31st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden) took the chair at 2. 1 5 p.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the National Women’s Advisory Council has not been democratically elected by the women of Australia;
That the National Women’s Advisory Council is not representative of the women of Australia;
That the National Women’s Advisory Council is a discriminatory and sexist imposition on Australian women as Australian men do not have a National Men’s Advisory Council imposed upon 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 Bryant, Mr Calder and Mr Martyr.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the price of LPG in Victoria has risen by $80 per tonne since November 1978 as a result of Federal Government policy thereby causing hardship to country consumers using LPG for cooking, heating and hot water and to decentralized industries using LPG for industrial purposes.
Your petitioners therefore pray:
that pending the establishment of a fair price in accordance with Clause 2 above and to provide some immediate relief to country consumers:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Lynch and Mr Nixon.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of Parliament assembled in the House of Representatives; the humble petition of the undersigned members or organisations listed below and citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the thorough nationwide investigations by the Working Party highlighted the need to establish the National Women ‘s Advisory Council.
That we believe the Council consistently and democratically demonstrates its wide representation of the interests of all Australian women, as shown by the Draft Plan of Action for the 1980 National Conference to be held in Canberra in preparation for Australia’s participation in the United Nations Decade for Women World Conference in Denmark, July 1980.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Parliament will continue its support of the National Women’s Advisory Council and its recommendations.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Bryant.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That a grave threat to the life of refugees from the various States of Indo-China arises from the policies of the Government of Vietnam.
That, as a result of these policies, many thousands of refugees are fleeing their homes and risking starvation and drowning. Because of the failure of the rich nations of the world to provide more than token assistance, the resources of the nations of first refuge, especially Malaysia and Thailand, are being stretched beyond reasonable limits.
As a wealthy nation within the region most affected, Australia is able to play a major part in the rescue as well as resettlement of these refugees.
It should be possible for Australia to: establish and maintain on the Australian mainland basic transit camps for the housing and processing of 200,000 refugees each year; mobilise the Defence Force to search for, rescue and transport to Australia those refugees who have been able to leave the Indo-China States; accept the offer of those church groups which propose to resettle some thousands of refugees in Australia.
The adoption of such a humane policy would have a marked effect on Australia ‘s standing within the region.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Bryant.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the retail price of Australian rum is too high and should be reduced to enable the average Australian to buy it.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that steps be taken to reduce the excise duty on Australian rum.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Donald Cameron.
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:
An amendment to the Human Rights Commission’s Bill 1979 which secures the rights of human beings before as well as after birth be upheld by the Parliament.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Chapman.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives of the Australian Parliament assembled. The petition of certain citizens respectfully showeth:
Their support for and endorsement of the National Women’s Advisory Council. We call on the government to continue to maintain the National Women ‘s Advisory Council and increase federal government support for its activities.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Cohen.
To the Honourable The Speaker and the members of the House of Representatives assembled. This humble petition of the undersigned Citizens of Australia respectively showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Federal Government will cease to call for an Olympic boycott and will assist the Australian Olympic team to compete in the 1980 Olympic Games.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Fry.
To the Right Honourable The Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the proportion of pensionable people within our community is increasing at a significant rate. The number of people over 65 years old will rise from approximately 8.5 per cent of the population as it was in 1 970 to over 10 per cent by 1990 and about 16 per cent by the year 2020.
That technological change is accelerating the trend towards earlier retirement from the workforce.
That the above factors make incentives for self-provision in retirement years a matter of great urgency if future generations of Australians are to be spared the crippling taxation which would be necessary to fund such provisions from social welfare.
That Australia is in urgent need of locally raised investment capital for national development and that life insurance and superannuation funds are important mobilisers of such capital.
Your petitioners therefore most humbly pray that the Government will forthwith take the steps necessary to:
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Garland.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Your humble petitioners therefore request of the Honourable House that immediate action be taken to extend the 27 MHz Citizen’s Band Radio Service past the 1 July 1982 deadline, and increase the available number of channels on the 27 MHz Citizen ‘s Band Radio Service to at least 40.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Haslem.
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 under a proposed reorganisation by Australia Post the postal services to Cootamundra are to be drastically reduced, particularly in respect to sorting and closing times in that:
That under such proposed reorganisation there will be a loss of employment opportunities by a reduction of at least two and possibly three positions.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that your Honourable House will take all necessary steps to prevent the proposed reorganisation in so far as it will result in the reduction of postal services to Cootamundra and the consequent loss of employment.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Lusher.
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 there is an urgent need to ensure that the living standard of pensioners will not decline, as indeed, the present level of cash benefits in real terms requires upward adjustment beyond indexation related to the movement of the Consumer Price Index. By this and other means your petitioners urge that action be taken to:
Taxation relief for pensioners and others on low incomes by:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byMrO’Keefe.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of the undersigned electors of Australia respectfully showeth that whereas the Australian Citizens Band Radio Service was authorised by the Minister for Post and Telecommunications on the First of July, 1977 and the Government of Australia has consistently refused to grant certain conditions for the users of that service, to the service ‘s detriment, your petitioners therefore humbly pray that:
The service known as the High Frequency Band of the CB Radio Service be allowed to continue past the date specified for it to cease namely, past 1st July 1 982.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Porter.
– Has the Prime Minister initiated the necessary inquiries to ensure that the withdrawal of financial assistance from the Australian Olympic Federation by the Government and government instrumentalities such as the Commonwealth Banking Corporation and Qantas Airways Ltd does not involve secondary boycotts in terms of section 45D of the Trade Practices Act, keeping in mind that such withdrawals of funds may affect not only amateur sporting organisations, sportsmen and sportswomen but also trading organisations which would be providing services and equipment? If not, will he initiate such inquiries as to ensure that small businessmen are not affected by such boycotts?
-There is no compulsion on any government to spend funds in ways that it thinks are against the national interest. The Government has made its view very plain in relation to this matter. Funds were made available to the Australian Olympic Federation in quite different circumstances. The Government has made plain its view that it believes, for very good, cogent and powerful foreign policy reasons, that those funds ought not to be provided in relation to assisting the team to go to Moscow or assisting the team in Moscow itself. It needs to be understood that the honourable gentleman, by some strange means, is yet again seeking to undermine Australia’s opposition to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
– Order! I inform the House that we have present in the Gallery this afternoon His Excellency Dr Hans Apel, Minister of Defence in the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany. On behalf of the House, I extend a warm welcome to our distinguished visitor.
Honourable members- Hear, hear!
-My question is directed to the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs. In reference to the study that he announced yesterday on possible effects of herbicides and other chemicals on Australian veterans who served in Vietnam, I ask: How scientifically and medically valid will the study be in answering all the questions that are being asked? Has he received any indication from scientific, medical or other sources as to how highly regarded this study will be and whether it will be of the best type for the facts being sought?
– I thank the honourable member for his question. Indeed, I can give a very positive answer to it. First, as to medical and scientific validity, it is the very study that was proposed to the Government, and accepted by it, by what was then known as the School of Health and Tropical Medicine, composed of men of science and medicine. On that basis we can expect that it will be scientifically and medically valid. I was very heartened this morning to learn that no less a person than Dr McBride, who is renowned not only in Australia but also throughout the world as a man of great eminence in medicine, and who is known particularly for his research into thalidomide, has endorsed the study very heartily. He was asked:
Do you think such an inquiry will resolve the controversy?
I do, yes.
He said that very positively, and made other very positive remarks about the study. The final question put to him was:
You have no doubts then?
I have got no doubts at all that this will be a very good study and I compliment the Government for setting it up.
The study and the Government’s proposals received similar endorsement today on the same program from the Director of the Walter and Eliza Hall Medical Research Institute. Also, I was very pleased indeed to hear that no less a person than that great representative of so many veterans, Sir William Keys, the National President of the Returned Services League, had welcomed the study. Sir William said:
The Government has taken the correct course of action to resolve the issues involved.
I put it to the honourable member that that is a very positive answer to the question that he has asked.
– I preface my question to the Prime Minister by referring to the Government’s announcement of” a $45,000 pay-off to the Australian Yachting Federation for its decision to boycott the Olympic Games. I ask: Has the Government drawn up a sliding scale of payments for the various sporting bodies of this country which toe the Government’s line on this matter? What total amount of money has been set aside for this boycott slush fund? Is the Prime Minister aware of reports that the pay-off is being seen as an outright bribe? Finally, does the Government believe that all of our Olympic sportsmen can be bought, if not bullied, into staying away from the Games?
-The honourable gentleman does not show a particularly complete knowledge of the way in which national sporting organisations operate and of their relationship to the Australian Olympic Federation. The honourable gentleman would need to have in mind that all along the Government has said that it wishes to promote the possibility for Australian sportsmen and women to compete in international sports events. The Government intends to do that. It has made it clear all along that if some cost is involved in that then the Government will meet that cost.
If the honourable gentleman had examined this matter a little more he would have found that a number of sporting groups who might otherwise have gone to the Olympic Games in Moscow were expecting support for that very purpose from the Australian Olympic Federation. The Government will act if, as a result of national sporting bodies such as the Australian Yachting Federation making a decision not to go to Moscow, as the Yachting Federation has done, the Australian Olympic Federation penalises that national sporting body because of the decision it has made in support of high national policy. This Government will not have a national sporting body, whether it is the Yachting Federation or any other body, penalised as a result of such action. The Yachting Federation was due to have its boats loaded in a few days’ time to go to participate in international sport in Europe and, if the funds are not available from the Australian Olympic Federation, it is plain that they ought to be made available from the Australian Government. That is the position. The same rules would apply to any other Australian national sporting body.
Again, the constant thrust of the Australian Labor Party in this Parliament is to seek to undermine the Government’s policy in opposition to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Honourable gentlemen might think that this is a slightly long bow, but this country was very near invasion on an earlier occasion. What would Australians feel about events such as the Olympic Games if Australia were subject to invasion, if Australia had 100,000 foreign troops on Australian soil and if, in those circumstances, all the countries of the world went and played games with the invading country?
Opposition members interjecting-
-Order! The right honourable gentleman will resume his seat. Honourable members on my left are keeping up a running noise of interjection. I ask honourable members to cease interjecting, particularly the honourable member for Melbourne Ports and the honourable member for Chifley.
- Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. It is very difficult not to interject when the Prime Minister talks in terms of an invasion of Australia. No such thing is taking place. He is going to provoke interjections if he keeps talking such nonsense.
-Order! There is no point of order.
– It is interesting to know that the Australian Labor Party, which poses as the great party of equality amongst people, is by its action plainly stating the view that an Australian life is intrinsically more valuable than a life from another country. Now, to Australians it can be, and it is our first obligation -
– I rise on a point of order. We never alleged that. Yesterday one of the Government’s own members suggested that sheep were more important.
-There is no point of order.
-Mr Speaker, to Australians an Australian life could be more valuable, but in the wider international community, whatever country a person comes from, the loss of a life is the loss of a life, of equal value and equal importance in the community of nations. So that honourable gentlemen opposite may understand the seriousness of the matter, which I know they are unwilling to do, if this nation were invaded by a foreign army of upwards of 100,000 troops, and if all the other countries of the world were to go to the capital of the invading nation to play in important international games, the Olympic Games, I do not believe that there is any person in this nation who would feel very happy about it. Every person in this nation would feel betrayed by that. Every mother and father whose son was seeking to repel the invasion would feel betrayed by the result in those circumstances. If honourable gentlemen opposite want to say that an invasion of Australia matters but that an invasion of another country is of no consequence, let them say that very plainly.
-Has the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs heard and seen criticism in the media of the proposed inquiry into the possible adverse effect on servicemen of the use of toxic chemicals in the Vietnam war? Has he considered the contention that the inquiry should be replaced by a judicial inquiry? Would a judicial inquiry be an acceptable approach to this investigation?
-That is a terribly important question and I think it is deserving of an answer.
Opposition members interjecting-
-At least we on this side of the House think that it is a terribly important question and deserving of an answer. I have spoken to the Vietnam Veterans Action Association not once but a number of times, and we have discussed this problem. The question of a judicial inquiry hinges on compensation, and that is important. We have a repatriation system. Governments of both political colours have administered that system which deals with the question of compensation. I do not know how a judicial inquiry can advance that matter any further because the repatriation system now, without any further judicial inquiry, enables veterans to receive compensatory pensions and treatment simply because their incapacities or disabilities are accepted as being related to war service. What has to be accepted is that a disability is related to war service. It matters not whether the disability is caused by agent orange or by battle stress. Indeed cases of stress and hypertension have been accepted as being war related. The cause does not have to be proven. All that has to be established is that the disability is due to war service. Veterans from Vietnam now have no bar to claiming compensatory pensions for war caused disabilities, and many of them are receiving such pensions. In that regard a judicial inquiry would not seem to advance us further.
More importantly, a judicial inquiry will not advance another situation. One of the things that have come out so strongly is that many people are directing inquiries to us. People say: ‘We want to have a family’. Veterans say: ‘I have been exposed in Vietnam to some chemical or toxin. Is it safe for me to have children?’ Other veterans say: ‘I have no claim for compensation now but I am worried. Will something develop in the future? Have I a latent carcinoma? Will something like that develop in the future?’ A judicial inquiry just cannot answer those questions. It is not set up to answer those questions and it would fail absolutely to answer the questions that have been asked. In conclusion I say that only a scientifically based and monitored epidemiological study involving all veterans and a control group can possibly answer those questions so that science and medicine can accept the validity of the answers. The study that we announced yesterday is just such a study. Already we have seen that it has very wide acceptance in scientific and medical circles.
-Is the Prime Minister aware that the Queensland Olympic Council today voted unanimously in support of Australia’s participation in the Olympic Games in Moscow? Is he also aware that today’s decision means that every- I repeat ‘every’mainland State Olympic body has now rejected his call for a boycott of the Moscow Games? In view of this unanimous attitude, will the Government now reconsider its policies of harassment and bullying of athletes and sporting organisations, withdraw its unfair and discriminatory embargo and allow the Australian Olympic Federation -
Government members- No!
-Have they all finished? May I continue, Mr Speaker?
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. I point out to the honourable gentleman that in asking the question he has used words which are condemnatory of a policy. He is not seeking information. He is describing a situation. That is what brought forth the interjections from my right. I ask the honourable gentleman to ask his question by seeking information. I ask honourable gentlemen on my right to remain silent.
-Thank you, Mr Speaker, for your direction. Will the Prime Minister now allow the Australian Olympic Federation to reach its own decisions on this matter, free of political intimidation?
-The Australian Government’s view on this matter will not be altered, and it will not be altered for reasons that have been well and clearly stated. We believe, and indeed the Leader of the Opposition, before he was under pressure and changed his mind, also believed, that an efFective boycott of the Olympic Games would be the best way of getting a clear signal through to the Soviet Union that it must not invade any more peoples and that the West would have the courage and determination to maintain pressure against the Soviet Union while Soviet troops remained in Afghanistan. Against that first and early statement by the Leader of the Opposition, this Parliament and the Australian people had some right to believe that there would be a bipartisan policy in relation to the issue. Of course, other events then unfolded. But, because the Labor Party changes its view and because other people may change their view, whether it be the Premier of a State or anyone else, that does not mean that this Government will be diverted from a course which it is quite certain is correct and in the longer term interests of the peace and security of Australia and the wider world.
It ought also to be noted that the Minister for Home Affairs came back from Europe and conversations he had with senior people and Ministers in a number of countries convinced that in the end there would unfold an effective boycott of the Olympic Games. If the honourable member for Griffith wishes there to be no effective boycott of the Olympic Games and no effective protest about the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, let him say so plainly and clearly so that the Australian electorate can understand what he is at.
-My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. I understand that Queensland sorghum interests have made an application to the Government for shipments of sorghum to the Soviet Union. Is the Minister able to confirm or deny this? If it is so, can the Minister say what is the Government’s attitude to the proposals?
– There have been two applications from the sorghum industry in Queensland for sales of sorghum to the Soviet Union. One application was from the
Queensland Graingrowers Association, for a sale of 50,000 tonnes of sorghum. There was a second application, for a sale of 25,000 tonnes, from the Central Queensland Grain Sorghum Marketing Board. On receipt of these applications, my Department sought information from the sorghum industry as to the traditional sales practices and, in particular, details of any sales to the Soviet Union over the past five years. The Department was advised by the Queensland Graingrowers Association that in fact it had sold no sorghum to the Soviet Union over the past five- years and similar advice was given by the Central Queensland Grain Sorghum Marketing Board. That information is consistent with information we had received from the Australian Bureau of Statistics which showed that the last sale of sorghum to the Soviet Union was back in 1973-74. As the Government had made it quite plain that it would not permit sales to the Soviet Union that would fill the vacuum created by the withdrawal of 17 million tonnes of grain by the American Administration, I have refused the applications and the sales cannot proceed.
-Has the Prime Minister made any assessment of the aftermath of the industrial dispute in the wool stores? Is the wool now moving through the wool stores around the country? In particular, is the Prime Minister in a position to advise the House whether the Portland wool store has dispatched the Nareen wool to the Leningrad mills where it is eagerly awaited by the manufacturers of Russian military uniforms?
-Mr Speaker -
Opposition members interjecting-
-Order! The Minister will resume his seat.
- Mr Speaker, the Prime Minister is -
-Is the honourable gentleman taking a point of order?
– I am merely observing that the Prime Minister has gone for cover again.
-The honourable gentleman has no right to make any observation.
Opposition members interjecting-
-Order! The proceedings of the House will be held up until members on my left maintain silence. The dignity of the House must be upheld by the Chair. I will not permit that noise.
– It is a fact that around Australia at the moment there is a considerable volume of wool contained in stores. That is as a result of the Storemen and Packers Union dispute. It is to be deplored that for 11 weeks no wool left this country, whether for the Soviet Union or anywhere else, because of the sheer and absolute greed of a union in refusing to accept the decision of the umpire.
– One packet of cigarettes.
– One packet of cigarettes is right. That shows the stupidity of the Storemen and Packers Union in holding out for 1 1 weeks. Even more so, the fact is that this matter went before the Full Bench of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. As I have said to this House before, only once before in history, that I have been informed about, has a Full Bench decision been rejected by a union. In other words the Storemen and Packers Union was not prepared to accept the final umpire’s decision on this matter. So, for 1 1 weeks it threatened the wool industry of this country.
Opposition members interjecting-
-Order! The Minister will resume his seat. The purpose of Question Time is for members to seek information from Ministers. If members continue to make a noise the proceedings of the House cannot continue. I ask honourable members on my left to remain silent. I ask the Minister to remain relevant to the question.
– The point I am making is directly relevant to the question. The question that was asked of me related to the volume of wool held in stores around Australia. I am bearing directly on that question, with great respect, sir.
-The honourable gentleman may continue.
-Thank you. The reality is that the Storemen and Packers Union, by its strike, withheld from the world markets the wool of Australia. The figures that I quoted earlier showed that some 450,000 bales in wool stores and due to be shipped out of Australia were directly held up by this strike. There are a further 1.5 million bales that have not yet been able to reach the wool stores themselves. So, when the honourable member gets on his feet and asks a question about wool being held in stores, I can assure him that there are still thousands of bales held up because of the Storemen and Packers Union dispute and there are markets still awaiting delivery of that wool. If ever there was a lesson to be learned by any trade union movement on the future of this country, it ought to be not to threaten the conciliation and arbitration system of this country for the price of a packet of cigarettes.
– I raise a point of order. The Minister has not dealt with the specific part of the question that was aimed at the Prime Minister’s consideration about the Nareen wool.
-The honourable member will resume his seat. He should know by now that because he asks a question he cannot demand an answer in specific terms.
-My question is directed to the Minister for Home Affairs. It follows a question asked earlier by the honourable member for Batman and relates to another aspect of the proposed payment to the Australian Yachting Federation. Has the Minister seen an editorial in the Sydney Daily Telegraph headed ‘A Hint of Bribery’ and relating to the proposed payment to the Australian Yachting Federation following its commendable decision to express its abhorrence of the Russian invasion of Afghanistan and brutal slaughter of many thousands of Afghans by not attending the Moscow Olympics?
– The slaughter is a shame, as the honourable member for St George says. Is there any truth in the suggestion of bribery in the editorial? Will the Government continue to offer to assist sporting bodies to engage in top level competition if they do not go to the Olympics in Moscow?
-I am aware of the editorial and I have had occasion to read it. It does contain a very insulting inference, because right from the very beginning the Government -
Opposition members interjecting-
-Order! I have already drawn attention to the continual interjections of both the honourable member for Melbourne and the honourable member for Port Adelaide. I ask them to cease interjecting.
– Right from the very beginning the Government has taken the view that, if in the national interest it is asking our athletes and our sporting bodies not to attend the Olympic Games in Moscow, it is fair and equitable that it should do its utmost to provide them with top level international competition as a substitute. All our endeavours have been directed towards those two ends. We will not give up on either, as the Prime Minister has already indicated. We will pursue our endeavour to have the Australian Olympic team decide not to go to the Olympic Games. It is our belief, as has been clearly stated by me from time to time, that there will be an effective boycott of the Olympic Games. It is clear that the reason is that Moscow has become an unsuitable site for the Olympics. If it remains so until May of this year it will be found that other countries, including West Germany, will take the view that Moscow is not a suitable site for the Olympics and that their Olympic teams should not go there. In that event there will be a need for our athletes to make the decision- a clear decision- not to go. At that stage they will be very grateful that the Government has taken steps, as it has been taking and will continue to take, to ensure that there is top level international competition elsewhere in the world for them to attend.
This editorial, as I have said, contains an insulting inference. I have said in this House from time to time what the Government proposes to do. I said on one occasion at least that the Government would consider the provision of funds for this purpose. The reason why it has agreed to make funds available to the Australian Yachting Federation is that the Federation’s boats are about to go overseas and it has indicated that it will support the boycott. In those circumstances it is fit and proper that the Government should stand behind it. The Government will stand behind other sporting bodies that do the like. In conclusion, I refer to an editorial in another Daily Telegraph which put this matter into perspective, that is, the editorial in the London Daily Telegraph of 18 March, which states:
It is not trying to maim a sporting occasion Tor the sake of making a political point; its object is to prevent a sporting occasion from being ruthlessly used to promote the cause or Russia’s expansionist and aggressive foreign policy.
– I ask a question of the Prime Minister.
– Here he is.
-I knew that the honourable member would wake up if I took enough patience and time. Has the Prime Minister noted the reports from the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines describing cases of arbitrary detention, torture and summary execution by military personnel under the martial law administration? Does the Government’s information support the published estimate of the United States of America’s State Department that the number of abuses by military personnel reached 150 a day last year, ranging from minor offences to matters as serious and as grim as murder, rape and kidnap?
-The honourable gentleman will proceed with his question.
-The Minister for Primary Industry interjected. I thought we would put his interjection on the record for him.
-The honourable gentleman will proceed with his question.
– Is the Prime Minister aware of the more detailed evidence of torture given to the American Congress by the International League of Human Rights and the estimate by the State Department that 7,000 civilians still await military trial in the Philippines? What is the Australian Government’s view of this situation in the Philippines, given its strong and proper condemnation in defence of human rights in Afghanistan? On what occasions and in what terms has the Government’s view on these matters in the Philippines been similarly communicated to the Philippines Administration, and with what result?
-Mr Speaker -
- Mr Speaker, with respect I believe -
-The Leader of the Opposition will remain seated. There is no point of order.
– Give us your angry look.
– It is tinted nasty.
-At least there is a flexibility not only in looks but also in outlook. I ask the Leader of the Opposition not to get so agitated because I am answering and not the Prime Minister. It is a very serious matter. I want to deal with it in a serious vein. The fact is that this Government has shown not only more concern but also more activity in the field of civil liberties and their suppression and in the defence of human rights internationally than those honourable members sitting opposite. At no stage during the Labor Party’s period in government did it either seek a voice in or seek membership of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. This Government sought election to the body and was indeed elected. We have played a very significant role during that period.
– Oh, dear!
-Well, there are some very good friends of ours and very good allies who also sought election and who did not get elected. The Labor Party treated that body with contempt. In relation to this Government’s record being accepted internationally, it is there with the endorsement of those who voted for us as a nation state. In relation to civil liberties and their suppression, the Opposition knows that this Government is opposed to all forms of suppression of civil liberties.
– You keep it very quiet.
– We do not keep it quiet. It was not we who were quiet over the Indonesian invasion of East Timor; it was the government of which the Leader of the Opposition was a member. It was the Labor Government which did not seek a voice in the General Assembly.
– Tell us what you did last September about Cyprus.
-Order! The honourable member for Melbourne is warned to cease interjecting.
-I will ascertain the details of the figures that were put forward by the Leader of the Opposition in his question. But there can be no doubt where this Government stands.
– Why have you not spoken out publicly on this issue?
– We have not only spoken out on issues of civil liberties but also taken positions in international forums as well as bilaterally. There are appropriate ways of conducting our concerns on a bilateral basis- a method to which the Opposition is not yet accustomed, as is shown when I read about the performance of the Leader of the Opposition on his travels through South East Asia. Indeed, on this occasion, frankly, the ignorance of the Leader of the Opposition has competed successfully with his apathy.
-I refer to the undertaking given by the Minister for Foreign Affairs earlier this year that he would seek to ensure the continuation of a regional passport service in Newcastle for the northern areas of New South Wales. As it is now some two months since the Minister provided this assurance, can he indicate what further progress has been made in this matter?
– Undertakings were given on this issue following representations made by the honourable member for Paterson and other members of the House who were concerned about what was transpiring. There had been considerable publicity, particularly in Newcastle, about the possible cessation of passport issuing facilities there which were being provided then by the staff of the Newcastle office of the Department of Immigration arid Ethnic Affairs. The question of passport issuing facilities in Newcastle had arisen because the staff of the Newcastle office of that Department had been unable to cope with the simultaneous increased immigration functions and recent increase in applications for passports.
