31st Parliament · 1st Session
The House met at 10.30 a.m.
– I inform the House of the absence of Mr Speaker. In accordance with Standing Order 14 the Chairman of Committees will take the Chair as Acting Speaker.
Mr ACTING SPEAKER (Mr Millar) thereupon took the chair, 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 of the Australian Parliament assembled. The petition of certain citizens of NSW 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 Baume, Mr John Brown, Dr Klugman, Sir William McMahon, Mr Morris, Mr Ruddock and Mr West.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the plan to obliterate the traditional weights and measures of this country is causing and will cause widespread inconvenience, confusion, expense and distress.
That there is no certainty that any significant benefits or indeed any benefits at all will follow the use of the new weights and measures.
That the traditional weights and measures are eminently satisfactory.
Your petitioners therefore pray:
That the Metric Conversion Act be repealed, and that the Australian Government take urgent steps to cause the traditional and familiar units to be restored to those areas where the greatest inconvenience and distress are occurring, that is to say, in meteorology, in road distances, in sport, in the building and allied trades, in the printing trade, and in retail trade.
That the Australian Government request the State Governments to procure that the imperial and metric systems be taught together in schools.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Jarman and Sir William McMahon. Petitions received.
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled the petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That restoration of provisions of the Social Security Act that applied prior to the 1 978-79 Budget is of vital concern to offset the rising cost of goods and services.
The reason advanced by the Government for yearly payments ‘that the lower level of inflation made twice-yearly payments inappropriate’ is not valid.
Great injury will be caused to 920,000 aged, invalid, widows and supporting parents, who rely solely on the pension or whose income, other than the pension, is $6 or less per week. Once-a-year payments strike a cruel blow to their expectation and make a mockery of a solemn election pledge.
Accordingly, your petitioners call upon their legislators to:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Morris and Mr Shipton. Petitions received.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That we oppose the increase in marine radio licence fees for the following reasons:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the government will reconsider the increased licence fee and also consider a reduction for pensioners.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Baume. Petition received.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That we oppose the increase in Radio Licence Fees on Marine Radios for the following reasons:
We also oppose the Radio Regulation that allows and encourages the use of CB radios in boats for the following reasons:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray the government will reconsider the licence fee and also consider a reduction for pensioners. We also humbly pray that the regulation allowing the use of CB radio in Marine situations be rescinded.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Braithwaite.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully say we are concerned about the lack of public participation allowed in the decision making of the Broadcasting Tribunal.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that Parliament take immediate steps to dismiss the present members of the tribunal, replacing them with:
Janet Strickland Chairperson
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr John Brown.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That it is necessary for the Commonwealth Government to renew for a further term of at least 3 years the States Grants (Dwelling for Pensioners) Act 1974-77, renewed for one year expiring on 30 June 1 978.
The demand for dwellings has not slackened as the waiting list (all States) of 12,060 single and 4,120 couples as at 30 June 1977, showeth.
Your petitioners respectfully draw the attention of the Commonwealth Government to the Report of the Committee of inquiry into Aged Persons’ Housing 1975 under the
Chairmanship of the Rev. K. Seaman (now Governor of South Australia) which recommended additional funds to State housing authorities to meet the demand for low rental accommodation in the proportion of $4 for $ 1 with the proviso that the States do not reduce their existing expenditure and
That the Act include married pensioners eligible for supplementary assistance and migrants as specified by the Seaman Report and that particular consideration be paid to the special needs and requirements of the prospective tenants in the location and design of such dwellings.
Furthermore, your petitioners desire to draw the Government’s attention to the hardship of many pensioner home owners caused by the high cost of maintenance.
The Social Security Annual Report 1976-77 shows that 24.6 per cent, or 283,000 home owning pensioners, have a weekly income in excess of the pension of less than $6 per week.
Your petitioners strongly urge the Commonwealth Government to establish a fund whereby loans can be made to means tested pensioners for the purpose of effecting necessary maintenance to their homes. Such a loan to be at minimal interest rates sufficient to cover administrative costs and to be repaid by the estate upon the death of a single pensioner before probate or upon the death of the surviving spouse in the case of married pensioners or where two pensioners jointly own the dwelling. Administration to be carried out by local government bodies.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Dr Edwards.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned members and ex-members of the Citizens Forces of Australia respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray:
Your Honourable House take appropriate action to resume the award of the several distinctive and historic Reserve Forces Decorations and Medals to members of the Royal Australian Naval Reserve, Citizen Military Force (Army Reserve) and Citizens Air Force. by Mr Falconer.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That a grave threat to the life of refugees from various States of Indo-China arises from the policies of the Government of Vietnam.
That, as a result of these policies, many thousands of refugees are fleeing their homes and risking starvation and drowning. Because of the failure of rich nations of the world to provide more than token assistance, the resources of the nations of first refuge, especially Malaysia and Thailand, are being stretched beyond reasonable limits.
As a wealthy nation within the region most affected, Australia is able to play a major part in the rescue as well as resettlement of these refugees.
It should be possible for Australia to: establish and maintain on the Australian mainland basic transit camps for the housing and processing of 200,000 refugees each year; mobilise the Defence Force to search for, rescue and transport to Australia those refugees who have been able to leave the Indo-China States; accept the offer of those church groups which propose to resettle some thousands of refugees in Australia.
The adoption of such a humane policy would have a marked effect on Australia’s standing within the region.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Jarman.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the National Women’s Advisory Council has not been democratically elected by the women of Australia;
That the National Women’s Advisory Council is not representative of the women of Australia;
That the National Women’s Advisory Council is a discriminatory and sexist imposition on Australian women as Australian men do not have National Men ‘s Advisory Council imposed on them.
Your Petitioners therefore pray:
That the National Women’s Advisory Council be abolished to ensure that Australian women have equal opportunity with Australian men of having issues of concern to them considered, debated and voted on by their Parliamentary representatives without intervention and interference by an unrepresentative ‘Advisory Council ‘.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Peter Johnson.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of electors of the State/Territory of N.S. W. respectfully showeth:
That the Commonwealth Employees (Employment Provisions) Act 1977 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 Internationa] 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 Sir William McMahon.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that 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 Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That further cutbacks in Commonwealth funding to State Schools and transferral of funds to wealthy independent schools as required under the guidelines to the Schools Commission announced by the Minister for Education in early June are of vital concern in that they mitigate against the interests of the great majority of Australian Children in State Schools.
That Queensland State Schools have not reached the Resource Usage Targets set by the Schools Commission, and even at those financial levels will fall well short of actual provision standards envisaged by the Commission.
That Queensland’s effort in respect of Capital works is particularly of concern being less than half the per capita effort of other States.
Your petitioners therefore call on their legislators to ensure:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Thomson. Petition received.
Petition to the Honourable the Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled; petition.
The humble petition of the undersigned residents of the Northern Territory, South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales showeth; that we are distressed and concerned by the refusal by Australia Post to issue a commemorative stamp upon The 50th Anniversary of the Association of Apex Clubs.
Your petitioners therefore pray that your honourable house will do all in its power to have the Commonwealth Government take immediate action to guarantee the reconsideration of the application.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Wilson. Petition received.
– Why did the Minister for National Development say in his Press statement No. 7 1 of 1979 on 30 August that ‘the outlook for further supplies of avgas from Abadan in the remainder of 1 979 is very uncertain ‘ when, according to his submission to Cabinet on Monday, he was advised by the Department of Foreign Affairs on 26 August, that is four days earlier, that ‘there will be no exports from Iran during the remainder of 1979’? Why does he persist in playing down this chronic avgas shortage? What is he doing to overcome the shortage? Can he give the House an unequivocal assurance that adequate supplies of avgas will be available for Australian consumers for the balance of this year and beyond?
– I welcome the question from the honourable member because the situation with aviation gas is very serious. The question gives me an opportunity to explain exactly what the situation is. I think it is important first of all to refer to how the situation developed. Honourable members will remember that after the Iranian crisis Australia found itself without its traditional supplier. At present we produce about 40 per cent of our aviation gasolene at Altona. We import the remainder of 60 per cent. Our traditional supplier at Abadan went out. That meant that we had a chronic shortage. That is the background to the development of the situation. Following that the three marketers of aviation gas in this country, with the full endorsement of the Government, introduced an allocation system to manage the tight situation that occurred with aviation gas. Despite that allocation system, regional problems occurred and have continued to occur, but the Government has done everything in its power, in consultation with the oil companies and people in the general aviation industry, to manage the situation.
In dealing with whether the Government was making it clear that there were problems with Abadan, I refer as an example to a speech I made to the Queensland Council of Agriculture at the beginning of August in which I said that there was a problem with aviation gas and that other shipments were being sought from Abadan but there was renewed uncertainty about supplies from that source. In the Press statement referred to by the honourable member I said that Abadan was the closest and most convenient source to Australia but because of the problems in Iran the outlook for further supplies from Abadan in the remainder of 1979 was very uncertain. The point I am trying to make is that at no time did the Government try to conceal the fact that Abadan was an uncertain source.
– It is not uncertain; it is not there.
– If the honourable member is patient I will give him all the details. I will answer all the questions he asks. At no stage have we been trying to conceal the fact that there have been problems with Abadan. From advice on consultations between members of the general aviation industry and my Department and from speaking to members of that industry myself, I know that the industry is happy with the present allocation system, or at least it is acceptable to them as long as it remains flexible to cover seasonal and unplanned circumstances.
Stocks of aviation gas at the end of August were equivalent to 86 days consumption, com pared with 81 days at the end of July. I refer all h onourable members to the statement I made at the end of August, which was based on the best information we had at the time. Honourable members will notice that the situation has improved in the interim. An import of about 4,500 tonnes into Queensland was made in early September. These stocks, together with further imports into northern Australia from Singapore and continuing production at Altona, mean that Australia is covered at the present rate of consumption for about six months. As I have consistently made clear in all my public announcements on this matter, we are encouraging the marketers of avgas to get out on to the world market and find spot purchases where they can.
The honourable member asked why I used the words ‘the outlook for Abadan in 1979 is very uncertain’ in my Press statement at the end of August. Let me tell the honourable member why I said that There has been no formal advice from the National Iranian Oil Company along the lines that have been suggested. In the course of a conversation between the officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs and the National Iranian Oil Company on 26 August it was indicated that there would be no exports of avgas from Iran during the remaining part of 1 979. We take advice from a range of people, and the principal areas from which we take that advice are the Government-Industry Oil Supplies Advisory Committee and the oil companies themselves. This is an important point.
-Does the honourable member want the story or not?
-Order! The level of conversation is too high. I ask honourable members to remain silent. The honourable member for Chifley will remain silent.
– The honourable member for Blaxland asked for a specific answer in relation to that part of the Press statement, and I am giving it to him. If the honourable member for Chifley would just keep quite for a moment instead of opening his mouth as he usually does, all honourable members would be able to hear my answer. However, at that time Mobil Oil Australia Ltd, which had negotiated the cargo, was awaiting advice from the National Iranian Oil Company of the date of loading. Subsequently Mobil received advice from the National Iranian Oil Company that shipment of the cargo had been deferred. Mobil remains in communication with the National Iranian Oil Company but has been unable as yet to obtain a firm date for shipment. That is why the Press statement was carefully couched in that language. That is the situation at the present time.
I hope that that clarifies the position in relation to aviation gas. I have given the aviation gas stocks situation and the outlook for the next 6 months. I have explained why there is a problem with Abadan. I have explained why the Press statement at that time was couched in the language that it was. I make one other point: The Government is very concerned about the tight situation with aviation gas. We have been in consultation with all the refiners in an attempt to build up our own self-sufficiency in aviation gas so that we are not so reliant on the situation at Altona. I am pleased to be able to inform honourable members that as a result of consultation and discussion with the Shell Company of Australia Ltd I am advised by the Chief Executive of that company that it will be changing the capacity of its refinery to produce aviation gas. This will mean a substantial increment to our own domestic supplies of aviation gas. We expect that that increment from the Shell refineries will be able to be obtained in about the first half of next year.
– I ask the Prime Minister: In what ways is the Federal Government encouraging investment in Australia’s mining and manufacturing industries?
-The Government has been encouraging throughout its period in office investment in mining and manufacturing by the general thrust of its economic policies. They are policies which, as the honourable gentleman will know, are designed to achieve a lower rate of inflation than is evident in many other countries. We have been successful in that endeavour, because when we came into office our rate of inflation was significantly above the average for Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development countries as a result of the policies of our predecessors. The inflation rate is now noticably lower in this country. Despite increased inflationary pressures in Australia, the margin in favour of Australia’s manufacturers and exporters has been increasing in recent times. That has added greatly to the competitiveness of Australian industries. The wages growth has been reduced. That had to happen because, with the wages growth under Labor and with the wages growth that is promoted by people like Mr Corcoran who advocates an extra $40 a week for the metal trades workers, the competitiveness of Australian industries would once again be destroyed. That would mean that Australian industries would not be able to expand their employment base, as has occurred in States other than South Australia over the last 12 months.
Part of the task, of course, has been keeping government expenditure down and getting the deficit down, as well as increasing business confidence. The policies of the Leader of the Opposition in what might have been regarded as an alternative Budget would clearly reverse that confidence and those trends. Development is basically the responsibility not only of the Commonwealth Government but also of States governments. If a State government is prepared to work in harmony with the Commonwealth Government, development and progress in a State clearly can be greater than would otherwise be the case.
Quite plainly, it is possible for the policies of a State such as South Australia to frustrate the general development and investment plans of this Commonwealth Government. I must say that Mr Corcoran now and Mr Dunstan before him appear to be singularly successful in doing just that because in South Australia the policies for worker participation and the general policies and attitudes to investment and development are leading to a flight of capital out of South Australia. There is a situation where new investment just is not taking place. There is a situation where the great Roxby Downs -
– Telling more lies.
– Order! The Prime Minister will resume his seat. The honourable member for Adelaide will withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw that I said he was telling more lies.
-There is no qualification. The honourable member has withdrawn.
- Mr Acting Speaker, I take a point of order. As I understand it, this is Question Time for questions without notice. When the question was asked, the Prime Minister took a prepared answer out of his pocket, placed it on the despatch box and proceeded to read it.
Honourable members interjecting
– Order! The House will come to order.
- Sir, in misleading the House, obviously the Prime Minister cannot even do that without using notes.
– I draw your attention to the fact that it is an abuse of Question Time.
– The honourable member for Melbourne Ports will resume his seat.
– Well, for how long are you going to allow him to abuse Question Time?
-The honourable member for Melbourne Ports will resume his seat.
– It is a bloody joke. That is what it is.
-Order! I ask honourable members to maintain the decorum of the House. There is no substance to the point of order. Ministers and the Prime Minister are entitled to answer questions as they see fit so long as they remain relevant to the question. I call the Prime Minister.
– The sensitivity of honourable gentlemen opposite is plain. One only has to ask business, industry, factories and employees in South Australia. They know very well that the policies of the present South Australian Government are destroying jobs in South Australia. Why is it that in South Australia unemployment is 8.2 per cent of the full time work force whereas around the rest of Australia it is 5.8 per cent. It is perfectly plain that in South Australia -
Opposition members interjecting-
– They do not like the story, Mr Acting Speaker, because they do not like the facts of what they do to a State or what they do to Australia.
– Sit down, you big mug.
-Order! The honourable member for Robertson will withdraw that remark immediately.
– I withdraw the fact that he is a big mug.
-The honourable member for Robertson will not compound his misdemeanour by repeating the term. He will withdraw without amplification.
– I withdraw without amplification.
-The honourable member for Robertson will resume his seat. I call the Prime Minister.
– Let me repeat the figures: Unemployment in South Australia is 8.2 per cent of the full time work force.
-Mr Acting Speaker, I take a point of order. A general question was asked. Obviously the Prime Minister is just engaging in a political propaganda exercise. Mr Acting Speaker, if you do not pull him up, you can either have it rough or smooth. You take your choice.
Government members- Oh!
-Order! The House will come to order. The Chair deduces from the reaction of the House that the honourable member for Blaxland made a remark to which the Chair could take exception. The fact is that, because of the disorderly conduct of the House, the Chair did not hear the remark. To facilitate the proceedings of the House, I again ask honourable members to remain silent. There is no substance to the point of order. In recent days the House has been used and perhaps misused for matters that do not necessarily concern it in the first degree. But the fault, if any, is with both sides of the House. I call the Prime Minister and ask him not to prolong his reply.
-This Government is concerned for unemployment and it is concerned if one of the States of this Commonwealth is lagging behind the general progress in other States as a result of the policies of that State government. Let me repeat the figures: Unemployment in South Australia is 8.2 per cent of the full time work force whereas for Australia it is 5.8 percent.
- Mr Acting Speaker, I take a point of order.
-Order! The Prime Minister will resume his seat.
- Mr Acting Speaker, would you please sit the Prime Minister down when he is asked to take his seat? Earlier you said that this House was being misused, in fact abused, at this time in matters that were not its direct concern. I suggest that you were referring to the South Australian election. The Prime Minister is doing nothing more than electioneering at the present time. I ask you to ask him to take his seat.
-There is no point of order. I ask the Prime Minister to draw his answer to a close.
-Mr Acting Speaker -
-Mr Acting Speaker, I take a point of order. Twenty minutes of Question Time has been taken up and we have not even had two questions answered.
-There is no point of order.
-I might add that this question and answer could have been finished long ago if the Opposition had been prepared to hear the answer. I am not going to be deterred from finishing the answer by the rabble opposite who just make noise when they have no other answer to give. In case there are some honourable members who did not hear me, I repeat that unemployment in South Australia is 8.2 per cent of the full time work force and it is 5.8 per cent of the full time work force throughout Australia- a marked difference. It is fair enough for members of this Parliament who are concerned about unemployment to ask why there is that substantial difference between South Australia and the rest of the Commonwealth. It is also clear that new dwelling commencements in South Australia, for example, in the two years ended June 1979 were over 12,000 less than in the previous two-year period. That indicates in plain terms that policies of investment and development flow out into many areas. They affect home building and many other facets of Australian life. It is within the capacity of the South Australian Government- and we would urge any government in South Australia to accept the responsibility- to support the great Roxby Downs project.
– I take a point of order. Mr Acting Speaker, is the Prime Minister just defying you or is he just plain thick? Does he not understand what you have said to him? Does he not understand that you have told him to draw his answer to a close and to stop abusing the House?
-Order! The honourable member for Blaxland will resume his seat. I now ask the Prime Minister to bring his answer to an immediate close.
-I will bring it to a close with this last point: It is within the capacity of the South Australian Government to support the great Roxby Downs project which it has held up and which could provide massive employment opportunities for the people of South Australia. I think it is worth noting that -
- Mr Acting Speaker, I take a point of order. That is another distortion. There is a two year feasibility study of Roxby Downs. It is not held up. The Prime Minister is a damn liar and he should sit down.
-Order! There is no point of order.
-I trust that I can finish this last point without interruption. I should note that not one of the alleged points of order has been a point of order within the terms of the Standing Orders, and there has been a gross abuse -
Honourable members interjecting-
– And the noise at the moment is a gross abuse -
-Order! The Prime Minister will resume his seat. The House will come to order. Honourable members, regardless of what they may think of the proceedings presently before the House, are not contributing to the image or the stature of this Parliament. I ask them to maintain decorum and I ask the Prime Minister to conclude his answer immediately so that the spirit of the Questions Without Notice period can be honoured.
– I will conclude this answer if there is silence in the chamber to allow me to do so. I am not prepared to be sat down by the noise of the Opposition.
Honourable members interjecting-
-Order! The House will come to order.
– Deny us points of order.
-Order! The Leader of the Opposition will remain silent.
– Tell the Prime Minister to sit down.
-Order! The honourable member for Fremantle will remain silent.
– Sit him down.
-Order! The Prime Minister will resume his seat. The honourable member for Corio will remain silent or I will be required to deal with him. The Prime Minister is not being required to conclude his remarks because of the reaction of the Opposition. He is required to conclude his remarks at the request of the Chair who, whilst respecting the right of the Prime Minister to answer a question without notice, has an obligation to maintain the spirit of the Questions Without Notice period which does not invite prolonged or protracted replies to questions.
-There is one final point that I wish to make. It is perfectly plain that the Opposition is seeking to prevent that point being made. There is a requirement on the Chair not to allow a person to be sat down because of the noise of the Opposition. Mr Acting Speaker, the final point that I wish to make is that the great Roxby Downs project has been held up.
Mt Hayden- On a point of order, Mr Acting Speaker-
-And again he cannot take it.
- Mr Acting Speaker, the Prime Minister’s behaviour and his statement are a challenge to your authority and independence in this House. He is effectively telling you how he is going to conduct the affairs of this House.
– I have not explained the point of order.
-Order! The Leader of the Opposition will not reflect on the Chair in putting his point of order.
– I am not; it is the Prime Minister. I am seeking to protect you. In the words of one time shearer, Fred Cottrill, the Prime Minister was a pampered kind of kid and his behaviour today is displaying that.
-Order! There is no point of order.
– Now Fred Cottrill, who once worked on the Prime Minister’s farm at Nareen-
-Order! The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat.
– Has made the point that he often behaved in this way.
– There is no point of order. The House will come to order.
- Mr Acting Speaker, I raise a point of order. In view of the unruly conduct that has been coming from the Opposition benches this morning-
-Order! The honourable member for Wilmot will not preface his point of order with a provocative remark. The honourable member for Wilmot will resume his seat.
– Is it within the capacity of the Chair under the Standing Orders to expel all members of the Opposition from the service of the House?
-Order! I caution honourable members that if they embark on the course of raising specious points of order I will be left with no option but to deal with them.
-Notwithstanding the time taken to answer the last question I direct this question also to the Prime Minister. I refer to the Prime Minister’s speech on the Budget on 11 September in which he said:
I ask the Prime Minister whether his attention has been drawn to the statement in the national survey on unemployment issued by the Catholic Bishops of Australia which states: . . unions cannot be required to accept wage restraints unless those restraints are applied for the benefit of the whole community . . . excessive company profits provide no justification for union restraint.
Does the Prime Minister repudiate this statement by the Catholic Bishops of Australia? If so, does his Government intend to continue bashing the ordinary wage earner to accept lower and lower living standards as the price of unjust and incompetent economic management?
-That statement from the Catholic Church, that working document on unemployment, is a thoughtful and constructive document. Some discussions are being arranged as a result of the work that has been put into it. I wish that more groups in the Australian community would treat the problem of unemployment in that thoughtful and decent way. I think it is well worth noting that the concern that many people have for unemployment is held in a very real way by members of this Government. But we are not prepared to pursue policies that will lead to a false situation as has occurred in South Australia where the Government of the day has pursued false employment creating schemes with the only result that unemployment overall in South Australia has increased substantially.
-Is the Minister for Primary Industry aware that a mysterious disease affecting oysters is threatening the multi-million dollar cultured pearl industry in Western Australia and has, so far, defied all attempts at a cure? Is there any avenue of research in which this Government could assist in seeking a cure for these sick oysters?
– I am not too sure how I can address myself to this question in the context of the South Australian elections. I might say, however, that there are not too many pearls in that State under the present Government there. I was fortunate to have the opportunity a few weeks ago to look at the pearl shell industry in Broome. Might I say to all Australians that it is remarkable how this new industry has grown from very humble beginnings. I believe it will make a very significant contribution to employment opportunities in the future with its growth as both a major new domestic industry and as one which it is hoped will expand into export markets. Already there is quite a significant opportunity for selling pearl shells abroad. The difficulty seems to be to convince Australian customers of quality of Australian pearl shells and the character and nature of the pearls produced within them.
There have been consultations with the Western Australian Government about the disease. It seems that the disease is apparent only in shells which are forcibly opened in order to impregnate them with the seeds from which the pearls develop.
– It happens only in Liberal States.
– There are plenty of pearls in Liberal-Country Party States; that is the difference. As far as the shells are concerned, the disease has been investigated by authorities from the United States of America and Japan, and I hope that as a result, it may be possible to identify the cause of the disease and to overcome it. It certainly is a matter that is being pursued intensively by my own Department in co-operation with officers of the Western Australian Department of Fisheries and Wildlife. I commend the honourable member for his interest and effort in trying to foster this very worthwhile young Australian industry.
– I ask a question of the Prime Minister, even though he is intoxicated by his own verbosity this morning.
-Order! The Leader of the Opposition will ask his question.
– Of course, Mr Acting Speaker. I ask the Prime Minister a question.
– I raise a point of order. My point of order is based on Standing Orders 85 and 86, which state that a member shall not persist in irrelevance or abuse the orders or forms of the House for the purpose of obstructing business. The Leader of the Opposition is breaking the Standing Orders and he should be disciplined by this House.
– On a point of order -
-Order! I have not ruled on the point of order.
– The point of order itself is irrelevant because the honourable member is engaging in the very practice to which he refers.
-Order! The Chair will rule. The point of order that the honourable member for Hotham takes confirms the fact that the Standing Orders contain a very profound wisdom that would facilitate the proceedings of this House. It is rather regrettable that they are not generally observed. In accordance with the traditional behaviour of the House, I rule that there is no point of order.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question in relation to unemployment rates in the various States but first I ask him to recall that the thrust of his criticism of the South Australian Government was that the rate of unemployment in that State was much higher than the Australian average. Has he noted that the unemployment rate in Western Australia, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics figures for August, is the second highest in Australia at 7.2 per cent, only marginally lower than the rate applying in the State of South Australia? Is it a fact that this is markedly higher than the Australian average rate of 5.8 per cent? Does his previous answer therefore imply, and will he explicitly state, that the same criticisms as he directed against South Australia apply against Western Australia? If, however, he proposes exemption of Western Australia from that sort of criticism, on what grounds would he justify the exemption except characteristic dishonesty?
-Order! The Leader of the Opposition will withdraw that remark.
- Mr Acting Speaker, you ask me to withdraw?
-I ask the Leader of the Opposition to withdraw the personal reflection on the Prime Minister.
– I accused the Prime Minister of dishonesty. That is true. I am sorry about it. I withdraw.
-The Leader of the Opposition should know better than to use the expression.
-The Leader of the Opposition only condemns himself in those particular matters. I thank the honourable gentleman for his question because he draws to marked distinction the difference in the policies in Western Australia and South Australia. The whole point about South Australia’s unemployment rate of 8.2 per cent is that with different policies the unemployment rate could have been much less. It is worth noting that in Sir Thomas Playford ‘s day, with perhaps minimal resources, an industrial base was established in South Australia. That has been frittered and wasted away in the Labor years. It could have been further built upon by the great Roxby Downs project with its copper, uranium and many other minerals of great value to Australia. It could have been one of the greatest mines ever in
Australia or perhaps one of the greatest mines in the world. But because of the policies of the Australian Labor Party in relation to uranium, nothing happens. Nothing is done and the opportunities to create work are entirely lost. That is one point of the criticism.
Another point of the criticism is that their general policies in relation to industry have encouraged people to invest in other States and even to withdraw investment from South Australia. If one wants to compare that record with Western Australia and Sir Charles Court, there is no Premier around the Commonwealth who has done more to attract investment and development to Western Australia or to any other State than Sir Charles Court. The great North West Shelf project, the great developments in the Pilbara, the mining at Yeelirrie, the aluminium smelters and all the rest just show the difference in philosophy and in attitude. As a result of this, people from the eastern States have been going to Western Australia to seek the additional opportunities that are available there.
– The Minister for Administrative Services will recall the recent question by the honourable member for Lillee concerning the funding of political parties. In view of the Minister’s reply to that question that this Government is most unlikely ever to consider public funding, does the Government intend to request private donors such as companies and trade unions to declare their donations?
– I thank the honourable member for Macquarie for this question because it does demonstrate a clear distinction between the policies of the Opposition and the policies of the coalition parties. The coalition parties would be opposed to public funding of political campaigns. I draw the attention of the House, and of the Australian public for that matter, to the resolutions carried at the last Australian Labor Party Conference in Adelaide in July and, in particular, to some of the items of principle which were approved at the conference. In the official document, Item No. 32 stated -
– And a very good document it is, too.
-1 appreciate that remark because it means that the honourable member for Robertson is in support of these philosophies.
– He is bound by them.
-The Opposition is bound by them, there is no question about it.
Whatever he thinks personally, he has no choice. Item 32 refers to the payment of proportionate subsidies by governments to political parties and candidates. It was approved in principle. I note that the item refers to ‘governments’, which means all governments, State and Federal. I make reference to the inquiry which the New South Wales Government currently has under way into public funding and the statement by the Premier of South Australia, Mr Corcoran, that he would consider the matter.
The Australian Labor Party certainly supports public funding of political parties but I think it is fair for us to ask: How much does it think ought to be spent on public funding? Unfortunately I do not see the member for Port Adelaide. He is not here today and he was not here yesterday either. I presume he is campaigning in South Australia. We need to look at the statements of the honourable member for Port Adelaide, who is the shadow Minister dealing with these matters. In April he suggested in this House that a sum of $ 10m -
– Of taxpayers’ money.
-The sum of $ 10m of taxpayers’ funds should be made available out of general revenue and distributed to parties in proportion to the number of votes received at the previous election. He tabled the whole of the legislation under which electoral matters are conducted in Sweden. I have checked up on the cost of applying Swedish law to Australia. In Australian dollars, the cost to the taxpayers would be over $50m. However, the Labor Party is committed to $ 10m. Taking the last election as the base, the amount of taxpayers’ money which would be appropriated to the Labor Party for public funding at elections would be just under $4m. The Liberal Party would receive a little less, and the National Country Party a little less.
Mr Morris- On a point of order, Mr Acting Speaker, would the Minister pay the House the courtesy of explaining the diversion of public revenues to the Bjelke-Petersen Foundation by the National Party in Queensland?
-Order! There is no point of order. The honourable member for Shortland will resume his seat. I call the Minister and ask him not to prolong his answer.
– I shall certainly not do that. The position is that every party which contested that election would receive some funding out of this $10m, which would be distributed under what is known as the Young plan, including $18,000 for the Communist Party. I believe that -
– I raise a point of order which relates to the relevance of the Minister’s statement. In the first instance he outlined amounts of money which might be placed at the disposal of various parties which contested an election. Would the Minister also explain to the House how much money has been pouring into the South Australian election from the employers in South Australia?
-Order! The honourable member for Melbourne will resume his seat. I draw the Minister’s attention to the fact that his answer is becoming less relevant to the question than it should be. I ask him to direct himself specifically to the question and to draw his answer to a close.
– I am anxious to do that, Mr Acting Speaker, I assure you. It seems to me that the Labor Party should come out into the open and tell the people of Australia how this money to be distributed to parties, including the Communist Party and the Socialist Party, would be funded. Would it be funded by an increase in taxes?
-Mr Acting Speaker, I raise a point of order. The Minister’s answer is not relevant to the question. It also seeks to evade the issue, which is the disclosure of public funds- a fact that the Government cannot acknowledge, and consistently refuses to acknowledge, with respect to election donations made to the Minister for Industry and Commerce and reported to the Prime Minister on a promise to this House that they would not be disclosed. Bribes are bribes and, if they are secret bribes, that does not make them any better.
-Order! The honourable member for Corio will resume his seat. The Minister was just reminded by the Chair that he was ceasing to be relevant to the question. He is invited immediately to become relevant and to conclude his answer. The honourable member for Corio does not help the proceedings by peremptorily taking a point of order which simply echoes -
-Mr Acting Speaker -
-Order! The honourable member for Corio will resume his seat.
– On a point of order -
-The honourable member for Corio will resume his seat.
– On a point of order -
– Order! The honourable member for Corio will resume his seat.
-Am I denied a point of order?
-The honourable member for Corio -
-Am I denied a point of order?
– Order! The honourable member for Corio has been asked to resume his seat for the very reason that he persists in offending by speaking while the Chair is ruling on a point of order. He is not denied the right to take a point of order, nor is any member of this House, but he is not entitled to overtalk the Chair when the Chair is ruling on a point of order. I ask the honourable member for Corio simply to provide an opportunity for the Minister for Administrative Services to observe the requirement of the Chair that he immediately become relevant and conclude his answer.
– On a point of order, I raise a matter which is of serious consequence to the conduct of the House. If Ministers are allowed to divert questions for the purpose of making statements in this House, the Opposition cannot be expected to obey the Standing Orders to the letter. Ministers are flouting the Standing Orders in a completely irresponsible manner and we are being asked to obey them.
-The Chair is alert to the Standing Orders. I again remind the Minister to become immediately relevant and to draw his answer to a conclusion.
– Dealing with the second part of the question and being entirely relevant to the question: No, there is no intention by the Government to require corporations or trade unions to declare their donations. In fact, I might say, in drawing this answer to a close, that the South Australian Government in March attempted to alter the Companies Act so that corporations would be required to declare their donations of $ 100 and upwards to political parties.
– On a point of order-
-The Chair is of the opinion that the Minister is expanding his reply to a point that it thwarts the intention of questions without notice. I ask the Minister to resume his seat.
-I direct my question to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. I refer to the questions without notice about ‘nominal directorships’ addressed to the Minister by me on 22 August and by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports on 28 August. On both occasions the Minister undertook to consider the matter and report back to the House. Is it a fact that the concept of ‘norninal director’ is unknown to the law? Is it a fact that acceptance of appointment as a director involves responsibilities imposed under various Acts and the directors are then liable for failures to meet these obligations, which cannot be disclaimed by pleading ignorance or assuming the status of ‘nominal director’?
– It is a fact that the honourable member for Lalor and the honourable member for Melbourne Ports on previous occasions directed questions to me concerning the Commonwealth companies Act’. Apart from the honourable member for Melbourne Ports and the honourable member for Lalor, honourable members on both sides of this House would know that there is no Commonwealth companies Act at this stage. However there is an Australian Capital Territory Company Ordinance. As the questions are a matter of law, for the information of honourable members I table a copy of the Ordinance.
– On a point of order: Is the Minister formally tabling the document? If so, could the relevant section about the responsibilities of directors be incorporated in Hansard?
-There is no point of order. There has been no request for incorporation.
-I direct my question to the Minister for Trade and Resources. I refer to the effect of the strike of two months or more at grain loading terminals in Western Australian ports. Can the Minister indicate what impact this industrial problem is having on Australia’s export trade in wheat and on the wheat industry throughout Australia?
– It takes time to think, doesn’t it?
– It helps. Obviously, the Leader of the Opposition does not think. At a time when Australia has had a record wheat crop and the world market situation is extremely favourable, with excellent prices, it is rather tragic that there is so much industrial disruption of the movement of wheat out of this country. Indeed, at the moment, there are four major industrial strikes which are preventing the loading of wheat. There is a disruption in Western Australia which is a dispute with the Waterside
Workers Federation of Australia which has been going on now for six or seven weeks. There is also a dispute with the country silo workers in New South Wales which is imposing a ban on overtime and limiting the supply of wheat to the terminals. There is also a shipping clerks’ strike in Sydney and there is a tally clerks’ and timekeepers’ strike in Sydney in which they have imposed overtime bans.
Up to date the wheat industry has lost almost a million tonnes in its shipping program. If these strikes continue about another l.S million tonnes will be lost. To give the House some idea of the seriousness of the situation, for each million tonnes that is lost it costs the Australian wheat industry and, indeed, the nation about $150m. Therefore, it is understandable that within the wheat industry and country areas of Australia bitter resentment is building up against the unions, which are causing a delay in payments to the industry and causing additional costs. This resentment and anger will explode if the situation does not improve.
I can well understand the feeling of wheat growers across the country. They have to take seasonal risks and price risks and they work exceedingly hard only to find that selfish people in unions have no consideration for their fellow Australian or for the national economy when they carry on in the way they are. When the nation is wanting to improve its export performance, when we all have aspirations for a better way of life and when we want to do more for the unemployed in this country, a few unions in critical positions are causing these terrible delays. Unless more reason is shown by these unions and the present situation ceases I hate to think what the eventual reaction of the country people will be.
-I direct my question to the Minister for National Development. Has he read the special 1979 report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission on finance for local government? Is he aware that the Commission has criticised the Government for its failure to establish clear policy criteria to ensure that the equalisation principle is not denied through a shift towards funding of local government authorities on a per capita basis? Is he aware that if the Commission’s suggestion of making payments to the States for local governments on an unweighted per capita basis is adopted, New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia and his own State of Tasmania will receive a smaller share of the total payments than they do at present? When will the Government clarify this matter concerning local government finance?
-The specific questions that the honourable member for Reid asked me I will check, and let him have answers in due course. However, I would say that wherever I go in this nation, the applause and gratitude that are shown by local government authorities for the policies of this Government in making finance available to them are very clear.
-i raise a point of order. A report from the Grants Commission to the Government criticises the Government’s policy. I am asking the Minister whether he has read the report and whether his advisers have advised him on the matter? Let us get down to the facts.
-Order! There is no point of order. The Minister is entitled to answer the question as he sees fit so long as he remains relevant.
– I am aware of the report and I told the honourable member -
– I raise a point of order. It is true that the Minister may answer the question as he sees fit but that his answer must be relevant also. May I remind you, Mr Acting Speaker, that the Minister has stated clearly and explicitly that he does not know any of the details material to the question raised by the honourable member for Reid. I must say that it is unusual to hesitate, as I have, in recalling the name of the electorate of my colleague. I am sure that John Fairfax and Sons Ltd have a clear recollection of it at the present time.
-Order! The Leader of the Opposition will proceed to his point of order.
– The Minister has stated that he knows nothing material to the question which has been asked. He is clearly about to launch on a diatribe which is a political exercise and totally irrelevant to the question. Mr Acting Speaker, how can you consistently rule in this House that Ministers’ answers must be relevant to the question when, after hearing a Minister declare that he knows nothing material to the question, you allow him to launch on an unrelated political diatribe? The proceedings of the House this morning have been somewhat unsettled because of the irrelevancies which have developed in the course of Question Time. I suggest that this is the moment for you to stamp down firmly on the behaviour of Ministers and to re-establish your authority in this House.
-Go back to walloping donkeys.
-Order! On the point -
– I would have found you around a few back alleys.
-I suggest that as the Leader of the Opposition was moved to take a point of order he should be interested in hearing the ruling. The Chair agrees that the answer must be relevant and the Minister has been requested to make his answer relevant. The fact that the Minister foreshadowed that he was not in a position to answer the question fully does not deny him the opportunity to demonstrate that. I call the Minister for National Development.
– I take a point of order. I am afraid that the matter goes a little further than that. The Minister did not concede that he was not fully aware of the matter and that he wanted to make that clear in people ‘s minds but said that he knew nothing about it. We know from his past record in this House that he will demonstrate that beyond any doubt. We are objecting to time being taken up in this way. You cannot consistently rule that Ministers’ answers must be relevant and then let a Minister answer a question about which he has stated clearly and explicitly that he knows nothing. He knows nothing about the material which is central to the question. Mr Acting Speaker, your authority and the respect of this side of the House at least, which is important to your standing and capacity to control this House, is at stake in this matter. There has been nothing but a persistent display of abuse from Ministers this morning towards the Standing Orders and the proper respect for your position in this House. If you allow the Minister for National Development to continue speaking when he has acknowledged that he knows nothing about the subject which is material to the question there will be no respect left for the way in which you conduct the affairs of this House. Your credibility and status in the House is at stake.
-I take a point of order, Mr Acting Speaker. The Leader of the Opposition is reflecting on your status. He is arguing with you under the guise of introducing a point of order. He is deliberately trying to reduce the time allowed for members to debate their grievances and the amount of time they have for questions without notice. I suggest that he be put in his place, where he should remain.
– I will not be in the same place as you.
– Tell us about your police record.
– That would be a good idea. That is why I am able to pick you in one. I know them when I see them.
-Order! The Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the House are not assisting. For some extraordinary reason honourable members in general seem to be possessed with, to put it kindly, an enthusiasm this morning which obliges them to step outside the code of behaviour which they are bound to observe, not only for their personal reputations but also to satisfy the people of Australia that the Parliament is of a standard that can properly acquit itself. The Chair has been reasonably tolerant. It is not intimidated by the hypothesis that the Leader of the Opposition puts. For the Chair to rule of its own volition that an answer is irrelevant it must hear it. If the Leader of the Opposition would provide that opportunity instead of further eroding the time available for questions without notice everybody might be more satisfied. I call the Minister for National Development.
– I will continue my answer. The extraordinary and irrational behaviour of the Leader of the Opposition -
-Order! The Minister will resume his seat. I call the honourable member for La Trobe.
- Mr Acting Speaker, my question is addressed to the Treasurer.
– I raise a point of order. Firstly, I did not have a chance to answer the question. Secondly, the Leader of the Opposition deliberately misrepresented and distorted the answer that I was giving to the honourable member for Reid. The honourable member for Reid asked me a specific question about the effects of the report on New South Wales, Tasmania and other States. I do not have readily available the detail that he has requested. I told him that I would obtain it for him.
-Order! I think that the Minister may have advanced his argument sufficiently for the Chair to make a ruling.
– Further on that point of order -
-The honourable member for Reid will resume his seat.
-The Minister was ruled out of order for making a fool of himself.
-Order! The Leader of the Opposition will remain silent. The Minister was required to resume his seat. After I had ruled that he was entitled to answer the question as long as his answer remained relevant, I gave him the call to continue his answer. The Minister immediately introduced comments which were totally irrelevant to the question, which were condemnatory of the Leader of the Opposition, and which rather tested the authority of the Chair in requiring the Minister to address himself to the question. On that basis and an assessment that the Minister was not establishing relevance, the Minister was required to resume his seat.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Acting Speaker. In the remarks which the Minister has just concluded he said that the Leader of the Opposition had deliberately misled the House. I think that you have ruled consistently that that is not allowed.
-I uphold the point of order. The Minister is required to withdraw the assertion that the Leader of the Opposition had deliberately misled the House.
- Mr Acting Speaker, in deference -
-Order! I ask the Minister to withdraw.
-The honourable member for Maribyrnong uncharacteristically is making a nuisance of himself. The Minister has been asked to withdraw the statement that the Leader of the Opposition had deliberately misled the House. That assertion naturally rests on the motivation that he intended to mislead the House, and on that basis it imputes motives. I call on the Minister to withdraw.
- Mr Acting Speaker, I withdraw.
