31st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden) took the chair at 2. 1 5 p.m., and read prayers.
– I have received a return to the writ which I issued on 1 5 May for the election of a member to serve for the electoral division of Grayndler in the State of New South Wales to fill the vacancy caused by the death of the Honourable Francis Eugene Stewart. By the endorsement on the writ it is certified that Leo Boyce McLeay has been elected.
Mr Leo Boyce McLeay was introduced and made and subscribed an oath of allegiance as member for the Division of Grayndler, New South Wales.
– 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 twice-yearly payments inappropriate “ is not valid.
Great injury will be caused to 920,000 aged, invalid, widows and supporting parents, who rely solely on the pension or whose income, other than the pension, is $6 or less per week. Once-a-year payments strike a cruel blow to their expectation and make a mockery of a solemn election pledge.
Accordingly, your petitioners call upon their legislators to:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Aldred, Mr Lionel Bowen, Mr Bryant, Mr Burns, Mr Donald Cameron, Mr Ewen Cameron, Mr Cohen, Mr Fisher, Mr MacKellar, Mr Les McMahon, Mr Morris, Mr Ruddock, Mr Shipton and Mr West.
To the Honourable, the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives, of the Australian Parliament assembled. The petition of certain citizens of New South Wales respectfully showeth:
Dismay at the reduction in the total expenditure on education proposed for 1980 and in particular to Government Schools.
Government Schools bear the burden of these cuts, while non-Government school will receive an increase of 3.4 per cent.
We call on the Government to again examine the proposals as set out in the guidelines for Education expenditure 1980 and to immediately restore and increase substantially in real terms the allocation of funds for education expenditure in 1980 to Government schools.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Anthony, Mr Baume, Mr Cohen, Mr
Ellicott, Mr Gillard, Mr Hunt, Mr James, Mr Les Johnson, Mr Charles Jones, Mr Morris, Mr O’Keefe, Mr Uren and Mr West.
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 a grave threat to the life of refugees from the various States of Indo-China arises from the policies of the Government of Vietnam.
That, as a result of these policies, many thousands of refugees are fleeing their homes and risking starvation and drowning. Because of the failure of the rich nations of the world to provide more than token assistance, the resources of the nations of first refuge, especially Malaysia and Thailand, are being stretched beyond reasonable limits.
As a wealthy nation within the region most affected, Australia is able to play a major part in the rescue as well as resettlement of these refugees.
It should be possible for Australia to: establish and maintain on the Australian mainland basic transit camps for the housing and processing of 200,000 refugees each year; mobilise the Defence Force to search for, rescue and transport to Australia those refugees who have been able to leave the Indo-China States; accept the offer of those church groups which propose to resettle some thousands of refugees in Australia.
The adoption of such a humane policy would have a marked effect on Australia ‘s standing within the region.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Bourchier, Mr Ewen Cameron, Mr
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. We the undersigned citizens of Australia would urgently request our Government to consider
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr MacKellar.
To the Honourable Speaker and the Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of South Australia respectfully showeth:
That 70,000 refugees from Vietnam are being expelled from Malaysia in boats facing great hazard at sea and that they are deprived of the protection of the laws of their own country and that they have no home and no haven anywhere in the world.
Your petitioners pray that the Australian government come to the aid of the afore-mentioned 70,000 refugees by increasing the quota of refugees to enter Australia, by appealing to the United Nations, by appealing to the Malaysian government and by appealing to countries around the world for shelter and protection.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr MacKellar.
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 N. A. Brown, Mr Falconer, Mr
MacKellar, Mr Macphee and Mr Staley.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in the Commonwealth Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
We therefore do ask the Government of Australia not to take the action that is believed intended.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Garland, Mr Hyde, Mr Shack and Mr Viner.
Royal Commission on Human Relationships
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That because the Report of the Royal Commission on Human Relationships and especially its recommendations:
Therefore the Parliament has a responsibility to the families of Australia not to adopt this controversial report and its recommendations.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray:
That the Australian Parliament will-
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that your honourable House will take no measures concerning the Royal Commission on Human Relationships Report that will further undermine and weaken marriage, child-care or the family which is the basic unit of our society.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Roger Johnston, Mr Peacock, Mr Ian Robinson and Mr Simon.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Federal Government increase its allocation for Pre-School education immediately to enable the provision of adequate pre-school services in South Australia.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Dr Blewett, Mr Giles and Mr Young.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That we oppose the increase in marine radio licence fees for the following reasons:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the government will reconsider the increased licence fee and also consider a reduction for pensioners.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Baume and Mr West.
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 reintroduction of tuition fees for tertiary education and the introduction of a loans scheme of student financing as suggested by a research paper for the National Inquiry into Education and Training and as recommended for further study by the Committee of Inquiry, would add a significant financial burden to the already low finances of tertiary students.
Your petitioners also note that according to a major study on the abolition of fees made through the University of New South Wales Tertiary Education Research Centre, it is the category of students presently under-represented in tertiary education who would be most disadvantaged by the reintroduction of fees.
Furthermore, 20 per cent of students surveyed in that study said they would be forced to defer or not enrol if fees were reintroduced.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Bourchier and Mr Lynch.
To the Right Honourable the Speaker and the Members of the House or Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia residing in the Electorate of Wannon respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners pray:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Lionel Bowen and Mr Kerin.
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 there are Australian Aboriginal children living under conditions of inadequate nutrition in a background of poor housing, hygiene, and over-crowding that amounts to a Third World enclave in the midst of affluence;
That such a state of affairs is intolerable in our country;
That only an effort on an unprecedented scale could create conditions that would give these children the rights set out in the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of the Child.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will make generous funding available for the specific purposes of:
Making a real improvement in the health, housing, education, employment and welfare of our Aboriginal people, doing so with due regard for the needs, hopes and aspirations of the Aboriginal people themselves.
Providing increased help, encouragement and opportunity for Aboriginal people to train as nursing aides and in other para-medical roles, and as fully qualified nurses, doctors and social workers.
Providing increased health education for Aboriginal people in ways that are acceptable to them. by Mr Clyde Cameron and Mr Wilson.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the 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 ever pray, by Mr Cohen.
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 offshore 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 ever pray, by Mr Roger Johnston.
To the Right Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth in Parliament assembled: The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That we, the undersigned:
We, the undersigned request the Government to:
Provide 100 per cent Direct Federal funding to Women’s Refuges so as to ensure the continuation of Women’s Refuges as an ongoing service in the community.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Dawkins and Mr McLean.
The Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned members and ex-members of the Citizens Forces of Australia respectfully sheweth:
Your Honourable House take appropriate action to resume the award of the several distinctive Reserve Forces Decorations and Medals for Long Service and Good Conduct to members of the Royal Australian Naval Reserve, Army Reserve (C.M.F. ) and the R.A.A.F Citizens Air Force.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byMrAldred.
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:
We the undersigned wish to draw the Government’s attention to the problems we will be facing if the NEAT scheme as it applies to handicapped children is closed down.
We have learning problems so we are not clever enough to get the School Certificate. We need a chance through the NEAT work experience program to show people what we can do.
The scheme helps us to learn how to work and how to be good employees. We get experience and develop skills which make us employable.
If you take the scheme away from us it will cost you a lot more money to keep us on the unemployment benefits than it does to train us.
Surely we are worth more than the few thousand dollars involved. Please let us become part of the workforce.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House take action to rescind their decision to discontinue the scheme.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Armitage.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The humble Petition of the undersigned electors of the Division of Dawson respectfully showeth:
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that an all weather road for the section of the Bruce Highway between Bowen and Townsville be constructed as a matter of urgency.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Braithwaite.
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 further cutbacks in Commonwealth funding to State Schools and transferral of funds to wealthy independent schools as required under the guidelines to the Schools Commission announced by the Minister for Education in early June are of vital concern in that they mitigate against the interests of the great majority of Australian Children in State Schools.
That Queensland State Schools have not reached the Resource Usage Targets set by the Schools Commission, and even at those financial levels will fall well short of actual provision standards envisaged by the Commission.
That Queensland’s effort in respect of Capital works is particularly of concern being less than half the per capita effort of other States.
Your petitioners therefore call on their legislators to ensure:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Kevin Cairns.
To the Honourable, the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That we protest against the barbaric slaughter of the Harp seal pups on the iceflows of Newfoundland. Not only are the seal pups viciously clubbed to death, many of them are skinned alive and their bodies left to rot on the ice. If these killings are allowed to continue, the species could become extinct.
We want to see a total ban on the import of seal products into Australia, and the support of the Australian Government in demanding that this massacre be stopped.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Fisher.
Petition to the Honourable the Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled; petition.
The humble petition of the undersigned residents of the Northern Territory, South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales showeth; that we are distressed and concerned by the refusal by Australia Post to issue a commemorative stamp upon the50th Anniversary of the Association of Apex Clubs.
Your petitioners therefore pray that your honourable House will do all in its power to have the Commonwealth Government take immediate action to guarantee the reconsideration of the application.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Fisher.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the National Women’s Advisory Council has not been democratically elected by the women of Australia;
That the National Women’s Advisory Council is not representative of the women of Australia;
That the National Women’s Advisory Council is a discriminatory and sexist imposition on Australian women as Australian men do not have a National Men’s Advisory Council imposed on them.
Your petitioners therefore pray:
That the National Women’s Advisory Council be abolished to ensure that Australian women have equal opportunity with Australian men of having issues of concern to them considered, debated and voted on by their Parliamentary representatives without intervention and interference by an unrepresentative ‘Advisory Council’.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Malcolm Fraser.
To the Speaker and the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia in Parkes, N.S.W., respectfully showeth:
That taking note that the very Survival of Mankind is at stake, with the stockpile of nuclear weapons able to kill every person on Earth 24 times over; and this at the inflation causing cost of $ 1 , 000 million per day for the World, $7 million per day for Australia;
And noting that the energies released by lifting the burden of armaments could solve such problems as:
World hunger: The cost of one nuclear missile could feed the entire population of Bangladesh for 2 months; and I per cent of military budgets could finance the World Food Conference plans for increased food population and emergency reserves.
Malaria, smallpox, even cancer: The total cost of W.H.O’s campaign for the eradication of Smallpox was $83 million- the cost of one bomber; with $450 millionhalf day’s spending for military purposes, W.H.O. could completely eradicate Malaria; similarly with Cancer.
Education: At present, there are as many soldiers as teachers.
Unemployment: $49 million- one week’s worth- 1/52 of Australia’s defence spending- could create 3,000 jobs.
And noting that the Prime Minister, in his speech to the U.N. Special Session, said that “conscience and reason demanded that this waste of resources cease” and that disarmament is a matter of political leadership. “
Call upon the Australian Government, as a matter of the highest priority, in the interests of the Australian people no less than those of other peoples, to give this political leadership by acting promptly and effectively to further the disarmament which is the desire and determined will of the vast majority of the people of every nation in the World.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Fry.
That we object to the decision of Australia Post to close the Nedlands South postal agency.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the decision to close the Post Office agency at Nedlands South, Western Australia, be reversed.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Garland.
That we object to the decision of Australia Post to close the Daglish Village Post Office.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the decision to close the Post Office at Daglish Village, Western Australia, be reversed.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Garland.
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 Economic Policies of the ‘Mini Budget’ of 24 May are socially reprehensible and a breach of faith with the Australian people
As Low Income earners, we feel this continued erosion of our purchasing power, will cause us real economic hardship.
Your Petitioners call on the Australian Government as a matter of urgency to reverse its economic policies which are causing irreparable damage to the Australian economy and unnecessary economic and social hardship.
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 of the Commonwealth in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth.
That they oppose the construction of any additional reactor at the Australian Atomic Energy Commission establishment at Lucas Heights in New South Wales.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Les Johnson.
To the Honorable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that the sales tax as applied to articles handmade by artisans is unfair.
An artisan is a handcraftsman, or a handcraftswoman, who exercises a non agricultural activity, revolving around the transformation of materials with his own handwork or that of his family. On craft, above all, the accent must be on design, practicability and quality, where the craftsman must perforce pay highly for his raw materials and time must not be a conditioning factor in the making of an article.
This petition seeks the objective examination of the existing Sales Tax Acts in respect to persons seeking to earn their living by the labour of their hands alone.
Every day, skilled artisans are being forced out of their livelihood, not by the competition of machine made goods. not by high prices of materials, but by the injustice of antiquated Sales Tax Laws. The artisan, thus taxed out of his living, will then go onto unemployment benefits, or worse still, to prostituting his craft by sacrificing his professional integrity, forcing him to lower his standards of workmanship in order to conform to existing laws.
We therefore request that a Sales Tax exemption be created immediately for all hand crafted articles.
We also request that the current exemption limit of $ 1 , 400 and $1,000 respectively referred to in items 100-(1) and 100-(2) of the Sales Tax (Exemption and Classifications) Act 1935-1967, be immediately raised to a realistic figure, in line with current living standards, and from then on to be periodically reviewed so as to keep pace with the Australian standard of living.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Peter Johnson.
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
The Association of Apex Clubs of Australia was founded in Geelong in 1931 and is the only service club founded in Australia. In March 1981 the Association will celebrate 50 years service to the Australian community. Commemorative stamps have been issued by Australia Post to celebrate the activities of Rotary International and Lions International.
Your petitioners therefore pray:
That Australia Post be asked to issue a commemorative stamp in 1 98 1 in order to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the only Australian service club.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Barry Jones.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Represenatives in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of undersigned citizens of Australia; e.g. undersigned electors of the Division of Flinders respectfully showeth:
We wish the pensions to be reviewed every six months.
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that you will exceed to our request at your earliest convenience.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Lynch.
That there has been a reduction in the subsidies paid to Pre-School Teachers and assistants.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that: The Government return to realistic subsidies of salaries for teachers and assistants of New South Wales Pre-Schools.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Lusher.
Royal Commission on Human Relationships
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That because the Report of the Royal Commission on Human Relationships and its Recommendations:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray:
That the Australian Parliament will:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that your honourable House will implement such measures to maintain the Commissioners’ ‘belief in the right and integrity of the individual to make free choices in the context of human relationships, and to have access to the knowledge and skills which give such a free choice meaning’.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by 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.
That we the undersigned, having great concern at the way in which children are now being used in the production of pornography call upon the Government to introduce immediate legislation:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that your honourable House will protect all children and immediately prohibit pornographic child-abuse materials, publications or films.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Martyr.
To the Honourable the Speaker and the Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectively show us:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Millar.
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:
There is a definite limit to the quantity of Australia’s mineral resources.
Accordingly our resources should be managed and developed under Australian ownership and control.
Publicly owned trading enterprises and corporations have been established and operated for the benefit of Australians since Federation.
The Commonwealth Banking Corporation, Trans Australia Airlines, Housing Loans Insurance Corporation, Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation, Australian Wheat Board, were all designed to operate to the benefit of our Nation as a whole under public ownership.
The Fraser government’s irresponsible proposals to sell off our Nation’s interest in the Ranger Uranium Mine, the
Housing Loans Insurance Corporation, and to dispose of other successful statutory corporations such as Trans Australia Airlines, would be contrary to the Nation’s interests.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives will reject outright proposals of the Fraser government to sell the Ranger Uranium Mine, the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation, Trans Australia Airlines, and other publicly owned enterprises.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Morris.
The Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives assembled: The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Gippsland of the State of Victoria, respectfully showeth, that many Gippsland television viewers enjoy excellent reception of Melbourne based television stations, such reception of programs in the area has been of mutual benefit to both Melbourne and country commercial interests and country citizens generally. This good reception has been of particular benefit to many viewers in the central and western end of Gippsland who have experienced difficulty in having receivers pick up a clear signal from GLV 10. Most Gippsland TV viewers who receive Melbourne station signals have gone to considerable expense to provide special antennas and booster equipment.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that no action be taken which would prejudice the signal of Channels 7 and 9 being received in the Gippsland Region.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Nixon.
To the Rt Honourable, The Speaker, and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled, the petition of the undersigned citizens of Ballarat respectfully showeth:
We the undersigned citizens of Ballarat wish to express our great concern at the mounting road toll and at other forms of social troubles caused by excessive drinking.
Whilst fully accepting the need for individuals to have freedom of choice, we wish to express our concern at the encouragement to drinking, particularly by young people, which is caused by the advertising of alcohol on television.
We ask the Government to take action to restrict the advertising of alcohol on television in the same way in which it has restricted the advertising of cigarettes.
We are deeply concerned about this matter and we ask our Honourable Members to give it their urgent consideration
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Short.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled: The humble Petition e.g. certain citizens of Australia (electors of the Division of Leichhardt) and other citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the proposed restrictions on importations of inoffensive fish will severely restrict species most popular to aquarists whilst government releases of predators such as trout, gambusa and Nile perch can only be detrimental to the environment.
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that sound reason will prevail and a more realistic view will be adopted resulting in the defeat of the proposal.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Thomson.
To the Right Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. We, the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia by this our humble Petition respectfully showeth:
That the decision of the Australian Government to depart from its 1 975 election promise, a promise re-affirmed during the 1977 election campaign, that pensions would be increased twice-yearly in line with increases in the CPI, will seriously add to the economic burdens now borne by those citizens who are wholly or mainly dependent on their pensions.
Your petitioners are impelled by this fact to call upon the Australian Government as a matter of urgency to review the abovementioned decision, and to determine.
That pensions will be increased twice yearly in line with rises in the CPI as promised by the Prime Minister in his 1 975 policy speech.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Viner.
– I draw the attention of the House to the presence in the chamber of the Speaker and Clerk of the Legislative Assembly of Victoria.
Honourable members- Hear, hear!
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That this House noting-
1 ) the unhealthy monopoly of mail delivery by Australia Post;
the repressive penal sanctions against persons or companies other than Australia Post who carry or convey or cause to be carried or conveyed letters for reward;
the potential for union blackmail inherent in such a monopoly, and
the widespread use of courier services and documents exchange services. is of the opinion that Australia Post should be subject to competition and calls upon the Government to introduce legislation to repeal section 85 of the Postal Services Act.
-I give notice that on General Business Thursday No 12, 1 shall move:
That this House-
1 ) congratulates the Minister for Transport and the Prime Minister for their announcement on 5 July 1979, to proceed with the first phase of the new Brisbane Airport, to cost $92m and
acknowledges that the people of Australia and especially of Queensland will receive enormous economic and social benefits from this development, and that the people of Queensland look forward to the manner in which the Minister for Transport and the Prime Minister will wield the first pick or drive the first bulldozer or whatever, with the active support of all Queensland Government members and senators.
– I ask a question of the Minister for National Development. Is it a fact that the price of aviation gasolene has risen from under 1 5c a litre in November 1 975 to almost 50c a litre at present? Is the price now 333 per cent of what it was when the Fraser Government came to office? Is it a fact that the price has doubled this year? Will the Minister assure the general aviation industry and people who rely on general aviation for commuting, for rural industries and for essential services that these price rises will not continue?
-The Leader of the Opposition has made a number of statements about avgas in the past 48 hours. The distinguishing feature of all those statements is that they have been completely inaccurate and riddled with misrepresentation. In relation to the question of pricing, the wholesale price of all shipments of avgas into this country has to go before the Prices Justification Tribunal for approval. The Government remains at arm ‘s length; it is the PJT which decides the price.
-My question is directed to the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs and concerns representations which have been made to the Minister concerning the involvement of the Commonwealth Employment Service and its Professional Employment Office in activities already well covered by private employment agencies. Is the Minister aware that the Commonwealth Employment Service has recently extended its temporary staff activity into Victoria where private agencies already offer comprehensive temporary staff services? What public benefit is being served by such duplication of effort? When will the Minister respond to the many representations he has received requesting him to define more precisely the proper areas of activity of the Commonwealth Employment Service and its Professional Employment Office.
– As the honourable gentleman indicated in his question, I have received a number of representations about the role of the Commonwealth Employment Service and, in particular, its Professional Employment Office section in relation to the activities of private personnel placement agencies. I have also recently received a report from the advisory committee to the Commonwealth Employment Service. That committee held some discussions with representatives of the private personnel agencies. Out of both the representations I have received from government members and the advice I have received from the advisory committee, I hope that I will be able to establish a situation in which each section will have its own role in this field. Historically the CES and PEO have always offered their services to employees or prospective employees who want assistance in obtaining employment.
There is a role for the CES in the area of those seeking temporary employment as well as those seeking permanent full-time employment, but I do see a need to rationalise both areas. This will come about through discussions between myself and the private personnel agencies. I have already had those discussions. I will take the representations and the advice I have received from the CES advisory committee into account.
– I direct my question to the Prime Minister. I refer him to his statement in Perth that he would smarten up. I ask: Is that statement just another Fraser promise?
– I have always believed that nobody is perfect. There is always room for improvement. Whenever I hear the honourable gentleman I am reminded of that.
– I ask the Treasurer whether he is concerned that the already low level of consumer confidence has recently been further depressed as shown by State retail sales and motor vehicle registrations, and in particular by the publication last week of a poll which showed such confidence to be at its lowest ebb since such polls commenced five years ago? Is the Treasurer also aware that the pollsters have concluded that that alarming situation is due to a strong adverse reaction to the mini-budget of last May and to deep concern by consumers regarding their personal financial positions which will not be alleviated by marginal tax cuts? In view of these findings will the Treasurer now concede that as an exercise in economic management, the minibudget of last May was a disaster?
-My answer to the last part of the question is no. My comment on the first part of the question is that later today I will have a few things to say about a few of the matters raised and I invite the honourable member to come along.
-Is the Minister for Post and Telecommunications aware of the service that Radio Australia gives to our neighbouring countries? Is he aware that when I visited at least nine of those countries, I found that Radio Australia was considered to be one of the most valuable and most useful ways by which the views of this country are expressed abroad? Will the Minister, therefore, take all necessary steps to see that Radio Australia is given a higher signal and more power so that our views can be well heard in world affairs?
