31st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden) took the chair at 2. 1 5 p.m., and read prayers.
- Mr Speaker, as all honourable members will know, Admiral of the Fleet, Earl Mountbatten of Burma, one of Britain’s most distinguished sons, was killed yesterday by terrorists. Other people in his party were also killed- Nicholas Knatchbull, grandson of Earl Mountbatten; and the boatman, Paul Maxwell. Those injured were Lady Doreen Brabourne, Lord and Lady Brabourne, and Timothy Knatchbull, who I understand is seriously ill as a result of the terrorist attack.
Lord Mountbatten gave a lifetime of service. He was born in 1900. In 1913 he joined the Royal Navy as a cadet and, as Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee of the United Kingdom, in 1965 he ended a remarkable military career spanning a little over half a century. Lord Mountbatten ‘s military achievements were varied. Early in his naval career he attracted the attention of senior officers with inventions in the radio, visual signalling and shiphandling fields. He wrote manuals, pamphlets and books, including the first technical book on naval wireless telegraphy. He produced dictionaries of French and German naval terms which became standard works in the British Navy.
In 1 937 he became the youngest captain in the senior service. Shortly before World War II he was appointed to command the 5th Destroyer Flotilla, and he subsequently served as Chief of Combined Operations. In 1943 he was appointed Supreme Allied Commander in the South East Asia Command and there his strong and decisive leadership played a key role in turning the tide in the Pacific and through South East Asia. On 12 September 1945 he officially received the Japanese Army surrender in Singapore.
All this would have been sufficient achievement for most men, and very much more than most could ever hope to achieve. But Lord Mountbatten was much more than a military commander. He gave most distinguished service to the cause of peace, to the United Kingdom and to the modern Commonwealth. Perhaps because he was a military commander, and a most distinguished one, he also knew and understood the yearning of people for independence, the yearning of people for peace- being able to lead their own lives in their own way.
After the war he shouldered the task of bringing India to independence. On his installation as Viceroy of India he said to Nehru:
I want you to regard me not as the last Viceroy winding up the British raj, but as the first to lead the way to a new independence.
He achieved that magnificently, calling on great reserves of diplomacy, his powers of command and his sensitivity to the views of others. He was greatly aided by a most talented wife.
As a tribute to his period in the viceroyship of India and to the way in which India was brought to independence under that viceroyship, he was asked by the Indian constituent assembly to become the first Governor-General under an independent India. What greater compliment could be paid to the last Viceroy than asking him to become the first Governor-General of independent India? In addition, it is no less a tribute to Lord Mountbatten that he moved from a pinnacle of power in India to resume his naval career. His superior officer, the CommanderinChief of the Mediterranean Fleet, wrote in Lord Mountbatten ‘s confidential report:
Ordinary men may climb up with distinction; only extraordinary men can climb down without some loss of distinction; and he achieved the latter.
Having been Viceroy, having been GovernorGeneral, he was able to return to a naval career and take his part within the Service to which he gave so much of his life. At the early age of 54 he became the First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff. Eighteen months later he was promoted to Admiral of the Fleet. It was because he was a great military commander that he did understand the ultimate futility of war and therefore the need to try to build a more secure world. Much of his life was devoted to that end, to the cause of peace.
Until recently he had been President of the United World Colleges, a task which Prince Charles has taken over from him. The object of the United World Colleges, which I can remember his speaking to me about when I was Minister for Education more than 10 years ago, is to bring young men and women from many different countries together, to create an understanding between them, to create an understanding of their different countries, of their different histories and of their different cultures and hoping by that means to inspire, possibly, potential future leaders of countries and thereby to avoid some of the fears and some of the hatred and suspicion which can so often lead to war and to the disaster of war which Lord Mountbatten knew and understood better than most.
I doubt that any man has given greater service to the United Kingdom, to the modern Commonwealth and to the wider cause of mankind during this century. Certainly, over a great span of time he has given a service which is second to none. He has given a service that has been unflinching and dedicated throughout a whole lifetime. That he and his grandson should be murdered as they have in this circumstance, callously by a violent act, is a stark reminder -
– Yes- cowardly.
This is a stark reminder of the ruthlessness of modern political terror and of modern political murders. Lord Mountbatten stood for all the very things which we in this Parliament would hold dear- a democratic system, the right to say what we think and what we believe and the right to fight for that through the democratic process, and was the kind of person who should have been held on a pinnacle by all of us. If we can emulate his example we might make our own countries better places to live in than when we enter them. That somebody of that calibre, somebody of that quality should end his life in this way is almost beyond comprehension and beyond understanding. To have an old man and his grandson murdered in the circumstances that took place yesterday, I believe, is beyond the comprehension of all members of this House.
Honourable members- Hear, hear!
-That somebody who has done so much for peace and for the well-being of mankind should, towards the end of this long and constructive life, have his life taken from him in this way emphasises, above all else, the futility and barbarity of violence and of man’s inhumanity. I move:
I will add only that a state of mourning has already been declared, as one would expect, in the United Kingdom. A date has not yet been set for the final services for Lord Mountbatten. When that takes place quite obviously the Government, on behalf of the people of Australia, will be making appropriate arrangements for Australia to be properly represented.
– Lord Mountbatten is remembered warmly by many thousands of Australian exservicemen who served under him and by even more who observed and admired his many qualities from a greater distance. They will be especially shocked by the manner of his death and the senseless killing of others around him. This was one of the most wanton acts of political assassination of recent times. We can only hope that public revulsion will ensure that it brings no profit to its perpetrators. I believe that the overwhelming majority of the people of Ulster and of the Irish Republic will be as revolted by this crime as we are. And to this crime I of course add the near simultaneous murder of no fewer than 18 British soldiers attempting to carry out their peace-keeping functions.
The motion moved by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) expresses the horror and the shock of this House at the violence perpetrated upon Earl Mountbatten and his family, and properly condemns it as a breach of all that is humane and reasonable in the world. One of the most melancholy facts of life is that, in so many instances, the world however is not an honourable, humane and reasonable place. Those responsible for this outrage deserve to be excoriated, as do all those who resort to terror and bloody violence in this sort of situation. I say that regardless of which side they claim to support. But condemnation does not rectify the problem. Neither is it helpful to rake over the agonies of the problem’s emergence from earlier British colonial history. The solution to the problem seems almost beyond comprehension. All one can say in a rather ineffective way is that, if there is to be a solution, it will take time and more effort. Regrettably, time in Northern Ireland is painful and harrowing.
Lord Mountbatten came from a background unfamiliar to most Australians. He was closely related to two royal families of Europe and obviously was destined for a life of public and military service. But his performance as a diplomat, military leader and strategist, as a statesman and viceroy was far above the level of routine duty.
Lord Mountbatten was a man of outstanding accomplishment and high ambition which he always held in tight control. He was not one to live easily on the advantages of privilege. He was the last of the great Allied generals of World War II, among whom Douglas MacArthur and William Slim also command a special place in Australian regard. It was as Supreme Allied Commander in South East Asia that Lord Mountbatten, Lord Louis Mountbatten as he was generally known, first became a familiar figure to most Australians. From the Battle of Burma to the liberation of Singapore, his exploits were matters of the greatest concern for this country.
He was a commander of brilliance and always solicitous of his soldiers. That is one of the obvious reasons for the regard in which they held him. He was persistent in his endeavours to spare their lives through tactical skill and military ingenuity. His capacity for innovation and mental acuity were equally displayed in his peacetime activities. Lord Mountbatten will always be a revered figure on the Indian sub-continent whose map he drew so indelibly in the great post-war partition. He was the last of the British raj but he was also the most visionary and the most humane of the great Viceroys of India. It is a matter of the greatest regret that after a life marked by vigour and audacity- both mental and physicalLord Mountbatten should die by surreptitious violence without the opportunity to confront his assailant or his fate. On behalf of the Opposition, I assure the House that we support thus motion and we endorse the message that the Prime Minister proposes to convey to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth.
-! do not think that it is inappropriate to say that, if the death of Lord Mountbatten was caused by a terrorist bomb, the troubles which have plagued Ireland for so long have claimed the life of yet another British soldier. Every life lost in Ireland as a result of long years of bitterness is part of the on-going tragedy of that land. Yet there is something especially tragic, especially repugnant, when a man of such distinction and honour is murdered by people simply because the loss of such a man’s life would give them the publicity they sought. The tragedy is compounded when so many others, including family members, die or suffer as a result of such a shocking attack. On behalf of my party colleagues and, I believe, of many people throughout the community, I join in this expression of sorrow at the death of Lord Louis Mountbatten.
Lord Mountbatten ‘s achievements resulted not from his noble birth, but from his intelligence, his skill, his dedication and hard work and his powerful sense of public duty. He was a striking man, a man who captured the imagination. Yet he was essentially a practical man, a soldier and a statesman. He did not merely inherit his station in life; he earned it. He reflected great credit on the Royal Family. By his closeness to it he helped the Royal Family in many ways, not least by his bearing, his demeanour and his devotion to public service. Many Australians had respect and even affection for Lord Mountbatten and I know that their reaction to the tragedy in Ireland yesterday will be one not only of shock but also of very deep regret and loss. Therefore my party joins with the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) in expressing sorrow to the Mountbatten family.
-I join with the leaders of this House in expressing my condolences at the tragic death of this great man. It is indeed a sad event. I will concentrate my remarks on the visit of Lord Louis Mountbatten and Lady Mountbatten at the end of the Second World War to the Australian forces in Singapore and on the Burma-Siam railway. Many of my close mates were there and Lord and Lady Mountbatten ‘s presence at that time was greatly appreciated by the troops. I am now the only former Japanese prisoner of war in this House but, as all honourable members would agree, Billy Kent Hughes, Charlie Anderson, Winton Turnbull, Reg Swartz and Alex Downer, who also were Japanese prisoners of war, would have wanted to say the same things of Lord Mountbatten. The Mountbattens certainly generated a warm feeling amoungst our forces. Lord Mountbatten visited particularly those in the hospitals and I will always remember my mate telling me about the great thrill it was for the men to be visited in hospital by Lord Mountbatten. Lord Mountbatten had great warmth and an enormous charisma. We all know of the contribution he made in diplomatic matters. I speak today simply to say what Lord Mountbatten meant to those men in the forces at that time.
-On behalf of my constituents in the Hawkesbury district, I pay tribute on this sad day to Lord Louis Mountbatten. Lord Mountbatten was a man whose leadership and personality inspired millions and in 1976 he endeared himself especially to the people of the Hawkesbury. He was a man of the people. His quiet and direct manner encouraged warm response and confidence. Lord Louis Mountbatten was a man who made everyone he met feel that to serve him would be a fulfilling privilege. As patron of the Windsor Polo Club, Lord Mountbatten conducted regular correspondence with Club officials and closely followed the activities of the Club. His interest in polo developed when he was in the Naval Polo Association. Polo was an interest he fulfilled all his life. I understand that he planned to watch polo at Windsor, England, shortly after his holiday.
Many fond memories will be shared of this famous upright man, but none more sincerely than by his Australian friends. We are distressed for his family and for those who were injured. We condemn this sordid, cruel act which has taken a friend away; but we draw inspiration from his example, his valour and his humanity.
-Perhaps I should add a few words on behalf of those people who served in the same sort of forces as I did and, I think, my colleague the honourable member for Leichhardt (Mr Thomson) did. Lord Louis Mountbatten attended the last parade of the Australian forces in Balikpapan in, I think it was, early September 1945.I support the remarks of my colleague the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) about the enormous charisma of the man and also the feeling that flowed from him that, no matter how high his estate, he was a man’s man and a soldier’s, sailor’s and airman’s man and regarded them all as equal members of the team. The horror of the whole world, of course, has been expressed most eloquently by the action of the Government of India in declaring seven days of mourning. I hope that out of this will come a mobilisation of all the forces of the world associated with government and otherwise to suppress the international terrorism which has made this crime possible. It seems almost impossible. Lord Louis attended the celebrations in Norkfolk Island during our term of office. I came to know him reasonably well, as one does in those sorts of situations. I recall that he took back to his estate in Britain two Norfolk pines. One can only hope that they prosper. On other occasions I was associated with him at some meetings that we attended. So, on behalf of the soldiers who stood on parade before that great serviceman in 1945,I say him a sad farewell and express my horror and shock. I know that all those of the 7th Division who were there would feel the same.
-I join with the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) in his comments. I was on that parade. Like him, I felt the charisma and great personality of Lord Louis Mountbatten. After the parade I had a very pleasant duty. I was detailed, as a very young soldier, to escort Lady Mountbatten for a swim. It is a memory I will always cherish. I join with the honourable member for Wills in calling on all lovers of peace to condemn this terrible action, and I hope that it will make us all in this Parliament work towards peace and friendship throughout the world.
– A man of honour, distinction, achievement and gallantry is dead.
Question resolved in the affirmative, honourable members standing in their places.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives 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 School bear the burden of these cuts, 1 1.2 per cent 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 Baume, Mr Lionel Bowen, Dr Edwards, Mr Hunt, Mr James, Mr Les Johnson, Dr Klugman, Mr Lucock, Mr Lusher, Mr Martin, Mr O’Keefe 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 plan to obliterate the traditional weights and measures of this country is causing and will cause widespread inconvenience, confusion, expense and distress.
That there is no certainty that any significant benefits or indeed any benefits at all will follow the use of the new weights and measures.
That the traditional weights and measures are eminently satisfactory.
Your petitioners therefore pray:
That the Metric Conversion Act be repealed, and that the Australian Government take urgent steps to cause the traditional and familiar units to be restored to those areas where the greatest inconvenience and distress are occurring, that is to say, in meteorology, in road distances, in sport, in the building and allied trades, in the printing trade, and in retail trade.
That the Australian Government request the State Governments to procure that the imperial and metric system be taught together in schools.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Aldred, Mr Lionel Bowen, Mr Ewen Cameron, Mr Goodluck, Mr Hodgman, Mr Lloyd, Mr Street and Mr Willis.
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 SA.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Dr Blewett, Mr Chapman, Mr Jacobi, Mr Porter and Mr Wallis.
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 restoration of provisions of the Social Security Act that applied prior to the 1 978-79 Budget is of vital concern to offset the rising cost of goods and services.
The reason advanced by the Government for yearly payments ‘that the lower level of inflation made twice-yearly payments inappropriate ‘ is not valid.
Great injury will be caused to 920,000 aged, invalid, widows and supporting parents, who rely solely on the pension or whose income, other than the pension, is $6 or less per week. Once-a-year payments strike a cruel blow to their expectation and make a mockery of a solemn election pledge.
Accordingly, your petititoners call upon their legislators to:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Anthony, Mr Innes, Mr Shipton and Mr Thomson.
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 whereas:
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 Drummond and Mr Martyr.
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 Jul] and Mr Martyr.
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:
A Czech citizen, Mr Jiri Lederer, a well-known journalist, was sentenced to three years jail in January 1977 under Article 98 of the Czech Penal Code.
Mr Lederer was convicted in closed court of trying to subvert the socialist system by attempting to publish in Western Europe works by Czech writers which were not allowed to be published at home. By preventing the publishing of those literary works at home and by prosecuting him for sending them abroad, the Czech authorities have broken doubly the Helsinki Human Rights Declaration, which Czechoslovakia signed in 1975.
Because of this and in view of Mr Lederer’s rapidly deteriorating health your petitioners humbly request that the Government exert diplomatic pressure on the Czechoslovakian Government to secure Mr Lederer’s release from detention.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Baillieu.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That we believe all people have a right to quality education and that reductions of funding will detriment the whole community and each individual specifically. Armidale is ultimately dependent upon educational funding for its economical and social survival.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Dr Blewett.
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 objection to the Metric system, and request the Government to restore the Imperial system.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Kevin Cairns.
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 we object to the practice of televising ‘adult’ promotional material without warning of classification.
Accordingly, your petitioners call upon their legislators to rectify this imbalance in standards.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Connolly.
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 d uty 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 Giles.
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 the changes to the system of telephone charging announced by the Minister for Posts and Telecommunications on Tuesday,5th June, 1979, fail to meet the needs of the people of the Division of Macquarie in the following respect:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House take action to give all necessary directions to have those subscribers presently in the 047 Zone included in the Sydney Telephone District.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Innes.
To the Right Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of the undersigned concerned citizens respectfully showeth:
Whereas there is mounting evidence that some 60,000, perhaps as many as 100,000, East Timorese may have been killed since the invasion of East Timor by Indonesian forces; and
Whereas a resolution of the General Assembly of the United Nations on 12 December 1975, stated that it strongly deplores the military intervention of the armed forces of Indonesia in Portuguese Timor’ and ‘calls upon the Government of Indonesia to desist from further violation of the territorial integrity of Portuguese Timor and to withdraw without delay its armed forces from the Territory in order to enable the people of the Territory to freely exercise their right to self-determination and independence’; and
Whereas Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Andrew Peacock, in a statement to the House of Representatives on 4 March 1976, described Australia’s policy on East Timor as ‘clear’ and calling for ‘the withdrawal of Indonesian troops’, and a resumption of humanitarian aid through the International Committee of the Red Cross’;
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled should ensure:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Innes.
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 Innes.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully say we are concerned about the deteriorating standards of ABC radio and television programs.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that Parliament take immediate steps to appoint an independent inquiry into the ABC which:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Innes.
To the Honourable, the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The 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 Leo McLeay.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That we the undersigned, having great concern at the way in which children are now being used in the production of pornography call upon the Government to introduce immediate legislation:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that your honourable House will protect all children and immediately prohibit pornographic child-abuse materials, publications or films.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Martyr.
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 Moore.
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:
And your humble petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Wallis.
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 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 Wallis.
And your humble petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray- by Mr Wallis.
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. by Mr West.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned John Fairfax & Sons Limited, respectfully showeth:
Your petitioner therefore humbly prays that your Honourable House will grant leave to your petitioner and its legal representatives-
SOWING THE WIND
How strange and-it is not too strong a word- how sinister it is that an Australian Government should welcome and endorse the development of a situation which will change the balance of power in Australia’s region to Australia’s serious disadvantage. It is hard to believe that any Australian, unless dedicated to the world triumph of communism, should regard not only with equanimity but actually with approbation the progressive collapse of the land barriers which have hitherto separated us from the States and from a politicial system implacably dedicated to the destruction of the freedoms we take for granted. It is the more disturbing when one considers that it is the same Government which, in the name of social progress, has stripped Australia of its defences.
Yet we have had this week senior ministers, one of them the Deputy Prime Minister, making it quite clear that they regard what is happening in Indo-China as the best possible outcome- without, it should be added, one word of recognition that the price of this lauded ‘final solution’ is death and suffering for great masses of ordinary Vietnamese people. The Prime Minister’s stony- or perhaps embarrassed?- silence gives consent. In any event, he is on earlier record as ranging Australian policy behind ‘the best and most enlightened movements in world affairs’. We have, in short, been put in the position where the success of communist arms in Asia is accepted as a desirable aim of Australian foreign policy and where the Asian powers with which we seek friendship are China and North Vietnam.
Two things obviously influence the attitude of Government ministers: an ideological sympathy for communism as an anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist doctrine and a hatred, in some cases a near-pathological hatred, of the United States. It is curious that men like Dr Cairns and Mr Uren show themselves in their judgments on such a situation as that in Vietnam as true racists. The only ‘foreign intervention’, the only ‘aggression’ can come from a white nation; Asians are Asians and therefore when they fight one another it must be a civil war. The idea that it is as silly to talk of Asians in this way as it would be to talk of Europeans has not penetrated. Thus American intervention is seen as aggression but North Vietnam’s attack on neighbouring States is not. America’s increasingly feeble support of South Vietnam and Cambodia is wicked; China’s massive aid to North Vietnam is not. The double standard this primitive racism involves has led Australian foreign and defence policies into paths very dangerous for our future national security. When we reap the whirlwind history will not have far to look for its guilty men.
The Common Seal of John Fairfax & Sons Limited was hereunto affixed by authority of the Board of Directors in the presence of . . . by Mr Connolly.
Mr Hayden having addressed a question to the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic A ffairs-
– Order! The question is out of order. It is against the Standing Orders to ask a question without notice which reflects on the character of an individual.
– I will ask it and leave the name out. The question raises an important matter of Australian citizenship and entry.
-I have ruled the question out of order.
– I will rephrase it.
-I will call the honourable gentleman later.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Last week you did give an honourable member from the Government side the opportunity to rephrase his question on the spot. I do not think the Leader of the Opposition should be given different treatment from that given to members on the Government side.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Government members interjecting-
-The honourable gentleman on my right will resume his seat. The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat. The honourable member to whom I gave leave to rephrase his question put it in the form of asking for an expression of opinion instead of asking for information of a factual kind. That is why I permitted him to rephrase it. The nature of the question asked by the Leader of the Opposition is different. It will take him time to rephrase it. I will call someone from the right of the chair. I call the right honourable member for Lowe.
Government members- Hear, hear!
– Thank you, Mr Speaker, for generating the applause. My question which is directed to the Treasurer concerns the three proposals made in a letter from Eric Risstrom to him dated 27 August. The proposals include indexing by 9 per cent the exemption level of taxable income and indexing the family allowance. I ask the Treasurer to confirm my own very quick mathematical estimate that the real cost of the proposals to revenue would be between $750m and $800m a year or even more. I think I should say that this would compound and increase the Government’s fiscal problems rather than solve them. Could the Treasurer let the House know whether the Risstrom method of ascertaining what Risstrom calls the ‘percentage effective tax increase’ this fiscal year is a very quaint and illogical one?
– I raise a point of order. I appreciate the speeches that are made by the right honourable member for Lowe, and this is a speech. But we are going to get into trouble if you, Mr Speaker, treat members of the Opposition differently from the way in which you are treating Government members.
-There is no point of order. I should point out that there are certain people in the House who do have more privilege than others and one category is former Prime Ministers. I ask the right honourable member for Lowe to conclude his question quickly.
– Yes. So that honourable members will understand the question, I point out that Mr Risstrom has derived his effective rate by working out the percentage increase in tax this year over the percentage increase in tax last year.
-I invite the right honourable gentleman to ask his question.
– I think Risstrom ‘s method is debatable. The more appropriate method is to ascertain the tax increase as a percentage of taxable income. I wanted to say a lot more because I believe that most of his estimates are wrong.
-I ask the right honourable gentleman to resume his seat.
– I repeat the word ‘wrong’, and say that he is badly wrong.
-I am indebted to the right honourable member for Lowe for asking me that question. Not only is the right honourable gentleman’s arithmetic accurate but also on this occasion it is a little on the conservative side. The information that I have been provided with indicates- I think it is important that the nature of what is being proposed is understood- that the cost of the three proposals put to the Prime Minister and me yesterday by the Secretary of the Australian Taxpayers Association was in the order of $900m a year extra. In those circumstances, for the person to describe those proposals as minor adjustments, as he has, and to describe them as proposals which leave the general shape of the Budget unchanged is, I think, to give those words in the English language a meaning which they do not have. The gentleman is proposing a radically different approach and quite obviously, if we had had another $900m to play with in the Budget we, like many other people, would have been able to design a very attractive additional tax package.
But the fact of the matter is that when we came to the end of the day in terms of taxation relief we had a limited amount of money to play with and we were able to give a certain amount of taxation relief, and that will be felt on 1 December.
No matter what the Secretary of the Taxpayers Association, the Leader of the Opposition or anybody says, nothing can take away the fact that there will be definite tax relief available on 1 December.
– You are telling lies.
– If it had been done in a different way as recommended by the Secretary -
-Order! The Treasurer will resume his seat. The honourable member for Melbourne will withdraw.
– He might be handling the truth a little carelessly.
-The honourable member for Melbourne -
– I withdraw.
-I warn the honourable member for Melbourne not to interject in that way and not to prevaricate when I ask for a withdrawal.
-I will mention one other thing in the context of the question asked by the right honourable member. A considerable amount of play has been made upon the fact that, under a taxation system that involves a taxfree zone, if there are increases in wages and, therefore, in taxable income, the percentage increase for a person receiving an income only a little above the tax-free threshold is very large. That occurs simply as a result of having a taxfree zone. No matter what system we have, if it involves a tax-free zone, we cannot avoid that. I will give an ad absurdum example. If a person’s income were $3,894, $ 1 above the tax threshold, in theory last year’s tax would have been 33c. If that income went up by 9 per cent, this year’s tax would represent an increase over last year of 35,000 per cent. That is an ad absurdum example but it gives some indication of how misleading it is simply to talk about the percentage increases in relation to amounts of taxable income immediately above the tax-free threshold. With great respect that has been the failing of what the Secretary of the Australian Taxpayers Association has done.
– I ask the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs: Is government immigration policy designed to prevent a person who was established to have been an anti-Jewish propagandist and a Nazi collaborator during the Second World War and who was regarded as a war criminal by the Government of Yugoslavia and the War Crimes Documentation Centre in Vienna from entering Australia? If so, has the Government come into possession of such facts about a public figure from Sydney? If so, how did such a person gain entry into Australia through the screening procedures operating at the time of his arrival in 1950? Finally, is that personundoubtedly, he is well known to the Minister, among others, on the Government side of the House- an Australian citizen?
– The policy of successive governments of all political persuasions has been to prevent the entry of people who could be described as being a possible threat to the internal security of the nation. In relation to the allegations made against a particular person in Sydney, all I can say is that, if the allegations which have yet to be proved are unfounded, very great disservice and harm have been done to that person. If they are proved, of course, the question will not be one for me in my position to resolve. It will be a question for other authorities. My understanding at the moment is that the gentleman to whom the Leader of the Opposition is referring is an Australian citizen.
– He is a member of the Liberal Party.
-The question of his membership of the Liberal Party is one for the Liberal Party organisation itself to determine. As honourable members will be aware, the person in question has been suspended from the Liberal Party while the charges are being investigated. I will conclude by saying that I thought it was a basic tenet of British justice that a man was presumed innocent until proved guilty.
-I address a question to the Minister for Primary Industry. Has the Australian Agricultural Council taken a firm decision on the biological control of Salvation Jane or, as it is referred to by the heathen, Paterson ‘s curse? Was the decision unanimous and thus binding on States as part of the nation? Can the Minister untangle for me and for those South Australian farmers affected the wavering position currently held by the South Australian Minister for Agriculture? Will the control insects now be released in South Australia at the same time as in other States?
– I can remember on one other occasion in this place the former ‘Modest Member’ who is sitting in the gallery today describing a former member of the Labor Party in this place as being as colourful and useless as
Paterson ‘s curse. I know that insect control of that variety is probably not possible. But it is true that insect control of other sorts of weeds is possible. One may remember that, as a result of the introduction of cactoblastis in Queensland and in northern and north-west New South Wales, the prickly pear menace was very extensively brought under control with significant benefits to the development of the pastoral industry in those regions.
Since 1973 the Australian Agricultural Council has been looking at biological control of Paterson ‘s curse. Obviously biological control has attractions. It would not lead to complete eradication of the plant but would bring it under reasonable control. It would permit those pastoralists who sought complete eradication to supplement present physical means of control with biological control. In 1978 the various committees that looked into the question of biological control brought forward recommendations to the Agricultural Council. In January, when the Agricultural Council met in Christchurch, it was decided by the Ministers that biological control should be implemented. However, it is true that apiarists, particularly those in South Australia, are very concerned, and I notice one of our colleagues, another apiarist in this place, nodding his head. There is a concern that if this particular plant were to be destroyed then what I understand to be a very favourable source of honey derived from this plant could be significantly reduced. As a result the bees would have to seek other fruits of questionable availability. In these circumstances, the Agricultural Council agreed to review the whole question.
After receiving these approaches from the apiarists I asked the respective State governments to make an examination of the matter to ensure that they were prepared to abide by the Christchurch decision to eradicate Paterson ‘s curse biologically. At the last meeting of the Agricultural Council the South Australian Minister expressed some concern about the overall economic benefits of this campaign. However, he has gone along with the decison of the Agricultural Council which is that we should implement biological control as soon as the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation is in a position to develop the stock of insects necessary to cause a sufficient level of destruction of the Paterson ‘s curse population. I am not too sure of the present attitude of the South Australian Minister but it is true that he has expressed some concern which other Ministers have not accepted. If he wishes to pursue the matter further he can do so at subsequent meetings. In conclusion, quite obviously there are a number of virulent pests around Australia and their eradication from the Australian Labor Party or from the plant life of Australia is very much in the overall interests of this country.
-I refer the Prime Minister to a radio broadcast to the nation last evening by Mr Lyenko Urbanchich in which he set out a conversation with the right honourable gentleman in the following terms:
I told Mr Fraser when I met him at the last convention that I’m supporting the “Croat embassy”, that 1 hope the Court turns it (the Government legislation) down. And Mr Fraser said to me: ‘If the Court decides to do this, who am I to argue”?’ That was his last words about it. So he probably understands the Croat position, but on the other hand, he thinks that it might embarrass the Communist Government of Yugoslavia. I don’t give a damn if those butchers from Belgrade are inconvenienced in the whole thing -
-Order! It is the practice of the House that when a question is based upon a report that the questioner vouches for the accuracy -
-I vouch for its accuracy. I have checked the transcript and this is verbatim.
-The honourable gentleman may proceed.
-On that basis I conclude:
I don’t give a damn if those butchers from Belgrade are inconvenienced in the whole thing, they came to power by sheer terror, by blood.
I ask the Prime Minister: Does he recall having such a conversation? If so, what was the nature of the conversation? What is the attitude of the Prime Minister towards the Yugoslav Government and the so-called Croatian embassy?
-Mr Speaker -
– I take a point of order. The Prime Minister is not suggesting that the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs does his thinking for him is he? We know that the country is in a big enough mess, without -
-Order! There is no point of order.
- Mr Speaker, the point of order is that it is impossible for anyone else to discuss a private conversation between the Prime Minister and another person, least of all this Minister. This is making a mockery of this place and of the Prime Minister.
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat.
– Has the Prime Minister no more confidence in his presence here?
-Order! The practice of the House is that whichever Minister chooses to do so may answer a question. Provided the answer is relevant to the question any Minister may proceed.
-i take a point of order. How can the Prime Minister ask another Minister to reply to a question about a statement by the Prime Minister which was quoted verbatim? How can the Minister reply on behalf of the Prime Minister?
-Order! There is no point of order. We must wait to hear what is said.
– I take a point of order. Mr Speaker, you have never hesitated before to define that certain matters involved in questions directed from this side of the House do not fall within the ambit of a Minister’s responsibility. Those occasions have had a significant feature about them. They have tended to be rather embarrassing for the Government, especially the ministry. On this occasion I fail to see how the Minister concerned can possibly have any responsibility for a private conversation between the Prime Minister and Mr Urbanchich, and I suggest that there is a want of consistency in your ruling here.
-Order! I have ruled. I call the honourable Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs.
– I take a point of order. The Standing Orders say that an answer must be relevant to the question. A question has been asked of the Prime Minister -
-Order! I uphold the point of order that the answer must be relevant and until I hear the answer I do not know whether it is.
