31st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– 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 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That the Metric Conversion Act be repealed, and that the Australian Government take urgent steps to cause the traditional and familiar units to be restored to those areas where the greatest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 systems be taught together in schools.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Aldred, Mr Jarman, Mr Barry Jones, Mr Roger Johnston and Mr Peacock.
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 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 humbly 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 Braithwaite, Mr N. A. Brown and Mr Martyr.
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 1 980 to Government schools.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Fife, Mr Hunt and Mr Lucock.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of electors of the State of Farrer, New South Wales, respectfully showeth:
That the Commonwealth Employees (Employment Provisions) Act 1 977 should immediately be repealed because:
It provides unfettered power to Ministers to suspend, stand-down and dismiss Commonwealth Government employees and places them in a markedly disadvantageous position as compared with all other Australian workers.
Its use places Commonwealth Government employees in direct conflict with the Government as it circumvents the arbitration tribunals and denies appeal rights.
Its use will exacerbate industrial disputes and inflame industrial relations in the Commonwealth area of employment.
The International Labour Organisation has condemned the Provisions of the Act as being incompatible with the rights of organised labour in a free society.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Fife and Mr MacKenzie.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of electors of the State of Queensland respectfully showeth:
That the Commonwealth Employees (Employment Provisions) Act 1 977 should immediately be repealed because:
It provides unfettered power to Ministers to suspend, stand-down and dismiss Commonwealth Government employees and places them in a markedly disadvantageous position as compared with all other Australian workers.
Its use places Commonwealth Government employees in direct conflict with the Government as it circumvents the arbitration tribunals and denies appeal rights.
Its use will exacerbate industrial disputes and inflame industrial relations in the Commonwealth area of employment.
The International Labour Organisation has condemned the Provisions of the Act as being incompatible with the rights of organised labour in a free society.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Dr Everingham.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that the re-introduction of tuition fees for tertiary education and the introduction of a loan scheme of student financing would add a significant financial burden to the already low finances of tertiary students.
Your petitioners also note that the grants based Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme- TEAS- is inadequate with regard to level of payment and further that the scheme is inequitable in its distribution owing to the requirements of the means test procedures.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Dawkins.
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:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that; the
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Dawkins.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in the Commonwealth Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
We therefore do ask the Government of Australia not to take the action that is believed intended.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Dawkins.
To the Rt Hon. the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The petition of the undersigned citizens of East Fremantle respectfully showeth; that it is the intention of the Australia Post to close the East Fremantle Post Office.
Your petitioners, therefore, humbly pray that the Government takes action to delay the closure of the Post Office. by Mr Dawkins.
To the Honourable the Speaker and the Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia residing in the electorate of Wannon respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners pray:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Malcolm Fraser.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. We the undersigned citizens of Australia would urgently request our Government to consider:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Malcolm Fraser.
The Association of Apex Clubs of Australia was founded in Geelong in 1931 and is the only service club founded in Australia. In March 1981 the Association will celebrate50 years service to the Australian community. Commemorative stamps have been issued by Australia Post to celebrate the activities of Rotary International and Lions International.
Your petitioners therefore pray:
That Australia Post be asked to issue a commemorative stamp in 1 98 1 in order to celebrate the50th anniversary of the only Australian service club.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Barry Jones.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of 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 overcrowding that amounts to a Third World enclave in the midst of affluence;
That such a state of affairs is intolerable in our country;
That only an effort on an unprecedented scale could create conditions that would give these children the rights set out in the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of the Child.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will make generous funding available for the specific purposes of:
Making a real improvement in the health, housing, education, employment and welfare of our Aboriginal people, doing so with due regard for the needs, hopes and aspirations of the Aboriginal people themselves.
Providing increased help, encouragement and opportunity for Aboriginal people to train as nursing aides and in other para-medical roles, and as fully qualified nurses, doctors and social workers;
Providing increased health education for Aboriginal people in ways that are acceptable to them.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr John 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:
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.
Royal Commission on Human Relationships
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That because the report of the Royal Commission on Human Relationships and especially its recommendations:
1 ) Have been widely condemned for its support of unAustralian, anti-family, anti-child behaviour and morals such as incest, promiscuity, abortion, pornography, homosexuality, prostitution and brothels, etc.
Therefore the Parliament has a responsibility to the families of Australia not to adopt this controversial report and its recommendations.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray:
That the Australian Parliament will:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that your honourable House will take no measures concerning the Royal Commission on Human Relationships report that will further undermine and weaken marriage, child-care or the family which is the basic unit of our society.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Peacock.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that The Federal Government increase its allocation for Pre-School education immediately to enable the provision of adequate pre-school services in South Australia.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Porter.
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 petitioners call upon their legislators to:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Shipton.
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 Yates.
– Will the Minister for Primary Industry give an unequivocal assurance to the Parliament and the Australian people that he supervises the financial affairs of his Department and the statutory authorities under his ministerial control in a full and proper manner? Will he given an assurance that, in the event of any financial discrepancies discovered within his Department or any such statutory authority, he will act immediately and appropriately and will make an adequate public statement on the matter?
-I can understand the difficulties of the Leader of the Opposition in that some accusations were made against me in the Senate on the night on which he made his rather inadequate attempt to respond to the Budget presented by the Government. It is of interest in this respect, that to the beginning of the current sittings the Leader of the Opposition has asked three questions concerning Australia’s great primary industries during the whole of the life of this Parliament. He has asked nine questions about unemployment. He has asked 53 questions regarding the personalities of the members of the Ministry. I think that puts in correct perspective the ability of the Labor Party and its leader to deal with the great issues of this nation. I have no doubt whatsoever that the attitudes and views of the Labor Party in this country at this time are at an all-time low. The demeanour and approach the other day of the senatorial colleague of the honourable gentleman needs to be viewed in the light of another section of the New South Wales Crimes Act to which I draw his attention; that is, the one with respect to public mischief. Section 547b of that Act states:
Any person who, by any means, knowingly makes to a member of the police force -
That surely includes the prior publication to the Press Gallery during the afternoon some seven or eight hours before that senator’s presentation on the adjournment debate, which raises an interesting question - any false representation that an act has been, or will be, done or that any event has occurred, or will occur, which act or event as so represented is such as calls for an investigation by a member of the police force, shall be liable on conviction before a stipendiary magistrate to imprisonment for six months or to a fine of $500, or both.
Whilst I accept that the Australian Capital Territory is not within the jurisdiction of the New South Wales Crimes Act, I suggest that the behaviour and attitudes of some of the senatorial members of the Labor Party fall well within the general purport of the section of the Act to which I have referred. I have no hesitation at all in answering the honourable gentleman’s question by saying yes.
-The Minister for Transport will recall my representations to him earlier this year about the urgent need for a major by-pass road around Hornsby to relieve the dangerous congestion of both local and national highway traffic on the Pacific Highway through Hornsby. I was very pleased that, in response to my representations, the Minister visited the area to get first hand experience of the problems that result because all northbound traffic through Sydney, a large part of which is heavy commercial vehicles, has to pass through Hornsby. Will the Minister inform the House whether, as a result of his visit and the numerous representations made by myself and local councils and community organisations, and in the national interest, he has reached a decision on this important matter?
-I must say that I enjoyed the visit with the honourable member for Berowra to look at the Hornsby by-pass. It brought home to me the importance of that arterial road in a national and commercial sense. Certainly it is true that the visit opened my eyes to the difficulties faced in getting the situation corrected. The honourable member will be pleased to know that as a result of that visit and the representations he has made I have decided to declare that part of the road from Berowra to Pearce ‘s Corner as part of the national highway. This decision is completely due to his representations. I have advised Mr Cox of this and the road can now become eligible for national highway funding and can be developed to a dual carriageway.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry a question supplementary to that which I asked him a few minutes ago. Has he been made aware of any financial misfeasance within either the department under his administration or any statutory authority under his ministerial control? If so, what action has he taken?
– There are a number of statutory authorities within my control, the finances of which in some instances have been audited other than by the Commonwealth Auditor-General. We are very anxious to ensure that there should be a complete understanding of the background to the finances of each of the authorities concerned. I am therefore in the process of ensuring that each of the statutory authorities, including subsidiary agencies of those statutory authorities, is audited by the Auditor-General.
– I briefly preface my question to the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs by recalling an answer that the Deputy Prime Minister gave yesterday during Question Time when he cited several major industrial projects as tangible evidence of the success of the Government’s positive strategy for the creation of real job opportunities in Australia. In the Western Australian context, are such developments as the North West Shelf, the Alwest project at Worsley and the Alcoa project at Wagerup the result of the same positive job-creating strategy? What are the immediate job opportunities offered by these projects and what will be the longer term multiplier effects on the job market?
-The honourable member for Tangney has quite properly picked up the point of the answer yesterday of my colleague, the Deputy Prime Minister, in pointing to the number of real jobs which will be created on a permanent basis by the aluminium smelters being established in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. He is quite right in pointing out that it has become possible for those projects to be established because of the economic policies of this Government, designed as they are to open up employment growth through economic growth within private enterprise.
The honourable member referred to a number of projects in Western Australia. An estimate has been made, no doubt on a conservative basis, that those projects will create something like 35,000 full time jobs. That is real job creation. I would add that this is without any cost to the taxpayer. It is quite the reverse of the proposals put forward by the Opposition, which would spend, on its estimate- I will have something to say about that later- something like $100m for 50,000 jobs.
Let me give to the House some of the details of the employment opportunities that will be created by the projects mentioned by the honourable member. The massive North West Shelf project will produce massive work force numbers, with a peak construction force of 7,000 for the liquid natural gas on-shore and off-shore work, with an 800 permanent operational work force. Through the multiplier effect mentioned by the honourable member, there will be a spin-off work force of 1 1,000 to 12,000. The gas pipeline from Dampier to Penh will require a peak work force of 2,000 during the construction stage. The $ 1,000m Alwest project at Worsley near Collie will require a peak construction force of 2,400 and an operational force of 800. The
Wagerup project, at this stage estimated to cost some $300m, will require a peak construction force of 1 ,100 and an operational force of 350.
It is expected that the North West Shelf project will be given the go ahead by the end of the year. Together with Alwest, which will go ahead, and Wagerup, which has already commenced, it will create a massive demand for labour in Western Australia alone within a few yearssomething like 35,000 jobs, as I have mentioned. When that is compared with the present unemployment level in Western Australia I think we will get a complete reversal of the scene. In fact, there will be a massive demand for labour which is going to be very hard for Western Australia to find.
– I ask a further question of the Minister for Primary Industry. Has a specific case of misappropriation been brought to his attention, having occurred within a body directly under his ministerial control? If so, what action has he taken on the matter? Did the instance occur at a very senior level?
– Allegations have been made. In order to ensure that those allegations are either proved or disapproved, the matter has been referred to the Commonwealth AuditorGeneral. When I receive his report I will be able to answer the honourable gentleman’s question in more detail.
– Has the Treasurer conducted an examination of various recent proposals for different tax scales? Did any such examination assess the effect of marginal rates and retrospective provisions? What plans, if any, has the Treasurer in relation to any of the vicious or punitive proposals of the Opposition?
– Perhaps the most conspicuous feature of the alternative revenue proposals presented the other night by the Leader of the Opposition was the vagueness that surrounded them. Unfortunately the Leader of the Opposition was not quite so vague in his address to the National Press Club earlier this year and in his subsequent interview on an Australian Broadcasting Commission program. On both of those occasions he freely admitted that one of the things a Labor government would do would be to restructure the tax scales to raise $200m or $300m more from the top 2 per cent of income earners. The effect of that very benign proposal would be to produce a marginal tax rate of 75c in the dollar. That would be very good news for the sort of incentive that the Australian community wants. I have repeated that charge on a number of occasions and the Leader of the Opposition has remained totally silent, as has the honourable member for Gellibrand.
If in fact the Leader of the Opposition is going to preserve the existing standard rate and the intermediate rate at their present levels, to get the extra $200m it would be necessary for him to increase to 75c in the dollar the present upper marginal rate, which is an effective rate of 62.57c in the dollar at the moment and which will come down to 60c in the dollar later this year. The Opposition, with its soak-the-rich mentality, may think this a useful exercise in encouraging incentive. The Opposition may think it a useful exercise to make people who happen to earn $27,000 or more the victims of absolutely confiscatory rates of tax. That is not the sort of society that I believe the majority of people, even those who are not on that sort of income, want to see created in this country. If he imagines that that sort of approach to taxation is going to produce sufficient wealth for the vast social welfare progams that no doubt a Labor government would want to perpetuate and increase, I think he has another think coming.
-I direct a question to the Deputy Prime Minister. I refer to the fact that yesterday we were advised that sites in the Pacific were not suitable for nuclear waste disposal. As an anxious seller of uranium will he indicate what sites in Australia and the Asian Pacific region are acceptable to the Government for the storage of spent fuel or high level waste?
-This Government has always made it clear that the responsibility for waste material from nuclear reactors is that of the country that produces the waste material.
-Is the Minister for Administrative Services aware of proposals for subsidies in the form of money to be paid by government to political parties in Australia? Does any concern embrace him, particularly if such money is paid to parties devoted to the disintegration of the Australian system, for example, the Communist Party? Finally, can he explain how such new payments can be proposed from the taxpayer’s dollar at the same time as entertaining a proposal for a reduction in the taxpayer’s dollar paid as taxation?
– I can only say that there is no such proposition before the Government at this stage and I would be very surprised if this Government would ever consider such a proposition.
– My question is directed to the Minister for National Development. Is it a fact that in 1976-77 Esso-BHP received approximately 70c profit per barrel of crude oU, after costs, taxes and other charges? Is it also a fact that during the first half of this financial year it will receive approximately $2.30 per barrel net profit? Is it true that, over this period, as a result of the Government’s petrol pricing policy, the price of petrol to Australian motorists has doubled, but the profit per barrel of domestically produced oil has trebled? How does the Minister justify this rip-off from Australian motorists?
– I have said on many occasions in this House that we believe that the arrangements that we have now for the oil levy allow for a reasonable return to those who produce and explore for oil in this country, and that the taxpayer of Australia also gets a fair return from those resources. I have also said on many occasions that if it were not for the pricing policies that this Government has adopted we would be back in the position that existed between 1972 and 1975, when oil exploration in this country stopped dead. If the honourable member and his colleagues would like further evidence of that assertion, I will quote from a couple of newspaper reports which have appeared in the last couple of days. One is entitled ‘Big Hunt is on to find more Oil’ and reads:
The big search is on for oil in New South Wales . . with several international companies joining the hunt for a new supply.
Mineral Resources and Development Minister, Mr Mulock, said yesterday that there had been a record number of applications received this year by companies searching for oil.
Mr Mulock says that there is a record number of oil companies searching for oil in New South Wales. But, more importantly, why is there such a record number of people exploring for oil in New South Wales? This is what he said:
The higher the price of imported oil, the greater the incentive for exploration at home.
At last one Labor Minister at least recognises the importance of parity pricing. I wish that he could get it into the thick heads of some of the honourable members opposite. I might add that largely the reason for that increased exploration activity that is going on in the State of New South Wales is the package of exploration incentives that this
Government has offered. They are second to none in any country in the world. I am sure that the New South Wales Government appreciates that fact.
-Is the Minister for Foreign Affairs able to inform the House of measures taken to ensure the safety of the Australian test cricket team during its opening match of the Indian tour in Srinagar on 1 to 3 September? Have adequate measures been taken to ensure the safety of the Australian cricketers during their Indian tour?
-The Australian Cricket Board and the Indian Cricket Board of Control have been discussing the venue for the first match of the current tour of India, and yesterday the Australian Cricket Board announced that it had advised its Indian counterpart that the proposed match at Srinagar could proceed. As the honourable member has said, that match was scheduled for 1 to 3 September. The Australian Cricket Board took into account information received by my Department and relayed to it. This came from an organisation calling itself the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, and suggested that the safety of the Australian cricketers would be endangered if the game went ahead at Srinagar as planned.
Over the past few days we have been in contact with the Australian Cricket Board, with the team in India .and with the relevant Indian authorities in an attempt to help to resolve the matter. I have to say that the Indian authorities have been most forthcoming in giving firm undertakings concerning the security of our players. I understand that the players themselves were prepared to play at Srinagar on the understanding, of course, that adequate security arrangements would be made. The Australian Cricket Board naturally has sole control and sole responsibility for the Australian side- at least for the arrangements for the team’s tour. It reexamined the matter and took into account all of these factors. It decided, as has been recently announced, to proceed with the game. Obviously the Australian Government hopes that the satisfactory arrangements now agreed to between the Indian and Australian cricket authorities will, as has been the case in the past, contribute to the strengthening of the close relationship between our two countries, provide good cricket and, if I may express the biased view-point from, I am sure, a bipartisan attitude, a successful tour for the Australian team.
-I ask the Prime Minister whether he recalls that on 7 Julie the Minister for Primary Industry stated in Parliament: . . from the moment these irregularities in the Walsh companies first appeared, I reported them to the Prime Minister and to my own leader. I told them of the nature of the manner in which I hoped to resolve them. I have continued that reporting.
Did the Minister for Primary Industry tell the Prime Minister prior to 1 November 1978 that he considered his father was responsible for the misappropriations specified in various documents lodged with the Corporate Affairs Commission? If not, when did the Minister for Primary Industry inform the Prime Minister?
-The Minister for Primary Industry has broadly kept me and the Leader of the National Country Party informed of the process he had put in train to correct a situation that he discovered when he became executor of his father’s estate. As the honourable member for Cunningham would well know, a significant part of that was informing the Corporate Affairs Commission of New South Wales and the Taxation Office in relation to those matters. Letters have been tabled earlier from Mr O’Reilly of the Taxation Office about the cooperation being received in relation to those matters. The investigation by Mr Finnane is proceeding. It has taken an inordinate time. I understand that the report might be available to the New South Wales Government within some weeks, but we had understood that, I think, during the course of last year. It continues to take a very long while for Mr Finnane to make that report. I think that it would be much better if this matter was put aside, as I have said on many occasions, until that report is made available and until that report is public. Then there may be some facts on which to make judgments.
-I ask the Minister for Transport whether he has seen an editorial in the Melbourne Age newspaper earlier this week entitled Incentives and Travel’? Has the Minister read the part of the editorial which states:
It is clear from the few official statistics that are available that, despite the introduction of cheap fares, comparatively few foreigners are selecting Australia . . .
Can the Minister give an indication as to the accurate effect of the cheap air fares policy on the movement of tourists to and from Australia.
– Following the conclusion of arrangements with 11 governments around the world for the introduction of cheaper air fares to and from this country to their countries a marked increase has occurred in the number of passengers who are flying in and out of the country as tourists. I am delighted to inform the House that for the month of June for the first time the numbers of visas issued for people to visit Australia exceeded the number of visas issued for people to go out of Australia. One hundred and fifty-six thousand visas were issued for people to come in and 153,000 were issued for people to go out. There is no doubt that not only have the people of Australia welcomed the cheap air fares regime, but also that people in overseas countries are recognising now that Australia is a good place to visit.
– You don’t need a visa to leave Australia.
-I know the Labor Party would mess the country up if it got back into power and probably people would stay away. Members of that Party can relax because they will not get back into power. I am delighted to be able to tell the House that not only is the tourist industry in Australia obviously now getting a large boost from the number of people starting to come into the country, but also indeed the Australian people themselves are able to gain some benefit from the introduction of the cheaper air fares regime.
-I ask a question of the Minister for Primary Industry. It follows the earlier questions I directed to him. Has he followed the proper convention in this matter and required the officer concerned to stand down pending the outcome of the investigations into the very serious allegations that have arisen and have been directed against that officer? If not, why not?
– The nature of the allegations is not such that any definition of the consequence of them can be determined. The officer concerned and, indeed, the corporation and its subsidiaries concerned are all well aware of the investigation by the Auditor-General, and I believe that they are giving every co-operation to him in the hope of expediting the conclusion of his report.
-Will the Prime Minister advise the House of encouraging mineral and energy projects existing in Australia. What significant barriers exist to the establishment of these projects?
-Over the last three or four years confidence in Australia as a source of investment and as a major country for resource investment and development has obviously been very greatly enhanced. Developments in a great number of resource areas have been put in train as a result of the policies of the Government, as a result of sensible economic management and as a result of a general investment climate which is conducive to partnership arrangements between Australian and overseas concerns. As a result of these policies Australia’s reputation now stands very high in the world markets. In regard to coal, there is about $2,000m worth of investment development, either firmly committed or in the final feasibility stages, involving a great number of projects. Obviously, that is of great advantage to Australia.
In regard to aluminium, the honourable gentleman will be aware, partly as a result of the information provided by my colleague this morning, that there are developments worth about twice that amount already committed. Over $4,000m worth of development is firmly committed or is in the final feasibility stages. Other substantial projects further down the track are under investigation. In regard to aluminium smelters, Alcan Australia Ltd has projects at Kurri Kurri and Gladstone, Alcoa of Australia Pty Ltd at Point Henry and Portland, Alumax at Newcastle, Comalco Industries Pty Ltd at Gladstone and the Pechiney Company at Newcastle. If power is available for it- unfortunately power is not available in New South Wales apparently in the immediate term- Nabalco will have another major development. There are proposals for aluminium smelters totalling about $2,700m.
As regards alumina refineries we have Alcoa of Australia Pty Ltd at Pinjarra and Wajerup and, going further into the future, we have the Aurukun Associates project which is not yet finally committed and we have the Worsley Consortium proposal. We have firmly committed or in the final feasibility stages projects worth over $ 1,300m. Bauxite proposals are also likely to undertake further development over the next few years. So $4, 100m will be spent on projects which are either firmly committed or in the final feasibility stage.
This has occurred as a result of the Commonwealth Government’s policies. The co-operation of State governments is also needed to enable major developments to be undertaken. It is possible for State governments to pursue policies that will encourage development and investment. It is also possible for State governments to pursue policies that will kill development and investment in their own particular area. I think that unfortunately that is very true of South Australia. Many people are now worried about the industrial and commercial future of that State. Many people involved in enterprises have told me that if they were looking for new investment areas they would not invest in South Australia because of the attitudes of the Government in South Australia over recent years. If one says that the resources of that State are less than those in some other States, one ought to note that former Liberal governments, especially those under Sir Thomas Playford, were able to encourage a greater than proportional development and investment in South Australia because of the domestic policies that were pursued by those governments of South Australia. Following an examination by the Department of Industry and Commerce, we now find that $ 12.5 billion worth of major investment and development projects in the manufacturing area around Australia are ready to go or are in the final feasibility stages. But only 2 per cent, or a little more than that, is destined to be undertaken in South Australia. On a population basis it should be about 10 per cent. The fact that investment intended for South Australia is so small is a direct result of the policies of the South Australian Government. It will result in a contraction of employment in South Australia when employment has begun to grow in the private sector in other States of the Commonwealth.
Nothing underlines this more clearly than the decisions of the South Australian Government in relation to Roxby Downs. A consortium has been established. There could well be more uranium there than at Ranger, Jabiluka and Nabarlek combined. There is also gold at Roxby Downs. But under Labor policy, it all has to stay in the ground, and the 5,000 or so jobs that could be directly involved will not become available because of the South Australian Government’s policies of non-development, which are directly designed to prevent development from taking place. It is quite plain that these attitudes are not only holding back major resource projects such as Roxby Downs in South Australia, but are also directly responsible for the industrial and commercial stagnation of that State. I think that is a great tragedy. It is a great tragedy for South Australia and it is a direct result of that State Government’s policies.
- Mr Speaker, I take a point of order. The Prime Minister is making a statement, not giving an answer to a question. Perhaps the Prime Minister might expatiate on his support for the Redcliff project in South Australia while he is at it.
-There is no point of order. The honourable member for Blaxland will resume his seat.
– I am very glad that the honourable gentleman reminded me of the Commonwealth Government’s fervent support for the Redcliff project. The Redcliff project was given support by the Commonwealth. It was this Government that introduced infrastructure borrowing guidelines to enable the infrastructure to be provided for projects such as Redcliff. Redcliff was very much in our mind when that general policy was introduced, and as soon as the proposals were in, they were given approval by the Commonwealth and the Loan Council. It is very unfortunate, I think, that to this stage the Government of South Australia has not been able to pursuade the commercial interests involved to pursue that project. I have no doubt that the general attitudes of the South Australian Government are one of the factors that might have led to delays in that particular area.
If the Commonwealth Government can do anything further to support the Redcliff project, it certainly will. But when people have asked: Isn’t it possible for the Commonwealth to introduce some special programs to assist South Australia?’ they have all ultimately had to admit that it is basically the policies of the Government of South Australia which are stifling investment and development, and it is beyond the power of the Commonwealth to alter that circumstance until the policies of the South Australian Government are altered. I hope very much that this situation in South Australia will be altered. While it continues, it means that South Australia cannot and will not share in the general investment and resource progress that has been made throughout Australia to date.
– I ask a question of the Minister for Transport, now that he is taking all the credit and responsibility for the increase in the number of tourists coming to Australia -
-Order! The honourable gentleman will ask his question, not make a statement.
-Yes, I will, Mr Speaker. Does the Minister accept the Westminster principle of ministerial responsibility? If so, does he accept that the airport rent-a-car fiasco is his responsibility? If it is not, who is responsible for changing the conditions of tender after the tenders had been accepted?
-In the final part of the honourable member’s question there is an assumption that is not yet proven and at this point I do not propose to enter into a debate on it in this place. I sought legal advice from the Attorney-General’s Department about the accuracy of the tender forms and the implications involved in them, and until such time as I receive that advice I shall not be in a position to make any decision about them; nor do I propose to make any further comment on them.
-I ask the Minister for Transport whether the South Australian and New South Wales governments, contrary to the attitude of the Commonwealth and other States at a meeting of the Australian Transport Advisory Council in April, announced that they would proceed to gazette stricter emission controls similar to Australian Design Rule 27A stage 3? Did both governments subsequently, in acknowledgment of the energy situation, inform the Commonwealth at the Premiers Conference that they would reconsider their positions in relation to 2 7 A? Given this, does the Minister know whether the New South Wales and South Australian governments have done an about face on that undertaking? Does the Minister have any assurance that the South Australian Government, if re-elected on 15 September, will not proceed with ADR 27A stage 3, to the detriment of fuel economy and vehicle costs, and will instead adopt the responsible approach of the Commonwealth Government to encourage greater use of pollution free fuels such as liquefied petroleum gas or diesel which also maintain fuel economy?
-On 27 April at an Australian Transport Advisory Council meeting the New South Wales Minister for Transport and the South Australian Minister of Transport both informed other State Ministers and me that they proposed to proceed with the implementation of the third stage of Australian Design Rule 27A despite the fact that the majority of States believed that it was not in the best interests of motorists, environmentalists or anybody else, and certainly not in the best interests of fuel consumption.
It is a fact that at the Premiers Conference the Premier of New South Wales and the Premier of South Australia agreed to have another look at the decision taken earlier by their Ministers. I do not know what happened in New South Wales, whether the Premier ran away from the State Minister and was not prepared to face up to him in Cabinet or what, but there has been no response following the Premier’s own statement at the Premiers Conference that he would have another look at the matter. In fact New South Wales has gone ahead and declared that it proposes to implement the third stage of 27A, which certainly is an abrogation of the undertaking given to the other Premiers by the New South Wales Premier at the Premiers Conference.
So far as South Australia is concerned, all I can say is that the South Australian Government, as I understand it, has not yet replied to the Prime Minister on its agreement to have another look at the question. The matter, therefore, is still open. In the light of information that is coming to hand about other and better ways of improving the environment I hope that the South Australian Premier will declare his hand before he goes to the polls in a couple of weeks’ time. The people of South Australia rightly would have an interest in this matter.
I also tell the House of an experiment undertaken a few weeks ago by the honourable member for Mitchell, Senator Collard and the honourable member for Indi. They drove a petrol engined car, a liquefied petroleum gas powered vehicle and a diesel car on a test, under tight controls, from Sydney to Canberra and back to Sydney. The experiment proved that the carbon monoxide emissions from the petrol engined car were 21.87 grams per kilometre. The emissions of carbon monoxide from the LPG vehicle were only 1.12 grams per kilometre and from the diesel car 0.45 grams per kilometre.
In the light of that sort of information I would have thought that a responsible Premier such as the Premier of New South Wales- he claims to be responsible- would be more careful before involving the people of New South Wales and the car industry in bringing cars onto the road that will increase fuel consumption throughout Australia. In the light of that I hope that the Premier of South Australia will show a little responsibility in this regard.
– I ask a question of the Prime Minister. It follows the several questions I have directed to the Minister for Primary Industry this morning. Has the Prime Minister been informed of the circumstances surrounding the matter which I raised with the Minister for Primary Industry? When was he first informed, in the event that he was? Has he continued to be informed of developments in this matter? Finally and moreover, is he satisfied that the proper conventions have been followed in this matter, especially the important convention that the subjects of such serious allegations should be stood down pending the outcome of investigations?
– I have been informed of what has occurred or what at least has been alleged to have occurred. The Minister has said that the matter has been referred to the Auditor-General, and the matter ought to await the Auditor-General ‘s report.
– Can the Prime Minister confirm that a Government aircraft will take the Australian representatives to London for the funeral of Earl Mountbatten? Has it been necessary to make any other arrangements in respect of this delegation?
-His Exellency the Governor-General and most members of the Australian delegation, including a delegation from New Zealand, will be travelling by Royal Australian Air Force transport 707 aircraft to London and back for the funeral of Earl Mountbatten. The reason for using the 707 aircraft is the same reason why the aircraft were purchased in the first place, that is, because of strongly worded security advice in general terms in relation to heads of state and heads of government but also in this circumstance in relation to a head of state. I think that especially in regard to the nature of the event which is to take place in London- the funeral of Earl Mountbatten- and the causes for that funeral, one could well understand the importance of that security advice.
We have made some other arrangments because the Leader of the Opposition advised me last night that he was not prepared, under any circumstances, to have a member of the Australian Labor Party travel on the 707. Under those circumstances and because of the past experiences of the honourable member for Reid and associations with Earl Mountbatten, I did not want the honourable member and his wife, if she is able to travel with him, to be denied the opportunity of attending the funeral ceremonies for Earl Mountbatten. The Government, therefore, is prepared to pay the additional cost of transport for the honourable member for Reid.
– I direct to the Treasurer a question which is supplementary to the very colourful answer given by the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs regarding job opportunities in Australia. Is it a fact that the Budget statements indicate an increase in unemployment of around one per cent of the work force or some 60,000 people in this financial year? If so, will this increase give Australia the highest number of unemployed in our history, including the level at the height of the Great Depression? With unemployment at this level, why has the Government chosen to cut back heavily on its job training programs, including the Special Youth Employment Training Program which it initiated? Why has the Government decided to increase the migrant intake to 87,000 in 1979-80 thereby relegating even more migrants to the dole queues?
– The funding arrangements for manpower programs announced in the Budget reflect two things. They reflect a reduction in the amount of funds being made available in respect of the SYETP following a tightening of the eligibility guidelines which applied to earlier programs. All that the tightening of those guidelines will do is to ensure that the people who will be subsidised are those who would not otherwise be able to obtain work or training. There is nothing at all wrong with that proposition. Just because a government is concerned about an area of activity in the economy does not mean that it is relieved of the obligation to ensure that in the provision of funds the programs are cost efficient. Just because the Government is concerned about the need to have viable training programs and to improve the skills of people who are out of work does not relieve this Government of the responsibility to ensure that the funds that we do make available are spent in the most effective way. So, that is the reason why there has been a reduction in that area. It has nothing at all to do with unconcern about unemployment. It does not reflect a lower priority so far as training programs are concerned. It merely reflects a desire on the part of the Government to see that the taxpayer’s dollar is used in the most effective fashion.
Not only is that the position in respect of those programs but the honourable gentleman, of course, allows to go unremarked the fact that the amount of money made available under the Commonwealth Rebate for Apprentice Fulltime Training schemes has been increased by about $26m. That fact ought not to go unremarked. This Government makes no apology whatsoever for adopting an approach to employment which is based upon improving conditions in the private sector so that more jobs are created. The honourable member asks me about the implications of what is contained in both the Budget Speech and the Budget Papers. I have nothing to add to what is in the Budget Papers or the Budget Speech. They were flat and candid statements of how the Government sees the situation regarding employment and prospects of improvements in the level of unemployment.
I make no secret of the fact that we do not believe that the prospects for a fall in unemployment are good. There are reasons for that. We reject the glib assertion by the Opposition- the glibness of it was amply demonstrated the other night by the Leader of the Opposition in his reply to the Budget- that the unemployment problem can be cured by some kind of gimmicky job creation scheme. The Leader of the Opposition said that he would create 50,000 jobs by spending $85m to $100m a year. That works out at $40 a week for each person. The Leader of the Opposition shakes his head. What about the materials that the workers will need? What about average weekly earnings? What about the attitude of the trade union movement to this sort of scheme?
The speech of the Leader of the Opposition was supposed to address the twin problems of the economy today; that is, inflation and unemployment. It was deafeningly silent on both subjects. Not only did the Leader of the Opposition devote no more than a few lines to inflation but also the problem of unemployment about which he professes so much concern barely received better treatment. He said that we would hear all about it from the honourable member for Port Adelaide. I say to the honourable member for Port Adelaide that the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs and I will wait with bated breath to hear the great alternative approach that the Opposition has to the problem of unemployment.
– For the information of honourable members I present the details of special flights by the Royal Australian Air Force for the period 1 January 1979 to 30 June 1979. Copies of this report are available from the Table Office.
– For the information of honourable members I present the text of a statement by the Chairman of the Australian Education Council on the Williams report on education, training and employment.
– For the information of honourable members I present the Schools Commission report for the triennium 1979-81, together with the text of a statement by the Minister for Education relating to the report. I also present the Schools Commission report on Commonwealth financial assistance for schools in the Northern Territory for 1980, together with the text of a statement by the Minister for Education relating to the report.
– For the information of honourable members I present the report of the Tertiary Education Commission for the triennium 1979-81, together with the text of a statement by the Minister for Education relating to the report.
– I present the following papen
Advance to the Minister for Finance 1978-79- Statement of Heads of Expenditure and the amounts charged thereto pursuant to section 36a of the Audit Act 1 90 1 .
Ordered that the statement be taken into consideration in Committee of the Whole House at the next sitting.
– I claim to have been misrepresented by the Treasurer (Mr Howard) at Question Time.
-If the honourable gentleman wishes to make a personal explanation he may proceed.
– Last night and again today the Treasurer cast aspersions on the costing of the community service corps program that the Opposition has proposed. He asserted that a cost of $85m to $ 100m over the first year generating, we would expect, 50,000 jobs at its peak was spurious. He said that it worked out at an average of $40 a week to the individuals participating in the scheme. That is an excellent example of lawyer’s logic to arrive at false arithmetical conclusions. He has made no allowance for two simple facts. Firstly when the scheme is commenced it will start from zero and rise to its peak over the year. It is nonsense to apply the peak level for the full year. Secondly, it makes no allowance for unemployment benefit savings. There are a number of other aspects about the savings in this matter which have to be considered.
– The tax clawback.
-The tax clawback, indeed; but I do not need any help. I would prefer the Treasurer to jump into more bear pits on this matter. I can help him on his way. My final observation is that it is understandable that the Treasurer may have made this mistake on the first occasion yesterday -
-Order! The honourable gentleman is now debating the matter.
– May I make this point which I think you, as a former Treasurer, will agree with: The second occasion is inexcusable. John Stone needs a spanking.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) agreed to:
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday, 1 1 September next at 2.15 p.m. unless Mr Speaker shall fix an alternative day or hour of meeting to be notified by telegram or letter addressed to each member of the House.
-I have received letters from both the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris) and the honourable member for St George (Mr Neil) proposing that definite matters of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion today. As required by Standing Order 107, 1 have selected one matter, that is, that proposed by the honourable member for Shortland, namely:
The damage to the public interest arising from the alarming speculation in Ansett Transport Industries Limited shares caused by the Government’s abdication of responsibility for major domestic airline services.
I therefore call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places.
More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places-
Mi MORRIS (Shortland) (11.27)-The Opposition has raised this matter of public importance, namely, the damage to the public interest arising from the alarming speculation in Ansett Transport Industries Ltd shares caused by the Government’s abdication of responsibility for major domestic airline services, because it is abundantly clear that the scandalous trafficking in the shares over recent months of what is, in effect, a public transport service, has taken place with the mute approval of the Fraser Government and the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) in particular. The scandalous affair has been described by the national daily, the Australian, alternately as the biggest corporate poker game in Australia’s history, and as a three-ring circus.
Throughout the affair, the Minister responsible for aviation matters, the Minister for Transport, has maintained a stony mantle of silence. Undoubtedly his Government, with its long established policy of putting airline profits before the interests of air travellers, is content to see airline passengers and small shareholders treated as pawns in this enormous executive poker game. Further, given the long history of close affiliation, politically and otherwise, of honourable members opposite and the principals involved in this poker game, it is understandable that the Government will remain silent. Let me put it quite bluntly. The Fraser Government, by its silence and inaction in the Ansett affair, has abdicated its responsibility for the good conduct of domestic airline services. Similarly, by its cooking of airport car rental contracts, it has abandoned the principles of fair and responsible government.
Given the established practices of Australia’s commercial world, the inevitable result of the inflated prices being paid for Ansett shares will be an increase in domestic air fares- a process that this Government obviously condones. At 3 1 July last year Ansett Transport Industries Ltd had an issued ordinary capital of 93.2 million 50c shares. According to the Australian Financial Review of 27 August 1979, those shares had a net asset backing of $1.39 each. Based on a 20 per cent dividend and a last market sale price of $1.55, the shares showed a dividend yield of 6.5 per cent. In recent months, the market price of ATI shares has ranged from a low of $1.07 when the poker game started to a high of $1.75, an increase of almost 75 per cent. What must be emphasised is that Ansett is just not another industrial company listed on the stock exchange. It is understandable that its board should seek to protect the company from the predatory forays of asset strippers, corporate raiders and speculators. To date, no information has been provided by the major purchasers of Ansett Transport Industries shares on their motives. Airlines passengers provide 60c of every dollar that passes through Ansett ‘s accounts.
Under the two-airline agreement, Ansett occupies a privileged position in Australia’s transport system. It has two principal assets derived from that Federal legislation which gives Ansett a guaranteed half share of passenger capacity on the major domestic airline services and the right to borrow abroad on most favourable conditions with public guarantee. In these circumstances the Government of the day, and the unfortunate minister for Transport who sits opposite, have a heavy responsibility to take action to ensure that the travelling public is not disadvantaged in any way by squalid stock exchange gambling in shares in what is really a quasi public utility. The two-airline agreement protects Ansett and its business activities but consumers of air services are not protected from Ansett ‘s corporate activities.
Despite its diverse business interests- road haulage, hotels, long distance buses, car rentals, television networks, et cetera- Ansett Transport Industries is still very much an airline business. Of its total gross assets of $332m, 53 per cent is tied up in aircraft and associated facilities. Not the Australian Labor Party, but competitors of Ansett and subscribers to Government party funds have claimed that because of diversification of Ansett ‘s industries, major business losses could be subsidised by airline revenue, despite claims by the company that it is corporate policy that each of the operations should be selfsupporting. The Government’s Domestic Air Transport Policy Review Committee last year, referring to diversification of activities which were unrelated to the travel industry, concluded that it did not have sufficient information- that is, it did not have substantial information to establish whether ATI’s diverse interest gave it an undue advantage or acted to the detriment of passengers and freight or whether those interests have affected the two-airline policy.
The Committee said that it was concerned at the assertion that matters outside the airline industry could affect decisions on tariffs and fleet re-equipment. It concluded that special action was unnecessary as the Minister for Transport has sufficient power under Air Navigation Regulation 106, the Airlines Equipment Act 1958, the Airlines Agreements Act and the various Airlines Equipment (Loan Guarantee) Acts to enable him to satisfy himself that airline industry considerations only are taken into account into making such decisions. From the Government, as from the Minister for Transport, there has been total silence over the recent business activities of Ansett which must have been to the detriment of the Ansett group as a whole. There has been total silence from the Minister in respect of the specific conclusions of the Government’s review committee on domestic air transport services.
Let us look at the performance of Ansett. Its earnings in the first half year of this current financial year were virtually written off by a disasterous investment in Associated Securities Ltd. Associated Securities Ltd, one of Australia’s biggest finance companies, crashed with public debts estimated at up to $300m. Ansett, the major shareholder in ASL, refused to inject more cash into the failing company because it said that to do so would be beyond its resources. Ansett, the biggest single loser, poured nearly $ 1 8m into ASL. It refused, however, earlier this year to inject another $14m over 18 months to keep ASL afloat. Thousands of shareholders lost their money. Thousands of little people lost their life savings. Thousands of people who have put money on deposit now find that that money is locked into a liquidation process and an investigation by the New South Wales Corporate Affairs Commission. But the knights of industry, the sirs of the Australian commercial world- Sir Henry Bolte, Sir Reginald Ansett and Sir Cecil Looker- were able to bail out.
– They are all on the Liberal Party finance committee.