– I appreciate the concern of the honourable member for the work of Radio Australia, and the Government supports that concern completely. Work on the limited restoration of the Shepparton installation has now been completed and in February 1978 the Government approved the restoration of the Cox Peninsula installation. Some limited repair work had been undertaken and some limited transmissions have taken place to improve the situation. There are other major developments, but because of the presentation of the Budget tonight I am prevented from making a precise announcement about the details of work to be undertaken in the next year. I can assure the honourable member that the Government has decided that the work will go ahead in the current financial year. We share his concern that Australia’s standing, as it is represented by Radio Australia, should be improved in the region.
– Has the Prime Minister had his attention drawn to the released details of settlement between the family company of the
Minister for Primary Industry and Reliance Investments Pty Ltd over moneys allegedly misappropriated? Were the details of this settlement drawn to his attention prior to 2 August 1 979 and prior to his departure for overseas? Has all the material pertaining to this matter now been made available to the Prime Minister? On the basis of that information, is the Prime Minister satisfied that his own guidelines for the conduct of Ministers have been satisfied?
-The Australian Labor Party has sought to introduce this matter into this Parliament on many occasions, notwithstanding the fact that an inquiry is being conducted by Mr Finnane under the auspices of the New South Wales Labor Government. One would have thought that natural justice would require that while that inquiry is in train the matter should not be prejudiced by debate in this Parliament or any other place. If it were occurring before a court of law, that rule would prevail; but, because there have been developments in quasi-judicial tribunals and administrative tribunals since the time the rules of sub-judice were formed, these other tribunals and administrative inquiries are not covered by that rule. I do believe that once this particular case is out of the way this House should address itself to that question as a matter of great seriousness because the Australian Labor Party on every occasion has sought to prejudice the environment -
- Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. The point of order that I raise is simply that the thrust of the question was directed to the Prime Minister in respect of his own guidelines for ministerial conduct. That was the purpose of the question. All these other views expressed by the Prime Minister, I submit, are irrelevant.
– There is no point of order.
– I hope that the honourable gentleman is also aware that the New South Wales Labor Government, through its own instrumentalities, has been conducting an inquiry. The point I am making is that while it is conducting that inquiry honourable members should accept this matter without debate so that the atmosphere will not be poisoned against the report of that inquiry. Of course, the objective of the Australian Labor Party is to poison the public mind in relation to my colleague, the Minister, notwithstanding whatever Mr Finnane might ultimately report. I am advised that what the Minister has done fits in with the pattern since he first became executor of his father’s estate. He reported these matters to the Corpora.; Affairs Commission of New South Wales; he reported these matters to the Taxation Office and I am advised that he has taken all the actions he could to put the matters right. Against that background, the settlement which was consummated a few weeks ago is a further step in that process. I have nothing to add on this matter. I have no doubt that it will be debated in a very fullblooded manner when Mr Finnane’s report or reports are ultimately seen publicly in the light of day.
– So that the honourable gentleman will not feel inhibited, I table a copy of the statement of settlement of outstanding matters in the Walsh group of companies, together with the Press statement thereon which I issued on 2 August last.
-I direct my question to the Minister for Primary Industry. After the recent Australian Agricultural Council meeting did the Minister announce that the proposed domestic wheat marketing arrangements might be disrupted because of the attitude of the New South Wales Government? Can the Minister inform the House whether the attitude of the New South Wales Government has altered? Can the Minister advise the House on progress with the wheat arrangements and when he expects to introduce the legislation?
-The present wheat stabilisation arrangements expire on 30 September next. As a result it has been necessary over a considerable period to evolve the new domestic wheat marketing arrangements to apply from 1 October. There have been protracted discussions between officers of the respective State departments of primary industry and agriculture, my own Department, the Bureau of Agricultural Economics and the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation. As a result a number of elements of a new marketing scheme have been agreed to. Two of them seem to be oustanding. The New South Wales Government has said that it believes one of them to be in the form of a sweetheart agreement. That is an incredible term to use in view of the arrangements to which that Government has been privy in the negotiation of a domestic price formula for wheat for human consumption which takes account of the interests of both producers and consumers and which includes limits in that formula to ensure that there will not be an undue increase in price each year.
The formula is designed to protect both the producer and the consumer. In my mind it is akin to the indexation arrangements which we and other governments advocate in conciliation and arbitration tribunals. Therefore I do not believe it to be in any way akin to a sweetheart arrangement. Of course, that term has a different connotation in the industrial sense. I hope that the New South Wales Government sees fit to agree to the new proposals. I believe that it is very close to doing so. When we have that agreement, of course, complementary legislation will be introduced into this Parliament and into each of the State parliaments. That element and one other minor element remain the only issues outstanding. The other element, concerns an upper limit for stock feed and industrial feed wheats. I hope that the States will reach agreement as to the way in which that matter can be treated in future legislation.
Mr Howe proceeding to address a question to the Prime Minister-
– Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. The question is out of order.
– The Minister has just tabled the document. He has surely opened up the matter for debate now. Why is the question out of order? Is it because it is embarrassing to the Government?
-The honourable member for Port Adelaide will withdraw that statement.
– I withdraw.
-I have ruled the question out of order. The reason the question is out of order is that it contains an imputation on the conduct of a member of the House. It is therefore out of order.
– I take a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think you have jumped to conclusions. As I heard the question, it was quite clear and distinct. It raised the proposition that the Minister for Primary Industry had been a director of certain companies for 20 years and these companies had failed to honour their tax responsibility. As far as I could hear the question, it did not get beyond that point.
-That is right. It did not get beyond that point and I did not propose to allow it to get beyond that point.
– I would like to know on what grounds -
-Does the Leader of the Opposition wish to pursue the point of order?
– Yes, I do, Mr Speaker. I fail to see how you can draw the conclusion with a clear and uncluttered mind that there could be an imputation against the Minister when the question had not been completed.
-I have ruled the question out of order. I will not permit the matter to be debated.
-Is the Minister for Industrial Relations aware of the severe disruption being caused to production in the motor industry by an industrial dispute involving a minority of employees at the plant of W. H. Wylie and Co. Pty Ltd at Tonsley Park in South Australia? What are the consequences of this dispute for the Australian motor industry in general and the employees of Chrysler Australia Ltd in particular, many of whom live in my electorate of Kingston?
– I am aware of the critical situation which is developing in the vehicle industry in Australia as a result of action taken by unions at W. H. Wylie and Company Pty Ltd in Adelaide. In July members of the Australasian Society of Engineers banned overtime in pursuit of a $20 a week wage claim. That claim came before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission which ruled that it was outside the wage fixation guidelines. The commissioner concerned recommended that the bans be lifted. On 8 August the company dismissed 10 employeesmembers of the ASE- for refusing to work reasonable overtime in accordance with the terms of the award. That was followed by strike action by the ASE and the Amalgamated Metal Workers and Shipwrights Union and also the establishment of a picket line. In combination those actions have drastically affected the delivery of essential components to other vehicle manufacturers in Australia. Subsequent hearings have failed to resolve this dispute. I am informed that as a result the major vehicle manufacturers in Australia very shortly, perhaps as early as tomorrow, will be forced to stand down employees due to not getting essential components from Wylie ‘s. These stand downs could be quite massive, and could involve Chrysler Australia Ltd in the honourable gentleman’s electorate. This dispute highlights the selfish attitude of some unionists in pursuing excessive wage claims irrespective of what happens to their fellow workers. I am informed that the company has been prepared to discuss the issue at all times, provided of course that the picket line is removed. I believe that is an entirely proper attitude.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. I refer to certain private companies which tax investigators have discovered to have understated their incomes by more than $500,000 and which have been ordered to pay $340,000 in back taxes, including $113,000 in penalty tax. Is it a fact that the Minister for Primary Industry has been a director of these companies for up to 20 years? Does the Prime Minister acknowledge that the Minister misled Parliament by deliberately omitting this significant detail from his various and allegedly complete explanations to Parliament about the affairs of those companies? Does the Prime Minister have complete confidence in his Minister for Primary Industry?
-The Leader of the Opposition is seeking to pursue a course that the Australian Labor Party has pursued ever since this matter first became public. The Labor Party is seeking to debate particular matters in relation to this issue. It is seeking to poison the public atmosphere in which the Finnane report will ultimately be published- or, if some of the scuttlebutt is correct, a series of reports.
- Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. The New South Wales Government investigation referred to by the Prime Minister has nothing to do with taxation.
-Order! There is no point of order. The honourable member will resume his seat.
-The honourable gentleman would also know that letters have been tabled in this Parliament- if not, they can be tabled- which indicate that the matter was referred to the Commissioner of Taxation by the Minister and that there is full co-operation between the Minister as executor and the -
– That is what we are worried about.
– If the honourable gentleman is seeking by that remark to make an imputation against the Commissioner of Taxation- it sounds very like it- that is a very serious question indeed. This Parliament ought not to debate these matters because they are the subject of an official inquiry by the New South Wales Government. That being so -
– Have you got confidence in him?
– Don ‘t you support him?
-I ask honourable members on my left to cease the continual interjections.
The question has been asked. It is a significant question. The answer deserves to be listened to in silence. I ask for co-operation from my left.
-On the other aspect of the honourable gentleman’s question, the Opposition could ask me questions about all the Ministers in the Government. I have confidence in them all. I have very much more confidence in my Ministers than Mr Hawke has in the Leader of the Opposition.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Transport and relates to developments in the proposed direct air link between Tasmania and New Zealand. Can the Minister inform the House of the progress being made in the negotiations between the Australian Government, the New Zealand Government and the Australian domestic airline operators, Ansett Airlines of Australia and Trans-Australia Airlines, with respect to the proposed establishment of a direct air passenger service between Hobart, Tasmania and Christchurch, New Zealand?
– I must pay tribute to the honourable member for Denison for the consistent way in which he brings forward the problems of the electorate he represents and of Tasmania as a whole. His actions are in stark contrast with those of the members of the Australian Labor Party in this House. I have not had one question from them on Tasmania’s behalf since I have been Minister for Transport. They prefer to follow the dirty path of smirching by innuendo that they have been following today. It is typical of members of the Labor Party to do so. The honourable member for Denison asks constructive questions about matters affecting the people of his electorate.
Opposition members interjecting-
-Order! The House will come to order.
– In respect of the question raised by the honourable member, I can say -
– Is the honourable member taking an interest?
-The Minister will proceed with his answer.
-The facts are that there have been discussions at an official level between the Australian Government and the New Zealand Government and that proposals have been put forward by the airlines to start an air link between Hobart and New Zealand. The ball is really in the court of the airlines at the moment because we are awaiting further information as to details of costs, fare proposals and the like before the Australian and New Zealand Governments can come to final conclusions on the matter. The honourable member can rest assured that as soon as I have further information I will pass it to him immediately.
Mr HAYDEN Has the Prime Minister noticed that a person who paid for the employment of a research officer on the personal staff of the right honourable gentleman in 1974 has been gaoled for 13 years for conspiracy to cheat and defraud a group of companies of $500,000? Does the Prime Minister know the source of the funds used to pay his former adviser and can he be sure they did not come from misappropriated funds? As the Prime Minister has often said that there is no such things as a free lunch, what costs and obligations did he, the Prime Minister, undertake in this arrangement?
-Questions have been asked about this matter over a period of months or years and I have no intention of adding anything to what has already been said.
-Can the Minister for Trade and Resources assure the House that no avgas which should rightfully be used in Australia is being allowed to be exported? I hope that his answer will assist the Leader of the Opposition.
-Some attention has been given to this matter in the last 24 hours by the Leader of the Opposition who has made some allegations which are somewhat unfounded. I assure the House that no avgas which should not have left the country has left it. In fact, no avgas that the Government could or would want to prevent from leaving the country has left it. There have been allocations of crude oil to our refineries for refining and distribution to New Zealand and the Pacific Islands, including Fiji. This has been a traditional form of trade. To suggest, as the Leader of the Opposition has suggested, that we should prevent those sales from taking place is virtually to say that we should seize somebody else’s property. Because there is a shortage here, that does not give us any right of piracy regarding avgas which is destined for another place. The prices that were cited by the
Leader of the Opposition were not accurate. They related to different periods.
– If your Department of Trade and Resources is reliable, they were accurate. Do you deny that they are accurate?
-The Leader of the Opposition will remain silent.
-The Leader of the Opposition made a number of allegations which are completely wrong and unfounded. He came to the completely wrong conclusions. The exports that took place were in March this year. It is true that they were recorded in April by the Commonwealth Statistician. It is a matter for the Commonwealth Statistician to explain why they were recorded in April.
– I see. The Government’s figures are wrong and everyone else has to take the blame.
– It would not make any difference whether the figures were recorded in March or April because there was no shortage at that time. The facts are that we were not notified until May about a pending shortage of avgas. We immediately took action to see that all exports were being monitored. It is all right for the Leader of the Opposition to make a lot of noise now. He is obviously trying to win some goodwill amongst those people who are concerned about the shortage of avgas. Having explained the reasons and the details, if the Leader of the Opposition continues in the noisy way in which he is now going on, then it will show that he is nothing more than a hollow Leader of the Opposition.
– I refer the Deputy Prime Minister to his statement of 6 August in respect of the Ranger project and the Government’s intention to sell control of yet another Australian resource. I ask the Deputy Prime Minister: What criteria will the Government use to assess offers for the sale of its 50 per cent interest in the Ranger project? Will consideration be restricted to Australian interests or will the Government sell to any interest that offers the highest premium on its share of Ranger? If the latter is the case, does the Government intend at least to stand by its 75 per cent- 25 per cent Australian equity policy for uranium deposits or does it intend to invoke the 50-50 approach developed for the Yeelirrie deal and thus run out on its own stated investment policy, its commitments to the Parliament with respect to uranium policy and the national interest?
– I do not know whether to laugh or cry at the Opposition’s new found interest in uranium and its concern about any actions which might take place which might interfere with the development and the prospects of this very valuable economic resource to Australia. The Australian Labor Party has not been wanting to develop uranium.
– Can’t you sell it?
– I am glad to see that the honourable member for Reid has woken up. The mention of the word ‘uranium’ generally does wake him up. It is nice to know that he is still here. The Labor Party has wanted this resource left in the ground.
– We still do.
– Well, why is the Labor Party concerned about the partnership structure? If it is really concerned about the development of uranium, why does it not go and give some advice to South Australia where one of the greatest mineral resources in Australia -
- Mr Speaker, I take a point of order. I have asked a specific and detailed question relating to the Government’s investment policy in relation to a deposit of uranium, and I am entitled to a specific answer to that question.
-The right honourable gentleman’s answer is relevant to the question. The honourable gentleman cannot call for the right honourable member to answer in the way in which the honourable gentleman wants. The answer is relevant.
– There is a vast difference between the philosophy of the Government and that of the ALP. The ALP wants to take over ownership and instigate the nationalisation of Australian resources. When the Labor Party was in office it started this process of taking over partownership of various resources. When we came to office, we declared that we would relinquish and divest the Australian government’s interests in various projects such as Wambo, Cooper Basin, Mareeba and Mary Kathleen. These are areas in which action has been taken to divest the Commonwealth interest to allow the private sector to get on with development. Because of the attitude of the ALP we saw development of these valuable resources come to a standstill. Nothing took place in this country. It was largely as a result of this that we saw the development of so much business stagnation and unemployment. Therefore, the Government’s attitude is that it should get out of these enterprises.
There was a memorandum of understanding into which the Labor Party elbowed its way to get control of 50 per cent of this resource. It virtually bludgeoned Peko and EZ into this arrangement. That is history now. It took place under a Labor Government. We are now examining the question of whether the Government should remain in this joint project. We are looking at the matter now because we believe that it is the opportune time to do so. The project is under way. We have managed to usher the project to a point where it is proceeding to develop. We have to make marketing arrangements. Often marketing arrangements can be on a long term basis. If it were ever suggested after these marketing arrangements were made that the Government might divest itself of its interest that would limit the potential buyers of such a project.
What we are doing now is seeking out those people who might be interested in taking over the Government’s ownership. To this time approximately 40 companies have shown an interest in buying the Government’s share. I think that this completely exposes the falseness of the argument of all those people who say that there is no market for or interest in uranium. Forty companies are prepared to take over the Government’s interest. We will be looking at all of these proposals. We will then assess what action the Government ought to take- whether it should divest itself of the whole of its 50 per cent interest in accordance with its philosophy, whether it ought to divest itself of part of it or whether it ought to retain the understanding it has at the moment with the companies concerned; that is, to provide 72!6 per cent of the capital and retain 50 per cent of the production.
– Again I address my question to the Minister for Industry and Commerce. Is he aware of the campaign launched to sink the Industries Assistance Commission’s draft report on textiles? Is the last paragraph of his Department ‘s Press release of 9 August, No. 80 of 1979, a clear statement of the Government’s position on this matter?
– 1 am, of course, very much aware that the recently released draft report of the Industries Assistance Commission on the textile, footwear and clothing industries has evoked a number of strong comments in the Australian community both from manufacturers and importers. As the House would be very much aware and as I have pointed out publicly recently, these reports were brought down to provide, in a sense, a discussion paper to allow groups in the Australian community to respond to the draft nature of the Industries Assistance Commission’s thinking at this time. All parties will have an ample opportunity to respond to the IAC in the public hearings which it has scheduled.
The House will also be aware that the policy for the industries concerned has been extended on the basis of the IAC report through to mid- 1 98 1 . As for the final part of the honourable gentleman’s question, I assure him that the Government, when taking decisions on the final IAC report when it comes before the Government, will do so on the basis of the most comprehensive information which is available to it. It will have regard to all the available policy options.
-My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Is it a fact that, counting the mini-Budgets, tonight’s Budget will be about the sixth Budget since he became Prime Minister nearly four years ago? Which of the past five Budgets has been most successful in achieving the result of pointing the Australian economy in the present direction of double digit inflation, record levels of unemployment -
-Order! The honourable gentleman is entitled to ask for information, but he is not entitled to argue.
– I am asking for information on which of the past five Budgets has been most successful in directing the Australian economy in the present direction; that is, to record levels of unemployment and higher interest rates.
– All I would say in response to the honourable member for Adelaide is that all the Budgets and principal economic statements of the Fraser Government, including those of May 1976 and May 1979, have made a far greater contribution to recognising the economic problems of this country than any Budget or economic statement produced by the Opposition when in government.
– Can the Minister for Primary Industry advise the House whether shipments of beef to the United States will fill the quota entitlement this year? If so, is there likely to be any distribution of shortfall? In either event, what is the effect of the announced introduction of counter-cyclical restraints on future levels of beef imports?
– During the first six months of this year the rate of shipment of beef to the United States was way above that required to meet the 12-month allocation within the United States quota. Accordingly, there will need to be some reduction in the rate of shipment during this next six months but it is expected that there will be no difficulty at all in meeting that quota. Indeed, we would hope that there might be an allocation of shortfall. If so, Australia would feel itself well and truly in a position to meet any allocation that might be made to it. Last week, in north-west Western Australia, I ran into a number of problems at meat works. It seems that the rate of supply of cattle is likely to outstrip the present available allocation of quotas to those works. Therefore, I am sure there is no reason for anybody in Australia to feel that there is an inadequacy of livestock to meet the present quota entitlement in the United States.
With respect to the counter-cyclical legislation, the honourable gentleman would know that the special trade negotiator of the United States Government, Ambassador Strauss, is due to confer shortly with my colleague the Minister for Trade and Resources with respect to the impact on Australia of the announcement by the American administration of its acceptance of terms with respect to shortfall allocation that differ from the original arrangements made within the multilateral trade negotiations. Both the Deputy Prime Minister, the Minister for Trade and Resources, and I have written- I to the Secretary for Agriculture, Mr Bergland, and he to Ambassador Strauss- with respect to the impact of this decision on future trade flows for Australia. However, there is no likely immediate impact on Australian exports of any decision with respect to counter-cyclical legislation. In the immediate future the general world supply of beef is such that markets are available in the United States and elsewhere around the world which will ensure the stability of the Australian beef industry. Therefore, while there is a concern in the medium term about the impact of this United States legislation, in the short term it is not expected that it will impair in any way the present prospects for a continued buoyant market condition generally abroad for Australia’s beef exports.
Mr James having addressed a question to the Prime Minister-
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. The question is out of order.
– I ask why that question is out of order.
-Because it does not relate to any matter for which a Minister, the Prime Minister or another Minister, has an official responsibility in this House.
– On the contrary, the Prime Minister has an overriding responsibility for all matters of the Cabinet and has the prime decision and influence on policy matters within the Government. This has been a matter -
– I have ruled on the matter.
– With respect, Mr Speaker, I challenge your ruling. You have allowed questions on this matter many times before.
-The honourable gentleman is entitled to challenge my ruling if he wishes. There is a method by which he can do so.
– I do not wish to do it on the first day, but if this keeps up we will do so, and I expect that it will be before the end of this week.
-Order! I ask the honourable gentleman to withdraw the imputation.
– I withdraw the statement but reserve my right to reconsider the matter.
-The honourable gentleman will withdraw the imputation without qualification.
– I withdraw the statement.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether on 21 November 1977 he promised the Australian people that he would make ‘an Australia which is strong and secure, which cares for those in need’. Is he aware that between December 1975 and March 1979 the price index for private rental housing rose by nearly 18 per cent and that the price index for Commonwealth-State government rental housing rose by nearly 49 per cent in the same period? Is he also aware that in Victoria alone the number of Housing Commission tenancies in arrears rose by over 50 per cent between February 1978 and February 1979 to nearly 14,000, which is 40 per cent of the Housing Commission tenancies in Victoria?
– I ask the honourable gentleman to draw his question to a conclusion.
-I am, Mr Speaker. Is the Federal Government’s policy deliberately intended to increase the costs of public housing and to impose increased burdens on low and middle income earners? If so, does this represent another broken promise by the Fraser Government?
– Since coming to office this Government has certainly provided substantial assistance to those in need, including those seeking welfare housing. The honourable member for Reid, conveniently for this side of the House, has raised the question of rental housing. It was announced by the Prime Minister at the recent Premiers Conference that we will be substantially increasing the funds available for rental housing through grants in the current financial year. The sum of $ 100m will be provided to the States for rental accommodation. The important point is that this money is to be provided by way of grants and not by way of advances, as in the past. Therefore, this is money that the States will not have to repay. It will assist those in need. It will assist pensioners in particular. It has already been announced that $30m will be provided for pensioners. Additional funds will be provided for Aboriginals. This money will certainly assist those in need of rental accommodation. The facts do not support the contentions of the honourable member for Reid. We continue to provide substantial assistance for those in need of welfare housing.