– Is the Treasurer aware of a call by a prominent political official in Victoria asking local government councils to support a protest against the Government’s federalism policy? Has the Treasurer seen a report in the Knox Sherbrooke News, a prominent newspaper in the electorate of La Trobe, which states that the City of Knox has resolved to support the protest? In view of the Government’s commitment to provide 2 per cent of personal income tax revenues to local government and in view of the dramatic increases in untied revenue grants to the city of Knox under the Fraser Government and the level of funding provided to the States under the federalism policy, does the Treasurer consider that this protest is warranted?
-I call the Treasurer.
– I take a point of order, Mr Acting Speaker. When an honourable member uses a newspaper report as the basis for a question he is required to authenticate that newspaper report. I would like to know whether the honourable member for La Trobe is able to authenticate the report. Is he able to say whether the decision referred to is an actual decision of the Knox City Council or a reported decision.
-I uphold the point of order. In citing that particular Press report the honourable member for La Trobe is required to vouch for its accuracy.
– I vouch for its accuracy.
– I take a further point of order, Mr Acting Speaker. If it is found that the newspaper report of the union official’s statement and the decision of the council is inaccurate, will that then render the honourable member who has vouched for the accuracy of that report liable to have his action of misleading the House referred to the Privileges Committee?
-The Chair will reflect on that question. The honourable member for La Trobe can keep it in mind if he wishes to proceed with his question. The honourable member for La Trobe has posed a question. I call the Treasurer to reply to it.
– My attention has been drawn to a call by the president of the Victorian branch of the Australian Labor Party for a protest by local government councils throughout Australia against the federalism policy. I have to say to the honourable gentleman that I do not read the Knox Sherbrooke News every day, although the particular edition to which he referred has been drawn to my attention. All I wish to say in response to the question of the honourable member for La Trobe is that any political figure in Australia who thinks that he is on the right track and that he is going to win votes by advocating opposition to this Government’s federalism policy is very sadly mistaken. No other area of the Government’s federalism policy has received more support throughout Australia than has our policy of giving greater assistance to local government.
At the last election we made a commitment to increase the percentage share of revenue to local government throughout Australia to 2 per cent. A decision announced in the last Budget has increased that share from 1.52 per cent to 1.75 per cent. We have indicated that the commitment to increase the share to 2 per cent will be met in full by the time the next Budget is introduced. This commitment will mean that all local government units in Australia- there are over 900 of them- will have greater access to funds. There is a sensible arrangement between the Commonwealth Government and the six State governments of Australia to provide to all local government councils per capita assistance and then topping up grants on the recommendation of local government commissions in the various States.
The Government’s federalism policy has meant that in the electorate of the honourable member for La Trobe, for example, the amount of money going to the Knox City Council has increased by approximately 80 per cent to 100 per cent. The local government councils in the electorate of every member of this House, including those represented by members of the Labor Party who are now interjecting-
– That will not help the honourable member for La Trobe; he is in trouble and he knows it.
-The five local government councils in the electorate of the honourable member for Melbourne have done extremely well. The honourable member does not realise how well he has done.
-i take a point of order, Mr Acting Speaker. The Treasurer is dealing with the Knox City Council. Because it was part of an area improvement program under the Labor Government it is actually receiving less money now.
-There is no point of order.
– I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Acting Speaker. In an hour of Question Time today only nine questions were asked and answered. I have a request to make of you, Mr Acting Speaker. My request is that you consult Mr Speaker to determine how Standing Orders can be implemented to ensure that this example of the misuse of Question Time by Ministers can be prevented in the future.
-Order! There is no point of order. The matter that the honourable member for Chifley raises can be taken up in another place.
– With your indulgence, Mr Acting Speaker, I seek leave to add some information to an answer I gave yesterday.
– No. I take a point of order, Mr Acting Speaker. A number of Ministers, but especially the Prime Minister, have been resorting in the course of this session- it has happened on earlier occasions but it has happened notably in the course of this session- to giving answers supplementary to those given at an earlier stage in Question Time. What they do, in fact, is enter into a political debate. Of course, that is a provocative course to follow, especially this morning. The tactics of the Government are quite obvious. I suggest that in the interests of harmony and the proper dispatch of the business of the House the Prime Minister should save his additional information until next week.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Acting Speaker.
– No, I am on a point of order. You sit down. I will not be sat down by you.
– There is no point of order in the matter that the honourable gentleman has raised, Mr Acting Speaker.
– I am not going to be sat down by the Prime Minister. My God!
-The Leader of the Opposition will proceed with his point of order.
– What I am putting to you, Mr Acting Speaker, is that the Prime Minister can take the opportunity during Question Time next week to make known the view which he wishes to put forward. It is not proper to do so now. The Prime Minister is just exploiting the situation by trying to add something that he did not have enough courage to add in the course of Question Time.
-The Leader of the Opposition has taken his point of order.
– The Prime Minister ought to use the proper forms of this House -
-The Leader of the Opposition has made his point of order.
– To debate matters that it is his right to debate.
-The matter raised by the Leader of the Opposition does not come altogether within the ambit of a point of order. Although the Chair does have a certain latitude to extend indulgence, in the prevailing circumstances the Chair is not inclined to grant that indulgence for the purpose stated.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) proposed:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Prime Minister incorporating two documents in Hansard and making an appropriate statement thereon to the House.
-Is the honourable member for Corio speaking on a point of order?
– I am speaking to the motion.
-The question has not been put.
– If the question is put, you cannot speak to it. It has been moved. The motion is therefore before the Chair.
– I move: ‘That the question be now put’.
– You cannot do that.
-The honourable member for Corio was not in order. The Chair had not stated the question.
– You are quite right, and neither is the Minister able to do that.
-The question is: That the motion be agreed to’.
-Mr Acting Speaker, speaking to the motion, the abuse of the Standing Orders of this House by Ministers is a disgrace.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) proposed:
That the question be now put.
-Order! The honourable member for Corio will resume his seat. The original question was:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent -
-Mr Acting Speaker, may I rise to take a point of order? The House is very concerned that the Prime Minister, who has no respect for his own office, is going to repeat his performance of the other day of attacking a man while he was attending his mother’s funeral.
Opposition members- Shame!
-Order! There is no point of order.
– It is a disgrace.
-Order! The honourable member for Shortland will assist by remaining silent. The question now before the House is:
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr Acting Speaker-Mr P. C. Millar)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question put-
That the motion (Mr Sinclair’s) be agreed to.
The House divided. ( Mr Acting Speaker-Mr P. C. Millar)
Question so resolved in the affirmative by an absolute majority.
-Mr Acting Speaker, I rise on a matter of privilege. A few moments ago, when I approached you and asked the Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair) to try to assist you in the very difficult position this morning, in your presence he clearly said: ‘Do you want a punch on the nose if you don’t let me speak to the Acting Speaker about the weather?’ Mr Acting Speaker, you heard him quite clearly threaten me with violence. It is a matter of privilege, and I seek your protection. I draw your attention to a passage on page 151 of Erskine May which is titled: ‘Molestation of Members on Account of their Conduct in Parliament’. It reads:
It is a breach of privilege to molest any Member of either House on account of his conduct in Parliament.
I approached you, sir, in good will and with good intent, and received a threat of bloody violence from the Leader of the House. I ask you to refer the matter to the Privileges Committee.
- Mr Acting Speaker, I take a point of order. Before any debate can take place on this matter, I think it is incumbent upon you to rule whether a matter of privilege exists -
-Order! There is no point of order.
– I rise on the matter of privilege. Mr Acting Speaker, in a private conversation which I had with you regarding the drought situation in your own electorate- which happens, unfortunately to be, one of the most drought-prone in Australia- I was interrupted by a member of the Opposition in a manner which in no way related to the discussion that was taking place. If anything that I said to you about that drought situation in any way affected the privileges and priorities of this House, I apologise. However, it surprises me if it is improper for a member of this chamber to talk to another member on a matter of importance to his own constituency. Mr Acting Speaker, with respect to the other charges, they were peculiarly a matter of discussion between you and me on matters that have nothing to do with the honourable member. There was no threat of violence. I contend that in those circumstances there certainly is no matter of privilege.
– On the matter of privilege, the Chair will consider the matter and report to the House.
- Mr Acting Speaker, before you put the matter, let me say that the point made by the Leader of the House is quite irrelevant. It is the right of every member of this chamber to approach you at any time, because you are the protector of our rights. Mr Acting Speaker, you know that I approached you and the Leader of the House in a courteous way, to seek assistance for you in a difficult situation. I received a bloody threat of violence from a bully boy. I ask that that be referred to the Privileges Committee.
-Order! The Chair will consider the matter and report to the House.
- Mr Acting Speaker -
Motion ( by Mr Keating) proposed:
That the honourable member be not further heard.
-Is the motion seconded?
- Mr Acting Speaker, I move:
That the question be now put.
-There is a question already before the House, namely, that the Prime Minister be not further heard. It must be put immediately.
A division having been called for and the bells having been rung-
- Mr Acting Speaker, I take a point of order on your ruling. Have we not just voted to suspend Standing Orders to allow the Prime Minister to speak? Does that not mean, in turn, that the House has granted that permission and therefore a gag motion cannot be moved?
-There is no point of order.
The House divided. (Mr Acting Speaker-Mr P. C. Millar)
-Order! There is no point of order.
Question so resolved in the negative.
-One document that I wanted to incorporate in Hansard was a note to me from the Public Service Board. It gives an account of the processes leading to the engagement of Mr Petro Georgiou as Secretary to the Ethnic Television Review Panel. The third paragraph of that note states:
On 5 September 1979 the Secretary of the Postal and Telecommunications Department wrote to the Secretary of the Public Service Board about the appointment of a new Secretary to the Review Panel. He said that the position required a well experienced person with senior status, the necessary interests in and awareness of this sensitive subject area, and a familiarity with Government. He had considered several suggestions without being satisfied that the people brought to his attention had the necessary criteria, and considered that Mr Petro Georgiou clearly met the criteria.
That is one document that I would like to have incorporated in Hansard. The other document concerns a statement from the Australian Greek Welfare Society. It is signed by Dr Spiro Moraitis, President, and Mr George Papadopolous, Chairman, of the Australian Greek Welfare Society. The document states:
Secondly, as to the question of Mr Georgiou himself we do not believe or accept that he will engender political partisanship or political control into the area of ethnic television. To our knowledge Mr Georgiou has a competent understanding of the nature and problems of ethnic communities in Australian society and we believe that by virtue of academic background and involvement on the Prime Minister’s staff in recent years he has gained sensitivity and understanding with respect to problems of public administration.
I do not have to ask for leave to incorporate these documents as the House has voted on the matter. They are the two documents to be incorporated in Hansard.
The documents read as follows-
On 19 September 1978 the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs and the Minister for Post and Telecommunications released a joint statement on action to introduce, in 2 stages, an ethnic television service. The first stage comprising experimental broadcasts of special ethnic programs, commenced in April 1979. The second stage, a permanent service, is due to commence in 1 980.
The Australian Greek Welfare Society is concerned at several matters which have become confused in the debate following the appointment of Mr Petro Georgiou to the Secretary of the Ethnic Television Review Panel. We fear that unless immediate steps are taken to clarify the issues, confusion already engendered will make progress impossible.
Firstly, it must be stated clearly that the Ethnic Television Review Panel is separate from the Special Broadcasting Service and is performing vitally separate functions.
Secondly, as to the question of Mr Georgiou himself we do not believe or accept that he will engender political partisanship or political control into the area of ethnic television. To our knowledge Mr Georgiou has a competent understanding of the nature and problems of ethnic communities in Australian society and we believe that by virtue of academic background and involvement on the Prime Minister’s staff in recent years he has gained sensitivity and understanding with respect to problems of public administration.
We anticipate that Mr Georgiou will make significant contributions to the work of the Ethnic Television Review Panel to which he is Secretary.
Dr Spiro Moraitis, O.B.E. M.B.B.S, President, and Mr George Papadopolous, L.L.M., Chairman of the Australian Greek Welfare Society.
-Is leave granted?
Government members- No.
– What are you afraid to debate in the House? We have a Prime Minister who will not participate in debate.
- Mr Acting Speaker, I raise a point of order by putting a question to you. Is it true that the former Australian Labor Party Minister, Mr Fred Daly, has been appointed by this Government to the Australian Council Community Arts Board?
– Order! The honourable member for Bendigo will resume his seat.
-Is the honourable member raising a point of order?
– No, I want to raise a matter with you, Mr Acting Speaker, and ask you to raise it with Mr Speaker. On today’s Notice Paper a motion appears which is to be moved by the
Leader of the House relating to the establishment of a series of committees. I want to raise with you, Mr Acting Speaker, the continual practice of ignoring the fact that this House has a Standing Orders Committee which is designed to, and which should, examine changes to procedures. I ask you to ask Mr Speaker to take up with the Government the growing practice of the Government party room taking over from the Standing Orders Committee responsibility for deciding how the House will be conducted. The Standing Orders Committee has not met and its reports have not been debated in this House for at least six years.
-Pursuant to section 122 of the Repatriation Act 1 920, 1 present an interim statement on the activities of the Repatriation Commission for 1978-79.
– Pursuant to section 50b of the Defence Service Homes Act 1918, 1 present an interim statement on operations under the defence service homes scheme 1 978-79.
– For the information of honourable members, I present a report on the National Environmental Economics Conference held in 1978 together with the text of a statement by the Minister for Science and the Environment (Senator Webster). Copies of the report are available from the Parliamentary Library.
– For the information of honourable members, I present the first report of the Uranium Advisory Council 1978-79 and I seek leave to make a statement relating to this report.
-For the information of honourable members I have pleasure in tabling the first report of the Uranium Advisory Council covering the operations of the Council for the period ended 30 June 1979. Honourable members will remember that one of the principal recommendations of the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry was that a uranium advisory council should be established to advise the Government and report to Parliament with regard to the export and use of Austraiian uranium having in mind the hazards, dangers and problems of and associated with the production of nuclear energy. The terms of reference of the Council and the groups from which representation would be drawn were set out in my statement to the Parliament on 10 April 1978.
On 24 November 1978 I was pleased to announce the names of the distinguished group of Australians who would serve on the Council under the Chairmanship of Sir Laurence Mclntyre. The Council held its inaugural meeting in January 1979 and has met regularly since. As honourable members will see from the report, the Council has been most industrious in informing itself on issues related to the nuclear fuel cycle and it has had already initiated studies of several issues which it sees as relevant to the development of the uranium industry in Australia. I look forward to receiving its reports on these studies.
In its first report, the Council has drawn attention to the question of communications between itself and the Government. In the initial stages of any independent advisory body there will be an inevitable settling-in period during which the relationship between the advisory body and the Government is developed. The Government notes the Council’s desire to be kept closely informed on areas where Government decisions might be made in the future and I have drawn the Council’s comments in this regard to the attention of my ministerial colleagues. The extensive briefings provided to the Council by departments and related statutory bodies, referred to in the Council’s report, reflect the Government’s desire that the Uranium Advisory Council be fully informed on matters of Government policy. I have already asked the Council for its views on the possibility of the Government disposing of its interests in the Ranger uranium project. I will refer to this aspect later. I am also referring to the Council the final environmental impact statements of Pancontinental Mining Ltd and Noranda Australia Ltd, when prepared, together with any comments, suggestions and recommendations provided by the Minister for Science and the Environment (Senator Webster) under the environmental protection administrative procedures.
In formulating the role and functions of the Uranium Advisory Council, the Government was conscious of the suggestion of the Ranger inquiry that the Council should have a substantial degree of independence and be able to undertake periodic reviews of Government policy. In this regard the Government has been expecting that the Council will be self-motivated in pursuing the role envisaged for it by the Ranger inquiry. I also would wish to see the Council take up the suggestion of the Ranger inquiry that the Council could provide accurate information to the public in order that the public may be kept fully informed. I consider that the Uranium Advisory Council has an important role to play which will not only involve it in responding to matters referred to it by the Government from time to time, but also will require the Council to demonstrate a significant measure of initiative in order to establish the level of public confidence envisaged by the Ranger inquiry.
In relation to the Ranger uranium project, honourable members are aware that the Government is examining proposals for the acquisition of its interests in the project. As I indicated in answer to a question by the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) on 21 August, the Government has not yet decided whether or not it will dispose of its interests in that project. That decision will not be taken until we have an opportunity to examine proposals submitted by companies. I also mention that I have asked my Department to investigate the possibility of divesting the Government’s shareholding in Mary Kathleen Uranium Ltd. As I have mentioned, I asked the Uranium Advisory Council for its views on the possibility of the Government disposing of its interests in the Ranger project. The Council has advised me in a letter dated 22 August 1979 that the prevailing view of the Council is that the Government should continue to retain a substantial interest in Ranger with most members believing that the Government should not at present contemplate selling any of its share. However, in its letter the Council does indicate that some members have suggested that, whilst any sale of the Government’s interest in whole or in part, if there is to be a decision to sell, should be made for the most part to an Australian consortium, it would be appropriate to allow some overseas buyers to acquire a minority interest.
The Council goes on to say that, if the Government does decide not to sell, it should establish a separate commercial authority to take over the management of its interest -from the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, leaving the Commission to carry out its nuclear and other energy research and advisory functions. I seek leave to have the full text of the letter from the Council incorporated in Hansard.
The letter read as follows-
Postal Address: P.O. Box 229, Dickson A.C.T. 2602 Telephone: (062) 47 4399 22 August 1979
The Rt Hon. J. D. Anthony, M.P. Minister for Trade and Resources Parliament House Canberra A.C.T. 2600
My dear Minister,
Your letter of 6 August 1979 inviting the views of the Uranium Advisory Council on the possibility of the Commonwealth Government’s disposing of its interest in the Ranger uranium project was discussed at length by the Council at its last meeting in Canberra on 9-10 August.
The Council has considered the possible effects of such a sale to be:
a delay in the development of the project;
The Council has been presented with two opposing views on what form of ownership is most likely to facilitate the project: on the one hand, that most overseas buyers would prefer the Government to be directly involved in order to increase the project’s chances of fulfilment,- on the other hand, that if the Government should sell its share it would be morally obliged to do everything possible to ensure the success of the project and would have less flexibility in decisionmaking than it now has.
In considering possible reasons why the Government is prepared to examine proposals for the acquisition of its interest in Ranger, the Council has noted that one reason, given in your public statement of 6 August, is that participation of the Commonwealth in a mining project is contrary to the political philosophy of this Government. This is a matter for political decision rather than for comment by this Council.
The Council identified a second possible reason as arising from the pressure of budgetary constraints. The Council would be concerned if short-term considerations should appear to take priority over long-term considerations, and accordingly hopes that whatever decisions the Government may take can be clearly shown to be in accord with the national interest. With this in mind some members feel strongly that if a sale of the Government’s holdings in Ranger is to take place it should be made to a consortium of demonstrably Australian companies.
The Council recognised that a third reason could be future difficulties in marketing uranium as perceived by the Government. In this connexion the Council has been told that some overseas buyers may prefer to do business with private enterprise, and some members have accordingly suggested that while any sale of the Government’s interest in whole or in part (if there is to be a decision to sell) should be made for the most part to an Australian consortium, it would be appropriate to allow some overseas buyers to acquire a minority interest.
Notwithstanding this concession by some members, the prevailing view of the Council is that the Government should continue to retain a substantial interest in Ranger. Furthermore, most members believe that the Government should not a present contemplate selling any of its share. At the sametime they consider that if the Government does decide not to sell, it should establish a separate commercial authority to take over the management of its interest from the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, leaving the Commission to carry out its nuclear and other energy research and advisory functions.
The Council will be maintaining its interest in this matter, and would like to be kept informed as far as possible of developments in the Government’s thinking, especially if it should move towards making changes in its Ranger shareholding. The Council will meet again in Perth in mid-October.
-The Government will be proceeding to examine proposals submitted by companies for acquisition of the Government’s interests in Ranger. The views of the Council will be taken into account by the Government when it finally takes a decision on this matter, but as the Council has noted the decision is ultimately a political decision. In its letter the Council does refer to environmental, safety and other controls and regulations on uranium development. I will be asking the Council to examine this aspect more closely and to advise me whether it sees any particular difficulties in this area. The Government has received about 50 expressions of interest in acquiring the Government’s interests in the Ranger project. As I previously advised the House, this interest exposes the falseness of the argument of those people who say that there is no market for or interest in uranium. Indeed, the market outlook for uranium over the balance of this century is very encouraging. Over 800 reactors are either operating, under construction, ordered or planned in some 47 countries. I have been advised by the Australian Uranium Export Office that the demand for natural uranium is expected to increase from 37,000 short tons U308 this year to about 100,000 short tons U3Os in 1990. Indeed, in regard to the period beyond the late 1980s, the question is not whether there will be a market for uranium but whether there will be a productive capacity available to meet the requirements of the reactors then in use. There can be no question that the orderly development now of the Australian uranium mining industry will not only bring economic benefits to this country, both over the next decade and beyond, but also it will make an essential contribution to world energy requirements to the overall betterment of future international economic stability and prosperity. I present the following paper:
Uranium Advisory Council First Report- Ministerial Statement, 13 September 1979.
Motion (by Mr Fife) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
-This is an amazing statement by the Minister for Trade and Resources (Mr Anthony) and also an amazing report from the Uranium Advisory Council. The Government has said consistently that it intends to be responsible about uranium mining and in response to the advice which it receives from the various instrumentalities and monitoring bodies that it has established. Quite obviously, the Uranium Advisory Council is very unhappy with the kind of treatment which is being meted out to it by the Government. Quite obviously, the Government has ignored the advice of that body and in fact made decisions without reference to it.
The Minister quite properly says that since its first meeting in January 1979 the Uranium Advisory Council has done a considerable amount of work. Obviously it has, but largely it has been in vain because that work has not benefited the Government because the Government has largely ignored the Council.
I refer to the first report of the Uranium Advisory Council, a report which is sent to the Minister under the name of Sir Laurence McIntyre, a former distinguished public servant and chairman of this body, a man not given to this kind of expression unless there is good cause. On page 4 of its report, the Council stated: . . we have experienced problems in ensuring that Ministers and Departments keep us informed on matters relevant to our functions. For example, at the time we visited the Northern Territory in May, a Government report concerning, inter alia, radiation levels at Nabarlek had not been referred to us.
The report continued:
Changes in Government policies relating to foreign investment in uranium projects, reported by the Treasurer in June when he announced the approval granted to the Yeelirrie project, is another example.
The report continued: . . if Council’s advice to the Government is to be of use, it should be offered before decisions are made and matters should be referred to it at an early stage of debate.
Quite obviously the Government has completely ignored this body. The Government has set up this body and then ignored it. On page 8 of the report, the Council stated:
The Council has so far received only one formal request for advice -
Now, so much for all the platitudinous nonsense we have heard from the Government about how it is going to monitor uranium, establish the right kinds of bodies and get the best advice! The Government has got advice and has just gone ahead and absolutely ignored it. On 7 August, the Minister announced his decision concerning the Government’s intention to inquire into the sale of the Ranger project. The advice of the Council was received on 22 August. The Government has made one request only for advice from the Uranium Advisory Council. The Council’s advice was tendered to the Government on 22 August. However, the Government made its decision on 7 August, 1 5 days earlier. So much for consultation and so much for having a body which should advise the Government in this area! The Minister also took the opportunity to mention that he is investigating the possibility of selling Mary Kathleen Uranium Ltd. This Government is just demented about selling everything which is in the Commonwealth’s name.
I noticed the report in the newspapers today that there is again a lobby within the Government to try to sell Trans-Australia Airlines. Telecom Australia is another one which is already up for consideration as well as the Commonwealth Bank. So not only do we have the prospect of Ranger being sold but also the Deputy Prime Minister now says that he is considering selling the Government’s share of Mary Kathleen, the only operating uranium mine in Australia. The Government, with all its pious platitudes about the control of the industry, is going to hop out of Mary Kathleen and leave it exclusively to private enterprise. The Opposition wants to know this: Will the Minister ask the Council’s advice on this? When will he ask its advice and will he take any notice of the advice when it is given or will he just ignore it and ignore this body also?
The report of the Uranium Advisory Council and a letter sent by it to the Minister are very interesting. The letter shows quite clearly that the members of the Council are opposed to the Government’s selling its share of Ranger. On page 2 of the letter, the Council stated: the prevailing view of the Council is that the Government should continue to retain a substantial interest in Ranger.
It is perhaps a guarded reference that the Government should keep what it has. The Council said earlier in the letter:
With this in mind some members feel strongly -
That is, some members of the Uranium Advisory Council: that if a sale of the Government’s holdings in Ranger is to take place it should be made to a consortium of demonstrably Australian companies.
That is, the Government may want to sell out on Australia but obviously the bureaucrats involved in the Uranium Advisory Council are tendering advice to the Government that it should not sell Ranger. But if it does sell Ranger, it should not sell it to foreign interests -
– They are not bureaucrats.
– I take the point; they are not bureaucrats. But they are advisers to the Government and they are prepared to say to the Government that it should not sell Ranger. No doubt they will be tendering the same advice to the Government that it should not sell its holdings in the Mary Kathleen uranium venture. In its letter, the Council continued:
At the same dme they consider that if the Government does decide not to sell, it should establish a commercial authority . . .
That is in line with what the Australian Labor Party has been saying about splitting the Australian Atomic Energy Commission’s functions and having a commercial authority to manage the commercial activities of the Commission. The Government is getting that advice from its advisers, not just from the Opposition, so it is quite reasonable for the Opposition to say that the Government has absolutely ignored the Uranium Advisory Council. The Government has broken commitments that it has given to the House to consult these bodies. The Government had decided to take tenders for Ranger before I blew the whistle on the 75 per cent-25 per cent policy which shot any prospect of the Government’s selling 50 per cent of Ranger to foreign interests down the drain. Now Peko-EZ and other Australian companies are looking at the prospect of buying the other half of the deposit themselves, perhaps with a small level of foreign equity.
Obviously the Uranium Advisory Council believes that the Government should hold to Ranger itself. The preference of the Opposition is that the Government should maintain its share of Ranger. In its letter the Uranium Advisory Council continues:
The Council has considered the possible effects of such a sale to be:
a delay in the development of the project;
a loss of confidence in Australia, and particularly Ranger, as a supplier of uranium among consumer countries;
a reduction in public confidence in environmental safety and other controls and regulations concerning uranium development, including those governing the sale of the product.
They were the inputs, the matters which the Council considered during this discussion about Ranger. The Council makes it clear in the letter that it feels there will be a loss of confidence in Australia, that the Government pulled the rug from under its own partners under its policy and indeed has jeopardised the project. The Opposition does not intend to be mealy mouthed. We do not intend that Ranger should go ahead, but at the same time we do not believe the deposits should be sold out to international oil companies with a50 per cent interest in the Ranger deposit being taken up by foreign interests. That is what the Government considers.
Quite obviously the Council is perturbed by the Government’s insolence in completely disregarding its advice. The Government completely ignored the only report on information which it had made of this body by making an announcement some 15 days before the advice was tendered to the Government. The Council’s letter also goes on to say that it regrets the equity decision on Yeerilirrie without reference to it. It makes the point that the Government should retain its share of Ranger. I add my tuppenceworth to that. The Government should maintain its share of Mary Kathleen as well.
Debate (on motion by Mr Wilson) adjourned.
-(Hon. Ian Robinson) - I have received a message from the Senate acquainting the House that the Senate concurs in the resolution of the House varying the resolution of the appointment of the Joint Committee on the Family Law Act.
That grievances be noted.
Motion (by Mr Fife)- by leave- agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the consideration of Order of the Day No. 1, Government Business, Grievance Debate, being continued until 1 p.m.
– I grieve for the Bank of Adelaide and the job opportunities which it represents for South Australia and South Australians. With one stroke of the pen, the Liberal Treasurer of this nation (Mr Howard) could strike a blow for justice and give the opportunity for the continuing separate existence of the only regional trading bank in the Australian private sector. If the Bank of Adelaide is taken over by the Australia and New Zealand Banking Group, which will be the result of the present actions of the Federal Liberal Government, in spite of the valiant efforts of the Corcoran Labor Government in Adelaide and of a number of others whom I hope to mention, then all the major trading banks in Australia will be controlled from Melbourne or Sydney.
But what worries me most of all at this time of high unemployment is the lost job opportunities for over 1,200 South Australians at a time when my State is suffering more than enough because of the Federal Government’s stagnating economic policies. Eighty job opportunities in the Bank of Adelaide subsidary, Finance Corporation of Australia Ltd, have been lost already. As a result of earlier mergers hundreds of jobs in the Australian banking system have been lost already. Maybe we shall get assurances that no one will be sacked in the ANZ takeover of the Bank of Adelaide, but can we believe those assurances? Even if we can, we know that bank branches will be merged, job opportunities will be fewer, promotion opportunities will be lessened and officers of both banks who retire or leave of their own accord will not be replaced. The staff organisations of both banks in South Australia- the ANZ Bank and the Bank of Adelaide- realise this and have had meetings and lodged protests. All that has been to no avail so far.
But this is not the only element of lost job opportunities. The Bank of Adelaide is the only trading bank in the private sector which has South Australian directors. They know the South Australian scene. That means greater loan opportunities for South Australian enterprises because of the possibility of a loan, not only from the Bank of Adelaide but also from the other banks. The Bank of Adelaide and South Australia cannot be ignored by the other banks whilst they know that there is an Adelaide bank to which the loan applications can be turned. But if the Bank of Adelaide goes, South Australia ‘s needs will be ignored. The old boy network in Melbourne and Sydney will ensure that preference is given to Melbourne and Sydney. The regions of our country- Adelaide, Perth and built-on Brisbane- will be ignored more than they are ignored now.
Why is this appalling threat hanging over us? It is because there was an error of judgment on the part of directors and management of the Bank of Adelaide and its subsidiary, FCA. Through FCA, investment was made in some land which has not yet realised its expected value. If held for long enough, the investment would be good. If only we could have some expansionary policies from the Federal Government and get this economy of ours going again. In the short run there was a temporary loss of confidence. FCA, not the Bank of Adelaide, was borrowing short to lend long. It was lending on that land. Because FCA is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Bank of Adelaide, the bank has suffered. I have nothing but praise for the rescue operation of the Reserve Bank of Australia and other banks in the Australian banking system when there was that loss of confidence. There was a possibility of $80m to $90m being needed in a hurry to salvage that confidence. It was found. I realise that a new injection of funds of a more permanent nature probably was and is needed for the Bank of Adelaide and that it should come from a source which has banking knowledge and experience. I can accept all these things, although I think that we now realise that the affairs of the bank were and are not nearly as bad as we originally thought and that the bank and FCA could probably trade their way out of their temporary difficulties.
My objection- my grief- is that in the agreement which was drawn up hastily in a time of stress, when those involved thought the affairs were much worse than they were, the stipulation was laid down by the Reserve Bank and others that the Bank of Adelaide should merge withthat is a misleading phrase; be taken over by, would be more appropriate- another bank in the Australian banking system. That limited the number of people who could make offers for the Bank of Adelaide. That limitation has had an enormously adverse effect on what the bank can do- what the directors were left to do- and has had an enormously adverse effect on Adelaide and South Australia. This narrowed the field to far too great an extent. It has undervalued the license to bank, that valuable licence which is held by the Bank of Adelaide. For months now I have been asking the Liberal Treasurer, in whose hands this matter rests, to arrange for that stipulation to be altered. Four weeks ago tomorrow, to be exact, I sent him my latest telex on the subject. I know that he is surprised that I have not yet received a reply. I spoke to him today and warned him that I was going to speak on the subject in this debate. From what he has told me, I understand that he is not going to reply in the way that I want. Previously I received from him a totally unsatisfactory answer in which he said that he was not going to change anything, that he was not going to agree to lifting that stipulation that the bank could merge only with another bank in the Australian banking system. The Bank of Adelaide’s directors, he said, had already agreed to the merger with the ANZ Banking Group.
I know that other South Australian members present in the chamber who are interested in this subject would agree that that was not in any way a satisfactory answer. The Bank of Adelaide directors have had their hands tied by the agreement that the bank could merge only with another bank in the Australian banking system. Of course, when left with that very tight stipulation they had no alternative but to accept the best offer from another bank in the Australian banking system. Undoubtedly, that best offer was from the ANZ bank. If each one of us went privately to any one of those directors and asked him what he wanted he would say: ‘Look, this bank is a viable, going proposition. It is not in any danger whatsoever. It is a valuable institution which originated in South Australia. It should have a continuing existence here in South Australia’. I object to the Treasurer’s seeking to pull wool over my eyes and over the eyes of others by hiding behind the fact that the Bank of Adelaide directors recommended this merger.
Because of the delicacy of these affairs and the need for confidence I have kept out of the public arena to the greatest extent possible on this subject. I could have entered that arena to an enormously greater extent than I have done. I believe that other syndicates should be invited to make offers for the whole or part of the Bank of Adelaide. I realise that those syndicates must have the approval of the Reserve Bank and of the authorities generally. For instance, the syndicates must show that they have banking expertise and experience. I realise that that is one of the stipulations that should be laid down. But I would lay down also that any syndicate making an offer for the Bank of Adelaide should have no more than a 40 per cent overseas shareholding. I named this figure because I have been told that this is the extent of the foreign shareholding in the ANZ Banking Group, that bank in the Australian banking system which has been given the nod and which at the moment looks as though it is going to purchase the Bank of Adelaide for a song. I am now told that overseas holdings in the ANZ Banking Group are probably a lot more than 40 per cent. I believe that other syndicates which have only 40 per cent or less overseas shareholdings and which have banking experience would be prepared to make an offer for at least half the shares of the Bank of Adelaide. That would not only give bank shareholders a greater return for that half of their shares that they would sell but also would- this is what is vital- provide that continuing separate existence for the Bank of Adelaide in South Australia as a regional bank. I know of one offer which would have given the Bank of Adelaide shareholders 50c more per share for half their shares than is being offered by the ANZ Banking Group. But the Treasurer has not approved of that offer being made to shareholders. That offer would give the Bank of Adelaide a continuing separate existence which I have already said is so important to us in South Australia. I appeal to the Treasurer to make this simple decision in favour of the bank so that it can have that continuing separate existence.
I pay tribute to Mr Cyril White of Verbatim Reporters Pty Ltd in Perth, who at his own expense put advertisements into newspapers and received 250 letters and 1,850 signatures in reply. I pay tribute to Mr Meyer Solomon, Mr Des Rundle, Mr Vin Keane, Mr Bill Hayes and many others in Adelaide who have fought for the Bank of Adelaide. It is sound. Everyone can have confidence in that bank. I pay tribute to Des Corcoran of the South Australian Labor Government for that Government’s struggle.
I hope that all shareholders, depositors and, indeed, supporters of the Bank of Adelaide next Saturday will give Des Corcoran their support to continue the battle. At the moment, the Liberals are responsible for Adelaide losing its bank. South Australians should remember this as they go to the polls. It is only if there is a resounding vote for Des Corcoran and others by those who support the Bank of Adelaide that we will have the right sort of support to request the Treasurer to change the decision that he has made, or indeed demand that he do so. That change is a simple one. The Opposition only wants him, by a stroke of the pen, to allow another syndicate to make an offer for the Bank of Adelaide so that interest in the Bank is not restricted, as it is now, to another bank in the Australian banking system. I grieve on this subject. I believe it is absolutely vital for the Bank of Adelaide to continue its existence.
-(Hon. Ian Robinson) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I ask leave of the House to move a motion to extend further the time allowed for Grievance Debate.
– One o’clock is the normal time for suspending the sitting for lunch. This is just a subterfuge. I do not think we ought to have a vote on this. It is due to the Government’s own considerations and actions earlier that we have a limited time for Grievance Debate. I think it ought to conclude at one o ‘clock.
– The Government is prepared to make additional time available for private members to speak in the Grievance Debate but if the Opposition wishes to curtail this debate so be it.
– There is a misunderstanding. I thought that the Government wanted to extend the sitting past one o’clock. We will give leave to the Minister to move his motion.
Motion (by Mr Fife)- by leave- agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the consideration of Order of the Day No. 1 Government Business, Grievance Debate, being continued until 2.23 p.m.
– I rise to grieve this afternoon in general terms about the two-airline policy. I hope on subsequent occasions to be able to develop the argument in more specific terms. In short, I believe the twoairline policy to be economic madness which is costing Australia dearly. It is not the only reason that we are suffering our unemployment problems or budgetary deficit problems. But I do believe that, in terms of the prohibitive effect the two-airline policy is having on the tourist industry, our greatest potential growth industry, it certainly is a significant factor. It is certainly the reason why more and more Australians- last year there were a million of them- fly their money overseas and in doing so create overseas jobs instead of jobs in Australia, while threequarters of Australia’s own tourist industry struggles even to get off the ground. I believe it is a reason why our nation, once a pioneer and a world leader in long-distance aviation, now has probably the most regulation-ridden, the most feather-bedded and possibly the least efficient airline industry in the Western world.
The two-airline policy was designed for an industry in its infancy. It has been maintained by successive governments to date but it is now grossly out of date. I would describe it as the greatest protectionist document of all time. It continues to prop up and spoon feed this country’s airline duopoly at the consumers expense. Mr Deputy Speaker, I believe that one only has to look at the two-airline policy to appreciate and understand what I mean. It provides for two, and only two, major interestate airlines in Australia. Under its so-called Rationalisation Arrangements these two airlines are forbidden to compete in any way with respect to fares, equipment, services or schedules. Worse than that, no other airline may compete with the two major airlines. They must meet and set their fares together, an action which is totally illegal for other companies under the Trade Practices Act. In fact, other companies have been fined up to $100,000 for similar price fixing. The Airlines Agreements Act on which the two-airline policy is based, has even been found to be in contravention of section 92 of the Constitution- that is the free interstate trade section- but support for the policy nevertheless keeps out even the threat of potential competition by prohibiting the importation of aircraft suitable for economic passenger operation on long interstate distances. The result is that the two major airlines are able to operate inefficiently, none competitively, and earn and share monopolistic profits.
The two-airline policy sends our tourists overseas. I ask honourable members to take an example. Would a prudent Sydneysider pay above $400 for an economy return fare to Perth when he can pay less than $400 return and travel over twice the distance to Honolulu and have thrown in seven nights of luxury hotel accommodation. How can we compete on that basis? The two-airline policy disadvantages all Australians and especially those who do not live in the major commercial, industrial and political centres of the south-east corner of our continent. The twoairline policy increases the cost of virtually every business in Australia. It impoverishes sporting bodies and the like whose members wish to travel for interstate competition. I stress again that it prohibits the growth of our tourist industry, prevents thousands of Australians from seeing their own country and keeps friends and relations apart. 1 do not believe this situation should continue.
Recent United States experience shows us what can be achieved if we take the right decisions. After decades of similar centralised bureaucratic control, the United States Government announced that, apart from safety factors, it would completely deregulate its interstate airline industry over the next five years. No chaos or confusion has occurred. There have been immediate and massive fare reductions, with many companies competing for increased business.
– At record profits.
– At record profits, as the honourable member for Moore (Mr Hyde) interjects. One can now travel from New York to San Francisco, a distance of over 4,000 kilometres for less than $ 100. If we compare that with the Sydney to Perth fare over a shorter distance we see what we are up against in Australia. I believe that deregulation in Australia along similar lines can have the same positive benefits and results.
The Department of Transport’s recent review of the Australian domestic airline policy at least recognises that the two-airline agreement allows for a lack of competition in the industry, denies the public adequate choice of fares and departure times, and allows for gross inefficiency, However, while recognising these failings within the industry, the Department considers the best method of improving airline services is for industry self-regulation within a framework of only minor changes to the two-airline policy. In my opinion, on the record of Ansett Airlines of Australia and Trans-Australia Airlines, there will be little change to the status quo. Any change that may occur will certainly be long overdue, and I think will occur only after intense ministerial pressure. Australians require an efficient, profitable airline service which caters for their needs and preferences -
– Particularly in Western Australia.
-Particularly in Western Australia. Unless change occurs Australia’s domestic airlines will continue to have air fares which are unnecessarily high, a gross inefficient misallocation of resources, and a policy which discourages innovation and market arrangements which are not tailored to the public demand. We ask the question: What can be done? To date ministerial pressure has resulted in improvements under the two-airline policy. The week before we heard the Minister list in this House some of the improvements- stand-by fares, advance purchase fares, super APEX fares, international add-ons and the like. These improvements are certainly not to be denied and the Minister is to be congratulated for them. But these very achievements have been made against the two-airline policy and only after intense pressure on the part of the Minister.
I believe it is now high time for the two-airline policy itself to be tackled. As a first step, I believe the rationalisation arrangements should be scrapped. That would remove the hurdles to innovative fares and allow genuine independence of action and competition between the two major airlines in respect of time-tables, flight frequencies, stopping places, aircraft type, capacity, freight, loading and so forth. As an important second step, barriers against market entry into the industry should be removed. Other firms should be allowed to expand into new markets and offer different services. Even further, other firms should be allowed to come into the market place for the first time and to offer whatever services they can, provided that the safety standards are met and that they pay the current relevant costs such as airport charges. I believe that such changes would see a more competitive market in the airline industry, an industry which is more dynamic and innovative and which has a more responsive attitude and outlook to market needs and consumer demands in terms of prices, schedules and services.
In a general sense I think that foremost amongst Australia’s problems today is the structural rigidity of many of our institutions. One can think of many examples such as the apprenticeship system, the wage fixing system and the industrial relations system.
The two-airline policy is one of those rigid, outdated and outmoded institutions designed to meet circumstances which no longer exist. Its retention now is not only not in the best interests of Australia but also carries positive disadvantages. In seeking change I believe that our responsibility is not to the two major airlines but to Australian consumers and that we should bring about a situation whereby the airlines can no longer continue the cosy, cossetted noncompetitive relationship which they have at the moment. If we take this important step I believe that we will be advancing Australia’s progress in a most important and responsible way. We should begin immediately to deregulate the twoairline industry.
– I grieve for the fact that in the past 10 days the economy of South Australia has been subjected to the most unprecedented assault and denigration. That has been done not in the pursuit of truth or of any rational debate about that economy, but in the pursuit of naked partisan self-interest. The vendetta has in fact not been led by the Liberal Opposition in South Australia, but by the local Murdoch newspaper and a local businessmen’s group acting as a kind of front for the Liberal Opposition.