– But the question was directed to the Prime Minister about a personal conversation.
– We will see what the answer is.
– We want to know whether he has given private succour to nazis in his own party.
– I take a point of order. Standing Order 142 requires questions to be put to a Minister relating to public affairs with which he is officially connected. This is clearly a matter relating to public affairs. From the nature of the question the only Minister who can be in a position to deal with it is the Minister who has been party to the conversation -
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat.
- Mr Speaker, will you not hear me?
-I will not hear any more. I have ruled on the point of order.
– In my capacity as Minister representing the Attorney-General in this House I answer the question. As honourable members on the Opposition side would know, the Attorney-General, on behalf of the Commonwealth, has obtained an injunction against the so-called Croatian embassy, which was a matter referred to in the alleged conversation contained in the question. I am advised by the AttorneyGeneral that an appeal is to be lodged today against the injunction obtained by the Commonwealth and, therefore, the matter is before the courts. It is quite apparent, from the questions by the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, that they are quite prepared in this House to condemn people without trial.
-I take a point of order. Mr Speaker, you will recall that my question asked whether the Prime Minister had a conversation with Mr Urbanchich, and the question surely should be answered by the Prime Minister because it goes to the credibility of the Government’s attitude in respect of any legislation. The question quoted words which Mr Urbanchich says the Prime Minister said to him. I merely asked whether the Prime Minister said this. That is all I am asking. Surely we can get an answer from the Prime Minister?
-Order! The Deputy Leader of the Opposition well knows that under the Standing Orders a question may be asked, but there is no authority in the Standing Orders to require the person to whom the question is directed to answer. What the honourable gentleman is doing is making a point that the question has not been answered by the Minister to whom it was directed. That is apparent to everybody in the chamber, but it is not something about which a point of order may be raised.
-I take a further point of order. If I ask whether a conversation has taken place, and if I do not get an answer -
-Order! The honourable gentleman may ask a question but he cannot force an answer. There is no point of order.
– If I do not get an answer, it is an admission of guilt -
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
– I rise to order. Mr Urbanchich is established as having been a friend of Hitler. There is no doubt that there has been a prearranged -
-There is no point of order.
– I direct my friendly yet humble question to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Can the Minister give the House news of developments in relation to the unrelenting endeavours of me, the Queensland Premier, the Minister’s Department and others to have the American Consulate in Brisbane remain open? Does the Minister feel that my sustained letter writing efforts to members of both Houses of the United States Congress -
-The honourable gentleman is asking for an expression of opinion. I will give him the opportunity to amend his question, otherwise I will rule him out of order.
-Is the Minister aware of my sustained letter writing efforts to members of both Houses of the United States Congress? Has this been the elusive success key which caused the change to be made at that imperial and vital level? Is the Minister hopeful that Congress ‘s recommendations will lead -
-The honourable gentleman is now asking for an opinion. So much of the question which has been asked is in order.
– I will reword it.
-The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
– I am only too well aware of the strong representations made by the honourable member, particularly on this matter. I am sure that the representations that he made to members of the United States Congress were made with his normal, yet individual, embellishment and strength of purpose. To that extent I am sure they played a major contributing role in the success of the efforts of others, including the Queensland Premier, my Department and, to a lesser extent, me in seeking to ensure that the consulate in Queensland remained open. Queensland’s importance to Australia hardly needs underlining, although the honourable member felt so -
– It is almost part of it.
-That should stand for its own pearly wisdom without response from me. Indeed, I was saying that Queensland’s importance needs no underlining, though the honourable member obviously felt inclined to do so with the many and varied representations that he made to United States congressmen and senators. The fact is that a decision to close the consulate would, I think, have been a retrograde step. I am glad that the collective efforts of so many, from the Queensland Premier down, have been successful.
– Has the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs in fact, given consideration to the question asked of him last week which simply asked the Minister, as the Minister responsible for the Companies Act, to confirm that there is no provision in that Act for the appointment of nominal directors? Will he affirm that all directors of companies are bound to accept their responsibilities specified under the Act and that these responsibilities cannot be avoided by a plea of ignorance or claiming status as nominal directors? Will the Minister, in discharging his obligations in this matter, also indicate that the law applies equally to all citizens and that Ministers of the Crown, including Cabinet colleagues, are no exception?
– It is a fact that I undertook to give consideration to the question referred to by the honourable gentleman. I regard it as a very important question and I am still giving consideration to it.
– Is the Minister for Primary Industry aware of Press reports in recent days which give the impression that the Government ‘s decision in the Budget in relation to wool research and promotion was taken without any prior consultation with the wool industry and that the decision was, in some way, hidden within the Budget? Are these impressions correct reflections of the facts? Will the Budget decision in any way adversely affect the industry’s research and promotion activities this year?
– The forward program of the International Wool Secretariat is set on the British financial year which is from 1 April to 30 March. Prior to the implementation of the current year’s program, discussions were held as is customarily the case with the executive of the Australian Wool Industry Conference regarding the financial program necessary to embrace the overall attack of the International Wool Secretariat in the textile markets of the world on behalf of the wool industry.
Prior to the determination of the final figures in the Budget, discussions were held with the executive of the Australian Wool Industry Conference regarding the program and the necessary figures that would be required for promotion and research this year. Account was taken of the significant increase in levy funds from the wool industry resulting from the significant increase in prices paid for wool at Australian auction sales over the last six months of the last wool selling season. With these factors taken into account, it was recognised that there could be and would be a very significant lift in the reserves of the Australian Wool Corporation unless the levy funds were applied towards the promotional endeavours of the International Wool Secretariat.
Whilst all the details of the Budget were not discussed, the overall parameter of the necessary funding relating to research and promotion, as has always been the case, was considered in conjunction with officers of the Australian Wool Industry Conference. It is true that a program will be undertaken by the International Wool Secretariat which will in no way be affected by any decisions announced by my colleague, the Treasurer, in the Budget Speech last week. In fact, the funding has been made up by the increase in the allocation resulting from the wool levies. I do not believe that the Government would have been justified in diverting those funds to augment the reserves of the Corporation at a time when, because of the liquidation of its stocks, the Corporation was already in a fairly favourable position. In those circumstances, I believe that the decision taken by the Government was the correct one, with the obvious implication that next year it will be necessary for us to consider to what degree we can make up any shortfall to ensure that there is a continued, expanded effort of promotion on behalf of the International Wool Secretariat in compliance and in accordance with the general discussions that have been undertaken between the AWIC and myself.
– I desire to ask the Minister for National Development a question. Is it a fact that the use of petroleum products in 1977-78 was greater than forecast by his Department on a basis of comparison with figures just two years old? In particular, did motor spirit use increase by 3.7 per cent, that is, 1 per cent higher than predicted? In addition, does the Government expect to increase its excise revenue from petroleum products by 4.8 per cent this year as indicated in the Budget estimates, even though the rate of excise will remain constant? Does that mean that the Government expects the use of petroleum products, particularly petrol, to rise significantly this year? Is it a fact that these petroleum consumption forecasts reveal that the Government does not believe its own rhetoric about higher petrol prices curbing consumption?
-It is true that with some oil products there has been an increase in demand. There is no question about that. I readily accept the proposition put by the honourable member. I do not believe that this has anything to do with the parity pricing problem. There have been problems overseas. The honourable member is well aware of them. It is well known that Australia has had to take its share of those shortages in that amount of oil and oil products that we import. It has happened- and it is unfortunate that it has happened- that people have overstocked. I particularly speak of the aviation gas situation and perhaps even the automotive distillate situation as well.
If the honourable member is really suggesting that parity pricing has not had any effect on conservation, I reject that suggestion utterly. He would well know that it has had an effect. The decisions that people are making, for example, to go to four cylinder motor cars, the decisions that the aviation industry is making to reschedule the way in which it operates its aircraft to save fuel and the decisions that have been made in the Sydney market for industrialists to convert to natural gas rather than use oil products show very clearly that people are taking decisions to help the conservation of petroleum products. There is absolutely no question that that is so.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Finance. Is it a fact that, of the 5,961 Commonwealth public servants who retired in 1977-78, 75 per cent received early retirement invalid pensions and that this percentage has increased dramatically in the last four years? If so, what is the Government doing to stop this racket? Will it prosecute or at least warn those doctors who are giving spurious medical certificates? Will it require those pensions already granted for the last five years to be re-examined? If 30 per cent of those invalided out in 1 977-78 were so invalided on the ground of ‘mental disorder ‘, will the Government require tighter standards of mental health for entry into the Commonwealth Public Service?
– My understanding is that the figures and percentages cited by the honourable member for Murray are correct and that there was an increase. However, I think that four years ago the figure was 53 per cent, not 75 per cent. Of course, the question of retirement of public servants is a matter for either the Public Service Board or the employing authority. Standards of health are set down by the employing authority and are carried out by the Department of Health. Obviously mental health falls within those examinations. Periodic reviews are also conducted by the Commissioner for Superannuation and I think that last year about 40 people were deemed fit to resume service. I do not know that any further action can be taken, but I will consult with the Minister assisting the Prime Minister in Public Service matters and the Minister for Health to see whether I can give the honourable member any further information.
-I ask the Minister for National Development: Is it a fact that the Government’s 1977 oil policy added between $200 and $500 to farm operating costs; that in 1978-79 increased fuel costs added up to $800 to the cost of running a farm; and that the 1 July price rise for Australian oil will add on average about a further $1,000 a year to farm costs? Is it also a fact that as a result, fuel price increases over the past two years have added over $2,500 to the annual operating costs of Queensland sugar farms, $3,300 to the costs of Western Australian wheat farmers and over $1,200 to costs for graziers in the high rainfall zone? In view of this, I ask the Minister whether he will give an assurance that rural producers will not be subject to continued increases in the cost of fuel produced from Australian oil, increases which reduce producers’ profitability and damage the economies of non-metropolitan towns.
-It is good to hear that the honourable member for Burke at last has found some interest in the rural community. It is an interest that I do not think we have noticed before. I will have the figures that the honourable member gave examined to see whether they are correct. It was predictable that the Opposition would try to make political capital out of the Government’s parity pricing policy. Let us recall what the Labor Government did when it produced energy policies in the years 1972-75.
At that time, projects such as the North West Shelf project stopped dead. In 1975-76, oil exploration almost stopped dead. The reason was that the Labor Party did not have an energy policy then and it does not have an energy policy now.
- Mr Speaker, I take a point of order. There were 52 exploration wells drilled in 1975-76 and only 48 this year, and 19 in the first six months.
-The honourable gentleman knows that this is not a point of order. He will resume his seat.
– I make that point for one fundamental reason and that is that it is the experience of every Western country that unless it adopts a parity pricing policy its energy policies will amount to nothing.
-Mr Speaker, I take a point of order. The Minister’s answer is not relevant to the question in that he is trying to relate prices paid to overseas oil companies to a matter whereby the effective increase in prices is derived from Government taxes, not from increases paid to oil companies.
-I call the Minister.
– I finish on the point that I was making: Realistic pricing is fundamental to a national energy policy. We have bitten on that bullet. We have made it perfectly clear. Unless the Labor Party does the same thing, it will never have an energy policy.
Mr Cotter proceeding to address a question to the Minister for National Development-
-Order! The honourable member’s question is out of order unless he makes it relevant to matters for which the Minister is responsible.
– I ask the Minister for National Development: Is it a fact that according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics figures, actual private expenditure on petroleum exploration in 1977-78 was $ 1 10m, only $42m more than in the previous year? Is it also a fact that the unearned windfall addition to the revenue of oil companies as a consequence of government pricing policies increased by about $ 145m in 1977-78 on that of the previous year? In 1979-80 do the oil producing companies expect to make a windfall addition to revenue of over $520m as a result of the Government’s pricing policy? Why does the Government not insist that the companies invest all their windfall revenues in exploration in the national interest rather than allow the companies to pocket them at the expense of the petrol user?
– The Government’s pricing policy does not allow windfall profits to go to any oil company. The parity pricing system allows a fair slice of revenue to come back to the taxpayers of this country. We have made no bones about that. I am happy to answer the honourable member’s question regarding exploration. We have a range of policies and not just pricing policies. Our pricing policy allows us to get the last drop of economic oil possible out of our marginal fields at Moonie and Barrow Island. We have an energy policy and a pricing policy which, I have explained, is absolutely fundamental to allowing the North West Shelf project feasibility study to go ahead. We look forward to the conclusion of that feasibility study very soon.
On the question of exploration wells, a total of 52 exploration wells were drilled on-shore and off-shore. That is more than double the number of wells that were drilled in each of the three previous years. I am advised that based on permit commitments and company plans, we can expect that this level will be maintained in 1979. We hope that it will be increased next year as well. A total of 67 offshore exploration permits are currently in force, 27 of which were granted in the last two years. Applications have now been invited for further permits off all Australian States. It is pleasing to see the number of local and overseas companies that are making joint applications.
On pricing again, if it were not for our pricing policy, the development of the Bass Strait wells would not be proceeding in the way it is today. The people who own the Bass Strait wells have announced a $780m development project which means that more oil will be coming to Australian consumers. Further development of those wells is also under consideration and that could amount to an extra $ 1 billion. As well as Bass Strait, pricing policies again have led to considerable investment in developing the Moonie and Barrow Island wells. All of that is adding to our reserves. In fact, and as honourable members opposite well know, because of our pricing policies, instead of an assessment of 35 per cent selfsufficiency in 1985, we are now looking at 50 per cent self-sufficiency. That demonstrates the viability of our pricing policy.
-Did the Treasurer say yesterday that this year’s Budget is a businessman’s Budget? Will he give serious consideration to making the next mini-Budget or Budget a budget for Australia’s families? Did the Treasurer acknowledge in the same speech that the case of the single income family has growing support amongst his parliamentary colleagues? Did the Government have before it a proposal which was designed to make the tax and welfare system fairer and more equitable? Did the proposal involve easing the tax disadvantage of single income families, thereby honouring previous commitments to those taxpayers whose relative needs are greatest in preference to those who have a greater taxpaying capacity? Will he confirm that the Government is concerned for the general wellbeing of Australia’s families?
– I made a number of speeches in Brisbane yesterday and I answered a number of questions about the Budget. In one of those speeches I said that I did not mind for a moment the description of the Budget as ‘a Budget for business’. I do not intend to make any apology for the fact that the Australian business community -
– What about the unemployed?
– Which is the best hope for providing jobs for the unemployed of Australia, has reacted in a very positive manner to the Budget that was brought down last Tuesday night. I do not mind saying anywhere in Australia that the Budget has been well received by the business community. So it ought to be, because it is a Budget that provides a large number of incentives for all sizes of business in Australia, not least the small business sector which is so much the backbone of the commercial community of this country.
As far as the position of families is concerned, this Government has a record since it was elected in December 1975, through its Budgets and its other economic decisions, of giving support to the family which is the envy of other political parties in this country. The introduction of the family allowance system, which was greeted by many members of the Opposition with exclamations of ‘Why didn’t we think of that when we were in government?’, is a very good example of the sort of policies we have followed. The extent to which inflation has been reduced benefits no section of the community greater than it benefits Australian families. The reduction in the overall burden of taxation which will occur after 1 December will benefit no sector greater than it will benefit Australian families. Of course there are different ways in which the taxation system can be arranged to benefit different sections of the community. I have made no secret in the past, I made no secret yesterday in answer to a question, and I make no secret again in answering the honourable member for Sturt, of my belief that there are features of the present taxation system that work to the disadvantage of single income families. Views regarding this have been put to the Government by a number of our members, and they are views that will continue to receive very close study from the members of the Government.
– I refer the Treasurer to the statement of 26 July this year in which he announced changes to the taxing of trust income of dependent children. Did he in that statement refer to ‘tax avoidance through trusts’? Did he also show that a taxpayer with an income of $40,000, who would normally pay $16,320 in tax, could reduce this by almost $7,000 through the use of a trust? If so, has the Treasurer advised Government Ministers who have been utilising this form of tax minimisation that he considers this a form of tax avoidance?
– The answer to the first part of the honourable gentleman’s question is yes, I did use the words spoken of and I also used the example quoted -
– I wish you had admitted that about two years ago.
-I suggest that the honourable gentleman hold his peace for a moment. I also used the example that the honourable gentleman quoted. The financial matters of my colleagues happen to be their own business and they take their own counsel and advice on them. I do not propose to give any gratuitous advice to anybody.
-Mr Speaker, the Treasurer (Mr Howard) has provided me with a written answer to a question which I asked on Thursday of last week relating to the defence vote as stated in the Budget Speech. The answer shows that the figure given by the Treasurer was a padded figure, and not an accurate reflection of the actual vote. I ask for leave to have the answer of the Treasurer incorporated in Hansard. At some time he may tell us how he works out the figure.
-Is leave granted?
– Yes, leave is granted. In granting leave, I make the observation that I do not accept the allegation of the honourable member for Corio that the figure is padded. I am quite happy to have the answer incorporated in Hansard.
– The Treasurer said in his Budget Speech that defence expenditure was up by $30m more than it was -
-Order! The honourable member for Corio will resume his seat.
– He said the same about Aboriginal affairs.
-Order! I warn the honourable member for Corio.
– And he said the same about the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
– If the honourable member for Corio persists in talking when the Chair asks him to be silent, he will be dealt with as any other honourable member will be dealt with.
– I would expect that.
– If the honourable member for Corio expects the same treatment, he should give leadership to the House.
The document read as follows-
Treasurer Parliament House Canberra, 2600
Mr G.G.D. Scholes, MP Member forCorio Parliament House Canberra, A.C.T. 2600
Dear Mr Scholes
On 23 August you asked me a number of questions without notice in the House concerning Defence estimates in the 1979-80 Budget. I undertook to check on the answers to these questions and provide the information which you sought as soon as possible. The answers to your questions are incorporated in the following paragraphs.
The inclusion of an allowance for the costs of prospective wage and salary increases for defence personnel (S30m for 1979-80) has been standard budgetary procedure since 1 974-75. In previous years, however, the allowance relating to defence personnel has been included in the Budget estimates, together with a similar allowance for non-defence employees, as a single bulk allowance for prospective wage and salary increases under the outlays heading ‘Not Allocated to Function’.
As the defence component of the allowance for prospective wage and salary increases is large ( accounting for almost half of the total allowance) and can be readily identified, it was decided to show that component separately under the Defence function in the 1979-80 Budget estimates. The figures shown for the Defence function in the 1979-80 Budget should therefore more closely estimate the actual expenditure which will be made on that function during the year than budget estimates have in the past. As in previous years, the allowance for prospective wage and salary increases is not appropriated at this stage; the amounts required in the light of actual wage and salary changes will be reflected in additional appropriations later in the year.
The allowance of $35m for prospective wage and salary increases during 1979-80 for employees other than those paid from votes included under the Defence function continues to be shown at budget time under the heading ‘Not Allocated to Function’. As with the defence allowance the individual amounts required in the light of actual wage and salary increases will be reflected in additional appropriations later in the year. At that time, the amounts spent will be recorded in the appropriate functional headings.
The inclusion of a $30m allowance for prospective wage and salary increases in the 1979-80 Defence outlay estimates does not bear upon the fact that the 1979-80 Budget estimate for Defence outlay represents a real increase of 2.6 per cent over actual Defence outlay in 1 978-79. The calculation of an estimate of the real increase implied by expenditure in one year as compared to another requires that the effects of all price and wage changes, both past and prospective, be removed; this is done by expressing expenditure for both years at common prices on a comparable basis. The 2.6 per cent real increase in Defence outlays has therefore been derived after the $30m for prospective wage and salary increases (and other effects of price increases) have been excluded from the figures for Defence outlay.
Allowances for prospective wage and salary increases are incorporated into the Budget estimates in order that those figures should more accurately estimate the likely outcome for the year. The estimated total Budget outlay includes allowances for prospective wage and salary (and other) cost increases outside the Defence area, and the inclusion of the $30m for prospective wage and salary increases in Defence outlay to derive the proportion which Defence outlay represents of total Budget outlay for 1979-80(9.1 percent) provides a more accurate assessment of that proportion than calculations which exclude the allowance. Furthermore, it is valid to compare this proportion with the proportion of actual Defence outlay to total budget outlays for 1978-79 as the costs of wage and salary increases that occurred during 1978-79 are, of course, part of the actual outcome for 1978-79.
Yours sincerely JOHN HOWARD
– For the information of honourable members I present the annual report of the Department of the Special Trade Representative for the year ended 30 June 1 979.
-Mr Speaker, I seek to make a personal explanation.
-The honourable gentleman may proceed.
– Late at night last Thursday the honourable member for Holt (Mr Yates) made a statement, as recorded in Hansard at page 607, in which he stated:
We will be asked whether there are any committees of consequence. A committee on expenditure is supposed to exist. The committee on expenditure is a myth.
I have been beseiged with a torrent of protests and many honourable members around the House- the honourable members for Berowra (Dr Edwards), Parramatta (Mr John Brown), Perth (Mr McLean), Dawson (Mr Braithwaite), Henty (Mr Aldred) and many others- want to argue very strongly the case that they do exist as an expenditure committee of this House. They feel that the honourable member for Holt may have made his statement in the enthusiasm of the moment and are quite willing to provide him with half a dozen reports of the said committee.
Suspension of Standing Orders
– I ask leave of the House to move a motion to enable Notice No. 1, General Business, to be called on forthwith.
- Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. It concerns me greatly that the Government and the Opposition, apparently in conjunction, have decided to bring on this particular notice of motion, which I believe is contrary to Standing Order 135. It will be noticed that the notice that is proposed to be brought on for debate was given by the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) on 23 August 1979; and yet it appears on the Notice Paper as Notice No. 1. By doing that it takes priority over all other notices that have been given by other honourable members at an earlier time. Had it followed the order of priority in taking its place on the Notice Paper it should have been item No. 73. Standing Order 135 says:
Subject to the provisions of standing orders 105, 133, and 211 the notices shall be entered by the Clerk on the Notice Paper, in priority of orders of the day, in the order in which they were given . . .
I believe that here we have a very real point of principle that the House is being asked to consider, although it has not been put to the House, and that is that obviously there has been an agreement between the front bench of the Government and the front bench of the Opposition that the notice given by the honourable member for Port Adelaide should be debated and disposed of; but if we allow that to happen the place of the private member of parliament will be greatly jeopardised because it will allow the government of the day, in conjunction with the Opposition, to put behind us any matters that are being brought before the Parliament by the private members. I well recall the speech last Thursday evening by the honourable member for Holt (Mr Yates), who pointed out to the House that we cannot allow to persist such a practice as is being pursued at the moment by the two front benches, otherwise the private members of the Parliament will lose all place in this Parliament and will have no rights whatever. I put it to you, Mr Speaker, to rule under Standing Order 135 whether this notice should appear as Notice No. 1.
– I wish to speak to the point of order, Mr Speaker. One could predict your ruling on that point of order. I would like to make it clear that the honourable member who raised it is a member of the Government Parties. I am not. I have no say in notices being brought forward. They are brought forward by the Government.
– There is no substance in the point raised by the honourable member for Port Adelaide.
- Mr Speaker, I rise not on the point of order but to speak to the motion. In doing so, I would like to point out to the -
-I will rule on the point of order raised by the honourable member for Wilmot before the right honourable gentleman speaks. The point made by the honourable member for Wilmot is misplaced for this reason: The honourable member for Port Adelaide gave notice last Thursday of his intention to move a motion on the next day of sitting, which is today. Accordingly, today it will take first place on the General Business paper. Because it takes first place on the General Business paper the form in which it will be brought on is the form of the motion already given. Had it been intended that the motion come forward tomorrow it would have been handled by suspension of Standing Orders, because it would have fallen down the Notice Paper to Notice No. 73. It is correct that the matter should be the first item of General Business. It is within the forms of the House for the Leader of the House or the manager of Opposition business- for that matter any member of the House- to move that General Business take precedence today. If the motion is carried it will be the House that makes the decision. The motion could be put. So the honourable gentleman has raised a point of order which is misplaced. It would be better raised as a matter of substance in arguing that the motion should not be agreed to.
– I would like to move that so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent Notice No. 1, General Business, being called on forthwith. In doing so, in answer to my colleague, I say that the motion deals with a serious matter. The Government completely rejects the motion which has been advanced by the Opposition with respect to unemployment. We think that the Opposition is totally wrong in its suppositions and propositions. Therefore we wish to debate the matter in this chamber. We believe that it is a matter which justifies the suspension of Standing Orders in order that that can be achieved. I wish to move this motion now so that the debate can proceed forthwith in this House on the matter which we believe to be of very real substance but totally false in conception.
-The Leader of the House apparently misconstrued something which I said because he indicated that he proposed to move for the suspension of Standing Orders. That is not necessary. The motion as it stands may proceed. Indeed, if the right honourable gentleman moved to suspend Standing Orders the honourable member for Wilmot could refuse leave to do so. It is a matter for the honourable member for Wilmot to speak to the motion. The honourable member for Port Adelaide can move the motion in his name.
– I do not dispute with the Leader of the House, or with the Opposition for that matter, that the question of unemployment is serious and rightly should be debated by this House at the earliest opportunity. But, Mr Speaker, the point that I am trying to bring to your attention deals with the rights of the back bench member to be able to put forward a motion to this House and to follow the correct forms of the House in having considered those matters that are brought forward by the private members. As I recall, in your response to my point of order, Mr Speaker, you pointed out that the form of the notice of motion given by the honourable member for Port Adelaide meant that it would be debated on the next day of sitting. As I recall, the printed forms on which notices of motion are given are all the same. So I would assume that Notice No. 2 on the Notice Paper, appearing in the name of the honourable member for Franklin, would have been given in the same form as that of the honourable member for Port Adelaide. But what concerns me is this: If this procedure is to be followed, will the private members of the Parliament have the opportunity to bring forward matters that they have put on the Notice Paper in the same way as this matter is being brought forward now obviously with the agreement of the Opposition and the Government?
– I will not take long. The honourable member for Wilmot is as aware as any other member of the House that notices appear on the top of the list on the next day of sitting, and the next day of sitting is the next day on which the House sits. They do not maintain that position on subsequent days. It is a practice that has been followed in this House since the House first met in 1901. The honourable member is a member of the Government Parties. If he wants to give private members a go in this chamber it is open to him to convince the majority of members of this House, who are all members of the coalition Parties or the Opposition, to do that.
-I uphold the point of order and ask the honourable member to resume his seat.
– I was speaking to the motion, Mr Speaker.
-The honourable gentleman may continue. I had not called him for that purpose.
– I wish to point out only that it is open to members of the Government Parties to convince the Government that time should be set aside for private members. When members put notices on the Notice Paper under General Business other than for specified days, every member of the House, unless he is extraordinarily naive, knows full well that it is highly unlikely that the matters will ever be debated. The giving of notice is only a form by which an opinion is expressed in the House, and there is no chance of the matter really being debated. I think there is a bit of humbug here; that members are protesting too much.
-Order! The honourable gentleman must not say that.
– Before I agree to this motion being passed let me say that I somewhat resent the remark that there is a bit of humbug about the House or any honourable member who wishes to discuss procedures in this House. The honourable member for Wilmot may well be right and I think the nation may well be right in thinking that this little debate that is coming on now on the motion to which we are asked to agree will involve a nice little private performance by two people on the front bench on this side and probably two people on the front bench on the other side. I have looked for the list of speakers and I inform the Leader of the House that I cannot find the name of a back bench member who intends to speak.
– There is one.
– Congratulations. That is one. Fine. In that case, if there is to be a full, proper and thorough debate on employment, I would agree to allow the motion to go through. But I just want to register a slight warning concerning private agreements between the front bench on this side and the front bench on the other side, made without the knowledge of back bench members.
-The procedure will now be put into appropriate condition. The Leader of the House is to ask for leave to move for the suspension of Standing Orders so that the General Business motion may be brought on.
– I have done that, Mr Speaker, and I have moved the motion. I rose initially, having asked leave.
-Let us get this straight. You may have said you intended to but I did not put the question. Therefore it has not been put.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair)- by leave- agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent Notice No. 1, General Business, being called on forthwith.
-I move: That this House-
It is said that governments can be judged by the way in which they care for the disadvantaged people in the community. By that criterion this Government would have to be described as a vulgar government. Its vulgarity in its attitude towards the unemployed people in this country is matched only by its unashamed incompetence in dealing with the complexities of unemployment throughout this country. Not one member of this Parliament represents a district, a constituency, a region, a city, a country town or a regional centre that is not affected by the crisis of unemployment in Australia. Not one honourable member does not share the experience of having unemployed people of all ages, of both sexes, black and white, coming into his office seeking assistance to find employment in this country.
We have lived with this Government for almost four years. Its only achievement has been to popularise with the conservative element of this country a charge that everybody who does not work is a dole bludger. For four years we have lived with a government that has tried to convince and persuade the Australian people that being paid $5 1 a week is too much. For four years we have lived with a government that has left the unemployment benefit rate for the under 18-year-olds at $36. We have lived with a government that believes that parents ought to take all the financial burden and moral responsibility for those people whom this Government has put out of employment. For four years we have lived with a government that has burnt the unemployed at the altar of inflation.
The only time this issue is debated in the Parliament is when the Australian Labor Party proposes a motion like that which I have moved today. For four years there has been a reluctance by this Government to recognise the problem in our midst. For four years it has tried to keep debate on this subject out of the House. For four years it has denied requests to set up committees of inquiry to look at the problems and complexities of unemployment. For four years the Government has done nothing. Last week or the week before the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) told us that perhaps he raised expectations too high in some of the things that he said. He did not raise expectations too high on the question of unemployment; he told lies. It is as simple as that.
- Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. I thought it was one of the standing rules in this House that an honourable member should not say that the Prime Minister was telling lies.
-The honourable member will withdraw.
-I withdraw. Everybody in Australia now knows what the Prime Minister stands for and to what extent they can believe what he says about these issues. This Government, which in December 1975 promised to put everybody in work, has added 150,000 people to the unemployment queues in this country. We have seen the number of registered unemployed grow but we have also seen a hidden unemployment army of 300,000 people grow since 1975. There are not just 400,000 unemployed people in this country. There are now in the vicinity of 800,000 people who would go to work tomorrow if jobs were available.
It was acknowledged that the most realistic statement on unemployment from the Government was put before this House last September by the then Minister, Mr Street. That speech was looked upon by both sides of the Parliament as perhaps a starting point to get some sort of bipartisan approach to this enormous problem. It is not just Labor voters who are affected by this crisis; it is not just Labor families that are affected by this crisis; everyone is affected. But when members of the Liberal and Country parties come into this chamber they forget about the welfare of their constituents. They dismiss and submerge the problems that the unemployed are going through. They do not understand the problems of the families. Members opposite deny the Labor Party opportunities to debate the matter in this place. But more than that, when the Minister made his statement on 14 September he was rewarded with a dismissal from his portfolio. And who replaced him? It was the Minister who had sold out the Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory, the Minister who had sold out the people of Mornington Island and Aurukun. He was brought in to do the hatchet job on the unemployed. And what a hatchet job it has been by this miserable Minister who bows to every wish of the Prime Minister. This Minister now reigns over the fact that there will be between 540,000 and 560,000 people out of work next year. Why should not the Parliament condemn the Government for what has occurred?