As a short term measure to maintain this service to the public in the region and to avoid delays and backlogs, it has been necessary for the Newcastle office to forward non-urgent passport applications to Canberra and Melbourne for processing. Officers have examined the situation. We have decided that passport issuing facilities will continue to be provided with the establishment by my Department of a regional passport office in Newcastle to service the region as well as other centres in northern New South Wales. The necessary staffing and office accommodation arrangements are currently under discussion with officers from the Departments of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs and Administrative Services. Meanwhile, short term passport issuing facilities will continue to be provided by officers in the Newcastle office of the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, to whom I am very grateful for their co-operation on this issue.
-I ask a question of the Prime Minister, or any other Minister who he thinks can answer it better than he can, which, of course, would mean any other Minister.
-The honourable gentleman will cease to comment and will ask the question.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that the United States State Department annual report on human rights released in February, in describing conditions in Malaysia, draws extensively on studies by the Malaysian Bar Council and Amnesty International? Is he aware that the Amnesty International report on Malaysia is a banned document within that country? Is the Prime Minister also aware that these two studies detail extensive use of physical and psychological torture of political prisoners, the use of various emergency powers for 40 years and more, political trials held in secret with anonymous witnesses and a presumption that the prisoner is guilty? Does the Government support the Amnesty International claim that more than 1,000 people are detained under Malaysia’s internal security Act, some for more than eight years and one for 15 years? In the light of the Government’s strong and proper public condemnation on the issue of human rights in Afghanistan, what sort of similar public condemnation has the Government made in relation to the repression of basic civil rights on such an extensive and cruel scale in Malaysia?
-I have indicated before that my attention has been drawn to the publication issued on 1 February by Amnesty International and relating to South East Asian countries. Various reports covering the Association of South East Asian Nations have been detailed by Amnesty International. They have accused the governments of ASEAN- or some of them- of a number of human rights violations, notably in connection with the administration of security matters and alleging that detention without trial for subversion and related security offences has occurred. The Australian Government, as I have always said, accepts as a fundamental matter of principle that all detainees should be brought to public trial with as little delay as possible. The Government has made that viewpoint widely known. Of course, it is difficult for governments to make effective representations, in the sense of always succeeding on the representations we make on a government to government basis on behalf of individuals detained without trial. Honourable members can be assured that this principle will be pursued by the Government in making representations on the -
– By postcard?
-Not by postcard. The honourable member raised an interesting point. The first time that the Labor Government ever raised the issue of East Timor with Indonesia was by handing a letter to the forthcoming ambassador to take with him. The ambassador went off on a cruise and eventually the letter arrived, rather dog-eared, in the pocket of the ambassador, many months later. So much for the honourable member’s performance. Let it match his rhetoric.
– I ask the Minister for Administrative Services: Is the system of providing electorate and research assistants for members of Parliament adequate or inadequate to cope with honourable members’ duties to their constituents? Has the Minister knowledge of some occasions on which research assistants have not conducted themselves in a manner which might be expected of people whose salary is paid out of taxpayers’ funds and whose actions have actually been against the interests of their members’ constituents?
– As a general rule the system is working very well. Most honourable members appreciate the fact that they have research assistants. Research assistants are of great help in the preparation of speeches -
– Is that all?
-They are of great help in the preparation of some speeches and in providing a service to constituents. However, there are occasions when the use of research assistants is abused and unfortunately in recent days we have seen a glaring example of the abuse of this facility provided to honourable members. The organiser of the disturbance, demonstrationwhatever one likes to call it- which occurred in Fitzroy last Sunday is a research assistant of a member of this House.
– Oh, gosh!
-The Leader of the Opposition does not think that is significant. I would like to put on the record that Councillor Kevin Healy, who was the Socialist Left candidate for the Fitzroy Council, has been research assistant for the honourable member for Melbourne since August 1 977. The honourable member for Melbourne originally accepted the invitation to go to the opening of the nursing home and subsequently withdrew his acceptance of the invitation. In fact neither he nor any other member of the Opposition or the Labor Party anywhere has criticised the violence that occurred at that demonstration. I seek to establish-whether the Opposition thinks it is important or not does not matter- that this Councillor Healy is the person who is the research assistant for the honourable member for Melbourne.
– A very good one.
-The honourable member acknowledges that he is the person.
– He does not work on Sundays.
-He says that he is a very good one and that he does not work on Sundays. I would like to quote from the Melbourne Times of 19 March, very briefly because I am running out of time. Councillor Healy -
– Didn’t the Prime Minister quote this yesterday?
-The honourable member for Adelaide will remain silent.
-The honourable member for Adelaide sees nothing wrong in the sort of demonstration that occurred in Melbourne last Sunday. An article in the Melbourne Times stated:
Cr Healy said a huge demonstration was expected outside the nursing home which Mr Fraser visited.
I do not know whether he made those comments over the telephone that was paid for by the taxpayers, or how he did it. According to the article, in the following week Councillor Healy said that he could not guarantee a peaceful demonstration. The article also stated:
Cr Healy said if the nursing home had any fears for its residents it could eradicate them simply by withdrawing the Prime Minister’s attendance.
We cannot live in a society in which the Prime Minister or any other member of this Parliament is not able to visit a nursing home, whether it is in a Labor or Liberal electorate. Subsequently I heard Councillor Healy on the A.M. program. I suppose most members of this House heard him. I obtained a transcript of what he said. Councillor Healy blamed everybody for organising the violent demonstration, except himself. First of all he blamed the Victorian police. Then he blamed the Prime Minister. How, in any convoluted way, he could say that the Prime Minister would organise a demonstration against himself and his wife one would never understand. He blamed the Melbourne City Mission. That is a long shot. The Melbourne City Mission would hardly be described as a violent organisation. As a fourth example he blamed right wing provocateurs.
There is no doubt in my mind who organised and who was to blame for that demonstration. The organisation came from the electorate office of the honourable member for Melbourne and he has thereby associated every member of the Opposition with the organisation of that demonstration. I think it is up to the Leader of the Opposition once and for all to dissociate himself and his party from that sort of activity.
– I preface my question to the Minister for Home Affairs by noting that today is appropriately the fourth anniversary of the introduction into this Parliament of the report of the Horton Committee on Public Libraries. Can the Minister tell the Parliament when the interdepartmental working group set up in November 1979 to review the work of the previous interdepartmental working group set up in April 1976 to review the Horton Report is likely to report?
– The honourable member may know that the report of the interdepartmental group has to be prepared after a consideration of what is being done in the various States. I understand that work is going ahead and I have no doubt that when a thorough investigation has been made the group will report. As far as I am concerned, I want to see the report as soon as practicable. On the other hand, I do not want it to be one that is not realistic, one that does not take into account the considerable efforts that have been undertaken in the State and local government areas in relation to public libraries. This is not an easy matter to resolve or one in which the national government should be providing funds unless they are to be used efficiently. That is a real question for the group to consider.
- Mr Speaker, as one of the greatest sportsmen in this House, you would be aware of the measures adopted by referees in the Sydney and Brisbane rugby league football competitions for the 1980 season, which has seen more stringent penalties applied and some players, including leading players, being sent off the field for foul play. Would you agree that the laudable objectives of the Sydney and Brisbane referees reconcile with your own continuing efforts to maintain fair play in this arena, particularly in respect of the forwards? In your opinion, are the players in the back line positions adhering to the rules of the game? Are any consistently offside? Do you consider that some members of the teams deserve disciplinary action and are at risk of being sent off?
– I raise a point of order. The honourable member asks you, Mr Speaker, in each instance for an expression of opinion. That is out of order.
-I think the honourable member for Dawson has it in mind that every member of the House- I repeat, every member of the House- might well have regard to standards of performance and fairness in debate. I would hope that all honourable members would take to heart the admonition by the honourable member for Dawson and in future behave in a manner consistent with that expected in the national Parliament.
Request for Detailed Information
-Mr Speaker, I believe that this is the appropriate time to ask a question of you. Is that the arrangement?
-The honourable gentleman may proceed.
-Mr Speaker, I ask whether you, in conjunction with the President of the Senate, could arrange for the presentation to the Parliament of a comprehensive statement as to what changes are proposed in the location of various elements of the Parliamentary Library at present accommodated in Parliament House. Also will you, in conjunction with the President, explain how priorities in space allocation are determined and whether the Library Committee in particular, and members of Parliament in general, have been consulted on any proposed changes? Finally, will you, in conjunction with the President, undertake to advise the Parliament of the details of any proposed major changes before they are made and not after?
– Accommodation has been made available by the Executive at the Kurrajong and Canberra hotels. Those accommodations are to be made parliamentary buildings, which will mean that they will be under the control of the Presiding Officers, in the same way as is this Parliament. The purpose of providing the extra accommodation is to relieve the incredible pressures that have been placed upon not only members and senators but also staff who need to be here, be they the staff of Ministers, members or senators, or staff employed by the parliamentary departments.
The President and I are very pleased with the decision of the Executive to make that accommodation available. We are now in the process of having examined by the heads of the parliamentary departments an order of priority for the moving of individual sections of the five parliamentary departments from this building to the other accommodation. That should then release additional accommodation in this building for senators, members and staff. The priorities will be established by the Presiding Officers after examination of the report of the heads of the five parliamentary departments. I can see no problem in relation to four of those departments. However, pressure has built up- I do not identify the source, but certainly it has built up from the Library, or at least certain sections of the Library- which has as its base a suggestion that a decision might be taken to move part of the Library from this parliamentary building in a fashion which would be against the interests of members and senators, namely, that the Legislative Research Service of the Library should be immune from consideration of movement and that it should, in contradistinction to every other part of the parliamentary departments, receive in advance an assurance that it will not be moved. I cannot give that assurance. I am sure that the Parliament would not wish me to treat it in isolation. It must be treated together with the consideration of the whole. It will be given that consideration.
I hope that within a short time the President and I will be able to publish a document setting out the amount of space in this Parliament House which can be occupied by the Library and putting forward certain options that exist for the movement from this building of parliamentary services, including the Library and the options for the Library. When those options have been published- and the advantages and the disadvantages associated with them will be giventhen I will be very pleased to hear comment from members. The final decision, however, necessarily will have to be made by the two Presiding Officers, although we will be assisted in making that decision by the considerations of members and senators. After all, it is for the purpose of better performance of their duties as members and senators that the services of the Parliament exist.
-I wish to raise a question which is of some consequence to all members of this House. During Question Time, in answer to a question the Minister for Administrative Services (Mr John McLeay) made certain statements relating to the staff of members. I do not want to discuss the particular subject because it was a matter of political argument in this House. I do not know whether the honourable member who is interjecting treats his position as a member seriously, but I do.
-Order! The honourable member for Corio will ignore interjections.
-Mr Speaker, I ask that you look at the implications of that answer, whereby a member is held to be responsible for the activities of a staff member for 24 hours a day -
-Order! The honourable gentleman is debating a matter that was given as an answer to a question.
-Mr Speaker, I am trying to raise with you the right of freedom of operation of members of Parliament. If that is not a matter for the Parliament, I do not know what is.
-Order! If the honourable gentleman wishes to raise the matter with me by way of correspondence or by way of a question he may do so, but I will not allow him to canvass an answer given by a Minister to a question during Question Time.
- Mr Speaker, I wish to bring to your notice a question of privilege.
-The honourable gentleman may proceed.
– I have been approached by a constituent, Mr David Berthelsen, with a complaint that he is being discriminated against and intimidated in his employment with the Commonwealth Public Service as a direct result of evidence he gave before the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence. Mr Berthelsen has provided me with copies of a number of documents which I believe may constitute a case of breach of privilege for a witness giving evidence before a committee of the Parliament. These documents include a statutory declaration and copies of correspondence between Mr Berthelsen and his employers, the Commonwealth Public Service. As I believe that this case has serious implications for the protection of Public Service witnesses appearing before parliamentary committees and for the freedom of committees to call such witnesses, it would be appreciated if you would examine these documents at your earliest convenience, Mr Speaker, and advise the House of your views.
-I call upon the honourable gentleman to provide all the documents. Those documents will be taken by the Clerk. I will examine the matter and at the earliest opportunity announce whether I consider that there is a prima facie case of breach of privilege.
– For the information of honourable members I present the text of a statement by the Minister for Special Trade Representations (Senator Scott) relating to his recent visit to the five member countries of the Association of South East Asian Nations.
– For the information of honourable members I present a document entitled ‘An Analysis of the Report by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works on the Proposed Construction of a Defence Force Academy. ‘
Motion ( by Mr Viner) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
Debate (on motion by Mr Scholes) adjourned.
– For the information of honourable members I present a document entitled ‘The Case for the Australian Defence Force Academy’.
Motion (by Mr Viner) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
Debate (on motion by Mr Scholes) adjourned.
– For the information of honourable members I present the first report on the National Consultative Council on Social Welfare, together with the text of a statement by the Minister for Social Security (Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle) relating to the report.
Motion ( by Mr Viner) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
Debate (on motion by Mr Hurford) adjourned.
– For the information of honourable members I present a report entitled ‘National Trachoma and Eye Health Program of the Royal Australian College of Ophthalmologists’.
Motion (by Mr Viner) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
Debate (on the motion by Dr Blewett) adjourned.
– Pursuant to section 6 of the Environment (Financial Assistance) Act 1977 I present an agreement between the Commonwealth of Australia and Tasmania in relation to the provision of financial assistance for projects related to the environment for 1 979-80 made under the provisions of that Act.
-Mr Speaker, I claim to have been misrepresented.
-Does the honourable gentleman wish to make a personal explanation?
– I do.
-He may proceed.
– During an interview with Mr Willesee the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) made a number of statements which contained imputations about a line of action which I had taken and a view which I held about violent demonstrations. Generally he projected a view, to which I take exception, about statements that I had made or had not made. The Prime Minister said, amongst other things, that I was happy to organise or to help to organise a demonstration. The demonstration to which he was referring, as was evident from the nature of the interview, was the demonstration in Melbourne on Sunday. Prior to the demonstration taking place, when I was questioned by an interviewer from radio station 3AW in Melbourne, I said that the demonstration ought to be peaceful and should not take the form of either aggravating or causing any discomfort to the people in the establishment concerned. That establishment is in my electorate. I have visited it on one occasion. I have publicly acclaimed it and I have acknowledged it to be a fine institution to cater for some of the people who are affected by the policies of the Government. I also had further discussions with other interviewers yesterday morning when the same thing was said.
– You did not get a very good run, Ted.
– I know. Of course we would not. That is the point I am making. The Prime Minister further indicated that I, as a person who had been asked to go to the opening of the nursing home, should have deplored the violence that took place. In the first instance, I cannot follow the logic of that assertion. The fact was that I did deplore the violence that took place. In doing so I pointed out that I was opposed to all forms of violence. I was opposed to the violence that was perpetrated by the police on people who were at the demonstration when the horses were ridden into the crowd of demonstrators at a time when the Prime Minister was inside the establishment having a cup of tea. The Prime Minister was nowhere near where the people were demonstrating.
– Where is the misrepresentation?
– The misrepresentation was in the imputation of the Prime Minister that I in effect, supported the violence that took place on the day. I did not support the violence that took place. In particular I did not support the violence of the police in bashing people with their truncheons. Nor do I condone the violence that took place in the paddy wagons when they were transporting people from the scene. Also, of course, I support the contention that the Prime Minister, when he referred -
-Order! The honourable gentleman will state where he has been misrepresented.
– I put it to you, sir, that the misrepresentation is in the imputation by the Prime Minister. Yesterday morning I pointed out to an interviewer that, as well as deploring the violence, I deplored the attitude of the Prime Minister and that his presence, as Prime Minister, instigates these sorts of things.
-The honourable gentleman is now arguing that issue. He can state where this misrepresentation occurred.
– I will proceed to do so. Further, there was a quotation from the Fraser interview -
-Order! The honourable gentleman will refer to the right honourable gentleman by his title.
– The Prime Minister answered a question from Mr Willesee by stating:
Mr Innes had originally accepted that invitation to go to that particular opening of that old peoples ‘ home yesterday, he refused presumably once he heard of the resolution through the Fitzroy Council . . .
That is absolutely untrue. In fact I did not even know that a resolution had been passed by the Council. I rejected the invitation to attend. I accepted in the first instance because I had spent some considerable time at the institution prior to its opening. I refused on the ground that I could not condone the hypocrisy of the Prime Minister’s being there to open -
-Order! The honourable gentleman must understand that he is speaking with my indulgence. That indulgence runs out if he uses such terms. I now ask him to withdraw.
– I withdraw that. I rejected the invitation and put it to the people concerned that I could not, in all conscience, be at that place for the opening of the -
– Come on!
-It might be all right for the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I was misrepresented with regard to my acceptance of the invitation. I turned down the invitation finally on the grounds that the Prime Minister was to be there. There was also misrepresentation with regard to the organisation of the demonstration. It is completely and utterly untrue. I had no pan in it. I was not there. If the Prime Minister has enough courage he ought to apologise publicly.
-Mr Speaker, 1 claim to have been misrepresented.
-Does the honourable gentleman wish to make a personal explanation?
– I do.
-The honourable gentleman may proceed.
-The Minister for Administrative Services (Mr John McLeay) claimed during an answer to a question in Question Time today that I had suggested somewhere, at some time- he did not state when or where- that there was nothing wrong in what had happened at Fitzroy on Sunday. That is a deliberate untruth. On the contrary, I am on public record in an Australian Associated Press report- anybody can look it up- since that Fitzroy demonstration, firstly, deploring violence wherever and whenever it occurs; secondly, pointing out that demonstrations are the result of hostilities in our society created by the divisive policies of the Fraser Government; and thirdly, suggesting that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) is choosing where he goes in order to gain political advantage from demonstrations.
-The honourable gentleman is debating the matter. He will resume his seat.
- Mr Speaker, I claim to have been misrepresented.
Government members interjecting-
-Order! Honourable gentlemen on my right will remain silent. Does the Leader of the Opposition wish to make a personal explanation?
-Yes, Mr Speaker.
-He may proceed.
– During Question Time I was misrepresented by the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock). He claimed that a government of which I was a senior member had made no protest while in government at the Indonesian invasion of East Timor. The official record shows that the invasion took place on 6 December- the day after the visit to Indonesia by President Ford and Secretary of State, Dr Kissinger. The Labor Party was unceremoniously and quite unscrupulously tipped out of government on 1 1
November. The situation at that time in many respects incited Indonesian intervention in East Timor. There was political -
-The honourable gentleman is debating the matter. I ask him -
-No, Mr Speaker, I am making the point that there was political instability in this country and uncertainty caused by a party of which the Minister for Foreign Affairs was a senior member and that the general attitude in Indonesia had been inflamed by exaggerated rhetoric by the present Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) asserting that Fretelin was a marxist and communist-dominated group. Finally, the fact is that this Government recognised de jure the incorporation of -
-The honourable gentleman cannot debate the matter.
– Can I make this point to you, Mr Speaker?
-The honourable gentleman should state where he has been misrepresented.
-It is asserted that we as a government made no protest about Indonesia’s invasion of East Timor. The record shows that the invasion took place when these people opposite were in government. They extended -
– Well, that disposes of the matter.
– One minute, Mr Speaker; you are anticipating me. I do not mind being upbraided after I have said something and you know what I have said and can establish that it is inappropriate. But the fact is that I have not expressed this point yet. The other point I want to make is that this Government extended de jure recognition to that incorporation while there was a United Nations declaration calling for the withdrawal of Indonesian troops and an act of free determination. Such is the hypocrisy of the Foreign Minister, or is it the Minister for overseas affairs.
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat.
- Mr Speaker, I take a point of order. Is it not a fact that it was Prime Minister Gough Whitlam who gave the okay for the Indonesians to invade East Timor? That is a fact. It is on the record and Opposition members know it.
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. There is no point of order.
– You have blood on your hands.
-Order! The honourable member for Denison will withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw, sir.
– For the information of honourable members I present the report of the Australian national observer group to the 1980 Rhodesian elections. Mr Speaker, I seek leave to make a statement on that matter.
– It gives me particular pleasure to present the report of the Australian national observer group to the Rhodesian elections, which as honourable members will know recently spent four weeks in Rhodesia observing the conduct of the general elections which were held on 22-29 February 1980 and which will bring that country to legal independence on 1 8 April.
The observer group, which was commissioned by the Government in response to British invitation to send a national observer group to the Rhodesian independence elections, was made up of members of both Houses and from both sides of the Parliament and also of senior officials chosen for their experience in African and international affairs as well as for their particular expertise in constitutional and electoral matters. The decision to send a national observer group to Rhodesia underlined the Government’s longstanding interest in finding an acceptable and lasting settlement to the Rhodesian issue which had eluded all previous efforts to bring that country to legal independence.
In keeping with the agreement reached by Commonwealth Heads of Government at Lusaka in August 1 979 which provided, amongst other things, for elections to be held under British Government authority and with Commonwealth observers, the group’s task was to observe the 1980 Rhodesian elections and determine whether in its considered opinion those elections were conducted in a manner which was both free and fair to all participating parties.
Honourable members will know that since the Unilateral Declaration of Independence in November 1965 successive British governments have sought to find an acceptable basis for settlement in Rhodesia which would attract support within Rhodesia itself and which also would be acceptable to the international community. The search for a solution to this problem caused very considerable difficulties for the British Government and the international community over many years.
There have been a number of unsuccessful attempts in recent years to bring about a peaceful and internationally acceptable settlement in Rhodesia. These efforts were paralleled by deepening civil war within Rhodesia itself which led to the breakdown of administration in many parts of the country and tragically to considerable loss of life on both sides. Honourable members will be familiar with the history of British as well as international attempts and efforts to bring about a settlement in Rhodesia and I will not rehearse these matters now. I would, however, like to recall that the elections recently held in Rhodesia had their origin in proposals put forward by the British in 1979 as a result of the failure of the Government of Bishop Muzorewa to secure international recognition in the wake of the elections held in Rhodesia in April 1979.
Britain obtained wide support within the Commonwealth for its new proposals when Commonwealth Heads of Government met in Lusaka in August 1979. The Heads of Government agreed on 6 August to a nine point plan aimed at achieving a settlement. The outcome of this very successful Commonwealth meeting in Lusaka, in which Australia played a leading role, was that the British invited representatives of the then so-called Government of ZimbabweRhodesia and the Patriotic Front, which had not participated in the April 1 979 elections, to a constitutional conference at Lancaster House in London. The conference chaired by the British Foreign Secretary, Lord Carrington, ended on 2 1 December with the signing of an historic allparties agreement which set out the agreed terms of the Independence Constitution for Rhodesia, the transitional arrangements which would be applied and a ceasefire agreement.
As honourable members will know Mr Mugabe’s party- Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front- won a resounding and outright victory in the recent elections, winning 57 of the 80 black seats being contested. It is a truly remarkable achievement that a bitter and bloody civil war has been brought to an end and independence achieved through the ballot box. The Government has congratulated the Prime
Minister elect Mr Magabe and publicly expressed its gratitude to the internal parties in Rhodesia for the part they have played in bringing about a peaceful solution to the problem of Rhodesia. We have also placed on record our acknowledgement of the important role played by the Commonwealth Heads of Government at their meeting in Lusaka in setting in motion the process which enabled the settlement to be made.
The Government has also paid tribute to the British Government for bringing independence to Rhodesia in what were acknowledged to be the most complex, difficult and challenging circumstances. I would like to reaffirm the Government’s appreciation of this remarkable and, happily, successful achievement. As I have previously mentioned, the group spent four weeks in Rhodesia observing, along with other national, Commonwealth and multinational observer groups, the conduct of the elections held under British supervision. The group faced the very considerable and difficult task of examining the conduct of elections in a country which was moving in a very short space of time from a state of bitter civil war to independence against a background of intense international interest. Moreover the elections were of central importance for the future of southern Africa as a whole.
On the basis of its extensive travel and investigations throughout Rhodesia and first hand discussions and meetings with a very broad crosssection of voters, officials- both British and Rhodesian- as well as the principal political leaders in Rhodesia, and while acknowledging the very difficult and unusual circumstances prevailing in the country, the group concluded that the vast majority of voters cast their vote for the party of their choice in elections which; taking into account all the circumstances, were free and fair to all participants. This broad conclusion was shared by other major national as well as international groups officially observing the elections. I believe it is fair to say, moreover, that the Australian group, led by the honourable member for Diamond Valley (Mr N. A. Brown), along with other observers, played an important part in creating an international presence in Rhodesia during the election period which contributed in no small way to the positive climate and spirit of goodwill in which these vitally important elections were held.
The group is to be commended for the thoroughly comprehensive and objective nature of its extensive report, and for the promptness and timeliness with which that report was produced. It is important to note that the report is unanimous. It stands to the considerable credit of all members of the group and I wish to place on record the Government’s recognition of the group’s work. 1 would also like to note that in its report the group paid tribute to the Australian servicemen who formed part of the Commonwealth monitoring force in Rhodesia. I think honourable members on both sides of the House would agree that the Australian contingent is to be commended for carrying out a most demanding job in particularly difficult circumstances with great distinction. Their role in Rhodesia during the pre-election period was centrally important in preserving a climate of confidence and mutual trust in which democratic elections could be held. I present the following paper:
Australian National Observer Group to the 1980 Rhodesian elections- Ministerial Statement, 1 April 1980.
Motion ( by Mr Viner) proposed:
That the House take note of the papers.
