment No. 7 related to clause 10- inquiries initiated by the Tribunal. It was circulated to honourable members but in the end, because of our frustration and the absence of any co-operation from the Government, we did not proceed to move it. However, I think that I will be within Standing Orders if I mention what stimulated us to draw it up. New section 19aa
However, I do wish to cite a further debate which took place at the Legislation Committee stage. It concerned clause 14 of the Bill, which the Opposition opposes, relating to biannual reports by the Tribunal. Clause 14 takes out existing section 35a, which we believe should remain. That makes it incumbent upon the Tribunal to issue biannual reports. Since notification is still required, following an inquiry, of certain nominated goods, we believe that the Tribunal ought to do so regularly. Press speculation indicates that the number of notifications in a full year may average 700. Of course, that is only a fraction of the 7,000 which were once required. Nevertheless, it is a significant number. If there is not regular reporting by the Tribunal of these notifications there will be a lack of publicity concerning the activity of firms which have been careless enough to engender an inquiry, even under this weak legislation. Publicity is an important deterrent to price increases and the dropping of section 35a removes the deterrent completely with one qualification, namely, that there is an annual report which, of course, comes down, as the words would indicate, only once a year and well after the event. The Opposition is very disappointed that the Government was not able to accept even that amendment which we moved in the legislation committee.
The first issue which I believe this report to the Parliament raises, as I said at the beginning of my speech, is: ‘Was the Fraser Government sincere in wanting a PJT?’ The answer is that I believe that any objective person looking at the Hansard report of the legislation committee’s two meetings, one last Thursday and the other one last night, would come to the conclusion that the Government is not dinkum about wanting a Prices Justification Tribunal. It is merely a shell of what it was. It is a toothless tiger. It is there for window-dressing so that some workers will be hoodwinked into thinking there is some price surveillance. The way that the Government has stopped us putting even the minimal number of teeth back into the PJT that would have been put back in by our amendment just points up how insincere the Government is in wanting this sort of price surveillance.
The second question which I raised at the beginning of my speech was: ‘Was it worth while for a Bill such as tins one to go to the legislation committee?’ I must confess that my first reaction- the Minister knows this from a private conversation that I had with him- was that it was not worth while for such a Bill to go to the legislation committee; we might as well have it out in the House. There was enormous frustration at the meetings. We had hoped that in that sort of atmosphere there might be a meeting of the minds, there might be some compromise, there might even be at least some of our amendments accepted. But such was not the case. There was no sincerity, we assert, in examining objectively the Opposition’s amendments. I emphasise that the amendments were, we believe, within the philosophy of the Government. If we really wanted to move amendments which were within our own philosophy I assure the House that they would have been much more numerous and in much more strong terms than the ones we did move.
However, on further reflection I think I will qualify my answer to that question in the negative by saying that at least we may have saved the House some time. If we had moved all of those amendments at a meeting of the Committee of the Whole I think we would have taken a lot longer than it will take to debate the legislation committee report on this Bill. As the House has allowed somebody leading for the Opposition like myself two 10-minute opportunities to speak and give a full report on what happened before the legislation committee and draw attention to the Hansard record of the committee meetings perhaps the business of the House is facilitated and quickened.
Let me give notice, in conclusion, that the need for the Prices Justification Tribunal will be an election issue. The need for price surveillance is as great as it ever was. The need for a watchdog agency such as the PJT is absolutely essential. What has happened in the legislation committee, I believe the House will now realise from this report I have given, will point out the insincerity of the Government concerning this agency. It does not want an agency; it just wants a mere shell.
– I support the remarks of the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) on this issue and at the operation of the legislation committee last night.
I have attended two meetings of legislation committees on two issues. At the first meeting, whilst some propositions were accepted from Government members, none were accepted from the Opposition. When the Opposition agreed to the whole principle of legislation committees it was in the belief that they would work along the lines of joint parliamentary committees such as the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs of which I am a member, the Joint Parliamentary Committee of Public Accounts, of which I was a member, and so on where there is, as the honourable members for Adelaide put it, a joining together of the minds and where members are able to sit down and even though they come from different political parties reach some consensus. But last night we had the experience of one member from the Government side in an interjection frankly stated ‘yes we admit we had a meeting’, and the whole proceedings were determined on Party lines.
This, in my belief, was not the intention of the legislation committees. To the contrary, the whole purpose of legislation committees was to get a broader viewpoint which would be listened to by the Minister and listened to by his advisers who I gather would go back to reconsider the matters. Nobody would object to that course. I do impress on honourable members that the honourable member for Adelaide has put in a tremendous amount of work, thought and consideration on this Bill and on the amendments which he has moved. I know that. They were not frivolous propositions in any way whatsoever. They were very serious propositions which dealt with the whole basic question of maintaining teeth in the legislation and I would have thought that more serious consideration would have been given to them. I draw to the notice of the House particularly to pages 16 and 17 of the Hansard record of last night’s meeting where, for example, the Right Honourable member for Lowe, Sir William McMahon, after he said that he had made this statement, said:
If it were ordinary people and not politicians I would accept your point of view.
He was referring to the point of view of the honourable member for Lalor, Mr Barry Jones. The Right Honourable member for Lowe went on to say:
But you are playing politics and we have to play politics too.
Later, when I raised this issue with him and said that this was in effect an attack on the Parliament, he replied:
It is not the Parliament; it is a committee.
Then this Committee does not represent the Parliament.
Sir William said:
It obviously does not.
I think that in itself illustrates the attitude of some Government members have to this Committee system. I had very great hopes that in legislation Committees we could sit down, just as we do in joint committees of the Parliament, and be able to give serious consideration, have a meeting of the minds and that we would be able to reach a consensus on basic issues. But last night’s affair- I could only call it that- makes it very difficult to believe that this can ever occur. That has been my experience now on two legislation committees and I do not think it is to the credit of the committee, to the credit of the Parliament or the intention behind the establishing of these committees.
– Both the honourable members for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) and the honourable members for Chifley (Mr Armitage) have had a good deal to say about the workings of the legislation committee and the fact that this piece of legislation was referred to a legislation committee. I think the House needs to be reminded, particularly those two honourable members, that it needs only one member of this House to object and a piece of legislation will not be referred to a legislation committee. In this case my advice is that the Opposition requested that the Bill be referred to a legislation committee. I agree with the point that was made by the honourable member for Adelaide that whether we reach agreement in committee or not is one matter and the time of this House that is saved is another.
Given that the amendments moved by the Opposition were in conflict with the philosophy upon which the Government based this particular Bill, it is little wonder that all of the amendments proposed by the Opposition were opposed by the Government. The public record of the Committee meeting shows that we not only opposed, but also in most instances we strongly opposed the amendments that were moved by the Opposition. Had those amendments been moved in the Committee of the Whole, they would have been just as vigorously opposed by the Government as they were in the Legislation Committee.
I do not propose to go over all of the reasons for the Government’s opposition to the amendments that were moved. I think that nine amendments were moved by the Opposition. All of the reasons for our opposition to those amendments are on the public record; they are contained in the Hansard report of the Legislation Committee meeting. But I emphasise that those amendments moved by the Opposition flew in the face of the philosophy embodied in the legislation which I outlined very clearly at the second reading stage.
Honourable members will recall that I indicated that the Government had decided quite deliberately to retain the Prices Justification Tribunal, and honourable members will recall that I said that the Government believes that an effective Prices Justification Tribunal is absolutely necessary. Additionally, I comment on the statements made by both the honourable member for Adelaide and the honourable member for Chifley in relation to the removal of teeth from the legislation. No teeth have been removed from the Prices Justification Tribunal legislation. The functions of the PJT have been altered in some way but none of its teeth have been removed.
The Government has become increasingly concerned over a period about the costs of operating the Prices Justification Tribunal and the costs that the PJT’s operations up to the present time have represented to business and ultimately to the consumer. I put emphasis on that point because costs to business ultimately become costs to the consumer. It was because of this that the Government decided that further changes should be made in the operations of the PJT in the interests of freeing the business community from unnecessary regulation and in the interest of ensuring that no unnecessary costs were incurred that would ultimately flow on to the consuming public.
The proposed changes to the Bill which is currently before the House will further reduce the emphasis on price notification in the PJT’s operations. That is one of the reasons that the Government opposed the amendments moved by the Opposition. Whilst the emphasis on price notification will be reduced, we have maintained in the Bill a capacity for the PJT to inquire into and to keep under surveillance prices in specified areas. The present system of prior notification of price increases by companies imposes, in our view, a regulatory cost on business which is disproportionate to the advantages that it provides.
The Government is proposing, therefore, with regard to the legislation that is before the House, to remove the requirement for companies prescribed on the basis of turnover to notify their price increases to the PJT. We believe, however, that there is a real value in retaining a modified form of price notification to ensure adequate price surveillance for goods and services that have been subject to inquiry by the PJT. The Bill provides for just that. The Government believes that the notification provisions should be applied only for a limited period in cases where the PJT, following a public inquiry, decides that particular companies or groups of companies should be so required.
The honourable member for Adelaide made reference to the need for more inquiries to be held. He made reference to the need for the Prices Justification Tribunal to have power to examine existing prices as well as proposed increased prices. He indicated the difficulty in his view that arises when existing prices only are investigated. I just remind the honourable member for Adelaide that the PJT has always had power to examine existing prices as well as proposed increases in prices.
I also take the opportunity of reminding the Opposition that the present Government- the Fraser Government- which is so maligned by the Opposition has initiated no fewer than six price justification inquiries and two industry type inquiries. I refer to the beef inquiry and the processed food inquiry. I asked the Opposition how many inquiries were initiated by it when in Government. The fact of the matter is that the former Government did not initiate any inquiries by the PJT. The amendments moved by the Opposition were very carefully examined by the Government and by the Legislation Committee. I support my motion for the adoption of the report of that Committee.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr Fife)- by leave- proposed:
That the Bill be now read a third time.
Question resolved in the affimative.
Bill read a third time.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Debate resumed from 7 March, on motion by Mr Peacock:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I wish to say at the outset that because of the time at which I am commencing my speech it will be necessary for me to continue my remarks at 8 o’clock. Therefore, I would be grateful if the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) would apologise for me at a function to which he is going and at which I was to represent the Opposition.
-The Passports Amendment Bill 1979 pursues a number of purposes. It sustains the discretionary authority for the Minister to issue, or not to issue, or to cancel a passport. It stipulates, for the first time, certain grounds on which a passport may not be issued by an authorised officer. It establishes a range of offences and penalties to prevent the improper use of passports and to protect their value in the hands of honest citizens. The Opposition does not oppose the Bill, but will propose an amendment to the motion for its second reading and will propose a number of amendments in Committee. There is always value in more sharply defining the authority and the discretion of officials. This is not to question the integrity of government officials, but it is an important principle of responsible parliamentary government.
In this case, the Government would appear to have pursued that objective in setting out powers which may or must be exercised by officials in withholding or cancelling passports. It is the Government’s judgment, however, that a general discretion must be retained. It is appropriate, in this circumstance, for that discretion to rest in the hands of the Minister. This however, creates a somewhat anomalous situation in which the one Act, in the one area, provides both an unlimited discretion and specific limited powers. There is also some anomaly created by defining the authority of officials, but nowhere providing any requirement that the applicant should ever be informed of any decision taken by the official. As the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) states, the right to hold a passport may be regarded as a human right, inasmuch as the passport is the basic means to enable a person to travel beyond his country. Governments must also, however, retain a right to withhold a passport. The Bill usefully specifies some circumstances in which that will be done. But it ought also to specify that the applicant has a right to know when a negative decision has been taken and the reason for that decision. The applicant ought also to have a right of appeal against a negative decision. Before turning to the details of the Bill, we wish to take up some of the points made by the Minister in his speech. The Minister has provided an unsatisfactory account of the disadvantages to the passport holder of not including place of birth on the passport. He said:
A number of countries would not accept passports which did not show the place of birth. The authorities of certain other countries advised that, although acceptable, the omission of the place of birth could cause difficulties for the passport holders.
It is unfortunate that the Minister has the habit of generalising because we do not know what countries he is talking about and he has not told us. The fact is that many naturalised Australians and other Australians born outside Australia do not wish to have their place of birth stated on the passport. Many of these passport holders may be caused difficulties because their place of birth is stated. We would like to see the Minister provide us with more information. We would like the individual to be able to choose whether he wished to have his place of birth entered on his passport. At a later stage I propose to move the following:
Whilst not opposing the Bill, this House is of the opinion that the place of birth shall only be disclosed on a passport if the holder or applicant so elects.
I think that would meet the situation.
-I wish to report to the House consideration I have given to a matter of privilege which was raised by the honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage) prior to the suspension of the sitting for lunch. He raised as a matter of privilege the alleged misconduct of a member of this house. The matter raised by the honourable member for Chifley concerned a statement reportedly made by the Chief Justice of New South Wales, Sir Laurence Street, alleging impropriety in respect of a letter received by him from the honourable member for Macquarie (Mr Gillard).
The law of Parliamentary privilege confers upon the House itself and upon individual honourable members certain rights and immunities which are essential for the proper functioning of the Parliament. In this case no element of that consideration arises. It also places upon honourable members an obligation to be bound by the privileges of the House and it is my duty as
Speaker to ensure that there is no infringement of those privileges by an honourable member.
The honourable member for Macquarie apparently wrote in certain terms to the Chief Justice as to which the judge made comment. I am not called upon to determine the prudence of this action; suffice it to say that the judge said that he would not be influenced by the letter and that he had no doubt that Mr Gillard was well intentioned. I have carefully examined the remarks of the honourable member for Chifley and I can in no way be satisfied from them that the letter of the honourable member for Macquarie in any way breached the privileges of this House. There is no substance in the alleged breach of privilege and I so rule.
Sitting suspended from 5.59 to 8 p.m.
– Prior to dinner we were debating the Government’s proposals to amend the Passports Act. I had indicated that the Opposition did not oppose the main thrust of the Bill but felt that amendments should be moved. Our proposed amendment to the second reading of the Bill which will be moved at the appropriate time provides that where a passport is issued the place of birth of the applicant need not be disclosed unless the applicant so elects. Further, we have a series of amendments which will be moved at the Committee stage and which have already been circulated.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) referred in his speech to previous use of the Act to withdraw or withhold passports from individuals suspected of having committed a corporate offence. In our view this portion of the Minister’s speech is cause for serious concern. Having retained discretionary powers for the Minister in the Bill, the Minister has told us quite plainly that those powers will not be used against persons under investigation for white collar crime. He said: in recognition of the Government’s policy relating to human rights and the view that the Passport Act should neither be used as an extension of the judicial system nor be expected to impose any more restraint on an individual than a court would be prepared to impose, this practice will be discontinued.
That is, the practice of withholding or withdrawing passports from persons under investigation -
Passports will, in future, only be withheld from such persons if a warrant for their arrest exists, or where the applicant is the subject of an Australian Court order or condition of parole which restrains that person from obtaining a passport or from leaving Australia.
There could well be circumstances where investigations are at a stage, and of such significance, that seeking a court order would produce public speculation and have financial consequences quite beyond those that might follow when the facts have been established and can be presented at the proper time and before the proper jurisdiction. We invite the Minister, when he speaks again, to make clear whether his intention is, as his speech implies, to encourage persons under investigation to skip the country at the earliest possible time.
