31st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden) took the chair at 2. 1 5 p.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable 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 1 978-79 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 twice-yearly payments inappropriate ‘ is not valid.
Great injury will be caused to 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. Once-a-year payments strike a cruel blow to their expectation and make a mockery of a solemn election pledge.
Accordingly, your petitioners call upon their legislators to:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Malcolm Fraser, Mr Sinclair, Mr Lynch, Mr Burns, Mr Kerin, Mr Martin, Mr Morris and Mr Short.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of S. Cambel & Assoc. 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 Commission for lodgement of Income Tax Returns before the 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 the provision of payments for induced abortion through items of the Medical Benefits Schedule is an unacceptable endorsement of abortion which has now reached the levels of a national tragedy with at least 60,000 unborn babies being killed in 1977.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will so amend the Medical Benefits Schedule as to preclude the payment of any benefit for induced abortion, except one performed when a mother’s life is endangered.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Burr.
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled, we, the undersigned, present this petition:
In Australia every year thousands of unnecessary abortions of convenience are performed. We request that the wilful and unnecessary expenditure of public funds and taxpayers’ money should not be directed towards funding these operations, i.e. we request the deletion of item 6469 of the Medical Benefits Schedule.
In this, the Year Of The Child, when so much effort is being put into promoting the well-being of our children, is it not a farce that, at the same time, we, as a nation, are considering allocating Federal moneys for the destruction of the lives of the unborn, the children of tomorrow?
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Kevin Cairns.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That we the undersigned having great concern at the way in which children are now being used in the production of pornography call upon the Government to introduce immediate legislation:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that your honourable House will protect all children and immediately prohibit pornographic child-abuse materials, publications or films.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Dobie.
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 it is necessary for the Commonwealth Government to renew for a further term of at least 3 years the States Grants (Dwellings for Pensioners) Act 1974-77, renewed for one year expiring on the 30th 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 30th 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 low rental accommodation in the proportion of $4 for $ 1 with the proviso that the States do not reduce their existing expenditure and
That the Act include married pensioners eligible for supplementary assistance and migrants as specified by the Seaman Report and that particular consideration be paid to the special needs and requirements of the prospective tenants in the location and design of such dwellings.
Furthermore, your petitioners desire to draw the Government’s attention to the hardship of many pensioner home owners caused by the high cost of maintenance.
The Social Security Annual Report 1976-77 shows that 24.6 per cent, or 283,000 home owning pensioners, have a weekly income in excess of the pension of less than $6 per week.
Your petitioners strongly urge the Commonwealth Government to establish a fund whereby loans can be made to means tested pensioners for the purpose of effecting necessary maintenance to their homes. Such a loan to be at minimal interest rates sufficient to cover administrative costs and to be repaid by the estate upon the death of a single pensioner before probate or upon the death of the surviving spouse in the case of married pensioners or where two pensioners jointly own the dwelling. Administration to be carried out by local government bodies.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Dr Edwards.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Honourable Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled the petition of the undersigned citizens of North Queensland, support this protest at the unjust treatment by the Federal Government of people depending on the old age pension, which is considered to be below the poverty level.
That we protest at the Federal Government’s failure to provide all sections of the Australian community with conditions of retirement more comparable to that section who now retire in comfort under superannuation and long service leave schemes.
That immediate action be taken to provide that all sections of the Australian work force be allowed to retire under a more comparable level than that which exists at present.
That we protest at the re-introduction of the means test for people over seventy years of age, especially those people who have already been assessed by the Social Security Department before being placed on a full age pension.
That we protest at the Government’s failure to honour their promise to have pensions adjusted in line with the C.P.I. cost of living adjustments, which is applied to all other sections of the community.
That the amounts allowed for earnings by single and married pensioners should be increased to a more comparable level to the high cost of living, before it affects the pensions.
That the amount allowable before a pensioner pays income tax which covers all forms of income, including the annual pension, should be increased, as the high cost of living warrants this consideration.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Dr Everingham.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled: The Humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That we the undersigned wish to protest in the strongest possible terms the Government’s decision to abolish the twice-yearly review of Pensions.
That this decision will cause untold hardship for people on fixed incomes who will now be a full year behind rising prices.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House will request the Government to reintroduce twice yearly pension reviews in line with the Consumer Price Index. by Mr Hodges.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
That actions by other nations to fulfill their reconstruction aid obligations to Vietnam will greatly assist in rebuilding the living standards of the Vietnamese people thus assisting in alleviating the refugee problem.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Australian Government will undertake to-
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Howe.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of we the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth. That we oppose any expansion of the facilities of Kingsford Smith Airport which entails the building of a new runway as it would have the following detrimental effects: (1) The loss of one mile of waterfront, including Lady Robinson’s Beach, and a huge pan of Botany Bay; (2) The loss of up to 1,230 houses and a drop in value of remaining neighbouring properties; (3) The creation of more noise pollution in the area; (4) The creation of more traffic congestion on streets leading to and from the airport; (5) The forced diversion of Cook’s River and further damage to the ecology of the area.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Federal Government will not consider satisfying the airport needs of Sydney by extending Kingsford Smith Airport and that any decisions related thereto are not taken before there is an opportunity for adequate consultation with any community particularly affected.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Les Johnson.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The 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. byMrKillen.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully say we are concerned about the deteriorating standards of A.B.C. radio and television programmes.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that Parliament take immediate steps to appoint an independent inquiry into the A.B.C. which:-
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byMrKillen.
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 (Commonweath Government Employees) Act 1971 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 humble Petition of the undersigned electors of the Division of Flinders respectfully showeth-
We wish the pension to be reviewed every six months.
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that you will accede to our request at your earliest convenience.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Lynch.
To the Honourable the Speaker and the Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled: The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that-
Your petitioners therefore humbly pary that the House will urge the Commonwealth and State Governments to select a site for Sydney’s second airport immediately and to protect it by immediate development.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Les McMahon.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled: The humble petition of the undersigned electors of the Division of Ryan respectfully showeth: -
Urge the Federal Government to make definite legislation that the Great Barrier Reef and its waters be protected against any mining and make the whole reef and surrounding waters a national marine park.
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that legislation be introduced to protect the Great Barrier Reef from mining and that the Reef and surrounding waters be declared a national marine park.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Moore.
- Mr Speaker, it is my sad duty to inform the House that His Majesty the Paramount Ruler of Malaysia died suddenly during the afternoon of 29 March. Honourable members will be aware of the unique provisions of the Malaysian Constitution for the rotation of this office among the nine rulers of States within the Federation of Malaysia. The Paramount Ruler, the head of state in Malaysia, is elected by his fellow rulers for a five-year term after which he resumes his position as ruler in his home State. Australia’s ties with Malaysia have been particularly friendly as befits those with a fellow member of the Commonwealth in our region. Therefore, it is with special sadness that we note in this chamber the passing of this distinguished head of state.
His late Majesty was Sultan of the State of Kelantan before he was sworn in as the sixth Paramount Ruler on 21 September 1975. His Majesty was born on 10 September 1917 and studied in Kelantan and Penang before undertaking further studies in England. He returned to Kelantan in 1939 and served in the Civil Service as private secretary to his father, the then Sultan. His Majesty served in a number of posts in his own State until he became Sultan in July 1960 on the death of his father. As Sultan, His Majesty took an active interest in the advancement of his State and his wide experience ably equipped him for election to the office of Paramount Ruler.
Mr Speaker, I would like to record the deep sympathy of the House at the sad loss sustained by the Government and people of Malaysia on the sudden death of His Majesty. I also ask that you arrange to inform His Excellency the High Commissioner for Malaysia of the views expressed in the House today.
-I associate the Opposition with the expression of condolence which has been conveyed by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). The Paramount Ruler of Malaysia was a man who fulfilled his function in a unifying manner. He had long public service, had previously been Sultan of his own State and, as the Prime Minister pointed out, was elected to the position he was fulfilling at the time of his death, that of Paramount Ruler of Malaysia. Malaysia is a country with which we have friendly and wellestablished relations and the passing of the Paramount Ruler is a matter of regret for all of us. We associate ourselves with the condolences expressed by the Prime Minister.
-I had the privilege of being presented to His late Majesty on a recent visit to Malaysia. I would just like to add my words to those already stated in this House. His courtesy and his kindness were a by-word. His wisdom and his statemanship were of tremendous value to Malaysia. The loss will be a great one to that country at this moment, but I believe that wisdom and advice which he tendered during his term of office will add to the progress of that country and the respect in which he was held will add to the stature of Malaysia in this area. As I say, I join briefly but sincerely with the remarks that have already been made.
-As a mark of respect to the memory of His Majesty the late Paramount Ruler of Malaysia I invite honourable members to rise in their places.
Honourable members having stood in their places-
– I thank the House.
-I give notice that on General Business Thursday No. 9 I shall move:
That this House, having regard to the requirements of Australian Federalism that States should within the total economic program be responsible for their own affairs and that the effects of Commonwealth policies should fall as fairly as possible on the various States, requests:
1 ) The Commonwealth to monitor closely the economic experience of the States so that they share fairly the experiences of strong economic growth as well as economic restraint;
to examine closely the effects of the four periods of economic restraint since World War II, and
) to consider and make available the effects of all forms of Commonwealth intervention, including tariffs, quotas, bounties and price support systems on the economies of those States, and
ensure that these are discussed quantitatively at the next Premiers’ Conference and Loan Council so that domestic economic experience in the States reflects their respective values of output.
The motion will be seconded by the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Goodluck).
-I ask the Prime Minister: Will the Government consider suspending existing contracts to supply uranium to countries which use the light water, pressure water reactor similar to the one which failed in Harrisburg until it has been proven that there will be no recurrences of this episode?
-The short answer to the honourable gentleman’s question is no, but I think I ought to give a view that might well be contrary to that which has been widely reported in the Press. Sir Francis Toombs, Chairman of the Electricity Council of Britain, has said, talking of the reports:
I think they have so far been very sensational, perhaps over sensational. I think that when the dust settles we shall find that there has been quite a serious accident in the reactor but the effect on the environment and on people living around will have been very small indeed.
Further on he was asked:
Do you think people are justified though in worrying about the safety of nuclear reactors because of this incident?
Sir Francis answered:
No, I wouldn’t say so on the evidence presently available and so far in 23 years of nuclear power nobody has been killed by nuclear power.
Sir Francis goes on to say:
There are a hell of a lot of nuclear power stations in the world and not many accidents of any note. What does happen is that every time anything goes wrong at all, trivial or otherwise, it becomes headline news because nuclear power stations are very sensitive objects.
There is much more in the same vein. In other words, I think Sir Francis is indicating that it would be wise to be cautious about this matter until more is finally known about it.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Health. Is it a fact that consultants commissioned on the management of the Royal Adelaide Hospital found that salary savings of at least $5m per annum could be achieved without loss of service? Did the Public Accounts Committee of the South Australian Parliament find that no action had been taken to implement the recommendation of the consultants? In the light of the report of the Public Accounts Committee of that Parliament on the Royal Adelaide Hospital and other hospital and health matters, what steps are being taken by the Commonwealth Government to protect the revenue of the Commonwealth against unwarranted expenditure being incurred under the hospitals’ cost sharing arrangements?
– I am very concerned about the report from the Public Accounts Committee of the South Australian Parliament which has now reached my Department. The South Australian Government, of course, has prime responsibility for the administration of hospitals in that State. Therefore the control of funds being allocated to those hospitals and the financial management of those funds must be primarily the responsibility of that Government. Nevertheless, the Commonwealth Government through the hospital cost sharing agreement does have a responsibility. It does contribute substantially to the hospital system and is concerned with good financial management and cost containment in the hospitals. My Department now has the report of the Committee under very close examination. Needless to say, the report will be dealt with in the very near future.
I would expect the officials from the Department of Finance and the Department of Health who serve on the Commonwealth-State Standing Committees with the various State government officials who are responsible for looking at the budgets of the various hospitals in the States to examine critically what is going on in South Australia. I would like to say also that the arrangements which we have in force at the present time have been successful in reducing the overall increase in the rate of acceleration of hospital costs in this country. If I could be permitted to give some statistics to justify that statement, public hospital costs in constant 1974-75 prices and the percentage change over the year 1974-75 to 1 978-79 for Australia are as follows.
In 1974-75 they increased by 12.2 per cent at constant prices, in 1975-76 by 11.2 per cent, in 1976-77 by 8.8 per cent and in 1977-78 by 6.2 per cent. We anticipate that in this financial year the rate of increase will come down to 3.4 per cent. So the Commonwealth is succeeding in slowing down the rate of increase in the administration costs of public hospitals in this country. The Government is very concerned with what has happened in South Australia, and I can assure the honourable member and South Australians generally that it will be giving very serious consideration to that report. If it is thought that further measures are necessary to contain the cost of the public hospital system in South Australia, the Government will not resile from taking that action.
-I ask the Prime Minister: Does the Government support Sir Charles Court’s plans for the establishment of a nuclear power station in Western Australia?
– I think that the honourable gentleman would be very surprised to find any other course of action by this Government.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he is aware of reports suggesting that Australia should introduce a wealth tax? Has the Government considered such a proposal? If so, what attitude has been adopted towards it?
– I have seen suggestions that there ought to be a wealth tax. Indeed, as we know, on 28 March the Deputy Leader of the Opposition made such a proposal to a conference of the Amalgamated Metal Workers and Shipwrights Union. This Government will not be introducing a wealth tax, so let us be quite plain about it from the outset. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition suggested that a wealth tax would raise $ 1,500m. This tax would apparently apply to those with net wealth in excess of $200,000. Note the difference between that tax and the Leader of the Opposition’s capital gains tax which, he indicated, he hoped would raise $300m compared with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition’s $ 1,500m. I suppose that we would have both taxes operating roughly over the same area, but it is worth noting that they would operate in different ways. The Leader of the Opposition talks about a tax on the sale of assets worth more than $200,000. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition is speaking about a tax on wealth in excess of $200,000. 1 think that is very often how socialist schemes develop. They start with one idea and just escalate.
It is quite clear that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition’s ideas would affect countless Australians that he is not telling us about- people with superannuation and life assurance policies, people who have managed to acquire a home that has gone up in value, and people with valuable furniture and other household possessions. Everyone would be affected by the tax because everyone would have to have his assets valued to see whether he was eligible to pay the tax. That would mean inspectors, physical entry into people’s homes, and a periodic stocktake of their assets. Those who did have to pay the tax would have to sell assets to make the payments. Quite plainly, an army of supervisors would be needed to implement a wealth tax in the way proposed by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
– You just do not want to pay.
-The honourable gentleman by his reaction has plainly shown that he is sensitive on this issue because what he is suggesting is a tax on top of the numerous new taxes which have been suggested by the Leader of the Opposition. We know that other members of the Australian Labor Party have indicated quite plainly that they want higher taxes, and that they want a larger and larger government sector. At least they are covering their tracks. They would have a mandate to tax in any possible area if there were ever an opportunity for them to do it. It is quite plain that the Australian Labor Party is a high tax party and would do what it did once before- destroy incentive, initiative, development, growth and jobs throughout Australia. That is why it will not get an another opportunity to do so.
– I ask the Prime Minister: Does the Government take any responsibility for the consequences to the safety of citizens of countries to which our uranium is sold or in which it is disposed?
-The Government is very active in non-proliferation matters and it will continue to be so. It is involved in international discussions, it is a strong supporter of all non-proliferation arrangements and it will continue to be very active in that way. The Government has indicated on a number of occasions that the very fact that Australia is a supplier of uranium for peaceful purposes around the world will strengthen Australia’s voice in arguing for ever safer and more secure non-proliferation and safeguard regimes. We will continue to act in this way, as we have indicated in the past that we will do.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. The Minister would be aware of the voluntary emergency organisation named the Citizen Radio Emergency Service Team. Does the
Government recognise CREST as the most effective emergency organisation operating on citizen band radio? Will the Government recognise CREST by allocating an emergency channel to that organisation for its use? Can the Government strengthen regulations to allow for the proper policing of that channel if allocated? Will the Government, in recognising CREST, take such necessary steps as would allow CREST to pass on through Telecom messages it received through its emergency channel?
– I thank the honourable member for his question. I visited the CREST headquarters at North Sydney some time ago and was able to observe the excellent work which was being done there by the emergency service organisation. It is providing a variety of services to the community. I publicly acknowledge the work it is doing. We recently amended the Wireless Telegraphy Regulations and we set aside a special channel- channel 5- for use as an emergency calling channel within the citizen’s Band Radio Service. This channel is monitored by several organisations for emergency purposes.
Within the limits of resources all CB channels are monitored for conformity with the operating conditions of the licences granted to operators. The revised regulations identify types of prohibited communications, such as bad language, intentional interference, music and advertising. Operators who cause interference must co-operate in efforts to rectify problems. It is regular practice for the emergency organisations to use the telephone network to relay messages received through the CB radio system. It is my hope that the new regulations which have been drawn up will improve efficiency and reduce interference in CB. Interference is a matter which has given us considerable cause for concern and, of course, it was to cope with this problem that we introduced the new regulations.
– The Prime Minister is no doubt aware of the sad and tragic death of a United Kingdom member of parliament in the person of Mr Airey Neave as a result of a bomb being placed in his car when it was parked beneath the House of Commons. Is it not intended to provide parking facilities for cars owned by MPs and for Commonwealth Government cars beneath the new and permanent Parliament House in Canberra? In view of the Hilton Hotel bombing and increased violence in the Western world, will he use his influences to have this proposal reconsidered?
– It is my understanding that those people who have been responsible for drawing up the specifications for the new and permanent Parliament House have been paying very close attention to security requirements. I know this is a matter which has been of concern to Mr Speaker, the President of the Senate and other honourable members. I believe that the honourable gentleman does this Parliament a service by pointing out the possible dangers of acts of needless, violent terrorism. This is a matter which I think all honourable members need to take into account. We know quite well that throughout the course of the last couple of years there have been instances of people in the parliamentary galleries throwing things, largely harmless leaflets, into this chamber. As a result of those actions, Mr Speaker and Mr President have taken quite stringent precautions to make sure that that sort of thing cannot occur again and that adequate protection is afforded to honourable members and those who serve us and the Parliament itself.
I think it needs to be understood that we are concerned about the safety of not only parliamentarians and those who work in the building but also the general public, who frequent many parts of the Parliament building in large numbers throughout the course of a year. I will have one final check made to make sure that, insofar as it is in within my responsibility, the various security arrangements in the briefs for the new and permanent Parliament House are adequate. I will discuss that matter with my colleague, the Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for the Capital Territory. I think it is a good thing that the honourable member has raised this matter in the Parliament and drawn to attention the very different world in which we live.
– Does the Minister for Transport recognise that Australia’s road system is deteriorating rapidly to a point where many roads are beyond repair other than by complete renewal and reconstruction? Will this Government be able to restore road funding to the level recommended by the Australian Bureau of Roads report following the disastrous decline in road funding experienced during Labor’s term in office? Does the Minister consider that the development and construction of national assets such as roads could be funded in part from loan funds raised in Australia or overseas?
– Subsequent to assuming office in 1975, early in 1976, because of the very point that the honourable member for Calare has made we introduced supplementary grants to assist local government authorities with their road programs.
– You are lying again.
-Order! The Minister will resume his seat. The honourable member for Shortland will withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it, Mr Speaker.
– Following that supplementation in early 1976, we have lifted funding for rural local roads in New South Wales, for example, from $16.8m in 1974-75 to $25.8m in 1977-78. That indicates a fairly steep increase in the years that we have been in office. I make the further point that the New South Wales Government precludes itself from making money available to local government authorities for roads construction in a local roads category by an Act of its own Parliament. Therefore, local authorities are entirely dependent upon this Parliament to fund their local roads programs. It is for that reason that I have bent over backwards to try to increase the level of funds made available to them. Again, since 1974-75 we have lifted the funding for rural arterials from $ 12.1m to $18m. I do not pretend for a moment that those sums are adequate to do the job mentioned by the honourable member. The Government has been giving consideration to other means of financing roads but we have not yet been able to determine any other way. The honourable member can rest assured that, when Budget deliberations on this matter are taking place, every consideration will be given to the very heavy needs of local authorities in the roads program area.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he recalls saying in his 1977 policy statement:
The Government’s objective is to move towards an allocation of up to 2% of personal income tax collections for local government over a 3 year period. (Estimated full year cost around $50 million).
Is it a fact that the estimated full year cost of this proposal is now about $62m? Is it also a fact that no progress was made towards this objective in the last Budget? Will the Prime Minister therefore give a firm assurance that there will be major progress towards this objective in the forthcoming Budget?
– I, and I am sure all honourable members, recall the precise terms of the commitment that was made in the 1977 policy speech regarding local government funding. I take the opportunity of pointing to the enormous contribution that this Government has made to the financial strength and viability of local government thoughout Australia. Not the least of the elements of that contribution has been the benefits that local government has derived from much lower inflation and a greater improvement in economic stability.
The Government attaches considerable importance to the concept of revenue sharing between the States and local government. This is the first Government to have given local government a direct percentage share of a growth tax. That has made a major contribution towards helping. I can assure the honourable gentleman that I will not depart from my practice and my attitude of not speculating on what may or may not be contained in the Budget. All I can say to the honourable gentleman is that that commitment was deliberately put in the policy speech and the Government remains very conscious of the importance of the implementation of that commitment to local government.
– I ask the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs a question which relates to the amendments to the Prices Justification Act which were recently adopted by this House. Will the Minister indicate whether it is intended that oil industry pricing will continue to be monitored by the Prices Justification Tribunal? If so, can he say that precise arrangements have been or will be made in this regard?
– I am able to inform the honourable member for Isaacs, and all honourable members, that oil industry pricing will continue to be monitored by the Prices Justification Tribunal. Of course, honourable members are aware that recently this House adopted amendments that were proposed by the Government in relation to the Prices Justification Act. Those amendments will be soon dealt with in another place.
I am not able to indicate to the honourable member or the House at this stage the precise way in which oil industry pricing will be monitored, but I do give a clear and unequivocal undertaking that the Prices Justification Tribunal will be heavily involved in this field. I am concerned that the oil industry be subjected to monitoring in this way, but I am also concerned that the industry be not subjected to monitoring by the Prices Justification Tribunal and perhaps by one or more of the Australian States. I believe that there should be some means worked out between the Commonwealth and the States which are acceptable to all of the governments and which will ensure that pricing policies of these companies are monitored in a manner satisfactory to the consumer.
With this in mind I propose to discuss the matter with the State Ministers concerned with representatives of consumer groups, with representatives of retailing organisations within the petroleum industry and with representatives of the oil companies themselves. I am hopeful that within a short time I will be in a position to announce the precise way in which oil prices will be monitored by the PJT in the future.
-My question is directed to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. I refer the Minister to a report of the Industries Assistance Commission issued in 1977 relating to Dextrose. The suggested tariff was 10 per cent, but for some unknown reason the Government decided to increase the tariff to 20 per cent. Is the Government contemplating raising the tariff further on a temporary basis by or to 40 per cent? Will the Minister explain why the original decision of November 1977 was made at variance with the IAC’s recommendation? Will he undertake to provide full explanation in advance of any future decision to increase the tariff by or to 40 per cent?
– I will be pleased to look carefully at the matters raised by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. I will give him a considered reply as soon as possible.
– My question is addressed to the Foreign Minister. It concerns current events in Indo-China. Is he aware of reports that a Soviet cruiser, a Soviet frigate and a Soviet oiler entered the former United States base at Cam Ranh Bay in Vietnam last week? Is this correct? If so, does the Foreign Minister share my concern that this is an unfortunate change in the strategic balance in the region? Is there an indication that the base will be a permanent Soviet base? Would that indicate then a greater Soviet presence in the Indian Ocean? Would the Minister also care to comment on the current status of negotiations between Vietnam and China on the border dispute and on whether a protracted war is likely to continue as a guerrilla war in Kampuchea?
-Dealing with the latter part of the question, the unstable situation in IndoChina continues to cause concern. The easing of tensions which followed China’s announcement that it would withdraw its troops from Vietnam has proved shortlived. In recent weeks both sides have warned of the possibility of renewed fighting. There were to be talks on 28 March between Vietnam and China. They did not proceed. The Vietnamese were not prepared to meet the Chinese in such talks. They are refusing to negotiate until, in their own terms, Chinese forces are withdrawn from Vietnamese territory. Chinese forces are thought to be occupying small areas of disputed territory, and the Chinese claim that the Vietnamese are committing armed provocations and incursions along the border. These developments therefore make it less likely that immediate negotiations between China and Vietnam will take place, although both sides earlier had agreed to negotiate. The war in Kampuchea to which the honourable member referred does continue. The Vietnamese-backed National Front has failed to gain control over large areas of Kampuchea, and there is little doubt that a protracted guerrilla war seems inevitable.
As to the first part of the question, which related to Soviet vessels in Cam Ranh Bay, it is true, and honourable members will have read of this in the newspapers in the last few days, that American sources have expressed concern over the destabilising effect of the visit of three Soviet warships to the former United States naval base at Cam Ranh Bay. We have no evidence that their visit constitutes the beginning of long-term Soviet access to Cam Ranh Bay and, of course, it is too early to reach firm conclusions on possible Soviet or Vietnamese intentions in the area. However, one could be firm in saying that permanent Soviet access to the base would alter substantially the strategic balance in the Pacific. It would be of concern not only to Australia but also to other countries in the Asian-Pacific region and would be a further indication of the increased reliance of Vietnam on the Soviet Union. I think it would pay us to watch the situation over the course of the next few weeks before determining what the likely long-term consequences may be.
-The Minister for Health will be aware that the Victorian Government has been promising since the 1960s to build a public hospital at Clayton near Monash University. As this hospital will be a teaching hospital for the medical school at Monash and is also to take the place of the Queen Victoria Hospital, what is the Government’s attitude to the suggestion that this major teaching hospital be handed over to American Medical International, which is an investor-owned multinational corporation? What will be the impact of this on the cost of health in Australia in view of the fact that this firm also makes its profits out of providing expensive medical technology to the hospitals it runs?
– The honourable member has referred to a private hospital in Melbourne for which the Victorian Government has basic responsibility because it has responsibility for private hospitals. I assume that he was referring to a private teaching hospital.
– If it is a teaching hospital it would be your responsibility.
– But it is a private hospital, it is not one of the State Government hospitals. As long as the firm concerned meets all the requirements in its application before the Foreign Investment Review Board, I can see no reason why it should not enter this field, subject to the constraints that I hope will be imposed as a result of the rationalisation discussions presently taking place between the Commonwealth and State governments. We are anxious to ensure that we limit the bed days in this country to the rate that presently exists in Victoria. Of course, the way in which we will achieve this objective is a matter which is yet to be worked out with the States in the discussions which will take place over the next 12 months or so. I will take the burden of the honourable member’s question on notice and give him a thorough answer after I examine the points that he has raised.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Defence. Is it a fact that the Fremantle class patrol boat being built for the Australian Navy in the United Kingdom is nearing completion? Can the Minister advise the House whether a decision has been reached as to the type of gun to be fitted to the 15 new patrol boats?
– The answer to the question asked by the honourable member for Forrest is yes, the Government has decided to fit for the time being the Bofors 40/60 Mk 7 gun to the new Fremantle class patrol boat. Certain clear considerations prevailed upon the Government in taking that decision, not the least of which were considerations of cost. I illustrate that fact very quickly to the House by saying that one tender received for 1 8 new guns predicated an expenditure of approximately $33m. The Royal Australian Navy, in terms of priority, had demands ahead of that expenditure. I point out to the honourable member that the Fremantle class patrol boat will not be operating in any hostile environment; it will not be fulfilling an offensive role. Of course, if there should be any change in those circumstances, the Government would immediately review the decision.
-Is the Minister for Post and Telecommunications aware of the number of complaints that honourable members receive from constituents concerning what appear to be exorbitantly high accounts for metered telephone calls? I draw his attention to an article in the Daily Telegraph of 9 March 1979 which referred to accounts amounting to $3,100 and $1,400. I draw his attention also to complaints which have been made in recent weeks in my electorate concerning accounts of $800, $400, $500 and $1,200 and to numerous complaints concerning accounts amounting to $200. Does the Minister agree that when these complaints are multiplied by the other 185 honourable members and senators, there must be a formidable number of disgruntled subscribers? Will the Minister consider the setting up of a parliamentary select committee to investigate and report to the Parliament whether these and the many other complaints are justified; whether the metering system is foolproof as claimed by Telecom; whether there are any checking systems in use in any overseas country; if so, whether they should be introduced in Australia; whether most complaints are associated with metered calls; whether there is in use overseas any system which separates subscriber trunk dialling calls from local calls; and whether there is any way in which a signal could be given, say, every one or two minutes to warn subscribers of the duration of STD calls?
– I think it would not be an exaggeration to say that at some time every member of the House has brought to my attention or that of my predecessors matters relating to charging by Telecom Australia. The present position is plainly unsatisfactory, and that is recognised by Telecom and by me. Difficulties arise when Telecom believes one thing and the subscriber believes another. There is no way in which either side can convince the other of the correctness of his case. The equipment in use simply does not allow the matter to be proved beyond all reasonable doubt, if I may put it that way. So the situation is plainly unsatisfactory when neither party can convince the other of his cause.
On a recent visit overseas, I observed in the United States of America, where detailed accounts are provided for all long distance calls, that the level of complaint against the system was almost non-existent. I am quite certain that a system something like that could do a great deal to overcome the problem which concerns so many members of this House and so many people in the community. The present position is that the Australian Telecommunications Commission proposes to offer to customers optional subscriber trunk dialling automatic message accounting as a choice on any suitable equipment. This would contain expenditure and would offer the service to customers over a wide area of the network. The capital cost of the optional service over a 10-year period is estimated at $56m. Operating costs per annum are estimated at an additional $ 15 m. Telecom expects that this automatic message accounting system could be available in metropolitan areas by 1984, but it is likely to take longer to provide it in other areas because new equipment would need to be introduced. The matter of introducing AMA is under study by the Government. There is a number of matters on which it is necessary to seek further information from Telecom. Of course, the Government will be looking in particular at the possibility of accelerating the introduction of automatic message accounting.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Health, who will be aware that the Government’s recently introduced isolated patients and travel accommodation assistance scheme, which was introduced to provide some degree of equity to country people in relation to medical specialist consultations, is not working properly because of administrative difficulties and anomalies. What is being done to overcome these problems?
– I thank the honourable member for Murray for that question because he has referred to one of the best schemes that has been introduced in this Parliament to assist people living in isolated areas throughout Australia with the costs incurred in seeking specialist medical attention and in paying for accommodation in the process. However, there are some anomalies in the scheme which arise largely from our determination on the one hand, to try to stop abuse and, at the same time to be as generous as possible to those people in genuine need of attention. However, the honourable member for Barker has brought to my attention one anomaly relating particularly to some of his constituents on one of the off-shore islands in his constituency.
– Kangaroo Island.
-On Kangaroo Island. Quite clearly, that anomaly must be overcome. Honourable members on both sides of the House have identified several anomalies in the scheme. So I have set up a working party in my Department to prepare a submission for my consideration. That has been done. That submission covers off-shore islanders; the need for prior approval, which is presently part of the scheme and which is causing a great deal of difficulty as far as the medical practitioners are concerned; the definition of ‘isolated areas’, which has been causing some difficulty; and, the level of patient contribution for the travel involved, which also is an area which needs further consideration. As soon as I have considered the report which is presently in my hands, I intend to bring the issues and the problems before the Government for further consideration. But the isolated patients and travel accommodation assistance scheme is an excellent scheme. Already it has helped a great number of people in isolated areas in Australia. It has been welcomed generally throughout Australia and particularly in isolated areas.
Mr Hayden having asked the Prime Minister a question-
– Order! The question argues and presupposes the answer. I rule the question out of order.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Transport. In view of the fact that my mother is currently visiting New Zealand and had to go via the north island of Australia to get there, and in view of the widespread interest in Tasmania about the proposed establishment of a direct air link between Hobart and Christchurch, can the Minister inform the House as to the present state of negotiations with respect to this most exciting initiative?
– The honourable member is unceasing in his efforts to promote Tasmania and to overcome some of the problems that that State faces. I am sure the fact that his mother is in New Zealand will do much to assist the relationship between the two countries. The matter raised by the honourable member, the possibility of an air link between Hobart and Christchurch is subject to the negotiations on a cheap air fare regime that are now proceeding between Australia and New Zealand. When those negotiations are concluded I hope to be able to give the honourable member the good news.