Night after night, not merely in the editorials of the News, but in its front pages, its headlines and its selection of stories, it has displayed a bias unparalled in my experience of State politics. For instance, every front page headline for September has been either slanted against the Labor Party or deliberately pro-Liberal- with one exception on 3 September. I think that even Liberal members, if they would place -
– What happened then?
– What happened then? It was a rather tragic event which pushed even the
South Australian election off the front page. The News has in fact ceased to be a newspaper and has become the propaganda sheet of a particular party.
Day after day businessmen have inserted their full-page advertisements, their television advertisements and their radio advertisements which are as simplistic as they are misleading. We are told by the Australian Financial Review that the cost is now something like $100,000. I think it was Disraeli who said:
There are three kinds of lies: Lies, damned lies and statistics.
These advertisements illustrate the third of those forms of dishonesty. For instance, there was an advertisement comparing retail sales throughout Australia. The figures may look effective, but we need to look at them in the context of their interpretation. I will take an interpretation from the Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd publication Business Indicators, which is certainly not a socialist journal. In commenting on the statistics of retail sales in South Australia it said:
A further encouraging sign was the apparent upturn in retail sales in the March quarter. Retail sales in this period totalled $A563.9m, 1 1.6 per cent higher than the March quarter for 1968. Over the same period consumer prices rose by 7.S per cent. On this basis, this is the first time for 2’A years, that the increase in retail sales has been significantly ahead of the increase in consumer prices.
It went on to say:
This strengthening in retail sales appears to have contributed to a lift in business confidence and in recent months there has been an upsurge in demand for bank finance for business development.
This week the assault on the South Australian economy has been aided and abetted and the debate further debased by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), by his lackey the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs (Mr Viner), and by numerous Liberal back benchers in both Houses of the Federal Parliament.
I am not surprised by the attitude of the News. It has been the avowed aim of the editor of that paper, and no doubt of its absentee proprietor, to destroy the Dunstan and now the Corcoran Government.
– I suggest to the honourable member for Barker that if in fact his Liberal principles were somewhat higher than his partisan self-interest, he also would condemn what has happened to the News in South Australia. If one examines the News one finds that the responsibilities of a free Press in a democratic society have been abandoned in South Australia. I am not atacking the Advertiser. I think that it has given a fair go in its news columns. However, the News has abandoned the responsibilities of a free Press in a democratic society. I am not talking about the editorial position; but the duty to ensure that there is a reasonably impartial news coverage has been jettisoned and the onus to provide a fair opportunity for all parties in the news section of the newspaper has been neglected. With the News in South Australia we simply have two perverts- the editor and the proprietor perverting the democratic process in the State of South Australia.
I am again not surprised by the attitude of segments of the business community in South Australia. It is well known that elements of the business elite in South Australia are the most incompetent, parochial, neurotic and reactionary in Australia. I will give evidence in support of each of those propositions. Firstly, I refer to incompetence. In the boardrooms of many of the multinational companies involved in South Australia -
– Have you ever been in one?
– Several times. I may not go again after this, but several times. The views of multinational companies about sections of the business community of South Australia and their competence are worth hearing. Many of us here have no doubt heard them. An example of the level of competence is, of course, the collapse of the Bank of Adelaide. The local business elite in South Australia could not even run a finance company, let alone understand the economy of that State.
I now refer to the proposition that they are neurotic. I have no doubt that these poor businessmen believe most of the things that they are saying. They are so blinkered and parochial that I have no doubt they have convinced themselves. In fact, Mr Jackson, the chairman of CSR Ltd- not a socialist in any way- went to South Australia in February of this year. He chided the local businessmen on their neuroses. He said:
Pessimism like optimism is a state of mind, which is highly infectious and tends to be self-fulfilling.
He went on to give examples of what was happening amongst the business elite in South Australia. Referring to the proposition that they are reactionary, I think that the only thing I need to do is to ask honourable members opposite to ask their Minister for Productivity (Mr Macphee) for his opinion of the troglodytic views of elements of the South Australian business community on industrial democracy.
Government supporters should ask their own Minister for that evidence.
However, I am somewhat disappointed that South Australian members of this parliament should traduce their State in such an irresponsible way. South Australian members of this parliament have knocked their State simply for partisan advantage, without any consideration of the real causes of the economic difficulties or of the real economic advantage that South Australia possesses.
There are two general lessons I want to draw from this debate on the economic health of South Australia. First of all, I believe that the strike threat made by the building workers in response to the businessmen’s campaign was unwise, but I also believe that it was understandable. If the money power of business is used in so blatant a way, and the Press manipulated in the interests of a single party, then such reactions are inevitable. I say to honourable members with respect to electoral fair play and to achieving a fair balance in resources between the parties, we have been extremely lucky in this country in regard to political violence. But if the economic resources of the parties become too disparate, and if the behaviour of the Press creates a hopelessly onesided competition, then this country will not escape forms of political violence.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
-Before the suspension of the sitting, I said that there were two lessons to be learned from recent events in South Australia. The first of those is that this country has been extraordinarily lucky in terms of political violence but I suggested that unless the competition between the parties is reasonably fair and is seen to be reasonably fair our luck will run out. The second lesson is that I think we in this House can all agree that this country faces enormous economic problems. We will make no real contributions to those problems in this Parliament if the debate is debased as has been the debate over the South Australian economy. We need to search for the real causes of our problems and not simply score points. We need to argue the issues and not rant about the past. We will not necessarily agree on the solutions but only by such means will the Parliament contribute to the solution of our economic ills.
I will conclude by looking at the question of unemployment in South Australia in that way. Firstly I will give the facts. If we take the Commonwealth Employment Services figures the percentage of the total work force registered as unemployed in Australia is 6.4 per cent. In South
Australia it is one per cent higher at 7.4 per cent. If we take the figures issued by the Australian Bureau of Statistics which the Government has been using the average unemployment rate in Australia is 5.8 per cent and 8.2 per cent in South Australia. But we need to interpret those figures. Unemployment is a national phenomenon. One can go anywhere in Australia today and find areas in which the unemployment figures are much higher than those in South Australia. Western Australia is not far behind South Australia with an unemployment rate of 7.4 per cent. The Federal Government has never denied that it is prepared in the interests of its economic policies to tolerate a high level of unemployment. The great bulk of unemployment in South Australia is clearly federally induced as it is throughout Australia. Only a fool would deny that.
What is at issue is the margin or the excess over the generally high levels of unemployment in the nation. I make one comparison. Would Liberals want to argue, given their peculiar logic, that the fact that Western Australia last month had the worst unemployment in Australia was the fault of Sir Charles Court’s Government?
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I take part in this grievance debate to talk on issues similar to those about which the honourable member for Bonython (Dr Blewett) has spoken. As a South Australian I express to this House my concern about the state of South Australia. The honourable member for Bonython talked about members on this side of the House whom he alleged were knocking South Australia. We are not knocking South Australia; we are knocking the South Australian Labor Government. In spite of what the honourable member for Bonython has attempted to put to this House, the facts are that for a very long time all the economic indicators regarding South Australia have been pointing in the wrong direction. For years the newspapers, not only the newspapers that the honourable member for Bonython criticised so severely, have been saying of South Australia that the party is over. At long last the people of South Australia have recognised that fact.
The honourable member for Bonython criticised certain advertising that has been used in the election campaign. This advertising has not been placed by a political party. It has been placed by concerned South Australians. Many of them happen to be the businessmen of South Australia. They are not doing it because they believe that South Australia is going well. They are telling the South Australian people honestly and firmly that, if the State continues under the economic management it has had for the last 10 years, its decline will continue. The interests of those businessmen are, in fact, the interests of the whole of South Australia. They are the interests of every person in South Australia who today is either employed or, more importantly, unemployed. If those businesses can be encouraged to expand, more job opportunities will be created. South Australia, which in recent months has had a relative decline in the number of job opportunities being created compared with those being created in other States, will turn the other way and new opportunities will be created. What is needed for South Australia is a catalyst, a green light, for further economic expansion. That opportunity will be denied if the present Labor Government remains in office. On Saturday next South Australians will have their chance to indicate where they want the State to go. The polls that have been taken over the last few days indicate that South Australians realise what the cause of the job rot in South Australia has been. It has not been a Canberra Government; it has been the South Australian Labor Government. All its policies have sapped the State of economic vigour and have destroyed the confidence of South Australia to the point where there is now a crisis of confidence in that State.
The Premier of South Australia called the election the day after the Federal Budget. He did so because he had made up his mind that he wanted to hold an election campaign in which he would bash and criticise the Fraser Government. But the Budget did not do the things that Premier Corcoran thought it might do. He has been sadly mistaken. Despite the fact that he embarked upon this Canberra bashing exercise, the South Australian people have realised that that is an old trick which is used by people who know that things at home are in a bad way. The South Australian people have seen through the smokescreen. They have recognised that the seriousness of their position is due to the policies of the Corcoran Government. They now understand that their future is in their hands and that they must in the major poll that will take place on Saturday next make a choice which will determine whether South Australia is to continue in economic decline or whether its opportunities are to be bright as they are for the rest of Australia.
– Who is authorising this paid political broadcast?
-I have authorised it myself. What I am saying is the truth about the present situation in South Australia. The honourable member for Bonython talked about the differences in South Australia at the margin. It is those very differences that are affecting South Australia so seriously. It is the marginal differences that are making the difference between prosperity and economic difficulty. On Saturday the South Australian people will have the opportunity to make up their minds and to ensure that they have a change of direction by the election of a Liberal Government. When Premier Corcoran called the election he endeavoured to criticise Canberra by saying that $7 out of $8 of taxes are collected by the Commonwealth Government.
-That is true.
– It is not true. That is an exaggerated figure. Everyone knows that a large proportion of taxes are collected by the Commonwealth but everyone also knows that $40 out of every $100 of personal income tax collected is returned to the States. What is important for South Australians to recognise is that they get a larger per capita share than most other States. In fact, South Australia receives $168 per head more than Victoria does. Canberra returns to South Australia under the income tax sharing arrangements $487 per capita. Yet in spite of the fact that we get $168 per head more than the State of Victoria and an amount nearly as great in excess of what New South Wales receives, the Corcoran Government is constantly criticising the Canberra Government because it does not have enough funds to fulfil its programs. The advertisement said that the Corcoran Government wanted to tell the Canberra Government to back off. It wanted to tell it presumably to reduce taxes. Yes, we would like to reduce taxes, but where is Mr Corcoran prepared -
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. It being 2.25 p.m., in accordance with the resolution passed this day, the debate is now interrupted. I put the question: ‘That grievances be noted ‘.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
-On behalf of the Joint Committee on Publications I present the Committee’s report relating to annual reports of Commonwealth departments and statutory authorities, together with the transcript of evidence and extracts from the minutes of the proceedings of the Committee.
Ordered that the report be printed.
-I seek leave of the House to make a short statement in connection with the report.
– This inquiry was undertaken because of concern at a number of issues relating to annual reports- for example, the fact that some departments did not produce an annual report at all, the lateness of others, the extravagance of several and the difficulties apparent in the production of reports. In all 103 submissions were received. These came from a large number of departments and authorities, from librarians and other users of annual reports, from Professor Olsson of the Australian Institute of Management, from the Australian Government Publishing Service and from the Auditor-General’s Office. Evidence was then heard from a representative group of those who had made submissions. In addition the Committee circulated a questionnaire to senators and members to obtain their views on annual reports. These proved of great assistance.
The Committee’s principal conclusion is that all Commonwealth departments and statutory authorities should be required to submit annual reports. These are important in principle because their presentation to the Parliament demonstrates the accountability of departments and authorities to the Parliament, and through it to the community. They are important in a practical sense because of the information they provide to senators and members and to interested people in the community. Honourable members will be aware that the first annual report of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet was tabled on 23 August. The Committee is encouraged by this evidence of the Government’s recognition of the necessity of annual reports.
The Committee has made a number of recommendations directed towards making annual reports more useful, more timely and more economical. I do not propose to comment on the recommendations in detail at this stage other than to say that the two areas of greatest concern to the Committee were the problem of delays in the tabling of reports and the question of appropriate standards of production. The Committee appreciates that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has requested that production standards should be as economical as possible. It is disappointing that this request has not been fully complied with. In the opinion of the Committee the annual report of the National Capital Development Commission for 1977-78 and that of the
Pipeline Authority for 1976-77 are examples of unnecessarily expensive productions. The Committee does, however, recognise that authorities which are in active competition in the market place are justified in using prestige standards of production.
Turning to the question of delays, I noticed in the National Companies and Securities Commission Bill presented on 28 August that the Commission’s annual report must be prepared not later than 31 October each year. Whilst my Committee would like reports a little earlier, the Government must be commended for defining a time limit in this legislation. To the best of my knowledge this is a first and I commend the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Fife) for setting this deadline and giving it the force of law. The Committee is confident that this report contains guidelines which will help those charged with the responsibility of producing annual reports to know what the Parliament expects of them. In conclusion, I pay tribute to the members of the Committee for the time they spent in the hearing of this inquiry.
-by leave-It is becoming a practice which is of concern to members of this Parliament that papers presented to the Parliament are not being supplied in numbers sufficient to meet the requirements of departments. Quite often it is expected by the Department concerned that the Parliament will produce in the Parliamentary Papers Series those documents which departments have an obligation to provide to Parliament in numbers sufficient to meet the needs of members of parliament and those people who seek information through their member of parliament. Some of the reports are very voluminous, and it should not be the responsibility of the Parliament to have them published. Such reports are supplied to the Parliament in numbers sufficient only to be placed in the Parliamentary Library. I do not think that that is an economic practice, nor should it be the responsibility of the Parliament to print and to disseminate such reports. Even though a limited number of people in the community may want to study the full report I think that copies of the report should be available.
I think that at a future meeting of the Publications Committee it may look at the growing practice of the requirements which are laid down by the Parliament for the supply of a sufficient number of documents prior to the tabling of such documents in the House not being met. It is inconvenient for documents to be tabled in the Parliament purely so that the Government can get the publicity which it wants or the people responsible can get the publicity which they want from such a document without the full document being made available to members of this House or to the public for study and comment. It is a regular practice for parliamentary papers to come out several months, if not years, after their presentation to the Parliament. Yet documents are purported to be available to the Parliament and members of parliament when in fact they are not available.
-I have received letters from the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen), the honourable member for St George (Mr Neil) and the honourable member for Holt (Mr Yates) proposing that definite matters of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion today. As required by Standing Order 107 I have selected the matter which in my opinion is the most urgent and important, that is, that proposed by the honourable member for Robertson, namely:
The handling of the car rental concessions at Commonwealth airports by the Minister for Transport.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places.
More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places-
-The special relationship between the coalition parties and Sir Reginald Ansett is well known to the Parliament and to the people of Australia. The special privileges and arrangements that this man and his companies in transport, tourism and television licensing have been able to gain over the years from various Liberal Party Prime Ministers and Premiers are part of Australia’s more sordid commercial and political history. There was, for instance, the unprecedented intervention by the then Premier of Victoria, Sir Henry Bolte, to save Ansett Transport Industries Ltd from takeover in 1 972. Today Sir Henry sits on the Ansett board.
In 1972, during the last months of a panicstricken McMahon Government, we saw legislation rushed through this Parliament to ensure that Ansett ‘s privileged position in the twoairline policy of this country was secured. The McMahon Government could not save itself, but it could manipulate this Parliament to look after the business interests of its major contributor to Liberal Party finances and election campaign funds. Those are just two examples, Mr Acting Speaker, of the special treatment Sir Reginald
Ansett gets from coalition governments and Liberal Party leaders in this country.
Now we have this Government caught out in what has every appearance of another blatant exercise in political patronage to the advantage of the Ansett empire. The recent allocation of rent-a-car concessions at Commonwealth airports is, at best, an incredible example of ministerial incompetence and departmental bungling. At its worst, it is a conspiracy involving the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) to advantage the Ansett transport interests and deliberately to disadvantage Ansett ‘s competitors. I hope that the Minister for Transport has a grin on his face at the end of this debate. In either case, Mr Acting Speaker, it is a matter deserving of the fullest public inquiry and report to this Parliament. I intend setting out in detail the full chain of events in this matter over the past nine months.
In summary, however, what has happened is that two companies- Budget Rent-a-Car System Pty Ltd, owned by Sir Reginald Ansett ‘s estranged son, Mr Bob Ansett, and Hertz Rent-a-Car, owned by Trans-Australia Airlines and Mayne Nickless Ltd- bid a combined total of $ 1 1 .3m, through competitive tender, for the right to operate their airport rent-a-car services on a national basis. Sir Reginald Ansett ‘s Avis rent-a-car company, which previously had sole rights as national operator, missed out when outbid by its two competitors. What Avis Rent-a-Car System Pty Ltd and two other smaller rent-a-car companies did gain were limited franchises covering far fewer airports.
However, Budget and Hertz paid their high prices on the clear understanding that the terms and conditions of the tenders protected their exclusive national rights. But then, after their bids had been accepted and the new system had come into operation, Avis has offered to buy out the two other smaller companies in what can only be described as the most extraordinary, if not outrageous, circumstances.
Suddenly, Avis appears likely to gain a national operation at a much lower cost, without having to service less profitable, or marginal, airports as its competitors, Budget and Hertz, are forced to do by the very terms and conditions they thought protected their exclusive national rights. Yet the Minister for Transport, in response to a question I asked two weeks ago, can offer nothing more than the lame excuse that the business interests of the coalition’s life-long friend and benefactor have been massively advantaged by a simple clerical error. Nobody is going to believe that; certainly not Budget and
Hertz, which have been, quite frankly, blatantly cheated, and certainly not anyone familiar with the operating style of Sir Reginald Ansett and his coalition allies over the years. On Wednesday 29 August, I asked the Minister for Transport the following question:
I ask the Minister for Transport whether it is a fact that the original tender documents for car rental concessions at Commonwealth airports provided that the third or local car rental concessionaire could not sell or assign his right to operate to another party. Were the terms and conditions of contracts changed after tenders had been accepted to enable the third operator to sell or assign with the approval of the Secretary of the Minister’s Department? Has this enabled Avis, which missed out as one of the national operators, to purchase from Elite and Thrifty rent-a-car firms their concessions at Hobart, Devonport, Wynyard, Canberra, Adelaide, Perth and Coolangatta, thus enabling Avis to link up with its own concessions as third operator giving it rent-a-car concessions at 90 per cent of prime airport locations for a fraction of the price paid by Hertz and Budget? Who gave the authority for this action?
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) commented at the conclusion of my question: It’s a scandal’. The opening remarks of the Minister for Transport will live for ever in the history of this Parliament: ‘It’s not a scandal- yet’. At the time that the Minister made his prophetic comment it may not have been a scandal but only because all the facts were not generally known.
– Give the rest of the answer. Show a bit of courage.
– Just contain yourself. The rentacar business is now a $60m a year business and with the increasing mobility of people, it is growing at a phenomenal rate. With the projected growth of international visitors likely to exceed one million by 1983 and the preference of many domestic travellers to hire cars, it is not only a big business, but also a keenly contested one.
For 10 years the concessions at all Commonwealth airports were the exclusive preserve of Avis Rent-a-Car, the company founded by the late Eric McIlree and taken over by Ansett. Because the airport is the arrival point for the major section of the community who wish to rent cars, the exclusive concession enabled Avis to gain a major share of the car rental business in Australia. Other operators were only permitted to meet customers at the airport with prearranged bookings. They were expressly forbidden from canvassing for customers and of course were not permitted to have any official desk at any of the Commonwealth’s 58 airports.
This exclusive right of Avis to be sole operator was the cause of enormous controversy and public debate. Mr Bob Ansett of Budget conducted an intensive campaign in the media and by lobbying during the past couple of years to break the Avis monopoly on airport concessions when the contract expired on 30 June of this year.
Initially the Government announced that it would permit two national operators but after further outcry agreed to two national operators plus a third local operator. The latter was intended to allow the small local businessman to gain a share of the market. On 29 March of this year, tenders closed for the two national operator concessions and the third local operator concession at the 58 Commonwealth airports. The original tender document C3/79/10 contained in appendix B ‘Terms and Conditions to be observed by Concessionaires’, section 6 ‘Assignment of Rights’ stated as follows:
The concessionaire shall not assign or sell any privileges or rights arising under this authority or sub-let any part or parts of the business, except that he may appoint persons as his agents on airports. The concessionaire shall not permit any persons so approved to conduct the business otherwise than in the name of the concessionaire.
Nothing could be more explicit, more clear-cut, more concise. If a company won the concession with a successful tender, it was theirs and theirs alone. They could not sell or assign. One would expect that in view of the enormous controversy that had raged around car rental rights at airports, the details of the tender documents would have been meticulously examined and mulled over to ensure that there was no confusion in anybody’s mind as to what were the conditions of tender. I would have expected that the Minister himself would have studied them closely himself.
On the basis of these original tender documents Hertz, Budget and Avis tendered for the two national operator spots. Budget, Avis and a number of smaller ‘rent-a-car’ firms tendered for various third or local operator concessions. The fact that the concessions could not be sold or assigned was a major factor in the car rental firms calculating their tender prices. It is vital to remember at this stage that quite a number of the Commonwealth airports are small areas at which only a few, often very small, aircraft operate. There is so little traffic that the holding of a car rental concession at some of these airports would be a financial disadvantage. The national operators would prefer to tender for only the busy airports where they would be assured of making profits and forget about those where they are certain to make a loss or only a marginal profit. However, that is the price they had to be prepared to pay to win one of the two spots as national operators.
On 1 May, the Minister announced that Hertz and Budget had won the No. 1 and No. 2 national operator spots. Later it was revealed that their bids had been $8.1m and $3.2m respectively. Avis, with a bid of $3.1m, had missed out as a national operator but had obtained the third operator spot at Brisbane, Cairns, Mackay, Mount Isa, Rockhampton, Townsville, Sydney, Melbourne, Launceston, Port Hedland and Alice Springs. I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard the full list of successful third operator tenderers.
The document read as follows-
-I thank the House. The lack of profitability of some of the airports for car rental was illustrated by the fact that no tenders were received for third operator authorities at some 26 airports. Avis has since negotiated directly with the Government for the third operator spot at eight of these airports.
Not long after, the Minister’s announcement was made that Avis would purchase the concessions won by Thrifty Rent-a-Car Pty Ltd and Elite Rental Cars. Hobart, Devonport and Wynyard were to be purchased from Elite and Canberra, Adelaide, Perth and Coolangatta from Thrifty. Not surprisingly, this news hit the business world and the car rental section like a bombshell. How was it possible for Avis to purchase the concession at seven airports when the original tender documents expressly forbade such transactions. How it was to be done was soon made clear to Hertz and Budget after they received their contract documents on 14 August. In the documents appendix B, to which I referred before, now read:
The Operator shall not without the approval of the Secretary assign or sell any privileges or rights arising under this authority or sub-let any pan or parts of the business, except that he may appoint persons as his agent or franchise for the purpose of conducting the business at any of the airports.
The bombshell was contained in the newly added words ‘without the approval of the Secretary’. The whole meaning and intent of the tender documents had been totally changedchanged sufficiently to permit Avis, the car rental company owned by Ansett, the Liberal Party’s life long friend and benefactor, to purchase a further seven airports, thus giving it 18 airports, but more importantly, the 18 prime operating airports at which 90 per cent of the business in rent-a-cars would be done. As I pointed out earlier, it was to pick up a further eight airports for which there were no tenders.
– You are struggling.
– You are the one who is struggling. I know when you are in trouble. It is when you have that silly grin on your face.
– Order! The honourable member will address his remarks through the Chair.
-The figure that Avis had appeared Thrifty and Elite is not known, but it is variously estimated at under half a million dollars. If this is correct- and there is no reason to assume that to is not- Avis Rent-a-Car System Pty Ltd has managed to obtain the third operator spot at the 19 major Commonwealth airports for around $2m. Without having to function at the unprofitable and marginal airports, Avis- the lowest tenderer for national operator positionshas become, in effect, a third national operator at a fraction of Hertz’s cost of $8.1 m and a lot less than Budget’s $3.2m. And how has it been able to achieve this magnificent coup? By the Government ‘s changing the wording of the final contract agreement so that it differed significantly from the original tender documents.
We are asked now to believe the unbelievable, namely, that in the original tender documents the words ‘without the approval of the Secretary ‘-that is, the Secretary to the Department of Transport- were inadvertently omitted. The Minister now asks us to believe that a clerical accident has enabled Avis-Ansett to recapture the position it lost in open tender as a national operator at airports. How very, very convenient! Any doubts I may have had about what was going on were dispelled after Mr Bob of recounted to me a conversation he had with Department of Transport official when he complained about the change in the wording of the tender documents. He was told that if he wanted to make an issue of the matter there were other ways that Thrifty and Elite franchises could be assigned to Avis. All that Thrifty and
Elite had to do was to pay their fees and the franchise could be taken away from them. The Department of Transport would then reassign it to Avis or anybody else.
There is a lot more, though. I mentioned earlier that those car rental firms that were not successful tenderers were still permitted to meet pre-booked clients at the airport. However, they are not permitted, or not supposed to be permitted, to canvass in any way, shape or form for clients. Mr Laurie Alban, who has the Hertz RentaCar franchise at Coffs Harbour, tells me that Avis is blatantly canvassing for clients throughout the Coffs Harbour airport terminal, right in front of Department of Transport officers’ eyes. When he complained to a Coffs Harbour airport officer, a Mr Wiggins, he was told that there was nothing Mr Wiggins could do about it and that he could only pass his complaint on to his superiors. Why he could not do anything about it Mr Alban was not told. Later, the supervisor of the district, a Mr Lanigan, also said that there was nothing he could do about it. I am informed that the same thing is happening at Tamworth, Wagga and Coolangatta. There are only two views that can be taken of this present fiasco. The first is that the Minister has got the situation into such an unbelievabls mess that either tenders will have to be called again, in which case we can bet London to a brick that Hertz at least will not bid anything like its initial $8m, and thus the Government- that is the taxpayers- will lose millions of dollars -
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– It seems to be the fate of the Minister for Transport in this place to be faced by Opposition spokesmen who believe in the conspiracy theory. Normally I am faced by the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris). He has been replaced today by the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen), who has been carried away with the conspiracy theory also. The whole basis of his allegations falls to the ground because Avis Rent-a-Car System Pty Ltd has not achieved any coup. The fact is that nothing has been finalised or decided that gives Avis the sort of run suggested by the honourable member for Robertson. So, the whole of his matter of public importance is a waste of the Parliament’s time.
On 29 August I told the Parliament that I was seeking legal advice on the position in regard to the current tender document situation. I said that I would not be in a position to make any further comment until I had received that advice. That is still the position today. I have not received detailed advice from the Attorney-General’s Department. I am still awaiting such advice. I again make the point that nothing scandalous has occurred, in spite of the neat little dropout by the honourable member for Robertson of some of the words in the Hansard record of my answer the other day- a typical tactic. Nothing scandalous or underhand has occurred in the matter.
- Mr Acting Speaker, I take a point of order. I understand that the Minister for Transport is accusing me of doctoring Hansard. I ask for a withdrawal of that statement.
– I am accusing the honourable member of quoting selectively out of Hansard. For the information of the House, I lay the Hansard on the table.
-There is no point of order.
– Let me explain the history of the matter. It became obvious during the last few years of the previous Avis monopoly contract that it was undesirable that the monopoly situation should continue. That was so for several reasons, not the least of which was the considerable growth of other firms in the industry. The Avis monopoly ran for 10 years and expired on 30 June this year. The consideration of new conditions began in 1977- two years before the expiry of the Avis contract- and involved exhaustive discussions with all major firms in the car rental industry, the tourist industry, the airlines and other Commonwealth departments such as the Department of Business and Consumer Affairs, the Department of Industry and Commerce, the Department of Finance and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. So, no hasty or ill-conceived decisions were made.
After all those considerations, my Department arrived at a proposal, which was put before me in August 1978, for one national operator and one airport by airport operator. My Department having arrived at this proposal, all the car rental firms in Australia- 168 firms- were circularised and invited to comment on the proposed terms. Further discussions were held with the major firms in order to ascertain their reactions. These moves coincided with moves by Trans-Australia Airlines to acquire a controlling interest in KayHertz Rent-a-Car. These negotiations, together with industry reaction to the original proposal, resulted in reconsideration and finally Government approval to call tenders for two national operators and one airport by airport operator.
These terms were overwhelmingly welcomed by the industry as leading to greater competition within the industry as a whole.
The point to be stressed is that throughout all this period no ill-conceived or off-the-cuff decisions were made. Right from the outset the whole car rental position was considered and discussed most carefully and thoroughly. The primary consideration at all times has been service to the public, equity to the industry and Commonwealth revenue. It is interesting to note that at the time of the announcement of the final tender conditions, in January this year, the Department received a letter from Mr Bob Ansett of Budget Rent-a-Car System Pty Ltd congratulating the Department on producing ‘a very fine document’. I should further point out that consideration was also given to the recommendations of the House of Representatives Select Committee on Tourism when the decision was made to opt for two national operators on all of the 58 Commonwealth airports.
In calling tenders in this way it was recognised that a single operator could submit the highest tender for each individual airport and in this way acquire a national operation- a point that seems to be lost on the honourable member for Robertson. The acceptability of this arrangement was clearly set out in the tender specifications. The only advantages to be gained by the highest bidder for the national operation was the first choice of desk sites in terminals and car parking spaces outside terminals. Tenders were to be based on a percentage of gross turnover, with a guaranteed minimum payment. The main contenders were, of course, the three so-called national companies- Avis Rent-a-Car System Pty Ltd, Budget Rent-a-Car System Pty Ltd and KayHertz Rent-a-Car. Each of these companies has access to very considerable financial resources. Avis is wholly owned by Ansett Transport Industries Ltd; the Australian Guarantee Corporation Ltd has a 70 per cent shareholding in Budget; whilst TAA/Mayne Travel Industries Pty Ltd holds 77½ per cent of the shares of Hertz. In the event, Hertz submitted a significantly higher bid than Budget and Avis. The total guaranteed amounts bid for the five-year concession were: Hertz, $8,014,435; Budget, $3,167,060; and Avis, $3,1 13,592.
These tenders were considered by a departmental business board. The board consists of senior officers of the commercial and finance branches of my Department. This might be of interest to the honourable member for Robertson: The procedure is that the board compiles a schedule of tenders and amounts tendered, and conducts interviews with tenderers. Based on the information thus provided, the board makes recommendations. The chairman of the board has delegations under the Airport (Business Concessions) Act to award contracts for up to 20 years without further reference to me. However, in this instance, because of the obvious public interest in the matter the board did not exercise its delegations but made recommendations to me as to which tenders should be accepted.
Furthermore, in this case the recommendations which came before me were considered by a number of other senior officers of my Department before actually being placed before me. So it can be readily seen from the wording of this matter of public importance, which questions ‘the handling of the car rental concessions at Commonwealth airports by the Minister for Transport’, that the honourable member for Robertson is completely ignorant of the procedures in the matter. I do not handle car rental concessions. They are a matter for the tender board, and I act upon recommendations put to me by that board. In considering these bids, the contract board, whilst concerned at the apparent magnitude of the Hertz bid against the background that the company did not have a previous record of profit making, had to take account of financial assurances given by its major shareholders. As a result, the first national contract was awarded to Hertz.
Because of the marginal difference between the two next highest offers the Board gave considerable thought as to whether it should award the second national position to Avis, in view of that company’s proven record as a most satisfactory airport contractor and the likelihood that, if it held its existing airport market dominancethat is an important point- its actual payments over the five year period could exceed the guaranteed minimum bid. Despite these considerations the contract board finally recommended to me that the higher bid, that of Budget, should be accepted. I believe this clearly demonstrates the impartiality of the contract board, despite the allegations of the honourable member for Robertson. I might add that had Avis been awarded the second contract, all of the 46 airport by airport contracts for which it had tendered would have been won by Budget, there would then have been three national operators at airports- and Budget, apart from submitting relatively high bids for individual contracts, had offered a premium if awarded contracts at all airports.
The contract board was concerned with the question of service to the public as well as with protection of Commonwealth revenue and made thorough inquiries concerning all tenderers. In any event, with one minor exception, all contracts were awarded to the highest tenderers. Because the Government believes that normal commercial forces should be allowed to operate wherever possible I have no desire to exercise more control than necessary through the Airports (Business Concessions) Act. In this instance all tenderers clearly understood that there would be three operators at all major airports, with the probability that these would be the three largest firms. Tenderers exercised their commercial judgment in the full knowledge of these facts and, in the event, placed vastly different values on the rights available.
Great play has been made on the difference in wording between the paragraph in the original tender schedule relating to transferability of rights and in the authorities issued to Budget and Hertz. The conditions outlined in the tender schedule were taken almost entirely directly from the then existing authority held by Avis Rent-a-Car which provided that authorities could be transferred with consent. Some words were omitted- I told the House that previouslyfrom the paragraph in question. My Department has advised me that they were omitted in error. As I have said already, I am awaiting legal opinion on this latest position, but I venture to suggest that one of the underlying reasons for the great concern being shown by some parties for what is essentially an application for approval for a normal commercial transaction, could be connected with the vastly different amounts tendered by the successful national operators.
One other point that I would like to stress is that even now continuous consultation and discussion is being held with interested firms in the industry. Interested parties are in daily contact with my Department and I have also made myself personally available for discussions. Once again, let me stress that nothing has happened that is scandalous or underhand. Nothing of that nature will take place. The outcome of these tenders has led to a significant increase in Government revenue which directly benefits the air traveller by offsetting costs of operating airports. The increased competition within the car rental industry induced by these contracts has already led to a significant lowering of car rental charges. So we have observed the highest standards of propriety. We have benefited the airlines, the air travelling public and the users of rent-a-cars. Yet the Opposition adopts the ridiculous attitude of trying to knock the Government down on this issue. I repeat, in case the honourable member has missed the message, that Avis has not achieved any coup. Therefore, the whole matter of public importance falls to the ground. Nothing has been finalised or decided yet. When I get proper and authoritative legal advice from the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) proper and appropriate decisions will be made.
-The discussion is concluded. (Quorum formed).
Bill presented by Mr MacKellar, and read a first time.
– I move:
Over the last 200 years, except for brief periods of war and economic recession, Australia has been a country of large-scale immigration. During the past 30 years we have experienced one of the great mass migrations of history. Over three and a half million people from more than 100 countries have made Australia their home in a magnificent saga of voluntary, planned migration. The United Kingdom has remained our chief source of migrants, providing just over 40 per cent of the post-war intake of 3.5 million people. The remaining 60 per cent have come from well over 100 sources, with Italy, Greece, Yugoslavia, Germany and the Netherlands prominent for most of the post-war period. In more recent times there have been intakes of immigrants from other areas including Latin America, Asia and the Middle East.
Australia has succeeded in maintaining social harmony and national cohesion throughout this period of immigration. This has been achieved by adjustments on the pan of the host community and of the new settlers themselves. The Australian-born population has shown itself to be remarkably adaptable by progressively accepting many of the cultural values the newcomers have offered this nation, without significant racial antagonisms and tensions which have marred life in some other nations. Migrants themselves have made adjustments in order to adapt to life in their new country.
Because of the Government’s concern to ensure that the changing needs of migrants are met as effectively as possible within the limits of available resources, it decided late in 1977 to commission a review of post-arrival programs and services for migrants under the chairmanship of Mr F. E. Galbally, C.B.E. The Galbally report tabled in May 1978 expressed the view that Australia is at a critical stage in the development of a cohesive, united multicultural nation. One of the specific findings of the Galbally report was that there was very little information available on multicultural developments in Australia and overseas. Yet there was a need to assist the development of a multicultural society on the basis of skilled research and on lessons to be learned from experience overseas.
Honourable members will recall that I tabled in the House on 7 June 1979 a paper entitled Multiculturalism and its Implications for Immigration Policy’. When tabling the paper I said that it illustrates the number of concepts of multiculturalism which presently exist and canvasses both the good and potentially undesirable effects of some forms of multiculturalism. The Galbally report recommended that the Commonwealth provide $1.8m over a three-year period to establish an institute of multicultural affairs to provide advice and information on multicultural development and multiculturalism in Australia, including aspects of migrant settlement, ethnicity and the maintenance of the cultural heritages of ethnic groups. This recommendation, in common with all recommendations of the Galbally Report, was accepted by the Government.
The purpose of this Bill is to establish the Australian Institute of Multicultural Affairs. One of the first tasks facing the Institute undoubtedly will be to clarify the meaning, limits and implications of ‘multiculturalism’, for it is essential that there be general community understanding of the concept and acceptance of its objectives and implications. The Institute will have a key role in promoting that understanding. To provide guidance in that difficult task, the broad objectives of the Institute are included within its legislation. These objectives, which embody the principal aims of the policy of multiculturalism, are set out in clause S of the Bill. They are: Firstly, to develop among the members of the Australian community an awareness of the diverse cultures within that community that have arisen as a result of the migration of people to Australia and an appreciation of the contributions of those cultures to the enrichment of that community; secondly, to promote tolerance, understanding, harmonious relations and mutual esteem among the different cultural groups and ethnic communities in Australia; thirdly, to promote a cohesive Australian society by assisting members of the Australian community to share with one another their diverse cultures within the legal and political structures of that society; and, fourthly, to assist in promoting an environment that affords the members of the different cultural groups and ethnic communities in Australia the opportunity to participate fully in Australian society and achieve their own potential.
The Institute will be empowered to discharge this role by: Commissioning and conducting research and studies; furnishing reports to the Minister; making information available to members of the Australian community, and to particular bodies, organisations or groups within that community; conducting promotional and community educational activities; and establishing a repository of literature and other material relating to the diverse cultures of members of the Australian community.
In order to carry out its research programs, the Institute will draw on expertise in the universities, colleges of advanced education and other educational institutions, community bodies and individuals. This approach will enable best use to be made of scarce skilled resources and will minimise the Institute ‘s own staffing needs.
Nevertheless, to be able to commission or conduct appropriate research, the Institute will require a staff of skilled and knowledgeable experts. It will require the capacities to identify needs and priorities for research, to prepare briefs for external researchers and to monitor progress. Importantly, it will need capacity to appraise and use the results of the research programs as a basis for its community education programs and for developing reports and advice to the Minister. Clearly the development of such an expert staff calls for flexibility and a measure of independence. Therefore, the Bill provides for the Institute to engage its own staff. However, coordination of terms and conditions of employment with other Commonwealth Government bodies is provided by the provision in the Bill that Public Service Board approval of terms and conditions of employment is required.
The Government considers it important that the institute should work to infuse into every level of Australian society a tolerant and enlightened approach to cultural differences and to Australian unity in its diversity. Therefore, it intends that the Institute adopt a practical educational and action-oriented approach. The Institute will consult widely, collect, analyse and disseminate information on ethnic cultures and backgrounds. It will foster the development of special knowledge and skills in this area of intercultural differences and the application of this knowledge to everyday life. It is not to be a negative body merely emphasising differences. In pursuing the objective of promoting a cohesive Australian society, it will also be cognisant of the similarities, the common values and the aspects of life in Australia that, irrespective of our ethnic backgrounds, we treasure and want to preserve.
The Government’s view is that the Institute should have a major role in providing advice on all aspects of multiculturalism. In addition to advising the Minister on any matters related to the Institute’s functions, it should also be available as a source of information and counsel to government and non-government bodies and to groups within the Australian community. It is expected that the Institute will come to be regarded as a national resource centre on the cultural backgrounds of Australia’s migrant peoples. Advice and assistance will be available from it in situations in which cultural differences and the lack of understanding of them are causing, or have the potential to cause, serious community problems.
Additionally to these three major areas of activity will be an ancillary, but nevertheless significant function of acting as a repository for ethnic and cultural literature and material. Given that the post-war migration program has been operating for over 30 years, it is timely to commence a collection of material which records the culture and backgrounds of the many diverse migrant groups which have made a contribution to the development of Australia over this period, and in earlier times since 1788, before the material becomes lost to posterity. The Institute could well act most effectively in this role by recommending methods of collecting and holding such material in conjunction with existing collections and museums, as well as advising on an ethnic heritage component in any future national museum for Australia.
To carry out its mission by pursuing this wide range of activities, it is apparent the Institute will have to work closely with a wide variety of key organisations throughout the nation, as well as developing and maintaining international contacts. Because of its likely high public profile as a national resource and advisory centre the Institute will need to develop and demonstrate considerable expertise in a complex environment. At the Commonwealth level, the Institute will need to work closely with my Department and with advisory bodies, such as the Australian Ethnic Affairs Council, and with a number of other Commonwealth departments of state.
Honourable members will note that the provisions of the Bill have given the Institute of Multicultural Affairs wide powers to carry out its functions. However, the Institute will not overlap the functions of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs or of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies. That Institute’s role is directed towards research and study in relation to the Aboriginal people of Australia, whereas the Institute of Multicultural Affairs will be concerned with undertaking research and studies primarily directed towards the awareness of, and understanding of, non-aboriginal cultures and the promotion of harmonious relationships among all elements of our community. Nevertheless, the concept of multiculturalism does embrace all cultures in a nation and the Aboriginal people are an integral part of the Australian multicultural society. Indeed, when considered from an international standpoint, it is imperative that the Aboriginals be included within the total framework of Australia’s multicultural policies. Therefore, whilst the Institute will not direct its research programs into Aboriginal issues, it is clear that a close co-operative working relationship with the various organisations involved in Aboriginal issues will be highly desirable and that joint programs and projects, particularly in community education, could well eventuate from such relationships.
In addition, the Institute will undoubtedly develop and maintain contacts and co-ordinate its activities with a wide range of other organisations, both in the government and private sector. The Institute will be assisted in this task of communication and contact with organisations by the general membership of the Institute. The Government believes the Institute is a new development with immense potential to benefit all Australians in the continued development of a cohesive, multicultural society, a goal which we in the Government believe all members of this Parliament wil agree is worth striving for. (Quorum formed).
– I raise a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I draw your attention to the fact that when your attention was drawn to the state of the House there were only two Opposition members in the House. At present there are still only two Opposition members in the House. It was the Opposition that drew your attention to the state of the House.
– I raise a point of order. This is not a point of order. It is a frivolous point of order by the Minister.