I turn to the Bill. In Committee we will be proposing amendments which will broaden the scope of proposed section 7a ( 1 ) which protects the interests of children, require a response by the Government or those so delegated to a passport application in reasonable time, reduce the severity of most of the proposed penalties, and provide a right of appeal against a decision to withhold or withdraw a passport. The improvement we propose to new section 7a in clause 8 of the Bill is to remove any ambiguity. The purpose of this section is to ensure that the unmarried minor is not issued a passport without steps having been taken to protect the rights of the child and the rights of persons who have custody or guardianship of or access to the child.
The broad intent of this section of the Bill is commendable. However, the encompassing of the rights of all those with custody, guardianship or access can draw in many people and can make the work of the passports office very complicated. It is not clear how the passports office will ensure that it is in possession of the facts in relation to custody, guardianship or access for each child. The consent of a spouse is not a guarantee in this respect. Moreover, the withholding of consent by a person having custody, guardianship or, more particularly, access may not, of course, be in the interests of the child, and the Act provides that a court may order that a child may leave Australia. Our proposed section 7a (2) (c) then proceeds, however, to give the authorised passports officer discretion- a discretion parallel to that of the Court- to allow a child to obtain a passport and travel. This discretion in turn, would, however, seem subject- under proposed section 7B (b)- to the right of a court to order that a child may not be issued a passport. This section will need sensitive and skilful handling and extensive and effective co-operation with the family courts. Our proposed amendment relates to the fact that the Bill refers only to the issue of a passport to the child. However, frequently, children are included on a parent’s passport. It may be that the Bill could be interpreted to cover this situation, but given the extent of specification in the Bill it would seem best to make explicit reference to the inclusion of children on a passport, and apply the same rules. We will move those amendments in Committee.
The second substantive amendment we propose would have the effect of obliging the Government to provide some explanation as to why it will not issue a passport in particular cases and set some time limit within which it should be obliged to do so. The legislation is, as I have said, of positive benefit in specifying the circumstances in which passports may be denied. But nowhere does the legislation oblige the Government to make any decision or state the grounds for a negative decision. In this situation there is an additional unstated ground for not issuing a passport; in other words decision by a Government not to decide whether to issue a passport. The worthwhile improvements in this legislation need to be backed up by an obligation to make a decision within a reasonable time and state the legislative basis for that decision. The Government need not be obliged to canvass in detail its reasons for not issuing a passport, but should be obliged to indicate under which section of the Act it has made its decision.
We appreciate the pressures under which the Passports Office work and note the Minister’s advice that 1,000 passports are issued every working day. This service is, of course, one for which a fee is charged. If the fee is properly set it should relate to the cost of the service. If that is the case, there should not be any problems in processing passport applications promptly. On the basis of $20 for a passport, the weekly income of the Passports Office is $ 100,000; or over $5m a year. We are aware, however, that staff ceilings apply to the Passports Office as to other areas of the Public Service. This is absurd; it is a reflection of the simple-minded and singleminded obsession of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) virtually to destroy the Public Service. I am told that one passport office at least has had on its counter a sign apologising for the way in which service is affected by staff ceilings. It is an affront to the public and to good Government for any passport office to have a sign on its counter apologising for the quality of service because of those ceilings. Passport offices should be exempted from staff ceilings and expected to be cost-effective. Public servants are capable of efficient management, if given a chance and given the responsibility.
I make this point in the context of saying that a passport application should be dealt with promptly. In normal circumstances, a month should suffice for necessary checks and consultation with law enforcement or investigatory authorities. The law should require that a passport be issued in 30 days or advice sent to the applicant indicating the section of the Act under which the application is denied. The new section we propose reads: 7F. Within 30 days of receipt of a passport application, an authorised officer shall issue a passport or inform the applicant that his passport application has been denied or is still under consideration, specifying the section and sub-section of the Act under which the application is denied or is under consideration.
Such a requirement is consistent with the exercise of a governmental right to deny a human right. This provision should not be any embarrassment to a conscientious Minister or a conscientious official. It should not impose undue pressure upon them to issue a passport, but it would oblige them to indicate that an objection of a particular kind exists. That statement is an important basis for the amendments we propose which would establish a right of appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
The penalties proposed in this Bill are, to say the least, very severe. We propose that they should be cut back, with the exception of the proposed penalty for forgery. We recognise the importance of protecting the passport from improper or unauthorised use, and support the Government in that objective. Nonetheless, the penalties are most severe. Let me give some examples. Proposed section 8a which deals with the failure to report the loss or theft of a passport provides for imprisonment for one year. Proposed section 9A (g) provides for imprisonment for a period not exceeding 2 years for a person who wilfully defaces an Australian passport. Proposed section 10 which deals with the making of a false or misleading statement- and the Bill makes no concession to the principle of mens rea- provides for imprisonment for 2 years. These are excessive penalties.
The Minister stated as a principle that the passports authority should not be used as an extension of the judicial system, in another context. The same kind of principle can be put forward to oppose these large penalties. The big penalties can only be considered appropriate if it is judged that the offender is using a passport as an aid to commit a crime of at least a larger nature. But, in that case, the prosecution should be based on the larger crime. If it is argued that these are maximum penalties, where the maximum would apply only in serious cases, what argument is a court to accept as to seriousness? Is it to accept evidence and argument of a larger, but perhaps unproven or unprovable offence? I shall move in the Committee stage amendments to reduce these penalties by a factor of four.
We see benefits in this Bill but it requires amendment to improve its scope, to make the Passports Office accountable, to provide for a right of appeal and to provide for reasonable penalties. We ask the Minister to review and amend what he has said about white collar crime. Accordingly, in the interests of the Australians born in other countries to which I referred earlier, I now move:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: whilst not opposing the Bill, this House is of the opinion that the place of birth shall only be disclosed on a passport if the holder or applicant so elects’.
-Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment, and reserve my right to speak.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen) in supporting his amendments referred to two substantial areas of the Passports Amendment Bill, firstly, the requirement, which he indicated was offensive to some people, for the place of birth to be shown and, secondly, the extent of penalties. I shall deal firstly with his reference to a person’s place of birth. On behalf of the Government, I offer the reasons which serve to sustain the reason for presenting the Bill this way. Inquiries overseas regarding the possible substitution of the words place of residence ‘ for the words ‘place of birth ‘ in Australian passports indicate that some 14 countries- namely, France, Germany, Vietnam, Turkey, Italy, Egypt, Nigeria, Ethopia, Trinidad, Tobago, Korea, South Africa, Guyana and Yugoslavia- would find such a substitute unacceptable. A further 10 countries said that the place of birth would continue to remain a requirement for entry and departure documentation.
We could not reasonably remove the requirement for the place of birth to be shown in Australian passports without acknowledging the right of other countries to take similar action. This would entail forgoing any requirement for documentary evidence of the place of birth in respect of temporary and permanent entrance to this country. Switzerland has abolished the place of birth requirement on Swiss passports retaining only the place of origin. The latter is the place where the family register is left. It need not bear any relationship to the bearer’s place of residence. Foreigners who become Swiss citizens can take citizenship in the regional area of their choice which then commences and retains their family register. This area becomes their ‘place of birth ‘. The place of birth of a naturalised Swiss citizen cannot, therefore, be deduced from that person’s passport. However, as Australia has no equivalent registers it would not be possible to introduce a similar endorsement in our passports. The omission of the place of birth would clearly inconvenience the large majority of travellers.
It is obvious that the Government has given due consideration to the point raised by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. On balancing the pros and cons, it has come to the decision that, because of requirements in other countries, it would be to the disadvantage of Australian travellers to agree to the amendment suggested by the previous speaker. I have sufficient respect not to state in this place that I believe that the amendment is politically motivated to pander to the whims, hopes and wishes of people born in other parts of the world. We recognise in fact that people born in some parts of the world would be disadvantaged by having to state their place of birth. But the facts remain that far more people will be disadvantaged by the change suggested by the previous speaker than in allowing things to remain as they are. Secondly, the previous speaker alluded to the penalties provided in this Bill. He is a solicitor who has come to this place with a very high reputation.
– And a very good one too.
-As the honourable member for Hawker interjects, he is very good. I almost feel that the honourable member for Hawker would like to see the Deputy Leader of the Opposition as Leader of his party instead of the present Leader. He is smiling and nodding his head in agreement.
-The honourable member for Fadden will address himself to the Bill.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, the honourable member for Hawker seems to be signalling to the Parliament and to the nation that there is unrest in the Austraiian Labor Party.
-Order! I repeat that the honourable member for Fadden will address himself to the Bill, otherwise he will resume his seat.
– No wonder Robinson tried to knock him off.
-Order! The honourable member for Prospect will remain silent.
– I was referring to the point made by the previous speaker about the extent of penalties which exist in this Bill. I shall read for him the phraseology contained in the Bill. In part, proposed new Section 9a states: . . is guilty of an offence and is punishable, on conviction, by imprisonment for a period not exceeding 2 years.
In part, proposed new Section 9b states: . . is guilty of an offence and is punishable, on conviction, by imprisonment for a period not exceeding 5 years.
I suggest to the previous speaker that no minimum penalty is demanded. Furthermore, he has been sufficiently well trained in law to recognise that the Act will place an option before the bench. The bench by virtue of the Act will have in its power the opportunity to exercise its own judgment on the extent of the term of imprisonment or fine which should be imposed.
I now turn to another area which is not related to the points raised by the previous speaker. To me, it is an area of some significance. Mr Deputy Speaker, as a Queenslander, you will no doubt feel some sympathy with what I am about to say. What I am about to say will by no means be said with a feeling of hostility or antagonism. Rather it will be what might broadly be described as an overview. Often events happen in a way which makes us change our minds. The world we live in today is very different from that of the 1920s when the matter about which I wish to refer was first introduced. In the 1920s, if one wanted to travel to Australia from New Zealand, or from New Zealand to Australia, unless one were a relation of one of those great aviators of the past, one had to travel by ship. Of course some might have dreamt of swimming the Tasman. But most people had to rely on ships, and it was a slow trip. These days, as we speed through the last quarter of the twentieth century, there have been vast changes. If I were in Sydney and I had to be in New Zealand within two to three hours, then I could fly there and arrive before midnight, Australian time. Such has the world changed.
Unfortunately, every good system, every worthwhile system, is subject to exploitation. I know that the word ANZAC means the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. In the fields of Gallipoli during the First World War and in other places during the Second World War, Australians and New Zealanders fought together. There will never be an end to the close ties which exist between our two countries. I say that in full recognition of the fact that both Australia and New Zealand were originally settled in terms of a European content by a common mother country. I repeat that what I am about to say is in no way meant to be derogatory of the people of New Zealand.
In the last few years we have seen an increasing incidence of abuse of the non-visa, non-passport arrangement which exists between Australia and New Zealand. Indeed in an article in the Brisbane Sunday Mail in April 1977, a journalist by the name of John Bragg recorded the fact that a self-confessed Kiwi who had come to Australia early in New Zealand’s winter to escape that winter and to live on the Gold Coast, where he knew that a job would be difficult to obtain, had said: ‘It’s the perfect set-up when your personal needs are not too great’. That young man arrived in this country to escape the winter in New Zealand and to live on the dole on Queensland’s Gold Coast. A lot of people might say: ‘Well, who would want to live on the dole?’ But undoubtedly there are some who feel that, to paraphrase that person’s words, ‘as long as your needs are not too great you can exist on the dole ‘.
As a result of that article I made representations to the then Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, Mr Street, and to the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) drawing their attention to the article. I followed the matter through to the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar). At that time I was told by one of the Ministers that in view of my representations there would be a review of current procedures. On 7 November 1977, the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs replied to me:
The Government is very mindful that arrangements do help certain unscrupulous persons to establish illegally an eligibility for unemployment and other benefits. You will wish to know that officers of my Department together with officers of the Departments of Social Security and Employment and Industrial Relations will shortly examine all the procedures involved with a view to closing any loopholes.
Further correspondence ensued. On 28 March 1978, the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs told me in a letter -
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I take a point of order. We are supposed to be discussing Australian passports. The honourable member for Fadden is talking about New Zealand and possible illegal immigrants from there. Could he possibly tell us how he establishes the relationship between the two?
-The honourable member for Fadden is having some difficulty in convincing the Chair that his remarks are relevant to the Bill, but I am prepared to give him some latitude. But the honourable member for Fadden should accept the fact that that latitude is virtually exhausted.
-With all due respect to your position, sir, I can assure you that my comments are very much in line with the Bill before the House in so much as passports and visas do not have to be issued to Australians travelling to New Zealand or to New Zealanders travelling to Australia. I see my friend, the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) nodding his head, in agreement. Perhaps he should be on the Opposition front bench instead of the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman).
The Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs told me on 28 March 1978 that special arrangements had existed since 1920. He went on to say:
While the existing arrangement does offer some people opportunities for malpractice there is insufficient evidence to suggest wholesale abuse of it.
He also told me that he had had discussions with his counterpart in New Zealand in 1976 and went on to say that ‘certain initiatives are being developed’. He further advised me that at a later stage there had been discussions between his counterpart in New Zealand and himself to see whether some changes were warranted. I report to the Parliament my concern that such an interchange is allowed between our two countries. I draw your attention to the fact, Mr Deputy Speaker, that if you wanted to go to the United States you would need a passport. There are even requirements if one wishes to travel from Canada to the United States, from Mexico to the United States, from the United States to Canada and from the United States to Mexico.
– That is not true.
-With great respect to the honourable member for Prospect, I say that there are these requirements. Maybe the honourable member for Prospect is seen as a latter day Henry Kissinger and can go through the door to any country without being challenged, but for the ordinary people there is this requirement. The alarming fact is that New Zealanders are now regarded- this is a statistical assessment- as Queensland’s busiest foreign criminals. This fact was reported in an article in the Brisbane Courier-Mail only last December. The article stated that the crime that was being committed in Queensland by New Zealanders had become so prolific that there was to be an interchange of Queensland and New Zealand police officers so that each force might have members in the other’s country. For instance, a Queensland policeman would go to New Zealand to become familiar with the New Zealand criminal and the New Zealand policeman would come to Australia in an effort to help the Queensland police more easily recognise some of the New Zealand criminals. At one stage, some 7 per cent of all drug offenders caught and prosecuted in Queensland were New Zealanders. It has been further stated that New Zealanders were also involved in more serious crimes in Queensland, including murder and armed robbery.
I do not for a moment condemn anything but a tiny percentage of people from New Zealand because I believe that Australians and New Zealanders are very much akin. We are very much from the same stock. We have similar outlooks. The Assistant Commissioner of Police in Queensland, Mr Duffy, reported that one Kiwi flew back and forth to Queensland 62 times. On each occasion he committed an offence. The honourable member for Bowman (Mr Jull) shakes his head and looks aghast. I can understand that. These are the facts. The Assistant Commissioner said:
I am concerned at the growing number of crimes being committed in Queensland by New Zealanders.