– It gives me particular pleasure to be able to comment on the report of our National Observer Group to the Rhodesian elections. The Opposition wants to commend the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) for his statement and fully endorses the comments he has made on the group’s report. I believe that the group did an excellent job and has produced an excellent report. It is to be congratulated not least on the fact that the report was also a unanimous one. The fact that free and fair elections could be held in Rhodesia and could produce such an unambiguous result, given the background the Minister has outlined, is truly a great achievement. We would like to draw the attention of the House to some of the comments made in the conclusion of the group’s report which illustrate the extent of that achievement.
The group observed that adult franchise was broad and generous; that the system of voting used provided an allocation of seats fair and consistent in terms of the party’s votes; that the administrative arrangements for the elections were equal to those in any democratic society; that these arrangements assured impartiality and were extraordinarily efficient; and that the Rhodesian electors had a secret vote. Whilst the group said that intimidation had certainly occurred, the group did not believe that this negated the overwhelmingly more positive aspects of the election.
We are sometimes told that developing countries are unable to handle democracy. We are told that democracy is a Western concept unsuitable for developing countries. We are told, in the words of one well-known reporter, that democracy is a new idea whose hour has not yet come. In Zimbabwe-Rhodesia, democracy came almost overnight and it has proved a resounding success. Mr Robert Mugabe will head a Government which has the most impeccable credentials of popular support. It is a Government whose legitimacy could not be more firmly established. I think this may be worthy of reflection when we consider in our own region questions of the applicability of democracy and the basic political rights of people. The Rhodesian elections could not have provided a better example of how democracy can be made to work.
I might also pass the comment that Mr Robert Mugabe, who had the reputation in some circles of being an extremist, is showing every sign of proceeding as head of his Government in a cautious, moderate, measured way.
It is in this connection that I believe the present Government might show a more positive attitude towards him. I acknowledge that the Government has congratulated him and has publicly expressed its gratitude to the internal parties in Rhodesia for the part they have played in bringing about a peaceful solution. But I hope it is not what may be perceived as Mr Mugabe’s political colouring which has influenced the Government in what I would describe as a passive attitude towards the question of aid to the newly independent Zimbabwe. I say ‘passive’ with a reason. On 6 March the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick) gave a written answer to a question in which he said:
Australian aid is given on a government to government basis and as soon as the Government of an independent Zimbabwe takes over we will, if requested, be happy to begin discussions with them on how we, along with other members of the Commonwealth, might assist the rehabilitation and development of the country’.
That is not an enthusiastic response. Last Wednesday, 26 March, in answer to a question from the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Connolly) on Australian aid to Zimbabwe, the Minister for Foreign Affairs would go no further than a statement that Australia would be participating in such aid. Apart from the urgent need for aid, particularly in agriculture and reconstruction, the newly independent Zimbabwe offers Australia a unique opportunity to consolidate our relationship through a very prompt offer of aid.
Unless we take an initiative very soon on the question of aid, whatever aid we give will not have the impact that it might. Zimbabwe gives us an opportunity to back up our rhetoric with action. If we do not seize the initiative, others will. And I hope that we do not end up giving Australian aid only because aid has been offered, for example, by the Soviet Union. I do not need to remind the House that the purpose of Australian foreign policy should not be to further a mere image, or to build up some personal reputation- they are words taken from a Liberal Party foreign policy statement- but to further the interests of Austrafia. We have, as I say, a unique opportunity to establish a sound and durable relationship with a new Government in a significant part of the world. We should make the most of it. Aid is of special importance because so far the offers of aid to Zimbabwe appear to be very few. Britain has given f 7m towards the cost of reconstruction and will also pledge additional aid for the next two or three years. Otherwise the field would seem to be open to offers of bilateral aid by countries such as Australia.
However, I would like to repeat that the Australian national group ‘s report is a first-rate one and it deserves commendation. I would also like to pay tribute to Australian servicemen who formed part of the Australian monitoring force in Rhodesia. As the Minister has stated, they carried out a most demanding job in difficult circumstances with great distinction. They deserve our thanks and congratulations. They have enhanced the image of Australia.
– As this debate is apparently going to proceed, it is necessary for me to say a few words as the leader of the delegation, the report of which has just been presented. I think that the Opposition members seem to have had an advantage over Government members in that they have been favoured not only with notice that this was proceeding today, but also with an advance copy of the statement of the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock), neither of which Government members have had. That is a thoroughly unsatisfactory situation. It would be extraordinary if it were, unfortunately, not typical.
– Would the honourable member allow me to say that I said to him privately that I was given an assurance that he would be informed? He knows how much I value this report. I very much regret that certain officers did not convey the material to him.
-We have the principle of ministerial responsibility under the system of government that was elected in free and fair elections in Rhodesia. It is a pity that it is not practised more often here. As I was saying, it is appropriate that I should make a few remarks about the report and the conduct of the delegation in Rhodesia. First of all, I want to pay particular regard and acknowledgement to those who have played a major role both in the United Kingdom and in Rhodesia, in the lead-up to and the conduct of the elections. Lord Carrington and those associated with him at the Lancaster House conference had an extremely difficult task to perform because their task, in a nutshell, was to bring together to the one conference table previously warring parties and to endeavour to provide a peaceful framework within which elections could be held and within which the warring parties could cease their civil war. They achieved that objective and it was no mean effort.
The second acknowledgment that must be made very firmly and definitely is to the British Governor, Lord Soames, to the British officials who assisted him, to the British election supervisors and to the British Police, all of whom performed such a marvellous job in Rhodesia. Lord Soames had a particularly difficult task. One need only contemplate for a moment the balancing act that Lord Soames had to perform in keeping apart contending forces, rival political parties and, indeed, several thousand people who were variously referred to as guerrillas or freedom fighters during the period leading up to the election and during the election itself -
– He was the man in the middle.
-He was the man in the middle, as my colleague has said. He carried out his role with discretion, with tact and with extreme ability. Every recognition must be given to the sterling role that he performed.
Thirdly, I must pay particular respect to the individual members of the delegation, each of whom in his own way performed magnificently in the course of a very trying inquiry. Perhaps honourable members and the country at large are not aware of the difficulties under which members of this delegation carried out their work. The honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter), with his expertise as a former Minister for the Army, was invaluable. Mr Pearson, the Chief Electoral Officer, with his expertise and knowledge of the electoral process, was likewise invaluable. Having seen Mr Pearson and his colleague, Dr Snider, in action I can well understand why in Australia we have automatically free and fair elections, and how those elections are carried out with very rare allegations of impropriety having taken place. As I said, having seen the electoral officers performing their functions as members of the delegation I can understand now why we have such a fine electoral system in Australia.
The honourable member for Bonython (Dr Blewett) and Senator Robertson, as representatives of the Opposition, both performed extremely well. Indeed, I could not help but observe as they -
– Good boys.
-They performed their work extremely well. Without putting undue emphasis on a particular member, I must concede and indeed assert that the honourable member for Bonython provided the framework of the report. Indeed, it was left to the rest of us to provide details within his excellent framework. As I saw the honourable member for Bonython and Senator Robertson slip into the ease of the Governor’s residence when we visited the Governor and into the twilight hours of the colonial luxury that still remained there, I could not help but think to myself that both of them would make excellent Australian ambassadors.
Mr Griffith, Mr Evans and Dr Snider, also drawing on their expertise, knowledge and experience, were all invaluable members of the delegation. I also sincerely thank them. Our assistants, Mr Oliver from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Miss Moore from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, worked literally day and night with no time to themselves, no relaxation. They did a sterling job in supporting the delegation. I think all members of the delegation would agree that we obtained excellent service and assistance from both of those officers. All members of the delegation and our assistants made a valuable contribution to the inquiries and deliberations of the delegation.
Fourthly, the Australian Government must be recognised as having played a very major part in the deliberations leading up to the Lancaster House agreement and in doing what the Government could do to ensure that the Lancaster House agreement was carried out. We should pay particular regard to the involvement of our Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) from the days of the Lusaka conference. As honourable members know, he has taken a personal and close interest in the issues of southern Africa in general and Rhodesia in particular. It should be acknowledged, therefore, that the Australian Government can be proud of the role that it has played in all of the events leading up to the elections in Rhodesia and, indeed, in willingly and readily making its own contribution, both in terms of people and in terms of money, to the twin efforts involved with the monitoring force and, of course, the delegation which went to observe the elections.
Fifthly, and I suppose in one sense most importantly of all, unqualified recognition must be given to the magnificent work done by the Australian troops in Rhodesia as part of the monitoring force. It is undesirable perhaps to single out individuals, but Colonel Cole and Colonel Hubble played a magnificent part in this work. We saw them both in action as we saw most of the other Australian troops in action. We took unqualified pride in knowing that our own servicemen were making such a valuable contribution to the solution of this festering sore in international relations, as it had become over the preceding 1 5 years. The Australian soldiers were faced with a difficult task not only because of the explosive nature of the situation in Rhodesia but also because of the uncertain nature of their exact role as a monitoring force. Fine sophistries can be drawn between the role of a monitoring force and the role of a peace-keeping force. Our troops were part of a monitoring force. I venture to suggest that the role of a monitoring force is perhaps more difficult and more sensitive than that of a peace-keeping force. Our troops carried out their role with diplomatic skill of which every Australian can be proud.
The work in which the delegation was involved was extremely important not only because of the issue itself and the efforts that had to be made by all civilised countries to contribute to bringing about a peaceful solution to this longstanding and extremely difficult issue, but also because of the global situation and the place which southern Africa and Rhodesia occupy in that situation. Although it may seem a long way from southern Africa, let me remind the House of a few words from the Prime Minister’s speech of 19 February 1980 with respect to Australia’s response to the Afghanistan issue. The Prime Minister said:
It is a maxim of strategy that a line of advance which offers alternative objectives should always be sought. In invading Afghanistan the Soviet Union has followed that maxim; it is now so placed that if and when it wishes it can exert pressure on the Gulf oil states to the West, on the Indian subcontinent to the East or towards the Indian Ocean to the South. Whatever its original motives, the consequences go far beyond the stabilisation of a local situation and have global significance. They can themselves create new motives for further action.
The global situation has changed. The world is growing smaller. Events such as those in Afghanistan affect southern Africa, the Indian Ocean, our place in the world and our security. It well behoves Australia, then, to make whatever contribution it can to resolving international issues which affect our security and in particular towards achieving a sane situation in our region. Our region is the Indian Ocean area. Our region is affected by what happens in Africa, particularly southern Africa. Therefore, the work with which we were concerned leading up to what we regard as a successful conclusion in the sense that reasonably free and fair elections were held is of direct importance and has direct significance in contributing to sanity in that part of the world, to stability in the Indian Ocean region and, I hope, to stability in our region.
I urge honourable members to read the report of the delegation. They can see our conclusions for themselves. They can consider whether the evidence, most of which is set out in the report, justifies the conclusions, as we believe that they are justified. I urge honourable members to read the report because of the significance of those events not only in Rhodesia and in southern Africa, but also in the region generally and in that area which affects our own security and our own future on this continent. Finally I am sure that all members of the delegation, indeed all members of this House, will wish the new Government of Zimbabwe, as it will become, well. We do not make any judgment whatsoever as to whether the result was a good result or a bad result. That depends on one’s personal attitudes. What we do say is that the people of Rhodesia elected that Government themselves. It is up to them to make it work.
It is up to the Government of Rhodesia or Zimbabwe, as it will become, to justify the enormous confidence that over 80 per cent of the people put in that Government when they elected it. It is up to the people to make their country survive, to prosper and to be a happy place. It is up to the Government of that country to justify the confidence that has been placed in it by its own people. Of course, it is up to countries such as Australia to provide whatever further assistance we can. Again, this sort of help in the foreign aid area can be our contribution to further stability in Africa, and in the region. I know that the Government will be looking at this. I am confident that we will give what we can both in finance and in training and other forms of material. I hope that not only material aid but also encouragement in whatever form will be given from Australia to the fledgling government which now has the task ahead of it to govern a new nation.
-I thank the honourable member for Diamond Valley (Mr N.
Our task in Zimbabwe was to determine whether the elections were free and fair to all parties. We recognised from the outset that freedom and fairness in elections are not absolutes, but rather gradations on a scale. Our task was to determine where the elections in Zimbabwe came on the scale of freedom and fairness.
The problem of assessing the elections in Zimbabwe as free and fair was made more difficult by the very context of the elections. The elections took place in a country ravaged for the past eight years by a bitter civil war which had taken some 20,000 lives. The aftermath of this war ensured that a number of security problems were constant throughout the election. Although some 22,000 of the Patriotic Front guerrillas reported to assembly places, 3,000 or 4,000 remained in the bush. This failure to meet the ceasefire requirements necessitated the deployment of the Rhodesian security forces from their bases. But this necessity became an excuse for a much greater mobility of the security forces and of the associated auxiliary forces than had been envisaged in the Lancaster House agreements. These factors, both the guerrillas staying out and the mobility of the security forces, led to irregularities, to breaches of the ceasefire and to complaints from all sides. Nevertheless, we were of the view that there had been substantial compliance by all sides with the ceasefire conditions.
A second and related contextual factor that made assessment of the election difficult was that Zimbabwe was a society riven by violent political divisions and soured by mutual suspicion and distrust. There was no consensus on the basic principles of the policy and no widespread acceptance of those vague rules of the game necessary in a democratic society to regulate and to moderate the struggle for power. The forces responsible for law and order, for instance, were seen as suspect by major black parties. The Rhodesian administration of the election was regarded as partisan by the PF parties. On the other hand, many whites and some blacks regarded the Patriotic Front parties as illegitimate political forces with no right to contest the elections.
Finally, the Lancaster House agreements imposed a very rapid transition from civil war to democratic elections. Indeed, the transition from war to general elections was only a little over eight weeks. Haste was therefore the order of the day. There were certainly some makeshift expedients which were, I think, inevitable.
We, in the observer group, established three sets of criteria to judge the elections. First of all, we established the criterion relating to the principles of the electoral system, that is, the franchise, the boundaries and the electoral method. The second criterion related to the administration of the election, to such things as registration provisions, voting procedures and protection against double voting. The third criterion related to the conduct of the election campaign, the freedom of movement, assembly and expression, impartial maintenance of law and order and guarantees against bribery and intimidation.
Our assessment on the first criterion, that is, the principles of the electoral system, the boundaries, the franchise and the voting methods, was that the election was conducted under an electoral system which was the equal of any in the democratic world and certainly surpassed some State electoral systems in Australia. In relation to the second criterion, that is, the administration of the election, there was the major problem that there was no electoral register, which was an enormous handicap for the electoral administrators. Given this major difficulty the actual administration of the elections was a remarkable and impartial achievement which reflected great credit on the British supervisory force and also great credit on the Rhodesian electoral administration. When we come to the conduct of the election we are necessarily faced with a more ambiguous finding because of the degree of intimidation practised on all sides. Nevertheless we concluded- I quote from the report:
It cannot be denied that there were flaws in the conduct of the election campaign. Nevertheless, the Group believes that these imperfections were not sufficient to compromise the freedom and fairness of the elections nor to justify any serious questioning of the election result.
It is my belief that the unequivocal result of the election was the result of the great majority of black Zimbabweans voting in accordance with their consciences and preferences. I would now like to say a little on the general situation in Zimbabwe. I hope- I think all members of the House will echo this sentiment- that the elections have brought to an end the long and bitter civil war in Zimbabwe. That conflict in Zimbabwe was, above all, the direct, logical and inevitable outcome of the intransigence, lack of imagination, and rather blinkered political vision of the white elite in the 1960s. It is true too- we should note this-that there were serious divisions amongst the blacks particularly between the Ndebele and the Shona and within the Shona tribes themselves. Yet, these very divisions were exploited and exacerbated by the white elite pursuing a policy of divide and rule. It was a hopeless and a doomed cause to imagine that in the late twentieth century some five per cent of the population could deny political rights to the other 95 per cent. Yet for over a decade this was the stance of the illegal Smith regime. It was not, I think, that the white elite was particularly antagonistic towards the blacks. It was simply that it was indifferent. A writer who was not unsympathetic to the white cause in Rhodesia wrote:
White Rhodesians paid more attention to their roses, their Currie Cup cricket, their houses, their dogs, their horses, and the level of the algae in their swimming pools than to the black people whose land they shared in unequal proportions.
In the middle 1970s the white elite began to realise the political cul-de-sac into which such attitudes and policies had led them. This realisation derived partly from the fact that their international world began to crash around them. There was the collapse of Portuguese power in Angola and Mozambique, the pressure of both super powers in different ways for change in Zimbabwe, the growing reluctance of South Africa to sustain the illegal and isolated regime and, of course, in Zimbabwe the guerrilla war which grew in intensity. The response of the white elite to these problems was on the whole too little and too late given the polarisation between the communities and within the black community. Above all, I think, the black opponents of the regime had been radicalised by war and were prepared to risk much more in pursuit of the rights of the black majority. For instance, we talked to Joshua Nkomo before the election. He said to us:
Hopefully our country free and democratic. Perhaps our country, unfree and tyrannical. But above all our country.
That is, they were prepared to take great risks in order that majority rule should come to Zimbabwe. This irresistible commitment to untrammelled black majority rule swept aside most of the barriers and most of the devices hastily organised in the last few years by the white elite to stay the pace of change.
It is true to say that the policies of the Smith regime have lead directly, and I think inevitably, to the electoral success of the most intransigent and the most dedicated of the regime’s opponents. That the portents today are not altogether unhopeful in this deeply polarised country is due above all to the moderation, pragmatism and magnanimity of Robert Mugabe. Again, the very size of the electoral victory of the Patriotic Front forces holds promise for future stability. The whites have long lived with comfortable and comforting illusions. We heard about these illusions frequently before the elections- that the problem was only the bad blacks, the red blacks, the marxist blacks or the external blacks. These illusions were totally shattered on the morning of Tuesday, 4 March by the sweeping 80 per cent victory of the Patriotic Front parties throughout all regions of the country. Hopefully, a new sense of reality, a new recognition of the realities of late 20th century Zimbabwe will inform the white community in Zimbabwe.
I would like to make a couple of concluding remarks. In what I have said today and elsewhere I have certainly been critical of the political vision of the whites in Rhodesia, but one cannot be critical of their courage and self-sacrifice even if it was in a mistaken cause. In some ways they practiced, in the 20th century, a modern muscular version of 19th century paternalism. They worked together in Zimbabwe against great odds and revealed a gritty and tenacious determination which enabled the long, stubborn and ultimately hopeless war to continue. One of the most admirable persons I met in Zimbabwe was a young district commissioner. In some ways his atittudes were paternalistic. He was too, a critical supporter of the Rhodesia Front regime. It would be easy for an armchair critic to label him a racist, yet his total dedication to the black people he served and the sheer physical discomfort endured by him and his family in carrying out this service renders such easy labelling facile and irrelevant.
Equally, the courage of the black guerrillas deserves praise. Of course, there were vile atrocities in this war. Perhaps that is inevitable in any guerrilla conflict. The atrocities certainly were not the monopoly of any one side. Generally the black guerrillas lacked the fire power, the protective vehicles and the air power possessed by the whites. Their casualties in the war outnumbered the whites by about 10 to one. Yet they fought the better armed, the better equipped, if smaller, white army to a standstill.
I do not wish to be over optimistic about the situation in Zimbabwe. The divisions there are deep and bitter both between the whites and blacks and, as the election results showed, between the Ndebele and the Shona. There is a lack of a political community in Zimbabwe. There are very high black expectations which will be difficult to meet as Mr Mugabe has already seen in some of the events of recent weeks. There are too many guns loose in the country. Yet after several years study of Zimbabwe for most of which I despaired of any solution for the country other than a protracted and bloody civil war, I am more hopeful today of a popular and relatively peaceful evolution in Zimbabwe. I am sure that all honourable members would wish all the peoples in Zimbabwe well in the years ahead.
Finally, I wish to congratulate the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) on the critical role he played in bringing majority rule to Zimbabwe. I only regret that the wisdom he displayed in Zimbabwe is so untypical of his foreign policy in general. Indeed, in many ways his diplomacy in Zimbabwe is characterised by elements in sharp contrast with some of his more recent essays in international politics. Nevertheless, the Prime Minister’s policies and actions in Zimbabwe have been deserving of widespread support. I hope that in return the Prime Minister will have the grace to recognise that throughout the Opposition has wholeheartedly supported his stance on Zimbabwe. Indeed, as with much else that is creative in Australian foreign policy the origins of the Fraser approach to Zimbabwe can be found in the Gough Whitlam years.
Finally, I would like to say a few words in praise of the Australian soldiers in Zimbabwe. The Australian monitoring force worked in extremely difficult conditions, often with about 25 to 30 soldiers in a camp of a thousand or more armed guerrillas. All Australians can only admire the courage, the tact, the imagination and the impartiality with which the monitoring force carried its difficult task.
-The thoughts that I am about to express will be made completely off-the-cuff. It is rather remarkable that honourable members were sent on a mission of this nature together with 151 splendid Australian soldiers. It was a monumental experience. It is a little distressing to have a matter of this nature coming before the House without receiving any notice. I am quite sure that the more important things have been said about this experience. So I would firstly advise the House that we had the opportunity of interviewing each of the leaders in Zimbabwe- the Reverend Sithole, Bishop Muzorewa, Joshua Nkomo and, a little later on, Robert Mugabe.
It is interesting to note that early in our discussions, as has been mentioned by my colleague, the honourable member for Bonython (Dr Blewett), Mr Mugabe paid a tribute to the very significant role which the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) played in this matter. He then went on to add a very personal touch and said: ‘By the way, how is he? Has he recovered from his pneumonia?’. As we were right in the heart of Africa this was quite interesting. I mention this in the hope that the Prime Minister may decide to be present at the declaration of independence on 18 April. The Prime Minister was regarded, not only by Mr Mugabe but also by many of those people who were present, as having played a most important role. It would do Australia a great deal of good and certainly it would add to the stature of the whole occasion if the Prime Minister was present at the declaration of independence. Of course, if he feels like taking along a ready back bencher I would most certainly be available.
The other matter I would like to mention is the magnificent contribution made by the British. I am not one of those people who goes around waving Union Jacks but it would be conceded by anyone who had anything to do with this event that tribute should be paid first of all to the audacity of the British to accept this challenge of getting these people together for months in Britain at the Lancaster House conference to gradually overcome the various problems, to have the various parties agree to calling off a civil war and, within eight or nine weeks, to hold an election which was carried out impeccably. This election attracted people from all parts of the world. It was estimated that there were something like 800 foreign journalists present, twice the number that attend the presidential elections in the United States of America.
I came into the House a little before the honourable member for Bonython paid tribute to the Australian soldiers. It is impossible to praise them enough when honourable members consider that 1 5 1 Australian soldiers went over to Zimbabwe and manned three of the assembly places. The leader of the delegation, the honourable member for Diamond Valley (Mr N. A. Brown) carried out his task in a splendid manner. I would strongly recommend the honourable member not only as a politician but as a damn good diplomat. He took us through some pretty dry gulleys. What impressed us all was that as far as I am aware he never had one minute off from the time we arrived until the time that we left Zimbabwe. The rest of the delegation had a weekend off. We were able to go up to Victoria Falls but the honourable member for Diamond Valley never, at any stage, made any demands on us that he was not prepared to double himself.
Under our own steam we went to a place called Bindura and were able to go to Bravo, one of the assembly places. We were able to witness the manner in which the Australian peacekeeping forces had built up an excellent dialogue with fellows like Comrade Mau. By the way, his name is not spelt like the other Mao. He was one of the political heads in that area associated with the previous guerrilla forces. This interchange of confidence impressed all of us. The Australian forces and the guerrilla leaders got to know each other pretty well.
I would like to relate an incident to the House. I do not know whether this incident has been mentioned. Regrettably I was not in the House for the earlier contributions relating to the tabling of this report. On one very sticky occasion we went up to a place called Delta which was near the Mozambique border. There were something like 3,000 former guerrillas at that point. The monitoring force was made up of 30 Australians and six British soldiers. We picked a great morning to go up, but having been bombed and the rest of it a little old thing like the possible outbreak of hostilities did not mean very much. We arrived to find that some of the Rhodesian forces were refurbishing a minefield. This created rather an interesting reaction in the guerrilla forces. When we arrived they were armed to the teeth. Honourable members should see the photographs I have of these men. One fellow had nine rockets on him- three in one place, three in another and three over his back. I wish Hansard could reproduce the photographs. He had a rocket up the spout.
– Up where? You are using unparliamentary language.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The honourable member for Hunter will resume his seat.
– It is rather remarkable that some terms have a particular significance for some people. ‘Up the spout’ to a soldier means down the barrel of a rifle. I will explain that to the honourable member for Hunter afterwards. I do not want to give in detail the atmosphere on that day, but it was pretty terrifying to everyone involved, let me tell you. The guerrillas felt that they were fully entitled to open up on the soldiers who had broken the agreement by laying these mines. There was a distinct provocation. What happened was this: The three Australians, namely, Colonel Hubble, Colonel Kevin Cole who was in command of all the Australians and the commander in the area, decided to try to reason with, I think, Comrade Ernest, Comrade
Mau and one other comrade. The sort of conversation that took place- I ask honourable members to forgive my language; I apologise in advance to the House and particularly to the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) whose sensitivities react to this sort of thingwas: ‘Look, you silly lot of bastards. If you open up on those Rhodesian soldiers, there are 800 journalists in this country and within hours the whole of the world will be told that Mugabe has once more broken the agreement; once more his men have been involved in brutal activities and you are going to cop the crow. For God’s sake cool it, will you. ‘
This sort of conversation went on for about an hour. I am telling the story to indicate that I do not think anyone but Australians could have spoken to those people, could have spoken their language and got them to call off what could have been a pretty bloody incident. I mean that in very precise terms. So I join with my colleagues in paying a very great tribute to those Australian soldiers. I believe, and I hope that it is noted in the right places, that those men were actually under front line conditions. I say that this should be recognised and that they should be given the same sort of status as any returned soldier would receive. They were in the frontline, not just on one occasion but constantly. I am very hopeful that they will receive recognition.