In the last week this reign of terror on the unemployed has been heightened, as we have seen all the programs slashed beyond comprehension. No department fared worse in the announcements of last Tuesday than the Department of Employment and Youth Affairs. No job creation project suffered worse than those programs over which this Minister has responsibility. All honourable members know, from the government figures given in the Budget Papers, of the amount of money spent last year under the National Employment and Training scheme. At least 45,000 young people will not be able to find jobs in the financial year 1979-80 because of the amount of money the Government has taken from that program. The position would not be so bad if the Government, in acknowledging the shortcomings of the various programs- it has told us in the House that there are some- had replaced them with more constructive job creation programs. But what did we get in their place? Nothing; absolutely nothing! There will be over 250,000 young people unemployed next year- all to the glory of inflation.
The Prime Minister and the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs can take the credit for that and so can Government members if they do not vote for this motion which would give the young people of this country some hope that there are people in this Parliament who care about their future. The Minister has acknowledged that according to his Department in the early 1980s there will be people in their twenties who will have no work experience at all. Is that what the Government is seeking to attain? Is that really what the Government is trying to do? Have Government members sat among the young people of this country and tried to understand their problems? All the time the Government comes up with scapegoat excuses such as wages are too high or workers are paid penalty rates. Yesterday the Treasurer (Mr Howard) was asked about the annual leave loading. According to the Government, there always has to be a reason for failure. But when the Prime Minister wants to buy his VIP aircraft, there is no problem about finding $40m. The Government took $28m from the pensioners and spent $40 m on VIP aircraft. It took $50m from the training programs for the unemployed. Where will that money be spent? What overindulgence of the Prime Minister will that money be spent on?
This Government has no morals in terms of looking at unemployment problems. People should read and re-read the speech made by the former Minister because that should and could have been the start of an approach by this Parliament to overcoming the problems. We on this side of the House want the Parliament to come up with programs. We want the Parliament to support the allocation of resources to programs designed to overcome unemployment. We want the Parliament to understand the vast difficulties that are being borne by the unemployed. It is no wonder that those people whom I have mentioned in the motion, such as Australia’s Catholic bishops, the Brotherhood of St Laurence, the responsible Minister in Victoria, Mr Dixon, and all the social welfare agencies throughout Australia, can point to the Government the problems that are being confronted specifically by the young people but not only by them. Consider the number of people over 50 years of age who are in the dole queue until they reach the pensionable age.
This Government is not doing a thing. It tells us that it is trying to build up the economy in such a fashion that Australia can return to full employment. But it is of no use using that rhetoric if, as the Budget Papers tell us, the Government’s policies will create only 50,000 jobs this year. That is what one government document says. But as everybody in this House knows, the net increase in the work force next year will be 1 10,000 people. That means that on top of the present number of unemployed an additional 60,000 people will be out of work. In addition to that, the 40,000 people who will not receive benefits under the Special Youth Employment Training Program will be added to the unemployment figure. This generation of parliamentarians will live with the disgraceful fact that over 500,000 people will be unemployed and that, except for Italy, Australia will have the highest youth unemployment figure in the Western world. Why should not the Parliament condemn the Executive? Back benchers on the Government side of the House have no more influence over the Executive of this Parliament than do members on this side of the House. But at least if Government members stood up and supported the Opposition’s motion the Executive might do something.
The audacity of this Government to deal in its Budget last Tuesday night more harshly with the most disadvantaged people of this country than it has done with anybody else! The unemployment rate among Aboriginals is five times the average of any other group in Australia. There are no special programs. There is no way to deal with the sorts of problems with which unemployed people are being confronted. The Minister gladly carries out the whims of the Prime Minister. It does not matter what the Prime Minister says to him. He will carry out the order. At least the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) fought for her Department. God only help us if the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs is ever sent in as Minister for Social Security. All the people caught under the umbrella of social security in this country will receive the very same treatment that he has dealt out in succession to the Aboriginal people and now to the unemployed.
We say that the Government ought to be condemned. We know that the back benchers did not have anything to do with the Budget. We know that they have no influence over it. But surely they must be moved when they see the figures reflecting what this Government has done, when people are crying out for job creation programs and asking for community projects, and when the youth want to work. It is no good saying that values have changed, that these young people are a different generation and that they do not want to work. In any study of young people that has been carried out, when they have been asked whether they want to leave school and go straight into a job, 86 per cent of boys have said yes and 89 per cent of girls have said yes. This generation of Australians, apart from being better educated and more socially aware than any previous generation, shares our attitudes in wanting to go to work. It gives them some fulfilment that they are able to be financially independent and carry their heads high. We should not send away in the next few years a generation of people, hopeful in their own minds, to receive some sort of skill only to let them find themselves in and out of the dole queues for the rest of their lives. That is what will happen.
A fortnight ago I sat with 25 young unemployed people in Adelaide. They were beaut young people. They would all have liked to go to work. They all had different ambitions. They did not have any great monetary greed. They did not want $300 a week. They realised all the problems that we are being confronted with. But they said: ‘Politicians do not care. Why are you talking to us? We know that nothing will happen. ‘ What do young people in Australia believe when they see the Prime Minister spend $40m on a VIP aircraft when he cannot spend money to create jobs for young people? What sorts of attitudes do honourable members believe that the young people of this country are prepared to take or should take? Why should not the Catholic bishops, the Brotherhood of St Laurence and all the other social welfare agencies that carry this enormous burden speak up? The Government does not build the refuges where people have to live. Young people are walking around the streets with no homes or shelter. The Canberra Police a few months ago raided a group of young people who were settled in an unoccupied house. They took away all their sleeping bags. That is the way that we are treating our young unemployed people. This is no time to be taking away resources from this area unless the Government has another idea. The best way to get another idea into the Parliament is for members from both sides of the House to form a committee as we do for many other issues to seek out the problems and come up with solutions.
We do not say that the Government should spend $ 1 billion from every Budget to overcome the problems but is it not ridiculous and absolutely ironic that this Government has allowed unemployment benefits this year to reach $1 billion? An amount of $ 1 billion will be spent paying people the dole while we cut the amount of money we are spending to create jobs and to give people an opportunity to work- all because we have to increase the fight against inflation. How much longer can we live with this absurdity? For how much longer will the Australian people be prepared to accept the pack of lies that we have to make these sacrifices in order to get down inflation?
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The honourable member knows that the term is unparliamentary. I ask him to withdraw it.
– I was not referring to any individual.
-The term is unparliamentary.
– I withdraw. For how much longer are the Australian people expected to believe all the things that they were told? It would not be so bad if the Government said that sacrifices had to be made by the Australian people and that we would all have to make them. It would not be so bad if that was the case. In the meantime, we condemn our young Australian people, our Australian citizens, the men and women of this country, to a lifetime of unemployment as was pointed out by the Government itself through the then Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, Mr Street, on 14 September last year. We do not all have to make the sacrifices. It is the 500,000 unemployed and their families who are making the sacrifices for the rest of us.
It has been an unfortunate political aspect during the last couple of elections that the people of Australia have not taken the question of unemployment seriously enough. Because they did not take unemployment seriously enough to vote on the issue, they have allowed the Prime Minister to deal with it in the way in which he has. They have allowed the Government to go on believing that the people of Australia will never vote seriously on the issue of unemployment. I think that they will. I think that the election is fast approaching when the people of Australia will single out unemployment, job security, care, welfare and the opportunities that Australia should be giving to all its citizens. What is the good of bowing and scraping to all the multinational companies which come into this country to rip out our resources if we do not do something for our own people? What is the good of selling our share in the Ranger project which will cost the Australian Government several billion dollars? What is the good of sending that money overseas when the Government says that it does not have enough to spend on the people in this country?
This Government ought to be thoroughly ashamed of the way it has managed its affairs. It should not call a conference in October of a few tens of youth unemployed. It should call a meeting of tens of thousands of youth unemployed from all over Australia. It ought to be demonstrated to the Government that many people are being affected by the disease of unemployment. We on this side of the House say that resources must be turned over to the Department of Employment and Youth Affairs to do the job which it was set up to do. It is no good using the present Minister who wants to climb the ladder in the ministerial stakes by bowing to the whims of the Prime Minister. It is no good allowing him to destroy the lives of so many young people because he wants to be a more senior Minister. I ask honourable members on the other side of the House, for God’s sake, to wake up to what is going on and the way in which he is using his position to carry out the dictates of the Prime Minister. Too many lives are at stake. Too many families are being broken up. Too many people are living in poverty. Too many people are not being cared for. It is about time that the Parliament won itself some respect by taking into consideration all the people living in such dire circumstances.
Of course this Government stands condemned. People will become more aware as the Budget of last Tuesday night bites in, as the unemployment figures rise and as families break up. The Government will find out between now and the next election, whether it be December this year or December next year, that many more Australians are aware of the problems of unemployment. They will vote for a change of government because we intend to do something about it.
-Is there a seconder to the motion?
– I second the motion and reserve my right to speak.
– I am sure that members of the House, let alone the listeners to this debate, will be dismayed by the litany of abuse that they have heard from the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young). He attempted to condemn the Government but as people come to read his speech they will see that not one proposal was put forward by him. Quite clearly, the Opposition is bereft of any policy in this area.
Let me point out immediately some errors in the statements made by the honourable gentleman. From that alone, quite apart from anything else I might say, we will be able to judge the merit of his speech. The honourable member attacked us for allegedly attacking dole bludgers. I have never heard any member on this side of the House use the term ‘dole bludger’. I hope and I am quite sure that no member on this side of the House would ever use that term. What I have said is that the taxpayers of this country expect this Government to accept the responsibility of seeing that their money is paid out to those who are genuinely unemployed but is not paid out to those who are not prepared to work. Perhaps I do not need any better authority for the correctness of that policy than Mr Hawke himself. A report in the Melbourne Herald of 1 5 February 1975 states:
The ACTU president, Mr Hawke, said today social security payments needed to be more strictly policed.
These benefits should not be squandered on people who are not prepared to work, ‘ Mr Hawke said.
In fact, the Minister for Labour and Immigration of the day, the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron), is quoted as saying that anyone refusing a reasonable offer of a job would be disqualified from receiving the unemployment benefit. I feel that that is really a bipartisan policy. The honourable member for Port Adelaide said that all manpower programs have been slashed. Let me correct him on this. The Commonwealth Rebate for Apprentice FullTime Training program designed to assist apprentices and to support employers who are prepared to take on apprentices has been increased this financial year by $26m; it is now up to $54.3m. The number of apprentices who will be supported is up from 56,500 to 85,000. That is only one example of increases in our programs.
The honourable member says that we have no job creation programs. That is quite correct because as a matter of economic philosophy and sensible budgeting we do not believe that job creation programs of the kind proposed by the Opposition and introduced by it when in government do anything to provide real jobs for people. It is through private enterprise that real job creation will occur. That is why the Government’s economic policies are designed to see economic growth and, through economic growth, increased job opportunities. The honourable member said also that the Aboriginal people have no special programs within the Government’s manpower and training programs. He sought to condemn me for the time when I was Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. I am quite prepared to stand on my record as Minister in that portfolio. In the National Employment and Training scheme, which is one of those schemes administered by my Department, of the $37.4m appropriated for NEAT- quite apart from what is provided under the Special Youth Employment Training Program- $ 17.5m will go to Aboriginal training. That is an increase of $3.6m.
The honourable member seeks once more to attack the Government for deciding to acquire two Boeing 707 aircraft for overseas travel. I would have thought that the condolence motion which this House passed today regarding the death of the late Lord Louis Mountbatten at the hands of a terrorist assassin is proof enough of the need for this country to see that its Prime Minister, whether he is from the Labor, Liberal or any other political party, is provided with proper security. The best advice that was given to the Government was that aircraft of that kind ought to be obtained for the Prime Minister of this country.
When the Opposition, three to four years after it ceased being in Government, now tries to preach to this parliament about unemployment, I think we ought to remind honourable members, as well as the people of Australia, that the fastest rate of increase in unemployment since the Second World War was brought about by the policies of the Australian Labor Party. It is really nothing short of humbug on the part of the honourable member for Port Adelaide to preach on the matter of unemployment. Undoubtedly Australia, like all countries within the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, is facing a serious problem with regard to employment and unemployment. Australia is not alone in the western world. When the Labor Government came to office the number of unemployed was a mere 135,000. The number of unemployed among the young was only 80,000. In April 1974, unemployment represented 1.3 per cent of the work force or 76,865 persons. By January 1975, a mere eight months later, the Labor Government of the day had given this country an unemployment rate of 5.2 per cent or 311,596 unemployed; that is the source of our unemployment problem today.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! I ask honourable members to refrain from interjecting, particularly the honourable member for La Trobe who is not occupying his proper place. The Minister has the right to address the House in silence. I ask that interjections cease.
– Those figures speak for themselves. That is the source of our unemployment problem today. It is the source of the hard core unemployment problem inherited by this Government -
– I raise a point of order. I think the Minister is attempting to deceive the House by not putting it in context and pointing out that the OECD figures are far worse.
-Order! The honourable member for Lalor will resume his seat. He is perilously close to reflecting on the Minister in a personal way. I will not call for a withdrawal because it was a hypothetical proposition.
– The honourable member for Port Adelaide also sought to paint a picture of something like 800,000 unemployed because he was speaking of hidden unemployment. Let me put the record straight by correcting the honourable gentleman and giving the facts to this House. The true picture is that given by the Australian Statistician’s survey results measuring discouraged job seekers. That survey shows that there were 65,500 persons in May 1977 and 63,400 in March 1979. Moreover, only 32,200 of the 65,500 persons in May 1977 intended looking for work in the next 12 months. Others indicated that they may look or definitely would not be looking for work. They are the kinds of figures the honourable gentleman ought to be speaking about when he is speaking about the hidden unemployed or the discouraged job seekers.
There has been a decline in the amount of funds provided in this Budget for the Special Youth Employment Training Program. Let me make a couple of things clear about that and give the reasons why there has been that decline. In the first place, it is the result of decisions made in the August 1978 Budget and a later decision by the Government in December 1 978. No decision was made in this Budget to cut the funds available for the SYETP or to deny to a young person who is eligible under the SYETP the opportunity to receive such training. The August 1978 Budget decisions were twofold. One decision reduced the rate of subsidy to employers and the other decision reduced the period of training from six months to 17 weeks. The December 1978 decisions restricted the range of persons who would be eligible for the training program. The Government did that for a number of very good reasons. The first principal reason was that it was found that many employers were using the SYETP program as a straight subsidy for wages they would have paid to employees whom they would have employed irrespective of that training program. In effect, employers were abusing the public funds made available by the Government. The second principal reason was that the Government believed it ought to identify as the target group for this program those young, disadvantaged, unemployed persons who, by reason of educational qualifications or personal background, found it impossible according to ordinary standards to enter the labour market. Through this program we were effectively using public funds to the best advantage, that is, for those who principally needed it.
Overall, let me inform the House of the money which the Government has invested in young people since it came into office. Since 1976 funds available under the NEAT scheme have grown from $77m to $ 1 39m in 1 979-80. In all our manpower and training programs in the four years since 1975-76 we have spent $443m helping over 400 persons- predominantly young unemployed. I suggest to this House that that is a very solid investment by any standard by the Commonwealth Government in the youth of Australia. In 1975-76 some 33,000 people were helped through these programs. This year 36,000 people will be helped through NEAT; 49,000 through SYETP; 85,000 through CRAFT, and a further 40,000 will participate in Community Youth Support scheme projects. Overall this Government is providing funds which this financial year will help up to 210,000 people to improve their skills, get training and work experience, and maintain their work orientation. I do not believe that anyone can accuse this Government of showing a callous disinterest in the young people of this country. Rather, our programs have been carefully designed to ensure that those who do need help receive help, and we have been prepared to lay our money on the line.
In this debate one ought also to acknowledge the actual achievements by this Government in both employment and unemployment. I refer particularly to what has happened over the last 12 months. As I said, our strategy is intended to benefit private enterprise so that it will have the incentive to invest in expanding industry, in seeing that the economy grows, and through that growth bring about employment growth. Over the last 12 months there has been a growth in employment of nearly 64,000 persons, and that has been substantially in the private sector. But most importantly the private sector has seen an increase in employment in the manufacturing industry of some 1 3,000 persons and that is the first time since 1973 that growth has occurred. In May 1979 total employment in Australia, seasonally adjusted, was 4,771,400, and that figure is the highest level since September 1974. It ought not to be forgotten that since January this year unemployment has fallen by 71,000 to the point where in both June and July of this year, on the Australian Statistician’s figures, unemployment is at a lower level than for the same months last year. The same trend is appearing in the Commonwealth Employment Service figures. If that trend in the CES figures continues over the next several months we will see the same position achieved as is already appearing in the Australian Statistician’s figures.
Contrary to the litany of abuse from the honourable member for Port Adelaide, it can be readily said that this Government has acknowledged its commitment to the young people of Australia, and has met that commitment. Through the programs we presently have, and the work which is going on within the new Department of Employment and Youth Affairs, we will be building on a very solid foundation as the effects of this year’s Budget show through into the economy and we see private enterprise grow even more than it has till now.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The Minister’s time has expired.
-The Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs (Mr Viner) has just suggested that no one could suggest that the Government was, in any real sense, callous with respect to its treatment of employment. I put it that Professor Ronald Henderson, who has conducted a research into poverty over a number of years, is perhaps in a good position to make a judgment as to who is callous and who is not with respect to employment. It is undoubtedly true that Henderson’s view is that the Government is callous. Referring to the cuts that have been made in training programs, he said:
I find these cuts ‘inexplicable’. I can only think that the Government believes that there are never going to be enough jobs.
When one talks about employment and about what this Government has not done with respect to employment, one is not simply talking about employment as a peripheral matter in terms of some kind of assistance programs that may or may not be mounted by the Government from time to time according to its priorities in any one year. One is essentially talking about the basic economic strategy which is adopted by the Government. For the past four years- God knows that is long enough- this Government has been pursuing a single strategy. Essentially, that strategy has been posing the interests of inflation over and against the interests of unemployment. As the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) has said, over the past four years the unemployed have been burnt on the alter of inflation. For four years we have seen the Government giving its fundamental priority to inflation over and against the unemployed. Naturally enough, over that period one has seen a massive escalation of the unemployed.
Let us not make the kind of remark that the Minister made when he talked about what happened under the Labor Government four or five years ago. The Conservative Government has to understand that at the next election people will not be voting on Labor’s record in 1974. The Government will have to understand also that when it goes to the electorate next year, as certainly it will, it will have to put the argument that the responsibility for its economic failures relates to the international economic situation. People will be able to judge whether international factors were significant in 1974 and are not in 1979, or the reverse. Perhaps international forces are always significant, but there is a balance and to some extent governments have to take some responsibility for their failures.
After all, in 1975 when an election was in the offing, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) had no doubt about the fact that there were going to be jobs in Australia for all who wanted to work. He had no doubt then that there might have been dole bludgers. In 1975, when he was criticising the Labor Government’s record in relation to payments of unemployment benefits, he said that he thought unemployment benefits ought to be raised along with the increase in the numbers of unemployed. What have we seen? Over the last four years we have seen a government which has constantly borne down on the unemployed and unemployment benefits. The Government talks a great deal about tax evasion but it has not been prepared to put anything like the resources into chasing out the tax crooks in this country that it has been prepared to put into hounding the unemployed. For all that hounding and pursuing very few people are ever brought before a court for receiving unemployment benefits under false pretences or something of that ilk.
Basically in this motion today the Opposition is not arguing for a particular change in government policy. All we are suggesting is that people within this Parliament, from both sides of the House, ought to have the opportunity to participate in an investigation into the whole situation of unemployment. A whole series of issues has been raised over what has now been five years of experience of mass unemployment in Australia. There is an experience that perhaps we ought to build upon, and we ought to carry out some investigations. There are issues that ought to be looked at. When one thinks of the tragedy which is unemployment and the mass scale on which it currently exists, that proposition seems to me to be eminently reasonable. After five years we ought at least to set up a committee and have a good look at employment. I am sure that the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Carlton) will not be able to disagree seriously with that proposition.
The Parliament ought to look at the whole issue of unemployment, and look at it in terms of a number of aspects. Firstly, we ought to look at the whole question of statistics. It is absolutely absurd for the Minister to compare the Commonwealth Employment Service figures for 1975 with figures in 1 979, when he does not even want the CES figures known, and he relies completely on the Australian Bureau of Statistics. We are in the absurd position where there is no agreement at all on the basis on which unemployment statistics ought to be collected. We have different authorities within the country, serious people who have made a study of employment and of the economy, who disagree fundamentally in relation to the scale of unemployment within this nation at present. For example, Dr Peter Sheehan of the Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research at Melbourne University claims that there are not about 60,000 people who might be described as the hidden unemployed- the Minister did not mention the other 50,000 people who are working part time and who would prefer to be working full time in terms of his figures; he did not mention the 1 10,000 extra to be added to the ABS or the CES figures- Dr Sheehan estimates that there is something of the order of 350,000 people unemployed over and above the 450,000 people who are officially registered to receive unemployment benefit. He claims that the scale of unemployment is of the order of 800,000 in this country. We ought to know whether that is true or not. I put it to the Minister that there is no one in his Department who is investigating that matter and he says that in his answer to my question. Is it not his Department that is qualified to look at the scale and definition of unemployment and to see who is being affected by the problem in Australia at the present time. At least we ought to be able to agree about that on an objective basis.
The honourable member for Holt (Mr Yates) is concerned to be involved in a great issue which he knows will sink him in his electorate if he cannot get involved. He knows that and he wants to be involved. All we are saying is this: At least, let us have a look and see what the scale of problem is. Windschuttle, another authority, for example, claims that 18 per cent of the work force is either underemployed or unemployed. This is a massive percentage of the work force and a very serious statistic. This Parliament should have the opportunity to investigate that statistic and not be fobbed off by a public relations man who is sent in to this House by the Prime Minister because he did not like the advice of the previous Minister. We know that the present Minister will do anything and go anywhere for Malcolm Fraser. He could not care less for the back benchers and their seats because he is going all the way with Big Mai. He is going all the way because he wants power and he is not interested in the tragedy of unemployment as it affects people right across Australia. At least the statistics ought to be of some concern. We, as a Parliament, ought to get on top of those statistics and make our decision as to what they might mean.
We ought to be having a look, as a Parliament, at the real costs of unemployment. We ought to be able to determine what those costs are and to quantify those costs. The Austraiian Council of Social Service, for example, estimates that with an average rate of unemployment of 450,000 the Government will lose $780m in tax revenue forgone and another $900m to $980m in unemployment benefits. The Minister does not with agree with the figure of 450,000. He knows that is the approximate figure, if it is not more, we are going to be talking about over the next two years. The figures of $900m to $980m are conservative estimates. The Budget predicts more. We will be losing some huge amount of money in terms of lost production of goods and services. We will be losing an amount of somewhere between $2 billion and $7 billion in terms of production that is not going to be undertaken because underemployed and unemployed people are not being given the opportunity to participate in the work force. Here is a government which says that it has a tax problem, which cannot rake in enough revenue to meet its commitments and which has had to increase tax by 18 per cent in any one year. That same Government is, in fact, spending at least $ 1,000m in terms of simple sustenance programs for unemployed young people and hundreds of millions of dollars on other programs. The Minister talked about a figure of $400m. Surely if we understood the real costs of unemployment then we might come to a different view of what the Government’s policy ought to be.
We ought to be prepared to look at unemployment not in terms of these aggregate statistics alone of what unemployment might be right across Australia, but in terms of people as they live in particular towns, particular electorates and particular regions across this country. Members of this House know that unemployment is going to be a problem in different terms in different parts of Australia. If I go to my local CES office and say ‘Tell me something about the pattern of employment and unemployment in my region. Which are the industries that have been going down and where are jobs being lost? Which are the industries which are likely to expand?’, the officers cannot tell me a damn thing. As a member of this Parliament, I have a right to know what is happening in terms of the employment and in terms of the microeconomy of my electorate. It is those kinds of figures that the Department is not collecting. It is that kind of research that is not being carried out because the Government starves the Department of the resources to carry out that kind of work. More importantly it is because the Government is not doing a damn thing about employment or unemployment.
This Government is thriving on the greatest amount of employment that can be possibly generated. It wants to increase unemployment to the highest level because that will bear down upon the wage and salary earners of this country. It will create a situation, as the Minister has suggested where conditions will flourish for private industry. This Government has given private industry hundreds of millions of dollars in investment allowance since it has been in power. The Crawford commission which investigated the expenditure of that money came to no conclusion whatsoever about the value of that allowance to industry. It recommended, indeed, that the allowance be continued, without coming to any conclusion about it at all. We should be able to determine the influence of government policy, not simply at the macro-level in terms of what is happening in Australia, but in terms of what is happening to people in particular industries.
We ought to be able, as a Parliament to respond to the needs of particular groups of people. For example, in relation to the manufacturing industry, and particularly in relation to some of the industries in the more competitive sector, concentrations of migrants were brought from overseas to this country as migrant workers in the 1950s and 1960s and, increasingly in the 1970s and 1980s they are being thrown on the scrapheap. These people know, irrespective of the Galbally report, that the Government does not give a damn for them nor a damn for their working conditions and is not concerned to ensure that either they keep their jobs or the kids get their jobs. They know that when we move towards a more capital intensive economy, when the big funds go into the big monopolies, they are going to be the people who will pay the costs.
As the member for Port Adelaide said, the costs of unemployment are not distributed equally. They are distributed on the backs of the hundreds of thousands of young people and on the backs of people who are already drawn from the lower income section of the community, the working class. These people are bearing the costs and the burdens that people from the class of the Prime Minister have never had and never will have any feeling for. It is an insult to this House that the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs should come in today in response to a motion of this type and make no reference to the proposal and not discuss the merits of an inquiry. He does not want an inquiry because he is a public relations man, he is an advertising man. He is someone who goes out into the community and sells the community a line because this is a government which has no solution to the problems of unemployment, either in the short term or the long term. We ought to be looking at the problem of unemployment in terms of its impact on the people in particular areas and regions of the country.
The Government now says that the Opposition has no solution in relation to unemployment. I put it to honourable members that we have consistently put and will put tonight an alternative economic strategy which would lead to a greater role, certainly for the public sector, which would lead to stimulatory expenditure and which would result in the creation of tens of thousands of jobs in a very short period. The Government has no sense of planning, it has no interest in manpower planning. The Minister read out today a litany of trivia which makes no sense about where the areas of growth for jobs in industry are and where they are not. Did he say one word about where jobs would be created? He did not say anything because he does not know where jobs are created. He is in the ministry of unemployment simply to perpetuate unemployment and not to create jobs. That is what the people of Australia believe. They know the Minister to be a charade.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MartinOrder! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-The speech by the honourable member for Batman (Mr Howe) was a thoroughly offensive tirade. I think that it should be pointed out that about two-thirds of the membership of this chamber belongs to the Liberal and National Country parties. Government members represent electorates across the whole spectrum of Australian life. They have people living and working or unemployed in their electorates from all areas of Australian society and that, of course, includes migrants and many others. To be told in this offensive tirade that the honourable member for Batman and his colleagues have a monopoly on the discovery of the problem of unemployment is insulting.
– Your Government has not done a damn thing and you know it. What does your Budget say?
– The honourable member for Batman has had his say. I listened to him in silence. I have to say that I am very concerned that such a grave reflection should be cast on members on this side of the House, who represent two-thirds of the seats in this House, by the claim of the honourable member that they do not have any concern for the unemployed and that they have not discovered the problem of unemployment and do not feel genuine concern for the unemployed within their own electorates. I absolutely and decisively reject that reflection. I support the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs (Mr Viner) in what he said about the constant cry from the Opposition that honourable members on this side of the House always criticise the so-called dole bludgers. Those words are not a term in my vocabulary but are a term I hear day after day. I also hear day after day, allegations from the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) and the honourable member for Batman that members on this side of the House indulge in abuse of and attacks on the unemployed. I inform honourable members opposite that that is not an occupation of members on this side of the House and that there is no monopoly on concern for the unemployed by the Opposition.
The motion before the House is abrasive and extreme. It seeks to condemn the Government for deliberately increasing the number of unemployed in Australia. It imputes motives to the Government which the Government does not have. In fact, its terms are not even correct. In the 12 months from July 1978 to July 1979, full-time unemployment decreased by 5,500; civilian employment increased by 64,000; private sector employment within that figure increased by 48,900 and government employment increased by about 15,000. By contrast, between May 1974 and May 1975, during part of the Labor Government’s period in office, full time unemployment increased by 138,700; civilian employment decreased by 55,000; private sector employment decreased by 155,000 and government employment increased by nearly 100,000. There is a great lesson in those figures to which I will return later. Private employment during that period decreased by 155,000 while government employment increased by nearly 100,000. The money that was spent by the then Government in employing people was clearly not effective in increasing the net number of people employed.
More people lost jobs in the private sector during that period.
The point that I make now is that I would not describe even the disastrous increase in unemployment during the Labor Government’s period in office and the accompanying disastrous loss of employment as the result of a deliberate intention of the then Labor Government to increase unemployment as the Opposition has in fact accused the present Government of doing. It was in fact due to a combination of mistaken policies and sheer blind incompetence. But I would not assert that it was a deliberate attempt to create unemployment. If we are to have a decent and responsible debate in this chamber, those must be accepted as two reasons why the very wording of the motion put forward by the honourable member for Port Adelaide is unacceptable. I was a bit confused as to exactly what the honourable member for Batman wanted. At one stage it seemed that he was saying that there need be no change in government policies as all that was required was a joint inquiry so that we could all understand the nature of the problem. His statement seemed to presuppose that members on his side of the House understand the problem or, at least, have a greater understanding of it than we on this side have. But it was unclear from what he said whether he wanted a change in government policy.
I think that the honourable member for Port Adelaide revealed the crudity of his argument in two ways. He ignored the Government’s substantially better performance on employment over the last 12 months, which in fact denies the substance of the motion. He injected an unnecessary venom into this serious subject by imputing maligned motives to the Government where they do not exist. His colleague, the honourable member for Batman, aided and abetted him in his unsavoury exercise. Both honourable members have contributed enormously to the volume of expressed concern about unemployment without having convinced the House that their alternative policies- indeed, they did not name any alternative policieswould produce a single net additional job to be taken up by the unemployed. Basically, as far as I can make it out, the Opposition’s approachand I have been aided not by the contributions of the two honourable members, but by careful reading of the proceedings of the Australian Labor Party’s conference at Adelaide in Julyseems to come down to two basic assertions. The first is that wages should be allowed to rise, thus generating more spending power and thus creating more jobs. This assertion contains the corollary that it is more important to create jobs than to fight inflation. Their second assertion was that the Government should spend more money to create more jobs.