If the free passage between Australia and New Zealand is being abused it is time that the Government looked at the situation more seriously. It is not enough for the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs and his counterpart in New Zealand to set up departmental inquiries and then make the assessment that because approximately 400,000 people travel between the two countries we should ignore the problem. I repeat that there are many fine New Zealanders, but New Zealand must be getting its share of second rate Australian criminals who cannot make it in Australia and who go to New Zealand where they know they will be unrecognised. New Zealand would be suffering as a result of this. I come from a State where the climate is beautiful. Admittedly the Queensland Premier was born in New Zealand. Queensland is prosperous and advancing. It attracts many of these people. The Australian Government cannot say that because it is so beneficial to Australia -
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– . . . not to have rules such as that, we should shut our eyes to the situation altogether.
-Order! The honourable member for Fadden will not persist in talking after he has been called to order.
-After listening to the honourable member for Fadden (Mr Donald Cameron) I can say that the Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson) cannot be all that bad if he decided to get rid of the honourable member from this Parliament.
– Are you saying that Mr Robinson interfered in the redistribution?
-Order! The honourable member for Prospect will address himself to the Bill.
-I am not going to deny that. I do not know whether the Minister for Finance was born in New Zealand. If he was it might explain some of the hang ups of the honourable member for Fadden. I want to deal particularly with the section of the second reading speech of the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) concerning the rejection of the recommendation of the report produced by the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence. It stated that the birthplace of citizens need not necessarily appear on Australian passports. The honourable member for Fadden- who does not seem to have many so-called new Australians or naturalised Australians in his electorate- said that ‘we should not pander to the whims and wishes of those born overseas’. I quote him exactly. I think that is a depressing attitude. If those whims and wishes are justified for some of those people they would lead to severe disadvantages when those people go overseas. I strongly support the proposition that it ought to be possible to have an Australian passport which does not show the place of birth. It may show the place of domicile, place of residence or anything like that but there is no point in having the place of birth disclosed. The Minister, in his justification, said that it is a question of identification. That is just ridiculous. If a passport is issued to one Cameron and it shows the birthplace as Brisbane surely that does not identify that person. Probably thousands of Camerons have been born in Brisbane. To make sure that a particular passport belongs to a particular person fingerprints would have to be included on the passport. I am not necessarily saying that this is a good or a bad thing but I noticed that it was advocated today by a person, I think, in the Department of Foreign Affairs Passport Office. I was Chairman of the Sub-committee of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence which dealt with dual nationalities. Most of the persons whom objected to dual nationality and who recommended the deletion of the birthplace were, broadly speaking, from behind the Iron Curtain. I will read into Hansard part of a submission from the Joint Baltic Committee of Canberra. It states:
So much for what the honourable member for Fadden, speaking for the Government, said, that the Government was not wishing to pander to the whims and wishes of those born overseas. It is happy to appeal to them to get their votes at election time, to put on a fake anti-communist or anti-Russian attitude and talk big about helping them to reconquer the Baltic states. But those people who live in Australia and who want to be Australian citizens are not protected by this Government and no attempt has been made to do so. The Government goes out of its way to continue to insert the place or origin of these persons on passports, therefore clearly distinguishing between the passports of those who were born in Australia and naturalised Australians. I quote the final paragraph of the recommendation from the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence. The Committee consisted of members from both sides of the House, but the majority were members from the Government side of the House. The report states:
There is a strong argument that in any official document the Australian Government should not appear to make distinctions between naturalised and natural-born citizens. In view of this the practice of showing the place of birth of the holder on an Australian passport might be discontinued and in its stead ‘place of residence’ inserted. The adoption of this suggestion might tend to avoid some difficulties encountered by dual nationals when visiting the country of their other nationality. The Committee suggests further study of this possible change in the form of passports.
The Minister was cavalier in his response to that issue. He talked about identification and possible problems arising. This question is important in this country. A very large number of Australian citizens were born overseas and they demand exactly the same protection from this country and this Government as those who are Australian born. Honourable members make long speeches at naturalisation ceremonies about the benefits of becoming naturalised. However, we go to no trouble to protect these people when they visit overseas.
– Protect them from whom?
– From their countries of on. tin. If they go back to Yugoslavia or back to the Soviet Union they are treated as nationals of those countries. The governments in those countries know that they originally came from there because their place of birth is shown on their Australian passport. There is no necessity for showing the place of birth. That is the most important criticism I have to make of the proposed amending legislation. It is difficult to bring in amending legislation regarding passports because it is done only once in every 10 years. The Government had this opportunity to make the necessary amendment. Some countries do not accept a passport without the place of birth specified but this can be pointed out to a person when he applies for a passport. The present application for a passport asks the place of birth of applicants who were born overseas, but it is optional whether a person names the country. The place of birth is usually a distinguishing characteristic in determining the country of origin. I would suggest that both the place of birth and the country of origin could be left as optional questions, but obviously it should be pointed out to those persons who are applying for a passport that failure to answer these questions may lead to certain disadvantages. When they wanted to visit or go through particular countries their passport might not be accepted.
I refer next to visas. Every country has the right to ask for certain information to be given by persons applying for visas. I think it is important that the Government at least try to do something about it. I refer to clause 10 of the amending legislation in respect of which we criticised the penalty. Clause 10 reads:
After section 8 of the Principal Act the following section is inserted: 8 a. If an Australian passport is lost or is stolen, the person to whom the passport was issued shall, as soon as practicable after he becomes aware of the loss or theft-
If the passport is lost or stolen within Australiareport the loss or theft to a Commonwealth Police Officer . . .;or
if the passport is lost or stolen outside Australia . . . to an officer of, or a person employed at, an Australian diplomatic or consular mission.
Penalty: Imprisonment for 1 year.
I think that is an excessive penalty. It does not really benefit the Government and does not really benefit those in the community who want to misuse passports. The proposition is that people will misuse their passports, will lend them to somebody else who, for example might look similar to them, and that the way to detect them and to punish them is by giving them a one year penalty. Let us just assume that somebody looked similar to me. The only person that I can think of with whom I could be confused- and it has been to my sorrow- is Sir John Kerr, the former Governor-General. Assuming Sir John Kerr had to leave this country and was unable to obtain a passport because of some offence that he may or may not have committed in this country and he asked me for my passport, which I gave him, what I would do if I was really conspiring with him is, within a day of him leaving the country, report that my passport had been lost or stolen. I would, therefore, not be punishable under the particular propositions outlined in clause 10 of this Bill. It is ridiculous that we are trying to punish people with a penalty- not a money penalty but an imprisonment penalty of up to one year only. In fact the Bill states: ‘Imprisonment for 1 year’. It does not say: ‘Up to one year’.
– Not exceeding one year.
-No, it does not say that. It says: ‘Imprisonment for 1 year’. It does not say Not exceeding’ as the honourable member for Phillip suggested. It provides for imprisonment for one year for somebody who does not report the loss of a passport. If we were not using a passport most of us would not be aware that our passport had been lost or stolen until such time as we wanted to use it again. That might be one to three years after it had been lost or stolen. I think there is a reasonable case to be made out for not having such a big penalty for that particular offence or alleged offence.
One final point that I would like to raise as it has been brought to my attention- I think it refers basically to clause 7 of the amending legislation- is where the Minister apparently is given new powers as far as the issue of passports is concerned. I do not quite see that he did not have those powers before, but it has been reported to me- I hope that the Minister will be able to deny that in his reply- that while another Minister was acting as Minister for Foreign Affairs recently, during the period of this Government, he issued a diplomatic passport to Mr Harry M. Miller and that the Department is now trying to get that particular diplomatic passport back from Mr Harry M. Miller, who is in significant strife, as is known. I am not sure that this is true but it has been reported to me by very reliable sources close to this Government. I do hope that the Minister will be able to deny this in his reply. I have tried to cross-examine the person concerned because I thought it might have been an official passport which was issued to him in his capacity as representative of the Government overseas, or whatever he was doing when he was going to Paris, but I was assured that it was a diplomatic passport as distinct from an ordinary, official passport. I think it is wrong if that was done by a friend of his in the Government and I do hope that the Government will clear up that particular allegation one way or the other by responding to it later tonight.
-The Bill that we are debating this evening, the Passports Amendment Bill, proposes a number of significant additions and amendments to the Passports Act 1938-1973. It seeks to update and modernise existing legislation and practice by clearly embodying in the Act the reasons for which a passport may properly be denied and by increasing the range of offences and penalties. Since the responsibility for the administration of the Passports Act was transferred to the Department of Foreign Affairs in March 1975 there has been a continuing review of the Passports Act and procedures. Legislation governing the issue of Australian passports has remained substantially unchanged since 1938. The significance of this legislation to the public is considerable. An average of something over 1,000 passports is issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs every working day of the year. Present legislation gives a general discretionary power to issue or refuse passports, but provides no guidelines. In keeping with the Government’s commitment to civil rights and administrative justice, this Bill seeks to provide a proper legislative basis for passport policy and a clear legislative framework for the exercise of Ministerial discretion, which must continue to be an essential element in the administration of this difficult area. The right to travel, to leave and return to one’s own country, is recognised as a basic human right. The withholding of a passport is likely to bring allegations that a basic human right has been denied. Hence, for a number of reasons, it is necessary that the legislation spell out as clearly as possible the reasons for which a citizen may be refused a passport.
A major interest which I have in this legislation is in relation to the problem of children being abducted and removed from Australia by one parent without the consent of the other. This problem particularly relates to situations of marital breakdown, both separation and divorce. A number of cases have been brought to my attention and I have become deeply involved in representations with regard to several of these cases. In this way I became aware of the inadequate provisions of the present legislation to cope with these situations. I should indicate also, that the honourable member for Hawker (Mr Jacobi) has done a considerable amount of work in this regard. I would like to commend the work that he has done on behalf of people who find themselves in this particular situation. I also mention the very dedicated work of Adelaide journalist, Dick Wordley, on behalf of a number of people who had found themselves in the tragic situation of having had their children abducted by the other parent. Dick Wordley has spent much of his own time and money in assisting these people to locate and retrieve their children from overseas.
Such was the public interest in this issue some two years ago that Adelaide television station channel SAS-10 produced a special program in which I, along with the honourable member for Hawker, Dick Wordley and the Commissioner for Community Relations, Mr Grassby, formed a panel to discuss the cases of several parents who also appeared on the program.
The extent of this public interest I believe highlights the seriousness of the situation. In order to further highlight that I wish to refer to one such case. However, for reasons of privacy I will not give the names of the particular people involved. This case began back in February 1 975 when the husband and father of the two children disappeared from the marital home and this effectively began the couple’s separation. The husband had previously established a liaison with another woman. The mother and wife finally traced her husband and the children to New Zealand. At that stage she borrowed a substantial amount of money to conduct a search for the children in New Zealand which involved travel expenses, legal fees and fees for private investigators. Finally, after several months searching, she found her children in New Zealand. Following that, she instituted custody proceedings in New Zealand; meanwhile, her husband took off with the children and returned to Australia. He left a postal address for his wife and, by contacting him at that address, she arranged to meet him and the children in Melbourne. The day after the first meeting in Melbourne she returned ostensibly to take the children out for the day in Melbourne but instead returned with them by plane to Adelaide. Subsequently, at the end of 1975, the mother instituted custody proceedings in the Supreme Court. In the middle of 1976, this case was transferred to the Family Court. The first hearing of the case was towards the end of October 1976. The court finally gave a custody decision in favour of the mother in the middle of 1977.
However, following that custody case, the mother agreed to allow her former husband access to the children for one particular weekend. Following that weekend, the children were not returned to her. A warrant was issued by the Family Court in Adelaide for the return of the children. The warrant did not instruct the Commonwealth Police to undertake an extensive search for the children but only allowed them to return the children once their mother had found them. Subsequently, the Family Court issued a warrant authorising the Commonwealth Police to search motor vehicle registration records. It was during this part of the case that I became involved to assist the mother in her endeavours. I should say that at that time I received the utmost co-operation from officers of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department. Finally, the Commonwealth police were instructed to take all possible initiatives to find the children.
At this time it was discovered that the children had left with their father- he having abducted them- on an international flight. So the search began once again. It has continued since that time in various overseas countries. Following my representations with regard to this case, I am glad to say that the Federal Government has recently agreed to make an ex gratia payment in the form of legal aid to the mother to assist in the return of the children to her as legal custodian. However, before that can occur the children have to be located and brought before a court.
The resume of that particular example indicates the sorts of problems that are faced by parents in a separated situation who do have the legal custody of their children when that child or those children are abducted by the other parent and removed from the country. As a result of that particular case and other cases, the honourable member for Hawker and I have pursued the need for changes in policy to minimise the opportunity for such abductions.
On 22 February 1978, the honourable member for Hawker asked a question of the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) whether an interdepartmental committee had been appointed to examine and to report on the issue of passports with particular reference to child abduction. The Minister answered that question on 8 March, indicating that an interdepartmental committee had been appointed and had reviewed recommendations from the Department of Foreign Affairs concerning the issue of passports. In that review, it had considered the incidence of child abduction. On 2 1 February this year, I placed a question on notice seeking from the Minister an indication what were the recommendations made by that interdepartmental committee on the issue of passports referred to in his answer to the question posed by the member for Hawker, and what action had been taken to implement these recommendations.
Only yesterday the Minister provided an answer to that question which stated that the interdepartmental committee, to which I had referred in the question, considered but did not make specific recommendations on the departmental review of passport matters. The Minister stated that the results of the departmental review and the interdepartmental committee consideration of it have been taken into account in the Passports Amendments Bill which is currently being dealt with in the House.
In taking account of that particular problem of abduction, the Bill continues the present practice of requiring the consent of a spouse or former spouse for the issue of a passport. This practice has attracted increasing criticism from some applicants for passports. Perhaps it has caused inconvenience and even distress on some occasions. However, I believe that it is necessary to retain that requirement for the practical means of protecting not only the financial rights of a spouse or former spouse but also to guard against this situation of child abduction and removal from the country.
The present procedure, which continues under the legislation, provides an opportunity for the other party to take legal action to prevent the applicant from leaving Australia, and thus possibly evading maintenance obligations, settlement of property matters, or of course the abduction of children. However, I understand that the need for the consent requirement will be significantly reduced when Australia becomes a signatory to the International Convention on Recovery Abroad of Maintenance and at that time the present practice will be discontinued. If and when that is discontinued, I hope it does not have a detrimental effect on the capacity of the legislation to hinder people who would seek to abduct children and to remove them from the country.
In particular, it is clause 8 of the amending Bill which inserts a series of new provisions into the Act. Some of these new provisions do relate to the problems of abduction. The insertions which in fact involve a new section 7 in the principal Act, list a number of categories of persons to whom passports shall be refused by authorised officers. Briefly, with certain exceptions, they include persons who are not married and who have not reached the age of 18 years, unless the consent of persons having custodial rights has been obtained.
That particular part of clause 8 is directed towards the problem of child abductions but it will not eliminate the problem of the removal of children from Australia since it can be by-passed by dual nationals who hold two passports, by the use of false documents, by making false statements, and by making application outside Australia for a passport. Nor does it overcome the problems of passports previously issued at a time of marital harmony. However, the clause does tighten passport procedures in this regard and provides additional protection to people who may fear the abduction of their children.