– For the information of honourable members I present a report of the Bureau of Transport Economics entitled ‘The Long Distance Road Haulage Industry’. This report was distributed to honourable members during the adjournment.
– For the information of honourable members I present the comments of the Australian Science and Technology Council on Australia ‘s Antarctic program.
– Pursuant to section 48 of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901 as applied by section 3 of the Foreign Antitrust Judgments (Restriction of Enforcement) Act 1979 I present an order made by the Attorney-General under section 3 of the Foreign Antitrust Judgments (Restriction of Enforcement) Act 1979 together with the text of a statement by the AttorneyGeneral relating to the order.
– Pursuant to section 37 of the Law Reform Commission Act 1973 I present a report of the Law Reform Commission on unfair publication, defamation and privacy, together with the text of a statement by the Attorney-General relating to the report.
– Pursuant to section 52 of the Commonwealth Teaching Service Act 1 972 1 present the annual report on the operation of that Act for the year ended 31 December 1978.
– Pursuant to section 10 of the States Grants (Schools) Act 1972 I present the report of the Schools Commission on financial assistance granted to each State during the year ended 30 June 1 978.
– For the information of honourable members I present the text of a statement made by the Minister for Science and the Environment (Senator Webster) on Australia’s Antarctic program.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?
-Yes. During Question Time in a question to the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) intimated two facts which I would like to contest. The first matter was a suggestion that I had been a director of the Walsh group of companies for more than 20 years. Whilst, nominally, I had been a director I played no part in the operations of those companies other than in signing a very few forms and then at the behest of my father. During that time, in fact, I did not even meet members of the companies nor play any part in any of the affairs of that group until my father’s death in 1976.
The second matter was one in respect of allegations that in some way as a result of my association with these companies I had been involved in manipulating their financial affairs and so minimising tax. Indeed, directly, the reverse is true. It was as a result of my actions, which I disclosed in this House nearly two years ago, that the whole of the affairs of the company were brought to the notice of the Commissioner of Taxation and then not by me. So as to avoid personal involvement, accountants and solicitors on my behalf advised the Commissioner of Taxation. It was directly as a result of that action that the Commissioner of Taxation became aware of these matters. Of course, since my instruction of independent chartered accountants to bring those books up to date, the Commissioner of Taxation has, in continuance, been involved in ensuring that there has, in fact, been a complete meeting of the necessary tax obligations. I would suggest that some of those members of the Opposition who are so anxious to query me on this matter might well have their own affairs investigated to the same degree.
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
-Mr Speaker, I seek your indulgence in relation to this matter. We are being ruled out of order as a result of directing questions to either the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) or the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair). Mr Speaker, you can see from the process of Parliament over the last two years that these matters are coming out very painfully, bit by bit. The situation will not be helped if we are to be frustrated in questioning the Minister about some of these affairs. He now takes the course of reading out what he thinks is to his benefit.
-Order! I must point out to the honourable member for Port Adelaide -
– I am sorry about being an idiot.
– I am sorry about that.
-I call the Leader of the Opposition.
– I wish to make a personal explanation as I claim to have been misrepresented.
-Order! The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat. This is the first day of this sessional period and the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) has been interjecting continually and speaking while I am speaking. I must draw his attention to the fact that I will not put up with this sort of unparliamentary behaviour. I ask the honourable gentleman to behave in a more fitting manner.
-Mr Speaker, the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) claimed that he was only a nominal director of the company. The statement came in response to a question which I asked.
-Order! The Leader of the Opposition asked leave to make a personal explanation. Does he claim to have been misrepresented?
-Yes. The Minister for Primary Industry has denied the whole thrust of the question which I raised in this Parliament and has sought to use a personal explanation to give an explanation. He should give an even more detailed explanation to this Parliament to allow debate to ensue. The situation is that the Minister for Primary Industry has signed documents -
-Order! The honourable gentleman is not making a personal explanation to put right a misrepresentation. The honourable gentleman is debating the matter. He is debating it and I will not permit that.
– The Minister in his personal explanation referred more that once to the statement explicit in my question which I directed at Question Time today to the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and which affected the Minister for Primary Industry. Therefore, I think I am entitled to put another point of view. Mr Speaker, you have allowed the Minister to canvass this issue fairly broadly. He has sought to argue, in circumstances designed to prevent debate in this House, that he is not a responsible director of certain family companies which were the subject of that question. Mr Speaker, I am putting it to you that there is a misrepresentation both of fact and of my question in that he has signed certain documents. I might say that there are serious inconsistencies in signatures purporting to be his signature over a certain time -
-Order! The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat. That is not a personal explanation. It is pursuing debate. If the honourable gentleman wishes to debate the matter there are means by which he can do so but now is not the time for that process.
– Is the hard line that you, Mr Speaker, have been pursuing today an indication of Government policy that the Government will have to smarten up?
-No. The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
- Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. I seek your advice, and ask for a ruling. This is now the third occasion on which the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) has sought to make public and canvass issues in this House that go to the question of his company directorships and to relate them to the question of his ministerial integrity. My point of order is that the moment the Minister chooses to raise these issues in this way- it is his choice- those statements become the property of the House. As such- this is the point upon which I seek your guidance- these matters ought to be quite properly the subject of questions in Question Time and we should be able to refer to them. Otherwise we are getting into the difficult situation in which a Minister can get up and say that although he is a director of a company he is not personally responsible, that he is some kind of nominal defendent. He can make all sorts of statements,
-Order! The honourable gentleman is now debating the matter.
– I do not mean to. I request from you, Sir, a specific ruling as to the rights of honourable members to question any Minister or honourable member who raises issues which go to the matter of ministerial integrity and to raise those questions in Question Time despite the fact that they might be the subject of quite separate investigations.
-I take the point that the honourable member is making. The fact is that I can only interpret Standing Orders. If the honourable gentleman is dissatisfied with Standing Orders, then it is a matter for moving to change the Standing Orders. But, as the Standing Orders exist relating to questions, questions without notice are confined to those things for which the Minister has an official responsibility to the House. There is no official responsibility to the House for these matters of a private nature. The honourable gentleman says that because the right honourable Leader of the House has introduced into the House certain material by way of a statement or personal explanation today, then that in some way transforms the Standing Orders and what the Standing Orders permit. It does not do that. The right honourable gentleman has taken the opportunity that is presented by the Standing Orders to do what he has done. Standing Orders nevertheless do not permit questions to be directed against the right honourable gentleman about matters for which he is not officially responsible to this House.
- Mr Speaker, I wish to say one final word. I wish to make our position as an Opposition perfectly clear. We have never, at any stage, frustrated the Minister from making a statement of any length to this House. We have never frustrated the Minister from tabling documents. We have never frustrated the Minister from including documents in Hansard. We have given him every possible opportunity. I do think that you, Mr Speaker, should see that we are being frustrated when trying to ask further questions which those documents throw up.
-I have given the honourable gentleman the liberty to make that statement to make his and his Party’s attitudes clear. I understand it. Likewise, the honourable gentleman must understand that my duty to this House is to interpret the Standing Orders. If the honourable gentleman wishes to pursue the question in some other way then no doubt he can have recourse to Standing Orders. But it is not possible to pursue the matter by asking a question without notice.
- Mr Speaker, I seek leave to move that the House take note of the papers tabled by the Minister for Primary Industry.
Leave not granted.
-I inform the House that on 5 July 1979 I presented an address of congratulations from the Commonwealth Parliament on the occasion of the Millennium of Tynwald. The address read as follows:
The Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia offers warm congratulations to the Lieutenant-Governor, the Legislature and the people of the Isle of Man on the occasion of the Millennium of Tynwald and extends best wishes for the future prosperity of the Isle of Man.
-I inform the House that I have received a copy of the resolution agreed to by the Legislative Assembly of Norfolk Island on the occasion of the presentation of a clock and sand-glass by the Commonwealth Parliament. The resolution reads as follows:
We, the Members of the Legislative Assembly of Norfolk Island, express our thanks to the Senate and the House of Representatives of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia for the clock and sand-glass which they have presented to the Assembly. Their interest in the development of
Norfolk Island and the aspirations of its people has been evidenced by the presence here today of their Presiding Officers, and we accept this gift as a further earnest commitment to their continuing concern.
. For the information of honourable members I present the second report by the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Board, together with a companion report to the Board by the Australian Government Actuary, on the assets and liabilities of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund at 30 September 1972. 1 seek leave to make a short statment relating to the report.
– In 1973 following a report from a joint select committee of the Parliament, legislation was introduced to establish the Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits Scheme with effect from 1 October 1972. That scheme superseded the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Scheme. Provision was made in the legislation for the assets of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund totalling over $160m at book value to be transferred to the Commonwealth. Under the new arrangements, the Commonwealth assumed responsibility for the payment of all future benefits to beneficiaries under the new and superseded schemes. An undertaking was given by the Government of the day to arrange an actuarial investigation of the fund, i.e., the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund. Its purpose was to ascertain whether the assets transferred were more or less than was fair and reasonable to meet the fund liabilities assumed by the Commonwealth.
The administration of the affairs of the superseded scheme is vested in the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Board. Its first report on the investigation which I tabled in the Parliament on 28 April 1976 dealt with DFRB pensioners at 30 September 1972. An amount in excess of $8m was distributed to eligible pensioners. The further report I have just tabled deals with contributors including first those transferred to the DFRDB scheme and second, those who contributed for portion of the period, 1 July 1964 to 30 September 1972, but with pensions falling due before 1 October 1972. The latter group participated in the 1976 distribution arrangements.
The report reveals that the value of the relevant assets attributable to transferred contributors was not more than was fair and reasonable to meet the fund liabilities assumed in respect of them. There are therefore no surplus monies available for distribution. It deserves to be clearly understood that this conclusion has been reached by an actuarial investigation of the fund, a report by the Actuary and a consideration of that report by the DFRB board. These procedures are conducted on a completely independent basis.
-by leave-The Opposition does not quarrel with the statement made by the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen). The Actuary has in fact reported that surplus funds do not exist. There will be considerable disappointment among a number of members who have been members of both funds and had some expectation that some distribution would take place. I do not think it is unrealistic to say that those who did in fact transfer from the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund to the Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits Scheme would have obtained substantial benefit from that transfer and from the introduction of the new fund, far in excess- I would have thought- of the possible excess contributions that they may have made prior to the introduction of the new scheme under the terms of the new scheme, had it been applied in retrospect, which I am not sure is a good policy. However, there is still an outstanding matter arising from the change in the fund. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has given undertakings that he would make certain alterations to the fund, and the Government has indicated that it has had them under study for some time. The people who expect those alterations are becoming doubtful that they will ever take place.
During the period 1975 to 1977 a former member for Herbert in this House, Mr Duke Bonnett, was given the responsibility of operating as a committee of one to inquire into the disadvantages of pensioners under the DFRB scheme as compared to persons who retired subsequently under the new scheme, especially in the period shortly after transfer. Mr Bonnett completed his report and presented it to the Prime Minister, after he had ceased to be a member of this Parliament. I understand that he still had the imprimatur of the Government and the Prime Minister, in that it was a governmentsponsored inquiry. I point out to the House that Mr Bonnett had to pay for his own typing and assistance as the Government refused to provide even basic reimbursement for his work in preparing the report for the Government. I think that is just an indication of the petty meanness which most governments would not indulge in. Apparently the present Prime Minister did not want the report and therefore did everything possible to make it difficult to be presented.
The fact is that the report has now been in the hands of the Government for over 18 months. No indication has been given to anyone as to whether the report will be acted upon and whether those retired persons, who are under substantially reduced conditions compared to persons who retired under the new scheme, will in fact have the anomalies removed. The difference in pension between that of a person who retired on 1 January 1974 and that of one who retired on 1 December 1972 is up to $2,000 a year, even though the rate of contribution for the latter was higher in comparison to his salary at that time. The Government has an obligation to consider the report which the Prime Minister authorised and that the parties informing the Government approved. If the Government intends to reject the report it ought to say so. If it does not intend to reject the report it ought to indicate what action it will take. Persons who retired from the defence forces in 1972 or earlier are getting older and if the Government waits long enough it will not have to act on the report; there will be no one left as a beneficiary of the fund. I ask the Minister for Defence to take these matters into consideration. I understand that the Prime Minister has the carriage of that report and I seek from him an undertaking that he will consider it. If it has been considered I ask him to act upon it.
– Pursuant to section 6 of the Remuneration Tribunal Act 1973 1 present the Remuneration Tribunal Review 1979. This report was distributed to honourable members during the adjournment. I seek leave to make a short statement.
– I shall be introducing legislation to give effect to changes to the Tribunal ‘s determinations which I announced on 20 June, as soon as is practicable. These changes will apply to automatic adjustment of members’ and senators’ salaries on a twice yearly basis, and to the increases determined for Ministers and office holders of the Parliament. In the case of private members and senators, the Tribunal took into account the 4 per cent national wage increase of December 1978 and determined a new basic rate of $26,720. The Government is prepared to accept this rate and the increase flowing from the last national wage case decision, but it could not agree to the Tribunal’s proposal that national wage case decisions apply automatically, that is, under present arrangements, twice yearly adjustments. Steps will be taken to ensure that automatic application of national wage case decisions on a twice yearly basis will not apply.
The Tribunal also proposed increased salaries and allowances for Ministers and office holders of the Parliament. In some cases, these go well beyond what indexation would have yielded. While the Government recognises that the objective of the Tribunal was to see some readjustment of relativities in this field it is unable to accept the proposals. To do so would have the effect of granting proportionate increases greater than those received by the majority of Australian wage and salary earners. Accordingly, the Government will take steps to increase present salaries for Ministers and parliamentary office holders only for indexation increases since the last review, including any increase flowing from the last national wage case decision.
Mr LIONEL BOWEN (KingsfordSmith) by leave- The Opposition notes what the Government has said. It gives us a chance to indicate again that the Government is using some sort of confidence trick by saying that full indexation must not be granted to people in this country when they are earning their living. It has become a ploy of the Government to suggest that members of the Parliament and others are pacesetters in that area. I am happy to advise members of the Parliament that if they look at the report they will see that the members of the Remuneration Tribunal are not at all persuaded by this illogical argument. In fact, they point out that the remuneration of others, particularly in State administrations and local government, is far and away above what is paid to office holders, members of Parliament, judges and others in the Federal sphere. They also advert to the fact that people in Qantas Airways Ltd and the Commonwealth Bank are leaving those statutory organisations because they can look after themselves better in the private sector.
The point we wish to make as an Opposition- we do not wish to emphasise it too much- is that there is always a chance for a Prime Minister or an Executive to play politics by saying: ‘I am going to set an example by not taking the increase’. Let us have a look at the assets and other income of many of these gentlemen. They are very substantial indeed. These gentlemen would not require any increase. We want to try to establish the principle that the Parliament should not try to set its own members’ salary. We believe that it should be referred to a tribunal. We believe that evidence should be given to that tribunal and when the tribunal makes a decision the Parliament should stick with that decision. Why have a situation where one can play politics, as can happen, by coming in and saying: ‘The Tribunal has all the evidence. It has heard our submissions. But we are not going to agree with what it has decided’? I do not think that anybody in the country would agree with that. It does not do us justice at all. From the point of view of the people outside it does not give the Parliament any dignity or credibility.
It is the Opposition’s considered view that, this matter having been submitted to a tribunal, there should be no power of disallowance. This affords an opportunity to go and argue the case before a tribunal. I note with interest -
– You disallowed it for 1975.
-I do not think that we made the right decision. Let us put it on record; do not let us hide it. I want to make a further point. Twice-yearly indexation is not going to be adhered to, just because that has been recommended by the Tribunal. We can relate it directly to the fact that the Government has failed to adhere to its promises in respect of pensioners. That was the sole reason for this decision. I hope that twice-yearly indexation of pensions will be restored this evening. Let us hope that this Government gets back to some of the promises that it has broken. Most of the objections to any increases in parliamentary salaries were directly related to pensioners. A number of pensioners made protests. I note with interest that those protests were forwarded to the Government by the Tribunal; so they must have done some good. Some 157 pensioners protested on the issue of not getting twice-yearly indexation. That is the point that the Opposition wishes to make.
Why not agree with what the Tribunal has said? It should not be interfered with because we get into the realm of politics where people who are very well endowed and are occupying senior positions will say: ‘We will be pacesetters’. This is nonsense. Nobody outside cares a tinker’s cuss as to what happens, provided it is decided in a fair and proper fashion and provided evidence can be given. I would invite some of the editors who write these editorials to get into the witness box in front of the Tribunal, where some of us could ask them a few questions as to their rate of salary and their behaviour. All we ever get from them is a downgrading of the Parliament. In order to get an effective Parliament we must attract the best people. They are not going to come on the basis that they are wealthy people; they are entitled to come on merit.
Finally, let me have a look at another matter which is of concern. It relates to the Opposition. We made a submission, which we again make, as to the staff to which the Opposition feels it is entitled. We should at least be able to match some of the resources of the Government which has all the bureaucracy and administration right behind it. While Ministers might need substantial aid, they get plenty of staff to help them. The Opposition has to try to match them with very limited staff indeed. In 1978 we made a recommendation to the Tribunal with which the Tribunal agreed, but it was not adhered to by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). The Prime Minister made an administrative decision that the Tribunal’s decision was not right and cut back the staff of the Opposition, despite the fact that he has increased his own staff, allegedly on the basis of increasing his standing in public life. He has a special Press group that is conducting a public relations exercise. He ought to dismiss the whole lot of them because his popularity rating is down to 29 per cent. From our point of” view we still have to try to match the resources of the bureaucracy and everybody else who is able to help the Government. This point is adverted to in the report. Paragraph 35 of the report of the Remuneration Tribunal reads:
In the 1978 Review the Tribunal expressed the view that shadow Ministers should be provided with an additional member of staff, such staff member to be employed under the terms and conditions which applied to electorate assistants. This was implemented only in part. We reiterate that we see a need for the additional staff as then recommended.
I suggest that the Government, and in particular the Prime Minister, review these considerations. Let him forget about the Boeings and other things that he is now giving to himself, and talk about facilities for a democratic Opposition.
– Come on!
-I am coming on, on the basis of what people think. While I come on, the honourable member may go out if he is not careful. It was on the basis of economic management that we could not get this staff. Yet the Government squanders millions on resources for the Prime Minister who made that decision. I would say that if he had put the same proposition to his back bench it would not have been agreed to. These decisions are made in one office and they are deemed to be the decisions of a government. They are not. I doubt whether any one of the honourable members opposite has ever discussed them in the party room. It is on that basis that the Opposition raises this objection. Every honourable member opposite knows that what I am saying is fair and reasonable and that not one of them has had the chance to discuss it. If honourable members opposite want to run along with the one-man band proposition, that is thenproblem; it is not ours. On that basis I say that in future we want decisions of the Remuneration Tribunal adopted without any further debate in this Parliament and we should not have this nonsense about so-called or phoney pacesetting legislation that is going to affect the standard of living outside. We know that the Government does not want the workers to get an indexation increase. We do. To use parliamentarians and others as pacesetters is a phoney exercise.
-by leave-I express some degree of surprise at the statement that has been made. I did not know that the statement was to be made today, but of course that could be in accordance with the normal processes of the House. I would have liked the statement to have been discussed with the Government Members Committee before it was made. That would have been a part of the normal process. One would hope to look at the legislation when it is introduced.
-by leave- As a member of the Parliament and as a member on the Government side of the Parliament, I am not stating any opposition to the decision that was taken some weeks ago in relation to this matter. However, as a private member on the Government side I believe that at the very least there should be some consultation with members on this side of the House before arbitrary decisions such as this are taken on our behalf.
