31st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden) took the chair at 2.15 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 1978-79 Budget is of vital concern to offset the rising cost of goods and services.
The reason advanced by the Government for yearly payments ‘that the lower level of inflation made twiceyearly payments inappropriate ‘ is not valid.
Great injury will be caused to 920,000 aged, invalid, widows and supporting parents, who rely solely on the pension or whose income, other than the pension, is $6 or less per week. Onceayear payments strike a cruel blow to their expectation and make a mockery of a solemn election pledge.
Accordingly, your petitioners call upon their legislators to:
And your petitioners in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Bradfield, Dr Edwards, Mr Falconer, Mr Innes, Mr Kerin, Mr Lynch, Mr Macphee, Mr Martin, Mr Salisbury and Mr Scholes.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the plan to obliterate the traditional weights and measures of this country does not have the support of the people;
That the change is causing and will continue to cause, widespread, serious and costly problems;
That the compulsory tactics being used to force the change are a violation of all democratic principles.
Your petitioners therefore pray:
That the Metric Conversion Act be repealed to ensure that the people are free to utilize whichever system they prefer and so enable the return to imperial weights and measures wherever the people so desire;
That weather reporting be as it was prior to the passing of the Metric Conversion Act;
That the Australian Government take urgent steps to cause the traditional mile units to be restored to our highways;
That the Australian Government request the State Governments to procure that the imperial and metric systems be taught together in schools.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Bradfield and Mr Lynch.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The humble petition of citizens of the Commonwealth submits:
That off-shore oil exploration within the Great Barrier Reef region constitutes a serious threat to the richest and most varied living system on earth.
Your petitioners request that your Honourable House will:
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will every pray. by Mr Bradfield.
Post Office at North Ward, Townsville
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth that they are concerned with the recent announcement of the closure of the Post Office, North Ward, Townsville, an office which provides a very necessary service in a suburb which has a large population of flat dwellers, permanent residents and the Townsville General Hospital precinct. They consider that the closure of this office will be a retrograde step and one that will disadvantage all the residents of NorthWard.
Your petitioners, therefore, humbly pray that the Australian Government will reverse the decision to suspend operations at the North Ward Post Office, and your petitioners, as in duty bound, will every pray. by Mr Dean.
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, having concern at the persistent poaching and polluting of Australian waters by Taiwanese fishing boats, we call on the government to:
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, because increased fees at nursing homes throughout Australia are forcing patients to either draw heavily from their savings to meet fees above their aged pension, or leave their homes for alternative accommodation, we urge that the Government:
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 ABC radio and Television programs.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that Parliament take immediate steps to appoint an independent inquiry into the ABC which:
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Innes.
To the Honourable, the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The petition of we, the undersigned citizens of Australia, respectfully showeth:
That the Government’s decision not to proceed with a national disaster insurance scheme will cause financial and personal hardship to people living in the country and city who are victims of natural hazards such as floods, land slip and tropical cyclones. That it is impossible to obtain adequate insurance cover for natural disasters from existing private insurance companies.
Your petitionerst herefore humbly pray that:
The Federal Government reconsider its decision and honour its promise made in March 1976 to establish a National Natural Disaster Insurance Scheme.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will every pray. by Mr Les Johnson.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of we the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth: That 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 part of Botany Bay, (2) The loss of up to 1,230 houses and a drop in value of remaining neighbouring properties, (3) The creation of more noise pollution in the area, (4) The creation of more traffic congestion on streets leading to and from the airport, (5) The forced diversion of Cook’ s River and further damage to the ecology of the area.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Federal Government will not consider satisfying the airport needs of Sydney by extending Kingsford-Smith Airport and that any decisions related thereto are not taken before there is an opportunity for adequate consultation with any community particularly affected.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Les Johnson.
To the Honourable, the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that there be no extension of Kingsford-Smith Airport, Sydney.
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 Citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that there be no extension of Kingsford-Smith Airport, Sydney.
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 Citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that there be no extension of Kingsford-Smith Airport, Sydney.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Les McMahon.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Honourable Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
This petition of citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that:
defined proportion of national income for a defined period
freehold title to traditional land waterways and seaboards
control over related resources and over introduction of alcohol and other alien cultural influences in their regions.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that:
Your Honourable House will take urgent steps to concur with the wishes of a majority of electors at every polling booth in Australia at the 1967 referendum by resumption from the States of the major traditional Aboriginal land areas and reserves pending prompt determination of freehold title for Land Trusts and eventually for defined community co-operatives.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Ruddock.
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 many Australians are concerned with the inadequacy of overseas aid, both government and private as well as with support for local charities. Such aid is saving precious lives, giving undernourished and homeless people encouragement and help, bringing malnourished children to health, education and a better life, giving people friendship and a new hope. A Crusade of Compassion highlights the hope of a brighter and kindlier world in the International YearoftheChild1979.
We therefore respectfully request that the Commonwealth Government provide some incentive to encourage such aid by making the same tax concessions to approved voluntary overseas aid organisations, as are already provided for charities working within Australia.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Yates.
– I inform the House that we have present in the Gallery this afternoon a delegation from the Supreme Soviet of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, led by ViceChairman Pavel Georgievich Gilashvili. On behalf of the House, I extend a very warm welcome to the members of the delegation.
Honourable members- Hear, hear!
-I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That this House, recognising that there are 105 unemployed juniors in Canberra for every available job vacancy as against a national average of 28 to 1 , rejects the statement by the member for Canberra calling for the abolition of unemployment benefits for people under the age of 25 years.
– My question is directed to the Acting Minister for National Development. It relates to the serious disruption being caused to the general aviation industry in country air services by the enormous price increases and the unavailability of Avgas fuel for pistonengine aircraft. Is he aware that supplies of Avgas are not available to some operators at a wide range of Australian airports, resulting in aircraft standing idle, thus incurring heavy losses and aircrews being likely to be stood down from duty? Is he aware that some oil companies have instituted a preferential system of rationing of Avgas which gives priority in supply to charter aircraft which may be used for pleasure purposes before aircraft which are used in association with normal commercial activities? Further, has the Minister approved the rationing system in operation? Has he been advised of the sharply reduced production of Avgas available from the Altona refinery of Mobil Oil Australia Ltd? Finally, in view of the heavy losses being incurred by aircraft operators and the increasing threat of lay-offs, will he take urgent action to ensure that adequate supplies of Avgas are made available and that current supplies are shared fairly within the general aviation industry?
– That is a very complex series of questions. I will treat it as being on notice and provide the honourable gentleman with a full reply.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. As the report on the inquiry into the sugar industry was tabled some six weeks ago and as the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement in respect of Queensland has to be re-negotiated within the next six weeks, by the end of June, can he advise what progress has been made by the negotiation committee on the conditions of the new agreement, particularly on the price fixing formula for the domestic sugar price? If there are any problems with the negotiations, will he advise what are the problem areas? Is agreement on any of the difficulties capable of being reached by 30 June?
– The Commonwealth Government, together with the Queensland Government, has already implemented the recommendations in respect of the variation of the domestic price for sugar. The domestic market represents about one-quarter of the total market for sugar and it is therefore a very important element in determining the returns to sugar producers. This year there have been significant downturns in returns and the industry is in a state that naturally causes worry both to producers and to persons involved at any stage of the industry.
With respect to the other significant recommendation by the inquiry, that is, the renegotiation of the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement, I have had discussions with Mr Vic Sullivan, the Queensland Minister for Primary Industries, and with other representatives of the sugar industry regarding the components of the new formula.
There are some forces which would like to see the agreement relate only to direct input costs of producers as the basis upon which future sugar price determinations should be made. However, the Commonwealth Government believes that it is essential that there be a relationship to export pricing, as the export market represents about three-quarters of the total market. We believe it quite essential that there be a relationship between the export market and prices paid for sugar. Discussions are continuing to that end.
However, it would seem unlikely that it would be possible to conclude discussions on the new basis for the new Commonwealth Sugar Agreement in respect of Queensland by the expiration of the present agreement. Therefore, I intend to recommend to government that the present agreement be extended until such stage as a new agreement can be concluded. I would expect, therefore, that the urgency that has been placed on governments to conclude the negotiations should not be an issue in determining the actual contents of the agreement. I hope in those circumstances that it might be possible for a marriage of attitudes between those in the industry and government as to whether or not, and to what degree, export factors should be included in the new Commonwealth Sugar Agreement.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs. Is it a fact that the Government intends to bring 40,000 to 50,000 skilled tradesmen to Australia as migrant workers between 1979 and 1985? Can he explain why the Government spends thousands of dollars sending migration officials around the world to recruit skilled labour when in Victoria alone the ratio of apprenticeship seekers to unfilled apprenticeships is 57 to one? Is it a fact that Australia ‘s reliance upon immigration as a source of skilled tradesmen denies training opportunities to thousands of unemployed young people, causing unnecessarily high levels of” youth unemployment?
– I think the question asked by the honourable member discloses some confused thinking on this whole question of the shortage of skilled tradesmen and, indeed, across the wide range of skills required by Australian industry and commerce. The Government has been very active in this field of offering incentives to employers to take on apprentices. I mention, in particular, the Commonwealth Rebate for Apprentice Full-time Training scheme. A good deal of money is being invested by this Government in the CRAFT scheme which it initiated to provide subsidies to employers to take on apprentices. About six weeks ago I announced to the House the Government’s support of the concept of complementary trade training which will provide opportunities to mature age people who had not taken on apprenticeships at the normal age grouping but who desired to obtain a trade skill. The House is aware also of the fact that the Government has sent a mission overseas to obtain information on what other countries are doing to provide training in skills so urgently needed by Australian industry and commerce. My colleague the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs is constantly in touch through his Department with my Department on the requirements of Australian industry. We have a history since the Second World War of obtaining skilled tradesmen from overseas as part of our annual migration effort. I can assure industry that we will continue to do that. Where shortages are apparent, we will endeavour not only to train the Australian work force but also to obtain skills from overseas.
– Can the Treasurer assure the House that, in reaching Budget and taxation decisions, the impact of such decisions on families, especially single income families with dependent children, will be taken into account? Should tax be imposed in accordance with the principle of the capacity to pay? Does the Government believe that the cost of supporting a dependent spouse and dependent children should be taken into account in determining a family’s capacity to pay tax?
– I can assure the honourable member for Sturt that in reaching decisions on Budget and, of course, taxation matters- there is nothing quite so fundamental to budgetary decision-making as the decisions one makes on taxation- the Government will take into account the impact of not only revenue matters but also expenditure matters on Australia’s families. I think the record of this Government over the past three and a half years in paying regard to the welfare of Australian families in its Budget decision-making and in looking to the interests of Australian families compares very favourably with the record of any government since Federation. In relation to the type and structure of Australia’s taxation system, the honourable gentleman’s question invites a very general response because there are, as the honourable gentleman knows, different views in the community about our taxation system. He knows that
I have, on a number of occasions, expressed certain views about the comparative position of single income families. These views are not the views that may be universally shared by everybody in the community. But what I can say to the honourable gentleman is that the Australian taxation system is one which must remain under very close and continuous study and that this and any other government must strive continuously to achieve even greater levels of equity and fairness within our taxation system.
-Has the Prime Minister’s attention been drawn to statements by a senior Government Minister that unemployment benefits are too high and should be lowered. Has his attention been drawn also to a statement by one of his back benchers that, in fact, unemployment benefits should be abolished altogether for people under 25 years of age? Does the Prime Minister agree with the views put forward by these spokesmen and is he aware that the area represented by one of these spokesmen has the highest youth unemployment rate in Australia? Will he assure the House that the unemployment benefit will not be further reduced or, in the case of people under 25 years of age, will not be abolished?
-Before calling the right honourable gentleman, I point out that, while the question is in order insofar as it relates to a Minister, it is not in order insofar as it relates to a back bench member of the House. The Prime Minister is entitled to answer the question in relation to that matter, if he wishes.
– I have seen some reference to statements of the kind that the honourable gentleman has indicated. I say only that while those particular matters have been stated, the policy of the Government is the policy of the Government and that happens to be the policy that is applied at the moment. Let me also say that we will in no way embrace the policy of the Opposition which suggests that some unemployed people should be encouraged to have unemployment benefits and go and surf at the beach at the taxpayers ‘ expense.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Health and concerns the use of the herbicide 2,4,5-T. Is it a fact that an important research study recommending the banning or restriction of the use of 2,4,5-T in Australia is being deliberately kept secret?
– The short answer to the question from the honourable member for Petrie is no. I am informed by the Department of Health that no officer of the Department issued such a directive. I certainly issued no such directive. I will seek leave to make a statement to the Parliament on this issue after Question Time.
– I ask the Treasurer whether it is a fact that the Reserve Bank of Australia has involved itself in the market place for banking shares by pressing for the takeover of the Bank of Adelaide. Has he noted reports that the consequence of this intervention has been a serious under-valuation of Bank of Adelaide shares in the offer from the Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd at the expense not only of shareholders but also of employees who hold shares through their superannuation fund? Will the Treasurer use his influence either to seek the continuing separate identity of the Bank of Adelaide, which is of value to South Australia, or at worst see that pressure from the Reserve Bank is eliminated so that time is given for improved offers to be made, based on better valuations?
– I want to say quite plainly in reply to the honourable member for Adelaide, that I reject the interpretation that he has wrongly placed on the role of the Reserve Bank of Australia in this matter. The role of the Reserve Bank has been one in which in every respect it has responsibly discharged its responsibilities as the central bank in the Australian banking system. What the Reserve Bank and the other trading banks in Australia did in relation to the Bank of Adelaide demonstrated the essential strength and responsibility of the Australian banking system. The Reserve Bank acted in a way which served the interests of the Australian financial system, the shareholders and the creditors of the Bank of Adelaide and of the Finance Corporation of Australia Ltd. The honourable member for Adelaide, by his statements, attempts to impugn the commercial judgment of people involved, closer to the events than he clearly is. His remarks show an abysmal lack of understanding of what is involved and they also show an abysmal lack of concern for the interests of the shareholders of FCA and the Bank of Adelaide. I think that the honourable member for Adelaide demonstrates a total misunderstanding of the situation and the interests of the people of South Australia whom he is elected here to serve.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Industrial Relations. Has Government legislation relating to the election of union office bearers had any noticeable positive effect in improving democracy in recent ballots for union leaderships?
-Since August 1976 all elections for management positions in federally registered organisations have had to be by secret postal ballot. The number of organisations choosing to have their elections conducted under section 170 of the Act- that is, by the Australian Electoral Office or the Industrial Registrar- during the first two years of operation of this legislation, has increased by approximately 89 per cent. That is a very dramatic increase. There has also been a very substantial increase in the number of organisations, particularly of employees, choosing to have their elections conducted by that means. It is also open to an organisation, at its own expense, to have elections conducted under exactly the same set of regulations applying to secret postal ballots. That in itself has resulted in a greater degree of participation by union members in the affairs of their organisation. This Government encourages people to join the industrial organisation which can represent their interests and, having joined it, to participate actively in the affairs of that organisation. The secret postal ballot legislation is undoubtedly contributing to the achievement of that objective.
-The Minister for Industry and Commerce will recall that he told the Victorian State Council of his party in March 1975 that a future Liberal government might have to introduce a capital gains tax. He will also recall that he persuaded the Council to reject a resolution to oppose any form of capital gains tax. In view of the clear commitment that the Minister gave to the principle of a capital gains tax at that time, what has he done to ensure that the option of a capital gains tax remains open to the Government?
– I do not recall giving any assurance on the matter of a capital gains tax during the course of an address to that Council. In any case, the honourable gentleman must understand that this is a matter of public policy on which I do not want to make any definitive comment in this House. I would like to say to the honourable gentleman that his reference to the question of a capital gains tax is akin to his denial that the Australian Labor Party would bring in a number of industry incentives at the present time if it were in office.
– Has the Minister for Foreign Affairs seen Press reports to the effect that the Commonwealth Committee on Southern Africa which met in London on 1 8 May will organise a delegation to put to the British Government the Committee’s view that it should not recognise the Muzorewa Government which was recently elected by 64 per cent of all Rhodesians? Is the Minister aware that the Australian High Commissioner in London was present at that meeting? Can he advise the House whether these reports are accurate and, if so, whether that Committee’s views are in line with Australian Government policy?
– I have seen the reports referred to by the honourable member and the reports are incorrect in stating that such decisions were taken at that meeting. It is correct that Sir Gordon Freeth, our High Commissioner, attended this meeting and put the viewpoints of the Australian Government by referring to a statement authorised by me and made in the Senate by Senator Carrick who represents me in that chamber. Sir Gordon simply stated Australia’s position. There has been no change in that position. That was the extent of his participation on that occasion. The meeting held on 18 May was of the Commonwealth Committee on Southern Africa. Incidentally, all members of the Commonwealth are members of that Committee. The Press incorrectly stated that a decision was taken at the meeting to the effect that the British Government should be warned that the credibility of the Commonwealth would be endangered if Britain recognised the new administration. No such decision was taken at that meeting. The Secretary-General has stated publicly, as I am advised, that this is an incorrect report, and I reiterate his words.
The meeting determined that an eight-man delegation would meet with the British Foreign Secretary. Sir Gordon Freeth is a member of that delegation and he is to meet with the Foreign Secretary today. The Chairman will put to Lord Carrington the concerns that were expressed- a variety of views was expressed at that meetingabout the Rhodesian situation by the various Commonwealth members. The group will not put an agreed position. Individual members will be able to put their individual views. In deciding to approach Lord Carrington, the Commonwealth Committee is seeking to do no more than respond in a helpful way to the British Government’s own expressed desire to consult with the Commonwealth and others. So, the decision to participate in the group reflects no change at all. The Press report referred to by the honourable member was incorrect.
-Can the Prime Minister confirm a Cabinet decision to close the Australian Government Engine Works at Port Melbourne? Is the Prime Minister aware that the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence in October 1977 pointed out that if the engine works were closed no capacity would be left in this country to produce large marine diesel engines for defence purposes? In view of that fact, I ask whether the honourable gentleman will give an undertaking to postpone the sale of the engine works for at least six months on the following grounds: defence vulnerability and the loss to Australia of a vital skill at a time when the new found responsibility of a 200-mile offshore zone raises questions of surveillance, fishing resources, and ship repair and maintenance. In view of the current estimates of unemployment statistics, what hope is there of offering reemployment to the employees?
-I call the Minister for Productivity.
-The Government has considered the report to which the honourable member has referred and also the Industries Assistance Commission’s report on the engine works and the type of engine being produced there. The Government has had, through me, several discussions with the trade union movement over the question of the re-employment of people. I can assure the House that none of the employees at the engine works will be short of a job. In fact, advertisements have been placed all around the world. I have had discussions with several members of the Opposition about the matter. The hopeful response in relation to those advertisements leads us to feel that we can sell the engine works as a going concern. The Government does not accept the proposition that those engines are in fact essential for defence purposes, nor does it accept the proposition that the fishing and economic zone is a relevant consideration justifying the works being maintained as a government engine works. We would like to see the engine works maintained but run by a company or a consortium of companies. In fact I have no doubt that the previous Labor Government, had it remained in power just a few months longer, would have arrived at precisely the same conclusion as has this Government. I believe that the interests of all the employees and the interests of the Australian industry in relation to defence and surveillance of fishing zones will be protected by our decision to sell the engine works to a private consortium.
– I direct my question to the Treasurer. A successful offer by the Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd to the Bank of Adelaide will represent a contraction in the banking industry competitiveness in Australia. Because of this, I ask the Treasurer to consider two points. Firstly, will he consider referring the question of the relationship between banks and finance companies to the Campbell Committee of Inquiry into the Australian Financial System? Secondly, will he consider the proposition that the banking licence of the Bank of Adelaide- I know that licences normally are surrendered when a takeover occurs- should be made available to another group or consortium in Australia for the formation of another bank?
– The honourable gentleman is correct in saying that the consummation of the offer by ANZ to the Bank of Adelaide will amount to a contraction of the number of banks in the Australian system. The answer to the first part of the question is yes. Such a reference is already included in the terms of reference of the Campbell committee. The second part of the question related to whether I would consider allocating the licence of the Bank of Adelaide, to which the honourable member referred, to another organisation. The attitude of the Government to the entry of other organisations and other banks into the Australian system ought to be stated in general principle rather than explained by reference to a particular situation. The attitude taken by successive Australian governments has been to restrict the granting of banking licences to foreign banks. That has been the attitude recognised by banks over a number of years. I can only say that there are some very good reasons why that policy has been adhered to over the years by governments of different persuasions and that very good reasons would have to be given before that policy were departed from.
Having said that, I also say that the Government and I do not have a closed mind on the subject of granting licences to new and foreign banks. I do not believe that we ought to have a closed mind about that, particularly as this matter will come under surveillance and examination by the Campbell Committee of Inquiry into the Australian Financial System. I think the need to retain an open mind about the policy that has been followed up to date is strengthened by the fact that as a result of the likely merger of the Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd with the Bank of Adelaide the number of competitors in the Australian banking system, in the words of the honourable member, will be contracted to a very considerable extent. In a general sense, the answer to the honourable member’s query is that whilst there has been a policy to which we have had very good reasons to adhere in the past, the Government does not have a closed mind about the matter. We will be interested in what the Campbell committee has to say about it. Obviously specific applications have to be dealt with on their individual merits.
-I refer the Minister representing the Minister for Education to recommendation 5.33 of the Williams report, which states: . . that the Tertiary Education Commission discuss with the University of Western Australia and Murdoch University and the Western Australian Post-Secondary Education Commission an integration of the activities of the two universities.
Can the Minister explain the inconsistency between that recommendation and the statement of the Prime Minister on 22 March in which he alleged that the report had suggested the merger of Murdoch University and the University of Western Australia? I am sure the Minister will understand the difference between the integration of activities and merger. Will the Minister take into account the strong educational arguments in favour of the maintenance of separate institutions and not compel the two universities to merge?
– Without assuming that some of the assumptions in the honourable member’s question are accurate, I will seek a response from the Minister in the other place and let the honourable member have it as soon as possible.
– I refer the Minister for Foreign Affairs to recent reports of discussions between the leaders of the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities under the chairmanship of Dr Waldheim, the Secretary-General of the United Nations. I ask the Minister whether the reported agreements reached at that meeting mean that a solution to the tragic situation in Cyprus is in sight. I also ask what the Australian Government has contributed to any understanding.
-Australia has always been concerned that the situation in Cyprus, which has led to so much suffering and human hardship for the Cypriot people, should be finally resolved. For this reason we have consistently stated in the United Nations and elsewhere that we believe that a lasting settlement will best be achieved by direct negotiations between the two communities. Accordingly we have supported moves to encourage the parties involved to get together. The Australian Government therefore welcomes the Secretary-General ‘s 10-point communique in which he records the agreement of the Cypriot leaders to resume talks on the basis of the Makarios-Denktash guidelines of February 1977 and the United Nations resolutions which are relevant to the Cyprus question. The communique envisages that the island will be demilitarised and that its independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and non-alignment will be guaranteed.
The Government hopes that the encouraging outcome of the recent discussions will lead to real progress towards a lasting settlement and that it will prove possible to overcome the hitherto intractable differences that have clearly separated the two communities. Australia has of course contributed to the preservation of peace in Cyprus through its contribution to United Nations peace-keeping operations on the island and through its assistance to displaced persons.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. In view of the imminent reappearance of counter-cyclical beef import legislation before the United States Congress, does he intend to go to Washington, as he did last October, or does he intend to wait until August when the Finnane report is released?
-As the honourable gentleman might know, my visit was successful in that, through my representations in the United States on that occasion, the counter-cyclical legislation was not imposed. This was very much to the advantage of the Australian beef producers. I can assure the honourable member that on that occasion my actions were in no way related, as on any future occasion they will in no way be related, to any report that might be awaited in any other forum.
-My question is directed to the Minister for Health. In the light of the United States decision to refuse an import permit for Tasmanian poppy straw concentrate and the serious effect that this will have on the industry, what action is the Commonwealth Government taking to assist the Tasmanian poppy growers and processors?
- Mr Speaker, it all sounds like a lot of poppycock, but it is a very serious matter for a lot of Tasmanian poppy growers. The honourable member for Franklin and other Tasmanians, I am sure, and I are very concerned about the serious problems facing producers of the concentrate of poppy straw and other opium alkaloids in Australia because of the resolutions that were recommended by the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs and adopted by the Economic and Social Council of that body. The resolutions favour the traditional supply countries to the exclusion of others. The biggest user of these concentrates happens to be the United States of America. The United States does support the resolutions but does not regard Australia as a traditional supplier.
The Government is concerned that all appropriate steps should be taken to ensure that the interests of the industry and the two firms involved- Glaxo Australia Pty Ltd and Tasmanian Alkaloids Pty Ltd- and the farmers are protected as much as possible. The Department of Health has assured Tasmanian Alkaloids that it will provide assistance wherever possible. It will maintain close liaison with the Tasmanian authorities, the industry and other Commonwealth departments regarding adopting the most effective approach possible at the United Nations General Assembly when the United Nations Commission’s resolutions are debated later in the year.
I give an assurance to the honourable member and to all the people in Tasmania associated with this industry that the Government is making every effort through diplomatic channels at the highest possible level to influence the United States authorities and the Drug Enforcement Agency in particular which will have to make the final decision next month in relation to the importation of poppy straw concentrate from Australia. In spite of the mirth that it appeared to generate, I thank the honourable member for asking the question. I am certain that he feels for those people who are presently very worried about their future.
-As the honourable gentleman would know, he and his colleagues were among those who were responsible for including primary industry in matters that should be submitted to the Industries Assistance Commission for consideration. Part of the legitimate process of the IAC is that there should be an opportunity for all sectors of the community to make representations and, as a result of those representations, for the IAC to produce the outcome of its deliberations in the form of a draft report. At this stage only the draft report has been released. The Government has not considered that draft report. Any recommendations that flow from it are subject to further public hearings at which, I have no doubt, wine grape growers throughout Australia will be putting their representations expressing concern at what they see as the product of the implementation of that report.
The Government is fully aware of the very serious situation in Australia, particularly in the Riverland region which affects our colleague, the honourable member for Wakefield. Unfortunately, throughout Australia the incomes of a number of wine grape growers have been seriously affected. We are fully aware that there would be serious consequences in the marketing of wine grapes if the system of assistance now available to growers were to be changed. However, all these matters will be considered in due course when the final report of the IAC is received by the Government.
– I direct my thoughtful question to the Minister for Primary Industry. Has his attention been drawn to the record price of $900 paid for a bullock at the Boonah Show last Friday? Boonah is situated in my electorate of Fadden and is a place where, I think, the Minister campaigned during the 1977 election campaign. Is the Minister aware that my cattlemen and, I imagine, cattlemen everywhere, while welcoming the current high prices as a blessing to make up for the disastrous state of the industry in recent past years, would prefer fair and viable prices all the time to economic drought and boom? Has the Minister turned his attention to devising a price stabilisation scheme for beef that would be beneficial not only to my producers but also to consumers and the consumer price index as meat prices would no longer be such a wildly fluctuating factor?
-Unfortunately, I was not aware of the prices achieved for bullocks at the Boonah Show. I am very much indebted to the honourable member for Fadden for informing me, along with others, that they are achieving a satisfactory return for beef producers. Consumers should also be conscious of the fact that, if they care to check what is known as the deflated beef price index, they will see that present prices in real terms are some 25 per cent below the peaks of 1973-74 and about 10 per cent lower than at any time in the period from 1966-67 to 1972-73. I know that honourable members will be interested in the effect of this deflated beef price index which is arrived at by adding the consumer price index effect to producer returns. I table that document for the information of honourable members.
With respect to stabilisation of beef prices generally, I think that two things need to be said: First, in respect of consumers, the Government is worried about the effect of fluctuating beef prices. My colleague, the Treasurer, has expressed in this House his concern at the way in which the consumer price index figures have been affected, not just by changes in beef prices but also by changes in the prices of other food components and of energy. The housewife should be aware that the average work time required to earn the value of a kilogram of sirloin beef is still significantly less in Australia than it is in many other countries. In Australia the work time required to earn the value of a kilogram of beef is the same as it is in the United States of America- 57 minutes. In New Zealand a person has to work for 1 hour 2 minutes to buy the same quantity of beef. In the United Kingdom the time is 1 hour 57 minutes and in West Germany it is 2 hours 3 minutes. In Japan a person would have to work for 6 hours 49. minutes in order to earn the value of a kilogram of beef. On comparative world beef prices, I think it is also worth saying -
-i raise a point of order about the lengthy replies of Ministers. Mr Speaker, you have frequently ruled that Ministers’ replies to questions should be brief. Question Time has been abused, especially this afternoon. Therefore, I ask you to ask Ministers to make their replies brief.
-I ask the Minister to draw his answer to a conclusion.
- Mr Speaker, I am speaking about one of the most sensitive issues affecting housewives in Australia. I am appalled at the point of order taken by the honourable member for Reid. As far as both the housewives and the beef producers in Australia are concerned, I regard this as a fundamental issue. I believe it is necessary that I express some of these facts so that the people in the community will know the circumstances. I ask that those figures on beef prices be incorporated in Hansard.
The table read as follows-
-I think that I should also mention the question of comparative world beef prices. I will not go into the details of those prices; but in Japan, for example, beef prices are still six times higher than they are in Australia, they are three times higher in Denmark, twice as high in Germany, twice as high in Belgium and Vh times as high in Italy. In other words, in Australia beef prices still have not risen to levels that they have reached in other countries; nor, indeed, have they risen at the same rate as the prices of other components in our economy.
In respect of beef producers- it is to that matter that the question asked by the honourable member for Fadden was directed- I think it is important -
-i raise a point of order. Mr Speaker, again -
-Is this point of order on the same matter?
- Mr Speaker, I am seeking your assistance again in warning the Minister about his lengthy reply.
-The honourable member will resume his seat. I do ask the Minister to draw his answer to a conclusion.
-Mr Speaker, I state in respect of beef stabilisation schemes that there has been concern at the impact of fluctuating beef prices. It was as a result of that concern that this Government undertook to provide funds to accelerate the introduction of a beef classification scheme. Efforts are being made by the Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation, State Departments of Agriculture and my Department to ensure the development of a suitable scheme of classification. From that, it might be possible to develop a beef price stabilisation scheme. However, the important thing is to realise that beef is a perishable commodity. This Government has continually demonstrated its sympathy both for the welfare of Australian beef producers on the one hand and for the maintenance of stable prices to consumers on the other hand.