Let me get back to the Prime Minister-elect, Mr Mugabe. I for one believe that he could well prove to be one of the great Prime Ministers of Africa. I think it is quite possible that he will fit into the shoes of a Kenyatta and do a splendid job. Let me put it this way: He is either a great actor and should get an Academy award or he is a man of great sincerity, a patriot, who will produce the goods for his country. I am rather inclined to the latter belief because already he has been able to put into effect certain of his promises. We were all very thrilled, I am sure, to hear in the news at the weekend that the President of Mozambique had issued an invitation to the former white settlers of that country to come back. Not only did he want them back in Mozambique but also he said there would be loan moneys to help them to settle in again.
Furthermore, he conceded that the experiment, in its extremity at least, had failed. In other words, the great pressure of the communist influence had not been successful. I cannot help but believe that that is an overflow from the Mugabe regime already. I think all of us who were there and shared in that very unusual and unique occasion- I do not think any of us were terribly worried about the general atmosphere of tension and so on; we learned to live with thatwere concerned in our heart of hearts that this whole thing would be a failure. One of two things could happen. If it was a success it could be the prototype of a similar happening in other parts of Africa and other parts anywhere in the world where people could stop killing each other in the most brutal manner, come together, and subject themselves to a most unbelievable democratic performance- an election.
It is interesting to note- and I am sure this has already been said- that the election had what we are all led to believe was the highest voluntary vote ever recorded in any country in the world. The honourable member for Diamond Valley might correct me if I am wrong but I think it was 93.5 per cent. This is an unbelievable performance.
– It is amazing.
– It is. So either it could have been a huge success, as it was, or it could have been a failure and if that was the case who knows what would be happening in ZimbabweRhodesia today. So it looks good. We are all hopeful that it will be good. I conclude on this note: I again express my wish that a man who had tributes paid to him by many people in Zimbabwe-Rhodesia- that is our Prime Minister- will find the time to go to Zimbabwe and be present on what will be its great and wonderful day, its day of independence. I am sure the Australian people would want him to do this.
-For the second time in 12 months a small land-locked country in the middle of southern Africa has become the centre of world attention. At a time when the rest of the world was resolving its problems with the gun, dictatorship and fascist methods an attempt was being made to establish a new government by democratic methods. What has happened in Zimbabwe-Rhodesia over the last 2^ years or so may be a turning point in the whole history of Africa. I hope that the interest we have shown in the period in the run-up to this election and at the Lusaka conference and all the rest of it will be manifested on the ground by direct Australian intervention on behalf of the people there in a way that I know we can. That is the first point I want to make.
My second point is this: It is not often that I agree with this Government- it is not often that it does things of which I approve. I think the decision of the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) to make funds available for this Parliament to be represented at the April elections last year was a step, a long step, on the road to putting Zimbabwe-Rhodesia into the comity of nations. Of the 150 members of the United Nations the only country that sent people of whatever our rank, style or status may be, to those elections was Australia. I think that is a significant step forward in Australian foreign policy. We should take the initiative; we should stand on our own; we should recognise that in a world that is run by villains- and we may not be run by angels; not at the moment anyway- at least we have examples to offer and we have a strength of purpose and determined democratic history behind us which the rest of the world respects.
We want to remember that this has been a long haul for the people of Rhodesia. First of all there was the Unilateral Declaration of Independence back in 1965. I think we ought to pay a tribute at time like this to the people who came together in, I think, early 1978 and made the internal agreement. It took a great deal of courage on the part of people like Sithole, Muzorewa and so on to sit down at the table with Smith and his people and come to this agreement. They have paid the electoral penalty. They have been swept aside. But nobody can deny, I think, that if they had not done that we would not have been discussing this matter today and there would still be civil war. So I want to pay my tribute to these people.
I also want to refer to the constitution that these people developed at the time. I did not think much of it as a constitution. I do not think much of most constitutions. I do not think much of large elements of the Australian Constitution. But the Rhodesian constitution was a step in the right direction. As far as I can tell from discussions and news reports the election held in Rhodesia last year was conducted in much the same way as the election held this year. There was perhaps a little less intimidation but, of course, there was greater participation of a very important force in Rhodesian politics. So the people who got that far, who conceived, arranged and managed the election last year, who in the intervening period set up a form of government in which the Africans became the key people, established the process by which independence could be achieved. I have no doubt that if Ian Smith and his people had still been in government there would have been no chance of the Lancaster House conference taking place as it did; that only by having such people as Bishop Muzorewa, Mr Sithole and Mr Mugabe present were negotiations possible.
Those of us who have been in Parliament a good while and have perhaps concentrated on
Australia’s history and constitutional development will recognise the enormous difficulty of making changes of the nature of those that have occurred in Zimbabwe. In Victoria we still have not brought democracy to the upper House in the form of equal electorates, for instance. In Queensland the story is much the same. Relics of feudal electoral systems remain. Despite this, I suppose that Australia belongs to one of the more democratic groups of nations.
One of the intriguing aspects of the election result in Zimbabwe, one that gives me some satisfaction, has been the almost instantaneous demonstration of the common humanity of people. The level of aspirations of the people of Zimbabwe rose immediately. Almost before Mr Robert Mugabe had become Prime Minister people were striking to achieve some of the expected results of the election. I recall in 1 972 as the first Minister for Aboriginal Affairs during Labor’s term of office finding the same level of aspiration amongst people who expected miracles to follow the return of Labor to office. They expected miracles in the first week. Of course, those miracles took a few months to perform. The people of Zimbabwe will react in much the same way. I certainly wish the new Prime Minister well. We should recognise the strange uniformity of the response of humanity when faced with the exercise of power and the attempt to retain it, whether the setting be Iran under the Shah, San Salvador, or Rhodesia under Mr Ian Smith.
The delegation interviewed Mr Smith, as we did. For the benefit of honourable members I might say that he reminded me of perhaps a more polished version of Mr Bjelke-Petersen. He operates on presumptions which nobody could possibly support, but after he has been going for a while he has built a tower of logic upon them. As long as one does not look at the foundations he sounds reasonable. If I may turn back in history to 1964-65, I was interested to read, in a book by a former Prime Minister, Mr Harold Wilson, his comments after attempting to negotiate with Mr Smith. He noted that Mr Smith had said one thing to Mr Lester Pearson, the Prime Minister of Canada, but had given a different version to himself; further, that he had done the same with our own Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies. He added that Lester Pearson talked about ‘that strange fellow, Smith’ and Sir Robert Menzies spoke of ‘that queer laddie, Smith ‘. It is strange that the man was able to retain his position for so long; but eventually he was driven by the force of events to overcome his intransigence and face the realities of life. Civil war is, of course, a dreadful affair. Those of us who have seen war recognise that it cannot be justified in any way. I suppose that one is driven to it, that throughout history people have been driven to the conclusion that one must take up weapons to produce political change. It is sad that the rest of the world should allow that to be the only way, in some circumstances, in which it can be achieved. I am not sure that the security forces had been brought to a standstill, as my colleague the honourable member for Bonython (Dr Blewett) suggests. I think that matters had reached a stage at which neither side would win, there would be heavy casualties all round and the conflict could continue for quite a while.
I agree that technically last year’s elections appeared to be of much the same order as this year’s elections. The proportional representation system produced a democratic result. Secrecy of the ballot was guaranteed. The security of the people who voted was guaranteed. I rather suspect that last year security may have been better guaranteed than it was this year, but obviously, because of the participation of the Patriotic Front, this year’s election was greeted with much greater enthusiasm. Accordingly, greater numbers came out to vote. The integrity of last year’s election, and the conducting of the ballot, could be described as first class. The same could be said of this year’s election and of the universality achieved.
One of the results of our visit to Zimbabwe last year was that somehow we became identified- I take it that it is equally true of my colleagues from the other side- as supporters of the Muzorewa Government. I recognise the result of the 1977 election. I would not want to see it upended by force, but I do not like the result. I do not think that if I had been voting in the elections in Zimbabwe I would have voted for the Bishop’s party. Probably I would have voted for the Reverend Sithole ‘s party, Zimbabwe African National Union. Its policies seemed a little closer to the kinds of policies for which I stand. I would describe Bishop Muzorewa ‘s party as a rather pale echo of Australia’s Liberal Party. The Patriotic Front also has some policies similar to those of the Australian Labor Party. The political parties had drawn up programs which showed signs of heading towards a generally Western type of democracy. I hope that they keep going in that direction. I agree with the honourable member for Diamond Valley (Mr N. A. Brown), who said that there are in the world people who think that democracy is not for those that they happen to govern bv force of arms. In these circumstances I spend my time quoting the example of Papua New Guinea.
I think that the elections in Zimbabwe will be a symbol for all of Africa. There are 50 countries in that continent and only three could be rated as democratic- perhaps, Botswana, Sierra Leone and Senegal. A few others have elections of a sort but one would need to watch them very closely. For instance, I do not think that Zambia has a democratic system. I believe that the President of that country changed the rules to ensure that he remained in that office, and that much the same could be said of some other countries. We are planting in the centre of southern Africa an example for all other nations to follow. Zimbabwe has a great potential. It is about one and a half times the size of Victoria; it is twelfth in Africa in wealth; eighteenth in population and has, I believe, the internal administrative capacity to support itself. Of course, the problems for the Patriotic Front government will be immense in the first instance. One of the things that impressed me was the willingness on both sides- as far as we were able to note during the April 1979 elections- to try to come together. African people of high status, people who were in government, were saying: ‘We are not going to let this place fall into another African state of chaos’. The white people were saying: ‘We have to make this work. We have nowhere else to go’. I believe that those factors will hold the country together- as will the extraordinary political skill and perceptiveness of the new Prime Minister himself and the status of Mr Nkomo, who is one of the father figures of African nationalism.
I hope that a substantial delegation from this Parliament will attend the independence celebrations. I hope that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) will go. It would be a good thing for him to see the results of domocratic actions and proper policies; he does not often observe them. The people of Zimbabwe are entitled to receive all the support that they can get from this country in this matter. As for the rest of Africa, we have to start to apply the same standards as we have applied to Zimbabwe. In the few weeks that we were there the people would ask: ‘After the elections will we be recognised, will sanctions be lifted?’ I said: ‘I hope that sanctions will be lifted but I did not think that they will be. What you have to learn, understand and bear with fortitude is that the rest of the world will apply to you standards that it does not apply to anybody else’. I was referring to standards that we do not apply to Indonesia, Pakistan, Zambia, Kenya, Egypt or even, in some instances, countries closer to Australia, such as
Thailand. I said: ‘You will have to wear it. But if you can win through and become a democratic and prosperous country the world will be advantaged by it’.
I congratulate the delegation that went to Zimbabwe. In common with them, I am proud of the performance of our Australian soldiery. The lesson is that next time we are asked for peacekeeping forces for United Nations operations we should not say: ‘We can’t afford it’, or ‘We ought not to’, or ‘Sending a couple of ambulances will unbalance our defence program. ‘ We should say: We will be in it’. I am quite confident that very few countries in the world can supply better skilled, better trained and better disciplined people. There are very few countries in the world that are in a better position to pay for it and do it.
Debate (on motion by Mr Dobie) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr Newman) agreed to:
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until 10.30 a.m. tomorrow.
-Mr Speaker has received a letter from the honourable member for Bonython (Dr Blewett) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The disintegration of the fourth national health insurance scheme since 1976 as reflected in the falling proportion covered, the growing cost burden on the average family, and the financial problems of the funds.
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-
-Mr Deputy Speaker, we are now witnessing the disintegration of the fourth national health insurance scheme in this country since 1 976. We have had four major and quite different schemes in as many years, and to date none got established before it was abandoned. What a superb commentary that is on the managerial competence of the Fraser Government- four quite different contradictory and inconsistent schemes in four years. What a superb commentary on the stability it offered this country- four quite different contradictory and inconsistent schemes in four years. The unique achievement of the previous Minister for Health was that he managed to build rapid obsolescence into each of his many health schemes. Not one of the last three schemes has survived for a single year.
These rapid changes might have been tolerable if they had been cumulative, if each scheme had built upon the previous one, if the direction of change had been sequential; but it was not. Each scheme contradicted the one before and was inconsistent with the one that followed. The reason they were inconsistent and contradictory was that this Government has never been genuinely concerned with national health provisions. Rather, the health needs of the nation have been sacrificed to the differing financial exigencies of the Government, and that is easy enough to prove. First of all, in 1976 and 1979, when the Government’s prime concern was to reduce the deficit, cost burdens were shifted from the Government to the consumer by way of levies or increased private insurance. But in 1978, when the Government’s prime concern was to reduce the consumer price index, the movement was in the opposite direction. Cost burdens were shifted from the consumer to the Government and the cost of private insurance was reduced. Health considerations and health needs were never uppermost. In the health field, to date this Government has presided over chaos and contradiction and pretended it was order. If one puts together the health speeches of the previous Minister, the present Minister for Transport (Mr Hunt), one finds that they are simply a tissue of contradictions.
The result is that the great mass of the Australian people are confused, uncertain and bewildered over health provisions, and the result is a massive rejection of the present health scheme. Indeed, in a January gallup poll 68 per cent of those polled opposed the present scheme and only 19 per cent were in favour. That rejection will grow for the present scheme, like all its Liberal predecessors, is beginning to flounder.
I want to make a brief aside in relation to these changes to the attitude of the Australian Medical Association, because I think it deserves mention in this House. The AMA fought the introduction of Medibank every bitter inch of the way. It squealed to high heaven in New South Wales at the suggestion that its charges should be subjected in some way to price control. Yet on the chaotic changes that have taken place in the past four years, on a national insurance scheme now rejected by the great bulk of the Australian people, the AMA has remained supine and virtually silent. If the AMA is to retain any credibility in the eyes of ordinary Australians, it is about time it recognised the great discontent of ordinary Australians with the health insurance system in this country and became as vocal about that issue as it is about the alleged defects of Medibank or the iniquity of controls over medical fees.
The present scheme, euphemistically called Medibank V, has now survived for seven months. Its life expectancy therefore must be minimal, on the experience of the previous three schemes. As I will show, the disintegration of the present scheme is well advanced. We are now engaged in a race between the present scheme and the coming election. The issue is simply whether the present scheme will collapse before or after the coming election, but collapse it assuredly will. Whoever wins the next election, Australians will certainly have a new health insurance scheme by 1981.
Honourable members do not have to rely on my word for that. Let us take an impeccable authority, Dr Llew Edwards, Leader of the Queensland Liberal Party and an ex-Minister of Health in Queensland. Last week he told a Sydney audience:
Unless the Federal Government did something about medical insurance programs of today, it would become a major problem in the coming Federal election.
– Since when have you started believing them?
– When they agree I am perfectly happy to have them. Dr Edwards continued:
Inquiry into hospital costs would not solve the problem- it needed a political decision for a totally new scheme.
I put to the Minister for Health (Mr MacKellar), who is at the table, and who is beginning his record in health: Does he agree with his Queensland colleague that, unless something is done, medical insurance will become a major problem in the coming Federal election? Does he agree with Dr Edwards that what is needed is a tough political decision for a totally new scheme? I look forward in his reply to answers to those questions.
Let us look at the evidence for the disintegration of the present scheme. First of all, we can make six points. Firstly, there is the increasing burden of private insurance costs for the average family; secondly, the growing and baffling complexity of the health insurance system; thirdly, the falling proportion of the population covered by private health insurance; fourthly, the failure of the disadvantaged person provisions; fifthly, the increasing pressure on the out-patient provision in public hospitals; and sixthly, the financial difficulties of the private insurance funds. I want to look at the evidence under each of those headings.
First of all, let me deal with the increasing burden of health insurance costs for the average family. On 15 August 1978 the former Minister for Health said of Medibank II: the cost of health insurance premiums has become uncomfortably high for many people.
Now, as health insurance costs today are very much what they were in August 1 978, they have become, in the Minister’s own words, ‘uncomfortably high for many people’. In 1975, full health insurance was 1.1 per cent of average weekly earnings. Today it is 6.4 per cent of average weekly earnings, and that is becoming an intolerable burden on many Australian families. There are cost pressures within the insurance system at the moment. It is arguable that the rate increases in contributions in September last year were kept artificially low, given the increased costs to be borne by the private insurance funds. Secondly, the breakdown of community rating, the abandonment of health insurance by the young and healthy, is clearly increasing the proportion of high risk contributors to the funds.
The second point is the growing and baffling complexity of the health insurance options themselves. Again, we have the inestimable Mr Hunt, who had so little notion of what he was doing and whose policies were so inconsistent that if one goes through his speeches one can find a condemnation of any particular scheme for which the Liberals decide to opt. When abandoning Medibank II in 1978 he condemned the complex arrangements of the existing scheme. In the matter of complexity, Medibank II was child’s play compared with Medibank V. The range of deductibles, packages and plain gimmicks that the consumer is now offered in health insurance has become a demanding intellectual exercise. This range has been deliberately encouraged by a government in its mistaken belief in free enterprise in the health system. For example, if we take the three major funds in New South Wales- the Hospitals Contribution Fund of Australia, the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia Ltd and Medibank Private- the contributor can choose from a total of 50 tables, and he has ali the fine print problems associated with those 50 tables. This is simply choice run to total riot and ending in total confusion.
For instance, it was very interesting to note in a recent Four Corners program on Australia’s national health system that practically every contributor to that discussion, whatever his different views, mentioned, complained about or commented on the total confusion now existing in this country in the health insurance field. For example the spokesman from the Victorian Consumer Affairs Bureau said:
I would say it is one of utter confusion, where people don ‘t know what to do, where they are really in a lottery situation in deciding whether to insure or not to insure and if they don’t they quite often get caught and meet expenses that they just can’t hope to cover.
He said further:
Well, it’s a little bit like Soccer Pools or Tattslotto or Tattersalls.
I noted that even the representatives of the health funds in that discussion seemed unhappy about the anarchy of choice which now prevails. Thirdly, I mention the abandonment of the funds. It is not surprising that an increasing proportion of Australians are opting out of private insurance. In March 1979, 3.7 million Australians had no form of health insurance cover. Amittedly the evidence I have since that date is impressionistic, but it suggests that the funds have continued to lose contributors and that contributors have reduced their cover since the changes in September 1979. Certainly in January 1980, 52 per cent of those interviewed believed that the private funds did not provide value for money, which is not very encouraging for the retention rates. The result which we are facing is a vicious circle. Those who consider themselves to be low risks move out of the funds and high risk contributors become a greater burden on the funds, forcing higher insurance rates and a further fallout from the funds.
Fourthly, I turn to the failure of the disadvantaged persons provisions. The invidious selfpresentation imposed on disadvantaged persons and the doctors’ arbitrary powers in this field have meant that the disadvantaged persons provisions simply have not worked. In June 1 979 the disadvantage benefit was paid on only 3 per cent of all medical services. In other words, it is not being fully or properly utilised.
Fifthly, we have growing pressure on the outpatient facilities of the public hospitals. Again the evidence that we are putting together is mainly impressionistic, but it is inescapable that, as the mess engulfs the whole system, people are relying more and more on hospital outpatient departments for primary medical care. It is a very expensive method of providing primary medical care. It is imposing strains on hospital facilities and in fact it may divert resources from other areas, particularly, of course, from casualty departments.
Finally, the health insurance funds face financial difficulties. I am not suggesting that they are about to collapse, although some of the smaller funds are clearly floundering with difficult financial problems. They are caught in this vicious circle that I mentioned earlier. There are certainly pressures to increase some of the rates. Perhaps most importantly, there is proliferating competition from unregistered commercial operators eager to get in on the health insurance racket. Of course, in typical free enterprise fashion, the General Manager of the Hospital Benefits Association Ltd suggests that one solution to the problem is to transfer the chronically ill to the Government as a means of easing the strain on the funds.
I refer now to a well-known quotation:
We will maintain Medibank.
The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) said that in his 1975 policy speech. That he almost immediately began the gutting of Medibank while retaining the name comes as no surprise to Australians today. They have learnt to respect the worth of this Prime Minister’s pledges. His treatment of Medibank was merely par for the course. The real tragedy for the Australian people is that the breach of this pledge in most respects but not in all- I will admit that- has put back the financing of medical provision in this country by ten years. In 1969 the Nimmo Committee of Inquiry into Health Insurance in Australia presented its report. I want to quote its first three findings. The first was:
The operation of the health insurance scheme is unnecessarily complex and beyond the comprehension of many.
That is as true today as it was 1 1 years ago. The second finding was:
The benefits received by contributors are frequently much less than the cost of hospital and medical treatment.
That is as true today as it was 1 1 years ago. The third finding was:
The contributions have increased to such an extent that they are beyond the capacity of some members of the community and involve considerable hardship for others.
That is as true today as it was 1 1 years ago. We are in a cul-de-sac with health provision in this country. Whichever party wins the next election, it has to begin again. I hope and believe that we will be charged with the reconstruction of health provision in this country. But the Minister for Health, who is at the table, has the opportunity in the few months remaining to him to begin that necessary reconstruction. He can have no better starting point than the health reforms outlined by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) and by my predecessor the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman).
– I commence by congratulating the honourable member for Bonython (Dr Blewett) on his recent elevation to the front bench of the Opposition. I hope he will maintain that position for a considerable period.
– Years to come.
– For years to come, as an honourable member said. I was interested to hear the honourable member’s first presentation in his new position of responsibility. There are a couple of points that I would like to take up at the start because they exemplify the attitude of the Opposition in relation to matters concerning health care in Australia. One of the points that the honourable member made concerned the Australian Medical Association. He said that the AMA fought Medibank assiduously. He did not use exactly that phrase but that was the purport of his remarks. I think we should take this up because the Opposition has demonstrated a continuing denigration and attack upon the AMA. There was a suggestion, when the AMA first resisted Medibank, that it was doing so- this was put forward by the then Labor Governmentbecause it was worried that doctors’ incomes would be disadvantaged by the advent of Medibank. Let me lay this canard to rest once and for all. The sheer fact of the situation is that the AMA fought the introduction of Medibank because it said that the costs would be horrendous and in the longer term would lead to a lowering of medical standards in this country.
– You do not believe that.
– I certainly believe that and it has been demonstrated overseas as well. I will prove later this afternoon that in fact the escalating costs of the introduction of Medibank were absolutely horrendous and quite beyond the capacity of this country to pay. I should like to comment on another point from the speech of the honourable member for Bonython this afternoon. I think it was a very revealing phrase. He said: ‘The evidence I put forward is mainly impressionistic’. Let us keep this phrase in mind: The evidence is mainly impressionistic. It is a very real and a very accurate summation of the evidence put forward by the honourable member in his speech this afternoon. It is mainly impressionistic. I do not blame him altogether for utilising mainly impressionistic evidence because one of the most difficult aspects in this area of health care is to find hard facts on which to base arguments. Let us look at the proposition that the Opposition has put before the House today. I will read it to the House. It states:
The disintegration of the fourth national health insurance scheme since 1976 as reflected in the falling proportion covered, the growing cost burden on the average family, and the financial problems of the funds.
I do not believe that the evidence available to the Government and to the Opposition supports in any way that proposition put by the honourable member for Bonython. The Opposition argues that there has been a fall in the proportion of the population covered by the traditional health funds. In fact, the figures show that there has been a decrease in the number of people covered for at least basic medical and hospital insurance. But these decreases are relatively small. Let me cite them. As at December 1978, the number covered for at least basic medical coverage was 6.549 million. As at December 1 979, it was 6.456 million. That figure represents a decrease on the December 1978 figure of 1.4 per cent. As at February 1980-1 emphasise that these are only preliminary figures- the number covered was 6.0333 million, representing a decrease of 1.9 per cent. This is hardly hard evidence of a disintegration of the health system which is operating in Australia at present. Let us look at basic hospital coverage. As at December 1978, the number covered for basic hospital coverage was 6.996 million and as at December 1979, 6.087 million, representing a decrease of 7.3 per cent on the December 1978 figure. If we look at the total hospital and medical coverage, again, the figures would suggest that there has been a decrease in coverage. But that decrease is hardly dramatic, hardly as much as stated by some of those associated with the voluntary health funds and hardly firm evidence of a complete disintegration of the system.
The motion before the House argues that health funds are in a difficult position. The honourable member for Bonython himself said he was not arguing that many of the funds are about to go out of existence. But again, if we look at the figures in relation to health funds and their financial viability, we see that on the evidence I have available to me, between 1973 and 1975, 17 funds went out of existence. From 1 976 to the present time, 1 7 funds went out of existence. So, as shown by the figures, there has hardly been a dramatic increase in relation to the financial difficulties of health funds. The Government acknowledges that there has been a decrease in the number of people covered by traditional health funds. But the decreases that have occurred do not justify the Government’s taking hasty action in what, as the honourable member quite rightly said, is a very important area. Obviously this is a situation which has to be monitored very closely and if action Moves to be necessary, the Government will act. But I emphasise the fact that we cannot act on impressionistic evidence; we cannot act on anecdotal evidence; we cannot act on statements made in various television programs by people who may have some self-interest in the matter. What governments have to do is to act on the hardest information they have available to them.
The Opposition and the honourable member for Bonython claim that the Government’s health insurance arrangements have resulted in a growing cost burden on the average family. This charge is simply incorrect. The charge is incorrect because in all States except South Australia and Western Australia health fund contributors are now able to obtain basic medical and hospital cover at premiums less than those applying prior to 1 November 1 978. 1 would like to add that it should also be borne in mind that the changes in contribution levels from 1 November last year were not due solely to changes in the Government’s health insurance arrangements; they were also due to a rise in State government hospital bed charges and an increase of 12.9 per cent in doctors’ fees following a determination by Mr Justice Ludeke. The Opposition’s charge on this point is also incorrect because the Labor Party, when in government between 1973 and 1975, was responsible for the most massive increase in health costs that this country has ever seen. I have already alluded to that fact.