– As my colleague points out, they are all on the Liberal Party finance committee. Yet amazingly, only a few weeks ago, Ansett was able to place an order in one day for the purchase of $ 16m worth of shares in Ampol Petroleum Ltd. It has been reported in responsible financial journals that Ansett has spent $26m buying Ampol shares. The question is: Where did this money come from? How could a company, which a few months ago could not prop up a subsidiary in which it was a major shareholder and which it allowed go into liquidation and ruin many thousands of small shareholders and depositors, suddenly produce $26m? Ansett obviously used money which ostensibly belongs to public shareholders. Ansett will need to improve its share market rating. It will also need to come up with some benefits to salve the feelings of those friends who supported it by paying $1.75 a share, which means that inevitably there will be increased pressure for higher returns leading to higher air fares. If the Minister is the responsible Minister at the time, such a proposition will be rubber stamped, as has been the practice in the past.
Where did the money that was speculated by the participants in the Ansett poker game come from? From information available to date it appears that Ampol has spent $26m, that Ansett has spent $26m, that Mr Holmes a ‘Court has spent $13m, that Brambles Industries Ltd has spent $15m and that the Pioneer group of companies has spent $20m, making a total of $100m, in the greatest poker game in history. It does not matter that the pawns in the game are the airline passengers of Australia. It does not matter that they are the people who are dependent upon essential air services in this country and who have to cope with the very real problem of the level of air fares. The Bell group of companies owns 12V4 per cent of Ansett, Thomas Nationwide Transport Ltd seems to have acquired 14 per cent of Ansett shares, Ansett married into 20 per cent of Ampol, Ampol has made it incestuous by getting 20 per cent of Ansett and the friends of Ansett seem to own 9 per cent of Ansett also. I leave it to the financial wizards to work out the ultimate effect of that. But the total bill of well over $ 100m is equivalent to several weeks of the borrowing program of this national Government.
The money is not being used to increase productivity, to improve air services, to generate new jobs. It is being used to finance a squalid back room game of poker. It is being used to line the pockets of those who are able to control public shareholders’ funds and who have access to assets which are financed by Federal legislation. Those actions are condoned by a government that has remained mute. It has said not one word. Allied to that is a move within Government circles to dispose of a publicly-owned airline, Trans-Australia Airlines. Quite clearly, the exercise here is the development of a privately owned airline monopoly in this country. The Minister for Transport, after much questioning and correspondence, told me a few days ago that the Government’s domestic airline policy is predicated upon continuation of the two-airline agreement and the operation of a government owned airline and a privately owned airline. I want to believe him. The Opposition wants to believe him. The Australian public wants to believe him because it owns Trans-Australia Airlines. But the man who let the cat out of the bag, the Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson), who told the Federal Liberal Council in Perth on 23 April that the sale of TAA was being considered as part of a government expenditure program, has refused to answer a question which has been on the Notice Paper since 18 May which asks him to confirm the kind of statement which the Minister for Transport has written to me. Not only the Minister for Finance but also the Treasurer (Mr Howard) has refused to confirm what the Minister for Transport has said. The two principal finance Ministers in this Government both refuse to back up the statement of the Minister for Transport.
The Australian community will not allow publicly owned assets to be sold up to line the pockets of private speculators who feed funds into the slush accounts of those who sit opposite. Civil aviation was pioneered and developed in this country not for the benefit of private speculators and friends of conservative governments. It was pioneered and developed to provide essential transport services to the people of this nation. That is why it exists. The reality is that we have a two-airline agreement. The reality is that we have a commercial airline and a publicly owned airline. The system has developed and worked reasonably well until recent years. I make quite clear the position of the Opposition. The Australian Labor Party is committed to ensuring that air services in this country are made available to as wide a range of the community as possible and that the level of air fares should be as low as possible commensurate with the required and necessary standard of safety in the operation of those services. The function of government is to ensure the achievement of those objectives.
On 20 May this year I said that notice should be given of termination of the two-airline agreement, and as far as the Australian Labor Party is concerned that date stands as the commencement of effective notice of termination of the agreement. We have from the Minister a continuation of the status quo because his friends are involved. The Government clearly, by its silence, its inactivity and its endorsement mutely and otherwise of what is going on, has failed to protect the interests of airline travellers in this country. What is going to happen to Ansett? Let me just describe one of the scenarios. The most popular scenario -
-The Government is not able to provide information. The honourable member may well laugh, because he is as ignorant as the Australian community is on the subject. The scenario being described around the House is that the television interests will go to Mr Murdoch’s organisation; that Thomas Nationwide Transport Ltd wants the road transport and airlines operations; that Ampol Petroleum Ltd will continue with its fuel supply contracts with Ansett; and that the remainder will be sold off as an asset stripping exercise. I do not say that that is what is going to happen, or that that is what they want to happen. That is one of the scenarios that have been described. The management of air services in this country should not be allowed to continue with that kind of speculation current. The Government has a responsibility to protect airline travellers and to maintain an effective and viable airline service system in this country. It is not carrying out that responsibility, and it stands to be condemned for its abdication of responsibility in these areas.
– The honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris) has followed the usual course that he takes in matters of this nature. I think he holds the view that, if he can use the Parliament to heap enough abuse on everybody when he takes this sort of action, some of that abuse will stick. He is the greatest exponent of the conspiracy theory that this Parliament has seen for a long time. He likes to use very illustrative and colourful language in the hope that he will get a bit of a run in the newspapers. I am indebted to the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Baillieu) for saying a few words on the matter. In speaking to me he said that the honourable member for Shortland had embarked on a litany of hate. I think that that is quite true. The Australian Labor Party has never loved Ansett Transport Industries Ltd, and it shows its usual ideological difficulties -
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I take a point of order. That remark is without foundation. I find it personally offensive and I ask for it to be withdrawn.
-The Chair does not uphold the point of order.
– I have the right, under the Standing Orders, if a statement made by a member of the chamber is offensive to me, to ask that it be withdrawn. I find his remark offensive and I ask that it be withdrawn.
-At the basis of that provision is a suggestion that the remark can be regarded as an offensive reflection. The Chair is not of the opinion that, in the course of this debate, it assumes that form. For that reason the Chair does not uphold the point of order.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I draw your attention to Standing Order 75.
– You cannot take it.
– I can take it.
– You like to give it out, but you cannot take it. You are a real weakie.
– I can take it all right. I just want the Minister to deal with fact. Standing Order 76 reads:
All imputations of improper motives and all personal reflections on members shall be considered highly disorderly.
There was a clear imputation of improper motive in the words used by the Minister for Transport. I find it personally offensive and I ask that it be withdrawn, as prescribed by Standing Order 76.
-The Chair is not of a mind to depart from its ruling. In the interests of the pursuance of this debate, I suggest that if the honourable member for Shortland demonstrates a particular sensitivity to that description the Minister might wish to withdraw it.
-I withdraw the words ‘litany of hate’. The honourable member for Shortland has demonstrated a complete weakness in this House. It is a pity that he does not go over to the very respected father of the Australian Labor Party in this place and get a lesson or two on how to handle himself in the Parliament I think that such weakness will lead him shortly to be removed from the front bench of the Labor Party.
-Order! I ask the Minister to address himself to the question before the House.
-This is the matter into which the honourable member for Shortland has entered today:
The damage to the public interest arising from the alarming speculation in Ansett Transport Industries Ltd shares caused by the Government’s abdication of responsibility for major domestic airline services.
It is just as well that I did not hold my breath while he proved his case because he made no effort at all to prove it. He entered upon this litany of dislike for Ansett Transport Industries Ltd, showing his usual ideological difficulties. It is true that the trading in ATI shares filled the column inches of newspapers for days and was a matter of great interest in radio and television reports. Contrary to what the honourable member for Shortland says, I think that the people of Australia enjoyed the battle and saw some fascination in it. As to ‘the damage to the public interest’, the case was unproven. Where was the damage to the public interest? Where was the damage to passengers flying on Ansett aircraft? How were they seriously affected? Was the operation of Ansett Transport Industries Ltd affected? Not one bit. Nor was the safety of the operations affected.
The honourable member for Shortland is ill informed on the way in which the system really operates. Firstly, trading in ATI shares in no way affects the airlines agreement. The Parliament ought to be clear on that matter. The agreement is with the corporate entity of Ansett Transport
Industries Ltd and not with particular shareholders. So they can battle away all day in the share market and it will have no effect on the corporate entity of Ansett Transport Industries Ltd, which is the body responsible for operations under the airlines agreement. Dealings in Ansett shares are in no way related to Government policy on domestic airline services. What these dealings reflect is a desirability by the people of Australia to have a share in, and to take part in, the aviation industry. Unless there are overriding national interests at stake, it is not the policy of the Government to interfere in perfectly ordinary share trading on the stock exchanges of Australia.
– The socialists would.
-Of course, the Labor Party would, because its members do not begin to understand how the free market operates. They do not begin to have any respect for the operations of free enterprise. I think it stretches the imagination of even the honourable member for Shortland to the extreme to suggest that there is a link between ATI share trading and the domestic aviation policy. That is complete rubbish. The honourable member for Shortland then tried to make the point that the fares that people will pay will, in the end, carry the load of the share battle. He does not even know what he is talking about in that regard. The fact is that the Minister, under Air Navigation Regulation 106, has a responsibility before any fare rise is approved. TransAustralia Airlines and Ansett costs are examined in considerable detail, and the fare rises are approved only on the basis of actual cost increases incurred by the airlines.
– But that is not -
– Why do you not speak to your colleague, the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones), and try to learn something, instead of carrying your ideological hang-ups -
-Order! The Minister will address his remarks to the Chair.
– Suggestions that share trading will lead to air fare increases are simply not true. The honourable member for Shortland does not even begin to understand how the system works. It is a pity that the honourable member for Newcastle and the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) do not help the honourable member to overcome his shortcomings in this place. I am sure that the members of the Australian Labor Party are gradually waking up to the weaknesses displayed by the honourable member for Shortland in these sorts of debates.
The next words used by the honourable member for Shortland in this matter of public importance are ‘alarming speculation’. I repeat that the operations of the market place are a complete mystery to the honourable member for Shortland, and I repeat that his ideological shortcomings blind him to his problems. ATI is a public company and its shares are traded on the stock exchange. It is a matter for people to decide whether they want to buy or sell those shares. It simply reflects the interest of the people of Australia in ATI, or any other public company, if they do enter the market. The only way in which Ansett passengers would know about the matter would be if they read about it in the newspapers; they would be so unaffected by the great battle of the board rooms.
The honourable member for Shortland then talks about ‘the Government’s abdication of responsibility for major domestic airline services’. I find this very strange, coming from the honourable member for Shortland as a representative of the Opposition, when as I understand it- the honourable member can correct me if I am wrong- at the July 1979 Australian Labor Party National Conference a three-page document was produced on the transport platform of the Australian Labor Party and I am hard pressed to find in it a word about aviation. He might point a word out to me. In fact it was not the honourable member for Shortland but the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) who finally informed the nation that the Australian Labor Party had a policy of open skies. It was not the honourable member for Shortland who is supposed to be the shadow Transport Minister but the honourable member for Robertson who informed the nation of the policy. How much influence the honourable member for Shortland has in his own Party is demonstrated, when the honourable member for Robertson comes out and tells the nation at large: ‘Never mind what the honourable member for Shortland might say or might not say. I am telling you that we are declaring a policy of open skies ‘.
If a policy of open skies is not an abrogation in a total sense of respect for the two airline system, I do not know what is. Yet the words carried in the resolution are an ‘abdication of responsibility for major domestic airline services’. The policy of open skies, of course, pulls the rug right out from underneath that proposal. The Labor Party does not have a policy except a policy of clashes between the honourable member for Robertson and the honourable member for Shortland trying to establish who in fact, is writing the policy on aviation. When one looks at the three page document which purports to represent the transport platform of the Australian Labor Party one can see quite clearly that there is no aviation policy at all from the honourable member for Shortland. The two-airline policy was introduced in 1952 and it has only been in my time as Minister for Transport that a review of that two-airline policy has been instituted. The Labor Party was in power for three years and did nothing.
– That is normal.
– It is normal. I agree with the honourable member. It did nothing at all. The report of that review recommends the removal of the rationalisation arrangements in the airlines agreement which calls for continuing consultation between the two major operators. It calls for regional airlines to be encouraged to operate in competition with the major airlines over segments of trunk routes. It suggests that competition be permitted between local commuter operators and with regional trunk services and that airlines be encouraged to implement a wide range of fare types through the introduction of lower fares coupled with a reduced certainty of seat access. Each of those points that the domestic review has recommended has been taken up. Many of them have already been accepted and are put in place. We have introduced standby fares at a 30 per cent discount. We have introduced advance purchase economy class fares at a 25 per cent discount if booked 30 days in advance. We have introduced super-APEX fares at 40 per cent discount. We have introduced international add-ons for outbound travellers on concessional fares at 30 per cent or 40 per cent discount. We have introduced See Australia fares for international visitors at 30 per cent discount without the advance purchase requirement. These are the sorts of innovations that I have introduced as Minister since coming back into office. We did not see any of these innovations coming from the Labor Party while it was in office. That contrasts directly with the claims made by the honourable member for Shortland in his speech.
Not only have we made these changes but also we have encouraged local commuter operators to spread their wings a little bit to try to add a little bit of enthusiasm and to encourage competition within the two-airline system. The review recommended the maintenance of the twoairline system as being the best system for the next generation of aviation in Australia. What the Australian Labor Party proposes is either open skies, as the honourable member for Robertson has said, or abolition of the airlines agreement as recommended by the honourable member for Shortland- 1 am not too sure what he means by that proposal. All I know is that if the proposition of the honourable member for Shortland were taken up and notice were served on the two airlines that the airlines agreement was going to be disbanded, that would bring the greatest uncertainty of all to domestic aviation in this country. That would destroy the planning proposals for the introduction of wide-bodied jets. That matter is under discussion now by Ansett Transport Industry Ltd and TransAustralia Airlines. Indeed, everything that the honourable member for Shortland has said brings total discredit on the Australian Labor Party approach to aviation in this country. I am waiting and have waited with some patience, I think for three or four years, for the honourable member for Shortland to produce a real aviation policy.
– He has the first line written.
– He has the title written.
– I do not know whether he can spell ‘aviation’. I think that might be his trouble. We might have to help him on that. I am encouraging the honourable member for Hindmarsh to help him to toughen up a bit so he can take it on the chin instead of being a weak-kneed operator. I am encouraging other people to help him to explain what the airlines agreement means. Perhaps there is somebody on the front bench over there who can spell and who will help him.
The future of domestic aviation in this country is a serious matter. The Government’s policy has been explained to and is understood by the people of Australia. The Australian Labor Party policy is not known and is not explained. Therefore it is not understood by the people of Australia. It is well past time that the honourable member for Shortland told the people of Australia what the alternative policy is instead of flourishing open skies proposals and pandering to a few of the popular concepts and matters of that nature.
This discussion initiated by the honourable member for Shortland was not backed up with any substance or facts at all that could even stir the heart and minds of the man on the street, let alone the hearts and minds of the members of this Parliament. I think that the best thing that the Parliament can do is to get on with the business of the day.
Mr MORRIS (Shortland )-I seek leave to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
-Yes. The Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) in his remarks a few minutes ago said that there is no reference in the Australian Labor Party policy to aviation. I again refer him to the paragraph that describes it.
-Order! The honourable member can make an explanation only in respect of a specific point on which he has been personally misrepresented. He must proceed to that directly.
-I will rephrase that. The Minister for Transport claimed that I did not present an item on aviation policy at the Adelaide conference recently. Aviation is dealt with in the policy quite clearly. It may be difficult for him to read it. He said that I did not present the policy and it was an open skies policy. That is a complete fabrication. There is no reference in the policy item to the open skies policy and the aviation policy is there. Later in the day, I will send a copy around to him for his information so that he may be enlightened.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The discussion is now concluded.
Bill presented by Mr Newman, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to amend section 4 1 of the Atomic Energy Act 1953 which concerns mining for prescribed substances on behalf of or in association with the Commonwealth, and to amend a number of the security provisions of the Act. Honourable members will recall that a package of legislation was introduced in the autumn sittings 1 978 to give effect to the Government ‘s decision on the further development of Australia’s uranium resources. The amendments introduced in the Atomic Energy Amendment Bill (No. 1 ) 1978 had the incidental effect of enabling commercial mining for prescribed substances in the States to be authorised by the Commonwealth. The amendments also attracted attention to the penal provisions of the Act. Since the passage of the Act in 1953 there has been a growing emphasis on the utilisation of uranium resources for non-defence purposes which has broadened the potential application of the secur.ity provisions of the Act beyond their original defence related purposes.
Clause 3 of the Bill addresses the first of these matters and confines the Commonwealth’s power in relation to the authorisation of mining for prescribed substances. The provision amends section 41 of the Act so that, other than with the consent of a State, the power conferred by that section to authorise mining in a State can only be exercised for defence purposes. Having regard to the particular position of the Northern Territory arising out of the Commonwealth’s ownership of uranium in the Territory, this amendment will not extend to the Northern Territory. There is, however, no change in the Government’s policy that uranium mining in the Northern Territory, other than the Ranger Project, should be authorised under Northern Territory legislation.
In relation to the security provisions of the Atomic Energy Act, the Government’s policy that penal provisions which were largely enacted for defence purposes would not be applied to ordinary commercial undertakings, was made clear in the debate on the Atomic Energy Amendment Bill (No. 1) 1978. In line with that policy the Government has decided to examine further the penal provisions of Part IV of the Act, having regard to their potential application to ordinary commercial undertakings, to restrict their operation in accordance with government policy. The review of the penal provisions is currently underway. In the meantime, however, it has been decided that several amendments could be made to the penal provisions.
Clauses 4 and 5 of the Bill repeal sections 54 and 58 of the principal Act which provide respectively that no action can be taken against the Commonwealth in the event of unlawful arrest, detention, search or seizure and that the doing of an act preparatory to the commission of an offence is itself an offence. Clause 6 of the Bill repeals section 60 of the principal Act which applies the stringent provisions of the Approved Defence Projects Protection Act 1947 to all works of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission including commercial undertakings. The clause substitutes a provision which requires that a notice be published in the Gazette, by the Minister, if the Approved Defence Projects Protection Act is to apply to a work of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission.
The amendments provided for in the Bill were formulated following receipt of a number of representations from State governments and other parties. I emphasise that the present amendments do not affect in any way the powers provided by the Atomic Energy Amendment Act 1978 to enable the Commonwealth to implement nuclear non-proliferation safeguards in Australia pursuant to the Government’s international obligations. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Keating) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 29 August, on motion by Mr Howard:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-When speaking in the Budget debate last night I made reference to the Australian transport system, particularly that between Sydney and Melbourne. I made reference to the Hume Highway and to the main southern railway line. The point I was making was that it seems to me to be something of a tragedy that Australia is developing such an enormous investment in the Hume Highway and that not enough is being done to use to its full potential the equally valuable investment in the main southern railway line. Little needs to be done to the main southern line to improve its efficiency. A double track runs from Sydney to Junee. From Junee to Albury the line is single track. From Albury to Melbourne it is again double track.
The Bureau of Tranport Economics has recommended the introduction of a series of extended loops and centralised traffic control between Junee and Albury. The Bureau has put the cost of these measures at about $4m at 1973 price levels. So, I would imagine they would cost more than that today. Even so, the introduction of those improvements would result in the equivalent of a double line facility for a fraction of the cost of actually duplicating the line between Junee and Albury. In any case, a dual carriageway is estimated to cost an average of about $lm per kilometre as against $320,000 per kilometre for a double line railway. I have argued that the Federal Government is undertaking a massive investment on behalf of the nation in the Sydney-Melbourne Hume Highway project. It is in the national interest that this highway be put to optimum use. If it is used to excess the cost of providing and maintaining the Hume will become a burden which will be out of proportion to the nation’s priorities. The State Government in New South Wales has at its disposal the means to regulate effectively the movement of heavy traffic on the Hume, and it is the heavy traffic that is the cause of so much concern. New South Wales has only to enforce the means which are already in existence.
I have argued for a greater and continually increasing amount of freight to be diverted to rail as an effective means of taking pressure off the Hume. I would like to see co-operation between the New South Wales, the Victorian and the Federal governments in determining the optimum level of traffic appropriate for the Hume and in directing resources towards development of rail as a more significant carrier of intercapital freight. Obviously co-ordination would be necessary between the New South Wales railway authorities and the Victorian railway authorities to ensure efficient handling in goods yards at each end of the line. I do not believe that these problems are insurmountable. It is my belief that if the two railway authorities could lease to private enterprise goods yard space and rolling stock, if rolling stock could not be purchased by private enterprise, we would be well on the way to a far more efficient use of the transport facilities available on this particular route. Such a system would allow for transport companies to deliver freight to their own railway depots and to load their own rail trucks. When the train was made up, the railway authorities would bring in a locomotive and take the train to its destination. When it reached the other end the company would unload and, with the use of feeder trucks, distribute the freight efficiently.
It seems to me to be something approaching a national tragedy that we have a main southern line between Sydney and Melbourne which is not being used to anything like its full potential. We are spending hundreds of millions of dollars in upgrading the Hume Highway. We will probably never be able to get it to a standard where it will carry the volume of traffic that is projected for it and, at the same time, be maintained in a satisfactory state of repair. Bearing in mind the economics of building railways as opposed to dual carriageway highways, it must be obvious that more needs to be done in the area of railways, particularly in the area of moving freight. I believe that this matter should be looked at seriously by the three governments concerned. Perhaps it can be raised in the national interest by the Transport Ministers at their next Australian Transport Advisory Council meeting or at some other similar forum.
I do not want anything that I have said in the course of my contribution to this debate to indicate that I do not support the upgrading of the
Hume Highway. Obviously that is a major project, a necessary project and a project that must be pursued. From the early days of national highway policy I have been a great supporter of that policy and of the total reconstruction and, in many cases, the re-routing and realignment of the Hume Highway. Obviously it is the most important road in Australia. What needs to be considered by the three governments I have mentioned is that there has to be a balanced and proper use of what will obviously be a great national asset, namely a four-lane carriageway between Sydney and Melbourne. If the overuse of freight carriers on that highway causes the costs of maintaining the highway to get out of hand, if it causes the uses to which the highway can be put to be affected adversely, then I think that the situation needs to be examined. The fact that the railway line exists and is not being used is something that really needs to be considered seriously, as I said earlier, in the national interest. Consultation ought to take place between the three governments I mentioned and some proper study ought to be carried out on what the use of the Hume Highway should be, as agreed by the three governments. If, as a result of such an inquiry, it is determined that there is enough freight carried on that road already, I believe that we ought to take positive steps to ensure that future growth in freight traffic is diverted to rail and taken off the Hume.
-The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Treasurer (Mr Howard) lead a high tax government. Their efforts to portray the Liberal and National Country parties as low tax parties have been exposed forever by the Budget, by the Opposition, by the Australian Taxpayers Association and, belatedly, by the media. On the one hand this Budget is far too sharply contractionary and will inexorably cause further unemployment. On the other hand it is inflationary by virtue of the huge petrol price hikes that inevitably will surge through the whole economy. The reduction in the overall deficit from $3.5 billion to $2.2 billion has been effected exclusively within the domestic economy since the domestic deficit has been cut by a massive $ 1 ,400m to $900m. That represents the most savage reduction in the domestic deficit for decades. The revenue from oil levies and excise duties has rocketed to $2,030m. Not satisfied with this huge rip-off of motorists and industry at the production end, the Government takes another $956m by way of excise duty on refined petrol. These taxes are calculated on the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries prices as at 1 July. Further oil price increases will provide extra certain revenue this year. A 5 per cent increase would mean at least another $2 50m. So the oil-petrol tax rip-offs have been underestimated.
Similarly, company tax has been underestimated in this Budget. Total collections are estimated at $3,280m, and that is only 11.1 per cent of total Federal revenue anyway. It seems that the rise in company profits will continue into 1979-80 as exemplified by the latest returns from the Broken Hill Proprietary Co. Ltd, the Utah Development Co., the Commercial Banking Co. of Sydney Ltd, Peko- Wallsend Ltd and so on. It is forecast that the estimate for total company tax could in fact be 10 per cent more, which of course means a possible extra $300m from this source alone. So the Budget could be even more contractionary than so far admitted. The so-called low tax government has achieved all this by, firstly, increasing its income tax on wage and salary earners by $2.3 billion, or 18 per cent more than last year’s figures; secondly, raising $3 billion in selective taxation from users of petroleum products; thirdly, abolishing the general 40 per cent health insurance subsidy; and fourthly, cutting capital expenditure for State works programs such as those for housing, schools and medical buildings.
Despite assertions that a turn-around in overseas investment in the second half of the year has improved and will continue to improve the balance of payments deficit, there is still a continuing haemorrhage in the current account. How the Treasurer can regard the current account balance of payments deficit of $3.1 billion, some $600m more than last year, as being satisfactory is astounding. The Government still had to borrow $ 1,557m from overseas partially to compensate for the deficit in the balance of payments. The dreadfully high invisible payout was $3.7 billion. I have said this before, and let me say it again: When is the Government going to do something about this drain of our funds overseas in payment for freight on exports and imports. It is a standing disgrace that only 3 per cent of our exports and imports are carried by ships of the Australian National Line or by ships carrying an Australian flag.
The Budget will create further unemployment and increase inflation to at least 10 per cent this year. The Budget Papers say that. It is designed to reduce real wages and salaries and cut general living standards. It says that the 1978-79 inflation rate of 8.8 per cent exceeded wage increases of 7.7 per cent by 1.1 per cent. It predicts that wages will rise by 9 per cent this year as against an expected 10 per cent inflation rate. So, by conservative Treasury estimates, this means that real wages will be reduced by more than 2 per cent over two years. Instead of reducing living standards and creating further unemployment by slashing real wages and the domestic deficit, we need stimulatory and expansionary policies. Cutting the deficit and capital expenditure by creating more unemployment restricts the tax base even further, leading to the necessity to increase taxes on those lucky enough to hold jobs, and to cut expenditure further next year. All of this in turn leads to even more unemployment. As the shadow Treasurer, the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis), puts it:
The Government creates an economic vortex in which higher taxes and expenditure cuts inevitably increase unemployment, and so on.
It is a vicious circle in the worst sense. This Budget is without doubt an unemployment Budget. The Budget Papers predict only a 0.75 per cent growth in total employment this financial year. Taking into account the 6.056 million people who are calculated as being in total employment, that means, in round figures, some 45,000 extra jobs. The Department of Employment and Youth Affairs figures suggest that the potential total work force will increase by 100,000 to 120,000 this financial year. That means, on simple arithmetic, that this Budget will create between 55,000 and 75,000 more unemployed this financial year. But- and this is the pertinent point- this depends upon the accuracy of the Budget forecasts, which predict a 3 per cent growth in the non-farm sector and a 2.5 per cent growth in gross domestic product this year. That may be an overestimate, it may be optimistic. If the forecasts of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) are correct, and I think they are, we could face a growth in the non-farm sector of less than 2 per cent this financial year, in which case the increase in the potential labour force, about which I have just spoken, of up to 120,000 will indeed feed straight through to unemployment. So the real increased unemployment figure as a result of this Budget could be not 55,000 to 75,000 but 100,000 to 120,000. Those people will join the 410,000 that the Commonwealth Employment Service already has registered. To that number can be added the at least 200,000 so-called discouraged job seekers. They are the people who the Budget Papers again estimate are unemployed but who for one reason or another have failed to register. That is inherent in the 1.6 per cent fall in the participation rate in the work force that is outlined in the Budget Papers. So altogether these figures add up to 685,000 at a conservative estimate, or 1 1 percent of the work force that we can confidently expect will be unemployed by April or May next year as a result of this Government’s policies.
There is no question that the unemployed are the losers in this Budget. They are forgotten by this Government. The Government has cut the Special Youth Employment Training Program by $50m. That means that some 40,000 fewer young people will be employed under that scheme. The other day the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs (Mr Viner) criticised employers for abusing the program and said that they were treating it simply as a job subsidy instead of a training scheme. He has finally found that out. I told him that some 12 months ago. The point is that the Budget ignores the unemployment problem. It has given $2 6m more to the Commonwealth Rebate for Apprentice Fulltime Training scheme and that is welcome, but it is at the expense of the disadvantaged young unemployed- the long term unemployed youth whom the scheme was supposed to assist.
The Government’s treatment of the unemployed is absolutely scurrilous. It restored halfyearly indexation for pensioners, but not for the unemployed without dependants. That has meant that the $36 payable to those over 1 8 has been pegged since 1975 and the $51.45 payable to those over 1 8 has been pegged since 1 978. The pensioner income test, which determines pension eligibility, is $20 for a single person and $34 for a married couple. The pensioner health card thresholds for income are $40 and $68 respectively. But the unemployed do not get health cards and neither is their threshold level of income set at $20 or $34. It is $6 for a family, and every dollar earned over that is a direct reduction on their income.
This Government has made the unemployed the new pariahs and the untouchables of our society. It has attempted to revive the hated dole bludger syndrome in an attempt to make out before the people of Australia that these people are unemployed as a result of their own inadequacies. That is simply not true. Look at the attacks through the latest changes in the work test. The Government intends to make skilled workers seek less skilled jobs in areas far from their homes. Young people are asked to provide evidence that they are seeking out employers regularly, for jobs that just do not exist. There are 410,000 people now registered as unemployed, and only 16,700 registered vacancies. If all those vacancies were filled- every one of them- there would still be 390,000 people unemployed. What is the sense in harassing young people and telling them that they have to go out to look for non-existent jobs every day of the week? It would be far better if they were encouraged to participate in meaningful manpower programs and training. Such is the vicious stupidity of this Government. Before I leave the topic of unemployment I remind honourable members of what the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) said on 27 November 1975 in his election policy speech. He said:
We will be generous to those who can ‘t get a job and want to work.
This coalition Government tries to pretend that its parties are low tax parties. They have a very bad track record indeed on taxation. In February 1978 the so-called tax cuts were implemented. They gave $3 a week to a person earning $200 a week but $62 a week to someone earning $ 1,000 a week. By 1 November last year the promise in the previous Budget was broken as the surcharge was implemented. The combination of the tax cuts of early that year and the surcharge meant that a person earning $200 a week was 15c a week worse off while the person earning $1,000 was $38 ahead. Then the Government pledged to remove the 2.57c in the dollar surcharge as of 30 June this year and pledged itself to restore full tax indexation. It is history that the combined effects of the mini-Budget and the August Budget of this year created a situation in which there was no tax indexation whatsoever and a surcharge of 1.07c in the dollar was applied over the complete financial year. So it is not a case of the surcharge of 2.57c in the dollar coming off on 1 December; it is a case of a 1 .07c in the dollar surcharge being left on for the complete financial year. So within those paramaters as set out in the Budget Papers, a 9 per cent wage increase is predicted, there is to be a 1.07c in the dollar surcharge over 12 months and there will be no tax indexation. The figures of Mr Eric Risstrom and the shadow Treasurer are correct. They show that a person on the low income of $6,000 a year, within the criteria I have just outlined, will pay 156 per cent more in income tax and a person on $12,000 will pay 15 per cent more. There is no argument with those figures.
I turn now to the greatest scandal in Australian budgetary history; that is, the great oil and petrol tax rip-off. The Government tries to blame the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries for this situation. It is not OPEC’s decision; it is the Government’s decision. Australia produces 70 per cent of its crude oil requirements which produces 90 per cent of its petrol requirements. The iniquitous decision to pass on the full effects of the OPEC rises to the Australian scene will raise $2,030m for Federal revenues this year. It will hand over $790m in revenue to Esso-BHP, and $470m of that will be windfall profits as a result of the Government’s decision. It will also raise the consumer price index by 2.5 per cent this financial year. The decision has lifted petrol prices from 15c a litre to 30c a litre between the Budget of 1977 and the Budget of 1979. The Government will receive $3 billion in combined levy, excise and duty on refined petroleum products this financial year- $500 for every employed person in this country or $625 for every civilian employed in this country. It means that in two years the cost of filling the tank of an ordinary 6-cylinder family car has risen from $8.50 to $17.00. The reasons for this rip-off have been given by the Government as the need to encourage exploration and the need to conserve oil reserves. Neither of those objectives can be demonstrated to have been met. The policy is simply not working. Only 52 wells were drilled in the last financial year. Esso-BHP allocated only $ 1 50m of those windfall profits to exploration off the Western Australian coast over six years. In 1978 the Broken Hill Proprietary Co. Ltd spent $ 1 on oil exploration abroad for every $2 it spent in Australia.
There is no denying that the oil situation is serious. Oil prices will continue to rise and oil will become scarcer as oil producing countries, especially in the Middle East, seek to conserve their only one real source of export earning income. The limit of oil prices will be the capacity of the consuming nations to pay and the cost of liquid energy alternatives. All that is true, but we can afford not to pass on these inflationary increases automatically if we do a number of things to help ourselves. Clearly, one of the things we ought to do is to implement the decision of the Australian Labor Party taken in Adelaide to set up an Australian hydrocarbons corporation to engage in all the activities of an integrated oil company, from exploration to marketing. Further, we ought to spend much more money on funding alternatives to petrol. It is unbelievable that the Prime Minister in his recent energy statement allocated only an extra $5m- up to $9m- a year for research into this vital program of research into alternative energy and liquid fuels. The President of the United States of America, President Carter, in his recent statement on these matters foreshadowed the spending of an extra $5 billion. People in the United States understand that they have to reduce the consumption of 8.5 million barrels of oil a day, which equals the whole of the daily production of Saudi Arabia. That figure has to be reduced. So the United States is spending $5 billion on research into alternative energy measures. And this Government allocates $9m and professes to have an energy program.
In conclusion, I say that this is a sinister and deceitful Budget. The financial editor of the Melbourne Age wrote the day after its delivery:
It will not last six months unless the coalition believes it is possible to go into an election campaign in 1980 with a stagnant economy and an unprecedented level of unemployment.
The Government must know this. Perhaps Australia really faces yet another mini-Budget in six or eight months. After all $ 1,400m can be regenerated by raising the domestic deficit to 1978-79 levels.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Armitage)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I thought that the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr West) made as good a job as he could in the circumstances. After all, the Australian on 19 July, referring to the Australian Labor Party conference in Adelaide to which the honourable member referred, stated:
It says a lot about the inability of the ALP to come to grips with economic reality that the Hawke committee’s plan was no more practical than the Hayden compromise promises to be . . .
The last thing we need is a party working on airy-fairy cliches and the ideas of pseudo-intellectual theorists- riven by internecine strife.
Let us analyse what the honourable member just said. Amongst other things he said that the Commonwealth should be blamed because it has not expended more on the establishment of schools. What are the facts? If I may deal with the references to airy-fairy cliches, it is a fact that in my State fewer people are going to school. The program does not come to a halt but what is anticipated, and practically and sensibly so, is that there should be a toning down in the number of new schools being built, particularly in older areas. That is exactly the sort of action referred to in the article that I have just quoted from. The honourable member for Cunningham, in his frantic attempts to support his leader’s policy speech, evidently has not read the Age of 19 July which reported:
Mr Hawke has privately told ALP national conference delegates he now feels he cannot trust Mr Hayden.
The National Times, a day or two later, reported:
As far as I’m concerned, Hayden is dead ‘.
The National Times, in the same issue, reported:
I see every reason why a loyal member such as the honourable member for Cunningham should do what he can within his own limitations to try to pluck what criticism he possibly can from thus Budget. But that does not mean to say that anyone who can stop to think gives any kudos at all to the reasoning of the honourable member. For instance, what does the United Kingdom Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr Denis Healey, a Labour chancellor, say? He said:
It remains as true as ever that inflation is the main enemy of full employment.
Where is that comment in the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden)? Where is there any realisation of it in any speech that so far has been made by Labor Party members during this Budget debate? Denis Healey also said:
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.
But we cannot expect to see the rate of unemployment -
And I ask Opposition members to listen to this: moving down at an acceptable speed unless we can create new jobs particularly in profitable firms.
What does this Budget do for the manufacturing industry? I would like those honourable members who will follow me in this debate to tell me where the gap is in the impeccable logic of Mr Denis Healey. Why is it that those people who stop to think know that he is right and know that this Government is right in the thrust of it’s Budget in respect of creating new jobs particularly in profitable firms in manufacturing industry and so strengthen the industrial base on which our whole economy depends. The honourable member for Cunningham, in his own inimitable gruff fashion, has tried to make the best of a bad case, and I congratulate him insofar as he was able to do so. The honourable member for Cunningham criticised our fuel policy. Has he not noticed that in the last 24 hours Ampol Petroleum Ltd has announced the coming on stream of a huge plant for the production of ethanol which would not have been possible but for the Government’s fuel pricing policy? Ampol has forecast that within four years when the plant comes on stream there will be a margin for the production of ethanol. This would not have been possible if we had listened to the runaway tactics of the Leader of the Opposition who by innuendo said that we have taxed the consumers, the small businessmen and everyone else through our pricing policy. All these new discoveries, of which the most important was announced in the last 24 hours, that is, the Ampol ethanol production plant, are possible only because of the pricing policy. I wonder whether the honourable member for Cunningham can get that through his head. It seems to me that in a rational approach he should attempt to do so.
The principal thrust of the Opposition’s attack on the Budget is centred on unemployment and its contention that the Budget documents set forth a gloomy forecast. Let us face the fact that Budget forecasts are frequently conservative. I believe that Budget forecasts must be set against the background of the real gross domestic product statistics which point to an increase of 2.5 per cent for Australia, not 1.5 per cent as the honourable member for Cunningham said, compared with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development forecast of 4 per cent. Whether we take the more conservative Budget figure or the OECD forecast, the fact is that an increase in the standard of living of Australians generally is forecast at a time when other nations show a smaller or, in some cases, a negative growth figure, as occurred on at least one occasion during the era of the Whitlam Government. The OECD forecasts a growth of 1.6 per cent in the United Kingdom, 3 per cent in the United States of America, an OECD average of 3.5 per cent and a 4 per cent growth in Australia. Such a real economic growth rate can be expected to have an effect on employment, particularly in labour-oriented industries. An example that I have in mind, which has been mentioned before in this House, is the 30 per cent increase in the export of manufactured goods during the last 12 months. This growth should be maintained, given the alterations to Division 7 provisions, which over two years have enabled smaller firms to retain profits from 50 per cent to 70 per cent. There is a huge increase in proposed expenditure on export incentive and performance schemes and there are similar increases in research and development funds. So there is no reason why that growth trend cannot be maintained and this Budget contains incentives to make sure that trend should continue. Two of these three incentive schemes peculiarly aid small businesses and, together with the elimination of death duties, represent very considerable help to all small businesses, whether city or rural, and, further, they offer real incentive for increased employment, frequently in regional areas, and that is desirable.
The Australian Labor Party at both the Federal and State levels- and this is obvious from the speech of the Leader of the Opposition in this House- continues to believe that it can spend its way out of unemployment. But the consequence of that action is more inflation. The Leader of the
Opposition has said so. He said: ‘We will allow the deficit to balloon out a little bit’. This is very similar to the situation that occurred when Treasurer Cairns was winding his little handle, producing more money and saying: ‘We will continue to wind it if it has any effect on unemployment’. What did that do? As inflation increased and as wages increased proportionately to inflation more and more people were thrown out of work. It was Labor’s Treasurer Crean who said that one man’s wage rise cost another man his job. Yet, this seems to me to be exactly what the Labor Party is suggesting in this Budget debate, quite contrary to the remarks of Denis Healey that I dealt with earlier.
Is the Opposition doing this in ignorance? Is it playing cheap political politics? Or is it doing both? I am not sure. All I know is that any rational thinker will know that Denis Healey is correct, will know that the Government is correct and will know that the current thrust of the Opposition’s arguments on unemployment is nothing less than blowing in the face of the wind, to coin a phrase. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table setting out the statistics for several employment categories for two 12-month periods from May 1974 to May 1975 and from May 1978 to May 1979.
The table read as follows-
-I thank the House. For the 12 months from May 1974 to May 1975, the number of persons in civilian employment was down 55,000. From May 1978 to May 1979, the number was up by 64,000. From May 1974 to May 1975 the number of persons in private employment was down 155,000. From May 1978 to May 1979, the number was up 48,900. From May 1974 to May 1975, the number of persons in government employment rose, as one might expect, by 100,000 and from May 1978 to May 1979 it rose by 15,000. From May 1974 to May 1975 the number of persons unemployed increased by 164,200 and from May 1978 to May 1979 it increased by 1,300. Who has the right answer to unemployment? Is not the record of the Government, even throwing in the Regional Employment Development scheme which was introduced and removed by the Labor Party, considerably ahead of any performance by a Labor Party government? Of course, when one looks at those figures in a cold light one sees the persuasive nature of that charge.
The Government in my own State of South Australia is equally blinkered. It has pursued such socialist schemes as Monarto, Samcor, the frozen food factory with its subsequent scandal, and the new project by the South Australian Land Commission which looks as though it will sound one of the death knells of the Corcoran Government. The Land Commission in South Australia was a Uren-Dunstan dream supported by Whitlam. It had the laudable aim of enabling South Australia to borrow $52m from the Commonwealth to purchase broad acres. The objective, about which we have heard a great deal from the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren), was to make land available for future housing blocks at a cheap rate. It has had the opposite effect. These blocks are now more expensive than nearby similar housing blocks opened up by private enterprise. This wild example of stupid and incomplete planning- I cannot conceive that the Opposition in this place is any different in philosophy from what has been a fairly successful Government in the past in South Australia- is now costing South Australian taxpayers $8,800 a day or $3. 2m a year in interest rates alone. Those figures do not include any repayment of the loan. Coupled with that scheme the project at Monarto adds another $5,000 a day in interest payments which the people of South Australia have to bear. Surely this goes back to my original statement to which I referred in the Australian newspaper, namely, that we can do with less airy-fairy, pseudo-intellectual socialist dreams and a little more practical knowledge of planning and proper organisation before taxpayers’ funds are so expended.