- Mr Speaker, I again raise a point of order about the Minister’s refusing your request to shorten his reply. He has done so only because in his arrogance he knows that he has the numbers on that side to enable him to refuse your request.
-The honourable member will resume his seat. Before I call another honourable member, I want the honourable member for Reid to know that I interrupted the Minister for Primary Industry when he was reciting a whole series of figures, which I thought was taking up the time for questions. He then obeyed my ruling. The latter part of his answer, I thought, was directly relevant to the question asked by the honourable member for Fadden.
- Mr Speaker, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.
– You are a coward.
-The honourable member for Melbourne will withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw.
– Pursuant to section 6 of the Australian Science and Technology Council Act 1978 I present a report of the Australian Science and Technology Council on the next generation of Australian telescopes.
– Pursuant to section 8 of the Fishing Industry Act 1956, 1 present the annual report on the operation of that Act for the year ended 30 June 1978.
– Pursuant to section 19 of the Fishing Industry Research Act 1969, I present the annual report of the Fishing Industry Research Committee for the year ended 30 June 1978.
– For the information of honourable members, I present an interim report of the Bureau of Transport Economics entitled ‘An Assessment of the Australian Road System: 1979, Part 1’.
– Pursuant to section 10 of the Local Government (Personal Income Tax Sharing) Act 1976, I present the 1978-79 reports of the New South Wales, Victorian, Queensland, South Australian, Western Australian and Tasmanian Local Government Grants Commissions on financial assistance for local government in each of those six States. Due to the limited number available, copies of the reports have been placed in the Table Office and the Parliamentary Library. The determinations on allocations to local government authorities for 1978-79 were abstracted from the reports and have already been presented to the House.
– During Question Time, in response to a question which I asked the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr Lynch), the Minister denied that he had given any support to the proposition of a capital gains tax. In respect of his answer I claim to have been misrepresented and wish to make a short explanation.
-The Leader of the Opposition may proceed.
-On 17 March 1975 in the newspaper the West Australian, under a Melbourne dateline, the following appeared:
A future Federal Liberal Government might have to introduce some form of capital gains tax, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Mr Lynch, said in the weekend.
He won support from the Liberal Party’s State Council on Saturday to leave the option of a capital gains tax open to the party.
The Council meeting in Bendigo considered a resolution calling on the Opposition to extend the Federal Government’s proposed capital gains tax.
That reference was to the then Whitlam Labor Government. The article continued:
Mr Lynch spoke strongly against an amendment to the resolution which called for the party to oppose any form of capital gains tax.
Quite clearly, the Minister did speak strongly and effectively in defence of a capital gains tax.
-I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. The Treasurer (Mr Howard), in his reply to my question about the possible takeover of the Bank of Adelaide, suggested that I was not informed on the events. He is wrong. I have had close contact with a great number of people who are involved in the reorganisation of the Bank of Adelaide. I know of the appalling haste in which valuations have been carried out and how inadequate are those valuations. I know of the Reserve Bank causing this haste and the undervaluations. The Treasurer also said that I was not acting in the best interests of South Australia. He is wrong again. There is an enormous advantage for the economic development -
-Order! I will not allow the honourable gentleman to proceed on that basis. It is a matter of judgment whether the honourable gentleman is right or wrong. It is only personal explanations that the House is dealing with now.
-Mr Speaker, during the course of his answer the Treasurer suggested that I was not informed about the advantages to South Australia. I want to explain to you and to the House that he is wrong on that count inasmuch as it is of enormous advantage to South Australia to have a bank with a head office in South Australia. That was the import of my question.
The third thing he said during the course of his reply was that I was not helping the shareholders of the Bank of Adelaide which include, of course, the employees through their superannuation fund. I suggest that the Treasurer was wrong on that count because, if you remember my question, I asked him to eliminate the Reserve Bank pressure on the Bank of Adelaide for this merger and suggested that if that pressure were removed more time would be given for valuations and with more time given for valuations there would be higher prices for the shares.
– by leave- I wish to advise the House of the Government’s decision to hold an independent review of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. In accordance with that decision, a three-member committee of review will be appointed to consider and report to the Government on the services, policies and performance of the Commission under its present statutory charter, and recommend appropriate future objectives, functions, statutory powers and policies of the Commission. It will be obvious from the terms of reference, which I will shortly detail, that this is a wide-ranging review of the Australian Broadcasting Commission which will not only identify current problems but, hopefully, will offer solutions to maintain the ABC as an essential part of the Australian broadcasting system in the years ahead.
There has not been a review of the ABC’s role since the Commission was established in 1932. In other countries, publicly funded national broadcasting services have been subject to such public inquiries. In 1 976 the Green inquiry into the Australian broadcasting system came to the conclusion that the policies and performance of the ABC should be subject to review every seven years, starting in 1980. The Government at that time adopted in principle the concept of an inquiry into the ABC, and has now decided that this review should begin later this year. It has also decided that the committee of review should report by March 1981. The Government has given careful consideration to the appropriate type of inquiry required, and has decided that the most satisfactory approach is for an objective and independent review conducted by a chairman and two other members specially appointed for the task. The Government believes that this will provide the necessary flexibility and informality, particularly in view of the Green Inquiry recommendation that such reviews of the ABC should be held periodically.
The committee of review will invite submissions from all sectors of the community. The invitation for comment will extend to staff of the Commission who will be encouraged to put forward their views. Whether discussions should be sought with persons or organisations making submissions will be for the committee to judge. During the Green inquiry, concern was expressed that the Commission’s policies and performance were constrained by the legislative, administrative, regulatory and funding framework within which it operated. It was submitted that the ABC’s ability to hold its place as an essential and innovative force within Australian broadcasting was made difficult under the present broad terms of its charter, and a definitive description of the ABC’s role and responsibility to the community was long overdue. The Government has therefore decided that the terms of reference for the review should be as follows:
Without otherwise limiting its scope, the Committee shall also review, comment on the effectiveness of and make recommendations as necessary on the Commission ‘s:
recruitment, staff development, tenure of appointment and training;
arrangements for management improvement, review and systems development; and
resource allocation practices and planning for technological developments.
The Government is committed to the continued existence of the ABC as a vital and innovative force within Australian broadcasting. It looks to this review as a vehicle whereby the ABC can be made fully aware of the success or otherwise it has had in serving the Australian community. It is an important initiative both for the ABC and it is an important initiative for the future of broadcasting in Australia.
-by leave-The Opposition welcomes the announcement that a wide-ranging, major inquiry into the Australian Broadcasting Commission is to be held. Over the last 12 months the Opposition has been calling for such a major review and has suggested that it ought to be a royal commission. The Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Staley) warmed to that suggestion although in this chamber on 9 May he denied that he had said any such thing about an inquiry. Yet, on 2 June last year he said that he believed that it may be better to give it the status of a royal commission.
-That is right-‘ may’.
– Yes, but the ABC is not to get a royal commission. The Minister has bowed to the views of his more senior colleagues who might have a vested interest in the inquiry. Be that as it may, the Opposition welcomes the fact that at least it is a move in the right direction. We are to get a wide-ranging inquiry with broad terms of reference. Those broad terms of reference are pleasing to those who rightly feared a secretive, limited witch hunt by this Government against the ABC. If it was his influence that did that, the Minister must be commended. At least it opens the whole range of options within the area of the inquiry. The Opposition seeks clarification and reassurance on a number of matters outlined in the Minister’s statement. There has been no review of the role of the ABC or its structure since it was established in 1932. Therefore, this inquiry is of particular importance. It will set the pattern for future periodic reviews as outlined in the Green report.
First, this inquiry must set the precedent that the public will be able not only to lodge written submissions but also to present verbal evidence to the three-member committee at public, informal inquiries. Surely that is a healthy sign after the experience of some of the recent inquiries, when some of the major television companies brought along their legal eagles, swamped the inquiry and compromised people in what they may have put before the inquiry. The result was predictable under those sorts of pressures. The Minister’s announcement is a breath of fresh air. Let us hope and trust that the inquiry will be an inquiry of a different nature.
Secondly, ABC staff members should be assured that they will be able to present evidence to the inquiry without prejudice to their careers within the ABC. I raised this issue last night when the House debated the issues involved in the Commonwealth Employees (Redeployment and Retirement) Bill. Difficulties arise when people appeal against transfer to other areas. It might well be said that unless such issues are brought within the ambit of that legislation it will not be effective. I am saying that the legislation would not be applicable in this situation. The point is that the Government has applied pressure. The Government did this in the telecommunications field and in other areas where it has direct influence.
I would hope and trust that the Minister, who perhaps has had a track record commensurate with the principle we wish to see applied, will ensure that staff members of the ABC are able to present their submissions in a free and unfettered way without pressures being applied, and that they are able to be objective. If this is not done the Government will be inviting a conflict with the organisation that represents the people concerned. I think that is an assurance that the Minister ought to be obligated to give to this Parliament and to the individuals concerned- those employees of the ABC who would have the courage and the experience to apply themselves and present submissions to the inquiry for the purpose of maximising the effect and obtaining the best results.
Thirdly, the inquiry should be afforded sufficient funds and support facilities to discharge its functions adequately. Secretariat staff for the inquiry should not be drawn from the already depleted ranks of the ABC unless staff ceilings are eased and moneys for extra salaries are available. That is a very important aspect because the operations of inquiries can be constricted. The Minister for Post and Telecommunications would readily concede that some of the reports made to this Parliament and the inquiries that are held are restricted in some terms by virtue of the fact that sufficient facilities are not available to them.
Finally, there should be no attempt through this inquiry to consign the ABC to the role that the commercial lobbies, the Federation of Australian Commercial Television Stations and the Federation of Australian Radio Broadcasters have long sought. The ABC should not be relegated to minority programming for a cultural elite. Its statutory responsibility denned in section 59 of the Broadcasting and Television Act is that it shall provide ‘adequate and comprehensive programs and shall take in the interests of the community all such measures as, in the opinion of the Commission, are conducive to the full development of suitable broadcasting and television programs’.
Some of the best programs, artists and those who have been most competent to present programs, particularly children’s programs, have been squeezed out. Like other artists in this country, Australians in the television industry have been forced overseas to gain recognition and be a part of the overseas production of children ‘s programs that are sold at exorbitant rates in this country. I hope and trust that those involved- such as Michael Howson and others who have contributed for many years; as well as scriptwriters who have had long experience in children’s programs- will take advantage of this inquiry and participate for the purpose of doing something that has been lacking in the inquiries that have been undertaken to date.
I was a member of the House of Representatives Select Committee on Specific Learning Difficulties. The evidence that was put before that Committee ought to be taken into account by the proposed new inquiry when it is dealing with the educational content of programs, in particular children’s programs. That evidence showed clearly that there is a screaming demand for a lot more to be done in that area. Instead of children watching programs that have for their end result violence and other elements from which we believe our children should be directed, a whole new horizon would be before them. I sincerely hope and trust that the inquiry takes notice of that evidence.
The principles contained in the declaration of section 59 must be maintained. This inquiry will also be the first opportunity to spell out fully the relationship of the ABC with other sectors of broadcasting, especially the Governmentdirected Special Broadcasting Service. Now before the Parliament is the matter of a domestic satellite system. Let us hope and trust that the inquiry involves itself in this matter and that the philosophy that justifies the existence of the ABC will continue in the event of a domestic satellite system. I understand that such a system is in the mind of the Minister. He has some obsession about it. Let us hope that it will not act to the detriment of the ABC. Close attention must be paid to the role of the commissioners and their appointment procedures. Their relationship with ABC management should be clearly defined.
If the Government notes these concerns that the Opposition has expressed, an inquiry will lay the basis for a vital national broadcasting service able to meet the challenges of the 1 980s and able to accept new responsibilities and functions. It will then be more than an inquiry, structured in time, not merely to defuse an issue that I believe should not be relevant. That question should not be injected into the inquiry. This Government’s savage treatment of the ABC will not be defused simply by the areas of the inquiry. It ought to take on board all the problems and all the difficulties that the Opposition sees and some of the problems that might arise. I have some confidence in the ability of the Minister for Post and Telecommunications to ensure that the philosophy behind what has been engendered in terms of the inquiry will take it to its successful conclusion.
– In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969, 1 present the report relating to the following proposed work:
Research laboratory complex for the CSIRO ‘s Division of Chemical Technology at Clayton, Victoria.
Ordered that the report be printed.
-by leave-It might come as some surprise to some members that I should rise on this matter, but I think that when I have finished, after some very brief words, the reason will become very obvious. The third, fourth and fifth stages of this research laboratory complex are to be established in Clayton, Victoria. Two have already been implemented. An advertisement in the Melbourne Age on 13 March relating to this complex stated that the laboratory was concerned with organic and general laboratories, workshops and stores, prototype industrial process bays for organic chemistry, general chemistry and pulp and paper. Following that advertisement, a group of people from the central Gippsland area decided to make a submission which was rather revolutionary in one sense in that it sought to persuade the Joint Committee on Public Works to make a recommendation that the works be transferred from Clayton to the central Gippsland area. A first class submission was prepared in a very short time by the Central Gippsland Regional Planning Authority Interim Committee. That was subsequently supported very strongly by me and by the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon), who is Minister for Transport, by State members and by a wide-ranging group of municipal authorities and other interest groups in the central Gippsland area.
As I understand the position, although the recommendations have not been disclosed to the House, that submission has been rejected, basically on the ground that two of the five parts of the complex have already been constructed on the Clayton site and it would not be feasible to relocate any other part in any other area apart from Clayton. I ask the Government and government instrumentalities that, when matters of this kind are going to be considered for establishment in various parts of Australia, they do not just look to urban centres that they do look at the decentralisation policies of this Government and State governments to ensure that there is a balance between urban and rural Australia.
Why should it be the central Gippsland area? In this case it is almost tailor-made for a complex of this nature. For example, there is approximately 25 per cent of Australia’s primary energy resources in the central Gippsland area. There is approximately 30 per cent of Australia’s coal reserves and approximately 90 per cent of Australia’s known oil reserves. There is approximately 25 per cent of Australia’s proven gas reserves.
– What about tourism?
– And tourism, as the honourable member for Prospect interjects. That is quite correct. There are also the agricultural resources. I will mention two others. One is water resources. Approximately 30 per cent of Victoria’s surface stream flows originate in Gippsland ‘s catchment areas. The other is timber resources. In fact, there are 1 ,374,200 hectares or about two-thirds of the Gippsland lakes catchment area covered with forest. All of those matters are relevant to the work which would be carried out in this third stage of the laboratory complex.
For that reason I am disappointed that the Public Works Committee was not able to take a decision to remove the complex from Clayton to the central Gippsland area. I understand that the honourable member for Gippsland would strongly support any representation which could be made in the future to ensure that public works of this nature do go into rural Australia.
-by leave-I trust that at some time the honourable member for McMillan (Mr Simon) will get around to reading the transcript of the evidence that was placed before the Joint Committee on Public Works at the hearing which was held in Oakleigh. He will understand from that that the Public Works Committee did take great cognisance of the submission that was put to it by the people from the central Gippsland area. He will find that representatives of the Central Gippsland Regional Planning Authority were questioned at great length by the Committee and were not treated lightly in any way. Great note was taken of what they said. I trust that the honourable gentleman will read the response to that submission when members of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation came again before the Committee to sum up. When the honourable gentleman does that, he will know the reasons why the Committee did not accept the proposition that was put forward by these people.
I would just briefly give my own views on this matter. Other members of the Committee may have different views. After hearing all of the things that were said by the central Gippsland people, and recognising that CSIRO is there as a government body to assist industry in research and development, but not necessarily as an appendage to industry, I asked the people from the central Gippsland whether they would agree with my reasoning about CSIRO. This laboratory, which I hasten to add cannot be seen in isolation from the other CSIRO complexes which are already located at Clayton and those that will move there in the future -
– Why not?
-The honourable member for La Trobe should also read the evidence instead of lying there half asleep and making inane interjections.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The honourable member for La Trobe will remain silent.
-The honourable member for La Trobe did not have the benefit of hearing what was said, nor did he study the transcript of the evidence, obviously. The other question that I put to these people was whether they thought that if the CSIRO laboratories were close to industries, for example the paper mills, where there is a lot of research work done on behalf of the paper industry- not Associated Pulp and Paper Mills Ltd- but on behalf of the paper industry, there would not be a lot of pressure placed on the people in the laboratory to solve problems that were occurring at APPM and not necessarily occurring anywhere else. That was true in relation to the question of water resources. It is true that CSIRO does use a lot of water, but the complex does not have to be on a river. The laboratory experiments are using specimens. They are only using handfuls of paper pulp, in vacuum machines; they are producing paper and finding bigger and better ways of doing that. They also intend making lamp posts out of nylon and paper. That rather astounded me, but they are doing it anyhow. There are a lot of things that they are doing that are related to the nearby laboratory complex that exists; and the laboratories that will eventually be placed there because it was planned and because it is close to one of the largest universities in Victoria, the Monash University.
When I gave my opinion to the Committee, in my view all the advantages lie with siting the laboratory at Clayton. That is not to say that the central Gippsland area of Victoria should be ignored in any way at all. It is an excellent area. It has available all the resources that the honourable member for McMillan mentioned but, in my judgment- the other Committee members may speak for themselves if they so desire- there were benefits in locating the complex at Clayton. Those benefits outweighed any that might come from locating it in the Latrobe Valley.
by leave- I wish to inform the House that a report entitled ‘Investigation of a Possible Association between use of the Herbicide 2,4,5-T and the incidents of Neural Tube Defects in New South Wales’ which indicated the possible association between the herbicide 2,4,5-T and neural tube defects in New South Wales was received by the Department of Health in midDecember. It was subjected to critical analysis by statistical and scientific experts from within the Department and by others from outside the Department itself.
As a result of this study, a letter of 6 March from my Department to the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine stated that in the opinion of those who had studied the report the arguments in Dr Field ‘s paper did not stand up to analysis. Serious deficiencies in statistical reasoning created major doubts as to the validity of the conclusions reached. Subsequently a revised version of the report was studied by the ad hoc working party on 2,4,5-T which was convened by the National Health and Medical Research Council on 23 March 1979. The working party concluded that no opinion could be formed in view of the amount of additional work that still needed to be undertaken before it could be evaluated. It was noted that the factor or factors operating during the early stages of the study appeared no longer to be operating during the later stages of the study. In this regard the working party noted that 2,4,5-T usage was unchanged throughout, and consequently it appeared that some other factors might well be responsible for the results reported. Withdrawal of the report from publication was recommended by the Department and supported by the working party in order that further work could be done with a view to producing a document which would stand up to critical analysis and to allow conclusions to be reached which would not be subject to immediate challenge.
The School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine publishes a considerable amount of valuable material and it is not the practice of the Department of Health to attempt to suppress any publication because it might contain controversial material. The Department will, however, accept any invitation from the School to comment on an article and will not hesitate to advise on any aspects which it feels might be improved by revision. Directives to Dr Field not to discuss the topic did not emanate from the Department of Health or from me as Minister and I am deeply concerned that this impression may have been created- indeed it was conveyed in a report that was on AM this morning. The revised version considered by the working party was again considered to require further work and it is understood that this is now nearing completion.
The full report on the 2,4,5-T deliberations of the working party has already been presented to the Public Health Advisory Committee of the NHMRC and will be formally submitted to the Council at its meeting in June. It is anticipated that it will be released upon consideration by Council. It will be recalled that a special executive meeting of Council was convened immediately following the meeting of the working party to enable a summary report to be made public. Telephone inquiries made of my Department from the Environmental Protection Agency of the United States of America on 30 March requested an opinion on 2,4,5-T and on Dr Field ‘s report. This information was conveyed to the EPA through the American Embassy in Australia.
The membership of the working party included experts with a wide range of expertise, in the fields of pharmocology, toxicology, pathology, obstetrics and genetics. The Commonwealth Department of Health was represented on the working party by Dr W. A. Langsford, who is not only responsible for the Public Health Division of the Commonwealth Department of Health, but also is Chairman of the Public Health Advisory Committee of the Council. Professor Charles Kerr of the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, who is co-author with Dr Field of the report was also a member of the working party. There is a vast amount of scientific literature, amounting to several thousand publications on 2,4,5-T alone, and new information is evaluated as and when it comes to hand.
The aim of the NHMRC and the Government is to establish a sound basis for judgment on all issues on which the health of the population is concerned. I can assure the House that they will hot hesitate to recommend restrictions on any substance if it is considered to be justified. Indeed failure to do so in the face of adequate evidence could never be condoned. I assure the House that my Department and the NHMRC will continue to study all the evidence which comes to light and will not shirk the responsibility of issuing what they consider to be sound and proper advice whenever it is required.
-by leave-I have had this statement for only a short time- an hour or so. I certainly would not dispute the facts as supplied to the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) by his Department. I think a more general issue arises. Consideration of such an issue is very difficult for those of us- hopefully I am referring to the majority of people in this House- who try to come to intelligent and rational decisions on the sorts of problems facing the Government in this area. I do not think that anybody can argue with the propositions put by the Minister or his Department that we have to establish a sound basis for judgment et cetera and that we have to protect the population from any risk. The difficulty we have, of course, is that different people in the community have different views on this aspect. It is difficult to decide how to judge who is putting up a rational case and who is not.
I think all of us have prejudices or develop certain prejudices when we listen to people. We decide- sometimes for the wrong reasons- that particular people or groups are making too much of an issue. They may exaggerate. Some groups we feel are always exaggerating many issues. It is a sort of crying wolf syndrome. Sometimes people keep on crying wolf. In the end, when some wolves are around we do not take any notice of these people. That is one of the things that worries me. On the one hand we have people who like to sensationalise. On the other hand we undoubtedly have people who are, I think for practical purposes, extremists in the sense that they object to any sort of synthetic substances being used for any purposes and they worry that all synthetic substances will cause some damage to human beings, to the environment or whatever. That is undoubtedly true.
– The Minister interjects and mentions fluoride. That is my next point. Some people in the community do not seem to realise that there is no such thing as zero risk, and that a risk is involved in everything. This is depressing to me. In some ways it is a pity that the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Staley) who presented the ministerial statement on the Australian Broadcasting Commission is not now in the chamber because the ABC is one of the organisations which tends to sensationalise things at the present time. I refer to its rather disgraceful anti-fluoride segment which appeared on Four Corners a few weeks ago. On the other hand, of course, the defenders of the chemical industry will defend almost anything. They are employed by the chemical industry; they have a job to do. The chemical industry depends on the sale of particular substances. Those people try to suppress any sort of information which suggests that one of their substances or by-products can cause harm to human beings. We are all aware, in retrospect, that there are substances which, even in very small quantities, are extremely dangerous. There is no point going over the story of Thalidomide again. We are all now aware that those sorts of substances exist and that small quantities can cause terrible things.
It is important that the Minister should look at some of the people who are members of the National Health and Medical Research Council- some of the people who are working for the Government. My attention has been drawn to an article in a newspaper which I do not necessarily hold up as being non-sensationalist. I refer to the issue of the Nation Review for the week ending 24 May, which is probably the last issue. It contains an article from Helen Ester in Canberra. I do not normally read the newspaper these days. The article attacks Mr J. T. Snelson, who is the Federal Government’s pesticides coordinator. If the allegations in this article are true I emphasise that Mr Snelson represents the other point of view. It should not be his job to do so. Obviously he has been appointed by the Government to look into the risks of the use of pesticides.
I am sure that the Minister for Health would not like his family, his kids or anybody else for that matter to be at risk and to be exposed to such substances. I certainly do not. One of the difficulties that we have is to decide the point at which the risk becomes unacceptable and to whom to give the benefit of the doubt. I think that that is one of the great difficulties about this matter. It is one of my worries in relation to the National Health and Medical Research Council and particularly the committee dealing with this substance. I do not want to attack specific people. But because Dr Langsford was quoted on the AM program this morning, I would like to read the statement that he made on 27 March. He stated:
The Council -
He is referring to the NHMRC-
Has examined all the evidence available to us -
He is talking about 2,4,5-T-
All the scientific evidence including the latest studies done in the United States and we can find no substantiated scientific basis for any causal link between the use of this herbicide and an excess occurrence of spontaneous abortion or human birth defects.
The interviewer asked:
Have your findings been based on statistics?
Dr Langsford answered:
No our findings have been based on thorough examination of all the available scientific experiments that have been done and the clinical studies and our evaluation of all the work that is available to us.
Obviously, the paper that is referred to in today’s AM program the socalled Field study by Dr Barbara Field appears to have been a statistical study. I obviously cannot vouch for its accuracy or its contents. I am not even aware of them. But some reputable people, including Dr Field and Professor Charles Kerr, apparently put their names to a study which suggested that there is a risk involved in the use of this herbicide. So I think it is important for us to look at the study.
We became reasonably excited looking at the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) has reminded me of it when we were debating the abortion issue a few weeks ago in this House. I think that we became justifiably excited, especially when one considers that a human being is involved from the beginning. We are also dealing now with the foetus. If there is a chemical substance which causes abortions or in some ways I think this is even worse causes very severe birth defects, such as spina bifida, we need to be extremely careful when dealing with it. I argue that when we are dealing with these substances the benefit of the doubt ought to be given to the population at large and not to the chemical industry. In some ways, I think the United States of America is doing better than Australia in that the United States Federal Government imposes much tougher restrictions. It has suspended the use of 2,4,5-T. In a year or two it may be shown that that action was not justified and that the chemical industry has lost a lot of money. It may be that the Government ought to have the responsibility of reimbursing the chemical industry if that is found to be the case later. But I think that when we are dealing with human lives, human problems and very severe illnesses, the benefit of the doubt ought to be given to humanity.
I am not a lawyer but I remember the argument which usually occurs in civil cases and criminal cases on the question of the balance of probabilities and insisting on proof beyond reasonable doubt. I think it is important when dealing with these sorts of matters that we do not insist on proof beyond reasonable doubt because we will come to regret it at a later stage if we do in many cases. I appeal to the Minister again to put a rocket under the NHMRC committee to consider the latest report. It seems silly that we have to postpone this consideration from month to month. The NHMRC has sixmonthly meetings on other issues which are not urgent. This is an urgent matter. If there is any significant doubt about the use of these substances, they ought to be suspended. I appeal to the House and those honourable members who have some influence with the Minister to persuade him to do this.
-Mr Speaker has received letters from both the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) and the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) proposing that definite matters of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion today. As required by Standing Order 107 Mr Speaker has selected one matter, that is that proposed by the honourable member for Lilley, namely:
The need for defence and communication bases to operate effectively in Australia for this country ‘s protection.
I therefore call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places.
More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places-
– Yesterday the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen), who will follow me in this debate, asked a question of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). He asked:
What action has the honourable gentleman taken to support the United States President’s action to urge ratification upon the United States-
That is, the ratification of the SALT II treaty. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition was concerned, as was the United States Congress and Senate, and as was the Prime Minister, to see that there is less tension in the world. Although the Prime Minister did not do so, in answering that question he could have made two points. They are both appropriate. He could have said that our action to urge ratification is to guarantee to the United States Senate and Congress the continued use of the bases in Australia at Pine Gap, Nurrungar and North West Cape in Western Australia. In doing so, he could have said that we thereby repudiate the proposed change in policy put forward by the Australian Labor Party last Sunday. That was what the Prime Minister could have said. Therefore, the concern of this House with respect to legitimate defence and peace would have been intensified.
Why should we be concerned with what has happened over the past three days and on last Sunday? It is crystal clear that if such bases are to operate satisfactorily in Australia they must operate on a basis of political and government stability. It is also quite clear that the shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and Defence, Senator Wriedt, proposes that that stability be taken away. It is quite clear that he proposes that the guarantees given by the former Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam- this was pointed out by the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) yesterday- in the Budget session of 1975, that there would be no disclosure of what happens at those bases, will be repudiated. I suggest that this Government and this Parliament ought not to go along with that proposition. Some astounding matters are involved in what has been proposed. The first is that Senator Wriedt, speaking on behalf of the Opposition, should make his new policy concerning the United States bases known at a meeting of the Association for Internal Co-operation and Disarmament. It is extraordinary that he should have made that statement at a meeting organised by a sub-committee for the removal of United
States bases in Australia. The title of the address that Senator Wriedt made to that meeting was Implications of United States bases in Australia’. It is incredible that an alternative Minister for Foreign Affairs found an acceptable audience at a body which is a lineal descendant of the peace committee set up by Stalin in the late 1940s. Yet that has occurred.
I wish to dwell for one or two moments on the historical basis of what has occurred. I am indebted to the honourable member for Tangney (Mr Shack), who read a magnificent speech into Hansard in November last year. He had several things to say concerning peace treaties, the peace committees and the World Peace Council, which is the grandfather of the present Association for International Co-operation and Disarmament. It is relevant to make a couple of quotations from his speech. The secretary-general of that organisation, Romesh Chandra, made these two statements over the years. He said:
The World Peace Council -
It is associated with the Association to which Senator Wriedt spoke- in its turn, positively reacts to all Soviet initiatives in international affairs.
In a Soviet weekly Mr Chandra also stated:
The Soviet Union invariably supports the peace movement.
So this is the audience to which Senator Wriedt, on behalf of the Opposition, felt that he could propose this change in Australian Labor Party policy on United States bases in Australia. I find that extraordinary. But if we go a little further we find that that campaign for the removal of United States bases in Australia has received support from the Association for International Co-operation and Disarmament. Beverley Symons is the General Secretary of that body in New South Wales and I quote three sentences of what she had to say in an article in the Tribune of 28 June 1978. These sentences are important because they contain the same reasons for rejecting United States bases in Australia as were hinted at by Senator Wriedt in his speech. Beverley Symons is reported as saying: the most important and dangerous of the 40 US bases here are Pine Gap, North West Cape and Nurrungar.
Those are the three bases to which Senator Wriedt referred. The other two paragraphs are worth noting:
These make Australia a prime nuclear target as part of a world-wide network which aims to provide the US with a nuclear first-strike capacity.