-My question, which is directed to the Minister for Health, is supplementary to the question asked earlier by the honourable member for Sturt. Is it a fact that the hospital bed day cost in South Australia, in spite of the alleged inefficiencies reported by the South Australian Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee, is about $135 per bed day? Is it a fact that the bed day cost in Canberra where the Minister’s own Government has responsibility, is about $200 per bed day? How does the Minister justify this discrepancy, particularly in view of the self-righteous answer that he gave the -
-Order! The honourable gentleman will not make comments of that kind during his question. If he continues to do so I will rule it out of order.
-Well, how does the Minister justify this discrepancy in view of the answer he gave to the honourable member for Sturt?
– I can justify my answer to the question simply by saying that in the Australian Capital Territory we have two major teaching hospitals. South Australia has a number of teaching hospitals, but that State also has a great number of country hospitals with very low bed day charges. If South Australia did not have a lower average cost than the Australian Capital Territory the South Australian Labor Government should go right out of office.
-The Prime Minister is no doubt aware of the previous tremendous dislocation to the city of Hobart and to the people of Hobart and of the sad loss of life that occurred when the Lake Illawarra hit the Tasman Bridge on 5 January 1975. The Prime Minister, of course, is aware that the reconstructed Tasman Bridge is vulnerable to damage from any further ship collision and for this reason will always be a source of worry to the people of Hobart.
-Order! The honourable gentleman will ask the question.
– That is an argument.
-I am not arguing at all. Taking into careful consideration the report of the joint committee on the investigation and design of the second Hobart Bridge, will the Prime
Minister give an unequivocal assurance that the second Hobart Bridge will proceed as soon as possible? In view of the political controversy that is occurring in relation to this second bridge, will I be one of the first politicians to be told about any decision that has been made?
– I think all honourable gentlemen in this House and certainly many of the citizens of the honourable gentleman’s electorate, and of Hobart as a whole, are well aware of the work that the honourable gentleman did in helping to overcome the problems in relation to the disaster that occurred. A final report on the proposal has been submitted for debate to both the Commonwealth and the Tasmanian governments and is currently being examined by the Minister for Transport who will be making appropriate recommendations to the Government. I think it ought to be emphasised that on earlier occasions when either the Premier of Tasmania or Senator Wriedt has tried to cast doubt on the Commonwealth’s attitude in this matter I have reaffirmed in unequivocal terms the commitment of the Commonwealth Government in relation to the bridge. The point that needs to be decided, of course, is the timing in relation to it, and the technical examination that has been undertaken will assist very greatly in that. More generally, I am very pleased to see that the Tasmanian Treasurer is at last recognising the economic turnabout in Tasmania that has occurred as a result of policies over the last three years and is pointing, as he did in a statement of some strength, to a very confident outlook for the future.
– Hear, hear!
-He indicated that there has been $80m-worth of investment plans across Tasmania in the last 18 months and that the future is looking better than it has for many years, as a result obviously of our Government’s policies. Some examples that were given are nearly $7m by the Commonwealth for the new headquarters of the Antarctic Division, which the honourable member who has just interjected had done so much to support over such a long period. The honourable member for Denison, as all honourable gentlemen know, has really taken the Antarctic Division to his heart. When others were trying to have it established and maintained on the mainland, it was his vigour, energy and initiative -
-I ask the right honourable gentleman to remain relevant to the question, which is about a bridge.
– What I was saying is certainly relevant to Tasmania.
-I do not dispute that, but we are talking about a bridge.
– Without the reconstruction of the bridge it is probably highly unlikely that the Antarctic Division would have been placed in Tasmania at all because it would have so disrupted the economic and social life of Hobart that it would not have been a realistic move. Other decisions which have been made include $30m for Associated Pulp and Paper Mills Ltd to increase pine productivity; $20m by the tin miner Renison Ltd to increase ore output; $6m by Electron-Carbide Industries for electric arc furnaces; and over $2m by the Edgell Company for expanding potato processing. These developments clearly reflect the beneficial effect of our policies and of freight equalisation which only in the last day or two the Premier affirmed to me was of enormous benefit to Tasmania. Indeed, the Premier seems to be very appreciative of the Commonwealth Government’s policies in relation to Tasmania
– Further to my statement on 12 April 1978, for the information of honourable members I present the Government’s additional responses to the recommendations of the report of the Standing Committee on Expenditure on Australia’s overseas representation and I seek leave to have the text incorporated in Hansard.
The document read as follows-
Responses to the Recommendations of the Report on Australia ‘s Overseas Representation by the Standing Committee on Expenditure
The Department of Foreign Affairs has carried out a review of consular services and fees charged for those services and advises that recommendations will shortly be made to Cabinet.
The possible introduction of a regional approach to the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs’ overseas representation is still under consideration. The approach has been adopted on a trial basis in Italy and the results of that trial will be taken into account in considering wider application of the regional concept.
The Public Service Board’s Biennial Review report noted that the Department had reviewed its Migration Officer positions overseas and found that the workloads at Berne, Cairo, Colombo and Vienna justified full-time representation (with a reduction from two to one in Vienna) and that the Department had decided to withdraw its officers from Dublin and Lae.
The Public Service Board indicated in its Biennial Review report that following examination in Australia and overseas it had advised the Department of Health that
In July 1978, the Interdepartmental Committee on Information Policy presented a report to the Government on the overseas information program.
In the report the IDCIP set out to analyse the reasons why Australia should have an overseas information program, to define precisely the primary objectives of such a program, to state its priority areas, objectives and targets, to examine the essential components of the program, and the scope for improving the machinery by which the program is conducted, reviewed, related to resources, evaluated for efficiency, and assured of appropriate ministerial supervision.
The report defined the basic objectives of Australia’s general overseas information program as the support and promotion of Australia ‘s foreign policy interests through: an accurate, factual and continuing portrayal of Australia and its people designed to increase general knowledge, awareness and understanding overseas of Australia and so to foster favourable conditions for the achievement of Australia ‘s foreign policy objectives; and a program of explanation and promotion of specific Australian policies and viewpoints on international issues.
The report also recommended areas, which in terms of Australia’s broad foreign policy interests, should be given priority under the general information program. In this context the IDCIP drew attention to the particular importance to Australia of the United States, Japan, South East Asia and Western Europe (while recognising that other regions also have their own relative importance).
Also, within the principal priority areas, the Committee paid attention to the need for specific regional and country objectives.
The report mentioned that the most effective communications approach is a ‘mix’ incorporating personal contact, distribution of specially prepared material and media publicity.
In the administration of the general overseas information program the IDCIP will: continue to have the central role in co-ordinating, evaluating and reviewing the program; regularly review the general information program in terms of priority areas and objectives and prepare annual information programs on a country by country basis; submit an annual report to the Ministers whose Departments are represented on the Committee, covering activities undertaken, areas to be accorded priority in the coming year, objectives to be attained and costs to be incurred; (Committee Members are Foreign Affairs (Chairman), Prime Minister and Cabinet, Administrative Services through the Australian Information Service, Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Trade and Resources and Treasury).
The CSIRO has advised that the report of the Independent Inquiry into the CSIRO said in relation to these recommendations:
In its report on the 1978 Biennial Review of Overseas Representation the Public Service Board indicated that following consultation with relevant departments it had concluded that the Department of Social Security’s operations in London and Geneva should not be withdrawn to Australia. However, the continued justification for the department’s overseas operations will be kept under review by the Public Service Board.
The feasibility/economy of greater use of extended postings combined with home leave is still under consideration. The proposal is under detailed examination in the Departments of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Resources.
For the information of honourable members I present the report of the Joint Study of Emergency Relief entitled ‘Emergency Relief- Study of Agencies and Clients’, together with the text of a statement by the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) concerning the report.
– For the information of honourable members I present reports by the Industries Assistance Commission on: short term assistance to non-adjustable spanners; tyres, tyre cases, et cetera; and vegetable oils and fats: animal oils and fats, et cetera.
– Pursuant to section 8 of the Urban and Regional Development (Financial Assistance) Act 1974, I present agreements concluded in February 1979 in relation to the provision of financial assistance to Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania for the National Estate.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the right honourable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, I do.
-He may proceed.
– In the Clancy column in the National Times of the week ending 7 April, there is a report which indicated that what I and the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) had said about the export of people from Vietnam was based on intelligence sources, and that the statements had embarrassed intelligence sources. Let me say only that whatever I or to the best of my knowledge, whatever my colleague, the Minister, said was certainly not based on intelligence sources. There had been cables from our own people in Hanoi, related to this matter, containing information not based on intelligence sources. There was a notable speech given on either New Year ‘s Day or New Year’s Eve- New Year’s Eve, I suspect- by the Prime Minister of Singapore, Mr Lee, in which he called for international moves to halt the exodus of boat people from Vietnam. There was a wide understanding of the position, at the time when I spoke on the subject in Washington and at the time when my colleague, the Minister, made his statements. These had been widely reported in the media. As far as I know, those reports also were not based on intelligence sources. Whatever information I had was from other sources entirely.
-Mr Speaker, I claim to have been misrepresented.
-Does the right honourable member wish to make a personal explanation?
-He may proceed.
– On Thursday last week, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) said:
If the 1972 tax scales of Sir William McMahon had applied in 1973 we would have collected $2,000m more in taxation than we actually collected.
Mr Speaker, you will know the facts. As usual, the Leader of the Opposition has overlooked them. You will know that the revision of the tax rates in 1972 when I was Prime Minister- and if it is permissible to say, Mr Speaker, you were the Treasurer- was the first genuine reduction since 1954 of taxation on incomes below $25,000 a year. Not only in this House but also in the election campaign, I stated that, providing the same policies were followed in subsequent years, the Government would ease the taxation scales and hoped to do so by 10 per cent each 2 years.
I turn to the facts. If we look at the increases between 1972-73 and 1975-76, we will see that in 1972-73 personal income taxation revenue was $4,089m and in 1975-76 it was $9,2 19m, which was an increase of $5,130m or 125.5 per cent. That is an unbelievable but disastrous performance by the then Government. If we compare that with the preceding three years when the Liberal-National Country Party was in government from 1969-70 -
-I ask the right honourable gentlemen not to argue the issue, but to correct the misrepresentation.
– I am not trying to argue; therefore, I will go on with the figures. Personal income taxation revenue in 1969-70 was $2,858m and in 1971-72 was $3,769m, an increase of only $9 lim or 31.9 per cent. If we look at the figures from 1972-73 to 1973-74, we will see an increase in taxation revenue from $8,453m to $ 10,873m; in 1974-75 taxation revenue rose to, $ 14,085m; and, in 1975-76, it increased to $ 16.843m. That is an incredible performance by a very bad government.
-! seek leave to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?
-He may proceed.
-At Question Time today, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) referred to a speech that I had made on 28 March at the launching of a book called Australia Ripped-Off. It was a well documented publication indicating the concentration of wealth in Australia. In his reply, the Prime Minister indicated that I was seeking to increase the taxation burden on the Australian people. My notes and my speech clearly show that I said that, if we were to levy a wealth tax over and above a limit of $200,000, it would affect about one per cent of the adult population and would give revenue of $ 1,500m which would be returned to the Government enabling it to make a significant reduction in personal and indirect taxation. The Prime Minister omitted to mention that latter part of my speech.
- Mr Speaker, may I have your indulgence to make a correction?
– To an answer given at Question Time?
-The honourable gentleman may proceed.
– In reply to a question from the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) I used the term ‘teaching hospitals’ in relation to the two hospitals in Canberra. I used the term incorrectly but inadvertently. The Canberra hospitals are large hospitals with complex medical and surgical units that are available to the service of the community generally. The point that I was trying to make for the benefit of the honourable member was that the average bedday costs in those large hospitals would necessarily be higher than the average bed-day costs of the multiplicity of hospitals in South Australia, which includes cheap, low cost country hospitals.
-Mr Speaker, may I have your indulgence on that point?
-I call the honourable member for Adelaide.
-I wish to make a short statement on the same subject. I have to point out that two teaching hospitals exist in Adelaide, which add to the hospital costs in that city and in South Australia.
-I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
-I do, most certainly.
-He may proceed.
-Last Thursday evening, I was absent from the House with leave. During the adjournment debate, the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Humphreys) made a fairly lengthy speech in which he mentioned me.
I wish to correct his statement. It is quite incorrect in many material respects. In particular, he referred to and tabled a statement which indicated that there were certain parcels of land in Sydney on which the Commonwealth had made certain decisions. He suggested in his speech that some of that land was within the boundaries of my electorate. That is clearly not the case. There is no land, the subject of that statement or the subject of any decision, which is within my electorate. I wish to make that clear, because I think it puts the story upon which this particular speech was based into its correct perspective. He went on to draw certain implications from the fact that neither I nor my colleagues had answered a story written some weeks ago for the Sydney Sun-Herald by Mr Neil O’Reilly. I indicate that I did not answer that story because I saw it as one which was based on quite incorrect premises. It was a beat up story. It did not warrant any credit, comment or, in my view, even correction. I understand that that is also the view of my colleagues mentioned in that article.
– by leave- For the information of honourable members, I present the 1978 report of the Committee on Overseas Professional Qualifications. In tabling the tenth annual report of the Committee on Overseas Professional Qualifications (COPQ), it gives me pleasure to draw to the attention of the House the achievements of the Committee. The Committee, assisted by over 100 advisers- men and women of eminence in their own professions- has undoubtedly established itself as the principal authority in Australia on qualifications gained overseas and, as such, is a central reference point for professional bodies, registration authorities, universities, public and private employers and individual applicants who seek advice in evaluating foreign degrees, diplomas and professional experience. Inevitably, as the work of the Committee has become more and more widely known overseas, the call upon its services for information and expertise by similar organisations in other countries has grown. Australia, as a forerunner in this field, may feel proud that it has established a single authority responsible for co-ordinating the recognition of overseas professional qualifications. I would like to acknowledge the foresight of the Government, in 1969, in setting up the Committee on Overseas Professional Qualifications, and the support and encouragement of successive governments, in furthering its aims. I also acknowledge the statement made by the Opposition spokesman on immigration and ethnic affairs, the Member for Maribyrnong (Dr Moss Cass), when I tabled the Committee’s seventh annual report. Registration authorities are State bodies, and positive State co-operation is vital to COPQ’s progress. The tenth annual report makes frequent reference to the problems of interstate differences, and pays tribute to the cooperation given by the States in much of its work. To this I would add the expression of my own appreciation, and belief that such support will continue and grow.
It is important, I feel, to stress the community value of the Committee’s work. Degrees and diplomas suggest the remote and the academic. Those who hold them, however, are human beings, migrants whose self-respect requires that they are considered for employment at a level attuned to their qualifications. The Committee through its expert panels has become increasingly involved in the practical problems of individual migrants, rather than, as had earlier been the case, in the theoretical issues related to educational and professional evaluation. The report reflects the extent to which COPQ is committed to serve the individual. The Committee’s Expert Panel in Generalist Qualifications alone, for example, has provided over 800 migrants holding degrees from often little known colleges and universities, with formal assessments of their qualifications, with a view to assisting them find suitable employment at an appropriate level in the Australian workforce.
The Committee ‘s value is further evidenced by the way in which it is able to respond to the needs of those whose qualifications are largely unknown in the Australian context. Screening examinations and procedures developed by the Committe’s advisers in dentistry, medicine, nursing, pharmacy and physiotherapy, and being developed in dietetics, occupational therapy and veterinary science, provide an independent and objective means for people to demonstrate on a national scale their competence to practice these professions here. These means simply did not exist before the Committee came into being.
In response to requests from the community at large the Government decided last year to extend the Committee’s terms of reference and to ask it to provide advice not only on professional or tertiary level qualifications but also where needed on all overseas qualifications other than those gained at the trade level which are already assessed by the Local Trades Committees. Procedures are currently being devised to assist migrants who hold sub-professional and technical qualifications in certain of the Committee’s original areas of responsibility. In those occupational areas where the Committee has not previously been active it has sought the advice of sub-professional bodies, registration authorities and employing organisations in the public and private sector to determine where it might most usefully provide a service.
On the occasion of its tenth anniversary I congratulate the Committee on the work it has done and express my confidence that its progress to date will continue unabated. I commend the report to the House.
-by leave-The role of the professionally qualified migrants who have come to this country is both acknowledged and appreciated; but, as the Committee itself on Overseas Professional Qualifications in its 10th report tabled today by the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) points out, many matters have changed rather radically since the Committee was established in 1969. The Committee on page 3 of its report stated:
The Committee has noted the recent downturn in the numbers of settlers coming to Australia: In 1968-69, 175,000 settlers arrived while in 1978-79 the figure was 73,000.
There is no doubt that not only, as we have pointed out in this Parliament previously, are the unskilled and semi-skilled people bound up in the enormous crisis and problem of unemployment, but also we have the professional people involved in it here as well as in many other countries. We have now reached the end of the search for doctors to come to this country, the desired level having been reached, but no doubt this stage will also be reached in many other professions. Much work is being done in Australia based on the necessity or the enthusiasm which existed in 1969. Should it continue? The Flinders University in a special article on professional migration in its last Australian Bulletin of Labour dated March 1979 pointed out: . . that while teachers are very predominantly Australian-bom, nearly a third of professional scientists and engineers in Australia are migrants. Indeed, Australia is more dependent on migration for her engineers and scientists than for any other professional group.
It may be that some of these past attitudes are now being questioned in Australia because from them is derived not only the technology in Australian industry but also the professional people who work in industry. The Flinders University group which did this exercise also pointed out:
Between 1961 and 1968 some 40 per cent of academic staff appointed to Australian universities were from overseas. In 1972, a survey of 748 research managers, scientists and engineers with Ph.D. degrees and employed in research by government and industry through Australia revealed that no less than 5 1 per cent had gained their Ph.D degree overseas.
The group also pointed out that this is not all one-way traffic and that many of the people doing their training at Australian universities head overseas afterwards. So we do face a different problem in 1979 from that which we faced in 1969, as pointed out in the report. This is a matter of which the Parliament ought to be cognisant.
In the book Unemployment by Keith Windschuttle, a book which I consider to be a very major contribution on the unemployment problem, at page 241 Windschuttle pointed out the graduate unemployment that existed in Australia in 1977. It is quite alarming, and perhaps it is something to which the Government and the Committee, both of which are responsible for facilitating the entry of professional people into Australia, ought to look because there is very high unemployment, sometimes even higher than the national average, among professional groups in this country. I seek to have incorporated in Hansard a table from the 1971 Census showing the occupation by birthplace of employed population in 1971, a table from the 1966 Census showing professional occupations by birthplace as at 1966, and a table from the Windschuttle book relating to graduate unemployment in 1977.
The tables read as follows-
– by leave- Honourable members will recall that following the report of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Electoral Redistribution of Queensland in 1977, there was discussion in the House concerning analyses by the Australian Electoral Office of the preliminary proposals of the distribution commissioners. At that time the Government tabled all the relevant documents and said that consideration would be given to determining the practices which would govern the preparation and distribution of analyses in the future. Honourable members will be aware from the papers which previously were tabled and circulated that the analyses prepared by the Australian Electoral Office were based on publicly available information. I might add that given time and expertise, probably anyone could produce them. Certainly it is common practice for politicians, academics, party workers, journalists and others to make assessments of the possible political effects of redistributions. Often these are published. It is also clear that much of the public and parliamentary consideration of the proposals of distribution commissioners is strongly directed towards their political effects.
In these circumstances the Government believes that it is quite appropriate for objective analyses of this kind to be prepared by the Australian Electoral Office. At the same time, because this information is of considerable interest both to the Parliament and to the public, it has been decided that future analyses should be tabled in Parliament with the object of assisting the consideration of the redistribution proposals. It follows that the analyses will be available to the distribution commissioners should they wish to refer to them.
Analyses in the past have contained statistical tables showing the percentage of the vote which would have been won by each political party in each proposed division at the preceding election had it been conducted on the proposed boundaries. They have also contained commentaries summarising the anticipated political consequences of the proposed redistribution on the basis of the data contained in these statistical tables. Lest it be considered, albeit unjustifiably, that the commentaries are critical of the commissioners’ proposals, or are not detached in their assessments, it has been decided to confine future analyses to the statistical tables only.
-by leave-On behalf of the Opposition, we welcome this move by the Government. I do not think that the Minister for Administrative Services (Mr McLeay) is correct in saying that the impact of the analysis to be done by the Australian Electoral Office could be compared with the assessments which are made from time to time by politicians, academics, party workers, journalists and others because we do have a very special relationship between this Parliament, the Australian Electoral Office, and the distribution commissioners. One would hope that we can avoid any charge of improper conduct at the next redistribution, which will be held some time after 1984.
I think the analyses of what might occur following redistributions are of enormous importance. Whilst it is suggested that the Distribution Commissioners might use them, I feel sure they will use them. Only at redistribution time do members of this Parliament think of themselves as individuals. Between redistributions we are very much a part of our own parties. In the larger States especially, as one could see from the massive change that took place in the proposed division of Lowe in the New South Wales redistribution, this sort of analysis is of importance to us. It throws up what every individual who serves in this Parliament and what all political parties should be happy to have above board.
I believe that the added responsibility of the Electoral Office to make public analyses which are prepared by it, and which perhaps will add something to the debate that may take place, will be of benefit not only to those of us who participate in the Parliament but also to the public and community generally.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
The Poultry Industry Levy Amendment Bill 1 979. The Poultry Industry Assistance Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1979.
Parliament House Construction Authority Bill 1979.
-by leave-I present the report of the Australian delegation to the Symposium on Development Co-operation held by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and the Council of Europe in Paris on 6 and 7 December 1978. Following the very strong wish of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe that the Australian Parliament should be represented at the Symposium on Development Co-operation, three members of the Federal Parliament were selected for this purpose. They were the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis), Senator Shirley Walters, senator for Tasmania, and I.
The Symposium was held in the context of the growing income differences between the rich and poor nations of the world, which have been exacerbated by the political difficulties many developed countries now have in achieving aid objectives because of problems of unemployment and inflation at home. This has resulted in a decline in official aid to lesser developed countries as a proportion of the gross domestic product of the OECD nations. In addition, the protectionist policies of the developed world pose a major threat, particularly to the future of the newly industrialised nations, whilst the mounting burden of external debt by the lesser developed countries now means that 20 per cent of their total export income is going into the servicing of borrowings. As so many of the world’s LDCs are in Australia’s region, the Symposium had a special significance for Australia.
The Australian delegation participated fully in the Symposium, which provided an important opportunity to exchange views on the many difficulties involving relationships between developed and the developing nations. The Australian delegation is of the opinion that, whilst disagreements at the Symposium were so great that no agreed declaration could be issued, the opportunity it presented to expose European parliamentarians to Australian attitudes on this matter made it worth while. In addition, the extent of evident recognition by European parliamentarians of the merit of many of the attitudes expressed by non-European participants, including Australia, suggests that failure to attend future symposiums or conferences of this kind could act to Australia ‘s disadvantage.
The Symposium, in general, expressed a strongly supportive view of the reports presented to it by the Development Assistance Commission and in particular, by Mr Mommersteeg, the Rapporteur of the Committee on Economic Affairs and Development of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. Although no members of parliaments in the ‘developing’ world attended the Symposium, the Pakistan Ambassador to Paris, Mr Iqbal Akhund presented a strong address stressing the need for an improvement in trading relations between the developing countries and the developed world.
It was an honour for the Australian delegation that Senator Shirley Walters was selected to chair the public session on the afternoon of 7 December dealing with ‘Public and Parliamentary Attitudes to Relations with Developing Countries’. At the end of this session a draft declaration was submitted for discussion. The Australian delegates objected to sections of this declaration and sought to have it amended.
The Austraiian delegation expressed its concern to the Symposium about the uneven nature of trade benefits to donor countries that may emerge from development assistance to developing nations, particularly the newly industrialised nations. The American Ambassador, Mr Grant, had pointed to the significant trading benefits that generally emerged from the provision of aid to rapidly industrialising countries in the Third World. This was underlined in a paper entitled Salient features of recent development experience and developing country participation in the world economy’ that had been prepared for the Symposium by the secretariat. This pointed out that in 10 years the newly industrialised countries’ ‘deficit in trade and manufactures with the industrialised countries rose from $4.6 billion to $17.6 billion in 1976 . . . over the same period, the OECD surplus in such trade with all non-European non-OPEC developing countries rose from about $1 1 billion to over $37 billion’. The Australian delegation pointed to this experience and expressed concern that pressures to increase the aid commitment by countries such as Australia which are not major exporters of capital equipment could well result simply in an increased OECD export with relatively little benefit to the non-European nations providing the aid. In other words: ‘We provide the aid and you get the trade’.
The Australian delegation pressed the view that the developed nations should adopt acceptable trade practices, particularly in respect of imports of manufactures from the newly industrialised countries. In this context, it was pointed out that, whilst Australia did maintain some trade restraints, it did not employ the prohibitions and similar embargoes that are maintained within the European Economic Community. As a result, the Australian delegation supported the suggested amendments to the draft declaration which stated that the meeting would renew efforts to give manufacturers from the lesser developed countries freer access to the industrialised countries’ markets. This replaced the unacceptable proposal that access be ‘free ‘.
The delegation was concerned at the view expressed by European parliamentarians at the Symposium that European food surpluses could be justified by the increasing trend to world food shortages in under-developed nations. When this view was expressed in the draft declaration, the Australian delegation sought to amend it and argued that the enormous volumes of money involved in providing food surpluses in Europe could be far more effectively used increasing the agricultural capacity of those nations with food shortages, if the Europeans were genuine in seeking to overcome this problem. As a result, Mr McNamara of the United Kingdom and I jointly moved an amendment that this meeting of parliamentarians ‘considers it urgent to draw public attention to the contribution which expanded investment programs for food production in developing countries can make, not only towards the relief of hunger and malnutrition in these countries, but also to stable food prices for consumers in all countries ‘.
The Australian delegation also sought to include an addendum that parliamentarians would endeavour ‘to ensure that any progress towards liberalising world trade in manufactures be accompanied by similar moves in commodities (particularly in respect of non-tariff barriers), so that lesser developing countries will be able to share fully in any successes in diminishing the excessive protectionism of developed nations or groups of nations’. Overall, however, the thrust of the declaration received the broad support of the Australian delegation, which stressed the need for the objectives of freer trade by the industrialised nations with the lesser developed nations to extend into the Asian and Pacific regions, not only into Africa, which some European nations consider to be their sphere of influence and with which they have traditional ties. The Australian delegation pointed out that Australia’s aid contribution to the lesser developed counties was higher at 0.45 per cent of gross domestic product than the OECD average of 0.32 per cent, and that the great bulk of
Australia’s aid was untied, a situation considerably different from that obtaining for many European donors.
The Australian delegation also stressed the fact that the concentration on the development of export industries among the lesser developed countries was not necessarily in the best interests of the recipient nations. In many instances, the export industries did not provide either employment or flow-on benefits to the bulk of the population and simply provided a cheaper manufacturing base for trans-national corporations than they enjoyed in developed nations. It was suggested that European aid appeared, in many instances, to have the objective of bringing ultimate trade benefits to the donor country and that this improperly influenced the criteria used in establishing the manner in which aid funds should be allocated.
The delegation expressed its concern that European trading practices, as evidenced by the EEC experience, did not give cause for confidence that the expressions of good faith towards developing countries at this Symposium would be translated into practice. The Parliamentarians were reminded of the extent to which the EEC had discriminated against Australian exports and those of other nations in the region, while at the same time enormous food surpluses, which had been created behind an artificial protective barrier, were now being dumped on Australia’s traditional markets in the region.
The draft declaration was subjected to so many suggested amendments, including those from the Australian delegation which recommended material changes, that the Symposium agreed there was not sufficient time available to resolve the disagreements and as a result it was accepted that the draft and the suggested amendments all be submitted to the Council of Europe as an expression of various opinions at the Symposium on Development Aid. The Delegation is grateful for the courtesy extended to it by the President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Mr H. J. de Koster, who entertained delegates at a reception, to Mr Van Lennep, Secretary-General of the OECD who entertained delegates at a luncheon, and the Australian Ambassador to the OECD in Paris, Ambassador Donovan, and his staff who provided essential assistance to the Delegation.
-by leave-Mr Speaker, this was a tremendously important conference. I am indeed grateful that I was able to attend. The only problem I had was that we were selected at such short notice that we had only a few days in which to get ready and acquaint ourselves with the very fundamental and important issues which were at stake. In my view, the issues raised were of tremendous importance to the future of the world. They were enormously important to the Third World for the reasons given already by the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Baume). I just reiterate some of those reasons. One is the Third World poverty, with 750 million people in abject poverty at present and with forecasts of up to 1.7 billion people in abject poverty by the end of the century. International distribution of income is becoming more unequal. Unemployment is already up to 300 million people in the Third World countries with the need to find another 700 million jobs between now and the end of the century just to stop that unemployment level becoming higher. The debt problem of non or less developed countries is becoming enormously high at 27 per cent of export income. On the part of the developed countries, official development assistance, instead of increasing towards the 0.7 per cent objective to which they have all dedicated themselves, has declined to 0.3 1 per cent at present.
This matter is enormously important to Australia, too, because of humanitarian considerations, because of the future stability of the world and because it raises questions, as it does for all developed countries, as to how we can best help. Whatever we do will involve some sacrifice and economic adjustment with regard to trade or aid or both. It is important to us because the current developments are placing great pressure on our manufacturing industry and employment capacity. What the Third World countries want is a new international economic order. There was only one spokesman for the Third World at this conference, the Pakistani Ambassador to France, Ambassador Akhund. His speech was dedicated substantially to supporting the need for a new international economic order. Just what that means is somewhat general and intangible, but certain things are clear. Firstly, it means they want to redress the current unfair balance of economic power between the Third World countries and developed countries and they see such measures as the Common Fund and commodity agreements as being basic in this regard. They want to become much more developed and industrialised and to achieve this objective they need the assistance of developed countries by way of increased development assistance and lower barriers to their exports.
What has been happening in the last decade or two is that in the absence of acceptance by the developed countries of the new international economic order, Third World countries have had to accept what aid they could obtain. With declining official development assistance they have had to turn to private capital for development, that is, to trans-national corporations, and hence the development of what have become known as export platforms’ in various Third World countries. Small segments of the country, or in the case of a small country such as Singapore or Hong Kong virtually the whole of the country, become free trade areas for multi-national companies to operate in and to provide some growth and employment for that country. Many countries in the South East Asian area are in this category and are known as ‘newly industrialising countries’ or ‘NICS’. It seems to me that this is not a good pattern of development to follow, particularly for all less developed countries, firstly because the benefits of growth in many of them do not percolate through to the mass of the population. This, indeed, was part of Ambassador Akhund ‘s address. Secondly, such a pattern puts great pressure on manufacturing industry and employment in developed countries, especially those such as Australia, which do not benefit from the off-setting export to those countries of high technology and capital goods. Of course, many of the countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development are benefiting at present through exporting such capital items to those countries. We are not in that category.
The failure of Third World countries to transform their domestic economies to make them more productive, because of political unwillingness to upset established ownership and production systems, means that these countries are not very capable of taking each other’s exports. Hence exports which are developed in these export platforms are concentrated in intent on developed countries’ markets. In a time of recession, in particular, this means inevitable recourse to increased protection. In these circumstances it seems to me, as a result of consideration of these matters, that we should do at least the following: Firstly, we must join the few developed countries which are providing 0.7 per cent of gross domestic product as official development assistance as soon as possible and urge all other developed countries to do the same. It is to the lasting disgrace of the developed countries, including Australia, that the reverse is happening at present. Secondly, there should be an attempt to persuade Third World countries that the only certain way to increase development is by the transformation and strengthening of their own economies so that they can feed themselves, eliminate poverty and unemployment and get on to a growth path. Thirdly, we should support United Nations’ initiatives to place international controls on the activities of trans-national corporations to prevent exploitation of Third World people. Fourthly, we should accept that we must to some extent accommodate Third World industrial development objectives by restructuring our economy to enable us to import some of the products of their development without causing increased unemployment in our own country. I thank the House.
-On behalf of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Expenditure I present the report of the Committee entitled ‘Parliament and Public Expenditure’, together with the minutes and transcript of evidence.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– by leave-This report is a product of its time. It is a report that could not have been written, even three years ago, when the Parliament had a limited perception of its role in the public expenditure process. This report simply had to be written today because of the growing concern that the elected Parliament is a weak and weakening institution.. It is a report that had to be written, now that talk of parliamentary reform is in the air, so as to provide a sharper focus for some of the debate and discussion that will inevitably take place. With the indulgence of the House, may I assert that it is a report that could only have been written by the House’s own committee of financial scrutiny, a committee which I am exceedingly proud to chair.