I understand it has been suggested that children should be issued with individual passports. After studying this proposal the Government has come to the view that this would not prevent the unauthorised removal of a child. Individual passports would also raise the possibility of the child taking the passport and leaving the country without the knowledge of either parent or being removed by another unauthorised person.
Increased costs would be incurred by large families. Further, there would be increased workloads in issuing separate passports for children. This work load could not be handled without an increase in staff. The proposed requirement for parental consent to the Issue of a passport to children who have not obtained the age of 18 years, which is embodied in the legislation, therefore provides the opportunity, so far as the legislation can practically go, to cope with this problem. Eighteen is the age at which, according to the Family Law Act of 1975, a child ceases to be under parental control. The present consent rule regarding passports applies up to 17 years; it was not based on particular legislation.
During the passport review by the interdepartmental committee, to which I referred earlier, it became clear that the problems of child abduction went beyond the simple matters of passport issues and a further interdepartmental committee has therefore been established to investigate all aspects of this specific problem, including the procedures which other departments and authorities could follow to prevent child abduction. I understand that that interdepartmental committee has now concluded its investigations and is reporting to Cabinet. After Cabinet has considered that report, an appropriate announcement will be made. I look forward very much to the announcement of Cabinet’s decision on the report of that interdepartmental committee. Certainly I believe that Cabinet legislative or administrative changes are necessary to reduce the incidence of children being removed from Australia by one parent without the knowledge or against the wishes of the other parent.
Despite the fact that clause 8, through the insertion of proposed new sections in section 7 increases the effectiveness of the legislation, I still have some concern about its total effectiveness in coping with this problem. One of the major problems with child abduction concerns children whose endorsement appears on one of the parent’s passports. I have discussed this matter with the Minister and, to overcome it, I seek his assurance tonight that all the provisions of the new sections in section 7 dealt with in clause 8 will apply to applications for endorsement on the passport of those entitled to custody of persons under 18 years of age as well as to applications for separate passports. I have been assured that this will be taken care of in the regulations, but I seek a further assurance from the Minister in his reply to the debate that that will occur.
I further seek the assurance of the Minister that the signature on the consent in writing required under new section 7A 2 (a) will be required to be witnessed by a justice of the peace, police officer or some other person of similar official status known to the person alleged to be giving consent. I believe that only in this way can maximum precautions be taken against forged written consents.
I have a further concern in relation to proposed new section 7A (2) (c) (i) and (ii) (A) and (B). I fear that there is a possibility that this proposed new section, which allows an officer of the Department to issue a passport without consent in writing, or in certain circumstances without a court order, may be exploited by those intending to remove abducted children from Australia. Therefore, once again I seek the Minister’s assurance that the authorised officer will, in each case in which a passport is applied for under this proposed new section, conduct the most stringent inquiry into the bona fides of the applicant before issuing such a passport. I understand that the first one or two amendments proposed by the Opposition direct attention to these problems. But given an assurance by the Minister that appropriate action will be taken in the regulations, and in the administration of the Act, I would not support those proposed amendments. However, I most strongly seek such an assurance.
The ultimate solution to the problem of child abduction for separated or divorced couples is to ensure that separations or divorces do not occur. Increased emphasis must be placed on the sanctity and value of the family unit as the basis of our society. The Government, through its policies, has a responsibility to ensure that maximum support is given to the family and thus minimise the likelihood of marital breakdown with its subsequent problems, of which child abduction is one manifestation.
I turn to one other aspect of the Bill before I conclude. As well as its obligation to provide travel facilities to its own citizens, the Government as a responsible member of the international community, has an obligation to those countries to which its citizens travel. Australian passports contain a message from the GovernorGeneral of Australia requesting other countries to provide free passage, protection and assistance to the bearer. This imposes on the Government a responsibility to ensure that, as far as possible, passports are not issued to persons who are likely to threaten the national security and public order of another country, or the rights and welfare of its citizens. Of particular concern are political extremists and terrorists, drug pedlars and persons inclined to violent acts as a result of mental illness.
I am glad that once again the Bill reflects this concern. In particular, I believe that Australian authorities have a responsibility to limit the potential activities of drug pedlars. Whilst it could be argued that the denial of travel facilities to extremists, terrorists and drug pedlars could be in violation of a basic human right, I believe that the risk to the rights of others that is posed by these persons is a more important consideration. Therefore, I am glad to see proposed new section 7e inserted. It provides a basis upon which a passport may be withheld from such persons.
Recently, on my way to India to represent the Australian Government at the Commonwealth Countries’ Conference on Government Policy on
Youth Affairs, I took the opportunity to spend several days in Thailand investigating the scurrilous trade in drugs. I intend to refer to that issue in more detail in the debate on the Customs Amendment Bill in this place shortly. However, in relation to the Passports Amendment Bill, suffice is to say that any action taken to stem this traffic has my wholehearted support. Therefore, I particularly welcome proposed new section 7E and commend the Minister for its inclusion.
With the qualifications that I have indicated in relation to this legislation, and having sought the Minister’s assurances upon them, I support the Bill, oppose the proposed amendments and urge its speedy passage.
-(Hon. Ian Robinson) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Whilst I support the Passports Amendment Bill and will press our amendments to it, the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) will acknowledge my persistent efforts to eliminate the high incidence of child abduction within and from Australia, and the need for urgent legislative and administrative changes to reduce it. I commend the honourable member for Kingston (Mr Chapman) and in particular my very good friend the Adelaide journalist, Dick Wordley, for their contribution. I note the Minister’s intimation in his second reading speech that the recommendations of the interdepartmental committee which he set up in response to my earlier request are currently before the Cabinet. Therefore, I will reserve my remarks on that important matter until the legislation comes before the House. However, I intend to speak at the Committee stages in reference to clause 8 in particular.
I deplore the Government’s decision, as set out in proposed new section 7b, and its effect upon corporate crime in this country, At present passports can be withheld or withdrawn by the Minister if State corporate affairs commissions or companies offices reported that an investigation was in progress. However, under this amendment, according to the Minister, this practice will be discontinued. In explanation, he said that in recognition of the Government’s policy in relation to human rights, and the view that the Passports Act should neither be an extension of the judicial system nor be expected to impose any more restraint on a person than a court would be prepared to impose, the Government decided to change the practice. As from the date of proclamation of the amending Bill, passports will be denied only where- among other reasons- a warrant exists for an applicant’s arrest or the applicant is the subject of an Australian court order or parole conditions restraining him from obtaining a passport or leaving Australia. I suggest that, beyond question, corporate crime is rife and that its insidious effects are being felt throughout Australia. Over the last half decade or more $ 1,000m has been siphoned from investors in one form or another.
Let me just cite a few cases involving individuals who have been associated with corporate crime. I refer firstly to a firm of solicitors, Murray and Moloney of Granville, Sydney. Mr Brian John Moloney has been associated with a deficiency of $175,000 in his trust account. He has not been seen since December 1977. He is believed to have gone overseas. In relation to M.G. Securities Australasia Ltd, Mr Morris Glickman is to face 20 fraud charges, covering an estimated $940,000. That is associated with an investment company and a home building company. He left for Israel in January 1978. Extradition proceedings were commenced in July 1978. In relation to All-Size Cartons Ltd, Mr James Thomas faces 44 charges of obtaining money through false pretences and forgery involving some $228,000. In September 1978 a London magistrate’s court ordered his extradition to Australia.
In relation to the Barton group of companies, Mr Malcolm Llewellyn-Dance was charged under a section of the New South Wales Companies Act with making false statements with intent to deceive. Extradition proceedings were commenced on 8 September 1976 to order his return from England. The amount involved was $1.5m. In relation to Employers Corporate Investments Pty Ltd, a director, Jack Rainsford James, has disappeared with funds amounting to three-quarters of a million dollars. The company collapsed in 1976, with deficiencies totalling $5m. It is presumed that he has gone overseas. The company was involved in the investment of superannuation funds.
Both Thomas and Alexander Barton faced initially 28 charges of fraud and conspiracy totalling $4.5m. The prosecution alleged that this amount was unlawfully sent out of the country to Switzerland, ostensibly to buy oil leases in New Zealand, but that no money had been sent in this way at all. The collapse of the Barton group of companies involved shareholders funds amounting to $25m. Extradition proceedings were commenced in Paraguay but the Bartons returned voluntarily in January 1977. The overall estimated cost of extradition proceedings was $lm. I raised the case of Barton four days before he left the country but I could not get any action on it. I can appreciate this Government’s lack of sensitivity in dealing with corporate criminals. One has to accept that fact; I accept it. Let us not have this arrant nonsense about protecting the little man. Surely honourable members opposite do not have the gall to claim that that is part of their political philosophy.
If one looks at that summary it would seem that the old practice of the Minister witholding or withdrawing the passport of a person suspected of corporate crime might not have been exercised to its fullest extent, I regret to say. This may have been due to poor communications between corporate officers and the Minister or to a multitude of reasons which it is impossible to ascertain. A comparison of the occasions on which the Minister has withheld or withdrawn passports of persons suspected of corporate crime in the last five years with the number of extradition proceedings commenced in that time show that five passports were withdrawn or withheld as opposed to 60 extradition proceedings. It should be pointed out that all these extradition proceedings do not relate specifically to persons associated with corporate crime. The exact number is not known although it may be presumed that they comprise a substantial proportion of that number. If one analyses the information available on extradition proceedings in the case involving Thomas and Alexander Barton, as I said earlier it indicates that the cost will be in the vicinity of $lm. On a simple cost benefit analysis, the nil costs associated with the Minister’s power to withdraw or withhold a passport of a suspected corporate criminal as opposed to the expensive costs of extradition and the loss of investors’ money associated with corporate criminals who flee, it would seem that as a result of the proposed new practice in this Bill the Government and the Australian people are paying and will continue to pay a substantial price in the cause of human rights and civil liberties. It never fails to amaze me why society persists in looking down on blue collar crime but not so on white collar crime.
Let me make one important observation. Directors of companies and lawyers who handle trust accounts are custodians of people’s assets, whether they are in the form of shares, premiums, life policies, debentures or trust funds. I concede that a director or indeed a lawyer has an entitlement to freedom of movement. No one questions that basic tenet; I do not. However, if a thorough and detailed investigation by competent officers, be they corporate, insurance or taxation, discloses that people’s- an individual’s, or indeed companies’ which lodge for insurance a deposit or claim- assets are in jeopardy, then I suggest that one right must be sacrificed for the other. Let me take the general insurance field of which I have at least some knowledge. I might say that it is not as simple as the Minister suggests. It is not a simple question of hiding behind the twin screens, if you like, one being used as an extension of the judicial system and the other the policy relating to human rights. In reaching a balance in justice, protection and equity, one needs a high degree of specialised knowledge of the complexities of this area, and I suggest that that speciality is not the exclusive preserve of the judiciary.
Let me take up some very telling arguments put in the debate on the Insurance Company Bill in the House of Lords in 1973. This highlights the difference between my Party and the Government. This is what the Minister in charge of that Bill dealing with general insurance had to say. He said:
What is so special about insurance business that it should need so much more surveillance than business of other kinds? . . . People and companies seek the protection of insurance against risks that could cripple them financially, possibly with serious repercussions upon their families and their employees . . . when the policy holder puts down his money he has to put his trust in the integrity and competence of the insurer; if this trust is misplaced his own prudence in insuring is to no avail . . . there are circumstances in which the Government must be in a position to react quickly and appropriately in order to protect the interests of policy holders, interests which may extend many years into the future. . . ‘the Government’ . . . has carefully considered the arguments which have been advanced in various quarters for hiving off this responsibility to . . . specialised independent agency or to the industry itself.
This is what the Minister in the House of Lords said:
I do not believe that either House of Parliament would willingly see Ministers divest themselves of accountability for the protection of the public in this area . . . Provided that adequate resources are made available . . . there is no reason to suppose that a Government Department is inherently less capable of effective supervision than some other form of organisation . . .
I want to emphasise what regrettably is little understood and that is the disastrous economic backlash on people, companies, employees and on the community when a company such as an insurance company, in particular, goes into liquidation or collapses. Despite all the best endeavours to strengthen the solvency provisions of the Insurance Act or to strengthen the surveillance procedures, powers are needed and must be held in reserve which fully protect the shareholder, the insured, whether an individual or a company, a taxpayer or, equally important, an employee.
There should be powers to ensure that his assets are redeemable, recoverable, protected and available, and are not appropriated, stripped or syphoned off for the exclusive benefit of company directors. They belong to the individual whether they be placed by an individual or a company. Those assets are inviolable. What right has any director to use those assets other than in the interests of the shareholder? He loses that right the moment he attempts to embark upon fraudulent misrepresentation or misappropriation. Let me deal with the collapse in Britain of Vehicle and General Insurance and its effect in Australia. That collapse involved an amount of $56.3m. It occurred because the inspecting officers in the responsible department did not carry out the inspection procedures which should have been done. That sort of thing cannot be tolerated. It cannot be left to the judiciary, I suggest. It requires action between departmental officers and the Minister. If I may turn to the collapse of VIP Insurances Ltd -
– It is fair criticism.
– Yes, it is fair criticism. I raised the question of the collapse of VIP Insurances. I put it to the Treasurer (Mr Howard) that following the collapse of VIP in which Mr Makler syphoned off $2m, he left 60,000 policy holders without coverage. I asked the Treasurer, to safeguard the interests of policy holders, shareholders and creditors in the future, whether he would take appropriate action to prevent directors or other officers of companies leaving Australia when such action is recommended as a result of inquiries by either corporate or insurance affairs commissioners. At that time I alleged that it was highly probable that the VIP company was involved in the transfer of reinsurance funds outside Australia and I asked the Treasurer whether he would take immediate steps through the Reserve Bank to block the loopholes. I do not think that was the case with VIP but it may well have been the case.
It is quite obvious to me that the Government or the responsible Minister is unaware of the detailed procedures set down in the Insurance Act of 1975. When we have reached the conclusions which the Government has, we ought to study it. Under the Act there is a provision whereby the Insurance Commissioner can, if he thinks that an authorised insurance company is unlikely to meet its commitments, serve notice on the company -
-(Hon. Ian Robinson) - Order! I wonder whether I can draw the attention of the honourable member to the Bill before the House.
-Yes. The Bill before the House is dealing with the question of withholding or the issuing of passports and the matter that is very important to me is the question of what we are going to do about corporate criminals. I am arguing for the status quo and suggesting that the amendment in the Bill ought not to be carried. I forgive you, Mr Deputy Speaker, if someone does not understand the Bill, but I rather assume that I do.
Under the Act, there is a provision whereby the Insurance Commissioner can, if he thinks that an authorised insurance company is unlikely to meet its commitments, serve notice on the company that it provide him with certain specified information within not less than 7 days. In addition, the Commissioner can direct that a specified asset or assets be not disposed of or removed from Australia. If, after receiving the required information, the Commissioner considers the company’s position to be unsatisfactory, he can ask it to show cause why an inspector should be appointed to investigate it. If the company fails to show cause, the Treasurer can appoint an inspector.