They have an offensive, not defensive, function and play a key role in maintaining American political and economic domination in the region.
Both of those reasons were hinted at and embraced during the talk that Senator Wriedt gave. What has puzzled me is that a person of Senator Wriedt ‘s background should seek to make a new policy in this way. To what pressures has he clearly been subjected in order that he would do so? I think this House ought to express itself increasingly in respect of this matter.
I turn now to three parts of Senator Wriedt ‘s speech which it is appropriate for us to look at. He said, first of all, that it was appropriate now to put pressure on the United States because we have ‘leverage’. The word ‘leverage’ has been mentioned over and over again. He said that the United States was embarrassed as a result of events in Iran and that there were uncertain allies in the Middle East on the borders of the Soviet Union that existed previously. Do I have to mention Iraq and dollars to the Opposition? Do I have to mention Turkey? We know what has happened in Afghanistan. Yet at the precise time at which the United States is embarrassed and humiliated, the leverage proposed by the official spokesman for the Opposition is to begin to pull the rug out on the bases. Let us consider the same attitude to leverage in relation to Vietnam. Vietnam was sensitive a few months ago. It invaded Cambodia and began to eliminate its entrepreneurial class and its farmers. It was then sensitive and open to leverage, but in that case the leverage that was suggested by Senator Wriedt and the rest of the Opposition was to give Vietnam more money. I contrast those attitudes merely to make the House aware that there is a very selective attitude taken to the meaning of leverage’. One cannot help but be left with the unfortunate impression that the old slogan of Yank Go Home ‘ has its modern day counterpart in a strange kind of selective leverage with selective judgments thrown in.
I turn now to page 1 1 of Senator Wriedt ‘s speech in which he said:
He was trying to give a little bit of assurance-
Australia could not have the facilities removed in the short term.
What is the short term? Is it a week, a month, two months, three months? A few years ago, the Opposition had a conception of short term. ‘Short term’ meant a 20-year loan for $4,000m. On the same basis, would the long term, in the Opposition’s terms, be a couple of weeks or a couple of months? So what is the short term? There is an obligation to indicate what is the short term that is the ingredient of the new policy to be proposed by the Australian Labor Party in this respect. Australia awaits it with some interest.
This new policy is to be presented to the Federal Conference of the Australian Labor Party and on page 13 of his speech, Senator Wriedt had this to say:
I believe it is essential that the public is told much more than it currently knows. It is likely at its next conference, that the Labor Party will vary its policy on overseas bases by making it clear that it will make known to the Australian public the general purposes and functions of the bases and any changes to those purposes and functions.
So if those bases are to respond to a changed strategic situation, which is a change in function, that has to be made known to the Australian public. That is all right; let it be made known. But it should be remembered that it would also be making it known to Mr Basov, the Soviet Ambassador to Australia. It would also be making it known to others. So when we talk about making it known, let it be clear who will have the knowledge. Let us not live in a dream world in this respect. Of course, this kind of proposition was acceptable to the Association for International Co-operation and Disarmament because it is unashamedly a left wing and communist body compared with which on foreign policy the Disputes Committee of the Sydney Trades and Labor Council, for example, would be a mad right wing organisation. So of course these propositions are put forward to such people.
Who is to make judgments in respect of the adequate functioning of this body? It is the members of the Federal Conference of the Australian Labor Party. Let it be remembered that only a few years ago, for the price of a few Iraqi dollars, there was a proposal to influence an Australian election and to influence an important political party in an Australian election. What price can this House contemplate might induce people to begin to inhibit the legitimate operation of the three bases? We should remember that there are common people involved in both the election and the Iraqi dollars incident of a few years ago and in the Federal Conference of the Australian Labor Party to be held later this year. I ask the House merely to contemplate that proposition. The matter is important and I believe its importance ought to be appreciated.
I therefore suggest that there are at least four questions which need to be answered, and need to be answered quite clearly. Firstly, why should a major address announcing a change in terms of American bases in Australia be made to an organisation which is an offshoot of the World
Peace Council? Why ought that to be done? Secondly, why should it be acceptable that the meeting organised to receive and applaud that proposed change in policy be organised by a subcommittee which by its title is designed to ‘remove United States bases in Australia’. The third question is simply this: Why take this opportunity to humiliate unnecessarily the United States? Is selective leverage the umbrella under which distortions in policy are now to reside or to be invited to reside? There is a residual common sense in the Australian community that would not buy such nonsense for a moment. One does not have to go into the private bars of Australia to realise that that residual common sense lies also in the public bars among Australia’s working men and others.
The fourth question is: What conceivable possible legitimate aim for Australian defence and foreign policy is involved in these proposals? What is the intention? What is Senator Wriedt driving at? Why should somebody such as Senator Wriedt say this? I have always had a great respect for him- a moderate person and someone who, for example, has said that there was no place for the socialist Left in the Labor Party? What forces have compelled him to make this kind of proposition? I hope that the House will contemplate those questions. Of Lord Macaulay- a famous barrister, an historian, a member of parliament and even a civil servant- a loquacious person, it was said by his friends that he often spoke too much but when he was silent he had magnificent flashes of brilliance’. The same ought to apply to the alternative Minister for Foreign Affairs.
– We have listened to the eloquence of the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns), a former Minister in a previous government: He has always been opposed to Labor. He is always anxious to indicate what is wrong with the Labor Party. Again, the theme of his speech today was to indicate that something has happened of which the Labor Party ought to be ashamed. Let me make it clear in the quietness of a reasonable debate what the Labor Party has been doing in this country for some time. We have endeavoured to establish honourable, mature relationships with our ally, the United States of America. We do not recognise the usual assumption by the Government that it has some special claim to friendship with the United States. History clearly shows that had the Labor Party been in government in the 1960s it could have preserved the United States from the fatal intervention in Vietnam.
Yesterday I asked the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) a question about this matter to which the honourable member for Lilley referred. He was quite happy to indicate to the House what the Prime Minister did not say. 1 am also anxious to mention it. I take it that the honourable member for Lilley and I are ad idem on that issue, so if I ask the Prime Minister a question and he does not answer why would the honourable member for Lilley not be equally upset? The basis of my question yesterday was whether the United States Congress would ratify the SALT II Agreement. I would have thought that a responsible Prime Minister would have done something about it by clearly indicating to the United States our attitude towards the ratification of that Agreement. I asked the Prime Minister that question yesterday. He did not answer me, as the honourable member for Lilley was anxious to emphasise today. I asked whether failure to ratify the Agreement would have consequences of nuclear proliferation. By that I meant proliferation by the Americans and the Russians and with new weapons by other countries acquiring nuclear capability.
All the assessments before the Government indicate that there will be such grave consequences unless the Prime Minister can give some clear answers. I asked the Prime Minister whether he would seek to influence the United States to ratify the treaty. He did not answer that question. I asked whether he preferred to keep the basis of leverage on bilateral matters, such as trade. He did not answer that question, but there is a strong indication that the view he has put to Cabinet is that the best way to negotiate trade with the United States- I refer to beef trade- is to use American bases in Australia as leverage. I asked when the next round of defence consultations would commence. The Prime Minister did not know. Instead of attacking the Opposition, the Government should be pressing the United States to take the sane and positive step of ratification in defence of the world’s interests, particularly Australia’s interests. If the United States does not ratify the SALT II Agreement there will be grave consequences for our security and for global stability. This could have a radical impact on the role of United States bases in Australia.
If the bases in Australia are part of a system sustaining stability and moving towards arms control and reduction in nuclear weapons, clearly they have a positive value. If, however, the strategic balance is upset and the guidelines under which they operate change, if there is an escalation in the arms race, a proliferation of nuclear weapon states and an increased risk of nuclear war, any sensible Australian Government will have to consider what will happen to the bases. We are not yet at such a point. However, we are at a point when it is essential that we focus our effort on convincing the United States to decide, in its proper constitutional process of Senate ratification of SALT II, to make the choice which enhances our national security. We are behind Carter in this issue; but is his Congress behind him? What about the political ramifications? That is the problem. I hope to be in the United States in the next two or three weeks. I will be arguing that issue. It is a shame that when questions are addresed to the Prime Minister in this place he cannot react to them. The honourable member for Lilley also complained about this.
In fairness to my colleague, Senator Wriedt, who has been much maligned in this place today, I ask: What is wrong with talking to people in Australia who have different views from ours? Government supporters should realise that the Labor Party is the one party which fights the Communist Party in all segments of life. We have representatives in the trade union movement with whom the Government has no communication whatsoever, except to bring in punitive legislation to gaol or fine union members which encourages the Communists to seek more control. What is the point of bleating about Iraq when the Government takes no notice of Santamaria? What is the fundamental issue involved when the Government suggests that Senator Wriedt should avoid people who talk about disarmament and who want to get rid of the American bases.
Senator Wriedt did not advocate the removal of the bases. As he pointed out to me today only two journalists were present at the meeting. Many of the Press reports to which the honourable member for Lilley referred were made by people who were not even there. I am here to defend Senator Wriedt in what he said. One of the questions asked by Senator Wriedt was whether there would be disclosure of secret information. As happened during the term of the last Labor Government Senator Wriedt made it clear that information of that nature would not be made public. He talked about the problems that have arisen in the Parliament because of what has happened in the Defence Department. I am happy to see that the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) is in the chamber. Senator Wriedt made the point that the reference to the upgrading of facilities no longer being carried out in secret was a direct consequence of the display by the Government last year when the Minister for Defence criticised the United States Government for not advising the Australian Government of intended changes in the North West Cape base. That is a reasonable proposition. Those are the facts. Senator Wriedt adverted to them.
The honourable member for Lilley said that there has been a change in Labor Party policy. It is a change only in emphasis. The main thrust of Senator Wriedt ‘s speech was contained in the following line. He said: the Labor Party . . . will make known to the Australian public the general purposes and functions of the bases and any changes to those purposes and functions.
That is normal. Senator Wriedt continued:
If this system were instituted, upgrading of these facilities could no longer be carried out in secret and the implications of the various changes would be publicly known and discussed.
Under those circumstances the Australian public would have much more confidence that the operation of the bases was beneficial to this country and that no activities were being carried out which would be unacceptable to the nation.
He did not say that he did not want the bases. He said that the Labor Party would take a reasonable approach to the issue. Finally he said:
This would restore Australia’s sovereignty over the bases, would give Australia greater independence, make it a more equal partner in the activities and improve the health of the Australian/American alliance.
Was there any suggestion in that speech that the bases will go? There was none at all. Senator Wriedt was discussing the situation. He made the point to me today that any suggestion that the Labor Party was contemplating disclosing the secrets of the bases was nonsense and a gross distortion of the words used in his speech. The suggestion that there will be a major change in Labor Party policy on the United States bases is a complete fabrication.
I return to what the honourable member for Lilley said. He referred to Iraqi money, loans and influences. Should we now talk about Sankey, legal costs and warrants issued for return dates in December which happened to coincide with a special meeting held by Mr Joh Bjelke-Petersen, the Queensland Premier. Was that a coincidence? Where is the honour and integrity from the honourable member’s own Premier? Does the honourable member suggest that Mr Sankey and Mr Bjelke-Petersen did not even discuss the matter? Of course they did. The legal costs of some impecunious solicitor ran into more than $500,000. Where did the funds come from? These are the sorts of things that can destroy democracy in this country. Let me refer to what happened when we were in opposition before December 1972. Mr Barnard, our Minister for Defence, made a statement in the House of Representatives on 28 February 1973. He talked about some of the matters we had been complaining about. He said:
As is well known, previous Australian governments– the governments of which the honourable member for Lilley was a member- chose to exclude the Leader of the Opposition from those who were briefed on the activities and functions of these stations. It was therefore necessary, as I have said in the past, for us to wait until we became the Government before we could develop a policy . . .
From the point of view of the national interest, what sort of communication was that? Our own Minister for Defence at that time was saying: We were never told anything; it was a matter of secrecy; it was a matter of special privilege for a small coterie of so-called intelligent Australians in the Government’. That is the point that he made. Barnard said that Labor was not going to make a fresh start but it wanted the rules changed a little. He went on to talk about the bases. He said: . . there is no doubt in our minds that details of the techniques employed, and of the data being analysed and tested in the stations, must be kept highly secret if the two installations are to continue to serve their objectives. At the same time I wish to announce that the Government has decided that members of this Parliament must have access to the two installations . . .
That was the first time there was some democratic approach to this issue. If the Government shrouds things in secrecy, if it casts them in the mould of something that is privileged to itself then it is weakening the maturity of the Australian nation and weakening the alliance. I make that point because on 8 March 1973 in the Senate the then Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Willesee, referred to the fact that when in opposition Labor was always denied information. He said that this created problems. He said:
The relationship we seek with the United States is one based on maturity and mutual recognition that each is equally an independent and sovereign state. If this is novel it is because for too long Australia has been understood to be an acquiescent, often subservient, partner.
That is the point. We can give strength to the United States if we can deal with the issues by having intelligent discussions here about them. That was the whole thrust of what Labor was about between 1972 and 1975. When Barnard went to the United States in 1974 to discuss matters with Schlesinger, it was on the proper basis that we were an ally of the United States and we were able to assist in this matter. It is vitally important that we look carefully at what we are doing because, by accepting these bases of strategic significance in Australia we to some extent tie ourselves to United States policy. Therefore we have a special right to consultation and access to such information concerning American strategic policy and plans as may in any way affect our position. The Barnard and Schlesinger communique of January 1974 confirmed that there had been agreement on this right to consultation.
Looking to events since the Labor Government there has not necessarily been consultation within the Department of Defence. The Minister has not always known what has happened. I draw attention again to the disastrous issue before the Parliament last year about what was happening at one of the bases. The Minister did not know what was happening because he was not told, while the Department knew. Because the Minister’s own officers had bungled the situation the Minister had to cop the blame for it. That is no way to run our alliance with the United States. As the United States has said, our Defence Department did not even demonstrate the capacity to recognise that it had been consulted by the United States. That did not help the alliance. Our ally was not impressed by this bumble-footed behaviour. In fact the United States expressed considerable anger at the Fraser Government’s performance. That is the real issue. In future a Labor Government will ensure that these consultations do not become the private travel grant scheme of some small coterie of Australian officials. We will ensure that the consultations reach ministerial and political levels with greater frequency and seriousness.
Discussions should not be privileged only to this Government. It is very important that we know what is happening about SALT I and SALT 2. We have to talk, for example, about the strategic significance of using submarines with merely a deterrent capacity as against the new concept of the Trident submarine which may have an active aggressive capacity. They are the issues we want to know about. As Senator Wriedt has pointed out, much information about North West Cape was disclosed before a Senate Committee hearing in the United States but we knew nothing about it. The Labor Party approves of effective arrangements. We approve of nonproliferation of nuclear weapons. We approve of world peace. The way to achieve it is by open government, not by secrecy.
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Today’s debate has been provoked by an incredible address by the Opposition’s shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Wriedt, entitled ‘Implications of the United States Bases in Australia’ to an organisation known as the Association for International Co-operation and Disarmament, New South Wales, at a one-day seminar held on Sunday, 20 May last. For the benefit of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen) I will not quote from the Press reports. I will quote verbatim from the speech of Senator Wriedt, as indeed did my colleague the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) in his opening address.
The debate is brought about by a speech which at the very best was shockingly expressed and which at the worst was a studied, deliberate and calculated insult to the United States of America. It was a speech correctly described yesterday by the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) in this House as the speech of a man who had entered a highly dangerous field. The Minister for Defence called upon the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) to make a clear statement on the position of the Labor Party in respect of this matter. What have we heard? From the Leader of the Opposition we have heard thundering silence. But the Deputy Leader of the Opposition came into the Parliament this afternoon and compounded the felony because in essence he supported everything that Senator Wriedt put in his speech to the seminar last Sunday.
I have read Senator Wriedt ‘s speech very carefully and I want to say quite frankly that the only group in the world that I think would applaud that speech is the Soviet Union and its surrogates. There is certainly nothing in that speech which would bring any applause from any Australian, any American or any member of the free world. But above all, as the honourable member for Lilley has pointed out, it demonstrates more dramatically than anything else I have seen for a long time the pronounced swing to the left in Australian Labor Party foreign policy. It indicates in two very short basic points what a future Labor Government would do in relation to United States bases in Australia. First and foremost, Senator Wriedt is saying on behalf of the Australian Labor Party: ‘You cannot trust the United States’. Let there be no doubt about it. Anyone who reads that speech carefully, fairly and impartially will see the message: ‘You cannot trust the United States’. Secondly, he is giving clear notice that a future Labor Government in this country will in the long term seek the removal of the United States bases, particularly the three to which he specifically referred. No one can back away from that. That is exactly what Senator Wriedt is saying. The question I am about to ask Senator Wriedt through you, Mr Deputy Speaker, is: ‘If those bases are removed what other country is he suggesting should put bases in Australia?’ If they are to be removed, is he suggesting that they be replaced, for example, with bases run by the Soviet Union? Is it suggested that we do not need any bases in Australia; that Australia is able to defend itself; that we do not need allies; that we do not need the assistance of the United States?
I am dumbfounded that Senator Wriedt chose this time, barely a fortnight after the anniversary of the battle of the Coral Sea, to launch what clearly was an unprovoked and premeditated attack upon the nation which stood by Australia in World War II and which stands by Australia today. Was Senator Wriedt simply playing to the gallery? He is the official Labor Party spokesman on foreign affairs. He is the shadow Minister. The words did not sound like his. They sounded more like the words we have become used to hearing from the pro-communist left wing which has now most assuredly taken control of the Australian Labor Party in this country- the same sort of people who are in charge of the Victorian branch, which last year at its conference refused, and I repeat ‘refused’, to stand up and condemn the systematic and brutal violations of human rights in the Soviet Union. These people were not even prepared to utter one word of criticism in respect of those continuing violations of human rights in the Soviet Union. Indeed, Senator Wriedt’s speech would be applauded and supported by the pro-communist left, as it was applauded and supported by the pro-communist left wing audience to which he addressed his remarks last Sunday.
In fairness to Senator Wriedt and so that the people of Australia can be the fair judges in this matter I want to quote selections from his speech and then ask whether or not the protestations of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition have any substance when he says there is nothing wrong with what Senator Wriedt said. Senator Wriedt started his speech by referring to the specific fact that the ability of the United States to monitor Soviet compliance with the terms of SALT had been weakened as a result of actions in Iran in recent times. So he recognised that America is in a weakened position. He then went on to say:
This situation makes the United States even more dependable on its facilities at Pine Gap and Nurrungar -
I can add North West Cape. He went on to say:
In Australia, there are a number of facilities used by the United States Government, but the ones which have created most controversy -
He then referred to the three which I have just mentioned. Where has been the controversy in Australia except between those who support the aims and ambitions of the Soviet Union and those who are determined that this country will be defended? Senator Wriedt emphasised the importance of these bases and then went on to make a number of statements which can be regarded only as calculated insults to the United States, insults which have the effect of denigrating and weakening the position of the United States. He talked about secrecy. He said: the Australian public has very little knowledge about their functions.
He went on to say that their activities go far beyond the uses for which the base was originally contemplated and that the Australian Government has been kept in the dark. He continued:
There is real fear that the facilities at these bases have been substantially upgraded -
Real fear to whom? Real fear to the Soviet Union but certainly not to the people of Australia. He said: . . Australian control is extremely weak.
What an outrageous allegation to make. He then gave his former Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, a bucket, because he said that in retrospect the changes brought about by the Whitlam Government were probably less effective than originally hoped. I can go through the document chapter and verse, but the important passages appear on pages 1 1 and 12. For the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to say that Senator Wriedt was not asking for a lifting of secrecy is arrant nonsense. This is what Senator Wriedt said:
It is important that this flow of information is made available in Australia. For too long the operation of these bases has. been shrouded in secrecy and the current Government gives no indication that it intends to make any change to that process.
He went on to say: . . the Labor Party will vary its policy on overseas bases by making it clear that it will make known to the Australian public the general purposes and functions of the bases and any changes to those purposes and functions.
The Opposition says that Senator Wriedt is not wanting to lift the veil of secrecy. What did Mr Whitlam say? He said this:
This Government -
His Government- win not yield to pressure to break the American alliance, withdraw from the ANZUS Treaty or divulge secrets about American defence bases in Australia.
As the honourable member for Lilley said, once one makes these things public one does not just make them public only to the people of Australia, one makes them public to the Soviet Union and to any other nation which has territorial designs upon Australia.
The Opposition cannot escape from the fact that Senator Wriedt was saying two things in his speech, namely, that one cannot trust the United States of America and that the Opposition wants to find out more about these bases. It will make the information public and, in essence, that will cause such a stir in Australia that the pressure of the public will be such it will be able to boot the Americans out of Australia and have those bases removed in the long term. The long term objective of the Australian Labor Party is to have those bases removed. Why else would Senator Wriedt use the words ‘in the short term*? As the honourable member for Lilley said, what is meant by that? I think it is a matter of profound regret that the alternative government in this country has chosen this time to make an attack on the United States of America, barely weeks before the SALT agreement will be signed. Knowing that it will be going before the United States Senate for ratification, knowing the delicacy of the situation in relation to surveillance because of what has happened in Iran, these words of Senator Wriedt were contrary to the interests of Australia and highly insulting to the United States.
I ask my colleague who is about to follow me this question: If he wants to see the United States bases removed from this country which country does he nominate to put in bases? The only country to gain by the removal of the United States bases from Australia is the Soviet Union and its satellites. If he wants to assist the Soviet Union I will be bitterly disappointed in him. I will be bitterly disappointed in the Australian Labor Party. I would hope that the Leader of the Opposition would repudiate what Senator Wriedt has said and repudiate the remarks of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition who compounded the felony. He did not come in and say that there had been a misunderstanding, he backed Senator Wriedt right up to the hilt. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition’s speech will also be applauded by the Soviet Union. But surely his interests in the national security of Australia are such that he can now recognise that that speech was a disaster and ought to be repudiated by all decent thinking people in Australia.
– Every time I listen to the honourable member ibr Denison (Mr Hodgman) I keep reminding myself that I wish that before he lets out the clutch on his mouth he would put his brain into gear. What we heard today was the greatest heap of rhetoric that has been heard in this place in the 10 years that I have been in Parliament. I have not heard an argument before in this place based on so much emotional claptrap as that which the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) and the honourable member for Denison endeavoured to introduce into this debate today. The honourable member for Denison even had the temerity to try to put words into my mouth. I have been a member of the Australian Labor Party for 20 years and yet he is telling me what the Australian Labor Party policy is on bases. If he comes to see me later I will give him a copy of our policy and he can find out for himself. However, it is certainly not for (he removal of the bases. Senator Wriedt did not say that at any time. All that he said was that the only recommendation involving policy change that is under consideration is simply that we would wish the general purposes and functions of the bases and any changes to those purposes and functions be made known to the Australian public. Any reasonable Australian would say that that is a fair enough proposition. I repeat the words that Senator Wriedt used, ‘the general purposes and functions’.
My criticism of defence in this country and of the bureaucracy that surrounds defence is its obsession with secrecy. Everything is secret. In recent months I have had the opportunity to have close dealings with the Defence Department through the Joint Committee on Public Works and this obsession with secrecy comes through all the time. If the honourable member for Denison or anybody else wants to know about those bases in Australia, I will tell them where to go. All they have to do is read the record of evidence given to the American Senate Armed Services Committee before which LieutenantGeneral Lee Paschall, Director of the Defence Communications Agency gave testimony.
The Government is carrying on about this whole matter of the Australian people not being able to know. That is what the Government is saying. It does not trust its fellow Australians. Government members are saying that the Government should breed people like mushrooms, keep them in the dark, and all the rest of it. That is not good enough for the Australian community. It is good enough for the American community to know. The irony here is that we are told that this knowledge is a great threat to American security. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen) told us that he is going to America shortly. He will find out, as I did when I was there only a year ago, that what I have said is true. The matter is debated openly in the American community. It was a matter for Congress to talk about, and it does talk about it. The American approach towards defence is not like that of the small-minded people who unfortunately have been in power for too many years since 1970. No thinking Australian could dispute the approach of Senator Wriedt and the Labor Party.
Today Government speakers took me back to the time, before I became a member of Parliament, when I was standing on the streets of Melbourne protesting about Australia’s involvement in the war in Vietnam. I was urging the Americans to see sense on that issue. I was not popular with my fellow Australians at that time and I was not very popular in 1969 when I first stood for Parliament. But in 1972 the Australian community finally realised that it had been hoodwinked, with 400 of its sons having been killed in that far-away land. Surely that is not the sort of thing that the Australian community would tolerate. That is going back to the days of the red arrows on a map thrusting down on us. That belongs to the Menzies era. That honourable gentleman has now passed on, but there are those on the other side of this chamber who are so conservative that they think that by reverting to the tactics of the late Sir Robert Menzies they can regain the support of this country.
The Government has lost the support of the Australian community and if it continues with its excessive secrecy it will lose the community’s support altogether. I think the Deputy Leader of the Opposition led a very good defence- not that defence is really needed- of the actions of the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate. What Senator Wriedt said was cold, hard, sound common sense which is of course anathema to those who want to kick the communist can to satisfy their own political ends. Criticism was made of Senator Wriedt speaking to the Australian Congress for International Co-operation and Disarmament. If Senator Wriedt is to speak only to those to whom he is favourably disposed or to those who are favourably disposed towards him his behaviour will become as incestuous as that of the present Government and its Ministers; he will only talk to his sycophants. Thank goodness Senator Wriedt is a man of broader vision and is prepared to discuss any matter with those who have an opposing view. It is quite wrong for people to be critical of any politician in this country for speaking to any group at all. To be critical of that is a clear indication of the Santamaria line which is embraced by the two honourable members on the Government side who have spoken in this debate. I have heard such views from them for years and years. They are still saying those things except that there are now fewer and fewer people in the community who are prepared to place any credence on what they say. Senator Wriedt is showing the way by putting his views to opposing parties. The Department of Defence has a mania for secrecy. I have a suspicion that that starts right at the top. I believe that not even Government members are told what happens within that Department.
Whilst attending public hearings on construction works to be carried out by the Department of Defence, I have had the opportunity to speak to Army officers. I am not speaking about first lieutenants; I am speaking about Army officers of a very high rank. I have had an opportunity to speak with these gentlemen in most convivial surroundings over a cup of coffee
-Coffee all the time?
-Not all the time. Sometimes it was tea. In the course of those conversations, I was astounded at some of the things that I was told. I am noted for being able to keep a confidence and these gentlemen recognised that fact. What I heard really astounded me. I am sorry that I am so good at keeping confidences. If I were to break those confidences, I would lift the lid off the whole of the Department of Defence in Australia. I think that that needs doing. The Minister acquiesces to the sort of secrecy that we are talking about. I know from what I heard today from the two back bench members of the Liberal Party that that is now a general view of the Liberal Party because nobody on that side denied what they said. So, the Liberal Party holds the view that the Australian community is not to be trusted with knowledge relating to the defence of its own land. People thousands of kilometres away across the Pacific Ocean can stand up in public and talk about affairs relating to the defence of Australia. However, the Liberal Party says: ‘We must not let the Australian people do that because we cannot trust them’. Well, for the information of the Liberal Party members in this House, I say that the Labor Party does trust the people in the community- and that is disregarding what happened in 1975. The Labor Party trusts the people in the community and it will so far as is possible.
For those honourable members to talk about the Opposition offering total disclosure about the bases is a complete fabrication. It is a figment of their imagination and has no basis in fact. Senator Wriedt never said that; the Labor Party has never said that. What Senator Wriedt said was that the information regarding the general purposes and functions of these bases should be made available to the public. If the purpose of the North West Cape base, for example, is to monitor and guide submarines, so be it. I can tell this House of another place to go to find out what those bases are all about. Next time any honourable member goes to Moscow, he should call in to the Kremlin. People there will tell them what these bases are all about. The Government is trying to kid itself when it starts talking about the enormous veil of secrecy that it is putting over the place. Trust the Australian community. I do, and the Labor Party does. Senator Wriedt has shown the way. He has shown that the Labor Party is prepared to take the Australian community into its confidence and to advise it- and I repeat the words used by Senator Wriedt because they are most important- ‘the general purposes and functions of the bases and any changes to those purposes and functions’. So, if a communications base which has the general purpose and function of a communications base ceases to be a communications base and becomes something else, the Australian people ought to be told that it is no longer a communications base and, for example, that it is now part of a navigation system.
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. The discussion is concluded.
Debate resumed from 22 May, on motion by Mr Viner:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Mr Young had moved by way of amendment:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: the Bill be withdrawn and re-drafted to incorporate-
specific reasoning for termination of employment; and
a comprehensive appeal system relating to termination of employment and redeployment’.
-The Commonwealth Employees (Redeployment and Retirement) Bill 1979 is important to the maintenance of efficiency in and the economical operation of staff within the Australian Public Service. The Bill introduces two new concepts. First, it places an onus on management within the Public Service to seek to redeploy staff wherever possible as a primary obligation. It provides more satisfactory and extensive safeguards and appeal rights for such staff. In addition, the Bill introduces another new important new concept in the form of a new condition of employment, that is, the right to retire voluntarily on an appropriately reducing pension from the age of 55 onwards as opposed to the current retirement age requirement of 60 years of age.
Furthermore, the Bill provides for identification and declaration by a permanent head or a prescribed statutory authority of staff eligible for redeployment, where their services cannot effectively be used within the Public Service or agency concerned for the following reasons: They are basically excess to the requirements of that particular department or authority; they are incapacitated in some way, perhaps physically or mentally incapable of performing their duties to the standard required; or for a number of prescribed reasons- I emphasise the word prescribed’- such as efficiency or loss of essential qualifications necessary for them to conduct their work. Furthermore, the Bill provides for retirements by the permanent head or prescribed statutory authority where the Public Service Board has certified that it is not possible for that person to be suitably redeployed.
I point out that permanent heads and prescribed statutory authorities have a direct responsibility, not the Minister or the Government- for the efficiency and economic use of staff. That responsibility, of course, should be taken for granted in that the Commonwealth Public Service is one of the largest employers in Australia. It utilises the taxpayers funds. There is a responsibility accepted, and certainly required, of government to ensure that the taxpayers funds are used as efficiently and effectively as possible. This Bill will go a long way towards providing an upgrading of the Public Service and the efficiency and effectiveness of its operations. I did note that the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) expressed concern that this Bill would remove from the public servant the security of tenure of his or her position or his or her insulation from pressures that the Government might bring to bear on his or her employment.