Apparently the Opposition believes that there is no link between inflation and unemployment. That is a recurring theme in what Opposition members say. I intend to quote from the Budget Speech of 11 April 1978 in the House of Commons made by the former United Kingdom Labour Party Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr Denis Healey. At that time the Labour Government had been in office for a long time and had had many painful experiences on the subject of unemployment and its links with inflation. Mr Healey said:
It remains as true as ever that inflation is the main enemy of full employment. Monetary policy will be one decisive factor here. But our price competitiveness will also depend crucially on reducing industrial costs, of which wages are bound to remain much the most important element.
– That disagrees with the Labor Party here.
– That disagrees with everything that is said day by day in this House by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) and by the various spokesmen of the Opposition. Mr Healey in the same speech said:
But we cannot expect to see the rate of unemployment moving down at an acceptable speed unless we can create new jobs particularly in profitable firms in manufacturing industry and so strengthen the industrial base on which our whole economy depends.
His statement was not just a flash in the pan, because on 3 April 1979 in the teeth of an election before the then Labour Government went out of office Mr Healey, when making a financial statement in the House of Commons, had this to say:
I have no doubt that for us in Britain, as for most of our partners, the defeat of inflation must remain the highest priority if we wish to reduce unemployment. This must be tackled on two fronts -
I hope this will be acknowledged tonight in the speech on the Budget by the Leader of the Opposition- by continued adherence to firm and responsible financial policies and by a moderate growth in earnings over the years ahead.
During the Labor Government’s term in 1974-75 to which I referred, the very proposals that have been put forward tonight by the Opposition to combat unemployment were in fact tried. During that period we had the greatest single increase in Government expenditures that we had ever had outside of a time of war. During that period we had the fastest rise in wages that we have ever had in the history of the country. These elements occurred and are part of the prescription that is being put forward by Opposition spokesmen, although, I must say, not coherently by the two speakers we have heard in this House this afternoon. The very sorry story that I outlined at the beginning of my speech occurred during that period. Full time unemployment increased by 138,700; civilian employment decreased by 55,000 net; private sector employment decreased by 155,000; and government employment increased by nearly 100,000. Of course, if government money is spent on employing people on the government pay-roll some of the unemployed will be soaked up. However, past experience, not only in other countries but also here through the actions of the Labor Government of only a few years ago, has proved that more jobs are lost in the private sector as a result of those policies than are gained.
There is a general problem in that all the people refered to in the Opposition’s motion- I. include the Australian Catholic Bishops, the Brotherhood of St Lawrence, the Victorian Minister, Mr Dixon, and Professor Henderson- are mentioned as expressing their concern about the plight of the unemployed. Many of them have echoed the sentiments expressed this afternoon by the honourable member for Port Adelaide and the honourable member for Batman, although they echoed them in somewhat more polite and reasonable terms than have the honourable members. But none of these concerned people, who join Government members in being concerned about this problem, has refuted the central economic thesis which the Government consistently puts forward regarding the role of private employment in creating jobs. None has been able to refute this proposition. In fact, to assume that just because the number of jobs provided under existing policies thus far has not satisfied honourable members on this side of the House and not satisfied the general public, a reversal of policies will create more jobs is a very perversion of logic. If we are fighting inflation as hard as we can, if we are trying to moderate wage increases within productivity, if we are trying to restrain public expenditure, if we are trying to keep taxes down in order to give people more money to spend thus creating private employment and if unemployment is still not being reduced as quickly as desired, then where is the logic in assuming that the reversal of all those policies will create more jobs? That is what we hear day after day.
The tide on this matter has to be turned. I am not prepared to sit in this House day after day and be lectured, indeed hectored, by the honourable member for Port Adelaide on the supposed fact that I have no concern for the unemployed, that the policies that are being pursued are nonsense, when he is advocating a reversal of those policies, a reversal which would create massive additional unemployment. The honourable member for Batman would be satisfied only if the whole of the economy were brought within government control, and that is his particular problem. Not all the honourable members on his side of the House agree with him on that. But in this situation all the Government can do is to act honestly. I think the Government, in its policies is closer to the views expressed by Mr Denis Healey, the former Labour Chancellor in the United Kingdom whose remarks I quoted earlier in my speech, than are my honourable friends opposite. All I can say is this: Unless honourable members opposite can come up with specific policies- not just reversals of our policies- which they can prove are contrary to their previous experience in office, they should shut up. We on this side of the House have had enough of being called bashers of dole bludgers and of being told that we are not concerned about employment when we vigorously and rigorously pursue the only policies which are leading in the direction of increased jobs.
-Mr Deputy Speaker-
Motion (by Mr Bourchier) put:
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker- Mr V. J. Martin)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question put-
That the motion (Mr Young’s) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Deputy Speaker- Mr V. J. Martin)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Bill presented by Mr Macphee, and read a first time.
– I move
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Since the creation of a portfolio specifically directed to improving Australian productivity, the present Government has viewed the role of industrial property in this country as being essentially a mechanism for assisting Australian industrial development and, as such, included it in that portfolio. As the Minister responsible, I have previously introduced into this House a number of Bills for the purpose of increasing the effectiveness of various aspects of industrial property legislation in assisting the development and performance of Australian industry. The present Bill represents a major step in the continuation of that process and I believe its introduction constitutes one of the most significant developments in the history of the Australian patent system.
Honourable members may remember that Cabinet gave its approval earlier this year for
Australian participation in the Patent Cooperation Treaty following the commencement of the operation of that Treaty on 1 June 1978. The introduction of the present Bill is intended to give effect to that decision by amending the Patents Act to bring Australian patent law into conformity with the provisions of the Treaty in order to permit accession to the Treaty by Australia later this year.
The amendment of the Patents Act necessary to provide the required conformity with the Patent Co-operation Treaty can be largely achieved by recognising patent applications lodged in accordance with the Treaty and seeking protection in Australia as applications under the Patents Act. Essentially, the Bill provides such amendment and its immediate result is therefore to introduce a further, optional procedure for applicants in lodging either an application for a standard patent or an application for a petty patent under the Patents Act. However, by permitting Australian accession to the Patent Co-operation Treaty, the consequence of the Bill will be a major modification of operation of the Australian patent system by introducing into that system the various operations provided under the Treaty. The Bill therefore has a significance extending far beyond the actual terms of its provisions and the purpose behind its introduction is to obtain for Australian inventors and industry the collective benefits available from the participation of the various countries party to the Treaty.
The question of Australian accession to the Treaty has been widely canvassed amongst interested parties. Without exception, Australian industry has appreciated the benefits to be obtained from participation in the Treaty and expressed unqualified support for Australian accession. Within some quarters, however, individual elements have viewed the Patent Co-operation Treaty as an unwelcome development and the prospect of Australian accession as a misconceived political intrusion into the functioning of the patent system. Personally, I believe such opposition as has arisen has been motivated more by a fearfulness in coping with change rather than an objective assessment of the consequences of the changes involved. Nevertheless, the effects of the Patent Co-operation Treaty on the Australian patent system are potentially so important that a clear understanding of operation of the Treaty is required. Accordingly, in order to enable the significance of this Bill to be properly appreciated, it is appropriate, I think, to summarise briefly the background and operation of the Treaty.
Essentially, Mr Deputy Speaker, the Patent Co-operation Treaty- or to introduce its more convenient abbreviation, the PCT- represents the first internationally accepted mechanism for rationalising the essential operations involved in the grant of patents by individual countries and having an acceptable degree of validity. That rationalisation is achieved through the collective adoption by the member countries of the procedures prescribed in the Treaty and its associated regulations. At the commencement of its operation, 18 countries were party to the Treaty. In the brief interval since then, a further six countries have acceded and there are now 24 participating countries. The participants include major industrialised countries, such as the United States of America, the countries constituting the European Economic Community, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and Japan; middle order countries of the kind to which Australia belongs, such as Sweden and Austria; major developing countries such as Brazil; and underdeveloped countries, such as Cameroon, Congo and Madagascar. Like Australia, a number of countries, including Canada, Spain and the Republic of Korea are either amending or considering amending their legislation for the purpose of acceding to the Treaty. Accordingly, notwithstanding the problems inherent in establishing any new co-operative enterprise, the degree of acceptance which the Treaty has already achieved virtually assures its role as the major vehicle for international co-operation in the processing of patents, as well as being a dominant factor in determining the course of future development of national patent systems throughout the world, including the Australian patent system.
Accession has acquired a special significance for Australia. At their meeting in Geneva earlier this year, the member countries approved the appointment of the Australian Patent Office as one of the major functional bodies created by the Treaty. In that role, the Australian Patent Office will join the European Patent Office, and the patent offices of the United States, the USSR, Japan, Sweden and Austria in providing other member countries with the technical services established by the Treaty. Resulting from that decision, the specialised facilities and expertise developed by the Patent Office under the Treaty will also be available for utilisation by all Australian inventors as well as for the benefit of Australian industry. Moreover, in offering these facilities to applicants from other member countries- an offer which has, at least initially, been confined to developing countries- this country will be provided with a new facility for materially assisting such countries in introducing and operating effective patent systems with the resultant consequential benefits, not only for their own national development but also for Australian industry in exploiting its technology in those countries within the framework of an effective mechanism of protection.
The rationalisation of the operations of the patent systems of member countries which is achieved by the PCT affects four major areas involving operations which are basic to the provision of effective protection in any country in which a patent is sought. So far as the first area is concerned, the grant of a patent in any particular country is essentially dependent upon the submission of a report for such a grant To date, the procedural operations of national patent systems have been independent to the extent that every country has required a separate application for the grant of protection in that country.
The PCT rationalises that procedure, firstly, by requiring each member country to adopt uniform procedure and criteria in recognising applications invoking the Treaty and, secondly, by integrating the separate applications for each country in which protection is sought into a single application which is collectively effective as an individual application in every such country. As the international application under the PCT may be lodged in the patent office of the country in which he resides, the applicant is relieved of the necessity of communicating with overseas patent offices and complying with different and unfamiliar procedures before his application for protection is recognised as such. The benefits for Australian applicants desiring foreign patent protection are self-evident.
In the second phase, the PCT recognises the universal nature of the requirement that the validity of a patent is dependent upon whether the patented invention is new. And, since it is generally accepted that the grant of invalid patents significantly diminishes the effectiveness of a patent system, most countries providing such protection require each application to be subject to a prior determination as to whether the invention is new before a patent is granted. That determination is invariably based on a more, or less, extensive investigation of existing technical knowledge by the national patent office and an assessment of the patentability of the invention in the light of that knowledge.
In practice, the information determining the newness of an invention as regards its patentability in a particular country as well as the criteria upon which patentability is assessed, are essentially the same for every country. Accordingly, where protection is sought for an invention in a number of countries, the patent office of each country concerned effectively duplicates the same investigations and assessments in determining whether the invention is sufficiently new to be patentable in that country. The PCT eliminates such duplication by appointing a limited number of patent offices to undertake the investigation of prior technical disclosures for the purpose of determining the newness of the inventions in applications lodged under this Treaty and, if requested by the applicant, to provide an assessment of the patentability of the invention in the light of those investigations. The results of those investigations and assessments are supplied to all the member countries in which the applicant wishes to obtain protection.
Under the Treaty to date, six patent offices, designated as international searching authorities, have been appointed to undertake the investigation of technical disclosures relevant to determining the newness of an invention. A similar number of offices, designated as international preliminary examining authorities, have been appointed for assessing the patentability of an invention on the basis of the result of such investigation. Following accession, the Australian Patent Office will constitute both a searching and an examining authority and will be authorised to perform the functions of those authorities for both Australian applicants under the Treaty and for applicants from developing countries. With the transfer of a major part of the operations of patent offices to searching authorities and preliminary examining authorities, the PCT is able to exploit a further rationalisation of the procedures involved in the prosecution of patent applications arising from the cost reduction achieved by eliminating the previous duplication of the operations transferred to those authorities.
The Treaty conveys benefits of that rationalisation to applicants by requiring the patent offices of the countries in which protection is sought to defer examination of applications lodged under the Treaty and by providing each applicant with the results of the investigation and assessment of the relevant searching and examining authorities prior to the commencement of examination. By virtue of that provision, applicants may avoid incurring the costs of prosecuting applicants for which valid protection cannot be obtained. This procedure will not only benefit applicants, including Australian applicants, seeking protection through the medium of the Patent Co-operation Treaty but also it will relieve patent offices, including the Australian Patent Office, of much of the load involved in unnecessarily examining applications which are inherently unpatentable.
Finally, the PCT rationalises the operations associated with the publication and dissemination of the technical details of the inventions which are sought to be protected through the Treaty. One of the basic features of a patent system is the disclosure of the technical details of patented inventions to the public, the purpose being, partly, to avoid infringement of patent monopolies but primarily to provide national industry with sufficient information to enable inventions to be freely exploited on expiry of the patent. Accordingly, where protection of an invention is sought in a number of countries, the patent office of each of those countries incurs the costs in producing for the benefit of the public the documents disclosing the technical details of that invention. The PCT eliminates the costs arising from that duplication by making a single authority responsible for the publishing and printing of applications lodged under the Treaty and for distributing the resultant documents to all member countries. To bring home the potential significance of this aspect of the Treaty, I need only point to the fact that approximately one million new patent documents are currently generated each year throughout the world. Those documents, however, involve fewer than 400,000 different inventions. On the basis of those figures there is potentially an enormous cost benefit to be obtained through utilisation of the PCT. When it is realised that approximately 90 per cent of Australian patent specifications involve inventions which are also published overseas, it is obvious that the Australian patent system is potentially a major beneficiary from this aspect of the PCT.
I hope that that necessarily brief and simplified explanation of the PCT will enable the significance of the present Bill to be fully appreciated. I apologise for taking the time of the House on this explanation. Unfortunately, the technicalities of the Treaty are such that without some explanation the terms of the Treaty which are annexed to the Bill convey about as much information to an ordinary reader as a Chinese laundry ticket. However, even with the simplified explanation I have given, it should be evident that the PCT is essentially a mechanism for rationalising procedural features of the patent systems of member countries through mutual cooperation. As such, it involves no change to the philosophy on which those systems are based. In that respect, the Treaty merely implements longestablished principles governing international co-operation in industrial property. In so doing, one of its major results will be to increase the impact of those principles on the patent systems of member countries and part of the opposition to Austraiian accession derives from the presumed adverse nature of that impact on Austraiian industry.
The proponents of that view acknowledge the benefits of the Treaty in assisting Australian inventors to obtain increased protection in other countries. Conversely, however, they claim that the corresponding assistance given to overseas inventors will increase the number of Australian patents granted to overseas patentees. As a result of those patents, many overseas inventions previously published but not patented in Australia and which can therefore be freely utilised by Australian industry will no longer be accessible to industry. That objection raises the direct question of the effect of foreign participation on the Austraiian patent system. Just how significant this question is may be gauged from the fact that approximately 90 per cent of all Australian patents granted each year are granted to overseas patentees. However, since the argument also implies that patents themselves disadvantage Australian industry, it raises the much more basic issue of the value of the Australian patent system as a mechanism for assisting national development. These questions are too important to ignore because their answers bear directly on the present Bill and, by enabling Australia to accede to the PCT, one of the major purposes of the present Bill is to assist increased utilisation of the Australian patent system.
In answering these questions, it is important to note that by facilitating foreign participation in national patent systems, such as that of Australia, the PCT is designed to achieve in practice an objective that was recognised as inherently beneficial in principle almost 100 years ago when the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property was introduced. The essential feature of that convention was, and still is, the commitment by each member country to grant to the nationals of every other member country the same treatment and protection under its national industrial property laws as it provides to its own nationals. So far as patents are concerned, that commitment reflects the acknowledgment by the member countries of the convention that the effectiveness of the patent system of any country is primarily dependent upon the extent to which the system is utilised by inventors. Moreover, it also reflects the further recognition that the effectiveness of a patent system is in no way dependent upon the territorial origin of an invention or the nationality of a patentee and that those factors are essentially irrelevant to the operation of a patent system. The importance of the extent of utilisation in contributing to the effective operation of their patent systems is appreciated by most countries and is indicated by the fact that 88 countries are currently party to the Paris convention. Australia has been a member since 1907 and the extent of the contribution made by overseas inventors to the effectiveness of the Australian patent system is evident from the fact, as I have said, that over 90 per cent of Australian patents granted annually are granted to patentees domiciled outside Australia. Not unexpectedly, Australia is not alone in this regard and, in practice, foreign participation is a significant and generally the dominant factor in determining the extent of utilisation of almost every national patent system.
The objection to increased participation by overseas applicants as diminishing the accessibility of foreign inventions to Australian industry is therefore, in principle, not an objection to the PCT, but a criticism of the effectiveness of the Australian patent system as a vehicle for assisting exploitation of inventions by Australian industry. In assessing the validity of such criticism, it should be understood that the essential justification for the grant of patents has always been considered to lie primarily in the assistance that the resultant exclusive monopolies provide for the commercial introduction and exploitation of new technology achieved, firstly, by the initial availability of a competition free market to the owners of the technology and, secondly, by providing industry with unrestricted access to that technology on expiry of the monopoly through the publication of sufficient practical details by the Patent Office to permit utilisation of the technology. In my view, the motivation provided by the economic rewards obtainable from a commercial monopoly makes the patent system, in principle at least, the most effective incentive devised to date for the exploitation of new technology by industry. Naturally, the machinery of the patent system requires to be geared to the current needs of industry, for example, by providing protection consistent with the scope of modern technology or making available protection of a kind which can be economically exploited by industry. Such needs tend to change with time and it was the appreciation of such changing needs that formed the basis for my recent introduction of petty patents into the Australian patent system as an optional form of protection.
Ultimately, however, the measure of the effectiveness of a patent system is the extent to which new technology is adopted by industry. In this regard, it is a commonly over-looked feature of the patent system that the failure of patentees to work their inventions in Australia to a sufficient extent to satisfy the reasonable needs of the Australian public is an abuse of patent monopolies and, as such, a justification for depriving such patentees of their exclusive right to a monopoly or, in extreme cases, of their right to any monopoly whatsoever. Unfortunately, however, the questions of whether Australian patents, particularly foreign owned patents, are adequately exploited or whether the provisions for preventing abuse of patent monopolies by insufficient working are satisfactory, are questions on which very little information is available. It is for the purpose of obtaining advice on important practical considerations such as these that I established the Industrial Property Advisory Committee and I would take this opportunity to indicate that a review of the Australian patent system, oriented towards improving its practical effectiveness rather than the mere structure of its legislative framework, is a matter which I will be referring to the Committee for its early consideration. An approach of that kind represents a major departure from the basis of previous revisions and will inject a new dimension into such a review.
When it is appreciated that the role of the patent system is to assist national development, the real significance of the PCT for Australian industry becomes evident. Moreover, the fulfilment of that role is not limited to assisting the exploitation of new technology; the incentive provided by the potential rewards from such exploitation contributes to the generation of new technology by encouraging the creation of indigenous invention as well as the importation of overseas inventions. The patent system is thus pre-eminently an effective and dynamic mechanism for technology transfer in the full meaning of that rather abused term.
Unfortunately, the limited sense of values of some of the spokesmen opposing Australian participation in the PCT and the involvement of the Australian Patent Office in its operations are reflected in their evaluation of the Australian patent system on the basis of the concept of patents, individually, as social contracts rather than on the basis of the effect of patents, collectively, as a mechanism for promoting technological change. To treat the patent system as a mere aggregation of individual private rights is to ignore its capability for contributing to national economic development. The value of a patent system in assisting national development is well understood by most developing countries. The participation of a number of such countries in the PCT is based on their recognition of the value of the PCT as a means for introducing and operating an effective patent system where indigenous facilities and expertise to operate independent patent systems are now lacking.
The appointment of the Australian Patent Office as a Searching and Examining Authority under the PCT creates a unique opportunity to assist developing countries, in particular English speaking countries, by providing the resources and expertise necessary for the adoption of an effective patent system. Such assistance has a particular significance for this country in view of its potential importance in encouraging regional co-operation and development. The capacity for rapid technological development in the Asian region has already been demonstrated by countries such as Japan, Taiwan and Korea. The South East Asian countries are clearly on the threshold of similar development and in the embryonic stage of introducing patent systems. The PCT now provides those countries with a mechanism for adopting effective patent systems as well as offering Australia the opportunity for regional co-operation in the operation of those systems.
I think that the impact of the PCT on this country and the benefits of participation need no further elaboration. The Treaty has been described by overseas authorities as the most significant development in patent co-operation this century and there is no doubt that it is destined to play a decisive role in the future operation and development of national patent systems. At this early date, the Treaty provides only an optional procedure and its immediate impact will necessarily be restricted by the extent of its usage by applicants and the number of participating countries. However, with our commitment to its aims and our opportunity for benefiting from its operations, it is at this stage that this country should contribute to the implementation of the Treaty. This Bill constitutes the first important step in that process. Accordingly, I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Lionel Bowen) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Fife, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill is the first step towards giving effect to the legislative obligations of the Commonwealth under the formal agreement which was executed by the Commonwealth and all States on 22 December 1978. A copy of the agreement, setting out the obligations of the parties, is a schedule to the Bill. The Bill establishes the National Companies and Securities Commission. The Commission will be a body corporate responsible to the Ministerial Council for Companies and Securities which has been estabished pursuant to the formal agreement. The Commission is to have such functions and powers as are conferred on it by Commonwealth and State companies and securities industry legislation.
In order that this national Commission will have the necessary powers to administer that legislation in the States, each State is required under the Agreement to pass legislation which complements this Bill. An Australian Capital Territory ordinance is also being prepared to provide for the establishment of the Office of Commissioner for Corporate Affairs for the Australian Capital Territory to enable the companies and securities industry legislation to be administered in that Territory.
I outlined to the Parliament on 6 March 1979 the main elements of the scheme which are embodied in the formal agreement. Essentially, the agreement provides the framework for a cooperative, Commonwealth-State scheme for a uniform system of law and administration regulating companies and the securities industry. The scheme covers the relevant law operating in the six States and the Australian Capital Territory. There is also provision for the scheme to be extended to the Northern Territory and to the external Territories of the Commonwealth.
This Government believes that it has certain national responsibilities in the field of companies and securities which can only be discharged by a significant level of Commonwealth involvement. In 1974, the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange found that the present system of regulation of the securities markets in Australia was fragmented and unco-ordinated. That is equally true of the other areas of company law that may not impinge directly on the securities market. The Senate Committee accordingly proposed a national system of regulation.
Mr Deputy Speaker, there is widespread support in the community for Commonwealth involvement in a national system of companies and securities industry regulation. There are, however, differences between this Government and the Opposition on how that involvement is to be brought about. The former Labor Government opted for unilateral action by the Commonwealth insofar as it proposed to legislate without consultation with the States and rely solely on the Commonwealth’s legislative powers. This Government, however, has consistently preferred an approach of co-operation with the States rather than enacting unilateral legislation. We have recognised the importance of both Commonwealth and State interests and expertise in this area. Accordingly, the Commonwealth negotiated the formal agreement with the States for a Commonwealth and State co-operative scheme.
It is the Government’s firm view that joint Commonwealth and State involvement is the most effective way of promoting commercial certainty, bringing about a reduction in business costs, encouraging greater efficiency of the capital markets, and maintaining investor confidence in the securities markets through suitable provisions for investor protection. The National Companies and Securities Commission Bill is an historic piece of legislation. It is tangible evidence of the success of the Government’s policy of co-operative federalism.
This co-operative scheme is a model for joint Commonwealth and State action in other areas where there is a requirement for uniformity of laws and administration in the national interest. I must commend the State Ministers and their governments, along with the Commonwealth and State officers who have worked diligently on the scheme. Their co-operation and genuine spirit of teamwork has lead to the successful development of the scheme. There have been difficulties from time to time. That must be expected in negotiations which have led to major changes in corporate regulation in Australia. However, all States have recognised the need for uniform national legislation. The differences have been overcome.
As I have said, the National Companies and Securities Commission Bill is the first of the series of Bills required to give effect to the Commonwealth’s legislative obligations under the agreement. Once this Bill is enacted, members of the Commission can be appointed, staff employed and the necessary administrative matters carried out so that the Commission will be ready to administer the substantive companies and securities industry legislation when enacted.
Bills regulating company take-overs, the securities industry and companies, will be introduced into this House as soon as they have been cleared by the Ministerial Council for Companies and Securities.
I now turn to some of the specific provisions of the Bill. The Bill establishes the National Commission and sets out its powers and functions, staffing, financing and other operational aspects such as meetings and hearings. The Commission’s substantive powers and functions will be derived from Commonwealth and State companies and securities industry legislation.
State administrations will continue to operate with their powers and functions being delegated from the National Commission. The State administrations will be subject to direction by the Commission. The Commission will have between 3 and 5 members, at least 3 of which, including the chairman, will be full time. Appointments, which will be made by the Governor-General on the nomination of the Ministerial Council, are for up to 5 years. There is provision for re-appointment. However, fulltime members may not continue beyond the age of 65. Remuneration and allowances of members will be determined by the Ministerial Council. The Council will be able to consult tribunals with experience in fixing rates. I should mention here that the Ministerial Council has already appointed a firm of management consultants to handle the recruitment of the members of the National Commission. The management consultants are to prepare, for the Ministerial Council, a short list of applicants. I expect that the positions will be advertised widely at an early date.
The Bill provides for the establishment of a register of financial interests to record interests of members and staff of the Commission. The Bill also provides for the notification of interests held by other persons performing functions under the Act. The Commission will appoint its own staff on terms and conditions which are determined by the Commission and approved by the Commonwealth Public Service Board. Ministers propose that the Commission will be a small, highpowered body with probably a staff of fewer than 100. There is also provision for engagement of consultants and interchange of staff between the Commission and the States and other Commonwealth bodies. The finance provisions of the Bill take account of the fact that the Commission is subject to joint Commonwealth-State control and will receive moneys from the Commonwealth and the States. The Commonwealth will contribute 50 per cent of the costs and expenses of the Commission and the States will provide the other 50 per cent on a pro-rata basis. The Bill allows the Commission to hold hearings in public or private in order to perform any of its functions or powers. Members of the Commission are empowered to summon witnesses to give evidence, and to administer oaths or affirmations. The delegation provisions allow for hearings to be conducted by State and Territory administrations.
Mr Deputy Speaker, the Government sees the establishment of this National Commission as the single, most vital step towards achieving uniformity both in companies and securities industry laws and in their administration. The Commission, and the scheme in general, will lead to the development of a more effective regulatory system and will facilitate a more efficient securities market in Australia. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Lionel Bowen) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 22 May, on motion by Mr Viner:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, may I have your indulgence to suggest that the House has a general debate covering this Bill, the Telecommunications (Interception) Bill 1979 (No. 2), the Telecommunications Amendment Bill 1979, and the Customs Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1979, as they are related measures. Separate questions will, of course, be put on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate. In making this suggestion, I give an assurance on behalf of the Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair) that the Government will allow sufficient time for a full and adequate debate on these very important measures.
-Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering these four measures? There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.
– Whilst recognising that the Government may want a full and free debate on this matter, let me say that I think it is showing a great deal of discourtesy to the Opposition by suggesting that all we can have now is about 19 minutes debate. It is not even enough time for me to finish my speech. Such is the approach of the Government to this important matter. I think it could have arranged its business to guarantee some continuity of debate so that at least, as the Opposition leading speaker, I would not have my speech in this debate interrupted, as it must be. However, having had the Government’s priorities on this matter clearly indicated, let me refer to these Bills as the most important pieces of legislation we could have introduced in this House.
It is legislation that took some weeks and weeks of debate in the Senate. However, in the Senate, when the Opposition moved that the matter be referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs, the motion was opposed by the Government. Every member of the Government parties in the Senate voted against the suggestion that the legislation be the subject of calm, dispassionate discussion of the rights of the people. This legislation if passed into law- I hope that the listening public understands this- will give people the right to intercept other people’s telephone conversations by using mechanical devices, to intercept their mail, and to prepare dossiers on them on the basis that it is deemed to be done in the cause of security. It could be the gravest and greatest infringement of civil liberties and privacy that we could have. It is legislation that ought to be discussed on a bipartisan basis, but in no way has the Government approached the legislation on that basis.
Let me go back to how it was originally and naturally suggested that we should have some guidance on the activities of an intelligence organisation that would look after the security of this nation. In March 1949, the then Prime Minister of Australia, Mr Chifley, issued a memorandum to the Director-General of Security on the functions of a security service. I think it is most significant to remind the Parliament of what was intended at the time. The memorandum stated:
It is your responsibility to keep each Minister informed of all matters affecting security coming to your knowledge and which fall within the scope of his Department.
The memorandum earlier stated:
As Director-General of Security you will have direct access to the Prime Minister at all dmes.
The memorandum stated that the task is to guarantee that the Commonwealth is free from external and internal dangers arising from espionage and sabotage, or from actions of persons and organisations, which may be subversive of the security of the Commonwealth. The memorandum further stated:
You will take especial care to ensure that the work of the Security Service is strictly limited to what is necessary for the purposes of this task … It is essential that the Security Service should be kept absolutely free from any political bias or influence, and nothing should be done that might lend colour to any suggestion that it is concerned with the interests of any particular section of the community . . .
The history of the intelligence service in Australia since that time is that it has failed its obligations under that memorandum. It is only now by looking at the facts that we have had put before us, not in this Parliament but in Mr Justice White’s report tabled in the South Australian Parliament on matters of which we have some vague knowledge here, that we know that the intelligence service after Chifley ‘s time were virtually diverted to political actions. That is the grave problem we are facing now.
Let it be placed on record that Labor governments of the past have appointed two DirectorsGeneral of Security, and both of them were judges. There was first Mr Justice Reed and then Mr Justice Woodward, the present DirectorGeneral. The Liberal and National Country Parties have never appointed a judicial, experienced officer to that position. That is where their legislation has failed in the past. There never has been that impartial ability to look at what security and intelligence are all about. The subject has nothing to do with attending meetings in a bookshop that might sell communist literature. It has nothing to do with attending the Labor Party rally in the domain or somewhere else, but it has everything to do with the rights and lives of people; the question of terrorism and the danger to people’s lives. That is where we have failed.
Security means espionage, sabotage, subversion, active measures of foreign intervention, or terrorism. Having got that in proper focus, I ask: Is that what this Bill does? I submit that it does not. The Opposition proposes to move amendments to this Bill. These were moved in the Senate but were rejected. In the short time at my disposal let me reiterate those amendments. The Bill should be withdrawn and redrafted. The Bill is a failure from the point of view of protecting the rights and privileges of people against interference. There is no accountability to Parliament; no judicial audit; and no guarantee in the future that people in the Parliament here can find out what has happened in the past. If improper actions are taking place, penalties should be imposed. There should be no cover-up and no suggestion that people can do what they like. We must get rid of the old-boy network and the idea that because one might have belonged to a security organisation one is a privileged person and can go to even higher offices in Public Service. The amendment is: that the Bill be withdrawn and redrafted to provide-
As honourable members will know, those special powers relate to interference with one’s liberty whether it be by telephone tapping, interference with one’s mail, or dossiers compiled on actions that one has allegedly undertaken. The amendment continues:
that it complies with its charter and the law;
The Bill would be very much improved if consideration could be given to those matters. What is the desperate hurry when the debate is introduced at this hour and is to be adjourned for three weeks or a month? I fail to see that we have given any serious consideration to the behaviour of the intelligence organisations, with which the public are genuinely concerned. These organisations can interfere with their lives, their future and their prospects in some secretive fashion but the legislation does not have the safeguards that we recommend.