– Why don ‘t you get on with it?
– We have got on with it very well. The biggest increases in the bureaucracy in Australia have taken place in South Australia whose economy is going down and in Western Australia which at least has the excuse that its economy is going up. Those States are averaging an increase of about 14 per cent a year which the taxpayers- I think that even the honourable member for Melbourne pays his taxes- have to bear. We are doing a great deal as the figures to which I have referred will show.
I now turn to a matter which is of great concern to me personally. It is a matter which many people in my electorate feared a great deal; that is, the possible imposition of a sales tax on wine that the Press was busy promoting for two months prior to the introduction of the Budget. Many people have given me a lot of help. I am delighted at the action of the Cabinet and the Government in relation to this matter. I would be wrong if I did not put on record my thanks to the South Australian Liberal senators and the State member for Chaffey, Mr Peter Arnold, for all their help in representing an opposite view in times of cyclical imbalance in consumption and demand in the grape growing industry. The Government has also decided to continue the quota arrangements on imported brandy and other protection measures for another six months until it has had time to consider fully the two Industries Assistance Commission reports affecting potable spirits and the grape growing industry. I will be attempting to influence the Government along the lines of a differential in favour of Australian produced spirits, including brandy, as against imported spirits. The 1978 Budget increased local excise and customs duty equally by 83.6 per cent. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a chart showing the average drop in consumption of Australian produced gin, brandy, rum, whisky, ouzo, vodka, liqueurs and other beverages as well as the consumption downturn in imported spirits. I have shown this chart also to the honourable member for Blaxland.
The document read as follows-
– These figures speak for themselves. Brandy consumption is down by roughly 3 1 per cent. The consumption of scotch whisky is down by only 20 per cent. That tends to be the spirit with the potential growth, given comparatively equitable treatment across the board. Honourable members will be able to study those figures in Hansard. As a result of the Government’s increase in excise and customs duty, government revenue has increased, contrary to the attitude of growers, by $24. 1 lm or 3 1.7 per cent. What has decreased is the estimate in last year’s Budget Papers. Based on those statistics the revenue yield has fallen by nearly 50 per cent or $24. 1 1 m on Australian spirits. Over the next few months the Government should be able to maximise its own yield- those figures prove that it has not done so- and, at the same time, allow the brandy side of the grape growing industry to exist as an important economic adjunct.
Last year average farm incomes doubled, although it must be remembered that only about half of Australia’s farmers shared that benefit. Many of them needed additional income as they came out of years of drought. This upturn led to many consequential benefits to the economy such as an improved balance of payments, more consumer demand, increased gross domestic product and some increase in employment in rural and rural-related industries. Of course, like most things, there were also costs to be met; for example, increases in the food component of the consumer price index and increases in the money supply, particularly from wheat advance payments. The wheat industry is now bigger than the total Budget of at least one State m Australia. That gives some indication of the enormous consequences of that industry in the Australian scene. I notice that yesterday the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) dismissed those facts with the glib phrase ‘a fortuitous rural boom ‘. It was certainly a boom but I can think of many farmers who have experienced fire, flood, drought, poor seasons and increasing costs who would not think that it was fortuitous.
Opposition members would do well to think before opening their mouths too widely on rural matters, on the devaluation in 1976 which was of considerable advantage to export earners and on the control of inflation which is now at a rate lower than that of most other countries with which we trade. It is anticipated that the United States will have an inflation rate in the coming year of about 14 per cent. In the United Kingdom the annual inflation rate based on the last quarter is close to 22 per cent. It is important for people to realise, before they talk about the economy or criticise the Government, the fact that as every day goes by this country becomes more competitive with its trading partners. That has a very great effect on and relevance to the standard of living of all Australians. Our performance is improving day by day in comparison with most of our trading partners with the possible exception of Japan.
I noticed that the New South Wales Premier, Mr Wran, speaking on the radio program P.M. on 18 July about the Australian Labor Party’s, economic policy, said:
We ‘ve finished up with a bit of a hotch-potch of a policy.
I am not necessarily accusing the Labor Party of that. It has its problems, I know. That is Mr Wran’s thinking. I believe that the Budget and the debate on it bears out that comment by Mr Wran. To my mind, the speech by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) was both cheap and tasteless. It was in no way up to the standard of speeches made by other Opposition leaders in the 15 years in which I have listened to them in this place. Many of his remarks were a disgrace to the House. He is not the slightest bit repentant about the drastic damage done to Australia and the Australian people by the Government of which he was a prominent Minister and even a Treasurer. If the ALP and its leader are not now aware of the improvements in the economy -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Armitage)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I wish to deal with one aspect of the speech just made by the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Giles). He talked about the track record on unemployment. I remind him that 1,000 unemployed people have been added to the list for every month that his Government has been in power. A conservative anticipated figure of about 60,000 unemployed is admitted in the Budget Papers. This Budget holds little joy for Australians, particularly those looking to the bleak future of unemployment. It gives a further fillip to big business. The Treasurer (Mr Howard) himself has admitted that this is a business Budget. The upper classes continue to pay less than their fair share of taxation, but the great majority of Australians are served poorly by this Budget. However, some sections of the population have been hit harder than others, and among these groups are the people of Canberra. Today I wish to demonstrate just how unsympathetically Canberra has been treated.
Canberra is thought of by many Australians as a privileged city, subject to huge Government subsidy and support. I would debate that attitude, but if there was ever any truth in it, after four Fraser Budgets, there is no doubt that exactly the opposite is true now. This Budget gives less to the people of Canberra this year and takes more. It takes more via a considerable hike in the rates, higher land rents, and higher departmental fees and charges. On the other hand, after making a modest allowance for inflation, the Budget gives less to Canberra in total social welfare appropriations, education appropriations, health appropriations, and the construction budget for the National Capital Development Commission.
This last factor will have a most drastic effect on Canberra’s unemployment rate. Canberra has the highest rate of unemployment of any city in Australia. Unemployment in Canberra has been increasing since the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) came to power and its increase shows no signs of abating. Unemployment is increasing faster than elsewhere- over the last twelve months by 18 per cent, the twelve months prior to that by 21 per cent, and this Budget will produce another 20 per cent increase during the coming year. For the people of Canberra, the 1979-80 Budget is first and foremost an unemployment Budget. This is purely and simply because Government expenditure within the Australian Capital Territory again has been cut back this year. Total government spending will drop by $8.9m to $422m. After allowing for inflation this year, government expenditure within the Australian Capital Territory will drop by 8 per cent in real terms. On the other hand, total Government receipts from the good citizens of the Australian Capital Territory will rise by a real 3.4 per cent, or by $ 15.5m to $143m. It is quite simple: In either dollar terms, or real terms, the Government this coming financial year will take more from the people of the Australian Capital Territory and give less. Simply, they are the facts. This theme runs through a whole mass of statistics that can be extracted from the Budget Papers.
In this statement I have allowed for inflation at 8.5 per cent, a most conservative estimate as the Government itself has suggested a 10 per cent inflation figure for the coming year. After the figures have been deflated the appropriation for the Department of the Capital Territory is down whilst revenue that it collects from territorians is up. The NCDC’s administrative budget is down, its construction budget is down much more, and the percentage of its construction budget for new projects is down even further. This has a devastating effect on the employment opportunities of people throughout the Territory. This fact is one that in the light of Canberra’s unemployment problem I wish to explore a little further. In 1977-78, NCDC’s construction budget was $ 196.75m. Last year it was slashed to $ 1 55m and this year again it has been drastically pruned, down to $ 127.7m. Allowing for inflation, NCDC’s construction budget dropped by 24 per cent in the latest appropriation.
Now the Minister has argued that the budget should quite properly be slashed, because Canberra ‘s population growth has slowed dramatically- due only, of course, to Government policy and financial stringency- and that therefore there is less need to build and service the new facilities that people need. If that is the case then why does the Government not go to the people to test who is right and who is wrong in this Budget? As far as it goes, that is a good and correct argument. But it is only half the story. The NCDC builds not only what it calls normal basic community requirements, but also Commonwealth offices and national works, and it is especially in this last category that I believe there is room for construction projects that will relieve this city’s ever-climbing unemployment. The NCDC’s total proposals for new projects were $86m last year and only $48. 5m this year, and after inflation that is an incredible drop of something like 45 per cent. Last year the NCDC proposed $70m worth of community requirement type projects and only $2m of national works. This year it is $3 9m worth of community projects and $4m in national works.
The building industry is the largest private employer of labour in the Australian Capital Territory and with the savage drop in NCDC contract expenditure many more building companies will go to the wall or leave the Territory- as many others have before them. What effect will that have on employment opportunities and, in particular, employment opportunities for young people in the Territory? Others will simply lay off workers, who will have to join the dole queues in and around Canberra. Hundreds of jobs in the building industry are likely to be lost, and of course this will have deleterious effects right through the Canberra economy. But it is in government building projects that much of the sting could be removed from our unemployment problem. Last calendar year, 1 ,400 jobs were lost from the Australian Capital Territory construction industry, which now employs fewer people than at any other time since 1 968-69. A slashing of the NCDC’s construction budget will only increase this slide. The trend has to be reversed.
The Government uses glib phrases when it talks about the projects it initiates. They sound very rosy, and the arguments developed by some of the better speakers on the Government side are all very fine. But there is one problem: They are not doing anything to cure unemployment. People who are on fixed incomes and social services cannot eat them. The trend must be reversed. The problem is that, despite the Minister’s pie-in-the-sky wishings, the private sector will not take up the slack- certainly not this year, anyway. One would have to be a super-optimist to believe that the new Canberra Development Board will be so successful that major new private construction projects will be underway within this financial year. The public sector must take up the slack. The fact is that the Canberra Development Board is another facade, another committee. When the Government gets into trouble, what does it do? It sets up a committee or tries to find a scapegoat, but it does nothing about the reality of the problem.
Unemployment in Canberra rose by more than 1,000 over the last 12 months and by the same amount the year before. I take this opportunity to remind the people of Canberra of the attitude of the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs (Mr Viner) towards the Australian Capital Territory’s unemployment problem. The man told a Liberal Party meeting in June that Canberra’s young jobless would have to leave the Australian Capital Territory to have a hope of getting work. What a rotten, callous attitude. This man would break up families, destroy stable lifestyles and send young people out on the road looking for work, which the Government will do nothing to provide in their home city- a company town run by this Government. This action will lead the young people away from parental control. They may finish up on the junk heaps somewhere or as junkies or prostituting themselves in and around the major cities of this country trying to keep a roof over their heads. They are the facts. We have this individual making statements such as that to the people in the Liberal Party who are the architects of the Budget strategy which is doing nothing to relieve unemployment or the plight of the underprivileged in this country.
The Government’s real reductions in expenditure through the Department of the Capital Territory and the NCDC and its real reduction in total expenditure are counterpoised by the rises in the general, water and sewerage rates. Everybody in Canberra knows that to be a fact. Once again, the Government’s blank assertions as to the necessity for rate rises do not hold water.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting for lunch I was talking about the philosophy of the Government and the Budget of deception as it applied to the Government’s claim that rate rises in Canberra were not only a necessity but also were to cover certain aspects of Canberra. An example of the deception is the rise of 7.8 per cent in the general rate. That means a rise of 7.8 per cent above the inflation rate, as a rating of cents in the dollar is inflation proof. The water and sewerage rates are to rise by 1 1.8 per cent cent and 17.9 per cent respectively after taking inflation into account. The Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Ellicott) has told the people of Canberra that these rises were necessary for the debt servicing of the newly commissioned Googong Dam and the lower Molonglo sewerage works. Increased revenue from the two rate rises collectively will be $2.94m. The net extra debit servicing charges to the Commonwealth for the two new facilities are less than $2.2m. Once again the public of Canberra has been swindled, to the tune of over $750,000 by the rate increases.
Take more and give less is a fundamental philosophy of this Government generally and in particular towards the citizens of Canberra and the Australian Capital Territory. The attitude of the Liberal Party to this city is apparent. Where are all those noisy local representatives while this finagling goes on? There is not one of them in the House now. I would like to hear the honourable member for Canberra (Mr Haslem) making a lot more noise than he is at the moment. He has been uncharacteristically quiet since the Budget. I do not believe that I am being uncharitable in suggesting that the honourable member has gone to ground. His colleagues from the centre also have been curiously silent, while selling some of their interests in the restaurants throughout Canberra. I have said that the Liberal Government’s attitude towards this city has been characterised by giving less and taking more. There is one exception to this rule in the Budget Papers however- only one. It concerns Commonwealth Brickworks (Canberra) Pty Ltd. Members may recall that this Government sold the brickworks to a large brickmaking company, Clifton Brick Holdings Ltd, late last month in an asset stripping operation. It was part of the program to sell out all of the Commonwealth instrumentalities, even those that are making a handsome profit, to provide further assets for the people whom they represent in this Parliament.
– The brickworks were losing $800,000 a year.
-The Minister for Industrial Relations has made another one of his emptyheaded comments. He can listen to a bit of logic about what happened with the brickworks. The sale of the brickworks was a classic example of the asset stripping operation of the Government. The acquisition of the brickworks must have seemed like manna from heaven to Clifton Holdings which paid only $3.575m of this gift from the Liberal Party. The Budget Papers confirm this, but they also point out that a discharge of liabilities over the Commonwealth brickworks will cost the Government $4.2m. Is that right? So much for the fact that the brickworks may well have been losing money. The Government has sold the Commonwealth brickworks for $600,000 less than its debts. That was another hand-out to one of its Liberal friends. The Government sold an asset only to lose over $500,000.
All this becomes the more curious when it is realised that in 1977 the Government attempted to sell a half share in the brickworks for $3m. However, no congratulation is deserved. In fact, condemnation is more in order as welfare spending will actually drop. In a Press interview, quoting figures about some individuals representing the party’s interests, the Minister for the Capital Territory said that congratulations had gone to the Government for the apparent fact that social welfare expenditure in the Territory is to rise. As I have already indicated, congratulations not only are not necessary but are misplaced. Condemnation is probably more the order of the day as welfare spending in the Australian Capital Territory will drop. Only the allocation for welfare spending by the Department of the Capital Territory rose in this Budget. The allocation for spending by the Department of Social Security, on the other hand, dropped and the funds formerly disbursed by the Legislative Assembly have dwindled to nothing since the Minister’s piracy of the poker machine funds for the Department of the Capital Territory. The allocation of those funds was determined by people who at least represented the interests of the people of Canberra.
This has all been changed by a sleight of hand trick by the Minister. He is accumulating all the funds into one area and then handing them out in an allocation that waters down the effect of the Budget strategy which has applied more pressure on more people who are not in a position to defend themselves. There are people who require social security handouts, who of right ought to have them. The money obtained in this area ought to be used for alleviating the plight that is perpetrated on them by the policies of this Government. As I said, the Minister’s piracy of the poker machine funds has already been debated in this Parliament. We said that the matter of poker machine revenue should have been referred to -
– What did you say about my being a pirate?
– The Minister for the Capital Territory has arrived. I am glad that he is here to hear the pearls of wisdom. Perhaps he will take them on board, change his ways and allow the House of Assembly to distribute the money that is collected in the Australian Capital Territory, particularly in Canberra, from poker machines. That revenue should not be used to subsidise the Budget strategy of the Government by a sleight of hand trick- now we see and now we do not. In that respect the social welfare allocations made by the Government are somewhat of a subterfuge. This revenue is all lumped into one. I am not arguing that there could not be a more rational or efficient way of distributing funds. But the Government should not lump them together, as was pointed out to the Minister for the Capital Territory during the debate on the poker machine revenue. The Government will take that money to subsidise funds in the next Budget. It is changing the picture as to what in fact happens with the funds as it proceeds to subsidise what should have been the responsibility of the Government- to maintain the level of expenditure in relation to those organisations which deal with people who are not in a position to help themselves in the social welfare area and to encourage those organisations to maintain their services. The Budget strategy is directed towards restricting their ambit of operation. Not only is the Government restricting their ambit of operation, but it is also claiming credit for something that it has not done. In the whole Budget strategy of deception, this fits admirably into the mosaic of that attitude of the Government.
Last year the Department of the Capital Territory was allocated $5.93m for welfare expenditure. The Department of Social Security contributed $ 1.32m and the revenue from poker machine funds added close to $ 1 m. Total welfare funds for the Australian Capital Territory were therefore $8.25m. This year the Department of the Capital Territory has offered $7.29m and DOSS only $660,000, a cut of over 53 per cent on last year’s allocation.
– It is a cut of 53 per cent since last year. I challenge the Minister to show from the Budget papers that that is not a fact. This totals $7. 96m, which even without taking inflation into effect, is clearly a cut of $290,000. After inflation, this represents a cut of 1 1 per cent. That is a large drop. On the one hand the Government is promoting policies and cutting funds, which will lead to an increase in the number of Canberrans out of work; and on the other hand the Government offers less support for those who are destitute or financially hampered by unemployment. This is part of the Government’s strategy. The Government’s treatment of Canberra in this Budget is scandalous, and the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Ellicott) ought to stand up and be counted on the issue and declare publicly the real effect on the population of Canberra and the real effect on those who are exploited by the policies of the Government. All Canberrans should realise this, condemn it and unite to throw out the Liberal larrikins who are ruining this country. They will have that opportunity, if the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Government members sitting on the front and back benches have any courage whatsoever and go to the people and let them decide whether this Budget strategy ought to be accepted or rejected. I am sure that it will be rejected.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-We have just heard an extraordinary speech from the last speaker, the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes).
– He is an extraordinary member.
-He is a rather extraordinary member. I have no doubt in my mind that if we went to the people on this Budget we would get their resounding backing, as we have in the last two elections. Therefore, I rise to support this Budget. I have no doubt that it has been reasonably well received in the electorate. There is no way that a responsible Budget will receive national acclaim. There will always be those interest groups which feel that not enough has been done in their particular field, and there certainly will be people who feel that they are paying too much, through all methods of taxation, for the services the Government supplies. A successful government must strive to achieve a balance between these two groups. At this point in time I believe that we have the right Budget.
The Australian public must be well warned of what the alternative government proposes. It would actively increase government’s role and government spending. It would seek to ginger up the economy with capital works. It would subsidise employment and create a community youth service. It does not cost its plans, but the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) has said that it would finance them by reducing costs- although he did not say how- by taxing capital, resource development and oil producing companies, by increasing the deficit and by increasing taxation, particularly at the top end of the taxation scale. Heaven help the people of Australia.
Have not we heard it all before? Not only have we heard it, but also it has been put into practice during the administration of the previous Government. The result was record levels of inflation and unemployment. The nation is still struggling to discard the effect of those tragic years, and it is succeeding. We, on this side of the House, do believe in social justice. We do believe in providing incentives for both individuals and businesses. We do believe in bearing down on inflation to equip Australia to succeed in a world environment of rising inflation and intensifying competition. We do believe in small government.
Many people within our community would suggest that since 1975 we have not progressed along these paths at a sufficient rate. They would suggest that a very close study should be made of California’s Proposition 13, as approved a year ago by 65 per cent of voters in that State. Let us look just briefly at Proposition 13. It provided for a 57 per cent cut in the State’s property tax and stipulated that no new State taxes be imposed without the consent of two-thirds majorities in the legislature and that no new local taxes be levied without referenda. It had been opposed, predictably, by the Left, local government, education and welfare lobbies and unions, and also by politicians of both sides, by the Press and by big business. There were forecasts of massive lay-offs, increased deprivation, budgetary chaos and the collapse of essential services. So, 12 months after Proposition 13 it is useful to look at its effects and examine the whole question of lower personal tax and less government spending.
The facts are that the $6.4 billion tax cut has resulted in a 14 per cent increase in personal income, and unemployment in the State being down by 1 per cent, against a national decline of 0.5 per cent in 1978-79. Some 552,000 new jobs have been created, offsetting 100,000 jobs lost in the public sector. Revenue from business and sales taxes is up by $ 1 billion, and income tax receipts are up despite cuts made last year. Sceptics suggest that the boom would have happened anyway, but to deny its connection with tax cuts strains credibility. Policitians have appreciated the public mood and previous opponents of Proposition 13, such as Governor Brown, now champion the principle of expenditure restraint.
The public employee roll in California has been cut by 8 per cent. Jobs on the city payrolls are down by 8.5 per cent and in education, where the cuts have fallen on ancillary employees rather than teachers, by 8.9 per cent. Only 16 per cent of the 100,000 lost public sector jobs involved actual lay-offs. A freeze on cost of living wage increases was imposed on State public servants, to avoid further reductions. The same freeze applied to welfare benefits. The State had a much publicised $5 billion surplus in mid- 1978, and this has helped cushion some effects. Public schools that lost $2.6 billion in property tax got $2 billion in aid from the State. The operations of the State Government have been so little affected, in fact, that Howard Jarvis is now turning his attention to a 50 per cent income tax cut to force smaller government. But, as economist Arthur Laffer points out, the cut in property tax has resulted in a general increase in the tax base, so that a projected surplus of $1.5 billion for 1978-79 has come out at $5 billion.
There have of course been significant cuts, particularly in the sphere of local government, which in the United States of America performs a wide range of services. How undesirable these changes have been depends on one ‘s philosophy. Certainly, such essential services as fire fighting and police have remained unaltered. There is less spent on such things as parks and street lighting, and the fee-for-service principle has been extended. Summer school fees of $120 have been imposed, or some summer schools have simply been closed. Left wing commentators weep tears of blood over this and bemoan the fact that libraries close earlier and do not open on two days of the week. There is similar indignation over social service cuts. General assistance for the needy and poor has been cut by 23 per cent in Orange County, with a Budget of $43m, 40 social and mental health workers have been laid off. The ‘inarticulate poor’ are paraded as victims of middle class greed. Tenants are also held to have suffered.
Professor Irving Kristol, however, notes that there is an element of self-interest in all this. Summer schools were used by the middle class more than the poor, and their main beneficiaries were middle class teachers. The same could be said of much of the social service industry. It has also been remarked that there is less need for education spending as population levels off, as is happening in Australia. Kristol points out that the genuine rich and poor are small minorities. The great bulk of Californians are middle income taxpayers whose prime requirement is to pay less tax. The freeze on welfare and public service salaries should be viewed in context. Welfare payments were generous- perhaps too generous- and public servants enjoy very high pension entitlements at the expense of other taxpayers. That is not a uniquely American experience. Local authorities must simply agree to return to smaller government. Naturally, reduction in property tax has no direct benefit to rent payers. Protection of home owners however is surely the major task of fiscal policy. Many rent payers in the United States of America or Australia are young adults who are aspiring home owners rather than a permanent interest group. It is of course true that California is a State where citizen initiated referenda are easy to hold, and where the property tax, inflated by rising land values, was penalising home owners. But this does not alter the significance of the tax revolt. In California the legislature had attempted to stave off Proposition 13 by the Behr Bill that would have been put had the Jarvis.Gann proposal failed. This provided a 30 per cent property tax reduction for private home owners only and rent credits. Yet clearly the voters were in no mood to accept vote catching palliatives from politicians. On the same day, voters in local polls in the State of Ohio rejected 117 of 198 school financing projects because they felt they would not get value for their tax dollars.
Commentators of right and left agree that politicians of most shades have got the message- that taxes are too high and that spending, if not actually cut, should be more discriminating. Tennessee has limited spending and taxation growth to the rate of growth in the State’s economy. State legislatures are in the process of approving tax cuts worth $3.5 billion, and 20 States are looking at statutory limits. A constitutional limit to federal spending has won approval from 30 States- only four short of the numbers for a constitutional convention. Federal spending was 18.7 per cent of gross national product in 1958, and 22.6 per cent in 1978; localstate government taxes were 8.7 per cent of GNP in 1960 and 12.4 per cent in 1976. Congress has discussed proposals to enforce balanced budgets, and a Bill cutting income tax one-third has been proposed. Across the board cuts of 2 per cent in numerous Federal programs have already been supported by the House of Representatives. There would seem to be a consensus that it is up to the executive to determine where specific cuts should be made, once the electorate has established broad limits. Left wing academics are clearly worried by the movement, linked as it is to a conservative trend in intellectual circles. An article by Robert Lekachman in September 1978 gives the game away. Beneath the largely unsubstantiated rhetoric about ‘penalisation of the economically vulnerable’ is the feat that there will be less money for universities and less interest in the more theoretic and left oriented courses. To guage the worth of Proposition 13, we only have to look at its committed opponents.
As noted earlier, the practical effects of large scale tax cuts have been job creation in the private sector and an actual expansion of revenue. Arthur Laffer argues that, while a once-off rebate styles incentive, permanent cuts in tax rates have the opposite effect. Lowering rates for higher income brackets is particularly important, since punitive rates have resulted in the diversion of resources into tax avoidance schemes and away from revenue and productive use. Lower tax will simply mean that expensive avoidance schemes cease to be relatively attractive. Laffer cites the example of Puerto Rico, incidentally a far less prosperous society than California, where in 1977 income tax rates reaching 87 per cent were reduced across the board. A deficit has now become a surplus and interest rates are falling. In four years, the highest tax rate will be 50 per cent. When President Kennedy cut taxes, a $4 billion deficit in 1961 became a surplus in 1965. Considerable publicity has been given to the Laffer curve of tax rates between 0 per cent and 100 per cent. The top of the curve means high tax and high government services, and the bottom of the curve towards 0 per cent means the converse. The apex of the curve represents the ideal balance between taxes and services, but it is a matter of fine judgment to determine at what rate this occurs. In wartime it could be well above 50 per cent but in peacetime far lower.
A disciple of Laffer ‘s, Jude Wanniski, elaborates on the effects of tax rates through history. The reason why comparatively small numbers of Arabs were able to conquer so much of the Near East in the seventh century relates to the fact that the populations of the provinces had been so oppressed by Byzantine taxation that foreign conquest became preferable. The postwar recoveries of Germany and Japan, it is argued, stem from the imposition of much lower tax rates, including those on higher incomes, resulting in the incentive for high productivity. The British Empire was built on the lower end of the Laffer curve and dismantled on the upper end. Taxes were low from 1816 to World War I, the age of British commercial dominance. Her postwar decline coincides with the imposition of high taxes on the rich in 1945 that have not, until the advent of Margaret Thatcher, been seriously questioned. In the United States, the continuation of high tax rates imposed during World War I caused recession in 191 9-20. The repeal of these by Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon, taking the optimum 77 per cent rate down to 25 per cent by 1925, caused GNP to rise from $69.6 billion to $103.1 billion in 1921-29. In turn, the depression owes much to President Hoover’s high tariff and high tax policies. The most damning example of high taxation is found in Soviet agriculture. The State takes 90 per cent of the output of collective farms. A vast increase in effort would yield only a comparatively small increase in return to the peasant, stifling productivity; hence the fact that 27 per cent of the total farm output comes from the I per cent of land retained as private plots by the peasants, a rate of 40 times the efficiency of the collective.
Politicians have a poor record of appreciating that low taxes can be economically sound as well as electorally popular. The British Conservatives have acquiesced to punitive taxes, and conservative Republicans in the United States have only recently embraced tax reform. Jarvis comes from outside the political establishment. Indeed, Goldwater attacked the Kennedy tax cuts in his disastrous 1 964 campaign. It is a lesson that Australian politicians should heed. If we decide to move further on the path of tax reduction, we will have to set our face against some persuasive and ‘respectable’ lobby groups, including a large section of the Press. Pseudo-intellectual journalists are already trying to discredit Arthur Laffer because he enjoys country music, just as they rubbish Margaret Thatcher’s politics by ridiculing her mannerisms. It is a fair measure of the moral bankruptcy of these people. The facts that have come forth since the passing of Proposition 13 give the lie to so many objections raised by its opponents.
The lesson of Proposition 13 is that tax reduction has both stimulated the economy and increased the tax base. Real deprivation does not appear to have resulted from reduced services. So many of the consumers of government services also happen to be taxpayers who have accepted public austerity in return for meaningful tax cuts. I believe that it is an exciting prospect. I trust that our Government and Opposition will look at the Californian and the American situation to gauge for themselves what has occurred in the last 1 2 months. Decisions probably have to be made by the community in Australia whether it is going to insist on smaller government and be content with the austerity of government or whether the big government syndrome is to prevail. I support the Budget.
-The honourable member for Forrest (Mr Drummond) seemed to talk about every country other than Australia. He did not want to deal with the real depth of the social problems that are occurring in this country. In fact, we have both hidden and open unemployment in this country in excess of 800,000 people. We are in a crisis situation. The countries in the Western World want to reduce government expenditure and reduce development in what they call the public sector. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has forecast that by the end of 1980 those Western countries will have increased their unemployment level from 17 million, as it is now, to 19 million. When dealing with the Western countries we are really talking about countries such as the United States of America, France, Great Britain and West Germany- the leading Western economies in the world. By 1980 there will be in the Western world, including Australia, 19 million people unemployed. We are in a crisis situation.
Of course, the honourable member for Forrest kept talking about the reduction in personal income tax. He did not talk about his own Government and how much it has increased taxation. He did not refer to personal income tax, even though that will increase revenue by something like 1 5 per cent in this year alone. He did not talk about its parity pricing policy on petroleum which will increase the Government’s revenue by $2,000m this year. The only negative policies he spoke about were those in regard to the wealthy. The rich are getting richer, and certainly the poor are getting poorer and they will continue to do so under the present Administration. Under the present Administration the wealth has been transferred from the great bulk of the Australian people to the wealthy corporations. That is who really receives most of the profit under this Government.
I want to concentrate my remarks on the transfer of wealth under the former Labor Administration between 1972 and 1975 when I was the Minister for Urban and Regional Development. I shall give some details about the transfer of wealth that occurred under that Government. I shall concentrate on urban and regional affairs and local government. If the time that is available to me permits it I will mention housing.
For 23 years conservative governments in this country were guilty of neglect of our cities and regions. One of the main reasons for the election of a Labor government in 1972 was this neglect and the impact it had on the daily lives of the
Australian people, particularly those people living in our major cities and regional areas. The Labor Party made urban and regional affairs a major priority. We put forward constructive proposals for dealing with the problems faced by people in the areas in which they lived. We won the support of the people for those programs, especially from the people living in the western and south-western suburbs of Sydney and the eastern corridor and the western and northern suburbs of Melbourne, which is the area represented by the honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson). They are the areas in Melbourne where the real social impact occurred.
While in government we acted on our commitment to give priority to improve the living standards of the people in the major cities, growth centres and country towns. We established a strong and innovative Department of Urban and Regional Development and implemented a comprehensive range of positive programs. Few people would argue against the value of Labor’s urban and regional programs. Few people would deny that conservative governments before Labor took office were guilty of the neglect which caused the chaos that occurred in our cities and country regions. Few people would deny now that the present Government not only has neglected the essential services in our cities but also has rejected the needs of the Australian people. Few people do not see now that the Fraser Government has quite deliberately abolished the former urban and regional programs which were getting underway and which were making a real impact in our cities and regional areas. But the numbers of people suffering as a result are not few. The majority of the Australian population- the low and lower middle income earners- are the victims of this
Government’s wrong priorities and its lack of concern for the needs of the Australian people.
The fact is that the problems Labor identified in the 1960s and began to resolve in the early 1970s have been aggravated by the policies of this Government. These problems have grown and newer problems have been added, which are continually aggravating the situation every day. The fact is that the people are experiencing the effects of the deterioration of their living conditions. They feel in their daily lives the consequences of the callous strategy of this Government. My colleagues have referred to the immense hardship suffered by many people as a result of the taxation and wages policies of this Government. Real spending power has been reduced for the majority of the Australian people. Unemployment has grown to an intolerable level.Inflation is increasing. The problems we are facing in the economy are deepening at the hands of this Government.
I wish to address myself to the growing problems suffered by people in the areas in which they live. I refer to the insecurity experienced by people in terms of housing, the distortion of the major urban areas, and the degradation of the living environment of the Australian people. The Government should be more concerned about that living environment. I want to talk about the cut-backs in the social wage that this Government has made over its four Budgets. I refer also to the reduction of essential community services that affect the quality of life for the Australian people. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table headed: ‘Changes in Federal Government Outlays on Housing, Urban and Regional Affairs and the Environment 1975-76 to 1979-80’.
The table read as follows-
-I thank the House. The table shows that over the last four Budgets outlays on housing have fallen continually from the 1975-76 spending level. When we add up each year the short falls from the 1975-76 level we find that the accumulated cut-backs in relation to housing add up to $ 1,084m at 1979-80 prices. When we look at Federal Government spending on urban and regional affairs and the environment we find a further cumulative short fall of $ 1,565m. The cuts in these areas of the social wage since 1975-76 add up to $2,649m or, might I say, $ 1 83 for every person living in this country. That represents a massive transfer of funds and a massive shift in priorities. The real priority of this Government is in fact to support the corporate sector, particularly those big mining corporations which so many members of the National Country Party tend to defend. They would prefer to do that instead of defending the farmers’ rights. Of course, we know that colleagues of the Liberal Party have been linked with the big corporate sector in our major cities.
It is impossible to cut back living standards to such a degree without causing major disruptions in the Australian society. But that is not the whole picture. There has also been a major restructuring of spending priorities within the remaining programs. Half of the spending on what the Government calls environmental protection is allocated to assisting the uranium industry. It has not protected but destroyed areas such as the Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory. The sad situation is that money is being spent on areas such as that. But what has happened, for example, to spending on protection for the people from the hazards of toxic chemicals and other forms of industrial pollution in our factories in the suburbs of our major cities? What of our waterways? What are we doing about the sewerage programs, particularly those in Melbourne where we see sewerage systems and septic systems overflowing into the creeks that empty into Port Phillip Bay?
Many other social problems that we see today were being rectified under Labor Government programs that are now being stifled under this Government. This Government has set aside many important social priorities in favour of transferring funds to the private corporate sector. I would like to stress to those people who may be listening to the broadcast of this debate that when we talk about the transferring of funds from the people to the corporate sector, we should be aware that something like 200,000 companies make out a taxation return each year, fewer than 400 make more than 50 per cent of all company profits. That is the corporate sector I am talking about and that is the sector that this Fraser Government really represents. It represents the wealthy corporations and the wealthy elite of our community. I want people to understand what I mean when I talk about the transfer of wealth from the great bulk of the people to this small sectional group.
It is the unplanned and unchecked nature of the private commercial and industrial activities that has caused many of the major social problems in our cities. The more the private corporations are permitted to go their own way, the more problems that are created for the majority of the people in both the short and long term. There are too few jobs but a lot of work needs to be done to improve living conditions for the people. A lot of work has to be done to clean up the polluted urban environment, to provide basic cultural and community services in the outer suburbs, to improve and extend public transport services and to ensure security of housing for our people.
If I have time, I will deal with the housing problem. Next to unemployment, housing and shelter constitute the most serious social problem we have in our community. I outlined this problem during a debate on a matter of public importance last Thursday. If I have time I will relate some other housing problems. It is not enough for the Government merely to use public funds to mop up the mess caused by the private corporate sector. Governments have a social responsibility to intervene in order to control democratically the direction and pattern of economic development. This Government has eroded the base of the public sector and weakened the ability of the elected government to intervene to protect the interests of the Australian people.
Let us look at the performance of this Government in the area of urban and regional affairs. Total Budget outlays on urban and regional development and the environment fell from 2.1 per cent of total government outlays in 1974-75 to 0.3 per cent in 1978-79. In real terms, since 1975-76 this Government has cut back spending in this area by 83 per cent or, in current prices, from $408m in 1975-76 to $95m this year. That will mean a cut in the social wage for the great bulk of those people living in urban communities. In 1975-76 $ 146m was allocated to improve sewerage and garbage disposal services. In 1978-79 only $4m was allocated; yet there remains a backlog of services in these areas. In addition, we are beginning to see the need to rehabilitate deteriorating services. This Government has undermined the development of selected growth centres. It has absolutely no programs to cope with the changing nature of population distribution across Australia in the context of major restructuring of industry. The Government does not appear at all concerned with the loss of jobs in regional areas. It does not appear concerned about the massive problems that are developing in our major cities and the need to ensure balanced growth.
It has completely undermined the two selected growth centres of Albury-Wodonga and Bathurst-Orange. The Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Fife), who is at the table, represents the Albury area; yet he as a Minister has allowed the growth centre there to be undermined. The Bathurst-Orange growth centre is represented by the honourable member for Calare (Mr MacKenzie), a member of the National Country Party. What has he done for the selected growth centre of Bathurst-Orange? Unless something is done for growth centres we will not be able to get any rational development. We will see free market forces really controlling this economy. This is what is happening under this Government.
In the few minutes I have left, I turn to the question of local government. Let us look at the performance of this Government in relation to local government. There has been a welcome shift towards an expansion of general purpose assistance to local government. This allows local government to consolidate revenue and allocate its spending in a more autonomous way than in the years prior to 1 973, when a Labor Government came to power. Local government bodies clearly appreciate the thrust of these changes, but let us look at the figures. Since 1975-76 the total Federal Government outlays for local government have been reduced in real terms by 33 per cent. Under this Government, local government is receiving only two-thirds of the amount it received under the Labor Government in 1975-76. As a proportion of total personal income tax collections, Federal Government outlays on local government have been reduced from 2.9 per cent in 1975-76 to 1.7 per cent in 1979-80. So that we do not confuse the situation, the Government has stated that it has now made available 1.75 per cent of income tax revenue. But that was last year; I am now talking about the 1.7 per cent estimated revenue for this year. The figure of 2.9 per cent that I gave was for 1975-76. Even excluding the Regional Employment Development scheme for providing jobs to improve services at local government level, the proportion of outlays as a proportion of individual income tax revenue has fallen by 1.9 per cent in 1975-76 to 1.7 per cent in 1979-80.
Let us consider one other fact that has recently concerned the Commonwealth Grants Commission. The Commission is of the opinion that the distribution of the entitlements between the States should be based upon an equalisation principle. But the Commission expresses concern that the Government has failed to specify the policy basis for applying the equalisation principle. In Western Australia, 80 per cent of the payments to the States are allocated on a per capita basis. The present 1976 Act allows for all moneys to be allocated on this basis. The Grants Commission states:
There is no assurance that differences in population have any clear relation to differences in taxable capacity, that major categories of local government expenditure (such as roads) are related to population size, or that comparisons of population size allow adequately for differences between the States in the range of functions performed by local government authorities.
The matter is complex, but very important. If the present arrangements are allowed to continue, those local areas that suffer revenue disabilities and different costs because of the geography and the geology of the area will continue to be disadvantaged. There are inconsistencies in the Commission’s specific report on this question in 1979. Clearly urgent consultation is required with local government bodies on these matters. This point is very important: The report of the Grants Commission was presented to the Government on 28
May 1979, before the Premiers Conference, but has only recently been released, and we can guess why. Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table headed ‘Effects of
Adopting Grants Commission Option A for Revenue Sharing Allocations to the States for Local Government’.
The table read as follows-
-1 thank the House. The table shows that four States- Western Australia, Tasmania, New South Wales and Queensland- will be more badly treated than the other States.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Debate (on motion by Mr Cotter) adjourned.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I ask for leave of the House to move a motion granting leave of the House for production and adduction as evidence of certain documents and the attendance of an appropriate officer of the House for court proceedings.
-Is leave granted?
– No, it is not, Mr Deputy Speaker.
-Leave is not granted.
-I would like to address you in this regard, if I may, to indicate the Opposition’s attitude.
– When I move for the suspension of Standing Orders would be an appropriate time, would it not?
-There is no form of the House which I can see which will enable the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to speak, unless he seeks leave to make a statement, which I presume he is not prepared to do in the circumstances.
– No. I refused leave.
– You are refusing leave to move a motion, are you not?
– Yes, for reasons I want to put.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Motion ( by Mr Sinclair) proposed:
That so much of the standing orders be suspended as would prevent the Leader of the House moving forthwith a motion granting leave of the House for the production and adduction as evidence of certain documents, and the attendance of an appropriate officer of the House, at court proceedings.
– I want to put the Opposition’s objections to this motion in two areas. I submit that the Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair) is not entitled to move the motion. It relates to a petition. That is the second point. I question what procedure of the House allows the Minister to move a motion simply because he wants to do so. I submit that there is none. Coming immediately to the second point, the Minister wants to comply with the terms of a petition. We have to look at the rules this House has relating to petitions. Standing Order 130 states that the only things that we can do with petitions are to print them or to refer them to a select committee of the House. Nothing more can happen. In other words, under Standing Order 130 there can be no motion related to anything else. I am not anxious to delay the House, but the point I am making is that the Minister has no right of his own volition to move such a motion. That is the first point. The second point is that we should look at our procedures in relation to petitions. We can do certain thingsprint them or send them to a select committee. Accordingly, I do not think there is any validity in moving for the suspension of Standing Orders to do something which the Minister is not entitled to do.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, on that question, could I suggest that if Standing Orders are suspended those restraints applied by the Standing Orders can hardly apply after Standing Orders have been suspended. For all that there might be validity if only the Standing Orders were to be taken into account, the motion I have just moved suggests that the provisions of the Standing Orders should be suspended. Once they are suspended I do not believe that any of the restraints suggested by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition would apply to this debate.
-The Leader of the House has moved for the suspension of Standing Orders to enable him to move a motion concerning leave of the House for production of documents and attendance of an officer at court proceedings. I understand that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has refused leave to suspend Standing Orders.
-Mr Speaker, you did not have the advantage of listening to me earlier.
-I was in transit.