I must ask: Under what conditions do most people in the work force enjoy such very stringent guarantees of safety within their jobs? What right really has the Commonwealth Public Service and its servants to be totally and absolutely secure in their jobs? What rights have they to be any more secure than, perhaps, people in private industry or the self-employed person, the small business man or the small farmer? Nobody looks after them when the conditions of their employment, or the condition of the economy or of the industry that they are in requires them to be retrenched or to go out of business. It is not only a matter of security of tenure. Let us look at the wages, the salaries, the conditions and the perks that are available. The Public Service has been a pacesetter in wages and conditions, and still is to a large degree. In what area of private industry do we find comparable conditions available in regard to holiday loadings, overtime, long service leave, sick leave, maternity leave- even paternity leave when it was in operationsuperannuation, working hours and flexitime? How many people employed in private industry do we find, in the terminology of the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron), have ‘flexed off’ at various hours of the day?
Another provision of this Bill provides for voluntary retirement. One of the difficulties that the Opposition must have is to reflect the views of the rank and file membership of the Public Service unions. In my dealings with those people, they have welcomed in no small measure the provisions contained in the Bill for voluntary early retirement. Of course, this provides for such retirement to occur from 55 years of age onwards. From my experience as a public servant prior to coming into this place and from my conversations and relations with other people still in the Public Service, I know that there are many people in the Public Service, both State and Commonwealth, who are simply eking out their days, waiting to retire. Often they had been laterally promoted into positions of relative insignificance. They would be delighted to have the opportunity to retire prematurely. Many would do so.
Once the provisions of this Bill become enacted it will be found that a very large number of people within the Public Service will take that option of voluntary early retirement, for obvious reasons. They may wish simply to retire in the conventional sense of the word, to undertake their sports, hobbies, crafts or leisure time activities. Many will wish to take up opportunities for travel which possibly have been denied them throughout their working lives. This will become the case particularly as the cost of travel and the cost of air fares is reduced. Not an insignificant proportion may wish to run their own businesses. There are many people in that category whom I know of personally.
Furthermore, the Bill provides for so-called management initiated redeployment and management initiated retirement. This will apply to those members of the Public Service who are over the age of 60 or who are in excess of the requirements of the department or agency and cannot be redeployed suitably elsewhere. Let us not forget that that rider is a primary concern- a priority. Those employees who are inefficient or incapable for various reasons and those who are incapacitated or who have no means by which they can continue to hold their positions- such as the loss of a necessary qualification which I have mentioned before- and who are over the age of 55 years will not only gain the normal superannuation benefits on a pro rata sliding scale but also they will receive a special benefit amounting to two months’ salary for each year of service forgone between the age of 55 years or the age at which they were retired up to 60 years of age.
One feature that has been noticeably lacking in this debate is in regard to the opportunities that voluntary early retirement may create for increased job opportunities within the Commonwealth Public Service and, in particular, increased job opportunities for younger people. One of the difficulties in times of economic restraint is that not only Public Service organisations but also many other organisations, including academic institutions, tend to become top heavy with senior people. For example, one may well find in a university that there is a plethora of senior people- professors, readers, associate professors and senior lecturers, and very few opportunities for younger people further down the scale. Similar situations arise in the Public Service. There is one great advantage that I see which apparently the Australian Labor Party does not see or is not prepared to admit. At least, the three speakers who have spoken so fair in the debate are not prepared to admit that there are very real opportunities for additional employment for younger people. The Adelaide Advertiser of 27 November last year emphasised this point as follows:
So far as voluntary early retirement is concerned, there is the prospect, if enough avail themselves of the opportunity, of substantially increased job opportunities for young people.
Surely that is a most important and desirable aim. It is one on which the Opposition has not cared to comment and has not cared to recognise.
Furthermore, the Opposition has not cared to recognise that similar types of moves investigating the efficiency and effectiveness of the Public Service organisations and similar moves and reports looking at various measures to shake up the Public Service in the States have been undertaken by Labor governments. The most obvious is the recent New South Wales Public Service Inquiry. Much of the rhetoric expressed by members of the Opposition on this issue is not supported by some of their State colleagues or by the rank and file of many of the unions and organisations concerned. It is certainly not supported by many of the young people who would like the opportunity to have a career job within the Public Service.
In my opinion, public servants who are prepared to abide by the responsibilities of their positions and to enjoy a career in the Public Service need fear nothing from the provisions of this legislation. In fact, they should be advantaged by it in that the organisation for which they work should become more efficient and more meaningful. Let us hope that we do not see the situation arise which so commonly prevails throughout the Public Service at the moment where people are virtually biding their time, often complaining about how little they have to do. That is a very common complaint within the Public Service.
In closing, I express a little concern about a matter which I would like the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs (Mr Viner) to take on board and perhaps clarify. The situation in which management initiated retirement occurs for those persons under the age of 55 years seems to be open to some debate and conjecture. Obviously, these persons require no special benefits. Whilst it may be well acceded that this is not the intention of the legislation, nevertheless this legislation will be on the books for future governments to consider. I sympathise with some of the younger public servants who may be concerned that management initiated retirement for themthose under the age of 55 years- could lead them to be placed in a position of vulnerability so far as their careers in the Public Service are concerned.
The second point that needs some clarification is that there may be situations occurring in which excess capacity rapidly develops within a section of the Public Service as a result of changing economic circumstances or changing government policy. As an example, I cite the radical changes to Medibank. Many public servants were placed in a situation in which they were apparently redundant to the requirements of the Department of
Health or the other departments in which redeployment was attempted. In those cases very generous special benefits were provided. I would like to be reassured that where substantial or gross changes occur as a result of policy, these provisions will not be the sole binding provisions and that additional compensation or special benefits might be appropriate in those circumstances.
With the proviso of those two concerns I and my constituents hold, I support the thrust of this Bill. I believe that it is a milestone in terms of obtaining greater effectiveness and efficiency within the Public Service. It is a milestone for the Commonwealth to lead, following many other countries, in what is a most innovative and effective policy of allowing public servants the opportunity to retire voluntarily at an earlier age and so more effectively use their leisure and retirement time. Most importantly, the legislation will provide additional job opportunities for younger people within the Service. I support the Bill.
– This is bad legislation. The Opposition rejects it. We will vote against it at the second reading stage and during the Committee debate the Opposition will take the opportunity -
– Where are your supporters?
-Where are yours?
– You are speaking.
-The trouble with the honourable member for Diamond Valley is that he always approaches matters in this House in the opposite order to the usual one- with a closed mind and an open mouth. As I say, it is bad legislation. The Opposition rejects it and will vote against it. There are three main areas to which I wish to address myself. Firstly, the legislation represents bad industrial relations, although it conforms with the Government’s usual bargefooted approach in this sensitive area. It is obnoxious legislation because by design it will destroy respect within and undermine the morale of the Commonwealth Public Service. Equally disappointingly, it reflects the forfeiting of an opportunity by the Government to carry out real reform to improve the conditions of the Public Service and its efficiency. Let me deal with the first of those points, that it is bad industrial relations. In 1975, the present Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) said:
Our view is that satisfactory industrial relations depend ultimately on the attitudes of mind of people in industry.
Attitudes of mutual respect, of willingness to listen, to understand, to reason and discuss in an informed way, are essential.
Those soothing platitudes came from a man who immediately set about ‘monstering’ industrial relations once he headed the Government of this country. He embarked on a program of confrontation and provocation. His objective was to divide and disunite because he could not create and unify. Let us look at the record. In 1977- which I remind the House was some 18 months after he had stressed the urgency of a range of industrial legislative reforms- he introduced section 45D of the Trade Practices Act affecting secondary boycotts in the industrial area. A special sitting of the Senate was involved. So far, in spite of the extreme urgency with which he said this legislation was required, it has yet to be applied.
In the same year the Prime Minister legislated to establish, the Industrial Relations Bureau- the Government’s panzer unit- for assaults against unions. It has a $3m budget this year and for what? So far the only battle it has undertaken has resulted in its being routed by the court. Again a special sitting of the Senate was required because this was allegedly a critical piece of legislation designed and necessary to control the industrial situation in this country. During that same year the ‘ Commonwealth Employees (Employment Provisions) Act was passed through the Parliament, again with government fulminations and a great sense of urgency. It has yet to be proclaimed. In the same year the Conciliation and Arbitration Amendment Bill was brought through the Parliament proposing deregistration of unions. Again, it was said to be an urgent measure necessary to control industrial anarchy, as the Prime Minister put it. So far there has been no implementation of its provisions. Last year while the Australian Council, of Trade Unions was seeking to resolve an air traffic controllers dispute the Prime Minister personally was endeavouring to inflame and aggravate the situation. He proposed to bring in overseas strike breakers and to use the Royal Australian Air Force for the same purpose. Ultimately the dispute was resolved, not through any action of the Government, but in spite of the provocation of the Prime Minister. It was resolved because of the action of the ACTU and its President, Bob Hawke. This year the Government’s front, the Public Service Board, won a case against the air traffic controllers by giving incorrect evidence. That inflamed the situation, extended the dispute and it took several weeks for the matter to be resolved.
In the last Budget, the Prime Minister, who poses as a man of law and order in the community, threatened sackings within the Commonwealth Public Service if the arbitration system awarded pay increases to members of the Public Service. The trouble with the Prime Minister is that he is as confused and as uncertain on these matters as he is unreliable in the quality of the promises that he makes to the Australian community. He talks with two hats. On the one hand he says in Australia that the industrial situation is grim. On the other hand, when he is overseas he says quite different things. On 4 January when he was addressing the Economic Club in New York, he said in response to a question: the level of industrial disputes in Australia was somewhat below the level of disputes in the United States.
He went on to say:
If you take the inflationary situation, environmental rules and procedures, coupled with industrial disputes, and put these things together, Australia then stands in comparison with any country of the world and would be in a much better position than many countries.
So what he says overseas is different from what he says here. He talks with two hats and he talks through both of them wherever he is. Let me tell honourable members some of the things that we intend to do as a government. We will repeal section 45D of the Trade Practices Act. We will annul the Commonwealth Employees (Employment Provisions) Act. We will amend the conscientious objection provisions in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act to allow proper procedures to apply where conscientious objection is claimed. That is, where conscientious objection is claimed, an opportunity will be given for trade union representation to put forward an alternative case if that is appropriate. We will dismantle the Industrial Relations Bureau. Our stress will be on consultation and negotiation and through co-operation, we will achieve industrial harmony. That is a completely different focus from the one that the Prime Minister prefers. The focus which he prefers is abrasive, challenging, taunting and one of conflict. That is implicit in the Bill which is now before the House.
This Bill in the wrong hands is a charter for tyranny in the Public Service. We cannot be sure that in every case the heads of departments will not be seduced into adopting tyrannical measures should they feel that that is appropriate because of some particular attitude they have towards members of their staff. More worryingly, we cannot be sure that the Government, having in its hands this sort of authority which it can manipulate indirectly, will not resort to the imposition of some form of tyrannical intervention within the Public Service. Clauses 7, 8, 9 and 15 are a winding sheet to immobilise the creative criticism of the Public Service. Those clauses specifically, but generally the Bill, put a cost on fearlessness and a penalty on independence within the Public Service. It is potentially a tyrant’s charter if it goes into the wrong hands and there is no safeguard to prevent it falling into the wrong hands. Let us look at some of the implications of this Bill. It certainly desirably proposes optional retirement at 55 years of age and above but that is only a softener, a sweetner for the general sourness of the overall provisions of this Bill.
This Bill denies fundamentals of natural justice. For instance, it proposes authority for the determination of a class of employees as being excess to the needs of the Public Service for the particular function that that class is then performing. The basis for that declaration is in clause 7 of the Bill. Clause 7 ( 1 ) (b) (iii) of the Bill goes much further than that. In fact, it provides that a determination can be made on the basis of any prescribed reason without denning what a prescribed reason can be. We are reassured, I am told by the Public Service Board, that we can rely on regulatory authority to constrain the sort of prescription of the reason for determining that employees are effectively redundant to the requirements of the Public Service. Perhaps we can be reassured, but on our experience with this Government, one cannot help but harbour massive doubts about the way in which this sort of legislation will be administered, more especially when one recalls the way in which a similar authority was abused by the Nixon Administration to undermine the independence and political neutrality of the Public Service in the United States of America.
If the Public Service Board declares that there is no opportunity for redeployment, having determined according to these procedures that a class of employee is excessive to needs, then the employee will be required to retire. If the employee is under 55 years of age he will retire without any provision of benefits in relation to his severance. There will be a right of appeal, but the right of appeal involves the implication that another member of the Public Service is redundant to the requirements of the Public Service rather than the person or persons first described as such. So what effectively happens is that a sustained search for scapegoats is initiated. If on appeal from the person or persons first designated as redundant the appeal is successful, then the person who is then implicated- this is an essential part of the procedure- and is determined to be redundant to the requirements of the Public Service is retrenched without any right of appeal at all. That is a massive abrogation of the basic rights of people in our community. It is an abuse of natural justice. This Bill represents a depressing dirge. It will lament the departure of an independent, candid, exploratory and creative merit-based Public Service. It will put a premium on caution, conformity and silence. It will undermine- I repeat- the political neutrality of the Public Service.
One could raise many more matters to indicate the effectiveness of this legislation, but they can be saved for the Committee stage of the debate. The full impact of the criticism of this Bill has been summed up fairly successfully. An editorial in the Canberra Times of 6 April this year stated, among other things:
It would be difficult to envisage a measure better designed to undermine the foundations of the Public Service it will no longer be possible for a recruit to join the service, or any of the unnamed statutory authorities to be prescribed’ for its purpose, with any assurance of serving until retirement.
But the essentially random nature of the proposal- anyone may be ‘declared’ just because an area of work has been reduced for any reason- is likely to be punishing to morale. The incentive to specialise can only be sapped by the constant possibility that an adequate, but not necessarily superior, ‘declaree’ can be slotted into any position at the board ‘s sole whim.
The Australian bureaucracy is not beyond improvement, but this is no way to upgrade it or its management.
It is quite clear that this Bill, through its design, will undermine the confidence, the efficiency, the dedication and the impartiality of the Australian Public Service. It is bad in its concept and it will be undesirable in its impact upon the administration of the public affairs of this country. A particularly disappointing aspect of the Bill is that the Government by its narrow focus on what are fairly exclusively punitive measures against members of the Public Service, has allowed itself to forfeit the opportunity for extensive reform within the Public Service.
Let me remind honourable members that one of the most extensive investigations of the functioning of the Australian Public Service was carried out by a royal commission of inquiry chaired by Dr Coombs. As far as one can establish the findings of that inquiry have made no impact at all on the Government. We have yet to see action on the wide range of valuable, practical and beneficial recommendations that were brought forward in that report. There has been no action, for instance, on the report’s recommendations in relation to equal opportunity or equality within the Public Service. There has been no initiation of equal opportunity liaison officers in departments and statutory bodies. No office of equality in employment has been established within the Public Service Board. We would seek to respond to those propositions. We would seek to establish an office of equality in employment in the Public Service Board and to establish equal opportunity liaison officers in departments and statutory bodies. We would do so in consultation with Public Service unions., just as, in consultation with those unions, we would explore the Royal Commission findings in relation to motivation, rewards and penalties. We would genuinely seek to apply constructive reform which would improve the efficiency and job satisfaction within the Australian Public Service. We would not seek to introduce measures which allow a licence for tyranny to be taken up by any head of department so minded to do so. That is the implication of this legislation.
Similarly in relation to the Coombs Royal Commission findings concerning grievances, rights and duties, it would be our intention to explore the implications of these in association with the Public Service unions and other affected groups, bodies and people to bring about genuine reform. We would seek to establish a statutory framework concerning the rights of staff and to have that incorporated within the Public Service Act. That framework would affect things such as a clearer definition of processes for determining services for which the staff are engaged, tenure or conditions of employment, issues reflecting appeal processes, the establishment of equal opportunity and, of course, the enshrining of civil and political rights. The legislation that we are considering does none of those constructive things. It takes away rights. It diminishes the authority and independence of the Public Service. It undermines the political neutrality of the Australian Public Service.
Specifically in the area of industrial relations it would be our intention to repeal section 22 of the Public Service Arbitration Act, a section which provides for government disallowance of determinations and awards which are established by proper processes. This is an incredible provision and cannot be tolerated. It is incredible that it is allowed to exist in this legislation as a sort of club to intimidate members of the Public Service should the whim take a government, as indeed it did take the Government in the course of the last Budget. It will be recalled, as I pointed out a few minutes ago, that the Treasurer (Mr Howard ) on behalf of the Prime Minister indicated to the Australian Public Service that, should it be successful in obtaining a salary increase through proper processes of arbitration, there would be retribution against it and retrenchments would follow in the wake of a fair and just decision arrived at according to the proper processes. This is an intolerable provision in the Public Service Arbitration Act. It is unacceptable to the Labor Party. It would be repealed.
Similarly, section 66 of the Public Service Act making it illegal for public servants to be engaged in industrial action and rendering them liable to dismissal for becoming involved in such action, would be repealed. We would explore with unions the creation of statutory councils within departments and authorities. In doing so we would explore the practical ways in which staff representation could be included in any collegiate management of departments and statutory authorities. I am putting as an alternative a series of constructive, positive and practical proposals that could be adopted. The proposals would improve the efficiency and job satisfaction in the Australian Public Service and protect the political neutrality of a very important institution serving the Australian community. The proposals represent a stark contrast to the approach of the Government. The approach of the Government has consistency at least going for it- the consistency of confrontation and of intimidation.
The Bill is totally unacceptable to the Opposition. It is totally inappropriate. It will be objected to in the course of debate. It will be voted against when the opportunity presents itself. In the course of the Committee stage of the debate we will take the opportunity to move amendments designed to improve the provisions of the Bill and certainly to protect the rights of members of the Australian Public Service. This is unacceptable legislation. It is totally inappropriate legislation for any government which should claim to have a concern for the independence and the impartiality of the Public Service.
– Listening to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) one would be excused for thinking that this Bill abolishes the Public Service. In fact, on the fairest interpretation of the Bill that I can give it, it gives even more benefits to the Public Service than it had before the Bill was introduced. There are two specific areas. If the Leader of the Opposition would look at the Bill a little more closely he would see that this is the case. The first of those additional benefits is a cash payment on severence in those circumstances set out under the Bill in addition to- and I emphasise ‘in addition to’- the public servants’ rights under the Superannuation Act. The second benefit, of course, is the right of appeal to which public servants were not entitled previously. The Bill does not touch the impartiality of the Public Service. It does not touch the independence of the Public Service. It does not do any of the other dreadful things that the Leader of the Opposition sought to impute to the legislation.
Two basic principles should be borne in mind when looking at the Bill. The first of these basic principles is that no one at all doubts the importance of the Public Service and the importance of the valuable work that it does. The Public Service performs a valuable function and the public servant should have, and indeed does have, reasonable terms and conditions of employment. That is the first basic principle. The second basic principle is that public servants cannot reasonably expect to have terms and conditions of employment which are substantially better than those prevailing in private employment. By virtue of the very nature of their position, they already have permanency of employment and they will retain permanency of employment even after this Bill becomes law. Of course, in addition to permanency, as a general rule they have now terms and conditions of employment which are better than those generally prevailing in private employment.
It used to be the case that in return for permanency, which was the basic feature of Public Service employment, public servants were prepared to accept and willingly accepted the terms and conditions which in some cases were not so generous as those that could be obtained in private employment. Of course, the reason they were prepared to accept those terms and conditions was that permanency was such a valuable feature of employment. Not for the public servant were the rigours of working in an industry where his employment was subject to the whimand it was very little more than a whim- of the employer. Not for the public servant was the need to work in an area of employment that had to produce profits before the employment could continue. The public servant had permanency of employment. He had a long term career prospect. In return for that he accepted salaries and terms and conditions of employment which, in many cases, were not so generous as those which he could obtain in private employment, without permanency of employment.
Over the years the situation has evolved that the public servant by and large now has both benefits. He still has permanency of employment and will retain permanency of employment even after this Bill becomes law. In addition, he or she has terms and conditions of employment which in many ways are better than those which prevail in private employment. The honourable member for Calare (Mr MacKenzie), who spoke before me, listed some of those terms and conditions of employment. There is no need for me to repeat them. Suffice it to say that in many areas of employment in the outside world, in private employment, the general terms and conditions are not so generous as those which are presently available to the public servant.
With those general principles in mind, what does the Bill provide? For the answer to that question I refer to the statement recently issued by the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs (Mr Viner). Firstly, the Bill provides for voluntary early retirement after the age of 55. Secondly, it provides for the identification of staff who are described as being eligible for redeployment because of any of three circumstances. Those circumstances are that they are excess to requirements; that they are physically or mentally incapable of performing their duties; or any other prescribed reason ‘. Of course, we have what is now popularly known as management initiated retirement. Thirdly, the Bill provides for redeployment by the Public Service Board. Fourthly, it provides for retirement by the permanent head of the department or the prescribed statutory authority where the Public Service Board has certified that it cannot redeploy the public servant concerned.
Fifthly, the legislation introduces the right of appeal that I mentioned before. Staff have a right of appeal separately against each of the identification of eligibility for redeployment, the redeployment action taken itself, and decisions that redeployment is not practicable. So an extensive right of appeal is introduced by this legislation. It is an additional right which, of course, was not available previously to public servants and which is not, even today, available to employees in private employment. The sixth matter with which the Bill deals is the golden handshake. It provides for an additional payment over and above the payments to which the public servant is entitled under the Superannuation Act. I quote from the statement on this matter by the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs. He said:
Retirement at management initiative can take place at any age, but a special benefit applies to those retired ‘for any other prescribed reason ‘ between the ages of 55 and 60. It is the Government’s intention to pay a special benefit additional to that already provided to eligible staff under the Superannuation Act 1 976, equivalent to 2 months ‘ salary for each year of service forgone below the age of 60, ie at age 55 years 10 months’ salary ranging to 2 months’ salary at age 59 years.
They are the substantial provisions that are contained in the Bill. Bearing in mind those substantial provisions, it seems to me that three questions arise about the Bill and the Opposition’s reluctance to accept the legislation. Firstly, why is there any opposition to redeployment on the grounds that the number of employees is excess to requirements? Why is there opposition to an objection on such a rational ground? That provision can be opposed only by those who believe that the Public Service can have and should have excess numbers of employees over and above the numbers that departments need- in fact, more than they need to operate efficiently and more than they need to operate economically. That is the only basis upon which there could possibly be an objection to redeployment on that ground. Of course, that highlights the enormous difference between public employment and private employment. The reason why that is so is that in private employment a private employer or a company cannot operate if there are excess numbers of employees over and above those needed to perform the tasks required and over and above those needed to operate profitably. That is the essential difference between public employment and private employment.
The second question which arises- frankly I am lost as to any answer to this question- is: Why is there opposition to redeployment on the grounds of physical and mental incapacity? One would have thought that it is common management experience that if an employee has a physical or mental incapacity, clearly his or her employment must come to an end. Obviously one does not disregard the interests of the individual. It is expected in a civilised society that he or she must be taken care of by some form of payment or social welfare benefit. However, there is no justification whatsoever for continuing the employment of a person who is physically or mentally incapable of performing the task concerned.
The third question which arises is: Why is there Opposition to redeployment on the ground which is referred to as ‘any other prescribed reason’? Why is there this opposition to the situation which may well arise when this Bill becomes law of a department in effect saying: ‘We have numbers which are excess to requirements’ or: ‘The employee concerned does not have a licence which he needs to perform his task or he is otherwise unsuitable for employment’? Two points arise: In the limited number of cases -where this provision is implemented when the Bill becomes law it will do no more than subject the public servant to the same obligations as those that exist in private employment presently. In the first place, it will operate in very few cases. Secondly, it will do no more than subject the public servant to those exact same obligations as those to which employees in private employment are subjected.
Equally importantly, in many cases the person in private employment is subject to far more stringent restrictions than those applying in public employment. Of course, the private employer does not have to prescribe any reasons for dismissal. He does not have to make a declaration of the grounds on which he will dismiss employees in the future as the Public Service will be obliged to do under this legislation. There is no need for the private employer to do that. He is not obliged to do it. He may dismiss people for no reason at all. He may bring the relationship of employer and employee to an end for no reason other than the fact that he wants to. Of course he is subject to no burdens whatsoever other than the fact that he must give notice and he must pay out the period of notice until it expires.
There is a feature of this whole issue which has been overlooked frequently in this debate and that is that the vast majority of Australian men and women- three out of four employees- work in the private sector. They do not work for the Public Service and they are not entitled to the still generous provisions of employment that exist in public service in Australia. The ordinary men and women of Australia, the employees of Australia, whom the Labor Party pretends it represents in this place, work in relationships with their employers subject, in effect, to what on many occasions is little more than the whim of the employer. Not for them the situation where the production of the company or the employer must continue to increase to enable the employment relationship to continue. Not for the employee in private employment the protection of prescribed grounds before redeployment can be introduced or before the relationship of employer and employee comes to an end. Not for the employees in private employment this right of appeal which the public servant has. Not for them the two months’ pay for every unserved year up to age 60.
They get none of those benefits whatsoever and therein lie the two great benefits which, under this legislation, are conferred on public servants. First of all, public servants have a right of appeal. This of course is a right of appeal in effect against dismissal. It is well to bear in mind that it is a right of appeal which is not available to three out of four employees in Australia. It is a tremendous benefit which is available to members of the Commonwealth Public Service but which is not available to employees in private employment. The second very considerable benefit which employees in public employment have under this legislation is the payment of two months’ salary for every unexpired year of employment after the age of 55 years. There is no entitlement to this in private employment. There is no equivalent entitlement to it in private employment other than the obligation to give notice.
Let us just face the harsh reality of the situation. An employee in the building industry, for example, may be employed today but he may be given an hour’s notice. That is the term of his employment- one hour. He may be given an hour’s notice and thereafter be dismissed. He does not receive a cent. But one does not hear members of the Labor Party protesting in this chamber about that situation. What one hears them protesting about is a situation under which, after this cumbersome procedure in the Bill has been gone through, the public servant has his employment terminated, he gets the right of appeal, which as I say, the ordinary employee in Australia does not get and he gets a payment for two months of every unexpired year and of course he gets payments under the Superannuation Act. No private employee gets any of those benefits unless he has a specific contract with his employer. The vast majority of the ordinary workers in Australia have none of those rights whatsoever. It is extraordinary that we should have this situation here where the Labor Party is opposing this Bill, which in effect gives benefits to the public servants. Yet the Opposition does not raise any objection whatsoever to the very stringent conditions to which employees in private employment are still subject in Australia.
-This Bill is not acceptable to the Opposition. It is drafted to give the appearance of a reasonable and rational approach to unemployment problems caused by improved work methods and technology and the Government’s desire to reduce staff levels. But under the facade, there are pernicious and inequitable propositions. No doubt this is why all the major Public Service unions are opposing the Bill in its present form and are demanding that it be redrafted. This also is the position of the Opposition.
The legislation is an objectionable offspring of an earlier Bill which lapsed in 1977. The original Bill was flawed because it allowed for redeployment and redundancies without appeal and gave enormous scope for possible discrimination against individuals. So-called discussions took place between the Government, the Public Service Board and the unions. But this legislation is inherently objectionable and little better than the earlier Bill. It still excludes unions and employees from decisions affecting them on redeployment and redundancies. There is no proper notice period concerning the redeployment. Furthermore, the so-called appeals system cannot be used firstly without jeopardising the employee’s own right to possible redeployment and, secondly, without risking redeployment of another person in the same work area. Above all, I object to the provision for compulsory redundancies and the reduction of pension benefits involved. There is no requirement for departments to assume responsibility for training the younger people who may be made redundant from the Public Service. Employers throughout the nation are complaining that the national pool of skilled tradesmen is declining at the rate of 10,000 a year; yet there are no retraining provisions in this legislation.
Clause 7 sets the guidelines for redeployment. It states that each department and Commonwealth authority must make efficient and economical use of the persons whom they employ. That is a vague definition by any standards. Who makes the determination? What are the criteria? The answer perhaps lies in Clause 9 which states that the permanent head of the department is responsible for the efficient and economical use of persons in his department. Thus the top level bureaucrats have control over future staff levels, the use of new technology, computerisation and so on. As the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association says, ‘No review of, or appeal from, their assessment is provided for’. The assessments need not be upon parliamentary scrutiny. They may take account of an unstated government policy, for example, the policy to begin wholesale contracting out of functions previously carried out by departments or authorities.
As outlined in clause 8, the Public Service Board is to provide the link between the redeployment provisions of clause 7 and the legislative responsibility of department heads, as set out in clause 9. Under these provisions, the Public Service Board is given the authority to set out the administrative procedures to be followed by departments in implementing redeployment and redundancy provisions. It will be the Public Service Board that specifies the criteria which will determine whether employees’ services cannot be reasonably used. The Public Service Board will be the authority which orchestrates efficiency procedures.
I share the objections of the Public Service unions to clause 7 (b) (iti) which provides that a person may be redeployed or made redundant, since clause 19 would also then apply, ‘for any other prescribed reason’. An assurance that this provision would be invoked only in consultation with the unions and for reasons such as loss of a driver’s licence and so on cannot be accepted. The provision must be removed. It is too vague. It is too dangerous. The whole Bill is too vague. Surely we are entitled to the use of explicit English language when employment and future careers of workers are at stake.
I make this one proviso: I cannot accept any view from the Public Service unions which might enshrine permanent heads or First Division public servants as being above or superior to elected government. There is certainly a necessity to redeploy people who are either working to frustrate government policy or who are deliberately tendering incorrect advice because their interpretation of objectives does not coincide with government policy. An elected government is entitled to expect that its top public servants will cooperate in implementing policies to which it is committed. A future Labor government is entitled to have a head of, say, Treasury or Trade and Resources who will accept Labor views. If we wanted to implement, for example, a capital gains tax or a resources tax or to set up a future Australian national oil corporation, we would expect the same Public Service to co-operate, just as the present head of Treasury co-operates with this Government’s attacks on workers’ wages and its monetarist line. Let there be no argument about the obvious right of an elected government to permanent heads who will administer and not sabotage government aims.