I make the point again that this Bill was the subject of some 30 hours or many weeks of discussion in the Senate; yet the debate in this place is to take a matter of a few minutes. It is important to look at the previous debates in this Parliament, not the least of which one that took place in 1956, at which time the ASIO legislation was before the Parliament. At that dme the honourable member for Moreton, the present Minister for Defence ( Mr Killen), said: . . there is in the United States of America, an organisation or committee called the Un-American Activities Committee, and it is high time that we established an UnAustralian Activities Committee in this country . . . The activities of the American Committee have proved most valuable.
I am happy to say that there was an interjection from the Labor side saying:
That is McCarthyism
The honourable gentleman replied:
The honourable member’s interjection is typical of most Marxist thinking today.
The Un-American Activities Committee has since been demolished as a scandalous kangaroo court of character assassination and innuendo. One would have hoped that some 23 years later a calmer, more rational and more tolerant attitude would have prevailed. Unfortunately, this is not the case. When this legislation was first introduced I criticised the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) for a quite unacceptable approach to the rights of the Opposition on the one hand, and the rights of the Government back benchers on the other. For example, on 28 February this year, that is, before this legislation was introduced, the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) was able to boast in this House that he had greatly enjoyed the opportunity to cross-examine at length the DirectorGeneral of ASIO, Mr Justice Woodward. Yet all our attempts to obtain from the AttorneyGeneral a briefing before the legislation was introduced were of no avail and were refused. We were flatly denied such a briefing. That only reinforced our view that if we were to have a genuinely bipartisan approach we would have to initiate it ourselves. We insisted that provision be written into the Act ensuring that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) was properly consulted and advised on security matters.
I am pleased to say that the Government has accepted some of these amendments, little as they might be from the point of view of improvement. However, the attitude of the Government in denying us any advanced briefing and refusing us advance copies of the legislation, even on the morning that the legislation was introduced into the Senate, makes a mockery of its claim that it is genuine about a bipartisan consideration of security. It reeks of the same attitude as that disclosed by Mr Justice White in South Australia that anyone who is seen to be to the left of a mythical but very conservative centre is not to be trusted.
We make no complaint that there has been inadequate debate in the Senate. As I have said, some 30 hours were spent on the legislation there. It was the longest and fullest debate since the debate on the Family Law Bill in 1974-75. It must be pointed out that almost the whole of that debate was generated by the Opposition. The Government has been virtually shamed into accepting some of our amendments, but to say that it has been generally open to persuasion would be far from the truth. This legislation has caused widespread community concern and it is not simply the Opposition which objects to it in its present form. It is legislation which, deservedly, has attracted the most trenchant public and media criticism. Over the last 25 years the Opposition has been far from satisfied with the performance of ASIO. Our disenchantment is clearly justified by the report of Mr Justice Hope. His fourth report, volume 1 , reads:
Material before me establishes that there has been at times departure from the principles of propriety . . . I do not propose to deal with those transgressions in detail. This report is concerned with the future rather than the past, and to point to what should happen in the future. Of course, the past is relevant to show what might happen in the future.
Despite our disenchantment with ASIO, we still believe that such an organisation is necessary. This is a view which, despite all that has happened in the past 25 years, the Labor Parry has held consistently since the days of the Chifley Government. We see two main general areas of need for ASIO. The first, and by far the most important, is to identify people who may represent a terrorist threat, whether to Australian citizens or to foreign visitors. It would be naive in the extreme to ignore terrorism elsewhere in the world, or to ignore that violent political activity has occurred in Australia in the past. I would point out that at least at present the greatest danger of political violence comes from the far Right. The second need for ASIO is to identify cases of espionage and related activities. These are matters referred to in the Bill as espionage and active measures of foreign intervention. The question of active measures of foreign intervention needs to be read very narrowly to prevent inclusion of legitimate political activity.
The great challenge in legislation such as this is to balance security needs with civil liberties. That is a matter of great difficulty- clearly far too difficult for this Government. On the other hand, it is just as simplistic to say we should abolish ASIO, which is a naive and dangerous view. The Hilton Hotel bombing outrage was marked by totally inadequate initial security arrangements, followed by an absurd and dangerous overreaction after the event. We want to ensure that we have proper and efficient security in this country. However, a security organisation left to its own devices will not meet these requirements. There must be proper control, proper checks and balances and, in this area, the Bill is totally deficient.
Let me say that the Opposition has complete faith in the integrity and the sense of propriety of the Director-General of ASIO Mr Justice Woodward. His appointment was made by the Whitlam Labor Government. He enjoys the complete confidence of the present Government, as he will of the Hayden Labor Government. Such bipartisan confidence in the DirectorGeneral gives a real basis for a bipartisan approach to ASIO itself. However, it requires a good deal more. This legislation is the charter for ASIO for years to come under yet unknown Directors-General. It is for this Parliament to make the laws and supervise them, not to leave unfettered and dangerous power to officials.
We believe that this legislation is seriously deficient and, in its present form, unacceptable. Probably the aspect of the Bill which occupied most of the debate, particularly in the Senate was the definition of subversion in clause 5 of the Bill. Our amendments appear on paper to be quite simple. We are proposing the omission of three words and the insertion of one word. However, those alterations are extremely important. They relate to activities and how they would be defined. The Opposition is anxious to define them in the strict sense as to unlawful activities or activities that would create hostility. We want to make it very clear what we are about when we are defining subversion. The definition in that clause is far from adequate.
The Report of Mr Justice White into Special Branch Security Records in South Australia is, I believe, an excellent exposition of the concept of subversion. What comes out clearly from that Report is that the definition of subversion should be confined as narrowly as possible, and that the central element involved is that of violence. It is equally clear that both ASIO and State special branches have operated on an entirely different basis. Mr Justice White found that this move was objectionable from the point of view of what happened. It occurred basically in relation to State special branches from 1953-1954, very significantly, about the time of the Petrov royal commission. I have no doubt that the same thing occurred in relation to ASIO. I point out that while the Petrov royal commission was not established until April 1954, on the eve of the 1 954 election, the security services were gearing up to it considerably before. We on this side have never been in any doubt about the political nature of the Petrov affair. It was a political scandal, and we must ensure that the like of it never occurs again. Let me quote from page 7 of the report of Mr Justice White:
Material which I know to be inaccurate and, at times, scandalously inaccurate, appears in some dossiers and on some cards.
I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 5.59 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from 21 August, on motion by Mr Howard:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– Almost four years ago, the man who is now Prime Minister of this country, the right honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser), made 91 specific promises in 30 minutes. He did that in an election policy speech. Above all, he promised the Australian people full economic prosperity in three years. I repeatthree years. There was no equivocation, no qualification- just a blunt, straightforward promise. It would be done, he said, and he and his Government would do it. He not only made promises- rash, foolish and irresponsible promises- but also promised to keep his promises. A journalist asked him at the National Press Club lunch, four days before the 1975 elections, whether he would sacrifice his promises if, when in government, he was advised that they would be impossible to carry out. He replied- I quote him exactly:
What we said we will do is practical, and will be done.
That was five Budgets, two Treasurers and almost four years ago.
The three year deadline in which to honour that promise of full economic prosperity is now almost a year behind us. Now, four years later, we come to the reality of just what this Prime Minister and this Government have cost the country since they came to office.
Last week the Australian people were presented with the sixth Budget from this Government and the third Budget from this Treasurer (Mr Howard). It is, in every essential, a graveyard for those promises made almost four years ago. Full economic prosperity has not been achieved and this Budget literally shouts the fact from every single page. What the Prime Minister promised four years ago would be done has not been done. It was not done within the promised three years; and it has not been done within four years; and, given this Budget, there is no earthly hope that it will be done in five years. What will be done, what will be the result after five years of Fraser Government, will be the opposite of what was promised.
This Budget will bring more hardship, more unemployment and more suffering to the great majority of Australian families. It means higher taxes, higher inflation and another major contraction in the living standards of ordinary people. It spells out in quite stark terms the total failure of the policies that the Government has followed for four years. Worst of all, it insists that these policies of failure will continue.
Mr Speaker, this Budget shares one essential feature with all five of its predecessors. It shares the same essential feature with all 91 of those promises made four years ago. That is, it is dishonest. It is not as dishonest, perhaps, as earlier budgets by an early Treasurer and not as dishonest as the claptrap that we have come to expect from the Prime Minister. But nonetheless, it is dishonest. It misrepresents the state of the economy and what is needed in management policy. It misrepresents the measures that it proposes and what they will do. It grossly misrepresents the impact of its decisions on the average Australian family. For example, the Treasurer boasts that the Budget will remove in three months’ time an income tax surcharge that this Government imposed a year ago and which this Treasurer promised would end two months ago. In doing so, both the Treasurer and the Prime Minister rush about the country insisting that everyone will be better off. Better off than what? This Government imposed the surcharge; this Treasurer extended it five months longer than he promised it would last; and this Prime Minister calls it tax relief when finally, because his credibility stinks with the public, he is forced to abandon it.
-Order! The honourable gentleman will withdraw that statement.
– Which one is that, Mr Speaker?
-The honourable gentleman knows to which statement I am referring.
– I withdraw the statement that the Prime Minister stinks.
What sort of twisted logic is that? At the same time, both the Treasurer and the Prime Minister hide not only that they imposed the surcharge in the first place but also that the so-called cut in tax resulting from its removal will already have disappeared by the time when it arrives. The Treasurer conveniently forgets what the Government did last May in its final destruction of the Medibank scheme. He conveniently overlooks that because of those decisions last May all health insurance rates with the private funds will increase substantially as from next Saturday. They are not increasing in isolation. The Government also has sanctioned higher doctors’ fees to come into force on 1 November- concessions to doctors and confrontations for unions. The Government tugs its forelock before the wealthy might of the medical fraternity and backhands the representatives of Australian families. Both measures together, increased fees and health insurance rates, will cost most families an extra $3.50 a week. I repeat-another $3.50. Then after being slugged these higher health costs the single income family on average weekly earnings will get an alleged tax cut of $4.50 a week on 1 December- three months later.
So where, I ask, are the extra dollars that the Prime Minister claims the Government is putting into the pockets of all Australian families? They will have mostly vanished, swallowed by the steeply rising costs of health care, a cost deliberately determined by this Government three months ago. What the Prime Minister is giving with one hand next December he is taking away- before anyone even gets it- with the other hand next Saturday. The family on average earnings, if it is lucky, might be left with a dollar a week- the price of two meat pies. Even so, they will be better off than all those families on incomes of $200 a week or less. Those families, if they persist with health insurance, will finish either with nothing or by being worse off to the extent of some $2 a week. I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard several tables on the taxation redistributional effect of this Budget.
The tables read as follows-
– Let me give the sorts of increases necessary if people in the categories I will mention are to maintain their living standards in real terms at the level they had or experienced in the previous financial year. Table 2 refers to a man supporting a spouse and two children. He would need an increase in his income before tax of $7.92 a week above what the Government is forecasting that he will receive this year. A man supporting a spouse and five children would need to have his income before taxation increased by $10.75 a week above the Government’s forecast. I suggest to Government members that they go out into the community and explain that dishonourable tactic to Australian families. And that, boasts this Prime Minister, is the element of tax reform under
Fraserism. The entire exercise is an exact repetition of the tax duplicity announced in the 1 977 Budget.
Then, we had an earlier Treasurer who, in his Budget speech, held out the promise of a tax cut six months later- in February 1978. In announcing it, he described the Government’s decision- I will quote his words not only to be fair to him but also because no one could improve on them- as . . lifting the yoke of taxation that has sapped the spirit and initiative of the community over recent years’. That decision, as the Australian people came to learn to their cost, had absolutely nothing to do with their spirit being sapped but everything to do with their vote being conned.
– And their pockets being picked.
-Yes. The Treasurer is the Bill Sikes of the Australian fiscal scene.
Three months after that 1977 Budget, and three months before the tax cut was to come into operation, the Prime Minister called an unwarranted election and offered his tax promise as an electoral bribe. Then, in the following Budget, with the election out of the way and the public gulled, this Government decided that the ‘yoke of taxation’ was not such a bad thing after all, and slapped it back on in the form of the surcharge. It was the ultimate exercise in deceit. For 55 per cent of all taxpayers, all those on the bottom end of the scale, the surcharge wiped out all benefit they had gained from the Prime Minister’s election bribe. The bribe lasted only five months.
– The lie.
– That interjection should go on the record because I think the honourable member is correct. It left all those who needed it most with nothing. That is the true measure of this Government’s commitment to tax relief and this Prime Minister’s commitment to keeping his word. On that basis I suppose, those families who finish up getting a dollar out of this latest tax rort can count themselves as doing well. I should point out of course, in the interests of balance, that those people at the top end of the income scale will do a lot better than a dollar. Someone, for instance, on a salary of $80,000 a year, or $1,600 a week like the Prime Minister will get not $4.50 a week on 1 December, but $38 a week.
Government members- Oh!
– If I were a Government member I too would groan with humiliation and embarrassment. That, too, is a fair measure of this Budget’s warped sense of priorities. The Treasurer admits to at least 10 per cent inflation in the next 12 months and to 15 per cent more in total tax revenue, and forecasts that wages and salaries will rise by only 9 per cent. Both the Treasurer and the Prime Minister stubbornly refuse to look at the reality of what those trends mean for the living standards of Australian families over the next year. They will mean, of course, that living standards again must go backwards as the great bulk of Australian families pay proportionately a lot more income tax. Simply put, they mean that a family on $160 a week will pay 28 per cent more tax and a family on average earnings of $240 a week will pay 16 per cent more tax while someone on the Prime Minister’s salary will pay only 10 per cent more tax. Somehow the Prime Minister and his Treasurer think that that is fair. They see nothing wrong in the principle that not only should those who have the most, get the most, but also that those who earn the most should proportionately pay the least. The honourable member for St George (Mr Neil), who is trying to interject, underscores the proposition as a principle that he endorses completely. I am sure that the people in the electorate of St George will be ecstatic at that information.
Last week during Question Time the Opposition sought to confront the Prime Minister with these matters- an increasingly daunting and thoroughly fruitless task, as we learnt today. The Prime Minister refused to answer. He took the coward’s way out as he did today with regard to Mr Urbanchich. In each instance when he was asked a question about the Budget, particularly about taxation, he directed his Treasurer to bluster his way through the Government’s embarrassment. He could not so easily avoid Mr Risstrom of the Australian Taxpayers Association. When Mr Risstrom confronted him on radio and pointed out how the tax rip-off would operate this year, the Prime Minister’s convoluted line of jargon collapsed. It was a bit early in the morning, he said, for such detailed figures. He would have to get them down on paper and really analyse them. I suppose that he would need a week or two. He is the SPELD child of Australian politics. Finally, when Mr Risstrom persisted, the Prime Minister sought to dismiss the whole issue as a technical discussion. As he usually does, the Prime Minister simply ignored the truth. This facility for seeing only what he wants to see, and hearing only what he wants to hear has been refined to an art form by the right honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser). His ministry knows it; his party knows it; this Parliament knows it; and now, after the last four years, a growing majority of the people of this country know it. The Prime Minister has squandered the last vestige of moral authority with his party, with his Parliament and with the Australian people.
– This is good constructive stuff.
– The interjection of the honourable member for Kennedy is a small enough price for me to pay for earlier sins. When I was much younger, my mother caught me walloping a donkey on the hind quarters just to see it keep braying and bucking. She warned me that one day it would come back to haunt me but I find now that about 80 of them have come back to haunt me.
Government members interjecting-
-Order! The House will come to order.
– He is talking rubbish.
– If the honourable member for St George does not mind, I am trying to talk to the intelligent people in the House.
– Go back to your donkeys.
-The honourable member for St George will remain silent. The Leader of the Opposition will continue with his speech to the House.
– A donkey walloper.
-We would be chained to a common yoke if that happened. On this occasion, the Prime Minister is jammed squarely on another of his broken promises and seeks to avoid all, and any, public scrutiny of it. That promise concerns tax indexation- his pledge in that policy speech of 1975, to ‘keep government honest’ by indexing income tax to prevent erosion of real wages and salaries by inflation. It is a principle that the Opposition strongly supports.
– You will get the donkey vote.
-Not ahead of you my friend. I have to recognise virtues when they exceed mine. We on this side of the House recognise the inherent unfairness of tax by stealth through inflation. But we also recognise the irresponsibility -
-The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat. There is far too much noise on my right. I ask honourable gentleman on my right to remain silent.
- Mr Speaker, it is very hard to distinguish whether they are braying or praying. Either would be appropriate.
– But we also recognise the irresponsibility of making promises we might not be able to keep, promises that economic circumstances cannot afford. There is no recognition whatever of this fundamental fact of public life by the Prime Minister. Like so much else that he has promised, tax indexation could not be sustained other than in the rhetoric of an election campaign from a man who would say anything to get into office and stay there. I noted the other day that one commentator pointed out that the Prime Minister had promised to introduce tax indexation over three years. Instead, the Prime Minister has spent three years phasing it out. He is now stuck with the millstone of his dishonoured promise, just as he has been caught out in public -
-Order! Several times the honourable gentleman has used in his speech such terms as ‘dishonest’ and ‘deceit’. I ask him not to use those words.
– I withdraw. The Prime Minister is now stuck with the millstone of that promise, which he has discredited by his own action, just as he has been caught out in public with the political backlash of what that broken promise will mean to all families’ tax burdens this year. I repeat: It is a burden that will fall most heavily on those least able to bear it.
There are a few other points I want to make on this matter of tax equity and political credibility which put this Government’s shabby record into clearer perspective. First, the total tax grab by this Treasurer over the next 12 months will amount to some $27,000m-$ 10,000m or 54 per cent more than I budgeted for in Labor’s last Budget four years ago. I repeat: It is $ 10,000m more. It is the highest tax take in this country’s history. It is being carried out by this Government, headed by this Prime Minister, who only a year ago had the hide to trumpet in public:
This Government is not in the business of hitting the pockets of the working men and women of Australia.
One month before the Prime Minister made that remarkable statement, this Government’s 1978 Budget increased direct and indirect taxes and charges by $ 1,500m a year. Eight months after that statement the Treasurer, in his mini-Budget of May this year, reefed another $ 1,300m from the public in higher taxes and charges. So, in just nine months this Government increased taxes by a total of $2,800m a year- all of it, with minor exceptions, from the pockets of, to quote the Prime Minister, ‘the working men and women of Australia’. Again, we have the Prime Minister pinned with his own words for the blatant dishonesty he preaches.
-Order! I will not permit the Leader of the Opposition to continue using those terms.
– Is ‘deception ‘ acceptable?
– ‘Deception’ is not acceptable. That attributes motive. If the statement is false according to the allegation of the honourable member, he may say so, but not so as to attribute motive.
-The statement of the Prime Minister was false; it was made knowing that it was false; it was wilfully false and misleading. I do not think anyone could say anything less than that.
-Order! I ask for the cooperation of the honourable gentleman. He knows that the Standing Orders prohibit attribution of motive qf a reprehensible kind to another honourable member in the House. I ask the honourable gentleman to cease using that language.
-That it was wilfully misleading?
-The honourable gentleman is not entitled to say ‘wilfully misleading’.
– Well, let me go on. I will go further and illustrate from this Budget itself how little regard this Government has for the working men and women of Australia when it comes to taxation. Last year corporate taxes- company taxes- actually fell by $60m. Over the next 12 months the Budget estimates that corporate tax revenue will increase by a mere $250m to just under $3.3 billion, not million. On the other hand, income tax collections over the same two years will go up by an estimated $2,300m to a projected $1 1.95 billion in the current financial year. The great payroll robbery, with Malcolm Fraser starring as the fiscal Ronald Biggs of Australia. The increase this year alone is a massive $ 1.550m, or almost double the increase last year. At the same time revenue from the crude oil levy- the iniquitous petrol tax- and from excise on all petroleum products will this year reach more than $3,000m, or an increase on last year of some $820m.
– Most of it paid by the under-$200 a week earners.
– Exactly. That makes no allowance, as the Treasurer admits, for any increase at all in oil prices, which, of course, will certainly take place over the course of the year.
What all this means is that the Government is plundering the pockets of ordinary taxpayers while big business, the corporate sector, the wealthy and powerful friends of the Prime Minister, are coasting along, making record profits but paying a disproportionately low share of tax revenue. Petrol users will pay almost as much in tax revenue as the entire corporate sector. Some 75 to 80 per cent of petrol consumption is by private motorists. Every petrol pump is now a tax office, as the Government enforces a policy which demands that motorists pay through the nose for petrol which comes from our own oil in Bass Strait. We are some 90 per cent selfsufficient in motor spirit. What the Government does not squeeze from the motorists it pirates from the pay-as-you-earn wage and salary earner- the family breadwinner.
For those honourable members opposite who have the job of trying to save their seats by selling this fraud of a Budget to the community, I will repeat those figures: Company tax revenue is up by $190m in two years; petrol tax and petroleum excise revenue is up by $ 1,775m in two years.
Opposition members- Rip-offs.
– Income tax revenue is up by $2,300m in two years. These are massive rip-offs My colleagues are correct. I say this to honourable members opposite: Have a good think about them; then go out and try to explain to the people of this country why this Government, your Government, calls them tax justice. At the same time try justifying why this is the sort of tax distribution we now get from a Prime Minister who four years ago promised Australians:
We will encourage people ‘s initiative, and not batter them into the ground with punishing taxes.
That sort of statement and this sort of so-called tax justice are why this Prime Minister is now a national joke. This is why he sits in this Parliament during Question Time, refusing to answer our questions on the details of a Budget strategy for which he essentially is responsible.
Let me put it in the same stark and incontestible terms as the official statistical sources. Total revenue raised from the Australian people as a proportion of national income has soared to record levels under the so-called low-tax Fraser Government. During the three years of Labor government it averaged 24.5 per cent, compared with the 25.7 per cent average of the last three years of Fraser government. Those are figures the Prime Minister cannot distort, cannot misrepresent and cannot run away from. He knows, and those behind him know, that the Australian people no longer believe him. He is as fond of insincerity as he would be if he had invented it. He is undeserving of pardon for the past, applause for the present or confidence for the future. His credibility is nought and his economic nous is best summarised in that profound Fraserism on national television a few months ago, when he said:
Unemployment did fall through 1978, but it didn’t fall enough to start to reduce the number unemployed.
That was almost as carefully thought out as his incisive comment on Australian Broadcasting Commission radio the other morning, when he said- I quote him again, because who could improve on it: . . inflation forecasts, of course, depend very significantly on inflation.
With that sort of mind at the helm how, we might ask, can this Government possibly go wrong? He is the Scylla and Charybdis of Australian Liberal politics merged into one. He allows no escape from disaster.
Mr Speaker, I have dealt at some length with this Budget’s tax proposals and this Government’s tax record, for two reasons: Firstly, both best illustrate this Government’s lack of integrity; and, secondly, they expose the utter economic incompetence of an administration that has always postured as one whose competence was its single greatest claim to office. Yet this Government is as incompetent as it is dishonest. It has modelled itself on its leader with extraordinary precision. It is run by three gentlemen farmers, an undertaker, a clandestine land dealer, a playboy and a suburban solicitor who once sold parrots and goldfish. Nowhere on the front bench is there anyone with any real knowledge or expertise in economics. That, in itself, perhaps best explains the conduct of the nation’s affairs over the past four years. It does not, however, excuse the Government for its persistent failure to honour its commitments, or its equally consistent recitation of other people ‘s faults.
– At least I made a profit.
-The Treasurer interjects-a rumpled Rumpole from the North Sydney small debts court. The Prime Minister’s search for scapegoats is never-ending. Always it is someone else’s fault. If the Prime Minister is not blaming the Labor Party, the unions, the Treasury, the Public Service, the Arbitration Commission or the Reserve Bank, then he is blaming the Australian people for expecting too much. More and more lately, as the excuses have grown thinner and the scapegoats have become harder to find, the Government has moved its rationalisation for failure overseas. First the Government blamed the European Economic Community and then the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries. Now it spreads the blame around among OPEC, international inflationary forces and, as the Treasurer noted in his Budget Speech, ‘world wide price increases’. Yet it is not much more than four years ago that we were being told, and I quote yet again:
When political leaders say the present situation cannot be helped, that it is pan of a world situation, they are expressing the futility of their own leadership when, if they were men of real stature, they would be saying ‘ We can overcome ‘.
The person who said that, and so many of the other remarks I have quoted tonight, is the same man whose futile leadership, by his own lofty admission, clearly does not have either the real stature or the capacity honestly to confront the challenges before this country, let alone to overcome them. The tragedy is that there were opportunities in the past four years to get the economy off its knees and into better health. These opportunities were frittered away. There were signs of recovery in 1976 but the Government strangled them by a deliberate tightening of fiscal and monetary policy. I acknowledged early this year that the elements were there for economic recovery provided they were captured but that it would require a change of economic policy. The Prime Minister commended me- it was like receiving a poisonous political bromide- in this House for observing the obvious. But the opportunity has been squandered. There is no more economic recovery ahead of us; just more depressing recession. Again the Government failed to capitalise on the trends and to move us towards sustained non-inflationary growth by a careful but firm change of course. This Budget now ensures that any early recovery is unattainable under this Government. This Budget without doubt is the most contractionary in the 18 years I have been a member of this Parliament. Professor John Nevile of the University of New South Wales, some time adviser to this Government, described it as the most contractionary Budget within 30 years. It offers no light at the end of the tunnel, no relief from the unremitting assault on the community as a whole, or the disadvantaged in particular.
Not all of the Treasurer’s forecasts are as grim as those for families, the work force and the vast range of people who depend on government assistance to survive in our society. The Budget, he has said frequently since its presentation, is designed to have corporate profits flourish. He was talking, of course, about big business, not small enterprises. The Treasurer asserts that before there can be any fall in unemployment business has to be profitable. This is an old refrain and it does not work. His hapless predecessor said the same thing often enough but unemployment continued to skyrocket. The 1977 Lynch Budget ecstatically reported that company profits were up by 23.5 per cent- and unemployment still rising remorselessly. More recently, the operating profit of Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd for 1979 was $548m, 73 per cent greater than two years earlier. The operating profit of G. J. Coles and Co. Ltd in 1979 was up by 60 per cent on the 1977 figure. The operating profit of CSR Ltd rose by 37 per cent in the same period. The profit of Conzinc Riotinto of Australia Ltd was $ 149m in 1978 and the profit of the Utah company was $270m.
Government members- Hear, hear!
-‘Hear, hear!’ Government members interject happily. But these sorts of results are not good enough for the Fraser Government. Profits are to get an even heftier boost through the course of this financial year, during which the Government forecasts in its Budget that unemployment will explode to the worst levels ever. We will have a higher level of unemployment in early 1980 than we have had at any time in our history, even higher than at any time during the Great Depression. Let me hear those Hear, hears’ again from Government ranks. That is a further measure of the dishonesty and the unfairness of the narrow minded sense of privilege that expresses itself in this Government’s thinking. It wants the community to worship at the feet of big business and the Australian family to be the sacrificial offering. The Government has learned nothing from four years and six budgets. This budget will increase unemployment by another 50,000 at least. That calculation is based on the statements in the Budget papers. It will push inflation above 10 per cent. It will keep the upward pressure on interest rates, and it will reduce the living standards of the average Australian family over the next year by some $7.90 a week.
– How do you calculate that?
-Look at the tables which have been incorporated.
– Answer the question.
– I will answer the Treasurer after he has replied to Mr Risstrom ‘s challenge. If my assessment of economic growth is correct- it was last year- there will be less than two per cent growth for the year in the non-farm sector. The important consequence of that would be insufficient growth to provide any new jobs at all. That means simply that the two per cent natural growth in the work force would go straight into unemployment- an increase of 100,000 to 120,000. As the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research reported recently:
With further rises in both recorded and hidden unemployment likely in the next 18 months, an unemployment problem of frightening dimensions is being created in the 1980s.
The Opposition condemns and rejects this Budget for all these reasons. Above all we reject the Budget because it neither meets the need nor fulfils the aspirations of the Australian family. Most Australians interpret government policy in the perspective of their families. A budget is judged by whether it advances and enhances the family or whether it stunts and inhibits family development. It is on this basic test that all six Fraser Budgets have failed so miserably. None has been so unequivocal in its failure on this score as this third Howard Budget. None has been so destructive of family security, as contemptuous of family welfare or as corrosive of family life. This is an anti-family Budget from an anti-family government. It is an unemployment Budget which will reduce the jobs available to bread winners, to working wives and to young family members wanting to enter the work force for the first time. It severely aggravates unemployment, yet slashes some $50m from the funds available for job retraining at a time when literally thousands of jobs are disappearing through technological change. It is a high tax Budget which will increase the total tax burden of every Australian family. It is a higher inflation Budget which will erode family income and stability through rising prices for essential foods and household goods. It contains incipient pressures for higher interest rates which will increase the burden of home repayments.
It restores twice-yearly indexation of pensions- a measure which on the grounds of basic justice and fair play should not have been changed a year ago. By failing to increase or index basic social welfare benefits the Budget permits a drastic erosion of payments on which many disadvantaged family units are dependent. There has been no increase or indexation of family allowances for three years. Bear in mind that when the Labor Government was in office every year there was an adjustment, according to cost of living increases, in the allowances paid for dependent children of pensioners. There has not been one brass razoo increase in those allowances since this Government came into office. Inflation has progressively eroded the value of family allowances so that in real terms a family with two children is now $3.26 a week worse off than it was in 1975. A family with three children is $4.10 a week worse off. The same picture emerges when the absence of indexation is applied to other key welfare allowances and benefits. The dependent child allowance is down $3.63 a week in real terms. The guardian’s allowance has eroded $2.89 a week for a child under six years and $1.93 for a child over six years. Supplementary assistance is down $2.41; the sheltered employment incentive allowance is down $2.41; the double orphans’ pension is down $5.3 1; and the unemployment benefit for a single person under 18 has slipped a massive $17.38 a week.
– Who doubled the price of everything in two years?
– I have no doubt that the honourable member for Canberra, who interjects and who fervently believes that the best way to get unemployment down is to pay no unemployment benefit to the young, is behind this sort of thinking- starve them into submission; if they go onto the bereavement list they will not be included in the official statistics. In each case the level of benefit has been frozen since 1975 while the cost of living has risen by 48 per cent.
-Order! There are far too many interjections and there is too much noise in the chamber. I ask honourable members to listen to the Leader of the Opposition in silence.