– I now return to the second reading speech on the Australian Institute of Multicultural Affairs Bill. I now turn to some of the specific provisions relating to the structure and management of the Institute. Clause 10 provides that the Institute consist of a governing council and a general membership of not more than 100 members appointed by the Minister. When appointing members of the Institute, the Minister will be required to consult with the council. Institute members will comprise people experienced in multicultural matters drawn from a wide range of backgrounds and expertise. They will provide a source of advice to the council on specific topics and act as channels of contact between the council and the general community. The council of the Institute will be responsible for the conduct and control of the affairs of the Institute. It will consist of a chairman, the director of the Institute, the Secretary to the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs and not fewer than three, or more than six, other members appointed by the Governor-General.
Under clause 18 the council will be obliged to comply with any directions given to it by the Minister in writing and to have regard to such policies of the Government as are communicated to the council by the Minister. The council will be required under clause 49 to set out in its annual report all directions given to it by the Minister and policy communications referred to it by the Minister. Under the Bill the affairs of the Institute are to be managed by a director appointed as a statutory officer who will be the executive member of the council. He will be required to act in accordance with any directions given to him by the council.
I commend the Bill to the House as a most important step in building the type of society we want the Australia of the future to be. I am sure all members of this House support the determination to promote a cohesive Australian society- a society knowledgeable about and tolerant of its own ethnic diversity; an Australian nation in which all members have, whatever their origin, equal opportunity to achieve their full potential within its legal and political structures.
Debate (on motion by Mr Cohen) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Fife, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of the Bill now before the House is to give effect to the Government’s decision to extend the operation of the Bounty (PolyesterCotton Yarn) Act 1978 until 31 August 1981. The Bounty (Polyester-Cotton Yarn) Act 1978 provides assistance to the manufacture in Australia of polyester-cotton yarn by means of a bounty scheme, providing for the payment to eligible manufacturers of a bounty of $1.15 per kilogram on yarn consisting of a mixture of polyester and cotton fibres, in which the polyester fibres are not less than 50 per cent by weight, being single-fold combed yarn not coarser than 20 tex with at least one ply of 10 tex or coarser. The extension of the operation of this scheme is being made as an interim measure pending consideration by the Government of the final report by the Industries Assistance Commission on the longer term assistance needs for the textiles, clothing and footwear industries. That report is expected to be received by the Government in March 1980.
In deciding to extend the operation of this scheme the Government was conscious of the need to give at least 12 months advance notice of the policy of assistance that is to apply to these industries so as to assist future planning of operations by importers, retailers and manufacturers. During the extended period of the scheme the amount available for payment of bounty will continue to remain at $600,000. 1 commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Keith Johnson) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Fife, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of the Bill now before the House is to repeal the Liquefied Gas (Road Vehicle Use) Tax Act 1974, the Liquefied Gas (Road Vehicle Use) Tax Amendment Act 1977 and the Liquefied Gas (Road Vehicle Use) Tax Collection Act 1974 to give effect to the Government’s decision to remove the tax on this fuel for automotive use after 27 June 1979. The Government’s decision to remove this tax, which was announced by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) on 27 June 1 979 is part of a series of new government initiatives on energy conservation designed to encourage a shift in energy use away from oil to other alternative sources of energy.
I am sure that honourable members present here today share the world-wide concern about the energy situation, oil shortages and escalating oil prices. The impact of world oil shortages has already been felt in this country. Because liquefied petroleum gas has considerable potential for saving motor spirit, it is expected that removal of the tax on this fuel will ultimately lead to 10 to 15 per cent of Australia’s motor vehicles being powered by this alternative source of energy. The removal of this tax will result in a reduction in revenue by approximately $700,000, however the Government considers this measure to be fully justified in order to alleviate oil shortages. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Keith Johnson) adjourned.
Mr FIFE (Farrer- Minister for Business and
Consumer Affairs) (3.22)- I move:
The Customs Tariff Proposals I have just tabled relate to proposed alterations to the Customs Tariff Act 1966. Proposals No. 28 (1979) implement the Government’s decisions on recommendations made by the Industries Assistance Commission in its reports on ceramic floor and wall tiles, and spanners and wrenches. The Commission, in its report on ceramic floor and wall tiles, recommended that imports of all tiles under reference should be dutiable at 1 5 per cent but tiles presently attracting duties of 30 per cent or higher, should phase down from 30 per cent to 15 per cent over a four-year period. A long term rate of 15 per cent, in the Commission’s view, would improve relative efficiency of resource use and, given time, the industry could adjust to this level of assistance.
The Government has accepted the Commission’s findings except in respect of imports of small tiles and the phasing down of duties on certain other tiles. The Government notes the Commission’s comments that small tiles are not manufactured in Australia and, as local consumption of these goods is falling, it finds insufficient justification to raise duties in this instance, minimum rates of duty will therefore be maintained. The Government also considers that the phasing of duties over a four-year period as recommended by the Commission, is insufficient time for the local industry to re-adjust to a much lower level of protection than previously provided in an area of major tile manufacturing interest. The phase period will be extended to five years by maintaining 30 per cent for three years, not two years as recommended by the Commission and then yearly reductions of 5 per cent until a 15 per cent rate is reached. Tile imports from Papua New Guinea and New Zealand will be free of duties while most goods from developing countries will attract general rates.
In respect of the Commission’s report on spanners and wrenches, the Commission could find no justification for an increase in assistance. The 25 per cent duty recommended would, in the Commission’s view, result in an effective rate of assistance commensurate with the average for manufacturing industry generally. The Government has decided to accept the Commission’s findings in respect of this report, noting that on the three previous occasions since 1975 on which the majority of the subject goods had been reported on by the Commission and the Temporary Assistance Authority, it had been concluded that further assistance could not be justified. Papua New Guinea and New Zealand imports of these goods will continue to be duty free. Developing country imports will attract a 15 per cent duty.
The new duties operate from tomorrow. A comprehensive summary setting out the nature of the duty changes has been prepared and is being circulated to honourable members. I commend the Proposals to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Cohen) adjourned.
– For the information of honourable members I present the reports of the Industries Assistance Commission on Ceramic Floor and Wall Tiles, and spanners and wrenches.
– by leave- On 2 June 1978 the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs, in response to a reference to it from the Senate on 2 1 April 1 977, to review the right of priority of the Crown over other creditors in matters of bankruptcy, corporate liquidations or other cases of impecunious persons or corporations, tabled in the Senate its report, ‘Priority of Crown Debts’. As honourable members will recall, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), on 25 May 1978, announced in this House procedures under which the responsible Minister would make a statement in the Parliament outlining the action the Government proposes to take in relation to any report by a parliamentary committee. As Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs ‘Priority of Crown Debts’ falls within my portfolio and I now intend to outline the action the Government proposes to take in relation to the report.
In its report the Senate Committee recommended the complete abrogation of all Crown priorities in insolvency administrations. The Government has examined the report and is fully in agreement with the main thrust of the Committee’s argument. The Government supports uniformity of insolvency administration, which was of particular concern to the Senate Committee. It also acknowledges the desirability of placing the Crown on an even footing with the private sector so far as possible. Accordingly, the Government has decided to abolish all remaining Crown priorities in the Commonwealth sphere and to seek the abolition of all remaining Crown priorities in the State sphere except in relation to tax instalment deductions and withholding tax on dividends and interest remitted overseas. Special considerations apply in relation to these two categories of debt and separate them from other Crown debts. However, the law will be amended to make it clear that the giving of credit to employees in respect of misapplied tax instalment deductions is mandatory in all situations.
It is proposed to take action as soon as possible to implement those aspects of this decision that relate to bankruptcy and company law. Consequential changes to the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936 and other associated tax legislation will be introduced by the Treasurer in due course. This action will also give effect to a long standing commitment by the Commonwealth to the States that the Commonwealth would abandon its common law priorities in company insolvencies. (Quorum formed). Although the Opposition has again interrupted the debate to call attention to the state of the House, it has made no contribution towards forming the quorum. I thank members of the Government parties for forming the quorum.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. The Minister is a senior enough member of parliament to know that it is the responsibility of the Government to keep members in the House. It is the Government’s House and it has to keep members here to conduct the business. If the Minister were not so dull and dreary they would come in and listen to him.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MartinOrder! That is not a point of order.
– I am disappointed to learn from the Deputy Opposition Whip that the Opposition has no interest in the affairs of Parliament.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, after that provocative statement I take a further point of order. Members of the Opposition do have a great interest in the matter. They are listening intently, doing their work in their offices.
-Order! That is not a point of order.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I address my remarks to you and, through you, to the members of the Government parties in the House and to the members of the Opposition in their offices. The Office of Parliamentary Counsel is currently preparing a Bill to amend the Bankruptcy Act. The Government proposes to include in that amending Bill a provision that omits the whole of paragraph 109 ( 1 )(j ), which accords priority to a certain amount of any outstanding income taxes. A consequential amendment to paragraph 109 (1)(k), which would then become the tenth priority, will also be necessary.
To give full effect to the Committee’s recommendations, the Government is negotiating with the States amendments to the legislation proposed to give effect to the Commonwealth’s obligations under the co-operative companies and securities scheme. These amendments will ensure that the legislation does not accord any special priority in corporate insolvencies to Crown debts other than those in relation to tax instalment deductions and dividend withholding tax. Under the terms of the formal agreement between the Commonwealth and the States in relation to companies and securities, it will not be possible to introduce these amendments unless they are approved by the Ministerial Council of Commonwealth and State Ministers on Companies and Securities. In addition, the Government intends to legislate to abrogate the prerogative priority of the Crown in right of the Commonwealth and to ensure that, in a company liquidation, the Commonwealth is under an obligation to repay preferential payments in circumstances where other creditors would be obliged to do so. In view of the importance of these proposals to the private sector it is the firm intention of the Government that all these necessary legislative measures will be introduced as soon as possible. I commend these proposals to the House.
-by leave- The Opposition welcomes the statement made by the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Fife). I wish to advert to the fact that the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs has dealt with this matter. That Committee’s report was printed as far back as June 1978. The Minister has indicated that as far as possible action will be taken to guarantee that the Crown does not seek any priority in respect of insolvency administrations. But he makes the slight reservation, and therefore puts it on the same footing as everybody else, by adding the words ‘as far as possible’. Accordingly, he said, the Government has decided to abolish all remaining Crown priorities in the Commonwealth sphere and to seek abolition of all remaining Crown priorities in the State sphere except in relation to tax instalment deductions and withholding tax on dividends and interest remitted overseas. That is not exactly what the Senate Committee wanted and I refer to chapter 5 of its report. On page 56 the report states:
The Committee rejects the suggestion that the Commonwealth should be entitled to any special priority in respect of tax instalment deductions and recommends that Section 22 IP of the Income Tax Assessment Act should be amended accordingly. By analogous reasoning, the priority with respect to withholding tax deductions should also be abolished and similar amendments made to Section 221 yu of the Income Tax Assessment Act.
In other words the Committee recommended that the Crown should no longer be accorded priority in respect of the payment of any debts due to it in the administration of insolvent estates. The rationale behind that for those who are interested is that once there is an insolvency there are really insufficient funds to meet creditors. If a priority exists for some creditors it means that other creditors will get either substantially less or nothing at all. The Committee regarded this as causing hardship to other creditors. One of the most objectionable factors was that hardship could be experienced by creditors who would not get any repayment of their debts because the whole of the money would be used to pay the debts owing to the Crown. That is a problem about which there is some evidence. For example, evidence given to the Committee was that receivers were able to indicate that in some cases the non-payment had resulted in hardship- sometimes in extreme hardship- to creditors and to their families. That was a typical effect. One liquidator indicated that in a recent matter funds had been almost sufficient for the unpaid group tax, but that nothing was left for the 53 employees who for nearly two years had been owed $13,000 in holiday pay. The complexity of the situation is succinctly put forward in the report on page 29 where it says:
In other words the complexity was that income tax instalments could rank foremost. I make the point that in chapter 5 the recommendation of the Committee was that the Commonwealth no longer have that priority. I note from what the Minister said that the Government has not gone as far in the priorities as the Committee intended. 1 refer to a letter dated 24 November 1976 from the Premier of New South Wales to the Prime Minister urging that something be done. It is in evidence as Appendix 5. The Premier drew attention to the fact that as far back as 29 June 1971 the then Commonwealth AttorneyGeneral, the Hon. Nigel Bowen QC, had stated that section 22 1 of the Income Tax Assessment Act, was to be repealed. That was the point. In other words the former Attorney-General had indicated that the Commonwealth was going to do something about it. The letter of November 1 976 from the Premier of New South Wales took the Commonwealth to task on the basis that five years had elapsed from 1971 to 1976 and nothing had been done about it although, because of the undertaking given by the Commonwealth in 1971, the states had, in fact, done something about their Crown debts. The Premier was hoping, in the light of the unequivocal assurance given on behalf of the Commonwealth and the fact that a period of five years had elapsed, that the Commonwealth might see its way clear to honour its commitment at an early date. Three years have now elapsed since that letter was sent. One of the fascinating things about the evidence given to the Committee was that the Premier of New South Wales had referred to the fact, as recorded in Commonwealth Hansard of 17 August 1976, that this question was asked by Dr Klugman:
Are employees sometimes unable to receive salaries and long service leave payments in cases of liquidation and bankruptcy because of the prior right of the Commissioner for Taxation under s. 22 1 P of the Income Tax Assessment Act
That is what it is all about as you well know, Mr Deputy Speaker. In other words, employees could be defrauded or unable to obtain their tax instalments and then would have to pay them again. This is a serious matter and I am happy to note the Commonwealth is going to do something about it. In those cases full credit will be given, and that will be made mandatory. I do think the question of priority ought to be given early attention. I note from what the Minister says now that legislation will be forthcoming at an early date. The Premier of New South Wales in his letter to the Prime Minister in 1976 also stated:
In view of the importance … to future State and Commonwealth relations, I would be interested to receive your views thereon at your earliest convenience, together with an assurance that the outstanding legislation will be proceeded with as a matter of priority.
I make the point that that was in 1976. We are getting along the track now and I am grateful for the fact that the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs is able to give some indication of what is wanted. It does appear that the Commonwealth Government has not gone quite as far as was intended by the Committee. Nevertheless, it is giving some guarantee to all employees that any tax instalments which are lost by way of misappropriation will be given credit and that is something that is indeed beneficial. We await with interest the legislation.
Debate resumed from 12 September, on motion by Mr Howard:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-Last night before I was interrupted I was talking about the means by which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) proposes to finance some of the grandiose schemes which he mentioned in his speech in reply to this year’s Budget. I was wondering how on earth he thought that the $500m spent on a job call would save a single job. I pointed out that one alternative for raising money would be to increase taxation but that the net result would be to lose jobs. The other alternative that he would have for raising the money would be to increase the deficit, and he would do that. Of course, he would have to borrow more money or print more money but it is basically as simple as that. If he borrowed more money in the present circumstances it would mean a further increase in interest rates which obviously would push costs up not only to the large borrowers but probably, and more importantly, to the small borrowers and the young couples who want to build houses. Those people would put that decision off if interest rates were high because it would mean that they would have to pay higher repayments. That, of course, produces a lessening of job opportunity in the community.
Apart from that, an increase in the deficit- this is something that the Government has been extremely mindful of- inexorably increases a long term debt. If one looks at that part of the Budget we find that this year we have gone through the $2,000m mark in debt repayment. We have to raise that money annually from taxpayers in Australia. I am very unhappy that my children are going to be saddled with debts that governments of this era have been incurring. That is something that is not airy fairy; it is a fact. Nevertheless, if the deficit were increased to cover some of these schemes we would have to either print money and create inflation or borrow more and still create inflation. Either of those actions will mean a lowering of confidence. Perhaps the most important aspect of the economy at present is the confidence that is required to keep this fragile and gradual increase on the move. If we lower confidence at this stage, as I believe the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) is proposing, we would have an effective drop in the creation of jobs. (Quorum formed). Mr Deputy Speaker, the drawing of attention to the state of the House and the forming of a quorum was unfortunately a device to try to interrupt what is really -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Martin)Before the honourable member goes any further, I might add that it was touch and go, quite frankly, whether there would be a quorum in the House. If there had not been a quorum in the House, it would have been necessary to close the House down. The quorum was formed as the last grain of sand fell through the sand-glass. I draw the attention of all members to that fact.
– I raise a point of order. I take exception to it being said that the calling of a quorum is a device. Our Standing Orders provide that there shall be one-third of the members present while business is being conducted. I ask for the honourable member to be called upon to withdraw his comment that it was a device that was used.
-I point out that it is open for any member of the House to call a quorum and use the forms of the House as he deems fit.
– That confirms that it is a device; I use that word advisedly. There are three points of a rather technical nature about the Budget that I would like to mention. I am not left with very much time. First, I refer to the expenditure on capital works, which is a matter that is always discussed after the Budget. It seems to be an important part of the Budget. It goes across many departments. The degree of spending on capital works has very widespread effects on the economy. I am somewhat worried that some of the optimism shown in the Budget papers may not be quite warranted. Despite the fact that non-residential building and construction has increased, despite the fact that the Statesmainly due to the much larger cut of the cake that they are receiving from the Commonwealthhave been able to increase their capital works, and despite the fact that residential building appears to have increased just at present, I am worried that capital works and construction work in Australia may not be sustained at the present level for very long or at least will not show a significant and increasing upturn. I think we have to face the fact that most people in Australia are already living in houses and that most businesses which cater for our requirements are in buildings. We have to recognise that the next decent upturn in construction activity will come about only with an increase in immigration. I am very pleased to see that is on the way.
Secondly, I refer to real household disposable income, which is the money that Australian families have to spend. The Leader of the Opposition during Question Time lately has seemed bent on trying to say quite mendaciously that real household disposable income in Australia has been dropping. I point out that on page 70 of the Budget Papers it is clear that real household disposable income has been regularly rising in recent years, although, of course, it had an almost zero increase in the last year of the Whitlam Government. During the year just completed, 1978-79, it went up by 4.8 per cent. That part of the Budget Papers puts to rest the comments being made by the Leader of the Opposition in that context.
Thirdly, I briefly mention the labour market. Of all the factors that have been presented in the Budget Papers it would appear that in the labour market there is some reason for optimism. I do not have time to go into the reasoning for that statement. But even given the higher productivity of labour that we presently have and the high net additions to the work force because of the large number of people coming out of school, the fact that we have less excess capacity in industry and may be running into ceilings with overtime, does mean that the number of new full-time jobs in the community will increase.
What worries me most about the debate on the Budget so far is that the Opposition has shown that it is clearly anti-capitalist. The word ‘capitalist’ is from time to time seen by people as a dirty word. I have no understanding why that should be. I think it is quite obvious that capitalism has proved to be the most important economic gain, certainly in the last 1,000 years. Industrial capitalism is in fact the system which has created freedom more than any other social system that has ever been devised. It has created freedom because people are free to sell their labour, free to be mobile and, what is more, they are free with the incomes that capitalism produces to buy the items that they could not otherwise have afforded. To talk about egalitarianism as being the ultimate aim of our society, is just stupid. In the extreme, that sort of system will take away our freedom. That needs to be said. What we need in this country, what we are heading towards with this Government and what we are getting is compassionate capitalism. It is a system that can look after the disadvantaged people. It is a system that can produce the goods and produce the profits to afford those goods.
Finally, I need to say that, in future, government intervention needs to be pointed in only two directions: First, to the help of the genuinely disadvantaged people and, secondly, to ensuring that capitalism has a go. That is what intervention is required for. The essential purpose of planning should not be to remedy any failures that capitalist growth has brought, but rather to direct and at the roots to protect the very possibility of such growth. I believe that that growth will be reinforced in this Budget. The runs are now on the board. People are realising- they certainly are in my electorate of Eden-Monaro- that the job is being done. The polls that we see at present show that it is being done.
-The Budget which we are now debating is a mean, despicable and disastrous Budget which will be contractionary, inflationary and thoroughly inequitable. Speakers on our side of the House have shown this to be irrefutably so, but let me briefly recapitulate some of those points. First, I refer to the contractionary nature of this Budget. There is a large increase in receipts which are up 15.4 per cent, compared with only a 9.1 per cent increase in government expenditure, which is a real fall. If that large increase in receipts came about because of a large increase in real income- that is, because of strong economic growth- it would not be contractionary. In fact, it will occur with low rates of economic growth and the tax burden will rise. Therefore, it is contractionary. Professor Nevile of the University of New South Wales has described this Budget as the most contractionary Budget in over a quarter of a century. He is certainly one of the foremost fiscal analysts in this country. The Government argues that the contractionary effect will be offset by the improved expectations of a better business environment. But this is nothing more than guesswork and is highly unlikely to occur in our view. The assumed 3 per cent rate of growth in non-farm gross product is highly optimistic. We confidently forecast that it will be nowhere near achieved.
This Budget on the very face of it will also mean more unemployment. Even if the Budget’s targets are achieved it will mean more unemployment. The Budget states that there will be a 1 per cent increase in employment. That would mean an increase of some 60,000 people in jobs. But that implies a rise in unemployment, either official or unofficial, that is, hidden unemployment, of some 50,000 people. The number of people aged over 15 years is growing at a rate of 1.8 per cent a year. That means that the work force should be increasing by 1 10,000 people a year, a figure endorsed last year by the then Department of Employment and Industrial Relations. If we create only 60,000 additional jobs 50,000 more people will be unemployed whether they show up officially as unemployed people or not. They are persons who would have been in the work force and who would have had jobs if they could have got them. Undoubtedly, on the face of the Budget there will be a substantial increase in unemployment. If the Budget targets for the rate of growth are not achieved, as is highly likely, then so much larger will be the increase in unemployment.
This Budget is inflationary. On the very face of it, it says that there will be an increase in inflation this year of more than 10 per cent. We will return to double digit inflation. Nothing the Government says can draw away from that fact. The Budget will reduce the living standards of a great majority of the population. That is also an undoubted fact on the very face of the Budget. We are told that real wages will fall. The Budget is produced on the assumption that prices will increase by more than 10 per cent but that wages will increase by only 9 per cent to 9W per cent. Prices will be up more than wages. The real purchasing power of wages will be down. There is also an increase in taxation. The Budget assumes that pay-as-you-earn taxpayers will pay 1 5 per cent more tax this year than they paid last year.
Wages will rise by 9 per cent to 9Vi per cent but taxes will rise by 15 per cent. One per cent of that 15 per cent rise is accounted for by an assumed increase in employment. Therefore, perhaps the proper comparison is 14 per cent. But a rise of even 14 per cent is clearly a substantial increase in the proportion of income that wage and salary earners will pay in tax. Not only will people’s real wages be reduced but their real disposable take home pay will be further reduced by the increase in the proportion of their income that they pay in tax.
On top of that, for the third year in a row there is no rise in family allowances. There will be a 10 per cent fall in their value. By the end of this year they will have declined by 48 per cent in real value from the time that they were introduced. Their real purchasing power has effectively been halved since 1976. The real disposable income of wage earner households will decline because of reduced real wages, increased real taxes and reduced real family allowances. Those are undeniable facts on the very basis of the Budget itself. No interpretation is needed. I have taken those figures straight out of the Budget. Furthermore, this Budget is a redistributive Budget as all previous Fraser Budgets have been. This one fits into that mould very well. It redistributes income from the not so wealthy to the wealthy, from the poor to the rich.
– What a lot of nonsense.
-It is not a lot of nonsense. If the honourable member listens to the figures he will understand. The rise in income tax is much higher for low income earners than for high income earners. The higher the income a person earns the lesser is the percentage increase in his tax this year. There has been a rise in petrol tax. A person pays the same amount for a litre of petrol whether he is a pauper or a millionaire or whether he is unemployed or is earning $ 100,000 a year as a general practitioner or a surgeon. Therefore, the incidence of that tax is greatest on lower income earners. That is the very nature of indirect taxes. This Budget encompasses a massive increase in indirect taxes through the petrol tax. It shifts the tax burden more heavily on to the low income earners.
Health costs increases are the same no matter what a person’s income is. He pays the same for health insurance whether he is on the minimum wage or whether he earns $100,000 a year. Therefore, the increase in health costs impinges most heavily on lower income earners. The real fall in the value of family allowances impinges most heavily on low income earners because the allowances are a higher proportion of their total income. Not to increase family allowances in line with inflation provides a greater impost on the incomes and living standards of low income earners. There has been no rise in the unemployment benefit for 75 per cent of the unemployedall those who are single. They do not get a zack out of this Budget. Quite clearly, their incomes will be reduced by 10 per cent this year. Prices will be up by 10 per cent yet there is no increase in the unemployment benefit.
There is no rise in the allowance for the dependent children of pensioners and beneficiaries. There are half a million children in this category. Half a million children are the dependants of pensioners and recipients of the unemployment benefit and the sickness benefit. They have received no increase as they have received no increase in any previous Fraser Budget. This shows a despicable disregard of the welfare of children. In the International Year of the Child it is perhaps even more despicable than it would have been in any other year. The Government clearly does not give a damn about forcing half a million children into deeper poverty. There is no rise in the rent allowance for pensioners who are totally dependent on the pension and who have to pay rent. There has never been a rise whilst this Government has been in office. Clearly, these people are in increasingly desperate circumstances as rents increase substantially.
From every aspect this is a despicable and mean Budget. How does the Government come to produce such a depressing, heartless and illconceived document? It does so principally because of its absolute obsession with the deficit, its belief that reduction of the deficit is a fundamental pre-condition for economic recovery. This is a very important point. It requires a detailed analysis to show how utterly wrong this belief is. I do not have time to do that today. For now let me make three points. Firstly, we acknowledge that the continuance of high deficits creates some problems for economic management so it is desirable to reduce substantially the deficit. But the question is this: How do we best go about doing it? That is what we are arguing about. Secondly, the deficit is the natural result of a substantial recession. It could, therefore, be eliminated by a substantial return to full employment. If the deficit is the product of recession, if we get rid of the recession we get rid of the deficit. Surely that makes some sense? Thirdly, government measures to reduce the deficit before economic recovery simply make that recovery much less achievable. Things such as a massive increase in crude oil levies intensify the recession and inflation. They create more unemployment which leads inevitably to an ever-growing burden of taxation. These are three fundamental points which members opposite would do well to think about. They are points which I will take up in a future debate.
For the rest of the time available to me I will concentrate on massive government misrepresentations in the course of the debate on this Budget, both in this House and outside it. Firstly, let me refer to the state of the economy. The Budget was framed on the assumption that the economy was moving along nicely and that we were gradually developing stronger economic growth and that things were on the right path. That view simply does not accord with the facts. The Government has done its best to bury the facts in the Budget documents themselves. The most important facts are contained in the national accounts. They have usually been taken as some sort of guide as to how the economy is moving. Statement No. 2 of this Budget includes a section at the beginning which sets out to bag the national accounts and say that we cannot really take much notice of them as being a reliable indicator of the state of the economy. The Government does that for one good reason. The June quarter figures, which the Treasurer (Mr Howard) admitted at Question Time soon after the Budget was brought down, showed a reduction of 0.9 per cent in the rate of growth in non-farm gross product. In other words, there was no growth at all. It fell by 0.9 per cent in the June quarter in real terms. That is an alarming occurrence. If the growth rate has actually turned down to the point where it is negative we should all be alarmed.
The Government hastily inserted at the beginning of Statement No. 2 a section to say that we cannot really take notice of the national accounts as they are almost always revised upwards in future years. That simply is not the case. Table 1 in Statement No. 2 indicates that in the previous two years, 1977-78 and 1976-77, the revisions of the rate of growth of gross product have been downward. They have not been upward at all. Therfore the very assumption that the Government makes from the table- namely, that it can be expected that the figures for 1978-79, which are looking a bit sick at the moment, will be revised upwards in the future- just does not hang together on the basis of the Government’s table. Furthermore, there are arithmetical mistakes in that table. The average figures shown at the bottom of that table are wrong for the section headed ‘Two years later’ and the section headed
Three years later’. The situation is overstated in both cases.
So quite clearly the Government has set out to try to throw a veil over the national accounts. When the Budget had been drawn up it was concerned to find that its assumptions about the rate of growth of the economy were wrong and that gross domestic product was tending downwards. That, of course, is a very important matter.
Other factors about the state of the economy are cause for alarm. Let us look at the item personal consumption. That is a very important item if we are looking for the prospective rate of growth of the economy. If we are to have economic recovery, we clearly have to have an increase in the real level of personal consumption. The news we have had over the last quarter or so has not been good. The real level of retail sales fell by 2 per cent in the June quarter. That situation is certainly alarming. The Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research conducted a survey on consumer confidence in July. That survey found that consumer confidence was at the lowest level it had been for any of the previous 5 years during which the Institute had been conducting these reviews. So clearly there was no cause for optimism in the area of personal consumption. When that situation is coupled with the decline in living standards, we must have real fears about the trend in personal consumption in the future.
In the area of private business investment, the Budget assumes a 4’/2 per cent growth in real terms. However, on the day before the Budget was announced the Bureau of Statistics produced a survey on new fixed capital expenditure for the next 6 months- that is, up to December 1979. It showed that the investors or the businessmen expected that there would be a decline of 2 per cent in money terms in the amount of money they expected to invest in that 6-month period compared with the amount invested in the same 6 months of 1978. If we take into account the inflation rate, we are looking at a real fall of at least 8 per cent in new capital investment in the current half year. That prospect is totally contrary to Budget assumptions.
So the Government’s basic assumptions about the state of the economy on which this Budget is based are incorrect. Rather than a steadily improving and expanding economy, we had before the Budget was introduced, an economy which showed major signs of further contraction. On top of that the Government has introduced a very contractionary Budget. It is not an antiinflationary Budget, as the Treasurer and the Government would have us believe. They have continually said that this Budget is, if anything, an anti-inflationary Budget. The fact is that it encompasses an increase in inflation, and that increase in inflation will come about because of the deliberate policy decisions of the Government to increase prices. The Government has invented this new way of fighting inflation. It is done by increasing prices substantially; it is done by increasing the price of petrol, health costs and a whole load of imported materials and goods. By this means, according to the Government, inflation is beaten. The logic of that will escape most people in this country, because there is no logic in it.
Quite clearly what the Government is doing is feeding inflation and inflationary expectations by these kinds of decisions. It has deliberately increased the crude oil levy, thereby adding 1.2 per cent to prices this year. That decision was not made by the oil producing countries; it was made by the Fraser Government. The same situation applies to health costs. It will add 1.3 per cent to the consumer price index. Some unknown amount will be added by the 2 per cent increase in the price of imported materials which previously entered the country duty free. So, as I say, the Government is following this process of fighting inflation by increasing prices. It is an absurd policy.
The Government claims that it is cutting taxes. It is true that at a point in time during the year pay-as-you-earn tax deductions will be reduced, but the proportion of income paid in tax by all taxpayers will increase this year. It is the impact over the whole year that matters. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard two tables which show the impact of the Budget tax changes.
The tables read as follows-
-I thank the House. These tables speak for themselves. They show that the lower the income a person receives the higher is the percentage increase in tax this year. This, of course, is thoroughly inequitable. On top of that we have to bear in mind the fact that the increased health costs will take away from people any reduction in tax to which they might be entitled after December before they even get it. That is particularly likely to be the case if they are low income earners. Why do we have this higher income tax burden? We have it because of the promises the Government has broken. I refer to its promise to abolish the surcharge at the end of July this year and its promise to implement full tax indexation for 1979-80. The Government has done neither of these things. It has only reduced the surcharge of 1.5c to 1.07c, and tax indexation has been abandoned.
Why does the Government propose to reduce the surcharge rather than to implement tax indexation? The Treasurer says the reason is that people do not understand tax indexation. Therefore, the Government decided instead just to forget about that and to abolish the surcharge. It proposes to get its increased taxes by not implementing tax indexation. But the whole point of having tax indexation is to stop tax increases by stealth, that is, without people knowing about them. The Government said that it was essential to keep governments honest, and therefore to have tax indexation. Now by abandoning it the Government is being patently dishonest by its own definition.
The Treasurer, when he says that the people do not understand tax indexation, is really saying, that it is easier to increase taxes by not indexing the tax scales- that is, by being dishonestthan it is to do it openly by way of a tax surcharge. That is what he is really saying when he says that people do not understand tax indexation and that that is the reason the Government did not bother to go on with it. The Treasurer also defended non-tax indexation by saying that there are now only three marginal rates used instead of the seven used previously and that therefore, tax indexation is less important. What arrant nonsense. This shows total confusion of marginal rates of tax with average rates of tax. So long as we have a progressive tax system, whether there are three, seven, fifteen or thirty steps, and there is no indexation the proportion of income tax increases for everyone who pays tax, regardless of his income, so long as there is inflation. The Treasurer is talking absolute rubbish in suggesting otherwise.
He also asserted that tax indexation would be reintroduced only if wage increases and inflation were low. This is arrantly absurd. If there is no inflation tax indexation is irrelevant. No one needs tax indexation if there is no inflation. The Treasurer says that we can have indexation if there is no inflation but if there is substantial inflation we cannot have tax indexation. However, that is when it is needed. That is when it has some relevance. The Government’s whole argument about tax indexation shows tremendous perversity, deviousness and dishonesty.
I do not have time to go over the utter misrepresentation that the Hayden tax scales would cost taxpayers more than current tax scales as the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has said time and time again; that matter will have to wait for a subsequent time to be discussed. I must finish up by moving an amendment to this mean and despicable Budget. I move:
If the members of the Government parties have any integrity at all they will certainly support that amendment.
-Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment.
– The Budget presented in this House three weeks ago is a statement of the Government’s considered financial policy in the economic circumstances. It is a balancing of literally thousands of requests, needs and pressures. Many of the points raised by the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) have already been answered conclusively by the Treasurer (Mr Howard). I am sure that the honourable member for Gellibrand knows that many of the points he made are not valid, at least in the way in which he presented them.
I remind the honourable member and the House that the Government’s strategy has been endorsed by many prestigous international bodies such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, the International Monetary Fund and our own Reserve Bank of Australia, on whose board sits the illustrious Mr Hawke. So I do not propose to follow the honourable member for Gellibrand through that maze. I wish simply to make some general comments at this stage of the debate because I think that perhaps there is a need for those on this side of the House to try to draw a number of the threads together.
I think that the curious aspect of the debate has been the shifting ground of the Labor Opposition’s attack on the Budget. Of course everybody understands Labor’s efforts to criticise everything the Government does, but what we have seen here is almost a daily change in the line of attack. At the beginning, the attack was on income tax receipts and this was presented as allimportant. Actually, that attack seemed to peter out until this afternoon when the honourable member for Gellibrand, reintroduced it, and I will deal with his remarks in a little while. I think it petered out because people came to see rather clearly that a decrease in the taxation rate from 1 December cannot mean an increase in tax. If there is an increase, it is because wages will rise, and that is clear to everyone. It has been the case ever since Australia has had a progressive rate of personal income tax which, of course, it has had since the inception of personal income tax.
Labor presents itself as the alternative government so it is interesting to note how few are the specific things it has said it would do in government. In fact we can learn more from an examination of the speeches of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen) at the Labor Party conference in Adelaide during July than we can from their speeches in this debate. They did not indicate an economic policy at all; they simply took certain election positions and hoped that certain emotional points they made might be remembered. We remember their speeches here, particularly that made by the Leader of the Opposition two weeks ago, a speech that I would characterise as a catalogue of empty slogans and personal abuse. Indeed, such methods have played a large pan in Labor’s attacks in recent months but, frankly, I doubt that they have had much effect. Nevertheless, some people may regard it as having been great fun at the time.
In order to get economic matters of substance together, perhaps we should consider what Labor is suggesting and then look at the Budget provisions presented by the Government. I know that I need not go into the disaster in economic affairs caused by Labor when it was in office. I remind the House that it was the Leader of the Opposition who went to such efforts at the Labor conference in Adelaide to distance himself from Whitlamism and that period of Labor government. Of course, he was a senior Minister and Treasurer in that Government’s final phase. It was Mr Daly, also a Minister in that Government, who said: ‘We spent money as though it was going out of fashion’. Of course the whole country knows what was the result.
In summary, what the Labor leadership is presently suggesting is that the Government should have spent much more money in almost every area of government activity and, as a matter of fact, in a few other areas that it would like to create. The range and diversity of Labor’s interests is remarkable. According to Labor, more money should be spent on education, regional development, health, welfare, the States, and a hundred relatively smaller items. As a criticism, nothing is easier to say about a Budget than that this area or that area or all of them should have more money spent on them. The Leader of the Opposition, when Treasurer in 1975, said in presenting his budget: ‘You cannot get quarts out of pint pots’. And he was right; but now in 1979 he is going in the opposite direction, as is the honourable member for Gellibrand.
What sensible people know, and what was proved in this country in the years from 1973-75, is that if one greatly increases spending, several things happen in consequence. One is that taxes have to go up enormously, and Labor’s increases in taxes each year were staggeringly high. Indeed, while the Leader of the Opposition was Treasurer personal income tax increased by 89 per cent. Another thing is that inflation greatly increases, thereby depreciating people’s savings, and confidence is undermined. We then very quickly get even higher unemployment and interest rates. But we cannot get away from that. There are no magic cures or solutions. There is a limit on how much can be spent above what is earned without having the country and, in particular, the weak suffer. It has to be understood that the campaign of the Labor leadership at present is to try to raise certain doubts about issues without coming up with very much of their own. We all remember that when last year’s Budget was presented, the Leader of the Opposition brought down his alternative Budget. It was roundly condemned as inflationary and spendthrift. This year, he did not do the same for the obvious reason that everybody could have added up the cost of all the promises and would have easily seen that not only would his Budget be inflationary but also would require an immense increase in taxation. By increasing the deficit, which, by the way, Labor governments love to do because they treat it as money coming from nowhere, interest rates would be forced up. Of course that money has to be borrowed and it has to be repaid. Deficits are in effect deferred taxation.
We should always remember that it was Labor which started this huge growth in unemployment, the inflation rate and interest rates from which we have been suffering ever since. The inflation rate that we saw during those years was not entirely Labor’s fault but Labor certainly made matters far worse than it needed to have done. If Labor were shortly to be in a position of being able to implement the policies or suggestions which it is making today- I do not think for a moment that it would be in that position- it would of course make our inflation, our interest rates and our unemployment far worse. What, after all, is Labor’s response to this Budget from an inflationary pressure point of view? It has not told us. But what we do know is that in June 1 975 under Labor the inflation rate rose to 1 7 per cent. When this Government took over in November 1975 it was 14 per cent. At that time Australia’s inflation rate compared unfavourably with comparable economies; today it compares favourably.
This Budget takes a responsible attitude to the state of the Australian economy today. This Government, is endeavouring to live within its means and to indicate that not all problems can be solved by governments spending more and more money. The Government has stimulated investment and growth. In other words, it is working towards setting a climate in which the creation of real, permanent jobs can be achieved. This is not always easy. Certainly, the Government has not hesitated in indicating where there was a need for restraint and that responsibility was an essential part of providing a more healthy economy and a sustained recovery. It would have been very easy to present a Budget which would gain short term popularity; but inevitably this would have been shown to be wrong a few months later and would have created unpleasant consequences. This Budget is the right one for Australia today. I think the Opposition ought to be reminded that the old proposition that votes can be bought by spending more money is, to say the least, outdated and shallow.
Let me refer just very briefly to some of the elements of the Budget. There was pre-Budget talk of rises. I am sure honourable members remember all the speculation in this regard- that there would be rises in excises on wine, beer and spirits, in company tax and in postage charges. None of these rises occurred. On the contrary, assistance was given carefully and with restraint in a number of deserving areas- education for youth, education grants-in-aid and an easing of the means test on student assistance schemes. In the area of education $6,000m is being paid by nearly six million taxpayers. In the area of social welfare nearly $9,000m is being paid. One cannot say that these things are negligible. Employment schemes have received support, and the Labor Party knows that. Pensioners have received a number of advantages. The limit on the income that they can separately earn has been increased, and the fringe benefits have been increased. They have half-yearly indexation adjustments. There is an extension of the school dental scheme. Further funds have been allocated for aged persons accommodation. There are many repatriation concessions, meeting many of the demands of veterans around the country. The contribution to local government has gone up significantly. The concessions for small business amount to $30m. Those are some of the items which our opponents somehow manage to overlook.
But behind all that is the improvement in the economy and the efforts which the Government and the people of Australia have made in improving the economic climate. A lot of work has gone into improving exports. Exports mean more production in Australia and the creation of real and permanent jobs. In the area of trade- which has been my particular interest- there have been negotiations which have created some security of exports which this country has never had before. Yesterday the House was given the statistics on the increase in the export of manufactured goods. That is a very important element because it provides greater productivity and the manufacture of goods provides more jobs. Direct outlays in this Budget relating to manufacturing have more than doubled those in previous years and that has been done in order to provide more jobs. Business investment has been growing strongly. Many recent company announcements are showing that investment projects are coming to fruition. There are encouraging signs of increased production activity and a substantial recovery in private dwelling activity is under way. We all know of the tremendous increase that has taken place in investment capital flowing into this country in the last 1 5 months.
There is no use in trying to create phoney jobs. I might say that the Labor record shows that from the middle of 1974 to 1975 the number of jobs went down by 55,000. Actually in the private sector it went down by 155,000, but the Labor Government tried to absorb that reduction by creating 100,000 government jobs. In the last financial year the total number of jobs in this country has increased by 64,000.
– The number of unemployed has risen by 1 ,000 a week since you came to office.
– This is the way to try to create real employment in the country, and the honourable member who is interjecting knows very well that all the cosmetic schemes he would like us to build would disappear.
I have referred briefly to the matter of taxation. I will refer to it again, although not at length. The basic rate of tax which most people in this country pay, allowing for non-taxable income of nearly $4,000, used to be 33 Vi per cent. On 1 December this will go down to 32 per cent. One cannot get away from that, but the Labor Party has tried to fuzz the issue in the way that we have heard earlier. We know that throughout this year incomes will rise for a variety of reasons, including the growth that I have mentioned. The receipts from that will rise, but not the rate. On the other hand the Labor Party has made it clear that included in its taxation policy is a capital gains tax and a new resources tax on top of the existing company tax. Because of the many avenues in which the Labor Party desires to spend money, who can doubt that there would be rises right across the board as there have been in the past? Labor must always greatly increase tax because it has so many expensive schemes to finance. It announces new schemes every week and they always need big money. That deters investment and the creation of real jobs. It reduces exports and incentive. When honourable members opposite speak about soaking the rich and making the rich pay, let me remind them of this: As anybody with a nodding acquaintance with the statistics will know, there is not that much money in it; but, more important than that, when it is done the most able people in the community leave the country. That has happened all around and honourable members opposite have to face up to the fact that they will lose many of the able and educated people from all walks of life if the rate of tax is made so high that it is a large disincentive.