Honourable members- Hear, hear!
-It has given a number of very good Ministers to the House, too. In preparing this report committee members were acutely conscious of the paramount need of readability; to produce a report that states its case succinctly and briefly. For those interested in a short summary, however, we have provided the briefest of summaries and, in a unique way.
The report is summarised effectively in the diagram on the cover. This diagram, produced in greater detail on page 9, tells the story; one of limited participation by the Parliament in the public expenditure process. The report advocates an enhanced role for the Parliament in this process. Dominating the report like a drumbeat is the message that increased participation requires new parliamentary procedures, and better information. We have recommended that this report be debated during the current autumn sittings of the Parliament. The issues and matters raised are far too important for the Government to respond to without the Parliament being given an opportunity to influence that response. I envisage a debate in the House of at least three hours’ duration with each speaker allowed a maximum of 10 minutes in order to allow many members to participate.
The report and its recommendations should provide a focal point for debate. Chapter 2, which describes the public expenditure process, is the springboard from which we examine the means by which the Parliament can influence Budget formulation. We make the valid point in the third Chapter, entitled ‘The Role of Parliament’, (i) Influencing Budget Formulation- that Budget estimates information is both too late and too early. It is far too late to influence this year’s Budget; and it is much too early to influence the next one. We have asked the Government to- inform the Parliament of the fate of the recommendations on forward estimates in the report of the Royal Commission into Australian Government Administration; and to provide the Parliament with relevant information for a regular debate in the autumn sittings on expenditure patterns and priorities.
The fourth and last Chapter, entitled ‘The Role of Parliament: (ii) Information Needs for Increased Scrutiny’ also discusses information needs; the need for the Parliament to receive program statements. Most of the information the Parliament receives is related to expenditure inputs; for example, salaries, overtime and office requisites. Such a presentation was relevant in an era when the Commonwealth operated administrative-type departments. It is less relevant today because of the increased scope of government expenditure which is directed at assisting individuals or organisations; for example, health, education, social security and welfare programs. There are more than 1,000 separate public sector programs and the Parliament should be told of their objectives, that is, their purposes; total costs, that is, how much is spent; and output/effectiveness, that is, results. To assist honourable members in understanding what is required the Committee has provided an example of a program statement at page 22 of the report. Appropriate recommendations follow. The need for program statements has been recognised by several departments because of their value in establishing expenditure priorities. What I have described is the kernel, the embryo or the essence of the report. Honourable members will be interested also in Appendix I which is a description of the Budget process. Because of the importance the Expenditure Committee attaches to this report it makes the offer to brief all honourable members on its meaning and purpose if this is what they want. In preparing this report the Committee has considered the reality of the relationship between the Parliament and the Executive. The reality is that the Parliament does not govern; often, the Executive governs. But it does and should do so through the Parliament. When we talk of increasing the level of Parliament’s participation in the public expenditure process it is necessary- indeed, it is vital- to have a clear idea of what this means. Talk of parliamentary control of expenditure always strikes a responsive chord. The conventional wisdom refers to the Parliament exercising the ‘power of the purse’ over governments. This is correct in a constitutional sense. But this fact has to be tempered by reality, the reality that the Parliament has not formulated an approach to control, the reality that under the Westminster system the governing party is in a majority which has a vested interest in supporting the proposals of the Executive; and the reality that it is thus difficult to see how the House can control a situation when its own majority has to support the Executive. .
– In the Australian system?
-Yes. The conclusion the Committee has reached is inescapable: Parliamentary control of expenditure is a myth. Attempts to revive it are attempts to ‘resurrect a corpse that never lived ‘. Therefore, it quotes with obvious approval the words of the late Sir Henry d’Avigdor-Goldsmid, a former chairman of the United Kingdom Expenditure Committee:
As in the fable of the Emperor’s new clothes, parliamentary control of expenditure is a myth that all concerned have every reason to foster.
These may be hard words, but I must emphasise once again that the report seeks a greater role for the Parliament to influence expenditure decisions and not to control them. The recommendations that deal with information needs are not a shopping list. They have been carefully thought out and represent what the Committee considers to be reasonable in the current circumstances. It trusts and expects them to be treated in this way by the Government. I must thank all the members of the Committee for the effort put into the inquiry. Altogether the Committees appointed in the 30th and 3 1st Parliaments held one in camera hearing, on evidence subsequently published, seven public hearings and twenty private meetings. This in itself indicates the time and effort put in by the Committee. Everyone helped. I and the Committee are indeed grateful to have as Deputy Chairman the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Frank Stewart). Only space and time prevents me from thanking each member individually. The report contains an enormous contribution from each member of the Committee.
I end on the following note. It is impossible for the Parliament to examine properly major decisions involving thousands of millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money without the detailed examination of facts and arguments. Therefore, to some extent parliamentary processes must be designed to enable the House, its committees or its individual members to seek and obtain relevant information. If the price of liberty is eternal vigilance, then the price of parliamentary democracy is eternal scrutiny. The ever-increasing extent, power and complexity of government requires that that scrutiny be more and better informed. We consider that this report will be useful for many years as a guide to the Parliament and as a significant manifesto for its rational development.
Motion (by Mr Fife) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
-I thank the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Fife) for moving that motion. I support the comments made by the Chairman of the House of Representatives Expenditure Committee. I will be short in my remarks because the Committee has suggested that time for debate on the report should be made available during the autumn sittings. There is no reason for honourable members to go through the report just presented. There is no doubt in my mind or in the minds of Committee members that Parliament has very little scrutiny of public expenditure and it is something about which honourable members should show a much greater interest. The diagrams on pages 8 and 9 of the report give an idea of how little opportunity the Parliament has to see what is going on in the Public Service departments- what they are doing with their money, how much they are going to spend, where they are going to spend it and so forth. I also commend Appendix 1, which sets out a description of the Budget process. I think all honourable members will find that interesting. One becomes aware that the Budget process for the next year commences almost immediately the Budget has been presented in the House each year. I look forward to an interesting debate on this report when the Government gives approval for that debate to come on. I congratulate the Chairman of the Committee on the work that was put into the report. I congratulate also all members of that Committee for their efforts.
-As a member of the Committee who participated in the preparation of this report I would like to join with the Chairman, the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns), and the deputy chairman, the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Stewart), in commending to the House the report on Parliament and Public Expenditure. The report may look a somewhat slender piece but, in fact, it is the closely reasoned and tightly argued outcome of many hours hard work and deliberation. The Committee is particularly indebted to Mr Michael Ives, who was responsible for a significant part of the drafting. The subject of the report is the participation of this Parliament in the public expenditure process. Other participants include the Executive- the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and Cabinet- the Public Service departments and the Auditor-General.
As the Chairman said, the report advocates an enhanced role for the Parliament in this process. Its central message is then that increased participation requires new parliamentary procedures and better information.
This report faces squarely the reality of the relationship between the Parliament and the Executive. I would like to stress that it is not an attempt to have a go at the Executive in any way. The reality is that the Parliament does not govern; the Executive governs, as the Chairman pointed out, but it does and should do so through the Parliament. There is then talk of parliamentary control of expenditure. The fact of that is that parliamentary control of expenditure is a myth and, to quote the Chairman again, attempts to revive it are attempts to ‘resurrect a corpse that never lived’. Therefore, what the Committee seeks in this report is the form, the possible shape, of a greater role for the Parliament to influence expenditure decisions. To that end, we have made recommendations as to the information that Parliament needs to exercise that role.
In concluding these remarks, I say only that the Committee is not at this stage making extravagant requests. For instance, a key recommendation of the Committee, recommendation No. 4, is that there be a major debate in the autumn sittings on expenditure patterns and priorities. The Committee goes on to indicate the sort of information that would need to be before the Parliament as the basis for a meaningful debate. Essentially, it would be information already prepared by the departments, a sub-set, so to speak, of the forward estimates prepared between October and March in one financial year and relating to the three following years, as described in Appendix 1 of the report, paragraphs 8 to 10 at page 28- the Committee’s minimum request is for the next two years only. I observe that that is significantly less than the information that comes before the Government, before the Executive, at the time of the preparation of the Budget. This is an important report. We commend it to the close study of honourable members and the Government alike.
– As a more recent member of the Expenditure Committee, I should like to add my full support to the recommendations contained in the report and to make some brief comments on its implications. The broad object of the report is to analyse the relationship of the Parliament and public expenditure and to suggest ways and means of giving some reality to the myth that in effect Parliament does exercise significant influence over public expenditure. As the Chairman has pointed out, I do not think that anyone seriously believes the long-standing myth that Parliament in any way controls public expenditure. If we moderate our language and talk about influencing rather than controlling budgetary expenditure, the Committee has found that the influence of the Parliament is quite limited.
I regard this report as a very tentative step along the road to reining in the more formidable influence of the partnership of the Public Service bureaucracy and the Executive in its domination of the Parliament. The recommendations certainly would allow the Parliament an earlier look at the Budget plans if forward estimates were made available for debate during the autumn session. Whilst this is important in the present situation, it would still mean that by the time the Budget was passed at the end of the spring session, the Budget would already have been largely committed and spent to the extent of fivetwelfths of the total. This is legitimised by the Supply Bills, which are virtually passed in the dark by the Parliament in the latter days of the autumn sitting. The Supply Bills are passed without any real knowledge of the Government’s intentions or the general direction in which it is heading for the following Budget year. We acknowledge the reality that the Executive, and not the Parliament, governs, but the Executive must operate within the constitutional framework of the Parliament. It must not be allowed to surrender its sovereignty to the domination and effective control of the Public Service bureaucracy. Having taken this tentative step along the way to more effective scrutiny, I hope that the response to the report will be such that the Parliament, and this House particularly, will encourage the Expenditure Committee to investigate further and inquire into the more wide-ranging and radical changes in the scrutiny of public expenditure and, more particularly, into possible changes in the timing of the Budget.
The Committee’s terms of reference did not cover an important question raised late in the inquiry regarding passing a single Budget before the end of the financial year, which would remove the necessity of the time-consuming and ritualistic process of passing the Supply Bills in the autumn session. The approval of a single budget before the commencement of the year of expenditure is the normal procedure throughout the commercial business world. For a government that has such admiration for the practices and principles of private enterprise, the adoption of a similar procedure should have some attraction. Many modern Western economies, including our most important trading partner, Japan, and several western European countries, have adopted single Budgets. One of the main objections to the single Budget being passed before the financial year commences is that the frantic period of putting the Budget together in June and July would have to take place in the December-January period, which would cause undue interference to the summer pastimes of both politicians and senior bureaucrats. This objection pre-supposes that we are permanently wedded to the idea of the financial year beginning and ending midway through the calendar year. We can overcome this by budgeting for the calendar year rather than for the existing financial year.
Why do we have to operate on two different time scales? Why cannot our financial year correspond with the calendar year? If we took the plunge and made this change, the Budget could be prepared and debated precisely on the same time scale as it is now. Forward estimates could be prepared within the same time scale, but the spending of the Budget, which we pass in the spring, would not begin until 1 January the following year. All that is required for the initial change is that the forward estimates be prepared for 18 months rather than for 12 months, that is to say, from 1 July 1979 to 31 December 1980.
After the initial change, we could revert to a 12- months Budget passed before the year begin. Although this means a radical change from a well-entrenched precedent, I suggest that, if the proposal was approached rationally,’ it could be achieved with a minimum of dislocation. However, as with most changes, I have no doubt that those powerful arms of the bureaucracy, Treasury and Finance, are capable of conjuring up many objections to such a proposal. Under the present arrangements, it is suggested that up to 80 per cent of the Budget is determined by previous decisions such as the payments to the States, salaries of public servants, building projects under way, and commitments to established programs made well before the Budget is debated. In effect, budget-making becomes a matter of fiddling on the margin of Government expenditure. We acknowledge the reality of the need for secrecy and confidentiality in regard to the revenue side of the Budget, but there is no real reason why the expenditure plans of the Government cannot become available to the Parliament for debate in the August-November Budget session, before the actual expenditure commences in January of the following year. A single Budget does not preclude the need for additional or supplementary estimates, and provision is made for these in those countries where the single budget is in force. Additionally, there is a substantial saving of the resources of the bureaucracy by disposing altogether of the necessity for the Supply Bills.
I enjoyed my brief association with the Committee in working on this report. May I express the hope that, having taken the first step to a closer scrutiny of public expenditure, a further opportunity for looking at this most important aspect of the role of the Parliament can be pursued to the point where it might look seriously at the implications of a single Budget based on the calendar year, to be debated and passed in this Parliament before the actual expenditure process commences. Only in that way can the Parliament be seen to be exercising reasonable scrutiny of the Budget.
-In my view, this is one of the most important reports that the Parliament has received. Through the Parliament’s response, it has the capacity to make it one of the most effective reports to be tabled in this place. The report is important because it gives proper appreciation of and recognition to the grave responsibility that rests upon Parliament to scrutinise properly the administration of the funds provided to it by the public. I will not speak at length on the report at this stage, but there are a couple of points that I wish to stress. Firstly, whether or not the report is to have any practical effect is largely up to this Parliament, and I urge all honourable members to study our recommendations closely and do what they can to give effect to them. As a first step I ask the Government to give a guarantee that at least recommendation No. 1 will be agreed to in order that the Parliament may give a full expression of its views on this subject during the autumn sitting. Secondly, I call on all honourable members of this chamber who are interested in parliamentary reform to strive through the channels open to them to achieve the changes in parliamentary procedures that are necessary to give effect to the Committee’s basic recommendations.
I am sure that no member of this chamber would disagree with me when I say that to date this Parliament has exercised no effective ongoing scrutiny of public expenditure.There is an occasional ad hoc inquiry into specific programs, but no more than that. In other words, to date this Parliament and the Parliaments before it have failed to meet their obligations with respect to a major aspect of Parliament’s work. Our procedures to oversee public expenditure have been farcical, and Parliament has played an endorsement role only. To this time the elected representatives of the people have been unable to scrutinise effectively the expenditure of those funds provided by the people. The report realistically recognises that Parliament cannot play any significant control function in the public expenditure process, and it concentrates on our capacity to scrutinise and to provide an element of discipline to those who spend from the public purse. Paragraph 29 of the report states that the broad objectives of financial scrutiny are to safeguard expenditure of taxpayers’ money, to promote and encourage efficiency in administration, and to influence priorities and policies. According to Bernard Crick in his book The Reform of Parliament, the end purpose of the work of scrutiny is:
Influence, not direct power, advice, not command; criticism, not obstruction . . . and publicity, not secrecy.
The report clearly shows that the present procedures of the Parliament, together with the information made available to it, ensure that it is not competent effectively to influence, to advise or to criticise public expenditure proposals at any of the formulation, implementation or review stages of the public expenditure process. The members of this Parliament, particularly those of this Chamber, have over the years done precious little to rectify this situation. This House last revised its Standing Orders in connection with the
Budget in 1962 and the Joint Committee of Public Accounts last reported on the form of the Budget documents 25 years ago. In other words, the House of Representatives has stood still while the Executive and the Senate have both improved their own status, function and processes with respect to the public expenditure cycle.
– Would the honourable member support a procedures committee?
– I have said already that the honourable members of this House should work through their own channels and their parliamentary reform committees to bring forward revised procedures for this chamber. I hope that we all do this. Our Estimates debates these days provide the best example of the impotence of this chamber with respect to the way in which we examine public expenditure. In these debates, which are based on inadequate information, honourable members simply make second reading speeches which concentrate almost exclusively on political policy making rather than on the Estimates themselves.
As our report says, the timing of the Estimates debates ensures that they achieve nothing because they are too late to affect the present Budget and too early to affect the next one. In fact, while we are debating a budget over which we have no influence, the Executive is busy gathering together the forward estimates for the next Budget. That is a process in which we have no role either. It is a pity that we have, in a de facto way, handed this review role to the Senate, particularly when most of the Ministry is involved in this chamber. The Estimates should therefore be subjected to detailed examination by this chamber through sophisticated expenditure committees. I am particularly attracted to the need to provide Parliament with both the information and the procedures it needs to examine long-term overall patterns of public expenditure at a time of each year when some impact may be had on this Budget decision-making process.
This broader view of expenditure patterns, based on a two to three year perspective, needs to be given more consideration by Parliament rather than, as occurs at present, expenditure being viewed solely in terms of short-term economy strategy and in terms of the politics of individual expenditure votes. At present governments are being placed in invidious and almost impossible long-term budgetary positions because of decisions of previous governments which have had no regard for the longer term implications of their ad hoc budgetary decision making. Even if the Parliament can do nothing in the decision-making process it should at least be given the wherewithall to examine, to understand and to comment on these developments. As the honourable member for Fraser (Mr Fry) just mentioned, with both the revenue and the expenditure sides of the Budget being locked in increasingly by indexation, with longer lead times being involved in certain major expenditure items, and with the Budget assuming more and more the role of establishing longer-term irrevocable social parameters, it is becoming much more important for Parliament to play a more significant role in examining the expenditure process within a longer-term time frame and at times which permit it to have some effective input.
I agree with the need to place emphasis on longer-term Budget planning, perhaps on a rolling triennial basis, and the suggestion that the focal point in the expenditure process should therefore be moved from the annual Budget. The provision of forward projections of expenditure requirements would require this Parliament to receive much more sophisticated information than it now does if it is to become more responsible in its present day expenditure planning. As I have said, both the present and previous governments have placed themselves in a very awkward budgetary situation. In my opinion, this Parliament has not had a full appreciation of the longterm effects on expenditure planning which have resulted from the present short-term ad hoc annual approach. An improvement in the procedures of Parliament and the information available to it would enable the Parliament more fully to examine, to understand, to influence and to scrutinise these developments at the various stages of the expenditure process.
The concept of program statements, as mentioned in the report, is absolutely essential to the review of economy and efficiency in public expenditure. This review function of the Parliament can readily be enhanced. This is certainly the area in which the Parliament can be an important and sobering influence on those who both establish and administer expenditure priorities. Although program statements may not be universally applied, I think some of the inquiries already conducted by the Expenditure Committee of this House over the past few years have shown the value of this kind of approach to review work. In evidence presented some of the spending departments welcomed the concept of program statements. I believe that this Parliament should certainly support the recommendation which seeks to encourage the development of program statements by all departments.
Time will not permit me to say more at this stage. I hope to have the opportunity of speaking in detail on this subject later in this session if the Government accepts our first recommendation. In my view the recommendations of the Committee are very modest and they should not be objectionable to the government of the day. They would ensure that planning and review of the expenditure process would take place within a much improved time perspective and that the capacity of Parliament to scrutinise such expenditure effectively would be greatly enhanced. Whether this occurs is completely up to the individual members of this Parliament. I ask all honourable members to study in detail the report, together with the associated evidence and to do what they can to ensure that effect is given to these recommendations.
I make one further comment which is particularly relevant to the Chairman of our Committee. If we as private members of this Parliament are to refine the procedures of this House further, as has occurred for example with the development of legislation committees, and if we are as a result to play a more meaningful role in the expenditure process as a result of new procedures and the more sophisticated information which will be made available to us, members of this House will require more staffing assistance than we presently have. If we are to be professional in our approach to both our legislative and review functions in the years ahead, we will need to have a more professional staff establishment for each honourable member of this House. The work load of members of Parliament has increased substantially in recent years. Yet each year the Rumuneration Tribunal continues to grant us pay increases rather than to concentrate on giving us those resources, such as additional staff, which would help us to do our jobs better. Only if this occurs will we as members of Parliament be able to respond positively to reports such as this one and thereby strengthen the ever weakening role of the Parliament against the Executive.
Finally, I also congratulate the Chairman of the Committee for the leadership he has given in compiling a report which has been quite a difficult one to compile and which has taken a lot of consideration by the Expenditure Committee. I thank the House.
-I will speak very briefly in this debate. A lot of pious words will not change anything. Three weeks ago in this place not one honourable member on the Government side of the House objected to a statement made by the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) in which he made it quite clear that he considered that the Parliament had no role in the policy making function of government and had no right to examine expenditure proposals until after they had been made. Three years ago, after almost two years of study both inside and outside Australia, a committee of this House reported to this Parliament on the establishment of a committee structure for this House so that it could more effectively carry out its program. At the time of its report that committee was chaired by the former President of the Senate, Sir Magnus Cormack. It was previously chaired by the honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins) who conducted the substantial part of its hearings. The facts are that, despite repeated promises to this House that a debate on that committee report would take place, nothing has ever happened; the debate has never been brought forward. That debate has been promised by the Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair) on a number of occasions. If we are to reform or to make more meaningful the procedures of this chamber, not only do we have to have reports and to talk in the Parliament, but also Government members have to make sure that the Government provides time in this Parliament to discuss the recommendations that come forward. Until that is done we may as well stop talking.
-I commend the report of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Expenditure to all honourable members because the ramifications of it are very important. As has been spelt out by previous speakers in this debate, this Parliament is totally emasculated when it comes to considering the Estimates and the Budget generally. I would like to point out two specific instances of this matter. I refer the Parliament to the estimates for the Parliament itself. For instance, the Department of Defence calls in every expert in that Department- the Army, the Royal Australian Navy, the Royal Australian Air Force, the munitions manufacturers and the range of people who could have an input into that area of budget expenditure. But when it comes to the parliamentary estimates we, the members of parliament, the people who are most concerned with the amount of money that is made available to the Parliament to run its committees and to perform its functions, are given no say whatsoever.
Secondly, if we members of this Parliament were given more say in what the Budget provides, by being able to speak to the Estimates before the Budget is formulated and presented to us as a fait accompli we, as parliamentarians, might not suffer indignities such as those we suffered in the presentation of the last Budget, when we saw taxes being inflicted on paper boys, on the blind and on people working in sheltered workshops, with the resulting embarrassment of those decisions having to be reversed by the Government. If all the members of this Parliament had known that those measures were going to be contained in the Budget, I doubt that they would have been included in the first place. If for no reason other than that the dignity of this House should be maintained and that we, as members of this House, should not be impugned as we were by the decisions I have mentioned, I think it is very important that every member of parliament, whether an Opposition or Government member, should look at this report, take note of it and try to bring some influence to bear on the Executive to ensure that the Parliament does get a say in the formulation of the forward estimates.
Debate (on motion by Mr Hyde) adjourned.
-Mr Speaker has received a letter from the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The need to ensure that no new uranium export contracts are approved by the Government until such times as the grave risks associated with the nuclear industry have been resolved.
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 Deputy Speaker, in the last week two events have taken place which have led the Opposition to propose the matter to which you have just referred the House as a matter of public importance. The first of those events was the arrangements made between Queensland Mines Ltd, the proprietary company which holds the leases for the Nabarlek uranium area, and the Shikoko Electric Power Co. Incorporated of Japan for the supply of 6,000 tonnes of yellow cake to that utility and for the balance of 10,000 tonnes to another Japanese power utility in the future, namely, the Kyusu Electric Power Co. Incorporated. The other event was the near catastrophic failure of the newly-installed thermal reactor at Harrisburg in Pennsylvania in the United States of America, where we have witnessed for the first time the prospect of the ultimate nuclear calamity and the possible melt-down of a reactor core.
The Opposition believes that it is opportune now to say to the Government that the impending contracts for exports of yellow cake which will arise from negotiations by Queensland Mines and from the decision by the Government to send out private members of the Ranger consortium, Peko Mines Ltd and the Electrolytic Zinc Co. of Australasia Ltd, on their own marketing expedition and for the Government, as a member of the Ranger consortium, to go out on its own marketing expedition to find contracts in a market which is very thin and very poor indeed in terms of market demand for uranium, should not be agreed to by the Government until an attempt is made by the Government and other interested parties to ensure that, as we state in our matter of public importance, ‘the grave risks associated with the nuclear industry have been resolved ‘.
We on this side of the House are not going to take an hysterical point of view or to make the false accusation that government policy in this respect in any direct way was associated with the events in Harrisburg in the United States. Nevertheless, we must make the point that the Government, through its policy, is buttressing the course of nuclear power and the development of nuclear power by the supply of quite massive amounts of uranium potentially on to a very thin world market, thereby depressing the price of uranium and making it more available. The Government has abandoned all notion of sequential development. The Ranger mine will produce about 3,500 tonnes of uranium oxide per annum. The Queensland Mines operation will produce about 1,050 tonnes per annum and Yeelirrie, Pancontinental Mining Ltd and others are standing in the queue. On the basis of the Government’s present performance, we could see an attempt being made to sell possibly 6,000 or 7,000 tonnes of annual production on the world market. This must have the effect of depressing prices and making nuclear power a more commercial option.
Lest people think it is an extravagance on the Opposition’s part to raise this matter as a matter of public importance, let me read again items 1 and 7 of the principal findings and recommendations contained in the first report of the
Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry, which dealt with the export of Australian uranium. The first stated:
The hazards of mining and milling uranium, if those activities are properly regulated and controlled, are not such as to justify a decision not to develop Australian uranium mines.
The report went on to state, in item 7 of the principal findings and recommendations:
Policy respecting Australian uranium exports, for the time being at least, should be based on a full recognition of the hazards, dangers and problems of and associated with the production of nuclear energy, and should therefore seek to limit or restrict expansion of that production.
I stress that the recommendation was that policy should seek to limit the expansion of production of nuclear power. Another of those findings and recommendations stated, in relation to reactor safety:
The hazards involved in the ordinary operations of nuclear power reactors, if those operations are properly regulated and controlled, are not such as to justify a decision not to mine and sell Australian uranium.
The truth is that even a modern reactor, such as the one at Harrisburg, is not safe. One must ask whether the recommendations contained in the first Ranger report are not more poignant and more valid today than they were when they were presented. I think it is reasonable for the Opposition to say to the Government: ‘Thus far and no further with uranium exports for the time being’. The whole case of the Government has centred on the matter of supply assurances. The Government says that we need to keep the promise of assured supplies at cheap prices to keep people away from the fast breeder option. The true position is this: The fast breeder option is under research at the moment in the United States, France and Japan. These countries will not turn away from fast breeder research, no matter how much uranium is available for supply. The dubious argument then tendered is that, if there are not supply assurances, the Western world’s nuclear power utilities will move into using fast breeders and out of using thermal reactors.
– What is wrong with that?
– It is just wrong. One must look at how difficult it now is to site a normal thermal reactor and, in the light of what happened at Harrisburg, at how increasingly difficult that would become, given the fact that a fast breeder has an efficiency level of around 3 per cent and a thermal reactor an efficiency level of around 70 per cent. Therefore, the whole fast breeder reactor process would be much more complicated and sensitive and it is new technology. Thermal reactors are already 20-odd years old and we have not perfected them. Can honourable members imagine the difficulties involved in trying to site a fast breeder reactor in or near a community in any part of the Western world? It will not happen. Fast breeders will not be a part of the power programs of the Western world- certainly, I think, not within the lifetime of most members of this Parliament, if at all.
That brings us to the question of where do we go with the thermal reactor. Every honourable member on this side of the House, and I would think, in the Parliament, would believe that it would be good for the world if the present nuclear industry operated more safely than it does now and if thermal reactors were far safer and more efficient than they are. Indeed, in the United States there has been a concentration on improving the efficiency of thermal reactors, but there has not been enough concentration on reactor safety. Reactor safety had died pretty well as an issue in the United States, where the waste disposal and the nuclear non-proliferation aspects were becoming prominent in the nuclear debate. Harrisburg opened up the whole debate on reactor safety once again. Perhaps the sad thing about Harrisburg was the fact that the reactor was commissioned in December because of some tax provision operating in the United States. Apparently the Nuclear Regulatory Commission pointed to some of the defects which subsequently brought us to this near catastrophic failure. Because of that consideration the reactor was prematurely commissioned and the results, of course, are now widely known. It gets around to the general question of management of the thermal reactor program. It is not a convincing management.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission in the United States is only four years old. Before that it was part of the American Atomic Energy Commission. Until 1975 there was no separate regulatory arm of the nuclear authority in the United States. The NRC, as it is called, is really only just getting its act together now in terms of management of the nuclear power program of the United States and reactor safety. Of course, it will have to get its act together a lot faster and a lot more effectively than it has done in the past.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) said in a sensible statement yesterday that Australia itself should have a separate nuclear regulatory authority as distinct from the Australian Atomic Energy Commission. We on this side of the House have said that in various debates. We make the point again. Such an arrangement is long overdue. Because of the essential conflict of interests the Government should split the Atomic Energy Commission to establish this regulatory body in this country. But generally we must do more about the operation of thermal reactors and make them safer. We cannot do that if we just allow the wholesale export of Australian uranium onto the world market at low prices to buttress the growth of nuclear power.
I think what will happen as a result of Harrisburg is that the delays in licensing procedures in the United States will be put back and the number of United States reactors which will be commissioned in the future will be infinitesimal compared with even the low projections which currently have been agreed upon. As well as that, there will be pressures in some other countries. Admittedly, the French, the Japanese and probably to a lesser extent the Germans, will probably go their wilful way with nuclear power for all other kinds of considerations which are prominent in their countries. Fortunately, we do not have a nuclear power station to worry about. But this would not be the position if we left it to the policies of Sir Charles Court. We heard at Question Time today that Australia, apparently with the agreement of the Prime Minister, would have a nuclear power reactor in Western Australia in the very near future. How foolish would it be to inflict upon this country the whole problem of nuclear waste disposal and reactor safety in a State which has a total electricity grid of about 1,200 megawatts. That State wants to feed an extra 1,000 megawatts from one power reactor into the electricity grid thereby doubling the size of the grid. Of course, such a proposal makes economic nonsense. It is even more economic nonsense when we consider the amount of steaming coal the steaming coal industry is exporting to Europe to run the fossil fuel power stations of Europe.
Is it suggested that we should bypass the option of sending steaming coal around the Australian coast to Perth, if in fact the Collie coal reserves in Western Australia are inadequate for power generation purposes? What a nonsense proposal a nuclear power plant in Western Australia would be. The only thing I have to say about such a proposition is this: Let it be said and understood widely that if my party comes to power in Australia it will never permit Sir Charles Court to build a nuclear power station in Western Australia. It would be a shame upon the present Federal Government, despite what the Prime Minister said this afternoon at Question Time, if it allowed this to happen. So I think Sir
Charles Court will be long gone from politics before such a thing is contemplated seriously in Western Australia.
We have to do more about the whole question of reactor safety. I think the Rasmussen report has now been very much discounted. Rasmussen said in his report that the prospect of a core melt down was one chance -
– How about all the scientists and their findings?
– The honourable member should just listen for a while- if he does he might learn something. Rasmussen said that there was one chance in 20,000 per reactor per year for a melt down and a one in one billion per reactor per year chance of a breach of the containment bell. The Three Mile Island episode really puts the Rasmussen report into wraps.
I just want to deal briefly with some other matters in the couple of minutes I have left. We have not done enough as a nation about the question of waste disposal or nuclear non-proliferation. International fuel cycle evaluation- that is, INFCE- is essentially a well-intentioned gabfest, but little else will come from it. In respect of nuclear waste disposal, Professor Ted Ringwood of the Australian National University has dispensed quite thoroughly with the question of leaching of vitrified glass. He has demonstrated that devitrification occurs at 300 atmospheres at 350 degrees centigrade in a period of 24 hours. I must commend him on taking a genuine interest as an earth scientist in trying to find a material for waste disposal.
There is a heavy requirement upon Australia to do something about making the present nuclear power industry safer in respect of waste disposal, in respect of non-proliferation and, as far as we can, in respect of reactor safety. It would ill become us as a nation to take the cynical view that one can wave uranium goodbye at the wharf, take the money and leave the problem in the hands of customer countries when we know that they cannot adequately manage the material, that they cannot dispose of the byproduct and that they themselves are not in a position safely to operate the reactors. Australia should desist from the commitment of Australian uranium to the international fuel cycle until such time as the reactor safety issue is resolved to the point where there is agreement about the safety factors, until the waste disposal issue has been conquered and a proven disposal system is established for the isolation of long-term transuranic elements and actinides from the atmosphere and until we have devised a system of international accords that mean something in respect of nuclear non-proliferation.
It would be a tragedy if the world were to be pushed into the continuing premature development of a large scale nuclear industry, to find in a few years time that everyone had a nuclear weapons option, that everyone had a thermal or fast breeder reactor and that we helped by selling and buttressing the nuclear industry with cheap uranium from this country. A little bit of responsibility would go a long way in this otherwise fairly irresponsible world. The Government should do the honourable thing and stop exports until these problems are resolved. It should not just be at the whim and caprice of the uranium mining industry in the Northern Territory and elsewhere in this country which wants to maximise revenues.