-I know. I make the point that we are anxious not to delay the House unnecessarily. I think this is a question of matters of serious importance to the Parliament not only today but also in the future. The Minister is now seeking to move a motion after moving for the suspension of Standing Orders. Two issues are involved. We are not granting leave because we do not want the Minister, because of numbers in this House, later on to be able to say that the House gave him leave to do something. I make the point that even if the House wanted to give leave for the moving of the motion it could not do so. I say that there is no procedure by which the Minister can move the motion. The House itself, as a corporate body, can do something, but no one segment of the House can do something on behalf of the House. I am making the distinction in this case because it relates to the privileges of the House. I do not want to go into the matter at length at this stage. The privileges of the House are the privileges of the whole House by unanimous decision, not by a majority decision or by the Minister moving a motion. This matter involves the question of the privilege of the whole House.
We do not give leave. Let us look at what he wants to do should leave be granted by a majority decision. Again I make the submission that no one person in the House has the right so to do. The House, by unanimous decision, can agree to give leave and to do certain things. In other words, it is a corporate position relating to privileges. It is not for any one individual to indicate that he thinks this ought to be done or that ought to be done from the point of view of the privileges of this House.
In making my remarks about a petition I adverted to the fact that under the Standing Orders the House may do certain things relating to petitions. Under Standing Order 130 they may be either printed or sent to a select committee. I acknowledge that if Standing Orders were suspended that provision may not apply. But the question then arises: What do we do with the petition? There is no procedure to allow the Minister to move a motion to do something with a petition- particularly something that would affect the rights and privileges of any member of this House- unless the House agreed by unanimous decision. It would have to agree that there should be a suspension of Standing Orders. That would have to be unanimous. The leave to do what was wanted in the petition would also have to be unanimous.
-In relation to the point the honourable gentleman has put, I do not follow his argument that the second stage requires unanimity. The first stage- that is, for leave- can be refused by one voice. Therefore, if one voice can prevent leave being granted, it requires unanimity. But if leave is given for this purpose- I suppose leave was given- the motion can pass on a majority. It would not require unanimity at the second stage.
– If leave were given there would be no need to suspend Standing Orders; one would merely want leave to go ahead according to the terms of the petition.
– As I see the position, the Leader of the House has asked for leave. I will need to put to the House the question: Is leave granted? The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has indicated the reason why leave may be refused. That I follow. But when I put the question that leave be granted, if there is a dissentient voice leave is not granted. Then the forms of the House would enable certain measures to be taken by the Leader of the House; that is, to move for suspension of Standing Orders which would require an absolute majority, in which case that would not be unanimity but an absolute majority. If the motion for suspension of Standing Orders were passed the original motion could be put. It would then be passed or failed on a majority of the House. I am informed by the Clerk that leave was asked for and was refused.
– With your indulgence, Mr Speaker, I wish to focus attention on the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders, which is what the Leader of the House is anxious to have disposed of. I make the point that the effects of carrying the motion will interfere with the rights and privileges of the House.
– That goes to the substance.
– Yes, the substance. I make the point that it is not in order to do that. I get that aspect into focus.
- Mr Speaker -
-I notice that the honourable member for Melbourne Ports is seeking to catch my attention. What does the honourable member wish to address himself to?
– I suppose I should raise this argument as a point of order and as a matter of privilege. It seems to me that the matter which is raised by the Leader of the House clearly relates to the privileges and prerogatives of this House. In substance, this is an attempt to limit the existing rights that are attached to the privileges this House and the right of members to control thenown proceedings. As it is a matter of privilege, it seems to me, Sir, that, as you are the custodian of the rights and privileges of this Parliament, it is important that this matter not be, as it were, taken over by the executive arm of government, no matter how worthy its motives. It is a matter of privilege, and as such it should first of all be drawn to your attention, as the custodian of the rights and privileges of this chamber. That being so, it does raise very serious issues that go not merely to the rights of this House but also to precedents which may be established.
I would have thought- and I raise it as a matter of privilege- that ultimately it is a matter in which the jurisdiction of the House ought to be vested in you, Sir, and quite properly the matter should be referred to the Privileges Committee whose task would be to advise the House on the proper course that we should take in respect of this petition. I believe that that would be a far more proper course of action than the course which we have embarked upon in which a member of the Executive, whatever the motives- and 1 accept them as being proper motives- seeks to embark upon a course which has the result of bypassing both the Chair and the Privileges Committee on what is a matter of privilege. I raise my point in that way.
-I call the Leader of the House.
– in reply- I address my remarks to the motion and the two matters that have been raised. As you, Mr Speaker, have identified, the question now before the House is a motion for the suspension of the Standing Orders. Therefore, the matters relating to leave being granted do not pertain. With respect to the suggestion made by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Holding), I fail to see how a reference to the Privileges Committee, which is a committee of this place, can in any way give to it powers greater than this House itself exercises. Quite obviously, as a subsidiary of this Parliament, that Committee can have no greater powers. Indeed, the powers of the Privileges Committee are very much the powers of this place insofar as they are delegated to that Committee for a specific purpose. You, Mr Speaker, as the Presiding Officer of this chamber, are, of course, a member of this chamber. I suggest that perhaps what the honourable member for Melbourne Ports has been addressing himself to is not the question of the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders but the substantive motion which would flow if the motion for the suspension of the Standing Orders is carried in accordance with the rules of this place. I believe that it is necessary to suspend the Standing Orders because, under our existing Standing Orders, there is no procedure for the consideration of a petition other than by this method. On that point I am in complete agreement with my friend, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen).
So a petition, which calls on the members of this place to deliberate on and to react to the terms of that petition, having been presented to this Parliament, it is necessary for us to consider it. I believe that it is necessary, therefore, for a procedure to be devised whereby the petition can be considered. That procedure is achieved by the suspension of the Standing Orders. I believe that this House should support the motion for the suspension of the Standing Orders, whereupon we can then deliberate on the question of the substantive motion which relates to where, in what way and with what restraints the actual petition presented to the Parliament should or should not be accepted.
I suggest that there is every reason why the Parliament does need to deliberate on the substantive question, for it is a matter which, whilst it may not have arisen very often, has in fact arisen on a number of occasions previously including, I understand, in 1963, and more recently on another occasion involving a case in Queanbeyan, of which we are all cognisant, and with respect to another case now before the courts. I do not think that any of us particularly wish to address ourselves to issues outside this chamber that may or may not at any future time be before the courts but I think that as a parliament we do have a real responsibility to ensure that we do take a point of view which sets a precedent from which on future occasions the courts, litigants and indeed members of this place can know on what occasions and in what circumstances the proceedings of this House in the form known as Hansard can be turned to and used within those proceedings in other places.
I, therefore, would contend that it is absolutely essential that we do find a procedure to consider the substantive motion. Of course the only way to do that is to suspend the Standing Orders. I think that the honourable member for Melbourne Ports might wish to express in discussion on the substantive motion a point of view which might relate to a way by which this sort of matter could otherwise be considered.
– There is no course open to me other than to put the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders. If it is defeated, that will be the end of the matter, although with notice it can be given a rebirth. But, if the matter is carried, it will come forward for discussion. I intend to put that motion. Before I do so, I will hear the honourable member for Melbourne Ports, who is seeking to attract my attention.
– Thank you, Mr Speaker. In that case, I ask for a specific ruling from you, Mr Speaker, because I think an important matter of precedent is involved. I ask you to rule specifically whether it is appropriate, when a petition is presented to this House which clearly raises a matter of privilege, that that matter procedurally it ought first be referred to the Chair and the Privileges Committee rather than being handled by the method that is now being adopted. I raise this matter specifically and seek a ruling from you, Mr Speaker, because I think the procedure that we now establish will set some very important precedents.
-I will respond to what the honourable member for Melbourne Ports has said. Firstly, I was informed by the Clerk of the nature of the petition. I informed myself as to what possible action may be taken by one or more members of the House. In fact, when the petition was read out, no action was taken. However, given the nature of the petition, it was obvious that there had to be a response, and that response may have been to do nothing, which in itself would have been a response. Alternatively, positive action needed to be taken. The fact is that, under the Standing Orders, action would have to come from a member of the House and the Leader of the House normally would be obliged to fulfill the requirement of bringing the matter before the House which, as I perceive it, is what he has done.
Before doing so, the matter was brought to me for my reaction by the Acting Leader of the House, the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, and I indicated to him that in my view the precedents were that this Parliament should do what it can to facilitate the course of justice in the courts and that we could not obstruct that if we could allow a course to be adopted without interfering with the ancient privilege of Parliament, that ancient privilege being no benefit to individual members but the ability of and the freedom for members of Parliament to speak the truth and to demand the truth within the Parliament without action being taken outside the Parliament to challenge what was said.
Against that background, I asked to see the motion which may be moved. The motion as formulated was done in association with the Clerk, with advisers of the Leader of the House and advisers of the Attorney-General. I am bound to say that there was some discussion about item (2). It reads:
The question that arose was whether, in facilitating the judicial process, that would in any way weaken the privilege of the Parliament rather than add to it. There was some discussion about that point. The Leader of the House had the responsibility of putting the motion. He has left it in that form. Having put aside those preliminary points, it is now my duty under the Standing Orders to put the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders before the Chair.
That the motion (Mr Sinclair’s) for the suspension of Standing Orders be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden)
Question so resolved in the affirmative with an absolute majority.
I suggest that the point raised by the honourable member for Corio ignores the difference between the two measures. In this instance the Government seeks only to act within the powers of the Parliament. We seek in no way to affect decisions that may be taken by the judiciary. We seek only to produce evidence. The motion which I am about to move will enable that to be done, but only insofar as our Standing Orders may be varied for that purpose, and privilege may be waived for that purpose. In no way will any ruling of the Parliament or any motion of the Parliament affect any judicial decision that might flow from it.
Hansard is a privileged document. It was a privileged document even before this Parliament was formed. The only way it can cease to be a privileged document is by passing legislation which conforms to the Constitution of Australia to take away the privilege which is attached to that particular document. If this motion is passed and it becomes the practice that the majority of members- that is, governments- may take away an individual member’s privileges because he, as a member of the Opposition, is unable to obtain majority support, then the Parliament will cease to have any effective privilege. Retrospectivity will apply and a majority of members probably hostile to a member will be able to determine that that particular member should not enjoy the privileges of Parliament. That is what we are about. I do not believe the Parliament has the authority to change that situation by resolution. Certainly the moral authority of a government, which commands a majority, to take away from an individual member the privileges which accrue to him as his right as a member of parliament is put in question by this motion.
I have no doubt whatever that every member of this Parliament wishes the privilege to be protected, not that it gives any member of Parliament any special privileged position in the normal usage of the term ‘privilege’; it is an ancient concept which enables people in the Parliament to speak for their electors, under the Constitution, freely, without fear or favour. That is the point in question. There has been a petition which asks for the production of Hansard to prove certain matters which are related to the petition. The petition is not being answered according to the motion which is about to be moved and which has been circulated, but certain capacity is being given by resolution of the House; and that is to produce the record through an officer. Whether or not it will weaken privilege is a matter that can be dealt with as a substantive debate.
I rule that it is capable of being agreed to by this Parliament. The Parliament will have to make up its own mind as to whether the motion will subtract from the ancient privilege of the Parliament. Therefore, the motion will be put, will be argued and will be resolved by the Parliament of its own will.
– I move:
As the debate on the introduction has suggested -
-Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order in relation to the wording of the motion. It is a motion that the House grants leave. I submit that we cannot decide by motion that the House grants leave. Leave cannot be granted by a majority decision. If one member dissents, then leave is not granted. I just make the point that the motion is worded as though leave is going to be granted. It should not be so worded because leave was refused.
– Ruling on the point of order, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is taking the word ‘leave’ and applying it as though it were capable of only a single meaning. In fact, in this motion there is a different usage of the word leave’ from its usage in the Standing Orders which deals with leave being sought to enable an honourable member to make a statement or to move suspension of Standing Orders. This motion refers to leave being granted to a petitioner. Therefore it is not a matter of leave being granted or refused. It is a motion of the House.
– With respect, Mr Speaker, I think that the motion would be in order, if it proposed that we just comply with the petition. That is what it is about. To talk about leave relates to the proceedings of this House.
-I rule against the honourable gentleman. I call the Leader of the House.
-I raise one further point of order on another matter altogether. It relates to Standing Order 124. 1 know the Standing Orders have been suspended. You may care to address your mind to it immediately. It states:
No reference may be made in a petition to any debate in Parliament.
I invite you to look at the wording of this petition which asks for the production of Hansard records over a period from 1965 onwards. I submit to you, Mr Speaker, that by doing so the petition is seeking to refer to the debates in this Parliament. I do not wish to delay the House, but I do not think the petition is in order in relation to the proceedings of this House.
– That is an entirely different point of order. It relates to whether the petition itself is in order. The Clerks have held it to be in order. Prima facie I therefore accept it as being in order. Dealing specifically with the point of order, Standing Order 124 states:
No reference may be made in a petition to any debate in Parliament.
I have always interpreted that as meaning that a petition cannot say that the debate was right or wrong. This petition relates to a different purpose; and that is the provision of the record of a debate as distinct from involvement in the debate itself. I rule against the honourable gentleman.
– The matter before the House is of some considerable importance. I understand and appreciate the concern that is expressed by some members of the House about procedure. I shall therefore briefly advert to it. Standing order 132 states:
A copy of every petition lodged with the Clerk and received by the House shall be referred by the Clerk to the Minister responsible for the administration of the matter which is a subject of the petition.
As a result, the Clerk referred the petition to me. I have a letter addressed to me as Leader of the House, dated 28 August, requiring me to act upon it. Members will know that under the procedures of this House as set out by Erskine May in the nineteenth edition of Parliamentary Practice, there are a number of references to the circumstances under which Hansard can be produced. In particular I draw the attention of honourable members to page 89 and the paragraph which reads:
Leave for production in a court of law of evidence given before the House or a committee.- The rights of the House are emphasized by the resolution of session 1 8 1 8 -
Which, of course, was well before 1901 -
Which directs that no clerk or officer of the House, or shorthand writer employed to take minutes of evidence before the House, or any committee thereof, shall give evidence elsewhere, in respect of any proceedings or examination had at the bar, or before any committee of the House, without the special leave of the House.
Of course, it is to that principle that the motion that I have moved is addressed. On 28 August John Fairfax and Sons Ltd petitioned this House to permit certain of the official records of its proceedings to be provided to the Supreme Court of New South Wales in connection with proceedings before it. Proceedings have been initiated by the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) who is claiming damages for defamation from the petitioner. The petitioner further seeks leave of the House to make reference to and otherwise to use in its defence the official records which it has requested be provided to the court. Honourable members will note from the second schedule of the petition that the records sought to be produced extend over a period from 1965 to 1973. The petitioner also has requested leave of the House to issue and serve subpoenas for the attendance in court of those persons who took the record of the proceedings concerned.
This is not the first occasion that the Parliament has been asked to agree to assist the courts in their work. On one occasion in 1963 this House gave leave for two Hansard reporters to give evidence in actions in relation to the proceedings in this House the previous year. For the record of this instance I draw the attention of honourable members to the Votes and Proceedings of 7 May 1963, page 464. Honourable members will also recall that in 1 976 the House gave leave for the production to the court of certain papers that had been tabled in the Parliament. For the record of this instance I draw the attention of honourable members to the Votes and Proceedings of 4 June 1976 on page 247. There are quite a number of modern cases in which the House of Commons has acted similarly.
It is against that background that I have moved the present motion. It is designed to enable the records in question to be produced in court by an appropriate officer of this House and to enable the petitioner to adduce the official records as evidence of what was in fact said in the Parliament. It will be noted, however, that the leave to be granted will go no further than to make it possible to establish what was in fact said. It will not allow the honourable member to be interrogated in relation to his statements in the House- that is, the leave to be given takes full account of the duty of this House to maintain the fundamental right of freedom of speech in the Parliament. That right is guaranteed in Article 9 of the Bill of Rights 1688, which declares that the freedom of speech and debates or proceedings in Parliament ought not be impeached or questioned in any court of place out of Parliament.
The motion I have moved is in accordance with the principles enunciated by the court in the case cited by the petitioner in paragraph S of the petition. That case, the Church of Scientology of California v. Johnson-Smith, is reported in 1972 1 All England Reports at page 378. In that case the court noted with approval the submission of the Attorney-General that Hansard could be read simply as evidence of fact- what was, in fact, said in the House on a particular day by a particular person. The court went on to say that the use of Hansard must stop there and that counsel was not entitled to comment on what had been said in Hansard or to ask the jury to draw any inferences from it.
We certainly seek to contain the application of the motion before the House to that constraint, as interpreted before the court on that occasion. The court then saw the general principle as quite clear. It was that Hansard must not be used in any way which might involve questioning, in a wide sense, what was said in the House, as recorded in Hansard. The motion does not give leave to the petitioner in the terms requested; nor should this House do so. I have outlined the principles that have led to my moving this motion in the terms set down, because it is appropriate that they be generally understood. To the extent that it is possible, we all wish to assist the work of the courts and the administration of justice. We must do so only to the extent that the right to freedom of speech in this place is not put at risk.
There are, within the petition, two matters that I would like briefly to draw to the attention of the House. The first is one that concerns me, and for this reason I have asked the Clerk of the House to consider whether some amendment might be necessary. In clause ( 1 ) there is reference to ‘the production of the relevant official records of the proceedings of the House as described in the second schedule of the petition’. The honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) has drawn my attention to the fact that in the petition only certain pages are referred to, with respect to certain dates. It could well be that those pages do not contain the whole of the speech made by a member in the Parliament on a particular day. I believe that there would be difficulties if only part of a member’s speech in the House were to be quoted from, and not the whole of that speech. 1, therefore, intimate that I will seek leave to adjourn this debate in order to ensure that we can pick up the point which has only just been raised with me by the honourable member for Reid and which I believe is a point of which very serious account needs to be taken.
The second point relates to the wording of clause (2). This is one which you, Mr Speaker, very correctly drew to my attention and the attention of the Attorney-General (Senator Durack). Following our discussion, I have consulted on this matter; that is, the extent to which the words in the latter part of clause (2 ) are in fact a restraint on the application of the motion or an extension of it. It was suggested by you, Mr Speaker- if I may refer to this in the House- that the words after ‘proceedings’ might be deleted; in other words, that clause (2) should only read: to the Petitioner and its legal representatives to adduce the said official records of the proceedings’. That means that the words ‘as evidence of what was in fact said in the House’ should be deleted.
The Attorney and those who advise us do not favour that course. They believe that the present wording is preferable. It is for that reason that I now submit it to the House, as the Attorney, who has been consulted, feels that there is a greater restraint on the use of the official records if those words are included. As I have intimated, the honourable member for Reid has suggested that there is a necessary amendment to clause ( 1 ) of the motion. As it is an amendment which needs to be seriously considered before the debate in the chamber is concluded, I suggest that I might seek leave to continue my remarks at a later hour, so that we can pick up the point that the whole of any member’s speech should be referred to the court, not a part of it, as it is in terms of the wording that now appears in clause ( 1 ).
-The Leader of the House has asked for leave to continue his remarks at a later hour this day. If that is agreed to by the House it will have the effect of adjourning the debate. I notice that the honourable member for Melbourne Ports is standing. Is he wishing to speak to the substance of the motion, or does he wish to take a point of order? I will hear him initially.
– I wanted to speak to the substance of the motion, but I also wish to give notice of an amendment which may well cause the Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair) to consider his course of action. My amendment would be:
That all words after ‘House’ (second occurring) be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: ‘refers the matter to the Committee of Privileges for investigation and report’.
I am happy to address myself to the substance of what the Minister has said and, at the same time, to the amendment.
-I will not permit that. I must deal with the matter which is before the House at the moment. The honourable member for Melbourne Ports has given notice of the amendment he would propose to move at the appropriate time. If the request by the Leader of the House is accepted by the House, that will, of course, adjourn the debate, and at a later time the honourable member can decide whether he will move his amendment. In the meantime, if the request of the Leader of the House is agreed to it will give him an opportunity to consider the proposed amendment.
– I do not wish to lengthen the debate, but it does seem to me that what I am proposing to the House in my amendment is a quite different and substantive method of approaching this matter.
-That is apparent. The honourable gentleman need not proceed any further. It is perfectly apparent that the amendment the honourable gentleman proposes to move is a different method. But I must deal with the procedures of the House as they arise. What has arisen is a request from the Leader of the House to continue his remarks at a later time.
– In an endeavour to assist the House, let me say that I think it would be quite reasonable to continue this debate on the understanding that if the Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair) wanted the motion to refer to the whole of any Hansard speech there would be no objection from this side of the House. I think it is important that we get on with the debate on the principle of whether it is a question of privilege that the House ought to decide one way or the other. I just make that point, as the Leader of the House has some technical difficulty as to what is in the second schedule. We will not be arguing that. We are arguing the whole principle of what privilege is all about, not the question of a page of a speech or a complete speech. I say that, Mr Speaker, because this is a matter for serious consideration and I believe that we ought to deal with it and dispose of it. There are a number of people who wish to participate in the debate. I also invite Government members to have a look at what is happening here, because it has nothing to do with personalities or politics and it has everything to do with privilege. I invite all honourable members to look at the request that has been made by the petitioner and what I believe should be refused. I am only making the point that the debate might continue -
-Order! The point is made. Does the Leader of the House wish to pursue the point of seeking leave to continue his remarks at a later time?
– Yes, Mr Speaker. I wish to pursue the point of seeking leave to continue my remarks at a later stage. It might well be that we will accept the amendment to be moved by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Holding). However, I am not too sure of the time factor and I need to check on that to see whether that presents any particular problems.
-Mr Speaker, I take a point of order. I want to make a point for consideration by the Leader of the House in the redrafting of the motion. The terms of privilege on the publication of remarks by a member, even by the member himself, have a consequence upon them, namely, that no remarks may be taken or published out of context, and that includes where a total speech of a member is taken out of context. I only ask that the Leader of the House, when he is redrafting his motion, take into account the fact that merely having a total speech might not maintain the context of the remarks or the totality of the debate.
-The point is taken.
- Mr Speaker, I seek your indulgence to raise one small drafting matter to be considered by the Leader of the House?
-The honourable gentleman has that indulgence. He may proceed.
– I will not develop it in detail; but, in relation to the opinions given by yourself, Mr Speaker, and by the Attorney, I commend to the Leader of the House the point that if it is the view that the latter opinion is to be followedand I do not express a view one way or the other, as to which is the better- if he wants to make the point that he says he wants to make, after the word ‘proceedings’ the word ‘only’ should be added so that paragraph (2) of the motion would read: ‘to the Petitioner and its legal representatives to adduce the said official records of the proceedings only as evidence of what was in fact said in the House’. I simply commend that to the Leader of the House, if that is the course that he wishes to follow.
- Mr Speaker, may I say with your indulgence that I have just checked on the timing factor and there are obviously very real implications in this motion. I believe that it would be advantageous were the matter to go to the Standing Committee on Privileges for its investigation. It would enable adequate consideration to be given to the wording. I think, therefore, proceedings might be expedited were the House to accept the reference made by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Holding) and then the amendment of which I gave notice could be taken into account by the Standing Committee of Privileges at the appropriate time, together with those remarks made by the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman).
-The way in which this can be handled is that I will put the question that the right honourable gentleman have leave to continue his remarks at a later time. I indicate to the House that I will rule that an issue of privilege arises here and will send it to the Privileges Committee for consideration. The Leader of the House has sought leave to continue his remarks at a later hour.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
-On the basis of what I have heard in the preceding debate, I indicate to the House that I believe an issue of privilege arises. I will refer the matter to the Privileges Committee for report to me.
-The Budget brought down by the Treasurer (Mr Howard) on 2 1 August is a responsible Budget. The Treasurer has kept careful control of the money supply while, at the same time, allowing sufficient initiatives to get industry moving. The Budget takes note of the needs of pensioners and other disadvantaged people and makes tax evasion harder. 1 generally support the overall thrust of the Budget in which the Government will lower the general rate of taxation on the wage earner. By removal of the tax surcharge on 1 December, the average earner will be $4.45 a week better off than he was on 30 November. Of course he will be approximately $16 a week better off than if the Hayden tax scales of 1 975-76 still prevailed.
Because the tight fiscal policies and, to some extent, the pricing policies of crude oil have allowed the Government to aim at a Budget deficit of around $2.2 billion, there is still provision for a small increase in expenditure of 9 per cent which will maintain the level of expenditure in real terms. With increases in States and local government funding, a real increase of approximately 2 per cent in expenditure will result. As a result of the policies which the Government has pursued in recent years, we have been able to maintain our inflation rate well below the world average rate. This has increased the competitiveness of Australia on the world market. It means that Australian industry can compete with imports in more areas and is much more competitive on the international scene. As a result employment opportunities will rise. This competitiveness has, in turn, meant a strengthening of our balance of payments and an increase in flow of foreign investment moneys. These have been for a wide range of industries and projects. In short, Australia is on the move again.
Largely as a result of the previous Labor Government’s incompetent economic management between 1972 and 1975, the Australian economy has been affected by fundamental distortions which have severely inhibited its performance. Real labour costs have been out of line with productivity. Gross returns on private investment have been greatly reduced, leaving a question mark over the long term expansion of the private sector. Until recently Australia’s international competitiveness has been severely eroded. Expenditure by the public sector had been significantly in excess of receipts and the greatly swollen public sector borrowing requirement has led to severe strains in the financial markets. The inflation problem has heightened uncertainty, inhibited private decision making and depressed the confidence of consumers and investors, both domestic and overseas. These were the results of the actions of the previous Labor Government.
This Government’s economic policy has been consistently directed to correcting these fundamental distortions which have been preventing sustained high employment and economic growth. The Government’s economic strategy has achieved a marked improvement resulting in a substantial reduction in inflation, a reduction in the rate of increase of wage rates and earnings, an increase in the profits component of national income and a marked improvement in Australia’s international competitiveness arising from both exchange rate adjustments and from the reduction in inflation. The Budget has restored confidence in the minerals and petroleum industries. Investment in mineral projects already announced and those pending is astronomical. We see the huge expansion in the alumina industry with nickel, copper and gold mining re-emerging in a very buoyant atmosphere. This is in direct contrast to the decimation of the mining industry under Labor. At the present time, new mines are opening up and old mines are being rejuvenated. Exploration is booming. There is again an air of optimism in the field. There has even been a quiet re-entry into the Golden Mile in Kalgoorlie. The nickel industry has started the long haul back to prosperity.
Despite the rumours that went around prior to the Budget being presented, I am pleased to say that the Government will maintain the tax free status of gold in the hands of the producer. This is needed as an incentive for exploration. If we look at the bigger mines of, say, Telfer and Central Norseman, we see that these companies need the profits from gold production to pay off past heavy loan commitments and to generate cash flow for further development. On the question of oil exploration, we have seen a dramatic turnabout in activity in this area. Under the Labor Government policies of disincentive, the number of oil wells drilled fell to an all-time low of nine during 1976 but has risen slowly but steadily under this Government. There were 52 wells drilled in 1978 and indications are that more will be drilled in the current year. We can blame much of the current shortage of oil in this country on those three disastrous years of the Labor Government. The Whitlam and Connor philosophy was to compensate production at the wellheads to keep prices at unrealistically low levels. They forced exploration and development to a halt. In other words, they would nationalise and socialise the industry.
We only have to look at the policies of the Adelaide Conference of the Australian Labor Party this year to realise that it is still the same socialist Labor Party controlled by the socialist Left with the same old policies and dressed only slightly differently. That conference also confirmed the wish to destroy the Senate. The Labor Party would do this by emasculating the Senate of all its powers, thus trying to ensure that a corrupt Labor government would stay in power forever. The people in Australia will not stand for this. Whitlam tried to knock the Senate off and he was rejected by the people of Australia. They are not fools. They will not be taken in by any camouflage that the lefties want to dress up in.
In relation to petroleum exploration and development, the Budget provides for extension of the benefits of the shareholder rebate scheme, previously applying only to off-shore petroleum exploration and development, to on-shore activities. In addition, the period within which declared moneys must be spent will be extended from two years to four years following the year of subscription. This extension of the period in which declared moneys must be spent will apply to both on-shore and off-shore exploration and development expenditure. The concession will apply to subscriptions after the day when the announcement was made. For subscriptions already made for off-shore exploration, the two year limitation will continue to apply.
New taxation concessions introduced in the Budget will encourage and facilitate the conversion and replacement of oil-fired industrial equipment with non-oil fuel equipment mainly coal, electricity, natural gas, liquefied petroleum gas and solar equipment. Firms converting, or adapting existing oil fired units to non-oil fired fuels will be eligible, subject to certain conditions, to deduct the full cost of conversion for taxation purposes in the year in which the expenditure is incurred. Where the conversion results in the complete replacement of a unit of oil fired plant, a conversion allowance of 40 per cent of the cost of the replacement unit will be available in addition to normal depreciation. The conversion allowance will be in lieu of the 20 per cent investment allowance that may otherwise have been available, and the full deductibility which I mentioned previously will not apply. The Budget Estimates include the effects of decisions announced by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) on 27 June to encourage the conversion of motor vehicles to LPG. The main items were the removal of the 2.125c per litre tax on LPG for automotive use and the removal of the 1 5 per cent sales tax on kits used in motor vehicles.
These measures and others which were announced by the Government in the Budget and just prior to its introduction will give an enormous fillip to the exploration and development of oil in this country.
The Liberal-National Country Party Government, by negotiation and co-operation with the State governments, has established a sensible approach to our off-shore assets. This Government has created the atmosphere in which we will see the development of the huge North West Shelf gas reserves in Western Australia. This will be the biggest single project ever undertaken in Australia. It will be approximately equal in size to all of the iron ore developments in the Pilbara, updated in today’s money terms. There is a big job potential in the Shelf development and the associated construction of the liquefied natural gas plant and gas pipeline to the south-west of Western Australia. Of course, that is coupled with planned expansion in the aluminium industry in that area. The development of the North West Shelf will trigger a massive surge of development in service industries and other projects. The careful negotiations by the Western Australian Government in the financial circumstances created by the Federal Government have enabled the development of the Shelf to be undertaken.
Farmers have not had a great deal of additional assistance from this year’s Budget. However, the greatest assistance that this Government has been able to give to farmers is a lower rate of inflation, lower interest rates and a general financial stability. As a result, the rural community is in a much stronger position today than it has been for some years. This Government has a track record of coming to the assistance of the rural community when it is needed most. Incidentally, I am a primary producer. I own a sheep station in the Kalgoorlie area and I know that the rural industries only want a chance to help themselves. We would prefer not to depend on handouts and subsidies, although sometimes when we are in dire need they are necessary. We would rather a fiscal environment which allows us to run our own industries without government assistance or interference. However, if things go dead in the rural industry again, this Government will stand ready to assist.
In this year’s Budget the Government also amended the isolated patients’ travel and accommodation assistance scheme. It allocated increased amounts of money within the present Federal Budget and removed the necessity for prior approval to qualify for the benefits under this scheme. The isolated patients’ travel and accommodation assistance scheme has been of immense benefit to people living in isolated areas of Australia. It has allowed them to seek and receive specialist medical treatment which would otherwise not have been available to them. It is one of the areas in which government assistance has been of great benefit to the people in the outback.
Reports reaching me from widespread areas of Australia in regard to the availability of avgas in remote areas have caused me some concern. However, I am convinced that steps already taken by the Minister for National Development (Mr Newman) and the Government will ensure that supplies of avgas will be made available to all essential services and to other operators in those areas. Because of the nature of avgas and the fact that it must be transported in 44 gallon drums or 200 litre drums additional logistical difficulties are created. Whereas most fuels are delivered to remote areas in bulk, unfortunately avgas has to be rolled around in drums.
There is some concern that perhaps there will be some difficulty in establishing sufficient supplies in the tropical and remote areas of Australia during the forthcoming wet season. Again I have been assured that, with planned spot shipments of avgas to be landed in Australia over the next weeks and months, sufficient supplies will be available for the operators in those areas. I will certainly be keeping my eye on the availability of aviation fuel. I will be pressing the point with the Minister for National Development and the Government if I, along with other members representing remote parts of Australia, find any problem with supply. I am quite sure that some Opposition members who represent country electorates ought also to have this concern for the distribution of aviation gasolene.
The Government’s present policy of escalating the price of fuel in line with world parity prices has caused some concern not only in the cities of Australia but also and more particularly in country areas. These additional prices have in some cases caused hardship and have greatly escalated the price of production of some rural commodities. However, because of the fact that prices were held at unrealistically low levels in the period from 1972 to about 1976, oil exploration and development in this country almost came to a standstill. Because of that we are now suffering some shortages of fuel oil products in Australia. The present pricing policies have ensured and will ensure that additional supplies will be available from previously uneconomic fields and will continue to give the incentive to oil companies to explore for more oil. This has been reflected in the number of wells in operation and the exploration activity presently under way in Australia.
There is really no alternative but to search for oil. Unless we find more oil within Australian territory, we will be importing more and more oil. At that stage we will be paying full world parity prices in any case. The position at the moment is that we have the option either of paying more for our oil now and obtaining regular supplies in the future or of paying unrealistically low prices for our oil now and not receiving supplies at all in the future. I believe that even the rural community in Australia, who are fairly heavy per capita users of fuel, will recognise this point. This Government has given a guarantee that the rural producers in Australia will receive sufficient supplies of fuel to enable them to plant and reap their crops and to carry on their businesses. I think that it is very important for rural producers to have that guarantee so that they can plant their wheat, run their stock and keep their businesses going in the knowledge that there will be sufficient supplies of fuel. That guarantee has been given.
There is probably one item that has not received much attention in this Budget; that is, the hardy old annual of taxation zone allowances. Over many years many of us have put forward submissions to various governments proposing that taxation zone allowances be raised to realistic levels. I was disappointed that there was no movement in this area in the Budget. I am hopeful, and in fact confident, that zone allowances will be looked at in a realistic way in a forthcoming Budget. I accept the fact that 1979 was not an appropriate time to bring zone allowances into line at a realistic level.
There is one other item in the speech by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) the other night that I found quite incredible. The Leader of the Opposition said that when he was much younger his mother caught him walloping a donkey. I ask: Would he be a fit man to lead the Opposition into government? Could he not make it unless he got the donkey vote? The Leader of the Opposition said that he would implement a job creating scheme by the expenditure of $ 100m to provide jobs for 50,000 workers. He said that he would increase the deficit to fund Labor’s grandiose schemes. He would print money. I submit that the honourable member would not only wallop donkeys but also would wallop the taxpayers of Australia. In that speech he gave scant regard to the unemployed. They rated only a very brief mention; such is the honourable member’s lack of concern and the lack of concern of the Opposition.
This Government has done more for the pensioners than any previous government. Pensioners will now receive a pension which is higher, in percentage terms, than ever before, and fringe benefits for pensioners will be better than ever. The twice-yearly indexation of pensions is to be restored.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drummond)
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-I should like to correct something that the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Cotter) said in the latter part of his speech. He spoke about the unrealistic oil prices that applied during the Whitlam Government ‘s term of office from 1972 to 1975. The honourable member might be interested to know that the prices that applied at that time were the result of actions taken by the Gorton LiberalCountry Party Government in 1968 on prices paid for Bass Strait crude.
This Government will be remembered for the number of promises it has broken. The newspapers have listed those broken promises on a number of occasions. It was interesting to see an article in the National Times a couple of months ago which listed these broken promises and the action that had resulted from them. Perhaps we could take the main issue facing Australia today- the question of unemployment. On 27 November 1975, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) stated:
Only under a Liberal-National Country Party Government will there be jobs for all who want to work.
On 2 1 November 1 977 he said:
Unemployment will fall from February -
That is, February 1978- and keep on falling.
We know what has happened to unemployment since that time.
– That is not the only promise that he has broken either.
– I am going to mention a few more. On 12 September 1978 the Prime Minister said:
Inflation at an annual rate of 5 percent is within our reach by mid- 1979. It will go on falling under the policies of this Government
We also know what has happened to inflation. The Government claimed that inflation would be running at 5 per cent; it now admits that it will be back to 10 per cent this year. On the question of health insurance, the Prime Minister said, on 27 September 1975:
We will maintain Medibank, and ensure that the standard of health care does not decline.
We know what has happened to Medibank; it has been completely emasculated. That action is in complete contradiction to what the Prime Minister said in 1975. Again, on 27 November 1 975, the Prime Minister said:
We will fully index personal income tax for inflation over three years.
We know where tax indexation has gone. On 2 1 November 1.977, he said:
We have ended the big tax rip-off. From February 1 further tax cuts will come in for every Australian wage and salary earner. From February 1, more than 225,000 lowincome earners will cease to pay any tax at all. And because we have reduced the marginal rate of tax, it’s now worth working overtime again.
The Government will bring taxes down further- not increase them.
We all know what happened in the 1978 Budget when the Government introduced the surcharge on taxation. Here is a report of another interesting promise:
It (the coalition Government) will support wage indexation . . . Our reforms will maintain the purchasing power of wages and ease the pressure for excessive wage demands.
We know that every time there is a case before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission the Government is before the Commission asking it to ignore certain increases in the costs with which the ordinary worker is faced. In fact I understand that the Government has asked that any increases in cost of living because of government charges be ignored. I understand that it will even ask that any increases in the price of petrol be ignored.
On 21 November 1977 the Prime Minister said:
Interest rates have begun to fall- and they will keep on falling.
On 6 December 1977 he said:
Once the election is over, we will start to move to the consummation of a 2 per cent reduction in interest rates- and that means about $500 a year for someone on an average home loan.
We all know what has happened to interest rates. They may have dropped by 1 per cent, but they have gone up half a per cent since. These are just some of the promises which this Government has not kept. On 15 March 1977 the Prime Minister said:
We are committed to take policies out of pension increases by giving automatic increases in line with price rises twice a year.
We know what happened as a result of the last Budget. Although the Government has now reapplied twice-yearly indexation of pensions, that was still a broken promise. The restoration of that was brought about only by the fear for the number of back benchers who felt that their seats were not secure. But what about the single pensioners who have already lost $60 during the period when they did not receive tax indexation of their pension and the married pensioner couple who have lost over $100? That money is gone, and it is gone forever. With regard to the jobless, the Prime Minister said:
We will be generous to those who can ‘t get a job and want to work.
Perhaps I will say something on that later on. But we all know how the Government has tightened up on the unemployed, the unfortunate. It has tightened up the guidelines and refused increases to certain sections of unemployed people. So again, we have another broken promise. Here is another interesting quote. On 27 November 1975 the Prime Minister said:
The Australian Assistance Plan will be maintained.
The Australian Assistance Plan was abolished in 1976. So honourable members can see just a few of the broken promises. I said earlier that this Government would be remembered as a government of broken promises, and I think there is a very good reason why the Australian people should look at this Government as a government of broken promises.
As we all know, there is an election going on in South Australia. The Liberal Leader of the Opposition in that State made certain promises in his policy speech the other night. It is very interesting to read a report of comments by the Leader of the Labor Party in South Australia in reply to Mr Tonkin. It states:
Mr Tonkin promises to cut taxation; so did Malcolm Fraser’, Mr Corcoran said.
Mr Tonkin promises to reduce unemployment; so did Malcolm Fraser.
The Prime Minister, like Mr Tonkin, promised bold initiatives to stimulate economic development.
The result has been recession, high unemployment and higher taxation.
Liberal deeds have not matched their words’.
What he says there fully backs up what I have just said about the broken promises.
I mentioned earlier that the pensioners have had their six-monthly pension rises restored, only because of the fear amongst the Government back benchers of the electoral impact if this were not done. They should never have been taken away. I certainly hope that the pensioners of
Australia will remember, as I said earlier, that the single pensioner was $60 down the drain during that six-month period, and the married pensioner was $100 down the drain- money which they will never get back. But I am sure that despite the fact that the Government has restored six-monthly indexation of pensions, this will not save it next time it goes to the people. I do not think the people will forget.
Let us look at other areas in the social service field. The Government has in many cases abandoned the unemployed. The 18-year-olds receiving unemployment benefits of course have had no increase in benefits. I do not think they have been given an increase since this Government came to power. They are still receiving $36 a week. The unemployment benefit recipients without dependants also have not had their unemployment benefits increased. I feel that this is a rather callous attitude by the Government, particularly when I look at the other actions which it has taken. I refer to the guidelines for eligibility for the unemployment benefit. They have been tightened up to make it harder to qualify. People who are presently unemployed are expected to spend increased time travelling to and from work that is available. The situation of those unfortunate people who have to rely on the unemployment benefit has been made pretty difficult. There are 27 or 28 people unemployed for every job vacancy in Australia. We should not be condemning unemployed people; they should have our sympathy. The Prime Minister made a promise which he did not keep when he said: ‘We will be generous to the unemployed’. The Government certainly has not been that. The supplementary assistance paid to those pensioners paying for board or lodgings which has remained at $6 a week is also pretty lousy.
I want to mention the initiative of a group of unemployed people in my electorate in the City of Whyalla. Many of the unemployed there are unemployed because of the closure of the shipyards. Many of them are tradesmen. Many who were formerly workers in the shipyards sustained injuries which were recorded in BHP records. When the shipyards closed BHP said that it would find those workers jobs in the steel works. When they were put off from the shipyards they had to apply for work at the steel works. What happened? Out came the medical records. They had had a bit of a knock to the knee and some treatment, perhaps trouble with an elbow, loss of hearing or so forth. They were told: ‘I am sorry old chap, you do not measure up medically’. Of course they did not get the jobs in the steel works which they were promised.