Unemployment is a serious matter and is of concern to all thinking Australians. I want the House to consider that problem in relation to the Budget. Some people advocate an all-out drive to increase expenditure in order to provide employment. Let us set aside those who are professional critics and will not be persuaded by any analysis. The suggestions centre on make-work schemes. This has been tried in many countries and has had an insignificant effect on the level of unemployment. It was tried energetically in this country by the previous Government in 1974. Its excess became so notorious and the side effects so serious that even the Whitlam Government reined it in in 1975. The worst feature is that make-work schemes greatly add to inflationary pressures by the spending of more money, and at the same time they increase the deficit, which is another way of saying that the Government must borrow more money to cover the position. That leads to higher interest rates and it takes money away from investment which would create real jobs. Out of this situation one gets more expenditure, a higher deficit, more inflation and higher interest rates.
I appeal to those who are listening to accept the simple truth and not to be misled by fallacies and exaggerations. There is no fixed number of jobs. There is no fixed amount of work. There is no fixed amount of trade which can be cut up into different portions. There can be more or less jobs, more or less exports or more or less production, depending entirely upon whether we as a nation handle our economy in the right way and whether we compete well and invest wisely. (Quorum formed).
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Armitage)Before I call the honourable member for Grayndler, I remind the House that this will be the honourable member’s maiden speech. I request honourable members to observe the normal courtesies and not to interject.
– Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. It is with extreme pride but a little sadness that I rise to make my maiden speech in the Australian Parliament. It is indeed unfortunate to be elected to the Parliament at a by-election caused by the death of a good man. Frank Stewart was respected highly by the people of his electorate and by the members of this Parliament. He was a principled and forthright man. One knew what he stood for and why he stood for it. As a member of this Parliament for some 26 years, he held a number of high offices in this country, offices that reflected the confidence that his colleagues had in him. I add that as a member of the Government he had the confidence of the then Opposition when he was the first Minister for sport in the Australian Parliament.
Frank served the people of Lang and Grayndler well. He was one of the great Irish Labor politicians who had experienced social inequality, as the Irish had, at first hand. They understood the necessity for social change and were a radical influence on the Australian Labor Party. They are part of the reason for the Labor Party’s commitment to social justice which unfortunately in this day and age is not shared by the Government of this country.
I am proud to stand here as the fourth member for Grayndler, a division which has always returned a Labor member. The three previous members- Fred Daly, Tony Whitlam and Frank Stewart- immersed themselves in the life of their electorate. I intend to carry on the tradition of being very much a constituency man in my electorate. For 3 1 of my 33 years, I have lived in Marrickville in the Division of Grayndler. The experience that I have had as an alderman of the Marrickville Municipal Council and in community activities in the south-west Sydney region have given me a great deal of knowledge and understanding of the social impact of government decisions on the lives of the people of my electorate. The last Budget has had a great impact on the people of my electorate. The people of Grayndler definitely need much assistance from governments and social welfare programs that can be funded only by the Federal Government.
I pay a tribute to some of those who have helped me in my career in the Labor movement. But for the support of my parents and my wife and children I doubt whether I would have achieved this office. Over the last few weeks since becoming a member of Parliament I have come to know, as has my family, many of the tribulations that members of Parliament put up with that the general community has not been aware of. I suppose in a way that I should make some apology to all the members of the Parliament who are in the House at present and the exmembers of Parliament because as a party official of the Labor Party in New South Walesperhaps as you had in the past, Mr Deputy Speaker- I had cast disparaging remarks about some Labor parliamentarians. I know now, as you know, Mr Deputy Speaker, that life is much different inside Parliament than it appears to be from the outside.
In 18 years in the ALP, one finds that many of one’s colleagues have an effect on one’s career. I would like to mention a few people who have assisted me and who have always been willing to lend an ear and to give some help when it was necessary. I mention my good friend, John Ducker, who recently retired from the position of President of the New South Wales branch of the Australian Labor Party; Barry Unsworth, who is standing for election soon to the position of Secretary of the Labor Council of New South Wales; John Johnson, the President of the Legislative Council of New South Wales; my good friend, Graham Richardson, who is the State Secretary of our Party; and the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating), sitting on the front bench, who has been an old friend of mine since we were both young men active in the ALP even though he led me down the wrong aisle when I first came into this place some weeks ago. I thank those people and, most importantly, all the people in the ALP in Grayndler who were kind enough and who had enough confidence in me to select me as their candidate which allowed me to win my seat in this Parliament. The assistance of the people in my electorate in the byelection will remain in my mind for many years. I am also grateful for the help I received from the five local members af the New South Wales Legislative Assembly. They are also good sons of Grayndler. All the MLAs in the area of my electorate are Labor members as are most of the councillors. We have a pretty tight little operation in my electorate. I hope to see that situation continue for some time to come.
In common with most inner city electorates, Grayndler is a predominantly working class electorate. The people in Grayndler were very hard hit by the mini-Budget in May. They looked forward to the Budget in August to give them some relief. Characteristically, this Government dashed their hopes. In some of the suburbs of my electorate slight variations in welfare, employment or economic policies can have a grave effect on the social fabric of the area. Fortunately, the Government rectified the mistake of 1978 and restored the twice-yearly adjustments to pensions. That mistake cost the pensioners of my electorate a great deal. I remind honourable members that there are almost 13,000 pensioners in my electorate, one of the largest groups of pensioners in any Federal electorate in Australia. The mistake of this Government cost those people $60 each. Unfortunately, many of those people could not afford that amount.
On Tuesday, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) told the House that unemployment was being reduced. He said that the number of people unemployed had fallen considerably during the term of this Government. Unfortunately, I cannot say that that situation applies to the electorate of Grayndler. Information from the Marrickville and Campsie Commonwealth Employment Service offices which are in my electorate shows that 8,106 people are seeking work and that there are 145 advertised job vacancies. That is not an abberration; that is structural unemployment. It is something that this Government will have to consider and for which it will have to provide policies to ensure that that situation is alleviated. In June 1979, of those registered at the Marrickville CES office, over 1,000 people had been out of work for more than 65 weeks. That is hardly a passing phenomenon. Most of those registered had been out of work for periods exceeding two weeks. In fact, only 297 of the 4,700 people registered at the Marrickville CES office had been looking for work for less than two weeks. To my mind that is one of the most damning indictments of this Government. If 1,000 people have been out of work for 65 weeks, one cannot say that they do not want work. It is very hard to say that they do not want work if only 145 jobs are advertised as vacant and 4,700 people are applying for them.
The present Government has nothing to offer the unemployed. There is no work and no assistance for those people who cannot get work. The Government continues to consider the unemployed to be second class citizens. The previous speaker in this debate, the Minister for Special Trade Representations (Mr Garland), said precisely that. If the Government had any intention of helping the unemployed, it would first have agreed to lift the level of extra allowable weekly income for unemployed people from $6 to $20 as is allowed for other recipients of social security benefits. The $6 limit has not been changed since 1969; thus no encouragement is given to the unemployed to seek casual work. This deprives the young unemployed of valuable work experience. It is very difficult for an unemployed person seeking work of an employer who asks: ‘What have you done before?’ The applicant has to say that he has been out of work for a few months. Someone who has done a bit of work will be taken on. The people who have been put out of work by technological change need retraining and some form of work experience to keep their minds and bodies active. The present Government discourages this to the extent that if an unemployed person earns more than $6 a week he will lose some of his unemployment benefit. That is not a government with any sort of social conscience. That is a government that believes the unemployed are people who are morally wrong. I do not think any of us should in all conscience accept that. The 1979-80 Budget has further widened the gap between single unemployment beneficiaries and other social security beneficiaries. The benefit for single unemployed persons has not been increased for two years, and their benefit increases are no longer tied to the increases in the consumer price index. Unlike increases for other pensioner and beneficiary groups, their increases are now subject to budgetary discretion. The situation is that the Government- members of the Executive huddled together- can afford to discard the single unemployed. Unfortunately, the Government does not see many of the unemployed and they are left to rot on the vine in the inner city suburbs.
In November the pension for single pensioners will increase to $57.90. The single unemployed will still receive only $5 1.45. 1 do not see how an unemployed person can live on less money than a pensioner. I think it costs all Australians about the same. I do not think the unemployed can buy goods cheaper and I do not think the unemployed can live cheaply. The Government seems to think so. As I said, unemployed people under 18 years have not received an increase in benefit since 1975. Since this Government came into office it has said that there was no need to increase the benefit for young unemployed. I do not know how anyone can live on $36 a week. Those honourable members on the other side who are smiling obviously do not know either. I would like to see some of them try to do so.
In Grayndler unemployment is a chronic condition, not a temporary aberration. The present Government should consider that and should consider the plight of people who are so much worse off than we are. Unfortunately the Government tends to treat the unemployed as industrial and social flotsam. The Government should reconsider its programs and make more money available for job creation programs instead of cutting retraining grants and the money that is available for other types of assistance. The Government has not improved the standard of living for Australian families. We have heard much carping in this Parliament over the last few weeks about what the Government has done for Australian families. It has done absolutely nothing. The Government has been living on credit for the family allowance which it introduced some years ago. I think everyone in the Parliament would agree that the family allowance was a good innovation. This year the Government has brought in one other innovation, that of extending eligibility for a pensioner health benefits to supporting parents. The Government is responsible for two innovations; two creative actions in four years! That does not make a Government with any son of conscience, let alone a social conscience.
The Government has not increased family allowances this year even though it seems to think that is the jewel in its social welfare crown. Families in my electorate are having a harder and harder time making ends meet. Spiralling health costs have added to their burden. Migrant families are now finding out about the con job that has been done on them by the Government over the tax deductibility for overseas dependants. They are filling in their tax returns now and finding that the Government by stealth has taken away the right that they had to claim as a tax deduction dependants who are living overseas. I do not know whether the next move by this Government will be to try to take away the tax deductibility provisions for those dependants who live in Australia. Maybe the Government will take it away for those who live in Tasmania because the Government might consider them to be overseas. However they might buy some apples, and that would solve the problem.
The plight of families in Australia, as I have said, is one which is not bright at all at present. As a parent with three young children, I worry what their future will be if the present Government should run this country for much longer. It is attacking most of the areas that affect young married people. It is attacking most of the areas which all members of this Parliament hold dear, that is, the right of equal opportunity for all. In real terms the Government has cut education funding by telling the States that it had to reallocate a number of its budgetary programs. This has cut education funding across-the-board throughout Australia. My electorate in particular has been hurt by this cut because Grayndler, as I have said, as an inner city electorate, has for many years suffered the harsh reality of a Federal Liberal-Country Party government which has said that the children of the poor exist just as industrial cannon fodder. We have seen the educational opportunities for the children of my generation and my own children who have gone to schools in my electorate slowly but surely sink into the mire.
In 1972 when the Whitlam Labor Government came to power a good deal of that changed.
We saw the educational opportunities for children in the inner city areas changed. They got better. There was hope once again for the children of working people. The present Government has cut much of those funds. The effect has been that innovative teaching programs have had to be reduced and the in-service training programs have had to be curtailed. The disadvantaged children who attend schools in the inner city areas have lost out again. As usual, the ones who are least able to fight back are the ones who have suffered most. To my mind, that is a scandal. The reduction in spending on the community language program in the inner city areas of Sydney and Melbourne has caused a great problem in the schools. In some of the schools in excess of 50 per cent of the children in their first year at school are unable to speak English. The cuts in community language programs have onece again forced the creation of divisions which occurred in the past. This Government, despite what it has done with the Galbally report, stands condemned for that problem.
Families are being forced to seek two incomes to keep up with the current spiralling cost of living. Women are being forced to work part time. But what has the Government done to extend child care services in the inner city areas? It has done practically nothing. The Government has said that this year child care funding is to be increased by 1.03 per cent, but what it has not told the public at large is that in that increase it has lumped the cost of child care facilities in the Northern Territory. In fact, nothing has changed. Because in New South Wales there is a large number of private child care centres and kindergarten union centres, which are not long day care centres, the children in the inner city areas of Sydney have been further disadvantaged. The families in those areas have had to consider the dire economic implications of that. People who have to pay $45,000 for a two-bedroom semidetached home and have to find money to service their mortgage are in real strife, especially if the husband is on $7,000 a year and his wife is trying to find part time work, in competition with 4,700 others in the electorate who are out of work.
The Government’s claims that it helps the families of Australia are shown by the figures in the Budget to be manifestly false. The same thing happened in the 1976-77 Budget. New South Wales is once again sadly disadvantaged because of the inadequate provision for child care in the inner cities. If one looks at the amount of funds provided for long day care and family day care schemes in Victoria and compares that with what was being spent in New South Wales one sees where the Government’s political airlegiances lie. Funding for children’s services is supposed to have risen by 16 per cent. Unfortunately when one looks at the level of expenditure and inflation, which the Government itself says will be at least 10 per cent in the coming 12 months, it can be seen that the amount of money being made available for children’s services in Australia has been reduced in real terms by 2.4 per cent. This is from a government that says it cares about the family. That is from a government that says it believes in the rights of the little people.
On 23 June the people of Grayndler said what they felt about the mini-Budget in May. They also said, I believe on behalf of Australia, that they thought the Government should look again at its policies. Unfortunately, we have seen in this present sitting that the Government has not. The Australian people are looking for leadership. Business is calling out for an increase in consumer spending. People need work. Bank deposits are the highest in Australia’s history and they are high because of the all-pervading fear of retrenchment and dismissal. What has been the Government’s response to these dire national problems? We have experienced only broken promises and a phoney $4m television program to get people working. We should find better ways to motivate Australian people than promoting a television program and thereby putting money in the pockets of the television advertising agencies and the pockets of the large companies that control the television stations in Australia.
Australians do not want circuses. They want competent leadership and a sense of unity. The Government has failed in that task, a task that the Government set itself in 1975 and again in 1977. We have seen that most despicable advertisement with a fistful of dollars which this Government was going to give to Australian families. We now know that that fist was the dead hand of the Liberal-Country Party Government taking money away from working Australians.
Mr Deputy Speaker, the previous members for Grayndler have always been men who have fought for social justice in their State, in their Party and in this Parliament. With the assistance of my colleagues I hope to continue that fight in this Parliament.
-Before I comment on the Budget, let me firstly extend my congratulations, and I am sure the congratulations of all honourable members in the House, to the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr
Leo McLeay) on his maiden speech. He does follow, as he himself has recognised, a very great man in that electorate. Frank Stewart was a man who was held in great respect on both sides of this house and in both Houses of this Parliament. If the honourable member of Grayndler who has just addressed us can attain a similar reputation, I am sure the Parliament will be well served. I was particularly interested in his comment that since his election he had discovered the tribulations of being a member of parliament. He commented that as a party official he had had occasion in the past to cast disparaging remarks upon some of the Labor parliamentarians. He need not apologise for that. In fact, we on this side of the House would encourage him to continue in that very worthwhile activity.
The Budget has been a responsible Budget, a measured Budget, one that takes account of the economic circumstances of our time and one that extends social justice in our community. I want to deal with the paradox that has developed in some of the comments that have been made on the Budget in the media by various commentators. On the one hand we have allegations that there have been cut-backs in social welfare. On the other hand we have assertions from some interest groups that social welfare spending is out of control. I am sure that we have all experienced this dichotomy of views. On the one hand groups are saying that there have been cut-backs and condemning the Government for the cut-backs and heartlessness; on the other hand, curiously, other groups are saying exactly the oppositethat social social welfare spending is out of control.
Let us try to put this into some perspective. In Australia over the past 10 years, expenditure on social security and welfare has increased almost sevenfold, from $1.3 billion in 1969-70 to $5 billion in 1975-76, and to an estimated $8.9 billion in 1979-80. Some of this increase would have been offset because of the taxing of pensions and benefits and the change from a child tax rebate to a family allowance scheme. There has nonetheless been a significant increase in spending, not only in money terms but also in real terms and as a proportion of the gross domestic product. Even if adjustments are made for spending on family allowances, unemployment and sickness benefits, expenditure on social security and welfare as a proportion of the Commonwealth Budget has increased from 18 per cent in 1975-76 to 2 1 per cent in 1979-80. That I think is a significant comparison- 18 per cent in 1975-76, the year of the last Labor Budget, to 2 1 per cent in 1979-80. In overall terms, therefore, there certainly has been no cut-back, as some people claim.
Over the past 10 years the number of people in receipt of social security pensions and benefits has more than doubled, from about one million in 1969 to over two million in 1979. At the same time the number of people in the labour force has increased by only 24 per cent, so the House can see that there has been a smaller increase in the taxation base of the economy than in the number of pensioners and social security beneficiaries. Measuring that growth in another way, one can say that in 1969 there were 179 pensioners per 1,000 members of the labour force. In 1979, 10 years later, this figure has increased to 284 per 1,000 members of the labour force. Those ratios do not include unemployment, sickness and special benefits; they do include the more permanent types of social security payments.
The levels of pensions and benefits have also increased substantially over the last decade. The standard rate of pension has risen from $14 a week at December 1968 to $53.20 at December 1978 and will increase again to $59.90 a week in November 1979. The increase of 280 per cent in pensions during the 10 years to last December compares with an increase of 144 per cent in the consumer price index. At the time of the last pension increases the rate represented a record 24 per cent of average weekly earnings. That is a point not often recognised- that as a percentage of average weekly earnings, the pension reached its highest level ever under the Fraser Government after the last Budget.
The single rate of unemployment benefit for adults without dependants has increased from less than 12 per cent of average weekly earnings to about 23 per cent over the same period. One of the reasons for the increasing numbers of pensioners and beneficiaries in our community is the increases in eligibility for pensions. There have been successive actions by Commonwealth governments which have changed the means test- or the income text, as it is now. There have been changes in conditions of eligibility for certain benefits, extensions of supporting parents benefits, et cetera.
One other major reason for the increase is the aging of the Australian population. Future policies will need to account for this development unless the birth rate increases- I suppose that is unlikely- or we adopt a deliberate immigration policy aimed at bringing young people into the country. Even such an immigration policy would have difficulty in effecting a ‘younging’ of the
Australian population, if I may put it that way. As we all know as members of parliament, new citizens frequently make representation to us to have their elderly parents admitted to Australia. To some extent at least that would counteract any attempt to introduce younger people into the community through a deliberate immigration policy.
Some commentators have suggested that we ought to lower the retirement age in order to provide more places in the work force for those presently unemployed. Whilst we must search for ways of finding more jobs for the unemployed, I suggest that lowering the retirement age would only narrow the tax base and require heavier taxes on those still in the work force. In its own way that would be a discouragement to further employment. We may need to make it possible for more people to continue in the work force after the present normal retirement age of 65, thus broadening the number of opportunities for a wide range of people in the community and broadening the tax base.
The Government has developed specific policies and programs for particular needy groups or for those at risk. One of those groups is single parents. During the 1970s, Commonwealth governments of both persuasion have significantly extended assistance to sole parents. In 1973, assistance was provided to many sole mothers previously ineligible, such as unmarried mothers and separated wives. In 1977, the Fraser Government introduced assistance to sole fathers on a similar basis to that provided to sole mothers, so that the supporting mothers benefit, as it was, became a supporting parents benefit.
The Budget further extended eligibility for pensioner health benefit cards to those receiving the supporting parent benefit. Whilst it is difficult to calculate the value of these additional benefits to the individual beneficiary, it has been suggested that, on average, they could be worth about $10 a week. In many cases they could be worth more because of the actions of local councils and owners of private businesses, such as cinemas, in extending other benefits to people who hold pensioner health benefit cards. It is estimated that some 56,000 supporting parents with 96,000 children will qualify for pensioner health benefit cards. As a result their health costs will be reduced significantly. This will be of special importance to those with young children, particularly children suffering from chronic illnesses. A task force consisting of the Commonwealth and State governments has been established to review the implications of consolidating all existing assistance given to lone parents with dependants. At present there are some inconsistencies between the types of support offered by the various State governments and there is some overlapping of services given by the State governments and the Commonwealth Government.
Another group of particular concern to this Government is handicapped persons. The Government has given a particular priority to developing programs for handicapped people. In the past three financial years some $ 1 15.5m has been spent under the handicapped persons welfare program. This program provides subsidies for sheltered workshops, activity therapy, training centres and residential accommodation for handicapped persons. We have widened the eligibility criteria for Commonwealth rehabilitation assistance so that treatment and training can be offered to all classes of disabled people of working age. Before 1977 the free-of-charge programs were available only for those who hoped to undertake future paid employment. The handicapped children’s allowance was introduced in 1974 and has been increased in real terms under the Fraser Government. In 1977 eligibility was extended to substantially handicapped children where the family income was low and to handicapped students in the 16 years to 24 years age group. In addition, the benefit paid to organisations conducting approved residential accommodation for handicapped children has been incresed. The facilities of the Commonwealth Rehabilitation Service have been expanded. In the last financial year a record 4,552 people were accepted for rehabilitation and nearly 1,600 were placed in open, part time or sheltered employment.
This Government has also recently announced the extension of the age limit for the domiciliary nursing care benefit from 65 years and over to 16 years and over for those people who fall within the eligibility criteria for that particular benefit. This will provide a supplementary benefit of $14 a week to those who have to look after at home relatives who require substantial nursing assistance and who meet certain criteria which decree that additional expenses have to be met on their behalf. This will be of assistance to a number of people- they are not necessarily going to continue to live in my electorate- who live at the Yarra-Me hostel for paraplegics and quadriplegics in Croydon. Many of them would prefer to be looked after at home and some additional financial assistance to their families would be of assistance in bringing about that objective.
I want also to mention one of the gaps to which I think we have to give greater attention in future. I refer to the need for either short term hostel accommodation or long term permanent residential accommodation for severely handicapped or retarded people. In Croydon, which is in my electorate, there is an establishment known as Monkami. It is a centre for severely handicapped and retarded people. It has day training facilities and sheltered workshop facilities. It also has some accommodation facilities which are gravely overtaxed at present. Recently I attended a meeting of parents of the children who attend that centre. They were concerned about the need for increased residential accommodation. They are fearful of what will happen to their handicapped children when they, the parents, become aged and pass on. And their children may be getting on in years too. It is all very well for the parents to look after their children but as the parents get older they fear that there may not be a place for their children where they will be looked after with the same degree of care that their families have given them. I can see that this problem is coming up in various areas and probably needs a greater priority of funds.
In short, those who say that they are opposed to the cutbacks in the social security budget and in social welfare spending generally should specify where those cutbacks have been made and say how much they would increase expenditure in those areas and how the revenue to cover the increased expenditure should be raised. On the other hand, those who say that social welfare expenditure is out of control, ought to specify where the surpluses are in current expenditure and be prepared to publicly justify cuts when the inevitable criticism comes to government for having taken drastic action to cut back expenditure. I believe that this Government has adopted a realistic attitude to its responsibilities in the social welfare area. It has looked at areas of need. It has tried to concentrate expenditure increases in those areas of need and it has done so in a way that has not placed unnecessary strains on the economic capacity of this country. I commend the Budget to the House.
-As the Opposition Whip, I take this early opportunity of congratulating the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Leo McLeay) on the occasion of his maiden speech to this Parliament. He is a very worthy successor to a most distinguished former colleague, the late honourable Frank Stewart. I also have the good fortune and the honour of seconding the Opposition’s amendment to this Budget. I do not expect that Australians will hang on to every word that I say. Quite frankly, I think the Australian community is totally bored with this debate. It sees it as a non-event. I think it feels quite frustrated and disillusioned with a government that has torn up all its promises. It is also aware that, as bad as this Budget is, so much of the dirty work was done last May in an attempt to confuse the situation even further. But for the little Budget announced last May, the Budget that we are now debating would be even more unattractive.
Time does not permit me to go through that May Budget but honourable members will recall that it involved tax impositions of $ 1 , 1 00m. Also embodied in it was the virtual destruction of Medibank. I will refresh honourable members’ memories on that matter. From 1 September the Commonwealth will not pay the 40 per cent subsidy on any one item where the schedule fee is below $20. Of course, this has the effect of making patients collectively pay $2 10m in a full year for medical services. So many other things were done last May. There was the attempt to clip the wings of the farmers who at long last were having a better time than hitherto. We cut the assistance to needy farmers by $22. 3m under the rural adjustment scheme. An additional $30m was collected from farmers for the export inspection services and disease eradication programs. There also were many little things. I know that one matter involving migrants affected the interests of the shadow minister at the table, the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Dr Cass). The fact that passport fees are to rise by $5 makes it so much harder for migrants and their families to return to their homelands for occasional visits.
Honourable members will remember a small item that was not mentioned too much, from 1 July 1979 an ad valorem revenue customs duty of 2 per cent was imposed on most goods which up until then had been imported free of charge. That is now in progress. That is being taken for granted. It is an enormous inflationary factor which has been felt very keenly by many housewives in the supermarkets. Grants for urban public transport were deferred. Funding to government schools were cut by $42m. The home savings grant had a price tag put on it. I think the combined cost of the land and the house were not to exceed $40,000. Of course, when one gets 25 miles out from the centre of Sydney one pays $25,000 for a quarter acre block of land anyway. With the balance, one is not able to build a house and so the needy young couples are excluded from the benefits of the homes savings grants scheme.
One could go on and on talking about the pernicious effect of the little Budget last May. Now we are to face the effects of this Budget. This Budget is a high tax Budget; it is a rip-off Budget; and it is a Budget of broken promises. These rip-offs and dishonoured commitments leave the reputation of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in ruins. There are many people who contend that he can no longer be trusted in respect of his promises and no longer be believed. Worse still, ordinary Australian wage earners and average families are the victims of his cynical economic manipulation. Australian families will be making -
-Order! The honourable member will not reflect personally on any member of this House. He is getting very close to doing just that.
-I will substitute the word ‘Government’ for the reference to the Prime Minister. I am sure you will be elated with that, Mr Deputy Speaker. The Australian family will be making sacrifices to meet the Government’s demand for a savage hike in payasyouearn tax revenue. The Australian motorist is also the subject of ruthless exploitation so that the family car is to be a vehicle for gathering more Government revenue. The Government’s failure to implement tax indexation and the continuation of the 2.57 tax surcharge until December 1979 means that PA YE taxpayers will pay $ 1,552m more this year. That is over one and a half billion dollars extra tax to be paid this year. Despite the expected 9 per cent wage rise, a family with one wage earner and two dependent children will have real after tax income reduced by 2.5 per cent in 1979-80. Of course, this represents a very serious drop in living standards. With all the economic argument that goes on in this place, that of course is the acid test. The deterioration in living standards is the clear indication of this Government’s economic failure. It is interesting to see that, while this Government has made a victim of the Australian motorist, it has caused itself to be the major beneficiary and oil companies to be the second beneficiary to gain a major windfall. In 1976-77, Esso-BHP received 70c net profit for each barrel of crude oil after all costs including taxes were allowed for. In the first half of this financial year, the net profit had escalated from 70c a barrel to $2.30 a barrel. But, as a result of this Government’s petrol-pricing policy, the price of petrol to motorists has doubled while the profit for a barrel of domestically produced oil has trebled. In other words the motorist is the last consideration, the last cab off the rank, the innocent victim of Fraserism, of this Government’s policies.
Last June the Illawarra Mercury, a daily newspaper circulating in the Wollongong area and a responsible paper, not a rat-bag rag, revealed the results of a survey that it had conducted over a long period. The headlines of 2 July read: ‘Survey reveals squalor. 30,000 Living in Poverty.’ The article went on with many, many startling revelations. It stated that 10.8 per cent of the Illawarra population lives on an average of $55 a week. It stated that more than 6,000 people on unemployment benefits pay more than 50 per cent of their pay cheques for accommodation. It also states that there are some 23,000 people in the region on pensions and benefits. The survey established that there had been a 300 per cent increase in the number of people seeking assistance from such benevolent organisations as the Smith Family, St Vincent de Paul and the Anglican welfare organisation. These people were seeking relief parcels in the form of food and the like. The numbers in that region who are receiving aid have reached the frightening figure of 90,000. Many of those seeking assistance are one income families with four, five or six dependent children.
I presented the results of this survey to the responsible Ministers. I received the most innocuous responses and Government propaganda which simply said that the Government is concerned in the fight against inflation and until inflation is beaten there will be no relief to the situation. That is a very sad position. In almost every instance single and married people with dependents living on the pension or unemployment benefits are living below the poverty line after paying their taxes. For example, married and single persons on a pension or unemployment benefit with one, two of three dependants are expected to live on weekly incomes between $13.74 and 12.46 below the poverty line. If a married couple has five dependent children and the bread winner is unemployed, the family is expected to live on a weekly income $15.34 below the poverty line. No wonder that in New South Wales there are 6,418 applications for housing commission homes from pensioners applying for single person units. Of course, there are about 100,000 families with children on housing commission lists throughout Australia. These families are living on very low incomes and those on the pension or unemployment benefits are below the poverty line. At present they are living in extremely poor housing conditions. In only four instances in the family groupings with one, two, three, four or five children and so on do families living on the pension or unemployment benefit receive a weekly income above the poverty line, that is, a married couple without children on the pension and a married couple with six or seven children on the pension, If the same married couple with six or seven children is on the unemployment benefit however, they are living more than $6 a week below the poverty line. I ask leave of the House to incorporate in Hansard an official Parliamentary Library table in respect of this poverty level.
The table read as follows-
-I thank the House. There have been other attacks on families, of course. Let me give some examples. The family allowance and dependent children allowance have not been indexed or increased since this Government came to office. This means that the real value will be reduced by at least the expected rate of inflation which no doubt will go to at least 10 per cent this year. Low income earners, the unemployed and social security beneficiaries are, of course, the hardest hit. The fall in real level of unemployment benefit in the last three years has been 3.2 per cent for single adults, 2.8 per cent for married couples and 24.9 per cent for single persons 16 to 17 years of age. The fall in real value of the family allowance has been 24.9 per cent and the fall in value of the standard rate of pension has been 3.2 per cent and for the combined married rate 2.8 per cent. The dependent allowance of $7.50, which has not been altered, should have been increased to $12 per week to keep up with the cost of living.
Let me refer to another matter that seriously affects the Australian family and on which this Government gave some commitment. I refer to pharmaceutical benefits. The charges for drugs and medicines on the so-called free list have been raised under this Budget 25c to $2.75 a prescription from 1 September 1979. In one year this will cost pensioners and needy patients $7m.
The Government has also decided to cut the number of drugs available on the free list. Although the number has not been determined, the Government will be seeking to achieve a full year saving of $20m by that process alone, the cost of which will have to be borne by those most in need- the sick and the needy.
– It is still under review.
-It is still under review? It certainly needs to be reviewed. The fact is that what I have put to the House is correct. There is no official contention that there will be any second thoughts on the matter. Let me give the reviews of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia. Its Press release of 2 1 August this year states:
The Pharmacy Guild of Australia was critical of the Government for increasing the patient contribution on pharmaceuticals dispensed under the National Health Scheme. The President of the Guild, Mr Alan Russell, said the Government had not only increased the monetary burden on all sick people, but had failed to take account of the needs of the disadvantaged groups in the community.
It goes on:
While the Government a year ago recognised the financial plight of people classified by doctors as disadvantaged and agreed to pay for the cost of a medical consultation, they still expect these same people to pay the full contribution towards the cost of medication arising from that consultation . . .
Of course, that is a cost which has increased as a consequence of the last Budget. The Press release concludes by saying: the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme was now only a Government price fixing mechanism of manufacturers ‘ products and did not provide any substantial financial relief to the sick in the community.
Of course that is the case. The extent by which other services to support a family have been cut by the Fraser Government can be illustrated by the following figures prepared by the Statistical Service of the Parliamentary Library. The figures take into account the effects of inflation and compare this year’s allocation with allocations in the last Labor Budget of 1975-76. Using 1975-76 dollars, community health facilities and services this year have been cut by $ 14.8m. There are other programs referred to in this table, but I will not mention them all. Let me instance several of them. Using that effective level of the 1975-76 dollar value, dental services for school children have been cut by $8. 7m; children’s services have been cut by $ 1 7.3m; payments to the States for schools have been cut by $22.8m; payments for child migrant and refugee education have been cut by $7.2m; payments for pre-school and child care have been cut by $ 18.6m; payments for housing have been cut by $205.8m and payments for leisure and cultural facilities have been cut by $5.4m. I seek the approval of the House to incorporate that table in Hansard.
-I thank the House. The changes to health insurance schemes and the destruction of Medibank as a universal health insurance scheme have not reduced the cost of health care to the Australian public. The latest figures available show that national health expenditure rose from $5, 600m in the year 1975-76 when Medibank was in operation to $7, 151m in the year 1977-78. Coupled with this increase has been the shift of the burden on to the individual. That is what is happening on so many fronts under this Government. The principle which has been traditionally adhered to in this country is now being set aside. In connection with so many matters vital to the well-being of the community, the principle is that the costs should be contributed to on a capacity to pay basis. That principle is being eroded. It is being eroded to the extent that the Government is now shifting the burden from the collective public purse back on to the individual. If the individual is a low income earner then the burden is enormous. Of course, that is one of the great differences in attitude between this Government and the Australian Labor Party and the former Labor Government. We do not abandon that principle of contributing to the cost of important services like health. We believe it is important that they should be paid for according to the individual’s capacity to pay. Is not that the way we have always paid for education? Is not that the way we have paid for the defence of the country? Is not that the way we have paid for so many of the social services of the country? Why has the Government abandoned that principle in respect of so many important matters which affect the widows, the aged and the impoverished in our community?
In 1975-76 the percentage of national health expenditure paid by the Commonwealth Government was 48 per cent. In 1977-78 this dropped to 37 per cent and the individual was asked to pay almost all of the difference- 10 per cent or $7 1 5m. Of course, if one could go on, one could instance so many examples of that kind. It all adds up to this: This Government has over the period it has been in office, waged a most insidious and even blatant attack on Australian families which the Government has pledged to uphold and support. It is the families which are the victims of its deteriorating policy- this lack of principle that is embodied in so many enactments of the Fraser Government.
-The honourable member’s time has expired.
Debate (on motion by Mr Graham) adjourned.
– Earlier today the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris) raised a matter of privilege. The honourable member stated that he had approached the Chair and had been threatened by the Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair) who was talking to me at the time. In accordance with practice I stated that I would consider the matter and report to the House. I have discussed the matter with the honourable member for Shortland. He has indicated to me that he now has no wish to pursue the matter. I have also spoken to the Leader of the House who has explained that he misunderstood the intention of the honourable member for Shortland in approaching the Chair at that time. In these circumstances it would be idle for the House to pursue the matter of privilege.
-May I have the indulgence of the Chair to make an inquiry about the matter to which you have just referred?
-The honourable member for Hughes has my indulgence.
-This morning a most serious matter was raised by the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris) who contended that violence was threatened to him in the House. Do I understand, Mr Acting Speaker, that you consider, by the remarks you have just made, no other action is contemplated in respect of the blatant threat to which you were a witness?
-The Chair reported to the House consistent with the statement I have just made in the hope that it would meet with the approval of the House, particularly in view of the expressed desire by the honourable member for Shortland that the matter not be pursued. The situation rests there unless the House should indicate to the contrary.
– I have something to add. I misunderstood the remarks of the honourable gentleman. I therefore withdraw any imputation that might have flown from anything I said to him in your presence.
– You were going to regret it.
-I regret if I misunderstood your intent and I certainly regret that you misunderstood my intent.
– With your indulgence, Mr Acting Speaker, I agreed to the matter not being proceeded with further because, after the discussion with you, it appeared that there was a misunderstanding or misapprehension by the Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair). In good faith and in expectation of an explanation by the Leader of the House and an expression of regret for his actions at the time, I agreed that I would not pursue it further. 1 hope that was the intent of the remarks he just made. I made my response in good faith.
– by leave- The major challenge taken up by this Government has been to get Australia out of the economic and industrial morass into which it was thrown by the Labor Government. We have acted in the conviction that Australia ‘s problems will not just disappear or be overcome by policies which place short term political popularity first. As a direct result, the Australian economy has been improving for some time now. But we recognise that, in a democracy, the ability of any government to shape the directions of the economy is limited by the attitudes and actions of the individual groups within it. Nowhere is this more apparent than in industrial relations.
Under the Labor Government, industrial relations became the battleground for social and economic conflict. That Government was an active participant in dividing the community as it encouraged trade unions to pursue massive wage increases often through industrial action. Evidence of the damage caused to our industries and to the economy is still apparent despite the fact that under this Government there has been a marked improvement in the standard of industrial relations. In 1975, the Liberal-National Country parties recognised that restoring order to industrial relations was inseparable from responsible economic management. When elected, the new Government immediately set about reestablishing the authority of the conciliation and arbitration system and adapting the industrial relations framework to meet the needs of the parties involved and the community.
To do this the Government set in train a number of specific policies. Secret postal ballots for all elections for management positions in federally registered organisations were introduced, and provision was made for members of these organisations to receive adequate notice of forthcoming elections. The rights of individuals in industrial relations have been protected. Employers have been given redress against employee secondary boycotts similar to that against boycotts organised by other companies. The Industrial Relations Bureau has been established. The Government has enacted legislation so that it, as a major employer, can meet its industrial relations responsibilities. The National Labour Consultative Council has been established as a fundamental part of the Government ‘s policy of encouraging effective consultation and communication between government, employers and trade unions.
All of the Government’s initiatives have been designed to provide the framework for the orderly conduct of industrial relations. It is up to employers and employees to use that framework to prevent the serious inconvenience and hardship that results from industrial disruption. While employers and unions have their responsibilities, the Government recognises that it has its own responsibility to protect the public interest. We make no apology for taking a firm stand when the community is threatened with industrial disruption resulting from campaigns designed to intimidate employers or arbitral authorities. The Government’s policy in relation to these circumstances has been made clear and it will be continued.
Through these policies and its legislation, the Government has done a great deal to improve the standard of industrial relations. Our efforts have had considerable success. Since 1975, there has been a declining trend in the number of disputes and working days lost. During the time of the Labor Government, an average of 4.1 million man days were lost per year. The average for the three years 1 976 to 1 978 was 1 .8 million if the Medibank aberration is excluded and 2.1 million if it is included. However, it is very disturbing that the latest available information indicates that this decline has been reversed, and disputes are increasing.
At this time, when the trend is towards increased industrial unrest, we would do well to remind ourselves that there is a quite contrary view of the sorts of policies a government should pursue in industrial relations. The most recent, and most important, expression of that view is the policies endorsed by the Australian Labor Party at its 1 979 Conference.
As will become clear, the basic proposition which runs through the Labor Party’s platform is that the trade unions should be placed virtually above and beyond the law. This horse and buggy attitude owes its origins to the character of our industrial relations over 70 years ago. From its beginnings, one of the principal aims of conciliation and arbitration was to legitimise the role of trade unions. Consequently, the trade unions were given certain privileges under the law which carried with them specific responsibilities. It is generally accepted that the trade union movement is now in a position to exercise more power than at any other point in its history. The Labor Party, by persisting with the archaic belief that trade unions should still be granted extraordinary additional privileges, has isolated itself from the views of the community, including a large proportion of trade union members.
At its Adelaide Conference, the Labor Party committed an ALP Government to repeal immediately ‘all penalties for strikes against arbitral decisions of the Commission or a conciliation committee and the prohibition of action by the Commission to insert or register clauses in awards or agreements excluding the rights of workers to resort to industrial action*. The 1977 Labor Party platform called for the repeal of penalties for employer lockouts as well. The pretence to even-handed ness was thrown out the window in Adelaide. The words ‘and lockouts’ were taken out, meaning that while unions would be free to engage in strike action without penalty, employers would be penalised for retaliating by engaging in a lockout.
Very significantly, the Labor Party’s policy goes beyond unions taking action simply over pay and conditions. An ALP government would recognise that the legitimate role of the trade unions is not limited to legally defined industrial matters’. Labor has clearly endorsed political strikes in adopting this plank, and has indicated its contempt for the democratic parliamentary process. Labor does not accept Parliament as the proper place for voicing its concerns and opinions, but has deferred to the unions in acknowledging that they can strike on any issue at all and force their views on the Australian public. The plank is a direct threat to democracy. The Labor Party has also given a commitment to recognise ‘the rights of unions to regulate their own affairs in a democratic way free from Government and judicial interference’. While the Labor Party mouths platitudes about democracy in trade unions, it has denied an ALP government any way of putting it into practice.
A further example of the Labor Party’s hands off attitude to trade unions is its policy to ‘encourage the membership of registered organisations through the provision of preference to unionists in the taking of leave and … in their engagement and promotion and their retention in cases of retrenchment’. Under a Labor Government, unions would be positively encouraged to trample over the rights of individual workers with a genuine conscientious objection to union membership or to engaging in industrial action. Furthermore, the Labor Party would exempt unions from the provisions of the Trade Practices Act. As a result, employers would no longer have redress against employee secondary boycotts similar to that against boycotts organised by other companies.
There is a fundamental difference between this Government’s industrial relations policies and those of the Labor Party. This Government believes that our system of industrial relations must work in the public interest. For this reason we recognise that government has a duty to establish an effective industrial relations framework within which labour and management can communicate and settle differences. That in turn means that certain rules have to be made and that they must be observed. Those rules must be designed with the aim of preserving a democratic society in which people can go about their legitimate business free from unwarranted interference.
The Labor Party takes a different view. Its approach is to say that employers should be subject to regulation, but unions should not. To the
Labor Party, unions should be free to take whatever action they choose on whatever issues they choose. The Labor Party would place unions above the laws everyone else is expected to observe. Its policies are a direct inducement to the trade unions to operate outside our system of conciliation and arbitration. As such, they are an affront to our democratic process and a deliberate attempt to undermine the effective functioning of our economy. The Government will have no part of policies which grant any section of the community extraordinary, unjustifiable privileges which can be used to deny others their legitimate rights. The basic objective of this Government has been and still is to restore order to industrial relations. Above all, that means the Government will continue to do all that it can to encourage the parties to work within the proper processes of conciliation and arbitration.