– The Budget also underwrites, as I pointed out earlier, a substantial increase in family health costs and it further downgrades the assistance available to disadvantaged migrant and Aboriginal households. Furthermore, the termination of Labor’s subsidy towards the cost of interest payments on housing mortgages has added an extra $5 a week to the cost of buying a home. The total impact of this Budget is the further degradation of living standards throughout our community. There now can be no doubt that the cumulative impact of this Government ‘s six Budgets in four years is to leave tens of thousands of Australian families living in quiet desperation. That desperation is nowhere more evident than among our young people. In every way, we have the best equipped and best trained generation of young people in our country’s history. They have had every benefit of education, nutrition and health care to become a generation of Australian youth in which all Australians can take intense pride. Yet this, our finest generation, has been riddled by the shot and shell of unemployment. Its ranks have been devastated by the deliberately induced policies of this Government. Through six successive Budgets, the finest flower of Australian youth has been allowed to wither while bewildered families have looked on without knowing why this is happening or why the Government not only allows it to happen but is responsible for it happening.
It is utterly fallacious to argue, as the Government does, that job creation programs are useless. The Government must face up to new patterns of employment and it must accept the responsibility to create new jobs. It must establish viable national job training programs in tandem with an expanded capital works program and a scheme that embraces the concept of the Opposition’s community service corps for young Australians. The 707 Prime Minister has arrived in the chamber. Our scheme would be designed to provide up to 50,000 jobs for young workers at junior award rates in national projects and community works at an estimated cost of $85m to $100m in its first year of operation. Contrast that with the mindless outlays of $ 1 ,000m this year for unemployment benefit and a strict determination on the part of the Government to prevent any job opportunities being developed by government policy. At this stage I would add only that the scheme is part of a comprehensive job creation program that my colleague, the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young), will reveal in the weeks ahead. The program’s broad elements include the direct stimulation of additional jobs through selective capital works, our youth corps scheme, and programs that would encourage employers to re-employ displaced older workers.
Mr Speaker, Australia desperately needs to commit itself to a determined course of economic recovery. International trends make it clear that enfeebling the economy as this Budget will do will only weaken our capacity enormously to withstand the pressures that are now beginning to crowd in. What is needed is confident and optimistic management of our economic affairs to allow Australia not only to confront the difficult problems in the economy but also to plan for a challenging, complex and difficult future. We must be rid of the stifling and debilitating policies of this conservative Government. We must plan for the immediate future and we must do so on the basis of a strategy of sustainable economic expansion. The essential ingredients of such an approach as we see them are: A program of selective capital works to stimulate employment and general economic activity; a subsidy to employers equal to the rate of unemployment benefit for net additions to the work force; our community service corps for young Australians about which I already have spoken; direct and indirect tax cuts to stimulate demand, reduce costs and provide a real increase in living standards in contrast to the erosion of the past three years; and a broad-ranging program of job retraining which we will announce in the near future.
Indicative economic planning must be undertaken as a vital part of any program of recovery to ease the way for change successfully while providing for the security of jobs and of people’s livelihoods. That security must be guaranteed, along with the proper support programs, if the process of change is to be understood and accepted in the work place. Without such programs there will be obvious industrial tensions in the same way as this Government has very stupidly courted confrontation by its ceaseless attacks on the real living standards of some 80 per cent of the Australian community. I make no apology for the fact that in committing ourselves to such a program we would support a larger domestic deficit to help fund it.
Let me remind those antediluvian devotees of Friedmanite thought, who wring their hands and cry doom, of a recent article in the American Economic Review which casts severe doubts about the exactitude monetary policy once promised as a tool of economic management. Let me pose one other question. If this policy works, why has it failed the Government? It has pursued this policy relentlessly for the past three years and intends to plunge headlong into a bear pit in pursuit of it again in this Budget.
We would also be looking to various forms of alternative tax revenue that would more equally spread the tax burden which is now carried so disproportionately by the average wage earner. We are committed to a tax on capital, but commencing at a threshhold of $200,000, to end a situation where, according to the Treasury, Australia is the only Western country, with the exception of Ireland, without one. Similarly, we are committeed to a levy on oil producing companies such as Esso-BHP, a proposal which the Government has adopted this year but in a very marginal, attenuated and declining way. Our resources rental tax on highly profitable mining ventures would replace the coal export levy which the Government is continuing in a modified form.
I also give fair warning that the next Labor Government will wipe out the tax avoidance industry, in all cases retrospectively. We would ensure that the enormous amount of outstanding taxes- which were not paid because the Government would not employ the necessary staff to ensure its collection, although it does not hesitate to hound the unemployed- will be effectively collected. I understand from official sources that outstanding taxes amount to about $ 1,000m. All of these measures would, we estimate, raise a conservatively estimated additional $ 1,500m and would ensure that our tax system is much fairer. Let me make the point so that there will be no misunderstanding- although the hope there would be rather forlorn- on the part of the more honest people in the Government who would hold a meeting in a telephone booth. By introducing these revenue measures which affect a few but very wealthy institutions in the community which are not making their full contribution to revenue sources in the community, we will be able to ease substantially the tax burden, direct and indirect, on Australian families. The great bulk of the community will be better off. We will be taking steps to eliminate the injustice and unfairness which are not only rampant but which are fostered by the indulgence of the Government.
– In the Ministry.
-To be fair, it got rid of the family trust after the use of it became too hot to live on any longer.
-The Leader of the Opposition will continue with his speech and not take notice of interjections.
– There are other issues which the Opposition will be taking up in the months ahead such as, an alternative to the ramshackle health insurance confusion; a response to the unremitting neglect of pensioners’ dependent children; attention to the obvious needs of Aboriginal and ethnic groups; proposals for better security in retirement; and a continuing theme of commitment to the family unit in Australia.
In conclusion, let me stress that it is far from true that there were no alternatives to the choices adopted in this Government’s sixth Budget. The Government has looked at the alternatives and abandoned them. It even professes to be proud of having done so. It will pay for that ideological arrogance. Unfortunately, so will everyone else. We condemn and reject the Budget as a thoroughly unsuitable, unjust economic tool to respond to our immediate and looming longer term problems. We know that we do so with Australian support.
Opposition members applauding-
-Order! The House will come to order! I indicate to honourable members on my left that it is not the practice to clap in this House.
– I think it deserves to be said that the unparliamentary display of a moment or so ago was not completely in honour of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden). The applause was for the fact that he finished. I would be altogether lacking in a sense of the occasion if I did not proceed at once to congratulate the Leader of the Opposition on the speech that he has delivered on behalf of the Opposition this evening. It will take a place in the history of the Parliament as one of the most exceptional speeches ever delivered by the leader of an Opposition and an aspiring Prime Minister. The speech is exceptional for the fact that it was a mixture of abuse, hector, legerdemain, hysteria and, to put it bluntly, plain nonsense. For some 50 minutes, the Leader of the Opposition held himself out as being the sturdy economic constructor. It is just as well that he was not in charge of the building of the Pyramids. I have never listened to a more disgraceful speech from the Leader of the Opposition.
– Tell us something new.
-Order! The honourable member for Port Adelaide will return to his seat and cease interjecting.
– He is talking nonsense.
-I warn the honourable member for Port Adelaide. I will have to discipline him if he insists on interjecting.
– For some strange reason, I quite like the honourable member for Port Adelaide but I think it is high time somebody told him not to get his permanent waves done so tightly.
– If we are going to talk about -
-Order! The honourable member for Port Adelaide will resume his seat. I warn the Minister not to make reflections on the physical attributes of an individual.
– I do not mind.
-The honourable member for Port Adelaide will remain silent.
– It seems an extraordinary thing this evening that the centre piece of the Leader of the Opposition’s complaint relates to promises. I wonder whether the honourable gentleman can sweep his mind back to the years 1972 to 1975. There was a virtual cobblepath of promises, not a graveyard. In his speech this evening, the honourable gentleman has held himself out in a great variety of roles. He has appeared as a selfappointed sexton. He is a mathematician, an historian, and an economist. Labor has its own splendid dignity. The Leader of the Opposition took a swipe at the Government and referred- I thought with a strange measure of erraticism- to what it did in the past. I remind the Leader of the Opposition that at one time he was a policeman. It is no wonder that there is a high rate of unsolved crime in Queensland.
– You were a lawyer.
– Ah, many people like the honourable member are grateful for my services. Whichever role the Leader of the Opposition sought to play this evening, he abandoned facts and treated them casually. He ignored reality. Above all, he ignored all sense of fairness. One could give scores of illustrations to support just that charge. I will take a couple. I take the case of the Leader of the Opposition’s sneering at the Treasurer (Mr Howard) and saying that this is the fifth Budget during the term of two Treasurers. I remind the honourable gentleman that we can recall a Treasurer who did not get to the barrier.
– He was not a thief like your last one.
-Order! The honourable member for Port Adelaide will withdraw.
– I withdraw.
-I warn the honourable member for Port Adelaide that, if he takes advantage of the opportunity to make an allegation of that kind on the basis of a later withdrawal, I will deal with him immediately.
– Then there was the extraordinary argument from the Leader of the Opposition when referring to tax indexation. He said that the Opposition strongly supports the principle of tax indexation. Cannot the honourable gentleman recall October 1975 when he was the Treasurer of this country. It was the Labor Government of that day which opposed tax indexation. Nevertheless, the Leader of the Opposition said that the Opposition supports the principle of tax indexation. I would say that it supports that principle in the same way as the hangman ‘s rope supports the victim.
The honourable gentleman sneered at the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the
Treasurer for adverting with very legitimate reason to the difficulties which stemmed from our participation in the international community. He said that they were blaming the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the Common Market. I would have thought that the observations that the right honourable member and the honourable gentleman have made from time to time were legitimate. I wonder what the Leader of the Opposition would say to the following observation:
I know that it is now considered in some quarters to be mean-spirited, to be buck passing, for an Australian Minister to mention international economic problems or to make international comparisons or to explain any of our economic problems whatsoever in international terms. But those international problems remain a fact of life and, whether we like it or not, they affect our national life.
That observation was made by the former Leader of the Labor Party, now the emeritus member for Werriwa, the honourable E. G. Whitlam. Does the Leader of the Opposition say of his former leader that he was grossly in error? I invite the honourable gentleman in a sense of fairness to look at the observations which were made by the Prime Minister and the Treasurer. The Leader of the Opposition, revealing the sturdy energy policy of the Labor Party, adverted to what it would do to oil companies. I hope that the Australian taxpayer will recall the fact that it was a Labor Government that shut down every oil exploration effort in this country. The only display of drilling that we saw was a display of an artesian bore by the former Leader of the Opposition when he threw some water over a member of this House.
The central feature of the Leader of the Opposition ‘s speech dealt with three pointsunemployment, inflation and taxation. They were very legitimate points. I offer no complaint about them. I will state the Government’s policy with respect to two of these matters without any ambiguity whatsoever.
– Which one?
-I hope that my honourable friend opposite will listen. I refer honourable members to the following words:
On the economic front, inflation is this nation’s most menacing enemy. We aim to curb it. Unless this aim is achieved, the nation’s productive capacity will run down and job opportunities will diminish . . . We are no longer operating in that simple Keynesian world in which some reduction in unemployment could, apparently, always be purchased at the cost of some more inflation. Today, it is inflation itself which is the central policy problem. More inflation simply leads to more unemployment.
Is there any person in this House with two wits to rub together who would disagree with that sentiment?
– It is no wonder that my honourable friend is known as the Lone Ranger. Those sentiments are taken from the Budget Speech delivered by the Leader of the Opposition when he was the Treasurer of this country in 1975 and had the responsibility of high office. He was beckoned inexorably towards embracing the great principles of office and to stating them. Because he was frustrated by those around him; he has our sympathy. Because he failed, he has our condemnation.
– He did nothing of the sort.
– Here it is and I will make some comparisons. In January 1973 there were 135,000 people unemployed. Two years later that figure has increased to 3 1 1 ,000.
Government members- Shame.
– Not only that, I compare it with the situation today. From May 1978 to May 1979, civilian employment under this Government has increased by 64,000 and private employment by 48,000. Under the Labor Government we saw private employment fall by a massive 155,000. There is no Minister and no member on this side of the House who looks on unemployment as some dry, drab, statistical argument, but if the Leader of the Opposition invited a comparison this evening he is entitled to face up to it. On the charge of inflation, when his Government took office in 1972 the inflation rate was 4.5 per cent. In two years it had soared to 17.6 per cent. In 1975 the inflation rate was 14 per cent but in 1978 it fell to 7.9 per cent. The Treasurer (Mr Howard) has been most forthcoming with these figures, unlike the Leader of the Opposition and the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) who is going to figure in the next serial. They have not been forthcoming. The other evening the Treasurer spoke with admirable frankness and any person inside or outside this House who listened to that speech will acknowledge that that was the case. The Treasurer said that there are problems to be faced and that the Government will continue to fight. What has the Leader of the Opposition done? The Leader of the Opposition has assailed the record of this Government. The record of this Government is infinitely better than the record of the Labor Government. We do not say for one moment that we are by any means satisfied. The Treasurer has spoken on behalf of the Government and said that the fight will go on. When the honourable the Leader of the Opposition accuses the Government of economic sinning, I recall the old injunction: Let he who is without sin cast the first stone. I would have thought that injunction would have been understood by the proprietor of a quarry. I accept the Leader of the Opposition’s view that we are no longer living in that simple Keynesian world. The Government cannot go on spending. The records are there to instruct, to counsel and to caution. But what did the Leader of the Opposition say this evening? He said. ‘We propose to increase the domestic deficit’. To what extent? We are not told.
– Make it $3,000m. Jack it up to $4,000m. Get some round figure. That is what the Leader of the Opposition said this evening. The simple, inescapable fact of our existence and the existence of every Western nation is this: Government profligacy leads to economic disturbance. We saw that under the Labor Government. As the Leader of the Opposition mentioned this evening, we saw the extraordinary increase in Commonwealth receipts. It took some 72 years for Commonwealth outlays to reach $ 10 billion. In three years the Labor Party had raised that to $22 billion. Some effort; some achievement; something to be proud of. If the honourable Leader of the Opposition has read the textbooks he has certainly failed to practice what they teach. I suppose it has to be said that he would be the only Treasurer to suffer the mortifying experience of after laying down, in what I would have thought were admirable terms, the relationship between inflation and unemployment, having it repudiated by one of his followers in this House. How many others who were silent share the views of the honourable gentleman who interjected? How many of those who sit on the front bench with the Leader of the Opposition share them? Look at his Government’s outlays or expenditure. In its first year of office it went up by 20 per cent. The next year it was kicked up by 46 per cent. Compare that with the record of this Government. In its first year, 1976-77, expenditure was down to 10.4 per cent. In 1978-79 it was down to 8 per cent. The Treasurer again has been quite forthcoming and has said that we are by no means satisfied; the Government is determined to wrestle with this problem and to conquer the problem.
Let me take another yardstick- the deficit as a proportion of the gross domestic product. The Leader of the Opposition is going to increase the deficit. He said that quite boldly and quite plainly, and I hope that every taxpayer and family in this country understand the consequences of raising the deficit. In his first year of office the deficit went up 5 per cent. In the 1978-79 year under this Government it went down to 3.4 per cent. For the 1979-80 year, the Treasurer said that it will be the lowest in six years. It is all very fine for honourable gentlemen opposite to say that this is no accomplishment to acknowledge. The simple fact of the matter is that the manner in which this economy is slowly, gradually, but nevertheless definitely edging back to stability -
Opposition members- Ha, ha!
– Honourable members may laugh. I ask the honourable gentlemen opposite who sneer and laugh: What is going to be the effect of increasing the deficit? I say to the Leader of the Opposition: You are the Caxton of our times. Crank up the printing presses, debase the currency and weaken the poor; impoverish those who cannot fend for themselves. The Leader of the Opposition states great principles when he is in office, but when he suffers the frustration of being in Opposition and sees the chance to exploit an opportunity, those great principles are discarded.
One of the great complaints of the Leader of the Opposition this evening referred to taxation. I have been astonished to hear some of the argument- that is to dignify it- that has been raised in recent days in relation to taxation. I want to put these simple points to the House. On 1 December income tax will go down by 2.57 per cent. Does anybody contest that? No. I am delighted to hear that nobody contests it. The silence I thought was quite clear on that point. I want to refer my old friend the member for Port Adelaide to his halcyon days when he was shearing. If he had to go back to shearing today and was shearing wethers at the rate of 130 a day -
– I would shear more than that.
– I am talking about shearing them properly. The honourable member’s weekly earnings running up to the week before St Andrew’s day, 30 November, would be $443. On that he would pay $ 1 48 tax. If he moved from that shed to the next one and started work on Monday, 3 December, and worked as strenuously as ever and shore the same number of sheep, he would pay $ 138 tax; that is, $ 10 less. Does the honourable gentleman have difficulty understanding that? If he does then all I can say is that I feel very, very sorry for him. If he smartened himself up and increased the rate from 130 to 140 sheep a day he would find that something was quite different.
I would like to say a word or two about that splendid fraternal gathering in Adelaide rejoicing in the name of the Australian Labor Party Federal Conference where the spirit of goodwill was all over the place-a bit here and a bit there. I only hope that people will understand the consequences and resolutions of that Conference. It would not be enough to say that it was a case of Christian killeth Christian in a narrow dusty room. The fact of the matter is that it was more likely a matter of the Balkan states of old. They declared war on themselves but they also declared war on the Australian people. We heard something this evening from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden). He told us what the Labor Party proposes to do- the socialist strategy- the interventionist role by government, prices and incomes policy- with the understanding and co-operation of the trade union movement. I get Mr Bob Hawke on that. I only hopethis is the last thing I say- that the people of Australia will understand the consequences of the Adelaide Conference resolutions of the Labor Party. Let me say on behalf of the Government that this Government is determined to win the fight against inflation. It is a fight that we will not give up. It is a fight that we will continue and it is a fight in which we will never say that we are finished. We will fight, we will fight and we will fight again.
-The 1979-80 Australian Budget is the monetarist gospel according to Friedman, and marks a sharp rejection of the era of Keynesian economics which has dominated government thinking in Australia since 1942. It is the beginning of a new era in economic thinking, the New Stone Age, with a social philosophy in which the unemployed are left to the mercy of market forces, something straight from the pages of Ayn Rand. In the Budget speech presented by the Treasurer (Mr Howard) last week precisely 10 sentences are devoted to unemployment or employment and I direct to the House’s attention the first two. On page 47 of Hansard, the Treasurer says:
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 1 973-74, there was a rise in jobs in manufacturing industry.
That is a perfect example of how to deceive with statistics. Let us look at the reality. I think the coded meaning of the Treasurer’s speech should be rewritten as follows:
The absolute numbers of people in full or part time employment rose due to the rapid increase in proportion of the population of work force age. Proportionately the numbers in employment continued to fall. In absolute terms there were slightly more jobs in manufacturing as compared with last year. Relatively the long decline in this sector since 196S continues.
On page 56 of the Treasurer’s speech the contradiction is, perhaps inadvertently, certainly admitted. In the seventh of his 10 sentences on employment the Treasurer says:
Against this background, we expect a moderate growth in job opportunities during the year.
In his tenth sentence he says:
We do not expect unemployment to improve in the year ahead.
In the face of it there is a manifest contradiction between the two. It is not really a contradiction. What he means is that there is an increase in employment in absolute figures because the population of work force age is going up rapidly, although it will soon decline. However, the actual proportion of people in employment has fallen. There was one thing in the words of the pinchbeck Marlborough whom we heard a few moments ago with which I agreed and that was that we ought to be looking at unemployment in a wider context. In order to take up the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) on that I ask for leave to incorporate in Hansard a table showing unemployment as a percentage of the civilian labour force in the countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
The table read as follows-
-For the benefit of those honourable members who can hardly wait to get their copy of Hansard tomorrow I would just point out a few relevant pieces from the table. Let us compare the figures for unemployment in the United States of America and Australia as a percentage of the civilian labour force in 1974 and 1975, which were the Whitlam years, with those figures in 1978 and in January 1979, under the Fraser regime. In the United States in 1974, the figure was 5.6 per cent; in Australia, 2. 1 per cent. What is it we have all been told about the horrors of the unemployment situation under the Whitlam Government? In 1974, the United States position was nearly three times more serious. In 1975 the United States unemployment figure was 8.5 per cent; the Australian figure was 4.4 per cent- only half. I invite honourable members to listen to the 1978 figure- and this is under the great monetarist Government, this great Fried manite Government that we now have in front of us. In 1 978 the United States figures for civilian unemployment was six per cent. In Australia it was 6.3 per cent. For the first time we were ahead of the United Staes figure on unemployment. In January 1979 the United States figure was 5.8 per cent; in Australia the figure was 7 per cent. This is how these great economic masterminds progress. They progress backwards.
Let me raise one or two points in connection with what the Minister for Defence said. I do not resile from the interjection that I made earlier. I do not believe- although Treasury certainly fervently believes it, and it certainly believed it in 1975- that inflation is the decisive factor that determines job levels, or if it does, it does so only indirectly. The question which will be more and more significant is so important that I would really like it put in Hansard in capital letters. It is a question that we have all got to face up to. The question is this: If the gap between the cost of labour and the cost of technology is growing wider, why would industry and commerce choose to create jobs when they can increase profit by decreasing labour costs and using the new technology? Often honourable members are confused because Ministers tell them that if only labour would withdraw its demands for increased wages suddenly the unemployment situation would be resolved. I believe this to be quite deceptive. There might be something in it if the relativity between the cost of labour and the cost of technology was in the order of 100 as to 105, or even 95 as to 105.
In fact in many areas of service employment the gap between the cost of labour and the cost of technology is of the order of 25, 26, 27 to 1. In the case of the girls who might be displaced by word processors, the order of cost discrepancy is 27 to 1, and even if we abolished pay roll tax, and the tax deductibility for the cost of leasing the word processors, that only reduces the discrepancy from 27 to 1 to 25 to 1. In other words, the reduction in the differential is so insignificant that it is hard to see why it would have any marked effect. A couple of other significant statements which have been made in the last week illustrate the context in which the Budget was prepared. One of the most interesting statements actually occurred in the statement of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) reporting on the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting at Lusaka. It is to be found on page 579 in last Thursday’s Hansard. I want to read one paragraph because it illustrates quite clearly what is in the mind of the Prime Minister and his advisers in rejecting Keynesian approaches to economics. The paragraph reads:
Governments conditioned to believing that Keynesian policies were the answer to all problems stubbornly continued to pursue those policies, despite the onset of inflation, encouraged by electorates increasingly accustomed to believing that governments could provide for all needs. The extraordinary growth of the period came to be taken for granted. Increasingly, unrealistic demands were made on world economies, particularly by trade union movements which came to exercise unprecedented power, and it became fashionable to decry growth and to place impediments in its path.
In other words, it is a standard Friedmanite monetarist line- a complete rejection of Keynesianism. The other quotation was a part of an extraordinary answer by the Treasurer to a question asked by the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr West). As reported at page 429 of Hansard ofl! August, the Treasurer said: the policy which the Labor Party adopted at the Adelaide conference, if implemented, will scare away foreign investment from this country and is so counterproductive to its concern about the level of unemployment in Australia. Part of the foreign investment policy adopted by the Labor Party at its conference in Adelaide was to establish within the Foreign Investment Review Board something that could be described as nothing short of a unit to spy on multinational corporations that might want to establish their operations in Australia. If the honourable member for Cunningham is really worried about the level of unemployment in Australia, he will urge his party to adopt a more realistic attitude towards both domestic and overseas investment in this country.
I do not know whether the Treasurer is deceiving himself- he may actually believe it- or whether he is trying to deceive the House, but we must observe that multinationals have a strikingly low ratio of employment relative to investment. Take the mining sector, for example. This is enormously important to Australia. No one would deny that. Nobody would claim that it is a very significant employer relative to total numbers in the work force. Foreign investors are not philanthropists. They prefer a high profit with a low labour cost to a low profit with high labour cost. One can understand their point of view, but it is deceptive to think that, if hundreds of millions of dollars are invested, they will necessarily provide enormous numbers of jobs. This money may provide for very heavy capital investment, including labour displacing equipment. The suggestion that overseas investment will solve unemployment is based on a complete delusion. I think honourable members should recognise this.
I believe that the situation with regard to employment is potentially far worse than is currently recognised in Australia. I agree with the Treasury on one thing and that is that Keynesianism is in many ways played out. One of the greatest dogmas of Keynes is now starting to become obsolete. That is the dogma that there is necessarily a direct relationship between output and employment. One can illustrate it on a graph by pointing out that there was an historic relationship between output and employment. Output tended to rise at a faster rate than employment. Increasingly a greater divergence has developed. But we now live in a completely different era of production. This is especially true in the period since 1971, the period since the microchip revolution, where there is a complete break in relationship between the level of output which is able to rise exponentially while the employment and other significant inputs are able to fall exponentially. This has never happened in economic history before. I regret that my graph cannot be incorporated in Hansard.
Let me illustrate something by propounding what perhaps might be described as ‘Jones’ law’, which states that in the supply of products or general economic services on a massive scale, employment does not necessarily have a direct relationship to demand. In some cases employment appears to be in inverse proportion to demand, that is, that as demand goes up, relative demand for employment goes down. Let me give the House some examples of this. The international throughput of Shell Royal Dutch Petroleum has increased by 370 per cent since 1958 while its work force has fallen from 250,000 to 160,000. Supermarkets may have the same labour force as three or four family-run mixed businesses but the turnover might be more than 10 times as great. Japan, with large production runs and high technology, produces an average of 94 cars per worker per annum. However, Toyota, the largest producer, has a far lower labour content than Mazda. Australia produces an average of between 8.3 and 9.9 cars per worker per annum. If Australia increased its production of cars on such a scale as would enable it to compete on the world market, it seems unlikely that we would retain a ratio of one worker for every 10 cars built.
Sales of petrol in Australia doubled between 1 970 and 1 977, but employment of garage pump attendants fell by 40 per cent. Mexican agriculture is doubling its output at a time when the agricultural work force is being dispossessed at a rate of 3,000 every day. Banking transactions in Australia are up while employment prospects are down. Telecom Australia expects to double its throughput in the next 10 years without increasing its work force. The State Electricity Commission of Victoria is steadily producing far more power while its employment is steadily falling. The explosives and petrochemical industries in Australia, which really have their headquarters in my electorate, have increased output by about 60 per cent in the last decade while employment has fallen due to natural wastage. Due to containerisation, throughput on the waterfront has increased rapidly while the labour force has fallen. The Americans are not starving and their demand for food increases each year, but American agriculture employs only 3 per cent of the work force. Nine thousand steelworkers in Japan produce as much steel as 100,000 workers in Britain. How much more would Britain have to produce to increase its steel work force?
IBM will soon overtake General Motors- if it has not already done so- as the world’s greatest manufacturing enterprise, but the labour content of its product is far lower. ITT now has the greatest turnover of any corporation in the world but with a notably low labour content. The total United States volume of printed material has risen 300 per cent since 1950, but numbers employed in the printing trade have fallen quite dramatically. We cannot assume that because demand is up in any particular area there will necessarily be an increase in related employment. It may be quite the reverse.
Let me give one illustration of the new technology. The NCR standard mechanical cash register had 370 moving parts. Its electronic equivalent, which is cheaper but more efficient, has only 17 moving parts, less than 5 per cent. Honourable members can calculate the impact on labour demand for themselves. Work force does not need to be as high as it was before.
I believe we are passing through a period of profound discontinuity with the past. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard pages 21 to 25 inclusive of the section called ‘Continuity or discontinuity with the past?’ from my submission ‘Implications of a Post Industrial or Post Service Revolution on the Nature of Work’ which I presented to the Myers committee on technological change in Australia.
The submission read as follows-
Continuity or Discontinuity with the Past?
Congenital optimists are inclined to assert that technological change in the 1970s does not differ significantly in its impact from any other period since the Industrial Revolution began.
They believe that the best guide to what will happen in the future is to examine the past and to act on the assumption that there will be basic continuity in employment and that the community will react without difficulty to relatively gradual changes in technology, employment and life-style.
Many optimists are confident that capitalism is essentially self-regulatory and assert an updated variant of Say’s Lawthat there are, in effect, no ‘ limits to growth ‘ in employment, increased supply of goods creates more demand, and that increased demand (in its turn) creates more supply. This view was discredited in the Great Depression by J. M. Keynes but it has been exhumed for the present debate on employment (such as it is).
Keynes is also relied on by the optimists for his view that employment levels are essentially determined by demand. While this is broadly true, there are some important exceptions, as will be described below.
There are seven basic differences between Europe’s situation during the Industrial Revolution and the problems of finding alternative employment in the Post Industrial or Post Service Revolution.
The Industrial Revolution was marked by:
An enormous population increase (UK 12 million in 1801, 22 million in 1851), especially in cities, with longer life expectancy and more live births. Emigration from the UK actually disguises the full extent’ of increase.
An enormous increase in energy and resource usecoal, iron and water.
The development of new industries (e.g. railways) which employed huge resources and manpower.
Exploitation of cheap raw materials, e.g., from India and Africa.
Major areas of development such as provision of utilities- electricity, gas, water, sewerage, and in urban housing, transport, schools and hospitals. A- ‘scarcity’ economy with supply falling behind demand.
Job creation through mechanisation- i.e., the machines needed operators.
Labour cheaper than technology.
The Post-Industrial Revolution is marked by:
Small population increases in economically advanced countries and with life expectancy stable or (as in US and Australia) falling slightly.
Growing anxiety about the rate of resource depletion- as illustrated by the Club of Rome ‘s Limits to Growth report which pointed out that the US with 6 per cent of the world ‘s population consumes 40 per cent of the world ‘s annual output of raw materials.
The development of sophisticated industries which arc increasingly based on the concept of miniaturisation.
An end to the era of cheap raw materials from the Third World.
Major developments (utilities, schools, hospitals) largely achieved- a ‘post-scarcity’ economy: more emphasis on the consumption of services than goods.
Job elimination through automation. Computerisation is cheaper and more reliable than human labour for many tasks and the development of the microprocessor makes computer costs dramatically lower.
Labour dearer than technology.
I adopt the words of the Nobel Prizewinning economist Professor Wassily Leontief (Issues of the Coming Years. Economic Impact No. 24 1978/4):
If one were asked to single out the force that has contributed more than any other to the phenomenal economic growth of the last 200 years, one would answer, technological change. It was, however, the newly invented power loom that deprived thousands of English weavers of their jobs about 160 years ago. Today the American Telephone and Telegraph Company is installing automatic switching equipment that will permit it to handle the anticipated increase in the volume of long-distance calls and reduce the number of long-distance operators.
The fact that machines do displace labour cannot be questioned. But many economic theorists (Karl Marx was not one of them! ) hastened to point out that at the time of the Luddite rebellions that this displacement did not mean that the total demand for labour and total employment had to diminish. An equal or even larger number of new jobs, these theorists claimed, would necessarily be created in the machine-building and subsidiary industries. But is this so?