-Order! The honourable members ‘s time has expired.
– I have noted the very responsible way in which the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) spoke on this very real and vital issue. I would just say this in response to the general theme of what he said: This Government, in agreeing to export sales, has acted in an extremely responsible way in ensuring that each country that is the recipient of any sales has a responsible attitude to the operation of its nuclear plants. So I do not see much difference between us on this issue.
Can I give the Government’s position. I think we can see that there have been two energy transitions in our history. The first was in the nineteenth century when coal replaced wood. The second was in the twentieth century when petroleum- that is oil and gas- replaced coal as the primary energy source. I know that members of the Opposition understand that the world is now faced with a third and much more traumatic energy transition from non-renewable energy resources such as petroleum and coal to renewable forms of energy. There is no doubt that this will be a long and difficult process. The energy gap has already appeared and the need for the transition has been accentuated by the policies of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries and the current situation in Iran. If there was ever a time when we should appreciate that, it is now when we see the actions of OPEC countries arising from the instability of oil supplies of the Middle East.
It has to be said that nuclear energy is a fact of life. The Government appreciates the concern some people feel about nuclear energy. I think
Sir MacFarlane Burnet summarised these concerns well when he wrote some time ago:
As a biologist I should have preferred that there had never been developed the military and industrial exploitation of nuclear power.
He went on to say:
I believe that a majority of thoughtful people accept the inevitability for at least an interim period, of large scale use of nuclear energy in most parts of the world.
Things being as they are, nuclear power generators will be needed for the next twenty, or perhaps fifty, years in most of the developed countries, with Japan and Sweden in particular need.
The oil crisis of 1973 precipitated the fundamental recognition that the world was facing an energy crisis. The recent events in Iran, as I have just said, have confirmed that the energy crisis is still a fact of life. While Australia has been insulated from the effects of the oil crisis by a plentiful supply of energy resources, the dwindling supply of petroleum has meant that many countries must change over to other sources of energy. The energy deficient countries are aiming to conserve energy, to use existing resources such as coal more effectively and to develop new energy sources, including solar, wind, tidal and all the others. But these sources will not realistically provide energy on a sufficiently large scale this century. The simple fact is that nuclear energy is the only readily available alternative most countries have to meet their essential need for electrical energy in the wake of the oil crisis. Without nuclear power there will be a shortage of energy to work factories, to light buildings, to provide jobs, to heat homes, to cook food and all the rest of it.
It is all very well for the Opposition to suggest that Australia, with 20 per cent of the world’s low cost uranium, should cease by itself in a totally selfish and cynical manner to supply uranium to an energy deficient world. But one hard fact must be faced, namely, that parts of the world are dependent on nuclear energy and will continue to be dependent for many years to come. The world energy crisis has meant that adjustment must be made to other sources of energy in the wake of dwindling world supplies of petroleum. The reality has been accepted by all countries, developed and developing alike. This adjustment to other sources of energy is a profound economic and social hardship for many countries. It is difficult for many of us living in Australia, a nation rich in resources, to understand the vital need of others for energy resources. Many of our trading partners- and I am talking about those that are developed and those that are less developed- have little in the way of natural resources. Their only resources are the skill and ingenuity of their people and the capital they have available. Naturally they see resource rich countries such as Australia as being vital to their economic future and stability.
Twenty-one countries in the world have installed nuclear power stations. There are now 208 operational nuclear power reactors totalling 107,000 megawatts. The United States has 70 power reactors. Western Europe has 76 power reactors. Japan has 18 power reactors. Within Western Europe, the Federal Republic of Germany has 10 power reactors and the United Kingdom has 33. These all represent significant factions of the total installed electricity generating capacity of those countries- in the order of 10 per cent to 13 per cent. In all, a total of 107,000 megawatts in the world represents the equivalent of 1,000 million barrels of oil per year. To fuel these power stations, 15,000 tonnes of uranium are required annually and 6,500 tonnes of separative work units of enrichment are required.
The commitment to nuclear power is not confined just to developed countries. Five nuclear power units are in operation in developing countries; 20 are under construction; six are on order, and 60 are planned. Does the Opposition really suggest that we can deny the world our energy in the form of uranium in the face of that sort of development? Does it really suggest that right now, because of the accident in Pennsylvania, we should stop exporting uranium or stop the development of our mines? Of course, the answer has to be no. The fact that nuclear energy usage for electric power generation has proceeded in other countries without access to Australian uranium and will continue in no way relieves Australia of its responsibilities as an energy rich nation. It simply highlights the futility of leaving our uranium in the ground. The Alligator Rivers region is the world’s largest uncommitted uranium province. Effective exploration in the region to date has been restricted largely to that portion of the main prospective formation which is amenable to airborne radiometric survey and which is only about 1 5 per cent of the prospective area. The overall uranium resources of the region could be as much as five to 10 times larger than the resources identified to date. On this basis the energy content is of the same order as the presently known oil reserves of Saudi Arabia.
Can it really be seriously suggested that Australia should deny these vast energy resources to a world seriously in need of secure alternative sources of energy? We have a clear international responsibility to develop further our uranium resources. The Ranger Uranium
Environmental Inquiry report stated that total renunciation of intention to supply our uranium was not justified and was undesirable. Successive Australian governments- and I include the Whitlam Government in that- have recognised this point. Our Government recognises its responsibility to ensure that Australian uranium resources are further developed and we will proceed to do so on the basis recommended by the Ranger inquiry.
In his announcement to Parliament on 1 June 1978 setting out the Government’s uranium export policy, the Minister for Trade and Resources (Mr Anthony) explained that the Government has considered carefully its attitude in regard to the machinery which should govern future exports of uranium. He made it clear that in the arrangements made the Government would ensure that at all times it had proper knowledge, oversight and control of the arrangements under which Australian uranium is exported. There seems to be some confusion in the minds of Opposition members and in some quarters of the public as to the distinction between safety and the safeguards. Safeguards are directed towards to preventing the improper use of fissionable materials and their diversion into weapons manufacture. Safety is concerned with the safe operation of all elements of the nuclear industry. I join with the honourable member for Blaxland in saying that I hope that, if the Harrisburg incident means anything, it means that there will be a tightening up of the environmental control and operation of these reactors. But it has to be said that the responsibility for the siting, the design, the construction, the safe operation and the waste management of nuclear power plants rests with individual sovereign states. It is their responsibility.
In saying that, Australia is making a contribution. We are making a contribution through co-operative efforts to develop standards and codes of practice for the nuclear industry within such organisations as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Nuclear Energy Agency and the International Atomic Energy Agency- IAEA. A major study of the nuclear fuel cycle is proceeding with particular emphasis on the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel. Mention was made by the honourable member for Blaxland of the international nuclear fuel cycle evaluation. From these various efforts in which Australia is actively participating international codes of practice and standards are developing.
May I take up several points that the honourable member for Blaxland made. First of all, we have noted that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) has called for an Australian nuclear regulatory commission. The Government is fully aware of the need for nuclear facilities to be subject to the most technically competent scrutiny from the time when they are planned, through their commissioning and operation, to their final decommissioning and dismantling. The Australian Ionising Radiation Advisory Council has prepared a draft report on the needs for licensing and regulation of nuclear activities in Australia. At the request of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) this report is to be received by an interdepartmental committee under the chairmanship of the Department of Science and the Environment and it will be reporting to the Government in due course.
May I say just say one word about the Synroc proposal which the honourable member for Blaxland mentioned. Let us be clear that this is an alternative technology for the treatment of high level radioactive waste. The system complements- is additional to- those commercial technically feasible procedures which are known to exist and about which we have spoken on many occasions in this House. We recognise the importance of the Synroc process. Research on it is being undertaken with the co-operation and support of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission which has recently awarded a research contract of over $21,000 to Professor Ringwood for the purchase of research equipment and materials. That grant by the Australian Atomic Energy Commission supplements a grant of over $63,000 which the Government has made on the recommendation of the National Energy Research and Development Council to help Professor Ringwood in the further development and assessment of his process.
The United States Secretary of Energy, Mr Schlesinger, has rejected as premature demands that all nuclear reactors similar to the one at Three Mile Island should be shut down for technical study. He said:
The problem at the moment seems to be on its way to resolution. The core is cooling, the gas bubble is being reduced. I think that all of us should withold judgment until we have had the opportunity to look at this incident in the light of total experience.
I might say that the Government will be looking very carefully at the inquiry which President Carter has announced will be undertaken into all the aspects of this accident. If necessary we will supplement the resources of our embassy in Washington and supplement the activities of Dr Knight, an atomic energy counsellor, who is presently reporting on a regular basis to the
Government and has been doing so since the incident was first reported. We will be looking to see whether there is a need to send additional people to the United States to listen to the conduct of that inquiry.
If the Government were to suspend existing uranium contracts it would do untold damage to Australia’s international credibility as a reliable exporter of energy. The Government will continue with its policy of developing and exporting Australia’s uranium resources under the strictest safeguards and subject to internationally agreed standards of safety.
-The Harrisburg nuclear reactor accident has shocked and horrified the people in this country, as it has in the United States and throughout the rest of the world. The shock follows 30 years of reassurances that something like this just could not happen, that the chance of a major reactor accident was so low that death from a falling meteorite was more likely. The horror follows the realisation of what would happen if the ultimate nuclear disaster, a reactor core melt-down, eventuated. The residents of Pennsylvania have, for the past week, been no more than a hair’s breadth away from the consequences: Widespread radioactive contamination of their environment, the threat of death from cancer and genetic damage on a large scale. Good luck is no security. It is not a dependable safeguard for the health and well-being of the community.
It is clear now, as it has been all along, that the technical, commercial and regulatory authorities responsible for nuclear safety did not know what was happening inside the reactor at Three Mile Island. The situation was out of their control, and its solution is still obviously an open scientific question. Athough we will have to wait for days to know for certain what will finally happen to the people living near the crippled reactor, and perhaps months to find out what went wrong and whether the reactor will ever operate again, there are immediate lessons to be drawn from the incident.
Let me begin by listing some of these. Firstly, it is now clear, if there could have been any remaining doubt, that the day of the scientific expert has ended. Secondly, the nuclear industry’s record of irresponsibility, negligence and dishonesty continues. Thirdly, nuclear power is just too dangerous to support at present. Fourthly, Australia’s nuclear policy and administration are fundamentally inadequate to take account of the seriousness of these problems, and to deserve public confidence.
The Harrisburg incident and the response of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission and of the Government to this incident demonstrate these conclusions. What happened at the Three Mile Island reactor? This is one question- the first one- which is still unanswered. What is more, it is also one of the basic questions about which there have been conflicting reports. Was the accident caused initially by a valve failure in a secondary cooling system as was initially suggested? Was there a hydrogen explosion early in the trouble? Reports have changed from day to day about what went wrong at the reactor; what was the result and especially, how extensive was the fall-out problem; how serious was the fallout problem for power plant workers and for the public in local communities; who was responsible for the failure of the reactor; how will the problem be overcome.
The ‘facts’ in these reports depended on who was making them; State officials, the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission, President Carter’s office, the power plant operator, or the nuclear reactor builders. Look, for example, at what was said about radioactivity released into the atmosphere. On Wednesday, hours after the accident, the Pennsylvania State Police reported: ‘There is no radiation leak’. Less than an hour later, power company officials reported that a small amount of radiation had been released into the atmosphere, but no significant radiation was expected outside the plant area itself. By the end of the day, above normal radiation levels were reported as far as 26 kilometres from the site.
How serious was the radioactive contamination problem? On Friday, President Carter’s press secretary said that it appeared that ‘none of the workers, exposed at the time of the accident received more than a portion of permissible levels of radiation’. Yet, the day before Metropolitan Edison had said that as many as eight workers received up to one-fifth the maximum permissible annual dose on that one day; and by Sunday it was reported that four employees had received overdoses of radiation.
Again, how serious was the threat to the surrounding population? On Thursday, officials were quoted as saying that there was ‘no indication of any immediate danger to the public and … no plans to evacuate the 15,000 people living within 2 kilometres of the plant.’ Two days later , there were reports that 100,000 people might have to be evacuated, and the State Government had issued a ‘voluntary evacuation’ of children and pregnant women. Yesterday we read that Pennsylvanian authorities had drawn up plans to move 636,000 people who live within 20 miles of the plant, but Nuclear Regulatory Commission officials hoped that this number could be reduced to 200,000. Who would believe any assurances of safety given by these officials with this record? The fact is that as more and more of the truth became known, it became clear that more and more of the truth had been concealed. The more people learned, the more they learned they had to fear. What did the residents of Pennsylvania have to fear? The worst possible accident in a nuclear reactor- a melt-down of its core followed by the dispersal of its toxic radioactive components into the environment- has been threatening these people for a week.
Just for the record, there have been three official United States studies of the consequences of such an accident. The first, the 1957 Brookhaven report, found that the maximum credible accident could cause 3,400 deaths and $7 billion in property damage if it took place in a small nuclear reactor sited 30 miles from a city. A 1965 United States Atomic Energy Commission report, released in 1973, stated that 45,000 people could be killed and 100,000 injured in the worst possible accident. There would be $17 billion in property damage.
– How many -
– Coming from someone like you who has spent so much time talking about children being killed due to unwanted pregnancies, you are nothing but a damned hypocrite to come in here and start supporting nuclear energy.
-Order! The honourable member for Robertson will resume his seat. Up until now the debate has been conducted in a sane, sound and quiet way. I would like it continue in that way. I ask the honourable member to withdraw the word hypocrite’.
– I withdraw it. The most recent study, the Rasmussen Reactor Safety Study produced in 1975, estimated the chance of a core melt-down at one in 20,000 a reactor a year. If reactor containment failed, guessed at one chance in a thousand million, and all the volatile and gaseous radioactive products of a 1,000- megawatt reactor were released under the most adverse conditions, 45,000 to 50,000 people would suffer radiation illness soon after the accident. Most would recover, but 3,000 would die. Ten years later, there would be an increased incidence of cancer. Eventually 45,000 people would die of cancer. There would be 1 70 genetic defects a year in the first generation. This study was criticised, on 19 January this year by the United
States Nuclear Regulatory Commission following an extensive review, for being too optimistic about the possibility of preventing serious reactor failure. It is exactly the prospect of this kind of disaster which has confronted the citizens of Pennsylvania for the past week: A lossofcoolant accident leading to a core melt-down and a hydrogen explosion shattering the containment vessel and releasing into the atmosphere the fission products that would cause the unimaginable environmental and health devastation the studies have reluctantly described.
I think that what would concern all Australians, apart from what has happened overseas and our involvement in it, is the statement by Sir Charles Court. I regard this as the most irresponsible statement made by any Australian over the last 20 years. I point out, getting away from the question of Harrisburg for the moment, that last year the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) stated that Australia was negotiating nuclear safeguard agreements with Korea and Iran. What guarantee do we have, even if we have the greatest safeguards in the world, that in a country with which we have an agreement a revolution will not occur, as in Iran, with someone like the Ayatollah Khomeyni taking over, with his views on what is right and what is wrong. If he had his hands on a nuclear button, I would not like to be within 1,000 miles of Iran. I find it a most frightening prospect that we could have reached agreement with Iran and the Ayatollah Khomeyni could now be in control of a great deal of nuclear equipment. It would be lovely if he suddenly decided that God had given him the message. He seems to have received messages about every other thing that is going on. I think that we are seeing the beginning of the end of the nuclear debate in this country.
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Let us start by looking at the Harrisburg incident with reason and with the facts in mind. I use the word ‘incident’ deliberately because it is not an accident and no one, as far as we know, has been injured, much less killed. Many of the newspapers and other media and, of course, those who oppose the use of uranium, continue to use the word ‘accident’, though I notice that the more responsible newspapers have changed to ‘incident’. It is a serious matter, but not as serious a matter as when a super tanker full of highly volatile petrol nudges a pier and holes its side, spilling petrol everywhere. That, of course, would not rate a mention in our newspapers. It is a matter for concern, but so was it a matter for concern when an Australian dam broke recently killing a person. That gained a column and a half in a few newspapers.
Harrisburg is a disaster, not in physical terms but in terms of the effect it could have on the standard of living of millions and millions of people. Unless we put this matter into perspective then the world must expect to pay huge amounts more for its energy. This will reduce the living standards of all Australians, of all in the Western world, and of all in the developing countries. One cannot help but note that most of the opposition to nuclear power comes from the Friends of the Earth organisation, financed by Russia, and from militant union leaders who regularly visit Russia and are at the opposite end of the political spectrum from us. No one complains about opposition to technical subjects as long as the opposition is based on facts and argued on facts, but when concerted opposition, such as that orchestrated over recent years, is based only on misleading information and designed to appeal to sentiment and emotion, one must be concerned about the real motive behind such action.
Let us first put the matter into perspective. What we are looking at is the human cost of various methods of producing electricity. Hydropower costs lives in the building of dams and the occasional breaking of a dam has caused huge loss of life. There have been recent examples of this in Peru, Italy and America. Oil burning power stations require hundreds of tanker ships, many of which have blown up, killing hundreds and polluting wide areas. Then there are road and rail tankers which cause road deaths, and let us not forget the pollution caused by oil furnaces and the thousands of premature deaths attributed to this. Then there are coal-burning power stations. The danger to humans from the toxic materials spewed into the air from coalfired stations in the United States of America alone is estimated to cause 10,000 to 50,000 premature deaths. Although there have been 88,000 deaths from underground coal mining in the United States of America alone since 1907, and hundreds are killed there each year in levelcrossing smashes with coal trains, one never hears that power generation by coal-burning is dangerous.
To put the matter into perspective, let us look at nuclear power generation. Whilst there is reason to believe that there might have been some premature deaths in the early rnining of uranium because it was not appreciated that radon gas was present, this occurred years ago.
However, there has been no loss of life in any of the nuclear power stations and I pray that there will be none in Harrisburg. There is no pollution of the atmosphere by gases and, thus, no premature deaths. Let us now put radiation into perspective and look at radiation hazards, but again in terms of fact and not fiction. Those opposed to uranium do not tell us that coal-fired power stations give off radioactivity which has a longer life than the emission from nuclear power stations; nor do they tell us that there is more radioactivity in whisky, milk, salad oil and tap water than there is from nuclear power stations. There is a unit called a milli-rad used in the measurement of radiation. A medical x-ray produces SOO milli-rads and cancer treatment produces, say, 4,000 milli-rads. Yet people recover from it. Compare their position with that of a person sitting alongside a nuclear reactor for 10 years. That person would be exposed to up to 2 milli-rads. Radiation in the air is 5 milli-rads. From rocks and soil we get another SO milli-rads, from cosmic rays, 30 milli-rads and from body salts 17 milli-rads. Just by living 150 feet above sea level gives us another 2 milli-rads and flying at 35,000 feet from Canberra to Perth and back gives one another 2 or 3 milli-rads. The annual radiation naturally received by a person in Australia is 100 milli-rads. People in parts of Brazil are exposed to 13,000 milli-rads, but they do not die any sooner than other people. Compare their situation with that of those who for 10 years have lived near a reactor where radioactivity is between one and two milli-rads. In Harrisburg the maximum radiation to which anyone has been exposed is the equivalent of three chest x-rays. Perhaps the Opposition ought to tell us more about this.
The opposition to nuclear power stations has endeavoured to make the word ‘nuclear’ synonymous with ‘bomb’. A nuclear explosion in a nuclear power station is absolutely impossible and the newspapers which talk of the possibility of a nuclear explosion at Harrisburg are completely irresponsible. They are scaremongering. It is a pity that they do not talk to people and obtain the facts before printing that rubbish. Now that I have shown that nuclear power is the safest of all generating systems, and the least polluting, let us look at the ramifications of shutting down all nuclear power stations, as some unthinking people have been stupid enough to suggest. To carry on from what the Minister for National Development (Mr Newman) was saying, at present 70 nuclear power reactors provide 13 per cent of the electrical power in the United States of America. In some areas, such as Chicago and New
England, nuclear power is half the total power generated. The editorial in the Age yesterday stated:
To close down all its 70 nuclear power stations could be, according to a Senate expert, as devastating as the complete loss of Saudi Arabian oil. Even if the sophisticated Western nations shy away from nuclear energy, the developing countries (probably less skilled in its safe operation) and the communist countries are unlikely to be deterred. The Soviet atom physicist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Dr Andrei Sakharov, warned last year that the alternative to nuclear energy development was Western political dependence on the communists.
Yet some people still doubt who the opposition is and why we are fed lies on this matter. At this stage I can almost guarantee that we will have many calls for solar energy. The fact is that the sun can provide only a limited amount of energy, and even the wildest dreamers see that it can meet only 5 per cent of the total energy requirements. Of course, this 5 per cent is important and this Government has spent and will continue to spend many millions of dollars developing solar energy. As the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) said earlier, Sir Francis Tombs, the famous British nuclear expert said of Harrisburg that over-reaction by the Press had created a mistaken public impression of the nature and importance of the incident, but supposed that it was inevitable that it should sensationalise its reporting. If any good is coming out of this incident, it is that most of the safety measures have proved effective. At the moment, it looks that everything will be under control very shortly. I again pray that there will be no loss of life. In conclusion, I again quote yesterday’s Age editorial:
Serious and frightening though the Three Mile Island accident is- and horrific though it could be- it should not throw the Western world into a panic Naturally, it calls For the most careful investigation and for redoubled efforts to establish and ensure more adequate safeguards. But before more drastic decisions are made, the actual and potential hazards of nuclear energy have to be compared with those of other industries and activities, and weighed against its benefits and the costs of doing without it Such an assessment is not easy, but it is better made from a basis of knowledge and judgment than in a turmoil of popular fears and passions.
– I want to answer only one aspect of the speech of the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Roger Johnston) because the minutes are very precious. He raised again the so-called red bogy. The situation is that most of the uranium used by Western Europe is enriched in the Soviet Union, so I am sick to death of all the talk about a red bogy. The uranium used by countries which honourable members opposite regard as allies and with which they want us to trade could be enriched in the Soviet Union.
The Harrisburg incident has demonstrated to the world the dangers of at least one aspect of the development of nuclear energy. It has demonstated the confusion, the incompetence and the ignorance of nuclear scientists. It has demonstrated that the nuclear reactors are not safe and that we cannot put our trust in nuclear scientists and nuclear technology. The Harrisburg accident occurred in the very area- the possibility of a loss of a coolant- that had been the central focus of reactor safety technology. Loss of coolant and the subsquent core melt-down is the major accident nuclear power plants should be specifically designed to prevent. The decomposition of the cooling water in contact with the damaged nuclear fuel rods that produced a hydrogen bubble was an event for which there was no contingency plan. In fact, the bubble confused the scientists. This hydrogen bubble has created for the people of Pennsylvania the most serious possible reactor disaster- breach of containment around the reactor and the release of radioactive elements.
What other things could happen for which there are no contingency plans? What other accidents have to happen before scientists wake up that they do not have all the solutions? If one of the central technologies of reactor safety has failed, what other technologies are unsafe? What other parts of reactors are unsafe? What other processes in the total nuclear fuel cycle are unsafe? The ordinary people can see now that the nuclear scientists cannot be trusted. Ordinary people can now see that the nuclear energy industry is dangerous- the most dangerous enterprise taken on in human history.
The Harrisburg incident demonstrates the truth of the former General Electrics engineer, Dr Dale Bridenbaugh, who visited Australia in 1976. I spent many days with that gentleman. This is what he said:
Nuclear power has become a technological monster and it is not clear who, if anyone, is in control. I am no longer convinced of the technical safety of nuclear power, and I fear the high risk of political and human factors that will ultimately lead to the misuse of its by-products.
Bridenbaugh said that the control systems in nuclear reactors are ‘susceptible to malfunctions’, and that ‘hundreds of near accidents’ occurred in operating rooms every month and it was only a matter of time before a disaster occurred. This was said by Bridenbaugh, who spent 23 years with General Electrics. In fact while he was with General Electrics he warned that company of the dangers. The facts are that the Harrisburg accident is not the only accident that has occurred at a nuclear power plant. I seek leave of the House to incorporate in Hansard a list of major accidents that have occurred in the nuclear power industry over the last 1 4 to 1 5 years.
The document read as follows-
In November 1955 the United States Experimental Breeder Reactor No. 1 in Idaho Falls had a partial core melt down. Fast action by the Chief Scientist at the site minimised damage, although the reactor was destroyed and much low level contamination ensued.
The overflow continued during the night and was not discovered until the morning shift the next day.
-I stress that the accidents listed are only the major accidents. Those accidents cause concern, but we have to see them in the context of the dangers built into the total nuclear fuel cycle. The greatest danger is at the end of the cycle. According to the Fox report, nuclear weapons and the generation of electricity by nuclear power stations cannot be separated. They are interconnected in their relationship to uranium rnining through the whole nuclear fuel cycle. The third recommendation of the first Fox report at page 185 states:
The nuclear power industry is unintentionally contributing to an increased risk of nuclear war. This is the most serious hazard associated with the industry.
Many other dangers are associated with the mining of uranium, with the transport of radioactive substances and the disposal of waste materials. There are no effective solutions, no safe solutions, to the problems in these areas. There is no guarantee that uranium will not be used by some extremist elements, whether they be governments or individuals. That has to be said. The United States of America alone has 75 million gallons of toxic waste which it does not know how to store. The richest nation in the world has 75 million gallons of toxic waste from nuclear testing. There is no control over the proliferation of nuclear weapons. We know that India has obtained the bomb by stealth. We know that South Africa has obtained the bomb by stealth, and we know that Israel has obtained the bomb by stealth. This is a warning to the Government and the Parliament. In the past the decisons have been made by governments and senior officials. The people have not been consulted, but now the people are involving themselves in the struggle against the nuclear industry. The warning has already been heeded in some parts of the world. In California in the United States a nuclear power station now may not be built. After the Harrisburg incident we may be sure that State after State in the United States will refuse permission for the construction of nuclear power stations. In Austria the people decided not to use a nuclear power station on which $500m had been spent. I refer also to recent events in Switzerland which were given only little publicity in the Press. Switzerland relies on oil mainly from Iran. What happened during the recent crisis in Iran? Even at the time of that enormous crisis, the people of Switzerland agreed by a narrow majority of 40,000 votes in a referendum to continue with a nuclear power program. We know that decision will soon be reversed. We know that because we are aware of the commitment of the people’s struggle against nuclear power generation.
We know that in France, in Germany, in Spain and in many other countries across the world people are standing up and protesting against the nuclear industry. Why? They are becoming concerned about the unresolved problems- the inter-relationship with the spread of nuclear weapons, the threat to future generations from nuclear waste. The Australian Labor Party in stating its policy has said: ‘There are too many unresolved problems. Until those problems are solved there will be no uranium mining’. We have said quite clearly to the mining companies and the financial institutions: ‘If you enter into contracts to mine and export uranium, when the Labor Party comes to power in 1 980 it will repudiate those contracts’. That is our position and that is where we stand.
I believe that a broad based movement against nuclear energy is growing. Enormous concern is being expressed, particularly amongst young people and women. Why is it that the pregnant women in Harrisburg had to be evacuated first? They are the people with compassion and concern for the future generations. We cannot gamble with the wellbeing of future generations. Therefore I believe that the Labor Party’s policy, which is a sane policy, and the matter of public importance put forward by the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating), should be supported by all members of this House. It is a reasonable proposition which says we do not believe the Government should enter into any commitment to open new uranium mining or enter into any contracts until these unresolved problems have been solved. That is our position. We are asking members of this Parliament to act as rational men- there are no women here. Maybe if there were we would have a better understanding of this important issue. I ask the House to support the proposition put forward by the honourable member for Blaxland.
-The Opposition is using the unfortunate incident at Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, in the United States of America to endeavour to attract a major debate on the uranium issue. Whether we like it or not, we are living in the nuclear age. If we do not mine, mill and market our uranium we will lose great prospects for this country. As previous speakers have said, there has not been the loss of one life in the uranium mining industry. We have 25 per cent of the world’s known uranium supplies in this country and there is a lot more that has not yet been discovered. Let us compare this industry with the other mining industries such as coal mining, iron mining and copper mining. Thousands of lives have been lost in those industries over the years. We can sell our uranium to the United States of America, to Canada, Germany and South Africa. We can sell it to those countries on terms that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has mentioned, that it is used for power purposes. The United States of America has 70 nuclear power stations in operation, 70 under construction at present and another 69 have been contracted for. That shows what the United States thinks of uranium power and its safety.
The tragedy that has occurred at Harrisburg has not caused the death of anybody. The situation is under control, according to the latest reports that have been received this afternoon. We have no doubt that with the scientific measures that are being taken there will be no loss of life. As mentioned previously, the Prime Minister has put a covenant on uranium being sold by Australia to other countries. The United States Navy has been nuclear powered for over 23 years. That has caused not one loss of life and not one problem for that Navy. Its warships and many of its passenger steamers are nuclear powered. There has been no loss of life, there have been no problems. It has been my pleasure and privilege to visit Calder Hall in London, the nuclear power station which was built in 1956. There has been no problem at all with that power station or indeed in the whole of Great Britain where over 15 per cent of the nation’s power requirements are generated by nuclear means.
The other day in Japan a parliamentary delegation from Australia visited the big atomic power station in Yokohama Bay. We were there when the spent fuel was taken out of the reactor and regenerated with new fuel. There was no problem whatsoever. The members of the delegation went into the power station. We were tested for radio-activity when we entered and when we came out. There was no change. Over 15 per cent of Japan’s total power requirements is met from nuclear power stations. Other honourable members have given figures for the States of the United States of America. Those States vary. Some of them use up to 12 per cent nuclear power and others use as much as 38 per cent nuclear power. There have been over 3,000 hours of nuclear reactor operation throughout the world and there has been not one loss of life in that connection. The honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) brought up the subject of the loss of life by cancer. This is an old bogey. One cannot find any real evidence from research or from the various libraries of anybody having died of cancer as a result of being close to uranium or a nuclear reactor. Thirty four nations of the world already have nuclear power systems and six have nuclear weapon production facilities. No restrictions on those operations have been enforced or have even been contemplated.
The honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) espoused what is favourable to the communist cause. His apparent desire is to try to frustrate the power base of the Western world. There is a need for maximum safety measures but it must be related to alternative power sources. It is very instructive to consider the personalities comprising the opponents and proponents of nuclear power. Opponents on the world scene include some eminent scientists but these in general are in disciplines not associated with the technology they oppose. They also include organisations such as Friends of the Earth and the Conservation Society of New South Wales, and professors such as Professor Ralph Nader. Many young people under 30 years of age are committed to the cause. They often have university training, are intelligent, sincere, idealistic and articulate. Political activists trying to force personal views of human betterment on their fellow men also find an outlet within the anti-uranium movement. These people contrast notably with the proponents of nuclear power who can count on their side most of the pre-eminent nuclear scientists and engineers in the world, together with the majority of others in allied fields. The group also contains the large majority of political leaders of all kinds, as is indicated by the fact that 44 nations, including all the leading nations of the Wests many from behind the Iron Curtain and some within the Third World have opted for the new power source.
There is no doubt that, as mentioned earlier, we are in the nuclear age and that Australia has a part to play in that age. There is a world energy shortage. We have plenty of uranium in this country and we should not be denying other nations of the world the opportunity to purchase uranium so that they can get the amenities they need. They can buy uranium from this country. Our policy is to sell uranium to these countries and no doubt we will do this. It has been disheartening indeed to hear the honourable member for Reid say that the Australian Labor Party will dismantle our policy if it is elected to power. That is a most un-Australian statement. We have one of the greatest assets in the world and we should be making use of this asset.
It is anticipated that by 1984 there will be a petroleum shortage in this country. We will be required to purchase petroleum from overseas at great expense. We should therefore be getting ready to mine, mill and market our uranium so that we can cater for the adverse balance of trade that is going to occur in those years. Let us hope that we find more petroleum in this country. Since it came into power, this Government has indeed stepped up the prospects for finding more petroleum in Bass Strait and in other parts of Australia. What happened under Labor? The expertise and the know-how disappeared and Australia’s petroleum finds fell right off. Mine, mill and market our uranium!
Order! The discussion is concluded.