Currently, the most important example is the Government’s policy on the future of centralised wage fixation. In handing down its last national wage case decision, the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission said that it had been brought to the brink of abandoning wage indexation. It said the actions and attitudes of various participants in the system were incompatible with its effective operation and the system was not working. The Commission commented further that the consensus on wage fixation had been weakened to a stage where it appeared ‘that one side wants indexation without restraints and the other wants restraints without indexation ‘.
In particular, the Commission stressed that a voluntary system of wage fixation must be based on consensus and that ‘an equitable sharing of burdens and benefits should continue to be the dominant element of wage fixation’. To try to reestablish that consensus, the Commission called an urgent conference of all parties to consider whether centralised wage fixation had a future. Subsequently, all parties agreed that such a system was desirable and that each party should review its respective positions in the light of the Commission’s statements.
At the first hearing of the Wage Fixation Conference on 4 July 1979, the Commonwealth Government gave an undertaking that it would make a positive contribution towards reaching a consensus. At the first available opportunity, the Government met that undertaking. The Government’s proposals require that two perfectly reasonable pre-conditions be met: First, there is a commitment from all parties not to pursue or grant wage claims outside the wage fixation principles and, secondly, a rejection of industrial action in support of such claims. In return, the
Commission should award wage increases every six months for movements in the CPI discounted for increases due to Commonwealth Government policy decisions.
At present the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission may be persuaded not to grant full indexation and there have been a number of decisions in which it has not done so. The uncertainty as to whether and to what extent employees will receive a wage increase has influenced some unions to take industrial action for wage increases outside the wage indexation guidelines. By providing certainty of adjustment, the Government’s proposals would remove this pressure for industrial action.
The Government has proposed that any wage adjustment in line with the CPI be discounted for the effects of Commonwealth government induced price increases. The Government believes that in cases where its policies involve a cost to the community, one section of the community should not be compensated leaving others to shoulder the entire burden. Of course, government induced price increases may not occur every six months. In these circumstances, provided the pre-conditions are met, employees would have the certainty of automatic full adjustment of wages for price increases. I remind the House that these pre-conditions are no wage increases outside the wage fixation principles and a rejection of industrial action in support of such claims. In addition, the Government’s proposals recognise that claims for wage increases on legitimate work value grounds may continue to be heard but subject to rigorous examination and testing. No one who feels he has a genuine case can object to that. The Government has also proposed that as part of its package there should be no productivity hearing until at least October 1980 and that in any future hearing only the movement in productivity which occurred over the preceding 12 months should be considered.
I have said that the Commission gave notice to the community that it was on the brink of abandoning indexation because of the attitudes of the various parties. The Commission called upon the parties to re-assess their attitudes. So far, only the Commonwealth has thoroughly reviewed its position and put forward a positive, constructive proposal. There is now a clear obligation on the other parties, having agreed that they want an orderly, centralised system of wage fixation to continue, to respond to the Commission’s challenge.
The reaction of the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the Australian Labor Party was to condemn the Government’s proposals out of hand without attempting to give them any serious consideration. It is precisely this sort of unthinking pig-headedness, so apparent at the time of the attempted prices-wages freeze, which has led to the current difficulties in industrial relations. As the Commission has said, these attitudes must change if we are to return to a sensible equitable system of wage fixation. It would appear that neither the ACTU nor the Labor Party is interested in a return to such a situation- a situation which is clearly in the best interests of the vast majority of their members and of the community as a whole.
The preposterous claims by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) that the Government’s proposals would result in employees receiving about 65 per cent of indexation is clear evidence that the Labor Party is not interested in reconsidering its own threadbare position orin making a positive contribution to the re-establishment of a consensus on wage fixation. Such statements are mischievous and misleading. Any reasonable estimate of the wage increases likely to flow from the Government’s package shows that approximately 80 per cent indexation is the likely result over the life of the package. The Government is able to make this offer only because of the success of our policies in reducing inflation and improving our international competitiveness.
The Government has taken the initiative to reestablish the basis for consensus between the parties involved in wage fixation. By contrast, the Labor Party is barren of ideas on this crucial issue. Nothing illustrates this more clearly than the policy endorsed by the Labor Party at its 1 979 Conference and I quote from it:
With the understanding and co-operation of the trade union movement, ‘Labor would’ develop and implement a policy which will encompass prices, wage incomes, nonwage incomes, the social wage, taxation reform, and elimination of tax avoidance, and which will achieve a more equitable distribution of our national wealth and income, with the commitment to supporting the maintenance of real wages by quarterly adjustment and the passing on of the benefits of productivity.
This was the issue on which the left wing of the Labor Party enjoyed its major victory and precipitated the rift between Mr Hawke and the Leader of the Opposition. The deep divisions it revealed in the Labor Party were widely reported and remain an explosive issue. Even the Premier of New South Wales, who is no stranger to hiding divisions, could find no better word to describe this policy than as a ‘hotch potch’. The Leader of the Opposition, on the other hand, had to buy peace to stop the conference flying apart. For him, doing that presented a welcome bonus, an opportunity to disown and humiliate Mr Hawke and his economic committee.
The only thing the Labor Party’s wages policy commits it to is supporting wage increases. For instance, a Labor government would support reintroducing quarterly national wage case hearings. Employers would once again be faced with the instability and administrative costs that rapid wage increases bring. The effect would be to reduce business confidence and efficiency and the productive capacity of our industries. That means fewer jobs. The Conciliation and Arbitration Commission itself, in moving to 6 monthly hearings, has acknowledged the unsettling effect of too frequent wage changes.
A Labor government would support automatic full indexation with no discounting for CPI increases resulting from Commonwealth Government policy decisions. This is a discriminatory approach. Government policies which increase prices should apply equally throughout the community. Certainly that is the policy of this Government. However, the Labor Party would selectively discriminate between those whose incomes depend on decisions of the Commission and the rest of the community. Active discrimination in terms of compensation is not the only problem. Another problem is that by agreeing to wage increases to offset price increases flowing from government policies, a Labor government would deliberately undermine its own policieswould render them ineffective. This approach is all too reminiscent of the total confusion and lack of co-ordination which characterised the Whitlam Government.
The Labor Party has been quite insistent on what minimum wage increases should be. At the other end of the scale it has nothing to say. When you wade through the verbal quagmire which passes for the Labor Party’s incomes policy, it becomes quite apparent that while it is committed to supporting quarterly indexation of wages for the full CPI and for productivity increases, there is no intention of stopping there. This clearly is a minimum on which the unions with industrial muscle would be free to build to get even larger wage increases.
It was this irresponsible attitude which gave the ACTU the green light to adopt what can be describes only as a cruelly selfish and destructive wages policy. According to the ACTU, employers and the Government should abide by decisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, while unions should be free to pursue any wage claims they want, over and above increases awarded by the Commission. Furthermore, the ACTU has encouraged unions to threaten or use industrial disruption to line their own pockets. The central role played by Mr Halfpenny in having this policy adopted is highly significant. Nothing could illustrate more clearly the domination of the extreme Left, and their total unconcern for the effects of their policies on the economy and unemployment. The ACTU has caved in to the extremist just as the Labor Party did in Adelaide.
The Labor Party and the ACTU now have virtually identical and equally disastrous wages policies- the Hayden-Halfpenny axis.
In July this year, the Leader of the Opposition worked actively to have a policy endorsed which has, as its principal feature, a deliberate avoidance of any reference to wage restraint in any shape or form. Yet, on 18 February this year, he said: ‘For their part, the unions must accept that the economy cannot bear unreasonable wage claims’. Quite clearly, when it comes to buying off the left wing of the Labor Party for the sake of his own political survival, the Leader of the Opposition can find no place for economic responsibility in his plans.
This policy has taken the Labor Party far away from the views of the people whom it purports to represent. A survey conducted by McNair Anderson Associates Pty Ltd in May of this year showed that of the 800 members of the work force questioned, 59 per cent agreed that wage increases these days often means someone else loses a job and that two-thirds believed that wage increases would not really help. A similar survey conducted by the same organisation last year showed that 63 per cent of union members do not believe that union pressure for wage increases is supported by the rank and file. Interestingly, only 20 per cent of union leaders held the same views.
It is quite obvious that the Labor Party has aligned itself with that element of the trade union leadership which is determined to push for huge increases in wages irrespective of the capacity of industry to pay. In short, nothing has changed. The Labor Party still refuses to acknowledge the well-established link between wage increases, higher rates of inflation and unemployment. The fact that there is no reference to this link is the most glaring omission in the Labor Party’s so-called wages policy. The Labor Party is still not prepared to stand up to the irresponsible element in the trade union movement and argue for wage restraint and more jobs. The two are inseparable. Instead, it has now supinely added wages policy to its ‘hands off the unions’ list.
This policy is similar to that followed by the Whitlam Government, a permissive industrial relations policy which saw a dramatic increase in industrial disruption, excessive wage increases, galloping inflation and the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs. It must be recognised that the economic cost of the Labor Party’s wages policy is measured not only in terms of wage increases but also includes of the cost of the increased industrial disruption and increased unemployment associated with the push for higher wages. The cost of disruption and loss of employment can be greater than the cost of wage increases themselves. Disputes destroy business confidence, upset planning and adversely affect a reputation overseas as a reliable supplier. The Labor Party’s policy would not only condone industrial disputes; it would encourage them. As for prices, all we can find is a vague assertion that Labor’s policy would ‘encompass prices’- whatever that means.
The Labor Party’s deliberate neglect of the question of excessive wage increases betrays its lack of will to fight inflation. To the Labor Party, the problems inflation brings- lower business confidence, reduced capacity and fewer jobscan be overcome by government spending on a massive scale. Already Labor has admitted how it proposes to finance that spending- a massive increase in both public spending and the Budget deficit; 75c in the dollar tax on higher incomes; a resources tax in addition to existing company taxes, and an as yet undefined, so-called wealth tax. What sort of incentive does that provide for taking risks, for hard work, or for investment and expansion to create new jobs. In short, the Labor Party’s incomes policy means no limit to wage increases and no limit to public spending and the deficit.
However, the people of Australia will have none of it. The previous Labor Government’s policies provided a dramatic demonstration that wage increases have a cost. That cost is reduced profitability, higher inflation and, inevitably, fewer jobs.
However, there are some in the Labor Party who have to face reality. The honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis), who has the unenviable task of trying to explain the Labor Party’s view of economic issues to the electorate, when referring to previous experience, was reported as admitting: ‘Wage increases of a very large nature made it inevitable that there would be very large price increases following . . .’ Yet, that is precisely what the Labor Party proposes to do all over again.
The Labor Party may try to claim that if elected this policy gives it the opportunity to seek some kind of social contract with the trade unions. What kind of contract, and how large the wage increases would need to be to buy off the unions, are questions Labor is not particularly keen to answer at the moment, and of course, it cannot. The reason is that many in the Labor Party realise that their so-called social contract has absolutely no chance of success. The Labor Party’s incomes and prices policy is not a policy at all. It is just a few lines of rhetoric designed to cloud the issues until the next election. It could not even cloud the issues for one day between the Leader of the Opposition and Mr Hawke.
This Government has emphasised time and again that industrial relations can make a positive contribution to economic recovery. We believe that if Government, employers and unions are willing to place the national interest first, there is no reason why all parties cannot cooperate to get the most out of what the Australian economy has to offer. Few, if any countries in the world have more to offer. However, the job is made much harder when proposals are put forward under the guise of alternative policies, which on analysis turn out to be nothing more than barrow-pushing for narrow sectional interests. I am convinced that the community recognises that and will see through the Labor Party’s industrial relations and wages policies for what they are- just another repeat of the same old recipe for industrial disruption, inflation and the end of economic recovery.
This Government has worked hard and successfully on behalf of the Australian community to reduce inflation, restore our competitiveness and create more jobs. Much has been done. But the Labor Party would throw it all away. Instead of building on the solid foundations laid down over the last four years Labor would set about undermining them. We will not let that happen, and neither will Australia. I present the following paper:
Industrial Relations and Wages Policies- Ministerial Statement, 13 September 1979.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
Sitting suspended from 6.1 to 8 p.m.
Motion (by Mr Hunt)- by leave- agreed to:
That so much of the standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the honourable member for Port Adelaide speaking for a period not exceeding 26 minutes.
-As is the tactic of the Government, the Minister for Industrial Relations (Mr Street) began his statement on industrial relations at 26 minutes to 6 o’clock, so that there was no possible opportunity of replying immediately to it. This is what all Ministers are doing now, in the hope that they can receive some media coverage in the break between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m., when we have to make our reply from this side of the House. We will have to look seriously at giving Ministers leave to make these statements if they continually abuse the privilege by making their statements at a time when the Opposition does not have the right of immediate reply. It is not good enough that we should be replying two hours later.
The Minister made great play of the point that this was an extremely important statement on behalf of the Government; that industrial relations was indeed in the forefront of the Government’s economic policies in terms of solving the problems with which we are now confronted. This is the first statement on industrial relations for about three years. It is the first statement on industrial relations since the 1977 elections. So much for the importance of industrial relations as far as this Government is concerned. On each occasion on which we have asked the Government to have this matter debated in the Parliament- whether it be on wages, strikes, days lost, or any other aspects of the application of the bad laws which this Government has introduced- it has refused us the right to do so. It is clear that, because of the Australian Council of Trade Unions Congress which is being conducted in Melbourne during this week, the Government finds it convenient for the Minister to make a statement. The Government does not see industrial relations as being important. What it does see as being important is its hope that it can continue to provoke and confront the trade union movement of this country in order to give it some sort of political advantage at any forthcoming election. The Government hopes that it can bring about disruption in the work place by its stupid and erratic policies which somehow will bring about a confrontation between employers and employees. This Government has a rat-bag policy on industrial relations, and always has had.
Further, there is no question at all in my mind that this speech was not written in the Department of Industrial Relations. This speech was written in the office of the Prime Minister (Mr
Malcolm Fraser). It was merely handed over to the Minister for Industrial Relations to read out. The Prime Minister is the person who sees confrontation as being of some political advantage to him and he continually uses it. If one looks through the 13 ‘A pages of this statement on industrial relations, it is incredible that one sees the accusation that the Labor Party is one-sided, that it speaks on behalf of the trade union movement or the wage and salary earners of this country, but it does not look after, protect or stand up for the rights of employers. I ask all honourable members to look at this statement thoroughly and to see whether they can find one word, one sentence or one paragraph which in any way could be said to be critical of employers.
This statement merely condemns the trade union movement and people outside the organised trade union movement who are seeking to maintain their standard of living. It condemns them out of hand for the actions they may have taken, or may predictably have said they are going to take in the near future. This is not an even-handed statement on industrial relations. This is adding fuel to the fire for the confrontation between employers and employees which this Government wants so badly. If the Government can reach a crisis point or a flash-point in industrial relations, our good friend the Prime Minister may have sufficient reason to call another Federal election. This is the most hamfisted statement on industrial relations that I have ever heard in this Parliament, at industrial relations seminars, at trade union conferences, or at employer conferences. It ought to be condemned out of hand, as so many of the Government policies are.
Further to my point about the Government’s being one-sided in its attitude towards industrial relations, I ask honourable members opposite, and particularly the Minister, to explain why we on this side of the House, representing the Labor Party, are continually invited to speak to employer and employee groups on industrial relations, but people from the Government front bench are never invited to talk to employee groups on industrial relations. Last week I spoke to a very major group of employers in New South Wales. Today I spoke to the ACTU Congress. The week after next I will be talking to another major group of employers in New South Wales. Right across the board, groups involved in industrial relations have on hand invitations to people from the Labor Party to come and speak on this subject.
Why was not the Government asked to present its views to the ACTU Congress? This year the ACTU Congress took on a new air of importance. It does not consist of just the affiliates that were represented at the last congress; now the amalgamation of the salaried personnel with the ACTU gives it a combined affiliated membership of something like 2lA million men and women of this country. But no Government spokesman is asked to go to the Congress, and honourable members opposite know why the Government is not invited. It is because the Government has no credibility with the working people of this country and because the people who represent those working people do not believe anything that the Government says. So why ask the Minister for Industrial Relations or the Prime Minister to speak at the Congress? They are just rejected out of hand. That is not the case with the invitations that flow to the Labor Party from employer groups. The allegation that we in the Labor Party are one-sided in our view on industrial relations does not stand up to the scrutiny of those two criteria. The fact that the major congress of the working people of this country can be held for a week and not one Government spokesman is invited to attend and express a view gives some idea of the extent to which these people are rejected.
The Government does not want to accept the role of industrial relations in this country- to minimise disputation, to see that we can have peace in the work place, to understand the pressures as they build up and to try to avoid the crises as they become predictable within industry. That is the way in which industrial relations ought to be looked upon in this country. Because of the Prime Minister and because of his wanting to get some value out of a crisis in industrial relations, the proper aim of this Government on real industrial relations is swept under the carpet and is replaced by this confrontation.
The Minister claimed this afternoon that we had seen a substantial improvement in industrial relations in Australia in the last four years. How can he suggest that there is an improvement in industrial relations and justify that from his own statement? A real contradiction is inherent in the statement. This Minister cannot say on one hand that we have a crisis because John Halfpenny made a speech at the Australian Council of Trade Unions Congress and tell us on the other hand that industrial relations have improved. He cannot have it both ways. Of course, the statement by the Minister peaked in stupidity when he said on the one hand that industrial relations had improved and on the other hand that industrial relations were being used to get Australia out of the economic and industrial morass which the Whitlam Government had created.
If one looks at the economic indicators that are so widely used by this Government, how can one say that we are out of the mess? Do the figures of 10 per cent inflation and 400,000 unemployed show that we are out of the mess? Is that how the Government interprets being out of the economic mess? According to the Budget, the predictions for the next financial year are even worse. So, how is the mechanism of industrial relations being used? The flashpoint in industrial relations in Australia at the moment is wages- how people are going to protect their standards of living. We are talking about people who may be earning $5,000 a year, $7,000 a year, $10,000 a year or $15,000 a year. They are all concerned about maintaining their standards of living. They are all very concerned about what is going to occur. What policies have cut across what confidence they may have had in this Government’s use of the instrument of industrial relations? Firstly, from this month onwards for the first time in the Vh years since this government came to power people will find that they are paying the highest fees they have ever paid in Australia for health insurance. They will be paying more than they have ever paid in their lifetime, and they do not know what will happen in the future. They do not know what is going to occur. We can expect next year that health insurance costs will go up again when the Government changes the $20 limit on medical fees or the provision of free accommodation in public wards in hospitals.
The other matter which cuts across any confidence in real and proper industrial relations in this country is wrapped up in government promises about tax indexation. No one in the community- honourable members opposite would know this- is falling for the three card trick and believing that there will be a substantial drop in the tax burden as from 1 December. Everybody in the community knows that people will be paying more tax. Everybody in the community knows that, as a result of Government policies, real wages will go down over the next year. In addition, we have the Government’s policy, which was not mentioned in 1975 or 1 977, to take Australian prices for crude oil to world parity. Of course, that is a substantial financial burden on the wage and salary earners of this country. It is little wonder that all the ties that have been told by this Government about what it would do and what it would not do for the working people of this country -
-Order! I ask the honourable member to withdraw that expression.
– I did not say that about any individual. I just said that the Government is telling Ties.
-Mr Speaker has indicated that he does not wish the word to be used. It is unparliamentary and it tends -
– But everybody outside the Parliament uses it about the Government. Members of the Opposition are the only people who cannot use it.
-I ask the honourable member to withdraw that remark.
-The Government has told so many untruths that no one believes what the Government says any more in relation to these issues. So when the Government says, as it did to Mr Justice Moore’s conference on indexation: Here is our package. Would you please accept our package on indexation which includes the full flow-on to the consumer price index every six months discounting government charges ‘.
– Is this a speech on the Budget?
– Read this statement, dummy. The Minister said tonight that this is crucial. This is the key point of the Government’s offer in the field of industrial relations. The Government said to the indexation inquiry: ‘Here is an offer. The Government is the only partner to the indexation and national wage cases that has a policy to put before you and we want the working people of the country to accept it’. The Minister said that it was audacity on the part of the Labor Party and the Australian Council of Trade Unions to reject such a fine offer. Let us have a look at the fine offer made by this Government. In very simple terms, as was exposed in the first place by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden), if a person earning $200 a week were to accept the Government’s offer, with a 10 per cent inflation rate he would be paying $20 more for his goods at the end of this financial year and he would be reimbursed $13 from the decisions of the national wage case. He would be exactly $7 worse off at the end of the next financial year if he were to accept the Government’s offer.
That is not the only point to be made about this Government. The untruths keep flowing. The Government said that government charges might not go up every six months. But government charges have been going up every six months. Who is to say that, if the trade union movement were to accept such a package, the
Government might not think up some more charges which it could impose? So, of course, the whole package was rejected as it should have been. Any trade union official in this country who asked his members to accept the Government’s offer would be defeated in the next election in which he stood, and so he should be, because he would be selling his members down the drain. That is not what trade union officials are for.
In his statement, the Minister pointed to increased industrial unrest. Of course there will be continued industrial unrest. The Government does not seem to know how to achieve its objectives. It tells us that we will have a 10 per cent inflation rate but it expects that wages will go up by only 9 per cent. But the Government is trying to find a formula of avoiding paying even a 9 per cent wage increase. Industrial disputation since October last year has revolved around a flowon whether it be called a catch-up or a case on productivity grounds or whatever- to make up for the partial indexation increases which have been awarded by the Commission. The Minister seemed to have a phobia- quite paranoid- about John Halfpenny. John Halfpenny belongs to the Amalgamated Metal Workers and Shipwrights Union, the union which is at the end of a very long work value case for metal tradesmen. The union is asking for a substantial increase in money terms. Most people expect that metal tradesmen will be paid an increase of about $8 which has flowed on to many people in industry. But the decision to award an increase of $8 to metal tradesmen in this country will not dismantle the industrial unrest which is coming about as the result of tradesmen in this country being underpaid. The Government is not doing one thing to try to find a formula to solve this complex problem of restoring the proper relativities of tradesmen. Until we do that, we will have continued industrial unrest. If the predictions are right, the increase granted in the work value case will not overcome these problems. Tradesmen will continue not only to try to maintain, as close as they can, their standards of living but also to try to reassert the position of the tradesmen. The Government obviously opposes that. I have absolutely no hesitation in saying on behalf of the Opposition that in our opinion tradesmen in this country are underpaid. Unless something substantial is done about that situation we will have continued unrest.
The Minister also said that the Parliament was the proper place for debate. Well, it is lovely to accept that the Parliament is the proper place for debate but, as I said earlier, members of the Opposition seem to be the only people interested in having debate in Parliament. The Prime Minister usually makes his statements to the electorate of Wannon when the House is not sitting or in Press statements that are put out in some other parts of Australia so that there will be no debate on the matter at all. I have talked about the futility of the Government’s submission to the indexation inquiry. It has been rejected. The Opposition in this Parliament rejects it. The ACTU obviously has to make its own decision. It has made the same decision. One could have predicted that. At seven out of the last eight national wage case hearings this Government has gone to the Commission and has said that there should be no wage increase at all. That is not a policy of indexation; that is a policy of advocating a substantial drop in living standards. This has been rejected by the union movement time and time again.
If the Commission is convinced by the Government’s case not to pass on the consumer price index increase there will be even more disputation. Yet the Minister says that the only thing we have to say is that we support the quarterly wage hearings and the flow on of the CPI increase. It would diminish industrial disputation if we could get agreement just on that point, but of course the Government is not satisfied with that. There goes another broken promise. Prior to the election the Government said: ‘We will abide by indexation’. As soon as it got into power it did away with it.
There is nothing in this statement tonight that tells us that the unions have to take one attitude because the Government is taking a similar attitude on prices. When the trade union movement or anybody in this country looks at the financial pages of our newspapers today one of two things can be seen- companies making record profits or one major company swallowing another major company because there is so much cash. They are the two headlines we are greeted with almost every day in Australia at the moment. There is no effort by this Government to ensure that the working people are convinced that the Government wants to be just as tough on prices as it is and as it expresses itself on wages. It is one-way traffic with this Government. The wage and salary earners have to carry all the burden and the major companies are allowed to run free because they are the Government’s bed mates. The virtual dismantling of the Prices Justification Tribunal has made everybody understand that if the working people do not fight on this issue they will have a worse and worse living standard while the companies become better and better off.
The Minister said that increased wages affect job availability. In the indexation decisions which have been made since this Government has been in power the Commission has been persuaded for some reason or other about the Government’s proposition that there should not be a full flow on of the CPI increase. There have been only two cases in recent times in which the Commission has awarded a full flow on. In most cases it has been partial indexation, plateau indexation or a fixed amount. But since this Government has been in power, in spite of the fact that in real purchasing power wage and salary earners are worse off today than they were before this Government came to power, it has added 1,000 people a week to the unemployment list. It has added 1,000 people a week to the unemployment list while it has pursued a policy, which has been partially successful, of supporting only part of the CPI increase at the national wage hearings. What wage increases does the Commission have to give to ensure that everybody gets back to work? Of course this Government has no answer because what it is saying is absolute nonsense. It is using unemployment to overcome other economic problems. It will not admit this, but that is the disastrous policy which the Prime Minister has enforced upon all Australians. Since Prime Minister Fraser became Prime Minister an extra 1,000 people have been added to the unemployment list each week in spite of his policy of suppressing wages for all wage and salary earners. So the nexus between restricting wage increases and creating jobs which this Government puts forward is absolute nonsense.
The Australian Council of Trade Unions has come in for its fair share of comment in this statement. As I said earlier, the only reason this statement has been made is because of the ACTU Congress. This Government, especially the Prime Minister, is terrified that Bob Hawke might become a member of Parliament. The Prime Minister is absolutely terrified. He will do everything possible to try to keep Bob Hawke out. The other day he said: ‘I held a Press conference to make some statements about Bob Hawke’. The Prime Minister did not hold a Press conference. He never holds a Press conference. He called in two or three television stations and did his interview in that way. Honourable members opposite who support the Prime Minister so fully should ask him to hold an open Press conference or, better still, invite the Press to the challenge made by Hawke for an open debate on all these questions on which the Government is so critical. But the Prime Minister will not do that. He prefers to put out his electorate speeches on Sunday afternoons because there is no one to question him. He will not even let members of the Press Gallery question him. He will not hold a Press conference to discuss all of these issues.
The ACTU Congress being held this week, as I said, representing 2lA million wage and salary earners, has said to the Government- the Government ought to be cognisant of the importance of these decisions- that it will not accept that wages have to be reduced to overcome other economic problems. The congress has told the Government and everybody in Australia that it is its objective to maintain the living standards of its members. As I said earlier, we are talking not just about the people on very low wages, but about the people over a whole range of wage levels- people who are concerned about their future security; people who have seen their living standards being whittled away over the last three or four years. There is a good deal of sympathy for the actions of the unions. There is a good deal of unity. As I sat at the Congress on Monday and Tuesday morning of this week it was not the John Halfpennys or the Laurie Carmichaels speaking. Other people whom I had never met or heard of were speaking and they held views just as strong as the views of those people from the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union. So the Government ought to be cognisant of just how the union movement in Australia feels about these issues at the moment because the Government’s performance, its broken promises and its telling of untruths has left the work force with no alternative but to fight if necessary to maintain the standard of living. That would mean a crisis which is exactly what the Government wants because the Prime Minister thrives on this sort of crisis situation. As I said, the statement is absolute hogwash.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– It is a week since I heard an argument presented with so little logic and it is a week since I heard the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) speak on the subject of employment. The honourable member is often invited to speak to employer groups on the subject of industrial relations. The Government was not invited to the Australian Council of Trade Unions Congress. According to the logic of the honourable member, it seems to follow that Government is somehow or other stupid and that the labour movement is somehow or other broadminded because it does not invite the Government to speak at its Congress whereas employer groups invite the honourable member for Port Adelaide to speak at their various luncheons and so on. It would seem from the peculiar logic that the honourable member has developed through his speech that he, the Austraiian Labor Party and the labour movement through the ACTU are more broadminded in their approach to industrial relations than the Government. I ask the general public to make its own decision on that.
The honourable member also said that the Government accuses the Labor Party of standing up for the trade unions and the wage and salary earners of this country and not for the employers. He has got it absolutely wrong. We have not at any time accused the Labor Party of standing up for the wage and salary earners of this country. Indeed, this evening the Minister for Industrial Relations (Mr Street) cited research statistics which showed that 63 per cent of union members do not believe that union pressure for wage increases is supported by the rank and file. Furthermore, 59 per cent of those questioned agreed that wage increases these days often mean that someone else loses a job and that two-thirds believed that wage increases will not really help. What we are really accusing the Opposition of is not that it does not stand up Ibr the trade unions- that is not true; we would be quite happy to accuse it of that- but that it is not really standing up for the proper interests of wage and salary earners in this country. Wage policy is inextricably linked with industrial relations policies. What happens to wages has a major impact on prices, on inflation and consequently on jobs. It is not just a matter of economic theory; it is a matter of practical experience. We all know it from our experience in Australia in 1974 during the period of the Labor Government. Everybody understands it. If wages go up rapidly, prices go up. People demand still higher wages to keep up, and that sends prices up again. No one gains when that chase begins. After a while it begins to affect jobs. No one overseas owes us a living. Australia has to remain competitive; people who are trying to produce goods and to sell them overseas understand that. If our wages go up employers try to remain competitive by cutting wage costs. They begin to save on people and so employment begins to fall.
The former Labor Treasurer, Mr Crean, recognised this when he said that one man’s pay rise is another man’s job. People who were interviewed in the survey recognised this when 63 per cent of union members said they did not believe that union pressure for wage increases was supported by the rank and file and 59 per cent agreed that wage increases these days often meant that someone else lost a job. Two-thirds believed that wage increases would not really help. In office, Labor politicians begin to realise this inescapable fact. Last week in the debate on unemployment I quoted from the 1978 Budget Speech of the Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer in the United Kingdom, Mr Healey. He said: lt remains as true as ever that inflation is the main enemy of full employment. Monetary policy will be one decisive factor here. But our price competitiveness will also depend crucially on reducing industrial costs, of which wages are bound to remain much the most important element.
In office, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) in his 1 975 Budget Speech said:
If wages and salaries continue to outstrip productivity increases, the productive capacity of the economy will decline and we shall all eventually be worse off.
Meanwhile, however, it is clear that some wage and salary pressures are unrealistic and, when successful, harmful. It does employees generally no good to get higher and higher money incomes if the results are just higher prices, a severe squeeze on profits, a slump in new investments and a contraction of job opportunities.
These are statements by two Labor Party Chancellors in office- Mr Healey in the United Kingdom followed by Mr Hayden in Australia. But what do we have now? Firstly, we have an Australian Labor Party economic policy which was described by the New South Wales Premier, Mr Wran, as a hotch-potch, and described by Mr Hawke as a sell-out to the Left. Let me quote, as the Minister for Industrial Relations did, from this particular ALP policy -
– You sold out to the Right. You put Urbanchich in the Liberal Party.
– What is your policy? You oppose every wage increase.
– I would like people to understand exactly what this policy says. Honourable members opposite are interjecting because they do not want me to read the Labor policy on economics coming from the Adelaide conference, but I will continue to read it:
With the understanding and co-operation of the trade union movement, (Labor would) develop and implement a policy which will encompass prices, wage incomes, nonwage incomes, the social wage, taxation reform, and elimination of tax avoidance, and which will achieve a more equitable distribution of our national wealth and income, with the commitment to supporting the maintenance of real wages by quarterly adjustment and the passing on of the benefits of productivity.
That replaced the resolution which was intended to mean something. It was arranged over a luncheon by Mr Hayden with the left wing of the Labor Party. It does not in any way indicate the concern that Mr Healey or Mr Hayden expressed when they were both in office about the link between wages policy and inflation, between wages policy and employment, between wages policy and rising prices. If one compares Labor policy with what Mr Denis Healey said as Labour Chancellor with what Mr Hayden said when he was Treasurer, one sees that it bears no relationship to what either of them said. That is only the first step. The sell-out to the Left in Adelaide was followed by Mr Hawke ‘s sell-out at the Australian Council of Trade Unions Congress this week. Perhaps disheartened by the way he was treated by Mr Hayden he was in no heart to stand up to the Left himself at his own conference. We all heard what Mr Hawke said earlier this week on the news with his usual bombast and threats. What did he say? In the Australian of Tuesday, 1 1 September, Mr Hawke is reported as saying:
We have indicated that we are prepared to sit down with government and employers, with all the facts on the table, in a constructive attempt to achieve what is best for the people of this country -
We have offered co-operation and have been given confrontation. Every offer I have made to have such a conference has been rejected by the Government.
Mr Hawke continued:
As you, the Government, virtually dismantle the Prices Justification Tribunal, we will not accept your double standards, unregulated freedom, on the one hand, for employers to set the prices for what they have to sell, and on the other hand, in respect of those who are employed in both the private and public sector, increasingly savage restrictions upon their freedom to obtain a fair price for the only thing they have to sell- their labor.
If the standard of living of our members is reduced as the business and professional sectors set their prices to cover, or more than cover, increases in their costs, we will seek to do the same. If this cannot be done in the Arbitration Commission, we will seek to do it in the market.
Specifically, I say to this Government: this doublestandard jungle of non-consultation and unplanned noncoordination of the use of our resources, and of claims upon those resources, is an absurdity. It is your choice. Do not seek to blame us for the inevitably disastrous consequences of your deliberate decision.
Mr Acting Speaker, you will note that Mr Hawke referred to the inevitably disastrous consequences. He sought to put those consequences back on to the Government, but he did not deny that there would be inevitably disastrous consequences of the ACTU policy. Let us take up these points that are made by Mr Hawke. Firstly, he says that the Government will not consult with him. When this Government came into office it re-established the National Labor Consultative
Council. This is a group at the highest level consisting of the Government, represented by Ministers, representatives of the ACTU and peak unions, and also representatives of peak employer organisations meeting to discuss matters of mutual interest. That framework for consultation exists. If that framework is not satisfactory to Mr Hawke, we must assume that the kind of consultation he wants is one where he will replace the elected government. That is unacceptable to the Government. The consultative process and the machinery for Mr Hawke ‘s claim already exist. Under that framework the Government is quite ready to consult with Mr Hawke on all those matters which he wishes to consult. One can only assume that because he rejects that framework he seeks somehow to claim a higher level of representation such as would be afforded by a vote in a general election. If he wishes to claim that, the way of doing it is to be elected to this House as representative of Wills or any other electorate and assume the burden of the Leader of the Opposition and take up the Government in that particular way.
Mr Hawke suggests double standards in relation to prices and profits versus incomes. Any pricing machinery that exists in this country sets maximum prices. Any wage fixing machinery that exists in this country sets minimum wages. There is an extraordinary difference between the two. It is up to anybody to negotiate with an employer to get a wage higher than the minimum wage set by the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. It is up to any producer to try to get a higher price in the market place in competition with domestic and foreign producers. But there is no parallel, and therefore Mr Hawke ‘s claim about prices and wages is a false one.
Mr Hawke claims that somehow people are getting higher profits. I have examined the figures for the last 10 years or more showing the relationship of wages and salaries to prices within the Australian community. I note that in 1968-69, some 10 years ago, the share of our domestic product taken by profits was 18 per cent. Ten years later, in 1978-79, that share had been reduced from 18 per cent to 13.2 per cent. In 1968-69 the proportion of the national domestic product taken by wages and salaries was 62.3 per cent. It has now risen in 1978-79 to 66.3 percent.
Where is the logic behind Mr Hawke ‘s claim that somehow profits have overtaken wages and salaries in the share of our domestic income? Mr Hawke asks: ‘ Why is the Government not honest about its intention to reduce the living standards of the worker?’ We hear this question virtually every morning on AM and every evening on PM. If only the Government were honest’, he keeps saying, ‘it would admit that it was trying to reduce the living standards of the workers in Australia’. The Government has made its position quite clear. It has never concealed its concern that over the last few years, particularly since 1974-75, profits as a proportion of the national income have not been high enough to sustain employment-creating investment. What are we talking about when we talk profits? Fortysix per cent of profits are taken in taxes to provide pensions, hospitals, education and all the things that the Opposition constantly claims should be increased.
What happens to the remainder of those profits? A proportion goes to overseas investors who have engaged in a productive capacity in Australia, providing employment and investment in those areas where Australian investors have not been prepared to put their money. The remainder goes to private investors in Australia, who for the most part pay 60 per cent of it in further tax, or to investment companies, life assurance companies or superannuation funds which are supported by the hundreds of thousands of Australians who depend on them for their security. That is the truth about profits and that it the truth about employment, investment and wages in this country. It is the truth about industrial relations because industrial relations is linked with wages policy.
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Tonight the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Carlton) has cast himself in the role of a political mini-moke, me-tooing behind the Minister for Industrial Relations (Mr Street). Those of us who know the Minister for Industrial Relations recognise that that makes the honourable member for Mackellar a very mini mini-moke. Also tonight we have heard a diatribe on the issue of industrial relations from the Minister for Industrial Relations. Nothing constructive has been proposed. All of the statement is divisive; all of it is confrontationist. It takes dead aim at the union movement. It does nothing to resolve the great wounds in Australian society or to bind together the divisions that are holding Australians apart at a time when we need to work together.
Essentially, it says three things. Firstly, it talks about glowing economic prospects; secondly, it talks about an allegedly defective Australian
Labor Party industrial policy; and thirdly, it talks about irresponsible union policy. On that last score, let me make it clear for the record- I do not want there to be any misunderstanding- that Australian Council of Trade Unions policy or a particular trade union policy is not ALP policy. There is frequently a great deal of difference on policy between the ACTU or individual unions on the one hand and the Labor Party on the other hand. The unions have a responsibility to look after the best interests of their members; we have a responsibility to discharge our duties to the Australian community. From time to time there will be differences. Decisions which have been made at the ACTU Congress so far and which are to be made in the final stages of that Congress in no way at all necessarily bind the Australian Labor movement. That applies particularly to wages and incomes policy.
When in government we established beyond any doubt that there will be differences and disputes, but because of the relationship between the Labor Party, the political wing of the Labor organisation, and the industrial wing, it is possible to bring about a workable wages policy. That occurred in 1974-75. In spite of the enormous dishonesty and dissembling of the members of the Government from the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) down, the fact is that the trade union movement, out of a sense of national commitment, has retained a fairly consistent commitment to that policy. It is important to recognise that point.
I repeat that there are three key thrusts to the statement, the diatribe of the Minister for Industrial Relations- a glowing economic prospect, an allegedly defective ALP industrial policy and an irresponsible union policy. But there is a maddening silence on what the Government policy is. There is no statement anywhere in the document about what the Government is going to do. From reading the statement or, if one were less happily positioned, from listening to what the Minister said, one would think that the Labor Party was responsible for industrial relations today, that the Labor Party was and will continue to be responsible for any development in wages policy or any disputation. But the Government governs and the Government has responsibility for this matter. It is up to the Government to declare clearly and unequivocally what its program is on this particular issue. I repeat that it is appropriate to describe the Minister’s statement as nothing more than an empty, diversionary diatribe. It takes us nowhere, it divides the community and it creates unnecessary tensions and divisions.
There are many things that we could ask about the Government. We know what it is against. We know, for instance, that it is against full employment; we know that it is against lower inflation; we know that it is against lower interest rates; we know that it is against better living standards; we know that it is against adequate housing; and we know that it is against doing anything about poverty. All that we know it is for is rip-snorting profits for the big corporate sector and selfindulgence by the Prime Minister who would spend $40m on two Boeing 707 aircraft- his Freebee One and Freebee Two- for transcontinental travel. On his last extended trip to Lusaka he took with him 20 dozen bottles of Australia’s finest wine and 16 dozen bottles of spirit. When a Prime Minister indulges himself in that way and then sends his Minister into this House to castigate workers who are trying to live on $ 1 60 to $ 1 80 a week, how can he be believed? How can there be any serious regard for the statements that he and his Ministers make?
Serious matters affect the industrial scene today. For instance, through the good offices of the honourable member for Lalor (Mr Barry Jones) I have an extract from the Impact Project which was put together in August 1979 as a draft preliminary working paper. It gives the conclusions from its technical study- what it called its snapshot model. It shows that in the period from 1971-72 to 1990-91 there will be a reduction of some 68 per cent in the work force level in a series of categories of employmentprofessional white collar work, skilled white collar work and semi and unskilled white collar work as well as the range of blue collar occupations. There will be a reduction of 1.7 million employees or 1.7 million jobs in that period. Why was this matter not discussed tonight? It is the most critical matter that confronts this country today. Where will the jobs be in the future?
The first point that the Minister made in his statement referred to the glowing economic prospects. I hope that our friends in Hansard will put ‘glowing economic prospects’ in inverted commas to underline the heavy irony that applies there. What are they? It is true that there were tentative signs of economic recovery earlier this year; at least, the elements of a full recovery were there if they could be captured. I acknowledged that fact and the Prime Minister made appropriate complimentary comments in this Parliament because I had done so. What he neglected to say was that I had warned that there would have to be a change of economic policy, otherwise we would end up where we are today.
Where are we? What are the glowing economic prospects that the Government has been talking about? Retail sales in the June quarter were the lowest in real terms for the last seven quarters. There was a fall of 0.9 per cent in the non-farm gross domestic product in the June quarter. That is the worst performance that we have had for some time. Anticipated new fixed capital expenditure at current prices in the six months to December is down 6.5 per cent on the previous six months to June, implying a real drop of over 1 1 per cent. The Melbourne Institute of Consumer Survey shows that consumer confidence is at the lowest point since the survey was begun. There is considerable pressure on short-term interest rates, with short-term official rates going as high as 17 per cent today. So much for the glowing prospects ahead of us.
The forecast by the Treasurer (Mr Howard) in the Budget makes it clear that unemployment will soar, inflation is taking off, recession will get deeper and living standards of families will be much lower at the end of the year than they were at the beginning of the year. One of the important qualities of the Minister’s statement was that it is, quite frankly, one of blatant dishonesty. He refers to the Labor Party not being committed to a provision of conscientious objection in the industrial legislation. I have consistently said that we will make provision to cover conscientious objection when it is genuine conscientious objection. We will also allow the opportunity for industrial representatives to test the genuineness of that conscientious objection which is an appropriate standard in our sort of society.