Clause 10 requires that an employee shall be served notice of” redeployment, but it does not stipulate the length of notice. I refer the Minister to similar legislation in the United States which provides between 30 and 90 days notice to employees who are redeployable. Australian public servants should be given similar time to consider their attitude, particularly with regard to the repressive appeals section. There are appeals of sorts allowed to individuals, but there is no appeal questioning the wisdom of the decision to redeploy or to retrench workers from a department. The recent confrontation with and lack of foresight shown by the management of the Australian Telecommunications Commission and the Australian Postal Commission in the implementation of new technology and the draconian treatment of staff may be an example of future events in the Public Service. For instance, the manner in which Australia Post has refused to pay its staff for any work performed after staff have refused to undertake a minor duty is disgraceful and possibly illegal.
The tragedy is that in industrial relations public departments ought to act as models to the work force and the rest of the nation. Unfortunately, their track record is so bad- under this Government at least- that no one can blame public servants for being uncertain of the intentions of top level Public Service bureaucrats.
Whilst the instigation of an appeal system is to be applauded, the proposed legislation renders it virtually unusable. It prevents non-options. Let me make a closer examination. Under clause IS, an appeal against a redeployment declaration can result in, firstly, a redeployment declaration being revoked, confirmed or revoked at the expense of another person’s job. In clause 14, the mechanism supposedly established to protect an employee against unfair redeployment works against the appellant to the extent that it could lead to the sack. The clause provides that the Public Service Board will issue certificates for redeployment only if the employee waives the right of appeal, if the appeal is heard and the declaration upheld, or if the appeal is withdrawn. This means, of course, that while an appeal is under way vacancies elsewhere could be filled. The individual faces retrenchment if the appeal’ is unsuccessful because the Public Service Board has the right to retire someone if there are no vacancies elsewhere.
Under such conditions who would risk an appeal and relinquish his place on the redeployment list? As the Australian Clerical Officers Association and the Council of Australian Government Employee Organisations have pointed out, there is a positive disincentive not to appeal. Similarly, who would want to appeal when it may be at the cost of a colleague’s job? The situation is baldly stated in clause IS (6). This arises from clause 15(5) which provides that if an employee is identified as being in an over-supplied area his or her colleagues could become party to the appeal. As a consequence of this, the colleagues could become declared employees with no right of appeal. The Minister stated that this is desirable to prevent an interminable number of appeals. There is no provision to appeal against the original decision that there is an excess of staff.
The whole proposal is an iniquitous piece of work. The day after the Minister made his second reading speech a report in the Canberra Times stated:
When is a right to appeal not a right to appeal? Perhaps when its success leads automatically to a work mate ‘s conviction with no right of appeal . . . anyone ‘declared ‘ for redeployment is granted a titular right of appeal that in fact is a farce. In the event of any appeal against redeployment on grounds of excess numbers being successful, the appellate tribunal is empowered to itself ‘declare’ some other person from the same work area. In other words, it is impossible to appeal without brandishing a sword of Damocles over the heads of one’s work mates.
That is the position. This Bill must be withdrawn and redrafted to give decent procedures with regard to appeals against redundancies and redeployment in the Public Service. Has there ever been such a mechanism designed to ensure its inoperation? It is a farce with sinister overtones in the best 1984 tradition. If an employee appeals, he risks cutting his own throat or those of his colleagues.
I turn to some of the arguments put forward by the honourable member for Diamond Valley (Mr N. A. Brown). Unfortunately, he would have the House believe as he would have many other people in the nation believe that the public servants of Australia enjoy working conditions and superannuation benefits far and above those which other members of the work force enjoy. Although the figures I have are for 1977, 1 am sure that they will make the point succinctly. In 1977, 27 people in the First Division of the Public Service earned between $39,474 and $44,65 1 per annum.
– Not bad.
-That is pretty good-for 27 people. In the Second Division, 1,247 people earned between $25,241 and $37,064 per annum. The vast majority of public servants are employed in the Third and Fourth Divisions. In those divisions, 1 10,000 people earned between $7,309 and $21,578. The majority earn under $12,000 a year. Only 6,206 earned over$14,748. That was the position in the Public Service in 1977. Of course, public servants have received only indexation increases since then. I agree that the superannuation benefits are generous. So they ought to be. An employee receives 50 per cent of his salary on retirement plus his contributions with interest. Rather than attack the men and women who enjoy those benefits in the Australian Public Service, honourable members opposite ought to aim for a national superannuation scheme in the future which would allow ordinary men and women to retire on at least 50 per cent of their earnings or the national average wage. I see nothing wrong in that. The increased consumer power created would probably wipe out most of the unemployment prevalent in today’s society. I will not cop under any circumstances any attacks on the conditions of workers in the Public Service.
I now refer to clause 19 which deals with the euphemism which the Government calls management initiated retirement and which I call the sack or redundancy. Let us see what was the attitude of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in 1977. 1 have a copy of a letter that he wrote to Mr Gradwell who was then Federal Secretary of the Council of Australian Government Employee Organisations. In answer to a question to the Prime Minister regarding his attitude towards retrenchment in the Public Service, the Prime Minister said:
It has been our express policy to avoid retrenchments and this will continue . . . Overall staffing levels will be determined in the light of need. Although there may be both increases and decreases in particular areas of administration as work loads vary, the initial process of streamlining has now been substantially completed and in general there will be stability in the service.
Nothing could be more calculated to destroy stability in the Public Service than this legislation. So much for the Prime Minister’s promises!
I now refer to the redundancy provisions which the honourable member for Diamond Valley was so keen to laud. Members between the age of 55 and 60 years are supposed to get a special benefit of two months’ pay for every year before the age of 60 years that they are retired. That lump sum can be commuted to a 7.7 per cent increase in pension. The question is: Will they all be eligible? I see that the honourable member for Diamond Valley is not in the chamber. I wish that he were. In his second reading speech, the Minister said:
Finally it enables the payment of a special benefit to those who are retired between the ages of SS and 60 for reasons other than excess to requirements or ill health.
The vast majority of people between the age of 55 and 60 who are retired because they are excess to requirements will not be eligible for the golden handshake. Only those employees who are put out for any other prescribed reason under clause 7 (1) (b) (iii) would be eligible for the payment. That simply means that the competent people will not get a golden handshake. It will be those employees who are inefficient and who are put out for any other prescribed reason who will get the golden handshake. That is the most stupid piece of redundancy legislation that I have ever heard of in all my experience in industrial affairs. Obviously, the Government had better do something about that aspect. It should talk with the unions to see whether it can iron out the problems. As the legislation stands at the moment, it certainly does not provide a golden handshake, despite what the honourable member for Diamond Valley has said.
Let us look at how the legislation compares with severance pay arrangements that have been negotiated in the private sector of the community and which Government members wish to condemn. I can personally vouch for the fact that several years ago, members of the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia who were between the ages of 60 and 65 were paid out of the industry with a payment of 70 per cent of the wages they would have earned if they had stayed in the industry until they reached 65 years of age. In other cases the redundancy arrangement equalled the payment of salary on three weeks notice plus three weeks salary for every year of service which meant that a person with 30 years service would have received a payment equal to 93 weeks salary. I ask honourable members to compare that arrangement with the arrangement whereby people will be put out of the Public Service under this legislation. A public servant with 35 years service would get only 42 or 43 weeks pay even if he is eligible for the payment. In order to be eligible for it, he would have to be retired under clause 7 ( 1 ) (b) (iii).
Now let me deal with the position of those people under 55 years and in respect of whom there are no special redundancy incentives at all- none whatsoever. It is true that if employees were in excess of staff requirements and were permanent employees, they could be retrenched under determination 509 and be eligible to receive 6 months notice if they have less than 20 years service or 12 months notice if they have over 20 years service. If they were lucky enough to be permanent employees they would be eligible for a reduced payment from the superannuation funds- I must stress that many people in the semi-skilled occupations in the Public Service are not eligible. Regarding those eligible, a person 45 years of age with 25 years service could be put out with a magnificent pension equal to 18 per cent of his salary. Similarly a person aged 40 years with 25 years working life in front of him and 20 years service would get a pension equal to 9 per cent of his salary. A person aged 36 with 20 years service- admittedly such a person would have had to join the Service at a very young age, but that is possible- would go out on a pension equal to 1.8 per cent of his salary. That is magnificent! They would be fat cats for certain. There is no doubt that in the eyes of Government members they would be fat cats. What will they do when they receive retrenchment notices in the present situation when 450,000 people are unemployed? A prime point I make is that many employees under 55 years would be ineligible for benefits under either of those two provisionsdetermination 509 or the reduced pension. What will be the position of the 300 or so people in Medibank in New South Wales last week whom I understand received their retrenchment notices? How many of those people will get the reduced pensions about which the Minister speaks? How many of them will get the benefits which apply to retirement under determination 509? I ask the Minister to answer that question.
I conclude my remarks on this iniquitous Bill by echoing the words of the shadow Minister, the honourable member for Port Adelaide, in demanding that the Bill be withdrawn and redrafted so that the real needs of the men and women in the Commonwealth Public Service can be taken into account.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I am glad that the members of the Australian Labor Party have taken their stand on this Bill. I will inform all those public servants who are about 55 years of age and who have been asking especially for provisions to enable them to retire of the position. They have written to me and said that they want this Bill passed. I will now be telling them that the Labor Party completely opposes it. I am extremely surprised that the Opposition should take this attitude in view of the number of public servants who have asked for this Bill to be passed because they believe that it will benefit and help them. The Labor Party has taken its point of view at its own peril. The people now know where the Opposition stands on this matter.
– I thank the honourable member for Holt (Mr Yates) for making the point that he, like all members on the Government side of the House, can tell public servants that the Opposition would deny them the very real rights that will be provided to them under the Commonwealth Employees (Redeployment and Retirement) Bill by way of voluntary retirement and the real protection which this Bill will give to them in contrast to the existing provisions of the Public Service Act in a case of redundancy.
Much has been said in the course of this debate. I will deal with some of these points raised in my reply and I will reply at greater length than I would normally, in a second reading debate because of the remarks made by members of the Opposition. During the Committee stage, when I understand that the Opposition will be moving some amendments of course I will be able to deal with some of the specific matters which the Opposition raises on individual clauses.
I wish at the outset to congratulate those speakers on the Government side of the House for their very real contributions to this debate. I invite every public servant who is concerned about the provisions of this Bill to read the contributions made by those Government members. They will see that the contributions are reasoned, moderate in their expression, rational and above all accurate. If public servants who quite properly are concerned at the impact of this legislation on their future career take the time to read those speeches, I think that all their fears will be removed. I invite them to contrast those speeches made by Government members with those of the Opposition- the exaggeration, the intemperateness, the inaccuracy and the irrationality which came from the Opposition speakers not the least being the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden).
Having said that, let me take up a few of the points raised. There was a criticism that there has been a lack of consultation with the Public Service associations. Let me run through quickly the extent of consultation since 1976. It is as far back as that that we find the origins of this Bill. Firstly, on 13 September 1976 in Canberra the parties involved in consultation were the Department of the Prime Minister and of Cabinet, the Public Service Board and the Council of Australian Government Employee Organisations. On 4 November 1976 in Melbourne the Board, CAGEO, the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the Australian Council of Salaried and Professional Associations and the Council of Professional Associations were involved in discussions. A Bill, which was the forerunner of the present Bill, was introduced into this House on 8 December 1976. It was allowed to lie on the table and with the dissolution of Parliament in 1977 it lapsed. Further consultation occurred on 2 February 1977 in Melbourne between the Board, CAGEO, the ACTU, ACSPA and the CPA. Again on 29 November 1978 in Canberra the Board, CAGEO and the CPA were involved in consultations. At that time the ACTU notified that CAGEO would be representing its views. On 24 January 1979 in Canberra discussions were held between the Board, CAGEO, the ACTU, ACSPA and the CPA. Those discussions and the November discussions followed my announcement in this House that the Government intended to proceed with the original Bill in a modified form particularly to take account of the concern of public servants regarding the appeal provisions. On 28 February 1979 in Melbourne discussions were held between the same parties. The Bill was introduced on 5 April 1979.
I feel quite sure that anybody seeing that record of consultation can judge the earnestness of the Government in seeking to obtain the views of the staff associations before proceeding with the legislation. It is true that CAGEO and ACSPA have expressed their opposition to the Bill, particularly the provisions dealing with management initiated retirement. Nevertheless, I am pleased to say that those organisations contributed so constructively to the discussions with the Public Service Board on the specific provisions of the Bill that the Government is quite satisfied that these provisions cover the areas of concern detailed by the staff associations. In addition to that, within the last fortnight there has been some correspondence between myself, the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association and CAGEO. So there is ample evidence of the Government’s earnestness in seeking consultation with staff associations.
The honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) sought to use this debate to attack the Government’s use of staff ceilings and I take this opportunity to make some remarks about that attack. Staff ceilings have been applied to Commonwealth employment throughout most of the 1970s including, and I emphasise this, most of the period when the Australian Labor Party held office. Let me detail some of the instructions given by the Honourable Gough Whitlam when he was the Prime Minister. In 1973-74 the Government issued a direction that growth in Public Service Act staff be kept below 5 per cent. In June 1 974 the Prime Minister of the day announced a Public Service Act growth ceiling of 2.6 percent.
In January 1975, the Labor Government of the day removed staff ceilings, but what did it do in their place? Here is the rub, as the honourable member for Holt appreciates. The then Prime Minister, having removed staff ceilings, requested departments and authorities to create maximum employment opportunities within the limits of their salary appropriations. Of course, by financial discipline the Labor Government of the day could directly control the rate of growth of Public Service staff.
The use of staff ceilings goes back as far as 1951 when the then Prime Minister, the late Sir Robert Gordon Menzies, following his great victory in 1949, introduced staff ceilings. In 1970-71, the Government of the day, as happened also throughout 1971-72 and 1972-73, applied the discipline of staff ceilings to control the growth of the Commonwealth Public Service. Therefore, the complaints of the honourable member for Port Adelaide on behalf of the Opposition fall on barren ground. As I speak, I notice the stony silence of the Opposition. Whilst this Government has applied staff ceilings in this way, it has been anxious to provide the staff resources where the need has been apparent. I need only mention my own responsibility, the Commonwealth Employment Service. Having accepted the recommendations of the Norgard inquiry and as part of the modernisation and upgrading of the Commonwealth Employment Service, the Government has increased the staff. Further, in the Department of Social Security, the staff has been increased by more than 23 per cent since this Government came into office. There are a number of other examples where, notwithstanding staff ceilings, this Government has allowed the staff ceilings to be penetrated in the interests of equipping departments with the necessary staff to provide services to the public. At the same time, however, we have required the Public Service to use its existing staff in a most efficient and economical manner by indentifying areas of high priority in contrast to those of low priority and by redeploying staff to the greater benefit of the individual and the departments as a whole.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting I was directing my comments to remarks made by the Opposition concerning the application of” staff ceilings. I believe I have effectively answered those comments. I would conclude by referring to an accusation made by the Opposition that the Government applied staff ceilings arbitrarily and across the board. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the procedures currently in force are that the Public Service Board obtains forward staffing estimates from departments and authorities. It examines them and discusses them with the departments within a framework laid down by the Government. After an assessment of what is practicable, the Public Service Board assesses the areas of greater and lesser need in the light of departmental responses and then makes recommendations to the Government on the level of staff ceilings. Rather than across the board reductions, the outcome is one in which some departments and authorities get significant increases in staff while others with static or declining workloads or with scope for increasing efficiency may have to do with fewer staff. I have no doubt that through the policies of this Government in the way in which staff ceilings have been applied, though we have a leaner Public Service than was the case when we came into office at the end of 1 975, Australia now has a much more efficient Public Service as a consequence of our rational staff ceiling policy. Enough then on the accusations against the Government regarding staff ceilings.
The Opposition has moved an amendment to the motion for the second reading which effectively seeks that the Bill be withdrawn and redrafted. The Government will oppose that amendment because we are quite satisfied that the provisions of this Bill drawn up, as I have indicated earlier, after exhaustive consultation with the staff associations, are adequate for the purposes of the Government and are fair and just in their application to public servants. The Opposition seeks that the Bill be withdrawn and redrafted to incorporate specific reasoning for termination of employment. I think any study of the Bill will show that the reasons why employment may be terminated, if there is an inability to redeploy, are fairly stated in the Bill and will be in the regulations under the Bill.
The Opposition also seeks withdrawal and redrafting so that a comprehensive appeal system relating to termination of employment and redeployment may be provided. The Government is satisfied that the appeal provisions in the Bill are comprehensive and are fair and just in their application and will protect the individuals affected by any action to redeploy or terminate. In fact, there is no provision for appeal under sections 20, 67 and 85 of the existing Public Service Act, which do operate in this area of redeployment and termination of employment. If the Opposition believed that the present Bill was as bad as they say it is they would have the Public Service go back to the existing provisions of the Public Service Act in which there is no right of appeal at all. Indeed, the procedures are rather summary. I am quite sure that any fair comparative study of the existing provisions of the Public Service Act and the provisions of this special Bill will show that this Bill is much more effective and fair in its operation than the Public Service Act now is.
The Opposition sought to argue that this Bill is tyrannical, inequitable and unfair, and that it is something unique and of evil design by this
Government. I would refer the House to the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Australian Government Administration. I do that for two purposes. The first is to show what is the truth and the second is to show up the Leader of the Opposition and the Shadow Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs in the arguments they used seeking to gain support for their comments from the recommendations of the royal commission. I refer the House to recommendation 178. 1 will take the time of the House to read that recommendation in full. The recommendation reads as follows:
We recommend that the power to diagnose any excess of staff and to identify and take action regarding particular redundant officers under section 20-
That is one of the sections of the Public Service Act which I referred to a moment ago. The recommendation continues- be delegated to departmental management The AuditorGeneral and the Public Service Board should aid departments in such diagnosis. However departments should only have power to retire such staff provisionally. The department should certify that no suitable alternative employment exists within the department. Before retirement is confirmed, the Public Service Board should see if there is any suitable alternative employment for the officer available within the Service. When an officer is judged redundant because of an assessment of relative worth or efficiency, appeal should be allowed through the promotions appeal committee procedures.
Bear that in mind, Mr Deputy Speaker, against the kind of remarks that were made about the provisions in the Bill now before the House dealing with excessive staff. You will recall that the Opposition argued as if the provision in the Bill dealing with excessive staff was some kind of tyrannical exercise of power by the Government. Well, there it is. The royal commission itself recommended that there be specific procedures in relation to that situation. It furthermore recommended specific procedures regarding redundancy. The Opposition has referred to the phrase ‘management initiated retirement’ as a euphemism for sacking, termination, redundancy or whatever, but there it is. Recommendation 1 78 by the royal commission covered precisely the area covered by the Bill now before the House.
The House will note that the recommendation also mentions an appeal being allowed through the promotions appeal committee procedures. This Bill provides for appeal procedures by way of a tripartite appeal tribunal, that is, made up of employers, management and a third person, in very much the same way as promotions appeal committees are made up on a tripartite basis and through procedures which are well known to the Public Service. It was the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes) who made great play on the notion of mate-ship within the Public Service. Undoubtedly the notion of mate-ship is there as it is in many parts of Australian society. If the honourable gentleman has been involved in promotions appeals within the Public Service as I have representing appellants before such committees or appeal tribunals, he will realise that the appeal is with one member of the Public Service seeking to gain an advantage over another member of the Public Service, or the one who is appealing is challenging the promotion that has been given to a particular public servant. Of course, the appeal procedures provided for in this Bill are, in principle, of the same kind. So much for that accusation by the Opposition. The Opposition also sought to make great play -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The honourable gentleman’s time has expired.
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Young’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker-Mr P. C. Millar)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the GovernorGeneral recommending appropriation announced.
Clauses 1 to 6- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 7 (Objects of Part).
– I move:
Clause 7, page 5, line 1 1, omit sub-paragraph (iii), substitute the following sub-paragraph:
for the reason that he no longer possesses the essential educational or legal qualifications for his duties’.
The essence of the whole debate on this Bill, is whether or not the Government gathers to itself the powers to dismiss people for reasons which are not stated in the Bill and without allowing its actions to be subject to the scrutiny of this Parliament. Most of the attention of speakers on both sides of the Chamber has been given over to clause 7 (b) (iii). It has been the subject of the last few hours of debate that we have had on this matter. I have been quite astounded by the contributions of some of the people who have spoken for the Government. The honourable member for Barker (Mr Porter) perhaps gets the prize by saying that he has a lot of public servants who come to see him and tell him that they have nothing to do and that they are bored because they have nothing to do, and the fact that they have nothing to do is having a bad influence on those people who are being fully utilised. He did not state from which departments these people came or in which cities they worked. It was quite noticeable throughout the whole debate on the Commonwealth Employees (Redeployment and Retirement) Bill 1979 that the honourable member for Canberra (Mr Haslem), a Liberal member of this Parliament who is closer to public servants in terms of his constituents -
– I take a point of order. I draw attention to the fact that the honourable member for Port Adelaide is required to address the clause under discussion and not to get in to a farranging discussion on what other members have said in the course of the second reading debate.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Giles)-The honourable member can depend on the Chair to adjudicate on that.
-It is amazing. The Baillieus, with all their brilliant sons and daughters- some of them are in industry, some are in commerce, banking and rural industries- and we have got to get an idiot. They have got to send him to Parliament and we have got to put up with him. My God, you are rich but you are brainless.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- I suggest the honourable member does return to the clause of the Bill.
– I take another point of order. Mr Deputy Chairman, far be it for me to tell you how to conduct the proceedings of the Committee, but I suggest that it is not parliamentary to refer to another member as an idiot. The remark should be withdrawn.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- The honourable member for Port Adelaide will withdraw.
– I withdraw it. As I say, clause 7(b) (iii) covers the area which causes most of the objection by employees of the Public Service to this total Bill. Members on the Government side have put forward the view that, because they see the Bill as being so generous to those people 55 years of age and over who opt to retire, that should be sufficient for every public servant in Australia to accept the Bill in its totality. That is not the case. Perhaps the Government is aiming to build good relations with those people who will receive redundancy payments at 55 years of age and over who opt to retire. The Government wants to remember that when it is building good relations with people who opt to retire at 55 years of age they will no longer be in the Public Service. The controversy of clause 7(b) (iii) surrounds all those people who believe they have made the Public Service their career. It is no good saying to anybody aged 25, 30 or 35 years that to introduce a Bill and expect their support -
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Giles)-The honourable member for La Trobe will not get the defence or the protection of the Chair if he continues to interject regardless of what the honourable member for Port Adelaide says.
– The younger generations of people employed by the Public Service who look upon entering the Public Service as a career without being politicised to carry out the duties that are afforded them by whoever is in government in this country are not going to cease their objection to this legislation merely because a few of the top echelon who are reaching retirement age may be paid a redundancy payment which appears attractive to those aged 55 years and over. I am astounded by what the Minister said in defence of the efficiency in which the Government has been running the Public Service. He also tried to answer the allegations that I have made regarding the number of people who have been affected by staff ceilings. He said that it was just not true and that what this Government has done has been no different to what previous governments have done. He did not answer the figures which I gave. In the last year of the Whitlam Administration 3,226 school leavers were recruited as permanent appointees to the Public Service. In the first year of this Government’s term of office 1,430 people were appointed. That is a difference of 1,800 in the number of school leavers being appointed. In dealing with the Public Service, the Government is politicising the employees. The Government is giving them burdens to carry and the number of people required to carry them just cannot do so.
The honourable member for Diamond Valley (Mr N. A. Brown) and the honourable member for Barker said that public servants really should not complain about this legislation or clause 7 (b) (iii) which refers to any other prescribed reason for which they can be deployed or have their employment terminated. The honourable member for Latrobe says that they should not object. He says they should not object because if they are going to be retrenched they are going to be retrenched and that is all there is to it. They really should not complain. The vast majority of people in the Public Service are complaining in defence of their case. We listened to those speakers who put forward the Government’s point of view as to why this legislation ought to be accepted. The honourable member for Diamond Valley and the honourable member for Barker were two of the four speakers whom the Government put forward in defence of the legislation. All they wanted to do in the time they spent on their feet defending the legislation was to compare the Public Service conditions with others. In the case of the honourable member for Diamond Valley, it was the building industry. In the case of the honourable member for Barker, it was private industry generally. We on this side of the chamber say that one cannot make comparisons between those people who are attracted to work for the Government and the conditions under which people might work in the thousands and thousands of industries outside the Public Service.
One of the other suspicions we have about this Government is that it has been so untruthful in so many matters. We are going to hear another one tomorrow at 8 p.m., I understand. It has been so untruthful about so many matters that we do not really believe -
– I take a point of order. We are trying to discuss proposed sub-paragraph (iii) which states: ‘For the reason that he no longer possesses the essential educational or legal qualifications for his duties’. What has this got to do with the Government?
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Giles)-The honourable member for Holt makes a point of order. At this stage the honourable member for Port Adelaide is trying, in his reasoning, periodically to discuss the clause and his own amendment. I admit that he is somewhat away from the matter some of the time. I would ask him to return to the cant of the amendment.
– We are dealing with clause 7(b) (iii) regarding redeployment of employees, or the clause that could lead to the termination of their employment. We ask for a quite specific stipulation as when this can occur. The Government is. putting forward in its legislation that it does not have to give reasons. Sub-paragraphs (i) and (ii) of 7 (b) can be taken out altogether. If sub-paragraph (iii) is left in there- it refers to for any other prescribed reason’- that covers any reason which the Government may want to give. We have such deep suspicions about the way the Government sees the Public Service being utilised that we are not prepared to accept it. For instance, if this Government, which puts forward the view that it believes in small government, less intervention in the market place and in leaving it open for private enterprise, decided that all the major departments should have their work load reduced by a large amount or even that they should get out of the area of responsibility altogether, it can use that as the reason, not just for redeploying but for terminating the work of hundreds and hundreds of people in the Public Service.
I have answered some of the substantiating reasons that Government members are putting forward as to why the Opposition ought to accept this Bill. We said in our second reading amendment that there were good grounds put forward as to why this Government ought to go back to the drawing board and discuss with the unions involved as to the ways and means around the impasse that has been reached between the employee organisations on this clause and the Government.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Giles)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The Government does not accept this amendment. It is unnecessary and would add nothing to the Bill. I am rather perplexed because the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) has been arguing that this whole provision is so bad that the Bill ought to be withdrawn. Yet the Opposition proposes to specify certain reasons as the basis upon which action could be taken to redeploy or retire. One reason is that the employee no longer possesses the essential educational or legal qualifications for his duties. Let me remind the House of the actual provisions of clause 7 of the Bill. Paragraph (iii) refers to ‘for any other prescribed reason’, that is, reasons which will be prescribed by legislation.
The Opposition apparently does not understand that prescription by regulation comes within the provisions of the Acts Interpretation Act and therefore within the scrutiny of Parliament. The regulation is therefore capable of being disallowed if it is a bad one, that is, if it prescribes reasons which are unfair or unjust. Presumably, on the basis of the Opposition’s amendment, it would be quite in order for the Government to prescribe by regulation as a reason for action under clause 7 the fact that a person no longer possesses the essential educational or legal qualifications for his duties. Furthermore, it apparently escapes the Opposition that sub-clause (2) of clause 7 provides:
Regulations prescribing a reason for the purpose of paragraph I (b) shall not be made except after consideration by the Governor-General of a report made to the GovernorGeneral by the Public Service Board after - and I emphasise this point: . . consultation by the Public Service Board with the organizations, being organizations representing the interests of employees or a class of employees, prescribed for the purposes of this section.
In other words, the Public Service Board can act by reason of the provisions of this legislation only after it has consulted with the staff organisations. It is subject to a regulation providing for a report to the Governor-General, which regulation in turn is capable of being disallowed by Parliament. I would have thought that, by any measure, there is adequate and complete protection for individual staff members of the Australian Public Service. I remind the Opposition of the existing provisions of section 67 which is contained in Division 7 of the Public Service Act and which refers to the incapacity of officers. It provides:
If an officer appears to the Board or the Chief Officer to be inefficient or incompetent or unfit to discharge or incapable of discharging the duties of his office efficiently, the Board may, after report from the Chief Officer, and after investigation into the circumstances, retire the officer from the Service from a date to be specified by the Board, or may transfer him to some other office, with salary appropriate to such other office.
If this amendment were agreed to by the Government, section 67 would be repealed, but there would be no power under the Bill to prescribe, as a reason for action under clause 7, the inefficiency or incompetence or unfitness to discharge or incapacity of discharging the duties of the office of a particular officer. I think that I have demonstrated the absurdity of the amendment proposed by the Opposition. For that reason, as I have said, the Government will not accept it.
-Since the draft legislation of a couple of years ago was introduced, the Government has amended this clause. The original legislation contained the words ‘for any other reason’. Now the Government has inserted the phrase ‘for any other prescribed reason’. The Government states that the consultation that will go on between the parties involved will preserve the rights of the individuals or class of employees of a department who may be involved. As far as the unions are concerned, to this Government consultation means telling the unions what will happen without any attempt being made to reach a conclusion which is acceptable to both parties.
If the Government were sincere about trying to overcome the problems inherent in this Bill, it could have sat down with the unions. But the Government on this occasion- as I said yesterday in the second reading debate- has hung out the carrot at the same time in order to attract some people who may think that the retirement and redundancy payments are such that they should let all other parts of the legislation pass. That is not so. In fact, no speaker on the Government side has convinced the Opposition that all is above water with this part of the legislation. If this one line of the clause containing the words for any other prescribed reason’ had been deleted this debate would have taken a different form altogether. Honourable members say ‘All the appeals are there; all the preservations of rights for the public servants are there’. That is just not so. When the head of a department decides that he can reduce the staff numbers of a particular section no right of appeal is open to the affected group. That is the area where the appeals should commence.