– by leave- Since this Government was elected in December 1975, all its efforts, and my own, have been directed towards improving the industrial relations climate in Australia. These efforts have resulted in a dramatic reduction in the levels of industrial disruption compared with those of the Labor Government- an average of 4.1 million working days lost a year under Labor; 1.8 million days lost a year under this Government, if the Medibank strike is excluded. However, the very worrying and disruptive developments in recent weeks in industrial relations have required, and received, careful consideration by the Government. Specific decisions have been taken in response to them.
First, in relation to areas of employment where the Commonwealth has appropriate legal powers relating to terms and conditions of employment, within the full limits of those powers a firm policy has been adopted. In circumstances where wage claims and claims in regard to terms and conditions are being pressed via work bans, limitations and other disruptive industrial action, Government policy provides for: (a) no work as directed, no pay; (b) standdowns; and (c) applications for standdown and/or suspension clauses to be inserted in awards where they do not presently exist. The Federal Government will be advising employers to adopt a similar approach.
This goes to the heart of the problem; that is, unions taking industrial action of one kind or another prior to or during a hearing of their claims by the responsible tribunal. There is no need for such action. Proper procedures are always available and it is both unreasonable and irresponsible for any union to behave in this way. It leads to unnecessary loss of income for the people engaged in this action, loss of production, export earnings or contracts, disruption to trade, concern for business profitability and, hence, loss of job opportunities and community inconvenience. No-one wins; everyone loses. Ask the families and children of Victoria who were denied milk during the recent strike. Campaigns of industrial disruption which attempt to intimidate employers, the Government, the public and those with the responsibility to administer industrial relations institutions are an affront to the community. They will be resisted by the Government with all the powers it can bring to bear to make all parties work within the Established system for settling differences in industrial relations.
The Government will be submitting to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission that the Commission recommend or direct return to work or cessation of bans in these circumstances, and will be advising employers to do the same. Furthermore it will be submitting to the Commission that it not proceed to hear the unions ‘ arguments while direct industrial action is continuing or order a secret ballot to determine union members’ attitudes to the industrial action being pursued where that is considered appropriate. The Government will encourage State governments involved or affected, other employer interests affected and other unions whose members may be affected and other unions whose members may be affected by the industrial action to lend their support to return to normal work.
The Government reiterates in the strongest terms its expectations that employers will subscribe to a policy of wage restraint and should not give in to industrial pressure. It will also examine possible action against employers who concede to industrial pressure and expose other employers to similar action. It must be demonstrated to the unions that their cause will not be advanced by industrial disruption. As I have already announced in the case of the Transport Workers’ Union, the Government will consider applying for the deregistration of a union engaged in action which interferes with interstate or overseas trade and commerce or the provision of the public service by the Commonwealth or the State. Employers affected can, of course, take a similar approach.
In relation to the Transport Workers’ Union, reports in this morning’s Press that the Government has halted proceedings relating to the deregistration of the Transport Workers Union are false. Action which had already been started to prepare all the documentation necessary for filing of an application for deregistration is continuing. It will be completed.
On completion of the documentation, and if all strikes, bans and limitations have ceased, and there is no further threat of such action, the Government will consider whether to go ahead with filing the application. Should further industrial action take place or be proposed, the application will be filed immediately.
There is also a major industrial dispute in the paint industry, which involves the Miscellaneous Workers Union. This threatens thousands of workers with standdowns. Hundreds have already been stood down. The Government has informed that paint companies that it expects them to continue to resist wage and other claims outside the indexation guidelines. Should a settlement be made outside the guidelines, the Government will instruct the Prices Justification Tribunal to institute an immediate inquiry into the industry. However, the Government will fully back the present resolve of the paint manufacturing industry to oppose the wage claims. It will ensure that this industry and other industries and their employees are not placed in jeopardy by any continuation of the dispute. Accordingly, consideration will be given to importation of paint free of duty under by-law, in order to make up any shortfall in production.
As is apparent from this statement, the Government is prepared to use a wide range of measures to deal with industrial disruption according to the circumstances. The effects on the community are becoming so serious and widespread that no responsible Government can ignore them and we do not intend to do so. I present the following paper:
Current Industrial Disputation- Ministerial Statement, 3 April 1979.
Motion (by Mr McLeay) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
-The statement presented by the Minister for Industrial Relations (Mr Street) on behalf of the Government is both contemptible and laughable. The exercise being conducted by the Federal Government is an exercise in bastardry on behalf of the Victorian Government in order that it may look a little better, in order that it may be able to submerge some of the murky business, including the land deals, in which it has been mixed up over the past year or so and in order that the Victorian Liberal Government can maintain its position as the Government of that State. From the evidence which is available to the public, there is absolutely no doubt that the Victorian Government is the prime mover in this dispute. In his history of the dispute, including the matter of the Transport Workers Union, the Minister has not given one piece of evidence why the Government would tend to make such threats. For instance, the Minister did not tell the Parliament the relationship with everybody who drives a truck in this country. The Minister did not take opportunity to tell non members that the Full Bench of the Commonwealth and Arbitration Commission handed down its $8 judgment in December of 1978. He did not tell the Parliament that over 70 per cent of people covered by the awards of the Transport Workers Union throughout this country have now received the $8.
It is an act by this Government on behalf of the Victorian Government in the hope that ultimately there will be industrial confrontation which can perhaps become the major issue leading up to the Victorian elections on 5 May. The meeting of Sunday last between the parties involved in this dispute was held in Mr Hamer ‘s office. The Federal Minister for Industrial Relations was called to Mr Hamer’s office so that this meeting could be conducted. It is obvious that Mr Hamer wants something to cover up all the shoddy deals in which his Government has been involved. He is anxious to get something to submerge the way in which the Labor Party is campaigning in that State and the way in which the Victorian people have given notice at the byelections that they are going to change the Government. It is not just the neck of Dick Hamer about which Malcolm Fraser is concerned because if Dick Hamer becomes the Leader of the Opposition after 5 May many of the reasons for the defeat of his Government will he at the door of the paltry efforts of this Government to attain proper economic management.
Let us look at what has happened since Sunday, in defiance of the proper conduct of industrial relations in this country. Every party associated with the dispute knew on Sunday that this morning there would be a hook-up of the Transport Workers Union executive to decide on a recommendation to the transport workers on Wednesday. This move by the Government is in defiance of what it now recognises as the proper channels for conducting industrial relations. The threat to continue with the deregistration of the Transport Workers Union, a mechanism that has proved absolutely useless in the past, is an attempt to try to grasp something out of tomorrow’s decision. If the workers, in defiance of tonight’s challenge by the Government, say that they are not going back to work, irrespective of the recommendation from the executive, whatever it may be, then the Government will say: ‘In we go with the hammer. Dick Hamer, we have succeeded on your behalf. We have given you the issue on which you might survive’. On the other hand, if the executive in their hook-up this morning decided to recommend to the workers that they go back to work, the Government would gloat and say: ‘Our threat worked. They have gone back to work under the threat of deregistration’. What a stupid, naive, infantile action for any sophisticated government to take in the area of industrial relations in the midst of negotiations within the union movement.
As I have said, following the meeting with Hamer on Sunday, Mr Hawke was contacted for the first time by this Government and his assistance was sought. He was not contacted again until the Government finally made its decision last night. Mr Hawke was then left without any weapon with which to work. No one on the other side of the chamber would dare say that Hawke, as the chief negotiator of the trade union movement in this country for the past decade, has not been perhaps the most skilled negotiator this country has ever had. Yet what was he left to fly with? After trying all day to contact the Minister, he was told that the action had been set in train, that nothing could be done, that the workers must go back or the union would be deregistered. As I have said, it is a farce, and it has been a farce from the start.
The Minister talked about how many fewer strikes there have been under the LiberalNational Country Party Government than there were under the Labor Government. He beat his chest about the fact that perhaps industrial relations were better, which by itself is arguable, and then took this action in the midst of mechanism being used by the union which might mean that the men would go back to work tomorrow. This action has been taken in relation to the Victorian elections in the hope that the Government can do something, that it can take some action to inflame the industrial relations arena- the hotbed the Government has always tried to use throughout its history- in order to ensure that the Victorian voters look only at that issue between now and 5 May and forget about the land scandals and the murky dealings of the Victorian Government. If there had been a Labor government in Victoria last year the media would have demanded its dismissal when those revelations were made. If a Labor government had been caught up in all those murky land deals in Victoria everybody would have said that it should resign. Now, when the opportunity is being given to the Victorian electors to bring down the Hamer Government on 5 May, the Federal Government is acting in cahoots with it to use the Transport Workers Union dispute to try to play down some of the other issues.
Let me reiterate: Over 70 per cent of the people covered by the awards for which the Transport Workers Union has constitutional coverage already have the $8. That decision was made four months ago by the Full Bench. There is a SO-year-old historical link between all those who drive trucks in Australia. Does anyone think that, despite the words that may have been used by the Commission, the union is going to say that the flow-on is not automatic? Does anyone think that transport workers, wherever they are, including the people who are asked to drive us around Canberra, are going to say: ‘Our colleagues in some other industries have got it. We do not really expect to have it ‘. They have always had it. That nexus has existed for 50 years and it will continue to exist, despite the protestations of this Government.
Let us look at the efforts of this Government in terms of industrial relations in this country. Nothing stands out more clearly than the intimidation by this Government of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. On every occasion on which a national wage decision has been handed down the Commission has been abused in this Parliament by the Government. It has been abused behind closed doors. At Press conferences, where the members of the Commission cannot respond, they have been called economic pygmies. The pressure on the Commission has come from this Government. One of the features of industrial relations at the moment is that for a while there was general acceptance that the national wage hearings would be conducted every six months- twice yearly instead of four times yearly- because it was recognised by the union movement as well as by the employers and by the bench that perhaps there could be sixmonthly hearings if inflation was going to fall. But now the Government is frantic because inflation is not falling, it is again on the way up, and the unions are going to be demanding threemonthly hearings, and quite rightly. The twiceyearly indexation of pensions was discontinued because inflation was falling. The Government should tell the pensioners, who should have received their increase yesterday, that with inflation on the way up they have to live for another six months without an increase in pension. They are going to be far worse off than was first anticipated. Those are some of the ways in which this Government deals with industrial relations.
Who will ever forget the ravings of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in the Telecom dispute when he came in here and told us that if the men did not go back to work they would not be paid? He said that they could not win the dispute and it was fruitless for them to continue. What happened when the parties met before Justice Gaudron? Those people who had been stood down but had taken no action in the dispute were paid all lost wages. The union was told that in future it would be consulted by Telecom management on any technological changes, and there was a guarantee that no one would lose his job. Let us look at the way in which the dispute was resolved and compare it with the ravings of Malcolm Fraser, who again tried to use this Parliament–
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jarman)Order! The honourable member will refer to the Prime Minister by his correct title.
-The Prime Minister is trying to use this Parliament, to use the powers of the Government, to use the Full Bench, to use the employers, to inflame the arena of industrial relations. Look at this statement. For God’s sake, what a joke the Government makes of Australia. The Minister stated:
However, the Government will fully back the present resolve of the paint manufacturing industry to oppose the wage claims. It will ensure that this industry and other industries and their employees are not placed in jeopardy by any continuation of the dispute.
I want to emphasise the final two lines:
Accordingly, consideration will be given to importation of paint free of duty under by-law, in order to make up any shortfall in production.
I could name many retailers who hope that the Government goes ahead with that. They are just sitting there hoping that legislation will be introduced so that every time someone in the manufacturing industry goes on strike the commodity can be brought in under by-law. What a fool the Government makes of Australia. The Minister for Special Trade Representations will go to a conference of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and say: ‘I cannot tell you whether there is any duty on paint. I will ring up and see whether there is an industrial dispute in the paint industry. When we have an industrial dispute in the paint industry there is no tariff and we bring the paint in under by-law ‘.
What a fool the Government makes of Australia. What a fool it makes of itself by putting forward such propositions. There is no government in our style of economy, in our style of democracy, that can completely eradicate industrial disputes. The Government has said that employers, State governments, the Federal Government and the Commission should not continue negotiations if the union or the work force concerned is taking strike action, is imposing overtime bans, or is involved in any restriction on work. Honourable members should ask the members of the work force why they are taking such action. If some people opposite would be good enough next Friday morning when they are going to the airport to ask the driver why he is sacrificing a week’s wages, he could explain in very simple terms that he believes he is entitled to it. In most other cases, members of the work force will explain that they believe they cannot get anything unless they take some sort of action.
Just a few weeks ago the shearers took action in all the major States, with the exception of Queensland, in the lead up to the hearing of their dispute. When the dispute went before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission they were granted increased wages. The Telecom people received great benefits following the dispute in which they were involved. It cannot be said that these people are wasting their time or that they make these decisions lightly. Working people cannot concede a week’s wages. In fact, they live from week to week on the wages that they receive at their work place. The decisions that they make are very serious ones. It is a fruitless exercise for the Government to say in the Parliament that there will be no negotiations between parties, whether it be the employer, the State government authority, the Federal government or the Commission. Such an exercise would be like the one in which the Government involved the Parliament last week. I refer to the cutting off of funds to New South Wales because of its introduction of a 37’A-hour week. How ridiculous can the Government be?
I thought that that matter of a 37’/4-hour week was to be the big item to be discussed at yesterday’s Loan Council meeting. I thought that all the States intended to raise this matter of New South Wales granting a 37’A-hour week to power workers. But this morning’s newspapers tell us that that matter took up three minutes of discussion. The Prime Minister and the Treasurer (Mr Howard) last week once again used the Parliament to inflame industrial relations. They intend to continue trying to do that in order to submerge all the really important issues. The Parliament spent two days discussing the abortion issue; there were eight speakers on the matter of the granting of a 37%-hour week; there are to be six speakers on the statement just brought down by the Minister for Industrial Relations. Give us 10 speakers on unemployment; give us 10 speakers on social services and pensions; give us 10 speakers on Aboriginal affairs; give us 10 speakers on any issue in relation to which this Government can be exposed. But that is not the way in which the Government intends that this Parliament should operate. It intends to operate on the basis of the tradition of conservative-thinking people, and that is putting up issues which will divide the community and from which perhaps it can get some sort of political gain.
Sitting suspended from 5.57 to 8 p.m. (Quorum formed).
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I thank the Opposition Whip for providing me with an audience. In recent years the building and construction industry has had a chequered industrial relations history. At the centre of much of this trouble has been the Australian Builders Labourers Federation. A few years ago this union demonstrated its irresponsibility and its real aims to such an extent that the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission decided to deregister the Builders Labourers Federation. This was the time of the green bans and massive work interruptions and upheavals in New South Wales. At this time, violence was involved for the first time and the tactic of interrupting concrete pours, maliciously damaging buildings in the course of construction, was first used.
Operating patterns of the building and construction industry have changed in recent years. With the growth in size of projects, the advent of the developer and the emergence of so many time-critical projects, have come changes in union tactics. No one can criticise a union for pursuing the legitimate aims of its members through established channels. No one can say that there should never be strikes. But it is clear that this union has decided that the best way to operate is on the basis of, as Norm Gallagher puts is, ‘the most harm to the boss, the least harm to us’. During recent times there has been ample evidence of that tactic; for example, the imposition of costly work bans and refusal to finish concrete pours, causing thousands of dollars to be paid in rectification costs. Work bans drastically reduce productivity. In one case recently they reduced productivity to about 45 per cent. The recent recipients of this treatment usually have been one or two major contractors and the aim has been to force concessions which will then flow across the total industry.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, far be it from me to interrupt the honourable member unnecessarily but, on a point of order, I thought we were debating a statement made by the Minister for Industrial Relations (Mr Street). I do not remember the Minister talking about the building and construction industry.
-There is no substance in the point of order.
– The pressures placed on such projects, such as the Collins Place project and others in Melbourne, have been well documented and have added millions of dollars to the ultimate cost which, in turn, certainly discourages potential investors. We have seen potential investors turn to the purchase of existing buildings rather than build; for example, the National Bank of Australasia Ltd and Conzinc Riotinto of Australia Ltd.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, at the risk of incurring your wrath, on another point of order, it seems to me that the rules of this House provide that contributions to a debate must be relevant to the subject matter before the House. The subject matter, as determined by the Minister when he made his statement, concerned specifically the Transport Workers Union of Australia and the Miscellaneous Workers Union. If you are going to permit the honourable member -
-Order! The honourable member for Burke has made his point of order. It is quite correct that remarks must be relevant to the question before the House. The honourable member for Isaacs is rather testing that requirement. I require him to address himself to the question.
– This new attack, again being made quite outside the tribunals, is focused on shopping centre developers. Only last week Norm Gallagher, Secretary of the Builders Labourers Federation, stated -
– On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker, you have given your ruling, as I understand it, that the debate is relevant to the
Transport Workers Union. The honourable member for Isaacs appears to be defying you as he is continuing with a denigration of Norm Gallagher of the Builders Labourers Federation. I ask you to rule on whether we are debating the issue concerning the Transport Workers Union or some other unspecified issue related to the building industry.
– On the point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker, it is quite clear that the Minister’s statement related to the specific issue but it related more to industrial relations and the problems which are being caused by the unions of this country. That is precisely what the honourable member for Isaacs is debating.
-Order! On the point of order, the Chair was prepared to grant some latitude to the honourable member for Isaacs if he was citing a case by way of illustration. But I hope that he does not intend to address his remarks exclusively to that aspect.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I am trying to point out to the House how the union activities which are taking place at the present time involve the Builders Labourers Federation and Norm Gallagher, with his guerrilla tactics and blackmailing tactics in Victoria. Norm Gallagher has openly stated that he is using blackmailing tactics to get over-award payments of $21 a week. I believe that this House should call for a royal commission of inquiry into the activities of the Builders Labourers Federation and Norm Gallagher because he is the Jim Hoffa of the trade unions in Australia at the present time. This is what Gallagher has said -
-The honourable member for Isaacs is free to make reference to industrial disruption, but I require him not to be specific and not to identify the particular personalities or unions concerned.
-Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I put it to you that, in the context of a debate about an industrial relations situation, the views of an honourable member on the activities of a particular union official are not offensive in any way. It would seem to me that such a contribution would be eminently consonant with a discussion on disruptive and unproductive behaviour by certain trade union officials.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, speaking to the point of order raised by the Treasurer, if you are going to let the debate range so widely, it would seem to me to be reasonable to talk about the crookedness of Sir Henry Bolte in Victoria and Sir Reg Ansett and Sir Cecil Looker in the Associated Securities Ltd collapse. If you are going to allow the debate to be so wide, I should be allowed to mention those matters.
-On the question before the House, it is possible to discuss industrial disruption on a fairly wide-ranging basis. But I requested the honourable member for Isaacs, at an earlier point in his speech, not to restrict his remarks to a particular industrial activity or to the personalities concerned. I think that provides the honourable member for Isaacs with ample opportunity to refer to industrial disruption in the broad.
-Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I will continue where I left off when I was interrupted by the honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson), who perhaps is a little bit frightened by his fellow traveller, Frank Wilkes, who may be one of Gallagher’s friends. I am surprised that the honourable member for Burke who spoke today about a wide range of subjects should raise such a point of order. (Quorum formed). Members of the Opposition do not like the truth. If they do not like the heat, they should keep out of the kitchen. The Labor Party is only interested in disruptions by unions. The honourable member for Burke, who is sitting on the other side of the House laughing, knows that Norm Gallagher has cost thousands of Victorians jobs. The honourable member knows that millions of dollars worth of buildings would have been constructed in the last two or three years if it had not been for the guerrilla tactics of Norm Gallagher, the Secretary of the Builders Labourers Federation.
This new attack, again quite outside the jurisdiction of the industrial tribunals, is focussed on shopping centre developers. Mr Gallagher only last week said that there was one shopping complex which was not commenced for 18 months because the developers would not pay the $21 a week a worker that was part of the blackmailing tactics of the Builders Labourers Federation. Mr Gallagher’s public statements call this ‘insurance’ but it surely fits the definition of blackmail. Some of the developers have given in but it is an established fact that the organised building industry is not going to stand by and see the industry priced out of existence.
Ari indication of the Builders Labourers Federation attitude to the whole matter is the fact that, while this blackmail is going on, it has a log of claims before the Commission for improvements in award conditions. The Commission has indicated its views on this situation in suspending future action on the award.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I take a point of order.
-The honourable member for Isaacs will resume his seat.
– I am very loath to do this, Mr Deputy Speaker, but on two occasions now you have asked the honourable member to be relevant to the matter that the House is debating. The honourable member has flouted your ruling on each occasion and keeps talking about some person named Gallagher- a person unknown to me, but, certainly not mentioned in the -
-Order! The honourable member for Burke will resume his seat. The Chair must concede that on a closer scrutiny of the Minister’s speech it may well be argued that the subject matter is sufficiently wide to entitle the honourable member for Isaacs to speak as he is presently doing.
-Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I am surprised that the honourable member for Burke does not know the guerrilla named Norm Gallagher. He would be the only member in the Labor Party or the Liberal Party or for that matter the only person in Australia, who does not know Norm Gallagher. I would be surprised if the honourable member for Burke would say in Victoria that he does not know Norm Gallagher. Perhaps he is getting funded from the Builders Labourers Federation. I do not know. It looks like he may be getting funds from the Builders Labourers Federation. An indication of the attitude of the Builders Labourers Federation to this whole matter is the fact that, whilst this blackmail is going on, it has a log of claims before the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission seeking improvements in award conditions. The Commission has indicated its view of the situation by suspending future action on the award. Politics have always been involved. Gallagher and his ex-New South Wales Secretary, Munday, have opposing views.This, together with the well known differences with his major opponent, Mr Pat Clancy, means that the building industry is the sufferer. If this current type of campaign is allowed to succeed, what will the blackmail price be next week. This week, it was $21; next week it will be $42; and the following week it will be $63. Is that what the Opposition wants?
– Which one are you supporting?
– The honourable member for Prospect is interjecting. The honourable member will never need an Aspro because he does not have enough brains in his head to have a headache. The history of all blackmail attempts is an ever-increasing pay-off. Clients of the industry are also standing firm on this issue but obviously steps must be taken to ensure that the building industry is not brought to a halt by actions of this type. Protection rackets are illegal and, if our current industrial laws do not offer some protection against the self-same tactic employed by a criminal, it is time that the law was changed. The basis of such changes should come from a close examination of what is really happening.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. I call the honourable member for Melbourne Ports.
Honourable members interjecting-
-Order! The honourable member has the right to address the House in silence as did the honourable member for Isaacs. I ask honourable members to remain silent.
– It will take me only two minutes to deal with the substance of the comments of the honourable member for Isaacs (Mr Burns). I know Norm Gallagher. Like the honourable member for Isaacs, I know that his claims on behalf of his union members, whether they be for $6 a week, $10 a week or $20 a week, are made openly and publicly. There is no argument about that. The honourable member for Isaacs would acknowledge that. I simply say this: The real cost to the people of Victoria in terms of housing, about which the honourable member for Isaacs and his colleagues remain silent, has been the millions of dollars ripped out of the Housing Commission with the approval and cognisance of the Victorian Liberal Government. This is something about which honourable members opposite say nothing and do nothing.
– I raise a point of order.
-Order! The honourable member for Melbourne Ports will resume his seat.
– Could I ask whether the cost of housing is -
-. . . appropriate to this -
– . . . debate.
-The honourable member for Hotham–
– I have it here and it is not mentioned at all.
-Order! The honourable member for Hotham will not attempt to over-talk the Chair. The honourable member and other members are entitled to raise points of order. When they are given the call for that purpose, they are required to address themselves to the point of order. There is no point of order.
-Essentially this debate is about a statement which goes to this Government’s attitude towards industrial relations. This Parliament less than a fortnight ago was interrupted by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) who chose to come in here and act like the mad sheriff from out of the West who could not wait to have his high noon with the Premier of New South Wales because on that occasion, due to the industrial philosophy of this Government, the New South Wales Government had decided that it would very properly grant a 3716 hour week to workers in the power industry. We were told what the Prime Minister was going to do about that. He was going to starve the Government of New South Wales of funds. He was going to determine what industrial standards would prevail throughout this country. Of course, what has happened? Less than a fortnight later,the whole issue has been consigned to about page 5 of the local Sydney papers with the simple statement that the Premier has won.
This Parliament has had enough of the political grandstanding of the Prime Minister. I would say this in fairness to the Prime Minister: On this occasion he did not come in and do the job himself; he sent in his Sancho Panza. On this occasion we did not have the prefect; we had the fag. What a statement it was. What have we been told? We have been told in this statement that this Government is going to interfere with the proper constitutional prerogatives of our industrial tribunals.
– What did the unions do by going on strike?
– If the honourable gentleman kept his mouth shut instead of asking such stupid questions he would realise that the industrial power of the Commonwealth is founded upon an industrial dispute taking place on an interstate basis. That jurisdiction certainly has been extended as a result of legal and industrial tribunals’ findings, but the reality of the situation is that there is not an industrial commissioner or a judge of the Industrial Court who is not so completely experienced and knowledgeable, when moving into situations of industrial confrontation, as to deal with those issues on the facts and, for the most part, to solve them without the sort of mad political utterances that emanated from the Minister for Industrial Relations (Mr Street) today.
A number of issues in this dispute have not been dealt with either by the Minister or by the honourable member for Isaacs and I venture to suggest that they will not be dealt with by any speaker who endeavours to give support to the Minister in this debate. Is it denied that the Full Bench awarded a $8 increase in December 1978 and that 75 per cent of that award has flowed to transport drivers throughout industry? This Government says: ‘Go to arbitration, go to our industrial tribunals and accept the findings’. The findings were made in December 1978. What we are talking about now is a flow-on. Is it basically unreasonable for a bus driver in Canberra, who sees a driver doing a similar job, driving the same sort of vehicle and getting the benefit of the $8 flow on, to say: ‘If I cannot get it in any other way I am prepared to strike to get it”?
– I take a point of order. Would the honourable member for Melbourne Ports please explain why, if what he is arguing is correct, there was a difference between transport workers in Victoria over the petrol strike? Explain that if you can.
-Order! The honourable member for Bendigo will resume his seat. There is no point of order. I caution honourable gentlemen on my right not to press the Chair to the position where it will be required to take action.
-If this Government believed that it was a matter of such deep industrial principle -
– We do.
– I am interested in that because, if that is so, honourable members opposite had better join issue with one of their own Ministers because this $8 has already flowed on to transport drivers employed by Telecom Australia. The Minister cannot have it both ways. The Government cannot say: ‘In terms of one government instrumentality it is all right, the Government and the Minister will sit by and permit the flow-on, but we are going to get terribly excited about an industrial stoppage which is occurring essentially in Victoria but partly in Canberra and in the other States on the basis that there is some gross injustice’. The gross injustice is the reluctance of this Government, its political desire and- to use and enlarge upon terms that were used by the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young)- the sheer political bastardly that is involved. It is a very low, mean and despicable form of political bastardry because what the Government is really concerned to do is to use its powers to try to intimidate the industrial tribunals, the employers, the trade union movement and the workers on the basis that it will be the final and ultimate political arbiter.
– What are the unions doing?
– The honourable gentleman ought to go to his favourite hotel in Canberra; that is his problem. In this situation the issues are fairly simple. When the Minister walked into the Parliament today did he not know that tomorrow morning there is to be an interstate telephone hook-up in which advice in the form of a set of recommendations will be tendered to all the unionists involved in the Transport Workers Union? Does he pretend that he does not know what those recommendations are? What we have here is an exercise that is as mean and despicable in terms of proper industrial relations in this country as anything I have ever heard. The fact is that the Minister knows, because of the very nature of the utterances that he has made, that the statements that he has made are designed not to produce industrial settlement but to provoke and inflame the situation. That is the reality. One might ask why any reasonable Minister of the Crown would want to do that.
– He is not reasonable.
– Well, no. There is another reason. One might well ask why the Premier of Victoria wrote a letter to all oil distributors in Victoria endeavouring to encourage them to produce an industrial stoppage- industrial confrontation. What are the motives of these men? The motives are simple. The motives are political motives. It is public knowledge that an election is to take place in Victoria and that the Hamer Government, caught in a web of corruption and maladministration that goes right to the whole structure of government, is so desperate that it will not even allow the Parliament of Victoria to meet. It has been cancelled.
– It is 6 to 4 on favourite.
– The honourable member for Denison, who believes in political amnesty and in the institution of Parliament, would know that from time immemorial the Parliament of Victoria has met in February and March of every year. It is not meeting now. The reason it is not meeting now is that the Government is so desperate, so beleagured, and so concerned to cover up its maladministration and the evidence of corruption that exists at almost every level that the Parliament has been suspended indefinitely. There is no constitutional forum within Victoria in which an honourable member who feels like the honourable member for Isaacs can say his piece. So members of the Victorian Parliament have to rely on their colleagues to try to do a job up here. It was a fairly desperate effort. The honourable member for Isaacs is a man of some sensitivity and even he does not like the brief that he has to carry on this occasion.
– Are you promoting Bill Hartley for Premier?
-I would say this to my honourable colleague: I have no higher regard for that gentleman than I have for him. I would hope that when he seeks his promotion he will not necessarily have to rely on me for support. That still takes us back to the issues before this Parliament. As a member of this House I am grateful that all the evidence indicates that the industrial tribunals of this land pay very little regard for the meanderings and the exercises in political madness which take place in this Parliament and emanate from the Government side of the House. The reason is that they live in a situation where whatever the Prime Minister says, whatever the Minister for Industrial Relations says, whatever the honourable member for Isaacs says and whatever I say, they have to get on with the job of trying to solve industrial problems as they arise. By and large I believe that if one looks at the nature and the tenor of this document, it does not assist those tribunals in the difficult and complex tasks that they have to perform. Indeed, some of the utterances contained in this statement border on industrial and economic lunacy.
Let me put the situation to the House. There is a problem involving the paint industry. What is this Government going to do? Dear me! The Minister’s statement was a novel approach indeed. He said that the Government was going to deal with that problem by allowing the importation of paint from overseas without any tariff barriers. What a marvellous concept that is. I can just imagine the large retailers in my own city slobbering at the thought of it. Goodness me, if there were a stoppage in the textile industry, what a marvellous opportunity it would present. The retailers could say to the Minister for Industrial Relations, ‘We have never had it so good. There is a stoppage in the textile industry. Lift all your tariff barriers.’ Take the footwear industry as a further example. My God, if there were a stoppage in the footwear industry what profits would be made.
Does any honourable member who knows anything about industrial relations seriously believe that in an industrial confrontation involving a strike this Government of industrial pygmies, who would not know how to solve an industrial stoppage, would under this novel concept lift the tariff barriers and bring in the goods from overseas? It is economic nonsense, it is tariff nonsense and it is political nonsense, just like the statement of the Minister. It makes no serious contribution to solving the problems of industrial relations. Its sole purpose is to bolster the Hamer Government in Victoria, a government which is now so desperate that not only will it not allow its own Parliament to meet but also will use its invidious pressures to get Commonwealth Ministers to make the sort of nonsense statements which have been made here today. Industrial problems are complex. They should not be hawked around this Commonwealth Parliament in an endeavour to save one of the most corrupt administrations ever to occupy the benches of a State parliament.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jarman)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-The House is debating a statement made in the public interest earlier today by the Minister for Industrial Relations (Mr Street) to indicate what steps the Government was taking in a way consistent with the public interest to deal with the industrial relations problems which this country is presently experiencing. That is a concept which members of the Opposition seem to have forgotten in this debate. The Government is concerned more with the tactics that are being employed in the present industrial disputes than with the merits of the claims that are being put forward. Whilst members of the Opposition might like to claim that the Government is guilty of bastardly in its activities, I can assure them that the mothers in my electorate who rang me over the weekend to complain about not being able to get milk for their children had a few ideas of their own about who is guilty of the bastardry in this episode.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MartinOrder! I ask the honourable member for Casey to resume his seat. Having just occupied the Chair and having listened to this debate for the last half hour, I intend to apply the Standing Orders strictly and impartially. The honourable member may continue.
-Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. The irresponsibility of” the leadership of the Transport Workers Union of Australia in cutting off essential food supplies knows no bounds.The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) said yesterday:
The trade union leaders seem incapable of grasping the fact that they and their members are pan of the community that they are injuring by their actions. There are processes by which the union’s case can be properly heard. The Government will not tolerate- the community will not tolerate- the situation in which as a first step in the bargaining process trade unions inconvenience and harm the public- in this case including hospital patients, families and small children.