These people have joined together to form the Whyalla Unemployed Workers Movement. They are very dedicated people, conscious of their situation, very keen to assist their families in the present situation which they face. They have joined together and taken over a building, with the assistance of the State Government. They have set up an organisation which has been able to obtain foodstuffs, services et cetera at reduced rates. By doing so they have shown a great deal of initiative in the carrying out of their activities. They have a worthwhile organisation. Whilst many people look down on people who are unemployed I think these people should be commended for their initiative. I visit Whyalla regularly and I pay regular visits to the offices in which these people are operating. They certainly have my commendation for what they do.
While I am dealing with social security matters I wish to refer to another issue. The Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) is also the Minister in charge of children’s affairs. During the last week I presented to this Parliament petitions containing thousands of signatures referring to cutbacks in funds available for pre-school activities. The petitions were mostly organised by committees connected with kindergartens. In this present situation they can see that they have to put off staff, cut back on activities and not take on children below a certain age. Of course these people are very concerned about all these things. There was no problem in getting people to sign the petitions. They came from all over the large electorate of Grey, not only from the major centres such as Port Lincoln, Whyalla, Port Pirie and Port Augusta, but also from many of the smaller centres. There was a great deal of concern throughout the electorate because wherever there were kindergarten activities there were cutbacks in the funds available. Once again I say that this does not do much credit to the Government. This is in contrast to what was promised during the period of the Whitlam Government and what was in train when that Government went out of power. The aim of the Whitlam Government was to give 12 months of pre-school education to every child in Australia. Of course that has gone by the board.
I wish to raise something which was mentioned in the Budget, something about which the Government should be absolutely ashamed. I refer to compensation rates paid to its own employees if they become injured and are off work for over six months. During the first six months that Commonwealth employees are receiving compensation payments they receive their normal rates of pay, but after six months their incomes drop considerably. The history of this matter is not good. I do not think this Government can take a great deal of pride in it. When the Labor Party was in office in 1975 it intended to increase the compensation rate for injured employees, which at that time was $57 a week, to a figure more in line with the movements in the cost of living. The figure proposed at that time was equivalent to 84 per cent of the minimum wage. But of course when Sir John Kerr tossed the Whitlam Labor Government out of office the legislation before the Parliament went by the board, with the result that those unfortunate employees had to wait a further 12 months before the Fraser Government took any action to try to rectify that situation. So they went for two years without a rise.
They last received a rise in 1976 when the amount received by an injured employee rose to $80 a week, which at the time represented 83 per cent of the minimum wage. If the employee had a wife he received an extra $2 1 and $ 10 for each child. Remember, that was in 1976. The amount paid in the event of a death of an employee was increased to $25,000. Over the last three years the cost of living index has risen by 35 per cent and the minimum wage has gone up by 29lA per cent. But what did this generous Government do? It increased the amount paid to an injured employee by $ 10 a week, the amount paid to his wife increased from $21 to $23.50 a week and the amount for each child went from $10 to $1 1.25. As I said earlier, the CP1 had gone up by 35 per cent and the minimum wage had gone up by 29lA per cent. After three years’ delay in making any adjustment to these rates this Government increased the amounts by 12’/4 per cent.
The same situation applied to the amount paid on the death of an employee. In 1975 the Labor Government, prior to its being tossed out of office by Sir John Kerr, intended to increase the amount to $28,000. Remember, that was four years ago. When the following Liberal Government altered the amount it was set at $25,000, not $28,000. Now, four years later, the Government has decided to increase the amount to $28,000. I do not know whether honourable members think that is a fair figure for the death of an employee, but I am sure that any fairminded person would agree that it is a pretty miserable sum in the light of the increases that have taken place in the CPI and the minimum wage. Approaches have been made not only by me but also by Senator Grimes, the Council of
Australian Government Employee Organisations and other unions concerned with the Commonwealth Public Service, that this amount be indexed so that instead of having to wait on legislation to be passed employees can benefit as movements take place. It is three years since the legislation has been altered. Increases in compensation rates are granted only after legislation is passed by the Parliament. It was altered a further two years prior to that. So honourable members can see the raw deal these people are getting. I personally come into contact with many people who are suffering because of the situation. They are invariably wages employees.
The Australian National Railways has, I think, 54 former employees receiving compensation at the miserable rates I have mentioned. Of those, only one is not a wages employee, and 37 of those 54 people have back injuries. So we can see what a miserable attitude this Government is taking as regards its employees. There has been no attempt to introduce legislation to index this compensation so that there can be automatic adjustments to the rates for those employees who have been injured in the service of this country. If the two staff sitting at the table and the SergeantatArms sitting at the back of the chamber were off for more than six months because of injury I am sure they would appreciate receiving $90 a week each, $23.50 a week for their wives and $ 1 1 .25 for each of their children! But they are the rates that would apply if they were off for more than six months because of injury. From this we can see that the record of this Government in dealing with its employees is certainly not one of which it can be proud. Many other matters have been taken up by the unions including, as I have mentioned before, the lump sum payment in the event of the death of an employee. To increase the lump sum payment by the same figure that the Labor Government intended to introduce four years ago demonstrates the lack of responsibility on the part of this Government.
It is a fact that the Commonwealth Act is the worst of the Australian compensation Acts. When the Council of Australian Government Employee Organisations approached the responsible Minister quite some time ago to do something about increasing compensation benefits, the Commonwealth Act probably had a slight edge on a couple of the State Acts but most of the State Acts provide for adjustments according to the consumer price index increases. There is no similar provision in the Commonwealth Act. As far as weekly payments are concerned, the only State Act that has worse provisions than the Commonwealth Act is the Queensland Act. I do not think Government supporters can give themselves a pat on the back because the Commonwealth Act is only slightly better than the Queensland Act. The Commonwealth Act is far behind the South Australian Act and other State Acts. This Government should consider updating the Commonwealth Act. I certainly hope that when the legislation comes before the Parliament we as an Opposition will be in a position to move amendments which will enable Commonwealth employees to receive benefits more in keeping with present day needs and in recognition of the service of former Commonwealth Government employees who had been injured in the course of their employment. They should not be forced to exist on the poverty level. They should receive the same benefits as everyone else. They should at least receive compensation payments which would allow them to live comfortably and be able to raise their families. Bear in mind that some of them have suffered grievous injuries and they may not be able to return to work.
The honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Cotter) spoke about the avgas shortage and the distribution of fuel. The honourable member also represents a large country electorate with practically no internal air services. They mainly use aircraft that operate on avgas as opposed to turbo-engine aircraft. This situation is a big problem in my area. I agree with the sentiments expressed by the honourable member about the shortage of avgas. I certainly hope that the Government does not let the situation get completely out of hand. If it does get out of hand, I think the Government can take the blame.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drummond)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Those honourable members who are deeply interested in the economy have now had time to consider the fundamental question, that is, the alternative policies or attitudes of the Government on the one hand, and Mr Hayden speaking for the Labor Opposition on the other hand. These overall comments can be made at the beginning of my speech. The Government’s strategy is both comprehensive and consistent, designed to strengthen the basic structure of the economy and open up the way for greater economic growth, rising employment, and lower inflation. But realists must accept that in a disturbed world environment and excessive domestic wage rises it will not be practicable to resolve our major problems in one Budget. I do emphasise, as I have emphasised publicly before, that the Budget strategy does contribute to achieving the objectives that I have mentioned. In particular the large reduction in the Budget deficit will have a marked effect on business and overseas investors’ confidence, favourably affect medium term expectations about the trend of inflation, and reduce the amount of Commonwealth Government borrowing in the market, with consequent greater access by the private sector and semi and local government operations. The pressure on interest rates should fall. I would have liked a still greater cut in Budget expenditure.
There is considerable evidence to show that the Government’s estimates of revenue are conservative. Already we know that the crude oil levy will be $60m more, and of course it is probable that crude oil prices of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries will rise. Each $ 1 rise will bring in an extra $ 145 m. I would not be surprised a scrap, from my knowledge, if there were a rise of $2 between now and the end of February next year. As well, I think that corporation taxes will be about $200m to $300m higher than the estimates. Based on past experience, I must confess that the Government’s conservative approach is business-like. As to the alternative approach presented by Mr Hayden, on behalf of the Labor Opposition, I must make these comments. The Leader of the Opposition, in his reply to the Budget Speech, did not act and speak with the dignity and authority demanded of a leader in the House whether of the Government or the Opposition. It was painful to listen to him and it was anguish to have to sit through his speech. He did not propose an alternative Labor policy. His speech was deliberately designed to create social and class divisions and to play upon the fears and emotions of the disadvantaged. It was directed towards the socialist Left who supported him at the recent Adelaide Conference of the Labor Party where he dumped his former friend and colleague, Mr Bob Hawke. It was a repeat of the Whitlam debacle and it would have the same consequences. The possibility of another Khemlani incident is not totally out of prospect.
Let us examine some of his ideas. Under Hayden, the Labor Opposition is committed to greater interventionism- Labor’s word, not mine- in the market and the diversion of resources from the private sector to the public sector of the community. This was tried between 1973 and 1975 with disastrous economic and financial results, as everyone knows. I must say that Labor started off with the whole world in its hands. Statement No. 2 attached to the Budget shows that in the 1972-73 Liberal Party Budget year, real gross non-farm product increased by 6.3 per cent. That is a remarkable record. I do not think that it has ever been bettered. I happened to be the Prime Minister at the time that that Budget was introduced and Mr Speaker was my Treasurer. In 1974-75 it fell to 1.3 per cent under Labor. It recovered under the Liberals to 2.8 per cent last year. Incidentally I have in my hand a diagram that sets out that between 1970 and 1972 net average weekly earnings adjusted for increases in consumer prices improved by 13 per cent. That was a wonderful achievement. Under the Treasurership of Frank Crean there was a slight fall. Under the Hayden Budget, very nearly the whole of the 1970-72 improvement was wiped out. About 1 1 per cent of the 12 per cent rise that was achieved under my own Government with Sir Billy Snedden as the Treasurer was wiped out. So much for Labor interventionism.
The Leader of the Opposition says that he will raise $ 1,500m by business bashing, a capital resource tax and shifting the burden to the alleged rich. He admits that this will increase the Budget deficit considerably. Has he not read the very favourable response in the market place, and by overseas investors, to the unbelievable reduction in the domestic deficit? Does he not understand that experience proves that the bigger the Budget deficit, the greater the adverse impact on confidence, inflation, economic growth and unemployment? Does Mr Hayden live in this world? Won ‘t he ever learn?
Order! I ask the right honourable member for Lowe to refer to the Leader of the Opposition as the Leader of the Opposition.
– I want to impress on the audience, sir, that it is Mr Hayden.
-It is not parliamentary for you to do so.
– All right, sir. I will obey your request. In any event, both company and individual taxes are high enough. The Leader of the Opposition should know from his own experience that a capital gains tax was introduced into the Parliament by Mr Crean in 1973 and it was withdrawn shortly afterwards by Mr Whitlam. What is more important, 90 per cent of taxpayers are on the lowest rate, that is, 32 per cent. So it would not be possible, unless punitive personal and corporation taxation were introduced, to raise $ 1,500m from this tax group. What did the Leader of the Opposition say about national economic growth and inflation? Not a word! What did he say about the effects of excess wage increases on inflation and unemployment? Has he forgotten the warnings of former members, Mr Frank Crean and Senator Jim McClelland, a truly able Minister for Labour, that under inflationary conditions- and these are their words, not mine- ‘one man’s wage increase means the loss of another man’s job’? Does Labor care about unemployment? Does the trade union movement care about unemployment? Is that not one reason why Labor should be permanently rejected by the Australian voting public? As I have said, the interests of the people have been subordinated to the interests of the socialist Left within the Labor Party and the trade union movement.
I turn to an examination of the underlying trend in the Budget itself to see where we are going. I do this deliberately because I think it is a matter of the deepest regret that not one other person has attempted to analyse the underlying trend and tell us where he thinks we are going and what changes ought to be made.
– Not true.
– What is not true?
– What you have just said.
– The honourable member does not know what he is talking about. He could not have heard me properly. I did not put a proposition. My main worry centres around the fact that, as the Treasury analysis in Statement No. 2 of the Budget Papers points out, net individual income tax will rise by 18.2 per cent and that because of the prospective consumer price rises already in the system, household disposable income could be a little lower in the present year than it was last year. The Treasury says that the growth in consumption expenditure, which is over 60 per cent of national expenditure, will depend on a fall in the household savings ratio. It also says that all in all it seems likely that consumption will continue to grow at a subdued rate of between 2 per cent and Vh per cent unless there is an unexpected lift in consumer confidence. I think that this could happen towards the end of the second half of the fiscal year.
In order to stimulate demand, the Budget provides that from 1 December the effective standard personal tax will be reduced from 34.57 per cent to 32 per cent. A man on average weekly earnings of” $245 a week will have his tax reduced by $4.45 a week. Tax will be reduced for all. The important question, however, is whether this will be enough to sustain the value of household disposable income after discounting for inflation. There are doubts that it will. For this reason it is essential that there be greater sensibility and flexibility than is usual. I know that the Government is well aware of this.
Having said that, I must emphasise that the underlying trends and prospects are good. Let us look at them. Australia, as we all know or should know, depends heavily for its prosperity on overseas trade and the movement into Australia of overseas capital. As one who over the last few years has travelled the world on many occasions, particularly the money markets of the world, I know that we rank high in the minds of the overseas investors. In fact, we rank at the top. That is something about which we ought to be proud. We should be and will be prepared to boast about it on many occasions. This is clearly indicated by the apparent favourable private capital inflow of about $ 1,700m last year. It also ought to be known that there are known prospects involving about $28,000m to be invested in this country in capital expansion during the next few years. The outlook improves daily and spectacularly. It must have a big impact on economic growth and employment. From these developments we will all benefit. This will be the time when we can do more for every single section of the community and not concentrate on the privileged position of members of the trade unions. As to our balance of payments, exports are expected to grow stongly although not as fast as they did in the second half of 1978-79. Our high self-sufficiency in domestic oil production and energy resources should ensure that our balance of payments is less adversely affected than that of most of our trading partners.
I wish that everyone could have the same opportunity as I have had to travel overseas. We read stories about inflation and growth in Australia and the difficulties we face with the trade union movement. The latest stories were certainly correct. But with regard to inflation and our ability to live- I will not say magnificently but certainly well- very few countries other than the United States and West Germany can keep up with the pattern and standard of living that this Government has established. When the Whitlam Government came into office Australia had a competitive trading advantage of 1 5 per cent. I hope that I can impress upon everyone the advantage that that Government had. While in office it turned that advantage into a disadvantage of 20 per cent. That was an unbelievable change even for a man like Whitlam, supported by the kinds of Treasurers he had in those days, including the person whom you, Mr Deputy Speaker, wanted me to call -
– The donkey walloper.
– I will not call him that because I do not think it is polite. I will call him the Leader of the Opposition. There are of course, real worries in retail trade and manufacturing because of the potentially small rise in gross domestic production and consumption demand and also because of the phasing out of the investment allowance and stock valuation adjustments. I have to say that unemployment will remain a problem for some time although it is expected that employment itself will rise in much the same quantity- that is, by about 64,000- as it did in the last fiscal year.
From the varying arguments that I have put, it becomes obvious that the prospects, not so much in the immediate future over the next six to nine months but certainly after that, are good. We should keep that in mind because it is the basis of our growing strength and potential to develop in a prosperous way to the benefit of all. Much will depend on the increase in wages and wage supplements. Trade union policy is to exploit both the arbitration system and collective bargaining outside conciliation and arbitration. Now, the trade union movement has taken up the cause of trying to get what it calls ‘lost pay’ incurred over the last few years.
I believe that if we look at the facts, particularly the documents produced by the Reserve Bank of Australia, we will see that wages have very nearly kept up with inflationary pressures. By the various implicit price deflators, wages will have increased by 9.4 per cent during the last year with a consumer price inflator index of about 9.6 per cent. But I believe that from that time wages have certainly grown at a much faster rate than has the consumer price index because of the decisions in the national wage case hearings to award wage rises of 4 per cent and 3.2 per cent and then the unbelievable rises of between $5 and $8 a week as a result of the Deverall decision. I have no doubt that in the last few weeks that tendency has developed in an increasing way. If we were able to get the figures showing which component has improved the mostwages or inflation- I believe that it would be wages.
Against this background, I hope that the Government will be able to legislate soon to prevent the Deverall-type decision in the so-called work value cases from happening again. Only a country with the inherent strength that we have could possibly put up with such an assault and come out of it as well as we are coming out of it now.
Unless there is greater restraint within the trade union movement our rate of growth, fall in inflation and rise in employment may be slowed down but it will not be stopped. Certainly, other sections of the community will have to pay if the trade union movement continues to act in the way in which it is acting at present.
I will finish on this note: The longer I live in this country and the more I travel overseas I am made to realise as the days go by that we are a great country with a very great potential. We desperately need to avoid constant confrontations and to replace them with a spirit of overall co-operation in the economic and financial world, particularly- I emphasise this pointbetween governments, employers and the trade union movement. It is all up to us. We have the opportunities. We have the whole world in our hands. We, in co-operation with others, should give people the right to show how good our country is and how fortunate we are to be living in it.
– It is always a pleasure to follow the right honourable member for Lowe (Sir William McMahon), but it is always the custom that we can never agree with some of the propositions he puts before us. I can well understand that he is entitled to talk about his record as a Prime Minister. I must say that if one compares the right honourable member’s record with the record of the present Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), the right honourable member for Lowe comes out very favourably indeed. The whole problem we now face in this country is that we have a Prime Minister with a popularity rating of 29 per cent. This can be directly related to his behaviour as the leader of the Government. It comes to the question of economic management, the question of credibility, the question of promises that the Government made to the people over a series of years when a number of elections were held. The issue is that all those promises have failed and this is a very bad Budget indeed.
I refer to some of the comments that have been made recently about this Budget by the Australian Press. The Sydney Sun says: ‘Tax Sting. You will Pay More’. The Canberra Times says: Tough, dry Budget’. The Age says: ‘Bad Budget for the Unemployed’. The Financial Review says: ‘Tax Backlash Gathers Force’. The Daily Mirror says: ‘Tax Row. Expert says its a 27 per cent Rise’. The Age again says: ‘Buying Power
Will Slump as Tax Take Soars’. This is what one finds when one looks at public opinion. The public is no longer going to trust this Government.
One of the ploys that has been used perhaps to divert attention from the serious economic slump in which we find ourselves has been to suggest the possibility of another early election. The Prime Minister refuses to deny that there may be an early election. Again we have this speculation. There is one man only who can kill the speculation and that is the Prime Minister. The only reason for an early election would be that the Prime Minister’s own position is in jeopardy. If enough of his back bench is prepared to move him, the way to avoid that is to have an early election. It is very clear that if the Prime Minister tries to run through to the end of his full term of office he will not be the Prime Minister in 1 980. We can understand that, but why does he not say that there is no chance of an early election; that his Government will run for the full term and that he hopes to remain Prime Minister. That last hope is a matter for his own party to support him in.
But when the Prime Minister sought a dissolution of the House of Representatives on 10 November 1977, a year before its time, he put before His Excellency the Governor-General the proposition that there always ought to be simultaneous elections for the House of Representatives and the Senate. In a nutshell, on that premise, there can be no election until July next year. What is preventing the Prime Minister from saying just that? There cannot be an election before next year unless he is again going to put the Senate out of kilter and not have simultaneous elections. I can well understand the Prime Minister’s concern. If His Excellency the GovernorGeneral wants to write a letter to him talking about the reasons why he was granted an early dissolution, His Excellency may be able to say to the Prime Minister: ‘You told me that you had policies which were going to correct savage inflationary trends that were then operating. You told me you needed a steady and resolute resolve to cope with the rate of inflation and create conditions suitable for real economic growth. You told me that you wanted that early election to end speculation’. That is on record, so let us not have any more nonsense about the question: Is there going to be an early election and what are the problems of a Prime Minister in that regard? He does not have any except his own credibility.
I come to the question of credibility, promises made, and the reason why public opinion has now classified this Prime Minister and the
Government as complete failures. Let me mention one of the promises made by the present Government. The Prime Minister said:
I believe that 1979 is the year in which the fruits of our policies will become clearly apparent, a year in which the economy will take a further step on the road to recovery.
That statement was made on 22 February. Again, on 12 September last year, the Prime Minister said:
Inflation at an annual rate of 5 per cent is within our reach by the middle of 1979. It will go on falling under the policies of this Government.
In this Budget it is predicted, admitted, acknowledged, that inflation will certainly go to nine, 10 or 1 1 per cent. What is the reason for that? It is the failure of the Government’s economic policy. That is the real problem.
The whole issue of this Budget is related to what the sheikhs of the Middle East want to charge for a barrel of crude oil. If by chance the sheikhs wish to increase the price from $20 to $25 a barrel, say, by December, this Government will have the advantage of perhaps running into a surplus. But let us make it very clear that Australia is not using Middle East oil. Ninety per cent of our oil comes out of Bass Strait and at a price of 66c a barrel. What the Government is doing to the Australian motorist, the people in the country particularly, is fleecing them at the point of the bowser. The Government now has $2,000m coming out of the pockets of Australian motorists into its Budget and yet it is still running at a deficit.
The Government has the audacity to suggest that it has a proper energy conservation policy. If it is a proper conservation policy, surely the Government would set those funds aside for exploration, research into alternative fuel technology and other matters that would help the conservation of energy. That is the important thing that the Australian people want the Government to do. They would not mind contributing additional financial resources towards further exploration, further development, Australian ownership of an energy resource that is priceless, and developing alternative energy fuel such as ethanol. The technology experts have been asking the Government for a mere $30m to assist in the development of ethanol technology, but they have not received any support at all. That is part of the lack of credibility of this Government.
To suggest that by escalating the price of petroleum in the way the Government has will keep inflation down is ludicrous. It is well known that in the last quarter 15 per cent of the rise in the consumer price index was directly related to the high cost of petroleum. It will go higher. Those of us who have had a look at the energy resources know it will not be too long before the price of a barrel of oil will escalate again, perhaps by December, and so it will go on. It will not be too long before Australia will have petrol rationingperhaps 12 months. What will that do to the automotive industries and economic growth? Why does the Government hide behind the real problems of energy when it knows that every other country in the world is making frantic efforts to guarantee it has sufficient resources? Yet Australia is a nation in which the only frantic effort is in trying to balance the Budget. That is the great weakness.
One of the fundamental things we find as members of parliament now when we are asked to meet the people, address rallies of the unemployed, is to have hundreds and hundreds of young people saying: ‘What are you going to do for us ‘? Where is the policy?
Look at the dreadful unemployment statistics we now have. The latest Commonwealth Employment Services figures show that the number of people seeking work at the end of July was 410,000 or 6.4 per cent of the work force. Does this reflect what we say is a growing economy? Unemployment among our school leavers increased by 20 per cent over the last 12 months, and 17.8 per cent, almost one-fifth of the work force aged 15 to 19 years, seeking full time work cannot find jobs. Nine months after leaving school, 42,000 of our work-age children are still looking for their first job. The number of vacancies- which is the real test- in July 1979 was a mere 16,712, the lowest for any month since the end of 1963. In addition, the Bureau of Statistics figures show that there are 1 15,000 part time workers who would have preferred to work more hours. Add the people who cannot get jobs, the people who are working only part of the time they want to work and the people who want to work but cannot get into the work force at all, and we see that three-quarters of a million Australians, or 1 1 per cent of them, cannot get work. Does the Government say this is effective economic management? Is it any wonder it is going to be defeated at the next election because of the promises it made? Let us look at what the Government is to give the unemployed and what it has in fact given them. In September 1974, the then Leader of the Opposition, Mr Fraser, said he accepted the principle that as unemployment rose so too should unemployment benefits. That is one of the problems we find. What happened to the benefits of the unemployed? In this Budget those under 1 8 received no increase at all and are expected to survive on a mere $36 a week. There has been no indexation of the unemployment benefits. Single people are expected to survive on $102.40 per fortnight.
I am advised by those who work in the unemployment offices that if by chance someone , has to leave a job, he is put to the most rigorous test to determine why he did so. Unemployment benefits are postponed for up to 12 weeks on the basis that perhaps a penalty should be borne by someone who dared to leave his job. Such a penalty would run into $1,000 or more, particularly in the case of a married person. This is against government policy. It was going to do something about guaranteeing some dignity for unemployed people. The Government has denied all its responsibilities in that area.
Let us look at the regressive aspects of this Budget. There is no increase in the allowance under the student assistance scheme. Assistance to Aborigines is reduced in real terms. In relation to medical benefits- ‘benefits’ is a doubtful word- we are going to pay the first $20 when we visit a doctor and if we have more than one visit or more than one service we might pay $20 more than once. The patient contribution for some pharmaceutical benefits is increased. The range of drugs available under the National Health Act will be reviewed, with a view to saving $20m. Funds for overseas aid are reduced. A service charge on migrants is introduced in order to get a measly $2.3m. Funds for welfare housing are reduced by $23m. There is a 25 per cent increase in air navigation charges. There is a reduction in real terms, as I outlined, for those who are unemployed. Expenditure on urban and regional development is reduced to the extent of $ 12.5m. Education expenditure in real terms is reduced, perhaps to the extent of about 6 per cent. Expenditure on physical manpower and training programs is reduced.
How is it, then, that this Government expects to survive after promising the people a better deal, considering the promises which were made at the time? When public opinion polls are taken in relation to this Government the thing that stands out is that it is a governnent which fails to keep its promises. Children at school now say that if one does not honour one’s promises one does a Fraser on them. That is the expression they use. It has come right through the whole structure of Australian society. If a person cannot adhere to his promises he is going to have that title given to him. It happens to be the name of our Prime Minister.
It is very important that when we talk about credibility and integrity we also talk about performance. Inflation was deemed to be the issue that the Government could control. We should bear in mind that inflation was going to be down to about 5 per cent. Excluding hospital and medical services, the consumer price index rose by about 10.4 per cent for the year ended June. That is an increase of 7.8 per cent over the same period in 1 978. For the year ended May 1 979 the cost of manufacturing material inputs rose by 40.7 per cent. There was a 5.3 per cent increase in the month of May alone. That is the highest increase on record. In one year it exceeds the increases that were experienced in the three years of the Labor Government. One of the principal reasons for this increase is the oil price rise which stemmed from the Government’s parity pricing decisions.
I turn to sales and production. Real non-farm production declined by 0.9 per cent in the June quarter. Retail sales appear to be falling in real terms. The production statistics for July which were released on Tuesday, confirmed that in real terms- that is, employment terms- the economy is contracting.
I refer to business and consumer confidence. The total lack of confidence in the community is due to the inability of the Government to perform creditably. The Australian Chamber of Commerce and National Bank survey in June shows that trading conditions are getting worse, that economic activity is at an unsatisfactory level and that anticipated capital expenditure is less than that anticipated at the survey in March. The Melbourne University Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research survey which was released the week before last shows that consumer confidence has dropped to the lowest level recorded since the survey began in March 1973. Over half the respondents believed that bad times were ahead in the next year.
Three and a half years of this Government have brought us to the present position in relation to honesty and integrity. If there was a barrel of promises, how rotten that barrel was. The broken promises include issues such as these: The failure to maintain Medibank; the failure to introduce full tax indexation; the failure to support full wage indexation; the failure to maintain the Prices Justification Tribunal; and the failure to reduce interest rates. The real problem is the attack on the average Australian- the worker and his family. There is no concern for the poor, the disadvantaged or the low income earners. Let us look at the facts. Health costs have increased by $7 a week. Income tax has increased by $7.92 a week. Productivity has increased by 8.6 per cent, but no benefit has been passed on to the worker. So we can see that whilst there will be a 9 per cent increase in wages due to inflation the effect of this Budget will be that the worker will pay 26 per cent more in tax. A man with a wife and two children is about $1,300 a year worse off, if he is lucky enough to have a job. These matters are going to cause the Government the most serious backlash from the point of view of the ballot box.
Let us look at some of the issues about which we want to talk. Using estimates provided in Budget Paper No. 9 on national income and expenditure, the wages share of gross domestic product at factor cost is 60.4 per cent after adjustment for changes in work force composition as outlined by the Department of Labor and Immigration in its publication entitled: Share of the National Product’ which was published in 1 975. The wages share is now at its traditional level. The Prime Minister and the Treasurer (Mr Howard) still claim that wages must fall further. After direct taxation and cash benefits to persons are taken into account- that is, enter the Federal Government- the share of wages as a proportion of gross domestic product at factor cost is now 58.9 per cent, having fallen 3.4 per cent since the Government came to power and 2. 1 per cent in the last year. It is lower than the average over the last two decades. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table setting out the situation from the years 1958-59 until the present. I showed it to the Minister who was previously at the table and he agreed that it could be incorporated.
The table read as follows-
-I thank the House. In the few minutes at my disposal I shall come to the specifics of the matter which I think highlights the whole situation. It relates to health in New South Wales as applied in terms of the Budget and the stringency of the Federal Government’s determination. I am advised that all the States have received a cut of $54m in health allocation. Do honourable members know what that means in New South Wales? It means that there can be no introduction of occupied new beds. That is the expression. So if the Westmead Hospital tries to come up with 450 beds, as it should, those 450 beds will have to be removed from elsewhere. In the metropolitan area of Sydney there will be a reduction of 750 beds. That is going to apply across the whole of New South Wales. It means a reduction in employment of 13,000 people. It means that in every country hospital there will be a reduction in staff, whether in Gulgong, Wellington, Cobar, Bourke or Coonamble. You name it; everyone will be affected. Those hospitals which have to have a staff reduction on the basis of rationalisation might well find that those who are to retain their jobs are to be allocated to another hospital. We can see what this is going to do to our country centres, for example. Health is priceless and cannot be bargained for as a budgetary item.
The real issue is that every State has said that it cannot maintain its services, let alone improve them. Most importantly, it cannot introduce any new services. Can honourable members imagine what that is going to do to the graduates of the medical schools including the paramedics, who we are financing through tertiary education on the basis that they might have a job to go to in a country or city hospital? There is going to be a reduction in the demand for graduates. This is suicidal from the point of view of effective budgeting. Surely when we look at this situation, we realise that health is a priority that any government must maintain, sustain and improve and that to cut funding in the way we have is utterly ridiculous. We are also limiting the future adding-on cost, as an inflationary term, to a mere 8 per cent. It is going to be above that in the
Government’s own Budget. From statistics that we are able to produce it is likely to be 10 per cent or 1 1 per cent. There is going to be an even further reduction in those resources.
Let me make the one final point that was put to me in a letter from the Royal Australian Nursing Federation which applied to the Canberra Hospital. For some time it has had a two-year general nursing program for its nurses which has been a most effective program. It employs some 70 girls in that area. That course is to be phased out. There will be no opportunity at all for those people to undertake training. We have the promises, we have the failure and there is no idea of when the performance is going to improve. The tragedy for the nation is that we are still talking about whether we are going to have an early election. Let the Government get on with the job of managing the economy and let it reduce some of the taxes.
-(Hon. Ian Robinson) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– After we have listened to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen), there certainly is a need to put this debate back into its proper perspective and to recognise the major issues that centre on this most important document that the Government brings forward each year. I believe that this Budget provides the structure and the foundation for the sound running of our economy for the next 12 months. It meets essential social needs and business requirements, but its prime objective is to front the nation up to the growing inflation threat- a threat which is intensifying, for various reasons, both external and internal, and which must therefore be a preoccupation of a responsible national government. To disregard or to ignore it would be to leave this country in peril.
This fundamental evil of inflation must be resisted if we are to protect our living standards, if we are to protect our free enterprise way of life. Every student of history knows that a complacent or negligent attitude to inflation leads to social and economic upheaval. Every trained anarchist or communist knows only too well that there is no surer or more effective way to discredit authority than to unleash the powers of inflation. To do so is to bring all the forces of destruction together, and it does it in a manner which few people are able to identify. This Government will not sidestep its responsibility in acknowledging the difficulties of inflation. It will resist it; it will fight it. The Government will not betray the nation on the question of inflation.
I might add that this is in direct contrast to the Labor Party, which in one of the most deplorable and blatant acts of delinquency has now abandoned any recognition of inflation. At the Adelaide conference of the Australian Labor Party, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) was prepared to accept economic resolutions which made no reference to inflation. To drop inflation is to cast aside the central disciplining factor in any responsible and coherent policy on sound economic management. For that, members of the Labor Party must be branded as worthless and discredited economic managers. Surely one might have expected them to learn from their experiences in government. The Labor Government, in three years, lifted the inflation rate from 4Vi per cent to 17 per cent. That inflation created the unemployment problem and the economic difficulties from which this country now suffers. Apparently that experience has had no impact on members of the Labor Party, or they just do not care. Certainly, the Leader of the Opposition and other Opposition speakers have shown no inclination in this debate to acknowledge the serious inflation problems facing Australia and the world at large.
One of the favourite words of the Leader of the Opposition is ‘dishonesty’. Almost every sentence he utters contains an attack on someone’s honesty. Perhaps it is time we had a look at the Labor Party’s honesty, or lack of it. The main matter with which I want to deal in this speech is the Labor Party’s outright dishonesty in what it is encouraging members of the Australian community to believe about their living standards. I will come back to that in more detail in a minute.
Let us have a look at a few other things. Ever since the Budget was brought down nine days ago, the Labor Party has been claiming that there will be no tax reduction whatsoever as a result of the Budget. Yet on Tuesday night the Leader of the Opposition, in his typical fashion, and to suit his own purposes, admitted that people on various incomes would get specific tax cuts after 1 December. We heard the Leader of the Opposition complaining loudly in one breath that this is the highest tax government in Australia’s history; and then in the next breath telling us that the Labor government under him would increase taxes by $ 1,500m a year. What breathtaking honesty! How much honesty do we get from the Labor Party about unemployment?
Unemployment is an extremely difficult and worrying problem for most Australians. There is no less concern by the Government than there is by the Opposition about the question of unemployment. It is just that we have a different approach to the problem. What the Labor Party has never yet admitted is that there is only one way to solve the unemployment problem on a lasting basis, and that is to rebuild a strong and growing private sector- the sector where jobs are. Prosperous, profitable and growing companies provide jobs; unprofitable ones do not. The Labor Party, for cynical political purposes, prefers to mislead the community into believing that unemployment can be solved by the magic of money. That is a dishonest, dangerous deception, and it must be exposed at every opportunity. It is nothing more than a myth. No democratic government has ever been able to spend its way out of its unemployment problems.
The Labor Party never mentions the fact that Australia has provided a million more jobs for its people in the last 10 years- a 20 per cent increase. It never mentions the fact that a high proportion of our population- higher than ever before- is in our work force, and today is seeking to enter the work force. It is difficult, therefore, for everyone to be provided with a job. The Labor Party never mentions the fact that in the last 12 months the level of employment has risen by 64,000 jobs. It would be stretching the Labor Party’s capacity for honesty too far to expect it to acknowledge any of these things.
The Labor Party attacks the Budget because it is ‘a Budget for business’. What is wrong with a Budget for business? A Budget for business is a Budget for the unemployed. It seems to be beyond the mental capacity of anyone in the Labor Party to grasp the basic and immensely important fact that we can beat unemployment only by rebuilding the capacity of business and industry to provide jobs. The Labor Party, locked in the ideological shackles of the past, simply cannot come to grips with this basic fact. Yet if it is not grasped by the Australian community as a whole, this country is in for problems far worse than anything it has seen. The Labor Party, in its unwillingness to grapple with unpopular policies, has thrown in the towel as far as inflation is concerned. There is no mention of inflation and the Labor Party does not seem concerned about fighting it. This is Labor’s new economic policy. This abdication of responsibility must, in the mind of every thinking Australian, utterly disqualify the Labor Party from any chance of once again getting its hands on the economic controls of this country. The Labor Party is now perpetrating the most destructive dishonesty of all; that is, that one can learn to live with inflation.
That evil philosophy must be rejected out of hand.
Let me come now to the form of dishonesty by the Labor Party which I believe contains the seeds of the greatest damage to the people of this nation. Almost every night the people of this country see on their television screens the Leader of the Opposition and his so-called mate, the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, telling them that their living standards are falling. This idea that living standards are falling is being drummed into people’s heads day after day, night after night. The Labor Party is making this the basis of its campaign for the next Federal elections. People ought to know why this is happening so that they can judge whether what they are being told is fact or merely part of a political propaganda exercise. Certainly, if they know it is a political propaganda exercise, they will be more likely to think about the matter instead of merely accepting it at face value.
This campaign might suit Labor’s cynical political objectives but it has the most dangerous implications for the future of this nation. In fact, the end result of it could well be the exact opposite of what the Australian people want. The end result of this deliberate brain-washing exercise by the Labor Party could, in fact, be a real decline in living standards in this country. This political charlatanism by the Labor Party could, if it succeeds, do immense damage to the living standards of the Australian people. This country has living standards amongst the highest in the world. Its work force enjoys very high wages and very favourable working conditions. But if the Labor Party’s campaign succeeds those benefits will be threatened and even lost. It is blantant inexcusable dishonesty to tell people they can expect a constantly rising standard of living and constantly rising incomes without a growing and prosperous industrial employing base. Of course, we all want living standards to keep on rising. Everyone is entitled to aspire to that goal. Australia, perhaps more than any other country in the world, has opened up for its people that prospect.
Australia has the potential to lift its living standards for its people and its industrial and resource base widens the opportunity every day. This is now happening. There is a tremendous resurgence of resource development taking place in this country. But what must be seen as the worst dishonesty and hypocrisy is the proposition that the Labor Party constantly asserts, that is, that no matter what the rate of growth of the economy, no matter what the profitability of business, no matter what the amount of industrial disruption, no matter what the loss of productivity is caused by these strikes the wage and salary earner has an unchallengeable right to expect his income and living standards to rise continually. That is a confidence trick of the first order, a confidence trick which the Labor Party is playing on the people of this country. But the dishonesty and hypocrisy go much deeper than that. Not only does the Labor Party say that wages and living standards must rise continually, come what may, but it goes further and says something that is very cruel and very callous as well. The Labor Party says that no matter how many people cannot find jobs, those people who do have jobs- well paid jobs with some of the best conditions in the world- must receive constantly rising incomes and enjoy constantly rising living standards. Let me repeat that, because nothing more clearly exposes the utter hypocrisy and blantant dishonesty of this whole propaganda campaign. The Labor Party says that no matter how many people are out of work, those who do have jobs should get more and more and more pay, thus making it harder for the unemployed to find work. What a heartless, callous attitude by a party which professes to be concerned about people’s welfare.
Many of us recall what a former Labor Treasurer had to say about this matter. He was a man with a great deal more honesty and integrity and a great deal more humanity than the members of the Opposition seem to have today. Mr Frank Crean, when Treasurer, said:
One man’s pay rise is another man ‘s job.
That is true. It is a truth that the present members of the Labor Party are well aware of and understand, but which they are prepared callously and deliberately to ignore because it gets in the way of their propaganda campaign. The Labor Party’s claim is that its concern for the unemployed is completely destroyed when it says everyone who has a job should get continuing pay rises no matter what the economic situation. The Labor Party knows that this will make it harder for the unemployed to find work. The Labor Party knows that the chances of school leavers finding a job will be seriously reduced. Yet the Labor Party, for purposes of political expediency, continues to push this dangerous line that people who already enjoy wages and conditions- as I said, amongst the best in the world- are entitled to continual improvements no matter what the economic situation, no matter what the capacity of the economy to provide those improvements and, worst of all, no matter how much more difficult it makes the plight of the unemployed. Any party or any political leader who claims a concern for the unemployed and, in the same breath, espouses the view that can only be harmful to the unemployed cannot be trusted with the responsibility of managing the economy of this country. The Leader of the Opposition’s claim to be concerned for the unemployed is completely destroyed out of his own mouth.
On Monday, the Leader of the Opposition and Mr Hawke and Mr Wran, the three bright lights, the three big stars, the drawcards of the Labor Party, addressed what was to be a massive Budget protest rally in Sydney. The reports in the newspapers said that the attendance at this gigantic rally ranged from 2,000 to 4,000 people. It looked much less on television. But, this mass rally attended by one-thousandth of the population of Sydney- even this minuscule proportion of Sydney’s population- consisted to a large degree of workers who walked off the job and went on strike to attend this meeting. What did they hear when they got there? They heard these Labor leading lights planting in their minds the belief that they need not worry about the effects of their own pay increases on their unemployed mates. All they need worry about is protecting and increasing their own already high incomes and good living standards. Nothing, so the Labor Party says, should be allowed to stand in the way of pay increases, even pay increases beyond the capacity of the economy or even pay increases that are going to make the unemployment situation worse. This is where the real danger lies.
If the people of Australia believe the Labor Party’s propaganda, they will come to expect that the country can afford to give them more pay, better working conditions, shorter working hours and rising living standards, even though the very fact that they get those benefits will place in jeopardy Australia’s continuing economic recovery. This sort of cargo-cult mentality that the Labor Party is perpetrating on the Australian people must be exposed for the evil that it is. It is political deception and political dishonesty of the worst type. Australians must recognise and accept that they can only enjoy benefits if the economy grows strongly enough, if the business and industry sections of the community are prosperous and expanding and if we keep inflation under control and remain competitive on the world market. This is what the Budget aims to achieve.
-Anybody who wanted to understand why this Government will go down to its greatest defeat in history would have had only to listen to the pathetic drivel delivered by the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) and the chorus of barnyard cackles that came from the idiots who sit behind him.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I think that that remark should be withdrawn because according to what came from the mouth of the Leader of the Opposition the donkeys are on the Opposition’s side- the ones he walloped.