Let me reiterate what every speaker on this side of the House has said. We believe in the proper redeployment of public servants. We believe in efficiency in the Public Service. We believe that some sections of this Bill go some way towards achieving that end, but we are not prepared to accept the arguments that have been put forward by other speakers or by the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs (Mr Viner) that the rights of the public servants are preserved when the Government introduces a provision into the Bill such as clause 7(b) (iii). We insist that the only way that this legislation can be made acceptable to the Opposition is for the Government to stipulate the reasons for redeployment under paragraph (iii). In that way there will be no leeway for the Government to be as untruthful with the Public Service as it has been with every other section of the community.
-The point being made by Opposition speakers is that the phrase ‘for any other prescribed reason’ should be spelt out. Once that is done, the onus will be placed on those individuals who will determine the appeals. That phrase is a far cry from the expression ‘any reasonable cause to dismiss’. As I pointed out previously in the second reading debate, the whole issue relates to individuals being dismissed not because they are incompetent, not because they are sick and not because they cannot involve themselves or proceed to another area of work; they will be dismissed notwithstanding the fact that they are efficient. If ceilings are applied in any area in any department, efficient employees can be dismised. Let me state the Opposition’s point. If an appeal is dismissed, the body doing so must surely justify its decision by saying that the individual concerned has not the capacity to perform his duties. The amendment put forward by the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) sets out the criteria upon which the appeals will be determined. Clause 15 -
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Giles)Order! I wonder whether the honourable member will let me comment on the fact that the
Opposition has amendments to clause 15 which deals with appeals.
– If you will bear with me, Mr Deputy Chairman -
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- I have now for three minutes. I ask the honourable gentleman to return to the clause which does not deal with appeals.
- Mr Deputy Chairman, you might have paid the same attention to the Minister when he talked about appeals.
– The honourable member will not argue with the Chair.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- I ask the honourable member to return to the clause.
- Hansard will show that the Minister referred to appeals. I was about to say -
– You were not listening.
-Your head will fall off in a minute.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! The honourable member will address his remarks through the Chair and not to the Minister.
-The fact is that I made reference to clause 15, which relates to the right of appeal, only because it had been mentioned in this debate.
– You are still arguing.
– I am not arguing about clause 15. I am talking about clause 7 and the relevance of the issues that have been raised in the amendment. The overriding concept of prescribed reasons for dismissal is confined to a specific area. Anybody who has been involved with the pressures that have been applied by this Government in other relevant areas would immediately leap on the philosophy not only behind this clause but also behind the whole Bill. I made the point last night, and I repeat it, that if the Minister did not spend all his time running behind the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) making a big fellow of himself and applied himself -
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Giles)Order! The honourable member may not reflect on another member of this House. I ask him to withdraw that remark.
-I withdraw it. The Minister should have come to the conclusion that the best way in which to introduce such a dramatic change as the introduction of voluntary retirement, which will sound the death knell to career service employment expectations in the Public Service, would have been to introduce it in two parts. We would not then have voluntary retirement bringing about a state of affairs in the Public Service where one individual is pitted against another, the latter then being brought within the bounds of clause 7 and having to argue to maintain his position with his future in the Public Service being called into question. His capabilities would not be questioned and there would not be any work evaluation to determine how he would have developed as a public servant if there had been no change in the legislation.
The Government stands condemned for not introducing voluntary retirement provisions in two stages. After the first stage it could have seen whether the development of the new philosophy had given people the chance to opt out. It could then have evaluated what should be done about the numbers in various departments. It could have seen how its. philosophy was developing. But, no, what it wants to do is keep the pressure on those who are in Public Service jobs and place them in a situation where they have to look at the fellow working next to them and ensure that they maintain their capacity. The relevance of their qualifications will go by the board. There will be the power to dismiss them. Whichever way the Minister twists or turns, he cannot escape the fact that the amendment moved by the honourable member for Port Adelaide goes to the very point of this clause, that is, that those who make the dismissal decision must base their decision on criteria such as whether the individual they propose to dismiss lacks the qualifications or the capacity to do the job or has himself placed his job at risk. But such criteria do not matter to the government. The appeal system about which the Minister talked when addressing himself to this clause does not change anything. The fact is that whichever way the Minister twists or turns, this particular clause provides the capacity to dismiss a person who is still eligible to be employed and has the qualifications and the capacity to do his job. That is the major issue in this area. The amendment seeks to confine the criteria to be applied.
Clause 7 ought to provide criteria such as those contained in the amendment of the honourable member for Port Adelaide. But it does not. Any criteria can be applied. I will have a few words to say about the appeals system a little later. The real issue here is the giving of carte blanche to individuals who want to carry out the Government’s philosophy by dismissing people who have been guaranteed a permanent job. The Government is doing away with some of its staff by supressing staff ceilings. It has done so in every department. This legislation is only a continuation of the Government’s philosophy.
– I should like to answer the comments that have just been made by members of the Opposition. Firstly, the shadow Minister for Industrial Relations, the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young), referred to the 1976 Bill which provided, in the equivalent provision, for dismissal for ‘any other reason’. Honourable members will notice that in this Bill that phrase has been changed to ‘any other prescribed reason’. The two alterations to be made to the 1976 Bill are important in answering the points raised by the Opposition. The first alteration is the one that I have just mentioned, that is, that the reason for dismissal must be prescribed by regulation. I have already referred to the protection given through the power of Parliament to scrutinise the regulation and, if it is a bad regulation, to disallow it.
The second alteration is the requirement that the regulation prescribing ‘any other reason’ must be for the purposes of paragraph 7 ( 1 ) (b) and also must be based on a report to the Governor-General after consultation with the Public Service organisations. So, firstly, we have protection by regulation which is controllable by Parliament. Secondly, that regulation must be for the purposes of paragraph 7 ( 1 ) (b) and must ensure, to the greatest extent that is practicable, that the services of each employee in a department and each employee of a prescribed Commonwealth authority cannot, consistent with the achievement of the first object, reasonably be used in the Department or by the authority. For the edification of the Opposition, in legal terms, that means that if the regulation is not relevant to the purposes of clause 7 ( 1 ) (b) it is capable of being challenged in the courts and of being found invalid.
The third protection is that the clause requires consultation with staff organisations, as I have already indicated. That provision is also capable of challenge in the courts. In other words, ‘consultation’ is a definable word, a known concept. If the Public Service Board did not consult in a relevant and proper manner, the staff organisations could challenge the decision in the courts and if there was not found to be proper consultation, the regulation could be declared invalid. Therefore, I find none of the arguments put forward by the Opposition to have any substance.
-The word ‘puerile’ has been used. But as I say, the Opposition’s arguments are without substance. I think that I have demonstrated to honourable members that there is complete and adequate protection to members of the Public Service in the use of the provisions of this clause.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 8 agreed to.
Clause 9 (Efficient and economical use of staff).
-The Opposition has a series of amendments to move to clause 9.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Giles)Does the honourable member seek leave to move the amendments together?
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I move:
The Opposition is concerned about the relationship between the powers of the Public Service Board and the powers of the permanent head as contained in clause 9 which is titled ‘Efficient and economical use of staff’. We believe that the amendments we have moved to clause 9 will reassert the power of the permanent head vis-a-vis the Public Service Board. Clause 8 gives the Public Service Board a powerful regulatory and coordinating role which we believe the Board sought to divest itself of some years ago. It has now been reclaimed in a vastly augmented form. It is directly contrary to the whole thrust of the Coombs recommendations concerning efficiency. We have attempted in our amendments to see whether the Government can give some explanation as to why it has reverted to the continuation of the role of the Public Service Board which we say it tried to divest itself of some time ago. We have moved our amendments to ensure that the matter is clarified so that the role of the permanent head in clause 9 will be a lot clearer than it is at present.
In the present legislation assessments may take account of unstated government policy, for example, a policy to begin wholesale contracting out of functions previously carried out by departments or authorities. Without this amendment the Government could effectively destroy functions of government without any explanation to its employees or to the Australian public. I draw your attention, Mr Deputy Chairman, to the wording of proposed new clause 9 (4). It states:
Where a redeployment declaration is made pursuant to sub-paragraph ( I ) (b) (ii) or (2) (b) (ii), such declaration shall include full details of-
the declaration made and the reasons for it;
the date from which the redeployment declaration is to be effective; and
the rights of and methods for appeal against the declaration.
I think this is an increasingly important factor concerning the way that this Government sees the Public Service being utilised and the way in which it wants to give service to the Australian community. We have already seen numerous changes made to Medibank. As one of the speakers from this side of the House said earlier in the evening, more people working for the Health Insurance Commission today received retrenchment notices. If the Government decides to opt out of certain services now available to the public we believe that the method should be laid out and compelled in this Bill so that everybody, especially the people affected, would know of the decision, the reasons for it, how they would be affected and what their rights of appeal would be. We do not think that is already inherent in the Bill. We believe that the amendments we have moved to this clause are legitimate in clarifying the proper role of the permanent head visavis the role of the Public Service Board in determining the functions and features of departments. We also believe that when the Government puts into operation its policy of rationalising its own work and service to the community, that also should be clarified and the information made available to its employees.
– I answer the Opposition on this clause firstly by saying that the Government does not accept its amendments. It does not consider them necessary. It does not consider it appropriate for its decisions on policy matters and on the priorities it gives to certain functions that affect staffing resources to be the subject of appeal. Mr Deputy Chairman, I think you will understand that proposition readily. The Bill provides the necessary means to enable departments, authorities and the Public Service Board to adjust their staffing resources to meet changes in policy or priorities that the Government might make from time to time. Ministers and the Government are continuously accountable to Parliament for their conduct of public affairs and are ultimately answerable to the electorate. Therefore, it is the responsibility of Government alone to make policy decisions affecting functions and staffing resources of the Public Service to pursue those functions. I made this point to Mr Munro, Federal Secretary of the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association, in a letter I wrote to him recently answering some criticisms which he had made.
Another matter mentioned by the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) which was also raised by the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr West) concerned retrenchment notices which they say- I have no way of vertifying this at the moment- were issued to staff of the Health Insurance Commission. Some time ago it became apparent in changes to the Medibank system made by the Government that all the existing staff of the Health Insurance Commission would not be required. Since then, after consultation with the Council of Australian Government Employee Organisations, the Public Service Board has been endeavouring to redeploy staff affected and to place them in employment in other parts of the Public Service. I inform the honourable member for Port Adelaide and the honourable member for Cunningham that if staff members have received notices of retrenchment they will be able to obtain the benefits of Determination 509 of the Public Service Arbitrator, a well-established right obtainable by staff in the circumstances of retrenchment.
I feel that what has been said regarding the amendments and earlier in the second reading debate has been a quite shameful attack by the Opposition on the integrity of the Public Service Board and permanent heads of the Australian Public Service. Since I have been a Minister I have had the opportunity to work very closely with three fine, honourable secretaries of departments. Having that experience, I think it is shameful for the Opposition to seek to attack the Government on this Bill through an attack on the integrity of the Public Service Board itself and permanent heads. The Opposition says that clause 9 of the Bill will allow politically motivated action to be taken. I am sure that the Opposition knows that the powers provided for by this Bill lie not with the Government but with the permanent heads and the Public Service. There is no way in which the Government can lean on or seek to corrupt the Public Service Board or the permanent heads in the exercise of their powers under this Bill.
I mentioned Mr Munro, the Federal Secretary of ACOA. I draw to the attention of the Opposition what was said by Mr Munro in an appendix to the report of the Royal Commission on Australian Government Administration. He was a member of that Royal Commission and he made this contribution in his own name under the heading ‘Rights, Obligations, Grievances and Remedies of and against staff’. After discussing the existing provisions for compulsory retirement of staff Mr Munro said:
It would be consistent with the themes of the Commission’s Report to entrust departments and agencies with greater responsibility and authority over such matters. The diagnosis of any excess of staff, identification of, and action regarding particular officers in excess should be unequivocally the task of departmental management.
That is the precise point which I made a moment ago. Mr Munro went on to say:
The roles of both the Auditor-General and the Public Service Board should be influential as aids to departments in such diagnosis. Departmental powers to retire staff found to be excess to requirements should be limited to decision of provisional retirement, transfer or reduction in classification. Any such decisions should be subject to a departmental certification designed to ensure that no suitable alternative employment exists within the department or a department taking over a function to which the excess relates. Before confirmation, provisional retirements or reductions in classification based on such grounds should be examined against the availability of suitable alternative employment anywhere within the service. The Public Service Board remains the most appropriate agency to place provisionally retired staff or to confirm retirement action.
That is precisely what this Bill does. Mr Munro went on to say:
Where selection for retirement as excess to requirements is based upon a form of assessment of relative worth or efficiency a form of appeal related to that ground would appear to be appropriate.
I conclude by making the point that a right of appeal such as that which Mr Munro proposed in the appendix to the royal commission report is precisely what is provided for in this Bill.
-Our objection is not that there ought to be a right of appeal against Government decisions. If Labor were in government there would be no appeal against our decisions. But the Labor Party thinks that the Government has an obligation particularly to its employees to inform them and the public about what is going on. Clause 8(1) reads:
The Public Service Board may, from time to time, publish in the Gazette a notice setting out administrative procedures to be followed by Departments for the purpose of facilitating the achievement of the objectives of this Parliament.
That sub-clause lays down the approved criteria and procedures. Clause 9(1) reads:
The Permanent Head of a Department-
is responsible for ensuring that the Department operates in such a manner as to make as efficient and economical use of the services of the persons employed in the Department as is practicable; and
b ) without limiting the generality of paragraph (a )-
shall give all such directions, and so all such things, as can be given or done by him for ensuring that the procedures set out in a notice in force under sub-section 8(1) (including any directions given by the Public Service Boards under those procedures) . . .
Obviously there is a collision course in terms of how effective this clause will be. I draw the attention of the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister (Mr Viner) to the Coombs report. He quoted from it when he thought that it suited his arguments. But let me tell him what the Coombs report says at page 389 under the sub-heading The Public Service Board ‘. It reads:
Accordingly we have urged that co-ordinating authorities- particularly the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, the Treasury and the Board should place greater emphasis on their educating and promotional functions, delegating greater responsibility for immediate decisions to the departments and agencies concerned, and limiting their active intervention to the conduct of spot checks and joint studies to discover the adequacy with which the delegated responsibility is accepted and performed.
As I said earlier, I believe Sir Alan Cooley was the Chairman of the Board at that time the Board sought to divest itself of the responsibilities which are now being written back into this Bill. We say it is bad legislation. It is bad reasoning in terms of trying to get proper efficiency out of the Public Service. In our opinion there will be a conflict between what the Board wants,
Government’s decisions in terms of what departments it wants and the way in which the permanent heads think the departments ought to be run.
The Minister went to great pains to say Opposition members were overcritical of the Board or permanent heads. I do not know that anybody on this side was overcritical, but in a debate of this nature no one should be above criticism. If people want to be critical of permanent heads and there have been plenty of duds over the years or the Public Service Board, which cannot sit in paradise above criticism, they are entitled to be critical. Honourable members opposite criticise people further down the line. In fact, their great flogging horse is the Fourth Division. The members of the Fourth Division are the ones that honourable members opposite like to get stuck into. So we on this side do not make any apologies for criticising people in this debate. I am not aware of any Opposition criticism of the Board or permanent heads which was not warranted.
– I make one further point in regard to the amendments moved by the Opposition and the remarks which have just been made by the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young). At this time I particularly direct my attention to the amendment No. (6) to clause 9 whereby the Opposition seeks to require that a redeployment declaration should include certain details of the declaration made and the reasons for it, the date from which the redeployment declaration is to be effective, and the rights of and methods for appeal against the declaration. I should inform the Committee that it is intended that following the passage of the Bill through Parliament discussions will be held between the Public Service Board and staff organisations about matters to be included in the procedures and criteria to be notified by the Board. Among these matters will be the information to be given to an employee at the same time as a copy of a redeployment declaration, including the information to which I have referred, namely, details of the declaration itself, the reasons for it, the date of it and the rights and methods of appeal.
It is also intended that regulations to be made under the legislation will provide that the information of the kind I have referred to shall accompany the redeployment declaration. So it is intended that the matters which are referred to in the amendments will be covered by the procedures, criteria and the regulations which are to be promulgated after discussion with the staff associations.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 10 to 14- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
– I seek leave to move amendments (7), (8) and (9) together.
– I move:
Clause15, page 12, after line 29 insert the following paragraphs: “(aa) the issue of a notice in writing under paragraph 8 (3) (c) in relation to the employee or a specified class of employees of which the employee is a member; “(ab) the making of a finding under sub-paragraph 9 ( 1 ) (b) (ia) or 9 (2) (b) (ia) in relation to the employee or a specified class of employees of which the employee is a member.”
Clause15, page 12, lines 41 and 42, omit sub-paragraph (2) (a) (iii).
Clause 15, page 13, lines 25-46, omit sub-clauses (5) and (6).
Clause15 provides for appeals by employees against action which may be taken under this Bill. Firstly I draw attention to the non-existence of the right of appeal against first line decisions. We raise objection to the fact that a section of the Public Service can be affected by a decision of the Public Service Board or a permanent head to redeploy or retire a certain number of people but there is no right of appeal against the first line decision of the departmental head against redeployment or terminating an employee’s services.
– The honourable member for Holt, who has been following this debate closely, says there is a right of appeal. I ask the Minister assisting the Prime Minister (Mr Viner) to comment on that. It does not appear to the Opposition that there is a right of appeal. The other matter we raise is that the appeal system as it exists can drag into an appeal people against whom no declaration has been made. In fact, some people appealing may have to appeal on the basis of the position of their fellow employees. We say that this is unacceptable to the employees. It is certainly unacceptable to us as an Opposition. There must be ways and means around this sort of weird system of appeal. The system of appeal in the Bill is objectionable in that it involves a system of informing and indicting fellow officers. It is calculated to intimidate workers.
Under clause 15 other employees in the same class as an appellant against whom no declaration has been made at the time of appeal may be joined in the course of the appellants hearing. The effect of such joining may be that as a result of the appeal hearing individuals become declared employees with no right of appeal. As we said in the second reading debate, the appeals which have been defended so valiantly by government spokesmen are not what they should be.
In the first case, I ask the Minister to explain whether the honourable member for Holt is correct or not. Is there an appeal against the departmental head making a decision that a certain number of employees in a section of the Public Service has to be redeployed and ultimately retired? Is there an appeal against that decision? Secondly, can people not involved in the initial declaration be roped in and finally declared for redeployment and termination of employment even though they were not part of the initial declaration as provided for in this Bill? If the answer to the first case is that there is no appeal and the answer in the second case is that people can be roped in as a result of other people who have been declared redeployable appealing, then we say that this whole clause is wrong and has to be amended.
The Opposition moved the amendments as a result of observations on the way in which this Bill operates. We have moved amendments where it is necessary to extend the provision of appeal and have asked to have deleted from clause 15 those sections that require the intimidation of other employees not in the initial declaration for redeployment or final retirement.
– This is really the clause which has been referred to most unkindly by the Opposition as the ‘dobbing in’ clause. That is a gross exaggeration and I think a reflection on individual members of the Public Service as well as the permanent heads who have obligations under this Bill. It would not mean that a successful appeal would result in one of the appellant’s workmates being retired in his or her stead.
– It doesn’t?
-No, it does not result in that. It will not mean that a successful appeal will result in one of the appellant ‘s workmates being retired in his or her stead. An appeal tribunal can, under certain circumstances, join to an appeal by an employee declared in a situation of excess staffremember that, in a situation of excess staff, because that is what we are talking about- any or all other employees in that situation whether or not they have been declared under the legislation. In those circumstances the tribunal has the power to substitute for the appellant’s declaration a declaration in respect of one of the other parties to the appeal. Here is an important point. I understand fully the honourable gentleman’s reference to a roping in award; I did practise once in the Federal arbitration jurisdiction.
Let me make it quite clear that it is intended that the regulations issued under the legislation will require that when employees are joined to an appeal they be advised and be given the same rights to make submissions as the appellant. Therefore, they will be in an equal status before the tribunal so that they can protect their own rights before the tribunal. Therefore, there will be no disadvantage to any individual member of the Public Service. I know this is a point that is sought to be whipped up outside this chamber, but I make quite clear the way in which the regulations will protect the rights of individuals who have not had a declaration made with respect to them.
The purpose of these provisions is to ensure consistency and expedition in appeals where numbers of staff are involved in excess staff situations. In such cases all staff involved would be given a chance for their case to be considered by the tribunal and the tribunal would be able to make a final decision on who should be declared excess. This category of appeal does not apply to retirement. It applies only to the determination of which staff are excess. This is only the first step in the process. The next step is for action to be taken to seek to arrange alternative.employment. Only where this fails is retirement possible. But an individual, declared surplus as a result of the outcome of the appeal by another employee, retains the further separate rights of appeal against any redeployment action taken or a decision that redeployment is not practicable. I am sure honourable members will readily appreciate that, by the procedures I have described and through the rights which each individual affected by a declaration has, he will be fully protected in respect of his own personal position within the Public Service. Therefore, none of the criticisms that have been made either inside this chamber or outside this chamber have any validity.
-The Minister Assisting the Prime Minister (Mr Viner) has admitted to our criticism because he has told us- it is no satisfaction to us to know this-that if the permanent head makes a mistake in those that he selects for redeployment or if he makes a mistake during the period of appeal, some other employees may be roped in. Sub-clause (5) of clause IS states:
Where a declared employee, being an employee in respect of whom a redeployment declaration has been made by reason that he is included in a class of employees employed in a Department or by a prescribed Commonwealth authority which comprises a greater number of employees than is necessary for the efficient and economical working of the Department or authority, appeals to a Tribunal against the making, under section 9, of that declaration in relation to him, the Tribunal may-
if the employee is employed in a Department- at the request of the employee or of the Public Service Board; or
if the employee is employed by a prescribed Commonwealth authority- at the request of the employee or of that authority, join all or any of the employees included in that class as parties to that appeal.
We have moved in one of our amendments that that should be deleted -
– Because it will make the permanent head or the Public Service Board far more responsible and far more selective in their decision making. It means now, they can rope them in. If they miss them the first time they can get them at the period of the appeal because the clause now states -
– What a nasty mind you have got.
– Why would not one have a nasty mind after listening to all the lies this Government has told the people over the last 3lA years?
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Giles)Order! The honourable member will use reasonable language.
-I said ‘the Government’. I did not pinpoint anybody.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- I realise that.
– It would be pretty easy. Opposition members are not relieved at all in their expectations of the way in which this Bill will be implemented by the Minister telling us that the person who is roped in at the appeal is going to have the same rights. One of the rights that person is going to have is the right to rope in a few more people, and so it goes on. As was pointed out by the Canberra Times, it is a Catch 22 situation; there is no end to it. We say that is unacceptable.
Could honourable members imagine any other system of appeal in any other jurisdiction, whether it be just looking after the Public Service or in a court of law, where this sort of thing would apply? We are saying that the permanent head or the Public Service Board makes a decision, declares that a certain number of people are to be redeployed and may finally end up having their employment terminated, but when these people go to the appeal they have to rope in a few more people in order to save their skins. That is what it means. The member for Holt (Mr Yates) need not shake his head. I ask him to read the clause. It does not say what it means. It has not been confirmed by what the Minister just said. Of course what I said is true.
We are opposed to it because it is bad law. It is very bad law in the industrial relations field to think that 20 people may be taken out of a section to be redeployed and one of the buffer zones they may have is to say: ‘Look, one of the ways we may get out of this is to encompass every body in the section in the appeal ‘. That is what the clause states. It is one of the reasons why the Opposition is objecting. If members opposite want to defeat it, I say to them, let us have the appeal where the permanent head makes the decision before it reaches anybody’s name. When he says that the section is going to be reduced, let us have an appeal against that decision. Let the Minister justify why he or the Public Service Board has made that decision, and then perhaps we would not need the later appeal clauses. But he cannot have it both ways. There is absolutely no doubt, from the way in which the Government is manipulating the Public Service, that that is what it is all about. It is quite clear. One of the reasons why the honourable member for Canberra (Mr Haslem) has not spoken in this debate is that he could not justify to his constituents his support of this Bill. One of the reasons why he cannot justify his support of the Bill is this very clause, which is clumsy, bad legislation, and unacceptable to public servants and to the Opposition.
– Let me answer what the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) has just said. I should have thought that it would be abundantly clear to the Committee that, in a situation of excessive numbers, if an individual staff member is affected by an appeal brought by another staff member natural justice requires that the staff member affected should have the right of audience before the appeal tribunal. The consequence of the amendment proposed by the Opposition would be a denial of that right of audience to the individual staff member affected by the appeal of another staff member in an excessive numbers situation.
– The Opposition is wrong again.
– As the honourable member for La Trobe says, the Opposition is wrong again. Let me remind the honourable member for Port Adelaide of what Mr Munro said in his appendix to the report of the royal commission when dealing with the rights, obligations, grievances and remedies of and against staff. I will quote two sections of what I have already quoted in full to the Committee. Firstly, Mr Munro said:
The diagonoses of any excess of staff, identification of, and action regarding particular officers in excess should be unequivocally the task of departmental management.
I understand the Opposition’s proposal to be to deny that recommendation. Further, Mr Munro said:
Where selection for retirement as excess to requirements is based on a form of assessment of relative worth or efficiency a form of appeal related to that ground would appear to be appropriate.
That is precisely what this appeal clause provides for.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Giles)-The question is: That the amendments be agreed to.
-On the question of appeal, all the humbug that has been put to the Committee this evening by the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs (Mr Viner) does not detract from the philosophy behind the right of appeal. The fact is that an individual who has been declared -
– I raise a point of order, Mr Deputy Chairman. With respect to the member who is at the despatch box, I thought that you had moved for the vote.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- No, I did not put it.
– I thought that I heard you put the clause to the vote.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- I proposed one half of the question, but I did not put it.
– In that case, I beg your pardon.
– The honourable member for Holt is wrong again. I put it to the Committee that the processes of appeal are to be condemned but the principle behind the lead-up to the appeal is to be even further condemned. As the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) put it, an appeal does not lie against decisions relating to a class of excess staff. That is a prerogative of the head of the department. On the basis of the way in which the appeal system is set in train, when dealing with a class, one is dealing with a range of employees. But once the area is opened up and the appeal system is allowed to operate when one individual is competing against another, it is unreal to try to dissociate the exercise from the realities at the job level. Everybody would be looking sideways at everybody else, knowing full well that further staff cuts, redeployment, compulsory retirement imposed as a result of the Government’s Budget strategy might well be around the corner. Certainly it is the prerogative of the Government to impose such restrictions, but it then moves into a situation where outside pressures apply. People have to work in that environment, and we would have the situation of an individual looking at the person alongside him, a person with the same qualifications, the same capacity to maximise the operations of that area of the department, and he would have to protect his own interests. The end result should not involve legalities. The Minister has talked about his involvement in industrial matters taken on behalf of unions. If that is the case, he should look to the conciliation area of the Act, which precludes legalities being raised, and deal with the mundane areas of trying to resolve the dispute.
We are looking at an environment in which one section of employees is in confrontation with the employer. The dispute cannot be resolved simply by imposing a series of legal procedures. The Government has indulged in those tactics for months and months, and once again it has fallen to the ground. The Industrial Relations Bureau is a classic illustration of an appeal situation getting people to a point where one employee appeals to the judiciary because there is a confrontation. Mr Justice Smithers tore to smithereens the Industrial Relations Bureau area. It seems to me that the same philosophy runs through this appeal system. The Government is creating the sort of environment that leads to what in the final analysis is an appeal. To whom would employees be appealing? There will be a representative of the employees and a representative of employers. The third representative will be the nominee of the Government. Everybody has been able to see what happens when pressures are applied. Ministers come to this table and argue clearly that no pressure is applied to statutory authorities or to the individuals involved in running the day-to-day business of those authorities. But if one looks behind that, there is all the evidence in the world to show that, in the final analysis, the influence of the Government prevails. This matter is all about staff ceilings, restricting the Public Service not because people are inefficient but because the Government wants to get rid of them. The sack by any other name achieves the same result. The individual finishes up outside. As I said last night, he will be hanging out like granny’s teeth. With the rest of the unemployed, he will be thrown on the scrap heap. When he cannot find a job, he will try to stand up with dignity and decorum and face his family. Whichever way the Minister twists and turns, that is what this legislation is all about. All the flowery mumbo jumbo of the Minister will not alter the situation. That will be the end result. As to the appeal system, the Minister will stand up in a minute and go through all the clap-trap about how everybody stands equal before the tribunal, how if one individual nominates another person he has a right to go back into the appeal system, and off he would go again. As the honourable member for Port Adelaide said, if he is not caught on the first go, he will be caught on the next. The Minister knows what the industrial jungle is all about and he knows that what I am saying is absolutely true. If an employer sets out to get somebody within the terms and conditions of an award, he will get him. The only thing that has protected individuals in the Public Service has been the guarantee of permanency. When we reflect on the whole system therein lies the evil concept of this Bill. At the expense of boring the Minister I must say this again: The Government should be serious in endeavouring to come to grips with a growing problem. The Opposition has indicated that there is a problem. The shadow Minister has not side-stepped the issues concerned. He has tried to put them into perspective and indicate how we ought to approach the whole issue. So let us not put this aura of respectability over it. Instead, let us confront the problems and the associated issues. If the Government were serious about bringing about voluntary retirement that alone is what it would have done. It would not have wrapped all these penal provisions around this legislation. It should not have needed to do that. However, having done it and having seen the effects it should have had an objective look at what should necessarily follow.
However, in accordance with the Government’s philosophy in all areas of the economy, the Government now is appealing to a working class elite.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Giles)-The honourable member will return to the clause of the Bill.
-If the effect is related to the appeals clause spelt out in the Bill, to which the Opposition is totally opposed, what I am saying is most relevant. I will conclude by saying that there were other ways of going about this. The sting in the tail is that the so-called appeal provisions are not worth the paper they are printed on.
– I regret that the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes) attacked the mode of appointment of the Chairman of the Commonwealth Employees Redeployment and Retirement Appeals Tribunal. By virtue of clause 16 of the Bill, the GovernorGeneral appoints the chairman of that Tribunal. It is, indeed, no different to the Government appointing judges, the Government appointing chairmen, for example, of repatriation appeal tribunals or appointing chairmen of social security appeal tribunals or appointing presidents and deputy presidents of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. As I pointed out earlier, the Tribunal will be made up of a chairman appointed pursuant to the express provisions of the legislation, a representative of the Public Service Board and a representative of the employees. Of course, a tripartite tribunal of that kind, particularly where there is the specific appointment of a member of the Tribunal to represent the interests of the employees affected, is well known in the Public Service through the system of promotions appeals.