But let us not forget the extravagant policies that the Labor Government of those days pursued. They were typified by its health policies. Of course, the results of that extravagance are still taking their toll on this country through the high inflation rate which we had to deal with when we came to office, through the high unemployment rate which we had to deal with when we came to office and through the high interest rates which have continued to bedevil the Australian economy.
So that honourable members can keep this point firmly in mind, let me cite some comparisons in the health area under the Labor Government as compared with the present Fraser Government. In 1972-73, national health expenditure amounted to $2,505m. In 1975-76, after three years of Labor rule, that amount had escalated to $5,505m. That was a 1 20 per cent increase in three years of Labor Government. That is a policy to which the honourable member for
Bonython, in his new position on the Opposition front bench, is asking this country to return. I repeat: There was a 120 per cent increase in three years of Labor. The annual rate of increase was as follows: In 1972-73, 12.2 per cent; 1973-74, 20.2 per cent; 1974-75, 38 per cent: and in 1975-76, 32.3 per cent. National health expenditure, expressed as a percentage of gross domestic product, in 1972-73 was 5.9 per cent and after three years of Labor rule, in 1975-76, was 7.6 per cent. So we had to bring about a situation whereby Australians had and continued to have access to high quality health care. At this point I would like to state publicly that the health care available to Australians and the capacity of those providing the health care is second to none throughout the world. The standard of medical practice in Australia is something that we as a people should be immensely proud of and something that we as a people should place very great emphasis on not reducing. We must maintain a situation which will allow the continuation of high quality health care. The annual rate of increase in health costs in 1976-77 was 17.3 per cent; in 1977-78 13 percent; and in 1978-79, 9 per cent. So this Government has been bringing the increase in health costs under control.
Let us look at what happened with Medibank when the Labor Party was in office. In 1973-74, 56.62 million medical services were carried out. In 1974-75, the number was 64.03 million- an increase of 13.1 per cent over the previous year. In 1975-76, the first year of Medibank, there were 82.26 million services- an increase of 28.5 per cent over the previous year. That is the effect of introducing something like Medibank. That is the effect that the honourable member for Bonython would like to impose upon this country again. Honourable members, I believe, can quite easily see that any irresponsible return to a system so blandly asserted this afternoon by the honourable member for Bonython would lead once again to over-utilisation of medical services, to more provision than was necessary of services by the medical profession, because such an arrangement would be open-ended and because there would not be sufficient checks and balances. A defect of the previous system was the temptation the system provided to those concerned with the provision of health care to overservice patients and thus generate higher costs which inevitably must be borne by the taxpayer. The Government has acted to control health costs in two main areas, and we make no apology for that. The honourable member for Bonython criticised the Government for being concerned with financial considerations. We make no apologies for being concerned with financial considerations. We have acted to control health costs in two main areas- in doctors ‘ fees and in hospital costs. The Government has established an inquiry into the efficiency and administration of hospitals. This is the first time that any government has undertaken such a wide-ranging review into our hospital system and we are anxiously looking forward to the results of that inquiry. 1 believe that this is an area in which great and proper savings can be made.
The Opposition charges that the Government’s health policies have brought about a disintegration of the present health insurance system, lt simply is not true. As I think I have demonstrated to the House this afternoon, the Opposition has no hard evidence on which to base that charge. Let me use the phrase that the honourable member for Bonython used: ‘The evidence we have is mainly impressionistic’. Let us have a look at the Opposition’s health policies, or at least that portion which it has deigned to show to the public. The Australian Labor Party proposes free medical care for all children under 16 years of age, dependants over 16 and expectant mothers. What would happen? The plan would encourage the young and the healthy to desert the health insurance system, thus again creating considerable upward pressure on contribution rates for other members of the community, particularly the aged and the chronically ill, who wish to continue insuring for their choice of doctor.
The Leader of the Opposition, Mr Hayden, openly acknowledged this. Here is a health policy advanced by the Opposition which would disadvantage those very people that it says it is most concerned about- the aged and the chronically ill who wish to insure themselves and who wish to have the doctor of their choice. It really is one of the most devastating indictments of an Opposition policy that I have ever heard. It has the immediate and marked effect of disadvantaging those people within the community- the disadvantaged, the aged and the chronically ill- who are least able to defend themselves. This is the distinct ultimate result of the introduction of the pan health policy introduced by the Leader of the Opposition and the former Opposition shadow Minister for Health late last year.
It really is a case where the position advanced by the honourable member for Bonython has not been supported in any way by hard facts, but mainly by impressionistic facts; mainly evidence which is only anecdotal. The Government is closely monitoring the situation. It will continue to monitor the situation and provide high quality health care for the people of this nation.
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
-The Minister for Health (Mr MacKellar) who is at the table accused the Opposition of being uncertain about the facts concerning health insurance and health costs. The reality is that if there is any responsibility that has to be borne for uncertainty as to what the real situation is with respect to health costs and health financing, it ought to be firmly driven home to this Government. This Government, which has talked for four years about the need to reduce the costs of health, has not in fact made any of the four substantial changes it has introduced to the health scheme on the basis of adequate statistics. The Government, after one of its changes, said there would be no further changes until such time as the facts were known. The reality is that within a number of months another substantial and major change took place. Facts have never been of any concern to this Government. Furthermore, it has not been the view of this Government or argued, for example by the previous Minister for Health, that the burgeoning of health costs which occurred in the 1970s could in any real sense be laid at the door of Medibank. I quote from an interview between Jeff Duncan and the previous Minister, Mr Hunt:
JEFF DUNCAN: Mr Hunt how do you substantiate your claim that the health costs, spiralling health costs, are due to Medibank alone?
MR HUNT: I am not claiming that at all. 1 have never blamed Medibank as such for the great escalation in health costs.
The interview went on:
MR HUNT: We have witnessed the greatest explosion in health costs in Australia they having exploded by 73 per cent in two years.
JEFF DUNCAN: Why is that, because of Medibank?
MR HUNT: Well I am not saying it is because of Medibank.
Certainly health costs in Australia have exploded as they did in almost every other developed society. When Labor went out of office in 1975 the percentage of the gross domestic product that was being spent on health in this country compared favourably with that of most other countries within the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development group. One can assert in relation to health, as one can assert in relation to taxation, that never at any time in our history have we paid more for health than under this Government. What this Government has been concerned about is not in fact the reduction of health costs. That is too serious a problem for a government as easily intimidated as this one to take on. What it has been concerned about is not the reduction of health costs, but the redistribution of those costs. Even with respect to that aim, as the honourable member for Bonython (Dr Blewett) has suggested, the Government has been inconsistent. It has moved one way and then the other.
It is quite a misapprehension of what this Government is about to suggest in any serious way that the Government is concerned about reducing the burden of health costs to this community. What it has sought to do is to turn the burden of those costs from the public sector to the private sector, from the Government to private individuals. That is why in this debate we have placed so much stress on the increasing costs to the family which have been incurred by the policies of this Government. These costs are being borne by families who are being hit in many other ways. It is the compounding perhaps of what might be regarded as a relatively small increase in terms of health costs with all the measures that this government has taken which results in a family of four people receiving what has to be regarded as a sharply reduced standard of living. 1 do not want to go over or to reiterate the major points that were made by the honourable member for Bonython, but I think one can say that the Minister has not substantially been able to answer any of those points. He has pursued the old trick of going back to talk about what may have happened or may not have happened four or five years ago. He has not been prepared to answer any of the specific charges that this Government is open to. Certainly costs in terms of private insurance have increased. Could anyone argue that the costs are not greater under this private insurance scheme that currently operates with only the pale echoes of Medibank then they were when Medibank was introduced? No one can question the high complexity of this scheme. Most average people do not understand what the Government is currently doing. They have not caught up with the change before last, let alone the last change.
It is true- I do not think the Minister has rebutted this; in fact, I think he has provided statistics to show that it is the case- that a falling proportion of the population is covered by health insurance. This obviously places a greater pressure on the funds if, as we suspect, it is the young and the healthy who are able to do without health insurance and the people who are chronically ill, the aged, represent a greater and greater burden on the funds. It is certainly the view of people within those funds that if the Government does not come up with another scheme many more of those funds will go to the wall. Similarly it is quite clear that the Government was never able to define the disadvantaged group within the population. It has been left to the doctor, perhaps in many respects the least equipped person, to determine who is advantaged. The end result is that a very small percentage is being treated under the disadvantaged provisions.
It is true that in major public hospitals there is increasing pressure on the out-patient facilities which necessarily places great pressure on those hospitals and compounds the overall costs to the community. The most expensive facilities available in the health field are being absorbed in carrying out a task that they simply were not designed to do. That needs to be linked with the Government’s lack of any interest or capacity in terms of expanding the community health program which was part of Labor’s comprehensive health program when it was in office. Community health centres which might provide the most appropriate opportunity for people to receive primary medical health care are being restricted at the same time as the Government’s policy is resulting in increased pressures on the casualty facilities of the public hospitals in this country.
It has to be said that health insurance is not of itself the only basis for a health policy. This Government has lacked the imagination to move beyond health insurance and health financing in terms of its concern. It has no policies which are designed effectively to reduce the overall burden of health costs on the community as opposed to the costs associated with paying for those health services. There has been a preoccupation by this Government with ill-health rather than with positive health in terms of the community. Despite the fact that it can be argued that a great proportion of the illnesses that exist in the community is generated by pressures which are environmental and community pressures, the Government has mounted almost no programs within the area of preventive medicine.
Funding of medical research has been substantially reduced in real terms by this Government. The basis of medical research has not been shifted towards the analysis of the causes of the ill health and sickness that exist in the community. Despite the enormous costs that are associated with health within the industrial sphere, costs to the community which far outweigh the costs associated with strikes, the Government has taken no significant initiatives in relation to industrial health, the prevention of industrial accidents and the isolation of people from diseases which can be contracted within an industrial setting. The Government has not substituted an alternative set of policies for those policies adopted by the Labor Government between 1972 and 1975. In a real sense it has remained within the parameters of those policies; yet it has sought to shift the burden of the costs from the Government, from taxation, to the private sector and to the private individual. The result is that the major feeling that people currently have about health insurance is very great uncertainty and very great fear. They do not know whether they can afford to join insurance funds; they do not know whether they can afford to be without them. They are not sure of the consequences associated with joining funds or of remaining without health insurance coverage.
The Government’s policies have been unclear. They have not been explained to the community; they have not been communicated. If they were communicated they would simply reinforce the view that this Government’s health policies are inequitable policies that are designed to shift more and more of the burden of health insurance onto the backs of the people who suffer the most from chronic illnesses and for whom ill health represents the greatest threat. It is regrettable that the Government continues to proceed without any far-sighted policies and that now, in an election year, we are on the verge of yet more changes.
-This is the first occasion on which the honourable member for Bonython (Dr Blewett), whom I would describe as a likable, respectable academic socialist, has proposed and had accepted a matter of public importance since becoming the shadow Minister for health. It is my view that when one looks at the Australian Labor Party’s health policy and reflects on events over the several weeks since its introduction -
– It is a hotchpotch.
– It is a hotchpotch, as the honourable member for La Trobe says. It has been a complete and utter flop since its introduction. The fact that it has had no impact at all indicates to me that the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman), who was the previous shadow Minister and who was sacked, had nowhere else to go and had to be replaced. In my view he was the scapegoat in this exercise. However, let me get on to a few of the matters that were raised by the honourable member for Bonython. He talked about a statement by the
Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), when the Government parties were in Opposition, that his government would retain Medibank. I submit to the House that no one- not even a far-sighted, vigilant, experienced and capable Prime Minister, such as we have in this Prime Minster- could have imagined what a mess the country had drifted into in the health field under the Labor Government. I shall use the Regional Employment Development scheme as an example. The Labor Party, when in government, proposed the wonderful scheme called the RED scheme. That scheme got out of hand. When the Labor Party realised that it was getting further out of hand it saw fit to abolish it.
Let me take up the point which the Minister for Health (Mr MacKellar) made a deal of in relation to the comments of the honourable member for Bonython. The honourable member for Bonython talked about the drift from the voluntary health funds. He said that his evidence was only impressionistic. His arguments failed completely, he demolished his own arguments, when he talked about impressionistic evidence. He also went on to talk about increased usage of hospital outpatients departments. Once again he referred to his evidence as impressionistic evidence. I submit that the honourable gentleman will have to do a little better than that in his position as shadow Minister for Health, otherwise he will find himself very short-lived in that position. If there is major disquiet in the community in relation to health insurance and the health scheme in this country, as the honourable member for Batman (Mr Howe) asserts, I ask him and all members of the Opposition to table the letters that they have in their possession on that from their constituents. It is my view, if my constituency is any indication of what is happening around the nation and I have checked with a number of honourable members on this side of the House, that very few letters are coming in on this subject. People may have been a little confused in the past as to what was the position, but I checked with six honourable members on the Government side only last evening to find that not one of them had received a letter on this subject in weeks and weeks.
– Because they know that it is hopeless.
-They do not know that it is hopeless at all. They understand that they now have to pay something for their health insurance. The honourable member for Batman, in a typical socialist approach, talked about the fact that people have to pay more. What he wants to see in this nation, in an improving society, in a more affluent society, is people receiving more money and the state taking over all those areas in which the individual should be looking after himself and his family. That philosophy is typical of the socialist approach. We want to see less and less government intervention in this country and to see people becoming more dependent on themselves.
The Labor Party’s health policy has been announced. It is a policy for the reintroduction of Medibank in stages, as we saw happen between 1972 and 1975. That fact has been made quite clear. It is a failed policy, a policy that has been rejected by the Australian people. It is a policy that is feared by the Australian people. It is my view that they will never accept it again. The Labor Party never learns. It is again trying to bring back that failed and rejected policy.
Let us look at the wording of the matter of public importance which is now before the House. It refers to the disintegration of the fourth national health insurance scheme. We have seen the dismantling- and rightly so- of Labor’s Medibank scheme. There is no doubt about that. I support that action fully. It has not been possible to dismantle the scheme quickly. That is the reason why we have had a number of changes. But the charge of disintegration- the break-up, the separation into component parts or the loss of cohesion, which is what it means- can easily be refuted. Let us look at the figures. I have before me the up-to-date figures. I have sought permission from the shadow Minister, the honourable member for Bonython, to have these tables incorporated in Hansard. I seek leave to do so.
The tables read as follows-
– It is quite clear on an examination of these figures that there is not the massive drift from the voluntary health insurance funds that the Opposition thinks there is. The impressionistic evidence about which the honourable member for Bonython talks is just not there. These figures show that. These details have been obtained from a sample of 25 of the 46 member funds of the Voluntary Health Insurance Association of Australia. They cover approximately 60 per cent of the total membership. Let me deal first of all with Table 1 , which deals with medical insurance. Total Australian medical insurance membership- that comprises contributors in basic and 100 per cent tables, but excludes contributors to the economy or 40 per cent and 50 per cent tables- declined by 3.3 per cent between October 1979 and January of this year. As I have said, those figures exclude the people who have reduced their payments and are now contributing to the lower tables. The decline in single contributors, at 3.6 per cent, has been greater than that for families at 3.2 per cent. The decline in Victoria of 2.4 per cent and in South Australia of 3.2 per cent has been less than the Australian average.
Let me turn to Table 2, which deals with hospital insurance contributors. The total Australian hospital membership comprising contributors in basic and supplementary private ward tables declined by 2.4 per cent between October and January. That is once again October 1979 and January of this year. This is a smaller fall than the medical membership of course. The medical membership was 3.3 per cent, and this is down to 2.4 per cent. The decline in single contributors is marginally greater at 2.5 per cent than the family decline at 2.4 per cent. The decline in South Australia at 4 per cent and in Western Australia at 3.6 per cent has been greater than the Australian average. If we examine these figures we should take into consideration the disadvantaged category. Quite a deal was said by the honourable member for Batman (Mr Howe) about the disadvantaged category. I believe that the policy in this regard is working very successfully. It is left up to the doctors to decide who should fall into that particular category.
When one examines those who would have had health insurance, who have now moved into the disadvantaged category and who obviously would not need to take out at least medical insurance, one finds, it appears to me, that there has been an even smaller drop than might appear from those figures. Of course, one has to take into consideration those persons who have decided to join a scheme that has been offered by the general insurance companies. Of course, the figures I have quoted and which appear in these tables do not take into account those persons who have now joined a scheme with general insurance companies. The small reductions in health and medical membership are a result of the repeated calls by the Labor Party. Indeed, members of the Labor Party have made repeated calls both in their electorates and in this House. Calls have been made also by the former shadow Minister for Health, the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman). These calls have failed abysmally. People have decided in the face of those calls from the Labor Party to retain their health insurance. The Opposition has made every effort to sabotage health insurance in this country. It has failed dismally.
In the few seconds remaining I want to talk about the growing cost burden on the average family. There is no evidence that costs have increased to any great extent in the last two years.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. J. D. M. Dobie)- Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. The discussion is concluded.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation for proposed expenditure announced.
Bill presented by Mr Eric Robinson, and read a first time.
I present Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 1979-80 which, together with Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 1979-80 which I shall introduce shortly, comprises the additional Estimates for 1979-80. In these Bills, Parliament is asked to appropriate moneys to meet essential and unavoidable expenditures additional to the appropriations made under Appropriation Acts (Nos 1 and 2) 1979-80. The Additional appropriations total $367.5m. Of this, $323.9m is sought in Appropriation Bill (No. 3) and $43.6m in Appropriation Bill (No. 4). The additional appropriations sought in the Bills are offset to some extent by savings in appropriations made by Appropriations Acts (Nos 1 and 2), resulting partly from the Government’s determined efforts to achieve savings in expenditure wherever possible. These savings, amounting to $ 115.8m, are detailed under the relevant appropriation headings in the document, ‘Statement of Savings Expected in Annual Appropriations’, which has been distributed to honourable members.
Nothwithstanding the additional appropriations now sought, current expectations are that total outlays in 1979-80, including those financed from special appropriations, will exceed the Budget Estimate by only a relatively small margin. This reflects the Government’s continued adherence to its policy of maintaining maximum expenditure restraint. I now outline some of the main areas where the Government has found it necessary to seek additional appropriations in Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 1979-80. Honourable members will recall that the overall Budget figuring contained an allowance of $65m for propective wage and salary rate increase in the Public Service including Defence, but that that amount was not then appropriated. Parliament is now being asked to appropriate $70. lm to meet increases in award rates and other wage and salary costs since the Budget consisting of $32m, civil, and $38. lm, Defence.
Included under administrative expenses votes is $3.2m for the Department of Defence, due to program variations including the Zimbabwe contingent, the training of FFG crews in the United States of America, and to cost increases. An amount of $ 1.5m is required by the Department of Housing and Construction to cover additional expenditure on the engagement of architects, engineers and other consultants on such projects as the Brisbane Airport development, the National Biological Standards Laboratory and the new terminal complex at Coolangatta.
Under the other services heading, $49.4m is sought for the Department of Defence mainly to fund a revised schedule of payments to the United States Department of Defence in relation to the FFG project, and $4 1 . 1 m for the increased cost of fuel and additional purchases arising from decisions on Defence priorities. An additional $12m has been included for the Department of Foreign Affairs in accordance with the Government’s decision to provide $6m in relief aid to Kampuchea, $2m as Australia’s contribution to Timor’s humanitarian relief needs,
Sim to each of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees appeals for refugees from Afghanistan and Zimbabwe and Sim each to Tanzania and Uganda.
Other significant other services provisions include: $2. 1 m for the Department of Administrative Services for general increases in contract rates for removal services and increases in storage services costs, together with Sl.lm to enable donations to the Sir Robert Menzies Memorial Trust to be matched by the Government on a dollar for dollar basis; $2m for the Department of Business and Consumer Affairs relating mainly to a higher level of sales of subsidised products; $4.4m under the Department of Education for cost supplementation of the recurrent program for the Australian National University; $1.6m under the Department of Employment and Youth Affairs to meet additional payments under the Community Youth Support Scheme; $6m under the Department of Health for higher than expected redundancy payments to retrenched Medibank standard staff and salaries payments to surplus staff; a further $3.2m for the Capital Territory Health Commission including additional costs for the construction of Calvary Hospital; $4.1m for the Department of National Development and Energy for payment to the Energy Research Trust Account in place of funds for energy research which are not available for payment to the newly created trust account; $2.8m for the Department of Transport for the net increase in operating costs of the Australian National Railways; $3.6m for the Department of Productivity for increase in subsidy payable on production of Nomad aircraft; and $ 17.2m for the Department of Veterans’ Affairs for increases in medical, dental, pharmaceutical, hospital and ambulance charges, together with increased use of services by veterans. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Willis) adjourned.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation for proposed expenditure announced.
Bill presented by Mr Eric Robinson, and read a first time.
– I move:
I present Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 1979-80 in which appropriations totalling $43. 6m - additional to those made by Appropriation Act (No. 2) 1979-80- are sought for capital works and services, payments to or for the States, and other services. The proposed appropriations are needed to meet essential and unavoidable expenditures for which provision was not made in Appropriation Act (No. 2) 1979-80. I now mention some of the major items in respect of which additional appropriations are sought in the Bill.
An amount of $5. 6m to be provided for the Department of the Capital Territory includes labour and cost increases- $4.6m- which are a Commonwealth liability under the terms and conditions of National Capital Development Commission contracts and additional fees$0.8m on major projects resulting from increased building costs. An amount of $3. 5m is required under the Department of National Development and Energy for the Pipeline Authority, principally in relation to the settlement of a litigation dispute with one of the contractors for the construction of the Moomba-Sydney pipeline. An increase of $5. 6m in working capital is required for the Department of Productivity to finance production of aircraft by the Government Aircraft Factories. Sales are now expected to be finalised early in 1980-81 when a repayment of excess working capital should be possible.
To enable initial payments to be made to the States and the Australian Capital Territory under the first stage of a $250m five-year program and to help school leavers make the transition from school to work, $7m is to be provided under the Department of Education. An amount of $ 10.9m is included under the Department of Finance to provide additional funds necessary to meet the Commonwealth’s contribution towards increased estimated expenditure by the States on natural disaster relief and restoration, mainly in respect of recent disasters, including extension of drought relief arrangements in Western Australia and cyclone activity in Queensland.
Other additional appropriations of significance include: An amount of $1.5m for the Department of Housing and Construction, the major part of which is required as a consequence of faster than anticipated progress with construction of the multi-storey ward block and kitchen at the Repatriation General Hospital at Greenslopes; $1.5m for the Department of National Development and Energy, being the Commonwealth’s share- that is, one-quarter- of additional costs for the Dartmouth Dam incurred by the Murray River Commission; Sim for the Department of Transport to meet cost escalation on committed purchases of capital equipment, relative to provision of airport and airway services; and $1.3m for the Department of the Treasury being additional funds to be provided to the Northern Territory by means of taxsharing entitlement and general purpose capital assistance, following transfer of Executive responsibility for the Northern Territory Supreme Court to the Northern Territory Government on 1 October 1 979. 1 commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Willis) adjourned.
– I move:
The Customs Tariff Proposals I have just tabled relate to proposed alterations to the Customs Tariff Act 1966. On 18 October last year, the Government announced that it had accepted, with some modification, recommendations by the Industries Assistance Commission in its report dated 6 August 1979 on Passenger Motor Vehicles and Components- Import Restrictions, that import restrictions should continue in 1980 and 1981. Quantitative import restrictions, the Commission concluded, provided the only certain means of giving effect to the Government’s market sharing policy which ensures that about 80 per cent of the passenger motor vehicle market is reserved for local producers.
The Government decided that 10,000 units of the total global quota for 1980 would be allocated, on a trial basis, by a tender system. The objectives of the system were to relate quota allocation more closely to the passenger motor vehicle market and allow new entrants into the market to obtain quotas to import vehicles. Five thousand units were allocated by tender in November 1979 and the remaining 5,000 units were allocated on 25 March 1980.
These Proposals provide for the rate of duty which the successful tenders will have to pay on motor vehicles imported as a result of this latest allocation. The new rate of duty for successful tenderers is 131.5 per cent. Successful tenderers were: Addison Motors Pty Ltd, M. S. Brooking Holding Pty Ltd, Chrysler Australia Pty Ltd, Daihatsu Distributors Pty Ltd, LNC Industries Ltd, Mazda Motors Pty Ltd and Westco Australia Pty Ltd.
I sent a reference to the Industries Assistance Commission on 2 1 March this year asking it to inquire and report on:
The operation of the quota tender allocation scheme; the global quota level on imports of fully assembled passenger motor vehicles during 1981; and the principles to be adopted in determining the allocation of quotas to individual importers for 1981, having regard to the Government’s decision that base quota entitlements for 1 98 1 will be based on actual import performance in 1 980.
I have asked the Commission to report within six months. I commend the Proposals to the House.
Debate (on motion by Dr Cass) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 20 March, on motion by Mr Hunt:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, may I have your indulgence to suggest that the House has a general debate covering this Bill and the Airline Equipment (Loan Guarantee) Bill 1980 as they are associated measures. Separate questions, will of course, be put on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate.
– Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering these measures? There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.