-by leave-The statement made by the Minister for Administrative Services (Mr John McLeay) is incorrect in that it says that the Government cannot agree with indexation. The recommendation of the Remuneration Tribunal is that the decisions in the national wage case be applied in the terms in which the national wage case decisions are given, which is not indexation in the true meaning of the word. The other remark I make relates to the provision of staff for the Opposition. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) reduced by six the number of persons recommended by the Tribunal. He allocated five persons to the back bench of the Government, which was not recommended by the Tribunal. Therefore those staff members are additional to those made available to the Opposition. He then changed the terms under which the appointments of staff were to be made in such a way as to make the financial obligations on the Government similar or more than would have been the case had he implemented the Tribunal’s recommendations. It was not a cost saving exercise; it was an exercise in semantics. He exceeded the Tribunal’s recommendations in relation to Government members. I do not object to what was done in that regard. However, he refused to implement the Tribunal’s recommendations in relation to the Opposition. Had he done so it would have meant no additional cost to the Government.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate without amendment or requests:
Australian Federal Police Bill 1979
Taxation Administration Amend ment Bill 1979
Estate Duty Assessment Amendment Bill 1979
Gift Duty Assessment Amendment Bill 1 979
Income Tax Assessment Amendment Bill (No. 3) 1979
Pay-roll Tax Assessment Amendment Bill 1979
Pay-roll Tax (Territories) Assessment Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1979
Live-stock Slaughter Levy Amendment Bill 1979 Live-stock Slaughter Levy Collection Amendment Bill 1979
Live-stock Export Charge Amendment Bill 1 979 Australian Meat and Live-stock Corporation Amendment Bill 1979
Meat Research Amendment Bill 1979 Wine Grapes Levy Bill 1979 Wine Grapes Levy Collection Bill 1979 Wine Grapes Charges (Repeal) Bill 1979 Wine Overseas Marketing Amendment Bill 1979 Customs Tariff Amendment Bill 1979 Excise Tariff Amendment Bill 1979 Bounty (Injection-moulding Equipment) Bill 1979 Bounty ( Books) Amendment Bill 1979 Bounty (Rotary Cultivators) Bill 1979 Bounty ( Bed Sheeting) Amendment Bill 1 979 Bounty (Dental Alloys) Bill 1979 Bounty (Paper) Bill 1979 Customs Tariff Validation Bill 1979 Excise Tariff Amendment (No. 2) Bill 1979 Customs Tariff Amendment (No. 2) Bill 1979 Commonwealth Employees (Redeployment and Retirement) Bill 1979
Health Insurance Amendment Bill 1979 National Health Amendment Bill 1979 Supply Bill (No. 1) 1979-80 Supply Bill (No. 2) 1979-80
National Railway Network (Financial Assistance) Bill 1979
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Wool Industry Amendment Bill 1979 Wool Tax Amendment Bill (No. 1) 1979 Wool Tax Amendment Bill (No. 2 ) 1 979 Wool Tax Amendment Bill (No. 3) 1979
Wool Tax Amendment Bill (No. 4) 1 979 Wool Tax Amendment Bill (No. 5 ) 1 979 Wheat Industry Stabilization Amendment Bill 1 979 Wheat Industry Stabilization (Reimbursement of Borrowing Costs) Bill 1979
Income Tax (Rates and Assessment) Amendment Bill 1979
Atomic Energy Amendment Bill 1979 Live-stock Slaughter (Export Inspection Charge) Bill 1979
Live-stock Slaughter (Export Inspection Charge) Collection Bill 1979
Grain (Export Inspection Charge) Bill 1979
Grain (Export Inspection Charge) Collection Bill 1 979
Wool Industry Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1979
Excise Amendment Bill ( No. 2 ) 1 979
Qantas Airways Limited (Loan Guarantee) Bill 1979
Commonwealth Employees (Redeployment and Retirement) Bill 1979
Health Insurance Amendment Bill 1979
National Health Amendment Bill 1979
Supply Bill (No. 1) 1979-80
Supply Bill (No. 2) 1979-80
National Railway Network (Financial Assistance) Bill 1979
National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Amendment
Bill 1979 Australian Federal Police Bill 1979 Taxation Administration Amendment Bill 1 979 Estate Duty Assessment Amendment Bill 1 979 Gift Duty Assessment Amendment Bill 1979 Income Tax Assessment Amendment Bill (No. 3 ) 1 979 Pay-roll Tax Assessment Amendment Bill 1 979 Pay-roll Tax (Territories) Assessment Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1979 Wine Grapes Levy Bill 1979 Wine Grapes Levy Collection Bill 1979 Wine Grapes Charges ( Repeal ) Bill 1 979 Wine Overseas Marketing Amendment Bill 1 979 Bounty (Books) Amendment Bill 1979 Bounty ( Rotary Cultivators ) Bill 1 979 Bounty (Dental Alloys) Bill 1979 Bounty (Paper) Bill 1979 Live-stock Slaughter Levy Amendment Bill 1 979 Live-stock Slaughter Levy Collection Amendment Bill
Live-stock Export Charge Amendment Bill 1 979 Australian Meat and Live-stock Corporation Amendment Bill 1979
Meat Research Amendment Bill 1979 Bounty ( Injection-moulding Equipment) Bill 1 979 Bounty (Bed Sheeting) Amendment Bill 1 979 Customs Tariff Amendment Bill 1979 Customs Tariff Validation Bill 1979 Excise Tariff Amendment Bill 1979 Excise Tariff Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1979 Customs Tariff Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1979 Judiciary (Diplomatic Representation) Amendment Bill 1979
States Grants (Schools Assistance) Amendment Bill 1 979 States Grants (Tertiary Education Assistance) Amendment Bill 1979
-I have received a letter from the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The use of a selective and disguised S2,000m petrol tax on motorists to hide the real impact of the Prime Minister’s high tax policies.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places.
More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places-
-The Opposition raises as a matter of public importance the following matter:
The use of a selective and disguised $2,000m petrol tax on motorists to hide the real impact of the Prime Minister’s high tax policies.
We raise this matter of public importance because we think it is about time the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Government were brought to book for masquerading as a low tax government. In fact the opposite is the case. The Prime Minister and the Government have indulged in tax policies which have moved from direct income taxation to indirect taxation. Such policies unfairly impinge on low and middle income earners and penalise them differentially in comparison with people on higher incomes. During the three years the Fraser Government has been in office taxation receipts as a percentage of gross domestic product have been significantly greater- I want to stress that point- than was the case under the Labor Government in the three years between 1972 and 1975.
The myth is that this Government is a low tax government. Of course it is not. It is a high tax government and the Prime Minister has tried to dupe the public by saying that he has kept taxes down. He wants the public to believe that he is a tax cutter when in fact the opposite is the case. There has been speculation in newspapers of recent days that in tonight’s Budget some personal tax cuts may be announced or that tax indexation may again be taken aboard.
– Or both. The Prime Minister may do those things in an attempt to regain credibility from his base of 29 per cent acceptance by the Australian public in relation to the way in which he is handling his job and in an attempt to convince the public that he is keeping promises, practically all of which have been broken. Promises made by the Prime Minister in a number of election campaigns have been broken quite unashamedly. This has been done in clear view of the public, so the public is aware of his actions. Now the Government is contemplating attempts to regain credibility. After all, it has a Prime Minister who cannot be believed. Nobody can believe the present Prime Minister.
The Government is thinking about going into an election campaign with a leader the public does not believe. It intends to look at ways in which to gild the lily with taxation cuts after it has collected $2,200m in tax from the motorist.
Let us look at the way in which the Government has operated. It has put the emphasis on indirect taxation. The public will remember that in last year’s Budget the price of whisky increased from $5 or $6 a bottle to $ 1 1 or $ 12 a bottle. The price of beer and cigarettes increased. All of these increases were in the form of indirect taxation. The Government in its mini-Budget abolished the 40 per cent subsidy for health insurance. So the costs have been borne by the public by way of indirect taxation.
The greatest increase by way of indirect taxation has been in the case of petrol. In the three years that the Fraser Government has been in office the price of petrol has risen by 100 per cent; it has gone from 60 cents a gallon wholesale to $1.20 a gallon. Since Mr Fraser has been Prime Minister the average motorist with a 12-gallon tank has paid an additional $7.20 per tank full of petrol. I will put it another way. This year Australian consumers will spend about $3,000m for products from oil produced in Australia. Of that $3,000m, $2,500m will go straight to the Fraser Government’s tax coffers. It will be collected by way of the crude oil levy.
The public may be at a loss to understand how this subterfuge or sleight of hand has been worked on them. It has been done very simply. The public may believe that the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries or the Arabs in the Middle East are responsible for this policy. In fact Australia is dependent on imports for only one-third of its crude oil requirements. So we must pay the going world price for one-third of our requirements. However, for the other twothirds we can pay whatever price the Government determines. Until three years ago the price was $2.09 a barrel. The Government has now determined that the Australian public will pay the equivalent of $18.66 a barrel. It has done this by the hoax of implementing a policy of import parity in respect of old discoveries.
In other words, the Government, by the existence of a low cost oil field in Bass Strait, has the option of deciding the proportion of the value of import parity it may charge for oil produced in Australia from a low cost oil field. It has decided to give the producers $5 a barrel and to keep $ 1 3.66 a barrel for itself. From that $5 a barrel, $2 is collected by way of company tax. So the Government keeps $ 1 5. 66 for itself and gives the producers $3. This has nothing to do with the Arabs; it has nothing to do with OPEC. It was a decision made by the Fraser Government, resulting from its obsession with the Budget deficit, to collect $2,200m. Until the latest OPEC increases the rate of collection was about $ 1 ,250m in a full year. When the increases from the OPEC states became effective, the Government thought that it was an opportunity to grab another $900m and to blame it on the Arabs. So the Government announced that two-thirds of domestically produced oil would be charged for at the world price. Once again the motorists and farmers would pay through the nose. As a result of that decision the Government gained $850m. Perhaps tonight it will give back a little of that money. But if it does so it will not be done against the backdrop of election promises. All the Government will be doing is taking $2, 200m with one hand and giving back a small proportion of it with the other hand. So if the Treasurer (Mr Howard) does any gladhanding tonight let it be clearly understood that no real return of moneys will be made to the Australian public.
In addition to the $2,200m that the Government is collecting, it collects $95 lm from what is called the refined products excise; that is, the ordinary pump tax which always has been imposed on petrol. So the Government is collecting $2,200m on crude oil, $95 lm on petrol, $250m on company tax from the windfalls and $100m on company tax from the revenue from Bass Strait. On one commodity alone- oil, petrol and petroleum products- the Government is collecting $3,400m.
The Australian motorists who are listening to the broadcast of this debate while driving home in their cars and the farmers who are listening to it on their farms should know clearly now that the Government is getting 1 1 per cent of its total budgetary receipts from one commodity alone. Since this Government has been in office it has collected roughly $2,500m more from petrol. The rising costs, the inflationary impost and the crushing burden upon the lower income earners of indirect taxes by way of petrol price rises are of course the express policy of the Fraser Government. It does not have to charge the world price for the oil produced in Australia, which is two-thirds of Australia’s consumption of oil. It does so simply to enable it to hide behind the subterfuge that the prices are being increased by the Arabs, that this selective and disguised tax of $2,200m is caused by the Arabs. It is caused by the Fraser Government’s rapacious greed for budgetary revenue.
It is worth recounting simply the way in which the Fraser Government has spent money since it has been in office. It put itself up as a low spending, low tax government. In fact, Budget outlays as a proportion of the gross domestic productthat is the only way one can look at them- have increased in real terms from the 28. 1 per cent average during the three years of office of the Whitlam Government to 30 per cent now. The same has been done with taxation receipts. This Government is the highest tax government Australia has ever had- in real terms, not in money terms. The Government will collect roughly an additional $ 1,000m by way of the crude oil levy just from the middle of this yearnot from before that, just from the latest increases. It will receive $850m and the company tax on the windfalls to the Bass Strait producers. That $ 1,000m represents $200 in taxation for every civilian employee in Australia. That is not just a small proportion or a surcharge; it is $200 per annum for every civilian employee from that increase. That is apart from the additional $ 1,300m imposed before the recent increase; it involves just the increases since May- June of this year. Honourable members opposite should be ashamed of themselves as a government. They masquerade as members of a low-tax government when in fact they are slugging the backside off every motorist and consumer of petroleum products in Australia and placing the burden of revenue raising more and more upon indirect taxes.
The switch to the imposition of indirect taxes is a tragedy. Indirect taxes are indiscriminate. No assessment is made of one ‘s capacity to pay. That means that low income earners, the small person with his motor car or even small farmers and small businessmen alike, are paying through the nose by way of indirect taxes on petrol. If that kind of tax were levied according to one’s income it would be assessed on the person’s capacity to pay. Instead of that the low income earner, as always, is hit the hardest. This is the product of the policy of the present Fraser Government. The move to import parity supposedly was applied in the interest of the conservation of oil. The Government said that it was increasing the price, otherwise people would use the oil too quickly. What has happened? In fact there has been no drop in consumption. The latest figures released by the Bureau of Statistics- the ones for the first four months of this year- show that the consumption of petroleum products increased by 5.2 per cent over the same period in 1978. The Department of National Development- the Minister for
National Development (Mr Newman) is not here to answer the charge, by the way- predicted that demand would grow by 2.7 per cent.
All the petrol companies are planning for higher and higher consumption in the next 12 months. They do not believe that the crude oil levy will retard consumption. The measure was introduced simply to raise revenue because of the Prime Minister’s obsession with the Budget deficit. The Government might have been able to cover the Budget deficit this year but then came the windfall of the price increases agreed to at the meeting of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries in Vienna in June and July. Once the increases were announced the Government saw that it could raise another $800m or $900m in tax in a full year and that this gave it certain budgetary options. No doubt tonight the Treasurer will make great play of any small handouts that the Government makes. Let the public understand clearly that even if the speculation is true Australians will not get anything like the amount that the Government has collected by way of the crude oil levy, the refined product excise or any of the indirect taxes which have operated in the last 12 months.
The Government speakers who are to follow me in this debate will be back bench members. I see the Minister for National Development entering the chamber. I do not think that he will speak in this debate. He indicates that that is so. The Government will not even answer this charge. It will not even defend itself. It will put up two obscure back bench members, who will not be here after the next election, to answer the case. No Minister will front to answer it. The Minister for National Development is on the edge of ministerial failure and of being removed from his office by the Prime Minister. He is a disgrace to his team. He has let it down through his incompetence. The Treasurer will not come into the chamber to explain to the public why the Government is collecting S2’A billion in taxes from motorists and the consuming public.
This levy is a massive sleight of hand. It is tax by stealth, blaming the Arabs when in fact the Government has made a decision to link the OPEC price with the official price being paid by Australian refineries for oil produced in Australia for 65c- not dollars, cents- per barrel. Oil from Bass Strait is produced from the big fields at 65c per barrel and the Australian public is charged $18.66 per barrel. In other words, we can say that most of Australia’s oil is produced at around $ 1 per barrel and the public is charged $18.66 a barrel. The Liberal Party has broken its commitment to the Australian public about being a low tax party. It is the highest tax party in Australia’s history. The Fraser Government is the highest tax government in Australia ‘s history. It is also a dishonourable government as it does not keep promises. It may try to discount the damage which has been done by in some way handing back a minute proportion of the massive collections it has taken by stealth from the motorist.
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-It was amazing to listen to the pipe-dreams of the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating). The Government makes no apologies for its fuel pricing policies and its energy policies. At least we have comprehensive pricing policies in the energy field. The Opposition has no such policies. Not one item which came from the lips of the honourable member for Blaxland gave a positive indication of a policy which the Australian Labor Party or a Labor government would put forward in future. The Labor Party has no policies at all relating to pricing. The only possible alternative would be rationing or shortages of fuel. There is no doubt that the honourable member for Blaxland, in all his ramblings, ravings and dreamings, had nothing positive to say. He has been living in dreamtime. He has been out on cloud nine somewhere. There are no worries about our policy. It is very comprehensive and positive, unlike the dreamtime policy of the Opposition.
– I raise a point of order. Is the honourable member for Kalgoorlie telling all his constituents that he is in favour of higher petrol prices?
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)Order! There is no point of order.
-I am telling all my constituents that the Labor Party Opposition has no positive policy on energy or the pricing of fuels.
-Order! I remind the honourable member that he is addressing the House and that he should confine his remarks to the House.
-Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. The policies of the present Government at least have reversed the downtrend in exploration and have caused a revision of our estimates of fuel reserves in this country. It is a well known, historic fact that the policies of the previous Government resulted in a severe downturn in our oil reserves. Exploration almost stopped dead in its tracks. No oil exploration was being carried on at the end of 1 975 and early in 1 976. It is only because of our revised and positive policies that exploration again has picked up.
– How many wells?
– In 1978, 52 wells were drilled. In 1979 no fewer than 52 wells will be drilled and probably in excess of 80 or 90 wells will be drilled. If people look at the situation they will see that the positive policies of the Government have resulted in the known reserves of oil in this country being greatly increased. As this Government’s pricing policies have progressed, it has become economic to extract the uneconomic reserves of between 600 million and 700 million barrels of oil. That 600 million or 700 million barrels of oil that this country was not able to take out of the ground will now be taken out and they will form part of our reserves.
On top of our positive policy in pricing, energy resources and conservation, a research and development program is under way. This will lead to further development of alternative energy sources. It will also lead to further development of our oil reserves. The people of Australia well and truly recognise that living in a dreamtime of cheap fuel prices is completely unrealistic. They realise that fuel has to be paid for and they also realise that without an escalation in fuel prices, as we have seen in more recent times, we would be desperately short of oil in this country.
– Who wrote this speech?
-This is quite amazing Mr Deputy Speaker. We on this side of the House permitted the honourable member for Blaxland to be heard in silence. I would hope that members of the Opposition would return the compliment.
– No you didn’t. Baillieu cackled all the way through it.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)Order! The House will come to order.
– Where are your supporters? You have not got any. Who is listening?
-Order! The honourable member for Fremantle will remain silent.
-Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. It is of the highest importance that the price of petroleum products should be at a realistic level allowing the pricing system to work. This realistic pricing level will encourage the conservation of scarce sources of energy, particularly liquid fuels other than liquefied petroleum gas. It will promote the use of available energy sources, mainly natural gas, LPG and coal. It will stimulate commercial development of major new energy projects such as shale oil. We have seen intense interest in developing Australia’s massive shale resources. The pricing level will allow development of coal liquefaction and of the ethanol and methanol industries. All of these things are positive moves taken by this Government. The Labor Opposition has not put forward one positive alternative.
It is important to remember that notwithstanding the import parity pricing of oil, Australians still pay much less for petroleum products than consumers in most Western countries. For example, to show just how unrealistic some members of the Opposition are, I point out that recently I was in several member countries of the Association of South East Asian Nations. For instance, I saw that in Korea the price of petrol was the equivalent of $A4 a gallon; in Thailand it was about $A2.50 a gallon; in the Philippines it was about $A2.50 a gallon and in Hong Kong it was over $A2 a gallon. So other countries fully realise the value of having a realistic fuel price. There is no question that Australia’s policies are, in fact, the envy of many countries. America wishes it had bit on the bullet some two or three years ago in respect of fuel prices and energy conservation. Today America is trying desperately to move towards some semblance of the policy which Australia adopted some two or three years ago.
This Government’s energy decisions are based on realistic prices for petroleum products. Countries which have been slow to face up to the reality of higher prices for oil have experienced shortages as a result of the world oil situation. We witnessed long queues and even shootings in California because of oil shortages in America. The honourable member for Blaxland said that we do not need to raise our prices beyond the 1974 level. He said that we could run the Australian oil industry at the 1974 level. If we adopted that approach there would be desperate shortages, today. People would have to queue for petrol and the farming, rural and manufacturing industries would be brought to a grinding halt. Perhaps that is the objective of the Australian Labor Party.
Australia has no options. Like all industrial nations, it is heavily dependent on oil as an energy source. It is inevitable that consumers either will have to pay world parity prices for domestic crude oil or they will have to pay for imported crude oil. In the former case, we encourage exploration and development of our own resources. In the latter, we become dependent on foreign suppliers. In either case we will be paying world parity prices. That is the point that seems to have escaped the Opposition. Again I say that we make no apologies whatsoever for our present pricing policy. It has had a beneficial effect on the conservation of fuel in this country. Apparently many people do not realise how short our oil reserves really are. Unless we are able to conserve oil and establish new reserves we will be in pretty desperate straits in a few years time.
As far as the amount of money that we have been able to pay into Consolidated Revenue from the fuel levy is concerned, I wonder whether the honourable member for Blaxland and the Opposition are in favour of continuing the 1974 oil prices. In so doing, this would deprive the pensioners of Australia of increased benefits, because approximately 40 per cent of the money that is gathered from the fuel levy is expended on social welfare payments. Is the honourable member in favour of halving payments made to the people who are unemployed? Would he be in favour of raising personal income taxes substantially? I think that is probably the alternative that the honourable member is looking at. It is my opinion that the taxpayers of Australia are paying far too much personal income tax and for the honourable member for Blaxland to advocate higher taxation, lower pensions and lower social welfare payments is absolutely unacceptable.
In addition to the Government’s pricing policies we have also established several new initiatives in the conservation of fuel. We have dropped the octane rating on supergrade motor spirit from 98 to 97 and the Commonwealth Government has requested the New South Wales and South Australian Governments not to proceed with the third stage of the emission control legislation because it would have a fuel penalty of between 3 per cent and 5 per cent. The Labor Party supporters obviously dislike the people who live in remote areas and in clean air areas. They have no thought for the penalty that they impose on people who live in rural areas and remote areas of Western Australia. They have no time for the farmers, no time for the fishermen and no time for the people who have no problem at all with air pollution. Because Sydney has an atmospheric problem in that it suffers atmospheric pollution, members of the Labor Party want to penalise the rest of the nation simply to clean the air of Sydney. But what they forget about the problems of Sydney is that all sorts of other industries and machines are putting harmful emissions into the air. The oil refineries and the humble two-stroke lawnmower put a considerable amount of pollution into the air of Sydney. Yet no thought is given by the honourable member for Blaxland at looking at emission controls and at other methods of cleaning the air of Sydney.
The honourable member for Blaxland goes on about using $2,000m in petrol taxes to benefit the Australian taxpayer. He reckons that that is not a good thing. I ask the honourable member: What would be the alternative area of expenditure for the income that has been raised?’ Would he advocate that the oil companies reap the benefit of that huge increase in oil prices? Would he advocate that the oil companies run off with that sort of money and that the pensioners and the unemployed people of Australia should suffer, while the taxpayers of Australia suffer even more? The answer is no. I put it to honourable members that the honourable member for Blaxland does not have any positive ideas; he does not have a positive policy that could be put forward as a comprehensive energy and pricing policy in Australia.
-That is the last time the Government will put you on.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)Order! The honourable member for Blaxland should set an example. I call the honourable member for Kalgoorlie.
-Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. The honourable member for Blaxland is obviously performing like a political vandal at the moment with no thought at all for the question before the House. This Government has taken positive strides in this area. It has a positive policy. It is not ashamed of what it has done. It is utilising the income from that additional fuel tax in most comprehensive and sensible ways. It would not be a party to allowing the fuel companies to rip off huge extra amounts of money, nor would it see the taxpayers or the pensioners of Australia suffer.
– I almost feel sorry for the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Cotter); not only is he staring defeat right in the face in the forthcoming general election, but as somebody has suggested, he apparently drew the short straw and has had to stand up in this chamber and defend a policy that the Minister for National Development (Mr Newman) will not defend because it is totally indefensible. The motion moved by the honourable member for Blaxland ( Mr Keating) reads:
The use of a selective and disguised $2,000m petrol tax on motorists to hide the real impact of the Prime Minister’s high tax policies.
That is exactly what we are trying to establish here now. Three definite facts have emerged. Firstly, and nobody from the Government side will deny this, within three years the price of petrol in Australia has doubled. As the honourable member for Blaxland has pointed out, the farmers are probably listening to the parliamentary broadcast this afternoon. However, I might add that there is not one member of the National Country Party in the chamber. I should have thought that petrol pricing would have been a most important policy as far as the National Country Party was concerned. Surely if doubling the price of petrol affects anybody it is the farmers, yet there is not one of their worthy representatives in this chamber to defend them. Where are they? Perhaps they are out defending the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair). Perhaps they are helping him with his tax return.