I would add one more thing concerning this aspect of the Bill because the honourable member for Melbourne has drawn in a number of other arguments in support of his attack upon the appeal rights. I refer to the concept of a career in the Public Service. That concept, with security of tenure for career officials, has always been subject to provisions in the Public Service Act relating to termination of employment of surplus officers, retirement on the grounds of invalidity, inefficiency or incompetence and dismissal on disciplinary grounds. The Bill does not affect the disciplinary provisions of the Public Service Act and modifies the other provisions mentioned which have been described in the past as being too summary in nature. The kind of language that has been used is that the existing provisions allow arbitrary or capricious action against an individual. What this legislation provides is a more extensive range of appeal rights to staff affected by redeployment or retirement and, furthermore, sets out more clearly the framework within which decisions are to be taken by the Public Service Board or a permanent head. Indeed, and I think this point is pertinent, if this Bill were the present law and the existing provisions of the Public Service Act were being introduced in replacement- that is, the reversal of the present situation- the outcry from the present critics of this Bill would be deafening. I think that comment, in itself, is a measure of the completeness and the adequacy of the provisions of this Bill and in particular, the completeness and adequacy of the appeal rights in this legislation but which are absent in the existing provisions of the Public Service Act.
Clause agreed to.
Remainder of Bill- by leave- taken as a whole.
– I refer to clause 23. I would like some clarification from the Minister on this clause which reads:
1 ) the regulations may make provision for and in relation to-
That clause seems to state that it is the Government’s prerogative to declare a redundancy payment to all people in those areas. I draw the Minister’s attention to this and would like him to listen to my remarks because this does need clarifying. He said in his second reading speech:
We have decided that staff between the ages of 55 and 60 years who are retired at the initiative of management ‘for any other prescribed reason’ will, in addition to the existing superannuation benefit, receive a special benefit of two months’ salary for each year of service foregone to age 60- i.e. 10 months’ salary on retirement at age 55 . . .
In his second reading speech the Minister concluded by saying that this special severance benefit referred to would be paid to all except those in excess of requirements and those retired because of ill health. The Minister’s second reading speech seems to be saying that only those who are retired under section 7 (b) (iii) for any other prescribed reason would be eligible for the benefit. If that is the case, and I would like the Minister to clear this up immediately, there is a lot of misapprehension within the Government’s back benches, the media and the unions who think that this severance benefit of two months’ pay for each year between age 55 and age 60 would be payable to all those retired under the Bill. The Minister should clarify that because there is a difference between his statement in his second reading speech about what is included in the Bill and the general understanding of the Government, the public and the unions on this matter. To whom will that benefit apply?
– I do believe that my statement in the second reading speech is quite clear in relation to the benefits payable pursuant to this Bill or in a situation of excess staff. The honourable gentleman quoted some of what I said in my second reading speech. I wish to quote from the relevant paragraph which, in referring to the special benefit- that is, for those retired at age 55 years or above- states: . . reducing on a graduated basis to two months salary on retirement at age 59… does not apply to staff who are excess to requirements or who are retired on ill-health grounds for whom separate provisions already exist. For superannuation contributors in these circumstances provision is made under the Superannuation Act.
That is where they received their benefit if they are retired on ill-health grounds-
Furthermore, in the case of excess staff the Public Service Arbitrator’s Decision No. 509 of 1 977 applies.
That is the point I emphasised to the honourable member, in the case of excess staff. I think that is quite clear. The regulations to be made under the legislation will provide for those persons retired at 55 years of age. Otherwise, for those who are retired on ill-health grounds or who are retired in the case of excess staff, their benefits are received not pursuant to the regulations but under the Superannuation Act or the Public Service Arbitrator’s determination. I wish to take the opportunity to comment with regard to clause 28. It is a matter which is of particular interest to the Parliament because clause 28 refers to employees in a parliamentary department. It is a provision of the Bill about which I have received correspondence from the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President of the Senate. I wish to take the opportunity to make this point on behalf of the Government with regard to that clause.
In the application of this legislation to the parliamentary departments, I would like to assure the House that the Government recognises the unique relationship between the Executive, the Parliament and the staff of the parliamentary departments. Although the staff of the Parliament are employed under the Public Service Act, section 9 of the Act establishes the clear right of the Parliament through the Presiding Officers to regulate its own staffing matters. There is no specific analagous provision in this Bill because there are a number of possible approaches which would recognise the role of the Presiding Officers, but the appropriateness of particular approaches to the needs of the Parliament requires further consideration. Therefore, I have asked the Public Service Board to have further discussions with the permanent heads of the parliamentary departments and let me know what modifications and adaptations are desirable so that regulations can be made under clause 28 of the Bill.
Remainder of Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Viner)- by leave- read a third time.
Debate resumed from 10 May, on motion by Mr Viner:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– Before the debate is resumed on this Bill may I have the indulgence of the House to raise a point of procedure. I suggest that it may suit the convenience of the House to have a general debate covering this Bill and Supply Bill (No. 2) 1979-80 as they are associated measures. Of course, separate questions will be put on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate. Therefore I suggest that you, Mr Deputy Speaker, permit the subject matter of both Bills to be discussed in this debate.
Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering both Bills? There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.
-Although the Supply Bills are appropriations of funds required during the early months of the new financial year- from 1 July until the Budget is passed through this House- and do not purport to show new Government initiatives, they are prepared within the existing fiscal strategy. Therefore, the debate on the Supply Bills provides an opportunity for some discussion and evaluation of the framework within which they have been prepared, and give us an opportunity to assess the Budget strategy brought down last year. From the start the Government has simplistically argued for an inflation first strategy apparently being prepared to relegate to second, third or even less important places, the improvement in economic well-being through growth, employment creation, reduction of poverty or the provision of widely needed community services. Reduction of inflation is of course important, and the Opposition has said time and again that it recognises its importance, but a more sophisticated and less doctrinaire government would have been able to find ways of combining this aim of reducing inflation with the others.
The outcome of the inflation first strategy was the adoption of macro-economic policies, budgetary and monetary policies, which had a contractionary impact on the economy: reductions in spending and increased taxes betraying promises and legitimate expectations, and excessively tight monetary policy preventing borrowing necessary for investment and essential accommodation.
This strategy has been sustained by the coincident similarity of the doctrinaire positions of the Government and its advisers. The Prime Minister and his various Treasurers seem to have thought simply in terms of one-liners- reductions of the size of the public sector to make way for the private sector, which is one of the doctrinaire statements we hear from time to time; that the size of the deficit must be reduced because deficits are inflationary, which we hear ad nauseam; and wage increases must be suppressed because they are inflationary. Each of these simple-minded propositions is misleading. The national economy is not a static box in which one portion will be enlarged by reducing the size of the other. It is a dynamic organism in which, if one sector atrophies, the other tends also to wither. Similarly, whether the deficit has an inflationary effect or not depends on how the deficit is funded. The fact that the Fraser Government’s Budgets have each had large deficits by Australian standards whilst there has, until recently, been some fall in the rate of inflation, should have persuaded the Government of the vacuity of this belief. Any reduction in real wages has several effects also. While costs might fall and this might lead to some slowing in the rate of increase of prices, lower real wages also lead to lower household incomes, reduced consumer demand, lower turnover and therefore higher overhead costs per unit of output, leading both to higher unemployment and to inflationary pressure of a different kind. The effect which predominates cannot be deduced from a prior argument. Simple-minded propositions are an inept way to manage the economy.
Although much more sophisticated, some of the beliefs of the Government advisers are also quite inadequately tested. For example, some advisers seem to believe that inflation is the major obstacle to renewed private sector growth. Whether or not this is true, there is no evidence to prove it. If it were true it is surprising that there has been so little private sector growth in recent years, when the rate of inflation has tended to fall. The advisers and the Government also seem to believe that the private sector will perceive any growth in the deficit as evidence that a new upsurge of inflation is about to occur and that their confidence will collapse as a result. There is no evidence for this inflation psychology. Even if private sector spokesmen say it is their belief, this is not conclusive evidence that businessmen behave in this way. Rational businessmen might just as easily conclude that an expansion of public expenditure would lead to increased national economic demand and react by increasing investment and employment in expectation of an increased demand for their output. That is how they should react. The point is that the belief is untested. This is tragic for if the belief is wrong there would be little to lose and everything to gain in modifying economic policies so as to give some stimulus to demand.
Another belief seems to be that people’s tendency .to save will fall when the rate of inflation falls. Attempts to test this suggest that insecurity related to the level of unemployment is at least as significant as unease about the rate of inflation in determining the propensity to save rather than to consume. Certainly this would be a reasonable attitude, for with half a million people unemployed at the beginning of this year and many hundreds of thousands of others who have given up trying to find a job, the competition for available employment and the danger of losing a job are clearly very substantial. People therefore must find ways of protecting themselves against this danger.
Finally there is the belief shared by both Government and advisers that important means of ensuring renewed economic growth is to increase incentives. It is for this reason that taxes on high incomes have been reduced. On this issue there is a considerable body of empirical evidence which has led both the Asprey Committee and a recent study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development to conclude that the net effect of taxation on work effort by executives and professionals is just as likely to increase as to reduce motivation. This is no doubt related to the fact that for executives and professionals work offers many forms of satisfaction as well as financial return.
It is quite clear that the conceptual basis of the Government’s policies is flimsy. Honest assessment of the effectiveness of the Government’s policies would also lead to a questioning of their basis, for it is quite clear that general economic performance during the last three years has been very poor and that weaknesses and distortions are increasing at present. Such an impartial assessment was published last week in the influential and rigorous International Currency Review. The report in the Review began:
Superficially, the Australian economy might seem to have assumed an appearance of buoyancy. This has impressed itself upon certain commentators, who appear unable to see beyond the ends of their noses. For all is not as promising as it seems- since much of the prevailing improvement in economic activity and confidence has been a direct consequence of the fact that the growth rate of the money supply doubled within a year. This development, in turn, largely reflected the politically motivated establishment of interest rate levels, and funding the farmers’ wheat crops.
The report draws attention to a number of particular problems. It states:
In the first place, price pressures have again been gathering momentum with planned oil price increases and food prices particularly worrying.
The writer would have had cause for more serious concern had he known of the 3. 1 per cent increase in food prices in the single month of April, and of a further increase in the rate of growth of prices of manufacturing inputs, building materials, manufactured goods and electrical materials. He did not know that because those figures were announced only yesterday. Secondly, the report draws attention to the consequences of declining real wages on consumer demand. One of the points I have already made is that there has been so much error in the present Government’s economic strategy. I quote again from the International Currency Review:
Formal wage rises have been lagging considerably behind the new surge in prices- with the result that the rate of increase in real consumer spending has been declining.
The writer takes a more realistic view than the Government of the effect of declining consumer demand on the overall level of domestic economic activity. Thirdly, the Review points out:
The Federal Government has had to bury the political humbug associated with its claims to have jawboned interest rates downwards.
The review concludes that the Prime Minister and his colleagues will need to pay close attention to economic conditions outside Australia since these are likely to deteriorate. The Government will need to shout about them from the rooftops. It is ironic that it has taken three years of government to teach the Fraser Government the simple truth that economic conditions overseas are an important determinant of constraint on Australian Government policy. If the Liberal and National Country Parties had recognised that at the time of the 1975 elections I wonder whether they would have been so dishonest in making such lavish promises to the Australian people which they could not in any way keep. They are now seen to be broken promises. It is important to evaluate fiscal policy, not only in terms of its macro-economic impact, but also in terms of the direct effect of taxation and expenditure policy on the well-being of people. It is well to do this with an eye on Government promises since these presumably determined people’s expectations when they voted in 197S and again in 1977.
Social Security accounts for 28 per cent of budget outlays, the most important form of Government spending. Pension and benefit payments do more than any other single form of Government activity to reduce hardship and poverty and to reduce the inequity and injustice of our economic system. The Prime Minister in his election policy speeches in 1975 and 1977 promised:
The real value of pensions will be preserved-
Politics have been taken out of pension increases by linking them automatically with the consumer price index.
How hollow those promises sound today. Yet 6- monthly indexation of age and invalid pensions has been abandoned, forcing large numbers of people further below the poverty line. Many allowances and supplementary benefits have not been increased at any time during the Government’s term in office. Their real value has fallen by 35 per cent. The real value of the family allowance which was introduced with such a fanfare in 1976 has already fallen by 28 per cent. If the Government were seriously concerned about poverty and hardship, it would at least increase pensions and benefit levels to the poverty line. This it has not done. All pensions and benefits are now below the level necessary to provide a minimal standard of living to provide for effective participation in community life. For example, a couple with two children, for whom the poverty line was at about $125 a week at the end of 1978, are receivings 1 12.20. This is nearly $13 a week less than an austerely denned poverty line. Single parent families are even more seriously disadvantaged. A single parent with one child, for whom the poverty line was $85.30 is receiving $64.20- more than $20 less than the amount required to provide basic necessities. Discussion with any of the non-government welfare agencies confirms that it is single parents supporting children who are most deeply in poverty in Australia at present. Yet these are the very people most directly affected by the failure to index family allowances. A single parent with three children was receiving $30 a week less than the poverty line for that group at the end of 1 978. Since then, prices have risen but there has been no indexation of any allowance or benefit. So much for a Prime Minister who said he was going to govern for the whole community. So much for the promise to retain the real value of pensions.
The Government has said that it is important to increase incentives. Yet it has done nothing to. remove the strong disincentive to casual or part time work by the unemployed. At present the unemployed are allowed to earn $6 a week only without loss of benefit. Any earnings above that level lead to an equivalent reduction in unemployment benefit. Unemployed people are therefore directly discouraged from taking casual work because not only are they unlikely to receive any net income increase but also they can expect a delay of several weeks before becoming eligible again for unemployment benefit. If casual work does not continue, they do not receive any income at all because of that delay before receiving the benefit. A more encouraging policy would be to reduce unemployment benefit by a percentage for each dollar of income earned, so ensuring that there was a net increase in income as a result of casual part time work. It is extraordinary to recall the Prime Minister’s saying in his 1975 election policy speech:
We will be generous to those who can’t get a job and want to work.
Later he said:
In a situation where there is high unemployment, special attention should be given to the needs and the real personal hardships of those unemployed.
Those words again spoken in this Parliament sound particularly hollow when one realises that the Minister for Employment, as I think he is called, or miscalled, has made more announcements today about harsher means tests for the unemployed. We know that with the hidden unemployed there are about 750,000 people seeking jobs in this country.
The reality is that humiliating and legalistic regulations have been introduced in relation to Commonwealth Employment Service officers. Last night, the honourable member for Canberra (Mr Haslem) said that unemployment benefit should be abolished for people under 25 years of age without dependants. The Prime Minister said about 6 months ago that he wanted Australia to be a fair, compassionate society. How do we reconcile these statements? The reality is that the personal tax system has been fundamentally altered in favour of the very top income earners, that pensions and benefits for the poor have been reduced, that unemployment has rapidly increased and that the unemployment benefit has been reduced and the unemployed forced to wait in arrears before their benefit can be obtained.
The Government is also being cruel to the community through other programs. The Prime Minister promised in 1975 to maintain present levels of assistance to Aborigines. In the first year of his Government expenditure was cut by $24m.
– Oh, yes.
– I heard an interjection from the shadow Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, the honourable member for Capricornia, noting the cynicism of such a claim. Over the last three years the Aboriginal share of the national Budget has fallen from 0.9 per cent to under 0.7 per cent. We on this side of the House say- even though it may not be popular in all quarters- that anybody who has a feeling of compassion for the many underprivileged in the society in which we live would consider this shabby treatment. The Prime Minister promised in 1975:
We shall ensure that no person is denied legal aid because of lack of means.
In practice the legal aid service was foisted onto the States and sharp restrictions on access to legal aid have been imposed. In recent Appropriation Bills, payments to the States for legal aid provided in the Federal area were cut from $7m to $3. 5m. Any of us representing electorates with people of middle or lower income groups know just what an enormous benefit it has been to underprivileged people to have the facilities of legal aid. It is very saddening to note the lesser service that is being offered in this area.
I turn now to housing. The Budget allocation for housing was $663m in 1975-76. In 1978-79 this had been reduced to $363m- a fall to well under half in real terms- at a time when 100,000 people are on housing commission waiting lists. In addition, tens of thousands of people are living in caravans, and many thousands have no accommodation at all. Exorbitant rents are being paid for housing in some areas, notably in Sydney, because of the shortage of rental accommodation. The courageous and cost effective growth centre projects and the urban and regional development programs which were doing so much to improve the living environment in Sydney have been decimated. Budgeted expenditure in 1975-76 was $448. It was down to $108m in 1978-79. This is a completely vindictive annihiliation of a great program that was improving the quality of life in the overcrowded cities of Melbourne and Sydney.
I could go on showing the sort of decimation which has taken place and which has reduced the quality of life particularly for people on lower incomes. The pattern has been consistent throughout the last three years. Effective programs for increasing the equity, compassion and attractiveness of our community have been slashed. Programs to improve conditions and incomes for the already well off have been steadily improved, all in the name of stimulating our economy. Yet we have not seen this happen. The Government justifies this simply in terms of the need to improve incentive. How long will the community be willing to accept steadily increasing injustice? How much inequality is required before incentives are adequate to achieve the recovery the Government expects?
I have talked about the Fraser Government throughout my speech, but I do not want to put the blame entirely on Ministers. I want to draw attention to an article in the Age of 12 May 1979 which carried the headline: ‘Backbench rally’. Referring to the Government, the article stated:
Each will make two speeches on aspects of economic ‘responsibility ‘ and the importance of market forces.
The first of those two speeches was made last night. I believe the honourable member who come under the heading of the ‘steely five’ have had the doubtful pleasure of being on Nationwide tonight. Let me name them. They are the honourable member for Eden-Monaro, Mr Sainsbury, the honourable member for Moore, Mr Hyde. I name them here because they will be named many times by the Opposition in their own electorates shortly. I hope the honourable member for Perth, Mr McLean, who is another, got on Nationwide tonight. He is in the House now. We will be nailing him as well. The other two are the honourable member for Ballarat, Mr Short, and the honourable member for Mackellar, Mr Carlton. They are the steely five and their co-ordinated action, so the report tells us, ‘is just one sign that economic hardliners are talking a higher profile within the backbench’. I am sorry that some of those Government backbenchers who feel rather differently are not with us. If they were we could see their reactions to this sort of hardline. I noticed last month a headline in the Australian: ‘Liberals abandon plans for change in philosophy’. The article stated:
The Liberal Party has virtually abandoned any prospect of going into the 1 980 election with a totally new philosophy.
The article went on to give a preview of the Liberal Party council meeting which was to be held in Perth during April. Where do members opposite stand on this issue? Some back benchers are acting as steely hardliners. Let the other Government back benchers say whether they support the continuation of this economic policy which has brought the country to its knees, all in the name of defeating inflation first. Yet we have the phenomenon at the present time of the rate of inflation increasing. What the Government has achieved, as I pointed out earlier in this speech, is a growing inequality in this community, and all to no avail.
I might mention some of the other members who are on this Government members’ treasury committee so that perhaps we will draw them out of the woodwork and learn whether they feel the same way as the five who are standing courageously and appearing on Nationwide and advocating increases in taxation. The honourable member for Henty, Mr Aldred, is the deputy chairman of this exalted committee. The honourable member for Macarthur, Mr Baume, and the honourable member for Barton, Mr Bradfield, are on the committee. I name them here to let them know that we will be naming them in their own electorates. They are members of the Government members’ treasury committee that wants increases in taxes. Other members are the honourable member for Dawson, Mr Braithwaite, the honourable member for Lilley, Mr Kevin Cairns, the honourable member for Cook, Mr Dobie, the honourable member for Deakin, Mr Jarman, and the honourable member for Hume, Mr Lusher. I have already mentioned the honourable member for Perth and the honourable member for Ballarat. But let me not hoodwink them. I will tell them here and now that their advocacy for increased taxes will not be forgotten as we move among their electorates and point out what they really believe. I wish we knew where Liberal Party back benchers stood on this issue. I wish we knew whether they wanted the Government to be tougher or whether, like some other members, they go to water. They pretend that they are seeking a fairer society but in fact are hoodwinking the public when they make such a pretence.
The attitude of the Opposition is that the Government should adopt a stimulatory but cost-reducing strategy in the next Budget. The Opposition recognises that this has to be done in the context of an incomes policy, which means co-operation with the trade union movement. That can be done only if that incomes policy is seen to be redistributing income and wealth from the haves to the have nots. That is far from the sort of incomes policy that the present Government is seeking to foist on the Australian people by this present wages policy.
One of the means of obtaining that incomes policy is cutting personal and indirect taxes as part of the bargain, part of the arrangement to achieve greater stimulus to the economy in order to create those extra jobs that are needed to reduce unemployment while at the same time doing so without ricocheting into an inflationary situation. I draw the attention of the House to an excellent article entitled ‘The overtaxing of Australia’ by Professor J. O. N. Perkins in the Age of 22 May. Professor Perkins had this to say:
Once the economy recovers, the Budget deficit will fall, and it might even eventually be less than it is now. But, in any case, the deficit is not large by comparison with those of many other countries, including West Germany and Japan.
As I am running out of time, I merely draw attention to that excellent article advocating a reduction in tax, not an increase in tax as advocated by the Government Members Treasury Committee. I believe that members of that Committee would be well advised to read that article.
In conclusion, I point out that a striking symbol of the autocratic elitism of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in his willingness to spend tens of millions of dollars on his own comfort by buying two new VIP planes. Further escalation in the cost of these planes was announced this morning when it was learned that refitting the planes to make them quieter would cost an additional $20m to $2 5 m. This increase comes in the same month in which a cut of $1.9m was made in grants to organisations providing accommodation for homeless persons. That action encapsulates the attitude of this Government. I again quote what the present Prime Minister said in November 1975:
We have a comprehensive strategy to restore prosperity.
He suggested that a growth rate of 6 per cent to 7 per cent was possible, that the deficit could be halved and that confidence would return to the business sector. To recall these promises is to show their absurdity. Words by Lewis Carroll in another context describe well what has happened in Australia:
But the principal failing occurred in the sailing.
And the bellman, perplexed and distressed
Said he had hoped, at least, when the wind blew due east.
That the ship would not travel due west!
This ship has been travelling in exactly the opposite direction to what it should be travelling.
I summarise what I have said and what the Opposition believes by now moving the following amendment to the second reading of these Supply Bills:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: whilst not opposing the Bill, the House is of the opinion that the Government stands condemned for continuing to pursue a restrictive fiscal policy which has (a) greatly increased unemployment; ( b ) restricted economic growth;
failed to control inflation; (d) reduced living standards of the great majority of the Australian population; (e) severely restricted important government programs, and (f) increased inequality and poverty in the community, and accordingly calls on the Government to produce’ a budget for the next financial year which implements an alternative program designed to promote employment, living standards and equity’.
Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment, Mr Deputy Speaker. In doing so, I direct my remarks to what I believe is an example of the failure of the Government and its attempt to mislead the Parliament and to mislead the people of Australia in the important area of defence procurement. It is, I think, well known in this Parliament that from time to time the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) has indicated that it is the Government’s objective in respect of defence procurements to secure for local industry in Australia offset contracts which constitute some 30 per cent of the procurement policy pursued by the Government in respect of Department of Defence purchases.
The failure of the Government to implement effectively its own stated objectives of Australian industry participation through offset contracts has cost local industry about $2 94m. The Government and the Department of Defence had a stated policy of 30 per cent offsets for Australian manufacturing industry, which simply meant that, as a condition of buying expensive overseas hardware for defence purposes, there had to be a 30 per cent work content available to local industry. The Department of Defence and the Minister have deliberately endeavoured to create the belief that the 30 per cent content has been achieved and maintained. The Department of Defence has been extraordinarily reluctant, as has the Minister, to provide the Parliament with the detailed information by which the Department’s performance can be measured against objective standards. Over the last eight years, total overseas purchases for offset credits which should bave been available to Australian industry totalled in all some $1,7 13m. I rely for that figure on an answer to a question directed by me to all Government Ministers and which in effect was provided by the Minister for Productivity (Mr Macphee). I seek leave of the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Groom), who is at the table, to incorporate the answer of the Minister for Defence, the Minister for Productivity and a table which virtually takes those figures and does some subtractions and additions which prove my assertion.
– I wish to see the documents before leave is granted.
– In the detailed answer provided by the Minister for Productivity, he indicated, in a very candid way, that the total purchases over the last eight years amounted to $ 1 ,7 1 3m. I seek leave to incorporate the question and answer in Hansard.
The document read as follows-
Department of Productivity: Contracts (Question No. 1794)
asked the Minister for Productivity, upon notice, on 22 August 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
For the purpose of answering the series of questions 1773-1799 as Minister responsible for the Department administering and co-ordinating the Offset Program I have provided information which was sought from the other Ministers to whom the question was directed with the exception of the Minister for Defence.
My colleague, the Minister for Defence, will provide a detailed reply to question number 1 773 regarding offset obligations required and discharged for major defence purchases.
I will therefore confine my answer to the contracts entered into by other Departments and associated statutory bodies and the offsets generated in this regard up to 30 September 1978.
The Australian Offsets Program has its origin in a decision by the Australian Government in 1970 to require that offset orders be placed in Australia against major Government purchases of overseas manufactured equipment. Offsets were first sought against purchases of defence equipment and civil aircraft. The program was later extended to include other major purchases by the Government including computers, telecommunications and electronic equipment. It aims principally to stimulate technological advancement in Australian industries and to broaden the capabilities of industries of strategic significance.
It achieves its objectives by obtaining tasks that either stimulate continuing activities in the same field of technology as the equipment being purchased or that result in a transfer of technology in areas of significance to Australian defence or industrial development. Other factors taken into consideration are the extent to which Australian design and development resources can be utilised and the workload that can be obtained for underutilised sectors of industry of technological or strategic significance.
Tasks undertaken include involvement in part production programs were overseas contractors arrange for Australian industry to participate in the manufacture of selected assemblies or sub-assemblies of the prime equipment being purchased. Co-production programs are also undertaken where items are manufactured in conjunction with the overseas supplier either for domestic and overseas use or the latter alone. In some instances Australian firms have succeeded in becoming the sole suppliers of certain items.
The program also seeks to obtain collaborative tasks which involve overseas and Australian firms participating in the conceptual, design, development and production stages of a project.
Encouragement is also given to the purchase of Australian products of defence or technological significance by overseas firms or Governments. Commercial items that normally have ready overseas markets and purchases of primary and mineral products do not qualify as offsets.
Since its inception in 1970 the program in total, including Defence buys, has resulted in offsets for Australia amounting to more than $220m. In some cases overseas companies have placed orders in Australia as offsets which because of their nature will be spread over a number of years. These are included in the above figure. Most offset work has gone to the aircraft industry with computer and electronic firms benefiting to a lesser extent.
While overseas companies are required to submit appropriate offset proposals before being awarded a major Government contract a number of companies have placed approved offset work on Australian industry without commitment. These overseas companies build up an offset credit which can be used if and when the company tenders for and obtains a contract against which offsets are required.
It should be emphasised that the Offset Program is not an isolated means for obtaining workload for significant sections of Australian industry. In defence and public communication spheres conditions are written into contracts where appropriate, requiring that certain tasks and work content be undertaken locally. In other situations licence agreements are entered into which permit the production in Australia of specific equipment such as military aircraft, arms and ammunition and patrol craft. The Offset Program complements these arrangements by ensuring that workload is obtained relating to equipment that cannot at this point in time, for good reasons, be manufactured in Australia.
However the offsets generated against overseas orders have been of considerable benefit to Australian industry. While explicit details cannot be given it can be stated that aircraft component manufacture (including wing flaps, rudders, elevators, doors and escape systems for Boeing, Douglas and Fokker aircraft) is being successfully undertaken in Australia.
Against computer purchases offset orders have been obtained for terminal manufacture, software development and component design and development. In addition offset work has also been generated in the telecommunication field in areas such as component manufacture, radar modules and electronic simulator production.
It is the practice with any major purchase to try to finalise offset arrangements so that all details can be included in the contract. Where this is not possible, contractors must enter into a firm commitment to continue to try to place work in Australia up to the target level.
Because of the confidential nature of offset negotiations and the manner by which some firms place work far in excess of immediate requirements it is not possible to identify individual offset achievements against the various contracts entered into by the Government.
Offsets placed in Australia as a result of the program sometimes exceed the value of offsets sought. This credit can be utilised against future orders.
In other situations there is a considerable time span between the placement of an order requiring offsets and the discharge of the offset obligation. In these cases an early comparison of offsets owed and those actually received would infer that a considerable offset debt exists with respect to certain individual contracts. This assumption should not lead to the conclusion that the full amount of the offset obligation will not ultimately be met.
In general it can be stated that the Offset Program in its eight years of operation has been a success. In this period more that $220m worth of offsets have been placed in Australia. As well as providing invaluable workload these offsets have stimulated the technological and managerial capabilities of Australian industry.
– It is interesting that it took the Minister for Defence, with all the resources of his Department, more than six months to provide any reply at all and the answer that was provided was in fact no answer at all. The Minister chose, after six months, not to provide the sort of basic information which I believe ought to be available to every member of this House. On the grounds of confidentiality and the necessity for considerable research to be undertaken in order to supply the answers, no figure was given for offsets obtained. I seek leave to incorporate that question and answer in Hansard.
The document read as follows- (Question No. 1773)
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 22 August 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Government endeavours to ensure that there is an appropriate level of Australian industry participation in all defence purchases. This level is usually much higher than 30 per cent for the many purchases made in Australia. Where major purchases are not made in Australia, local participation is sought through offset orders for which a target of 30 per cent of the overseas content is commonly set.
An explanation of the policy has been given by my colleague, the Minister for Productivity in his answer to Question No. 1774-1799.