That is what the Prime Minister had to say yesterday and I suggest that his remarks were spot on. The statement of the Minister for Industrial Relations, in which he outlines the measures that the Government is going to take, did not come just as a result of one dispute or one industrial action. We have to look at a number of episodes that have occurred over the last year and, indeed, over a longer period. Let us look at what has occurred over the last year or so with the Transport Workers Union of Australia. In March 1978 there was a stoppage of drivers involving Ansett-Pioneer, a stoppage of armoured car drivers at Brambles Security, and a three month ban involving haulage contractors with oil companies in the Northern Territory. This ban led to a section 45D application under the Trade Practices Act. Then there was a 12-day stoppage at the BP works at Kwinana, Western Australia, over an appeal, and a stoppage by drivers in Brambles ‘ waste collection divisions.
In June last year porters, also members of the Transport Workers Union employed by TransAustralia Airlines took some industrial action over the use of staff labour. Then there was a stoppage by concrete truck owner-drivers in Western Australia which lasted from 3 July to 2 1 July 1978. In late August last year there was a stoppage by TWU members employed by Ampol Petroleum Ltd in New South Wales. That stoppage lasted for a week or so. Approximately 1,000 Queensland drivers from Mayne Nickless Ltd and Thomas Nationwide Transport Pty Ltd went on strike from 14 to 18 September. In 1978 there was further industrial action which spread throughout South Australia and Tasmania. In November there were stoppages by approximately 800 petrol tanker drivers in Victoria over the use of agent drivers. That stoppage lasted from 8 November to 16 November and resulted in the application of section 45d of the Trade Practices Act. In December last year there was a stoppage on various days by TWU members employed by all Australian airlines. Up to 1,800 drivers were involved at various stages. The issue was an appeal against a decision of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. In February of this year there was the Malaysian Airline System dispute. Now we have a dispute which began last month and is disrupting supplies, particularly of milk, foodstuffs and other essential goods.
I outline those matters to indicate that we are not dealing with a situation that has suddenly arisen in the last few days and in respect of which the Government is taking precipitate action. We are dealing with a long history of industrial disputation of a nature which is designed, one would have to believe, to inconvenience the public to the maximum possible extent. Let me point to the importance of this sort of action which is being taken particularly by the Transport Workers Union. I will go through a little of the background of the development of trade unions. I think it would be fair to say that last century as industrial development was getting under way there was a balance of industrial power in favour of capital against what was then very unorganised labour. No one would dispute that the organisation of labour into trade unions enabled working people to gain many great benefits which have flowed through to the standard of living that we all enjoy in Australia today. Those organisations of labour redressed the imbalance. However, the situation in most industrial disputes then was that a strike in one particular enterprise was more or less a dispute just between the workers in that enterprise and the managers and owners of that particular enterprise. Because of the smaller nature of many of the industrial undertakings, there were not a great many people outside that dispute who were tied up or disrupted by it.
Now, with the change in the structure of the economy, the development of technology and increasingly sophisticated communications and transport, we have a more interdependent economy and therefore a strike by a few key workers can affect many people throughout the community who are not directly involved in the dispute. This can result in the standing down of many workers throughout many other- industries who do not have any particular axe to grind and who are not in dispute with their own employers. That is the sort of situation in which transport workers who do not deliver essential supplies to many industries or to final consumers of goods can find themselves. We have that sort of situation developing in the power industry. A few dozen key maintenance workers in the electricity generation industry can be pulled out and so disrupt the economy of a whole State or, indeed, the whole nation. We have seen that situation develop also with air traffic controllers.
When not just the employer and the employees in a particular company or industry are affected but the whole economy is affected and many other members of the public are inconvenienced or disadvantaged in some way, I would suggest that there is a responsibility on a government to maintain the public interest. Only the Government has the role in our community to maintain the public interest. So there is a responsibility on this Government, and indeed on any concerned and responsible government, to take steps to ensure that the public interest is injected into the dispute and is properly considered.
The Government has announced that it will consider applying for the deregistration of the Transport Workers Union because it is engaged in an action which interferes with interstate or overseas trade and commerce or the provision of the public service by the Commonwealth or a State. Employers affected may take a similar approach, as the Minister for Industrial Relations pointed out in his own statement earlier today. He also pointed out that there is a major industrial dispute in the paint industry and hundreds of people in that industry have already been stood down.
One of the problems that we sometimes find in disputes which develop in various industries is that some shortsighted companies will give in to unreasonable demands and will create a precedent which other companies not only in the same industry but also in other industries are then obliged to follow. The Government has stated that should any company or industry make a settlement outside the wage fixation guidelines, the Government will instruct the Prices Justification Tribunal to institute an immediate inquiry into that industry. Furthermore, if we face a specific problem of decreased production in the paint industry, the Government will consider allowing the importation of paint free of duty under by-law to make up any shortfall in production. I would suggest that that is a reasonable notice for the Minister to give so that people who depend on paint in their industries will know that supplies will be available to enable them to be employed, to carry out their normal working activities and to earn their normal incomes. I challenge honourable members opposite to object to that course of action. I think it would be unreasonable for any honourable member opposite to put the proposition that this
Government should not ensure that those people who have no dispute at all with their employers but who work in an industry that may be affected by lack of supplies caused by a dispute in another industry are able to get supplies and are able to earn a wage in the way that they would expect. That is what I refer to when I say that a government has a responsibility to assert the public interest in this country in a way that certainly honourable members opposite have given no indication that they intend to assert it.
I was very interested to listen to some of the bluster by honourable members opposite, particularly the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young). He seemed to have more to say about the Victorian elections than he had to say about the Minister’s statement or about the industrial relations situation in this country. I felt that he was the one who was rather obsessed about the Victorian elections, although he accused this Government of being obsessed about the Victorian elections. Certainly, the Minister made no comments about the Victorian elections. His statements were directed to the industrial situation in this country. It would have been good to hear the principal spokesman for the Opposition who led in this debate addressing himself in more detail to some of the problems that we are facing. He should have talked about the welfare of Victorian people rather than the Victorian elections. It would have been interesting indeed to have him talk a little more about that.
I suggest that what the Minister did in his statement was to assert the public interest, to ensure that the Government’s views on the public interest are clearly stated, to ensure that the Government’s views on the way industrial relations ought to be conducted in this country are made known and that the activities of certain unions that take advantage of their strategic position in the economy to wield undue influence is properly brought to heel. I believe, therefore, that his statement deserves the support of this House.
-I was almost reduced to tears by the speech of the honourable member for Casey (Mr Falconer). He accused the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) of saying that the matter raised by the Minister for Industrial Relations (Mr Street) in his statement had something to do with the elections that are due in Victoria on S May. I point out to the honourable member that not one member from the Government side representing a State other than Victoria has spoken in this debate. The Government speakers have been the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street), who is the Minister for Industrial Relations, the honourable member for Isaacs (Mr Burns) and the honourable member for Casey (Mr Falconer). They are three Victorians. So far, from the Opposition side, we have heard from a South Australian, the honourable member for Port Adelaide, who led for the Opposition, and two Victorians. I join in the debate simply because of my interest in the industrial relations field, not just because I am a Victorian. So away with the cant of the honourable member for Casey and his claim that what he was talking about had nothing to do with the elections in Victoria. Who believes him? Nobody believes him.
If we are to talk about the public interest, as the honourable member did in laying blame fairly and squarely at the feet of the trade union movement, I would remind him that there are always two parties to every dispute. One of those parties he exonerated from blame. Apparently that party has the public interest at heart. As an honourable member of this House said to me at the airport this morning: ‘Would it not be lovely if we could all agree with one another?’ In my usual kind, generous way, I said to him: ‘What you mean by agreeing with one another is that I should agree with you’. That is the proposition which the honourable member for Casey is putting to us. He is saying that we will get industrial peace and harmony in this world as long as the workers agree with the employers. With the greatest respect to everybody in the House, that is not on.
How low the honourable member brought his argument when he talked about a lack of milk for children. It was not so. No child in Victoria went short of milk. Why did the honourable member make such a low point in his debate? He was trying to curry favour with the employers, the bosses in this world who support him and the party that he represents and keep him where he is. He spoke about public interest. Under Part V of the constitution section S 1 (xxxv) talks about conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State’. The key word and the word mentioned first is ‘conciliation’. Under that provision we have an Act of this Parliament. It is the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. ‘Conciliation’ is the key word all the way through, not ‘confrontation’.
The Treasurer (Mr Howard) burst into this place the other night virtually frothing at the mouth. I think he had been using Colgate toothpaste or something. He charged in with handwritten notes, interrupted a debate that was going on, and he said: ‘Mr Speaker, I want to address the House’. He wanted to talk about the Premier of New South Wales introducing a 37!6 hour working week for some power workers. He went on and on and on. He got himself more irate the further he went. The more he went on, the angrier he became. Finally, he said: ‘If these terrible people in New South Wales are going to do this, if that dreadful Premier in New South Wales’- I might point out that he is the best Premier in the whole of Australia, or will be until 5 May, when Mr Frank Wilkes will outstrip him- ‘is going to do this, we will cut off their funds’. ‘That is what we are going to do, we are going to cut off their funds’. As the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Holding) said, there was a meeting of Premiers the other day. That matter occupied three minutes of their time. But we had to listen to that diatribe from the Treasurer in this House for 10 minutes. We had to debate that.
What a silly argument it was. The Treasurer cannot do what he said he was going to do. He knows that. In the same way the Minister for Industrial Relations breezed into this House this afternoon with his statement. I do not think he frothed at the mouth; I do not think he has ever frothed at the mouth. He came into this House with the statement that he was going to do all sorts of dreadful things to all sorts of people. Nowhere in the world could you get a person to agree that after an $8 increase has been granted by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission- the umpire- it should be taken away. All along we have heard it said that we must abide by the umpire’s decision. Very well, the umpire has given a decision. But who now wants to knock that decision? Not the unions. Although the employers resisted the claim before the Commission, the Government, which is not worth two bob- not the trade unions- now wants to knock the decision over.
The Minister for Industrial Relations, who could not get a job sweeping the streets in Melbourne if he was unemployed, wants to knock the decision over. The Government wants to use what it thinks are its powers. The Government does not understand. It has no power at all. It does not even know what it is trying to do. The Minister has come into this House and said that the Government will deregister the Transport Workers Union and the Miscellaneous Workers Union. That is a classic statement. What a faux pas. That will go down as the quote of the week, there is nothing surer.
If members of the Miscellaneous Workers Union do not go back to work, only the automotive industry will be injured. It will be the only one out of paint. I am quite sure that I will not be upset if I cannot go down the street and get four gallons of paint to paint my house- it can wait another week; it is not all that urgent. It is the automotive industry that is upset about this, although I have received information that the automotive industry already has four Boeing 747s lined up at Tapai Airport in Taiwan being loaded up with cans of paint- duty free. Beauty’, they say. They are going to make a fortune out of it. Members of the Miscellaneous Workers Union will not be hurt, but the Government is giving another boat ride, another bonus, to the people it wants to help- the employers.
The dispute is again about wages and conditions. The honourable member for Casey used the words: ‘ … the irresponsibility of the Transport Workers Union leadership’. He should go home tonight and bite his tongue right out. Either he does not know or he does not want to know- I suspect the latter- what happens in trade unions. It is not a question of the leaders of the Transport Workers Union going to the men and saying: ‘Right-o, guys, no work. You are all out of work. It does not matter how much you earn a week, you are not going to earn that this week. You are just not working. ‘ They need the money to take home to their wives and kids. I was a trade union official before I came into this Parliament. I could not say: ‘You are not working this week. ‘ If I had such powers of persuasion I would not be sitting on this back bench in the lowly position of Deputy Opposition Whip- not on your sweet Nelly- I would be sitting right over there in the Prime Minister’s chair. No one in this country has those powers. The Government should not delude itself and should not try to delude the people of Australia.
What happens is that the men meet, talk about their problems and by ballot decide the issue. On more than one occasion the leadership of the union has gone back to the members and recommended a return to work, the members have been dissatisfied with the advice given by their leaders and have decided by ballot that they will remain on strike. Where are the people with this great power who can march in and tell the trade union members to stay out of work? This idea is fiction. It is a nonsense to suggest that the Government has the public interest at heart when it denies the words of our Constitution. We have a Conciliation- I stress the word conciliation- and Arbitration Act, but when has this Government conciliated with anyone? Its position and attitude have always been ones of direct confrontation.
The Minister for Industrial Relations came into this House with what he believed to be the ultimate weapon. In fact, rather than being the ultimate weapon, it is a damp squib. The Minister has not yet put it to the test. I might make so bold as to invite him to put it to the test and see how far it goes. I would like to see whether the Government of this country is quite prepared to take on organised labour in this country. It is a powerful group, as it should be, and I would like to see whether the Government is prepared to do that. Government members talk about the deregistration of the two unions. The honourable member for Isaacs (Mr Burns) wanted to extend that idea even further. Returning to the honourable member for Casey, he gave us a list of industrial disputes. He went to every corner of Australia, even to remote places like Ceduna, trying to find the odd occasion when there had been a stoppage by transport workers. He put all that information together and said that was the justification and the reason for the Government ‘s proposal. He did not tell us why those stoppages occurred. But he said that was justification for the deregistration of the union. I would be disappointed in the fine gentlemen who sit on the bench of our Arbitration Commission if they listened to such piffle, if they were persuaded by such spurious arguments.
The honourable member gave a history of the trade union movement and said that at some time or another there was great justification for the existence of trade unions and the organisation of the work force. Of course there was. There always has been. But when it was tried a couple of hundred years ago, the people involved were gaoled. They were transported from England to Australia. He knows about the martyrs of Tolpuddle; I do not have to remind him. Those people were gaoled for doing it then. He would like to return to the days when men and women were gaoled if they dared to organise against the employers. He spoke about companies being weak-kneed and giving in- one company giving in and the rest having to follow. I thought he believed in the free enterprise system. I do not; I believe in socialism. I do not think the free enterprise system works now and I do not think it will ever work. If he believes in such a system, as a corollory he must believe that the employers are big enough to stand on thenown feet, that they must be in competition with one another. He concedes that employers in this area show a weakness. But because they show a weakness and because the employees are better organised, he wants to use the forces of government to destroy the employees. Is that the free enterprise system at work? Is it the free enterprise system where those who believe in it can call on the Government to bail out the employers as has happened in many areas?
When Thomas Nationwide Transport looked like taking over Ansett Transport Industries in Victoria we had that old reprobate from way back, Sir Henry Bolte, intervene. He is the same man who was mixed up in the failure of Associated Securities Ltd. That is what a good business manager he is. He used the forces of the Victorian Government to stop that amalgamation because, he said, it was not good enough. At that time the two giants of the transport industry were at war. It had nothing to do with the unions. Did the honourable member for Casey tell us about that tonight? Did the Minister for Industrial Relations tell us about that tonight? They did not mention a word about it. It seems to me that this House and the Parliament in Victoria- the State with the most corrupt government that Australia has ever had- are quite prepared to use their powers through the Victorian Parliament to support their friends.
Going back over it again, Sir Henry Bolte, Sir Reginald Ansett and Sir Cecil Looker- the father, the son and the holy ghost of the Liberal Party- were mixed up in the failure of Associated Securities Ltd in Victoria. The failure of that company was a disaster. If we are going to talk about the public interest and people taking other people to the cleaners, let us talk about Mr Harry M. Miller who is a card carrying member of the National Country Party. He is a great supporter of the National Country Party and the Liberal Party. He has poured shareholders down the drain with his Computicket failure, as did Sir Henry Bolte, Sir Reginald Ansett and Sir Cecil Looker- all with ‘Sir’ before their name- pour people down the drain. That statement seems to raise a smirk on the face of honourable members opposite. They seem to think that sort of chicanery and stand-over tactics of that kind are quite all right. But let honest working-class men demand something that the court has given to them, and the Government wants to deregister their union. It is the height of hypocrisy; it is the height of chicanery. As long as I draw breath and stand in this House, which will be for many years to come, I will defend the right of those workers to obtain that to which they are entitled.
- Mr Deputy Speaker -
-I call the honourable member for Hindmarsh.
- Mr Deputy Speaker -
-Order! I have called the honourable member for Hindmarsh. If the honourable member wishes to defer to the honourable member for Cowper, that is his right.
– I am prepared to yield.
-The House has just heard a speech which I believe typifies the illogical, irresponsible and doubtless deliberate attitude of militant trade union leaders. The honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson) styled himself as a former trade union official. He told this House of his great experience in that field, and then he purported to represent in this chamber that section of the community. I believe that his contribution tonight condemned competely the approach of the Opposition in this very important matter of industrial relations. It is all very well to refer to occurrences of which the community is well aware and to emphasise those in sharp contrast to accepting the fundamental responsibility which is the real purpose of the debate on this statement by the Minister for Industrial Relations (Mr Street). The import of the statement is quite clear, and I am sure that tonight the majority of Australians will see quite clearly what it is all about. It is about the fact that this Government is facing up to a situation deliberately contrived by militant sections of the trade union movement, in particular the Transport Workers Union and a section of the Miscellaneous Workers Union, which are disrupting enormous sections of industry and, in the course of events, inconveniencing and taking away the livelihood of many people in the work force in this country. The honourable member for Burke has failed to recognise that. All he is concerned about is the issue of pressure tactics. Apparently he is dedicated to the belief that industrial disruption is the right way to approach the aspirations of the unions in certain matters, but he tried to cover that up by saying that there is provision for arbitration and conciliation. If that provision exists, why are the unions failing to use that avenue properly to determine what they want and to abide by a proper decision when it is made? Why are they failing to put their case and play the game, so to speak, in this important matter?
The unions are not doing that these days. In so many directions they are ignoring the right procedures in industrial relations. They are ignoring the right that was hard won over so many years to have a proper system in this country for the progressive improvement of conditions for the worker, the progressive consideration of the various opportunities for workers to better their lot. In so doing, they are undermining the real prospects of the majority of the workers of this country. So the Government has a responsibility to face up to this issue, and of course it is doing that on a proper basis. Firstly, in relation to areas of employment where the Commonwealth has appropriate legal power relating to terms and conditions of employment, within the full limit of these powers a firm stand has been adopted. In the circumstances where wage claims and claims regarding terms and conditions are being pressed through bans, limitations and other disruptive industrial action, the Government’s policy now provides: No work as directed; no pay. That is fair enough. That is what the majority of Australians believe, and the majority of Australians very determinedly supported the Government which occupies the Treasury Bench on this premise. Secondly, in regard to standdowns and applications for standdowns, suspension clauses are to be inserted in awards where they do not exist.
The Government believes that its action deserves the support of the employers, particularly in the industries directly concerned. I have no doubt that the stand that has been taken as a consequence of the statement made to this House by the Minister will be supported by the employers. The Minister for Industrial Relations has said that the hean of the problem is that the unions are taking industrial action of one kind or another prior to or during a hearing of their claims by a responsible tribunal. This afternoon and tonight we have heard the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young), the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Holding), and the honourable member for Burke completely contradict the truth of this matter. They have asserted that the Government is taking action which is forcing the issue. It is doing nothing of the sort. The issue is being forced, and forced very determinedly, by those unions which are failing to use the proper procedures that are open for them so to use. I believe that it ill becomes the Opposition to use this House as a forum merely to peddle further political propaganda in the way it has done this evening. The Opposition has said tonight that the Government’s approach interferes with proper progressive industrial power. It does not. On the contrary, the move that the Government is making gives the opportunity for those engaged in the respective industries to have a say in their own affairs in a proper manner. If their own leadership is not giving them that chance, this Government, through the action it is taking, undoubtedly will give a greater chance to the majority of workers to assert their views, their rights and their aspirations.
It was asserted that the Government is applying pressure to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. Likewise, that is a deliberate denial of the truth. This Government has enunciated its policy very clearly. It believes in a system of proper conciliation and arbitration, and all it is doing is giving the opportunity for that system to be used in a more effective manner with the support of the appellants, in this case the employers. There is no other proper democratic course of action; yet the Opposition is using crocodile tears and extravagant words to suggest that the Government is overstepping the mark in this matter. I believe that the Government has not acted swiftly enough or forcefully enough up to this point. I commend the Minister and those on the treasury benches who are supporting him for taking this very positive action to ensure that there is recognition of the problem and that a situation is created where that recognition can be carried through in an effective manner in the interests of the members of trade unions in particular, of the industries in which there are difficulties, and of the wider community, which after all is vitally important.
The honourable member for Port Adelaide said that we should talk to the Commonwealth car drivers and consider what we are doing to them. He said that we are not letting them force the issue so that can get what they want. A number of drivers have said to me over the last few weeks that they do not agree with what is occurring. They would prefer to be doing their jobs and picking up their pay envelopes and picking up the benefits of the overtime that they can gain at weekends. Instead, they have to bow down to a militant leadership which is denying them the right to continue to work while the issues are dealt with in the proper venue. Of course, they are well aware that some of the moves made in this direction over the last year have not succeeded. The honourable member for Port Adelaide this afternoon used words that suggested that every time this kind of pressure is applied the outcome has been the granting of demands. He referred to those engaged in sections of Australia Post and, from my memory of what he said, Telecom Australia. Certainly he referred to shearers and a number of other sections.
The truth is that they did not get all that they were demanding. There were settlements, of course- settlements made as a consequence of the enormous pressure from both sides of the argument. But if that is the way that we are to settle industrial problems in this country hence forth, Heaven help the country, Heaven help the economy and Heaven help everyone who has to rely upon some cohesive situation in terms of the operations of essential services, particularly transport, where all sorts of factors arise. Mention was made earlier of the effect of this strike in Victoria on essential foodstuffs- milk supplies and the like. We recall the effect of the transport workers’ bans and strikes during the last year. On a number of occasions they in fact put at risk the lives of other Australians because of the lack of air transport at times, the difficulty of getting blood plasma from one part of the country to another and the difficulty for people who are ill and requiring medical attention to be able to travel from one part of the country to another. These are the issues that arise but which are glossed over in this argument which so far as the Opposition is concerned is merely contriving to throw some kind of blockage in the way of the Government’s determination to implement a fair and reasonable policy at a time when it is sadly needed by the Australian community.
I am sure that in the process of events over the next few days we will have further double talk from those who have a direct responsibility in this matter. We have seen the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Mr Hawke, in the last 24 hours attempt to deny the facts. He said that if pressure were applied through the action that has been foreshadowed in the ministerial statement it would damage industrial relations in this country. He knows perfectly well that that damage has already been done. It ill becomes him to try to pretend that he and others in the ACTU and the unions involved did not know that this was the risk that they would run while ever this kind of disruption was entertained. They know very well that the Government announced months ago that it would take this action if the unions proceeded to press their claims in the way that they were doing and to put at risk the interests of this country.
The Government’s approach to this matter is not only timely, it is also certainly justified. It is an approach that affects the community very deeply because there can be a factor of time in reaching a settlement as a consequence of the procedures that are involved. There can be a serious disruption on a continuing basis because action of this kind cannot be taken quickly or overnight. But if the long haul of strikes and bans of the sort that were referred to by a previous speaker, who gave a very good account of what had occurred particularly on the part of the Transport Workers Union, are to continue, then there is no other course of action. The effects on the community are becoming so serious and so widespread that no responsible government can ignore them. I am sure that this Government certainly does not intend to do so. I support very strongly the policy announcement that has been made by the Minister for Industrial Relations. I support the action the Government is taking in this matter and I deprecate as strongly as I can the ineffective defence that has been put up in this debate by the Opposition.
-Once again this Government has attempted to politicise an industrial dispute. I, like every other member of this House and members of the trade union movement, will know that it is doing so in an attempt to win some electoral mileage because of the elections to be held in Victoria next month. I note that the Government was instanced in media reports this morning as backing away from this dispute- backing away from the Transport Workers Union. Now, suddenly, the Minister for Industrial Relations (Mr Street) has reversed that approach and has decided to attack. Perhaps that is just one more instance of the Government’s over-sensitivity to the front page headlines of the Australian Financial Review. Let us look at what has happened in this industrial dispute. Here we see the Transport Workers Union on behalf of some 35,000 workers in Western Australia, Queensland, Tasmania and Victoria making a claim for an increase of $8 a week. It is true that already the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission has granted that same $8 a week to a section of the Transport Workers Union in Victoria- I understand to the milk carters. It can certainly be expected that if one section of the Transport Workers Union wins its claim of $8 a week, the others will continue their struggle to obtain equity also.
This latest statement and attack should be seen as part of the infamous industrial legislation that was introduced and passed in this Parliament during 1977. Of course, it set up the needless and useless Industrial Relations Bureau. It also set out to freeze union funds, even fine unionists and, in some extreme contingency, perhaps even gaol trade unionists. Certainly, it provided for the deregistration in certain circumstances of unions that were out on strike. I ask you, Mr Deputy Speaker, and I ask this House: What has this type of industrial confrontation by a government ever attained? What has it ever achieved and what dispute has it ever settled? Perhaps the Government is looking to a repeat of the Victorian incident of 1969 when it was its provocative actions that incited a massive confrontation with the trade union movement which became known as the Clarrie O’Shea case. What this type of behaviour by a government achieves is to unite unionists within the particular union that is out on strike. I can assure the House of that. That is the first point. Secondly, it unites the trade union movement as a whole- the ACTU. If there is any marked disunity within union ranks we can be assured that such massive attacks by government tend to close those ranks. I speak as one who knows.
I note that this afternoon the Minister said that his Government and his own efforts had been directed towards improving the industrial relations climate in Australia. He said:
These efforts have resulted in a dramatic reduction in the levels of industrial disruption compared with those of the Labor Government
What he was really saying was that over the last three years unions have substantially complied with the guidelines of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission with regard to wages. Indeed, that is what Mr Justice Moore said in granting a full flow-on at the last case which was the first six-monthly hearing. The Minister went on to say that he was very worried that disruptive developments had occurred in recent weeks in industrial relations which now required careful consideration by the Government. I wish to look at some examples of these disputes, other than the transport workers’ dispute, which are apparently firing the Government’s imagination and concern. I look around me in New South Wales and I see a continuing coal dispute wherein a number of maintenance tradesmen working at coal loaders throughout the State have made a $40 a week wage claim. Honourable members may think that that is extravagant but it is not, because those skilled tradesmen were only demanding parity with the semi-skilled and skilled men who operate the loaders. Here is the classic situation of the Government and Government members attacking skilled tradesmen who are merely seeking to bring their wage rates up to semi-skilled levels. The men who actually keep those coal loaders operational are being attacked because of that. Yet in the same breath the Government talks about and sides with the employers in their complaints that there is a deficiency of skilled tradesmen within Australia and that they must be imported from overseas. That is how this Government treats its skilled tradesmen.
Let me go further to show how ridiculous is the support for this sort of position. In Port Kembla some 35 maintenance men sought that wage increase. If it had been granted it would have meant an extra $73,000 a year from the coal companies. The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade and Resources (Mr Anthony), by his craven backdown to the Japanese and several coal companies in New South Wales and by refusing to stand by the original minimum parameters he set in negotiations with the Japanese, lost $1.50 for each tonne of coal sold. Over two years, the possible sale of 10 million tonnes meant a loss of $ 15m to the local operators. In that circumstance this Government was prepared to give $15m to the Japanese steel mill owners but it was not prepared to support Australian skilled tradesmen in a miserly claim for $73,000. That is the real position in relation to the Port Kembla and New South Wales coal strike. Let it be said here and now that as a result of that strike some 1,200 coal miners in one major mine look like being laid off and the sale of 620,000 tonnes of coal from New South Wales delayed indefinitely. The loss of that sale probably will not be recovered this year. This situation has arisen because the Government was not prepared to say that tradesmen should get as much money as semi-skilled operators.
I now turn to the much vaunted Malaysian Airlines dispute. Here was a case where 22 people who were struggling to improve the wages of their colleagues were gaoled by what I would term a reactionary government. In response to that the International Air Transport Association, which has among its members many unions and different organisations throughout the world, called on its member organisations to support them, and because the Transport Workers Union did so it was villified by this Government. Yet, we hear members of the Government say that Australia ought to be more competitive with South East Asian producers and manufacturers. When they say that they mean that wages ought to be reduced to become more export oriented and more competitive. There are more ways than that in which to become competitive. It is in our interests that the $1.20 a day that the Malaysian workers receive be increased. Let us reverse the Government’s argument: To make our workers more competitive let us argue that the Malaysian workers ought to receive more rather than that Australian workers ought to receive less. That would be in Australia’s interests as we struggle for world export markets.
I now wish to deal briefly with another dispute of a different nature. It concerns superannuation.
There is a need for a national superannuation scheme because I do not believe that pensions will ever be lifted high enough simply by paying them out of taxation and general revenue. I believe that all schemes should eventually be pulled into a big national scheme. In the absence of such a scheme, why is there such opposition to the unions running their own scheme? I believe that they are just as qualified as are the major companies to run superannuation schemes. I participated with the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia over many years in trying to get a superannuation scheme. Finally, having attained it, we had to battle to improve it. It was certainly never as good as the State or Federal Public Service schemes but at least it was better than the companies were prepared to establish in the first place. The unions should be going one step further and running it themselves. In that circumstance they would be taking the real decisions; they would not be made by the Bank of New South Wales as investment adviser but by the unions.
That is what the companies are very worried about. They are very worried that the unionists who want to run their own superannuation schemes will get portability of superannuation and mobility of employment, and thus improve their own ability to fight for better wages and conditions. They fear the collective power of the unions. If the unions are running a major superannuation fund and if $2,000 billion or $3,000 billion a year in workers superannuation funds is available for investment, they are entitled to make some investment decisions. Just as Utah and the Japanese are entitled to make a decision regarding a new coal mine in Queensland, it is just as much the right of the unionists and the workers to make similar decisions as to the area of the economy in which they want to invest their money.
This Government attacks wages and it totally blames wage increases for inflation and unemployment. It ignores the fact that some $25 a week has been lost over the past Vh years as a result of the awarding, in nine out of 12 national wage cases, of less than full indexation. It talks about a wage overhang where productivity is supposed to lag behind wage increases. That is demonstrable nonsense. It never was a fact. Even if it were true it could never have been proved conclusively that workers’ wage increases were the main cause of unemployment. This Government has no wages policy other than to oppose indexation fully. It has no wages policy at all. The position I take is that there ought to be full, automatic indexation at least up to the level of the national average wage.
This Government gives the workers no hope that they will get wage equity. But it is not backward in emasculating the Prices Justification Tribunal, making it a creature of the Government and giving it the impossible task of trying to roll back price increases that have already occurred following a public inquiry carried out at the behest of the Minister. It can certainly be counted upon to oppose at the next national wage case any wage increase sought for the six months to the end of March. The consumer price index rose 2.3 per cent in the December quarter. What will it be for the March quarter? The figure will be out soon. Will it be 2.3 per cent, 2.5 per cent or 3 per cent? If a 5.3 per cent wage rise is needed, will this Government argue before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission that there should be no wage increase? Will it then roast trade unions in the community and in the electorates because they tried to get wage increases outside the guidelines, as did the Transport Workers Union.
This Government has no policy other than to attack workers. It also attacks pensioners. It promotes inequitable tax policies; it imposes tax surcharges. Honourable members should remember the 1.5c in the dollar tax surcharge. Does the Government intend to continue imposing that surcharge? It will not say. How many times have I listened to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) challenge the Treasurer (Mr Howard) to say what he intends to do, and he cravenly backs away from the challenge on every occasion. The Government refuses to implement a wealth or capital gains tax, despite the fact that 5 per cent of Australians own 46 per cent of Australia’s wealth. It allows companies such as Esso-BHP to accumulate hundreds of millions of dollars. The Government itself pulls in $ 1,200m from workers as a result of its misguided rip-off oil policies. It makes inflammatory attacks on the ordinary people and the workers who produce Australia’s real national wealth. It must hate unionists, it must hate workers and it will continue to attempt to bludgeon them. I, for one, am glad that they are fighting back.
– The Ministerial statement presented by the Minister for Industrial Relations (Mr Street) is the most significant statement he has delivered since the general election in 1975. The most significant parts of the statement have not been touched upon to the extent that I believe they warrant examination. Most of the trouble today is due to the fact that when the quarterly cost of living adjustments were abolished workers were forced to carry a lag in price increases which was more than they could stand. The consequence has been that, because six months is far too long for workers to have to bear the cost of increased prices, they are left with no resort other than the action which they are now taking and the action about which the Government is now complaining.
The statement contains three main points of attack. First, it proposes to support an application for the deregistration of the Transport Workers Union of Australia and the Miscellaneous Workers Union. Secondly, it proposes to make an application to the Prices Justification Tribunal for an examination of the price structure of the goods and services supplied by the employers concerned in this case should they yield to union pressure. In that event, the Government further warns that it will consider as a third step, in the case of the Miscellaneous Workers Union industries, bringing in products without any tariff duty being imposed in order to see that people do not have to go without paint.