– I will deal with the Qantas Airways Limited (Loan Guarantee) Bill before the suspension of the sitting for dinner and the accompanying Bill, the Airline Equipment (Loan Guarantee) Bill, after dinner. The purpose of the Qantas Airways Limited (Loan Guarantee) Bill is to authorise the Treasurer (Mr Howard) to guarantee borrowings raised by Qantas Airways Ltd to finance the purchase of four Boeing 747 series aircraft. The Minister for Transport (Mr Hunt), in his second reading speech, said that a fifth aircraft was to be financed from internal resources. In last Saturday morning’s Press there are reports of the cancellation of a $60m sale of two earlier model Boeing 747 aircraft by Qantas. I would be grateful if the Minister, in his reply later in the debate, would indicate the bearing that the cancellation of that sale would have on the method of financing the total purchase of the five aircraft. One could glean from the Minister’s remarks in his second reading speech that the $60m proceeds from the sale of the two old aircraft were to be used for the purchase of a fifth aircraft in the series of five to be bought.
In accordance with past practice the guarantee is limited to 80 per cent of the total purchase price of the aircraft, spare pans and associated equipment. This represents $US230m or its equivalent in foreign currencies. Whereas the provision of the guarantee does not involve a cash outlay by the Government it does create a contingent liability for the Commonwealth. In essence it is a routine piece of legislation which is not opposed by the Opposition. However, the Opposition is concerned by the recent Press speculation concerning the financial state of Qantas. This itself, points to the fact that the Government in presenting this Bill- and I have made this point time and time again on every occasion that a loan guarantee Bill! has come before the Parliament because it involves the people of Australia in a contingent financial liability- has not given the Parliament any information on the financial performances of Qantas at the present time or over the past year. Nor are any details provided of the interest rates.
There has been considerable discussion around the globe, particularly in the United States of America, in respect of interest rates to be paid by Ansett Airlines of Australia on loans being made by the Export-Import Bank of the United States. I will come to this matter after the suspension of the sitting for dinner. It is appropriate in this kind of discussion where a public liability is involved that the interest rates should be disclosed. Qantas Airways Limited is an important Australian industry owned by the Australian people and administered by the Australian Government. It has a world wide reputation for its high quality of operation. This year is its sixtieth year of operation.
– It is the best airline in the world.
– As the Minister says, it is the best airline in the world; as Sir Freddie Laker says, it is an international airline par excellence. Its total assets at 31 March 1979 were $703m. It provides services to 33 cities across a span of 25 countries on the globe. It employed staff at that date of some 13,379. Its revenue in 1974 of $3 10m more than doubled by 1979 to $744m. But the point should be stressed that Qantas is simply a publicly owned transport enterprise operating in a difficult international environment. Its sole shareholder is the Australian Government on behalf of the Australian people. Because of the lack of information provided by the Minister or the Government on the performance of Qantas I have no alternative but to refer to a rather detailed report that appeared in the Australian Financial Review of 18 February. The writer of that article, Mr Ali Cromie, the transport writer of the Australian Financial Review, obviously had access to a great deal of information to which neither the Opposition nor the Parliament has access.
The article pointed to the possible loss facing Qantas this year of some $30m. It stated that losses were expected to result largely from extraordinary items such as net unrealised exchange losses which already show at $22. 8m on Qantas ‘s books. The final loss figure, it is stated, will represent a major turnabout in the airline’s operating results. For instance, in 1978-79 Qantas showed an operating profit of $22.7m. The article states the major contributing factors as being airline operating costs and within that heading mainly fuel and labour costs. It refers to low yield airfares being set too low. It refers to high load factors needed on all low fare air routes not being achieved on a year round basis. It refers to the Government’s failure in the area of strict capacity of control of other airlines to stop poaching of third and fourth freedom traffic.
The former Minister for Transport was very long on rhetoric but very short on action when it came to international airfare discounting. We well remember some of the declarations he made in relation to ACTU-Jetset when he sent in the police and the Commonwealth raiders to the offices of ACTU-Jetset a couple of years ago. Despite all the rhetoric, all the noise and all the bluster, the Department of Transport under the administration of the Minister has not produced one prosecution- not one. It is a case of” all noise and no action. It must be remembered that the people who are able to get access to underthecounter discount fares are being subsidised by all those other people who travel and who pay the regular fares. The article I referred to earlier stated that this was a factor in preventing Qantas from completely implementing its new airfare package to Europe. This article was written prior to the recent announcement by the Minister of the conclusion of new arrangements in respect of the United Kingdom, West Germany and Italy.
The article said that Qantas had failed to attract the high load factors necessary to make the airfares an economic proposition, that an 80 per cent load factor is needed to make low fares work and that in fact Qantas had achieved a load factor of something of the order of 6 1 .3 per cent, a level that is not sufficient to cover costs and provide an adequate margin for return. The article went on to state that Qantas ‘s fuel bill doubled from $104m in 1978-79 to a forecasted $208m for 1 979-80. that fuel costs represent 50 per cent of hourly operating costs compared with only 26 per cent in the previous year and that this also was a major factor in increases in airfares. In fact a spokesman for Qantas was quoted as saying:
Cheap fares because of oil price rises have ended. People will look al the Australian cheap fares era as a brief breeze.
I make the point that there has been a total lack of information. This kind of detail can be made available to a newspaper reporter who obviously has greater standing and is held in greater trust than the Parliament of Australia. It is a most unsatisfactory situation. It is a situation that the Opposition will not tolerate and on every occasion and at every opportunity we will draw attention to it until such time as the facts on the airline industry are all brought out into the open, until such time as we can discuss, debate and develop airline policies based upon fact, not upon exaggerations or misinformation.
I have to repeat that the only shareholder in Qantas is the Australian Government. Therefore it is always under the control of the government of the day. Its financial directive comes from the government of the day and the ultimate responsibility for its operations, decisions and fare levels rests with the Government, not Qantas. It is a nice easy shield for Government supporters to hide behind, but it does not help their Minister one iota. In fact it disadvantages him considerably. It would be better if it was recognised that Qantas is the tool of government policy and that international airline agreements are agreements between the government in this country and governments in other countries. The airline concerned, whether it is Alitalia, Lufthansa or Qantas, happens to be the transport enterprise of that country operating within the confines of the international airline agreement that has been developed between the respective countries. Qantas is not a statutory corporation; it is a private company registered under the Queensland Companies Act.
I said a couple of weeks ago in respect of the last announced increases in international airfares- increases of up to 22 per cent- that several serious questions needed answering by the Government. To date the Minister has not answered them. Why did he release these announcements- the good news under his name, the bad news by some poor abject anonymous spokesman for the Department- at 9 o’clock on a Saturday night, as I said last week, like a thief in the night? Why has the Government taken so long to develop a new set of arrangements with the Italian Government? Why is there such an utter paucity of information? I have dealt with that subject in relation to Qantas ‘s own accounts here. It is not enough, and it is not going to be enough, for airlines or governments to put out Press statements and simply say that fuel prices have caused such-and-such an increase or that fuel prices are the factors. The fact as I understand it is that fuel prices, sure, are a component in increased costs but the opportunity is also being taken by international airlines and by the International Air Transport Association -
– About a third.
-The Minister says about a third of the increase. But the opportunity has been taken by IATA and other international airlines to lump in together under the umbrella of fuel cost increases other alterations and the Australian people and certainly this Parliament should be told of those alterations and changes.
I might mention in passing in respect of fares that the Minister announced for the trip between Sydney-Melbourne and London-Rome on 28 March, that I am sure quite a lot of people will be wondering why it is the cheapest fare in the world between Rome and London. If one looks at the Apex scale of fares one finds that to go Sydney-Melbourne to Rome return is only $4 cheaper than to go Sydney-Melbourne to London return. So even taking into account the fact that airlines might follow different tracks because of some year round seasonal changes and so on, this must be the cheapest bit of travel anywhere in the world in history. The return fare difference is only $4 as between Rome and London. One can interpret that in two ways. First, it has already been put to me that the London fare is too low. Alternatively, it has been very strongly put to me that the fare to Italy is too high and that what the Government in fact is doing is continuing the discrimination that it has exercised over the past 1 5 months in respect of people travelling to Italy.
I turn for a moment to the purchase of the B747-SP aircraft which will replace the chartered Air New Zealand DC8 aircraft. The Minister stated in his second reading speech that the operating costs of the new B747-SP aircraft would be the same as those of the Air New Zealand DC8. However, the SP can seat 336, compared with 150 for the DC8. Regularly we hear reports of domestic airlines wishing to extend their services to near foreign countries. These proposals are worthy of public examination, if only to establish the facts and to show what benefits, if any, could be made available to travellers and to Australia as a nation. For years the United Kingdom and United States governments have followed the procedure, when applications are made by companies for new licences to fly internationally, of holding a public hearing.
Qantas charters the DC8 aircraft from Air New Zealand and the whole exercise produces some interesting information. Qantas asked Trans-Australia Airlines and Ansett to quote for the chartering of that aircraft. I understand that the charter rates submitted by TAA and Ansett were considerably above those quoted by the successful tenderer, Air New Zealand, which operates 727-200s. The Minister stated in his second reading speech that Qantas, by using its own B747-SPs, would be able to carry 124 per cent more passengers than it would by using the DC8, for the same operating costs. We must, then, question the claims by TAA and Ansett of their ability to offer benefits to travellers by entering the near foreign country air services. It is regrettable that so often over-simplification confuses the difficulties associated with arranging international airline agreements, as the former Minister for Transport learnt the hard way in dealing with the Association of South East Asian Nations.
I turn for a moment to an article on international aviation in the Economist of 18 August 1979. It describes the complexities and problems associated with international airline agreements in a fairly apt way, as follows:
There can never be a genuinely free market in international aviation, for there are strong foreign-policy elements in operating a state-owned and state-financed airline (as almost all international airlines are): flag-waving aside, they are genuinely pan of a nation ‘s foreign trade.
That is the point that must be emphasised. International travel, much as we desire it, tends at times to be considered in isolation from the fact that it is but another commodity in the total basket of foreign trade. It is unfortunate that public expectations of international air services, raised by unsubstantiated statements of hopeful entrants, lead to confusion and disappointment. The Government’s intention that Qantas continue to operate the service to near foreign ports is evident from the Minister’s remarks in respect of the Boeing 747-SP and by the provision of a government guarantee to finance its purchase.
Probably, the attraction for domestic airlines to go international is the tax exemption on fuel purchases for international routes. Yet the domestic airlines reject the proposal that the wasted Qantas capacity, something of the order of 2,000 seats each week across Australia, should be utilised to the benefit of air travellers. If there is to be a reappraisal of the role of domestic operators, and of the international operator, it ought to be done in the context of a full discussion with all information and fact brought out into the open. If there is to be a change of policy it should be done in that way and not by a piecemeal approach in which only bits and fringes are looked at in isolation from the actual facts.
I repeat that international airline agreements are difficult to negotiate. They have a standing in international affairs akin to that of a treaty. However, on a global basis almost every country requires a half share of airline traffic into or out of its territory. Tremendous store is being placed on a rapid and continuing increase in tourist traffic to Australia. Some increase has occurred but I advance a note of caution. Earlier forecasts will need to be revised in light of the level of escalation of international air fares which, as the Minister has said, have risen mainly as a result of increased fuel costs.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
-In the second half of my speech in this cognate debate I want to refer to the Airline Equipment (Loan Guarantee) Bill 1 980. The purpose of this Bill is to enable the Treasurer, on behalf of the Commonwealth, to guarantee borrowings abroad by Ansett Transport Industries (Operations) Pty Ltd up to a limit of $US 12.2m or its equivalent to finance the purchase of Ansett ‘s twelfth Boeing 727 series 200 aircraft. I have made the point before in this Parliament that because this type of legislation involves the Australian Government in a contingent financial liability and because clause 5 of the Bill makes provision for officers of the Commonwealth Public Service to have full access at all reasonable times to the financial accounts of Ansett Transport Industries Ltd and Ansett Transport Industries (Operations) Pty Ltd, the Parliament should be presented with proper detail of the operations of the companies and the circumstances that lead to a justification of a public guarantee being given in the borrowing of funds abroad. Again that information has not been presented, and again we have had a scant minute and a half speech from the Minister for Transport (Mr Hunt). That is completely unacceptable to the Opposition, and it is certainly becoming unacceptable to the Australian community.
There are a number of matters I want to touch on in the short time that is available. I mention firstly, and this is relevant to the Bill, a seminar at Mount Isa which I attended for the last Friday afternoon session. The major domestic airlines,
East- West Airlines Ltd, Bush Pilots Airways Ltd, the tourist and aviation industry, the Department of Transport, the State Opposition in Queensland and the Federal Opposition were represented. I simply say that it was an excellent seminar, and I offer congratulations to those who were associated with the organisation of it, including the Mount Isa Council. It was handled very well. I thought it was a pity that it was not conducted in a capital city, where there would have been much greater Press exposure. The kind of exchange that took place at that seminar could only be in the public interest and could only develop a wider public appreciation of the problems and difficulties associated with running airlines and the opportunities offered to improve airline services and costs. It is regrettable that at that seminar the Premier of Queensland was not represented, and it was the unanimous decision of all those present that he be advised by telegram of the disappointment of those attending the seminar because the provision of country air services in Queensland was expected to be at issue.
The Bill deals with the provision of a financial guarantee and therefore, as I said, if we are to consider the justification for that guarantee one needs to look at the financial objectives of the airlines and their financial performance. The Opposition is seriously concerned at a report in today’s Age dealing with the financial objectives of Trans-Australia Airlines and a statement by Sir Robert Law-Smith, the Chairman of TAA, that a higher dividend target for TAA would be strenuously opposed. The dividend target, or financial objective, as it is known in the jargon, is set by this Government. If I recall correctly it was increased from 10 per cent to 15 per cent in 1976. Certainly the pressure that is coming now, because of TAA ‘s part in the two-airline policy, for a higher dividend objective has the tandem benefit that any increases in fares that go to achieve that higher profit objective go likewise to Ansett Transport Industries. That is to the detriment and not to the benefit of air travellers. It makes public transport more expensive, and it is really about trying to finance the inflated prices that were paid for Ansett shares in the wheeling and dealing on the stock exchanges around Australia last year. I said at the beginning of that incident and throughout it that in no circumstances should air travellers in this country be called upon to finance the stock exchange punting of speculators on the exchange. The price of Ansett shares went from $1.06 in February of last year to the current price on offer of $2.50. The airline has not improved its performance sufficiently to justify those figures over recent times, and I want to make that point very clear as far as the Opposition is concerned.
Another matter that concerns me, again relating to the finances of the company, is a report in today’s Australian Financial Review dealing with what is called the spreading of Ansett ‘s wings under their new captains and the involvement of ATI in the arrangement of finance for the Bond group. It may be that the company has made a profit in this case in arranging financial accommodation for the Bond group, but as far as the Parliament and the public are concerned, airlines are part of the civil aviation network. They were created and developed to provide public transport services in this country. Because TAA and Ansett have a privileged and protected position under the two-airline policy of successive conservative governments, because they have a protected and privileged position in one of the few profitable areas of our public transport system, they have a heavy responsibility to give a full account to the Parliament and to the people of their financial performance and of their operating efficiencies. When I see those kinds of reports coming forward I am concerned at what is in store for air travellers in this country.
That leads me to make a simple comparison. The former Minister for Transport jumped the profit objective or financial objective of TAA by 50 per cent, from 10 per cent to 15 per cent. If we look at what happened to air fares under that same Minister, we find that eight fare increases were rubber stamped from 1976, giving a cumulative total increase of 50 per cent. Let me give a couple of examples. These show that between 1 1 November 1975 and the time of the answer to this question, which was received today, the economy fare between Sydney and Melbourne rose by 54.8 per cent; the fare between Sydney and Brisbane by 54. 1 per cent; the fare between Melbourne and Hobart- it gets the prize- by 57.3 per cent; and the fare between Melbourne and Adelaide by 56.4 per cent. There is no accountability, no facts, no nothing. The increases have just been rubber stamped. In those kinds of conditions there has been little incentive for the airlines to seek increased profits through innovative efficiency. On a calendar basis, the maximum time for examination of air fare increase applications has been 24 days, the minimum period eight days. If one takes out weekends and holidays, two or three hard pressed departmental officers have had in some cases only three days to handle a complicated application, with a mass of detail to be considered if it was to be accurately examined. Given the complexity the airline and non-airline activities of TAA and Ansett, a thorough examination could not be made in the time available.
As I have said on so many occasions, for too long air fares increases and decisions affecting the industry have been left to this cosy little club of the industry and the departmental bureaucrats. Their deliberations have been shrouded in secrecy, to the exclusion of air travel consumers. This secrecy has prevented comparative efficiency tests of the performance of Ansett and TAA particularly in areas such as direct operating costs, airport rentals, seat reservation costs, refreshments costs and load factors. That is the very information this Government and the Minister at the table, the Minister for Transport, have refused to supply to Parliament, asserting that the information is confidential. However, I know that the information is available individually from the airlines. By denying Parliament these details, the Government has prevented effective public scrutiny of airline costs and performance. Yet these are the costs the airlines use to justify their air fare increases in the back room discussions with the Department. The privilege and position that Ansett and TAA occupy in the public transport system carry a heavy responsibility of full public accountability for financial and operational performance.
Let me move now into the public arena and deal with the institution of a public inquiry into air fares. For some two and a half years we have been pressing for a public investigation into the aviation industry and, in recent times, more specifically into the base domestic air fare structure. The Government and the Minister have been forced into a position where they have capitulated to the growing public concern at costs within the industry and what are seen as anomalies within the industry. The Opposition welcomes the establishment of an inquiry in that at least it is a move towards increased public accountability by the major airlines. However, political expediency should not result in the inquiry’s report being delayed until after the coming election. Had the Opposition’s call for a public inquiry been heeded in 1 977, air travellers would now be enjoying the benefits the present inquiry hopes to achieve. If the inquiry is to have any degree of effectiveness, it must include in its considerations the following: A wide-ranging analysis of all aspects of airline costs, revenues and operations; the effect of non-airline activities on airline efficiency and financial performance; the likely impact on domestic air fares of any extension of domestic airline operations into foreign countries; the advantages to be gained from utilising current wasted capacity of our international air carrier on internal routes; the unfairness or otherwise of the existing base formula used to calculate domestic air fares; increased airline productivity; increased load factors; first-class fare differentials; increased profits from past performance; and the cost relationship for cents per kilometre travelled between short, medium and long distances.
I accept the Minister’s assurance that a public inquiry will occur, but it will be completely unacceptable to the Australian community if that inquiry- when unknown, by whom unknown, terms of reference unknown and reporting date unknown- is used as a device to try to head off public pressure on the Government and public dissatisfaction with the air fare system generally until after the coming election, whenever the election is held. There is only one way to keep this Government honest and to ensure that the information it needs comes forward readily so that the inquiry can be conducted responsibly and expeditiously. The only way to ensure that is to freeze domestic air fares until the inquiry reports. That is what we believe must be done if the interests of air travellers are to be protected. Then the Government, the Department of Transport- with its hard-pressed officers- and the airlines will have a very strong incentive to get busy and to provide the information.
Let me draw an example of what is happening with regard to the same subject. On 22 December last year, I think the Minister announced that the Department of Transport, after 18 months of considering the domestic aviation review committee’s report, had got around to writing a letter to the domestic airlines, TAA and Ansett. It had 1 8 months to look at the report, to read it and to consider it. After very heavy consideration involving heavy decision-making it wrote a letter. As I understand the position at the moment from the intelligence that the Minister makes available to me through the Department, his officers are not making very much headway with the two airlines concerned. That is not a criticism of the officers concerned. It is a criticism of the system. If that is the case, as I understand it to be, the Minister and the Department should be making that point clear to the Parliament, and that is why putting a freeze -
– We are making excellent progress. Whoever told you that was misinformed.
– In that case the Minister ought to be able to tell us now, 14 days after the event, who will constitute the inquiry into air fares, what it will look at, where it will operate from and when it will report. Let us have a little fact and a little less fiction on air fares from the Minister and from this Government. The setting up of an inquiry into air fares is no substitute for proper public accountability of the activities of airlines in this country and for the cosy little deals that have gone on historically- not with this Minister, I say in his defence, but with his predecessors. It took three days to approve an air fare. One look at the departmental reports will show that an air fare was approved before it was actually lodged formally. That is the kind of expedition the Department could provide.
I have made our point clear on that: Air fares should be frozen to ensure that the inquiry is comprehensive and is conducted responsibly. I conclude by drawing the Minister’s attention to a report in today’s Australian Financial Review entitled: ‘US bank warned on “naive” Ansett loan’. He can read that article. What we on this side of the chamber are concerned about is that a reading of that article and an understanding of what is happening in the United States could be interpreted as a reflection on the business practices of companies in this country. I do not think it is a reflection which this Government would want- the Opposition certainly does not want it- and it is not the kind of reflection we ought to have on our nation as a whole. As I have said, the Opposition does not oppose either of these two Bills.
-The Qantas Airways Limited (Loan Guarantee) Bill and the Airline Equipment (Loan Guarantee) Bill are two Bill titles that come before this House fairly regularly. They are Bills by which the Government guarantees the loans extended to the airlines of Australia to purchase aircraft from overseas. In these cases we are looking at the purchase of four, possibly five, Boeing 747s for Qantas Airways Ltd and a new Boeing 727-200 series aircraft with long-range tank facilities for Ansett Airlines of Australia. As a result of the speech of the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris) I would like to comment on a couple of points before I refer specifically to the Bills.
I think all honourable members are particularly pleased that the new Minister for Transport (Mr Hunt) has seen fit to introduce this review of domestic aviation fares. In recent months he has shown a very great flexibility in regard to the domestic airlines system. I would like to make just one plea to him- I suppose that in some respects it is in support of what the honourable member for Shortland said- that any review of the domestic fare structure take into account many of the vested interests in the aviation industry. Certainly the public should be represented. Certainly the tourist industry should be represented. I too would hate to see a situation where Ansett Airlines of Australia, TransAustralia Airlines, Qantas Airways Ltd and the Department of Transport, which constitute the aviation review committee, did the review by themselves.
I believe that unfortunately over many years now virtually a closed shop has existed with regard to many of the decisions that are made concerning the expansion and the development of aviation policy in Australia. I would also be interested to hear from the Minister at the end of this debate an explanation of exactly what happened with regard to the sale by Qantas of two Boeing 747s to Eastern Airlines. When flying into Canberra this week through Sydney I noticed that one 747B which has been painted in Eastern Airlines colours has been sitting on the tarmac for more than a week. One wonders exactly what the situation is because I understand that it can cost up to $250,000 to repaint a Boeing 747. One hopes that Qantas will not be lumbered with that expense if the sale has fallen through.
These two Bills are being debated concurrently tonight. In many respects, I suppose, that is an interesting exercise in regard to a number of things that are happening in the aviation industry in Australia at the moment. We are dealing specifically with Boeing 747Bs, Boeing 747SPs and Boeing 727-200 series jets with long-range tanks. I understand that the proposed purchase by Ansett of Boeing 727-200 series aircraft with long-range tanks has some implications, possibly of Ansett, or the domestic airlines generally, extending into some of the regional routes. In my State of Queensland at the moment there is a great deal of excitement and interest in the proposal, which I understand has been put forward by Ansett and which certainly has been floated in the Press by Ansett, to introduce a TownsvilleDarwinSingapore service. This is the first time that, in any major respect, a domestic airline has looked at going into regional routes. I am the first to admit that I believe the proposition has some very great merit. I think that that proposal has some merit as a cost-saving operation for Qantas, if for no other reasons.
Recently I was reading the Department of Transport’s annual report. In table 7 of the appendixes on page 8 under ‘International passenger city pair analysis’ I found some interesting things concerning the present Qantas service between Singapore and Darwin and return. The latest figures available, those for 1978-79, point out that the total traffic in and out of Darwin for the last financial year amounted to 23,043 passengers. If we break down that official table from the Department of Transport we notice that of that figure 3,209 passengers went to Bali, 18 went to Jakarta and 6,308 went to Europe. That leaves a total figure for DarwinSingaporeDarwin traffic of 13,436 passengers for the year. That is an arrival and departure figure. If we take half of that figure for each Qantas service operating out of Singapore- it was the only airline undertaking that service during the financial year- we find that the total traffic each way was 6,218 passengers. As there is one service a week direct we will divide that figure by 52. If my mathematics are correct, that gives 1 19 passengers per flight on the Qantas service to Singapore. On a Boeing 747B configured to accommodate 415 passengers, that would give Qantas a load factor on that flight of 27 per cent. I do not think it would be humanly possible for any airline to operate a Boeing 747B on that service with a 27 per cent load factor. However, that scale and that analysis probably makes the proposition of Ansett or another domestic airline moving into that service even more attractive. By using the Boeing 727-200 series aircraft, the airlines would obviously operate at near full loads. The economies of using Boeing 727 in that situation would obviously be much better than using the 747B aircraft at a 27 per cent load factor.
But even more important than that, such a change would help the development of the tourism industry in North Queensland. During my time as chairman of the House of Representatives Select Committee on Tourism we had quite an in-depth investigation of the possibility of opening up northern Australia for international tourists. The proposition was put and proved to us that the most desirable destinations for overseas visitors contemplating visiting Australia were, firstly, the Great Barrier Reef in North Queensland and, secondly, Ayers Rock.
– Bondi, of course, gets tremendous international publicity and has tremendous international appeal. I know that the honourable member for Phillip has a great deal to do with that and later this year will have a promotion under way for Bondi beach. I come back to the proposition of the Great Barrier Reef and Ayers Rock being prime tourist markets. The point that came to note in particular was that although those two places were the most desirable destinations, only 4 per cent of international visitors managed to visit the Great Barrier Reef and only 2 per cent managed to get to Central Australia. The problem was, of course, that most international flights come into Sydney. Even with the discounts that have been announced, it is still a very expensive proposition- just too much for overseas visitors to spend- to visit North Queensland or Ayers Rock. So the proposition is that such a service operating through the north of Australia would not dilute any of the present Qantas traffic. It would be new traffic. It would be new money for those areas.