Now the Minister, as is the wont of members of the Government, says that unions are responsible for inflation. Let me tell honourable members what Mr Justice Moore of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission said in the last decision. He said:
The resurgence of inflation can hardly be blamed on national wage increases.
He goes on to give details. I do not have the time to go into them. He gives the lie direct to honourable members like the honourable member for Diamond Valley (Mr N. A. Brown) who is always a reliable echo for people like the Prime Minister. After all, he was one of those slavish followers of the right honourable member for Wannon’s barbecues around Canberra at the time when the honourable member for Wannon was plotting the downfall of the right honourable member for Bruce (Sir Billy Snedden) who is now the Speaker of this Parliament. He was one of the conspirators, one of the men who had his hand on the handle of the knife that brought down the former Leader of the Liberal Party. Now the unions are supposed to be unruly.
– You are wrong again. He was not here. He was not even in Parliament.
– The honourable member for Kingston (Mr Chapman) who is also known as the honourable member for Chrysler is just like the simpering honourable member for Diamond Valley. But the unions are blamed for being unruly. Mr Justice Moore said:
Available evidence would indicate that over the last twelve months a substantial body of employees, possibly the vast majority, have neither participated in industrial action nor obtained increases other than national wage increases.
Surely that gives the lie to what has been put to us in the Parliament tonight. What we have to recognise is that the man who runs the affairs of this country is a very mean-minded, unscrupulous man. The National Times last week quoted this from the -
– On a point of order-
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Martin)When the honourable member for Wakefield resumes his normal seat, I will listen to his point of order.
-An issue of the National Times over the weekend pointed out just how mean-minded and unscrupulous the Prime Minister is. He is responsible for the presentation of this exercise tonight. Now Mr Francis who is a used motor cycle dealer in Hamilton and who knows all about the finer qualities of the Prime Minister says of the Prime Minister:
But he’s the sort of bloke who would just stand over the average bloke, use the fact that he’s Prime Minister.
That is the sort of man who leads the Government and inspires members like the honourable member for Diamond Valley. This is the reason why this sort of statement has been brought before the Parliament tonight. The Prime Minister is mean and unscrupulous and is trying to create a diversion from the real issues that should be considered by the community, namely, the state of the economy and the failure of the Government.
The Minister for Industrial Relations (Mr Street) asserted that the Government had made a reasonable offer to the unions on the matter of wage policy. But, as the ACTU has pointed out, if they were foolish enough to accept that proposal over the course of this year their members would be $7 a week worse off. Bear in mind that this Budget will make the average income earner some $7.90 a week worse off over the course of this year as against last year and that the ACTU had calculated that, since this Government came into office and up until last financial year, the average income earner was more than $17 a week worse off in real spending power. Put all those figures together. From 1975 to 1978-79, the average income earner is some $17 a week worse off because of the Government’s policies. This year he will be some $7.90 a week worse off just because of the tax policies and the failure to index family allowances. If the union movement accepted the bear-pit trap that the Government has set on wages policy it would be a further $7 a week worse off. It would be stupid to accept such a proposal and it is justified in rejecting it. The fact is that the Government has no wages policy. It has no sense of equity and justice and it has no understanding of the extreme problems that Australian families are facing today trying to make ends meet. What does it do for the Government to have a Minister like the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr Lynch) lecturing unemployment benefit recipients and saying that they are getting too much and that it is spoiling them a little. They get a little over $50 a week and he is getting over $50,000 a year. We cannot trust this Government.
Eight of the last twelve national wage cases have seen the Government appear before the Commission and oppose any increase at all in spite of the fact that wages have been consistently falling behind the cost of living. Let us look at the double standards. This year the Government has been put into a position in which it has tolerated a 14 per cent increase in doctors incomes. The Government was challenged by the doctors when it asked them to disclose publicly what their incomes were which is an obligation on the rest of the work force and the Government backed down. Doctors, on the average, get better than $80,000 a year, and the Government was prepared to tolerate a 14 per cent increase in the income of doctors.
I will tell honourable members some of the reasons why there is restlessness in the industrial scene today. I mention first the loss of wages relativities whereby, as a result of the Government wages policy, a skilled tradesman now in the metal industry is getting less than semi-skilled and unskilled workers often working in the same factory. The fact is that, as a result of Government wage policies, last year average earnings went up 7.7 per cent but the cost of living went up 8.8. per cent. This year the Government proposes that average earnings will go up only 9 per cent and the cost of living over 10 per cent. The average family today just is not living. Most income earners, most full-time, adult, male wage earners in the work force are getting $ 1 80 a week or less which means that simply by supporting a wife and two children they have to try to make ends meet. They have to meet costs like housing, hire purchase on furniture and so on. After these payments they have no more than about $30 to $40 a week to live on, less than the Prime Minister would spend for a good bottle of mild red wine on his Freebee One as he travels to Lusaka. It is not fair, and it is not just. The Government is hypocritical.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MartinOrder ! The honourable member’s time has expired.
- Mr Deputy Leader- I am sorry, Mr Deputy Speaker. I am preoccupied with leadership because I am not surprised, after having heard that speech by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden), that Mr Hawke apparently described Mr Hayden at the recent Adelaide conference as a temporary leader. I can well understand him saying that in view of what we have just heard. It must be the greatest collection of rubbish one has ever heard in this Parliament. The most extraordinary point is that the Leader of the Opposition started off by saying that there was a difference between the Australian Council of Trade Union’s policy on this matter and the Labor Party policy. That was an extraordinary thing to say. There is no doubt at all that all the Leader of the Opposition was trying to do was dissociate himself from the Halfpenny-Hayden axis which has now been established firmly in this matter.
When we are considering the issues involved in this debate there are two basic elements that we should understand at the outset. Let us consider for a moment that the Government has just appropriated $3m for the Trade Union Training Authority, and it has just appropriated $3m or thereabouts for the Industrial Relations Bureau which spends almost all of its time pursuing the claims of unionists and other workers who may not be unionists and who have, together with the arbitration inspectorate in the last 12 months, recovered some $lm for workers. They have recovered this amount not for employers but for workers. When one considers that fact one is driven to accept that the Government is not antiunion at all.
In a civilised and orderly industrial relations situation the Government recognises the importance of having responsible trade unions and having them responsibly managed for the benefit of the members of those unions. That is the first point that should be understood. The second point that should be clearly understood is that the Government is not at all opposed to- indeed, it advances- the cause of the working men and women of Australia. One has only to look at the way they vote. There are hundreds of thousands of ordinary working men and women in Australia who have voted for the Liberal and National Country parties and will continue to vote for them because they know that their interests are furthered and better served than they would be by the rabble that holds itself out as being the true representatives of the workers of Australia. They know that with business confidence, expansion of industry, commerce and business and with the prospect of investors obtaining some rewards from their investments, that jobs will be secure, that more jobs will be created and that the standard of living of the working men and women of Australia will be advanced.
The working men and women of Australia know only too well that their interests are identical with the interests of an expanding and developing free enterprise society. It follows from that that the working men and women of Australia do not support the Labor Party which holds itself out as being their great advocate. Nor should they, because they know that in the first place the Labor Party established itself when it was in Government as being the unemployment expert of Australia. Secondly, they know that the Australian Labor Party policies hold no hope whatsoever for the expansion of business, industry or commerce which would lead to the creation of more job opportunities. The ordinary men and women of Australia know that if the Labor Party were returned to government, it would do nothing more than take this country down the same path as the Labour Party in the United Kingdom took, a path that was littered with the monuments of higher taxation, penalties on incentive, endorsement of union extremism, stand-over tactics and the dead hand of government which destroys job opportunities. The ordinary men and women of Australia know that of the Australian Labor Party. They also know that it will and can do nothing to protect individuals, individual unionists, from being dominated by particular trade unions and the stand-over tactics that some of them engage in. Nor could any reasonable person support the industrial relations policies of the Labor Party that were laid down at its Adelaide conference.
We could stay here all night and pinpoint individual policies that were passed at that conference in Adelaide to illustrate that point. But let us briefly look at just five of them. Listen to the words of the first of those, and let us hear the Labor Party speakers who follow me in this debate tonight deny that this is their policy or deny that their policies have the consequences that I am about to suggest. The first policy I wish to refer to is this:
The recognition of the rights of unions to regulate their own affairs in a democratic way, free -
Mark these words- from Government and judicial interference . . .
That is no more than a charter for tyranny. There would be no hope under that policy, if implemented, for individuals to seek redress from the courts against injustices perpetrated by their trade unions. Indeed, it goes further than that, because there would be no opportunity to obtain redress from the courts on the part of the majority in a trade union. Judicial supervision and recourse to the courts are outlawed by Labor Party policy. Let members of the Labor Party deny that if that is not the case. The second policy that one should have regard to is this:
Exempt unions from provisions of the Trade Practices Act.
That is what they would do. They would make the corporations of capital subject to the Trade Practices Act and they would relieve the corporations of labour from the provisions of the Trade Practices Act. What does that policy mean? It means nothing more or less than an open invitation for black bans, secondary boycotts, picketing or any other unfair and restrictive activities that trade unions may wish to engage in. Who are harmed as a result of that? The people who are harmed are the individual workers in Australia. The employer is not harmed by that at all. He can accommodate that situation, but the individual worker cannot. Again he would be the innocent victim if that provision is legislated upon.
– You hypocrite.
-The third policy that one should have regard to -
– I raise a point of order. The honourable member for Melbourne is quite obviously calling the honourable member for Diamond Valley a hypocrite.
-Do you take exception to that remark?
-No, I do not take exception to it, although I appreciate the respect of the Minister for Health in drawing your attention to it. The third policy that should be referred to is this:
Listen to this- that the legitimate role of the trade unions is not limited to legally defined industrial matters.
Under the Labor Party policy trade unions are not only to be immune from the judicial process but also will be able to engage in activities which are not industrial activities anyway. Presumably they will be able to do anything they wish and will be free from judicial supervision. That again is a charter for tyranny. The fourth policy that we should look at provides this:
The Australian Parliament shall have the power with respect to the terms and conditions of employment and the terms and conditions of contractual relationships with independent contractors.
I ask the question: How many workers in Australia know that the Australian Labor Party is proposing that the Federal Parliament should fix the terms and conditions of their employment and the terms and conditions of individual private contracts that they may enter into? I venture to suggest that very few workers in Australia know that that is what the Labor Party is after- is on about. It wants to intrude into the private employment and contractual arrangements of men and women of Australia in a way that Australia has never seen before. The fifth policy that I wish to refer to is probably the most interesting and sinister of all. Let me just read out the words. It is this:
Securing the immunity of unions and their members from action for tort in respect of torts alleged to have been committed . . .
I think it is important that members on both sides of the House listen to this- by or on behalf of a trade union in contemplation or furtherance of a labour dispute excepting . . .
There are then some exceptions introduced. That is the substantive provision- to make trade unions immune from the law. What are the exceptions? They are very generous exceptions indeed. Wilful acts that directly cause death are exempted. It is very generous of the Labor Party to exempt wilful acts that directly cause death.
– That is the mafia.
-As the honourable member for Holt has said, it is a form of mafia tactic. The exception states:
What does that mean? It means that if a trade union official causes the death of someone- I did not write this, this is the Labor Party’s termsand injures someone or if property is damaged there is no redress to obtain damages or any other relief unless the act was wilful. I have read this many times. I could not believe what I have just put to the House, but it does mean that, because they are the plain words of it. I have wondered how many wives of Australian working men know that if their husbands are killed or injured at a factory or in an office as a result of some industrial disputation, and there was no wilful act but it was only negligence that someone was killed or injured, they, then widows, are not entitled to any damages. If that is not the case I invite the Labor Party members who are to speak after me in this debate to deny it. That is a fair challenge. They are the precise words contained in Labor Party policy. The only thing that is exempt is a wilful act that leads to death. If a union official negligently kills someone there is no liability on him to pay damages to the widow or children of the worker. This is the policy of the party that holds itself out as the advocate for the working men and women of Australia. I say that its members are nothing but a lot of hypocrites.
-The honourable member for Diamond Valley (Mr N. A. Brown) finished his speech by talking about compensation. It is interesting that he should finish on that note. I would have thought that that was one of the last things that any supporter of this Government would want to talk about publicly. The treatment it is giving to Commonwealth employees who are injured and in need of workers compensation is a disgrace. The Government has increased the rate of compensation by 10 per cent in the last four years and left those people way behind the rate of inflation. It has greatly reduced their real standards of living and has provided great troubles and traumas for the people who depend directly on legislation by the Parliament for their standards of living. If honourable members opposite want to talk about compensation let them start by talking about that aspect of it.
In its anxiety to capitalise on what it sees as the politically populuar tactic of indulging in union bashing at the time of the Australian Council of Trade Unions Congress, this Government has abandoned all standards of decency. On Tuesday we had the appalling episode of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Minister for Industrial Relations (Mr Street) vehemently attacking personally the leader of the ACTU, Mr Hawke, while he was attending his mother’s funeral. I know that the political debate in this country is pretty rough but apparently we have completely abandoned all standards. We do not declare any truces at any time. Even when a man is in mourning for his mother he becomes the subject of vehement attacks by the Prime Minister and his Minister for Industrial Relations. I think that it was a disgraceful performance on the pan of both of them. Today at 5.30 p.m. the Minister for Industrial Relations made what was supposedly a ministerial statement. It contained not one element of a policy initiative. It was simply an excuse to beat up an issue which the Government sees as being politically popular for it. If the Government wants to debate this issue that is fine by us. We believe that it will come out the loser.
This Government took office at a time when there was a wages system in this country which was working reasonably well. We had great troubles in establishing wage indexation. We had been through the traumas of the high inflation of 1974 with all other countries in the Western world. The Labor Government responded to those traumas by advocating a wage indexation system so that employees would be assured that there would be some guarantee of maintenance of their real standards of living through the maintenance of their real levels of wages and that they would not have to make substantial wage claims in anticipation of future inflation as the matter would be taken care of by this orderly centralised wage fixation system. That is what this Government inherited. It said that it supported wage indexation. What did the Government do as soon as it took office? It did its very best to sabotage wage indexation. It has been doing so ever since and has been serving this country very badly. It has brought about a situation in which wage indexation is on its knees. The Government is the body responsible for that situation. Wage indexation is an equitable, sensible system to adopt. It should be supported by any Federal government. We have no hesitation in saying that we strongly support a system of quarterly wage indexation.
As part of the policy of attacking wage indexation, this Government set about a policy of continuous denigration of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. Every time the Commission made a decision which did not conform in any way with the Government’s policy, which was that there should be no wage increase at all most of the time, it was attacked in the Press and publicly by the Prime Minister and other Ministers. To say the least, this is a rather unusual situation but vigorous attacks on the Arbitration Commission have been a constant pattern in the period of the Fraser Government. The Government’s policy also involved non-co-operation with the Commission in respect of the policy decisions it took on increasing prices, on many occasions by way of indirect taxes, and by other measures. The Commission has said time and again that these increases make it more difficult for it to maintain an orderly wage indexation system. This Government has paid no attention to that. It has attacked the Commission every time it has made a decision which it did not like.
The inevitable result of those policies in forcing the Commission to award much less than full wage indexation has been that the living standards of wage and salary earners in this country have been inexorably reduced. That is something which this Government must face up to. In the real world outside the Parliament a tremendous resentment is building up amongst the wage and salary earners of this country about the fact that their real living standards are being reduced because real wages are being cut. Wages are not keeping up with prices. Taxes are increasing as a proportion of income. Family allowances are being rapidly eroded by inflation and the Government’s refusal to adjust them for inflation. Those factors are bearing down on the capacity of families to lead the kinds of lives they have led in the past and to live in the style to which they have been accustomed. Honourable members should forget about improvements; people cannot maintain the standards of living they had in the past under a Labor Government.
I will give some examples. A person on the average award wage, which in 1978-79 was about $ 1 53 a week, will have a wage increase of 9 per cent this year. That is what the Government forecasts. He will find that his standard of living this year will be 6.6 per cent lower than it was in 1975-76 as a result of the reduction in his real wages, increases in his tax burden and the nonadjustment of family allowances. I assume that such a person would have a couple of children and a dependent spouse. That is a very significant reduction. Where will it end? Has the Government given any indication of when it will stop increasing the proportion of income paid in tax or when it will start the adjustment of family allowances? Has it given any indication of when it will support the maintenance of real wages, let alone increases in wages for productivity? It simply has not done that. Therefore, the future expectation of anyone in this country is not only that his living standard is not likely to be maintained but also that it is likely to continue to fall in the foreseeable future if the Government’s policies are maintained.
At the same time, people know because of the tremendous publicity the practice has been given over the last year or so that many people are ripping off the system. Such people are essentially non-wage and salary earners. Through tax avoidance schemes they have been able to reduce their tax burden greatly whilst their incomes have been increasing far in excess of the rate of increase in wages and salaries. Over the period 1976-77 to 1978-79 the increase in the real incomes of non-wage and salary earners has been double the rate of increase in the incomes of wage and salary earners. But the total tax paid by non-wage and salary earners has decreased by 5 per cent whilst the total tax paid by wage and salary earners has increased by 22 per cent. That indicates tremendous inequity. Those in nonwage and salary sectors are getting twice the rate of increase in their gross wages and paying 5 per cent less tax on that much increased income while wage earners are paying 22 per cent more. Those are the facts. It is the realisation of what is happening which is building up a tremendous resentment and causing pressures for increased wages. This is understandable.
This sense of injustice is heightened by the fact that the Government has abandoned all pretence of prices justification. We have a body called the Prices Justification Tribunal but essentially it has been deprived of any power to do anything effective about price justification or control. The rationale for these kinds of policies is presumably what has been spelt out at times in the more obscure sections of Budget papers and elsewhere. The Government regards real wages as excessive. It says that they have run ahead of productivity and have reduced profit share and the incentive to invest. This real wage overhang, as it is called- the excessive increase in wages ahead of productivity- is a dubious argument. In most countries there was some increase in wages ahead of productivity in 1974. But there is no natural identification of that with increased unemployment in other countries. In Germany, which had the lowest real wage overhang of any country in the Western world, there was a big rise in unemployment. In Sweden, which had a very large real wage overhang- it was much larger than that in this country- unemployment fell. So how does one make any sense of this real wage overhang argument? Quite clearly no logical argument has been developed on the basis that real wage increases naturally mean increased unemployment.
In any case, and much more importantly now, the real wage overhang has certainly been eliminated. The continual cutbacks in the real level of wages and the non-application of any increase for productivity have meant that any overhang has disappeared long since. The Conciliation and Arbitration Commission has accepted that. It said many judgments ago that the real wage overhang, to all intents and purposes, no longer exists. Yet this Government still insists that it must reduce real wages and transfer incomes from wage earners to profits because that is necessary to bring about economic recovery. It says that any wage increase will cause more unemployment. It is quite clearly an absurd argument that any wage increase destroys a job. How is it that in the 1950s and the 1960s when we had almost continuous full employment wage increases did not destroy jobs? If that was the situation then how is it that now when there is no real wage overhang we can say that wage increases mean the destruction of jobs? It is utterly absurd to say that. Yet that is what this Government keeps on saying.
Of course, the Government wants to cut real wages further in order to depress living standards further. Understandably the trade unions are not going to accept that proposition. That is why we got this tough decision from the Australian Council of Trade Unions. Despite the fact that there is so much unemployment, this decision of the ACTU reasserts its determination to try to get the wage increases which are being denied to workers through the orderly wage fixing process. What else are the trade unions to do? Are they simply to say to their members: ‘Do not worry about the fact that your living standards are declining all the time; just lay back and cop it, because that is what you have to do’? It is utterly absurd to expect that to happen. I am quite adamant that the ACTU attitude will have no effect on the rate of increase in job creation in this country, anyway.
More recently the Government has said: Since indexation has been pushed close to the point of collapse, now we will offer some form of full wage indexation but discount for price increases emanating from government decisions’. What does the Government mean by that, that it would discount for oil price increases, for increases in other indirect taxes, for health costs, for tariff increases, for devaluation? I understand that some suggestion has been put at wage inquiries that it would discount even for beef price increases. After all those things are taken into account, there is almost nothing left. So how can that be any guarantee of wage indexation? If the Government guaranteed to increase wages every six months in line with prices, discounting for all those items I mentioned, there would be practically no increase at all. Quite clearly the unions would reject the proposal out of hand, and they did. One simply could not expect any other response. Any other response would have meant a union official saying to his members: ‘We have just got to accept drastically reduced living standards- living standards which will be reduced even more than they have been till now’. One could hardly expect the union members to accept such a proposition.
The Minister for Industrial Relations (Mr Street) called that rejection ‘unthinking pigheadedness’. I think that he is the one who is being unthinking and pigheaded to expect the unions to adopt such an unreasonable proposal involving continuous reductions in the real living standards and wages of their members. In arguing for the acceptance of that proposal, he claimed that the certainty of adjustment- that is the way in which he saw it- would remove pressure for unions to go outside the system by taking industrial action. However, as I have said, quite obviously there would be no certainty of adjustment because of all these discountings. If there were full wage indexation, as the Labor Party proposes, without all this discounting, there would be that certainty of adjustment and therefore, on the Minister’s own logic, there would be a removal of the pressures to seek inflation compensation outside the system. On the Minister’s own logic, full wage indexation would have the effect of preventing this movement outside the system. It would prevent increased industrial disputation and the seeking of increases outside wage indexation. I am glad to see that the Minister, perhaps in a rather roundabout way, is supporting the kind of logic which we put forward for supporting wage indexation.
There is an alternative to this kind of policy which involves continuous reductions in living standards and which simply is incompatible with economic recovery. If by some miracle the Government could achieve economic recovery it would simply mean that the unions would then seek wage increases and the Government have to clamp down again. So the Government’s policy is incompatible with economic recovery. The only alternative to that is the kind of policy which we have proposed- that is, an allembracing policy encompassing prices, nonwage incomes, wages and taxes. The whole matter could then be looked at in terms of after-tax incomes as well as pre-tax incomes. A cooperative prices and incomes policy could be devised with the trade unions. That is the only proposal which is compatible with the restoration of full employment.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MartinOrder! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-The Parliament is debating the industrial and wages policy announced tonight by the Minister for Industrial Relations (Mr Street). The Minister in his statement to the House, initiated in a very clear and positive manner some new and, I believe, positive approaches to what we require in this country to meet the present situation. I have listened hopefully to the contributions firstly by the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young), then by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) no less, followed by others, including the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis). One must express great disappointment because in no way did they contribute in a worthwhile manner to the debate or to the substance of it. The Minister said quite correctly: the Australian economy has been improving for some time now. But … the ability of any government to shape the directions of the economy is limited by the attitudes and actions of the individual groups within it. Nowhere is this more apparent than in industrial relations.
If we cast our minds back only a few months to the actions of the unions of this country in so many facets of industrial relations it is not difficult at all to understand the assertion made by the Minister in his statement to the House. I ask honourable members how often they have listened in their own constituencies to honest down-to-earth Australians- the real workers, who perhaps are employed in the railways, in a sawmill or in an abattoir or something of that sort- saying in typical Australian fashion: ‘We don’t want more wages just to see prices rise again’.
Opposition members- Oh!
-I expected a chorus from my friends opposite but if they are honest they will admit that the vast body of opinion of unionists- the real workers of this nation- is that they do not want to see a continuation of this simple treadmill process. The submissions made to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission by the Government and by the employers are in sharp contrast to the approach of the unions, and the Government and employers have made a clear case in this regard. It is for that reason that we have seen very commendable adjustments to the procedures and to the processes during the past 24 to 36 months. However, it is lamentable that each time we see some positive approach the rug is pulled out by that section of the participants in arbitration disputes who will not agree to a positive plan.
Let us just consider what it all means. The Government tonight has again enunciated a positive approach to a real problem. It has not been an attack at all, despite the assertions and the wild statements made particularly by the Leader of the Opposition. The statement by the Minister was logical and factual and was a very considered appraisement of the situation. I put it to the House that we have a complex system and that we recognise the difficulties which arise between those awards that come under Federal jurisdiction and those that come under State jurisdiction. It behoves us all to accept the responsibility to recognise the ingredients of this great issue of the economy, of industrial relations, of productivity and of wages accounted for in an effective and proper manner. When we think back to the Labor Government of 1973-75 we remember a departure from responsibility. Inflation escalated very rapidly to the 1 7 per cent level. As the Leader of the Opposition said tonight, or maybe it was the honourable member for Gellibrand, the only recourse, of course, was to go into indexation and go into it so strongly and so willingly, that that treadmill became not just a treadmill, but a real whirl of -
– What absolute nonsense.
-‘ Absolute nonsense’, the honourable member for Gellibrand says. Well, I must be hitting the point because obviously if the honourable member regards that statement as nonsense he is contradicting the very statement he made to this House only a few short minutes ago.
Of course, the approach of the Government is consistent and is in the interests of all sections of the community. It takes into account a very telling statement made many years ago by the then Prime Minister, Mr Deakin, when the early birth of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission was at issue. He said:
No measures ever submitted to any legislature offer greater prospects of the establishment of social justice and the removal of inequalities . . .
Today, we are striving under a government that has the responsibility and is prepared to accept it, to look after all sections of the community and to try to dispense justice for all. So we have to think in terms of a fair wage. Of course, we also have to think in terms of the effect of excessive wages on other sections of the community- those on fixed incomes, those on pensions, those who are self-employed, the farmer, the businessman who cannot pass on higher costs because there is no one to pass them on to, and those who are dependent on world markets and therefore have no way of passing on increased costs, particularly if these increased costs are a direct result of industrial disputation, of pressure or of action by militants who make demands and fight to the bitter end to achieve those demands.
This debate is all about exactly those issues but I have not noticed any acknowledgment of them at all by the speakers of the Opposition, let alone their chief spokesman, that master of all these issues, the honourable member for Port Adelaide. In fact he made one of the weakest contributions that I have ever heard in this House on these kinds of issues. Yet the honourable member boasted about speaking to employer and employee groups. He asked questions as to why representatives of the Government did not address the biennial conference of the ACTU. I challenge him: Did the honourable member in fact initiate an invitation for that to occur? Of course he did not, and of course he would not; he would hate that to happen. Yet the honourable member is someone who would be in a position to suggest and probably succeed in winning acceptance of such a proposition.
One is reminded immediately of what happened only a few short weeks ago. I refer to that very serious dispute, the Telecom dispute. For weeks, bans were imposed which seriously disrupted public services in this country and of course -
– Tell us what Justice Staples said about that.
-I would rather tell the honourable member exactly what resulted from a statement from the Bench. I refer to the determination of the Commission which called on the unions to lift their bans. A certain period was allowed for this to be done. It did not occur. The consequence was that the Government, having given every opportunity to the leaders of the union movement and the officials of the Australian Telecommunications Employees Association to get the bans lifted, had no recourse other than to introduce and bring into effect legislation which had been passed by this Parliament to deal with just that kind of situation. But we know that supported by the Labor Party and supported by the ACTU no such move was made. When we look at the effect of that, it is little wonder that the Government has the responsibility of moving further in the field of industrial relations, of proposing further action to try to bring about a more responsible approach to the industrial problems of this country. If we think of the situation just in general terms -
– Tell us about Queensland.
-Whoever it is interjecting says: ‘Tell us about Queensland’. I notice that the effect there was the very speedy resignation of a senior union official named Williams, who was not even game to stay in office until the legislation proposed in that State was enacted. He got out so rapidly that obviously he had something to hide; he had some reason to escape before the legislation was even debated in the Queensland Parliament. Quite frankly, I think we might see even more departures within the trade union movement. We have seen Ducker, we have seen one after another, leaving, running off, deserting the ship- and of course, for obvious reasons. I will not say that all the reasons are the same, but it is very interesting that these things have occurred.
The Labor Party and some of the union leaders say that the Government pokes its nose into industrial situations to draw attention away from what they describe as failures on the part of the Government. What they are referring to is the very difficult economic situation which has existed for some time but which the Government has in fact managed to a far better extent than the Labor Party was able even to try to manage. If we think of the benefit, the advantage, of that to every worker in this country, it gives the lie direct to the rubbish, the statistical rubbish, that was dished out by the Leader of the Opposition, the honourable member for Gellibrand and the honourable member for Port Adelaide about what the workers are losing. If they were realistic they would admit that the prosperity in this country by and large is very much better than it was even five years ago under Labor.
Opposition members smile, but of course the only way in which they could rescue the worker from the depths of despair at the time of the 17 per cent inflation rate which I mentioned earlier, was to have quarterly indexation and spiralling wages of the kind that did enormous damage to the economy of this country. There was no other course. One has to accept that it was the effect of bad economic management that introduced that very difficult situation which sent us rocketing out of the markets of the world in terms of being able to retain markets, to gain new ones and to see productivity even held. The fall in productivity at that time was a blow to the labour market of this country. The blow was so great that record unemployment set in.
– Sit down. You are making a fool of yourself.
– Well, the honourable member for Melbourne, Mr Deputy Speaker, is well known for having very little capacity in these matters, despite his experience in the trade union movement. If he is not able to recognise and to register that it was the fall in productivity due to the matters that I mentioned a moment ago that had the greatest impact on the creation of vast unemployment in this country, he ought to give up and go home, go back to wherever he came from.
The Government’s proposals, as outlined by the Minister for Industrial Relations in his statement to Parliament, make a rational approach, as I said earlier, to the nation’s second most serious problem. Of course, the economy and inflation are problem No. 1, but the second great issue is the one that this House is debating tonight. I hope that as a consequence of the debate and the contributions made to it, we will see, on the part of the unions that have some real recognition of the facts of the situation, a more realistic approach and that the militants- men such as Halfpenny, who has been mentioned in this debate tonight, and so many others- will not be seen as the leaders of the ACTU. I hope that, despite the limitations of the present leadership, the leaders will not come from the men in the group from the Left who are making such a divisive stand against sensible unionism at the present time.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jarman)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– About the only thing that can be said about the speech made by the honourable member for Cowper (Mr Ian Robinson) is that it went for 15 minutes. I am not surprised that the Government supporters are still saying the same things as they were saying four years ago. They are still saying: These are the causes of unemployment and the causes of the recession’. Unemployment is increasing at the rate of a thousand people a week and inflation is going through the roof. I do not know when they will learn that all of the policies that they have been following for four years have been so wrong, and will change direction and take advice from someone who has knowledge about the economy, such as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden), the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis), the honourable member for Lalor (Mr Barry Jones) and almost every other member sitting on the Opposition side of the House. The list is so long that I could not mention them all without running out of time. It would seem that if the Government did have a real intention to get this country back on its feet it would certainly change direction, because the direction in which it has been going for four years is wrong.
When we consider the attitude of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) it is not surprising that such a divisive and provocative statement was made. It was mouthed by the Minister for Industrial Relations (Mr Street), but it was written personally by the Prime Minister. As the debate clearly indicates, Government members believe that there ought to be a reduction in wages. I think that we should have a look at what has been said by honourable members on the Government side who have spoken in the debate. The Minister for Industrial Relations, who led the debate, is a gentleman farmer- a wealthy grazier- in addition to drawing a salary as a member of this Parliament. Apparently he finds it difficult to live on the generous salary that he gets as a member of this Parliament. The honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Carlton) is a former party functionary who knows more about the donors to the coffers of the Liberal Party than he knows about how families survive on less than $ 1 80 a week.
Let us have a look at the background of the honourable member for Diamond Valley (Mr N. A. Brown), who had the temerity to call members of the Opposition in this place hypocrites. That was the word that he used. He also seems to find that the rather generous salary which he receives for appearing in this place when he does insufficient to live on. I might tell the people outside this Parliament that it is certainly more than $180 a week. Honourable members opposite should get that figure fixed in their minds because the people at that income level are the ones whom they are having a go at. The honourable member for Diamond Valley is also a full time employers’ advocate, appearing for them time and time again. I am assured by my legal colleagues that he earns in excess of $ 100 a day for doing so. I say this not out of envy, because I do not care how much a year he earns, but just to point out the hypocrisy of the Government members who rise and talk in this debate, who earn a very generous salary and who want to screw people who are the backbone of this country for even less than $180 a week. In terms of propriety, I am somewhat disappointed that that honourable gentleman did not declare his interest before he spoke in the debate. There was not a word of it. He stood up and piously spoke about the people in this country having to make sacrifices. Why does he not make a sacrifice and give up his law practice? Never in a million years would he do that.
The honourable member for Cowper spoke about a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay. Is he to be the judge? I would hate him to sit in judgment on me. Does he ever go back to the farmers in his constituency and say to them: ‘The housewives in the city have to pay too much for meat’? My wife reports to me, when she does the shopping in the city in which we live, the City of Broadmeadows: ‘I see groups of women standing outside the butcher’s shop, looking in the window for the cheapest meat to buy’. Is the honourable member for Cowper going to say to those who grow the meat- those people whom he represents: ‘You will reduce your income. You will sell your meat at a lower price’? No. Instead, he says to those who are expected to buy the meat: ‘You will accept lower wages’. Honourable members should look at that and understand the paradox. Unless the working people, who are the bulk buyers in this country, receive equitable purchasing power, his farmers will never do very well. Yet he stands up and tells those who are going to buy the product of the people whom he represents that they ought to be receiving less money in their weekly wages. Where is the logic in that statement? The honourable member for Cowper went on to talk about the Telecom dispute -
Honourable members interjecting-
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jarman)Order! The House will come to order.
-Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. As you understand, I am not really used to speaking above interjections! I would have thought that the honourable member for Cowper, being a member of this Parliament, would have made some study of the Constitution of this country. I would like him, in his spare time, to have a look at the Constitution, particularly Part V, section 51 (xxxv), which says -
– What about you, Clyde? Are you going back to the Socialist Party?
-If the parrot from Bendigo could contain himself for a minute, he might even learn something.
– It would be unusual.
-I realise that he is a slow learner, but I am prepared to give him a go.
-Order! It does not help the debate if there is cross-fire across the chamber. I am interested in the honourable member’s speech and I would like to hear it.
– Well, why don’t you tell them to keep quiet?
-I am speaking to both sides of the House. I will say the same if the honourable member for Melbourne is interrupted when he is speaking.
-I would be most surprised if anybody had the temerity to interrupt the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes).
-Only the Deputy Speaker.
-Section 51 (xxxv) says that the Commonwealth Parliament shall have power to make laws with respect to:
Conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State.
It does not say anywhere there that the Government must take provocative action. So this Government is acting against the Constitution, for a start. The honourable member for Cowper spoke about the Telecom dispute. I am glad that he raised that, because it is a prime example of the interference and provocation by this most untrusted Prime Minister. It is well known that he gave instructions to Telecom that it was not to negotiate or enter into conciliation; that the matter had to go to the court and be arbitrated. Government members understand perfectly, and the listening public understands perfectly, the difference between conciliation and arbitration. The community, the unions and the Government members know that conciliation is usually accepted because it is negotiated; it is a consensus view in the long term.
Did the Government conciliate? No, it did not. It wanted to go to arbitration. It knew that that would provoke the unions, which it did. So, the strike was prolonged. This was not because the Australian Telecommunications Employees Association members liked being on strike. No workman likes being on strike. They were forced into that position because of the intransigence of this Government, particularly of the Prime Minister. This Government talks- with tongue in cheek- about drawing up laws and rules to make the union movement function better. What a lot of codswollop! What about the changes to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act by which the Government made it virtually impossible for trade unions to amalgamate? What about the provision that more than 50 per cent of the members in a union must vote, and more than half of those who do vote must vote in favour?
The Government knows the history of that and it knows that that is unachievable. That is why it was written into the Act. The members of this Government are very plausible rogues, but do they know that now there are unions talking about amalgamation in order to bring about more efficiency, fewer demarcation disputes, fewer stoppages and fewer strikes? That is why those unions want to amalgamate. The textile and footwear unions are talking about amalgamation. The Federated Storemen and Packers Union and the Transport Workers Union are talking about amalgamation. For the information of honourable members opposite- I think they ought to know this and understand it well- it has been estimated by the officials of those unions that it will take them 8 years to amalgamate. If the Government’s action is not throwing a spanner into the works and being provocative I do not know what is.
The Government talks about union democracy. The Government does not even know what democracy means. It does not practise democracy in this place or in the community. It practises democracy nowhere, but it uses the phrase democracy in unions’. What it is talking about is anarchy, not democracy. The definition of democracy is ‘a situation in which the mass of the people accept the view of the majority and act upon it’. That is what happens in this place. That is why we have the lousy Government we have. Incidentally, it was not the majority of the people who said that this was the Government we were to have. The people have had to wear this Government for 4 years. After December this year they will not be wearing it for any longer. The Government is not talking about democracy but about individuals within trade unions taking unilateral decisions. The Government would not tolerate that happening in the community generally, or in the Government parties. Those who have crossed the floor have been expelled from the Government parties for doing so, and honourable members opposite know it. I have seen it happen. The Government does not practise democracy. What it wants to bring about in trade unions under the guise of democracy is of course anarchy. The Government may talk about the unions engaging in action outside the field of wages and incomes and in areas that are not traditionally theirs. What about the employers in South Australia at the moment? What about the thousands of dollars that they are contributing to engage in activity that just could not possibly be equated with commerce and trade in that State? Business people traditionally are associated with commerce and trade. In South Australia they are engaged in a political campaign. If the Liberal Party accepts that it is good enough for the business people, it is good enough for the trade union movement. The Government would justify the employers in South Australia doing this by saying: ‘But they will live more happily if they get rid of the Labor Government ‘. They would say that the Labor Government is having an effect on the business people; therefore they can engage in activity to get rid of it.
– Hear, hear!
-Government supporters in large numbers agree with that. What is the difference between that action and a trade union representing working class people taking action on behalf of the people it represents to remove a government- this Government- that has caused its members such hardship and reduced their wages over the last year or so? I do not hear any Government members now saying: ‘Hear, hear’. Of course not, because they always want to make flesh of one and fowl of the other. There is no consistency in their argument and there is no justification for any action that they take.
This document deserves to be relegated to the waste paper basket. It contains no sensible solutions or suggestions. If the Government were really concerned- those on this side of the House certainly are- about the very difficult situation that confronts Australia today, which has been brought about by the Government’s actions, it would be engaging in debate in this Parliament in an endeavour to find out what is causing the unemployment in Australia. Instead the Government relies on blind faith. It says that if it keeps pumping up profitable industries and making them more profitable they will employ more people. The Leader of the Opposition and the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) exploded that argument like a hand grenade. There is just no substance in it. It has not worked anywhere. The honourable member for Gellibrand gave examples of what happened in the 1950s and 1960s when companies were never more profitable and when unemployment was negligible. There is no evidence to support the Government’s argument, but it keeps perpetuating this myth. The Government took the propaganda theory from Goebbels and refined it. Everybody thought he was the best in the business, but the Government found a way to refine his theory. Now it is perpetuating the myth that if people continue to ask for increases in wages somehow or another somewhere along the line somebody will lose a job. There is no truth in that suggestion. The Government can never substantiate it; it can only say it.
The Government said that if industry becomes more profitable more jobs will be available.
Again, that is easy to say. The Government cannot prove that and it has not brought forward one skerrick of evidence that that is the case. The Government intends to delude the people of Australia. I am sure that the people of Australia are too smart for that to happen. When the Government speaks of wages it speaks of the income of all people in the community because wage structure- whether they belong to a union, work in a factory or whatever they do- is related to the activities of the trade union movement. To destroy the trade union movement would bring about anarchy in the community. That is something that this country cannot possibly tolerate. In the final seconds that are available to me I go back to the point -
– We will extend your time.
-The honourable member may move for an extension of time if he likes. It is a great disappointment to me that this Government is not sincere enough about the problems to engage in debate in this Parliament about the real causes of these things instead of finding a whipping boy, figuratively tying the trade unions to the stocks, lashing them in public and saying- as Hitler did in relation to the Jewish people in Germany- they are the cause of our problem. There is a real analogy in the situation that happened in Germany in 1938 and what is starting to occur in Australia today.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jarman)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-The House is debating a statement made earlier this evening by the Minister for Industrial Relations (Mr Street). In that statement the Minister outlined the positive achievements of the Government in the implementation of industrial relations legislation. He spelt out the dangers to Australia of the industrial relations policies of the Australian Labor Party which were decided at the recent ALP Federal Conference. He put forward the wages policy which the Government wants the unions, employers and the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to consider. It was a cause for great regret for those honourable members on this side of the House who have been following the debate closely that the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young), the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) and the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis), who sit on the other side of the House, did not attempt to come to grips with that statement. Not one word of their speeches attempted to come to grips with the Minister’s statement.
I had hoped that my old friend, the honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson), in his usual erudite and lucid style would make some attempts to come to grips with the statement but he did not do so. In fact, the main thing that came out of his speech was that he is against the concept of membership ballots for union amalgamations. I thought that that was quite extraordinary: He would deny the membership of unions a say in what should happen with respect to union amalgamations. It was also interesting to note that the honourable member for Gellibrand did not attempt to answer the question which was put quite specifically to him by the honourable member for Diamond Valley (Mr N. A. Brown). Honourable members will recall that the honourable member for Diamond Valley raised the proposal by the ALP to exempt unions from actions in tort. He asked what would be the position of a widow of a trade unionist whose husband died as a result of some negligent action of a trade union official. Would that trade union official be exempt from an action in tort? The honourable member for Gellibrand did not attempt to deal with that question. So we have to assume that the honourable member for Diamond Valley was onto something in that respect and that he was accurate in his assumptions.
We listened with great interest to the speech by the Leader of the Opposition, in particular. He made this interesting statement: ‘ACTU policy is not necessarily ALP policy’. That might be strictly correct in some respects. But I think we all accept that the trade union movement, through the Australian Council of Trade Unions and its official organs, has a great deal of influence on the ALP. Indeed, ALP spokesmen from time to time put that proposition forward as one of the great strengths of the Australian Labor Party. But clearly, the Leader of the Opposition found some cause for embarrassment in the ACTU congress because he is seeking to dissociate himself from ACTU congress decisions. Nonetheless, it is a pointless exercise because the ALP Federal Conference decisions were damning enough in themselves. Indeed, in some respects ALP policy, as decided at that conference, goes beyond ACTU policy in its damaging implications for the economy. We on this side of the House have to assume that the speech by the Leader of the Opposition was not directed to this Parliament but to the delegates of the preselection convention in the electorate of Wills. One might say that it was an anti-preselection speech rather than a pre-selection speech.