What I would like the Government to consider is the very dangerous and ineffectual step that it is proposing to take in relation to deregistration. The arbitration system will not work if the unions are deregistered and the arbitration system will not work if the unions decide to get out of the arbitration system. Unions cannot readily get out of the arbitration system. Once they are in it, they are locked into it. There is only one way they can get out and that is by deregistration. It could very well be that the unions might welcome deregistration because, if they begin to see that there is nothing for them in the arbitration system, they will have no terror of being deregistered. If one reads the history books one finds that, when the Conciliation and Arbitration Act was introduced in 1904, the Government of the day had to evolve all kinds of inducements to get the unions to register. In 1904 the unions did not flock into the arbitration system in droves; they had to be cajoled in, coaxed in. Eventually they came in and the law was altered to provide that once a union was in the system it was locked in.
It does not matter whether a union is registered. As long as it continues to control its membership deregistration will achieve absolutely nothing. The unions will continue to direct their members. Their members will continue to hold their meetings and to be bound by majority decision. Deregistration can work only in situations such as we saw when the Building Workers Industrial Union of Australia was deregistered and the carpenters and joiners came in and picked up the constitutional rights which the deregistered union previously had. But that would not happen in the situation about which we are now talking. That only happened because of a factional war between the right and the left wings of the carpenters union. That situation is not in existence now in either the Transport Workers Union strike or the Miscellaneous Workers Union strike. Unless we have that situation- unless we are able to guarantee that some other union will come in and pick up the registration which is forfeited by the deregistered union and, moreover, that that union has the power and the capability to enroll the members who were doing the work as members of the deregistered union- we will solve nothing at all. What we could do is create the catalyst which will make all the other unions see the folly of remaining in an arbitration system which is lopsided against the interests of organised labour.
It is possible that, if the Miscellaneous Workers Union were deregistered, the Australian Workers Union could move in and pick up the registration of the Miscellaneous Workers Union. It is possible that, in different circumstances from those which apply now, in the metal trades industry if the Amalgamated Metal Workers and Shipwrights Union were deregistered, the Australasian Society of Engineers and the Federated Ironworkers Association of Australia could move in and pick up the registered rights which the AMWSU now has. But, I repeat, that is not the climate which now applies. Any union which did that would stand branded as a scavenger against unions which were fighting for what the rest of the trade union movement regards as a legitimate case. In this case, what are they fighting for? They are fighting for an amount of money which was awarded to them by the arbitration system but which, on the basis of the policy of automatic appeal, has been taken away from them. No one in the trade union movement, no trade union, would be prepared to act as a scavenger against a union which was deregistered simply for trying to retain what it was able to get from the arbitration system.
I simply warn the Government that what it is proposing as far as deregistration is concerned will resolve nothing at all. I repeat, it could be the very action which will spark off the kind of climate and the kind of reaction in the trade union movement which will cause the conciliation and arbitration machinery to collapse around our ears. I refer now to what I regard as the most lethal part of the Minister’s statement, which is found in the last two paragraphs but two of the statement. He stated:
Should a settlement be made outside the guidelines, the Government will instruct the Prices Justification Tribunal to institute an immediate inquiry into the industry.
He went on to state:
Accordingly, consideration will be given to importation of paint free of duty under bylaw, in order to make up any shortfall in production.
Those two threats, if acted upon, will be effective unless the employers are carrying much more fat than they are ever prepared to admit they are carrying. If they are carrying the amount of fat which I think they are carrying by way of excess profits, even that will not be effective because they will be able to maintain and absorb the increased wage prices that we are talking about without their having to close down their plants. But even if they succeed in doing that, the second threat will be completely effective. That is to say, if the employers decide to break the guidelines and give the increase to their employees and if the Prices Justification Tribunal refuses to pass on the increased wage cost in the form of price increases and the employers are still able to continue to operate, the decision to bring in paint duty free must inevitably bring about the closing down of the industry, if that is what the Government is looking for.
There could be circumstances in which the last two proposals which the Government has threatened could be justified. When I was Minister for Labor I was confronted by the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union with the request that I support an aluminium company in an application it was then making to the Prices Justification Tribunal for a further increase in the price of its product in order to meet the AMWU demand for more wages. I told the union that I would not have a bar of it. I told it that I saw no point in the aluminium company, Comalco or Alcan- I have forgotten the name of the company concerned, but it was one of the three alumium companies then operating- making all the workers of Australia pay more for their aluminium just so that the company could pass on by way of increased prices the cost of additional wages that were being paid to the members of one particular union. I bluntly told Mr Gilmore of the AMWU that I would have no bar of it.
The other circumstance which I believe justifies action is the collusion which seems to take place between Ansett Airlines of Australia and Trans-Australia Airlines. Every time an increase is in the wages of pilots or other people employed in the airline industry is sought, what happens? The companies simply give in and come to the Government. The Government automatically gives them authority to increase the price of fares and the paying public has to meet the burden. Again when I was Minister, I made it clear to Ansett that if I had my way I would have said: ‘You can pay your pilots what you like but the extra cost has to come out of your profits and not be passed on to the travelling public’.
I have completed the 10 minutes for which I asked. I thank the House for giving me this time. I know that it was not my turn to speak. That is all I have time to say. The speech is the most significant speech made so far in that what is contained in the last two paragraphs of page 4 of the circulated copy is, I think, the most deadly threat that we have ever seen contrived by any government.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill presented by Mr Viner, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill makes provision for payments in lieu of long leave not taken upon the death in office or the retirement of a justice of the High Court. The payments proposed to be made under the Bill are the same as those that have been made in the past pursuant to specific authorisations by Cabinet. The Government believes that payments to High Court justices such as those dealt with in this Bill should not depend upon the exercise of executive discretion but on legislation. This Bill is intended to put the matter on a proper basis and to honour undertakings given by the present Attorney-General (Senator Durack) and his predecessors to a Senate estimates committee that legislation would be introduced to authorise those payments. In a companion Bill, the Judges (Long Leave Payments) Bill, identical provisions will be made in respect of the judges of other federal courts. It is appropriate, however, that the provisions for justices of the High Court be made in a separate Bill because of the special position occupied by that Court which is the court established under the Constitution whereas other federal courts are created by the Commonwealth Parliament.
The Bill provides for the payment on the retirement of a justice who has completed not less than 10 years’ service, or on the death of a justice irrespective whether he has completed 10 years’ service, of an amount calculated at the rate of 5.2 weeks for each completed year of qualifying judicial service or an amount equivalent to one year’s salary whichever is the lesser. If after ten years a justice retires or dies in office without having taken any long leave, he, his widow or dependants, as the case may be, shall be paid a sum equal to the amount of one year’s salary as at the date of his retirement or death. If, however, he has taken some long leave, on retirement or death an amount is payable calculated on the basis of 5.2 weeks for each year of his service less the period of long leave actually taken. The maximum payable is the equivalent of his annual salary at the date of retirement or death. I stress that in no circumstances will a payment under the Bill exceed an amount equal to a justice ‘s annual salary. If on the other hand a justice should die in office before he completes 10 years’ service an amount is payable calculated on the basis of 5.2 weeks for each year of his service. When a justice retires the payment is, of course, to be made to him. If, however, a justice dies in office payment is made to the spouse or, if there is none, to his dependants, or in any other case to the legal personal representative.
The Bill also provides that where a payment is made to dependants of a deceased justice the amount payable shall be distributed between or among those dependants as directed by the Attorney-General. There is already a similar discretion in the Judges’ Pensions Act 1968 in respect of the distribution of a judge’s pension and such a provision is reasonable in legislation dealing with payment in lieu of untaken leave so that account can be taken of the particular circumstances of individual dependants. Finally the Bill provides that, where a person who would otherwise be the recipient of a payment is under a legal disability, the Attorney-General may pay an amount payable under the Bill to a trustee. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Lionel Bowen) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Viner, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill is a companion Bill to the High Court Justices (Long Leave Payments) Bill 1979 and makes similar provision for payments in lieu of long leave not taken upon the death in office or the retirement of a Federal or Territorial judge or a person who, by virtue of an Act, has the same status as a judge. The reasons for the introduction of the legislation and the relevant provisions of the Bill are the same as those referred to in my speech on the companion Bill. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Lionel Bowen) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 8 March, on motion by Mr Nixon:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The purpose of this Bill is to authorise the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) to conclude agreements with the States of New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia for the provision of $70m to those States during the years 1978-79 to 1982-83 for the upgrading of their mainline railway networks. It should be noted that $3m was appropriated for that purpose in Appropriation Act (No. 2 ) 1 978-79 leaving a remainder of $67m to be made available to the States during the years 1979-80 to 1982-83. The annual amounts to be made available are to be determined in light of each year’s budgetary commitments.
At the 1977 election campaign, the Australian Labor Party and major coalition parties each advocated support for the provision of financial assistance to the States for the upgrading of their mainline railway networks. In principle then, there is a bi-partisan approach to the major objective of the Bill, hence the Opposition will not be opposing the Bill. However, the Opposition believes that the sum of $3m made available to the States this year is totally inadequate and that the provision of financial assistance by way of section 96 interest bearing grants is a repudiation of the Government’s 1977 election promise. At that time the clear impression given to the electorate was that the contribution to be made by this Government would be in the form of non-repayable grants. Accordingly, at a later stage I will move an amendment expressing our disapproval of those aspects of the legislation.
Clause 4 ( 1 ) of the Bill provides that the Minister for Transport may declare as main railway lines, for the purposes of this Bill, the principal railway line Unking the capital cities of two adjoining States. Clause 4(2) provides that the Minister for Transport may declare a railway line other than a railway line referred to in Clause 4 ( 1 ) to be a main railway line for purposes of this Bill where he considers it to be of national importance. The lack of definition in this Clause is most unsatisfactory as, in the absence of specific criteria, it provides a clear opportunity for the Minister to distribute Australian taxpayers’ dollars to crony States on a favoured State basis. This Parliament will need to be vigilant to ensure that public financial assistance granted under Clause 4 (2) will only be on the responsible basis of national interest priorities and not as a pork barrelling exercise, a practice for which the National Country Party is well renowned.
The Bill is historic in that after decades of deliberate disinterest in our mainline railway systems by successive conservative governments, recognition is being given at last to the important role railways play in our national transport system. It is important to note that this recognition and provision of financial assistance for their improvement, grew out of the Bureau of Transport Economic’s studies of mainline railways commissioned by the Australian Labor Government in 1975. Likewise, the establishment of the Australian Railways Research and Development Organisation, which will advise on the implementation of the provisions of this Bill, flowed from discussions at the Australian Transport Advisory Council. Its participation will contribute to the development of a national approach to our railway needs and a comprehensive assessment of financial priorities for railway expenditure in Australia.
It is to this Government’s discredit that the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) in his second reading speech did not take the opportunity to inform the Parliament of the performance of the various railway systems, the problems they face, or the benefits to be gained nationally by improving the services they provide. Accordingly, I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard two pages each of three tables drawn from the 1978 Commonwealth Grants Commission report, which sets out the financial position of the State government railways and the burden they place on State government Budgets.
The tables read as follows-
– The table titled ‘Railway Revenue’, table H-l shows total revenue of State government railways in Australia to be $967,195,000, with a major portion of that revenue, $35 1.875m, being collected by New South Wales. The total railway operating expenditure for those State government railway systems is $ 1.473m. It is worth noting that New South Wales has $575.577m-the highest expenditure- Victoria, $305.277m; Queensland, $330.78 lm; and South Australia, allowing for the transfer to the Australian National Railways Commission, $ 100.733m. We hear from time to time a great deal of discussion about the level of railway deficits in Australia. Table H-3 shows that the total deficit of State government railway systems for the year 1976-77 is $506.3 19m, with again the major deficit- $223. 702m- being in New South Wales. We see that Victoria’s deficit is $ 14 1 .366m, Queensland ‘s is $70.0 1 6m and the others are as shown.
The discussion of railway deficits should also take into account the magnitude of the operations of railway systems in Australia. Again referring to those tables it is worth noting that during the period 1974-75 to 1976-77 the average employment per 10,000 of mean population arising from railways in New South Wales was 8 1, in Victoria 67, in Queensland 115, in South Australia 65, in Western Australia 87 and in Tasmania, under the transfer arrangements, 49. If we look at that same table, those figures in the main are an improvement in some cases on the period from 1969-70 to 1971-72. The Australian Year Book for 1975-76 shows that the government railway systems carried a total of 104,355,000 tonnes of goods and materials in that year.
Similarly, the Minister for Transport gave no indication of the future role of the Australian National Railway Commission in association with the upgraded mainline State systems. He neglected to mention the necessity to coordinate, on a national basis, the various modes of transport services. Both government and private sector bodies see an urgent need for upgrading main rail lines.
Recently the Australian Chamber of Shipping in a report on the shipping industry highlighted the importance of adequate and efficient rail links to our major ports. In respect of the provision of rail links to ports, the report stated in part:
There is ample evidence to suggest an urgent need to extend into some major ports the Australian standard gauge rail system. The Chamber considers that the provision of standard gauge railway services is a question of major national concern bearing in mind the need to ensure that port and trading facilities are:
flexible and able to use local and interstate rail vehicles;
easily accessible from the point of view of a national rail linkage in the light of future defence considerations.
Referring to port development at Fisherman Islands at the mouth of the Brisbane River the Chamber stated:
This new port facility, which is currently still under construction, will be faced with a major inbuilt constraint from the very beginning.
Turning to Melbourne the report stated:
A standard gauge rail link from Dynon Road into the important Swanson Dock area of the port of Melbourne should receive attention. Even more important is a standard gauge link into the Webb Dock area.
Rolling stock has not always been available to meet demand when it has been found necessary from time to time (due to industrial action for some other reason) to off-load containers at a port other than that originally intended.
As far as we can ascertain State railways are losing considerable revenue from this shortcoming, in addition to which an unnecessarily high number of shipping containers which could then move by rail are in fact being moved by road.
The Chamber of Shipping in its report has emphasised the urgency of improving feeder services to our ports and thus the need for Federal assistance. It is a view that the Opposition supports as being of national importance.
Mr L. E. Marks, the Executive Director of Brambles Holdings Ltd, a major road freight operator in his address to the Transport Outlook Conference last September, also pointed to the need for the upgrading of mainline railway services. Referring to modal imbalance in the Transport Industry he said:
The freight forwarding industry claims that if the correct rail vehicles were available and the system had the capacity to handle increased volumes, and if the freight forwarders as an industry, could achieve dialogue with one responsible management team on the railway side, there could be a reduction of areas of costly friction and unproductive competition, and that forwarders could well be able to influence over 2S-S0 per cent more traffic to the inter-system railway network.
He went on to say:
It is vitally important to the national economy that in conjunction with other modes, the railways effectively fill the role for which they are best suited. Historically they have played a major part in the general development of Australia and its economic progress. However, it has become a matter of increasing concern and alarm with major rail users that unless some immediate and decisive steps are taken to halt and reverse the trends, the system will fail in its role and the consequence will be extremely serious.
The Bureau of Transport Economics, in its evaluation of proposals for the upgrading of the Melbourne-Sydney rail link, estimated that the calculated rate of return on investment in upgrading was in excess of 30 per cent for both the New South Wales and Victorian sections. It estimated the cost of extending all crossing loops in New South Wales to 915 metres and improving the signalling system by the introduction of centralised traffic control would be $2. 4m expressed in 1973 prices. The construction of six new crossing loops prior to 1982 at a cost, again in 1973 prices, of $1. 52m was seen as the most effective way to overcome rail congestion on the Victorian section. The total cost in 1973 prices for the Sydney-Melbourne project was estimated at $3. 92m; those works would cost at today’s prices $7.84m. The Bureau of Transport Economics found that, between Melbourne and Serviceton, near where the Adelaide line crosses the South Australian border, extension of crossing loops would yield a return of over 30 per cent and the introduction of centralised traffic control between 15 per cent and 20 per cent. This project would cost $6.2m in 1973 prices or $ 12.4m at today’s prices.
The Sydney to Brisbane route, one of the most congested main lines in Australia, could also best be upgraded by the provision of extended crossing loops and centralised traffic control at a 1976 cost of $21.1 lm according to the BTE or $26.84m at today’s prices. It it worth noting that these BTE studies were quite strict in their definition of what they regarded as ‘upgrading works’. The Sydney-Brisbane report, for example, specifically excluded from consideration the replacement or renewal of wooden bridges. The condition of these bridges necessitates special restrictions which delay the main passenger train, the Brisbane Limited, by 30 minutes. I intend no criticism of the Bureau of Transport Economics, but I suggest that the replacement of such structures should be undertaken if a really worthwhile service is desired.
The Public Transport Commission is currently committed to a five-year program costing $200m to upgrade New South Wales mainlines, illustrating the high priority accorded track upgrading by the New South Wales Government. Over $43m was spent in the first year of that program. Over 500 new staff were taken on exclusively for track upgrading, and 281 major mechanised track machines valued at $7.6m were purchased, thus ensuring the highest possible productivity on the project. Furthermore, the New South Wales Government has allocated an additional $240m to its total commitment of $ 1,000m for public transport development to allow for inflation. Even the Commonwealth Minister for Transport recognises that despite the natural advantages that rail systems have, especially in the carriage of bulk freight, the situation in Australia is not satisfactory.
At an Australian National Railways locomotive naming ceremony in Adelaide about two years ago the Minister said:
It is disquieting that representatives of the Road Transport Industry, rail’s competitor, are telling me that something must be done to improve our rail system.
Road hauliers, he added, are unable to handle the volume of freight being diverted from the railways, and the position would get worse. That was said almost two years ago. Although most attention by professional transport economists and industry groups has been aimed at the freight task performed by the railways, the longsuffering rail passenger stands to benefit by improvement of our national rail system.
I would like at this point to use the example of passenger rail services to the national capital to illustrate this point. The Canberra trains at present are run as an integral part of the through services from Sydney Central Station to Cooma. The run operates at a loss but I understand that the Queanbeyan to Cooma stretch is responsible for the greater proportion of this deficit. Between Sydney and Canberra, demand frequently exceeds supply, excess passengers being forced to catch the Inter-Capital Daylight to Yass Junction, thence a bus to the capital. The Public Transport Commission has announced that it wishes to introduce a high speed train to Canberra using technology which has proved highly successful in the United Kingdom. A report on the proposal is in preparation and I understand that it should be in the hands of the New South Wales Minister for Transport in about three months. Based on the experience of the British high speed trains, it should be possible to reduce the journey time from the centre of Sydney to Canberra to about three hours. I emphasise the centre of Sydney’, as those who regularly travel north will know only too well the nightmare a motorist faces in traversing Sydney’s southern suburbs, whether from Mascot airport or the major highways in the city area. High speed trains to Canberra not only could win patronage from air and road but also would generate additional travel demand because of the superior standards offered. Further, we could expect fewer road fatalities, less requirement for land for road improvements and less despoliation of the environment.
If a significant number of motorists could be attracted to modern trains, worthwhile energy savings would result. Based again on British experience, a high speed train would use about 4 litres of fuel per person on the Canberra run. A car attaining 20 miles per gallon would consume about 45 litres per person. If a significant number of air passengers were attracted to high speed train services pressure for a second airport in Sydney could well be eased. These savings may not benefit the railways or their passengers directly, but are most meaningful in the national sense. It is both for this reason and because the improvements would be in services to the national capital that the Australian Government is duty bound to provide worthwhile assistance to the Public Transport Commission in the development of this project.
Another project recently announced by the Public Transport Commission which warrants the attention of this Parliament is that of the electrification of the Gosford to Newcastle rail line. Most of this route forms part of the inter-capital link to Brisbane. It traverses rugged country and is heavily used by both passenger and freight trains. As such, it is important to the economies of both the State of New South Wales and the nation. Electric inter-urban passenger trains are at present able to reach Gosford which is a little under half way from Sydney to Newcastle. The extension of this service will bring a long overdue improvement in travelling conditions to the city of Newcastle.
Whilst we hear from time to time many comments in respect of the Japanese Shinkansen or bullet trains, little mention is made of the quality and performance of the British high speed trains. Last year I had the opportunity to travel on the London to Bristol service, a distance of 109 miles. That train travels at 125 miles per hour, the same speed as the Japanese Shinkansen, and I found the English train a quieter train, a more comfortable ride and, if anything, better than the much vaunted Japanese bullet service. That is the kind of service that this Government ought to be introducing, as I mentioned earlier, on the inter-capital services in Australia, and particularly on the Sydney to Canberra track.
The rigorous approach adopted in New South Wales and in Western Australia contrasts with the dilly-dallying of the Australian Minister for Transport. In Western Australia Westrail has gone it alone in upgrading the 488-kilometre Kwinana to Koolyanobbing railway line. A Bureau of Transport Economics report disclosed that although no capacity restraints may be envisaged on the line, severe and continuing track deterioration is occurring as a result of heavy axle loads in iron ore and wheat trades. Unless a large scale rehabilitation of the line were undertaken, severe operating restrictions would become necessary. In 1977, before this study was published, Westrail was reported to be attempting to extract financial assistance from the Australian Government. Western Australia has now gained permission to float its own loan to cover the program which at $65m costs almost as much as the total sum to be provided by this Government for five years and to be shared between the four States itemised in the Bill. The laissez-faire transport policy of earlier conservative governments and the present Government has cost this nation dearly. Not only in the Western Australian case did the BTE find an urgent start to be justified, but also in all cases the greatest economic return was to be had from an immediate start.
The findings relating to the Sydney to Brisbane route were released two years ago, whilst those concerning the SydneyMelbourneServiceton route were presented to the Parliament over three years ago. They have been gathering dust, therefore, for almost as long as the present coalition Government has been in power. On the Melbourne to Serviceton line, savings in railways costs alone would virtually pay for the upgrading. So, what has been the economic, let alone the social, cost of that long delay? How far does the Minister for Transport expect $70m to go between four States? I want to emphasise the fact that the need for rail upgrading goes much further than the routes studied by the BTE. The Bureau said of the Sydney to Melbourne project:
There is no point in upgrading the main line if this action simply shifts the bottleneck to the terminals.
Similar warnings were sounded in other cases. Yet half a decade has now elapsed since the Bureau of Transport Economics recommended the acceleration of construction of the Acacia Ridge freight terminal in Brisbane. The Bureau noted:
It is becoming increasingly apparent that terminal facilities are a key to efficient operation of the Australian railway system.
Excessive delays to rolling stock moving into Brisbane were expected soon to exceed 4,000 wagon days per week. This would represent a fleet of wagons worth over $ 10m, again graphically illustrating the economic cost of failure to act decisively. I was pleased to receive today a response from the Minister for Transport to a question I placed on notice about the Acacia Ridge rail freight terminal. In his reply the Minister said that he has now been informed by the Queensland Government that it has decided to proceed with the upgrading of the Acacia Ridge rail freight terminal. He said that assistance has been sought for this project within the $70m allocated in the five year assistance program. Let me dwell on that point for a moment.
Whilst this legislation provides for agreements between the States referred to in the Bill, no indication whatsoever has been given of how the $3m to be provided this year is to be allocated. Not one iota of information has been put forward to indicate how the $3m is to be apportioned and, therefore, in respect of the Acacia Ridge freight terminal one would expect very little money to come out of this Government this year, urgent though the project is. One would have thought that the Minister for Transport in the almost four years he has had in government would have been able to use his good offices with his own party colleagues in Queensland to get that project moving more quickly.
The delay in introducing this legislation illustrates how out of step with reality the Government is. The rail industry stands on the threshhold of a great rebirth, and yet we see a repetition of the timid approach by this conservative government to urban public transport financing- in other words, transport on the never never’. The Minister promised $300m for urban public transport, and a few months ago snatched $25m back from the hands of the States due, he said, to ‘wider budgetary considerations’. Now we have another promise, a promise of $70m over five years. But how much are the States to get in this first year? It is not a nonrepayable grant. The $70m is repayable with interest.
Under conservative governments railways have been a forgotten industry. Throughout 23 years of Federal conservative rule, between 1949 and 1972, the only significant Federal contribution towards country rail improvements was for gauge standardisation, and that was based on groundwork prepared by the Chifley Labor Government. Now we see a double-dealing game of deception being played by the conservatives. Whilst attempting to claim the credit for rail upgrading by means of this paltry sum offered, they are in reality turning back the clock to the do nothing days of the Menzies era. But this attempt at deception will not fool the States who are being forced to shoulder the burden themselves. They know well enough that, if provision of $70m were undertaken consistently over five years, they would get $ 14m per annum. The Slim they will not see this year will be worth only $ 10m next year, if they see it then. As I mentioned earlier, the New South Wales Government has made a substantial budgetary allocation to allow for the effects on its program of the inflation that this Government has failed to cure, despite the most heartless, draconian measures. Ultimately, the conservative deceptions will not fool members of the public who have to use our main lines either.
The need to improve our main rail lines is today more urgent than it was during the Menzies era. We now know that by 1985 about half of our oil supplies will be imported and that this will result in an import bill, based on current prices, of over $2,000m compared with $800m in 1975-76. Over 60 per cent of our primary oil requirements go to transport. Transport is almost totally dependent on oil-based energy. The rail mode, however, is not only more energy efficient than its main competitor, road, but is eminently suitable for electrification. My colleague, the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones), will make some reference to that in his contribution tomorrow.
Nicholas Clark and Associates found that in 1970-71 the rail mode used 8 per cent of transport energy, but moved 29 per cent of freight in Australia. Road, on the other hand, consumed 79 per cent of energy but moved 20 per cent of freight. Of even greater significance was the fact that sea also consumed 8 per cent of domestic transport energy, but moved 51 per cent of freight.
The implications for national transport planning are obvious. Investment must be directed to those areas of greatest resource efficiency if we are to make best use of our energy reserves. We lack extensive oil reserves but are richly endowed with black and brown coal and, for longer term development, the ‘raw materials’ for solar and tidal power. It should also be remembered that there is increasing demand world wide for the lighter fractions of crude oil, that is gasoline, aviation fuel, and distillates. Conversely, there is expected to be a surplus of heavy fuel oil. Transport energy planning should take account of this aspect also, which points to increased use, possibly of rail but and also of shipping. Thus there is an urgent need for national research, planning and policy making based on the inter-related areas of energy, transportation and urban and regional development.
Briefly I want to bring to the Minister’s attention again the failure of the Government to produce any information whatsoever in respect of the Australian National Railways Commission and to highlight the fact that we have not yet received any accounts or reports from the Australian National Railways Commission later than the report for 1974-75. 1 can do little better than remind him of the comments of his colleague, Senator Rae, in the Senate on 2 1 March, when he asked for at least some information on the position of the Australian National Railways Commission and whether the Commission proposed to get around to letting us know what it has been doing all these years.
The Opposition welcomes the belated appearance of this Bill, but finds certain of the provisions contained within it wholly unsatisfactory. Accordingly I move:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: whilst not declining to give the Bill a second reading, the House is of the opinion that-
1 ) the provision of financial assistance by section 96 interest bearing repayable grants is a repudiation of the Government’s 1 977 Election promise to contribute to the cost of upgrading mainline rail links in the light of the clear impression then given that assistance would be by way of non-repayable grants, and
the provision of $3m to the States for 1978-79 under this Bill (a) is abysmally inadequate and an abrogation of Australian Government responsibility for the transportation of passengers and freight on routes of national significance, and (b) is wholly inconsistent with an effective approach to the upgrading of mainline railway networks as an essential part of a responsible National Energy Conservation Program’.
I mentioned at the outset that in terms of the principal object of this Bill there is a bipartisan approach from the chamber. We welcome the Bill to that extent. We criticise the inadequacy of the amount of money being made available this year, and we criticise the inadequacy of the $70m being made available over the longer period. It should be remembered that in this financial year the Government will be collecting from motorists in petrol tax and associated charges, $2, 300m. In those circumstances one would have thought that if the Government had a balanced, proper and responsible energy conservation policy and a planned program, provision of funding for railways to enable this nation to take advantage of its fuel efficiency would be greater. Whilst we welcome the Bill, we feel that the amount being provided this year is totally inadequate and the amount for the total five-year period should be increased. I commend the amendment to the House.
-(Hon. Ian Robinson) - Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment and reserve my right to speak at a later date.
-In this Bill the Government honours yet another 1977 election policy commitment, an election policy commitment which, along with many others, swept the Fraser Government, back into power with the largest majority in the history of this country since Federation. From the outset I warmly congratulate the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) and the Government for honouring this commitment. I will deal later with the carping comments which have come from the other side of the chamber through the person of the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris). As an Australian, I welcome this Bill, even though it does not specifically assist my State of Tasmania or indeed the State of South Australia. I believe the legislation is good for Australia as a whole because I am quite unashamedly a railway buff. I believe that Australia’s railways must be upgraded and that Australia will need its railway system more in the 21st century than it needs it today. In transportation, freight, communications, energy conservation, defence and tourism, the railways of Australia in the 2 1st century will play a very major role in the development of this country.
This Bill provides for an appropriation of $70m over a five-year period to be divided between the four States of New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia. It is very significant to look at the Bill and fully appreciate exactly what the Australian Labor Party is getting at in the amendment moved a moment ago by the honourable member for Shortland. The first thing that I draw attention to is that under this Bill the Commonwealth will be inviting each State individually to enter into an agreement with respect to the provision of funds. This is something that did not occur on a previous occasion in my State. Those agreements will be laid upon the table of this Parliament for 15 sitting days, during which time any honourable member may raise a query about them. The point that I make is that there will be open, free and consensual agreement between the Commonwealth and the four States referred to in the Bill. This is totally different from what happened in 1974, when the Tasmanian Railways were sold out. I will come back to that with some feeling because it is something that I will not forget, and I do not believe many other Tasmanians will forget it either.
Let me ask a question to get the matter clear, because the Minister for Transport in Tasmania was obviously confused about the matter at the time the Bill was brought in. Why is it that Tasmania and South Australia do not come under this Bill? The fact is that, with the exception of the metropolitan railways in South Australia, they are both now under the jurisdiction of the Australian National Railways Commission. The point that I make, and the point that I will prove, is that whilst this Bill is good, the treatment that Tasmania’s railways are to receive from the Federal Government under the present Minister for Transport will be even better. So it must follow as a matter of logic that if I think this Bill is good- and I do- I am very proud of the fact that Tasmania has done even better under the arrangements to which I will refer. It is important, when considering the Bill, to note that every single clause provides for agreement and consensus. This is not a case of the Commonwealth Government taking a sledge hammer to the State governments. This is not a case of the Minister for Transport as meek and gentle as he is, browbeating the Premiers into submission. This is a case of co-operative federalism, a case for agreement between the Commonwealth and the States.
I refer to the statistics to show how Tasmania has recovered dramatically from the terrible deal inflicted upon it by the Whitlam Government in 1974. Under the agreement at this present time, $70m is to be provided over a five-year program. On my calculations, if that amount was split up equally over the five-year period, it would be $14m per year, and Tasmania’s share would be $450,000-less than half a million dollars. What deal does Tasmania have now for the rehabilitation of its railway system? It has a deal of $20m over 10 years, which is $2m per year- more than three times the per capita amount Tasmania would have received had it been party to the earlier agreement. So at last, in 1979-80, Tasmania’s railway system is seeing some hope and prospect for the future.
I do not want to be unkind, but every time I look at the Labor Party members, every time I hear the Labor Party mentioned, I think of rundown railway systems. Not only are they similar to run-down railway systems, but it is also a tragic fact that for some inexplicable reason State Labor governments, and indeed the Federal Labor Government in 1972-75- stand by while Australia’s railways fall into disrepute and disrepair. In the State election in Tasmania of 1974- this is most relevant- a clear commitment was given by the then Premier of Tasmania, Mr Reece, that not only would the railway system be upgraded but also that the Hobart suburban railway passenger service would be maintained. What was the very first thing that Labor Government did? There is no prize for answering this question correctly, because everybody in the Parliament and everyone in Tasmania knows that the first thing it did was to kill the Hobart suburban railway passenger service.
-Yes, it was a shameful thing to do. The second thing it did was to flog off Tasmania ‘s railways to Mr Whitlam. In 1974 I was given a brief to go to Mount Gambier in South Australia and I will tell the honourable member for Melbourne -
– I raise a point of order. I do not wish to be unkind to the honourable member for Denison, but I draw your attention to the title of the Bill- The National Railway Network (Financial Assistance) Bill. I specifically draw your attention to the second sentence of the Minister’s speech which deals with the States of New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia. He also states specifically that Tasmania and South Australia are excluded. I draw your attention to the terms of the Bill and ask that you bring the honourable member for Denison back to the point.