The honourable member for Kalgoorlie told us that the price of petrol in Hong Kong is higher than in Australia. I am sure that the people of the electorate of Kalgoorlie who have to drive a thousand miles would be very concerned to learn that somebody in Hong Kong who has to drive only five miles is paying a bit more for his petrol! Hong Kong does not have a natural source of domestic oil. It has to import its oil, which is something that the honourable member for Kalgoorlie seems to have forgotten. So here we have the honourable member for Kalgoorlie, in a very doubtful seat, defending the Government’s most doubtful policy, to be supported by the apologist for the nuclear industry, the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Roger Johnston). For heaven’s sake, where are Government Ministers? Are they not prepared to defend this policy?
The simple fact is that the price of petrol has doubled within three years. The important point that we want to make to the public is that the Government has made a conscious effort to blame the Arab countries for this, to blame the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries increases for the increase in Australian petrol prices. But such is not the case.
– Don’t you read the papers?
-Yes, I do read the papers but I read only the truth. I do not read what the Government has to tell us. The point I want to make is that Australia is in a most fortunate position. We have a 70 per cent production of oil within our own domestic capacities. We have to import only 30 per cent of our crude oil from overseas, and most of that 30 per cent comprises heavy industrial crudes anyhow. The simple fact is that almost 90 per cent of motor distillate used in Australia is refined from Australian crude. The Government has a vested interest in having the public believe that the Arabs are responsible for this hike in petrol prices. This has been reinforced by reports on television of a group of Arabs sitting down in Vienna and other places to determine what the world price for oil will be. This does not bear much relation to the situation in Australia. The fact that we have 70 per cent local production is a big reason why petrol should not be the price it is in Australia.
I notice the Minister for National Development smiling. I do not know what he is smiling about. I am sure that all the people who are listening to this broadcast and who are paying another $7 a tank for their juice will not be smiling. I am sure that they will not be confused if there are some handouts in the Budget tonight honouring the promise that we saw in the newspapers back in 1977, that fistful of dollars that pandered to human greed. I hope that the people do not think that any handout they might get tonight will be a fulfilment of that promise. It will simply be returning what the people are being robbed of when they buy a tank of petrol. So let us put that furphy to rest. It will be no great generous effort by the Government if it gives the people some tax relief tonight; it will simply be returning some of what the people have paid in the last three years in the form of higher petrol prices.
The honourable member for Kalgoorlie suggested that we on this side of the House do not have a positive policy with regard to petrol pricing or with regard to the petroleum industry. I advise the honourable member to get hold of the paper produced by the honourable member for Blaxland at our conference in Adelaide just recently. The honourable member for Blaxland pointed out in that paper that an Australian Labor Government would form, as is done in almost every other developed country with the exception of the United States basically, a national oil company to be known as the Australian Hydrocarbons Corporation. This Corporation would involve itself not only in exploration but also in the refining and retailing of petrol. And it would provide a governmenttogovernment basis for negotiation with the Arab countries. It would give the national government a real say in its energy policy, something which this Government badly lacks. The Minister for National Development would be the first to admit, privately I presume, that the Government has no real knowledge of what the energy situation is. The Government’s belief is: Leave it all to the oil companies; leave it all to the nine sisters. What a way to have one’s national future lined up, with the oil companies deciding what is going to happen.
I think a few figures are very telling. Seventy per cent of our oil is produced locally. It costs less than a dollar a barrel for producers, particularly Bass Strait producers, to produce that oil. So consumers are paying $18.66 a barrel for that oil which costs less than a dollar a barrel to produce. On average, with the 42 per cent that attracts world parity price and the 58 per cent of the total production that does not, the total return to the producer is $5. 12 a barrel while the return to the Government is $ 1 3.54 a barrel. So the companies get $5.12 a barrel for oil that it costs them $1 a barrel to produce, and of that $4 profit, the Government gets half anyhow. The simple facts are that the high cost of petrol in Australia is determined by the Government.
It is a conscious decision of the Government to make people pay more for their petrol in Australia in order to finance the booming deficit that it has developed because of its incompetence in economic matters. They are the simple facts. We are not paying a high price for petrol in Australia because of any OPEC decision. We are paying a higher price merely because of a conscious decision by this Government to hike up the price of petrol to cover its booming deficit. So let the furphy that it is the Arabs who have caused the high price of petrol in Australia be put to rest. It is a government decision and it is a government decision that the Government does not want to go back on.
In 1977 when the Government decided to move progressively towards world parity pricing we as an Opposition did not dispute this because we realised that the oil companies have to be encouraged to explore. The Government used as its rationale the fact that a higher price for petrol would provide some impetus for these companies to look for more expensive wells in Bass Strait and perhaps to explore in other areas. We did not dispute that. The other reason was that it would provide some sort of rationalisation of our use of petrol, that it might prevent the wasteful use of petrol. But that has not happened. The honourable member for Blaxland has cited the figures.
– He is wrong.
-The Minister’s own Department decided that the increase in petrol consumption this year would be 2.7 per cent whereas in fact it is 5.2 per cent; it has doubled. Exploration has not gone ahead despite the rantings and ravings of the honourable member for Kalgoorlie. Exploration in Australia is almost decimated. Only 19 new wells have been put down in the first half of this year. No oil has been discovered in Australia since September 1975.I repeat: There has not been one new oil discovery. So do not let us have this rubbish about the Government encouraging exploration or there being an improvement in exploration. It is a nonsense. The simple fact is that more oil has not been discovered and very little exploration is going on.
The fact is that the public is paying twice what it paid for petrol in 1975. This financial year the Government will get over $3,000m in revenue from the sale of petrol to the Australian public. This is $ 1,000m more than it got last year. This Government has plucked $ 1,000m out of the pockets of the Australian people by a sleight of hand and it wants them to believe that this has happened because of the Arab decision to raise the price of oil. It was a conscious decision of this Government to rob the Australian public of $ 1,000m this year. Perhaps tonight it will give a little back and say: ‘We are honouring our promise of 1 977 to give you some tax cuts. ‘ Such is not the case. If the Arabs had not decided to put up the price of their petrol as they have in the last couple of years, I do not know what the deficit would be. It would probably be about $4,000m. The people of Australia would have no hope of having that election promise of a tax cut honoured. They believed that promise and it helped to elect the present government.
I notice that members of the National Country Party have now entered the chamber. I welcome them to the discussion on petrol pricing. I am sure that all the farmers of Australia will be very pleased to hear that they take an active interest in the fact that the petrol prices they have had to pay in order to try to harvest their crops have been doubled in three years. I am sure that they will be delighted to see that two members of the National Country Party have belatedly appeared to represent them. The facts are very simple. This Government has introduced a petrol pricing policy merely as a tax on the motorist. Let the motorists of Australia simply and clearly understand this.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The matters of public importance which the Opposition bring forward, when it brings them up and how it brings them up, never cease to amaze me. This matter is not new, so why bring it up now? Opposition members had the opportunity to raise it during the debate on the last Budget and on other occasions? Presumably they think that there is some mileage to be gained before the bigger audience which has come to see the opening of the Budget Session. I do not know how, as the subject has been so well canvassed previously. One would think that if the matter were so important the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) would have spoken instead of the last choice in the popularity contest of the Whitlam Government. I notice that only 13 Opposition members are now present, which makes me think that the matter cannot be important to them. Why bring up the matter on the first day of the Budget Session? (Quorum formed). Oil pricing is only one part of the energy policy. The energy policies on which all countries are working- Australia’s energy policy was enunciated on 27 June this year- were brought to a head by the price increases of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries and the crisis in Iran at the beginning of this year.
Some countries, such as Japan and America, have massive problems for very different reasons. They are working on different approaches to their problems. America has had trouble in making its people understand the extent of its problems. In consequence it is having a great deal of trouble in getting acceptance of legislation to deal with the situation. However, the President and his energy advisers have indicated that Australia’s approach is the answer and agree that America should have world parity pricing for oil. The whole idea of import parity is to allow decisions on energy to be made on the correct basis. It will provide a major incentive to increase oil exploration activity and maximise the development of existing fields. I will talk about that matter later. It will encourage conservation of scarce sources of energy. It will promote the use of available alternative energy sources. It will stimulate the commercial development of major new energy projects in areas such as oil shale- again, I will refer to this later- coal liquefaction and the extenders, ethanol and methanol. These things will come about only if we have a realistic price for petroleum products.
Notwithstanding import parity pricing the price of petrol in Australia is lower than in all other countries except America and Canada. The choice is between paying realistic prices for petroleum products and not having access to adequate supplies. There are no other options. We need oil, not just for making petrol and diesel fuel for cars and trucks but for industry and electricity generation. Without oil many country towns would have no electricity. Many large cities would have power rationing. I think that this is what the Labor Party wants. In spite of the plaintive pleas of the low energy lobby there is no way that we can maintain the standard of living of Australians, much less raise it, unless we use more oil and more energy. This is not to say that we should not try to save oil. We must and we will. But this will be possible only through realistic pricing of oil. It is because of import parity pricing that oil companies are progressing with drilling on the North West Shelf. Without such a pricing policy they would be drilling off Timor, Indonesia or elsewhere to get realistic prices for their product. They would not be drilling on the North West Shelf. This is a reasonable proposition for the oil companies. It is a very reasonable approach by a government to help its balance of payments now and in the future.
It is interesting to note that the Labor Party has put forward no alternative to cover its objectives, even though this matter came up a year or more ago, except to promote a socialist approach. We have not drilled extensively on land areas not considered prime oil bearing prospects. This has been for the reason which I mentioned previously. There are immense quantities of oil shale in the world. We certainly have a good share in Australia. It has been uneconomic to try to gain oil from this shale at the price the oil companies would have obtained for their product. It is not hard to understand why they did not proceed and why the Government has undertaken its energy policy. One must realise that oil wells presently take only 30 per cent to 40 per cent of the total oil from the field. This again is purely an economic decision based on the low oil prices. With the higher oil prices oil companies will now be able to afford to take the extra step of taking more oil from these fields. There are other means of gaining more oil from oil fields but much more research is required. This research will be done only if oil is realistically priced.
We are going through supply problems because of political events overseas. These problems can be solved only by countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and OPEC agreeing on the obvious. It is obvious that each group needs the other and that they should get together to work out the best arrangements with respect to supply and demand. Honourable members may have read about some farmers in the United States of America lobbying for the swapping of a bushel of wheat for a barrel of oil. That is no solution to the problem, but it is the basis of their argument. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has a great record in international affairs. I would ask him to use his international status to bring the parties together. I am sure that amicable arrangements would result. The whole point at which the Opposition has directed its raising of this matter of public importance is not the reason for the pricing of petroleum products. Therefore, its whole argument has no relevance. We have shown good reason for setting the world parity price as the price for our oil. It affords many advantages to Australia.
-The discussion is concluded.
-I have received a complaint that while the quorum bells were ringing some red lights were flashing instead of green lights. Until that fault can be investigated and corrected, I hope that members will take care when the bells are ringing to ascertain whether they are ringing for this House.
– I move:
The Customs Tariffproposals I have just tabled relate to proposed alterations to the Customs Tariff Act 1966. Proposals Nos. 20 to 25 formally place before Parliament, as required by law, tariff changes introduced by Gazette notices during the last recess. Proposals No. 20 contains tariff changes effected by the Government’s decision on recommendations made by the Industries Assistance Commission in its report on bags, sacks and certain polyolefin fabrics. The Government has decided not to accept the recommendations of the Industries Assistance Commission that short term assistance for the production of bags, sacks and certain polyolefin fabrics be discontinued from 1 July 1979. Instead, the Government has decided that additional assistance be provided until 3 1 December 1980 but at reduced rates. This decision will be effective in maintaining the ad valorem rate of 35 per cent on bags and sacks and 30 per cent on fabrics from all sources except New Zealand and in reducing the fixed rate portion. Most goods of New Zealand origin will continue to enter duty free. In reaching this decision the Government has been mindful of the Commission’s comment that the industry has made progress towards competitiveness through cost reductions and improved productivity and considers that the industry should be given the opportunity to complete its development programs. The Proposals also contain certain changes of an administrative nature which do not involve changes in duty rates.
Proposals No. 21 arises from the Government’s acceptance of the recommendations of the Industries Assistance Commission in its report on hoists, pulley tackle and winches. The effect of the decision was that the short term assistance, in the form of tariff quotas, accorded to endless chain hand operated pulley tackle and hoists would be discontinued and in its stead an industry rate of 25 per cent would be phased in over a period of 3 years. Imports from New Zealand and Papua New Guinea sources continue at duty free rates whilst goods of developing country origin attract preference margins of up to 20 per cent. The Government had noted the Commission’s comments that, despite relatively high assistance for many of the products, the competitive position of local manufacturers had generally declined. However, in the Commission’s view, phasing down of duties should reduce the likelihood of a sudden disruptive flow of imports and in addition should give local manufacturers adequate time to adjust their activities, including the completion of structural changes currently being undertaken.
Proposals No. 22 reflects the Government’s general acceptance of the recommendations made by the Industries Assistance Commission in its report on travel goods, briefcases, toilet cases and similar goods. The effect of the decision means duties of 45 per cent apply to some of these goods, and will be maintained until 30 June 1980 and then be reduced to 30 per cent. All other goods are provided with assistance in the order of 30 per cent except for a range of products which phase to minimum rates after 30 June 1980. Imports from New Zealand and Papua New Guinea are duty free, whilst a 10 per cent preference margin applies to goods of developing country origin. In accepting the Commission ‘s recommendations the Government noted the Commission’s view that long term assistance over the whole range of local production at the present level or the level requested by the industry would not be justified because of the high cost to the community which this would involve. Also noted was the Commission’s view that continued assistance for rigid cases and brief cases would be justified because their production was less affected by imports and appeared to offer better prospects for long term profitable operation with moderate levels of assistance. As a result of agreements negotiated with New Zealand, the changes contained in Proposals No. 23 include that country in tariff quota restrictions applying to imports of babies napkins. The Proposals impose a $ 1 per square metre penalty duty on goods of New Zealand origin imported outside quota allocations and is operative on and from 1 August 1979.
Proposals No. 24 arises from the Government’s decision to continue the short term duties applying to imports of certain ceramic floor and wall tiles which were due to expire on 4 August 1979. The Government has decided to maintain the current levels of assistance pending a decision on recommendations made by the Industries Assistance Commission in its report on ceramic floor and wall tiles, et cetera. Proposals No 25 reflects the Government’s acceptance of the recommendations made in the Temporary Assistance Authority’s report on continuation of assistance for insulators to continue the imposition of temporary duties, except in respect of fence insulators, until 30 June 1980. Fence insulators no longer attract temporary duties from general or preferential sources and are dutiable at 37.5 per cent and 30 per cent respectively. However, temporary duties continue to apply at a reduced rate to insulators from developing country and New Zealand sources until 30 June 1980. All imports from Papua New Guinea are duty Free.
Proposals No. 26 removes the 12.5 per cent levy which applied to imports of certain chest freezers. The change is necessitated by the Government’s decision to terminate the import licensing restrictions on these goods. This action has been taken following a review of the industry situation in which it was found there was insufficient evidence to justify the continuation of such assistance. Proposals No. 27 implements the Government’s decisions on recommendations made by the Industries Assistance Commission in its reports on chemical products (Part A), (b) confectionary, chocolate and cocoa products, and (c) miscellaneous industrial machinery. The Government’s acceptance of the recommendations contained in the chemical products (Part
In respect of the assistance accorded the cyclamate industry, it was found that assistance in the past had been high. The proposed duties phasing down from 50 per cent to 20 per cent over the next five years should prevent any undue disruption and the local producer will be given the opportunity to demonstrate its potential viability. Additionally, as only small quantities of artificial sweeteners have attracted excise duties in recent years these duties have been abolished. The duties now applicable to cyclamates are therefore solely protective in nature. Duties of 25 per cent are proposed on fire extinguisher charges, maintaining assistance pending further consideration of the fire extinguisher industry by the Commission. A 20 per cent rate of duty will also apply to gelatin imports. This agrees with the Commission’s views that the manufacture of gelatin should continue to be assisted as it is a relatively low cost export oriented industry.
The decision on the confectionery report means that chocolate, sugar confectionery and biscuits put up as confectionery will generally be dutiable at 20 per cent. The remainder of the goods under reference will attract minimum rates of duty. This report is a result of the Commission’s review program. The Commission’s assessment was that the local industry currently holds over 90 per cent of the market, receives significant natural protection and is expected to increase its market share later in the year when one of the industry’s largest importers commences local manufacture. The effect of the decision in relation to the miscellaneous industrial machinery report means that most goods currently imported at minimum rates will continue to do so. Other goods will be dutiable at an industry rate of 1 5 per cent, except that most goods which are presently attracting duties higher than 15 per cent would retain their duties for a further five years. In respect of the latter goods, the Government noted the Commission’s view that, following tariff reductions in January 1 977, the industry would benefit from a period free from further tariff adjustment.
The Government has generally accepted the Commission’s findings in respect of this report. However, the Commission had recommended that some goods of which there was not local manufacture and which were previously dutiable, should now attract minimum rates. The Government has not generally accepted this recommendation on the basis that the adoption of an industry rate for a range of related products is essential to encourage the efficient allocation of resources between activities and this approach should be extended as far as practicable. The section of this report dealing with injection moulding machines was acted upon separately during the last sitting of Parliament. I have had a comprehensive summary setting out the nature of the duty changes prepared and circulated to honourable members. I commend the proposals to the House.
Excise Tariff Proposals No. 5 (1979) which I have just tabled formally place before Parliament alteration to the Excise Tariff introduced during the winter recess by authority of Gazette Notice No. 1 (1979) under section 160b of the Excise Act. Proposals No. 5 ( 1 979) increases the excise duty on stabilised crude petroleum oil from $70.98 to $102.27 per kilolitre operating on and from 1 July 1979. This alteration followed determination, by the Minister for National Development (Mr Newman), of new import parity prices from 1 July 1979 in accordance with the Government’s decision that all Australianproduced crude oil should be priced to refineries at import parity levels.
Excise TariffProposals No. 6 which I have also tabled is complementary to Customs Tariff Proposals No. 26 and has the effect of abolishing the $4.41 per kilogram excise duty on saccharin and cyclamates. Together, the Customs Tariff Proposals and that Excise Tariff Proposals implement the Industries Assistance Commission’s recommendations on levels of protection and other matters relating to these products. I commend the Proposals.
Debate (on motion by Mr Hurford) adjourned.
– Pursuant to section 30b of the Industries Assistance Commission Act 1973 I present the reports of the Temporary Assistance Authority on continuation of assistance for insulators and continuation of assistance for sheets and plates of iron and steel. These reports were distributed to honourable members during the adjournment.
Ordered that the reports be printed.
– For the information of the honourable members I present reports of the Industries Assistance Commission on: Certain electric motors- short term assistance; bags, sacks and certain polyolefin fabrics; hoists, pulley tackle and winches; travel goods, brief cases, toilet cases and similar goods; confectionery, chocolate and cocoa products; chemical products, part A; and miscellaneous industrial machinery.
Ordered that the reports be printed.
– I ask for leave of the House to move a motion to discharge certain tariff proposals which were moved earlier in the year and which constitute part of Order of the Day No. 37. These proposals were incorporated in the Customs Tariff Amendment Bill 1979, the Excise Tariff Amendment Bill 1979 and the Excise Tariff Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1979 which have now been assented to.
Motion (by Mr Fife) agreed to:
That the following tariff proposals, constituting part of Order of the Day No. 37, Government Business, be discharged: Customs Tariff Proposals Nos 1 to IS (1979) and Excise Tariffproposals Nos I to 4 ( 1 979).
Debate resumed from 24 May, on motion by Mr MacKellar:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Amendment Bill which is now before the House is a minor piece of legislation. This is indicated by the fact that the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs and Minister Assisting the Treasurer (Mr MacKellar), when introducing it, spoke for only three minutes. Of course, ministerial brevity is not always a good indicator of the minor importance of legislation. I recall that the Commonwealth Employees (Employment Provisions) Bill which was introduced two years ago by the present Minister for Industrial Relations (Mr Street) had an accompanying second reading speech of less than two minutes. That is certainly a highly controversial piece of legislation. In this particular case the Minister’s brevity in the second reading speech was entirely justified.
The Bill seeks to clarify the law relating to sales tax at the top rate of 2Vh per cent so as to remove doubts arising from the development of new products and from the production of various combination products incorporating some items which in isolation would be subject to tax at the rate of 2Vh per cent but which would otherwise attract a lesser rate. The types of items particularly involved in this legislation are radio and television sets, record players and records, record holders, tape recorders and tape players, cassettes and cassette holders and other sound reproduction equipment. The principal purpose of the Bill is to insert a new provision in the Act to the effect that in the case of products that contain components that would in isolation be subject to sales tax at the rate of 27V4 per cent, those products will be subject to the rate of 27!£ per cent if the componency which in isolation is subject to that rate forms more than 50 per cent of the total value of the products concerned.
More simply, in the case of a cocktail cabinet incorporating a television set or some form of sound system, the rate of tax would be determined by the proportion of the value of the cabinet that the television set or sound system comprised. If the television set contained in such an item of furniture comprised over 50 per cent of the total value, the tax payable would be 27.5 per cent. If it was less than 50 per cent, the tax would be that applying to cocktail cabinets alone which is a mere 2.5 per cent.
The effect of this decision will be greatly to differentiate the price of these similar products. For instance, a cocktail cabinet containing a television set with a wholesale price of $1,000 could be priced very differently after tax with just very minor changes. If the television set comprised 49 per cent of the total value of the combined unit, that is, the cocktail cabinet incorporating the television set, the tax would be only $22.50. If the television set was 5 1 per cent of the total value of the combined unit, the tax would be $275. The effect of this extraordinary tax difference in very similar items will therefore presumably be substantially to discourage the production of such combined items where the proportion of total value comprised by a television set or sound system is more than 50 per cent of the value. There will be a very substantial incentive indeed for consumers to purchase such items separately rather than buying pieces of furniture which incorporate such highly taxed products.