-(Hon. Ian Robinson) - There is no point of order.
-The speech given by the Treasurer (Mr Howard) last Tuesday night was the tenth I have heard since I became a member of this House. It was, to say the least, a most incredible speech, not because of what it said, but because of what it did not say. It is the fourth Budget brought down by the Fraser Government not counting the mini-Budget of last May. It really was a final confession by this Government that it has failed totally to fulfil the commitments it made to the Australian people when it was first elected in 1975. The admission of failure is contained in the words of the Treasurer in the last few paragraphs of his Budget Speech. He said:
We do not expect unemployment to improve in the year ahead.
As to the inflation outlook, factors already in the system are likely to lead to higher rates of increase in price indices in the months immediately ahead, before a renewed downward trend can be established.
This Government came to office in 1 975 on three basic promises: To control inflation, to cut unemployment and to reduce taxation. Inflation, at the end of the September quarter in 1975- the last quarter for which the Labor Government was responsible- stood at 12.1 percent and not at 14 per cent as the Treasurer would have it. We have had four years of slashing of public expenditure and of cuts in education, welfare, health care, urban development and almost every area of human endeavour. After four years of the Australian people being told to tighten their belts and that life was not meant to be easy and all that sort of nonsense, they are now being informed that all the sacrifices they have made have been to no avail. The ‘real progress’ we have made, if I may emphasise the words of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), is to have lowered the inflation rate by, at best, one per cent. In his own words, inflation will increase to a figure above 10 per cent during this year. We may in fact have made no progress at all. We do not yet know what the inflation rate will be other than that we have his assurance, for what that is worth, that it will be above 10 per cent. It may in fact be a rate of inflation higher than that which prevailed when the Labor Government was expelled from office. So much for his promise to reduce inflation. Now let me quote the most infamous statement of them all in that monstrous document of lies and deception, the Fraser election speech of 1 975. It reads:
There will be jobs for all those who want to work.
At the end of July 1975 unemployment stood at 250,000, and exactly four years later it is 410,000. The best that the Treasurer can promise us is that during the next 12 months it will not improve. In each of the last three Budgets the Government has told us that the level of unemployment will drop. In each case it has worsened considerably. Let me refer to the figures: In July 1975 there were 250,000 unemployed; in July 1976 there were 270,000 unemployed; in July 1977 there were 337,000 unemployed; in July 1978 there were 393,000 unemployed and in July 1979 there were 410,000 unemployed. That in itself is bad enough, but what is worse is the snide, evil way in which this Government has convinced the majority of the population- those who are fortunate enough to have work- to believe that the unemployed are in their present plight because of their own unwillingness to work. That is the big lie. It is the most grotesque piece of propaganda that has been regrettably accepted by a large section of the Australian people. It has been assiduously promoted by this Government.
The Government, as well as the Labor Party, knows that there is an appalling ignorance by the Australian people about unemployment. Each of us has experienced occasions when we have been regaled by self-righteous citizens about the unemployed. They will explain in indignation how they know someone who knew somebody else who advertised a job for which only two people applied, one of whom who turned up had long hair and wore thongs obviously hoping that he would not get the job. They will say: ‘There are plenty of jobs. The problem is that these young people do not want to work’. I cannot count the number of times I have been told of a person who had knocked back every job he had been offered because he preferred to live on the unemployment benefit. When I have pointed out to the person telling the story that anyone knocking back a job without an extremely good reason would immediately lose his unemployment benefit and that people cannot just choose to live on the dole, they have looked stunned. Most
Australian people do not know of the very stringent work tests applying to the unemployment benefit and how quickly this Government will take at the slightest excuse a person’s unemployment benefit away from him.
I want to recount an experience that I had. Earlier this year I advertised for a research assistant. I received more than 100 applications. Some of them pleaded for the position. I received applications from people holding Ph.Ds, masters degrees and bachelors degrees. I finally employed a fine man with a bachelors degree and masters degree. I had over 100 people pleading for work. Honourable members know that I happen to be in. the retail business. On Wednesday we advertised a job for a young shop assistant. We advertised for a man between 20 and 30 years of age. We got between 50 and 60 applications. Three of the applicants were prepared to travel from the Blue Mountains to the North Shore of Sydney. Do not let anyone tell me that there is not genuine unemployment! My partner, Mr Ray Jacomb, informed me of these details today. He is a person who supported the Government. That is the sort of situation that prevails in Australia today.
I said before, and I make the point again, that most Australian people do not know the very stringent work tests that are applied to the unemployment benefit. Even when I point out to the constituents in my electorate that at the end of June there were 5,047 people registered as unemployed and that only 64 job vacancies were registered last month, they stare at me in disbelief. When I challenge these people to show me all these marvellous jobs that are available I receive some abusive letters but no job offers. When people cannot back up their assertions they usually fall back on saying how well off the young people on the dole really are. They will say: ‘Why, I know of five or six young people all living together, pooling their benefits and renting a house. They are having a great time at my expense.’ What they do not say, because they do not know, is that 64 per cent of those who are out of work are not young people; they are in fact mature adults.
When I hear these familiar anecdotes about unemployment I think back rather ruefully to the stories we heard whenever we tried to get governments to do something about the plight of the Aboriginal people of Australia. The same people who tell stories about the unemployed, used to recite how they knew someone who knew someone else who knew someone else who had lived amongst Aborigines and how, when a government or council authority had built them houses, they would chop up the doors for firewood. I must have heard such stories a thousand times. I used always to be amazed when I visited the home of an Aboriginal to find that it had doors on it. Quite obviously most of the people who make those sorts of assertions have little or no understanding of the present unemployment situation in Australia. They do not know or do not want to know about the unemployed. If they did they would be forced to feel that the unemployed deserve better treatment and that they deserve jobs, which is what the vast majority of them want. Many of the people who feel this way voted for the present Government. An admission that there is even higher unemployment- much higher unemploymentis an admission that the Liberal Government has failed them. It is far easier to blame the unemployed.
Everybody knows, or ought to- know, that there is always a small percentage of peopleabout 2 per cent or 3 per cent- who do not. want to work and who will exploit the system, just as we know that there is a small percentage of people who do not want to pay tax. The facts about unemployment in Australia were summarised concisely in an article which was written by Ann Harding and Bob Mills and which appeared in this week’s issue of the National Times. The article is entitled: ‘The attack on the Unemployed ‘. It had this to say:
The major losers of the Howard Budget are the unemployed. They are to be the scapegoats for an economic strategy which will increase unemployment in 1979-80 by more than 70,000.
The Fraser Government clearly hopes that at least 50,000 of these people will join the growing ranks of the ‘hidden employed’- people who are not recorded in official unemployment statistics- for it has budgeted for an increase of only 19,000 in the number of unemployment-benefit recipients.
The article pointed out the severe contracting effect of the Budget and the result this would have on consumer demand and on employment prospects. It stated that this would lead to the creation of two distinct classes of unemployed people; the first being the official Treasury estimate of those who will receive unemployment benefits- some 325,000, an increase of 19,000 on the previous year- and the second class being those who will drop out of the work force altogether. I quote further from the article:
The second class of unemployed are those who have become discouraged, stopped looking for work, and dropped out of the labour market and official unemployment statistics.
It also includes children who go back to’ school because they can’t find a job, married women who give up looking for work, and men who are retired early but who would like to continue working.
These people are not counted in the official statistics, but their rapidly growing numbers are reflected in a decline in the workforce participation rate from 62.3 per cent in 1975-76 to 60.8 percent last year.
During this period the number of working-age people in Australia has increased by over half a million, while the number employed has risen by only 68,000.
There are now more than 350,000 ‘hidden unemployed’ according to Dr Peter Sheehan, senior research fellow with the Melbourne institute.
This means that about 12.5 per cent of the potential workforce, or 670,000 Australians, are out of work.
It also means that official statistics are becoming increasingly misleading as a guide to the real dimensions of unemployment and (he state of the economy.
Hidden unemployment of this magnitude renders government rhetoric about recent slight increases in the official employment rate completely meaningless.
The whole unemployment scandal created by this Government is summed up in that final sentence. The Prime Minister knows the present situation, the Treasurer knows it and so do the rest of the members of this Parliament. But what does the Government do? It appoints a hatchet man to do a job on the unemployed- Viner the Vampire. The Government knows that its policies have trebled unemployment in this country and it will make it even worse in the year ahead. Instead of being frank and honest with the Australian people the Government, since coming to office, has deliberately set out to falsify the figures by making it harder and harder for those who are unemployed to get benefits in the hope that they will drop out of the lists of registered Unemployed. The Government has introduced a new set of figures collected by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, and then dropped altogether the official figures collected by the Department of Employment and Youth Affairs- the figures that have served as the recognised measure of unemployment since figures were first collected. How typical of this Government. If it cannot reduce unemployment, cook the books.
This Government has shown, since it took office, that it could not care less about the unemployed. For a while it made the pretence that it did by introducing a number of useless schemes, but as the word came back to it that there was no sympathy for the unemployed and therefore no votes it decided to drop even that pretence. The Special Youth Employment Training Program has had its funds slashed by $55m and the National Employment and Training scheme funds have been slashed by $50m. We have just heard word from Melbourne that the Community Youth Support Scheme funds have been slashed and some 50 or 60 projects are to be scrapped. The unemployment benefit for youths under 18 years of age has remained at $36, and for single unemployed at $51.45. One would have expected that a Government claiming to be concerned about the plight of the unemployed would be doing exactly the opposite. One would have expected that the Government would have been providing work for them similar to that provided by the Labor Government.
It is interesting to listen to the number of people who demand that the unemployed be made to work for their benefits. When one questions people as to what they would like to see the unemployed do, they say: ‘Well, they could do a couple of days work for the council, such as cutting lawns, painting fences, and clearing parks and fire trails.’ One has to point out to them that if 5,000 people- the number of people unemployed in my area of Gosford-Wyong- turned up for work at Gosford and Wyong shire councils, thousands of lawn mowers and paint brushes would be needed, trucks would be needed to take them to and from work, and administrative staff and money would be needed to organise them. It is true that in one week the whole area would be spotless. People start to realise the absurdity of their proposal when they are asked what the unemployed will do in the second week when it is all clean. I also point out that this sort of work has been done in past years and it is almost useless and at the same time demeans those who are forced to do it. They know as well as those who are demanding that they do something to earn their benefits that the work is of little value to the community, that they are doing it to make the more self-righteous in the community feel that they are not paying out their taxes for nothing. It should also be remembered that this Government will not even produce the extra funds for ‘make work’ projects of this nature.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting for dinner I was referring to the fact that many people who want to see work provided for those who are unemployed do not seem to be aware that most of the jobs that are recommended are of little value to the community. I refer in particular to make-work projects such as cutting lawns, picking up papers and that sort of thing. I point out that this Government will not provide funds even for that sort of high labour, low material cost project. The unemployed want to work but on work that leaves something of value to the community. The problem is that work of that nature such as drainage, kerbing and guttering, roads, schools, aged persons’ accommodation, youth centres and child care centres requires much more than just labour. Experience over many years has shown that labour and material costs amount to 75 per cent more than the amount now paid out in benefits. This Government and the taxpayers at the last election have shown that they do not wish to pay the money out of their pockets- because that is where it must come from- to provide this sort of work.
Let us look at the sorts of things that the Government is patting itself on the back about. It is rather absurd that they include the abolition of the tax surcharge of 2.57 per cent and the reintroduction of twice yearly indexation of pensions. It is a bit like boasting about having stopped beating one’s wife. It should never have been done in the first place. The question of the record of the Fraser Government as a high tax government has been widely canvassed in the media and in this debate. No one seriously disputes the fact that with projected increases of 9 per cent in wages and 15 per cent in pay-as-you-earn tax collections the low and middle income earners will be paying larger shares of their incomes in taxation. The reintroduction of twice yearly indexation of pensions is welcomed but, as I said, it should never have been taken off in the first place.
Let us never forget that the introduction of indexation of pensions was a major welfare breakthrough by the Whitlam Government. We can all recall the years prior to 1972 when pensioners were at the whim of the political fortunes of the Liberal-Country Party governments that had held office for 23 years. The year after an election pensioners would receive an increase of $1; the second year nothing or 50c; and then before an election, $2. The introduction of twice yearly indexation by the Whitlam Government provided pensioners with at least the assurance that they would receive an increase twice a year so that the value of their pensions did not diminish and was kept in line with either average weekly earnings under the Whitlam Government or the consumer price index when the present Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) gained office.
– You will have your say later. We will see how much nonsense it is. Having pointed out the gross deficiencies and injustices contained in this Budget let me be gracious enough to commend the Government on the initiatives for the tourist industry. For 10 years as a member of Parliament I have been an ardent advocate of tourism as an industry with enormous potential for Australia both as an employer of labour and as a dollar earner. I drafted the policy used by Gough Whitlam at the 1 972 election and was delighted that the late Frank Stewart was able to make the first real advances in gaining recognition for the tourist industry by the quite significant increase in funds injected into tourism. Frank Stewart increased the funds available to the Australian Tourist Commission, injected some millions of dollars into man-made tourist attractions such as Old Sydney Town, Sovereign Hill, Lachlan Village and so on, and introduced domestic promotion of Australia to Australians.
Just as it was all starting to happen the Whitlam Government was dismissed and the Fraser Government came to office with its then spokesman of tourism, Senator Rae, promising the world to the industry. After the following election exactly the reverse happened, with funds being slashed to their lowest level in years. In late 1976 1 managed, through a series of questions, to convince the Prime Minister to set up the House of Representatives Select Committee on Tourism. I believe that that Committee, under the chairmanship of the honourable member for Bowman, Mr David Jull, has been one of the most successful parliamentary committees in the history of the Parliament.
Firstly, it managed to focus the attention of the nation on the potential of the industry and its problems. It came at the right time in that the economic problems this nation was facing meant that government and industry were starting to look seriously at industries that had growth potential to replace those industries that were obviously in decline. However, its most important contribution was to recommend a proper study of the economics of tourism by the Bureau of Industry Economics which in its interim report finally pointed out that tourism’s value to the national economy is conservatively as much as that of the automobile manufacturing industry and not far behind that of mining. I want to pay special tribute to the Chairman of the Committee, the honourable member for Bowman, who did a first class job. The Committee produced a first class report.
Although we have a long way to go, the new initiatives provide for a doubling of the Australian Tourist Commission budget for overseas promotion- in real terms it is probably a trebling in the light of the fact that basic expenses remain the same- and for the introduction of tax deductibility at the rate of 2 Vi per cent depreciation for income-producing accommodation buildings commenced after 2 1 August 1 979. When legislation for this purpose is introduced I shall be pointing out that there are some potential dangers that will have to be watched carefully for those entrepreneurs who own and operate existing hotels and motels, particularly resort hotels in wilderness areas. The industry is naturally concerned that existing operators may be seriously disadvantaged by new competitors who may be made more competitive and who may be able to undercut them. Nevertheless, the introduction of this tax deductibility is an important step, particularly from a psychological point of view. The tourist industry at last believes that it is being taken seriously by government.
– I welcome the general shape of this Budget and echo the sentiments expressed by the Treasurer (Mr Howard) in the opening of his Speech where he said:
The containment of Government spending has been one of the central elements of our economic policy.
It is worth noting that in the three years to 1 972-73 Commonwealth Budget outlays grew by an average of 4% per cent per year in real terms; in the three years to 1 975-76, by 10½ per cent per year; and in the three years to 1978-79 by only 1 per cent per year.
There is growing and proper sentiment in the community towards lower taxation and smaller government.
But essentially within this there is a trade-off because people are less willing to accept cuts in government expenditure when it gets down to individual cases. Nonetheless, in this Budget I think there is a proper balance between the two. Certainly the outcome on the deficit is very sound for overall economic management. The overall deficit of $2, 193m, a reduction of $ 1,285m on 1978-79, is a substantial achievement within the present economic difficulties. Even more importantly, the domestic deficit of $875m, which is much less than half the domestic deficit of $2,258m in the previous year, is the lowest for six years. This means simply that interest rates can be brought down or at least rises in them prevented. That means that the average person who has to repay a mortgage or who has to repay hire purchase debts can be very much better off if the deficit is contained.
Basically, a deficit is the amount expended over the amount earned. Just as in any household if one spends more than one’s income one has to borrow and to pay interest on the money borrowed. That interest repayment is a major charge on the household. For a person with an average borrowing for a house these days of something over $20,000 a one per cent increase in interest rates could mean $4 or $5 a week in the burden of additional interest repayments. A 2 per cent increase obviously would mean something like an extra $8 or $9 a week. So if the Budget deficit is increased and if government borrowing pushes interest rates up people have to bear a substantial burden. Within this overall framework of course the tax cuts from 1 December are most welcome. Much nonsense has been talked about whether these are real tax cuts. It is unfortunate that a number of comments by Mr Risstrom, the Secretary of the Australian Taxpayers Association, were avidly taken up by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden). Mr Risstrom seemed to be saying that despite the fact that tax rates would go down from 1 December this really did not make much difference. The Leader of the Opposition took this up very avidly. It was rather like Satan rebuking sin. The Leader of the Opposition talked about the Government not being able to proceed with tax indexation but it did allow tax cuts. Only a few weeks ago in an interview published in the National Times, which interestingly enough was entitled ‘Bill Hayden Reveals All ‘-in fact he did not reveal all; he did not reveal the donkey walloping, for example, that was confessed in his most extraordinary speech in reply to the Budget the other night- he was asked by a reporter
What is Labor’s attitude towards tax indexation?
Well, we’re committed to the principle of tax indexation, but I’m not suggesting that we would go ahead with it immediately. We’d have to weigh up whether we could afford it or not.
The implementation of full tax indexation would cost another $500m. We’ve got to trade that off as against tax cuts. Which would people prefer? At this stage, I think they’d prefer the tax cuts.
The reporter said:
I think in the past there has been some doubt about your own commitment to the principle of tax indexation.
And well he might ask that. The Leader of the Opposition replied:
If we can afford it, we will.
That contrasts enormously with the Leader of the Opposition’s reception to Mr Risstrom ‘s remarks. All I can say about the Secretary of the Taxpayers Association is this: If he believes that by suddenly becoming a multi-media personality and the darling of every reporter who was really looking for something nasty to write about the Budget and if he has suddenly become the darling of the Leader of the Opposition, he might well consider the interests of the members of the Taxpayers Association, who presumably put him in his position to worry about whether people will have to pay more tax. If he does embrace the views of the Leader of the Opposition and the various people who rushed in and proclaimed him this multi-media personality, he may be letting down the members of his Association by helping along the possibility of the Leader of the Opposition taking over the Government and increasing the taxes very substantially.
The other point in the Budget that I draw attention to and which I particularly welcome relates to pensions. A number of representations were made from my electorate on the restoration of the six-monthly indexation of pensions. But I was more interested in the increases in the income eligibility limits to enable people to get pensioner health benefit cards. The weekly income limits have been raised for single people from $33 to $40 and for married couples from $57.50 to $68. Eligibility for these cards has been extended to include supporting parents. There is a number of war veterans in my electorate. The War Veterans Home at Narrabeen is in my electorate. I am pleased that the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Mr Adermann) is at the table tonight. I pay tribute to him for his work in restoring the rights of tuberculosis pensioners and bringing in many other improvements in benefits for veterans. I believe that these are extremely well received within the various associations and certainly amongst the many thousands of veterans who reside in my electorate.
The philosophy behind benefits which is held by the Liberal and National Country parties is very clear. Honourable members opposite seek to create some kind of division within the Australian community and a division between honourable members on both sides of this House on whether people are entitled to benefits. The position of the coalition parties has always been very clear. We are firmly in favour of helping those in need. We are the parties that recognise that the money to pay for those benefits has to be found. We see absolutely no conflict between the need to pay very good benefits and the need for the community to be productive enough to create the wealth to pay those benefits because, unless business operates well and profitably, unless people are constantly in employment, unless people are at work all the time and not involved in industrial disputes, the wealth will not be created and taxation will not be available to pay the very best benefits that this country can provide. It is very distressing to hear in this House day after day attacks by the Opposition on the people whose job it is to try to create this wealth. In that same process the Opposition tries to destroy the incentive that those people have to create wealth which can be taxed. By those actions, the Opposition denies the long term benefits to those who are most in need. A country which is not well off, which is not productive and where profits are not being made by business is a country which cannot care for its underprivileged and needy people.
I lived in the United Kingdom many years ago for some nine years and I will never forget the gradual decline in the real living standards of the people with lower incomes as a result of increasingly socialist policies. The way in which to improve overall the benefits to those most in need is to ensure that one has a productive, wealthy and prosperous economy. Even when the Fabian Society, that socialist society in London, analysed the first period of office of Mr Wilson, the socialist Prime Minister, it had to come to the conclusion that the least well off were in fact worse off as a result of Mr Wilson’s period of office. So, there is a great delusion that is fostered each day in this House that if somehow one drags down those who produce, those who do better, one will help those who are worse off. There is no greater delusion in this society. Fortunately, it is not shared by many people in this society.
In relation to this Budget, I think the following quote is quite appropriate: . . unless appropriate economic measures are adopted now, the hopeful signs in the economy could prove illusory, and inflation could take off again from its already high level, to a thoroughly destructive effect. The private sector would find it increasingly difficult to function, with increasing business failures, and unemployment could rise to dramatically higher levels.
That situation can be avoided and it was with this objective in mind that this Budget was designed. Some sacrifice and patient restraint is called for from all of us in our demands for more resources, whether it is additional public services that are wanted or higher personal incomes.
We expect that as the expansion of public sector activity is restrained, the opportunities for private sector expansion will improve, though full responses to greater room for growth may take time to develop.
That in fact is a quote from the Budget Speech made in 1975 by the then Treasurer, the present Leader of the Opposition. He said a number of things along these lines. He also said:
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.
That speech and the quotes that I read indicate a responsible approach to the framing of a Budget which, in fact, did not turn out in the way that it was envisaged because the projected deficit for that year, as honourable members will recall, skyrocketed. Even after we came to government and made a substantial number of expenditure cuts, the final deficit was very much larger than that forecast by Treasurer Hayden in his Budget Speech.
But there has been an astonishing change since then. In fact, there has been a complete reversal of economic responsibility. The Leader of the Opposition has made a number of statements indicating that there should be a much higher public sector spending. For example, in the F. E. Chamberlain Lecture delivered by the Leader of the Opposition in Perth earlier this year, in talking about an approach for lowering taxes, he said:
This sort of approach strikes directly at the conventional democratic socialist notion that equality and equity can only be assured by a stronger public sector.
At Monash University in April, he also said:
Excessive, persistent and grave social ills affecting Australia can only be solved by Government action on a national level.
That is a bit of an echo of what Mr Whitlam used to say. The Leader of the Opposition also stated:
These endemic problems can only be dealt with by government programs- and that means government spending.
Those remarks contain an eerie reminder of what happened previously.
The speech by the Leader of the Opposition on Tuesday night in response to the Budget Speech by the Treasurer (Mr Howard) was populist, it was polemical and it was also innumerate. For one who has claimed that he is economically responsible that speech was a disgraceful effort. It indicated a total change. In the Chamberlain lecture, from which I quoted earlier, which was delivered in Perth in March of this year the Leader of the Opposition said:
Experience in government has given us a much greater knowledge of the government machinery and access to a much wider range of economic data.
It is now possible for us to make accurate assessments of the annual Budget parameters and to frame an alternative Budget within this framework.
This gives much more assurance to our economic policy and allows us to be much more confident in predictions that we make.
We did not get an alternative Budget in this Budget debate from the Leader of the Opposition. Since he made that commitment in the Chamberlain lecture to continue with the idea of an alternative Budget he has gone through the Australian Labor Party conference in Adelaide and made a deal with the Left on economic policy- a deal which was called ‘gutless’ by Mr Hawke. The policy that resulted from that deal was referred to by Mr Wran, the Premier of New South Wales, as ‘a bit of a hotch-potch’. We have no idea what the alternative Budget of the
Leader of the Opposition would be, except that broadly he says: ‘We will spend more, give tax cuts and reduce petrol prices. But you will not have to pay. We will soak the rich up to make up the difference’.
Let us examine the kinds of things that the Leader of the Opposition seemed to be promising. At the third Conference of Labor Economists in Adelaide in May 1 979 he promised $450m extra for public works. I have been following this chameleon through his various audiences this year. I have kept a copy of every speech that he has made. The only conclusion I can reach is that he takes on the hue of the audience that he is addressing. Each of these audiences requires a commitment. At the Conference of Labor Economists he said:
I have outlined a program for the injection of an extra $450m into capital works programs through the annual Budget
Later in the same address he talked about a community service corps. He said:
Payment of a wage according to accepted scales is central to the concept that I have in mind.
In the speech he made on the Budget earlier this week he suggested that somehow he could employ 50,000 people over a year with an expenditure of no more than $100m. That is absolute nonsense. According to the proposals put forward by the Australian Council of Local Government Associations it requires no less than $16,000 per person per annum in order to allow for award wages, together with supervision and a reasonable quantum of materials to go with the work. The honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) acknowledged in his speech earlier that the scheme would need supervision and materials.
– He did not say 50,000 people for 12 months.
-The honourable member for Robertson is qualifying what he said. It takes $800m under the Australian Council of Local Government Associations proposals to employ 50,000 people for a year. If we subtract the unemployment benefit that might be saved in that way the figure will come down to $675m. That is the real cost of employing 50,000 on the government payroll through such a scheme. The Leader of the Opposition also said that he would increase spending on the National Employment and Training scheme to double what it was last year. That would involve an extra cost of $ 168m. He said that he would reduce petrol prices. I have taken as a reasonable reduction in petrol prices, if he wanted to make some impact at the petrol pump, the $830m which represents this year’s increase.. The Leader of the Opposition is totally opposed to the transfer of health costs from the public purse to private insurance and an increase from pharmaceutical benefits of some $200m. In his speech to the New South Wales Labor Women’s Committee he suggested massive Federal funding for State police forces. I have costed that spending at $S0m, which is about the cost to the Commonwealth of maintaining the Federal Police Force.
These figures add up to a total extra spending commitment of $2,373m. Where is that money to come from? There have to be elastic estimates of where it will come from. At the National Press Club in March this year the Leader of the Opposition said that the soaking of the rich would bring in an extra $ 1,000m. In his speech on the Budget he had to increase that estimate to $ 1,500m. Obviously, he started to have a conscience about whether his Budget would balance. If he were to gain $ 1,500m extra in soaking the rich- we know what that means; it always creeps down the scale- the deficit before any tax cuts would be $873m. If he gained only $ 1,000m in additional tax revenue the deficit would be $ 1,373m before he had cut any taxes. In other words, this man is following a totally unreal economic course. The Australian Financial Review stated:
Mr Hayden ‘s approach is disingenuous and calculatingly so. He is playing to the basest emotions of the community at a time when a more responsible leader would be acknowledging the great difficulties facing the economy.
That is why he did not bring in an alternative budget. That is why he gave that ranting address on Tuesday night which in no way faced up to the real problems of this nation.
– It is interesting to hear the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Carlton) defaming the supposed alternative Budget of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden). All we have heard in the speeches of Government supporters is what the Leader of the Opposition would do. None of them has had the gall to defend his Government’s useless Budget. All they do is attack the Leader of the Opposition’s supposed alternative Budget. I am one for believing in giving credit where it is due. But I must confess that I am well and truly scratching to find anything praiseworthy in this miserable Budget.
I suppose that every Budget has its silver lining. In this Government’s graveyard of broken promises and deception I am pleased to see that the Government has at last taken notice of and given effect to my pleas of 1978 and again this year for tax exemption on aids for the blind and the deaf. I point out that, after 18 months of my campaign of questions, speeches, petitions and personal representations, the Government has removed the sales tax on aids for the blind and deaf. If the Treasurer (Mr Howard) had acted on my representation early in 1978 and removed the tax then, many blind people would have saved considerable sums when purchasing their special aid equipment. After all, the cost to the Government for giving tax relief to these very needy people is a petty $100,000 per annum. That is a very small price to pay for helping those marvellous people who are afflicted with such infirmities.
Having said that, I feel that I have exhausted all the praise that I can bestow on this Budget. Before elaborating on the incredible deceit .and stupidity of the Government’s economic policy I wish to raise the matter of flexibility in Budget procedures in the Parliament. The present practice in delivering this nation’s Budget is that after months of preparation the Treasurer presents it as a fait accompli, a pre-packaged parcel of economic policies. Once this spectacle is over, journalists who have been kept corralled are released to swamp the public with a flood of words and statistics. There are all sorts of media extravaganzas with important guests invited to’ pass comment on the economic package. The nation reverberates with the buzz of comment and criticism about the Budget. Tonight as well as raising serious questions about this Government’s misguided economic policy direction, I wish to question the value of this sort of Budgetfest. I believe it is both worthy and opportune to consider at this time the introduction of staggered Budgets rather than staggering Budgets, as we have been used to in the last few years. The last four Budgets, including the mini-Budget, have certainly been staggering by anyone’s standard.
We ought to consider staggered budgets. By that I mean Budgets which are announced over a period rather than all at once. It seems to me that Budgetfest has a lot more to do with the media orgy than it has to do with sound economic management. A fundamental assumption in Budget strategy is how the economy, that is, business and consumers, will react to the Government’s economic intentions and forecasts for the coming year. Much of the detail contained in the Budget papers and the overall Budget strategy is entirely dependent on the way business and consumers react. For example, in this Budget the Government told us that we would receive a cut in taxation as of 1 December this year. The strategic presumption of the Government is based on the actions which will flow from this cut. That flow-on depends very much on how taxpayers see or perceive this much heralded tax cut.
It is a tax cut which the Government has spent enormous sums upon and been at great pains to explain to the community, but the scheme has come unstuck, so too has the Budget strategy. This is partly the result of a morning phone call to the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) from the Secretary of the Australian Taxpayers Association, Mr Eric Risstrom, the morning after the night before. I shall say more about Mr Risstrom and the Government’s reaction to his revelations later.
To most Australians that phone call, broadcast on the ABC’s AM program, marks the moment when their patience with this Government finally ran out. It marks the time when once and for all this Government’s credibility was buried, along with all its own many broken promises. Australian taxpayers were led to believe that the high point of this year’s Budget, its selling feature, was the cherished tax cut, which after all is only the abolition of the Government’s tax surcharge imposed last year. The 1978 Budget tax surcharge, as we all know, was itself a breach of promise. When it was extended in the May 1979 mini-Budget, the Government managed to break an already broken promise. Australian taxpayers now know that last year’s blatant breach of faith in the Budget is replaced this year by a concealed and deceptive breach of faith. All that the Government has learned in the past 12 months is to develop its ability for swindling, falsehood, sleight of hand, mendacity and general hocus-pocus to the level of an art form. The Government has not become wiser or more compassionate, it has only become more cunning and deceptive. The truth which has dawned on Australian taxpayers- not on the night of the Budget, not even on the day after the Budget, but within a week after the Budget- is this: ‘We may indeed see a reduction in our tax installments on 1 December, but for the period of the present year, all those below the annual income of $162,555 per annum will in fact pay more tax than they paid last year’. The so-called tax cut is artful deception. This Prime Minister will go down in history as Australia’s Fagin and his servile Treasurer (Mr Howard) as a Down Under version of the Artful Dodger.
Before I continue with that theme, I shall resume my original suggestion regarding the possibility of staggered Budgets. In this regard, it is worth looking briefly at the Government of
France. The French conduct their national elections over 2 weekends. In the first election they allow voters to express their preference for candidates and parties. Following a week in which the people can reflect on the events and results of that weekend, they vote again to select finally their representatives for the national Parliament. In essence, this is what is meant by a staggered Budget. Either the general strategy or part of the Budget detail should be revealed in one week and time should be allowed for community feedback from those proposals. Adjustment of the remainder of the Budget can be made following an analysis of that feedback.
I suppose the suggestion would have had very little support prior to this Budget but I believe the confusion created by this Budget- not only in the community, but within the Government as well- has highlighted the need for a general overhauling of the process by which Budgets are planned and the manner in which they are delivered. I might add that this suggestion should be taken only in that context of an overall review of Budget procedure.
Earlier this year, following the May miniBudget, the Opposition ‘s economic spokesman, the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis), suggested that the Government might like to print the Budget on perforated sheets of paper so that, as each Budget promise was broken, the relevant pages could be easily removed. May I suggest that perhaps the Budget could be printed on clear plastic because it is already transparent. I do not think I would be too unkind to suggest that the Budget could quite appropriately be printed on toilet paper. Certainly it would be of more use to the unemployed in that form than it is in its present state.
I return to the proposal to have 2 separate Budget statements- one general and one specific- about a week apart. The intervening week could be spent patching up the holes exposed by public and independent expert analysts. As it is, the Government is locked in to its Budget commitments for another year, failing of course another May mini-Budget. Rather than the Government admitting mistakes or misjudgments in this year’s Budget, it will have to bluff its way through. It will resort to the old, worn out cliche: ‘What about the Whitlam Government?’. This Government does not have reasons for its policies; it has just got excuses for its mistakes and its deception. In this country we have government by alibi. You can be sure that no matter what happens in the economy the Prime Minister and the Treasurer have some alibi. They say: ‘Don’t blame us. We only govern the place. Blame the unions, blame the public servants, blame Eric Risstrom’. What about the poor old Labor Party again? The Government has had 4 years to tidy up matters and it is just doing a hopeless job.
Not only is the character of this Government so lacking that it cannot admit mistakes, but the inbuilt Budget procedure is too straight-jacketed and inflexible. A classic example of how inflexible Budgets have become is clear from the Government’s reaction to the release of the June quarter national account figures. They are down 9 per cent- an appalling situation. The Government made a few superficial amendments, but this fall in the non-farm gross domestic productivity did not register in terms of the Budget strategy. To all intents and purposes the Government ignored the figures. The revelations which have followed this Budget lead us to ask the question: Did the Government know it was deceiving the people by trumpeting the virtues of the tax cuts without at the same time explaining that real earnings and the real standard of living would both decline, while real taxation would rise? Did it know those facts and therefore attempt willingly to dupe the public or was it so incompetent or ill-advised that the figures produced by Mr Eric Risstrom and confirmed by other independent commentators around Australia came as a genuine surprise? Mr Risstrom says the Treasurer seemed surprised when he confronted him with his tabulations. I heard the Prime Minister say on AM, after Mr Risstrom had phoned: ‘I think it might be a bit too early to discuss detailed figures’. He confessed later that the figures were too difficult to follow.
I am not about to call the Prime Minister a liar or call him dishonest. I will leave that for other people to decide. The facts will allow the public to decide for themselves whether this Prime Minister or this Government is genuine or not. The undeniable fact is that this Budget will cost average families an extra $7.90 a week, as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen) said in his speech earlier tonight. Another undeniable fact, one admitted in the Government’s own Budget Papers, is that wages will rise by 9 per cent, total tax revenue will increase by 15 per cent and inflation will also rise to 10 per cent. In relation to that last figure I should point out that the estimate for inflation in last year’s Budget was five per cent. The real figure for the past year was closer to 10 per cent. If the estimate for this year is 10 per cent, what can we realistically expect the correct inflation rate to be? Independent analysts have already questioned the Budget projection of two per cent in the economic growth. A more realistic estimate is one per cent. How many more projections can be trusted?
In bringing down such a contractionary Budget in the middle of a recession, the Government has managed at the same time to stimulate inflation, mainly through the indirect and very crude’ crude oil levy. While paying more for health and petrol and all the commodities which increased petrol prices have inflated, taxpayers will find that they are paying more real tax with less real earnings. A taxpayer on average weekly earnings who has dependants will pay 1 5.2 per cent more tax this financial year. As we have come to expect from this Government, those who will suffer the most are those who have the least, those on the lower end of the ladder. Even by the most conservative estimates, people earning $6,000 per annum with dependants will pay an effective tax increase of 1 34.63 per cent.
The Treasury itself admits in the Budget Papers that real disposable income will fall. Yet the Prime Minister and the Artful Dodger persist in using the old discredited government public relations line: ‘What about the tax cuts in November?’ The tax cuts have been revealed to be considerably less than they are made out to be in the Budget Speech. At the moment, the surcharge is extracted on the basis of a rate of 2.57 per cent for the first five months of this financial year. It will not apply over the last seven months. This means that the cuts look more generous than when calculated on an annual basis. The full year surcharge rate for 1 979-80 is 1 .07 per cent. This is 7 1 per cent of the surcharge for the full year 1978-79 of 1.5 per cent. Therefore, in annual terms, this year’s surcharge is only marginally smaller than last year’s surcharge. The Government’s tax bluff is a cynical political ploy. The Treasurer admitted last week that the tax cut was chosen in preference to introduction of tax indexation because there was more political mileage to be gained from the move. That should not have surprised anyone, although the fact that the Treasurer admitted it is something of a revelation.
– What about the veterans?
– The honourable member for Phillip will be a veteran next time. The publicity which followed the Budget has centred on the tax trick. Of course, the unemployed are really the greatest losers. I shall soon refer to them.
I should like for the moment to examine the impact of this Budget in Queensland, especially in light of recent promises made by the Queensland Premier in the heat of a by-election campaign. Clearly, the States are being squeezed. The Premier, meanwhile, has tried to buy votes, desperately and somewhat belatedly, by promising rail links north to Redcliffe and south to the Gold Coast. In the case of the Gold Coast, he has clearly ignored the advice of expert consultants that the coast rail link would not pay, although it would cost well over $100m. The Government’s specific and general purpose allocations to Queensland will not enable it to raise the money from its own State revenue. The Queensland Government will have to borrow the money and, in order to service the loan, will obviously have to increase State taxes either by indirect taxation or by following the Fraser federalism policy and imposing an income tax surcharge on Queenslanders. The Premier should be aware of the pitfalls of making promises that he cannot keep. He has only to look at the man whom he helped to elect Prime Minister of this country to see how ingenuine promises will catch up with him.
Of course, one of the promises that now severely embarrasses the Prime Minister is his unequivocal 1977 election policy speech commitment that unemployment would keep on falling through 1978 and 1979. This year 70,000 more people will be thrown on to the scrapheap of unemployment as a direct result of this Budget. Most of that number will be absorbed in the growing mass of people who are neither employed nor officially unemployed. The Treasury not only admits that but also has based much of its strategy on that fact. The Government’s response to record unemployment is to force skilled workers to accept unskilled work up to 100 kilometres from where they live. Among the draconian conditions imposed on the unemployed by the present Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs (Mr Viner) is that they must accept a job unless travelling costs are more than one-tenth of the wages. This is how the Government approaches the serious problem of economic structural re-adjustment, to mop up the record unemployment and to reconcile the imbalance between unemployment in the skilled and unskilled sectors of the community.
Government back benchers have valiantly tried to deflect criticism about the scandalous 69 per cent cut in the Special Youth Employment Training Program, the 44 per cent cut in the National Employment and Training scheme and the 1 3 per cent cut in the Community Youth Support Scheme by referring to the increase of $26m for Commonwealth Rebate for Apprentice Fulltime Training. However, last year only $ 18m of the $28m allocated for CRAFT was actually spent. Most of this Budget’s allocation for CRAFT- if it is in fact spent- will be soaked up in higher rates and natural increases rather than flowing on to increases in the number of apprentices. The unkindest cut of all is the excuse for slashing the Special Youth Employment Training Program; namely that employers were abusing the scheme. Why should the unemployed pay for the crimes of employers? We should punish those who are to blame, but we should not victimise those who are already victims. But that has been the story with this Government all along.
Debate (on motion by Mr Katter) adjourned.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, in accordance with Standing Order 95 I raise a matter of privilege. Following the discussion in the House earlier today I move:
– The Opposition has no objection to that course. I just say that this petition opens new procedures that have never been dealt with in this House before. It differs from any petition that has been discussed previously. It is without precedent. I think that all members of the House ought to be concerned as to their privileges. I suggest that they all take an interest in the petition and what it means to them and make whatever submissions that they think fit to the Privileges Committee, rather than just assume that the Committee will do all the work. The petition, if acceded to, will mean that whatever is said in the course of debate in this Parliament in future can be the subject of examination in the witness box, particularly on the question of credibility. So this is a very major step forward. I should like all honourable members to take an interest in it on the merits of their rights.
– in reply- Mr Deputy Speaker, with your indulgence I should like to endorse the remarks of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen). The Government is certainly not trying to rush through this matter in a way which denies proper and adequate consideration of the matter of privilege. Indeed, it is for that reason that I have accepted the suggestion of the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Holding). However, I suggest to the Committee that I do not believe that the matter can be left for unduly protracted debate. I think there is a necessity for this matter to be considered when the House resumes after next week’s adjournment. I hope that it might be possible before the end of the week after we resume for the House to consider the Committee’s report and for the Parliament then to take its decision on the matter.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I present the tenth report of the Publications Committee.
Report- by leave- adopted.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
-The 1979-80 Budget is remarkable for one particular thing: At a time when almost every nation in the Western world is grappling with financial problems, when a great country such as the United States of America declared some few years ago that its gross national product was $1 trillion, and when the pendulum is swinging backwards and forwards from month to month, with the inflation rate being perhaps at 1 1 per cent, going down to 9 per cent and then going up to 16 per cent, this Government is able to maintain a sense of direction and produce a most remarkable Budget.