-I uphold the point of order. The Chair is becoming concerned at the honourable member’s tendency to drift outside the terms of the Bill. I ask him to address himself to the Bill.
-We are talking about national railways.
– On the point of order, the fact is that this is the National Railway Network (Financial Assistance) Bill 1979. That is the title of the Bill. It is improper for the spokesman for the Opposition to try to confine the debate to a narrower area than is covered by the title of that Bill. Whether we like it or not- I do not like it- the Tasmanian Railways have to be part of the Australian national railway system.
– To the point of order from the Minister, before you rule on it, Mr Deputy Speaker, I again draw your attention to the title of the Bill and the recipient States within the terms of it. New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia are specifically mentioned. Of course until 1976 all those States had been under the control of Liberal governments for a decade or more.
– The Labor Party hates Tasmania.
– I love Tasmania more than you.
-Order! The honourable member for Denison will remain silent. The Chair upholds the point of order of the honourable member for Shortland. As I understand it, the Bill is a forward looking Bill and the honourable member for Denison at this stage is engaging in irrelevant history. He will address the Bill.
– I abide by your ruling. I just indicate that once again we have seen the blatant hatred of the Labor Party for Tasmania.
– I find that remark offensive and demand that it be withdrawn by this pipsqueak from the south.
-Order! The honourable member for Shortland finds the expression offensive, Although I took the remark as relating to the Opposition as a whole, I think the honourable member for Denison might wish to withdraw his remark to meet the requirements of the honourable member for Shortland. I will not require him to withdraw but, as the honourable member for Shortland finds the remark offensive, the honourable member for Denison might like to indicate that it is not a personal reflection on the honourable member for Shortland.
– In a spirit of good humour, for the honourable member for Shortland to call anybody a pipsqueak is one of the most incredible things I have heard in my life. If I can get back to the Bill, I was endeavouring to weave my remarks together. Whilst I have the utmost faith and confidence in the best Minister for Transport this country has ever had, I want to draw attention to the fact that there is an argument as to whether, having regard to the commitment made by the Minister in his classic statement last year with respect to the rehabilitation of the Tasmanian railway system, Tasmania ought to be incorporated into the National Railway Network (Financial Assistance) Act. I raise this because I am appalled that in this debate there has been objection from the other side of the House because an honourable member from one of the two States which are not mentioned in the Bill has had the audacity to get up and express views about the national railway network.
Before I was ruled out of order, I hope you will concede the fact that I made the point that as an Australian I support this Bill, because the national railway network is vital for this country in the twenty-first century. Referring to the financial provisions in this Bill and the financial provisions for Tasmania, I am not going back into the past and I will not tell the honourable member for Kingston (Mr Chapman) about what happened in Mount Gambier, but I do say that if any fair minded person- I ask you to let me say this- looks at the deal with respect to the transfer of the railway system of South Australia to the Commonwealth Government and the transfer of the railway system in Tasmania to the Commonwealth Government, he will see that they were sold out.
– I raise a point of order. If the honourable member for Denison is to continue to flout your very fair and responsible ruling, I ask you to deal with him.
-I remind the honourable member for Denison of his requirement to address the Bill and not to test the situation.
-From the position of being sold out in 1974, Tasmania’s railway rehabilitation has now got into a situation where it must be fairly regarded as the best in Australia. The announcement by the Minister with respect to the rehabilitation of Tasmanian railways is of vital importance to the people of Tasmania whether the honourable member for Shortland likes it or not. In his statement last year the Minister made a comment that he had been waiting on the Tasmanian State Government for some 15 months.
-Order! The honourable member for Denison is defying the ruling of the Chair. I call on him to address his remarks to the Bill or I will require him to resume his seat.
– I have the greatest respect for you, Mr Deputy Speaker, and I have no desire to defy you, but I want to make the point, because it is a matter of importance, that in my judgment the Parliament cannot make a proper assessment of this Bill without comparing the situation with respect to the four States named in the Bill with the situation of the States not named in the Bill. We have a federal system and there are six States in Australia. I do plead with you that the comparison is valid. Otherwise the people of Western Australia and Tasmania might very well say: ‘Why can’t they compare our situation with that of the other States?’ We know that the honourable member for Shortland -
Unemployment -Barley Growers - National Highways-Lucas Heights Atomic Reactor- Meals-on- Wheels Subsidy
-It being 10.30 p.m., I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I wish to raise yet another matter reflecting upon the Government’s inhumane attitude to the unemployed. Young people participating in the new Inner Northern Education Program for Unemployed Youth within my electorate are being forced to survive for weeks without any income. These young people, mostly in the Flemington, Kensington and North Melbourne areas, are transferred from unemployment benefits to payments under the National Employment and Training scheme when they enter the new scheme. They are taken off the Department of Social Security computer listing for unemployment benefits and told that it may take from 10 days to six weeks for NEAT payments to begin. Even if it took 10 days to receive the first payment, that would be too long for many people to survive between payments of the miserable benefits that this Government pays, but it never takes just 10 days for the transfer. Often it takes more than six weeks; it rarely takes less.
The course that I have referred to is part of an education program orientated to transferring literacy, numeracy and life skills to unemployed youth. It is designed to help literate or semiliterate unemployed young people. As such, these people are less able than others to cope with long delays between their inadequate government handouts. In practice, many are dropping out of the program because they cannot afford to remain in it. They leave the program and make desperate attempts to get back on to unemployment benefits, and that defeats the purpose of the program. However, I suspect that the Government does not really care about that. Like the rest of the bandaid schemes that the Government operates for making the young unemployed slightly better trained young unemployed, this scheme simply serves as an excuse for not taking action to ease unemployment. Indeed, when a government’s policy deliberately aims at creating unemployment in the interests of increasing private profit, such schemes become a cynical exploitation of the unemployed. However, I have not risen to launch an attack on the schemes.
Honourable members opposite stand up and sing the praises of the responsible Minister, the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs (Mr Viner); and for some strange reason they justify this array of schemes, which do nothing but fit people for non-existent jobs. The greatest effect of these schemes is to employ unemployed social workers. This particular scheme is beyond the pale. I am concerned that- whatever the purpose for which the Government establishes schemes such as the Inner Northern Education Program for Unemployed Youth- having established a scheme the Government at least should show a humane approach to its participants. The individuals to whom I have referred are particularly vulnerable because they cannot compete with people who have all their faculties about them. The Government shows callous disregard for the victims of its own policies when it leaves these young people for six weeks or more without income, when it can be assured that they are at rock bottom. These young people can go no further down the track. Complaint after complaint has reached my office from individuals entering the scheme indicating that the minimum time that they have had to wait is more than 10 days. Not one person has been attended to in 10 days or even 12 days. As I said in the first instance, the waiting time extends to something like six weeks or more. There must be a simple procedure for allowing a transfer from unemployment benefits to NEAT benefits without a break. A government which allows that break is reflecting its true attitude to young unemployed people. Nonetheless, I urge the Minister to take immediate action. He has been approached on numerous occasions by other people. Requests have been made by agencies in the area, but they have been totally disregarded. I urge the Minister to take immediate action to remove this anomaly, which is causing hardship to many young people who are attempting to improve their opportunities, notwithstanding the fact that they have been cast on the scrap heap in the same way as many other young people in this country.
– People with experience subscribe to the view that stability of income is the greatest asset to which a primary producer can aspire. He has no control over the seasons, handling and production costs, or overseas markets. But surely he can expect his fellow Australians to agree that he is entitled to a standard of living equal to the one that they enjoy and to participate in the distribution of the better things of life. The fellow citizen fulfils his commitment by paying a fair price for the farmers’ goods which he purchases in either a raw form or a manufactured form. I submit that that is not an unreasonable anticipation by primary producers.
Tonight I relate the very real fears of the growers of malt barley. Many of these growers rely to a marked extent for their incomes on the premiums that they receive for barley used in the production of malt and, subsequently, beer. Prime malt barley is grown in areas such as the Darling Downs and Maranoa and is required to be a low protein and plump grain. This type of barley is best produced in soils where the seed can be planted in May or June, allowing it to mature in the relatively cooler summer months of October and early November. Later maturing crops are subject to heat stress and become pinched. These growers are what might be termed specialist barley growers. I am concerned for them in that a declining Australian market and a lower return due to the necessity to export more of the crop at lower prices will put them into exactly the same position as their friendly competitors for invigorating and relaxing beverages, the wine producers. We regret the position in which the latter find themselves, but I submit that the answer is not to help them by dragging down our present efficient barley industry to the same level by excessive excise duties on the one product and none on the other. The wine growers can be helped by rural reconstruction and associated measures, not by creating a false market through endeavouring to increase consumption of their beverage by protection, which only postpones the evil day.
I want to help the barley grower before it is too late, and 1 advance the point that the beer consumers of Australia are entitled to have their drink at a price which does not cause them to carry an unfair share of revenue in the form of excise duty on beer, by comparison with their cousins the wine drinkers, who do not contribute any duty. I oppose any increase in beer excise duty, now or in the future. The workers of Australia are entitled to a beer at the end of a hard day’s work, and I offer the view that, if any extra revenue is required by the Governmentand that well may be so- it should be obtained by spreading the mechanism across the board rather than imposing it in isolation. Beer is losing out to wine because of its added cost. One is heavily taxed; the other is not. Increased wine consumption is in the flagon area, the ordinary citizen’s area. Consumption increased by 70 per cent for flagons or casks in the period from July to December 1978. Sales of white wine in casks for the six months ended December 1978 increased by 69.8 per cent over the same period in 1977. Sales of beer have fallen. Present consumption is the same as in 1974-75, with a fall from 1,007.2 million litres in the six months ended December 1977 to 1,002.5 million litres in the six months ended December 1978. Beer excise has risen by 105 per cent since August 1975 and is now almost $ 1,000m annually, or 10 per cent of all net pay-as-you-earn taxation receipts of the Commonwealth.
Primary producers can survive in a fair competitive sphere. Let us have competition on a fair basis. The preceding facts indicate that barley growers are disadvantaged. Let us not destroy an Australian industry. The action necessary to save it would have the effect of making life a little more enjoyable for the poor people. I refer to reduced prices for beer through lower excise duties. Why should the workers of Australia have a glass of beer priced out of their reach through excessive duty while the rich can sip their wine in smug comfort and pay no duty?
– More for the working man.
– I agree with the honourable member for Dawson. There should be more for the working man. Why cannot the people who pay excessive corkage on wines at restaurants be called upon to contribute just a little excise duty so that the worker who goes to the football on Sunday can enjoy a cheaper glass of beer. We aim to look after the poor people in Australian society, and I believe that by helping them to enjoy a glass of beer we overcome some of the pressing problems that bear down upon them. At the same time, we could be helping the efficient primary producers in the barley industry.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I am pleased to see the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) in the House and I thank him for staying. I wish to refer to a statement he made on 27 February headed: ‘National Highway By-Pass of Mittagong and Berrima’. This was an announcement made by the Minister for Transport in line with the advice of the New South Wales Minister for Transport concerning this by-pass road which is to cost $54m and which is to be completed by the mid-1980s. My objection to the proposal is that the average daily traffic rating for the Berrima-Mittagong area is 7,310 vehicles. I repeat that the average daily traffic is 7,310 vehicles. A report entitled: National Highway Linking Sydney and Brisbane (Newcastle area) 1976’ was put together. This is the most heavily trafficked section of the national highway in Australia. At Tuggerah in 1976 there was an average daily traffic rating of 21,310 vehicles. On the Berowra Tollway in the same year the rating was 20,170 vehicles. On the Pacific Highway- that is the road one can travel on for nothing if one does not want to pay the toll- the rating was 4,850 vehicles. That makes a total of 25,000 vehicles.
If we want a comparison of the two highways for the same year, in 1974 the traffic count at the same places showed 22,270 vehicles. That means that there are three times as many vehicles traversing that section of the national highway as there are in this section at Berrima-Mittagong where a $54m by-pass road is to be built. Yet this report, which recommended the construction of the national highway on the west side of Lake Macquarie, is still in the planning-investigation stage obviously. In other words, it is the Kathleen Mavourneen category maybe today; maybe tomorrow. The way the New South Wales Government Minister looks at the matter is unfortunate. Unfortunately the Federal Minister for Transport is allowing him to dictate how and when money shall be allocated for road construction. It is Federal money. The national highways are 100 per cent financed by Federal money. I hope that this Minister would insist that where the priorities require it the funds should be allocated.
Unfortunately the Newcastle-Sydney Highway is made up in the main of two-way traffic. It has very limited sections that are four-way. The tollway is four-lane and six-lane in some places. The death toll on that section of the road in comparison with other hazardous sections is something like one-sixth of the total road accident rate. Yet here we find the most heavily trafficked road in Australia which carries three times the density of traffic as the section that is proposed to be upgraded and all that has been allocated is $ 10m to provide a second rate road. I hope that the Minister will have sufficient courage to insist that Federal money is allocated on a priority basis. I do not know what the hell was the basis of priority to determine the allocation of $54m for the Berrima-Mittagong section. There is no justification for it in comparison with the need for the money to be spent on the NewcastleSydney section of the highway.
– I raise a point of order. Surely there is no need for the honourable member to use language of that sort. It is totally unnecessary.
-The honourable member used a term which may be described as unparliamentary. I thought the House might tolerate it at this late stage of the day.
– Some 23 or 24 years ago, as a young councillor of the Sutherland Shire and as the Federal Member for Hughes, I was involved with the proposal to establish an atomic research establishment at Lucas Heights which is in my electorate. I am pleased to see the Minister for National Development (Mr Newman) in the House tonight because I want to draw the attention of the House to the fact that recently I wrote to the Minister on behalf of the Hughes Federal Council of the Australian Labor Party proposing that consideration be given to referring to a parliamentary committee of inquiry the suggestion that reconsideration should be given to the suitability of Lucas Heights as a site for the atomic research establishment. I remember very well when I was a member of the Sutherland Council some 20 years ago, General Stevens the then Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission put the proposal that the great virtue of putting the Atomic Energy Commission’s establishment in that part of the Sydney area was that it was a very remote area and it was isolated and well away from residential development.
As the city has grown in the last 20-odd years to the very front doorstep of the research establishment the advantage for which the site was selected no longer applies. The research establishment is now almost surrounded by Sydney’s southern dormitory suburbs and is not in a remote and isolated area. The fact is that in recent times increasing concern has been demonstrated by local residents as to the possible hazards that might result from the activities carried on at that establishment. Nothing has been proved in respect of the dangers that exist there, but of course there are contentions- well founded- that effluent is discharged from the establishment into the Woronora River. There is no question that that is the case. The Minister has answered questions which I put on the parliamentary Notice Paper as to the degree of radioactivity which is associated with the discharge of that effluent. There is similarly no doubt that there is discharge of gaseous waste into the atmosphere which again has some element of radioactivity associated with it. In addition to these two important considerations is the fact that there is quite a degree of radioactive material stored on the site and in the vicinity of the site, some of it being associated with the uranium core and some of it being associated with the disposal of waste.
As I have said, there is considerable concern in the community. Some people do not accept the contention that the level of” radioactivity is safe. Of course the recent developments in Pennsylvania have heightened this concern. I ask the Minister to consider the suitability of this site, having regard to what I have mentioned already in connection with the encroachment of urban development on this establishment and because of the fact that the Government has decided to commission a study for a new isotope and research reactor to replace the HIFAR reactor at present in use at Lucas Heights. I am told, almost concurrently with the information which has been given to me and which I have just mentioned, that there are no plans to decommission the existing reactor. So it is possible that in the foreseeable future there could be two reactors operating at Lucas Heights, thus seriously increasing any danger which may exist in regard to the discharge of radioactivity. There is also concern about the possible threat of disaster and about the possible effects of any kind of terrorist activity. Obviously this matter has to be looked at very seriously. I say to the Minister that the intensity of public concern is increasing at quite an alarming rate. I believe that there is a very real need to consider the pros and cons of having this new reactor, if it is to be established in the mid-1980s, in the Sydney urban area or indeed in any other urban area or whether we should cut the painter now and put this activity in some area where safety would be the order of the day if some unforeseen eventuality occurred.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, as well as being the Federal member for Parramatta I am also an alderman on the local council. One of the better services provided by the Parramatta City Council- a similar situation applies in almost every other local government area- is a mealsonwheels setup which is of course organised through the old people’s welfare establishments. In the last 12 months the Council has been continuing to exchange correspondence with the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle), protesting about the fact that the subsidy which has traditionally been paid by the Commonwealth Government towards the salary of the welfare officers has been reduced from twothirds to one half, which seems to me to be a fairly penny-pinching sort of operation, anyhow. Besides, the Government’s subsidy for meals is the glorious sum of 50c a meal. As our pleas for humanitarian consideration of this matter have apparently fallen upon deaf ears, I thought that tonight I might try to elicit some response from the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) on a purely economic basis.
– The Minister for Social Security knocked me back on that, too.
-That is true. She has knocked back everybody on that, which is very unfortunate. I remind the House that, quite apart from having a series of generous volunteers to sustain the Meals on Wheels service to provide one hot three-course meal a day to pensioners living in deprived circumstances and quite apart from the nutritive values of one decent threecourse meal a day, there is the added social significance of having somebody call on them. Of course, it has quite a beneficial effect on people to think that somebody does care for them. They look forward to having the volunteer call every day with their meal. The cost of that meal to the Council is somewhere in the vicinity of $2 a day, of which 50c comes from the Government.
I bring to the attention of the House the fact that if this service were to cease- as it could well do if it were not for the great efforts of the volunteers who do not receive much support from the Government- the Government might then be looking at placing all of these old people in either a nursing home or a hospital where, instead of providing 50c a day, which is the subsidy the Council is getting at the moment, the Government would be looking at finding $150 a day to provide a bed to keep these old people alive. I would think that there would be a reasonable argument that could be made out to try to coerce the Minister for Health to do something about his sister department, the Department of Social Security, seeing whether some good sense could be brought to bear to ensure that subsidies- as low as they were before with two-thirds of the salary of welfare officers being found by the Government- were restored to a reasonable level and also with a view to seeing that the 50c a day pittance paid to Meals on Wheels was increased to a figure more in line with the actual cost.
I think the analogy I make is quite sound. The alternative is to put these old people into hospitals at an enormous cost to the Government. Obviously from the old people’s point of view it is much better for them to stay in their home surroundings, with the succour provided by the volunteers who run the Meals on Wheels service. I hope that if the Minister is listening on the internal audio system he will take this matter on board and will give it some serious consideration. In economic terms, the alternatives to providing a decent subsidy to Meals on Wheels are quite astounding. In social terms, they are quite hideous.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.53 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Science and the Environmental, upon notice, on 28 September 1978:
-The Minister for Science and the Environment has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
Although the honourable member’s question referred to CSIRO awards tenable in overseas universities, he may also be interested in data related to the number of postdoctoral awards being taken up in non-university laboratories overseas. This information has been added to the end of the table.
The expenditure indicated for each year relates to the total spent in respect of both new awards and existing awards carried over from previous years. Although postdoctoral awards are of only one year’s duration, often the major expenditure of funds occurs in the year following offer of the award. Furthermore, research studentships are tenable for up to 4 years and this results in expenditure on research studentships occurring in years in which new research studentships were not offered.
The honourable member may also care to note that the data included in the table relate only to the central CSIRO studentship vote. During the ten year period in question a small number of research studentships financed from Divisional funds have also been established to support research into subjects of very specific relevance to the research program of the Division concerned. During the period in question funds devoted to Divisional studentships comprised only 6 per cent of the total CSIRO expenditure on studentships/fellowships.
asked the Minister for Productivity, upon notice, on 2 1 November:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Productivity, upon notice, on 23 November 1 978:
What is the cost to Australian industry of
time lost due to asbestos caused diseases and
the testing of workers in the asbestos industry for contamination.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The provisions concerning the safety, health and welfare of employees in the asbestos industry are covered by State legislation. Due to differences between the workers ‘ compensation legislation in each of the States, it is not possible to identify on a national basis the cost of time lost due to asbestos caused diseases or the cost of testing of workers in the asbestos industry for contamination.
As regards data published by State authorities responsible for compilation of workers’ compensation statistics, I am advised that the only information which appears to be of relevance is that published by the New South Wales Workers’ Compensation (Dust Diseases) Board.
In the Board’s report for the year ended 30 June 1977, compensation payments were recorded to a total of $308,089 in the employment classification ‘Asbestos industry’. This amount included weekly payments to workers including lump sum redemptions ($175,099); payments in respect of hospital, medical and ambulance expenses of disabled workers ($5,154); payments in respect of burials and cremations of deceased workers ($799); lump sums of compensation awarded to independants of deceased workers ($43,224); and weekly payments to dependants of deceased workers ($83,813). It will be noted that this dissection represents payments for specified purposes, and does not give an indication of costs incurred in NSW through time lost.
The report also indicates that expenditure from the NSW Workers’ Compensation (Dust Diseases) Fund in 1976-77 for medical examination of workers was $70,633. However, this amount represents expenditure on behalf of claimants against the Board from all industries covered by the Workers’ Compensation (Dust Diseases) Act 1942, and no breakdown by industry classification is given.
Under these circumstances I regret that, due to lack of information, I am unable to provide a direct reply to the honourable member’s question.
Indexing of ‘Hansard’ (Question No. 3103)
asked the Minister for Productivity, upon notice, on 24 November 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 20 February 1979:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Recommendation XI(i) in the March 1977 Report proposed that direct billing arrangements (in the context of the direct billing arrangements in force at that time) for pathology be made available only to eligible pensioners and their dependants, and this change was implemented from 1 August 1977. The general direct billing arrangements were varied on 1 November 1978 to allow direct billing in respect of persons considered by their doctors to be disadvantaged patients. The Government considered that it was appropriate for such patients, as well as pensioners, to be covered for all schedule services, including pathology services. Direct billing for pathology services was therefore extended to disadvantaged patients.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 2 1 February 1 979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Productivity, upon notice, on 2 1 February 1979:
With respect to the European Patent Convention Treaty
which countries have acceded to the treaty and when did they do so and
what other countries are eligible to accede and have failed to do so.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Belgium ( 14 July 1977), France ( 1 July 1977), Federal Republic of Germany (7 July 1976), Italy (29 September 1978), Luxembourg (7 July 1977), the Netherlands (28 February 1977), Sweden (17 February 1978), Switzerland (20 April 1977), United Kingdom (3 March 1977).
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 27 February 1 979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice, on 28 February 1979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
and (2) About S to 10 Commonwealth vehicles are normally used on a Sunday. The only Commonwealth pool vehicles with airconditioning are Ford LTD’s, which have this fitted as standard equipment on purchase. When not reserved for Ministers and V.I.P. ‘s, these vehicles are used for general pool work and no instruction would have been given to withhold them in the circumstances described by the honourable member.
asked the Minister for Industry and Commerce, upon notice, on 28 February 1 979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
In addition, the Australian Tourist Commission office in Melbourne co-ordinates specialised convention and incentive group programs; $28,000 has been allocated for this purpose for North America and $5,000 for the United Kingdom and Europe.
Australian Tourist Commission budgets are allocated to programs by objectives rather than items of expenditure as, for example, advertising, publicity or promotion. Funds allocated to marketing programs of the offices mentioned above, and the proportion to their total budgets are:
Diplomatic Representation in Oceania (Question No. 3284)
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 28 February 1979:
– This answer to the honourable member’s question is in substitution of the answer provided on 20 March 1979 (Hansard, page 936).
Australian High Commission, Apia (Western Samoa) Australian High Commission, Honiara (Solomon
Australian High Commission, Naura (Nauru)
Australian High Commission, Port Moresby (PNG)
Australian Consulate-General, Lae (PNG)
Australian High Commission, Suva (Fiji)
Australian High Commission, Wellington (New Zealand)
Australian Consulate-General, Auckland (New Zealand)
Australian Consulate, Vila (New Hebrides)
Australian Consulate, Noumea (New Caledonia)
Apia (3); Honiara (4); Nauru (3); Port Moresby (42); Suva (17); Wellington ( 18); Auckland (4); Christchurch ( 1 ); Lae (1); Vila (3); Noumea (4).
Apia: September 1977
Nauru: August 1 968
Port Moresby: November 1 972
Lae: September 1974
Suva: March 1964
Wellington: December 1943
*Auckland: May 1955 (Trade Commissioner Post)
*Christchurch: May 1957 (Trade Commissioner Post)
Vila: January 1978
Noumea: August 1940 (‘These posts became Consulates-General on 20 June 1975 but remained under the administration of the Department of Trade and Resources).
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 28 February 1979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 28 February 1979:
– The answer to the honourable member ‘s question is as follows:
A number of meetings were also held by various specialist Panels and sub-committees established by the DIC to examine and report on matters requiring more detailed consideration than would be possible in full committee.
These include frequent meetings by six industry Study Groups, each chaired by a Business Member of the DIC, in the course of a major study of the defence capability of Australian industry completed in 1977.
Government in 1977, the Committee specifically considered offsets.
The Committee recommended in particular that the present policy of using procurement of defence materiel to selectively develop essential defence industry capabilities through Australian industry participation including designated programs and offsets should be extended as far as practicable.
The Committee also recommended that the Department of Defence should continue and intensify its efforts in support of the offset program and that the Committee should review ways of making the offset program more effective in developing defence capabilities.
Efforts by the Department and the Committee to implement these recommendations are continuing.
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 1 February 1979:
What was the cost of:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
One unit allocated to Brisbane commissioned October 1978; One unit allocated to Adelaide commissioned November 1978; One unit allocated to Melbourne commissioned November 1978; One unit allocated to Coolangatta commissioned November 1978; One unit allocated to Sydney commissioned November 1978; One unit allocated to Darwin commissioned December 1978; One unit allocated to Mt Isa commissioned December 1978; One unit allocated to Launceston commissioned January 1979; One unit allocated to Hobart commissioned January 1979; One unit allocated to Canberra commissioned February 1979.
) (a) The cost of each fire tender was $135,030.
Departmental records do not separate maintenance from repair labour costs. Repairs and maintenance are frequently performed concurrently making separation impracticable. Of this total amount it is estimated that approximately $48,000 would be attributable to non-scheduled repairs.
The cost of maintenance and repairs for each appliance is given in the following table:
Brisbane- 17 hours 59 minutes; Adelaide-5 hours 9 minutes; Darwin- 105 hours 27 minutes; Mt Isa- 44 minutes.
asked the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice, on 1 March 1979:
What new space for Commonwealth Departments was built or rented by the Government in the Australian Capital Territory since December 1975 and where were these facilities located.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The National Capital Development Commission has advised that the Commonwealth has completed the following premises since 1975:
An analysis of records maintained by my Department shows that the Commonwealth has leased the following premises since December 1975:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 6 March 1979:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Australian Statistician has advised that he does not have any information on exports of domestic or industrial solar water heaters as these goods are not separately indentified in the classification used to record export statistics.
asked the Minister for Defence, 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 1979:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 7 March 1979:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Network (Financial Assistance) Bill 1979, was introduced into Parliament on 8 March 1979. No Commonwealth funds have been allocated to projects arising from these studies as yet.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 7 March 1979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 7 March 1 979:
Does he propose to take action to eliminate the excessive delays in actual payment of increased salaries to Defence Force personnel.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Yes. I will be putting before the Parliament as soon as possible proposals designed to remove these delays in respect of both adjustments to salaries and to other financial conditions of service.
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:
(a) See (1).
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 8 March 1979:
Have any of the Defence Force been put on red alert or told to be prepared for a red alert or similar exercise since the end of World War II; if so, when.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
On S October 1977 I answered a similar question (No. 1466) from Mr Scholes. I can now add that my answer then, as recorded in Hansard (Page 1698), applies equally to the period since the end of World War II.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 2 1 March 1979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The reports are a distortion of the facts. No aircraft weapons were used, the so called derelict barge was a 63 year old oil fuel lighter (OFL) of sturdy construction wilh eight watertight compartments. The sinking of the lighter by naval gunfire or weaponry was incidental to the main aims of the exercise. The aims of the exercise were:
All aims were generally achieved. The air target firing was successful though the Jindivik was not flown directly over the OFL. Surface engagements at the OFL resulted in several missiles and shells impacting on and around the OFL. The results of the exercise were recorded and are being analysed. A Clearance Diving Team was embarked to scuttle the OFL on completion of the firings. This they did with demolition charges and it provided the team with a useful training exercise.
(a) HMA Ships Hobart, Perth, Vendetta, Swan and Derwent.
Gun Fire Control Systems MK 68, M22 and MRS3 with 5” and 4.5” gun ammunition.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 22 March 1979:
– The answer to the honourable members question is as follows:
Investment in Mining and Energy Projects (Question No. 2942)
asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 21 November 1978:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 2 1 February 1979:
What action has he taken to implement the recommendations of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation in its report on Oil Spills that the Commonwealth Government make representations at an International level to have the restricted zones around Australian offshore oil platforms extended to a distance of 2.5 nautical miles.
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Please see reply to question 3 1 56.
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 2 1 February 1 979:
What action has he taken to implement the recommendation of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation in its report on Oil Spills that the Commonwealth Government take immediate steps to ratify the International Convention on Civil Liability for
Oil Pollution Damage 1969 and the International Convention on the Establishment of an International Fund for Compensation for Oil Pollution Damage 1971.
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Please see reply to question 3136.
Imports from Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland (Question No. 3288)
asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 28 February 1979:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 28 February 1979:
What was the (a) total value and (b) nature of exports from Australia to (i) Denmark, (ii) Norway, (iii) Sweden, and (iv) Finland during (A) 1976-77 and (B) 1977-78.
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The following tables contain information on exports to Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland during 1976-77 and 1977-78:
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 2 1 March 1979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Stage 3 from Maria to Baystone Bore is expected to be completed by March 1979.
A contract for Stage 4 (from Baystone Bore to Alice Springs) is expected to be let during April 1 979.
Bridges- Substructure of bridges over the Finke and Hugh Rivers has been completed; and work is currently in progress on the superstructure of the Finke River bridge. Work on both bridges is expected to be completed in early 1979-80.
Tracklaying- Approximately 180 km of track is expected to be laid, from a point near Cadney Park, to Marryat, 5 1 7 km north of Tarcoola.
Station facilities-It is anticipated that during 1978-79 cattle yards and loading races will be constructed at Cadney Park, Maria and Chandler, and a loading race erected at Pootnoura. Seven staff houses will also be constructed at Chandler.
Communications- Work is continuing on the installation of the communication system.
(a) The latest date to which details of expenditure are available is 10 February 1979, and total expenditure to this date is $74,975,520.
The accelerated schedule recently announced by the Government anticipates completion of the project in November 1980.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 28 March 1979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Ansett Transport Industries Limited
– During my recent absence overseas the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris) addressed a question without notice to the then Acting Treasurer, relating to the affairs of Ansett Transport Industries Ltd. I now provide the following information in response.
Ansett Transport Industries’ investment in Associated Securities Ltd was been a matter of public knowledge since Ansett acquired its controlling interest in that enterprise late in 1976.I am not able to confirm the figure of $18m mentioned by the honourable member. Nor am I able to confirm the accuracy of the implication that appears to be conveyed in the question that ASL was known to be, or regarded as, endangered ‘ at the time Ansett Transport Industries ‘ investment was made.
At the time of the enactment of the Airline Equipment (Loan Guarantee) Bill (No. 2) 1978, which authorises the Treasurer, on behalf of the Commonwealth, to give Commonwealth guarantees in respect of the principal repayments and interest payments on a borrowing by Ansett Transport Industries (Operations) Pry Ltd, there were no reports requested from Ansett Transport Industries Ltd. Nor has any specific action been taken under that Act following the collapse of Associated Securities Ltd.
Sub-section (e) of section 6 of the Airline Equipment (Loan Guarantee) Act (No. 2) 1978 provides that ‘so long as the amount borrowed, or any interest on that amount, remains unpaid-
Action would only be taken under such a provision if it was considered that the financial interests of the Commonwealth were at risk. In the case of Ansett borrowing overseas with a Commonwealth guarantee to finance the purchase of aircraft, the Commonwealth has protected its financial interest as guarantor by taking a mortgage over the aircraft relating to the borrowings; the collapse of ASL has in no way affected this security.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 3 April 1979, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1979/19790403_reps_31_hor113/>.