Another argument has been put that the Government would have to provide full immigration and Customs facilities in Townsville. There are some limited facilities there at the moment but I would think that with the staff and the facilities available in Darwin, all Customs clearances and immigration procedures for such a service could well be done in Darwin, which really would not put the Commonwealth to terribly much more expense. After an aircraft coming into Australia had been cleared at Darwin, it could then proceed on its journey to Townsville virtually as a domestic flight. So for those reasons, I really cannot see that there is any basic in logic for not letting the domestic airlines operate such a regional route.
The other argument that is put up against the proposal is that if the domestic airlines got one particular route they would want quite a few others, and that, in fact, Qantas is the designated international carrier, and I have no qualms about that. But the interesting thing is that in most of the bilateral agreements that have been negotiated between the Australian Government and overseas governments, there is provision for another Australian carrier to move into that market. In actual fact, the terms of the agreements are usually couched in terms of the ‘national airline of Australia’ or ‘airlines’. That would obviously open the way if the need existed for a domestic carrier or another carrier to go in, once again without diluting the Qantas traffic.
The other area that is interesting in terms of the regional routes is the situation that has developed in Papua New Guinea. With Qantas now operating all Boeing 747 services, I understand that very great difficulty is being encountered by the Papua New Guinea authorities in dispersing the 747 traffic that comes into Port Moresby. The connecting flights there are usually serviced by Fokker F28 aircraft and the domestic carriage is being strained to the limit by the large numbers of people being dropped off at Port Moresby.
Maybe there is a need there to allow the domestic carriers to fly into Papua New Guinea as well. I do not think there is any doubt about the economic benefit of Qantas converting to an all 747 fleet. Indeed, for long haul routes it makes a great deal of sense. But I suppose that we need flexibility. On certain routes and on some of those not so well patronised routes, particularly around the Pacific Islands, there obviously could well be an opportunity to allow either of the domestic carriers to operate and thus make more efficient use of the equipment that they have. Certainly in terms of tourism, the idea of a circuit trip with people perhaps flying into Sydney on Qantas, then travelling up into north Queensland and out of Australia through Singapore would be a tremendous incentive to international tour operators and tour packagers to start selling more of Australia. There is absolutely nothing that a travel agent or a tour packager dislikes more than having to back-track his clients. He wants to keep his clients going in a circle. The circle fare can be cheaper for any international visitor who may come into the country and, in fact, can be a much more pleasant proposition for him. It could certainly assist the greatly increased international promotion of Australia’s tourist industry that Australia is undertaking overseas at the moment. After all, the tourist industry is a growth industry in Australia. Although I have been critical of many of the conditions that have surrounded the new advance purchase excursion fares, I do not think any of us can deny that the increase in the number of international tourists coming to Australia has been beyond our wildest imaginations. I understand that there has been a better than 30 per cent increase in the number of visitors coming to this country during 1979.
However, that has proved one thing- that we do have some very real troubles in Sydney. Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport, the tourist facilities and hotel facilities in Sydney are suffering because of this increase in tourist traffic. They are strained to the limit. In fact, it is almost impossible now to get a hotel room in Sydney. I would also like to congratulate the Minister for Transport on one move he has made- that is, in encouraging some of the foreign airlines coming to Australia to use other gateways. I know there has been a move to get some of them into Melbourne. I read in the newspaper today that Thai International, I think, is to start its service into Melbourne on Friday. This will relieve the pressure on Sydney Airport early in the morning. It will also open up Victoria as a gateway State. I sincerely hope that once the new Brisbane international airport is finished, encouragement will be given to foreign airlines and, indeed, to Qantas to try to use that gateway more and more. After all, Queensland is the leading tourist State in Australia.
– I don’t agree with that.
– It is the leading tourist State in Australia. I think the figures prove it and the desirability of Queensland to overseas visitors is certainly beyond doubt.
– If we get the Barrier Reef connection it will be even better.
– If we do get the Barrier Reef connection it will be even better. I would certainly like the Minister to confirm that Ansett Airlines has applied for a proving flight for that Boeing 727 service on 1 8 April. I understand that that request is going to the Minister’s Department. If it is permitted it will certainly prove that technically the operation can be carried out quite well. I sincerely believe that there is a lot of scope there to open up the north. Certainly the people of north Queensland are most anxious that that service get under way. The flexibility that is coming into the airline system now is encouraging. If these investigations can be undertaken, if we can prove the point that although a regional route may be suitable only for a DC3 or that a particular route may be suitable only for a Concorde, we should not just clam up and say that that route should be operated only by Qantas. We should get a little flexibility into those routes. I am sure that we will see a tremendous tourist boom. We will see people moving through the more remote areas of the country. Of course, one of the great advantages of tourism is that it is a very good vehicle for development and decentralisation. Certainly as the year develops we hope that we will see more and more international tourists travelling around Australia.
The only other point I would like to comment on tonight- it was mentioned briefly by the honourable member for Shortland during his address- is the suggested $2 5 m to $30m loss that might be taken by Qantas Airways Ltd this year. I notice that there are a number of factors suggested by Qantas for this loss. One of them is the increase in its charges, especially its fuel charges. I suppose that it is hard to argue with that. The second point that I think has not been mentioned in the House is the tremendous debt that has been incurred by Qantas in the development of its new headquarters in Sydney- a project which I understand was started in about 1968 and which is still not complete. Originally, it was supposed to cost something like $8m or $9m and the cost is now being quoted as $70m or $80m. I would like to know, from any of the annual reports that come in, just how much of that cost is involved in the overall Qantas loss this year.
Finally Qantas has been saying that it has received some bad advice in terms of its overseas borrowings. I believe the figure was quoted at about $22. 8m for this year. Those borrowings related to a loan in Japanese yen that was negotiated in September 1979 and a $50m loan in Swiss francs in 1972. 1 think there was a further loan in 1974 of something like 85 million Swiss francs. The only thing that worries me about that is that I believe the advice for those loans may have had to come from the Department of the Treasury.
I wonder whether the Minister would look at the possibility of Qantas going into the loan market and negotiating its own loans. It may be more beneficial to do so. I wonder just how much a part that Treasury influence should play in what is a government company although it is a public company in terms .of the fact that it is listed on the Queensland stock exchange. That in itself leads me to some concern that Qantas may have received some very bad advice in the negotiation of those loans in Japanese yen and Swiss francs. I understand that the Qantas report will be coming out in the not too distant future. I am sure we are all looking forward to seeing just what its operating record has been during the last 12 months.
Once again I would like to reiterate my congratulations to the Minister for having that review undertaken into domestic air fares. I sincerely hope that it will be an open and clear review and it will allow people from all walks of life and from all areas of the industries associated with aviation to have their input in what must be one of the most dynamic and vital industries in Australia today.
-This evening we are discussing cognately the Qantas Airways Limited (Loan Guarantee) Bill 1980 and the Airline Equipment (Loan Guarantee) Bill 1980. The purpose of both those Bills is to provide guarantees for Australia’s overseas airline, Qantas Airways Ltd, and one of the internal airlines, Ansett Airlines of Australia, to purchase new equipment. We are providing a guarantee for Qantas to raise money to buy five Boeing 747 aircraft. With Ansett we are guaranteeing loans of up to 80 per cent for it to buy a 727-200 type Boeing aircraft. I think that it is quite indicative of the Australian Government’s attitude to the aircraft industry in Australia that the Commonwealth Government does guarantee those loans. I am sure that all honourable members have read some of the Press articles in recent weeks which indicate that the United States Senate in some ways is having second thoughts about the loan borrowings of Ansett Transport Industries to purchase some of its fleet re-equipment.
With the Qantas loan, I feel we have to look at the second reading speech of the Minister for Transport (Mr Hunt). He said that Qantas would be purchasing five aircraft, one of which would be financed from Qantas ‘s internal sources. He went on to say that the proceeds from the sale of some of the older aircraft which Qantas had, a number of older 747-200 type Boeing aircraft, would be used towards the funding of the acquisition of the fifth aircraft. In the Sydney Morning Herald of 29 March 1980 some doubts were raised as to whether Qantas would be able to sell those surplus aircraft. In an article under the byline of David Robertson, the Sydney Morning Herald’s transport reporter, the opening paragraph stated:
Qantas is facing a serious financial loss this year because of the collapse of a deal worth an estimated $60 million for the purchase of two Qantas jumbo jets by the US airline, Eastern Airlines.
He went on to outline precisely why Eastern Airlines had failed to pick up its option to buy the two Qantas aircraft and made a few explanations for it. I hope that when the Minister replies to the Opposition he will outline what has happened with that deal because it seems quite clear from his speech that if Qantas intends to raise that money from internal funds, the loss of a $60m deal could be a heavy contributing factor to whether Qantas will make or will not make a profit this year.
The Airline Equipment (Loan Guarantee) Bill relates to Ansett and the borrowings that the Commonwealth Government is willing to guarantee for Ansett under the two airline policy. Honourable members would have seen recently a Press release from Ansett Transport Industries and a joint statement by its joint managing director, Sir Peter Abeles and Mr Rupert Murdoch. In that statement Ansett Transport Industries stated that it was having a sweeping fleet reorganisation which involved by far the largest aircraft purchase ever made by an Australian domestic airline. The statement went on to detail that in ensuing years Ansett would be buying 21 additional aircraft, all jet aircraft and all purchased from the Boeing company of the United States. That was the funding for those aircraft to which I referred earlier in the articles appearing in the Australian Press regarding what was said to be an unprecedented move by the Export-Import Bank of the United States guaranteeing Ansett Transport Industries a loan at 8 per cent interest, which anyone would agree is a very low rate of interest.
Ansett has said that it will be buying five Boeing 767s which will come into operation between November 1 982 and November 1 983; that it will be purchasing 12 737-200 series Boeing twin jets which will come into operation between July 1981 and June 1982; and four advanced Boeing 727-200 long range jets which will come into operation in Australia at a later date which was not indicated. Of course, we all would be aware that Trans-Australia Airlines has recently agreed to purchase a number of the A300 Airbus which will be bought from a European syndicate made up mainly of the British aerospace industry and the French aerospace industry. There has been no direction by the Government on this which I would say is fortuitous in a fashion. I believe that the Government should have taken a closer interest in what is happening in the airline industry in Australia.
It would seem to me that to move away from the proposal that we had in the past where there was a sympathy of equipment between the two major internal operators and a sympathy of training aids, maintenance, spare parts, et cetera, is not really in the best interests of the Australian air traveller. Indeed in Ansett’s Press release it was indicated that Ansett was going to purchase 2 1 new aircraft. The Ansett Press release stated that it was regrettable from the viewpoint of economies associated with common spares holdings that both airlines had not selected the same type of aircraft. It would seem to me that this is not only regrettable but extremely unfortunate for those people who are travelling by aircraft in Australia. We have lost the chance to have a common store operation- maybe a common holding company- to provide maintenance, training and flight crew operations which could be instituted if both of the major internal airlines operated the same equipment.
Given the present hysterical approach of the Government in relation to foreign affairs- we do not know whether we will be going to war today or tomorrow- I do not think that we should get away from the fact that the internal airline system of Australia is an integral part of the second level of Australia’s defence operation. To allow the major private enterprise operator and the major government operator in this field to buy conflicting types of equipment is not in the best long term interests of Australia. Indeed, if we were cut off from spare parts utilisation from overseas we could find that the age-old process that we go through in these cirumstances of cannibalising equipment would not be satisfactory. I hope that the Government will give some cognisance to that in future when major programs for re-equipment of the internal airline services are under consideration. I believe that if both internal operators were running the same type of equipment there would be economies of scale in that operation, which would be of assistance to the people of Australia, who are paying quite exorbitant fares under the internal airlines system.
It has been put to me by some of my colleagues who have been fortunate to travel overseas that a trip between Sydney and Perth is as expensive as a trip from Sydney to the west coast of the United States of America. Australia is a country of vast distances, but if overseas operators can provide a flight at a lower cost than it costs one to go from Sydney to Perth, it is really an indictment of the two-airline policy. If that is one of the excesses of the two-airline policy, I do not think that that is in the best interests of people in Australia. I think we have to look at the reasons why the airlines are re-equipping with this divergence of equipment. TAA has said that it feels that the market has expanded at such a rate that it can take on board the large numbers of people who will use an A300 aircraft. Ansett has said that it does not feel that there is a necessity for an aircraft of that size. One wonders what role the Government has played in those negotiations. If there is a diversity of opinion and if, as the private operator says, TAA has bought itself an aeroplane which is too large and too costly to run, TAA, as a government enterprise, should give some explanation for its actions.
The point that interests me most, as a member who represents an electorate adjacent to Sydney airport, is the reason for the increases in the size of the aeroplanes and the projected increases in the number of passengers travelling on aircraft in Australia. In 1979, 10.8 million people travelled on scheduled internal flights in Australia. The industry and the Government believe that that figure will increase by five per cent per annum for the rest of this decade. So we can look to 1 5 million people taking aircraft flights by 1980. The electorate of Grayndler, as the Minister for Transport is quite aware- it is very dear to my heart and I am sure to his heart- is directly in the flight path of Sydney airport, the major airport in Australia. The people of that electorate, who in the main do not use the aircraft services either externally or internally, are quite disturbed at the increases in traffic at that airport and the projected large increase over the decade. I understand that the Minister is concerned enough that on Thursday of this week he will he meeting with nine of the local councils that cover the area around the airport and discussing with them their disquiet about the expansion of Sydney airport.
Some members may think that I am moving a little away from the reason for the introduction of these Bills, but the fact is that Ansett Transport Industries stated in the Press release that it put out supporting the Airline Equipment (Loan Guarantee) Bill that it considered that the expansion of traffic in Sydney will be so vast that it is important that we should consider the plight of the people who live around Sydney airport when we are considering the actions of the Government in giving a guarantee for airline operators regarding borrowings. As I have said a number of times in this House, the people of the Grayndler, Sydney and Kingsford-Smith electorates are not at all happy with the attitude that the Commonwealth Government is taking towards any extensions at Sydney airport. They are very worried that the Government has not made a decision. I think that the kindest thing that the Government could do for the people who live in those areas, particularly my electorate, would be to make a decision about what will happen at Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport.
The Minister will recall a quesion I asked him on 20 March about whether the Commonwealth Government would be willing to make a decision on this subject. The Minister once again evaded the question. He tried to blame the situation on the State Government. On Thursday morning he may even try to blame it on the local councils because of their intransigent attitude. It is quite clear that under the Commonwealth Constitution the Commonwealth Government has the right and, indeed, the obligation to make a decision about what will happen at Sydney airport. The sooner the Government makes that decision the sooner the people of Marrickville, Ashfield, Ashbury and St Peters will know what is to happen to their future. The Minister represents a nice, quiet rural electorate in New South Wales, whereas the people around the airport have to put up with his arriving there in an aeroplane at 7.45 in the morning to talk to the councils. They have to worry about whether those aeroplanes are going to plough into their houses or wake them up. They are very worried about whether the Government will raise the curfew that exists at present at Sydney airport. Whilst many honourable members of this chamber who represent electorates in Brisbane and Melbourne will say that they are not very worried about whether there will be a 24-hour operation airport in their electorates and their cities, I can assure the Parliament that the people of Sydney who live in areas surrounding Sydney airport are extremely concerned that the Government may try to foist upon them a 24-hour operation airport.
They are also concerned about the safety of Sydney airport. As the Minister has said in this Parliament and as has been written in numerous articles, Sydney airport is the busiest airport in Australia. The Minister agrees with me on this matter. As he agrees with me on this matter I draw his attention to an item in the Sydney Sun of Thursday, 27 March, about airport equipment and the safety of Sydney airport. The Minister’s Department very quickly tried to deny the questions raised in the article in the Sun about a jumbo jet which was supposed to have buzzed the Ansett terminal in an overshoot. The Minister may be able to say that that incident did not occur or, as his Department’s spokesman said, that the jumbo was three kilometres away when the controllers saw that there was a risk situation. He may say, as his Department has said, that because jumbo jets are large people think that they are closer than they are. I can assure the Minister and the Parliament that the people of my electorate think that the jumbo jets are a bit too damn close no matter how far they are away. They are concerned about the safety risk at Sydney airport because of the large number of movements there. They are also concerned that Australia’s air safety regulations and the numerous statements which are made about air safety in Australia are predicated on what has happened here in the past.
As I indicated to the Parliament a few minutes ago the number of people travelling by aeroplane in Australia will increase by 50 per cent over the next 10 years. The number of movements will escalate drastically and the chances of risk at Sydney airport will be greater. I would think that a way out for the Government on this issue is to decide right here and now or within a very short period what its attitude towards the extension of Sydney airport is. I would put it very seriously to the Parliament that the Government should consider a secondary airport to Sydney airport. It should make that decision now. It should acquire land to provide that service in the very near future.
But getting back to the Bills which are before us and which relate to loan borrowings, the fact that the Commonwealth is willing to guarantee these borrowings, shows that we accept that airlines in Australia- be they privately owned or government owned- have a public service obligation. Because they have a public service obligation a little more attention should be given to the rights of the people who use that mode of public transport. I think it is not too late in the day for the Government to start to look at that particular matter. We should be saying in Australia that the users of the public transport system as well as the licensees of that system in the airline area should have the right to have some sort of say in what will happen with air transport in Australia. Because the Government is guaranteeing loans and providing the infrastructure at the airports some consideration should be given to the attitudes of the users. We should be looking at the airlines not being so much related to profit making but related to communal interests. There should be a sharing of routes and a sharing of load factors.
We should be looking seriously at allowing Qantas to fly from the eastern States to Western Australia using up their excess capacity. We should be seriously considering a joint holding company to run the airline support facilities. We should be looking at the introduction of trial shuttle services between the major eastern cities and Adelaide. We should also be looking at the over-flying of intermediary cities to provide a direct trunk route for the users of the airline systems of Australia. But I feel the Government should not give consideration to the extension of Sydney airport. It should give consideration to ensuring that a decision is made. The Minister for Transport sits at the table and smiles to imply that I am suggesting that the airport should be extended. We should not do that, we should build a new one elsewhere.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Armitage)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I cannot help smiling at the attitude of the previous speaker, the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Leo McLeay). He, along with the shadow Minister for Transport seems to be very influenced by Press speculation on the future of our national carrier and probably our domestic airlines also. My advice to them would be to ignore Press speculation,’ whether it be about that matter or about anything else. He also was very proud of the fact that Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport is- I do not say the finest-the largest airport in Australia. But almost in the same breath he is bemoaning the fact that because of this important and very widely used airport, there is a noise nuisance to some of his constituents. No doubt, a lot of them would have moved to that area since the airport was built, but most of them would have moved into the area after the jet era began.
-Yes, they would have. The honourable member for Grayndler can go to any development area in Australia near an airport and he will find that the people move in and then complain.
– They have been there for donkey’s years. Some have been there for 70 years.
– You might mention one, by all means, certainly.
– The families of kids I went to school with have lived there for 70 years. They moved there a long while ago. Have a bit of sympathy for them.
– Of course they have. How many people have lived in the area, might I say? All I say is that the honourable member for Grayndler would be one of the many people who demand cheaper air fares. The only way to run an efficient airline is to run it 24 hours a day. So if we are going to howl about cheap air fares and compare the long haul routes in Australia with those in the United States we would have to use our aeroplanes for as many hours as possible. The only way to do that is to do away with the curfew.
– Rubbish! You never go to Sydney.
– So in one breath the honourable member who is shouting behind me wants cheap air fares -
The electorate of the honourable member to whom you are referring is Grayndler.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I cannot hear myself speaking. You are not pulling him up.
– That is rubbish! Stop talking rubbish.
-Order! The honourable member for Grayndler will cease interjecting.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I hope you will endeavour to protect me from the nonsense that is going on behind me. The two Bills which we are debating are the Qantas Airways Limited (Loan Guarantee) Bill and the Airline Equipment (Loan Guarantee) Bill which relates to Ansett Airlines of Australia. The forecast by Qantas Airways Ltd is that there will be such a significant increase in traffic that that company will require five new Boeing 747 aircraft of various types. This Bill will enable Qantas to finance the purchase of four of those aircraft. Despite the Press speculation which has been mentioned by our friend on the benches behind me that he doubts whether Qantas will be able to sell its old 747 aircraft, Qantas will finance the purchase of the fifth Boeing 747 aircraft itself. That, to me, is a very gratifying state of affairs.
Among the aircraft to be purchased, will be a 747 Combi and a 747 Special Performance aircraft which incidentally are all powered with the Rolls Royce D4 engine which will give them greater power for take-off. The 747-SP series, being a smaller aircraft, will be able to get in and out of shorter runways and tighter situations. There should be quite a saving for Qantas in purchasing planes with those engines, about which we have heard quite a lot. These engines will enable Qantas to have a 10 per cent saving in running costs. Qantas also will not be in the position of having to charter a DC8 aircraft to get into Wellington. So there is pretty good thinking along those lines. The Bill provides for the Government to make available a loan guarantee to Qantas. There is no cash outlay involved in these purchases. Also the Boeing Commercial Airplane Company has manufacturing off-set arrangements with Australian companies.
The other Bill we are debating tonight is the Airline Equipment (Loan Guarantee) Bill. This Bill relates to the purchase of a new aircraft by Ansett Airlines of Australia. The Bill enables Ansett to raise finance for the purchase of another frontline jet aircraft. This is the twelfth of their aircraft to be a 727-200 series. Ansett will standardise its fleet towards the Boeing aircraft with this purchase. I said before that I would mention this because previous speakersespecially the honourable member for Grayndler -are bemoaning the fact that Ansett has seen fit not to buy the same aeroplanes as TransAustralia Airlines. Once again we have heard noises all around Australia of people complaining about the two-airline system, and the fact that they even have the same type of serviettes and even discuss the matters before they produce them in the cabin, and so on. Why do the airlines have to operate hand in hand? I quite agree that the parallel flight system does not operate very well in the lands from where I come. It also does not operate very well for other people in far away places in Australia. By the same token, there is no reason why one or other airline should be citicised in this place for purchasing the aircraft which its experts say will do the job for it economically.
I commend Ansett Airlines for standardising on Boeing aircraft. I also commend it for proposing to introduce the Boeing 737 aircraft. The sooner that those aircraft arrive here, the better. They are very good short haul aircraft and are economical to operate. We are debating a Bill to make a loan for airline equipment. Ansett is receiving one such loan.
I would like to say a few words about the twoairline system. I see that the Government intends to retain the principle of the two major airlines operating Australia’s airline network. Over the Easter holiday period, some people will suffer the inconvenience of altered airline schedules and altered types of aircraft being used. On looking at the schedules of both Ansett Airlines and Trans-Australia Airlines in and out of the Northern Territory, I find that people will be subjected to inconvenient travel hours- 2 a.m., 3 a.m. and 4 a.m. Flights do not normally operate at those hours. People will be subjected to Fokker Friendship aircraft operating runs on which jet aircraft usually operate. No doubt this is being done to keep faith with the travelling public in the south.
I am a great supporter of both airlines and the way they run their affairs. But at times such as Easter I am critical of what happens to the people in the outback. For instance, instead of going on a jet aircraft to Alice Springs on Thursday I am going on a Fokker Friendship at 3.45 in the afternoon. I do not know how the airlines think that they can handle the traffic with such aircraft. The airlines have a south bound flight at 4 o ‘clock in the morning. If one does not get up at that time one does not travel. This is the sort of thing that I would like the Department of Transport to look at in regard to the two-airline system. The people in the outback really get it rough when there are heavy loadings on the domestic short haul runs- the Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Brisbane runs. The people in the outback really cop it. I would like the Department to take a note of this matter.
-Mr Deputy Speaker-
Motion (by Mr Bourchier) put:
That the question be now put.
The House divided. ( Mr Deputy Speaker- Mr J. L. Armitage )
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Hunt) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 27 March, on motion by Mr Hunt:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Hunt) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 29 March 1979, on the following paper presented by Mr Killen:
Defence- Ministerial Statement, 29 March 1 979 - and on motion by Mr Fife:
That the House take note of the paper.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, may I have your indulgence to suggest that the House have a general debate covering this motion, motions to take note of the defence program, ministerial statement and memorandum of understanding on logistic support, and the defence report as they are associated measures. Separate questions will, of course, be put on each of the motions at the conclusion of the debate.
-Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering these matters? As there is no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.
-At the outset I must say that the Opposition and I welcome this statement, as curious as some aspects of it may be. As a matter of fact I was attracted, and no doubt the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) is attracted, to the language in a recent editorial in the Australian Financial Review which said that the defence statement had a curiously distorted, eerie quality to it as if the copying machines of the Department of Defence had been constructed from distorting mirrors picked up at the bankruptcy sale of a defunct carnival. I admire the language. I do not entirely agree with the Australian Financial Review’s rather trenchant criticism of this statement, but it is a refurbished document of a series of documents except in one very clear area, and that is particularly with respect to the reference to HMAS Stirling or Cockburn Sound and the possible United States use of that facility.
The statement deals with three areas. It refers first of all with respect to commitments in key areas to a firm program of expenditure. It also says it undertakes, if I can put it that way, to find some way to look at options in other areas. It also says it will consider subsequent possible action not presently involving expenditure. I think it is important not to merge the three elements of the statement together so that we are not taken in by the impression that the Government wants to give of some massive effort or change in defence expenditure and priorities. There is no summary in the document. In many ways the document is set out to confuse. I think we need to look at the structure of the statement, We need to realise that there are some commitments in key areas but that in other areas studies are still under way. I think the Minister in his statement has given us some clue to that because he said that by and large there is nothing much new in it. He is being a little bit defensive. He said that defence procurement is an on-going process.