No contracts signed before March 1970 contained clauses concerning offset arrangements. Current Departmental Instructions require that each proposed major Defence purchase from overseas sources be examined to ensure that opportunities for Australian industry participation are fully explored.
Sea King Helicopters
Submarine Fire Control Equipment
Naval Combat Data Systems
Replacement ESM Equipment
Computers for Defence (several)
Destroyers FFG-0 1 and 02
Long Range Maritime Patrol Aircraft
Rapier SurfacetoAir Guided Weapon Systems
Air Surveillance Radars
A more detailed listing is not readily available and would require considerable research to prepare.
It is not feasible to attribute this figure to particular purchases or even to Civil and Defence categories. Suppliers are permitted to aggregate offset obligations against all purchases including civil and Defence contracts and they continue to place work in Australia against a combined total. Further, some firms have built up offset credits in advance of the receipt of Government equipment orders, against which they can draw to meet the attendant offset requirements.
– I find it extraordinary that, in respect of a question on notice, the Minister and his Department can treat any member of this Parliament in such a cavalier manner when some months previously an officer of the Department, a Mr Don Eltringham, in an article written for the Age endeavoured to explain government policy on offset purchases. He stated in that article that $2 14m was the total in offset orders against defence purchases since the offset policy was adopted. One is entitled to pose the question: If Mr Eltringham knew that information- it was available and could be made available in an article given to the Press- why, when a member of this Parliament sought that sort of basic information from the Minister for Defence, did it take six months to provide an answer which suggested that this basic information was not available to a member of parliament because of confidentiality and because of the amount of research that would be involved? I say to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, that if you were running a business and you were owed many millions of dollars by someone who had purchased goods from you, you would know fairly accurately how much money you were owed and you would know fairly accurately the terms of the contract and the amounts that you would be entitled to recoup under those contracts. But that, we are told, is not the position with the Department of Defence.
I direct the attention of the House to a table which I have made available to the Minister. It demonstrates a fairly simple exercise in arithmetic. I ask leave to incorporate the table in Hansard.
The document read as follows-
Note: The figures for Defence expenditure are from reports covering financial years. The figures given by the Minister for Productivity begin in January 1970, therefore there is a difference of 6 months in the time covered.
– Australian defence purchases from 1970-71 to 1977-78 constituted $ 1,243m. Total other overseas government expenditure was $470.38m. That brought the total supplied by the Minister for Productivity $1,7 13m. If government policy of a 30 per cent offset credit had been maintained, contracts worth $5 14m should have been placed with local Australian industry. According to the statements made by an officer of the Department of Defence, the value of the offsets achieved was only $220m. That meant that the value of offset liabilities which were not fulfilled was $294m, and that is a lot of money.
Given the problems in our economy, the problems of finding employment for our young people and the problems of introducing new technology, that is a source of funding which Australian manufacturing industry at every level cannot afford to forgo. When one looks at it as a percentage of total government purchases it is nonsense to say, as has been suggested by the Minister for Defence in his glib handling of this matter, that we have maintained an offset purchasing component of around 30 per cent. On those figures it is probably closer to 1 2 per cent or 13 per cent. When the Minister says that we have maintained a level of offsets of around 30 per cent one is entitled to ask: Does he not know the facts or is he concerned to mislead the Parliament deliberately?
What has occurred in the past is that the Defence Department has entered into contracts for sophisticated and expensive hardware without first ensuring the degree and extent to which Australian industry could participate. To gear up to meet areas of new technology often involves considerable capital expenditure by local manufacturers who are then told that they cannot tender competitively against prices from overseas companies which have already absorbed the capital cost of new technology. It is as simple as that. Some of the sophisticated hardware can cost millions of dollars and obviously the Defence Department wants the most sophisticated equipment it can get. It enters into contracts on the basis that 30 per cent of the total value will be made available to Australian industry through tender. But to put in a tender the Australian manufacturer often has to spend considerable capital in acquiring sophisticated machinery and he has to equip himself with new technology. There is no way that he can competitively tender against an overseas company which has already gone into the area and, in the production of the commodity which the Defence Department is buying, has written off the cost of its capital equipment. Then it becomes a matter of the Defence Department and the Minister saying to the Australian manufacturer. ‘You have not met the offset conditions required because you have not put in a competitive tender.’ The implications of that both for Australian manufacturing industry and our own defence requirements can be tragic.
It is not sufficient surely one does not have to labour this point in the House to get the latest and most fashionable aeroplane, tank or ship. There has to be a back-up service and a capacity within our own people to service and maintain the equipment and keep it in the field. One has only to look at the extent to which it is possible for the Defence Department, on the basis of security, to resist any objective standards by which its procurement policy can be objectively tested. As a nation obtaining more sophisticated defence equipment, we have to ask ourselves whether our local manufacturing industries are geared, equipped and able to participate in the continuing manufacture of some of the components involved and, more importantly, whether they are able and have the resources to keep that equipment functional and in service in a crisis. Given the approach of both the Minister for Defence and his Department, these are questions which cannot be effectively asked in this House simply by virtue of the fact that the Department refuses to make available to the average member of this House the basic information which allows for any proper assessment and consideration of the appropriate standards.
Questions which deserve proper answers are treated to a glib exercise in generalities. The Defence Department hopes that the member concerned will say: ‘I will have to be content with that because I am not likely to get any more information.’ That is a standard which ought to be completely unacceptable to the Parliament. One has only to look at a recent fashionable journal of political comment to find a twopage spread which is virtually a public relations shopping list which indicates that all is well with Defence Department procurement and that Australian manufacturing industry is doing very well through existing Government policy. If it is good enough for the Defence Department to involve itself in that kind of specious public relations exercise because it can see some benefit flowing to it, it ought to be good enough for that basic information to be made available to members of Parliament. I am not talking about members on this side of the House. I am talking about making the Parliament responsible in carrying out its duties and seeing that this monolithic structure which has to play a critical role in the defence of the nation is responsive and responsible to the Parliament.
The figures that have been extracted indicate as glib an exercise in political deceit as it is possible to imagine. I do not know the extent to which the Minister is involved. The Defence Department must be impossible to run but I believe that to lend himself to what has occurred in this situation constitutes very real problems for the Parliament. More importantly, it would lead any honourable member to the view that the Defence Department cannot and should not be accepted as fulfilling its very important role. Some real cognisance has to be had of the problems which are currently bedevilling Australian manufacturing industry and of the need to examine completely the role that Australian manufacturing industry will play in our future defence requirements. It is all very well to talk about the purchase of a new tactical fighter force.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drummond)Order! It being 10.30 p.m., in accordance with the sessional order, I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the negative.
– At a time when this Government is looking at potential expenditure of over $2,000m on the purchase of a tactical fighter force, we as a parliament have to be satisfied that there exists within the structure of our Department of Defence an awareness and a realisation of the role that Australian manufacturing industry can and has to play. Certainly on the track record, as I have exposed it in the House today, I for one am far from satisfied. I do not believe we can any longer deal in generalities. I think there has to be an objective appraisal of what is occurring in the whole area of defence policy procurement. I for one am not satisfied, for example, that given the competitiveness that now exists among overseas suppliers in terms of the supply of a tactical fighter force, that by hard bargaining and proper involvement of our defence manufacturing industries we are not able to produce in Australia an industry with more than the 30 per cent content.
We ought to be asking ourselves in this new situation whether a 30 per cent content is still appropriate, but when we ask that question it is necessary for the Department of Defence and the Minister to indicate to the House not glib generalities but the appropriate mechanisms, structures and methods by which he as a Minister and his Department will be operating in this area. The Australian taxpayer is entitled to have some knowledge that he is getting the very best in terms of defence equipment for the dollar that he as a taxpayer has to pay. Certainly we have a monolithic structure, a structure that is unresponsive, and the figures that I have made available to the House prove not only that Australia is not maintaining a level of off-set procurement at 30 per cent but also that it is not reaching even half that level. It is not good enough for the Minister or the Department to engage in what is little better than a public relations exercise designed to deceive the Parliament and the people of Australia. The issues we are dealing with go to the future defence of this nation, which is one area about which we are entitled to have frankness from the Minister, honesty from the Department and some integrity so that we as a Parliament will know that what is being pursued in terms of government policy is not only realistic and will meet the needs of this nation in terms of its defence requirements but, more importantly, will involve some real and meaningful involvement in the purchase of new technologies, the expansion of our own manufacturing base and the provision of -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drummond)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Debate (on motion by Mr McLean) adjourned.
Motion ( by Mr Groom) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
-This afternoon in Question Time the honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins) asked the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs (Mr Viner) a question dealing with apprenticeships. The Minister in his reply outlined some of the Government’s programs. In an article in the magazine Training Talkback, which I understand is put out by the Department of Employment and Youth Affairs, the Chairman of the National Training Council, Mr Derham, comments on programs for trade training. The article reads:
Apprentice intakes so far in 1 978-79 are down by about 7 per cent on the previous year, ‘ Mr Derham said.
This is a cause for concern at a time when employers are experiencing production bottlenecks and loss of orders because they are unable to recruit skilled tradesmen.
Recent initiatives by the Commonwealth to increase its own apprentices certainly help and private employers must recognise that it is in their own interests to train more apprentices to provide the skills we will need for the future.
With trade training the problem is the long lead times; if we don ‘t train now, we affect our supply of skills irreparably for the year to come.
Further on in the same magazine the Minister is reported as saying:
Another 230 apprentices will be taken on in Commonwealth establishments this year, in addition to the 1,200 already planned for 1979.
This follows a Government directive to all Commonwealth Departments and instrumentalities to recruit sufficient apprentices in 1979 to meet their own tradesmen needs. Additional funds will be provided and additional instructors recruited as necessary.
The Minister is reported in this magazine which is put out by the Department to be emphasising the need to train apprentices. The Minister referred also to the bottlenecks that are occurring at present and the effects of inflation. Although these sorts of comments are all right and we of the Opposition probably would not disagree with them, I would like to refer to action which has been taken by a Commonwealth Government instrumentality. As the Minister said, Government instrumentalities ought to take on more apprentices. I will refer to the position in the Australian National Railways Commission at Port Augusta. The ANR in 1974 took on 42 apprentices, in 1975 it took 43, in 1976 it was 40, in 1977 it was 43, in 1978 it took 48 and in 1979 it took 37. It will be noted that their was a big drop in the number of apprentices in 1979. It is the lowest intake in five years. This reduction started when the ANR decided to take on no apprentices whatsoever last. year. After second thoughts about the matter and following some pressure from unions and other interested bodies the ANR changed its mind and finished up taking on 32 apprentices for the year 1979. This was well below the figures for the previous year when it took on 48.
My inquiries of the ANR on the reason for the big drop in the intake of apprentices and what its plans were regarding apprenticeships revealed that the ANR was considering taking on an extra 10 apprentices under the Commonwealth Rebate for Apprentice Full-time Training Scheme. When I made further inquiries, although I was assured that 10 apprentices would be taken on only five were taken on. In that year only an additional five above the original figure of 32 agreed upon were taken on, so 37 apprentices were taken on compared with 48 for the previous year. It was the lowest figure for a number of years. Incidentally, the apprentices the ANR took on were included within the Commonwealth Government’s staff ceiling, so the 37 apprentices were put on at the cost of other jobs. It was certainly a funny way of looking at it because the staff ceiling was reduced and apprentices had to be put on.
The ANR, which is a Commonwealth
Government instrumentality, will pay for this decision in the future because in a few months’ time a new power house will be commenced and probably in 18 months’ time there will be a call for metal tradesmen. I remind honourable members that when the power house at Port Augusta was being built many ANR employees left the railways and took up better paid jobs at the power house. It can be anticipated that the same thing will happen again. The ANR and the main workshop at Port Augusta will be short of tradesmen. As a result the ANR will not be able to cope with the maintenance work necessary on the railway rolling stock, including theDiesel and electric locomotives. The ANR will pay the price in the years to come for its short-sighted policy.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drummond)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-When I make the commonplace observation that when the price of one commodity is increased relative to the price of other commodities, the purchasers of that commodity will endeavour to substitute others for it, or that if the price of beef rises relative to fish housewives will tend to buy less beef and more fish, no one seems to argue. Similarly, if the price of a factor of production rises relative to other factors, similar substitution takes place. Rising fuel prices can be expected to encourage farmers to plough less and instead to use more chemical weedkillers. Why then is there disagreement about the effect of wage levels upon employment? When the price of labour rose dramatically in 1973 and 1974 businesses received the price signal loud and clear and set about substituting machinery for workmen. It took them sometime to do it, both because machinery takes some time to order, make and install, and because employers are reluctant to sack existing employees. However, by the process of attrition the trend was inexorable. Accounting machines replaced secretaries; farmers noted that the optimum sized tractor was now bigger; shires discovered that, where they once worked say, three four-wheel trucks, the optimum unit had become two sixwheelers. No one saw the process as part of a nationwide movement, but each interpreted his own price signals and adjusted the factors of his own enterprise to reflect the new order.
Of course, labour substitution is not new. As our community became more wealthy, progressively more and more capital was made available to the productive processes of each workman. Total output and output per worker, or productivity, increased and this in turn permitted higher wages with full employment. As investment increased each worker produced more. It was possible to service the new capital and to pay the worker a higher real wage out of the increased production. The shares of monetary return from the sale of total product, accepted by labour and capital remained fairly constant over quite a long time.
In 1973 and 1974 Australia experienced a quite different phenomenon, namely, massive wage increase not associated with commensurate productivity increase, followed by the most severe recession since the 1930s. Company profits share of gross domestic product fell from a long run average of about 16 per cent to about 13 per cent. Normally during short periods of low demand and hence high unemployment, productivity had fallen, reflecting employers’ reluctance to pay off their labour force at the same rate as their order books emptied. Yet, on this occasion, output per hour worked the most widely accepted measure of productivity has risen, whilst unemployment has remained depressingly high. Capital’s share of GDP has also started to rise but has not nearly reached the old figure of 16 per cent. Productivity could have risen either because increased wealth had provided more machinery for each man to work, or on the other hand, labour productivity could have risen because there was now less labour for each machine. Factor shares could revert back to the long run trend either because profits and other capital rewards had risen relative to wages or, equally, because there was now more capital to service.
The evidence of the very existence of a pool of unemployed is that the latter in each case is the situation. The relative cost of machines and manpower has shifted in favour of machines and capital has replaced manpower. Firms are now committed to their new machines and it will take some time for the excess capital to work its way through the system. If this productivity gain caused by labour shedding is used to justify further real wage rises it will never work its way through the system and long run unemployment will be then inevitable. The irony is that only a willingness to share the existing wage bill with the unemployed will maximise production and hence, in the long run, maximise wages for everybody.
-The philosophy of members of the little group sitting opposite was demonstrated on television this evening when we saw them spitting out their hatred of the working people in this country. Their attitude is typified by what the honourable member for Moore (Mr Hyde) has said in this debate. When he and the honourable member for Perth (Mr McLean) return to Western Australia and confront their constituents about their advocacy of increased taxes, they will get a decent old serve from here on. What arises out of this issue is the inevitable position -
– What you forget is that we have already done it.
– I will be here after the next election and you will not. The attitude of the honourable member for Canberra (Mr Haslem) typifies the issue before us. Haslem ‘s attitude towards Canberra’s unemployed -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drummond)Order!
-I withdraw that. He is the honourable member for Canberra. The criticism levelled against the unemployed by an individual such as that is absolutely obnoxious. To say that people under 24 years of age should not receive the dole is the most insensitive statement one could ever possibly imagine. It arises from the concept of a pool of unemployed put forward by the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Carlton), the honourable member for Perth, the honourable member for Moore and the honourable member for Barton (Mr Bradfield)- the geniuses of this new age, the new messiahs who want to relegate people to the dole scrapheap. When they get these people there they want to squeeze them even further. These honourable members want to take away from people the fundamental right to exist and to provide for themselves and their families on $50 a week. To them $50 a week is far too good for unemployed people. They are saying to these people: ‘You can eat the grass or whatever else you like ‘.
The honourable member for Canberra in his Mugga Way home, with his $20,000 Mercedes
Benz, his interest in Peppers takeaway foods and Matildas Tavern in Canberra, blithely tells people that they should not receive the dole if they are under 25 years of age. This is the attitude of this individual, who has been pressed by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) to divest himself of such trappings as the $20,000 Mercedes Benz. The Prime Minister has encouraged him to exchange it for a more publicly acceptable Holden Statesman. The honourable member blithely makes all these irresponsible statements, adding insult to injury.
That is the state of mind of those on this back bench committee- the brains trust. They are a pack of imbeciles that you would not send for the Herald. The reality of life is beyond their comprehension I cannot imagine the people in their electorates falling for them again. It is hard to comprehend the depths of degradation to which they sink before they fight back. People have a right to expect at least survival rations from society when society forces them on to the scrap heap. That is what honourable members opposite have done. Our fine friend, the great economist, the honourable member for Ballarat (Mr Short- he is not here tonight; he is probably stunned by the reaction to his speech- said it is not entirely correct that increased taxes and decreases in public spending are the answer. That is a profound statement. He should have been a detective. He said there is another attitude- a combination of both. For God’s sake! What is the end? The fact is that in our society the Government has removed the opportunity for many to survive for work.
The policies expounded by this so-called intelligentsia on the Government back bench is leading us into further unemployment and an aggravation of the situation. The honourable member for Canberra is to be condemned for the statements he made.
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-For a moment I thought the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes) was going to give us a dissertation on tax policy, which would have come as something of a surprise, as he is a member of the party which has indentified itself as the biggest collection of tax bandits this country has ever known. However, he apparently thought better of doing that and went on to make some critique of the performance of the honourable member for Canberra (Mr Haslem) during which he misquoted and misrepresented the honourable member for Canberra. Can we expect anything else from a man of the calibre of the honourable member for Melbourne? But what is more important is that he did not even observe the usual courtesies of the House, and notify the honourable member for Canberra that he would be commenting -
– I rise on a point of order.
-I warn the honourable member for Melbourne not to take a frivolous point of order.
– I will not. I find the statement by the honourable member for La Trobe, who has a vacuum between his ears, highly objectionable. I ask him for a withdrawal.
-The Government may have found many things said by the honourable member for Melbourne during his speech objectionable. The adjournment debate is a very free-ranging debate.
– I should like to pursue the point of order. I find the statement made by the honourable member for La Trobe objectionable and I ask you to direct the honourable member to withdraw.
-Order! The honourable member for Melbourne has made his point. As he finds the statement offensive, I ask the honourable member for La Trobe to withdraw.
-I withdraw. Members of the Government welcome the categoric statement by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) at Question Time yesterday in respect of development, exploration or drilling on the Great Barrier Reef. He said:
He went on to say:
That is a categoric and absolute guarantee.
Later in the same answer the Prime Minister said:
If there is any doubt about whether an activity would damage the reef, that activity would not take place.
I suggest that that is the most unequivocal statement that has ever been made in any Parliament in respect of the future of the Great Barrier Reef. Most particularly, it stands in stark contrast to the hypocritical attitude adopted by the Australian Labor Party in respect of the Great Barrier Reef. I want to place on record that it was an Australian Labor Party government which issued exploration licences for the Great Barrier Reef. In order to understand the significance of that, the House should appreciate that an exploration licence requires the holder of the licence to get out and actively explore and develop. Those are the conditions upon which an exploration licence is given. Let there be no doubt about it. It was an Australian Labor Party government which issued those exploration licences, and it stands condemned in the eyes of this House and of the people of Australia.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. The honourable member referred to the Australian Labor Party Government. He should be aware that the whole Cabinet was sacked by the rank and file of the Labor Party when it issued those licences, and they joined the Democratic Labor Party. He should be aware of those issues.
-Order! There is no substance to the point of order.
– I am indebted to the honourable member for Reid for confirming exactly what I said. It was an Australian Labor Party government which authorised exploration on the Great Barrier Reef.
-i raise a further point of order. The Australian Labor Party Government was sacked by the rank and file, and they joined the Democratic Labor Party.
-Order! There is no point of order. The honourable member for Reid will resume his seat.
– In addition, the Australian Labor Party apparently has compounded the crime because the leader of the party in Queensland is on record -
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I am sure that members on this side of the House -
– I raise a point of order. In view of the time taken by intervention from the Opposition’s front bench speaker, I ask that the honourable member for La Trobe be granted an extension of time.
-Order! There is no substance to the point of order.
– I want to pay tribute to the very great scholarship displayed last night by the honourable member for Ballarat (Mr Short) in his Economics I lecture. However, it seems to me that perhaps the honourable member for Ballarat may have occupied himself rather more fruitfully if he had directed his remarks to the problems of regional economics and particularly to the problems of the economics of the Ballarat electorate. I want to outline to the House some of the facts relevant to the economic situation in the Ballarat electorate. An indication of the present depressed state of the electorate in economic terms is evidenced by the unemployment statistics. Let me offer some of the facts. In April 1979- April of this year; last month- there were 3,665 people unemployed in the Ballarat region. Of that number, 1,958 were adults and 1,707 were juniors. There were 157 vacancies for those 3,665 people, that is, one vacancy for every 14 unemployed adults and one vacancy for every 89 unemployed juniors. The effective unemployment rate in Ballarat runs at 14.2 per cent for adults and 33 per cent for the young people for whom the honourable member for Canberra (Mr Haslem) showed considerable concern last night. That is, one in every three young people seeking employment in Ballarat is unable to find employment. The unemployment rate for Ballarat as a whole is effectively 10.5 per cent. The average length of time for which someone is unemployed within the city of Ballarat is now six months.
It is all very well for the honourable member for Ballarat to give us a lecture on fiscal and monetary policy and to talk about the outrageous deficit levels, deficits that I might say are cumulatively far worse under this Government than they were during the whole of the Labor Government’s period in office. The honourable member for Ballarat can talk in this House about national economic policy, but why does he not tell us what he as the member for Ballarat is advocating within the government parties to help the unemployed? What is he saying within the government parties about the level of unemployment benefit? In terms of the ratio of unemployment benefit to average weekly earnings, Australia has the lowest benefit of any country within the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. That is what we think of our unemployed. We have 1,707 unemployed juniors in Ballarat who are receiving $36 a week, a rate that has not been changed since this Government came to power. What is the honourable member for Ballarat saying within the government parties about that level of unemployment? What is he saying about the overall economic situation of the families of those young unemployed people? It is about time that we heard more from the back bench of the Liberal Party than lectures to stiffen the Government’s back bone so that it can bring in this year the kind of Budget that will make the economic situation of this country much worse and increase the number of unemployed people, as it did last year.
Our rate of unemployment is currently more than 7 percent and we are looking at a figure of 8 per cent by the end of this year. No doubt that figure will reach 10 per cent within a decade. In Ballarat that will mean an unemployment rate of more than 10 per cent. In Ballarat it will mean an unemployment rate of 12 per cent or 13 per cent, but by that time the honourable member for Ballarat will no longer be the member. The people of Ballarat expect their member to advocate in this Parliament policies that are in the interests of unemployed people rather than going in for the abstract academic half-baked theorising that we heard last night. That will do nothing for any unemployed person in this country.
– I wish to express my deep concern arising from the continuing publicity regarding steel belted radial tyres. Criticism of these tyres stems from the recall of steel belted radial tyres in the United States in mid- 1978, when some 14,000 tyre failures were detected in a well known and long established make of tyre.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. Could the honourable member for Barton assist the House by telling us about his own private interests in tyre companies?
Order! There is no substance to the point of order.
– Subsequent to this publicity, criticism of the steel belted radial tyres used on the Australian market has gathered momentum in the Press, on radio programs, and in various Parliaments. I am concerned that such publicity may be creating a serious road safety problem and stems from a background hardly worthy of such community reaction. Criticism of these tyres may well be creating consumer reluctance to benefit from the superior safety and other advantages available from the use of this product. Perhaps the best test of appreciation of radial tyres is to seek comment from a motorist who has had the unfortunate experience of driving on ordinary cross-ply tyres after having used radial tyres. Radial tyres provide vastly improved road-holding qualities under both cornering and braking conditions. They are second to none for wet-weather handling and provide safer use at highway speeds due to cooler running. As an added bonus, they provide a small fuel saving over ordinary tyres.
-It being 1 1 p.m. the debate is interrupted. The House stands adjourned until 10.30 a.m. tomorrow.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 8 March 1 979:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
As at 30 June 1978 there were 95 Australian Missions overseas, consisting of 45 Embassies, 19 High Commissions, 2 Commissions, 16 ConsulatesGeneral, 8 Consulates, 1 Australian Government Trade Commission,1 Migration Office, 2 Permanent United Nations Missions and1 Permanent Delegation to the OECD. The Status and Location of these missions is shown in Table A.
The answer to question (2 ) appears in Table B.
Algiers (Algeria), Cairo (ARE), Buenos Aires (Argentina), Vienna (Austria), Brussels (Belgium), Brasilia (Brazil), Rangoon (Burma), Santiago (Chile), Peking (China), Copenhagen (Denmark), Paris (France), Berlin (GDR), Bonn (FRG), Athens (Greece), Jakarta (Indonesia), Tehran (Iran), Baghdad (Iraq), Dublin (Ireland), Tel Aviv (Israel), Rome (Italy), Tokyo (Japan), Seoul (South Korea), Vientiane (Laos), Beirut (Lebanon), Tripoli (Libya), Mexico City (Mexico), The Hague (Netherlands), Islamabad (Pakistan), Lima (Peru), Manila (Philippines), Warsaw (Poland), Lisbon (Portugal), Jeddah (Saudi Arabia), Pretoria (South Africa), Madrid (Spain), Stockholm (Sweden), Berne (Switzerland), Damascus (Syria), Bangkok (Thailand), Ankara (Turkey), Moscow (USSR), Washington (USA), Hanoi (Vietnam ), Belgrade ( Yugoslavia ), Holy See ( Holy See).
United Nations Missions
Australian Permanent Mission to the Office of United Nations, Geneva-
Australian Mission to United Nations, New York.
Australian Delegation to the OECD.
Hong Kong, Honiara (Solomon Islands).
Dacca (Bangladesh), London (Britain), Ottawa (Canada), Nicosia (Cyprus), Suva (Fiji), Accra (Ghana), New Delhi (India), Kingston (Jamaica), Nairobi (Kenya), Kula Lumpur (Malaysia), Malta (Malta),
Nauru (Nauru), Wellington (New Zealand), Lagos (Nigeria), Port Moresby (PNG), Singapore (Singapore), Colombo (Sri Lanka), Dar Es Salaam (Tanzania), Apia (Western Samoa),
Australian Government Trade Commission, P.O. Box 1 164, Johannesburg (South Africa).
Migration Office, Cologne ( FRG ).
Chicago (USA), New York (USA), Manchester (Britain), San Francisco (USA), Lae (PNG), Bahrain (Bahrain), Sao Paulo (Brazil), Toronto (Canada), Vancouver (Canada), Milan (Italy), Osaka (Japan), Auckland (New Zealand), Hamburg (FRG), Karachi (Pakistan), Christ-church (New Zealand), Port of Spain (Trinidad & Tobago).
Honolulu (USA), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Noumea (New Caledonia), Capetown (South Africa), Geneva (Switzerland), Vila (New Hebrides), Messina (Italy), Edinburgh (Britain).
A.A.E.C.- Australian Atomic Energy Commission.
Abased- Australiabased staff assigned overseas.
A.F.C.- Australian Film Commission
A.G. ‘s- AttorneyGeneral ‘s Department
A.I.S.- Australian Information Service, Department of Administrative Services
Cap. Works- Capital Works, includes purchase of property, land, motor vehicles, and equipment
C.S.I.R.O.- Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation
FIN.- Department of Finance
L.E.S.- Locallyengaged staff employed overseas
M.T.N.- Multilateral Trade Negotiations
O.E.C.D.- Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development
O.O.B.- Overseas Operations Branch, Department of Administrative Services
Prop. Serv.- Property Services, includes rent, property maintenance, purchase of furniture and fittings, consultants fees, motor vehicle running costs.
Salaries and Expenditure Includes Abased and LES salary and allowances, overtime, travel costs, stationery, postage and communications costs, social security payments (for LES), and sundries.
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 Health, upon notice, on 8 March 1 979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Australian National Railways: Land at Port Augusta (Question No. 3685)
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 1 May 1979:
Have arrangements been made regarding the disposal of land owned by Australian National Railways at Port Augusta, S.A., now out of use following the demolition of numerous dwellings formerly occupied by AN R employees.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Australian National Railways do not propose to sell the land in question at this stage. Since ANR presently provides all services, other than electricity, it considers that it would be inappropriate to sell allotments until other bodies agree to take over provision of services. I understand, however, that this is not likely until more allotments are available. ANR has undertaken to review the matter periodically.
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 1 May 1979:
Why have civilian tenders been considered for the manning and support of Nomad Searchmaster Aircraft for coastal surveillance, instead of the RAAF or other Government agencies.
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
On IS December 1978 I announced a number of new initiatives in the upgraded civil coastal surveillance program introduced by the Government in July 1978, including provision for the charter of about ten Australian designed and built Nomad aircraft for surveillance tasks.
The performance and effectiveness of the chartered aircraft will be evaluated in the context of the review of surveillance programs and resources which is to be undertaken by the Government after accumulation of practical experience with the new program.
Civil coastal surveillance is not a military problem even though the Defence Force provides a large measure of assistance to civil authorities.
Birds as Virus Carriers (Question No. 3747)
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 2 May 1979:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Finance, upon notice, on 2 May 1979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Trailer Vehicles: Jack-knifing (Question No. 3841)
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 3 May 1979:
How many accidents have occurred in each State and Territory involving the jack-knifing of trailer vehicles which led to (a) death or ( b) serious injury during the last 10 years.
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The incidence of jack-knifing of trailer vehicles cannot be determined from the routinely published accident statistics. Similarly, few special studies have been done. A study of 1,535 accidents involving articulated vehicles in Queensland during 1965-67 found 126 cases or 8.2 per cent which involved jack-knifing. A study in New South Wales of 457 accidents involving vehicles towing caravans during 1972-73 found 29 or 6.3 per cent which involved jack-knifing. Of these 29 only 2 were casualty accidents with a total of 3 injured persons and no fatalities.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 23 May 1979, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1979/19790523_reps_31_hor114/>.