Despite the somewhat anomalous situation which may arise, the Opposition recognises the need for some arbitrary decision to be made as to the point at which the 27.5 per cent shall apply to such items, Given that reality, the level of 50 per cent does not seem unreasonable. The Opposition therefore does not oppose the Bill. However, it should be noted that one way of reducing the degree of potential anomaly would be to reduce the upper rates of sales tax. There are, in fact, good macro-economic reasons for doing that at the present time. It would reduce prices and so be anti-inflationary and would also stimulate demand for consumer products. Given this present state of consumer confidence, this would not be a bad thing. However, I have no confidence whatever in the likelihood of such a common-sense announcement being made in the Budget which will be brought down tonight.
-The Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Amendment Bill (No. 2) of 1979 will be supported by the Opposition so I hope that I can make these comments about this legislation in what might be described as a non-party political atmosphere. The Bill relates to television receiving sets, radio receiving sets and items of what is known as sound equipment such as record players and tape players. These provisions apply also to records and tape recordings, parts and accessories for sound equipment. The high rate of 27.5 per cent is now payable on television sets, radio sets, record players, tape recorders, tape players and the combinations of these items as defined in the second schedule to the Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Act. The amount of 27.5 per cent is now payable on records, tape recordings of music or verbal entertainment material as well as component parts, accessories and other specified classes of goods which are used in association with television, radio and sound equipment.
From time to time, manufacturers at home and overseas do try to outwit the Commissioner of Taxation who is charged with the unenviable task of collecting the taxes decided upon by the Parliament. From time to time, advances in science and technology lead to a smoke screen of semantics called ‘new terminology’. This environment has led to doubts about the proper and valid application of the 27.5 per cent rate particularly to television, radio and sound appliances. This amending legislation will clarify the position and remove any doubts about the legal validity of the Commissioner’s decision.
The amount of 27.5 per cent will be payable on virtually every item of equipment used in the reception of TV or radio programs, the reproduction of sound or noise- as I think it might be fairly described from time to time- from records, tapes or wires or for any two or more of these functions. It is interesting to note that although clocks with radios built into them are included for the benefit of the amateur radio fraternity, radio transmitter/ receivers will be taxed at the rate of 15 per cent. Particular sections of the amending legislation deal with television, radio or sound equipment which has other uses or functions.
The Minister gave as an example an article of furniture which has a section of it designed to hold glassware and which also includes built-in record and cassette player equipment. Such an article of furniture would be taxable at 27.5 per cent if the value of the record and cassette player components together made up more than half the value of the whole article of furniture. The 27.5 per cent sales tax on records, tape recordings, parts and accessories for television, radio and sound equipment will also apply to envelopes, stands, cabinets and other facilities for the storage of records and also to cassette racks, holders and other storage facilities for tape recordings.
The Industries Assistance Commission report of 15 February 1978 deals with the music recording industry in Australia and contains the requests from interested parties about sales tax on recordings and music. On pages 43 and 44 the report stated:
The Commission received a number of requests relating to sales tax on music recordings. The main requests were: exemption from sales tax for promotional copies of Australian records; exemption from, rebate of, or reduction in rate of sales tax for all Australian records; and that sound recordings be regarded as a cultural medium for the purposes of Annex C of the Agreement on the Importation of Educational, Scientific and Cultural Materials (the Florence Agreement)-
Consequently it was requested of the Industries Assistance Commission that it should recommend an exemption from sales tax. The report continued:
The Commissioner of Taxation - always very keen to keep an eye on the Consolidated Revenue- advised the Commission that under the provisions of the Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Act goods that are given away for promotional purposes by a manufacturer or distributor are subject to tax on the grounds that they have been applied by the manufacturer or distributor to his own use, i.e., that he has used them for the purposes of his business by giving them away for promotional purposes. An exemption for promotional copies of recordings would be difficult to justify while tax remained payable on other classes of promotional goods used or given away for business purposes in other areas of industry. The taxing of goods applied to their own use by the manufacturers and distributors of those products is also designed to preserve equity by placing them in the same position as retailers and others who must purchase any goods they require for business purposes and bear tax when purchasing them.
The first two requests referred to . . . involve differential sales tax treatment between the Australian and imported product. The Commissioner of Taxation has advised . . .
That advice was given to the Industries Assistance Commission-
In relation to the third request . . .
This relates to the Florence agreement to which I have referred- the Commissioner of Taxation has advised that Australia is not a party to the Florence Agreement. But even if it were, the agreement would not prevent the imposition of sales tax on recordings; it merely forbids the imposition of tax on the imported product in excess of that on the domestic product.
Therefore in these circumstances the Industries Assistance Commission decided that there was little justification for recommending any change in the present sales tax provisions for music recordings. References have been made in this House to direct taxation and its significance in the economy, and also to the attitude of the various political parties from time to time in relation to the problem of differentiation between direct taxation and indirect taxation in its various forms. I believe that the whole of the sales tax process should be reviewed because its impact upon the national economy is important and significant. I am prone to believe that direct taxation is less harmful than indirect taxation in the context of the progress and development of the national economy.
In spite of what honourable members on both sides of the House have said, I would like to quote from the basic statistics that are submitted to the Parliament by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in its economic survey which, as is well known, is carried out over a number of years. For example, I note that the report of July 1975 relating to the fiscal year 1973-74 referred to a gross domestic product of $50,433m and the current revenue was 28.9 per cent of the GDP. I think that this was when Mr Crean was the Treasurer. The OECD said that direct taxes at that stage represented 14.9 per cent of the 28.9 per cent. If one turns to the report of 1978 covering 1976-77, one finds an enormous increase in the GDP to $8 1 ,560m; current revenue as a public sector percentage of the
GDP being 3 1.8 per cent and direct taxes having risen to 18 per cent. Last year, with a gross domestic product of $90,68 lm, the current revenue percentage was 31.3 per cent and direct taxes were 17.8 percent.
I mentioned those figures because I suspect that from time to time the House is given an impression about the relationship between the total taxation take by governments in Australia and the gross domestic product which is prone to be a political interpretation. I feel that in those circumstances the House ought to be reminded that with a little study it can be shown that there has been not a great deal of variation over quite a long period, irrespective of the government in power. I complete my remarks by saying that in terms of the total sales tax concept I believe that the figures are unnecessarily high. I am aware of the fact that Consolidated Revenue must be collected from some source and that the Parliament instructs the Commissioner of Taxation to collect all of the Consolidated Revenue that he possibly can. Notwithstanding that, I think that indirect taxation generally has an adverse effect upon production in the community. In my judgment this effect would be worthy of exploration as one of our very great problems at the present time is the problem of producing employment for young people in the next decades of our national development. I conclude on that point. I will support the Bill and I am aware of the fact that my friends on the other side of the House will also support the legislation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr John McLeay) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 3 1 May, on motion by Mr Street:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Coal Industry Amendment Bill 1979 is a formal piece of legislation which formalises that agreement reached between the New South Wales Government and the Commonwealth Government whereby the person who constitutes the Coal Industry Tribunal dealing with the coal industry of New South Wales and Queensland is able to be seconded to either the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission or to the Industrial Commission of New South Wales. The Opposition does not contemplate that that would happen frequently, but there should be no objection to that person being seconded to either of those tribunals should his position in the coal industry be such that he is not required in it. This was the practice with Mr Gallagher, the person previously constituting the Tribunal, but at that time the legislation named him and this did not allow for a flow-on to other people who would hold the position. This amending Bill does. Complementary legislation will be passed in New South Wales. This Bill has the support of the Opposition.
– I would like to use the debate on the Coal Industry Amendment Bill 1979 to make a plea to the Government that when it brings down the Budget tonight it remove the discriminatory $3.50 per tonne levy on the export of coal and replace it with the policy of the Australian Labor Party which calls for the replacement of flat levies on tonnages with a resources tax based on profitability of companies. To show just how justified I am in raising this matter I refer to the case of Bellambi Coal, a subsidiary of Allied Gold Fields. At the end of the last financial year it turned in a pre-tax loss of $2.9m and then had to pay a $4.5m levy on coal produced. I ask the House to compare that situation with that of the Utah Development Corporation which, after paying some $80m-odd in coal export levy, still turned in a profit of $ 130m at the end of the last financial year. There can be no doubt that the coal export levy as a flat levy on tonnage rather than a tax on profits discriminates against marginal mines, particularly the smaller underground producers in New South Wales vis-a-vis the larger open cut mines in Queensland in the Bowen basin which have a tremendous advantage in having rail transport to the ports of Queensland, and, of course, being much closer to Japan.
I make an appeal to this Government to remove the coal export levy tonight and replace it with a resources tax on profitability. If $350 per tonne levy remains, at least $2 per tonne ought to be returned to State governments, such as the New South Wales Government, to pay for transport infrastructure to the much needed new ports. We cannot allow a continuation of a situation in which we export larger amounts of coal and build ports to expedite its sea transportation, but do nothing very much to expedite its land transportation. While the levy remains, clearly a proper percentage of that levy ought to be returned to the appropriate State government for transport purposes.
However, the last point I make is that the levy clearly ought to come off and be replaced by a resources tax. Such a resources tax, pitched at the right threshold level of profitability to investment, would most certainly miss most of the smaller mines in New South Wales and thus would allow the New South Wales Government to impose levies less than the present $3.50 per tonne- say, $1 to $2 per tonne- to pay for the ports, the railroads and the conveyor systems that are so necessary in order to get our coal into the ships.
– Would it help industrial relations?
-I think that it would help industrial relations enormously. There is no question about it. If this situation continues much longerwith the Bellambi mine, about which I have just spoken, making a $2. 9m loss after paying $4.5m to the Federal Government as a coal levy, none of which is returned to the State government for infrastructure purposes- we will not have to worry about industrial relations in regard to employing people, because obviously the mine will not continue to operate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Street) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 3 1 May, on motion by Mr Street:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-Whilst the Opposition does not oppose the amendment brought in by the Government, we have some things to say about it. The amendment deals with the fact that since late last year the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations has been split. This is a matter to which we on this side of the House object. As soon as the people of Australia re-elect a Labor government, that will become one department. I must say that the only reason why the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations was split, which is apparent to honourable members on this side of the
House, is that the then Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, Mr Street, in making a statement to the House in September of last year, for the first time gave the people of Australia some idea of the crisis of unemployment with which we were living and some idea of the great difficulties of unemployment with which we were going to be confronted in the next five to 10 years. It seems to us that the truth in the statement made by Mr Street last September was too much for the Government. It is not something of which the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) is- terribly fond. Later we found that a new Department of Employment and Youth Affairs was established, separate from the Department of Industrial Relations. There was no necessity or justification for this. Obviously a Labor government will reunite the two departments.
In addition to that, we give recognition to the enormously important role played by the National Labour Consultative Council. In dealing with industrial relations in this country there are perhaps few bodies that play a more important role in trying to unravel the difficulties that arise between employees, employers and government. In no other body in this country do more superior people from each of those bodies discuss the matters that come before them. We give recognition to the importance of this mechanism. I must say to the Government that it is a fool ‘s errand to send any Minister, whether it be the Minister for Industrial Relations, the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs or the Minister for Productivity, into a forum such as the NLCC and expect that the people representing organised labour in this country will compromise their position as the representatives of organised labour by buying some of the crazy ideas put forward by this Government for settling industrial disputes. One need only point to the Commonwealth Employees (Employment Provisions) Act or the Commonwealth Employees (Redeployment and Retirement) Act in order to show where the Government has created a vacuum in dealing with its own employees as far as industrial relations are concerned.
When these matters were before the Parliament, speaker after speaker from the Government side said that these measures were welcomed by public servants and that these measures were looked upon as being favourable to the Public Service. The whole emphasis of the Commonwealth Employees (Redeployment and Retirement) Bill was given over to optional early retirement at 55 years of age and not to the early forced sacking of any public servant in this country. We warned the Government thenduring the recess that we have just been through we have been proved so right- that the Public Service overwhelmingly is not prepared to accept those measures. That could have been sorted out in the NLCC. It is my opinion that, left to his own devices, the Minister would have sorted out those measures in the NLCC; but there is another demon at work in this Government, namely, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). He has to have a confrontation with the trade union movement. In his last national broadcast, which we were urged to witness on national television, he told us that all the problems of this country belonged to and rested on the shoulders of the trade union movement.
In all the problems that this country faces he finds as his only foe the trade union movement. So we have legislation such as that to which I have referred in order to harass and provoke the public servants and perhaps to politicise the Public Service of this country. That type of legislation will not work. Had the Minister for Industrial Relations and the Treasurer (Mr Howard)- if the Treasurer had had the time- gone to the NLCC to discuss what ought to be the wages policy in this country, they would have known that they were wasting their time in going to the conference on wage indexation to put forward the foolhardy idea of automatic indexation adjustments with discounting of all government charges. There are two features of this to which I wish to refer. One is that the Government has already made decisions which are now costing every person in Australia a great deal of his income. These are the decisions on petrol prices and the health insurance scheme which is about to commence. These are not charges which wage and salary earners can ignore. They are not amounts of money making up a part of the standard of living which the working people of this country are prepared to sacrifice.
– I take a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I draw to the attention of the Chair the provisions of the Bill we are debating. It provides merely for the representation of the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs and the permanent head of his Department on the National Labour Consultative Council. My point of order is that the honourable member for Port Adelaide is not speaking to the provisions of the legislation.
– Speaking to the point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker: I am referring exclusively to the role of the NLCC, and that is what the Bill refers to.
Whilst the amendments to the Act are only of the nature that the Minister has described, I think that a more broad ranging discussion should be allowed.
– We have already seen an enormous increase occur in the cost of petrol. Every consumer, every wage earner who uses his own vehicle or public transport, now knows the impact that the Government’s decision to meet world parity pricing on crude oil is having on his pay packet.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I take your point in relation to the ambit of the National Labour Consultative Council Act, but I suggest that it does not refer to petrol prices.
-I uphold the point of order in this instance and remind the honourable member for Port Adelaide that the Chair and the Minister were generous in their interpretation of the Standing Orders relating to this matter. I ask him to confine his remarks to the matter under discussion.
-I will not talk about petrol. If someone said to a person earning $150 a week that he would be charged an extra $6 a week to travel to work- this situation has arisen in the last 18 months as a result of government decisions- would he expect that wage earner to accept a package that did not take that aspect into account? My view is that if these matters had been thrashed out by the NLCC- where they should have been thrashed out- a proposition as stupid as the proposition that was put to the indexation committee last week would never have been put forward by the Government. The other point to be made about such an offer is that this Government has told the working people of Australia so many lies that no one is prepared to believe anything it says. This is the other vulnerable aspect of the offer about which the representatives of organised labour are concerned when they go to meetings of the NLCC. These matters ought to be discussed. Greater emphasis should be placed on the role of the NLCC in determining these questions. If any of the matters to which I have referred had been discussed or thrashed out at meetings of the Council, the Government as one of the partners- even the senior partnerwould have known that it would be futile to put forward provisions such as those contained in the legislation affecting its employees or the propositions it has put forward on how to solve the wages problem in this country.
People outside the NLCC and perhaps the Department of Industrial Relations and the Department of Employment and Youth Affairs are not privy to the decisions and discussions of the Council. These are confidential. So I do not know whether wages have been discussed by the NLCC. But it seems to me to be ironic that for almost a year the Government has been without a policy on wages. I believe that in eight of the last 12 national wage case hearings the Government has gone before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and asked that no wage increase be granted. These are matters that ought to be discussed by the NLCC. This situation will not be helped- I refer to the amending legislation before us- by the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs being at the Council’s meetings. If ever there has been an example of His Master’s Voice sitting on the front bench of the Government is has been the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs when he has been representing the views of the Prime Minister. Whatever the Prime Minister wants the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs to say he will say it. So his presence at meetings of the NLCC will not add anything to them.
I think that the Minister for Industrial Relations (Mr Street) understands more than anybody else the importance of the Council, not only in relation to what it should discuss but also in relation to maintaining and consolidating its role. Some action has been taken by the Government and perhaps the unions have over-reacted to it in playing their role on the NLCC. The Opposition sees the NLCC as being enormously important. We want to see it continue to play the role that it has and perhaps to enlarge its role in industrial relations. At the moment people all over this country are sitting down and talking about the problems between employers, employees and the Government. Why are we having so many problems in industrial relations?
Members of the Opposition who serve in this field are being invited every day to speak to groups about industrial relations. What is the problem that cannot be solved? A mechanism like the NLCC ought to be given the respect that it deserves. When Mr Hawke, Mr Polites and people like that meet with the Minister, such a meeting should be given great respect. They .°re the people who should be able to solve some of the problems. I believe that the Government ought to give them more rein in dealing with the problems that come before them. Perhaps consultation will overcome many of the problems. They will not be overcome by the provocation which has been so much a part of industrial relations in the past couple of years.
– I join the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) in supporting the Government for the introduction of this measure. I think that any layman would agree that it is sheer common sense that the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs should also sit on the National Labour Consultative Council. The Minister assists the Minister for Industrial Relations in those matters and I think that he should be fully informed and be able to participate in NLCC discussions. The Minister for Industrial Relations (Mr Street) should be congratulated by honourable members on both sides of the House for his foresight in establishing the National Labour Consultative Council. I think that the Minister showed statesmanship in bringing around a table representatives of unions, employers and the Government. Whilst they may not agree on particular issues, at least they are given the opportunity to sit down in a forum and discuss those matters. I congratulate the Minister for introducing this measure in the first instance and also for allowing the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs to take part in these discussions.
I think that it needs to be recognised by people on both sides of the House that if the NLCC is to work as we hope it will work- that is, in the manner on which the honourable member for Port Adelaide commented; I am sure it has his approval- there must be a common consensus among the people around the table to make it work. Any forum, no matter what it is, will produce results and have an effect only if there is a desire from all people around the table to make a particular measure work. It is unfortunate that in the short history of the Council there has been evidence of its being used as a political forum instead of as a forum for consensus. I was very disturbed at the decision of the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the Council of Australian Government Employee Organisations not to participate in meetings of the NLCC because of the proclaiming of the Commonwealth Employees (Employment Provisions) Act. It is unfortunate that the trade union movement took that stance because, whilst it may have objections to that provision or other provisions that may be introduced by the Government or by employers, the Council is a body which enables people to sit around a table and discuss matters of importance. There can be consultation without confrontation. Above all else I think that the people of
Australia are looking for consultation and not confrontation.
If some of the bodies that are appointed to that Council adopt the attitude that it can be used as a political plaything then it will not have the desired effect which the Minister has hoped for and on which the honourable member for Port Adelaide has commented. I think that it needs to be taken into account by those who are appointed to the NLCC, the employers, the unions and the Government that there should be a common desire to go into that forum and talk about problems and to make it work. I think that it is fair to say that the reaction at the moment to industrial relations matters is probably the cause of the most widespread concern amongst the people of Australia.
In 1975 and 1977 the Government brought forward policies to help overcome the industrial relations problems that were in existence at that time. The policy to establish the National Labour Consultative Council was one of those measures brought forward by the Government. But still there is widespread industrial disruption in this country. As the honourable member for Port Adelaide correctly pointed out, people around this country are asking why there is so much industrial disruption and why there is confrontation among employers, unions and government. Why should there be this confrontation when clearly its effect is to dampen economic prosperity and in fact to retard the job opportunities that might be created for people who unfortunately are out of work at this stage. The effect of current industrial relations defies all common logic. It does nothing to help those people who are in work at the moment and seeking to improve their wages and conditions. It does nothing to help young people and other people who unfortunately do not have jobs. It does nothing to improve the economic prosperity of Australia or to provide for the future of this country. But still there is widespread industrial disruption and there does not appear to be any reason to assume that industrial confrontation is abating.
We all need to ask the question: Why is this happening? Mr Deputy Speaker, I put the view to you that better direction needs to be given by the leaders of this country- by the leaders of trade unions, industry and government. Rather than have a situation in which the leaders are put into a position in which they are expected to be gladiators about to take each other on and to pound each other into the ground, there should be a situation in which the leaders of the various industrial and government groups can sit together and talk about common problems about which all of us are concerned, regardless of our political persuasion. I hope that the leaders will then come up with some sort of consensus that will provide a mechanism for improvements in the future. But that is not happening. The leaders in the country- regardless of whether they are in unions, industry or government- tend to take the view that for the sake of political expediency or individual monetary gain they should adopt a role in which they are gladiators and try to hammer each other into the ground. That attitude causes people in the community to lose confidence in the system, in the leaders, in the governments, in the parliaments, in the trade unions and in the industries in which they work.
This is not good. It is not helping people to plan or causing them to expect that there will be prosperity in the future. I believe that if we are to regenerate the sort of confidence that we think the community should have, and which it has a right to expect, the lead has to be given by those people in the community who choose to call themselves leaders. I must admit that I was impressed by some of the statements that Mr Hawke made during the parliamentary recess. He said that there should be consultation rather than confrontation. I agree with that and I think that all of us on both sides of the House would agree with that approach by Mr Hawke. But it is no good for him to say: ‘Yes, there should be consultation’ in one breath and then in the next breath to support a motion that the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the Council of Australian Government Employee Organisations not participate in NLCC discussions. One attitude is completely contradictory to the other. Sure, the statements are good but they have to be backed up by practice. I do not necessarily single out Mr Hawke. The same situation applies to the leaders in trade unions, employers’ groups and government. There should be consultation that gives a lead at that level to people in the community so that they can plan and be confident that decisions coming from unions, industry or government can be respected and followed by the community at large.
The NLCC, which was set up by the Minister for Industrial Relations, was the body that I had hoped would provide a forum for that process to take place. It was a forum set up for the senior people of industry, trade unions and government to sit round a table to talk. But if that body is to work in the way that I had hoped it would- I believe that people on both sides of the House and certainly in the community hoped it would work in this way- there must be a desire on the part of all the people sitting around that table to make it work. If there is the suggestion by any of the individuals or groups around that table that they have some mysterious right to be able to use the Council as a political forum or as part of their weaponry in the battle against an opposing group it will not work. If people take that attitude, regardless of what body or group they represent, around that table at the NLCC then they should be condemned roundly by the community at large. Those individuals who adopt that attitude rightly deserve to be condemned. Certainly I will not be backward in tipping a bucket over anyone who might adopt that attitude.