The answer to that question is of crucial importance for the understanding of the economic, social and political problems faced by labour in times of accelerated technological advance. That answer is ‘No’. New machines, new technology introduced because it cuts production costs can indeed reduce the total demand for labour, that is, the total number of jobs available in all sectors of the economy taken together at any given price of labour- in other words at any given wage rate.
To use a somewhat crass and even shocking analogy, new machines can reduce the total demand for human labour for the same reason and essentially through the same process that, a generation ago, led to the replacement of draft horses by trucks, tractors, and automobiles. To argue that workers displaced by machines should necessarily be able to find work building these machines makes no more sense than to expect the horses displaced by mechanical vehicles to have been employed directly or indirectly, in various branches of the expanding automotive industry.’
When asked for details of likely job creation in the future, advocates of the ‘Nothing much is happening and we don’t need to think about it’ position are inclined to say, ‘It is unreasonable to ask. If you had asked economists 200 years ago what the new jobs or products would be, they would not have been able to answer . . . and yet new jobs were found.’ This is simply not true and reveals a staggering ignorance of economic history. The great changes in technology for the period 1780-1914 were thought about over a long period- for example the application of steam to textile manufacturing, the replacement of wood by iron and steel, the replacement of the horse by mechanical vehicles, flying machines, the new medical techniques, modern weaponry, mechanised agriculture, photography, refrigeration, using electricity for light and heating, had all been written about for generations, if not centuries. They didn’t just spring up like mushrooms. H. G. Wells in the 1890s had a very clear idea of what men would be working on in the late 20th Century. In 1900 Henry Adams discussed the use of atomic power. It is sheer intellectual laziness to say, ‘We don ‘t have to identify areas of job creation. Nobody did in the past. ‘
The new jobs and the new technology, after all, are designed to fulfil human needs- and it is doubtful if there are any absolutely new needs: new products are essentially refinements of our need for shelter, food, heat, entertainment, education, transport, etc. It is often argued, naively, that new products/job opportunities will come out of the blue. Why? They never have. Even space travel is a concept that dates from the 1 8th Century: computers date from 1 834: flying machines from Leonardo’s time: precision engineering from the 1 7th Century. Is it suggested that human beings will develop an absolutely new function which will require an as-yet-undreamt-of technology? When modern writers such as Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke write of future industry, they see it as capital intensive and with very few workers.
From Kittyhawk (1903) to men on the Moon (1969) is only 66 years. From the first electronic computer (1946) to the micro-chip ( 1 97 1 ) is only 25 years. The gap between discovery and final form is closing. By the time the Committee of Inquiry completes its report it may be partly outdated.
Trying to understand the contemporary problems is difficult- impossible if we are trying to deal with a war of rapid movement by fighting from fixed positions in the trenches.
-I thank the House. I urge the Government, in the few minutes remaining, to invite Simon Nora, the InspectorGeneral of Finances in France and the co-author of the recent report ‘L’informatisation de la Societe’ to visit Australia to discuss the impact of technology on employment, especially in the services which comprise nearly 70 per cent of the Australian work force. Nora is regarded as the greatest expert in Europe on this subject. I had the benefit of long discussions with Simon Nora in Paris in June this year and wish to quote a few things which he said. M. Nora made these points:
The greatest employment problem in a Post Industrial/Post Service era is the necessity of retaining two quite distinct sectors:
productive and profitable industries which can satisfy home needs and provide goods for export.
‘convivial’ industries (to adopt the language of Ivan Illich) which are intended to promote the quality of life, but do not produce tangible goods or services which are capable of being exported or sold at a profit, for example, education, health and welfare services.
The real problem is ideological- that two economic systems are co-existing within the one society but with completely different aims, organisation and funding. One is hierarchical, centralised and capitalist and the other is (or ought to be) egalitarian, decentralised and non-commercial.
Society should aim not to have two sectors but an infinity of separate cases- that is, that society should recognise the interdependence of its sectors and avoid the false dichotomy of ‘ asserting that only things which generate profit are worthwhile, and everything else is wasteful.
However, any attempts to produce a more co-operative, convivial society based on sharing will come to nothing if society is competing for scarce resources. The Nora Report has no hope of being adopted if people are queuing up at petrol stations.
I have come reluctantly to agree with Nora’s assertion that essentially work sharing and job creation are exactly the same thing. It is up to every society to recognise that it can adopt its own mix’ of labour plus labour displacing technology- provided that it is prepared to pay the consequential price. The Fraser Government has chosen the ‘mix’ of reducing total labour cost and increasing the input of labour-displacing technology to provide for internationally competitive exports, but the cost is a social one. It is to be paid first by the unemployed and their families. Ultimately the cost will be met by society as a whole. It will be paid for in terms of alienation, crime and, perhaps, urban terrorism. Increased capital investment will no doubt lead to higher productivity per head, but it will not necessarily provide an increased number of jobs.
The greatest areas of likely job losses are in the service industries where labour-saving methods at low cost can decimate high cost employment. I believe that Australia should plan for these changes. They cannot be introduced overnight. They may not even be able to be introduced in three years by a Hayden government. We need to look forward to ( 1 ) a national superannuation scheme, (2) maximum eligibility for retirements benefits after a 35-year working life time, (3) more equitable educational absorption so that working class children have the same access to tertiary education and professional employment as do middle class children, (4) more flexible attitudes to work, leisure and time use and, (5) recognition of paid domestic work as a major area of job creation.
-The Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) dealt adequately with the 50 minutes of personal abuse which came from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden). Hansard will no doubt deal adequately with the curious contribution of the honourable member for Lalor (Mr Barry Jones). Knocking is becoming a national pastime. Here we have a Budget which has concentrated its efforts in preventing overseas inflation from destroying our economy- unlike the efforts of our Labor predecessors at a similar stage in the world five years ago- while at the same time ensuring that our most disadvantaged, our pensioners, are to get a better deal. It is extraordinary that in speeches on the Budget from members on the other side, so far we have heard nothing whatsoever about the pensioners of this nation except a gratuitiously insulting comment made in passing by the Leader of the Opposition.
The fact is, I remind the House, that halfyearly indexation has been restored. This is a major advantage to pensioners. It once againlet us use the phrase- takes politics out of pensions. Let us recognise that this is a vital, automatic and magnificent benefit. I am certain that the pensioners of this nation are well aware of it despite the fact that it seems to have received so little publicity. There is no doubt that many of us on this side of the House have worked very hard for this restoration. We are very grateful to the Government for having recognised the merit of our case. As a result of this measure, total expenditure for age pension is expected to rise by over 9 per cent to $3,530m in this Budget. That is almost 40 per cent of the total welfare budget. The welfare budget has taken almost 40c in the dollar of total Government expenditure.
In line with the Government’s policy to widen eligibility for pension entitlements, income limits for fringe benefits have been lifted by 2 1 per cent to $40 a week for a single pensioner and to $68 a week for a married pensioner couple. Who would know of this looking at the reports on the
Budget? The pensioner health benefit cards give age and other pensioners access to bulk billing and free pharmaceutical benefits, and they also generally give access to a range of other fringe benefits. There will be a 33 per cent increase in expenditure on senior citizen centres- which rises from $3m to $4m. In order that all projects approved can be completed under the aged persons accommodation arrangements, $62. 5m will be provided in 1979-80; that is a $10m increase. Early approval has been given for funding for additional high priority projects to the value of this $10m in order that the necessary forward planning and development of these projects can be completed in the current financial year.
Let us recognise that fringe benefits are worth something like $10 a week to a pensioner. We have not seen any great editorials and we have not heard any great play in the media about this arrangement. All we have heard is knocking. Yet under these arrangements an extra 25,000 pensioners will now qualify while hundreds of thousands who would otherwise have lost their fringe benefit cards under our automatic arrangements, as inflation pushed up their pensions will no longer suffer that loss. They are now being protected by this measure which has received so little publicity and support, and certainly has not been mentioned by honourable members opposite. There are 56,000 supporting parents and 96,000 dependants who will in fact receive pensioner benefit cards as a result of extending the eligibility for it. The Federal Government is clearly providing benefits in terms of health and telephone services to the holders of these cards. I hope that State and local governments will follow the Federal Government’s lead in providing that kind of assistance.
Over the last 10 years in Australia expenditure on social security and welfare has increased almost sevenfold from $1.3 billion in 1969-70 to $5 billion in 1975-76, which was the last year of the Labor Government, to an estimated $8.9 billion in 1979-80. I mention these figures to establish quite clearly the nonsense of the attack on the Government as being a government that does not care. Even if adjustments are made for expenditure on family allowances, unemployment and sickness benefits, the increased eligibility nevertheless means that expenditure on social security and welfare as a proportion of the Commonwealth Budget has increased from 18 per cent in 1975-76, Labor’s last Budget, to 21 per cent in the current Budget. Is that the budget of a government that does not care? Over the past 10 years the number of people in receipt of social security pensions and benefits has more than doubled from about one million in 1969 to over two million this year. At the same time the number of people in the labour force has increased by about only 24 per cent.
The levels of pensions and benefits have also increased substantially over the last decade and much of it under this Government which allegedly does not to care. The standard rate of pension has risen from $14 a week in December 1968 to $53.20 in December 1978 and will increase again in November of this year to $57.90 a week. The increase of 280 per cent in pensions during the 10 years to last December compares with an increase of only 144 per cent in the consumer price index. At the time of the last pension increase the rate of the pension represented a record 24 per cent of average weekly earnings, far above the level that ever existed under the Labor Government. This record will no doubt be reached again when the $4.70 a week pension rise is paid in November of this year. The matters I have mentioned are just part of the positive side of the Budget that we do not hear about.
Let us deal with the area of the Budget that is most under attack- taxes. There is no doubt that all governments seem to need to raise taxes and all taxpayers quite properly object. The decision that people must take after listening to this debate is which political party is more likely to hold down or even cut taxes. The present coalition Government is clearly, if I can use the phrase, less worse than the Opposition. By 1 December this year it not only will be less worse but also will be demonstrably far better. It will be far better of the two with taxes once again cut in real terms after accounting for inflation, just as they were cut last year. The Opposition and the media have given this Government no credit whatsoever for cutting taxes last year in real terms. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table outlining the revenue receipts and Budget outlays adjusted for constant values prepared for me by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Library Statistical Service.
The document read as follows-
– I thank the House. The evidence in those statistics shows that it is quite true that there will be a gross IS per cent rise or about 4.5 per cent in real terms after accounting for inflation in pay-as-you-earn tax collections this year. I point out to the House that this follows an absolute fall of one per cent in PA YE tax collections, that is, workers ‘ tax, last year. Let us recognise that this year unfortunately- we cannot duck from the fact- there will be a 4.5 per cent real rise in PA YE tax collections. That means a rise of $300m in constant 1974-75 dollars. It looks a big rise but in fact it is only one quarter of the real rise experienced during only one of the Labor Government’s years in office. The real rise in PA YE taxes- workers’ taxes- that is taking place this year is only one quarter of the real rise that took place under the government of which the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) was a leading Cabinet Minister. Yet the honourable member has the hypocrisy to come into this House and protest at the rate of increase in workers’ taxes. The facts are that in 1973-74 to 1974-75- one year only of Labor’s rule- net real PA YE tax collections rose by $1.1 billion. Not even over four years of this Government has there been such a rise. The total rise over four years has been about $ 1 billion. Over four years we could not achieve and certainly have not wanted to achieve the sort of rise in real PA YE taxes- workers’ taxes- that were thrust upon the workers of this nation by a government which purported to represent them. The Labor Party stabbed the workers of this nation in the hip pocket.
If honourable members look at total tax collections- let us face it, there have been changes in the incidence of taxes such as indirect taxes- they will find that under Labor, as is clear from the statistics incorporated in Hansard, in one year alone they rose by $1.3 billion. In the last three years of this Government we have not been able to manage a rise of even $1 billion. How curious it is then to hear tonight the Leader of the Opposition say that ‘we on this side of the
House recognise the inherent unfairness of tax by stealth through inflation’. What a massive indictment of his own Government of which he was a senior Minister. What a disgraceful suggestion. Is he now saying that he rejects totally the policies of the Government of which he was a member? He certainly did not do so at the time.
While our revenue increases are minimal compared with what took place under the previous Labor Government we must recognise what has happened on the other side of the ledger. We are continually criticised for not having reduced government spending. The parties on this side of the House are opposed to the principle of big government and clearly have worked very strongly against moving in that direction. Government spending as a proportion of gross domestic product reached a peak of 30.3 per cent under Labor. The pre-Whitlam average level was about 24 per cent. That meant a massive transfer of resources from the private sector to the public sector. It was a matter of faith; a matter of principle. It was a policy which brought about a huge reduction in employment in the private sector. When resources are transferred from the private to the public sector, employment is transferred out of the private sector. Even though the size of the Public Service increased dramatically this certainly did not take up all the slack. There is no doubt that the present Government is reducing the proportion of gross domestic product represented by government spending in order to provide the private sector with the scope for an increase in its employment level. In fact, the private sector has accepted that challenge. It is employing more and more people. It is contributing far more now, in terms of investment and activity, to the development and growth of this nation. As a result of the Government’s deliberate policies, the proportion of gross domestic product represented by government spending has fallen from the 30.3 per cent peak under Labor to only 28.1 per cent in the year just finished. This year it should fall to around 27.8 per cent- a real and positive contribution by this Government to the principle of small government, not big government.
I refer next to the matter of tax indexation which has received such immense publicity. Let us recognise the fact that when tax indexation was introduced the Opposition and many experts, particularly those experts in the financial Press, condemned it, rejected it or ignored it. So I turn to what the Opposition, which now says it supports the principle of tax indexation, said when we introduced tax indexation. The former Labor Treasurer, Mr Crean, said:
That is an interesting criticism of indexation. The honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis), the economic spokesman for the Opposition, said- and I think this is brilliant; if anyone can work it out, congratulations to them:
The point is that- tax indexation is not a tax cut. Tax indexation simply means that the Government no longer increases the proportion of a person’s income that it takes in tax.
So over time people will be worse off because tax indexation is only a tax cut if their income does not go up. If their income goes up in line with the tax indexation formula and inflation it will not be a tax cut.
That is a clear endorsement of the principle of I do not know what from the economic spokesman for the Labor Party. What did the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) have to say? He said:
But what the Prime Minister proposes is not tax indexation: It is not a tax cut . . .
That is another endorsement. It is interesting that having pretended that tax indexation did not exist when it was introduced, all of a sudden it existed only too well when it is withdrawn, and I hope withdrawn temporarily. How cynical, how nonsensical are the members of the Opposition who, having denied the existence of indexation as a tax cut, now pretend that it is meaningful when it has been withdrawn. They were either mischievous and misleading of this House and this nation when they adopted that approach in 1976 or they are mischievous and misleading now. I suggest that probably on both occasions their integrity needs close examination.
Let us look at publications such as the Australian Financial Review. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a letter I wrote to the Australian Financial Review on this matter.
-Is leave granted?
-I have not sighted the letter.
– I showed it to the honourable member for Blaxland and he agreed to its incorporation.
– I would like to see it before I agree.
– I make it available to the honourable member but I think it is unfair to take up my time in this way. It appeared in the Australian Financial Review this morning. I thought the honourable member would read that newspaper.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The letter read as follows-
Parliament House Canberra, ACT 2600 Tel. 72 1211 23 August 1979
The Editor, The Australian Financial Review’, Parliament House, Canberra, ACT 2600
The Budget, which received ‘a clean bill of health’ in Wednesday’ s Financial Review suddenly became ‘a reflection on Mr Fraser’s credibility in a most damaging way’ on Thursday.
This petulant turnaround indicates that you were either fooled and wrong on Wednesday or foolish and wrong on Thursday.
When tax indexation was first introduced some years ago, by this Government, your editorial comments formed part of the chorus of cynical rejection of its benefits. You then referred to ‘the rather questionable allure of tax indexation ‘.
It is curious that now in its (temporary) abandonment you, and the Labor Party have found the merit in tax indexation you could not discover on its introduction.
It is even more curious that you accuse the Government, which has constantly and unsuccessfully stressed the significance of tax indexation, of dishonesty by not restating its merits on its withdrawal.
There has been no equivocation about that withdrawal; the Treasurer’s second sentence in the section on personal income tax on page 1 8 of the Budget Speech said ‘Tax indexation will not be restored for 1 979-80 ‘.
The only people who would be ‘deceived’ by that statement are those (including some editorial writers) who had managed to convince themselves of their own propaganda that tax indexation was a hoax anyway and that its withdrawal was inconsequential.
One of the great benefits emerging from this affair is that at last the people of Australia, including editorial writers in financial newspapers, now know how important tax indexation is to them.
When it is restored perhaps your editorial writers will give the Government the credit they withheld when it was first introduced.
On the question of ‘honesty’ in Mr Howard’s tax cuts, there can be no question that removal of the tax levy from December 1 will mean an increase in the average wage earners take home pay of $4.45 per week and that this will involve a reduction in the average standard tax rate from 33.5 percent in 1978-79 to 33.07 per cent in 1979-80.
But if tax payers get a wage rise they will naturally pay more tax because the proportion of their income outside the tax free zone will increase.
For example a taxable income of $200 per week in June 1979 would include $75.00 per week tax free and $125.00 taxable at 33.5 per cent; an $18.00 per week rise by June 1 980 will leave the tax free zone still at $75.00 while $ 1 43.00 will be taxable at 33.07 per cent.
In other words there will be a lower tax rate on a larger amount of income- resulting in an increased total tax bill.
This, as Mr Howard says, is no revolutionary concept, except to the Labor Party which financed its enormous increases in Government spending by refusing to reduce the rate as incomes went up.
The only dishonesty involved in the present debate lies in the refusal of so many people to admit that the Federal Government has cut at least some of the excesses of the progressive tax scale.
Yours faithfully, Michael Baume, M.P. Member for Macarthur
-In 1976 the Australian Financial Review dismissed the concept of tax indexation by talking about the illusory benefits of tax indexation. It suddenly discovered its benefits in 1979, when it was temporarily withdrawn. However, what about Mr Eric Risstrom? I have a great deal of respect for anyone who fights for the rights of taxpayers in an open, fair and reasonable way. I regret to say that I do not believe that Mr Risstrom has acted in a fair way. I am very disappointed that he chose to criticise this Government after the tax changes were announced in this Budget rather than when he was given notice in May this year that this Government would either restore tax indexation or remove the levy. He was put on notice, as were the people of Australia, that the Government would make a decision either way; it would not do both. He made no attempt whatsoever on behalf of the taxpayers of Australia to influence this Government. He made no approach to the Treasurer (Mr Howard) or to the Treasury. He did not approach in any way whatsoever the Government ‘s treasury committee or the Government’s taxation sub-committee of which I am the Secretary. He made no attempt to influence this Government to take a decision which he believed right. Yet immediately after the Government took the decision which he now believes to be wrong, he asked for all sorts of changes to be made. He has lambasted this Government. I genuinely question why Mr Risstrom should have so energetically criticised this Government after the event when he was so monstrously indolent in advising it before the event. Let us remind ourselves of what Mr Risstrom said in June 1976 when tax indexation was first raised by this Government. In his bulletin he said:
What is disconcerting is that the major task of fixing personal tax rates is no longer the role of Parliament.
This is under tax indexation. He continued:
There needs to be no forum, no political discussion. Statisticians produce CPI figures; they are applied to a formula . . .
That is the basis of the concept of tax indexation. It is a basis to which Mr Risstrom objected in 1976; yet it is a principle that Mr Risstrom has suddenly found attractive. I am gravely concerned about that style of behaviour. I believe that Mr Risstrom had a duty to the taxpayers of Australia to make a submission along the lines of the one he has made after the event, recognising that he was sufficiently confident that what happened would happen to prepare a computer program on the basis of the removal of the levy as happened. He prepared a program expecting it to happen so that after the event he could say how terrible it was. Why did not Mr Risstrom, if he genuinely wanted to improve the lot. of taxpayers, come to the Government before the event, as many other people did? Many people made submissions. I made submissions to the Treasurer and I am glad to say that in some areas they were accepted. If Mr Risstrom had the interests of his members and the taxpayers at heart, why did he not come to the Treasurer and press this case?
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I hope that the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Baume) will recognise the act of grace on our part in granting leave, as it flows so very slowly from that side of the House. I start by asking a simple question: What on earth does he mean by ‘small government’ and ‘big government’? When he goes home tonight and turns up on the tap, does he not want water to come out of it? When he drives home tonight, does he not want to drive along a road with a surface that does not smash the springs of the car? When he talks about pensioners, does he not want them to get the pension about which he was talking? It is just another piece of intellectual nonsense. It is a total aberration in a sensible debate. He talks about taxes, as everybody else seems to do. What on earth has happened to everybody? Frankly, I do not mind paying taxes if I get for them the kind of society in which I want to live; if there is a good hospital to go to when I am ill, if the fire brigade turns up when my house catches fire, if my children and grandchildren have good schools and universities to attend when they grow up, if the country is properly defended and properly represented, and all the rest of it. It is the direction of expenditure which we would challenge. It is time we challenged this nonsense that we can run a modern, complicated society without people paying their fair share. I think that is a question for debate and discussion.
At this moment we are discussing the financial arrangements for one of the world’s most wealthy countries, man for man and woman for woman, a country in which the citizens have behind them, I would think, a greater economic potential than in any other, and that does not exclude America, Canada or anywhere else. I hope to expand that proposition during the course of the Estimates debates and other debates. That is what we are on about. It seems to me that the task is not to turn everything in the Budget into a set of percentages or to relate it to the situation in 1972 to 1975, or such things, but to disperse the miasma of mythology which seems to have grown up in the whole economic debate, in which theories are being advanced without analysis, which seems to prevent people from having sensible discussions about them, and in which we cannot even open a debate on some issues. I suggest that honourable members try to discuss interest rates and ask why the Government cannot bring interest rates down if the Government put them up and so on. I recognise all the technical difficulties. I have been around here long enough to see them all.
As I see this debate and particularly the speeches from the Treasurer (Mr Howard), honourable members opposite and so many other people who take part, the whole thing is clouded by theories which do not hold water when they are given close analysis. In the short time that we have tonight we cannot do much analysis; we can only pose the problems and hope that the community will start to turn its mind to them. However, I suggest to the Treasurer, just before I really get under way, that the Budget be recast in its presentation. There is a total misconception about it. For instance, I think this Budget has a total Commonwealth running expense of $22,000m. The total Commonwealth revenue is, I think, $23,759m. That, of course, on a running account represents a surplus of $ 1,700m, or thereabouts. Of course there are grants to the States and there are capital works and all the rest of it- totalling $6,500m- with the result that we are talking about a deficit. I wish the etymologists, or whoever design words, could get to work and think out new words so that we could take the clouds away and start to analyse it, because that is not the way the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd, the Bank of New South Wales Ltd, the Utah Development Co. or the rest of the big companies bring down accounts. It is not even the way many of the State governments do it. They suddenly end up with a surplus situation out of money granted by the Commonwealth, while the Commonwealth spends its time trying to reduce the expenditure to get rid of some mythical subject called the deficit and bring it into balancewhatever use that will be.
The honourable member for Macarthur asked a few questions about social security and matters of that nature. This is not a Budget for the unemployed, the homeless, the home seekers, the Aboriginal people, the young through education or anything else, the sick or the old. I think we believe that it is more appropriate to discuss those matters in detail in the Estimates debate. .This Budget is divisive; it does not tackle the question of unemployment. It is not a question of the unemployment benefits, we pay; it is a question of how we are going to tackle one of the most divisive and despairing factors of Australian society. I think unemployment is the most socially destructive force we face. We do not have to be very bright to see that. There has been a rising crime rate and there are tens of thousands of young people who see no future.
I speak as one who left school in 1932 and did not get a job until the end of 1935. During that period there was always a chance that things would get better. We lived in a world of cyclical change. That was the way it had always been. We were pretty sure that it would get better. I agree with my friend the honourable member for Lalor (Mr Barry Jones) that we now live in a totally different society. There is no resemblance between 1979 and even 1969, and certainly not between 1979 and 1939. The increase in productivity per person and the total social change brought about by that bring a totally new concept of society which we have not faced up to. None of us know what the answers are. We have been brought up to believe that unless one works one is not a full and whole person. That is the way we all feel. We despair about young people who cannot get work and we despair if our own children are faced with great difficulties. We were brought up that way. We are not accustomed to having a leisured class. None of us at the present moment want to belong to a leisure class. For the foreseeable future, full employment has to be a major objective. If we have to recast our economy, change working hours, do something different with the monetary system and change the way government faces its budgeting, then we have to do it. I believe that that is more important than some of the mythology that has been cast around. The Minister for Defence (Mr Killen), who is always long on rhetoric and short on reason in these matters, made all sorts of statements. He said that it was no longer a simple Keynesian world. I do not think it ever was. The last person who said that it was simple was probably John Maynard Keynes himself.
The Minister for Defence talked about Government profligacy leading to some sort of economic disaster. That is one of the cliches of the last six or seven years which do not mean anything. Then he talked about inflation. He said that it was the cause of unemployment. How long has he lived? He is a bit younger than I am. He is obviously a slow learner. I have in front of me the indices of cost of living rises, the retail prive index based on 1901. In 1930 the figure was 162. In 1931 it went down to 145. It went down gradually to 139. It sneaked back to 141 five or six years later. It was 1941 before it got back to what it had been in 1930. During all of that period nearly 30 per cent of the work force was unemployed. There is no security in no inflation. There are some other matters we have to manage. This applies to many other things. Is it not possible for us to start to look more hopefully at the future and to demand more creative and constructive thinking from the Government in these matters?
What advantages does Australia have? Firstly, as I said, it has an enormous potential backing every citizen. My friend from Lalor quoted productivity figures. We are probably the world’s most efficient producers of primary products. Australia produces more wool per head of population than any other country. In fact, I think Australia produces half of the world’s fine wool. Australia is one of the few countries that has ever produced more than a tonne of wheat per head of population. This productivity is reflected in the production of sugar, meat and most fruits. We have only one or two competitors. For instance, in meat, there is New Zealand. Australia has a remarkably productive economy. In mining, our production of coal, bauxite and iron ore is greater than that of almost all other countries, making most other producers look as if they are doing the work of pygmies.
Our manufacturing industry is under constant attack. You and I, Mr Deputy Speaker, and my friend from Lalor and my friend the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) represent major manufacturing areas of Australia. Most of the things that are said about our manufacturing industry being inefficient, featherbedded and unproductive are sheer nonsense. They are said by people who never go inside a factory. They are just not true. Of course in some ways we cannot compete with the people of South East Asia. If we pay wages at something like 10 times the level paid to people who work in the textile factories of South East Asia that can be used as an economic argument to show that we are not as efficient. But on the basis of man hours and woman hours our productivity is a match for anybody. At present between 50 and 70 per cent of our manufacturing capacity is employed. Yet our industry is able to supply the Australian community fully.
There is no future in hoping for an increase in retail sales to take up Australian manufacturing capacity. How can it? Who is going to buy three or four motor cars just to make the community’s machinery work better? Who is going to buy twice as much food or three times as many suits? Nobody is. As a personal observation, some five or six years ago while Labor was in government I could see that Australian manufacturing industry had started to outstrip Australia’s capacity to consume or Australia’s needs in many matters. It is true that great numbers of Australians do not have all they need. But we are not doing anything in this Budget to put them into the market place. The pensioners will not go into the supermarkets to buy more food as a result of this Budget. The old person who has retired and who would like to do up his house will not go into the hardware shop to order more paint or engage a carpenter to work as a result of this Budget.
If we look at other factors in Australian society we see that our services on the whole are generally efficient. I have been overseas a few times on behalf of this country, Mr Deputy Speaker, as you have, well representing us, as you have always done. When one stays at a motel or hotel in another country one can be confident that the wages being paid to the staff there are much less then those being paid to employees in hotels and motels in Australia. But outside the major city areas of Australia accommodation is cheaper. We get better service from more highly paid workers. There is no better demonstration of this fact about Australian life than an examination of Qantas Airways Ltd. Some time in the last 12 months Qantas produced figures to show the relationship of its salaries and wages to the level of its total expenses and those of all its competitors. It pays the highest wages and it earns the biggest profits. On the whole I am convinced it also supplies the best service. The suit I am wearing is Australian made. I think that it cost $136. My view is that it is well made and that it will wear as well as anything else. Of course it has a very suitable figure upon which to display itself. That is as good as one will get anywhere.
-Both of them-the figure and the suit. Would one do any better in Hong Kong, where the people are being paid half and onethird the wages? I have my doubts. That is the potential we have to work with in Australia and which this Government ignores. It is time we brought three different economic indicators into use to evaluate the economy. For too long we have been looking at the share market, retail trade, profits and capital inflow as the indicators of economic health. I suggest that we start to look at the economy according to these criteria: How close are we to full employment, what is the level of real wages- what one can get for one’s wages- and how many people live below the poverty line? We are struck down with a whole host of myths. I hear the Prime Minister talking about inflation as if it were the only word in the English language. I hear honourable members opposite attacking wage levels as the cause of all our trouble. I hear them weeping about the low productivity of the Australian worker. I hear them talking about Government expenditure as if it were something vicious, evil and wicked, until the day they get their salaries paid into their bank accounts, I suppose.
In the five minutes of my speech that remain I want to deal with several of these points. I shall deal firstly in wages and profits. The Australian worker, as I assume most honourable members would agree, given decent working conditions and encouragement, produces as well as anybody else- and in my view better than most. What is the score? In the last Budget Speech- I actually copied it down- near the beginning the Treasurer said that profits are rising and that is necessary to maintain or consolidate our progress. On the last page of his Speech he said that one of the most vital things is wage restraint. So the Government wants increased profits and wage restraint. What is the score? Just take two Australian companies which command great respect and I think are of reasonable competence. I think most honourable members would have heard of the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd. I have here a copy of BHP News Review. Under the heading Profit hike ‘-will somebody write to BHP to tell it to stop using that sort of Americanism and to use the reasonable Australian words that we use when dealing with these matters- ‘good omen for economy’ an article shows that profit was $785m before FAU- I understand that means fixed assets utilisation- interest and tax. Take off the interest- I will be generous to that extentand it leaves something over $700m. BHP has 60,000 employees. If that number is divided into something over $700m it works out at about $12,000. BHP makes $12,000 profit per employee per annum. That is more than average weekly earnings. Yet BHP tries to chisel the workers out of their tea money. It fights, rows and argues about every wage rise.
– Come on, Gordon! What about tax? It is the biggest company in Australia.
– All right. I will refer to another suffering company which has had a strike on its hands, the Bank of New South Wales. It made a profit of $188m before tax. If it pays wages it does not pay tax on it. It has 20,000 employees. That means it made $9,000 profit per employee per year. Its employees have been on strike because of their inadequate returns. Anyone can go through all the figures if he likes. I have done a good deal of work on this subject. Telecom Australia is another great master of profit taking. We have to start changing our system of values because the old one is no longer working. The Australian worker is not silly. When he sees those figures in the financial pages and when he hears the Treasurer talking about putting wages down and putting profits up he will not wear it. So we have to change our set of values.