A framework for the conduct of industrial relations requires both rights and responsibilities to be recognised on both sides. Under our conciliation and arbitration system trade unions have privileges under the law to represent their members before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and gain for them certain benefits. They have the capacity in many circumstances to put a case to the Commission for preference in employment for their members. There is an obligation, I suggest, on all parties to an industrial dispute to observe the decision of that Commission. We cannot have a system where one side is free to disobey a decision while the other side is subject to penalties. But that is the very system which the Labor Party proposes. That is the consequence of several decisions arising from the ALP Conference. The Conference committed the ALP to give trade unions some extraordinary privileges by way of immunity from laws which other people would have to obey.
Let me deal with some of the matters on which the ALP has made decisions in that respect. The ALP platform provides for the right of” workers to ‘organise in democratic trade unions’- no one objects to that- ‘and to collectively bargain and to exercise the right to strike in the course of such activities immune from any pains and penalties directed against unions and unionists’. That is quite a blanket statement- ‘immune from any pains and penalties directed against unions and unionists’. That is quite an extraordinarily broad statement. It means that, no matter what activity a union is engaged in, if it is engaged in during an industrial dispute unions and unionists would be exempt from any pains and penalties.
Let me deal with another decision of the ALP Adelaide Conference. The Conference committed an ALP government to move immediately to repeal ‘all penalties for strikes against arbitral decisions of the Commission or a conciliation committee and the prohibition of action by the Commission to insert or register clauses in awards or agreements excluding the rights of workers to resort to industrial action’. If the Arbitration Commission, in the exercise of its responsibility and having examined all the circumstances in a dispute, decided that trade union leaders, a section of the trade union or the trade union in toto is exercising the right to strike in an improper way, in a way that is not helpful to the settlement of the industrial dispute, or in a way that damages individual members of the community and the community at large, the Commission would have no power to insert any bans on that sort of activity. Clearly, the ALP would remove penalties against trade unions for that sort of action but it is interesting to note that the
ALP would not remove penalties against employers for any breaches of awards. The ALP has retained the concept of employers being penalised for retaliating by engaging in a lockout. If employers retaliate by engaging in a lockout the ALP proposes that there ought to be capacity to take legal action against the employers for that action. I agree with that, but that the same sort of penalty ought to be applied to unionists and unions if they engage in illegitimate activity.
Let me deal with other decisions arising out of that Conference. The Labor Party has also given a commitment to recognise ‘the rights of unions to regulate their own affairs in a democratic way free from government and judicial interference’. That is another blanket statement. Who protects the public interest? Who adjudicates when the public is being held to ransom? Who, indeed, protects the rights of individual unionists aggrieved by union action when they want to take action against their own union officials? It would seem that under a Labor government unionists would not have the right to take action to protect their own position.
Let me give a further example of the Labor Party’s attitude to trade unions. As the Minister for Industrial Relations has pointed out, it is the policy of the ALP to ‘encourage the membership of registered organisations through the provision of preference to unionists in the taking of leave and … in their engagement and promotion and their retention in cases of retrenchment’. I point out to the House that registered organisations under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act already have the right to seek before the Commission preference in employment for their members where the nature of the industry makes it desirable. Registered organisations already have the opportunity to take action before the Commission to prove their case for the desirability of preference in employment for their members. I suggest that that gives them all the rights and entitlements that they need by way of preference.
The Labor Party would exempt unions from the provisions of the Trade Practices Act. That Act prevents organisations from placing black bans and boycotts on company activities other than those which are concerned directly with disputes over wages and conditions. I hope that all honourable members on both sides of the House agree that collusive behaviour between companies designed to force a competitor out of busines should be illegal. The Trade Practices Act outlaws that sort of behaviour. Why should it be possible for unions to get away with that very same sort of behaviour? Why should we have a double standard? This Government legislated to ensure that we did not have a double standard and that the same prohibitions applied to companies, employer organisations and employee organisations.
I invite honourable members to consider the position of small businesses faced with a black ban from a militant union. The balance of economic and industrial power in that instance is on the side of the union. The small businessman needs protection from that sort of activity. The provisions of section 45D of the Trade Practices Act provide him with that protection and it is this Government that put those provisions into the Act. The ALP, on the other hand, would exempt militant industrial gangsters who engage in such restrictive trade practices from the provisions of that Act. Responsible unions do not want to engage in such activities. They do not want to take such action against innocent people. I believe that the Government’s action in putting those provisions into the Trade Practices Act has a good deal of support not only from businessmen but also from a large section of the moderate trade unionists.
The Government has sought to consult with all groups in the industrial relations system. This is another respect in which the Government differs very greatly from the Opposition. The Government set up the National Labour Consultative Council on a statutory basis. This body includes representatives of government, employees and employers at the most senior level. Previously the Labor Government failed to call together the National Labour Advisory Council, as it was called, to bring together those three groups in a consultative process. This Government established the NLCC on a statutory basis. We required it to meet regularly- quarterly. However, the ACTU boycotted the last two meetings of that body. That gives the lie to statements by Mr Hawke that he wants national consultation on industrial issues. He will not come to the very body which has been set up on a statutory basis to provide an avenue for such consultation. He obviously wants a platform for grandstanding for the pre-selection for the seat of Wills or whichever seat he is thinking of standing for. The NLCC is a body set up to discuss issues in a sober and considered manner and obviously that is not what is required of the President of the ACTU.
I invite honourable members to compare the Liberal-National Country Government record in setting up a framework for the orderly conduct of industrial relations in this country with the decisions arising out of the ALP Federal Conference which would set up a one-sided system that would disadvantage not only the employers and business people but also the moderate unions that do not want to engage in improper conduct and the vast majority of individual unionists who are concerned about their standard of living, who want to get on with the job and earn their wage.
The Government has implemented secret postal ballots for all elections for management positions in federally registered organisations. It has taken steps to protect the rights of individual unionists. Let me ask why the members opposite did not take the opportunity while in government to implement some of these provisions. We have implemented provisions which have prohibited intimidatory fines by unions on their members for exercising their right to work.
Honourable members may recall that in this House I raised a matter involving some constituents of mine who refused to obey a union directive to go on strike. They took the attitude, very reasonably, that if there is a right to strike there is also a right to work. The union executive set about trying to fine them $20 each per day for not obeying the strike directive. This Government has taken action to ensure that unions cannot take that type of intimidatory action against individual members. We have also taken action to ensure that there is better reporting of union financial affairs to the rank and file unionists. Why did not honourable members opposite legislate in that way? We have also introduced provisions to ensure that unions give adequate notice to their members of impending elections. Why did not honourable members opposite introduce those sorts of provisions if, in fact, they are really interested in the welfare of the rank and file trade unionists of Australia? The Opposition is not really interested in the welfare of the rank and file trade unionists of Australia. It is interested in industrial power groups and their influence in the Austraiian Labor Party.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jarman)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Mr Deputy Speaker -
– Red Ted.
– I take umbrage at that remark. I want it withdrawn.
-What was the remark at which the honourable member for Melbourne takes umbrage?
-This imbecile from Hotham, or whoever it was, made a reference and I take umbrage at it. I may tell the honourable member that I more than anybody else in this chamber have suffered at the hands of individuals in that category. He has sold his guts to the Liberal Party and to employers. He might take notice of that -
-If the honourable member for Melbourne would tell me what the remark is at which he takes umbrage.
– I would not put it in the record by repeating it. If you, Mr Deputy Speaker, have not paid attention I have got to stand in a situation -
-Order! I take that as a reflection on the Chair and ask for its withdrawal.
-I will withdraw it.
-I would also ask for the withdrawal of the word ‘imbecile’ because it is unparliamentary.
– It is a bit flattering.
– Yes, it is a bit flattering but I will withdraw the word.
-No. I asked for an unqualified withdrawal from the honourable member for Melbourne.
– Yes, I give an unqualified withdrawal. People can make up their own minds. They will shortly.
-Order! The honourable member for Hotham knows the remark that he made. I have just been informed of what it was. I suggest that he withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it.
– This debate has covered a range of areas, yet has really missed the point emphasised in the statement of the Minister for Industrial Relations (Mr Street). Industrial relations and the concept of bringing people together in the industrial arena rather than forcing them apart is lost in this debate because people are pushing and shoving purely on political grounds. The statement itself is a political statement. It seems to me that for some reason confidence is gathering in the Government ranks that we will be going to the polls in a short space of time on the ground that things may well be worse in 1980. If this is not a political statement or perhaps even an election campaign speech, I have never heard one. Let us look into the heart of what is being said in this statement. It is really an attack on the historical principles outlined in the conciliation and arbitration system. When one talks about conciliation, and this clown from Holt would not know because he is only- I withdraw that remark -
– I raise a point of order. I do not mind being referred to in such terms by the honourable member but, in deference to the Chair, I thank him for the withdrawal.
-Order! I suggest to the honourable member for Melbourne that such remarks do not help the proceedings or the image of this House.
– In naval parlance, the honourable member for Holt (Mr Yates) has been here for a dog’s watch and would not know anything about the traditional trade union movement in this country or in any other country I would imagine. But I know something about the traditions of the industrial movement in this country as I have been involved with them for something like 20 or 30 years. Commissioners of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, before whom I once appeared day after day, laid down the philosophy that the first step that parties took in industrial relations was conciliation. The role of the Commission was to set minimum wages. The parties were then encouraged to proceed by means of conciliation and in terms of the principle and philosophy of the Act, to set the maximum. But in the statement of the Minister the minimum becomes the maximum and that is a formula for industrial disputation leading to confrontation. That is the difference between what has been advocated over the years and the philosophy now enshrined in the Minister’s statement. If that philosophy is adopted it will spell nothing but disaster for industrial relations, and will lead to confrontation in industry.
Since this Government came to power that philosophy has been the order of the day. We have seen a progression from the legislation and the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission is now committed to resolving industrial disputes. The Conciliation and Arbitration Act covers disputes that extend beyond the boundaries of one State and takes the disputes out of the common law area. Its aim was to take out of the common law area individuals who could not protect themselves. The individual now vacating the chamber has as his only claim to fame that he was the private secretary to Sir Ian McLennan from Broken
Hill Pty Co. Ltd or- I will be pulled up againwas something in regard to the Minister. He was an individual who served the Speaker from time to time. He advocates, as do the Minister and the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), a return to the common law situation.
I think the Minister for Home Affairs (Mr Ellicott) who is at the table would respect the point I am about to make. The common law is a judge-made law. The rules and principles of the common law apply only where they have not been set aside by some statutory enactment. No special formula is required for this to be done, nor is the power to set aside common law limited to the Australian Parliament. It can be exercised by the State parliaments, by regulations made by Executive governments, or by local councils.
Sometimes this power to override the common law by legislation has been beneficial. The common law is not always tender for the rights of the individual, particularly the individual without money or without political influence. I would like to give an example. It is a common law principle that a person is free to enter into contracts. Let me remind the individuals opposite that in the last century the common law upheld the right of factory owners to contract with children to work for 16 hours or more a day for starvation wages. When workers formed trade unions to get better conditions, the common law, aided by Parliamentary enactment, said that the unions were unlawful combinations and their leaders were sent to prison. It is still the position at common law that all trade unions are unlawful as conspiracies in restraint of trade. It means that the strong can protect themselves and the weak can please themselves. If a situation is reached where honourable members opposite, including the Minister at the table, through their advocacy put individuals in a position where they cannot protect themselves, the philosophy and principles of conciliation and arbitration in the industrial sense will fall by the wayside. Then what do we have? Honourable members opposite talk about industrial anarchy. They force people into allowing themselves to contract out of the awards by the application of economic pressures. Do honourable members opposite want to return to that situation? I do not think that the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Ellicott), who is at the table, would want a return to that situation. It seems to me that the philosophy displayed in this document that the Minister has presented this evening is headed in that direction.
I should like to deal with one more aspect of that document. We have heard about the Halfpenny-Hayden axis. Let us look at the axis between monopoly control- the people who own and control this country- and the members of the Fraser Government, the individuals who sit on the opposite side of the House. Let us look at some of those in the former category. One is James Charles McNeill, chairman of Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd. He heads Australia’s biggest company and chief steel, oil and gas operators. The next individual is Arvi Hillar Parbo, aged 51, who is chairman and managing director of the Western Mining Corporation. Another is Sir Charles Gullan McGrath, age 66, who has been chairman of Repco Ltd since 1957. Then there is Sir John Gardiner Wilson, who has been the managing director of Australian Paper Manufacturers Ltd since 1959. There is Brian Scott Inglis, managing director of the Ford Motor Co. of Australia Ltd. Another is Sir Robert CrichtonBrown, age 57, who is a longstanding and active member of the Liberal Party and became the Party’s Federal Treasurer in 1974. He is the chairman and managing director of Edward Lumley & Sons Pty Ltd, an insurance company which is the holding company of a group of companies. Then we have James Campbell Johnston, age 64, of the Melbourne Stock Exchange. They are the men who are in Fraser ‘s business cabinet.
– On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker, could we know whether this explanation has anything to do with this debate?
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jarman)There is no point of order.
– I should like to refer also to an article which appeared in the Australian Financial Review on 1 1 September. It carried a report of a shareholders’ meeting of the New South Wales Permanent Building Society. The chairman of the Society is a former chairman of the Sydney Stock Exchange, Mr Alistair Urquhart. The deputy chairman of the Society is Sir Jock Pagan, who is a former federal president of the Liberal Party. He was interested-
– I take a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. May I inquire whether the remarks are in any way in order or have anything at all to do with the debate?
-I am talking about-
-Order! The honourable member for Holt has already raised that matter. I have pointed out to him that it is not a point of order. The honourable member is aware of what is a point of order and what is a frivolous point of order. I warn him against taking frivolous points of order. I do not want him to take up the time of the honourable member for Melbourne.
-Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. This particular individual, Sir Jock Pagan, is the New South Wales Agent-General in London. That same gentleman got a loan of $ 1 50,000 -
– A former one.
– Yes. He is the former AgentGeneral in London. He got a loan of $150,000 from the same society at a lower rate than building society interest rates. Evidence was given at a Supreme Court hearing in June that two factions of the Liberal Party tried to take over the New South Wales Permanent Building Society, which is Australia’s biggest building society. Presumably, they were interested not only in the prestige of a directorship but also in getting access to the hundreds of millions of dollars invested in that society. The court heard evidence that the present directors, including Urquhart and Pagan, had spent $2.8m in order to get elected. They did this by investing in separate accounts. Effectively this gave them the right to have multiple votes. The $2.8m was spent, the court was told, in preventing an extreme right wing faction of the New South Wales Liberal Party from taking over the society. It is not known whether one of the members of this faction was Mr Lyenko Urbanchich, who is now being investigated by the State branch of the Liberal Party.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I take a point of order. Standing Order 8 1 states:
No member may digress from the subject matter of any question under discussion-
We are supposed to be discussing the Minister’s statement on industrial relations. I fail to see how this matter has anything whatsoever to do with that.
-Order! I ask the honourable member to return to the subject of the debate.
-I remind you, Mr Deputy Speaker, that mention was made in the Minister’s speech of the axis between Mr Halfpenny and Mr Hayden. I am pointing out the axis between individuals whom I have mentioned and the hierarchy of the Liberal Party. I believe that I am in order.
-I ask the honourable member to continue his speech.
-Thank you. I shall repeat what I said two moments ago, This gave them the effective right to have multiple votes. The $2.8m was spent, the court was told, in preventing an extreme right wing faction of the New South Wales
Liberal Party from taking over the society. As I have indicated, it is not known whether one of the individuals who have been investigated by the State Branch of the Liberal Party is the individual whom the Jewish anti-Nazi investigator, Simon Weisenthal, indicated was a war criminal. What about the axis there? Who is controlling the Liberal Party? Who is controlling the Minister sitting at the table and those individuals who sit on the front bench? What about axis between big business and those it controls?
-Your time is just about to expire.
-The Minister for the Capital Territory is getting agitated because my time is about to expire. He is as guilty a man as anybody who sits on that side of the House.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Debate (on motion by Mr Lusher) adjourned.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate without amendment or requests:
Tasmanian Native Forestry Agreement Bill 1979. Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1979.
Design Competition for New and Permanent Parliament House -Closure of Abbattoir at Cootamundra- Political Parties- Tobacco Industry: Smoking- Decentralisation Funding Scheme- Afghanistan- Aborigines in Queensland
Motion (by Mr Ellicott) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I wish to bring to the attention of the House an important operation which is just getting underway. I refer to the assessment of the entries that have been lodged in the competition for the design for the new Parliament House. I think this is a very fundamental matter for this Parliament. I am not making any criticism of the assessment panel or of anything else but I think it is time we examined the situation to see whether there is any way in which the collective judgment of the members of this Parliament can be brought to bear as well. The original competition was announced and, as I understand it, some 300 entries have been lodged. Somewhere in this city a whole host of them is waiting to be assessed by the panel. This is a very important operation. There is very little parliamentary input to that panel. The assessors are Sir John Overall, Mr Andrews-they are both architects- Professor
Stevens, who is an engineer, and two members of this Parliament, the honourable member for McMillan (Mr Simon) and Senator Evans. I am not questioning their capacities or anything of that nature but it seems to me to be a fairly narrow group for what is a most significant decision. I hope that the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Ellicott) will think of some way in which there can be a greater input by the panel, even if it is only to examine the proposals and to express opinions and advice to the people who represent us. I just point out that it is fairly narrow professionally. There are several architects, two lawyers and an engineer. I suggest that the decision which has to be made is an enormously important cultural and aesthetic one.
The new Parliament House has been in gestation, I suppose for some 12 or 15 years or more. The first decision by the original Joint Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House was that is ought to be placed on the lake. A motion was moved in this House that that be done. An amendment was moved that the new parliament house be placed on Capital Hill. That was eventually adopted after many, many motions and battles around the place. Now we have to proceed with what I think is one of the greatest architectural challenges and opportunities that has ever been offered to Australia. I am quite confident that no matter how estimable the people on those panels are, they do not cater for all of the tastes and all of the views, aesthetic and otherwise, that are available through this Parliament. After all, we are building a new parliament house, we are not building something for the architects or for engineers or for lawyers. We are building a significant institution for this Parliament.
I would remind honourable members that the people who have been associated with the building of this capital have produced what I would regard as functional austerity as an architectural form rather than something with grace and space that I think should be part of the Australian architectural scene. It took Australia a long while to develop a painting theme of its own. I suppose that the last half of the last century was used up before there was development of the Australian art form. It is only in recent years that an Australian attitude has been developed about films which makes the Australian film distinctive. This is also the case with popular entertainment. But I do not think Australian architecture has yet produced a style of its own. It is not too much to say that I think that there is an Australian spirit about the countyside, the people in it and its social organisation. I am quite confident that none of that has so far been expressed in any architecture in this city, desirable as many of the buildings are. Therefore, I hope we will do something about creating an opportunity for members of this Parliament to look at and investigate the entries and express some opinions to the members who represent us on the panel.
I would suggest that it is a fairly narrow representative system that has placed the two members on this panel. Both are relatively new to this Parliament, both are lawyers and both, fortunately, are from Melbourne. I think there are other forms of cultural inputs that can come from this Parliament. I hope that all members will examine this question thoroughly and that some time next week we will be able to take some steps to ensure that there is a closer look at it and obtain a greater input from the members of this Parliament than I can see is going to happen unless we are careful about it.
-Today marks the end of the third month since the closure of the Conkey & Sons Ltd abattoir at Cootamundra. Probably three quarters of a million dollars in wages alone has been lost to Cootamundra and will never be recovered. The amount lost because those wages are not circulating from one hand to another is immeasurable. What has been achieved? The answer has to be nothing. The lines are exactly as they were the day the works closed three months ago. The union wants the conditions existing before the closure. Metro Meat Ltd wants federal award coverage.
One month ago yesterday, on 13 August, Justice Mary Gaudron completed the hearing on Metro’s application for a Federal award. Despite the union assurances at the meeting on 25 August that the decision would be handed down the following week, the result of the application is still not known. How many ex-employees have left town or obtained other employment? One hundred? Two hundred? The union could not manage more than about 1 10 at the official meeting on 25 August, only a handful more than the number who attended Nevyl Hand ‘s meetings a couple of weeks earlier. It is a fair guess that those who have left are the young and mobile former workers without dependants. Those still in town would be married people with commitments who are trying to get by on unemployment benefits. They are the ones who can not pack up and leave without significant disruption and hardship. Can blame be apportioned? I think it can be and should be.
Metro bought the Conkey business earlier this year. With it Metro bought a long history of industrial trouble. Much of that trouble was deliberately organised because Conkeys was seen as a weak link in the abattoir chain. Conditions or improvements won at Conkeys could be passed on to union members in other works. The Conkey company had limited financial resources to withstand such industrial disruption and Mr Conkey himself always felt a responsibility to Cootamundra and tended to meet demands in the interests of a stable community. Metro does not have the same feeling toward Cootamundra that Harold Conkey had. The new owners wanted to, and were entitled to, seek to overcome the sorry industrial record at Cootamundra. As owners of four other abattoirs in other states, Metro wanted to standardise all its works under the federal award. On 21 May, Metro applied to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission for federal award coverage. I acknowledge that at that time the abattoir was operating unprofitably. Prices were high and numbers were down. But Metro was going to great lengths to maintain a kill and to maintain employment.
On Friday, 22 June, after a totally irresponsible strike in breach of an agreement made the day before, Metro closed the works. The managing director of Metro made it clear that the abattoir would not reopen except under the company’s terms. That meant a federal award. Metro’s position has not altered in three months. At least once during that period, Metro has made it clear that if the union consented to federal award coverage, it would look to re-opening the works immediately. Can Metro be blamed for what has happened? I think not. The company has acted as any fair-minded person would expect it to act. It is not prepared to accept the atrocious industrial record at Cootamundra. The plant was closed only after severe union provocation. Terms for reopening have been made clear. They are reasonable terms. Can the union be blamed? I think it can be, and I believe it should be blamed.
The initial cause of the closure, despite what the union may say, was industrial disruption. It had a history of years and years of disruption. The obvious intention of the union was to continue that disruption under the new ownership. Everybody in Cootamundra knows that that is the reality. The day the works were closed the union said there would be no return to work other than under the pre-existing conditions. That was a mass meeting attended by the organiser from Sydney. I do not suggest it was not a democratic decision. What I am concerned about is what the local members of the union were told before the vote. The union has stuck by that decision for three months, despite the fact that in two unofficial meetings with no Sydney representative present, almost 100 members voted to accept the federal award. The Cootamundra people know there is nothing to fear in the federal award. They know that in most cases, they will be paid more. The basic difference is that some workers will have to work a full day instead of finishing when the tally is completed. On that point of great principle, the union has kept the Cootamundra work force out for three months.
Where does the blame lie? I say it lies fairly and squarely with the union in Sydney. Its members could have been in work two months ago but for intransigent attitudes in Sydney. How much longer will Sydney deny these 300 jobs in Cootamundra while members of the same union are killing stock in other abattoirs? Is three months not enough? The power of the union, the mystique, the almost religious adherence is, to me, frightening. About 90 people voted for the union motion on 25 August after presumably the same people had voted the the opposite way a few weeks previously. Nevyl Hand, who had called the previous meetings, was ridiculed. What had he done? He had done nothing other than to try to get people to see reason and to try to get them their jobs back.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Giles)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-On 28 August there was reference in this chamber to the infiltration of extreme right wing elements of the community into the Liberal Party, particularly in New South Wales. At the time I referred to articles which appeared in a local newspaper as well as in Spremnost Hrvatski Tjednik which claims to be the only Croatian newspaper in Australia. These articles referred to a barbecue which had been organised by the Macquarie and Chifley Federal Councils of the Liberal Party of which the main organiser, of course, was the honourable member for Macquarie (Mr Gillard). There were present at that barbecue persons who hold very prominent positions welcoming the so-called charge d ‘affaires of the socalled Croatian embassy, an organisation which has been outlawed by this Parliament. The socalled charge d’affaires, Mr M. Despoja, was the guest of honour at this barbecue at which, it was said, something like 1,000 people turned up.
Also present at that barbecue were other prominent members of the Liberal Party and I include here such people as the former Liberal State member for Nepean, Mr Ron Dunbier, and Alderman Mrs Cammack, the former Liberal mayor of Penrith.
I want to make it quite clear that the vast majority of the Croatian people who live in Australia are some of the finest citizens this country could have. As a matter of fact I think it is a great pity that there is a tendency to refer to the extreme organisations as the extreme Croatian organisations. Actually the reference should be more Ustashi-type organisations. Unfortunately, the sins of the very few are visited on the vast majority of the Croatian people who, as I said, are some of the finest citizens that this country could have. Similarly the sins of the few in the Irish Republican Army are visited on the great majority of the Irish people, who are some of the warmest and most lovable people one could possibly meet. My mother was Irish so I can understand that.
I have already quoted from the local papers and the Spremnost Hrvatski Tjednik of 14 August. On 14 August the Spremnost Hrvatski Tjednik published a photograph of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) with Mr Josip Bogdanovic at Faulconbridge in the Blue Mountains, where Mr Fraser planted a tree. The paper says that Mr Bogdanovic explained to the Prime Minister why Croatians in Australia wanted to keep their Croatian ‘embassy’. The paper adds:
Mr Fraser said to Mr Bogdanovic that the sincerity and honesty of Croatians in Australia impressed him greatly and that he understood why they are fighting.
As I said, it is not the vast majority of the Croatian people living in Australia, but just a small minority who are visiting their sins upon the vast majority. They are the extremists who import the problems and the politics of their country into this country and have created a great deal of disturbance. They interfere very seriously with Australia’s relations with other countries. Because of that, the Government outlawed the socalled Croatian ‘embassy’.
-Order The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Last night the honourable member for McMillan (Mr Simon) made a speech which could be entitled The epidemic of smoking’. He was critical of the advertising of some tobacco companies. Of course, he has a perfect right to make that sort of speech, but he did suggest that Parliament should act to discourage or stop people from smoking. He skirted the problems of the freedom of liberty of the individual. I must disagree with his suggestion that this Parliament should legislate to stop people doing things that they individually want to do. There is a tendency for some members on both sides of this House to believe that we should legislate to control the free will and liberty of individuals. Surely the majority of members on the Government side are committed to freedom of choice by individuals unless their actions are damaging to others. There is no evidence at all that smoking is damaging to any individual other than the smoker. Surely, we want less and smaller government, not more and bigger government.
People do smoke and the tobacco industry supports a very large number of tobacco farmers. I might also suggest that the honourable member for McMillan does not have any tobacco farmers in his electorate. In the electorate of Leichhardt I have 550 tobacco farmers who account for 40 per cent of Australia’s tobacco production. They support the two small towns of Mareeba and Dimbulah. Almost 12,000 people in that area are dependent on the tobacco industry. For them there is no alternative crop to tobacco. Their farms are small farms of 25 to 30 hectares. The industry is naturally concerned about its future. Whilst people have the freedom to smoke if they wish, growers must be given a fair share of the market. At present 50 per cent of Australian leaf is used in the manufacture of tobacco products in Australia by agreement with the tobacco companies. Recently during the Multilateral Trade Negotiations the duty on imported United States leaf was reduced by 60 per cent. This will have no effect on the present tobacco stabilisation plan, because the plan has another year or so to go. Under the MTN agreement 50 per cent of Australian leaf is bound. I might say that this reduction in duty gives a windfall to the tobacco manufacturers of something like $7m.
It is natural that growers should be discouraged and concerned. But there are two senior Ministers of this Government, the Minister for Trade and Resources (Mr Anthony) and the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair), who are determined to help the tobacco farmers to survive and prosper while people smoke. Next week these two Ministers are to have discussions with the manufacturers to see what can be done to help the growers. Smoking is a matter of freedom of choice by individuals. My firm view is that any reduction in the usage of tobacco products should not be met by penalising Australian farmers. We should restrict imports of manufactured tobacco products or require manufacturers of imported products to use a percentage of Australian leaf. When two small towns and many thousands of people are dependent on only one industry and that industry is threatened by imports we should do something to protect it. We should not protect it entirely- we will have to have some imports- but we should protect it so that the people who are already there will survive. I again say that this Parliament should not legislate to control the liberty and freedom of choice of the individual.
– I raise two matters, one of which briefly I raised last night. This morning after the presentation of a report of the Publications Committee I indicated my concern at the fact that Government departments were not in fact complying with the requirements of this Parliament in the presentation of sufficient copies of tabled documents for members’ use. Today a document was tabled in both Houses. In this House it was tabled on behalf of the Minister for Science (Senator Webster) but copies are not available to members. The Department quite obviously is seeking to transfer the cost to the Parliament. It is in fact having its report tabled but denying members of the Parliament access to it.
The matter of substance that I want to raise is the question of the removal of the Geelong area, which is substantially in my electorate and partially in the electorate of the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street), from the areas eligible to apply for decentralisation funds. In answer to a question the Minister for National Development (Mr Newman) indicated that it was a recommendation of an advisory committee on regional development and funding. My understanding is that that recommendation was in fact a unanimous recommendation of the committee.
The matter I want to raise is that today the Premier of Victoria indicated that he would object to the decision of the Minister. I think it ought to be put on the record that the Victorian Government is in fact represented directly on the committee concerned. Apparently the representative of that Government supported the recommendation which was made. It is a hollow gesture after the matter is made public for the Premier suddenly to find it objectionable. I also point out to the House that the Victorian Government was notified some time ago. Information about this whole deal seems to be very difficult to obtain. The Victorian Government’s response to this information was to note the letter. The Premier of Victoria would have been the recipient of correspondence dealing with Commonwealth-State financial matters. He now finds the decision objectionable because it is exposed to the public gaze and because it may be politically embarrassing to the Victorian Government.
It is too late after the decision has been made with the support of the Victorian Government for that Government to say that it finds the decision objectionable now that it has become public. I find the decision objectionable because it denies the right to make application. It is based on assumptions which show either incompetence or a complete lack of understanding of the realities of the situation in areas which have been debarred by members of the committee. That is a very serious charge on a matter of serious concern. To suggest that areas which are near metropolitan areas benefit from the proximity automatically is naive in the extreme.
There are very great disadvantages in many cases for areas in proximity to metropolitan centres. Such areas do not derive the same benefits as the metropolitan areas. For instance, telephone charges in a metropolitan area are much cheaper. Also it is much simpler and cheaper for businesses to operate in the metropolitan area than outside it. So proximity is not an advantage. The old theory, which I thought had been forgotten years ago, of self-generation at certain sizes does not work. I ask the Minister to reconsider the decision. Whether grants are made is a matter for Government decision on the applications received but denial of the right to apply on what I consider to be a totally false premise, with the contrivance of the Victorian Government despite its belated protests, is something that ought to be reconsidered. The Minister ought to ask his committee to look at the matter if necessary. If it is not, he should change direction and allow applications to be received.
-The House will be sorry to hear that an Australian is now lying seriously ill in a hospital in Afghanistan, the bus on which he was travelling having been involved in an ambush in that country. Tonight I want to draw this matter to the attention of the House and to ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) to make certain that no more Australians attempt to travel- cheaply, of course- on an overland journey on a bus through Afghanistan at present. Six Germans, a Turk and a Finn have lost their lives in and around Kabul during the last three weeks. Having visited Kabul in the recess I can say to the House that many extremely brave Australians are working for overseas companies and for the United Nations in this and other parts of the world. We never thank them. In a country such as Afghanistan where we do not have an Australian embassy I think it is the duty of the Foreign Minister to get in touch with a friendly embassy and make certain that Australian nationals, their wives and children are withdrawn.
The situation in Afghanistan goes from bad to worse. As we all know, the Soviet Union is now supplying 3,000 advisers, but even Soviet civilians have been involved in the fighting and even killed. We realise that the Afghanistan army and air force have been trained by the Soviet Union. We recognise too that because of the close proximity of Afghanistan to the Soviet Union, the Soviet Union is bound to be at least sensitive to the government in Afghanistan. The present President, Mr Taraki has adopted communist policies. I am not prepared to say whether they are good or bad policies, but they have thoroughly antagonised the Afghan people. There has been only one great conqueror of Afghanistan and that was Alexander the Great. The British suffered a tremendous reversal in the retreat to Kandahar and almost everybody knows that certain areas of Afghanistan are in permanent turmoil.
I ask the Afghan Government and especially its Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs to make certain that any Australian or European citizen who wishes to leave Afghanistan will be allowed to do so. I am sorry to say that I can see no hope for the situation. There is now a permanent insurrection. As long as the army remains loyal to the present Government and does not rebel, the present Government will stay in power. It is with great regret that a great and beautiful country like Afghanistan has brought itself to this problem. As the Pakistani Government pointed out, it is no use the Afghan Government blaming its neighbours for the very policies which it has adopted and the very situation which it has created. If the present Afghan Government cannot manage the situation it will have to find somebody else who can run the country peacefully and better for everybody in Afghanistan. We must all face the fact that Afghanistan lies in a very important position in the world. We hope that it will long remain a non-aligned nation working for peace and goodwill with her neighbours.
– I wish to draw attention to the position of Aborigines in Queensland. After the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (Queensland Reserves and Communities Self-Management) Act 1978 was passed by this Government in April last year, the then Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Mr Viner, said: ‘This law stays. It is on the books. It has received royal assent. It is still available to any other community in Queensland to achieve self-management’. This law was, of course, side stepped shortly afterwards by the Premier of Queensland, Mr Bjelke-Petersen. Since that time Aboriginal communities at Weipa, Kowanyama, the Gorge and Yarrabah have applied for the Act to become law in their communities, but the Federal Government has disregarded these appeals except in the case of Yarrabah. Negotiations are continuing. State Ministers and people from Yarrabah have come to Canberra.
At the moment it seems that all the Government is concerned about is negotiation. Queensland will carry out its own law. The Queensland courts have determined that award wages should be paid to the people at Yarrabah. People who were sacked because they joined the Australian Workers Union have been encouraged at a meeting with members of that union, the Industrial Commissioner in Cairns and representatives of the Federal and State governments to go back to work on the old basis of a training allowance, which is about half the award wage, until November when the Department of Aboriginal and Island Affairs in Queensland has carried out a survey of all the reserves to find out which people it thinks should get award wages. We know the record of Queensland Government surveys of what Aborigines want and should have. Their surveys have been totally discredited by every other survey on, for example, how many Aboriginals on State reserves want self-management and how many would prefer a Federal takeover. A later survey showed that 70 per cent would prefer such a takeover. That was established in a careful survey carried out jointly by the Federal Department of Aboriginal Affairs, the FAIRA, a research organisation based in Brisbane, and the Aboriginal Legal Service. The attitude of the Queensland Government is that it knows best what the Aboriginals want. Anything the Aboriginals say they want is stirring, provocative and is induced by the Federal Government.
Mr Porter when he visited Yarrabah I believe it was the first time he has ever spoken to an elected council of Aboriginal people- said: ‘The Commonwealth Government is the enemy of the Queensland Government. It is no good relying on them. They will not be in power after the next election and they know it. There are no negotiations going on between Queensland and the Commonwealth Government about Yarrabah. If the Federal Government wants to fund any project I will not let it function on Yarrabah’. This man continues his behaviour unchecked. He is supposed to be a member of the Liberal Party but obviously he is one of the totalitarians who has the ultimate say in what happens to Aborigines in Queensland. It is time that this Government took the advice of the Senate Committee, negotiated no longer with Queensland, and took over Aboriginal land to exercise the functions of this Parliament.
-Order! It being 1 1 p.m. the debate is interrupted.
– I request that the debate be extended for a moment or two. I will not keep the House long. The honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) raised the question- it probably will not trouble him- of the design and construction of the new and permanent parliament house. The honourable member was troubled that the competition which is being held may result in some impractical design being produced. In the course of the deliberations of the Joint Select Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House on this matter, tremendous care was taken to ensure that what happened with the Sydney Opera House would not happen with the new and permanent parliament house.
Next month the winners of the first stage of the competition will be announced. Five people will be selected and they will go on to the second stage. Prior to their going on to the second stage, they will be given what is called the ‘stage 2’ document. That is a very large document which, in effect, deals with every room and every space in the new and permanent parliament house and the inter-relationships between all those rooms and all those spaces. So, the internal design of the new and permanent parliament house is predetermined to a very large degree. When the five people who go on to the second stage deal with the matter, they will have that assistance from the Joint Select Committee because members of that Committee will have already been through that stage.
The second aspect is that those five people are entitled to be briefed and will be briefed by what is called a steering committee. That steering committee will comprise the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President of the Senate, two Ministers and two members of the Parliament. Those six people will call before them the five successful people individually. They will be at liberty to ask questions and to be briefed in relation to the matter. The whole purpose of that exercise is to overcome the problem which the honourable member for Wills raised. I can assure honourable members that the possibility of their seeing these designs is not on because that would offend the whole basis of the competition which was agreed to by the Royal Australian Institute of Architects and approved by the Joint Select Committee. It will not be possible for honourable members to view those designs until the winning design has been chosen. In the ordinary course of events, that will be about July or August of next year.
-The debate having concluded, the House stands adjourned until 2.15 p.m. on Tuesday next.
House adjourned at 11.3 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice, on 6 March 1979:
What was the production of (a) import parity and (b) non-import parity crude oil from Barrow Island during the periods (i) I July to IS August 1978, (ti) 16 August to 30 September 1978 and (iii) 1 October to 3 1 December 1978.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice, on 1 May 1979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 2 May 1 979:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
) (a) Bennett Research Pty Ltd, Sydney, NSW.
Household surveys conducted by the ABS from 1 975-76 to 1978-79 are as follows:
The Population Survey is a continuing survey and results are published regularly. All the other surveys have been completed, although not all processing has been finished.
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice, on 3 May 1979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice, on 3 May 1979:
What quantity of crude oil was produced from Barrow Island in the periods (A) 28 April 1967 to 17 September 1970, (b) 18 September 1970 to 17 September 1975, (c) 18 September 1975 to 17 September 1976, (d) 18 September 1976 to 16 August 1977 and (e) 17 August to 31 December 1977.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The available statistics on Barrow Island crude oil production are published in ‘Petroleum Statistics’ on a fiscal and calendar year basis by the Department of National Development, and its predecessor Departments. This publication is available from the Parliamentary Library.
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice, on 3 May 1979:
What quantity of crude oil was produced from the Gippsland fields in the periods (a) before 27 March 1970, (b) 27 March to 17 September 1970, (c) 18 September 1970 to 16 August 1977 and (d) 17 August to 31 December 1977.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The available statistics on Bass Strait crude oil production are published in the ‘Petroleum Statistics’ on a fiscal and calendar year basis by the Depanment of National Development and its predecessor Departments. This publication is available from the Parliamentary Library.
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice, on 3 May 1979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: (1)and (2)No
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 28 May 1979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 28 May 1979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The 1972 elections were contested by the People’s Progressive Party and the United Party. The 1 977 elections were contested by the People’s Progressive Party, the United Parry, the National Convention Party and the National Liberation Party.
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 28 May 1979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The following parties took pan in the 1964 election campaign:
In the various elections held in July-August 1979 the following parties took part:
Full information on these elections has not yet been published.
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 28 May 1979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The following parties contested the 1 972 elections:
Inbokodvo National Movement, Ngwane National Liberation Congress (Zwane faction), Ngwane National Liberation Congress (Samketi faction), Swaziland Progressive Party and Swaziland United Front
There were no formally constituted parties to contest the 1978 elections which, as mentioned above, were conducted at the tribal level’.
Department of Social Security: North-eastern Corridor of Melbourne (Question No. 4040)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 29 May 1979:
-The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
The areas serviced by these offices are encompassed broadly within the following post code boundaries:
The location of the Preston Regional Office is to be changed in September 1979 from the Northlands Shopping Centre to Bell and High Streets, Preston. When this relocation is completed, the Preston Regional Office will provide a comprehensive service to the public covering the full range of Social Security benefits.
With the relocation and upgrading of functions performed by the Preston Regional Office, it will be necessary to modify the boundaries of the Preston region. The areas covered will then be as follows:
Those areas which will not be covered by the Preston Office when it is relocated will be redistributed to other Regional Offices as follows:
With the location of the Northcote office in North Fitzroy, there has been a change to its boundaries with Ivanhoe, Postcode 3079 to be serviced by the Heidelberg office.
asked the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, upon notice, on 4 June 1979:
Did the duty payable on some brands of imported galvanised housing tiles rise by 14 per cent from 17 August 1978; if so: (a) what led to this action by the Government; and ( b ) which brands of imported tiles are: (i) subject to the duty increase; and (ii) unaffected.
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Duty payable on imported metal roofing tiles does not depend upon brand but upon the composition of the tile. Duty payable on some types of tiles rose by 14 per cent from 17 August 1978.
I refer the honourable member to the answer provided by the Minister for Trade and Resources to his Question No. 4136 (House of Representatives Hansard, 21 August 1979, page 394).
(i) and (ii) Those tiles imported from New Zealand on which the mineral substance is bonded to the metal by a preparation based on bitumen are unaffected; any others are subject to the duty increase.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 6 June 1979:
Has he made any public suggestion that (a) women’s health centres should have their funds cut, (b) funds be cut for the women’s health centre at Liverpool, NSW and (c) women ‘s health centres should in future charge patients on a fee-for-service basis.
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
This advice was to the effect that Commonwealth policy is that, for Schedule medical services rendered by or on behalf of salaried or sessionally paid general practitioners employed in any community health centre funded under the Community Health Program, charges should be made at the Schedule Fee level for all clients except Pensioner Health Benefit card holders and their dependants, and disadvantaged clients.
In relation to women’s health centres specifically, an exception may also be made for clients who, because of the nature of their private domestic arrangements, might experience problems if the consultation were made known to other members of the family.
However, the administrative arrangements for the Community Health Program are such that the States have a significant degree of flexibility in matters of administrative detail such as this. The Commonwealth’s approach is considered to be reasonable in principle, since it places the client of a health centre in generally the same position as the client of a general practitioner at another health centre.
It is recognised that there may be special circumstances applicable to certain centres and that, in any case, there may be related State policies which indicate a need for modification of the Commonwealth ‘s in principle approach.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 2 1 August 1979:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Files on Japanese Surrender at Rabaul (Question No. 4474)
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice, on 23 August 1 979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 13 September 1979, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1979/19790913_reps_31_hor115/>.