The NLCC is a forum that should be looked to by the community as one in which consultation can take place and in which the confrontation in the industrial arena can be broken down. I support the honourable member for Port Adelaide in saying that it is a body that should be given much greater recognition by the Government, unions, employers and the community at large because it is a body in which that sort of consultation can take place. I support the Bill. I know that it is a machinery Bill allowing the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs to be a member of that body. Anything that can be done by the Ministers who attend the meetings of the Council, by leaders in the trade union movement and in industry and by employer groups who can come together around a table at that forum should be done. They should not only come together with the idea of having a nice little chitty chat and a beer afterwards but also they should come together with a view to coming to statesmanlike decisions that can be expressed to the community at large so that from that forum a lead can be given to the community so that it can have confidence that the leaders in the various groups are at least trying their best to arrive at decisions or at a consensus for the betterment of this country, not reaching agreements that will benefit some group or individual just for the sake of political expediency.
– It is always interesting to hear the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Burr) address this chamber on matters of industrial relations and this afternoon was no exception. Regardless of all his fine oratory to this chamber it is a shame that his political clout within his own party is so insignificant that he is unable to persuade his political boss, the Prime Minister of Australia (Mr Malcolm Fraser), that what he was saying had some merit. I want to initially correct a misapprehension that the honourable member labours under; that is, that the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) supports the legislation. Nothing is further from the truth. Neither the honourable member for Port Adelaide nor the Australian Labor Party supports the legislation. The attitude that is adopted by the honourable gentleman for Port Adelaide and by the Labor Party is that we do not oppose the legislation. We do not support it for the very good reason that we do not support the splitting into two portfolios of a Ministry so important as that which dealt with matters relating to industrial relations in this country. The Government did this in December 1978. We do not support that at all. We have made that clear. If we do not support that we cannot support this legislation because it simply broadens the National Labour Consultative Council. I would like to know the name of the person who perpetrated that little trick of including the word ‘Labour’ in the title. The purpose of the legislation before us is to embrace on the Council the new Ministry that was created in 1978. If we of the Opposition opposed the creation of the new Ministry we must of necessity not favour this Bill. So we do not oppose it because we know that it is part of the machinery, but we do not support it.
I was interested to hear the honourable member for Wilmot speaking about there being consultation and not confrontation. Of course, that is the whole attitude of the Labor Party in all of its industrial attitudes and in its attitudes towards the trade union movement. It has always been one of consultation and not confrontation. It is a pity that the Prime Minister of this country did not take some note of that attitude during the recent Telecom dispute when he gave strict instructions to Telecom that it was not to negotiate with the Australian Telecommunications Employees Association-with the union it was not to negotiate. If what the honourable member for Wilmot is telling us is true- and I believe that it is- that is, that negotiation will obviate industrial disputes rather than confrontation, it is a pity that his own Prime Minister did not embrace the same creed. We would have fewer industrial disputes in Australia if there were consultation rather than the continued confrontation as is practised by at least two Premiers- in Western Australia and Queensland.
I have just recently returned from Japan and from speaking with industrialists in that country it would seem to me that this neat little ploy of stirring up industrial strife that the Government has got going for it to divert the attention of the community away from the Government’s own inadequacies is starting to backfire on it. It might be all very well for domestic consumption, as the honourable member for Wilmot put it to us, that the Labor Party is associated with the unions and therefore the Labor Party must be held responsible for the industrial disputes that exist. That is a nice little stratagem, a nice little ploy, and it is probably working. I do not deny that it is probably working. But the end result of that is that in every news bulletin that one reads in overseas newspapers and reports, industrial disputes in Australia are highlighted. That in turn is being used as a weapon by those who wish to exploit the natural resources of this country, including its people for their own benefit. The Government has been very successful in this area too. It is the Government which foments industrial disputes in this country because the unions have nothing to gain out of industrial disputes. It is not a very great pleasure to go home to one’s wife after being on strike for a week with no pay in one’s pocket. I can say from experience that that is the case.
The unions have no vested interest in creating industrial disputes. It is the present Government and governments of that colour throughout Australia that have a very real interest in creating industrial disputes. They are the traitors to Australia. The traitors in Australia are those governments which foment industrial disputes. The governments of Australia which bring down provocative legislation well knowing that it will create a dispute are the traitors. Those governments of Australia, amongst the eight of them, that take provocative actions, that encourage employers not to negotiate but to confront, are the traitors because they are doing Australia irreparable damage overseas. They like to turn their wrath upon the unions and place everything at the heels of the trade union movement. As I pointed out, that is done purely for domestic consumption.
The whole idea of a consultative council has a great deal of merit. But it must be attended by people of goodwill, as the honourable member for Wilmot pointed out to the House. He said that originally the legislation had been brought about in order to reduce the number of disputes in Australia. Among other things he said that that was one of the purposes of its existence. But in the next breath, after he had patted the Government on the back for taking some action to reduce the number of industrial disputes, he pointed out that the industrial situation had worsened since the Government had been in office, and I think everybody in Australia knows that to be a truism. Whilst the Government, through its private members in this place, would like to put the point of view to the public that it stands above all this, I put the contrary point of view. I would point the finger directly at the Government as being the instigator of industrial unrest in this country. It is well known that the Minister for Industrial Relations (Mr Street), who is sitting at the table, curiously enough does not seem to do very much in industrial relations. It seems to be his colleague, the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs (Mr Viner), who has a lot to say about trade unions. I freely admit that I have a lot of time for the Minister for Industrial Relations. I believe him to be honest and I believe him to take a keen interest in the subject that he has specialised in over the last few years.
– You have answered your own question.
-As the honourable member for Lalor said, I have answered my own question. I know why the Department was divided. I think everybody in Australia knows and I think the Minister for Industrial Relations knows. The reason is that he is too honest. He was looking at the problems and endeavouring to understand them. He would not take action that he considered to be ungentlemanly in order to stir up industrial disputes in this country for political advantage and domestic consumption.
– He is not a confrontationist.
-He is not a confrontationist. He is a man who looks at problems and endeavours to understand them. It is for that very good reason that he was moved sideways. He is an old school chum of the Prime Minister, so he could hardly cop the axe. The Prime Minister handled that one very neatly by dividing the Department and shuffling the honest Minister off to one side. He introduced another Minister and I am not implying in any way that he is dishonest, but the man does have a reputation for confrontation as he had in his previous portfolio and as he has demonstrated to us quite clearly in his handling of his present portfolio. It is while there are people like that associated with the NLCC, while there are sitting around that table Government representatives who are bent on confrontation, not consultation, that the spirit of the legislation will not work. It is hardly to be wondered at that the trade union movement is not going to be snowed and it is hardly to be wondered at that the trade unions did refuse to sit around the table while the Government was in such an intransigent mood.
It would do this House and the nation good if there were a full-scale debate on the whole subject of industrial disputes because they are not doing anybody any good, and everybody admits that. But the difference between the Government and the Opposition is that the Opposition has a clear endeavour and an honest approach to the subject and would confront such situations with a spirit of bringing about conciliation between all of the parties rather than driving them into arbitration as is the attitude of the present Government. While that situation exists, while that attitude prevails within the Government, there will continue to be industrial disputes in this country which will benefit nobody.
There is no quarrel with the principle of the legislation, as I pointed out, provided that it is administered by people of goodwill. There is no opposition in the Labor Party to the Bill now before the House which seeks to include the new Minister on the Council. Our opposition is to the claim that there is a need for that Minister. We do not believe that there is. We believe that the addition has been made for a particular purpose and we believe that the eight months that have passed since December 1978 have indicated that purpose quite clearly. The Prime Minister seems to have a predilection for appointing Ministers for everything. He did that with the honourable member for Curtin (Mr Garland) by making him the Minister for all sorts of things- rag bags- in Europe and that, Mr Deputy Speaker, believe you me, is a matter of derision amongst our overseas trading partners located in the Asian region- in the Pacific Ocean, not on the European continent. As that is a matter of derision amongst our overseas trading partners, so too is this whole question of the appointment of a Minister to deal with these matters. There are no real reasons for it. It is a window dressing exercise. One could go right through the Community Youth Support Scheme, right through the whole bit, to show that it is window dressing. There has been absolutely no achievement by the Minister responsible for its administration. I leave it on that note, that the Labor Party does not oppose the legislation but it certainly does not support it.
– in reply- In the few minutes before the sitting is suspended for dinner I would like to make a couple of points. I thank those honourable members who have taken part in the debate. The honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) spent a good deal of his speech talking about issues which I think were not strictly relevant to the Bill but as you allowed him a fair amount of latitude, Mr Deputy Speaker, I hope that you will allow me the same indulgence in replying to one point in particular that he raised. It related to Public Service legislation, the Commonwealth Employees (Redeployment and Retirement) Act. The honourable member referred to provisions which, in his terminology, allowed management to sack people and the undesirable effects that could flow from that. I would like to point out that Public Service legislation has given management that power for a great many years now. The new Act provides appeal machinery which is not available under the present legislation.
The honourable gentleman also referred to wages policy. I was interested to note that now the Australian Labor Party formally opposes the Government’s wages package. I believe that this was a test of the Opposition ‘s sincerity in relation to recent statements that we have heard from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) and other ALP spokesmen on the need for a sensible wages policy. But what we have heard today makes it quite apparent that those statements were mere window dressing. The Labor Party is not really interested in a constructive approach to what is one of our major economic issues.
– Bob Hawke snowed them. That is what happened.
-That is quite right. The honourable member for Port Adelaide referred to the importance of the National Labour Consultative Council, as did my colleague, the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Burr), and I thank him for the remarks he made on the establishment of the NLCC. As the honourable member for Wilmot rightly pointed out, if the Council is to play its full role, the members of it need to attend to put their point of view. I personally greatly regret the decision of the union movement not to participate in the last meeting of the NLCC. I hope that this absence is a temporary one. In the meantime, there is not much point in the Opposition or the union movement talking about lack of consultation when they have decided not to attend the very body, the National Labour Consultative Council, established for that very purpose.
Finally, I turn to the comments of the honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson). Listening to the honourable member for Burke, one might be forgiven for thinking that the union movement as a whole had nothing at all to do with any form of industrial disruption. I will leave it to the honourable member for Burke to try to sell that idea to the Australian public. The honourable member also alleged that the Government had instigated industrial disruption in this country. For the benefit of the honourable member for Burke and of the House I would like to cite some fairly simple statistics. They are these: During the three years of the Labor Government an average of 4. 1 million man days per year were lost through industrial disruption. During the full three completed years of this Government, the average figure was 1.8 million man days lost if the one day aberration of the Medibank strike is excluded and just over 2 million man days lost if the Medibank strike is included. But, in either case, the number of man days lost per year under this Government is less than half the number lost under the Labor Government. Really, this makes nonsense of the arguments advanced by the honourable member for Burke.
I believe that the Bill before the House will improve the National Labour Consultative Council. It will give it a broader base. I believe that as both sides of the House support the concept of the Council this Bill will result in that body being able to do its job better.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Street) read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation for proposed expenditure announced.
Bill presented by Mr Howard, and read a first time.
In doing so, I present the Budget for 1979-80.
The purpose of a Budget Speech is not only to give details of a Government’s revenue and expenditure plans for the year.
It is also an occasion to take stock, to review the course of the economy over the previous year, to assess prospects and problems for the year ahead and above all to restate the basic economic policies of the Government.
One persistent theme has dominated this Government’s conduct of economic policy since its election in 1975.
That has been the uncompromising nature of its attack upon inflation as the fundamental and most enduring cause of the economic difficulties of the 1970s.
Tonight I reaffirm the determination of this Government to maintain that attack.
In recent months, due largely to world wide price increases, inflationary pressures have intensified in Australia.
The prime purpose, therefore, of this Budget is to respond decisively to these renewed pressures.
In doing so we should not lose sight of the real gains that have been made. Despite the recent upward movement in inflation, it is still very much lower than it was several years ago.
It should not be forgotten that inflation was as high as 17 per cent in the year to June 1975 and stood at 14 per cent when this Government took office. For the year to June 1979 it was 8.8 per cent which was below the average for the OECD countries.
The priority given by the Government to the attack upon inflation has been vindicated by the steady improvement in Australia’s economic health over the past three and a half years.
That improvement strengthened and broadened in 1978-79.
Real gross domestic product is presently estimated to have increased by 4.7 per cent.
It was, of course, a very good year for the rural sector, with a most gratifying rise in real farm product of 36 per cent.
Growth elsewhere, while less spectacular, was still quite firm.
On current estimates, real non-farm product grew by 2.8 per cent.
Business fixed investment recorded an increase of 10 per cent in real terms.
Private dwelling construction has also picked up.
Overall business profits improved last year. This process must continue if recovery is to be consolidated.
Civilian employment grew by 1 .4 per cent over the course of the year. Most encouragingly private sector employment rose by about Vh per cent and, for the first time since 1973-74, there was a rise in jobs in manufacturing industry.
Our balance of payments turned sharply for the better in the second half of the financial year.
It was especially pleasing to see a strong growth in manufactured exports reflecting a substantial improvement in the competitiveness of Austraiian industry.
Confidence in the strength and stability of the Australian economy continued to grow.
Private capital inflow for 1978-79 was the largest for seven years.
There was also a marked rise in the number of major investment projects foreshadowed.
These developments clearly show that policies which address fundamental economic problems do yield results.
Lower inflation does inspire greater confidence and encourage greater risk taking.
Lower costs do make our industries more com.petive; they do encourage development; and they do, thereby, provide jobs.
The clear benefits of firmly pursuing an antiinflationary policy over more than three years are reason enough to reaffirm that policy tonight.
Moreover, the difficulties faced by the entire industrialised world- including Australia- over the next year in responding to fresh inflationary pressures make it all the more essential that fighting inflation be the hallmark of this Budget.
In doing so we should remember that no Government can guarantee that price rises will never occur; indeed, some price rises are inevitable.
The rise in the price of oil is a case in point.
Our policy in respect of crude oil is to conserve our resources through a reduction in consumption, to promote exploration and to encourage the use of alternative energy sources.
There is no way this policy can be effectively pursued unless the price of Australian crude oil is set at the world level.
This means we now feel the full effects of price increases by the OPEC countries.
Oil prices alone will add directly about 1 ½ per cent to the Consumer Price Index in 1979.
We might wish that we could isolate ourselves from higher world oil prices.
But to have persevered with the old pricing policy would merely have delayed the,inevitable change and would have run counter to our energy objectives.
Ultimately the change would have been forced upon us: Ultimately it would have been necessary to recognise that if something is scarce, artificially holding down its price will make it even scarcer.
If we had delayed the change the eventual dislocation would have been all the greater.
The Budget deficit in 1978-79 was $665m higher than estimated when the Budget was brought down last August.
The higher deficit was not due to a relaxation of expenditure restraint. Outlays grew by 8.4 per cent which was only 0.6 per cent greater than estimated in the Budget itself.
Most of the higher deficit was due to a revenue shortfall of $490m largely in the areas of provisional and company tax.
Tax avoidance played no small part in the lower revenue collections in these two areas.
Of the total revenue shortfall, $ 180m was due to tax avoidance over and above the allowance which had been made for that when the Budget figures were prepared last year.
To illustrate the continuing nature of the tax avoidance problem, I point out’ that the total amount of income tax outstanding at 30 June 1979 included an abnormally high figure of $433m attributable to specific tax avoidance schemes against which the Government has taken action.
This amount is in effect tax in dispute arising from these schemes. Given the nature of the processes involved, it is not assumed, for the purpose of the revenue estimates, that any of this amount will be recovered in 1 979-80. .
In addition, in preparing this year’s estimates of revenue it has been necessary to allow a sum of $250m to cover further possible loss of revenue through tax avoidance.
I have already explained the economic needs to which this Budget must respond.
Accordingly, we have decided upon a major reduction in the size of both the total and the domestic deficits.
In doing so we have continued firm restraint over our expenditures.
The containment of Government spending has been one of the central elements of our economic policy.
It is worth noting that in the three years to 1972-73 Commonwealth Budget outlays grew by an average of 4% per cent per year in real terms; in the three years to 1975-76, by 10!6 per cent per year; and in the three years to 1978-79 by only 1 per cent per year.
There is growing and I believe proper sentiment in the community towards lower taxation and smaller government.
However, it is all too often the case that enthusiasm for taxation reductions and for the general restraint on expenditures which makes these reductions possible is not matched by a willingness to accept the consequences of expenditure reductions in particular areas.
It is the Government’s responsibility to achieve a proper balance between these competing pressures.
No one should be under any illusion that the task is easy.
It is often compounded by unexpected changes in the need for certain government services. For example, an examination of our defence needs earlier this year showed that we required a greater commitment to defence spending.
This priority will undoubtedly command the support of the Australian community but, obviously, it comes at a price.
Furthermore, the need for social security spending- which is the largest single item in the Budget- can increase through circumstances not always within the control of any government.
The proportion of social welfare pension and benefit recipients in the community has about doubled since 1971-72.
Whilst a considerable part of this increase results from an extension of benefits such as the removal of the means test for those aged over 70 and the introduction of the sole parent benefit, social and demographic factors have also swollen the social welfare bill.
These include the aging of the population, the greater tendency towards early retirement, the increased incidence of single parent families, and a sharp rise in the number of World War II veterans becoming eligible for the service pension.
However, all in all, this Government’s record in expenditure restraint speaks for itself.
On the revenue side I noted in my statement of 24 May that it was not possible to make final decisions about revenue measures for 1979-80 until closer to the Budget.
I also foreshadowed in that statement that it would not prove possible to both restore tax indexation for this financial year and remove the income tax surcharge imposed in the last Budget.
In the final event, we have been able, within the context of a responsible Budget, to remove the surcharge from 1 December.
As it happened, there were major changes in the revenue picture between May and final preparation of the Budget.
One of the main changes related to the crude oil levy.
Prior to the new arrangements I announced in May, it could have been expected that, on the basis of then posted OPEC prices, revenue from the levy would have been $ 1,363m in 1979-80 or $ 1 74m more than actual receipts in 1 978-79.
Revenue from the levy is now estimated to be $2,023m, or about $660m greater than the earlier estimate.
Of this additional amount, $140m reflects the new arrangements concerning the levy on parityrelated oil announced in my statement in May and fully set out by my colleague the Minister for National Development on 29 June 1979, had posted OPEC prices remained at their May levels.
The remaining $520m thus represents the additional revenue flowing from the further price increase announced by OPEC on 28 June.
But this does not mean that when we came to finalise the Budget we had $520m more in hand than we had supposed on 24 May.
In particular, policy decisions aside, estimates of other revenue items were some $400m lower than the preliminary revenue estimates available in May.
I shall now give details of expenditure and revenue decisions.
I turn firstly to expenditure.
Many of the Government’s 1979-80 expenditure decisions have already been announced. Details of these and the others I am about to announce are contained in the accompanying Budget documents.
Positive steps are being taken to maintain and improve the operational effectiveness of our defence forces.
The Budget provision for defence expenditure this year is $2, 887m. This is a rise of $281m and implies an increase of 2.6 per cent in real terms.
The Minister for Defence will keep the Parliament informed of particular decisions made by the Government in this important area.
Programs of the Education Commissions
The provisions already announced for the Tertiary Education Commission will maintain total intakes of students into universities and colleges of advanced education in 1980 at current levels and permit substantial real increases in activity in technical and further education.
Present real levels of recurrent support for schools will be maintained in 1980 and in some areas, such as migrant education, increased. The prospective decrease in capital expenditure is in line with a levelling off in total enrolments in schools and projections of a downward trend throughout the 1980s.
Commencing with the 1980 academic year, private overseas students who enrol at an Australian university or college of advanced education for the first time, or who change courses, will be charged between $1,500 and $2,500 per year towards the cost of their tuition.
Ths charge is consistent with overseas practice where foreign students attending tertiary institutions are required to contribute to the cost of their education. The move will also assist in alleviating the current excess demand for places available to overseas students.
This charge is estimated to yield about $6m in 1979-80 and will help to defray the costspresently met in full by Australian taxpayers- of educating private overseas students in Australia.
Full details of these new arrangements will be announced after consultations have been held with major source countries.
The Government has decided to adjust the means tests used for determining student benefits to reflect past increases in average weekly earnings. There will be no change in the level of those benefits in 1980.
These adjustments are estimated to cost $3. 1 m in 1 979-80 and $6.5m in a full year.
Budget outlays classified as Social Security and Welfare Payments are estimated at $8,92 5m in 1979-80, an increase of 9.6 per cent and equivalent to 28 per cent of total outlays.
Last year when the Government took its decision to introduce annual indexation adjustments of social security and repatriation pensions and benefits, it was with the prospect of a lower rate of inflation than now prevails.
In the event this expectation was not realised. Following many representations to the Government, it has been decided to restore twice yearly automatic indexation for all indexed pensions and benefits.
This means that in addition to the forthcoming November increase, there, will be a further increase in May 1980 in line with the rise in the Consumer Price Index over the six months to December 1979.
The additional cost of restoring twice yearly indexation is $63m in 1 979-80.
We have decided to extend eligibility for Pensioner Health Benefit Cards to supporting parents and their dependants. This means that supporting parents will be eligible, as are widows and other sole parents in similar circumstances, for certain fringe benefits, such as free pharmaceuticals.
The basic income test limits for eligibility for Pensioner Health Benefit Cards have not been altered since 1973. This has resulted in the loss of this particular benefit by large numbers of pensioners. As a consequence, the Government has decided to increase these limits as follows: from $33 to $40 per week in respect of single people; and from $57.50 to $68 per week in respect of married couples.
These extensions will be effective from 1 November and are estimated to cost a total of $ 13m in 1979-80 and $23m in a full year.
The changes to welfare benefits just outlined will also be available to repatriation pensioners.
In addition, as promised in the 1977 policy speech we have decided that, from the first pension pay-day in February 1980, the Service Pension will be available, on a similar basis as for British Commonwealth veterans, to those veterans who served as members of the formally raised forces of allied countries in any war or warlike operations in which Australia participated.