These procedures are designed to be utterly fair to a company, its officers and staff. However, in consequence of this fairness, a person who is connected with a company affected in the way I have outlined and who thinks that he has committed some criminal act would have adequate warning to remove himself beyond the reach of the law before a full investigation could be carried out and criminal charges laid. As things stand, the Minister for Foreign Affairs could be approached by the Treasurer and asked to exercise his discretion and to withdraw a suspected person’s passport at a fairly early stage of proceedings, say when the Commissioner asked for information or when the company was asked to show cause why an inspector should not be appointed. The Commissioner would not advise the Treasurer to seek implementation of the procedures except as a last resort. In this type of situation there may be very grave suspicions that a person has committed a criminal offence but, as often happens, there may not yet be sufficient evidence to convince a jury of the person’s guilt.
If the Act is changed as proposed by this legislation, a person who has acted illegally would have very adequate warning of any charges which might be brought against him and would be able to leave the country before sufficient evidence was gathered by an inspector to permit a prosecution to be mounted. That is the important aspect of the proposed change to the Act. As I see it, a judge would not withdraw a person’s passport unless a very thorough investigation had been carried out. In other words, there would need to be a prima facie case made out for a person to answer criminal charges and, in the type of situation that I have outlined, I doubt very much that there would be enough time to bring charges before the person could leave the country. That is what happened, I suggest, in relation to VIP. It has happened with a lot of insurance companies, regrettably, throughout the years. I think that the Government ought to understand that when we are dealing with an insurance company we are dealing with a set of circumstances different from those which apply to other companies. If a company collapses on the stock exchange its downstream effect is not so dramatic. But an inspector appointed under the Insurance Commissioner has to be very sure that an examination of a company is held in camera. Nothing will destroy an insurance company more quickly than an indication that it is on the way to liquidation or insolvency. There are involved in this area factors which are vastly different from those in the corporate area or taxation area.
The point I make is that even greater responsibility rests on the Government in cases where people put their trust in an insurance company to cover themselves for a contingency. If that insurance company goes into liquidation, more often then not in Australia, regrettably- there is no trust to underpin such a company- that person carries his own liability. There is no way out of that situation. His whole business and his whole life can be destroyed. What I am putting quite simply is that there are circumstances involved at which the Minister and the Government ought to look seriously. I am arguing sincerely that under no consideration should we allow the situation which is proposed in this Bill. After the Minister has received a report from the Treasurer, the withholding of a passport or the refusal to issue a passport should not be conditional on the requirement of a judicial warrant. It may not be expedient or it may not be right to commence court proceedings against an insurance company- that is, a director of an insurance company- for obvious reasons. What I am suggesting to the Government is that it ought to maintain the status quo, because I think in the prevailing circumstances it is more efficient and more effective.
– Since 1975 the administration of the Passports
Act has been in the hands of the Department of Foreign Affairs. It must be realised that this Bill, the Passports Amendment Bill, seeks to amend the Passports Act 1938. Australia’s passport policy is now to be provided with a proper legislative basis. The Passports Act gives a general discretionary power to issue and to refuse passports, but it provides no guidelines for doing so. This Bill provides a very necessary clarification and strengthening of the Government’s policy in relation to the issue of passports. The Bill also aims to control or to counter the movement of undesirable visitors to this country. I think that that is very necessary and that it is becoming more necessary all the time with the increasing number of people visiting this country and thus the possibility of would-be terrorists, drug pedlars, extremists, and so on coming into the country.
With regard to the conditions and the requirements to enter Australia I hope that the Government will look, if need be, at the situation of people from places such as Rhodesia and other areas who require passports. Those people would make ideal immigrants to Australia, despite the fact that we have seen in the newspapers comments to the effect that, because of the racist policies of such countries, such people would be undesirable. In actual fact they would be a tremendous asset to this country in that they forged their own area out of the bush, as it were, in the same way that many of us did in Australia. They have a very sound and sane approach to life. It so happens that policies which are guided by left wing extremists and supported by other people who do not really know the true situation are tending to operate against such prospective migrants. I only hope that when the time comes, if it does, Australia will review with common sense and sympathy any applications that come from that area.
I notice that the Labor Party amendments which are to be introduced by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen) in most cases appear to seek to break down the penalties for infringement of the Passports Act. I notice that it is proposed to move an amendment to clause 9. Consequential amendments follow all the way through the Bill. The proposed amendment reads:
Clause 9, page S, lines 3 and 4, omit’ “Imprisonment for 1 year” ‘.substitute’ “SS00 or imprisonment for 3 months” ‘.
This amendment is reflected in almost all the Labor Party amendments. I might say that it appears to me that it is just another example of the Australian Labor Party policy which is aimed at breaking down the authority, the traditions, the precedents and so on, on which British law and, therefore, our law has been based. I will be rejecting those amendments when the time comes to vote on them. This Bill, as I say, is aimed to some extent at strengthening the situation in relation to members of undesirable sects who may wish to get to Australia. These are apart from undesirable individual migrants to Australia who wish to carry their individual, overseas based hostilities into this country and carry on. So I would commend the Bill in that regard. I will not deal with the clause relating to child abduction as that was dealt with so adequately by my colleague the honourable member for Kingston (Mr Chapman). It was also dealt with very well by the honourable member for Hawker (Mr Jacobi).
The new provisions of the Bill seek to deter the activities of people who may prejudice the security and welfare of other countries. We have seen that sort of thing during the past 12 months. I will not mention the names of people who were concerned in that matter because it would just rake over the sorrow again. But I think clause 8 of the Bill which amends the Act to provide that these passports shall not be given to such people whom the Minister deems would do such and such a thing under certain circumstances is a very worthy introduction to the Bill. We do have young people and others who go overseas and get themselves entangled in situations which they do not understand. They get involved in certain sects which they do not understand. They either stay overseas and bring discredit on themselves and their families or they live in situations which are really deplorable and which very often end with their deaths. I commend that clause of the Bill.
With regard to the requirement for place of binh to be stated on passports, this matter has been mentioned by previous speakers so I will not spend much time on that either. I see that application has been made and pressure exerted to remove the term place of birth. I think that if this is not on the passport, an Australian overseas will have to fill it in on various entry and exit forms anyhow. So he does have to say where he was born and everyone would know about it in any case. Therefore the pressure to have that information excluded is really quite unnecessary. While I am on my feet I would like to mention a specific instance with regard to the Department of Foreign Affairs concerning passports. I commend the officials in both Canberra and the Philippines for actions they have taken recently concerning a family of children who were striving desperately to join their parents in Australia. Through circumstances which we could not quite fathom in this country, again and again representations and finance seemed to go astray. I think it was while the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) was Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs that the representations were successfully concluded. It is nice to be able to chalk up a plus when we are beating our heads against all the reams of red tape whether it involve immigration, passports or whatever. I will not mention the names of the people in the Philippines matter but I think the officers of the Department of Foreign Affairs know of whom I speak.
– I have listened with considerable interest to this debate. I congratulate the honourable member for Hawker (Mr Jacobi) in particular for the very nitty gritty or gutsy submissions that he made.
– He always makes a good speech.
– He always makes a good speech. He is not a fence sitter. He always says something of great importance in the interests and well being of the Australian people. I suppose that today the interests of the Australian community in the issuing of passports and in the improper use of passports is more vital than ever before because of the extent of corporate crime and the menace of serious drugs with which you, Mr Deputy Speaker, are well acquainted. This problem evolves our community and in particular, the young people. It has reached proportions unprecedented in Australia’s history. From day to day we find that young lives are being ruined through the menace of dangerous drugs. Linked with that is the improper use of passports, and this matter is now being debated in this Parliament.
As I see things with the considerable wordly experience which I have, the legislation is intended to tighten our immigration laws relating to passports. We of the Australian Labor Party or the Parliament generally approve of the legislation with slight alterations as indicated in the amendments submitted by the Opposition. For a long time in my adult life I have realised that irrespective of how tight the laws may be made in this regard, an intending law breaker who has unlimited wealth and who is prepared to spend it will subvert the law no matter how strict it is. The honourable member for Hawker named certain companies which had crashed and the people responsible who were able to flee the country. Virtually like an Amercian satellite encircling the earth these corporate criminals can move around the globe. There are certain names that come to my mind and one was mentioned by the honourable member for Hawker. The Barton family fled to Brazil and then to Paraguay. The Australian Government, using taxpayers’ money, paid almost a million dollars seeking their extradition and this was unsuccessful. This bears out what I said. The corporate criminal with money need not be afraid of how strict the law is. The Barton family then came back to Australia voluntarily. An amazing thing about the Bartons is that they did not have their passports cancelled to prevent them leaving the country and incurring such an expense to the Australian taxpayer. I think I asked in this House why they should be issued with passports. At that time I was criticised by one of New South Wales ‘ leading criminal lawyers in the person of Mr Gruzman.
– Yes, I hope he is not a friend of the honourable member for Phillip (Mr Birney). Mr Gruzman expressed in a court in Sydney that I, the member for Hunter, and the honourable member for the New South Wales electorate of Campbelltown, were two of the lowest people who ever entered Parliament. But within 12 months Mr Gruzman was arraigned in the criminal court in Sydney on 15 criminal charges. So far, no doubt through influence and money and his ability to get passports at the flick of his fingers, he has been able to successfully get a separate trial on the conspiracy indictment. Anyone with a semblance of experience in the criminal court- as the honourable member for Phillip who has had considerable experience as one of Sydney’s leading criminal lawyers- knows that the best chance of ever being found not guilty on a conspiracy charge is to apply for a separate trial. He probably sought such trials himself in the interests of his clients. He has the reputation of being an honest criminal lawyer.
– He has the reputation of being a fairly honest criminal lawyer. Perhaps to satisfy the honourable member, I should say that he is as honest as the profession will permit. No person needs to be afraid of being found guilty in the criminal courts if he or she has unlimited wealth. Patty Hearst knows that. The Bartons probably are well on the way to getting lenient treatment. I will not touch on this aspect any more because I might breach the sub judice law.
-The honourable member may be offending against the Standing Orders too.
– Yes. I wish to emphasise one point. The honourable member for Phillip and I were overseas last year at the Commonwealth Conference in Jamaica. The honourable member, a barrister and a member of the New South Wales Bar, went into a bank in the United States to cash a travellers cheque. The American bank authorities insisted that he place his fingerprint on the back of the cheque after signing it. He readily consented because he was nearly broke and I was not in a position to lend money to him at the time.
I have two passports. One is an official government passport. My name is James, not Harry M. Miller. I am not able to get a diplomatic passport. We have been told in the House that Mr Miller obtained a diplomatic passport. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) has no doubt come into the chamber to deny or to confirm that story or to excuse himself for being a party- this was alleged earlier- to getting Harry M. Miller a diplomatic passport which ordinary members of this House are not entitled to get.
– You must be making this up.
– I am not making it up. The Minister has come into the chamber. He is very selfconscious about the allegation made tonight. He has been conferring for about 20 minutes with the departmental heads present in the chamber. He is very worried, but he smiles through it all like a boy in the cemetery at midnight. Let me refer again to passports. I have my fingerprint on my official passport.
– That does not look like a fingerprint.
– It is a clean finger. Apparently it might not be as manicured or the same length as the honourable member’s.
– What are we talking about?
– My fingerprint. I cannot see why all members of this House should not give leadership to minimising the corrupt use of passports by announcing to the Australian nation that they are prepared to have their own thumb prints on their passports. Although this will not eliminate the corrupt use of passports, I believe it will deter the would-be crook. I have my fingerprint on my passport in case I lose it.
– What about gold kangaroos?
– I beg your pardon?
– What about gold kangaroos? They’re pretty good.
-I think you should -
-I invite the honourable member for Hunter to ignore disorderly interjections.
– The honourable member for Bendigo should see a psychiatrist; he is well on the way. I believe in all sincerity that the misuse of passports would be minimised if honourable members give leadership and voluntarily had their fingerprints included on their passports. This would deter the misuse and improper use of them.
– Would they accept it in Malawi?
– Malawi, yes; but not Uganda. A statement was made in the Australian newspaper the other day expressing the concern of the Commonwealth Police.
– What is the exchange rate of gold kangaroos?
-Order! The House will come to order. I call the honourable member for Hunter and ask that he be allowed to proceed without interruption.
– The honourable member for Hunter is making a magnificent speech and this goat keeps interrupting.
-Order! The honourable member for Robertson will resume his seat. I have already called the House to order and asked that the honourable member for Hunter be allowed to proceed without interruption.
-This shows the lighthearted attitude that Liberals and supporters of the Liberal Party take towards the commission of corporate crime in Australia. When a serious debate is taking place in the House in connection with the soaring incidence of drugs and corporate crime, the honourable member for Bendigo tries to make humour out of members of the Opposition who are making serious speeches.
– I am not trying to make humour.
-Order! The House will come to order.
– I will say something very offensive to him in a minute.
-I ask the honourable member for Hunter to continue- I hope he may do so without interruption- and to speak to the Bill.
– The honourable member is not a lawyer but I think that he has been a bit too long at the bar tonight.
– I raise a point of order. I think that that remark should be withdrawn because I am sure the honourable member for Hunter does not really mean it.
-Does the honourable member find the remark offensive?
– Yes, I do. I also think that the honourable member should look at the new trips that are available for South America.
-The honourable member for Bendigo finds the reference offensive.
– He can give it but cannot take it.
-I ask the honourable member for Hunter to withdraw the remark.
– Out of respect to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, I withdraw it. I refer now to an article which appeared in the Australian today headed ‘Spies, guerillas “forging way into country” ‘ and which reads:
TERRORISTS and spies are freely entering and leaving Australia on false passports, a police forgery expert claimed yesterday.
Mr James Buglio, of the Commonwealth Police Document Examination Bureau, said the passports were expertly forged and undetectable.
He added that it was known CIA and KGB agents used false documents.
Mr Buglio, who spoke at a forensic science symposium in Adelaide, said later he examined about 300 suspected false passports a year, most of them being used by illegal migrants.
He said the introduction of a standardised passport that included fingerprints could help minimise forgeries, and said greater use should also be made of forgery experts and special detection equipment at passport checkpoints.
I believe that members of this House should heed those wise submissions by a responsible police officer of the Commonwealth Police Document Examination Bureau in the hope, and in the interests of the community as a whole, that corporate crime and the illicit drug trade that is ruining the lives of thousands of young Australians might be minimised. We find that it is easy for Harry M. Miller to get a diplomatic passport from a government to which he has political allegiance. I remember the difficulty experienced not so many years ago by Wilfred Burchett, a dedicated Australian. He could not have his passport replaced after it was stolen from him- the Central Intelligence Agency was suspected- while attending a conference in Bandung.
– He was never charged with anything.
– No. He is a very law abiding citizen. Wilfred Burchett appealed to the Government for another passport to be issued so that he could go home to Victoria to see his dying 80-year old father. The Government by cruel and sadistic action refused Wilfred Burchett a passport. He was able to get to Noumea. A charter plane which had flown over from Cairns brought him to Australia from there. It was alleged that he had committed all sorts of crimes against the Australian Government and Australian people. He came back voluntarily and appealed to the law enforcement authorities in Australia to arrest him if he had committed any crime.