With wishful thinking, in an almost charadetype of environment, the Opposition, through many of its members, has tried to make play of two particular things. One is the state of the polls. I have no doubt, Mr Deputy Speaker, that you remember, as I do, that prior to the last election the polls gave us a majority of five or seven and it even went up to 12; but we came back with a majority of 55. That story will be repeated when the people of Australia recall the record of the government that reduced this nation to a shambles. The other thing upon which the Opposition has played is family life. I was absolutely amazed at this. I am quite sure that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) was not taking himself seriously when he was talking about family life. What group of people ever set about to destroy the things most sacred to family life more than did the people on the Opposition side of the House? That does not apply to all of them, but it does apply to a great majority of them. So much for family life and the polls. There is only one poll that matters, and we will see how that one goes.
I commend the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), the Treasurer (Mr Howard) and all the other people associated with the Fraser-Anthony Government for producing a balanced, sensible and reasonable Budget with a sense of direction. Obviously, all of the measures that one would have wish to see introduced could not be introduced; yet the Budget was remarkable for one thing: It gave every person in every section of our community something to give them encouragement and to indicate that the people of this nation had been considered. Often these days I am amused by the attempts of the present Leader of the Opposition to present an image which would indicate that there has been a great change of heart, in trying to get across to the people that the members of the Australian Labor Party have now adopted the policies which have proved to be so successful with our coalition. Are the people of Australia going to fall for that? The members of the Labor Party are obviously trying to disown the Whitlam Government. But whether one calls it the Whitlam Government, the Hayden Government, the Hawke Government, or the Bryant Government, or whatever one calls it, it is still the same group of people who will be intimidated by the Nazi-type of intimidation that makes them stand up and toe the line, or else. When outside pressures are brought to bear upon them it is quite amazing how they collapse. The people of Australia will never forget that.
I mentioned the name of Mr Hawke, which I am sure is well known to most people in this House. For some reason best known to themselves, the media have set about trying to establish an image of this man. I find this very hard to understand, because no man who appears on television has a greater contempt for the interviewers and for the media than he has. He seems to take a great delight in treating those people like absolute dirt. They are workers, but that fact does not seem to get across to him. Despite all of that, the media have set about to establish an image of this man which keeps him fairly well up in the polls. Many people in Australia who talk about Mr Hawke as being the most suitable man for the position of Prime Minister forget one important thing: The members of the Labor Caucus are the people who choose their leader. When Mr Hawke walks into the Labor Caucus room, if he is elected, he has to face up to a combat with Bill Hayden, and he has got Buckley’s chance. I know these men. Are they going to bring in a stranger and put him above Bill Hayden or even Bert James, if he stands? There is no way in the world -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jarman)Order! I know that sometimes it is necessary to refer to somebody by his name, but I ask the honourable member for Kennedy to observe the ruling of the Chair that the Leader of the Opposition is to be referred to as such.
– I apologise, Mr Deputy Speaker. Mr Hawke would have as much chance of leading the Labor Party as would Bill Hayden ‘s donkey.
One of the greatest sources of power available to the Government to decentralise and bring to Australia federalism in its purest form is the combined dedication, influence and ability of the 900-odd local authorities spread throughout this country. As chairman of the committee which the local authorities appoint to watch their interests here, I can assure the House that there is a tremendous appreciation of what this Government has done for local authorities throughout the land. The increase in funding has brought the local authorities’ share of national income tax revenue from 1.52 to 1.75 per cent. This has meant an additional amount of $42m and a total amount of $222m for local authorities. In addition, the Treasurer has given an unqualified assurance- and this is terribly important- that the Government will be increasing that share to the magic 2 per cent by the time the next Budget is presented.
Before I leave this all-important matter of the role of local authorities and the work they do for Australia, I appeal to the Prime Minister and the other Ministers concerned to give most serious consideration to the employment scheme which has been proposed recently, after a lot of thought, and presented by the Australian Council of Local Government Associations. Time prevents me from giving full details of this scheme, but let me explain briefly that this is a scheme which would require special funding on the basis of 50 per cent from the Federal Government 30 per cent from the State government concerned and 20 per cent from the local authority itself. These funds would be used by individual councils to embark upon schemes to develop their areas and to put to work many thousands of people who presently are unemployed. Some people have claimed that this is just another regional employment development scheme. It is not. The difference between this scheme and the RED scheme is that the proposals would be presented by the local authority. It has been argued that in this economic climate the Federal Government just could not afford to make this sort of funding available. I would debate this on the basis that, immediately this scheme was adopted and these many thousands of people were employed, we would see three things happen: Firstly, they would become taxpayers; secondly, they would no longer be receiving unemployment assistance; and, thirdly, a group of young people chosen by the people who know them best and applied to the developmental proposition that would be most suited to the area would be put into action in their own area. It would be well worth the investment.
I do have a hardy annual, which is television. As I have done year after year, I bring forward the subject of television for areas which, after nearly 30 years, have not yet seen a test pattern. There is one difference at the moment, and that is that we have the exciting prospect of a satellite going into orbit which will project a television signal direct to the individual receiver. Many of us saw a demonstration of the Canadian proposition; that is, projecting a signal off the Hermes satellite. What one of the saucer-type antennae might cost causes some worry to people. The hundred produced in Canada cost $2,700 each. But, as was explained to me, on substantial authority, if they are mass produced the price could well come down to about $500 each. This would introduce a new era and one of great excitement to the people in the outback areas throughout this nation. What is more, the people who are already receiving television broadcasts would have additional channels. This is where the worry might be. We would want an assurance that the existing regional groups- the regional television stations and radio stations- would still have access to that satellite. I would not like to see- and I am sure no one would like to see- the people of our areas brainwashed by a signal that came from an urban area produced by one of the powerful television groups. That would be one thing that we would not want to see. I am sure that that problem is already in the mind of the Government.
There are many, many people in isolated areas working like hell in hellish conditions. One of these areas is Greenvale which is a complete mining centre without a television. Various television installations have been approved. A most generous program has been approved by the Government. I appeal to the Government that this work go ahead with all urgency because we are now more than half way through our 3 year term and these stations have not been established. The promise was that they would be installed before the life of the present Government is over. Even though this Government will be returned I would like to see them established with all urgency and operating. I am sure that the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, Mr Tony Staley, who is doing a splendid job, will get these people in Melbourne off their seats and get this work moving.
While on the subject of programming, I appeal to the Australian Broadcasting Commission to give people in remote areas an alternative to the program Broadband. Away with Broadband! We are sick and tired of this garbage and propaganda that comes over the Australian Broadcasting Commission radio station. The point about this program is that we have no alternative. We either listen to the ABC in these areas or we listen to nothing. I do not know whether the yahoos on the other side of the House ever listen to Broadband. If they do, for goodness sake they would have to admit that it is an absolutely unacceptable program. It is the one program that receives absolutely unanimous condemnation. No one likes it, and no one wants any part of it. But year after year this propaganda is shoved down our throats. Let us do away with it.
I have one final comment about programming. I would appeal again to the ABC to make sure that its sporting programs remain as they always have been. I would particularly make my appeal in relation to cricket test matches, football test matches and any other test matches. The ABC has an impeccable record in the presentation of test matches. I would hope that it reverts to that routine because, hang it all, we have not seen a test match on television for ages.
-It is not the ABC’s fault; it is the fault of the Australian Cricket Board.
– It is all right for you fellows who have all the benefits of living in a city. You can look at the Packer programs and enjoy them for the rest of your days. We want the cricket tests back and we want the presentation of tests through the ABC.
The areas of this nation which pipeline billions of dollars into the Treasury are the cattle, sheep, mining, grain and sugar industries. These industries are critically dependent on the reliability of fuel supplies and, more particularly, distillate. The apprehension in these areas which are so involved is growing day by day. I have made approach after approach to the Minister for National Development (Mr Newman) and he is very concerned. He is, at the moment I believe, preparing a full statement which will clarify the position. I sincerely hope that that will reassure the people who are dependent on these great industries. It is not just the people who conduct these industries who are affected, many thousands of workers are dependent on them also. There is some real fear about the whole situation.
People of Mary Kathleen, for instance, contacted me recently to say that they carry only one month’s supply of distillate. The meat works at Murgon has something less than that. The people there have been told by the suppliers that there is no great certainty of continuing supplies. Quite apart from that type of operation, there are the many people scattered through remote areas, in fettler camps and in outstations who are dependent on their own little outlets for distillate. Once the monsoonal rains set in, there could be real trouble in those areas. We would appreciate first of all an assurance that priority will be given to such operations.
The pricing of fuel is, in a special way, a severe penalty for people living away from the metropolitan areas. For example, petrol is available in Brisbane for 27c a litre or something less than that. In many of the towns scattered through my area people are paying nearly 35c a litre. Now, this is pretty imbalanced.
– That is terrible.
– I will get to you in a minute. What happened of course is that in a most cruel and contemptuous manner and with absolute indecent haste this crowd on the other side of the House got into office and stripped off one provision after another- but, more particularly, the equalisation subsidy. They ripped the subsidy off the airlines in the outback areas. My goodness, they could not get into it quickly enough. The two of them, the former Prime Minister and his Deputy were a dictatorship. Mr Barnard was a Deputy Prime Minister in name only because this nation was run by one steel-booted man. The Government did very little at all, if anything, for the people in those areas. I appeal most earnestly to the Government to examine the two-tier pricing system for fuels which is being splendidly presented by Mr Don Eather, the chief grain growers representative, in Queensland. He has gone to a lot of trouble and done a great deal of research. I was able to examine the schemes in the United States in January. They are workable and I do hope that the Government can look at them with the object of bringing some sort of equalisation beyond the present scheme to our areas. Our Government, with great rapidity, reintroduced equalisation. All of these difficulties would not exist if we were in a position to develop an alternative resource, and we have so many.
I remember some years ago Professor Mark Oliphant addressing our then mining committee and telling us about hydrogen and how it could be extracted from solar energy. In my own area there is the most advanced solar energy invention in this nation. It has received international acceptance and international honours. It was produced by the Little brothers. These men could well establish the basis for a most valuable research in this field in an area which has the sun and plenty of it. We could have solar energy farms. They would really achieve a great deal. However, I draw attention to another resource. In recent months attention has been constantly directed to the Rundle shale oil deposits. While Australia’s future energy self-sufficiency could well reside in the Julia Creek or, what has become known as the Toolebuc formation. Now I have some interesting figures to present to honourable members. Restraint by the company involved, Colonial Sugar Refining Co. Ltd has kept the spotlight off what could be a truly massive oil resource. Recently CRS decided to accelerate exploration and development of the Julia Creek deposits. Let us examine what a member of an eminent firm of consulting engineers said about this deposit. I quote Mr G. Thomas of the engineering firm of Kinnaird Hill de Rohan and Young Pty Ltd. He said:
The enormous shale deposits of western USA are potentially eclipsed by the Toolebuc formation . . . The formation is several times larger than the American oil shale lands.
Mr Thomas is prepared to quote figures which have recieved remarkably little publicity. He goes on to say:
If the reserves are as large as some believe the Toolebuc formation could contain three times as much recoverable oil as the world’s known reserves of flow oil . . . the estimated recoverable shale oil in western USA or about as much oil to last Australia 10,000 years.
The man saying this is not a fool; he is an eminent consulting engineer.
CSR has produced an annual report in which the quoted indicated reserves are 700 milion tonnes and third reserves, on the Toolebuc or the Julia Creek deposits, are said to be 2,500 million tonnes. It is interesting to note that these figures were struck before the recently completed driling program. This information is staggering, to say the least. Surely every effort should now be made to remove any obstacle that might prevent these deposits from being investigated with all urgency and brought into production. The news of $4 billion being spent on the development of our aluminium resources is exciting and splendid. But I wish that one of those billions would be devoted to the shale oil deposits and the bringing about of the production of these massive resources.
– I remind the Chair that we are discussing the Budget that was produced by the Treasurer (Mr Howard) on Tuesday of last week. One would never know from listening to the remarks of the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter), who preceded me in the debate, that that is what we are debating. He ranged in his remarks from the shale oil deposits, to the sunshine in his electorate of Kennedy, to a wild vituperation of the former Whitlam Government- anything but the Budget. I do not supppose that that is really amazing.
Order! The honourable member should be aware that when speaking in the Budget debate honourable members are allowed to cover a wide range of subjects. That is why I did not prevent the honourable member for Kennedy from so doing. The honourable member for Parramatta has the indulgence of the Chair to do exactly the same thing and to talk about his electorate if he so wishes.
-We have only 20 minutes available to us. I could not possibly tell you about Parramatta in that time.
-Make the most use of it.
-I return to the point I was making. One cannot really blame honourable members like the honourable member for Kennedy for not wanting to talk about the Budget, because it is totally indefensible; not only that, but also it is not understood by the bulk of the Australian people. Is it any wonder when the Budget Papers are presented to the House in 1 1 volumes? There are 1 1 volumes that are a mixture -
– How many have you read?
-I have tried to read the lot, but the difficulty is to understand them all. The Budget is a mixture of technical obfuscation; it is a litany of trivia; it is a catalogue of cant- it is anything except what the man in the street wants to know. The Budget has led to a great proliferation of words from all the technical finance writers in Australia. There are two things that the man in the street understands about the Budget: Firstly, that it will raise his income by approximately 9 per cent for the year and, secondly- this is in plain words in the Budget Papers- that it will increase his rate of taxation by 18 per cent. That much he does understand. The great mass of Australians are not professors of economics; they are not politicians; they are the ordinary working man in the street. The two matters I have mentioned are the important points that have seeped through to the great mass of Australian who are the working people, the family men and women.
Family men and women realise that this Budget disadvantages them greatly. The honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson) was sufficiently courageous- I say that in view of his overbearing Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser)- to stand up in the House and ask the question: When are we going to see a working man’s Budget? The Government makes no apology for the fact that the Budget is a businessman’s Budget. When are we going to see a Budget for the working men of Australia- the great bulk of the Australian people?
I wish to say a few words about how this Budget does affect the working man. The taxpayer with family dependants is the big loser under the Fraser Government’s new tax scales. The ony people who will not be disadvantaged by the new tax schedules are those who do not receive pay rises during 1979-80. Of course, that includes the unemployed of whom there will be more. I will get back to them. The people who will not receive wage rises will be heavily slugged by inflation which, as is admitted in the Budget Papers, will be around 1 1 per cent. That figure is more than double the 5 per cent that the Prime Minister promised us would be the inflation rate in Australia by last June. But, of course, that is just another one of those broken promises.
There is really no need to reiterate what the Australian people think about the Government’s broken promises. The opinion polls show that quite clearly. Amongst those who receive the 9 per cent increase in income predicted in the Budget, the family breadwinner will be by far the most disadvantaged in the whole of the community. He will be much more disadvantaged than the single taxpayer. Both groups will pay a greater proportion of their incomes in taxation in 1979-80. Well publicised and proven tables show the plight of the family man on average weekly earnings, which according to the Bureau of Statistics are $240 a week. I think that it is important to point out that more than 70 per cent of the Australian work force earn less than what is termed ‘average weekly earnings’. The term really is a spurious one.
I return to what I was saying about the plight of the family man who earns these mythical average weekly earnings. He faces an increase in tax double that of the single taxpayer without dependents. The family man earning $12,000 in 1978- 79 will suffer a 5.7 per cent tax increase in 1 979- 80, but the single taxpayer will suffer only a 2.6 per cent rise- that is, less than half that which the family man will pay. Some of the results are startling, but the family man with dependents earning $6,000 will suffer a massive 135 per cent effective tax increase compared with the single taxpayer’s increase of 13.8 per cent. So the increase will be 10 times as much for the family man on minimal wages. At $7,000 the tax rise for the family may is 32 per cent compared with 9 per cent for the single man. At $8,000 the tax rise for the family man is 18 per cent compared with 6 per cent for the single man.
However, the single taxpayer is not being missed altogether, because he also will be caught up in the tax run. Eric Risstrom, who is the Secretary of the Australian Taxpayers Association and who has received quite a bit of justified publicity in recent days, points out that a single worker on the average income will pay out $320 more in tax this year than he did last year. That is not going to please that group of the community either. The Government’s answer since the introduction of the Budget has been that a person’s tax must rise as his income rises. Well, that is a great piece of logic. Risstrom ‘s tables show that not only does the amount of tax that a person pays rise but also the proportion he pays out of his income rises. For example, the percentage of tax the average wage earner pays will rise from 22.63 per cent to 23.23 per cent for a single taxpayer and from 17.66 per cent to 18.66 per cent for a taxpayer with dependents.
– You don’t want progressive income tax scales?
– We do not mind progressive income tax scales, but if you listened to the statistics I just referred to you would have found that people are also paying a greater percentage of their income in tax.
– Perhaps you can have a flat rate tax.
-You try to explain that to the people who live in Dundas, Ermington and Rydalmere.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jarman)Order! The honourable gentlemen will address his remarks to the Chair.
-I apologise, Mr Deputy Speaker. In simple terms, the wage rise of nine per cent is less than a double figure inflation rate, and thus will not even maintain the relative buying power of a taxpayer’s income. A greater percentage of that income will go in income tax anyway. In short, people will be worse off, and they know it. The Treasury admits this and points out that personal disposable income will fall during this year. Thus 1979 has marked the final blow to the Government’s credibility in the tax reform area. The simple fact is that low income earners are considerable worse off now than they were three years ago. Tax changes since 1976 have left a married man who has two children and who earns $10,000, which is somewhere near what most people would consider average earnings, with a fall of 1.5 per cent in his take home pay in that three year period. When we consider the inflation rate that has been rampant- the Government wants to deny that it has been over that three-year period- that married man is of course much worse off than he was when the Government came to power. A person earning $30,000 a year was substantially better off at the end of the last financial year.
The one selling point of the Budget is the tax cuts which are to apply from 1 December. But already the Prime Minister has had to concede that, in terms of disposable income, wage earners will be no better off than they were at the end of the year. In the Sydney Morning Herald of last Friday Mr Peter Bowers, who is not normally a government critic, made a rather good allusion to what he termed the Government’s tax promises. He put it this way:
That public commentators tend nowadays to view a Fraser gift horse as if it had halitosis is a measure of how far the Government’s credibility has fallen.
What he said has been fully accepted by the community at large as well. One would need more than the Colgate ring of confidence to take away the bad breath from a gift horse that the Government showed one.
Apart from the tax rip-off that the community at large knows that is about to hit them, there are also other things that are going to afflict them badly this year. This Government that promised to support wage indexation when it came to power has done nothing to fulfil that promise, but in fact since it first came to power in 1975 it has consistently opposed every action brought in the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission by the Australian Council of Trade Unions to get full indexation for workers, to enable them to keep up with the increase in the cost of living. But funnily enough, when it comes to doctors, the people who are in the $100,000 bracket, the Government adopts a different approach. Following an inquiry the result of which was not even made public, and at which doctors were not even compelled to show what their incomes for the year were, the Government sanctioned a 12.5 per cent increase in doctors’ fees to come into force from 1 November. So every working man with a family is now up for an extra $3.50 a week.
– They did not go on strike.
-What do you mean when you say they did not go on strike?
– They did not deprive you of their services to get increased wages.
-Through you, Mr Deputy Speaker, that is a totally different argument. Perhaps we will get back to the doctors if I have enough time. I can give a few facts about them too. But let us get on to something which the honourable member for Dundas (Mr Ruddock) might understand- petrol costs. The honourable member does drive a motor car. In 1977, the Government moved to world parity pricing for oil. To some extent, the Opposition did not disagree with that move; but we did disagree with the way in which it was implemented- in one savage slug. We would not have disagreed with a progressive move towards world parity pricing, but a simple fact of life is that 90 per cent of the distillate used in motor cars in Australia is produced from Australian crude oil- crude oil produced from Australian oilfields- which costs the producer something less than $1 a barrel. Under this Government, the price of petrol for the ordinary working man has doubled in three years. Petrol that had a wholesale price of 60c a gallon in 1975 is $1.25 a gallon wholesale now m 1979- the price has doubled. This year, the Government will get $3, 000m from excise on all petroleum products- an increase on last year of almost $ 1,000m. The ordinary bloke in the street who fills up his car now finds that it costs him an extra $7 a tank. So there is an extra $7 out of his pocket merely to fuel the Government’s obsession with its deficit. By the petrol price increase the
Government has effectively put a tax on every person who drives a motor car. As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) stated very succinctly a couple of nights ago, every petrol pump in Australia has been turned into a tax office. The people in the street buying petrol are being forced to pay an extra $ 1,000m to the Government this year in order that the Government might balance its books.
The rationale for moving to world parity pricing was, firstly, that it would lead to conservation of fuel. That has proved to be a furphy, not only in Australia but all round the world. Driving motor cars has become a fact of life and people do not stop driving simply because petrol gets dear. It is said that in Italy people will stop eating before they stop buying petrol, and unfortunately that is a fact of life. The Department of National Development has forecast that this year the increase in petroleum usage in Australia would be 2.5 per cent. In fact it is 3.7 per cent. So despite an increase in price, the usage of petrol has increased. The other argument used to justify this rush to world parity pricing was that it would lead to an increase in exploration for oil in Australia. The marvellous record of the Australian oil exploration industry this year is that we have managed to sink only 19 exploratory wells in the first half of this year. Compare that with Canada, which has managed to sink 7,000 wells in a year. So let the Government say that an increase in petrol pricing has led to an increase in exploration. It is a furphy; it is a nonsense.
In the same period in which the Government is garnering all this money from petrol, it is doing nothing to encourage the use of alternative energy supplies. Very little money is provided in this Budget, nor was it provided in previous Budgets, for research into solar energy, wind energy or geothermal energy. Very little encouragement is given to people to convert their cars to gas usage. As a belated measure, the Government has decided that it will convert 500 cars of the Government fleet to natural gas. That is at least a step, but a very small one. While all this is going on and while people are being asked to pay this enormous increase for petrol for their motor cars, we must understand that because of our unique distances in Australia we are compelled to use motor cars. I would have thought that if the Government was concerned with getting people to conserve petrol, it would at the same time be increasing the amounts of money available for public transport; but the reverse is the case. Since this Government came to power the amount of money that has gone back to the States to provide reasonable public transport to get people out of their motor cars has gone down. So we are left with the situation in which people are not only being taxed unmercifully under the tax scales this year but are also paying an increase in health costs and an increase in petrol. So as I said at the outset, they are much worse off under this Budget. They are the simple facts that the great bulk of Australians understand. That is why this Budget stands condemned, even by the National Country Party over there.
– This is all the same speech.
-At least it is on the Budget. Honourable members opposite have been making the same speech, telling us what an evil government the Whitlam Government was. This is 1979. We are rushing into the 1980s and they are still back in the 1 970s.
The Government’s rationale for fighting inflation was that it was the cure-all for our economy. We were told that to get the economy back on the tracks and to get some fight back into our economy we had to fight inflation. If that meant an increase in unemployment that did not matter; that was just a secondary measure. If it got inflation down, it did not matter. I have a feeling that this policy does not hold water. The theory was that if we reduced inflation, we then reduced our comparative costs with overseas countries, so we increased our competitiveness. This would lead to increased profit in companies. Increased profit in companies was alleged to lead to increased employment. Such has not been the case. The figures sing that out loudly. Company profits have continued to go up and corporate profits are going up at the moment. I have no dispute with that. This side of the House has no dispute with companies making profits. Of course we want them to make profits. No profits, no taxes. We, as a government, could not implement the sorts of social measures that we want to introduce without an increase in company profits.
So we do not argue with that. But what we do argue with is the rationale that increased profit’ lead to increased employment exacerbated by this Government’s mad rush to provide incentives to people to renew machinery, increased profit has led to increased technology in laboursaving devices. So increased profit has in fact led to decreased employment. I do not know that you on that side of the House are altogether dismayed about that fact. Throughout the world’s history, decreased employment or increased unemployment has led to a fear in those who are in employment. It has led to their accepting less attractive conditions and lower wages. I sometimes wonder whether that is not the rationale under which you people are working. I would hate to think it was, but sometimes I wonder. Your whole economic philosophy is reduced to a barren waste. Increased profits have not led to increased employment; they have in fact led to decreased employment. Even accepting that your theory is correct, that to fight inflation would cause some unemployment- you put it up and tell us that it is a trade-off, one against the other; you must have some unemployment in the short term in order to bring down inflation to help the economy get back on the tracks- what have you done to try to help those people who are pushed into the unemployment area?
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jarman)Order! I do not want to take up the honourable member’s time, but I remind him to address his remarks through the Chair. The honourable member keeps using the words ‘you’ and ‘your’ all the time.
-I apologise, Mr Deputy Speaker. I must be much more pedantic in my terms.
– No, just in order with the general conduct of the House.
-Out of deference to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, I will do so. What I am concerned with is that if, as part of your economic theory, you are going to put people out of work, what are you doing to try to help them?
-The honourable member is still referring to ‘you ‘.
-What is the Government trying to do to help them? Is that better, Mr Deputy Speaker?
-That is quite in order.
-The facts that emerge from this Budget are very much in the other direction. The Government has done anything but to advantage those who are out of work. In fact, it has even removed the rather transitory schemes that it adopted in previous Budgets to try to help the unemployed. There has been a 69 per cent cut in the Special Youth Employment Training Program, the only scheme which gives & direct subsidy for employing young people who have been out of work for four months, a 44 per cent cut in the National Employment and Training scheme, and a 13 per cent cut in the Community Youth Support Scheme. In fact, there was an announcement today that 5 1 Community Youth Support Scheme projects would be abolished under this new Budget. This is a direct result of the $2.26m cut- a reduction of 25 per cent in real terms- in funds announced last week.
More importantly, there is one simple statistic: People under 18 years of age who are unemployed, have not had an increase in their unemployment relief since 1975. They are still getting $36 a week. I think the Government does not realise that the bulk of the people under 1 8 years of age who are unemployed- this is the experience in my electorate- are people who lack a real education. In many cases they are kids who have been through institutions. Certainly many of them come from broken homes. They do not have the back-up support that some other person might have of living in a stable family existence. These are the people who are being forced to live a long way under the poverty line, on $36 a week. For that reason, if for no other, this Government stands condemned for the Budget it produced for the people of Australia last Tuesday night, a Budget that will stand condemned until you are thrown out of office in the election of 1980.
Until the Government is thrown out of office. ‘
-The honourable member for Parramatta (Mr John Brown), in his opening remarks, said that the Budget was not widely understood in the community. I can only say that that might well be the case if one listened to the views of the honourable member for Parramatta. Clearly he did not understand the Budget. I only wish he understood the economic objectives that this Government is attempting to achieve as well, for instance, as the Premier of New South Wales who certainly is not as ungenerous as honourable members opposite in his understanding of what is required, of the difficulties that we have been through and what is about to come as a result of the policies of this Government.
– Well, I hope you tell us.
-I am going to read what he had to say because I think it is time that honourable members opposite, who are always the doomsayers, heard what some of their friends outside this place are saying about our economic conditions. In tonight’s late final extra edition of the Sydney Daily Mirror there is an article which reports the words of the Premier of New South Wales, Mr Wran, under the heading: ‘At last, some Good Economic News: Boom ahead for Australia- Wran’. The article states:
The 1 980s will be a boom decade Tor Australia, the Premier Mr Wran told the 1979 Economic School at New South Wales University today. Mr Wran predicted inflation and unemployment would drop steadily in the next few years.
I am not suggesting that he said that it would be as a result of his own policies in New South Wales. I suspect that he recognises that it will be as a result of the responsible policies being pursued by this Government. The article continues:
He said there was one problem- which was being overcome- building ports, power stations, railways to keep pace with investment.
This infrastructure is needed to accommodate the large number of companies who have plans to invest in coal, aluminium smelters and a wide range of industries’, he said.
The prospects for economic growth are as good or better than at any time in our 200 year history.
The article goes on to quote him as saying:
I am confident the 1980s will be one of Australia’s best decades, with large-scale investment in new industries’.
I think it is proper that I should not examine the views necessarily of my colleagues in support of this Budget. They have been somewhat predictable. But it is timely for me to look at the views of those who claim to support honourable members opposite, even those who go on public platforms with their leader and speak with him in parks and other places. When they get away from their friends they start to tell a little more of the truth, perhaps one could say, about our prospects and our future. I would like honourable members opposite to take up their copies of the recently distributed report of the Reserve Bank of Australia, not a spokesman of the Government, an independent body. It has amongst its membership one R. J. L. Hawke. What did he agree to as a statement about our current economic circumstances when he participated in the writing of this report and its presentation? I did not find any dissent in the report from the aspiring honourable member in relation to our economy and the observations made by the Reserve Bank. The Reserve Bank, in its comments on development in Australia, had this to say:
Gross domestic product, in real terms, expanded more rapidly than in other recent years.
It went on to state:
Aggregate consumer spending for the year increased moderately and private capital expenditure rose. Figures on employment of wage and salary earners in private industry increased after falling for some years.
The balance of payments also improved; as the year progressed, the current account strengthened and private capital inflow picked up. Australia’s terms of trade were more favourable than in 1 977-78, and there were indications of enhanced international competitiveness in parts of industry.
This is a commentary on our present economic state as a result of policies pursued by this Government, policies which are responsible, policies which in the light of the Budget which has just been presented are being pursued and continue to be pursued in Australia’s best interests. Behind all the glib phrases and the discussion about tax cuts and so on there is one basic thrust in relation to this Budget. It has to be recognised because this Budget is designed further to reduce inflation and to promote a sound and broadly based growth for Australia. This is important because growth means job opportunities for the young who are spoken of by honourable members opposite in such fine terms. It is not a matter of just talking; it is a matter of developing policies which are designed to achieve those opportunities for our young. That is what this Budget is about.
The Budget provides incentives for both individuals and businesses within a responsible framework conducive to our longer term economic goals. This is important. The Budget significantly reduces the call of government upon this nation’s finance markets, and that is important. It reduces the deficit. Honourable members opposite might ask: Why is that important? The reduction of the deficit is most important because it means ultimately that there will be lower interest rates, greater building activity.
– How come you are budgeting for a deficit that is higher than last year? It has gone up each year.
– We cannot distort the market forces in the way the Australian Labor Party does. I am going to come to all those sorts of questions when I discuss in a very positive way what happened in the Whitlam years. It is important that the public is aware of what honourable members opposite are saying not only in this debate but also what they have been saying throughout the past year. This Budget equips us to succeed in a world environment of rising inflation and intensifying competition because we are determined to have lower rates of inflation than our overseas competitors- countries which are producing goods in competition to ours- such as the United States of America and countries in Europe. We have achieved a situation which is the reverse of what occurred under Labor. The inflation rate has dropped, in comparison with the levels achieved by other countries that have abandoned the responsible economic policies that this Government is pursuing.
But in the framework of this responsible Budget we have been able to achieve a number of objectives. One was to remove the income tax surcharge which unfortunately had to be imposed last year. That was necessary and, in my view, important and an achievement. It means that in this Budget income tax imposts upon taxpayers are less. Nothing that honourable members opposite might say reduces the impact of this move or will reduce the impact because the reduction does not come into operation until 1 December. As I have indicated before, there has been a major reduction in the size of the deficit. It is down to $2, 193m. This is 1.9 per cent of gross domestic product, compared to last year’s deficit of 3.4 per cent of gross domestic product. The domestic deficit is the lowest for 6 years. The Government has indicated that restraint on expenditure will be maintained and there will be little or no change in real terms. The Government also restored twice-yearly automatic indexation of all indexed pensions. Additionally, it restored benefits to those who may have found that the means tests had excluded them over recent years, and that is a very important matter to pensioners throughout Australia. In the context of a responsible Budget, we were able to do those several things.
I wonder whether those people who are listening to this debate and those who read Hansard will take the opportunity of comparing the rhetoric of honourable members opposite with what I am about to read as a catalogue of their promises and undertakings if they came into office. I think it is important for people to be aware that Labor has not given any undertakings to reduce government expenditure and it has not identified any areas in which it would cut the expenditure proposed by this Government using taxpayers funds. What Labor supporters have done throughout the last year has been to produce a most extraordinary catalogue of promises and undertakings to every vested interest group throughout Australia. Quite frankly, there is no way that they can claim that their proposals are consistent with a low tax policy.
Governments do not do anything with their own money. Governments do not earn money. Governments impose taxes to get money to carry out their objectives. If a government is to expand its level of activity, it can do so by only two or perhaps three methods, as I understand it, and they all have quite clear consequences. Government can increase taxation. I have not heard any honourable member opposite advocating that. Government can go to the printing presses. I know that Pickering has observed that that is a distinct prospect under a Labor government. That action, of course, leads to marked increased inflation with all the resultant consequences as we know. The third method is for government to go into the monetary markets and raise the money in competition with private borrowers, which forces up interest rates. I have not heard honourable members opposite seek to explain away the catalogue of promises that they have made in terms of how they in government would fund those promises.
I will go through the catalogue of items which I have extracted from all the statements that I have been able to find, and it is probably only half of them.
– Talk to your Prime Minister.
-I do not have to talk to him. He observed them as well and he produced a very abridged catalogue the other day in the speech which he delivered at the Liberal Party convention in New South Wales. Honourable members will be able to find in that speech a brief summary of the items that I am about to list. In fact, this list is so long that I will probably ask to have it incorporated in Hansard if I do not have sufficient time to go through it.
-Is the honourable member seeking leave?
-Not at this stage, but I may well have to seek leave if I run out of time.
– It is their policy; they should give you leave.
-I am sure that honourable members opposite would have no objection. Perhaps it will assist if I speed up my reading. Labor has indicated that in government it would scrap Public Service staff ceilings. That is said as though it can be done without increased expenditure. It is said as though an additional 20,000, 30,000 or 40,000 people can be put on the Public Service payroll and it will not cost any extra money. That would be a remarkable proposition. Quite clearly that proposition is totally inconsistent with a low tax party. Labor has indicated that it intends to establish a manpower commission. Can it do that without spending extra money? Labor would establish an Australian tourism studies centre. Does it think that can be done without extra expenditure of public funds? Labor would commence a feasibility study for a tourist village on Fraser Island. Does it think that can be done without additional expenditure of public money? Labor would create interpreter centres at Australia’s major natural attractions. Does it think that could be done without expenditure of additional public money? Labor would set up an Australian hydrocarbon corporation. I have to ask the same question again. Can that be done without further expenditure of public money? Labor would expand the functions of the Foreign Investment Review Board. Again, would that be done without spending additional public money.
Labor also would introduce a Medibank style health scheme.
I must admit that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) did say: ‘We might not be able to do all of these things in one year because we had our fingers burnt last time’. He recognised that there had to be some economic responsibility about these matters. But clearly could that last mentioned proposal be done without committing taxpayers to additional expenditure of public money? There is no way that that could be done. Labor would introduce a national superannuation scheme. These undertakings are, of course, the big ticket items. But are they consistent with a low tax party? This is what these people who sit opposite are trying to describe themselves as. There is no way that the Opposition can hold itself out to be responsible in economic terms while in every other forum it is producing these sorts of promises; and I am only half way through the list.
The Opposition has said that in government it would appoint an environmental advocate to report annually to Parliament. Labor would establish a council for Northern Australia. Labor would re-establish the Australian Housing Corporation; it would phase out the eligibility requirements for public housing; and it would introduce a Commonwealth funded rental rebate system. I could go on and on. Are these items that I am cataloguing consistent with the policies of a low tax party? Are these items consistent with the philosophies of those honourable members who criticise the Government not for giving tax cuts but for insufficient tax cuts? Quite frankly, the situation is that one cannot have a lower rate of taxation without reduced government expenditure. If the Government expands government expenditure, it has to increase taxes.
Labor has undertaken to introduce a national home improvement program. It would build a international airport in Townsville. It would eliminate the seven-day wait for registered persons to be eligible to receive unemployment benefits and the six-week delay for school leavers to qualify for them. Labor would create an overseas trading corporation and a department of economic development. I have extracted these proposals from the speeches and statements that Labor spokesmen have made over the last 12 months. Perhaps they are having difficulty in cataloguing these matters themselves because they might well have been able to introduce some degree of uniformity of approach if they had been thinking about these matters themselves and were aware of what they had been promising. But even in its more recent statements, the Australian Labor Party has promised to inject $800m immediately into the economy in the form of job creation schemes. It has indicated that it would enforce a 51 per cent Australian equity in all mineral and energy projects. Labor has indicated that in government it would make further grants to the States for public transport systems. All the time it is wanting to involve government in more and more activities using taxpayer’s funds. I cannot catalogue all of these promises. I suspect that the Leader of the Opposition could not catalogue all of Labor’s promises because this year in his speech to the Parliament in reply to the Budget he failed to indicate that he had any appreciation of the economic consequences of Labor’s promises. I refer honourable members opposite to his speech last year, which appears on page 563 of Hansard, in which he indicated that the Labor Party would accept a total deficit of $3,650m. He endeavoured to catalogue his promises, to put a figure on them and to let us know what his anticipated deficit might be.
– We ripped them apart.
-Of course we did. But clearly this year he did not want to fall for that again. He did not want to be responsible. He did not want to say what Labor in government would do. He did not want to let the taxpayers know what they would be up for. This year one could scan his speech and read it as thoroughly as one liked but not find a reference to the deficit. That clearly has to be understood. Even the Australian Financial Review which honourable members opposite have been given to quoting more frequently of late stated:
Mr Hayden did not deliver an economic policy last night, he outlined an election strategy.
If that is Labor’s election strategy, that of a high tax party, I wish that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) would think more seriously than I believe he is thinking about the prospect of an early election because I would like to fight an election any time on Labor’s policies and proposals for higher taxation and ours for reduced taxation. Although the tax cuts may be insufficient we have to recognise the reality of the situation. The Australian Financial Review in its leader yesterday had the following additional comment to make. I will finish on this point because it sums up the Leader of the Opposition’s address so fulsomely. It said:
Mr Hayden’s approach is disingenuous and calculatingly so. He is playing to the basest emotions of the community at a time when a more responsible leader would be acknowledging the great difficulties facing the economy.
Quite frankly, the Australian Financial Review has seen through the Leader of the Opposition. I believe that the electorate, whenever it is called upon to judge this Budget or any other of our proposals, will show the confidence that it has in us.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-I seek leave to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– He may proceed.
-Earlier today the right honourable member for Lowe (Sir William McMahon) took a point of order and asserted that I was the Presiding Officer in this House at the time when a petition seeking the attendance of the Clerk and the presentation of documents at the Queanbeyan Court was agreed to by this chamber. The right honourable gentleman was incorrect. The Presiding Officer at that time was Sir Billy Snedden, the Presiding Officer who currently presides over this House. The record can be checked. The motion seeking agreement with the petition relating to the Sankey case was dealt with by this House on 4 June 1976. If I was then the Presiding Officer somebody owes me some salary. The motion appears on page 247 of the Votes and Proceedings of this House. I do not suggest that the misrepresentation was deliberate but I believe that when an assertion is made under such circumstances much more care with facts should be undertaken, especially by senior and distinguished members of this chamber.
– It was regrettable to have to listen to the honourable member for Dundas (Mr Ruddock) endeavouring to defend the indefensible, the Budget of his Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and Treasurer (Mr Howard). No doubt, ever desperate for the Cabinet, he stands by his Prime Minister even in his declining years. He reminds me of the twentythird Psalm which states.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
The honourable member for Dundas in the whole of his speech did not make one reference to the unfortunate 500,000 unemployed people in our nation today. Did they escape his mind altogether or has he no feeling for them? I say that he has no feeling. That is typical of a Tory no matter where he is.
– I take a point of order. The honourable member for Hunter is deliberately telling a lie. There are not 500,000 people unemployed.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)Order! The honourable member for Isaacs will withdraw the term ‘lie’. He has heard the rulings of Mr Speaker with regard to its use against members.
Mr Isaacs I withdraw it but
-The honourable member will withdraw it without qualification.
– I withdraw it without qualification. The honourable member for Hunter was telling a lie.
-Order! I take it that the honourable member withdrew the remark and then repeated it. Did he repeat it?
– No, I withdrew without qualification.
– We have had four years of Fraserism and five Fraser Budgets, and look at the mess that we are in. This type of Budget has been virtually described by an American political journalist as a humming bird. The Government’s economic policies, like the humming bird, fly into the future backwards. That is what this Budget is doing to the Australian people. The latest effort at economic management can best be described as a non-event. The strategists of the Budget can best be described as confidence men. The Government is attempting to con the Australian electorate. I refer to the Prime Minister, the Treasurer, the economic decision makers who sit opposite and members of the coalition parties. I must not forget to mention those people at the Liberal Party headquarters, particularly Mr Tony Eggleton who, if the rumours are true, is soon to be knighted for loyal and faithful service to the Party. He will be Sir Tony. These people have always considered themselves born to rule and to lead. These find upstanding blue bloods have proved to be the greatest economic mismanagers since time immemorial.
The Fraser Government is on its last legs. The Gallup polls are proving that to the Australian people. The plug has been pulled out and now we are sinking into the veritable kitchen sink because the Government has lied to the Australian electorate. I say to Mr Fraser that he has overextended the truth. The Australian people will not be conned; they are too smart. They have woken up. The Government cannot con them any longer.
– I take a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. The honourable member for Hunter must refer to the Prime Minister by his correct name. He is either the Prime Minister or the right honourable member for Wannon.
-I thought that the honourable member was quoting from some material. If he referred to the Prime Minister as Mr Fraser, he should have referred to Mr Fraser the Prime Minister.
– I was referring to Mr Fraser but before I had time to say that he is the Prime Minister the honourable member for Holt took a point of order. The Prime Minister has overextended the truth. The Australian people will not be conned any longer. They are too smart. Neither Mr Fraser nor any Prime Minister -
-Order! The honourable member for Hunter knows that he should use the term ‘Prime Minister’. I ask him to accept that ruling.