The Government will re-introduce free medical and hospital treatment for all conditions for all veterans who received TB pensions prior to 2 November 1978.
There will also be increases in a range of benefits available to specially disadvantaged Repatriation beneficiaries including Orphan’s Pensions, Attendant’s Allowance, Recreation Transport Allowance, Gift Car Allowance and Clothing Allowance.
The rate of Repatriation Funeral Benefit will be increased by $200 to $300 as from 1 November 1979.
My colleague, the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, will be announcing full details tonight.
The total cost of these changes is estimated at $ 10.7m in 1979-80 and $27.6m in a full year.
Other provisions which indicate this Government’s concern to assist needy groups include: $62.5m for the construction of homes and hostels for aged persons, an increase of $9. 8m; a further $4m for senior citizens centres; $69.2m for assistance for pre-school and child-care projects in the States and Northern Territory, an increase of $5.4m; $39. 3m for handicapped persons facilities, with further approvals up to $5m for funding in 1980-81; and grants totalling $500,000 to community welfare agencies which are in need of support in providing emergency assistance to members of the community.
The Budget also provides $125m for special assistance to Aboriginals through programs administered by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs; this is an increase of about $9m on 1978-79.
The Commonwealth will provide an estimated $1 194m to the States and Territories in 1979-80 under the cost-sharing arrangements for public hospitals.
But for the increase in public hospital charges effective from 1 September 1979, this amount would have been much greater.
As foreshadowed, an independent inquirywith the powers of a Royal Commission- is to be established to investigate and report on the efficiency and administration of hospitals.
It is planned that an interim report be available by 30 June 1980.
Expenditure on medical benefits is estimated to increase by $64m in 1979-80 to $593m, not withstanding the previously announced changes which are to apply from 1 September 1979.
In the absence of those changed arrangements, the medical benefits bill in 1979-80 would have been about $ 1 80m higher.
Legislation is to be introduced to increase the patient contribution for pharmaceutical benefits supplied under the National Health Act to the general public from $2.50 to $2.75 per prescription.
This increase will be effective from 1 September and is estimated to reduce Commonwealth outlays on pharmaceutical benefits by $5m in 1979-80 and by $7m in a full year.
Eligible pensioners- those holding a Pensioner Health Benefits Card- will, however, continue to receive their pharmaceutical benefits free of charge.
The Government is also proposing to examine the range of drugs available under the National Health Act with a view to reducing the costs of the scheme by up to $20m a year.
The Government will shortly receive the report of the Inquiry into the Pharmaceutical Industry- the Ralph Inquiry.
Assistance under the overseas aid program is estimated at $485m in 1979-80, an increase of $29m.
Provision is made in the estimates for an assisted migration program of 23 500 persons in 1979-80, approximately 5000 more than last year.
This total includes up to 14000 Indo-Chinese refugees, compared with 12 000 in 1978-79.
Some $15m will be provided in 1979-80 for the continuing implementation of the Galbally recommendations to provide special services to migrants.
An amount of $24.1 m has been allocated for the Adult Migrant and Refugee Education Program, an increase of $6. lm.
Charges are to be introduced to help offset the administrative costs incurred by the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs in providing certain of its services.
These charges, which will be detailed by the Minister, are estimated to yield $2.3m in 1 979-80 and $4m in a full year.
The Budget provides $3 1 9m for cultural and recreational activities, $38m more than in
This includes $ 189.2m for the ABC and associated activities. Over the next three years the ABC will also be permitted to retain, for its own purposes, increases in revenues from its entrepreneurial activities.
The total also includes: $26. 3m for assistance to the arts through the Australia Council; $ 17.6m for the National Gallery, including $ 1 0. 1 m for its new building; $4.2m for the National Parks and Wildlife Service; and $2. 7m for sports development.
As already announced, the Commonwealth will provide $2 60m to the States for welfare housing in 1979-80.
Of this, $100m will be provided by way of grants.
This compares with grants of $ 14m in 1 978-79 and will enable substantially increased assistance to be extended to pensioners, Aboriginals and other disadvantaged groups.
As I announced in May, the Homes Savings Grant Scheme has been modified by the introduction of a tapered dwelling value limit with the aim of directing assistance to those most in need.
However, because of the build-up of approvals awaiting payment, outlays are estimated to increase from $20m in 1978-79 to $75m in
Activity in the private sector housing area has strengthened during 1978-79. This has been aided by the record amounts of finance made available by the major housing lenders.
It is the Government’s policy that a high priority for housing finance be maintained consistent with overall monetary policy.
Lending institutions are again being informed of the Government’s wish that, within the parameters of monetary policy and subject to their own commercial judgment, they lend to home seekers to the maximum extent.
The allocation for the National Water Resources Program is to be increased from $20m to $25m in 1979-80.
This will enable a number of new projects to be commenced, including urgent salinity control and drainage works in the Murray Valley.
It is the Government’s intention to fully recover costs incurred on the domestic trunk airline sector over the next three years. To this end we will be seeking annual increases of 25 per cent in air navigation charges for domestic airlines over that period.
Air navigation charges for the general aviation sector are to be raised by 20 per cent.
These increases are estimated to yield a total of about $4m in 1979-80 and $8m in the first full year.
The recommendations of the Crawford Study Group on Structural Adjustment have been receiving careful consideration and the Minister for Industry and Commerce will make a detailed statement on the Government’s response shortly.
I note, however, that in respect of two of the principal recommendations in the Reportencouragement of exports and industrial research and development- this Government already has a commendable record.
A total of $2 15m is provided for export incentive and market development grants, an increase of$ 157m over 1978-79.
This large increase reflects the full-year effects of the generous export incentives scheme introduced last year, the strong growth in eligible exports, and steps taken to expedite the processing of claims.
Industry will also benefit from a substantial increase in the provision for industrial research and development.
Expenditure for this purpose increased from $14m in 1977-78 to $24m in 1978-79 and is estimated to increase further to $32m in the current year.
The tourist industry has the potential to generate a large number of additional employment and income opportunities in Australia. To foster this industry, the Government has decided to provide additional assistance for its expansion and development.
The Minister for Industry and Commerce will announce details but I mention, as one illustration, that $8.2m will be provided to the Australian Tourist Commission in 1979-80 compared with $4.2 million last year.
I shall have more to say about this industry in the Receipts section of this Speech.
A further $ 10.5m will be available under the Commonwealth Regional Development Program to encourage the development of selected non-metropolitan centres, together with a further $5m for the Albury-Wodonga growth centre.
The Callaghan Report identified certain areas where special assistance might be provided to Tasmania and the Commonwealth proposes to offer assistance for a number of projects.
These offers amount to $ 1.3m in 1979-80 and include assistance for native forestry, restoration and development in the Port Arthur region, the establishment of a fish centre in Hobart and a pilot industrial estate at Legana; and reequipment of the Launceston Precision Tool Annexe.
The Commonwealth has also agreed to fund, by way of special grants, the full cost of constructing a second bridge across the Derwent River at Hobart.
The total cost of this project is estimated at about $32m of which $ 1 m is likely to be required in 1979-80.
A total of $ 131m will be provided for training programs in 1 979-80 to assist some 1 70,000 Australians to improve their own employment prospects and to help fill gaps in the supply of skilled workers.
The total provision represents a reduction of $27m, mainly because of a reduction of almost $50m, to $68m, in estimated expenditure on the National Employment and Training System (NEAT). This in turn reflects the steps taken by the Government to limit subsidy payments under the Special Youth Employment Training Program (SYETP) to people who would not otherwise have been employed.
Expenditure on the CRAFT program, under which employers receive tax-exempt rebates for the costs of releasing apprentices to attend approved trade and training courses, is estimated to increase by $26m to $54m.
Taken together, net Commonwealth payments to the States, the Northern Territory and local government authorities are estimated to increase by 7.8 per cent in 1 979-80, to $ 1 1 ,608m.
Payments to the Northern Territory Government amount to $442 m and comprise both general and specific purpose payments akin to those made to the States.
The total also includes $222m- an increase of $42m or 24 per cent- in tax-sharing grants to local government authorities and reflects our decision to increase their share of 1978-79 personal income tax collections from 1.52 per cent to 1.75 per cent.
The Government’s election promise to increase the share to 2 per cent will be met by the time of the next Budget.
For its part the Commonwealth intends to maintain maximum restraint on expenditures in 1979-80 and to pursue economies and eliminate wasteful practices wherever possible.
In this connection I mention that last year there was a further net reduction of 780 in areas subject to staff ceilings and that the overall ceiling this year will be retained at about the same level as in 1978-79.
In each of the past four years this Government has held actual spending below, or very close to, the Budget estimate of total outlays and we aim to maintain that good performance in 1 979-80.
In turning to the receipts side of the Budget, I deal first with personal income tax.
As I have already indicated, it has only proved possible to remove the income tax surcharge. Tax indexation will not be restored for 1979-80.
Whether or not tax indexation can be restored in 1980-81 will depend upon general economic conditions. Wage decisions by the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission will be relevant to that.
The Government hopes that the increase in take-home pay of wage and salary earners as from 1 December will encourage greater wage restraint.
Let there be no mistake. The Government wants to be in a position to restore tax indexation but economic circumstances have to be right.
One of the factors which will be relevant is the extent to which wage and salary increases contribute to inflation.
From 1 December 1979, the standard rate of personal income tax will be reduced from the present effective 34.57 per cent to 32 per cent for PA YE purposes and PA YE tax instalment deductions will accordingly be reduced from that date.
There will be corresponding reductions of 2.57 per cent in the rates applying to higher incomes, to 46 per cent and 60 per cent.
For a person on average weekly earnings, the reduction in tax instalments and increase in takehome pay will be about $4.45 a week.
Rates for assessment of 1 979-80 tax will be derived as a weighted average of the present effective scale for PA YE purposes and the scale to apply from 1 December. For example, the ‘standard ‘ rate on assessment for the year as a whole will on that basis be 33.07 percent.
Provisional tax payments for 1979-80 will also be based on that weighted-average rate scale where the taxpayer self-assesses. In accordance with past practice, somewhat higher rates will apply for provisional taxpayers who do not self-assess.
There will also be adjustments to provisional tax arrangements to take account of the withdrawal of the Trading Stock Valuation Adjustment from the beginning of the current year.
Further details of these measures are contained in Statement No. 4.
Provisional tax is not at present charged to salary and wage earners, pensioners and superannuitants if income subject to provisional tax is less than $400. This amount, which has not been changed since 1970, is to be increased to $1,000. This will have the effect of freeing large numbers of taxpayers with small amounts of property and investment income from the liability to pay provisional tax.
A frequent concern of small business is the maintenance of adequate working capital. The Government acted in 1976 to ease the distribution requirements for private companies under Division 7 of the Income Tax Assessment Act by increasing the retention allowance from 50 per cent to 60 per cent.
We have now decided to go further. For distributions in respect of taxable incomes of 1978-79 and subsequent years, the retention allowance for trading or business income will be increased from 60 to 70 per cent.
No change is being made to the 10 per cent retention allowance for property income or to the rule tht there is no retention allowance for dividends that one private company receives from another.
The increase in the retention allowance will have negligible cost in 1979-80 but is estimated to cost $30 m in a full year.
To encourage the provision of accommodation for tourists and travellers, the Government has decided to introduce a system of depreciation allowances for new income-producing buildings, or extensions to existing buildings, used for the accommodation of travellers, where construction commences after today.
Eligible buildings or extensions to buildings must contain at least 10 guest rooms.
Depreciation will be allowed at a flat rate of Vh per cent of eligible cost.
This deduction will have no cost in 1979-80 but a progressively increasing cost in subsequent years.
Further details will be announced at a later date.
Since 1 973, on-farm facilities for the storage of grain, hay or fodder have been subjected to depreciation in the usual way.
In the light of recent heavy grain harvests and the consequent pressures on bulk grain facilities, and in order to encourage the holding of hay and fodder reserves against the requirements of poor seasons, a special rate of depreciation will be allowed in respect of on-farm facilities for the storage of grain, hay or fodder in conducting a primary production business.
A rate of 20 per cent per annum will apply to such facilities which are ordered, or the construction of which by the taxpayer commences, after today, so that the cost of such facilities is written off in 5 years.
The investment allowance, at the 20 per cent rate, will continue in respect of eligible storage facilities covered by the new special rate of depreciation.
This measure, which will have negligible revenue effects in 1979-80, is estimated to cost $6m in a full year.
Whilst the Government recognises that cars are needed in many businesses and professions it does not believe there is any reason why the revenue should subsidise the full cost of expensive luxury vehicles used for such purposes.
The Government has decided to limit to $ 1 8,000 the amount which may be depreciated for income tax purposes for motor cars and station wagons (including four-wheel-drive vehicles, leased vehicles, and those used to provide services to the general public) ordered after tonight.
The excess of the price above $18,000 will not be depreciable and balancing adjustments on disposal will be calculated by reference to a deemed cost of$ 18,000.
The limit of $ 1 8,000 for depreciation purposes will be indexed annually.
The gain to revenue from this proposal will be negligible in 1 979-80 and $ 1 5m in a full year.
I mention also that the Government is concerned that some lessees of cars and station wagons are, at the end of the lease, buying the vehicles for a price that enables them to profit by reselling the vehicles at their market value.
As the law now stands, the resulting profit may not be taxable, even though it effectively represents a recoupment of tax deductible lease charges.
Accordingly, the Government has decided to amend the law to ensure that any such profit is taxed on a basis corresponding with that applied where a person sells plant on which he has previously been allowed depreciation.
The amendment will apply in respect of all cars and station wagons that are purchased from lessors by the lessee or a relative or other associate after tonight.
The gain to revenue from this proposal will be negligible in 1979-80 but about $25m in a full year.
Further details of these measures are given in Statement No. 4.
In his statement of 27 June on Energy Policy, the Prime Minister announced a number of taxation measures designed to conserve scarce oil resources.
Those measures will be supplemented by two income tax concessions related to conversion of oil-fired industrial equipment to other energy sources.
The cost of such conversion or adaptation of an existing unit will be allowed as an outright deduction in the year in which it is incurred.
Where an existing oil-fired unit of property is wholly replaced by one that uses other energy sources, the replacement unit will qualify for normal depreciation but will also attract a special conversion allowance at a rate of 40 per centdouble the investment allowance that may otherwise have applied.
To qualify, the conversion must be completed and the equipment be in use by 30 June 1982.
In addition, the exemption from sales tax to kits used to convert vehicles to LPG use is to be extended to compressed natural gas conversion kits, and further extended to cover conversion kits for all internal combustion engines.
In order to provide further encouragement for the discovery and development of petroleum resources throughout Australia, the Government has decided to extend the present scheme of tax rebates for share capital subscribed for offshore petroleum exploration and development to subscriptions for onshore petroleum exploration and development.
In addition, it has been decided to extend from two to four years the period within which capital subscribed must be spent in order to qualify for a rebate.
These changes will apply to share capital subscribed after tonight. The legislation will of course contain appropriate safeguards against abuse.
There will be no revenue cost in 1979-80, but an estimated $6m cost in a full year.
The sales tax law already provides exemption for a range of appliances and other goods used by blind or deaf persons.
To avoid the need to amend the law frequently to cater for the development of new aids, the Government has decided to provide a general exemption that will apply to all articles designed and manufactured expressly for and of a kind used by blind or deaf persons.
The exemption will apply after tonight.
The cost to revenue of the new general exemption is estimated to be $ 1 00,000 in a full year.
Details of this and some other measures in the sales tax area will be given in the enabling legislation to be introduced later this evening.
The existing coal export duty of $3.50 per tonne on high quality coking coal will be reduced for open-cut operations, and major expansion of such operations, commencing production after 30 June 1 980, and for existing and future underground mines.
The rate of duty to apply will be $1.00 per tonne- the rate presently applying to exports of lower quality coking coal.
These changes will take effect on 1 November 1979.
The cost to revenue is estimated to be $ 12m in 1979-80 and $ 19m in a full year.
Total outlays in 1 979-80 are estimated to increase by 9. 1 per cent to $3 1 ,692m.
Total receipts, after the measures I have outlined, are estimated to increase by 15.4 per cent to $29,499m.
The overall deficit is therefore estimated at $2, 1 93m, a reduction of $ 1,285m on 1 978-79.
After allowance for overseas transactions, the domestic deficit is estimated at $875m in 1979-80, much less than half the domestic deficit of $2,258m in 1978-79, and the lowest for six years.
To see these deficit figures in perspective it should be noted that the projected Budget deficit as a percentage of GDP has been reduced from last year’s outcome of 3.4 per cent to an estimated 1.9 percent.
This section of the Budget Speech traditionally contains views on likely developments in the economy during the year ahead.
They do not, of course, represent promises or guarantees by the Government as to the outcome in certain areas. They never can.
Circumstances can alter quickly to radically change the basis on which original assumptions and forecasts have been made.
The monetary outcome for last year is a good example. A major part of the change was due to the unexpectedly large turnaround in private sector foreign exchange transactions during the year and the increase in the Budget deficit.
I have already canvassed the further progress of economic recovery in 1 978-79 as well as drawing attention to the heightened inflationary pressures facing the industrialised world.
Quite apart from the adverse developments caused by oil price movements, 1979-80 will be a difficult year for the world economy.
Nevertheless, our prospects are better than those of many other countries.
Activity in the non-farm sector is expected to continue to expand in 1979-80, at a rate of over 3 per cent.
Following last year’s exceptionally favourable rural conditions, we must expect some falling back in farm production. However, given reasonable conditions farmers should still have a good year.
GDP as a whole might increase by only 2 to 2 Vi per cent this year.
Private investment should again contribute quite strongly to aggregate demand.
Although plant and equipment investment will probably grow less dramatically than in 1978-79, the building and construction component of business investment is likely to keep on expanding firmly.
Dwelling investment is in a moderate upswing phase.
Non-farm stocks are expected to accumulate fairly steadily during the year.
However, total public spending on goods and services may increase somewhat more slowly than in 1978-79.
Private consumption spending has been fairly subdued and there are no evident factors which suggest any major change in that trend in the months immediately ahead, although the increase in take-home pay from I December next should help.
The contribution to aggregate demand from net exports of goods and services is likely to be quite strong.
As a result, the improvement in the current account deficit which occurred during the second half of last year should be maintained. Whereas the deficit amounted to $3, 156m in 1978-79, it could decline by several hundred million dollars in 1979-80.
There are also good prospects of a continuation of the recent stronger rate of net private capital inflow.
Taken together, these improvements would, of course, permit a substantially lower overseas borrowing program by the Commonwealth than last year.
Against this background, we expect a moderate growth in job opportunities during the year.
Wage and salary earner employment is expected to grow by about 1 per cent.
Although the level of unemployment remains high, recent trends in labour force participation rates have combined with growing employment to hold it broadly steady over the past year.
We do not expect unemployment to improve in the year ahead.
As to the inflation outlook, factors already in the system are likely to lead to higher rates of increase in price indices in the months immediately ahead, before a renewed downward trend can be established.
Those factors include recent oil price increases still largely to be reflected in the Consumer Price Index, higher costs of health care as a result of changed financing arrangements and increases in doctors’ fees, and some acceleration of wage costs.
For 1979-80 as a whole, the CPI is presently estimated to increase by a little above 10 per cent.
It is expected to peak with a relatively large December quarter increase due to the coincidence of the factors I have mentioned.
It is essential for our future economic prosperity that the temporary factors putting upward pressure on prices in recent months do not become permanently built in to the inflation base.
For this reason, restraint on the part of all those involved in wage determinationincluding, not least, the arbitral authorities themselves- is no less vital than it ever was.
I turn now to the monetary prospect for the year ahead.
First, the expected improvement in the balance of payments on private account is likely to result in an addition to domestic liquidity in 1979-80, in contrast to the reduction from this source over 1978-79 as a whole.
This involves a turnaround in private sector foreign exchange transactions which has already become apparent in recent months.
The turnaround is expected to amount to approximately $ 1,000m or more and will convert the negative impact of these transactions of some $250m on the money supply last year to a sharply positive impact in 1979-80.
Another large wheat harvest is being foreshadowed. The Government will, however, again seek arrangements for financing advances to growers so as to minimise the addition to liquidity. As was the case last year, this will not be at extra cost to growers.
The large reduction in the domestic Budget deficit will, of course help greatly in moderating the growth of the monetary aggregates.
Moreover this year the borrowing requirement of the public sector as a whole will be markedly reduced; the net reduction on account of the Commonwealth Budget and approved Loan Council programs is some $1 billion.
I reaffirm that the Government’s monetary policy is directed at providing adequate funds for sustainable expansion in private sector activity and employment, while continuing to bear down steadily on inflation and inflationary expectations.
There is a need for growth in the monetary aggregates this year to be reduced from the rates of 1978-79. The Government has already taken a number of measures to that end.
As was evident in 1978-79, circumstances can arise which render appropriate a monetary outcome different from any initial projection at the outset of a financial year.
For 1979-80, it is believed that growth in the broadly defined measure of the volume of money (M3) of about 10 per cent over the course of the year would be compatible with policy.
Economic developments throughout the year may make appropriate an outcome either above or below that projection.
However on present assessments it seems appropriate that the outcome be not more than ten percent.
There will be a fairly sizeable bond-selling task for that outcome to be achieved.
But, given the expected trends in underlying conditions, and with appropriate flexibility in the operation of policy, it should be manageable.
I reaffirm the Government’s commitment to the importance of monetary control in bearing down on inflation and for the pursuit of a path of economic stability.
With this commitment, supported by our continued emphasis on fiscal restraint, we look forward to further sustainable growth in activity, and the prospect of seeing, by the latter part of the year, a return to a downward trend in the rate of inflation.
This Budget has been framed to meet the needs of the Australian economy in 1979.
Its object is to reduce inflation and promote sound and broadly based growth.
It provides incentive for both individuals and businesses within a responsible overall framework conducive to our longer term economic goals.
It significantly reduces the call of Government upon the nation’s financial markets.
It equips Australia to succeed in a world environment of rising inflation and intensifying competition.
I commend it to Honourable Members.
That the debate be now adjourned.
Question resolved in the affirmative.