Anyone who knows Wilfred Burchett knows that he is a forthright and honest journalist. Because of his forthrightness he could not get a job with the Austraiian media. He would not write what the editors wanted him to write. He insisted on writing the truth as he saw it. The submission I make was prompted by the article in the Australian to which I have referred. I think that all Australian citizens voluntarily submitting to having their thumb prints put on their passports, in the latter part of the twentieth century, would be an onward step towards minimising the illegal use of passports by criminals, would-be criminals and drug traffickers. I support the proposed amendments to be moved by the Labor Party and the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
– In the absence of my colleague, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, (Mr Peacock) who, unfortunately, is addressing the Seventh Australia- Japan Relations Symposium tonight and, as a result, is unable to be here, I shall reply. I apologise to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen) -
– Could you speak up? We cannot hear.
-I would be disappointed if the honourable member were unable to hear me because I know that he dwells on my every word. I am apologising for my colleague the Minister for Foreign Affairs who is addressing a function tonight and is therefore unable to be in the House. This legislation is a subject of tremendous moment to every Australian. Not only are air fares now at a level which enables many people to travel overseas but also there is a tremendous mobility amongst our population. The possession of a passport is regarded as a prime right for every individual. The legislation has been introduced because of some disabilities that existed in the previous legislation. My colleague, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, referred to the purpose of the legislation in his second reading speech.
Individual members have raised a number of matters. I shall canvass some of them. There are obviously details of concern in the proposed amendments that that Deputy Leader of the Opposition intends to present at the Committee stage. In the absence of the Minister I am loath to deal with them in any detail although I assure the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and other members that they will be given serious consideration. I shall make a few comments briefly about them. It is certainly true that if the Government believes that they would be beneficial in the administration of the legislation they will be considered and proceeded with in the other place.
The amendment to the second reading of the Bill has been considered. The general question of an option in the placing of the birth date on a passport has been canvassed fairly widely. It is not a matter appearing de novo tonight. The manner in which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has presented it makes it sound plausible enough to be adopted in the legislation. However, the advice that has been given to me is that departmental examination has indicated that the absence of a requirement to include a person’s birth date might well exclude a person from gaining access to a number of countries. Of course, it might be said that if the option were there and a list of countries were published, individuals receiving passports would be aware that they would not be able to visit countries such as France, the Federal Republic of Germany, Vietnam, Turkey, Italy, Egypt, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Trinidad, Tobago, Korea, South Africa, Guyana and Yugoslavia. I am told that at this stage all those countries have responded to approaches from the Government and have said that they would find the omission of the place of birth unacceptable. Obviously, a number of those countries are the places of origin of many Australian residents. It would be a disability if people were not able to visit those countries.
It is also true that as a result of some studies by the Department there is a feeling that a traveller might well arrive at a foreign airport only to find that his passport would not gain him admission to that country. This subject is not closed. The Department has advised me that it is further studying the requirement with respect to the birth date, but in the circumstances which I have outlined I am afraid that the Government would not be prepared to accept the amendment to be moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. It believes that were it to be adopted by this House it would be to the distinct disadvantage of many people seeking to travel to places where, at the moment, there is an obligation for the date of birth to be shown. Perhaps in Australia we are more sensitive of our years than people in other countries are.
A number of detailed matters have been raised. Let me canvass some of them. The honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) pointed to a passport in which he has apparently placed his thumb print. I am told that there has generally been an acceptance by law enforcement agencies that the finger-printing of passports would provide a very real security against persons being able to travel on passports other than their own. Again, I think it is necessary to point out that in this country it is accepted that finger-printing is required only on criminal records. There is a very real civil rights belief that to require finger-printing on passports might well transgress the general form of our community requirements in this area. However, the Department is conscious of the necessity to prevent the forgery of passports. It has some steps in mind, including the placing of plastic laminate over passport photos and signatures to prevent forgery. The suggestion of the honourable member for Hunter has merit. Its only difficulty is that it intrudes to far too great a degree on the rights of individuals.
I do not want to deal with the contributions of individual members but, because there are a number, I shall deal with them and come back to the suggested amendments which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition intends to move. I understand that the honourable member for Hawker (Mr Jacobi) referred to corporate criminals and the extent to which there is a necessity for some change in the present procedures. I draw his attention to the Minister’s second reading speech and to correspondence that has already been entered into between the Commonwealth Government and the State governments in an attempt to consult with State corporate affairs officers to determine what alternatives there are to the current arrangements. Obviously, the extreme instances to which the honourable member referred need to be avoided. Obviously, it is essential that changes be entered into responsibility to prevent persons escaping justice. I believe that the discussions which are currently underway should help to correct that position.
The honourable member for Kingston (Mr Chapman) made a number of references to an area which has been canvassed with me by the honourable member for Hawker on other occasions, that is, the question of the inclusion of children on the passports of their parents. This is a sensitive issue. I know that the honourable member for Hawker has been particularly concerned about it in the past. He has canvassed the matter with me when I have been acting on behalf of the Minister for Foreign Affairs. The proposal is that the inclusion of children on their parents’ passports should be covered by regulation. As honourable members would know, the passports regulations are, at the moment, the authority for making endorsements in passports. It is proposed that new regulations will make the inclusion of children subject to the same conditions as those in the Bill which restrict the issue of passports to children. The new application form will make provision for the consent in writing of the parents to be witnessed by a responsible person from one of the categories who can now give the certificate regarding the applicant in a passport application. In instances of family crisis, authorised officers are sometimes faced with emergency situations which require an immediate response. In this area, of course, they are required to make the most thorough inquiries before exercising discretion. I believe that the officers of the Department do an excellent job in extraordinarily difficult circumstances in this area and I am sure that they will take on board the remarks made by honourable members during this debate.
A range of amendments are being suggested by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen). I have mentioned the endorsement of passports to include children. The present belief is that this matter can be dealt with adequately by regulation. There has also been a suggestion that the ‘notice’ be replaced by notification by the Minister’. This is a drafting choice and I will draw it to the attention of the Minister. Perhaps he can consider whether it should be adopted in another place.
With regard to proposed amendment No.(4), I am told that there are no basic objections to this, but that there are practical difficulties. Again there are many reasons, apart from those specified in the Bill, for a delay in passport issue, many such delays being due to the actions of the applicant. Were we to impose a firm requirement that the passport had to be issued in 30 days, it is felt that there could be some difficulties quite beyond the reasonable control of the officers responsible for administering the legislation. The penalties indicated in the legislation are maximum penalties only. They are related to penalties in similar areas in the Crimes Act and the
Government would be opposed to changing specific penalties in this legislation without looking at their correlation with others.
With respect to appeals, I can see some advantage in introducing a system of appeals. This may be achieved through the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act or the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act. However, once again this is a question which I think needs to be examined by the Minister and I prefer not to give a final answer at this time. It certainly is an area in which the Government is not fundamentally opposed to the proposal being advanced by the Opposition and I can assure the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that I will request the Minister to consider the amendment and in another place give a response if he believes that there is reason for that proposal to be adopted.
Finally, a question has been raised as to the issue of a passport to Mr Harry Miller. I think I need only say that the inferences made during the debate are totally unjustified. The initial passport was issued after being queried by me on several occasions at the specific request of the then Minister for Administrative Services. It was issued on 22 April 1977 and, specifically, the stipulation was made by me following appeals by the Minister that a diplomatic passport was necessary to enable Mr Miller to undertake the particular responsibilities that he would be called on to pursue on behalf of the Government.
– You are blaming Withers for it.
– The stipulation on the passport which the honourable member for Prospect might be interested to know while he is out of his seat and interjecting, was that the passport was for the duration of the absence from Australia only. Subsequently, without my knowledge and entirely within the normal administrative procedures, it was re-issued on three subsequent occasions.
– He still has it. You give them to crooks but you will not give them to honourable members.
– Again, it was with the stipulation that the passport be used for the duration of his absence from Australia only. I heard the honourable member for Hunter interject a moment ago and make the suggestion that Mr Miller had two passports. The honourable gentleman might be interested to know that I also have a diplomatic passport that expired when I ceased to be a Minister. If the honourable member would like to have a look at an expired passport he will find that it has no validity. A passport that has been issued for a temporary period, for a limited duration of time -
– All passports are.
-Precisely, and once that period has elapsed, the passport is no longer valid.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)Order! The honourable member for Prospect has been told that he is not in his proper place.
– The suggestion that in some way a passport has been issued which has a duration without limitation is nonsense. The passport issued to Mr Miller was issued at the request of the responsible Minister to enable Mr Miller to undertake the business of the Government, which he did with distinction and to the benefit of the people of Australia. I understand that the passport is no longer valid because of the limitation that was imposed on it.
Let me say again that the passport issued to Mr Miller, as with passports issued to many others, was for a specific purpose, and was subsequently re-issued on three subsequent occasions, without my knowledge, but again with the same stipulation because again he was acting on behalf of the Government for particular purposes. His passport was issued in the same way, I might add, in which every diplomatic passport is issued. Diplomatic passports are issued only when the incumbent is pursuing some responsibility on behalf of the Government. In each instance they are issued for the duration of the absence from Australia only, in accordance with the stipulation that I placed on that original response to the request by the then Minister for Administrative Services.
I believe that the nature of this legislation will improve significantly the administration of the passport jurisdiction. I believe that there is a necessity for the changes that are provided in this legislation. I am afraid that the Government cannot accept the amendment proposed by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition with respect to the exclusion or the option of exclusion of the birth date. But we recommend that honourable members support the legislation as submitted to them.
Mr LIONEL BOWEN (KingsfordSmith) Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to correct a mistake.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
-You have the indulgence of the Chair.
-Honourable members will notice that the thrust of what the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) has been saying is that he cannot accept the Opposition’s amendment because it keeps talking about the birth date. Honourable members will recall that he thought there was an undue sensitivity as to age. I draw the attention of the Minister to the fact that the amendment has nothing to do with the date of birth; it talks only about the place of birth, which is a completely different proposition.
Mr SINCLAIR (New England-Minister for Primary Industry)- I apologise. With the indulgence of the Chair, might I say that the comment from the Department that I read out was specifically related to the amendment as moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen). I am afraid that the comments were my own and were due to a misreading of that advice.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– by leave- I move:
There is a vagary in this situation. The wording is having had regard to the conduct’ and ‘has formed the opinion’. Those matters are obviously subjective. It involves what is in the Minister’s mind. The citizen should have a right of appeal against the decisions of officers to whom the Minister has delegated authority. That reduces the situation to absurdity. One cannot understand how an officer would be able to indicate what was in the Minister’s mind. I will leave that matter for a later time. The point is that there should be an opportunity for an appeal review by an appeals tribunal against this sort of provision. In other words, I am putting strongly and forcibly- I again get back to the amendment proposed at the second reading stage- that there is an interference with a person ‘s rights if he cannot have on his passport what he reasonably wants to have on it. We do not want the Big Brother situation of requiring place of birth to be shown on a passport. That does not protect a person for the very reasons mentioned by the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman). That requirement could sentence a person to death or imprisonment. All that we have said is that a person should be able to elect whether to have that information on his passport. I think the principle of human rights should be accepted in this situation but not to protect white collar criminals. That is the main thrust of our other objection. The Government should not make the penalties excessive. Putting a person into a cell with two others and keeping him there without any toilet facilities for 12 months will not make him a better person. Far from it. It is important that we look at the reason why the crime was committed. An appeals tribunal is needed so that everybody will be satisfied, irrespective of who is the Minister, that justice will be performed.
– I support the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Bowen). Firstly, I will deal with clause 8 which deals with the question of passports for minors. I agree with the honourable member that the question is complicated. Much child abduction in Australia can be traced to the parents having dual nationalities and acting in defiance of custodial orders. I feel that this area could be dealt with expeditiously in the Family Court of Australia. Where there is an application for a custodial order the Family Court judges have the power to call for passports and impound them until such time as the court determines which parent will have the custody of the child. The issue on whose passport the child should be cited could then be determined by the court and notified to the Department of Foreign Affairs in the respective State. This question needs legislation both in relation to this Bill and the Family Law Act. I trust that the interdepartmental committee will consider it. I made a submission upon it.
In support of my colleague I return to the question of corporate crime and the judicial process of warrants. I ask the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar): If he is concerned about human rights and civil liberties- I confess that it is an area that has never bothered me- how many people have really suffered? How many passports have preceding Ministers withheld or refused to issue? Did they consider that this infringed human rights? Where has any company director subject to investigation by either a corporate affairs commission, an insurance office or the Taxation Office, had his civil rights infringed? I challenge the Minister to show where that has happened. I turn to the question of trust of the judiciary. We seem to have a propensity in this country to trust the judiciary in everything. There is an excellent book which I commend to honourable members, by Trevor Sykes called Money Mines. I will quote from it because it highlights this question.
Those to police the corporate area have also encountered obstacles in the interpretation of law in the courts. The most notable instance of this was the judgment handed down by the . . . Justice of the New South Wales Supreme Court, Mr Justice Taylor, in the case of the Crown versus McMahon, Nestel and others. . . directors of Mineral Securities were charged with having published a false statement when they announced a profit of more than $3.5m for the 1970-71 half year. It will be remembered that this profit statement was withdrawn following advice from . . . Q.C., because it contained a $7m profit on the Robe River transfer. … 10 days after announcing its profit, Minsec retracted the statement and announced a $3.3m loss. The Minsec directors were charged with breaches of Section 176 of the Crimes Act (publishing a false statement of profit) . . .
The important point to remember is this:
After a long trial, Mr Justice Taylor ordered the jury to find the directors not guilty. One of his main reasons was that the Crown had not established the true profit of the Minsec group for the period.
His Honour’s judgment could be reduced to the proposition that a charge of announcing a false profit cannot succeed unless the prosecution can establish what the true profit was. This may seem a reasonable proposition to a layman, but in practice it is impossible. The profit of a company is the end product of a number of assumptions made when preparing the balance sheet. A variation in any one of a number of items will produce a variation in the profit.
Depreciation rates can be varied, assets can be revalued, the estimate of likely bad debts can go up or down, or a host of other assumptions can be made . . .
Mr Justice Taylor’s judgment established a precedent which was soon followed by Mr Berman, S.M.
This is important: in a committal hearing in which Alexander and Thomas Barton were charged with publishing a false profit statement for Brins Australia Ltd in the half-year to December 1970. Mr Berman dismissed the charges on the same grounds as laid down by Mr Justice Taylor.
A more subtle enemy than the state of the law is the state of mind sometimes displayed by judges and magistrates. The bench has an occasional tendency to be more deferential to a company director or stockbroker who has landed in the dock, although the charges may relate to defalcations involving large sums. Mr Justice Gillard, sentencing Cornelius after the Barewa case . . . described Cornelius as an intelligent, ambitious and successful businessman who had brought financial ruin upon himself. Mr Justice Gillard said he had little sympathy for the victims of the conspiracy, who were speculators in the mining boom. ‘Most were advised by brokers, who must have seen the emptiness in the prospectus and the grave risk their clients were taking,’ . . . ‘The victims were seeking the same benefit as you and equally relying on the greed and stupidity of a speculating public’. In the business world Cornelius lived in, his conduct had been no different to that of many other people.
Mr Justice Gillard said he had been tempted to impose a non-custodial sentence upon Cornelius until he had learned that Cornelius and another man had plotted to steal about 400 exhibits . . . from the offices of the Crown Law Department.