I do not believe that the rising level of wages is the cause of rising unemployment. Some of the lowest wage countries of Europe, Ireland, Spain, Portugal and Greece- have the lowest wages and the highest unemployment. These things do not add up. The reason I am speaking like this tonight is in the hope that honourable members, those people listening and even the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Burr) in the few months in which he will remain a member of this place- he is like me; we will go forth togethermight sit down and start analysing these figures to ascertain whether all those arguments produced from honourable members opposite have any proper values. What has happened to real wages? In 1975, average weekly earnings could purchase 1,427 litres of petrol. Now average earnings can purchase only 773 litres. In 1975, six weeks’ pay could buy an air ticket to London and back. Now it costs nine or ten weeks’ pay. I have set out many examples and I suggest that honourable members examine them. We have to look at real wages, at the poverty line and the total work picture in this community to make judgment on the economy.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Inflation is the No. 1 fear of the people who live in the Murray electorate. They are mainly self-employed people, such as farmers or independent business people, pensioners and the wage earners who depend on employment in the food processing factories which must remain internationally cost competitive to maintain employment. The Government’s record of economic management, although not achieving the performance it would like, has succeeded in reducing Australia’s annual increase in the rate of inflation from above the average of our major competitors to below that average, and in spite of a possible 10 per cent inflation rate this year that reduction will continue because countries such as the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and New Zealand are suffering from inflation at the 14 per cent level and above.
The Government is to be congratulated on being the first Federal Government since Federation to attack tax avoidance genuinely. The Australian Labor Party is now trying to join the Government on this issue, but Labor’s record in government proves otherwise. The statements and promises of Labor spokesmen are directed at the natural desire of the people to pay a smaller proportion of their income in tax. Labor should be careful with its statements on reducing this or that level of direct or indirect tax when it is obvious that in so doing there will be insufficient revenue to meet this Government’s level of expenditure let alone the alternative government’s considerably higher level of expenditure. People should always remember that, leaving aside all this verbiage from the Labor Party, if the Hayden tax scale were operating today the average family would be paying $16 a week more in tax.
I referred earlier to country people. I do believe that country people generally have some justification for not being completely happy with this Budget. Inflation is their No. 1 problem and fear. As I said earlier, the Government is generally doing better than most countries and far better than Labor in government would be able to do. Farmers should always acknowledge that most of the significant decisions which are made concerning their industries are made outside the Budget context. I refer to the wool reserve price increase; the dairy underwriting increase; the new wheat stabilisation scheme; the canned fruits stabilisation scheme which is to be introduced this session- the first such scheme in the history of the industry; the increased domestic price for sugar earlier this year; and the tremendous advance in rural credit through the Primary Industry Bank of Australia. Farmers and country people generally also should remember that a government which has abolished death duties, improved income averaging and changed to a simple taxation system in respect of pensioners cannot keep on doing these sorts of things.
Country people generally should remember that apart from the Budget announcements the allocation of funds for country roads has increased considerably; the grants for drainage and salinity projects under the national water resources program are increasing- these would accelerate at a greater rate if the State governments did their homework and were ready to go ahead with the projects; each year the Federal Government’s decentralisation program is increasing; and there are the tax sharing arrangements in respect of local government authorities.
– And the isolated patients’ scheme.
– There have been a number of other improvements including the one suggested by the honourable member for Dawson. A policy of the Government which is important for country people is to provide a stable economic and trading situation which means stability against inflation and, where necessary and desirable, the introduction of stabilisation schemes. In rural industries in which there is a reduction in income due to bad weather conditions or international trading arrangements, I believe this Government has had a very good record over the past few years of showing that it is willing to help, for example, with the beef industry, the dairy industry and the fruit industry. Many country people overlook these wider government policy initiatives when they are assessing the effects of the Budget.
But even if one accepts the points that I have made, I believe there is still cause for genuine criticism in country areas where the cost disadvantage in goods and services is extremely well documented. For example, in the Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme allowances, no distinction is made between those students who are forced to live away from home because of distance- that is, those who live in provincial or country centres- and those who choose to live away from home, in other words, metropolitan students. This is grossly unfair to country students and their parents. It adds to the disadvantage which country children already suffer in primary and secondary education, compared with city children, and it makes a mockery of the claim of equal opportunity in education.
The second area of neglect concerns telephone charges. I acknowledge the progress made by the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Staley) and Telecom Australia itself with the introduction of such things as the country line installation policy, off-peak subscriber trunk dialling and trunk calls, business-hour calls to distances up to 85 kilometres and from 1 May next the local call concessions. However, the major cost problem for country people, that of business-hour calls to the nearest capital city, that is, the destination of what we call the critical percentage of STD and trunk calls, still exists. I believe that it is essential that the Government and Telecom should have as their next policy initiative a 20 per cent or 30 per cent reduction in charges for this type of STD or trunk businesshour calls.
– It is holding back decentralisation.
-The honourable member for Mallee has made a good point. But the major complaint of country people is the cost of fuel, and justifiably so. They say that the Government’s import parity fuel policy has added a most significant indirect tax to the Government’s income armoury which has allowed the Government to reduce the deficit and to hand out some well deserved improvements in the welfare sector. But this tax falls disproportionately on country people. They have no alternative transport arrangements. Much of the fuel is used in producing essential income for the nation from the sale of agricultural products and the development of minerals. They have to travel greater distances to visit the nearest community or to see a medical specialist, for example. They also have the problem of the delivery of essential goods and services to and from seaports and capital cities which increases fuel consumption and adds to their costs.
At this stage I want to quote from the policy speech of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) delivered on 21 November 1977. The supplementary statement under the heading Rural’, relating to petrol prices and the subsidising of freight costs outside the metropolitan area on motor spirit, aviation fuel, distillate and power kerosene, is as follows:
The scheme will bring country prices down initially to less than one cent per litre (4 cents per gallon) above city prices and to less than half a cent per litre (2 cents per gallon) in the life of the new Parliament.
I acknowledge that the Government was quick to introduce the first half of this scheme but I am disappointed that the second stage of the promise for a fuel price of no greater than two cents per gallon above city prices was not redeemed in this Budget. It would, if introduced, assist all country people, whether towns people, farm people, people in business or people in private capacities. Just as importantly, it would indicate to country people that their complaint has been acknowledged by the Government. The completion of this election promise is obviously the first priority in providing some justice for country people. There is also the problem of cost disadvantage that Australian farmers, particularly grain producers, suffer when compared with their major competitors, that is, the United States and Canada. Due to government policybasically, I do not criticise that policy- they pay more for distillate. I believe that at some stage we have to recognise this fact.
We all have lists of items on which we would like to see government expenditure. Usually we do not bother to balance those lists by indicating how these expenditure items would be financed. I have already mentioned in my list what I consider to be certain basic rural requirements. Others include increased family allowanceseither an increased spouse’s allowance or a form of family taxation to assist single income families- reduced excise on low alcohol beer, a fourth year for the aged person’s capital grants scheme and a scheme to assist those disadvantaged by the pharmaceutical benefits scheme. When listing these points it would be wrong for me as chairman of the Government Members Health and Welfare Committee not to congratulate the responsible Ministers and the Cabinet on such measures as the reintroduction of twiceyearly indexation of pensions, increases in permissible earnings to retain eligibility of pensioner health benefit cards, the extension of the eligibility for pensioner health benefit cards and other fringe benefits to supporting parents, the increased capital allocations for the aged persons and senior citizens’ programs, the extension of service pensions to all allied ex-service personnel and the accelerated animal quarantine program. There are many other good points in these and other sectors of ministerial responsibility.
I make a special plea for several groups of people who are becoming increasingly disadvantaged by the operation of the pharmaceutical benefits scheme. These include low income earners with chronic illnesses and single income families with a number of dependent children. All these people have to pay $2.75 for every script. Those people who are classified as disadvantaged pay no fee for medical consultations.
But, when it comes to filling the prescription resulting from that consultation, they have to pay the patient contribution. The Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) has acknowledged this weakness in his statement in connection with the Budget. The extension in the Budget of eligibility for pensioner health benefit cards to a great many more people will help. But I believe that the disadvantaged category for medical consultations should be extended to pharmaceutical benefit arrangements also and a special provision should be made for the chronically ill. I support the Budget.
Debate (on motion by Mr Kerin) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr Fife) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I wish to raise a matter which is of very great concern to many supporters of democracy throughout Australia. I refer to the infiltration of the Liberal Party of Australia by a man claimed by many to be a pro-Nazi, anti- Jewish propagandist and labelled by reputable authorities in Europe as a war criminal. I refer to the position of Mr Lyenko Urbanchich in the New South Wales division of the Liberal Party. It will be known to most members of the House that after about two years of vacillation, argument and investigation, Liberal Party authorities in New South Wales finally suspended the membership of this man last week pending further investigation.
Perhaps this investigation is what the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) had in mind earlier today when he made the curious claim that Mr Urbanchich should be regarded as innocent until proved guilty. Why was he suspended from the Liberal Party if he was not regarded as guilty? Does the Minister see the Liberal Party in New South Wales taking over this role from his Department? Why did the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) so obviously run for cover from this issue when it was raised in Question Time today? He was asked directly to give his side of a conversation with Mr Urbanchich which Mr Urbanchich had given publicly to the great discredit of the Prime Minister. He refused even to offer an answer and waved in his faithful minion, the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs (Mr Viner) who represents the Attorney-General (Senator Durack). With that, the Government tried to bury the issue even deeper with a spurious claim of sub judice.
I refer the House to the huge volume of documentary and verbal evidence on the public record indicating that Lyenko Urbanchich was a friend and a tool of Adolf Hitler and that, in pursuit of the same views that cast him in that role, he had moved into the forum of Liberal Party politics. A reputable Yugoslav language newspaper in this country has said:
What Goebbels was in Fascist Germany, Lyenko Urbanchich, chairman of the Ethnic Council of the Liberal Party of New South Wales, is now in the Liberal Party . . . What has been happening for some time in the Liberal Party of New South Wales has not only caused public concern but also presents an open attack on the democratic tradition of Australia, deceiving the members of the Party and the nation, and we are conscience bound to inform our readers of the activities of the Ethnic Council of the Liberal Party of New South Wales.
That was the view of the newspaper Nase Novine written by its editor Mr Samardjic.
By January of this year the unmasking of Lyenko Urbanchich reached international proportions. His case was pursued by Simon Wiesenthal, the world’s best known Nazi hunter. Mr Wiesenthal is a director of the Centre for the Documentation of War Crimes in Vienna. In an article published in London, he made the following charges against Urbanchich all firmly based in evidence held on record: First, that he was a collaborator of what was described as a quisling newspaper in Slovenia at the time of German and Italian occupation; secondly, that he formed a battalion of Slovenian militia to assist the troops of Nazi Germany; thirdly, that formations of this sort were responsible for the deportation and deaths of at least 90 per cent of the Jewish people of Slovenia and for the prosecution and gaoling of Slovenian patriots; and, finally, that these, formations in 1944 and again in 1945 swore direct allegiance to Hitler and the Third Reich.
Could there be more serious charges against a person who has been purporting to represent ethnic interests in one of the major political parties of this country and who has managed to install himself as head of one of only three autonomous units within the Liberal Party? On the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s radio program Broadband last night, former allied intelligence officers from three countries, academic specialists, journalists who have investigated the case and Mr Weisenthal himself all produced the evidence to back these accusations. What is the Liberal Party doing to check on what has been happening within its ranks because of these influences? For that matter, what is this Government doing to find out why these matters have surfaced only now? Does the bland indifference of the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs today represent the attitude of this Government? This man, at the end of the war, was one of the leading collaborators with the Nazis in Slovenia. He was the editor of their officially backed newspaper. We are entitled to know how he came to escape the screening of Australian immigration.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I had occasion recently to draw to the notice of the City of Doncaster and Templestowe the fact that the privilege of receiving a share of personal income tax from the Federal Government carried with it the responsibility of spending the money wisely and refraining from lavish spending projects. It was necessary to tell the council of that municipality that it was lavish in the extreme to offer $40,000 per annum, in addition to a motor car and other privileges, to the chief administrator of the city, the position that we know is in substance that of a town clerk- $40,000 a year and upwards for a town clerk.
Local government now receives a share of personal income tax to contribute to the performance of its functions. It should be remembered that those funds are taxpayers’ funds and not merely ratepayers’ funds. Although the funds are made available to local government to spend on its general purposes, it follows from the fact that the funds are general taxpayers’ funds that local government owes an obligation to taxpayers as a whole to spend their money wisely and sensibly. Not only is that the case but local government should- I do not say that it can be compelledhave regard to the basic economic problems facing the country. It must be plain to any local councillor that one of the economic problems facing this country today is the inflationary effect of extravagant wage and salary increases. Extravagant and above award salaries are not the only causes of inflation, but who would deny that they are a major cause? If local government’s own wage and salary structure becomes a pace setter that can only permeate through whole areas of employment. To use this case as an example, soon every town clerk will want the top entitlement established by the precedent. Eventually, comparisons are made and every one in a comparable position demands the levels set by the pacemaker.
The whole evil of this type of wage pacesetting is that it becomes inbuilt into the cost structure of a community. It gives yet another boost to inflation. Let me illustrate just what sort of pace is being set here. The award salary in Victoria for a town clerk or senior administrator ranges from about $17,000 to about $29,000 per annum. But here is the City of Doncaster and Templestowe offering in excess of $10,000 a year above the maximum award salary. It then has the gall to say in its advertisement that any potential applicant need not be deterred from applying for the position merely because he feels he could command a salary higher than $40,000 a year. It also makes a spurious comparison with private enterprise and says that a high salary will have to be offered to attract the best person. The city forgets, as people often forget, that in private enterprise salaries and rewards are determined by profits, results and success. Local government, like all government, does not have to make a profit to determine what salaries are paid. It holds taxpayers funds on trust to provide a service for the people and do to so as economically as possible.
Let us look briefly at just a few comparisons. The following officials receive a salary of less than $40,000 a year: the Chairman of the Albury-Wodonga Development Corporation; the Chairman of the Australian Dairy Industry Corporation; the Chairman of the Prices Justification Tribunal; the Chairman of the Trade Practices Commission; the Managing Director of the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation, and the Public Service Arbitrator. Would anyone suggest that these office holders are not well remunerated? Would anyone suggest that they perform a less significant or less substantial role in the community than the town clerk of a municipality? The Federal Government cannot control local government, nor should it; but it can justly draw attention to the need for local government to use restraint, to act responsibly and to refrain from offering and paying extravagant salaries which can only take Australia further down the road of not paying its way.
– During Question Time today, important questions were raised about Mr Lyenko Urbanchich, the President of the Ethnic Council of the Liberal Party of New South Wales. This followed documentation produced in the New South Wales Parliament last week that alleged that Mr Urbanchich, a man of Slovenian origin, had committed war crimes during World War II. These allegations were raised again during the
Australian Broadcasting Commission program Broadband last night. During this program Mr Simon Wiesenthal of the War Crimes Documentation Centre in Vienna said that after the war, Lyenko Urbanchich was put on the list of war criminals under the number Z360 by the Yugoslav Government. Ten pages of extracts of material allegedly written by Urbanchich were attached to his file. These related to a series of attacks, purported to be made by Urbanchich against Jewish people, in a Slovenian newspaper. Mr Wiesenthal, who is a respected world authority on war crimes and war criminals -
– And the author of a very fine book- The Murderers Among Us.
-Compared this material to the grossly anti-semitic writings and broadcasts of Goebbels. This matter was raised at Question Time this morning when the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) said that Mr Urbanchich was now an Australian citizen. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) was asked a question about a personal conversation that Urbanchich alleged he had had with the Prime Minister the clear import of which had materially affected the Government’s attitude towards the Croatian embassy. The only person who is able to inform the House of the accuracy or otherwise of that conversation is the Prime Minister, but he refused to make any statement to the House. That being so, I suppose one is entitled to accept Urbanchich ‘s statement that he did in fact have some influence in this matter.
I do not want to go into the convolutions of politics in Yugoslavia during the war; I do not have the time. The Broadband program and its transcript, for those who are interested in this matter, details that to some extent. What is important is Urbanchich ‘s extremely elevated status in the Liberal Party and how it is that that Party in New South Wales has never questioned his status. I understand that Urbanchich is the president of one of the three divisions of the New South Wales Liberal Party, the ethnic division. I understand that the other divisions are the young liberals and the women’s division. His position is remarkable when we consider that his rapid rise to power has taken place so recently. Apparently he joined the Liberal Party only in 1966, although he was closely identified with extreme right-wing politics in Sydney. In fact he was closely identified with the scandalous campaign directed at Mr St John when he was pre-selected and subsequently won the seat of Warringah.
How the Liberal Party chooses its office bearers is a matter for it, but it must be a matter of deep concern to every democrat in the Liberal Party- there are some- and certainly to all democrats in Australia when, bearing in mind the allegations against Mr Urbanchich, Mr Urbanchich stated:
The Liberal Party is the nearest to my philosophy. As a matter of fact, I don’t see anything in the Liberal Party that would be against my grain as I interpret it … I think I’m a true Liberal, I’m a true conservative and I’m a true Australian.
He then went on to express the hope, which I suppose is the hope that looms large in all members of the Liberal Party, that one day he might even be a member of parliament. Again it would be a matter for the Liberal Party as to how it would welcome that particular gentleman.
When confronted with some of these allegations Mr Urbanchich had no doubt that what he exemplified were the principles of the great majority of New South Wales liberals. On Broadband he stated:
The people who are branded as this -
That is, similar in their views to Mr Urbanchich- are representing 80 per cent of the opinion, at least 80 per cent of the opinion of the Liberal Party. Even the 10 or 20 per cent they are not against us, some of them, and then you have a bit of a trendy element, yes.
Apart from the trendy element, what this gentleman is saying, and it is not disputed by any Liberal member of this House- the question was evaded by the Prime Minister today- is that he represents the philosophy, the principles and the attitudes of over 80 per cent of the Liberal Party. The House is entitled to know whether it is a fact that this gentleman, who has had very serious allegations made against him, influenced the Prime Minister. The House is entitled to know and not have the Prime Minister run for cover.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– It is my rather painful duty tonight to bring to the attention of the House one or two of the resolutions that were passed at the Adelaide Conference of the Australian Labor Party in July of this year. I feel rather saddened to think that I have to bring these matters before the House, particularly as that Conference was presided over by the Deputy Premier of Tasmania, Mr Neil Batt. The matter that particularly concerns me concerns, and I am quite certain, my honourable friend from Denison (Mr Hodgman) and all the people of Tasmania, is the mechanism to change the Constitution. What the Labor Party proposes is that constitutional changes will be effected by a simple majority of voters. I put it to the House that that is a scandalous proposal and one that I would term as a complete sell-out of Tasmania and of all of the smaller States of Australia. What makes it even more disgraceful is that that meeting was presided over by the Deputy Premier of Tasmania.
-Not Mr Batt?
-Yes, Mr Batt. I am surprised that the honourable member even knows the gentleman’s name. The meeting was presided over by the Deputy Premier of Tasmania and I think that he and his Party should be absolutely disgusted with themselves that they should propose such a complete sell-out of Tasmania and of all the smaller States. Its proposal would allow any moves to change the Constitution to be dominated by the larger and more populace States of Victoria and New South Wales. It completely sells out the interests of the smaller States. Tasmania. Western Australia and South Australia would be completely dominated by the larger voting majorities -
– I take a point of order. I wanted to inquire from the honourable member for Wilmot whether this Neil Batt is the Neil Batt who was re-elected as Deputy Premier after the Adelaide Conference.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! There is no point of order.
– It is obvious from the interjection by the honourable member for Lalor that he does not even know who is the Federal President of the ALP. Perhaps he should inform himself. What should be remembered also is that any matters that are passed by resolution at an ALP Conference are completely binding on the parliamentary members of the ALP. If honourable gentlemen on the opposite side of the House, were for some reason unbeknown to me, given the opportunity of coming back into government, this is a resolution that they would putthat constitutional changes be effected by a simple majority of voters, which would leave the people of Tasmania with absolutely no protection under the Constitution. It is a disgraceful proposition. I think the people of Tasmania and Australia should be aware of how the people on the other side of the House intend to rape this country. Not only do they intend to sell Tasmania out in that disgraceful fashion; they also intend to hamstring the Senate completely, the only other protection upon which the people of Tasmania and the smaller States can rely because of the small representation that they have in this place. What do they intend to do to the Senate to hamstring that House completely?
They intend, as they say, to reform the Senate by taking steps to ensure that the Senate has no power to reject, defer or otherwise block money Bills. It also seeks to provide that the Senate may delay for up to 6 months, but not reject, any other proposed law. In other words, it intends to make the Senate nothing more than a rubber stamp for matters that might be proposed by this House. What the ALP is hoping to do is to render completely useless the protection provided by the Senate to the smaller States. This will enable it to set up a dictatorial hierarchy in this House and abolish all protection given to the smaller States and the people throughout Australia by the Constitution and the Senate. It is rather painful for me tonight to bring these matters to the attention of the House, but I feel I have a duty to the people of Tasmania and to the people of Australia to do so.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The honourable member’s time nas expired.
-At Question Time this morning we heard the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen) refer to the infiltration of extreme right wing elements in the community into the Liberal Party by way of Lyenko Urbanchich. We also heard a reference to it tonight by the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) and the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Holding). I have some documents in front of me. The first is a copy of the Diplomatic and Consular Missions Act 1978, which prevents the improper use of diplomatic and consular signs and titles; in other words, to close the so-called Croatian embassy. This was assented to on 24 August 1978. I also have a copy of the Spremnost Hrvatski tjednik, which is a Croatian newspaper. It says that it is the first Croatian newspaper in Australia. It is the issue of 6 March 1979 and the dateline of the report to which I wish to refer is:
SYDNEY- Friday, 2nd March, 1979.
I ask honourable members to please note the date. This is after this Government had already abolished, in effect, or ordered the disbandment, of the Croatian embassy. The report reads:
Mr M. Despoja Charge d ‘Affairs Croatian Embassy Guest Speaker at Macquarie Federal Electorate Conference.
An official welcoming party from the Macquarie Federal Conference was at Mascot Airport to greet Mr Despoja and Miss Sidic upon their arrival from Canberra.
It goes on to say:
The others -
These are the others who welcomed him- were Mr Geoffrey Ferrow, a member of the Federal Council of the Liberal Party of Australia, Mr Thom Beram and Mr Drago Tafra, both members of the Macquarie Conference.
The report continues:
Whilst about one hundred other passengers and friends looked on, Mr Despoja, Standing next to a Croatian flag, thanked Alderman Saunders and the Liberal Party for the invitation which he said ‘was the most important the Embassy has yet received ‘.
I have also an article from the Penrith Press of 1 4 March 1979, after the Government had ordered the closure of this embassy. It reads:
In spite of almost continuous rain almost 1000 people turned out last Sunday for the barbecue the Liberal Pany held in honour of guest speaker, Mr Mario Despoja, ‘Charge D ‘affairs ‘ at the Croatian Embassy.
The barbecue, which was held at the property of Mr Ron Dunbier -
He was a former Liberal State member for Nepean -
– He opposed Whitlam once.
– He also opposed Gough Whitlam once, and of course I think he was out of the Labor Party; we got rid of him - was attended by leading Liberals in the area including the Federal member for Macquarie, Mr Reg Gillard who welcomed Mr Despoja,
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The honourable member for Chifley will resume his seat. I would remind honourable members on my left that it makes it extremely difficult for Hansard to record the proceedings when the honourable member for Chifley turns towards the microphone in order to speak above interjections. I would suggest that honourable members given some thought to the honourable member for Chifley.
-The report goes on to say:
Mr Despoja said that the weekend was an historic occasion.
It was the first time that he had been invited to speak at a meeting of any political party in his official capacity as Charge D ‘Affairs’ at the ‘Croatian Embassy’.
We then go on to the final document. It is the Blacktown Weekly News of 14 March 1979. It gives a full account of the barbecue. What a wonderful time was had by all. It says:
Liberal Member for Macquarie Mr Reg Gillard was another guest of honour.
Former Mayor of Penrith Mrs Cammack presided during the speeches and presented Mr Despoja with a book as a memento of his visit.
Mrs Cammack was a Liberal candidate for Penrith against Minister Ron Muloch of the State Labor Government of New South Wales on two occasions, and is a former Liberal Mayor of Penrith. This is ample proof of the infiltration of this Government and the Liberal Party by these extreme right wing elements in the community, and is a very good reason why the Government has to start looking at itself. If this is allowed to continue this country has a lot of trouble in front of it
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I will pass over the foolish remarks made by the honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage) to a more serious matter which relates to the allegations made in the House during Question Time this morning by a number of people and in a very unfortunate statement by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden). I cannot find out exactly what was said until tomorrow morning when I read Hansard. I wish to reply to the speeches made by the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) and the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Holding) this evening in the adjournment debate. Those members of the House who know my political views will know that I share very few, if any, of those of Mr Lyenko Urbanchich. I am not prepared to sit in this House and have the forms of the House misused to condemn a man without trial. I am not prepared to sit here in silence and let that happen.
– On a point of order: How is he going to be tried and by whom? He is not guilty of any crime- only moral crime.
-The honourable member for Robertson will resume his seat.
– The honourable member for Robertson knows jolly well and has very good reason to know why I would be concerned about somebody having a fair trial if indeed a trial is to occur. I would be the very first to be concerned about the kind of charges that are made. I do not think there is anybody in this House who can challenge me on that. People are innocent until proven guilty. All I know at this stage is that various allegations have been made under privilege in the New South Wales Parliament. Various allegations have been apparently made.
– Simon Wiesenthal did not speak under parliamentary privilege.
– I am sorry. I am treating this matter very seriously. I am not making a nonsense of it. On a radio program allegations were made, all of which at the moment are untested by any version of justice as we know it in this country. They relate to the alleged activities of somebody at least 34 years ago, somebody who has been in this country since 1950 and who has been well known to members opposite since 1966 at the very least. All I am asking for, on behalf of all the Jews who were persecuted, hounded and killed without trial during the war, is the kind of justice that would have prevented that sort of thing from happening.
– What court will he be tried in?
-That is a very good question and something I am concerned about. What I do beseech this House is that if something of importance is to be discussed it not be raised here in the way that this matter was, by continuous questions at Question Time and under privilege during the adjournment debate. I beseech the House to bear in mind that this individual, like every other and like the 6 million Jews who were killed in the war, has the same rights as anybody else. That is all I ask. I hold no brief for the man, other than that he be given the same rights as anybody else.
– I can understand the concern of the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Carlton). I would be equally as concerned if a former member of Hitler’s SS had infiltrated the Australian Labor Party. I would like to see an independent body set up to establish the facts but not to be tried by the people of the honourable member’s own party.
I want to speak on a matter that concerns me as a boat owner and which, I hope, concerns every member of this House, in particular Government members. The matter I wish to raise in the House tonight relates to the increase in licence, fees for harbour mobile radios and base stations. The fees have increased from $6 per unit in 1974 to $37.50 per unit at the present time. For the benefit of fellow members, a harbour marine radio is restricted in that special conditions apply to its use. The special conditions stipulate that messages shall be confined to matters relating to the safety of vessels in such inshore areas, including search and rescue operations, position reports and tide information. Most responsible boat owners treat the two-way radio with respect as they realise that it is their life line to shore. I, as well as other boat users, do not use the two-way radio indiscriminately
There are a couple of points I wish to make. A land based citizen band operator can register five units at a cost of $25, whereas boat owners must pay, due to the Government increasing the fees, $37 for each unit. Again land based CB operators have access to both AM and sideband allowing them at least 18 frequencies, whilst marine operators have four frequencies which are not exclusively marine as they are also issued to farmers, contractors, race tracks and fete organisations. Why then this discrimination? It is apparent that the Government has put a price on safety. This action is deplorable. If anything, the Government should have considered reducing the licence fees or bringing them into line with land based operators. Pleasure boat owners should be encouraged to fit ship-to-shore radios to their craft, not as the Government has donediscouraged them- thumbing its nose at safety. I would expect that honourable members from Tasmania, especially the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman), would be equally as protesting to his Government as I am now. Tasmanians are particularly well known for their use of the sea in small boats.
Many boat owners belong to clubs, be they boating, fishing or social. These club users run their own radio schedules and control all boats within their clubs. They make sure that all club boats at sea have returned to shore before closing down radio contact in the area. I might add that most boat users are more than willing to help fellow boat users in difficulty. It is obvious that craft in difficulty with radio are easier to find than those without. I hope the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Staley) will see fit to reconsider this increase.
Another matter I wish to raise tonight is the matter of the $24,000 which the Government so swiftly donated to the appeal for the families of the victims of the Fastnet tragedy. There is no doubt that the Fastnet race was a disaster, but it is not, as Newsweek of 27 July 1979 said, expected to put much of a dent in the enthusiasm of ocean racers’. If this is so why did the Government feel so free with the taxpayers’ money? The $24,000 would pay for three jobs for a year for the unemployed. Did the yachting fraternity request the Government’s action? I do not think so. I think I know the average sailor well enough to say that he would have been happy to pass the hat around in his club. He would have been happy to donate. What the Government was doing was protecting its own interests. What this $24,000 represents is a further donation to the already privileged class, this time the wealthy, ocean-racing yachtsmen, the Syd Fischers, the Hardys. Why did not the Government step forward to offer financial help to the families of the two men who lost their lives whilst participating in the recent Repco rally? They were not participating for the honour and glory. They were participating for the good of their fellow man, for charity.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I want to take up the point made by the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Carlton). I know he was being sincere, but I make the point that Lyenko Urbanchich would not be able to be tried in Australia for crimes that may have been committed during the war. He would not be able to be tried in his own country because of the statute of limitations. At the moment there seems to be quite overwhelming evidence of Mr Urbanchich ‘s involvement with the Nazis during the war -
– And apparently admitted.
-And admitted by him. We have one of the most reputable men in the world today, a great man, Mr Simon Wiesenthal who has devoted his whole life to tracking down and tracing people of this kind. Frankly, I do not see any way in which Mr Urbanchich ‘s past record can be raised other than in a public forum such as this House. The only other way he can be tried is by the Liberal Party. I put it to the honourable member for Mackellar that that would probably be less of a trial than one in this House. I think it is unfortunate that over the years this country has received quite a number of people of a similar character. It is regrettable that the present Liberal Party -
-Order! It being 1 1 p.m. the debate is interrupted. The House stands adjourned until 2.15 p.m. tomorrow.
The following notices were given:
Mr Sinclair to move
That, unless otherwise ordered, government business take precedence of general business on each day of sitting until the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 1979-80 and the Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 1979-80 have passed all stages in the House.
Mr Groom to move That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969, the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for consideration and report: Redevelopment of Brisbane International Airport Initial Works of Phase 1 .
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 28 August 1979, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1979/19790828_reps_31_hor115/>.