– The right honourable the Prime Minister cannot deceive the Australian electorate any longer. This might well be my last speech on a Budget before I retire from the Federal Parliament but it will also be the last speech on a Budget for many people on the other side of the House. At least I will be retiring from the Parliament voluntarily. The voting public has come of age. People will not be treated as fools. After four years of Fraserism the people are waking up. Total devastation awaits the Government at the next poll. At least 30 members of the Government will not be here after the next election. The community is fed up. The popularity of the leader of the Government has sunk to an all-time low. He has a credibility gap as wide as the Great Australian Bight. If honourable members opposite want to ‘smarten up’, to use the Prime Minister’s own words, they will have to get rid of him. If they want the Australian public to take any of the Government’s policies seriously the Prime Minister will have to curb his enthusiasm for blatant over-extension of the truth. In 1975 he promised us full economic prosperity in three years. It is now 1979. Time marches on. The Australian people regard that statement as a farce. Let us look at the Prime Minister’s track record. On unemployment he said:
Unemployment will fall from February 1978 and keep falling.
On inflation he said:
Inflation at an annual rate of 5 per cent is within our reach by mid- 1979.
On health insurance he said:
We will maintain Medibank and ensure that the standard of health care does not decline.
On tax and wage indexation he said:
We will fully index personal income tax; the Coalition Government will support wage indexation.
On tax cuts he said:
The Government will bring taxes down further- not increase them.
On interest rates he said:
Interest rates have begun to fall and they will keep falling.
On pensions he said:
Pensions will be increased automatically in line with price rises- twice a year.
It took the Prime Minister four years to keep the last promise. He would not have kept that but for the rumblings of mutiny in the ranks of the back benchers of his Party. Tommy Smith would not have the Prime Minister in his stable. He would have sent him back to his owners long ago for running a crook race.
– I raise a point of order. The honourable member for Parramatta had a horse in Tommy Smith’s stables -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)Order! There is no point of order.
– God knows how long we will have to wait for all his promises to be kept. This third Howard Budget will increase unemployment, inflation and average income tax. It has not provided leadership, initiative or purpose. In today’s Sydney Sun there is an article on taxes which states:
Taxes outstrip earnings. Income tax has risen faster than wages over the past two years for the majority of Australians, an authoritative economic research organisation has found.
The tax increase has hit hardest at single income families.
For a man on the average wage of about $230 a week ($12,000 a year) with a dependent wife, income tax has increased by 24 per cent.
A single person on the same income is paying 20.8 per cent more in tax.
The figures come from the respected Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research.
This article was written not spontaneously, but after a week’s careful deliberation by the writer. Of course, anything that is detrimental to the Liberal Party is written by non-reputable people. If an article was favourable to the Government members of the Liberal Party would praise it.
The only matter on which the Budget positively told us was that inflation and unemployment would rise. Professor John Nevile, Director of the Centre for Applied Economic Research at the University of New South Wales, called this Budget the most contractive Budget in the last 30 years. He said that it was not an overextension of the truth to say that we have the highest unemployment level since the 1930s. It is beyond me how the Treasurer (Mr Howard) can talk about a continued economic recovery when unemployment and inflation are rising. With inflation running at over 10 per cent a year, wage earners will pay more tax this year. The Treasurer’s own figures predict a 9 per cent rise in wages. There is not a worker in Australia who will not be paying more tax this year.
In contrast, the wealthy and the privileged get away with massive tax evasion. The Treasurer admits that $433m in tax is avoided under schemes that the Government has declared unlawful and that the Government does not expect to collect that money this financial year. He also says that a further $250m will be lost to revenue through evasion schemes which are still legal. Why does the Treasurer not declare these evasion schemes illegal? He has the power to do it. He does not do it because he is afraid that he will step on the toes of too many people who support the Liberal political ideology. He has to give time to those born to rule, those born to influence, those born to lead and the multinationals to dispose of their ill-gotten gains in other areas. Once again we see the Government protecting the interests of the ruling elite and not the majority of the people.
The Budget papers admit that unemployment is rising and will continue to rise. There will be at least 50,000 more jobless by December; yet the Government treats these jobless with contempt. In contrast to the half million unemployed, we have the Government’s indulgence of itself and friends. Their personal greed is mind-boggling. I thank my colleague, Senator Walsh, for some of the following information. The Beggs, in-laws of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), were fully compensated by the State Electricity Commission of Victoria for their bushfire losses. They received a $50,000 loan at 4 per cent interest. The money for that loan was supplied by the Mr and Mrs Joneses, homebuyers in Victoria, who pay 1 1 per cent on their home loans. Then the Prime Minister spent $20m of taxpayers’ money for his flying home-away-from-home, two former Qantas Boeing 707 aircraft were converted for the VIP fleet. Very expensive modifications were needed. The Prime Minister said he purchased them on the strength of the Sir Robert Mark’s report. The Prime Minister is a man obsessed with his own self-importance and with the delusion that he is a statesman of international stature.
Then we have the new High Court of Australia. The cost of this new building has been expanded by some millions at the personal whim of the Chief Justice, Sir Garfield Barwick. Only today, the Melbourne Age reported that the Government will set aside more than $2m to furnish and provide art works for the building. The list goes on and on. There is the Sir Robert Menzies Memorial Trust. There is the Sinclair affair. There was the Lynch affair and the matter of Associated Securities Limited.
– There was the James affair.
– Never a James affair. I would never take you out. There was the protection offered to the twelfth man in Patrick Partners. The catchcry of Government members is: ‘Look after your own.’ They do it unashamedly. There was the Garland affair, the Robinson affair and the Withers affair, all scandals sufficient to bring down the government in any other democratic country in the Western World. If the Prime Minister and the Treasurer should ever wish to resign their present positions, I would suggest that perhaps Peter Clyne would like to take advantage of their financial juggling ability.
I wish now to say a few words about the rumoured closure of the Kurri Kurri Hospital. Government members are laughing. I hope that my people will be listening to Government members laughing about the Kurri Kurri Hospital. This hospital was built with the sweat, blood and tears of the coal miners at the turn of the century because of the shocking accidents in the coal mines. Very few of the honourable members opposite have any sympathy for them. Only recently 13 miners were killed in the Appin colliery. I believe this is in the electorate of the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Baume). I do not know whether he showed any genuine sympathy. I was reared in the coal mining areas and I know the hardships that are suffered there. But because of the cutback in health funds by this Government-
– I raise a point of order. The honourable member for Hunter said the honourable member for Macarthur did not have any sympathy-
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)Order! There is no point of order.
– I consider that-
– Order! The honourable member for Isaacs will resume his seat. He will not defy the Chair. If he offends again he will be named. The honourable member for Hunter said he did not know with regard to the honourable member.
-Thank you for your impartiality, Mr Deputy Speaker. Whilst this Budget had lifted health expenditure to a minor degree, the last mini-Budget severely slashed millions of dollars from health funds, with the result that many hospitals in New South Wales and other States will be seriously curbed in their activities. The Kurri Kurri Hospital was built with the blood, sweat and tears of miners, who in 1904 struck a levy on their wages to build this hospital. Miners now find it is to be closed as a hospital for acute cases and is to continue as a geriatric hospital. The people of Kurri are correctly indignant. Last Saturday week 4,000 people assembled in the main street of Kurri to protest at the proposed closure of this hospital as a result of the Federal Government’s slashing of health funds. The hospital has served miners and their families since 1904. It is now to be turned into a geriatric hospital -
– It is a State Government responsibility.
– It is not. It is a result of the slashing of Federal Government funds. A former miner who died recently was well known on the coal fields. He explained the miners’ cause in his poem ‘Blood on the coal’. In part that poem stated:
Come down and breathe the dank air, the foul air, the rank air,
Fill up your lungs with coal dust, disease dust for proof;
Come down and see the cave man, the slave man, the brave man
Risk life to save his mates’ life beneath a falling roof.
Every member of this Parliament should know of the struggles of the coal miners. This hospital that was built in the heart of the South Maitland coal fields with miners’ subscriptions is now to be changed from an acute hospital to a geriatric hospital.
There is a strong possibility that in the next decade the Richmond main, the Pelaw main and the Stanford Merthyr mines could be re-opened due to the soaring world prices in oil. The possibility of coal liquefaction is expected to come into its own. These mines have been proven to have suitable coal for coal liquefaction. If they re-open, which I believe they will, there is no hospital in the immediate vicinity to which injured coal miners can be raced to receive medical care. They will have to be taken 10 or 12 miles to the Cessnock hospital or eight or nine miles to the Maitland hospital. Everyone knows that the possibility of saving the life of an injured miner or anyone else who is injured in a serious accident becomes greater if a hospital is in close proximity.
I mention some of the great coal mining fatalities to spell out and justify the desirability of having hospitals in the close vicinity of this dangerous industry. Recently, only three weeks ago, 13 miners were killed at the Appin colliery which, as I said early, I believe is in the electorate of Macarthur. Further back in history, at the Newvale colliery on the outskirts of my electorate, near the electorate of Robertson, there was a surface fall- a roof fall in mine- and eight miners were killed. I refer right back to the times of the Wonthaggi mine disaster when 13 miners were killed, all of whom were married with families. Dr George of the Joint Coal Board in a report to the Government of New South Wales said that in 1 946 in the Bulli mine, of 430 underground miners, 77 had ceased work since 1935 because of dusted lungs.
I believe this Government, if it has to, should give special grants to hospitals in coal mining areas in order to keep them open so that they can operate as hospitals for the treatment of acute injuries. That is one area that should be privileged. Mr George Booth worked in the coal mines and was a former member of the State Parliament for many years. He received a letter from a woman on the coalfields where I was reared. It said:
My husband was a miner for 27 years. He is dead now. It was dust and not old age that killed him. I saw him waste away. I saw him die. If it weren’t for the dust he’d be here now.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Unlike some of the members who have been speaking from the Opposition benches in the last few days, I am proud to be a member of a government which has taken into consideration the genuine concern of a number of people in this country and brought down a responsible Budget which takes into consideration what members of this Government have brought to the Ministry. I start by congratulating the Treasurer (Mr Howard) on a Budget which is going to keep this country in the forefront of nations in the Western world. The major statement that Mr Howard made when he brought down the Budget last Tuesday week -
-Order! I remind the honourable member of a rule which is being adhered to.
-Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. The Treasurer said:
One persistent theme has dominated this Government’s conduct of economic policy since its election in 1 975.
That has been the uncompromising nature of its attack upon inflation as the fundamental and most enduring cause of the economic difficulties of the 1 970s.
I reaffirm the determination of this Government to maintain that attack.
I think that statement by the Treasurer was a responsible one and one which has been supported by every member on this side of the Parliament. Unlike the people who are in Opposition and who will remain in Opposition for ever and a day, we are not a government which is concerned about ripping-off in gigantic lumps in the form of taxation. I note with interest that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) has brought down a proposal that those people who earn in excess of $30,000 a year will pay in the order of 75c to 80c in the dollar. It is an absolute disgrace that a group of people which purports to be an alternative government announces that type of policy to the Australian people. As at 1 December every person in this country will be paying less tax than they are at present.
Let us look at some of the differences in taxation rates which will apply from 1 December. In the case of a person earning $200 a week, the weekly deducation before 1 December will be $45.20. The weekly deducation after 1 December 1979 will be $41.85. That is a significant reduction of $3.35. If we look at the average weekly wage we see that the deducation in that area will be $4.45 for a taxpayer without dependants. A taxpayer with a dependent spouse earning $245 a week will have his weekly deduction reduced by $4.45. If he earns $200 a week the reduction will be $3.35.
Let us look at the taxation rates that this Government brought down in 1976, 1977, 1978 and now in this year’s Budget and compare those with the 1975 Budget scales of the then Labor Government. In January 1979 a person earning $22 1 a week under the Labor Party scales as applied in 1975- this is not taking into consideration the higher scales which would apply under the alternative Budget that the Leader of the Opposition announced the other night- would pay $61.70 in weekly deductions in comparison with the rate of deduction which apply under this Government’s taxation scales of $52.55. That is a significant difference. Let us compare those deductions with the December 1979 deductions for a person on average weekly earnings of $245. The deduction under Labor scales would be $72.65 a week for a person without dependants.
Under this Government’s taxation policies, the weekly deduction would be $56.50. 1 think that shows a significant difference between the two forms of approach in relation to taxation of the Australian people.
As a government, we did not stop at just reducing income tax. At the same time we looked at a number of other areas of concern. I and a number of my colleagues on this side of the House supported the Government’s previous Budget, but due to a number of changing factors in the economy, notwithstanding the 4 per cent wage flow on of November 1978, the target in relation to inflation that had been set by the Government at that time was not achieved. Consequently some people in our community were disadvantaged. I speak with a great deal of feeling for a number of wonderful people who have made this country what it is today. Those people are the pensioners and the aged people of our community. They are the people who over the years that I have represented them as the member for Brisbane I have grown to know and to like very much. They have a great understanding of the problems of Australia. Most of them, very fortunately, are not voters for the Opposition party. They are people who have a genuine love for Australia and a knowledge of what Australia is all about. I believe that we have done the right thing by giving them twice yearly indexation of their pensions.
I also feel that the Government, by moving forward in relation to pensioner health benefit cards and expanding the eligibility for them, has taken into consideration that supporting parents, widows and sole parents will also be receiving a number of fringe benefits for which they were not eligible prior to this Budget. The income test limits for eligibility for pensioner health benefit cards had not been altered since 1973. I often hear the claims of members of the Opposition that theirs is a party of concern, theirs is the only party that has ever done anything for welfare recipients in this country, they are the leaders in all these so-called areas of concern. I refute and totally disagree with that statement. The present Government is the Government which was in power for 23 years from 1949. Unfortunately, for a period of three years this Government was not in power. Since we have returned to the treasury benches we have embarked on a program to ensure that those people in our society who are disadvantaged will receive some support from this Government. That is a policy which I totally support.
What has been done? The income test had not been changed since 1973; but, as a consequence of this Budget, the income that one can earn without it affecting one’s pensioner health benefit card has been increased, for a single person, from $33 to $40 a week and, for married couples, from $57.50 to $68 a week. For those people who are looking for a cost, I point out that this will apply from I November and is estimated to cost a total of $13m in 1979-80 -that is the rest of this financial year- and $23m in a full year. That reflects the degree of concern which is manifested by many people in the Government coalition parties.
From the first pension pay period in February 1980, people who served as members of the formally raised forces of Allied countries in any war or warlike operation in which Australia participated will be eligible for a service pension. This again has come from members of the Government parties. We have had numerous submissions from various people who supported the Allied troops during the Second World War and, indeed, in other areas of conflict. The Government, quite fairly and quite rightly, has given consideration to those people who have made such a contribution to the world situation, and now they will be assisted in the form of a service pension. The Government also has decided to reintroduce free medical and hospital treatment for all veterans who received tuberculosis pensions prior to 2 November 1978. Having regard to the representations which have been made to many people on this side of the House and taken forward to the Ministry, the genuineness with which they were brought forward has been accepted by the Ministry.
There will also be increases in a range of benefits available to specially disadvantaged repatriation beneficiaries, including orphan’s pensions, attendant’s allowance, recreation transport allowance, gift car allowance and clothing allowance. Most importantly, the repatriation funeral benefit will be increased by $200- the maximum at the present time being $100-to $300 as from 1 November 1979. This program upon which this Government has embarked distributes fairly to the Australian people the revenue that the Government gains from many sources, including income tax, excise duties and a whole host of other taxes which are levied on the Australian people. This revenue is being put back into the community. It shows a genuine concern for people who are not as well off as some others are. At the same time, the people who are providing that significant degree of revenue will be paying a lower rate of tax.
Another program upon which the Government will be embarking this year is the construction of homes and hospitals for aged persons. An amount of $62.5m has been allocated for this purpose, which is an increase of $9.8m over the allocation last year. A further $4m has been allocated for senior citizen centres. An amount of $69.2m has been allocated for assistance for preschool and child care projects in the States and the Northern Territory- a significant increase of $5.4m. There is an amount of $39.3m for handicapped persons facilities, with further approvals of up to $5m for funding in the 1 980-8 1 financial year. There are grants totalling $500,000 to community welfare agencies which are in need of support in providing emergency assistance to members of the community. In just those few areas we, as a Government, have demonstrated that we are concerned about people who are not as well off, or who are disadvantaged. At the same time we are distributing the moneys which we raise in revenue to ensure that the maximum amount of advantage is given to each dollar.
Some people on the other side of the House do not believe that a very important sector of the Australian community, the defence forces of Australia, should be receiving any degree of assistance. If those members who are in the armed services what to know what sort of government we would have if the Labor Party ever got into power again, I suggest that they recall what sort of equipment they were dealing with in those horrific years from 1972 to 1975. As a member of the Government Members Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee, I am delighted to be a supporter of a government which has increased expenditure in the defence area- which is a very important area- by $28 lm, bringing the total allocation of defence spending to $2,887m this financial year. In real terms, that is an increase of 2.6 per cent.
While I am discussing this matter, as a person who is very keen on Australian manufacturing industry let me say that, whereas when we came into government in 1976 the shipbuilding industry of Australia was on the rocks of depression; I am pleased to welcome and acknowledge the announcement which was made by my colleague the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) to the effect that we will be spending $70m on building a new vessel in Australian shipbuilding yards. If nothing else, that goes to prove what has happend in this country in the last 3Vi years. This Government has restored the competitiveness of Australian manufacturing industry which was not competitive under the previous Government. We now have a situation in which Australian shipbuilding yards can compete on the international scene without any subsidy from the Government, while paying extremely high rates of pay to their workers. Despite that, we can still compete with countries in our region which normally would be trying to attract that type of contract from us because of the cheaper rates of pay that they offer their employees. That is a very significant step in the right direction. I look forward to joining with other members of this side of the House in welcoming the decision of the Minister for Defence and the Cabinet to provide the front line fighter aircraft of which this country is in need at the present time.
I go one step further and say that I am delighted to know that we have seen fit to assist the newer Australians who have come into this country. An amount of $ 15m is provided in the 1979-80 Budget for the continuing implementation of the Galbally recommendations on the provision of special services to migrants. As we have a large percentage of migrant people, this money has been spent correctly by social workers who have been appointed to bodies such as the Italian communities welfare committee. There are already significant changes and the communication which has been provided by this government assistance is most welcome in my area. I know that this has occurred throughout the migrant communities of Australia. An amount of $24. lm, which is an increase of $6.1m, has been allocated to the adult migrant and refugee education program. This again shows a genuine concern for those people who have decided to make this wonderful country their permanent home. I am delighted to be able to say that, for those people who have chosen to move here from the land of their birth with their families, we are providing the infrastructure and the help necessary to make their settling-in program easier. This is because of the degree of assistance, both real and in kind, that this Government, with its genuine concern, will be bringing forward.
– We would like many more people, too.
-There will be. One of my colleagues has just mentioned that we would like many more people. Provision is made in this Budget to increase the number of people migrating to this country. I refute the statement which is made by many people in the Opposition that migrants create unemployment. They do not.
– They are anti-migrant.
-They are totally anti-migrant and always have been. The only thing that the Labor Party successfully did when it was in office was to cut the number of people -
Mr Lyenko Urbanchich Death of Earl Mountbatten; Unparliamentary Language;School Health Services;Egg Prices in Canberra; Developmental Projects in South Australia; Safety at Australian Airports
Order! It being 10.30 p.m., I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
– For the information of honourable members I raise what seems to me to be a serious matter which arose in this House this week when both the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) seemed to be running scared over what is now known as the Urbanchich affair. All Australians, including I am certain many members of the Liberal Party, were appalled to learn on last Monday evening’s Broadband program that Mr Lyenko Urbanchich, the President of the Ethnic Council of the Liberal Party of New South Wales, was alleged to have his name listed by the Yugoslav Government under the number Z360 in respect of war crimes. It was also, I believe, a matter of deep concern that the respected world authority on war crimes and war criminals, Mr Simon Wiesenthal, having examined a series of articles written by Urbanchich in Solvenian newspapers during the period of the Nazi and Ustashi terror in Yugoslavia described this material as being grossly and offensively antiSemitic and similar to the broacasts of Goebbels.
I do not think it comes as anything new that people with the type of record alleged of Mr Urbanchich were not merely admitted to Australia during the Cold War period but were certainly welcomed. What is of concern is that Mr Urbanchich could not merely rise to such a position of prominence within the New South Wales Liberal Party but that he could state publicly that his viewpoint represents that of approximately 80 per cent of the New South Wales membership. Mr Urbanchich made no secret of the fact that his basic political attitudes have not changed. Mr Urbanchich, in fairness to him, has been nothing, if not consistent. In the 1960s, he was President of the Victorian ’50s Club and was widely connected with other extremist movements. He was instrumental in a wide campaign against Mr Edward St John and his activities have been widely publicised in magazines like the Bulletin and Quadrant.
– What about the communists in your Party?
– I am delighted that the honourable member comes to his defence. At least we know where he stands. What cannot be ignored is that Mr Urbanchich can publicly claim that he had conversations with the Prime Minister of Australia at the Liberal Party conference in New South Wales and in that conversation expressed his very firm support for the continuation of the Croatian Embassy, at the same time suggesting that these representations to the Prime Minister had successfully influenced Government policy. That was his statement. When the Prime Minister was specifically given the opportunity to deny these conversations and to deny these representations and, at the same time, to deny Mr Urbanchich and his influence, the Prime Minister refused to do so. I would have thought that if the Prime Minister had been misrepresented by someone of Mr Urbanchich ‘s background he would have been only too anxious to disavow the position as quickly as possible and as publicly as possible and to use the forum of this House to do so. Unfortunately that is not the case.
Equally, the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) ran for cover when certain evidence was produced to the Parliament in detail and very effectively by the honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage) who indicated that, on 6 March 1979, some months after this Parliament had passed legislation to close the Croatian Embassy, the so-called charge d’affaires was given an official welcome by the Macquarie Federal Electorate conference of the Liberal Party. The honourable member for Chifley named Federal Liberal council members, members of Parliament and prominent local Liberals who were fawning at the feet of this man and giving him a warm welcome. So much so that he was delighted. This bogus charge d’affaires regarded it as an historic occasion. It was the first occasion when he had been thus treated by any major political party in Australia. When this was drawn to the attention of the Minister for Foreign Affairs so that he could repudiate those actions, he chose also to run for cover. Now, Sir, there is nothing new about lunatic fringe groups trying to infiltrate major political parties. No party is immune from these attempts. I just hope the leadership of the Liberal Party does something about it.
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-The matter I want to talk about tonight concerns two incidents which follow the tragic death of Lord Mountbatten. Fortunately I did not experience the two programs I am going to talk about but I was told about them and I took the trouble of getting the transcripts of the programs. I refer to Willesee at Seven and Nationwide on which appeared for interview a Mr John Murray who apparently calls himself the Secretary of the Ulster Association of Victoria. He made some rather startling comments during those programs. I have read the transcripts and listened to people who saw the programs. They considered it absolutely and totally disgraceful to allow this man on television to make such comments after an incident concerning such a wellknown and respected figure as, and particularly a man of the age of, Lord Mountbatten.
For the record, I will make one or two quotes from the various interviews. The first is from the transcript of Channel 7’s Willesee at Seven. In answer to the question:
Can you tell me what Lord Mountbatten did to deserve to be murdered?
John Murray answered:
Well firstly I didn’t speak on behalf of the Irish Republican Army, I spoke of a supporter of the Irish Liberation Forces of the Irish Republican Army, not a spokesman for them. I expressed a view as a citizen from Northern Ireland and also as secretary of the Ulster Association of Victoria. Now as far as Lord Mountbatten goes, he was a member of the British aristocracy, also a member of the British War Machine in Northern Ireland, a supporter of the British War Machine. He was not in Ireland specifically on a holiday, he was there most likely to gather information on the activities of the Irish Liberation Forces in that part of Ireland.
A 79-year-old man on holidays was there for that purpose! Mike Willesee made the point by asking the question:
A 79 year old man taking the annual holiday he’s taken for some 30, 40 years straight?
John Murray responded:
A 79 year old man could be instrumental in gathering more information from the people of that particular part of Ireland on the activities of the Irish Liberation Forces than will say a much younger man.
Willesee then asked him:
When you have a real army in Northern Ireland, supported by intelligence units and lots of sophisticated equipment, do you seriously try to tell people watching this program that the 79 year old Lord Louis Mountbatten was collecting important intelligence against the IRA?
JOHN MURRAY: Well he would not be the first Englishman who had been kept under surveillance in Ireland, in both parts of Ireland, for gathering information on the Irish Republican Army.
But the interesting part comes when Mike Willesee asks him of the death of Lord Mountbatten:
You did applaud it this morning in a radio interview on 3XY.
JOHN MURRAY: To me applaud is for a person to get up and clap his hands well I certainly did not do that.
MIKE WILLESEE: Alright you didn’t clap your hands when you were asked about that, you said there should be more of it.
JOHN MURRAY: I didn’t say, I said there would be more of it.
MIKE WILLESEE: You said there should be more deaths among the aristocracy.
JOHN MURRAY: Yes there should be more deaths amongst the British Army of occupation and the British aristocracy and if that is going to liberate Ireland well so be it.
I turn now to the other interview program. John Murray was asked a question and responded to it by saying:
I don’t condemn the killing of Lord Mountbatten. Nor am I here to discuss by whom he was killed.
He also said:
I wouldn’t say it is all out war on members of the British Royal Family. There have been leading figures in Britain who have been considered legitimate targets for the Irish Republican Army and they say that he was one of them.
Things must be desperate if they have to have as a target a 79 year old man. I wonder how brave they would have to be to do it that way instead of facing him. I wonder where Mr Murray would stand. The interviewer Paul Murphy, then asked him:
Would you, as Secretary of the Victorian Branch of the Ulster Association, support further attacks on members of the British Royal Family if that were to happen, if that were announced IRA, Provo, policy?
MURRAY: Oh yes, yes. If it was announced Irish Republican Army Policy yes, of course we would support it . . .
The interviewer then asked him:
As you say, you support them, you have sympathies for the IRA. Do you think it is right that you should live in a country, Australia, which has as its Queen the Queen of England?
Murray went on to say that ‘it does not matter that she is the Queen of Australia; that is just too bad’. Well, my opinion is that if this man who has been in Australia since 1950 is allowed to stay here there is something wrong with the laws of our country. If he is not an Australian citizen, we should take all possible action to have him deported. If he is an Australian citizen, we should start a fund to have him sent out.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– There seems to be a good deal of inconsistency in the two matters that have just been raised. Whilst I do not profess any great love for the situation in Northern Ireland, it must be admitted that it exists. The honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Bourchier) just proposed to this House that the person Murray, whoever he may be, ought to be expelled from this country for holding certain views. The honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Holding) just prior to the honourable member for Bendigo making his remarks told us about an alleged Nazi who has been welcomed into the breast of the Liberal Party. I do not think that one can have it both ways. The honourable member for Bendigo as a member of the Liberal Party ought to make up his mind which way he will go on that.
Speaking of inconsistencies, I refer to the speech made prior to the suspension of the sitting for dinner by the Deputy Prime Minister of this country and the Leader of the National Country Party (Mr Anthony) as his contribution to the Budget debate. At that time the honourable member for Cowper (Mr Ian Robinson), who is a member of the National Country Party, occupied the Chair. I was in the chamber yesterday when the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) was speaking. He was chastised by Mr Speaker for calling the Government dishonest and for using other expressions that the Speaker said did not improve the tone of the Parliament. Mr Speaker requested that the Leader of the Opposition should desist from using those phrases and find alternative ones. I do not know what the situation is when the occupant of the Chair changes. I do not know whether Mr Speaker’s rulings are adhered to by yourself, Mr Deputy Speaker, and other Deputy Speakers or whether perhaps Mr Speaker briefs the person who takes the Chair when he retires from the chamber.
It became very obvious that the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia was not chastised. He is the leader of the National Country Party but he was not chastised by the honourable member for Cowper, who is also a member of the National Country Party, for using the words ‘the dishonest Opposition’, ‘the hypocritical attitude of the Labor Party’ and a number of other expressions. I have heard Mr Speaker call the Leader of the Opposition to order when he has used such expressions. It makes the position of members on this side of the chamber completely and utterly untenanble if the Chair changes its attitude towards expressions and phrases, depending on who occupies the Chair and furthermore, depending on who is addressing the chamber. I take this opportunity to raise that matter with you.
I hope that Mr Speaker will avail himself of the opportunity to read the speech made by the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia, the Leader of the National Country Party. He will know from the record that the honourable member for Cowper, a member of the National Country Party, was occupying the Chair at the time. He will recall the occasion when he chose to chastise the Leader of the Opposition for using expressions which were freely used today by the Deputy Prime Minister. He even used expressions that somebody as eloquent with the language as myself had not even thought of. I am grateful to him for that lesson. If it is fitting for the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia to use such expressions then it seems to me that it is fitting for the Opposition to use the same language to describe the Government. Frankly, I think ‘dishonest’ is probably too kind an expression to use in relation to it. That is the matter I wished to bring to the attention of the House.
In the very short space of time that is left to me I wish to raise a parochial but very important matter. One hears a lot today about big government. That seems to connote that governments collect taxes. A school in a disadvantaged area of my electorate quite recently had its dental and health services for the children withdrawn, ostensibly because governments were not prepared to provide funds. A great number of medical disorders now have been found among those children because so-called big government has chosen to withdraw funds that would have provided medical treatment for those children. If that is the alternative to big government then I will take big government any day.
-The honourable member’s time has expired. For the information of the honourable member for Burke, I assure him that I will ensure that Mr Speaker is acquainted with his remarks.
– I seek the indulgence of this House to bring before it a matter of importance which I consider to be in the interests of the housewives of Victoria. Whilst I find Canberra to be a beautiful and gracious city with all of the amenities and facilities that befit the national capital, subsidised in the main by all Australian taxpayers, I draw the line when the housewives of Victoria have to face the added burden of subsidising the fat cats of Canberra on the food front. I draw the attention of the House to the incredible rip-off which is occurring on the home front- I should say the egg front.
The Victorian Egg Board is selling eggs in Canberra supermarkets at the following prices:
In Canberra the Victorian Egg Board is selling its 65 gram eggs at the wholesale price of $1.12 a dozen as against $1.25 in its home State of Victoria. Woolworths Pty Ltd is selling 65 gram eggs in Canberra at the retail price of $1.21 a dozen. Housewives in Victoria are being ripped off by having to pay for the same size egg $1.39 a dozen. The Victorian Egg Board is selling 60 gram eggs in Canberra at the wholesale price of $1.07 a dozen against the wholesale price to the migrants in Victoria of $1.17 a dozen. The retail price of 60 gram eggs in Canberra is $1.16 a dozen as against $1.25 a dozen in Victoria. The wholesale price of 55 gram eggs in Canberra is 89 cents a dozen as against $ 1.05 a dozen in Melbourne. Woolworths Pty Ltd in Canberra sells 55 gram eggs at the retail price of 98 cents whereas in Melbourne they are sold for $1.17 a dozen. If we go right down the list we find the same price structure.
The price of eggs in Victorian supermarkets is at least 20 cents a dozen dearer than in Canberra. The retail egg price in Canberra is so good, I have been advised, that several large egg dealers are now buying their eggs by the truckload in Canberra and transporting them back to Victoria and still coming out ahead of the wholesale price in that State.
– Hear, hear!
– The honourable member for Lilley would not know what it is all about, because we in Victoria are also subsidising Queensland eggs. I am sympathetic with the large poultry concerns in the Australian Capital Territory and with the Victorian Egg Board. The honourable member for Batman (Mr Howe), who is trying to interject, might like the housewives in Victoria to pay 20 cents a dozen more for eggs, but I as a Victorian object.
Opposition members interjecting-
-The Opposition may be in favour of the Victorian housewives paying 20 cents a dozen more for eggs, but I as a Victorian am not. The members of the Labor Party who are attempting to interject are in favour of the Victorian housewives paying more for eggs.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I would like to know whether the honourable member for Isaacs could be provided with an interpreter.
- Mr Deputy Speaker -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The honourable member for Isaacs will resume his seat. The remark made by the honourable member for Parramatta is not altogether helpful. The honourable member for Isaacs is addressing the House on a serious subject. I ask honourable members to cease their cackling.
– All I can say is thank goodness that the River Murray keeps all the vice in New South Wales out of Victoria. If that is what New South Wales has produced, I am proud to be a Victorian. I do not know whether the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Holding) is in favour of fat cats in Canberra subsidising -
– No, I am not.
-Thank you. The honourable member for Melbourne Ports agrees with me. I feel that the Victorian housewives are being ripped off. All attempts should be made by the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Fife) to ensure that the Victorian housewife gets a fair deal.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-As we all know, there is to be an election in South Australia on 1 5 September and I suppose it is fair game to try to use this House to play the game of politics. Yesterday, there was an urgency debate in the Senate relating to energy and so forth in which efforts were made by South Australian senators to try to denigrate the South Australian Government. Today, we heard a Dorothy Dix question asked, again in relation to energy, which gave the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) an opportunity to try to bucket the South Australian Government over its attitude to a particular mining activity in South Australia- the Roxby Downs project. A lot of absolute bunkum has been spoken about this project. Certainly there is a fair amount of copper and uranium as well as other metals there, but there is also a lot of dirt mixed with them.
Stupid remarks have been made and I mention some made last night in the Senate. Senator Young said that the proven reserves of uranium in South Australia at present were greater than the proven reserves in the Northern Territory. He said that there was one company that could virtually start mining tomorrow morning if it were given the green light. He referred specifically to the Roxby Downs area, which he said could be one of the largest mines in the world. Perhaps he knows more than the Western Mining Corporation. It holds the lease to this project and has never said that it could start mining tomorrow. In fact I was going to visit its leases three weeks ago. The Western Mining
Corporation provided a very light aircraft and the pilot could not put me down because the salt lake on which the planes usually land had a little water on it. That is how ready it is to start.
I suggest that the South Australian politicians who are trying to use this House to influence the South Australian electorate should get behind the South Australian Government in trying to develop the Redcliff petrochemical project. It could be an outstanding project within Australia and if given the support of this Government, as it has been supported by the South Austraiian Government, it would be a benefit to this country. At present the Cooper Basin is being exploited for natural gas only. The supply of natural gas to Adelaide and Sydney comes from that particular field. At present the dry wells are being used. This means that very little material has to be flared off into the atmosphere at Moomba before the natural gas goes on to Sydney and Adelaide. But very shortly those dry wells will be exhausted, and the wetter wells will have to be used. The wetter wells contain the feed stock that could be fed into a petrochemical industry. When that comes about, if something is not done with the condensates and the other materials that are in the wet gases they will be flared off into the atmosphere and a great energy resource will be wasted.
Coupled with this is the fact that the salt from Lake Torrens- a pretty large lake in my electorate, not far from Redcliff where we hope the proposed petrochemical industry will be established- can be used in the petrochemical project. It is essential that both the State and the Federal Governments get behind this project to ensure that it is a goer. Announced recently was an improvement in the aluminium smeltering industry in Australia. One of the main ingredients in the smeltering process is caustic soda. At present I understand we import 800,000 tonnes of caustic soda for this industry and, if the expansion takes place, that demand will become greater and greater. It is proposed that the Redcliff petrochemical plant will produce 505,000 tonnes of caustic soda a year, plus a lot of other ethylene dichloride and other materials which can be used in Australia. I understand that ethylene dichloride will definitely be exported. It is essential that instead of using this place to snipe at the South Australian Government, this Government should get behind Australia’s interests and back the Redcliff petrochemical industry.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-A serious matter has arisen in respect of safety at the Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport and at other Australian airports. The Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) in answering a question upon notice has stated that a departmental study had recommended that only a limited level of protection should be provided and the remaining risk accepted. Let me make it quite clear to the House that I completely reject that type of approach to these serious matters. However, what I am deeply concerned about is the way in which the Sydney newspapers have taken that statement in the answer about the study’s recommendation and have reported that the Minister for Transport has in fact made statements to that effect and that the Minister himself believes, or has decided, that that should be the proper approach. That is quite false. It is quite inaccurate. This morning, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that Mr Nixon had said that only limited protection should be given and that Mr Nixon had said that the remaining risk should be accepted. This afternoon, the Daily Mirror said:
A limited level of protection should be provided and the remaining risks accepted. ‘
These are the words of the Minister for Transport, Mr Nixon.
The newspaper referred to the Minister talking about human lives. It said that he was describing what he believes are adequate fire protection services. The main story on the same page of the Daily Mirror repeats the same thing. It says that the Minister said that only a limited level of fire protection should be provided. These reports are absolutely false, inaccurate, disgraceful, and at the very least, the most shoddy form of journalism one could possibly imagine. The Minister had a duty to answer that question, and he answered it. One of the parts of the question was: What were the recommendations of the study?’ The Minister, in accordance with his duty to this Parliament, answered and said that the study had recommended this limited protection. These newspapers completely perverted the answer and reported that they were the Minister’s own words, the Minister’s own beliefs. I believe that this raises an extremely serious matter that this House should consider. If it is a Minister’s duty to answer a question, as the Minister did, what right has a newspaper to abuse its position and to abuse the Minister in this way by reporting matters in a completely inaccurate fashion? It is also to be noted that the newspaper failed to say that the Minister’s answer was an answer to a question on notice. The newspaper failed to point out that it was something that the Minister had provided by way of answer after careful consideration. All the reports are written as if it were said by the Minister himself in the Parliament. This makes it even worse. The words ‘he said’ are used a number of times. The words ‘Mr Nixon is talking about human lives’ are used as though the Minister had said in the House that the risks should be accepted and only a limited level of protection should be given. I believe that we should examine the Standing Orders carefully to see whether or not there is sufficient appropriate means available to this House to call before the House representatives of newspapers that make such disgraceful reports.
There is one other matter that I have given the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris) notice of. He is reported as having criticised the Minister. While I will not go into the merits of the matter. All I ask is whether the honourable member issued a Press release, and if so whether he will table that Press release so that we can see the content of it.
– I did not issue a Press release. I gave a statement to the Daily Mirror. The report by the Daily Mirror attributing the statement to the Minister is correct. The Minister is responsible for the answers given to the Parliament and it is correct to say ‘the Minister said’. The Minister said it in writing in answer to my question. I think you are up a tree, my old friend.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11 p.m. until Tuesday, 11 September next at 2.15 p.m., unless Mr Speaker shall fix an alternative day or hour of meeting, to be notified by telegram or letter addressed to each member of the House.
The following notice was given:
Mr Kevin Cairns to move That this House-
1 ) Regrets the decision made in Adelaide on Monday, 16 July, to promote government subsidies directly to political parties;
Asserts that the taxpayers’ dollar is not to be given to political parties whether it be the Communist Party, the Australian Labor Party, the Liberal Party, Independent parties or the National Country Party;
States such funding distorts the very nature of Australia’s political organisations and their responsibilities; and
Will take action to utterly resist any attempt to divert tax dollars, pension payments, family allowances or defence money for such purposes.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 2 1 February 1979:
What sums were paid for (a) hotel or other accommodation for him and his staff on official overseas trips and (b) the rent overseas of (i) official offices and (ii) domestic premises used by any member of his Department during the periods (A) 11 November 1975 to 30 June 1976, (B) 1976-77,(C) 1977-78 and(D) 1 July 1978 to date.
– I refer the honourable member to the Prime Minister’s reply to Question No. 3 172 (weekly Hansard, 7 June 1979, page 3 143).
asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 27 February 1979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The law will be amended to enable eligible expenditure incurred up to 3 June 1979 on partly completed plant projects to qualify for the 40 per cent rate of allowance in certain circumstances. Where plant was ordered by 30 June 1978, expenditure incurred by 3 June 1979 on such plant that has been installed by 3 June will attract the 40 per cent rate of allowance-
As we pointed out in our statement, this decision has been taken to ensure that employers are not exposed to intense industrial pressure as new plant is in the final stages of completion. The decision also demonstrates the Government’s commitment to wage restraint and its preparedness to stand behind employers who adopt a firm wages policy in line with the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission’s wage fixing principles.
Boeing VIP Aircraft (Question No. 3683)
asked the Minister for Finance, upon notice, on 1 May 1979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Boeing VIP Aircraft (Question No. 3684)
asked the Minister for Finance, upon notice, on 1 May 1979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 30 May 1979:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
During the 1970s the range of fiscal measures which would have been expected to have directly affected the rate of inflation in subsequent quarters was as follows:
The effect of such changes has at different times in the period either raised or lowered the measured rate of inflation.
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 5 June 1979:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Major revenues stem from air navigation charges and fuel tax and are not allocated on a location or functional basis. Other revenues from rentals, business concessions, et cetera, are recorded on a location basis.
Accounts for 1 978-79 are not yet finalised.
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 5 June 1 979:
How many persons at major Commonwealth airports are employed on duties associated with (a) airport planning and design, (b) airport construction, (c) airport maintenance and (d) airport operational services by designation.
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
As I am unclear as to the honourable member’s meaning of the term ‘major Commonwealth airports’, I have provided answers based on those airports which have regular aircraft traffic and are provided with Air Traffic Control facilities. I have also included the major general aviation airports in the various States as these handle very large volumes of air traffic.
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 6 June 1 979:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I ) Flight cancellation/substitution practices of the two major domestic airlines broadly fall into two categories:
(a) Minor savings may arise in crew costs.
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 7 June 1979:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 30 August 1979, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1979/19790830_reps_31_hor115/>.