Now this is not a typical assessment by the judge, but nonetheless it needs to be taken into account if we are to rely on the judiciary in complex matters such as corporate defalcation. It is another instance, I suggest, where, in these sorts of matters- corporate law, insurance law or taxation- I would have more faith in company inspectors and their reports to the Minister than I would in the judiciary. But I suppose that members of the judiciary act on the old dictum:
You are guilty until proven rich.’ I strongly suggest that the Minister again takes into consideration the argument that in this area the status quo should remain.
-A few minutes ago, the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair), representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock), came into the chamber and referred to the issuing of a diplomatic passport to Mr Harry M. Miller. He said that this was done on three or four occasions and that it was perfectly all right because of what Mr Miller was doing for the country. I quote two answers to questions on notice. The first was given on 4 May 1977 to a question on notice- No. 74- asked by the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) of the Minister for Foreign Affairs. It reads:
The answer given by the Minister for Foreign Affairs was:
On 1 1 May 1 978, an answer was provided by the Minister for Foreign Affairs to question on notice No. 975 asked by the honourable member for Hindmarsh. It is a long question but it basically deals with persons entitled to diplomatic passports. In his reply, the Minister for Foreign Affairs said:
The issue of diplomatic passports is not dependent on an officer’s public service classification. Diplomatic passports are issued to officers in accordance with the approved categories as prescribed by Cabinet which provide for the issue of diplomatic passports to members of an Australian Government Department or instrumentality -
I emphasise the next few words-
I would like to hear from the Minister what diplomatic rank Mr Harry M. Miller held in this Government, which diplomatic mission overseas he was assigned to and which country was given notice that he held such recognised diplomatic rank? I do not believe that he held any diplomatic rank and the reason why he received a diplomatic passport was that he was a treasurer of the National Country Party and an associate of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair), who has acted as Minister for Foreign Affairs. That is the only reason why he has received a diplomatic passport. It is scandalous for Australia that members of the National Country Party executive can get diplomatic passports and keep them, even though they are of extremely doubtful character.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Viner)- by leave- read a third time.
Disposal of Land- Chief Justice of New South Wales- Industrial Dispute: Australia Post- The Budget: Ex-servicemen and women
Motion (by Mr Viner) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
-When I took my seat in this Parliament, I undertook to represent all the people in my electorate without fear or favour. It has recently come to light, thanks partly to the endeavour of my colleague, the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr John Brown), that not all of the members of this Parliament have made the same commitment to serve all their electors, regardless of how they have voted or might vote in the future. I understand from a news report that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) received in his office two weeks ago six Government members. They were four back benchers, one Minister and one senator who was a former Minister. The discussion was based on the Government’s action in disposing of Defence Service Homes Corporation land in five electorates- electorates represented by the four back benchers and a Minister; the senator took only a passive role in the meeting.
The normal procedure adopted by the Department of Administrative Services in disposing of such land is to give first option to the State governments. The short of it is that the five members of this House who saw the Prime Minister were worried that if the Government followed that procedure, that State governments would acquire the land for purposes of building housing commission homes in their electorates. The ‘fearful five’ were worried because they knew that housing commission homes are usually occupied by Labor voters, and each of the five have marginal electorates. The background to the story is that on 8 November last year the then Minister for Administrative Services, Senator Chaney, and the Acting Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, the honourable member for Curtin (Mr Garland), released a statement that the Commonwealth Government would dispose of 950 hectares held by the Defence Service Homes Corporation by selling it at public auction; a departure from the usual procedure. I seek leave to incorporate this statement in Hansard.
Leave granted. 77ie statement read as follows-
Over 900 well located residential building blocks, mainly in the State capitals, are to be offered for sale by the Commonwealth for private home building.
The land together with about 950 hectares of undeveloped and partly developed land is surplus to the requirements of the Defence Service Homes Corporation.
The Minister for Administrative Services, Senator the Hon. F. M. Chaney, and the acting Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Mr R. V. Garland, announced the decision to sell the land today.
The developed building lots comprise 330 blocks in New South Wales, 88 in Victoria, 224 in Queensland, 190 in South Australia and 109 in Western Australia. These blocks would first be offered by tender to people eligible for a Defence Service Homes loan. A reserve price based on current market valuation would be applied and the sale would be based on written tenders.
Details of the land on offer would be advertised in the press shortly and would be available from offices of the Department of Administrative Services in each State.
People who are unsure of their eligibility to tender for building lots should enquire at the nearest office of the Defence Service Homes Corporation. These offices are located in all capital cities as well as in Newcastle, Wollongong, Ballarat and Townsville.
The undeveloped land on offer includes 238.8 hectares in New South Wales with the potential yield of 2,002 building lots; 294.1 hectares in Victoria with the potential yield of 2,423 lots; 196.3 hectares in Queensland with the potential yield of 2,001 lots; 87.8 hectares in South Australia with the potential yield of 733 lots and 95.4 hectares in Western Australia with the potential yield of 742 lots.
In addition, the Corporation has partly developed land on offer comprising 19.9 hectares in Victoria with the potential yield of 206 lots and 16.6 hectares in Western Australia with the potential yield of 125 lots.
The Ministers said that normally surplus Commonwealth land is offered to State and local government authorities prior to public offer. However, as the land had been acquired originally for private home building, the Government felt that it should be disposed of for this purpose.
– I thank the House. I know that at least two Premiers, the Premiers of New South Wales and Western Australia, contacted the Prime Minister to voice their opposition to such action, pointing out that the normal process should be observed. I understand that the Prime Minister replied with an apology, assuring the Premiers that the decision would be reviewed. The State governments are still waiting for a decision on that review. Like most members of this House, my office receives frequent requests for housing commission homes, even though it is a State responsibility. Thousands of people have waited for years on the Commission’s list. How must they feel to know that members of this Parliament are deliberately resisting and stalling the development of more commission homes? The members of the ‘fearful five’, according to the report, were the honourable for Mitchell (Mr Cadman), the honourable member for Dundas (Mr Ruddock), the honourable member for Moore (Mr Hyde), the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) and, interestingly, the honourable member for Stirling, who is the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs (Mr Viner). I am glad that Mr Viner is present this evening and can dispute that report if he wishes to do so. But seeing that none of the five members named in the report, including the Prime Minister, has since come into this House and claimed to be misrepresented, I can conclude only that it is a fair and accurate record.
My interest is mainly in Brisbane. I have discovered that the Defence Service Homes Corporation has land in five areas, namely, Bracken Ridge, Runcorn, Tiagum, Wishart, Thornlands and Rochedale. I know from my colleague in the Queensland Parliament, the member for Archerfield, that the Housing Commission has shown interest in at least two areas, Bracken Ridge and Tiagum, both of which are in the electorate of Lilley. The honourable member for Lilley is a former Housing Minister and must be keenly aware of the pressing need for housing in Brisbane. I implore him and his colleagues to reconsider their opposition to having housing commission homes built in their electorates, and call on the Prime Minister to adopt the usual procedure.
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I draw the attention of the House to a most intemperate and ill-considered outburst by the Chief Justice of New South Wales against one of the most respected members of this Parliament. I refer to the most honourable member for Macquarie (Mr Gillard), whose reputation for integrity, honesty and fair play is well known and appreciated by members on both sides of the House and by all of his constituents. This highly defamatory statement was issued publicly today and followed in the wake of a letter written by the honourable member by way only of a character reference for a Mr Vince Gordon of Bathurst who was appealing to the Supreme Court against his disbarment as a solicitor. It is a matter of profound regret that the Chief Justice appears to be so far removed, remote and uninformed as to what actually happens in similar circumstances in courts below that of the court of appeal.
Letters, from almost beyond the time of legal memory, have been written to presiding magistrates and judges pleading for leniency in a variety of cases and advancing matters within the peculiar knowledge of the writers and referable to the general good character of a person, with the sole intention that their representations be taken into consideration in mitigation of penalty- the singular expectation being that they be read out in open court and so form part of the official record of those proceedings and taken into consideration on the all important question of what is the appropriate penalty. It is enshrined in the law that courts are duty bound to take into consideration the previous good character of any person placed in jeopardy there can be no exception here. That was all that was intended by the honourable member for Macquarie and it is sad reflection on the Chief Justice himself that he could not see the wood for the trees and that he proceeded with all due dispatch and reckless haste to place a dark and sinister interpretation on the actions of the honourable member as instanced by his use of the words ‘grave impropriety’.
The Chief Justice complains that the letter was written to him personally. This complaint would no doubt be justified if the letter were marked personal and confidential’ which of course it was not. He himself has fallen into grievous error when he describes the member’s action as being taken to attempt to influence the course of justice by making a personal approach to him. He has not only placed on the letter the dark and sinister interpretation of which I speak but also has shrouded it with a cloak and dagger connotation that is utterly baseless. From what the Chief Justice has said, he has deluded himself into believing that the letter’s intended destination was firstly for his own eyes and thence into his back pocket. By the use of the grossly excessive and uncalled for verbiage to which I have referred the ordinary reasonable man in the street reading it could easily come to the conclusion that the Chief Justice was severely castigating the honourable member for an alleged attempt to pervert the course of justice which is inherent in the words he used. I quote from the telex:
Sir Laurence said the M.P., Mr Reg Gillard, Federal member for Macquarie had written to him personally presumably to ‘influence the outcome’ of a case concerning a Bathurst solicitor who was struck off the roll.
To attempt to pervert the course of justice is a crime well known to the law and one which ranks high on the criminal calendar.
– I raise this point of order because the remark made earlier by the honourable member for Phillip was to the effect that the action taken by the New South Wales Chief Justice was defamatory. It is a lawyer’s opinion that it is defamatory. If that is the case then there are two grounds. Firstly, it would suggest that the honourable member for Macquarie would have a right of action against the Chief Justice of New South Wales, in which case I would think that would suggest that the matter should not be raised in the House now. Secondly, and I am not a person who constantly takes recourse to points of order, I draw your attention to Standing Order 75 which states:
No Member may use offensive words against either House of the Parliament or any Member thereof, against any member of the Judiciary, or against any statute unless for the purpose of moving for its repeal.
I would have thought that, prima facie, to say a judge has acted in a way which is defamatory prejudices an issue which may best be determined in a court.
-I think the honourable member has made his point of order. The Chair is alert to the provisions of Standing Order 75 and what constitutes offensive expressions is open to judgment. In my judgment, the statements as made by the honourable member for Phillip do not constitute offensive terms. The honourable member’s time has expired.
-I wish to draw to the attention of the House a number of measures, contained in the Government’s notorious 1978-79 Budget, which have brought hardship to one of the most deserving groups in our society, returned servicemen and women. Having made that point, I presume that the honourable member for St George (Mr Neil) and the Minister for National Development (Mr Newman) will not interrupt me.
These men and women saw that their patriotic duty lay in serving their country in times of danger and gave generously of their energies and abilities so that this country could develop in freedom and prosperity. But what has been their reward? To see those benefits and privileges, which were deservedly given to them by a grateful nation, eroded and debased by a pennypinching Government. Since the last Budget was brought down, the catalogue of instances of injustice contained in it has accumulated. Let me now add to this list.
We are all aware of the hardships which have been inflicted on pensioners by the Government’s decision to index pensions yearly instead of half-yearly, and by its inflexible policy regarding fringe benefits. Those who are in receipt of war and service pensions are also affected by these policies, which have caused the income of pensioners to fall behind the cost of living. Moreover, whenever an increase in war pensions occurs, following consumer price index rises, some veterans lose part of their Service pension, and entitlement to fringe benefits, because of their increased pension income, thus being put in a worse position than they were in before.
The time for processing Defence Service Home scheme loans has been increased from 1 1 to 14 months, thus imposing an additional cost on the borrower of anything up to $4,000 and adding greatly to the cost of houses under the scheme. In addition, the size of such loans remains at $15,000. As honourable members will be well aware, this figure is a mere fraction of the total cost of most homes today and most applicants for these loans are forced to seek additional finance at, as we know, enormous cost on second mortgage. One wonders why, if this is all the money that the Government sees fit to allocate, it bothers to continue with the scheme at all. It is not hard to understand the growing suspicion amongst returned servicemen that a deliberate attempt is being made to sabotage the Defence Service Homes Scheme.
Yet another preserve of ex-servicemen to be attacked by the hatchet of the Treasurer (Mr Howard) last year, and one which involves more than just their physical well-being, was that of medical care. The imposition of stringent staff ceilings in repatriation hospitals has limited the services available to ex-servicemen. I say shame on the Government for that. Repatriation hospitals are a source of great pride and affection amongst ex-servicemen and women who, because of their unique origins, regard them as their own. These people feel that repatriation hospitals understand the special needs of war veterans and their families. They are now seeing this special relationship threatened. I refer particularly to conditions at the Repatriation General Hospital at Concord, Sydney. A comparison between it and a normal public hospital, with the same number of beds, has revealed that the Repatriation General Hospital is functioning with approximately two-thirds of the staff needed to maintain a parallel public hospital.
The effect of staff limitations at Concord is evidenced by the number of complaints which have been received by the state branch of the Returned Services League regarding matters such as delayed admissions, the closure of wards and the discharging of patients before they can receive the full benefit of the occupational and physiotherapy services which are available at the hospital. This situation is no reflection upon the attitudes of the staff of the hospital, who are dedicated and highly trained. It is a reflection upon the Government’s lack of concern for human welfare in its over-riding attempt to make cut-backs in expenditure.
In all these areas the Government has inflicted unnecessary hardship upon those who most deserve a fair go, and it should be condemned for its actions.
-Further to what I was saying earlier: From what the Chief Justice has said, he has deluded himself into believing that the letter’s intended destination was, first, for his own eyes and thence into his own back pocket. Reading the grossly excessive and uncalled for verbiage to which I have referred, the ordinary reasonable man in the street could easily come to the conclusion that the Chief Justice was severely castigating the honourable member for an alleged attempt to pervert the course of justice. That is inherent in the words he used. I quote from the telex:
Sir Laurence said the MP, Mr Reg Gillard, Federal member for Macquarie, had written to him personally, presumably to ‘influence the outcome’ of a case concerning a Bathurst solicitor who was struck off the roll.
To attempt to pervert the course of justice is a crime well known to the law, and indeed ranks high on the criminal calendar. As a consequence of these unfortunate utterances, the Chief Justice himself has more than likely committed contempt of the Federal Parliament- an institution to which, despite his exalted position, he is accountable and from which he has no immunity. It is my earnest wish that the Chief Justice should now appreciate that he has utterly and completely misdirected himself as to the totality and intention of the letter to which I have referred. He should apologise to the most honourable member for Macquarie and to the Parliament.
– I rise to congratulate Austrafia Post on its action today in applying the principle of no work no pay to those persons who are on strike. Many members of this House will have had their mail disrupted, and their efforts to assist constituents and carry out their parliamentary duties have been affected. As well, we know that the community suffers, often severely, from the actions of strikers, who seem to care nothing for their fellow community members. There are a number of things that I suggest Australia Post should do further. It must continue to assert the principle of no work no pay and, whenever possible, the Government and government instrumentalities should assert the same principle. We should make sure that the persons concerned, if and when they go back to work, do not receive back pay for the time during . which they were off work.
Secondly, to the extent that the Government or employers rely upon stand-down clauses, I repeat what I have said before in this House: Stand-down clause provisions should be amended, either by application to the relevant tribunal or, if possible, by amendments to the Act, to provide that the employer has the automatic right to stand down any person who is not gainfully employed. The unions should then have the opportunity to approach the appropriate tribunal for an order to allow a person to continue to be employed even though he is not working. At present what happens is that the members of many unions make a habit of striking or stopping work on a Friday. It takes the employer the best part of four or five days, perhaps until the following Tuesday, to approach the court for a stand-down order. After another two or three days have passed, the matter is eventually the subject of a compromise or settlement, but the employer has lost one week’s production in the meantime. It is a simple blackmail tactic in respect of which the unions involved have to be brought to heel, and the way to do it, as far as the provisions of awards are concerned, is to reverse the position as to stand-down clauses. However, the primary use of the no work no pay rule should proceed.
The third thing I suggest is that Australia Post should expedite its actions to decentralise the Redfern Mail Exchange. That has been announced as policy, and the sooner the exchange is broken up and decentralised the sooner the country will have a more efficient service and the fewer strikes we will have. I would be more than happy for a regional exchange to be established in the electorate of St George. I am quite certain that the responsible citizens of the St George area who might be expected to work in that exchange would have a far greater regard for their fellow man than have some of the persons who are on strike at present.
Next, the Government should think very seriously about going ahead and amending the Postal Act, if necessary, to remove from that Act the provision that makes it an offence for any person other than the postal authorities to deliver the mail. Let us put a dose of private enterprise into this system. Let us put a dose of freedom into our economic environment. Let us bring the unions to heel with a dose of competition. I am quite certain that if the prohibition against other persons delivering the mail were removed we would have a healthier situation. This monopoly simply enables a privileged group to hold the community to ranson.
I was in England seven or eight years ago when there was a mail strike of three or four months duration and by various ingenious means people got by and eventually the strike ended. In America the same thing once happened and by sensible means people produced systems and the strike was broken. Already we have couriers who operate, probably technically contrary to the law, but they provide a service that is necessary. I know that if the postal system went to private enterprise there would be complaints about what would happen in the country. There would be suggestions of excessive costs. But I am sure that a franchise system or various subsidies could be worked out. I am certain an appropriate scheme could be arranged. The problem that we are facing today is that the free enterprise system has become a paper tiger in some areas to be eaten by the sacred cows of big union bureaucracy and big union arrogant bosses. The sooner we get to a situation of allowing the private enterprise system to work properly and the sooner we have more competition in some of these areas then the sooner these strikes will be ended.
-Order! The honourable member’s dme has expired.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, tonight we have heard a most extraordinary attack by a member of this House and member of the New South Wales Bar, upon the Chief Justice of the -
-Order! The honourable member for Chifley will resume his seat. The remark that the honourable member has just made is immediately a reflection on the Chair. The Chair ruled that the words of the honourable member for Phillip were not offensive in terms of the Standing Orders. Therefore, if you challenge the ruling the only form by which you may do that is by a motion of dissent and that -
– Are you saying that the Chief Justice is not a member of the judiciary? Are you saying that?
-Order! The honourable member for Hughes will remain silent. The honourable member for Chifley has to move that motion of dissent at the time of the ruling. He cannot do so now.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I refer you to Erskine May’s Parliamentary Practice, nineteenth edition, at page 428 under the heading ‘Reflections on the Sovereign etc. ‘It reads:
Unless the discussion is based upon a substantive motion, drawn in proper terms (see page 367), reflections must not be cast in debate upon the conduct of the sovereign, the heir to the throne, or other members of the royal family, the Lord Chancellor, the Governor-General of an independent territory, the Speaker, the Chairman of Ways and Means, Members of either House of Parliament, or judges of the superior courts of the United Kingdom, including persons holding the position of a judge, such as a judge of a Court of Bankruptcy or a county court, or a recorder. Nor may opprobrious reflections be cast in debate on sovereigns and rulers over, or governments of . . .
We also have Standing Order 75. Whilst I have much respect for you, Mr Deputy Speaker, I find it extraordinary that an attack of this nature is permitted upon the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, a person whom nobody here could claim has loyalty to the Australian Labor Party or anything of that nature. This is a matter of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of New South Wales being attacked and not being protected in this Parliament. Such a bitter personal attack upon him is quite uncalled for.
-Order! The honourable member for Chifley referred to a point of order. If he is speaking to a point of order, I rule that there is no substance to the point of order. The honourable member has the call to speak on the adjournment debate if he wishes to resume.
– On the point of order, I ask you, Mr Deputy Speaker, to give the reasons for your ruling that Standing Order 75 and May’s Parliamentary Practice do not apply in this instance.
– If you could give the reasons to the House perhaps we could understand what you are about.
-Order! The Chair previously ruled on the basis that in the judgment of the Chair the language used was not offensive.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, are you regarding the remarks by the honourable member for Chifley as a point of order or as a speech on the adjournment debate? I draw your attention to the clock, which seems to indicate that the honourable member might be regarded as speaking on the motion for the adjournment. Would you please make your position clear?
-Order! The honourable member for Chifley was called to speak on the adjournment motion. I stopped the honourable member in his remarks as they made a reflection on the Chair. He then sought to take a point of order on my ruling.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I will speak not on your ruling but on the action tonight by the honourable member for Phillip (Mr Birney). That issue has nothing whatsoever to do with your ruling. I think that it was a most disgraceful action on the part of the honourable member for Phillip to attack the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. The honourable member for Macquarie (Mr Gillard), to say the very least, was extraordinarily foolish. Possibly his performance reflects only his lack of experience in the Parliament. But the facts are that he took that action. The facts are that tonight a member of the New South Wales Bar came into this Parliament to attack the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Mr Deputy Speaker -
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order.
-Order! The honourable member for Franklin will resume his seat.
– On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker, I ask you to indicate whether the honourable member for Chifley was regarded as having raised a point of order. If so, did you rule on it and, if so, what was your ruling?
-I will say again that the honourable member for Chifley originally received the call to speak on the adjournment. He was ruled out of order because of his remarks. On a point of order he then challenged the Chair’s ruling during the time allotted for his adjournment speech. I subsequently ruled that his point of order had no substance.
– On what grounds?
-On the grounds that there was a contravention of Standing Order 75.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I feel I must raise a point of order tonight as a matter of equity and justice. I remember that only a fortnight ago -
-What is the honourable member’s point of order?
– It is simply this: You cannot have one law for honourable members on the other side of the chamber and another for honourable members on this side of the chamber.
– I will not withdraw it. Mr Deputy Speaker, a fortnight ago during a taxation debate I spoke about the activities of the Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia.
– Look at the time. You are doing well.
– I might be too.
-Order! The honourable member for Hawker will come to his point of order.
– The point simply is this: During that debate I was making the point that, prior to being elevated to the bench, the Chief Justice was a leading Queen’s Counsel at the Sydney Bar on taxation avoidance. I was asked to withdraw that remark because it was said to be a reflection on the judiciary. I duly observed the ruling of the Chair. I put it to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, that if my submission in the course of that debate was a reflection on the judiciary, why were the remarks made by the honourable member for Phillip not considered a reflection on the judiciary?
-Order! I think the honourable member has made his point.
– May I raise a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker?
-Does the honourable member wish to speak to the point of order?
– Yes. The point of order raised was that the attack made by the honourable member for Phillip was to the effect that there had been a breach by the -
-Order! I gave the honourable member for Lalor the call on the basis that he wished to speak on the point of order raised by the honourable member for Hawker.
– It related immediately to that.
-Order! The honourable member for Lalor will resume his seat. In respect of the point of order raised by the honourable member for Hawker, the Chair has no recollection of the matter to which he referred. The ruling which I have given, in the judgment of the Chair, is consistent with the Standing Orders.
– On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker, I refer you to the rulings given by the Speaker concerning criticisms from this side of the House of the previous Governor-General, Sir John Kerr, and particularly to the ruling that any criticism of the Governor-General had to be by way of a substantive motion, in accordance with what I quoted from Erskine May’s Parliamentary Practice tonight. I would like to know how your ruling stands up against that. In future, can the Governor-General be attacked without a substantive motion being moved?
-Order! The Chair has ruled on the matter. It being 1 1 p.m., the debate is interrupted. The House stands adjourned until 2. 15 p.m. on Tuesday next.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, upon notice, on 7 November 1978:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 16 November 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Department of Transport quoted the substance of the submission made by the Department of Defence in its Report which was tabled in Parliament on 1 1 October 1978. In summary, the Defence submission said:
A small part of the material in the submission is of an ‘inconfidence’ nature. With the exception of that part I would be happy to make the submission available to the honourable member and to anyone who wishes to see it.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice, on 20 February 1979:
What sum has been granted or lent by the Commonwealth to the Aboriginal Fish Processing Organisation on Flinders Island during the last 3 years.
-The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
As indicated by Mr Viner in answer to Question No. 1812 (Hansard of 16 November 1978, page 3006), my Department has not provided any funds directly to the Furneaux Fishing Processing Company, which is the only Aboriginal fish processing organisation on Flinders Island. To the best of my knowldge, no other Commonwealth Government funds have been provided to the organisation.
Funds provided to the Flinders Island Community Association as detailed in answer to Question No. 1812 included $100,000 for the purchase by the Association of a majority shareholding in the fish processing company.
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 2 1 February 1 979:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice, on 20 February 1979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I would like to draw the honourable member’s attention to my answer to Mr Stewart’s question upon notice of 23 November 1978, concerning the report of the Royal Commission on Human Relationships (House of Representatives Hansard, 20 February 1979, page 123).
The Interdepartmental Working Group now has met on three occasions and is still considering the recommendations. I intend to make a statement on the Government’s consideration of the Report, later this year.
Royal Commission on Human Relationships (Question No. 3184)
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice, on 20 February 1979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Royal Commission on Human Relationships (Question No. 3190)
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice, on 21 February 1979:
-The Attorney-General has provided the following answers to the honourable member’s questions:
Royal Commission on Human Relationships (Question No. 3193)
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice, on 20 February 1 979:
What action has the Government taken to implement recommendations 10, 17, 23, 25, 26, 28 and 29 of the Royal Commission on Human Relationships contained in its Final Report Volume 2-Part III. Health and medical education.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
See my answer to question No. 3 1 82.
asked the Minister for Trade and Resources, upon notice, on 21 February 1979.
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
1 ) (a) There are a number of publications which set out the conditions of eligibility for exporters who wish to take advantage of grants provided under the Export Market Development Grants Act. That Act does not give the Board the authority to guarantee in advance that expenditure which might be intended for certain purposes will be determined ultimately as eligible for a grant. The Board can make its determinations only on the basis of facts supplied by the applicant regarding eligible expenditure actually incurred.
Following the introduction in 1974 of the Export Market Development Grants scheme, the Board was established in June 1 975 to administer the scheme. There were initial problems in developing procedures which resulted in a backlog of claims being carried over at the end of each grant year. The experience of the Board has been that in many cases claims which have had the appearance of being straightforward in fact on investigation have required further information to be furnished which has materially affected the amount of grant entitlement.
In 1978 the staff of the Board was increased and its membership was also increased by two industry representatives. Difficulties of the Board have been compounded because, with the new scheme, the Board will have to cope with the receipt for claims for two grant years in a period of less than twelve months. In the last few days I have met with the Board and discussed with them further steps which might be taken to ensure that exporters receive their grants with a minimum delay.
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice, on 2 1 February 1979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Aviation Charges (Question No. 3239)
asked the Minister for Transport, on notice, on 22 February 1979:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice, on 27 February 1979:
-The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, upon notice, on 28 February 1979:
How many migrants from (a) West Germany, (b) Denmark, (c) Norway, (d) Sweden, (e) Finland, (f) Switzerland, (g) Holland, (h) Belgium, (j) France and (k) Austria have settled in Australia since 1 945.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
No accurate separate identification of settler arrivals is possible for the period prior to January 1959, as the only available statistics relate to the total of permanent and longterm movement. However, estimates have been made of settler arrivals by country of citizenship for this period.
It is not possible to differentiate in the statistics between the German Democratic Republic and the Federal Republic of Germany. The statistics are based on Passenger Cards filled out by travellers on arrival in Australia, and on these a large proportion of settlers describe themselves simply as
German citizens, and not as citizens of either East or West Germany.
The estimated number of settler arrivals by country of citizenship for the period January 1945 to December 1978 is as follows:
More detailed information, particularly for the post 1959 period, on settler arrivals and former settlers departing by country of birth, country of citizenship and country of last residence is included in my Department’s regular publication ‘Australian Immigration- Consolidated Statistics’.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice, on 28 February 1979:
– The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 1 March 1979:
What was the Centre’s staff establishment during the periods:
What was the:
– The answer to the honourable member ‘s question is as follows:
(a) and (b):
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 1 March 1979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Imports of Peas from New Zealand (Question No. 3355)
asked the Minister for Trade and Resources, upon notice, on 6 March 1979:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
The Joint Australia/New Zealand Pea and Bean Industry Panel reaches an annual understanding on a ‘quantitative guidelines estimate’, the volume of New Zealand frozen peas likely to be exported to Australia in the ensuing calendar year. Where this guideline is substantially exceeded further consultations are held.
The following table compares actual imports of frozen peas from New Zealand with the guideline agreed by the Joint Panel since 1 969.
The New Zealand industry has confirmed its willingness, through the use of the guideline concepts, to seek mutually satisfactory arrangements between the two industries, on shipments of New Zealand peas to Australia in 1 979.
asked the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, upon notice, on 7 March 1979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 7 March 1 979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Commission’s 1977-78 Annual Report, which I tabled on 22 November 1978, contains details of the aggregate value of loans outstanding at 30 June 1978, repayments due on those loans within twelve months and subsequently, and interest paid on them during 1977-78. Detailed disclosure of individual loans could be damaging to the Commission in its commercial operations.
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 7 March 1979:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, upon notice, on 8 March 1979:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 27 March 1979:
-The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
Great Barrier Reef Marine Park
-On 21 February 1979 (Hansard, page 162), in answering a question without notice from the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) concerning exploration on the Great Barrier Reef, I undertook to have enquiries made whether there are any proposals for drilling or mining. The following is in answer to the honourable member’s question:
Activities under the six current petroleum exploration permits in the Great Barrier Reef area were suspended in 197 1 when the Royal Commissions into Exploratory and Production Drilling for Petroleum in the Area of the Great Barrier Reef were established. I am not aware of any other proposals relating to possible drilling or mining on the Great Barrier Reef.
Kakadu National Park
-On 8 March 1979 (Hansard, page 766) the honourable member for Werriwa (Mr Kerin) asked me a question without notice concerning the Government’s timetable for the gazettal of Stage 1 of the Kakadu National Park. The following is in answer to the honourable member’s question:
As I indicated to the honourable member when he asked his question, the Government is firmly committed to proclaiming the Kakadu National Park. I understand that there are still some minor administrative matters to be settled before the Park can be proclaimed. I am confident that these will be resolved shortly. As soon as they are, the Government will honour its commitment to proclaim the
Park as agreed with the Northern Land Council in the documents tabled in the House on 7 November 1978 by the then
Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 29 March 1979, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1979/19790329_REPS_31_HoR113/>.