I am not prepared to nit-pick this document. I think I could take it paragraph by paragraph and if I had the time I would do so. The main point the Opposition would like to make is that for too long defence statements in this House have been concerned with just money, machines and men and not with deeper issues- the foreign policy issues, the issues of security, strategy and perhaps sanity in an insane world. I would like to say also that it is marvellous that we are allowed to have a debate at all. A White Paper on defence was delivered in this House in October 1 976. 1 think that paper was pretty well debated but I was not here at that time. I came back into this place in September 1978. Since then statement after statement has been delivered in this House to which the Opposition spokesman has responded and then there has been an abrupt cut-off to the debate. I think I have spoken on defence matters for 10 minutes since September 1 978. It is a pretty poor state of affairs when vital defence documents are delivered by the Minister and they are not subsequently debated. If the Minister and the Defence Department want public support for defence, if they want a real defence debate it is about time that they had a few more debates in this Parliament.
Let me mention a few statements that have been delivered but which have not really been debated fully. In October 1978 there was the cutback statement. This statement virtually wiped out all the October 1976 White Paper. On 29 March 1979, due to all the worries of the back bench of the Government, another statement was made. I think that one can stylise that statement by saying that it was for the benefit of the back bench members of the Government. On 23 August 1 979 a statement was made by the Minister in association with the presentation of the Budget but no full debate took place subsequently, other than in the context of consideration of the Estimates.
On 13 November 1979 a statement was made on defence science. Again, a full debate did not take place. On 15 November 1979 a statement was appended to the defence report. Again, there was no full debate in Parliament about defence. On 2 1 November 1979 a statement was made by the Minister on the tactical fighter force replacement. Again, no full debate took place in this House. On 22 November, the last day of sitting in 1979, the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, the so-called Katter Committee, presented a statement to this House. Again, no debate has ensued. It is Order of the Day No. 20 on the Notice Paper. I would like to bet now that it will not be discussed. I hope that I am wrong. Procurement is itself a very big topic and needs to be debated. On 25 March 1980 we had the 1980 Afghanistan show. At last we have had a chance to speak about defence.
I simply say, after this, great history of no debates taking place here about defence, that I hope that the Government will back the Minister and that we will not see a recurrence of the kinds of problems that he and the Department of Defence have had regarding funding. It would seem that the presentation of all of these defence statements, with the Minister having to put up with optimism, pessimism, retraction, money targets being set and the next minute becoming the subject of a different budget, a different money allocation, will stop. The Opposition hopes fervently that the Government will back the Minister and allow a firm program of defence procurement to proceed. The fact is that during the 1 970s many cutbacks in defence spending have occurred. All have been justified by the Minister of the day, regardless of whether he has been a Labor or Liberal party supporter. Let us face that fact. Of course, when Labor was in office such cutbacks were deemed to be dangerous irresponsibility. Now that we have a Liberal Government it would have us believe that they have represented financial responsibility. Much of that kind of argument is absolute nonsense. As long as our balance of payments position is healthy and we buy equipment overseas the alleged inflationary effects are a nonsense in themselves.
I would like to put the record straight to some degree and also indicate my worries about Australia’s capacity to expand its capital purchases. I seek from the Minister permission to incorporate in Hansard some tables that I distributed on his side of the chamber but did not have a chance to talk to him about.
Leave not granted.
– The Minister has indicated that leave will not be granted. The first table refers to a proportional division of defence outlays by function and was taken from Table 4 of the 1979-80 Budget Papers. I assume that that would be non-controversial. The second table concerns expenditure on equipment and stores as a proportion of defence outlays. That came from Appropriation Bills (No. 1 ) in respect of the Department of Defence for 1976-77, 1977-78, 1978-79 and 1979-80. The third table concerns variations of expenditure on equipment and stores and, again, came from the Appropriation Bills (No. 1) from 1977-78 through to 1979-80. I regard that information also as noncontroversial. The fourth table that I had hoped to have incorporated in Hansard concerns details of items of equipment approved for procurement by the Services in each of the Budgets since 1972-73. The first relates to defence equipment programs approved by the then Minister for Defence, Mr Fairbairn, in the 1972-73 Budget and the figures are given for the respective years through to the Minister’s latest defence Budget. There are some comments there. I should have thought that the Minister would not have been offended by them.
I had hoped to put the record straight with respect particularly to some of the allegations by the Government concerning defence purchases by the Labor Government and subsequently. There have been retractions and the Minister has been subjected to some strictures by his own Cabinet. I wished also to express my worry about the nation’s capacity to expand capital purchases. The table show quite clearly that the defence statement that we are debating provides some evidence that it will be very difficult to expand rapidly capital purchases and have them filter through the system when one considers that in taking on board major new equipment there are problems in having men trained and in absorbing them in the system.
I do not think there is any sense in the Minister’s being on the defensive in this statement and saying that there is nothing new et cetera. Quite clearly he has been savaged by the Cabinet in respect particularly of the October 1976 White Paper which stated, of course, that over five years some $ 12,000m, corrected to February 1976 figures, would be spent. By June 1979 the Government was running, on those estimations, $3,000m short of what it had promised. In about the middle of 1979 the Prime Minister’s Department leaked the information that about $ 14,000m would be spent over the next five years. Again, that was about $ 1,000m less than had been promised, and so it goes on.
In looking at the whole justification for this program I believe- and the Opposition’s spokesman on defence, the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) has quite clearly said the same thing- that there is no need to convince the Opposition of the need to spend more on defence by using the peg of Afghanistan to hang our hat on. I see that this has caused the Minister for Defence some agitation. I would have thought that if he was truly interested in some degree of bipartisanship on defence we could have had a little more sensible debate on the figures and on the premises on which he has mounted his statement. After all, last year there were some rather traumatic events in Indo-China, the Horn of Africa and the Persian Gulf but they did not provoke a statement recommending increased defence spending. We had statements reassuring the back bench members of the Government that we had financial problems and did not have to spend a lot of money in this area. I would like to say more about that later in my speech, if time permits.
The Minister has now been provoked by the situation in Afghanistan but the Opposition and I think the Parliament and people of Australia should have no doubts about the cost of maintaining an effective defence position. If we are to maintain even the present defence capacity we will have to spend something like $4,000m to $5,000m on equipment between now and 1990. That will be without going into new weapons or new areas of defence. We have to spend at least that sum of money. The Opposition knows that unless we spend more on defence the very basic programs, such as the destroyer follow-on program and the TFF program, would have been bankrupted by the mid-1980s. I do not know what the Minister is agitated about. The program is still modest and still only states that by 1984-85 the expenditure will amount to about 3 per cent of gross domestic product.
There is not much disagreement on the part of the Opposition about the need to spend this money. But why hang it on the post-Afghanistan strategic situation? The Minister’s opening statements on the post-Afghanistan strategic situation represents a very sensible analysis, but I am not sure how he ties that into Australia’s interests. Are we really going to war in Afghanistan, Pakistan or Iran? The sort of prognosis which he put forward I think refers more to a strategic analysis that is not necessarily relevant to Australia. It is all right dealing Australia into the world ‘s strategic concerns but I am not quite so sure that our spending as a limited power an extra $95m this year will really convince the Americans that we are dealing ourselves into these major concerns. This year the Americans are spending some $ 158,700m. There is simply no need to use the Afghanistan hatrack as a peg on which to hang our defence hat. Also, the Minister says that quite clearly in his statement. It might be all right to give this as an excuse. I welcome it if we need to convince the Australian public that we should spend more money because of the Afghanistan situation. However, there was simply no need to do this. The programs were bankrupting. We have to spend more money on defence.
If honourable members look at most of the programs announced, some are for five to 10 years and some go to 20 years. If we are to train more Orion pilots to fly over the Indian Ocean, it will take three to five years, and that is set out in the statement. If we consider Cockburn Sound and the airfields, that is a five-year program. If we consider the 75 tactical fighters, whether the FI 6s or the FI 8s, it will involve a five to 10 year program to get those people trained, to get the planes absorbed through the system, and to get the spares and all the facilities set up. If we are to have two battalions at Townsville, there will have to be some abstraction from other battalions. Other battalions will have to be depleted, and that will take time. If we are to get another 8,000 people into the reserves, that will take five years. It is all right to use Afghanistan as the peg on which to hang your hat, but these programs will take five to 10 years. They are very valid, but they really have nothing to do with Australia and Afghanistan. The Government is not really tying them in. The Army is desperately short of artillery, signalling equipment, anti-tank equipment, and transport capacity. That is not talked about in the statement, nor are the defence industries, nor the future of the reserves. There is still no role defined for the Army reserve. I could talk about many things. I am merely critical of Afghanistan being used as the reason -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Armitage)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I sympathise with the honourable member for Werriwa (Mr Kerin) because he has had to fill in for the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden), who is listed as the Opposition speaker to lead this debate but who apparently has -
-Order! The honourable member for Kennedy should know that there is no list of speakers so far as the Chair is concerned. The Chair recognises the first person who rises from either side.
-We understood that the Leader of the Opposition would lead this debate. I am merely pointing out that the honourable member for Werriwa was not listed, and I think he did quite well, in view of the fact that he had to improvise, although he did not make any constructive suggestion whatsoever as to what would contribute to a defence policy. May I for a moment make some comment on the activities of a sub-committee of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, on which you served, Mr Deputy Speaker, and served with some distinction, may I say. This sub-committee has done its best to supplement the normal sources of information that would come to the Department of Defence, and we welcome anyone who is qualified and sufficiently interested to come before us. However, I do want to say that if there is any sort of thinking which suggests that this subCommittee should be used as a forum for those who are semi-qualified and for those who are disgruntled with the Department, there is no place in the future to receive such people. At the same time, should there be a genuine witness who has something to offer and who is sufficiently qualified to make some substantial contribution to the sub-committee, we will make absolutely sure that he is not hampered in his attempts to appear before it.
It is interesting to examine the statement of the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen). If one goes through the 35-page document one thing that becomes apparent immediately is that there has been a developing appreciation of the fact that the Defence Department and the defence operations of this nation have been hampered considerably by a lack of funds and by a lack of national interest. During the term of the Whitlam Government, there was a complete collapse of morale. In fact, one began to wonder whether we had a Defence Force at all. There was a lot of ground to be made up. The national interest will be served in the future if we are able to provide an institution, an instrumentality which will meet the future.
One thing impressed itself on me very emphatically when I was abroad last year, on what was a private trip but one associated very much with defence matters. I had the opportunity of visiting Nellis air base in Nevada, which is one of the most advanced training areas in the world. It occurred to me that if we were to meet the demands of new generation warfare, if we were to meet the demands to produce highly trained officers equipped to deal with the scientific age of the future, then in the provision of facilities we would have to go far beyond what we are doing at the moment in Australia. Here was a most sophisticated training curriculum that demanded a much higher standard of academic training in that nation. We will have to give very serious thought to that in the future. Fortunately, the Government and the Cabinet are doing just that with their consideration of the Casey University.
I would like to dwell for a moment, if I may, on what I think is probably one of the most pressing needs of the whole defence spectrum at the present time. I refer to the core force concept. This matter was given very close consideration by the sub-committee of which I am chairman. We had the great advantage, through the invaluable co-operation of the Minister, of people such as Sir Arthur Tange and Sir Anthony Synnot appearing before the sub-committee for a full day. Honourable members can imagine the immense advantage of having two men of that stature and experience appearing before us and giving us the benefit of their experience in matters such as this.
I wish to talk for a moment on the core force concept. Two notions- no identifiable threat of substance, and the need for insurance against uncertainty- have engendered in the Department of Defence the concept of the core force. This is a simple notion of a force that is able to be fleshed out when indicators are perceived of the specific direction that any change in strategic circumstances might take, with the proviso that these indicators will occur well ahead of any major eventuality. Expansion and change in direction would take place gradually, at least in the first instance, in response to any perceptions of a developing threat.
The core force concept has been evolved by the Department of Defence during a period of assessed favourable strategic outlook and at a time when there has been strong competition for limited financial resources. It has ensured that present capabilities are specifically relevant to any emerging crisis and to Australia’s particular environment, and that the resources provided have not been spent too soon or on the wrong equipments. The core force has provided the capabilities required to meet peacetime tasks and is designed to deter potential enemies from resorting to the use of military action to achieve their objectives. It has been asserted that the core force provides an adequate base for expansion to the size and shape necessary, within the available time of warning, should the threat of major direct attack ever emerge.
I am not satisfied that the core force, as it is presently constituted, could expand to its required level within a realistic period of warning should the threat of major direct attack emerge in the future. One of the reasons is that there has been insufficient emphasis on building up Australia’s reserve forces, particularly in the Army. Having said that, it is interesting and encouraging to see that the Minister and the Cabinet have approved now of a considerable expansion in that direction. Given the long lead times required to acquire major advanced technology, naval and air capabilities, to introduce them into effective service, and to train personnel to operate and maintain them, the capacity to expand the Navy and Air Force within a period of five years- the least time in which a realistic threat would be likely- would be limited. They could perhaps be provided with relatively large numbers of lesser technology equipments, but this may mean exposing the Defence Force to grave and unwarranted risks.
The present level of equipments in service or authorised for acquisition in these Services would provide only a limited defensive capability against the threat of major attack. This limited capability requires that the naval and air elements of the core force be expanded in the period before the threat of a major attack emerged, or the development of a strategy based around a major Army response. I have reason to believe, however, that it may take between twoandahalf years and five years defence preparation to provide a trained ground force of 1 50,000 troops, or between four years and eight years to provide an army of 250,000 personnel. This expression of what may appear to be a personal opinion is based on evidence of the highest calibre which has come before the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence. Under the present core force system the Department of Defence could not be expected to estimate the required size of an expanded force until the identity of the likely enemy was determined and its force structure and likely strategy was known.
– It might be too late.
– What the honourable member says is correct; it could be too late. As time goes on, this is becoming more and more apparent. I believe that our national strategy for the assurance of our security should not be responsive to factors which could not be perceived until a threat was developing. Rather, it should be dynamic and positive so as to delay further or to deny the emergence of a threat. The presently constituted core force does have a deterrent capability against direct attack against Australia by medium or small powers. If augmented by the acquisitions announced recently by the Minister for Defence this capability would be enhanced, but the concept is reactive, with expansion related to the likely strategy of a potential enemy. Its ultimate capability to deter a determined aggressor from a direct attack would be dependent on perceiving the development of a potential enemy’s capability within the period of warning. Its prospect of deterring absolutely would be suspect.
The department processes have identified the additional equipments required to make good shortcomings and deficiencies in the forceinbeing. However, frequently governments of both persuasions have failed to provide the priorities and resources necessary to acquire these equipments within the necessary time scales. Therefore, it is most refreshing to have information such as that provided by the Minister to indicate that these shortcomings are very much in the awareness of the Cabinet and the Government. If the long term security of the nation is to be preserved and a favourable strategic outlook is to be maintained, it will be necessary to devote additional resources to defence. The existence of an effective force-in-being is an essential element in preserving a favourable environment. It is not quite as favourable as it has been in past months even. I say in passing that the sub-committee of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence had the advantage of conferring with Mr Ichord who is, I suppose, my counterpart in the United States. We were brought very much into the existing international picture. What we learnt brought home to us very forcibly that the security and comfortable feeling which we had enjoyed until recent times is no longer there to be enjoyed.
Failure to expand the capabilities of the present force-in-being to reflect the additional responsibilities which Australia should accept to contribute to the stability of its region as a consequence of the changing world situation could limit the deterrent value of the force-in-being, at any rate as it exists at the moment. There are strong indications that the amount allocated for the acquisition of new equipments may have to be increased to a figure up to 50 per cent higher than that hitherto provided. I think it is the responsibility of those who have the least interest in defence to back the Minister solidly when he again has to put in his budgetary claim for an even higher vote than that already envisaged. Otherwise he will be like a boxer fighting with his arms strapped behind him.
I now deal with the planning for expansion. It would seem that too large a proportion of Australia’s defence planning has been devoted to the more day-to-day administration of the Defence Force rather than to the needs of a possible mobilisation, including a situation short of war. The Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, therefore, recommend that a high level inquiry be undertaken into the expansion capacity of the Defence Force. Despite the need for security during the conduct of such an inquiry, there is a need for an interdepartmental or national approach to such an inquiry which should determine the industrial and manpower support which could be available to the force-in-being. I am sure that all honourable members will be interested to know that the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence recently decided that its sub-committee on defence matters should monitor the implementation of the Australian Government’s announced defence programs. This decision has been taken in the context of an increased interest in defence matters in the Australian Parliament and probably in the community as a whole.
– Regrettably the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) commenced his speech in a rather trite way. He is a much respected person in this field and he has given his name to a report of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence which many of us have studied and appreciated. But he drew attention to the fact that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) was mentioned on an unofficial list which he had near him. So what? The honourable member for Kennedy has been here long enough to know that circumstances change and that times of debate change. I can assure him that the Leader of the Opposition would have liked very much to have been involved in this debate. He was a shadow Minister in this area. The Minister for Defence (Mr Killen), who is at the table, would recognise his great interest in the subject and his great interest, as a parliamentarian, in taking part as often as he possibly can in debate in this Parliament. But the Leader of the Opposition is unavoidably absent tonight and the next speaker on the list, the honourable member for Werriwa (Mr Kerin), who also has a long history of interest and involvement in defence and foreign affairs subjects, moved up the list and took his place. I regret very much that the honourable member for Kennedy, who has a contribution to make, as he showed tonight, should have started his speech in such a trite way. I too am interested in this subject and am very glad of the opportunity to be involved in it, because those of us in the chamber at present can agree that we have an opportunity all too infrequently to debate this subject. Tonight is one of those times when we can do so. I am very glad that I will be able to make a contribution.
In my view one common thread runs through the multitude of defence policies which have been enunciated by various Australian governments in the post- World War II era. That one common thread, which I confess applies to a certain extent to the Labor Government of a very few years as well as to non-Labor governments, is a history of wasted opportunities. Despite the string of threats perceived by Australian governments in that time- of course, I have to point out that this refers mainly to conservative governments- the crux of our defence policies still rests upon the one overriding factor which was spelt out officially for the first time by the Labor Prime Minister, John Curtin, back in those dark days of 1941. That factor was, and still is, that this country’s security is heavily reliant upon the readiness of the United States of America to commit its forces to our defence.
Despite all the rhetoric about Australian preparedness, we have never had a genuine defence policy. In the words of some of our eminent defence analysts, our policies have been strong on posturing and mighty short on preparedness. The underlying motive throughout the post-war era has been to extract and to reaffirm an American commitment to our own strategic interests. That was the underlying motive of the first Menzies Government when it obtained the keystone to our defence policy- what I would refer to as that vague document known as the ANZUS pact. It underpinned our rapid committal of troops to the Korean War. It explains our initial involvement in that disastrous lingering fiasco- the Vietnam War. Now, one decade later, it emerges again as the crux of our new, what I would refer to as Afghanistanised, defence policy.
The present Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), when he first came to office, repeatedly expressed his concern about the strategic weakness in our western flank- the Indian Ocean. But that concern did not produce a redefining of our own defence policy. The Americans were not prepared to give any priority to the Indian Ocean at that time, so this Government’s perception of a strategic weakness was quietly shelved. But now, as a consequence of the Russian invasion of Afghanistan, American perceptions have changed and the Prime Minister, alert to the sudden reconvergence of Australian and American strategic interests, has seized the opportunity that presents itself to extract a new and firm commitment from the United States. Of course, he has met with some success. Regrettably, he did not take with him the Minister for Defence, who I am glad to see at the table, on his latest trip to bring perhaps some balance to the discussions. Nevertheless, I am just dealing with what has emerged.
– Where was this?
-On the recent trip to Europe and then to -
– My colleague, the Foreign Minister, and I went to the ANZUS conference.
-The Minister went to the ANZUS conference but he was not on the trip from which this matter arose. The memorandum on United States-Australian logistical support tabled last week by the Minister for Defence goes further than the 1 965 agreement and clearly locks us into the United States defence system. It does not provide a watertight guarantee and no government could expect that. But it does offer as firm a commitment as any Australian government, unreservedly intent on bolstering the American defence alliance, could hope to achieve. Of course, the Cockburn Sound offer, if taken up by the United States Government, will provide an even stronger commitment.
The Liberal-National Country Party Government has also signalled the appropriate changes in our own defence policy. I mean that it is appropriate to a certain extent and I will qualify that in a moment. After years of neglect it has foreshadowed a boost in defence expenditure beginning next year. The Labor Party supports many parts of this new defence priority. But in view of the Government’s tardy responses in former years, the Opposition is entitled to ask: Is the Government really dinkum about these matters or is it destined to revert to its traditional posturing on defence matters? I refer to the recent example of the 1976 defence program which was curtailed just one year later and there are many other examples which lead me to the cynicism which I have displayed so far in this speech.
The Liberal-National Country Party Government’s response to what is now known as the Afghanistan crisis bears a remarkable similarity to an earlier perceived crisis, namely, the Korean crisis. On that occasion, Prime Minister Menzies warned of war within three days- a remark very similar to that made by the present Prime Minister before he set off around the world to shore up unsuccessfully his own so-called tough stand. In the Menzies era, the crisis produced a change in defence policy, promising increased expenditure and a preparedness based upon ‘a long sustained haul’- the very words that that present Prime Minister has used to described our Afghanistan inspired defence changes. But that earlier long sustained haul evaporated beneath a pile of sustained rhetoric. Defence expenditure was actually reduced.
Returning to the present Afghanistan policy, there are immense internal contradictions within the policy released by the Minister for Defence last week. The Minister pins his new policy on the dramatic destabilisation of the international situation due to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. I certainly would not question the fact that the world is undergoing a critical and perhaps even alarming change in the balance of national powers. But to pin it all on the Soviet invasion is, I believe, naive. What of the events in the neighbouring country, Iran? A former United States Defence Secretary, Mr James Schlesinger, has described the Iranian turmoil as the most significant revolution the world has witnessed since the Russian revolution. These events have an important bearing upon the rationale behind the Soviet’s invasion of Afghanistan. But even more alarming is the virtual neglect of the changes in American perceptions of its strategic interests. I believe the Minister’s statement displayed those neglects. Indeed, more alarming are the responses to recent events. It is only in the Minister’s concluding remarks that he refers in one brief sentence to the ‘changes in mood’ and America’s determination to meet its global responsibilities.
Surely a defence policy that emphasises its complementary role to the United States global strategy should at least grasp the nettle and attempt to project where those global strategies are likely to lead us. Experience has shown us that the strategic interests of the United States as a global power and Australia as a regional power are not always identical. The Indonesian scare back in the early 1960s highlighted that as well as the vast distinction between Australia’s defence posturing and its preparedness. Although we share many of the basic principles and concerns of our American ally there inevitably must be a divergence in strategic interests. The United States recognises that fact. During the early days of our Vietnam involvement, the United States was urging this country to develop a greater independent defence capacity. The Nixon doctrine of 1969 emphasised that point for all its allies, not merely for Australia.
Within Australia’s defence institutions, this concept of an independent defence capacity gained acceptance throughout the last decade to the point where it is now the prevailing orthodoxy. The term is self-reliance. The former head of the Department of Defence, Sir Arthur Tange, has publicly urged its adoption. The Chief of the Defence Force Staff has stated that the Australian Defence Force must have a significant degree of self-reliance. The Katter committee, in its scathing comments on defence procurement has recommended self-reliance as one of the major priorities of Australian defence policy. Te be fair to this Government, it has paid lip service to the principle. The statement of the Minister for Defence that we are debating today does refer to an increase in defence industry capabilities, research and development and it does wax eloquently on the new destroyers to be built in Australia in the latter part of this decade. To quote the Minister, it will be ‘one of the largest warship building enterprises on which the nation has ever embarked ‘.
This Government is renowned for the thousand words expounded for every defence dollar spent. Where does it come to the grips with the notion of self-reliance? Where does it define the role to be assigned to defence industry? There is no complete concept of what that role should be. The Labor Party is not toying with the pipedream of self-sufficiency. But this Government is committing billions of dollars to overseas capital expenditure and, given the acquisition of lags and life of some of those major items, it is locking us into the 2 1st century in the program that it has before us. All it can give us is lofty sentiments about Australia’s industry participation in those programs. Australia clearly does not possess the technological base to make immediate major contributions to its own defence equipment procurements.
It is here that I return to my opening remark: Australia’s defence policies have been a history of wasted opportunity. The Liberal Government must bear the bulk of the blame. As I mentioned earlier, 28 of the 31 recent years of government have been Liberal years. But I do not entirely excuse the former Labor Government either. A threat to the Australian continent has not existed since the Second World War. In this no-threat environment, successive governments have allowed the capacity of our defence related industries to decline. It is in this peacetime atmosphere that Australia could evolve a gradual build-up in its technological and productive capacity.
The offset program introduced in 1970 appears to be the ideal mechanism for arresting the decline. However, the Government record, apart from the isolated spectacular success in the aerospace industry, has fallen far short of its expressed aims. The official target has been for 30 per cent of the value of a contract to be spent within Australia, either in work provided by the prime contractor, which can be offset against the value of the contract, or in actual participation in the manufacture of components or weapons systems. A 1973 memorandum signed by the United States and Australian governments jointly agreed to strive for an offset objective of not more than 25 per cent. On any of the sparse statistics available the actual record falls a long way short of this objective of 25 per cent and even below 30 per cent. For instance, on the FFG frigate contract valued by the Government about a year ago at $64.2m, only $8m of offset work has been obtained. The Government has already announced its intention to buy a fourth frigate.
-Order ! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Earlier today the honourable member for Fraser (Mr Fry) raised as a matter of privilege the alleged discrimination and intimidation in his employment within the Auditor-General ‘s office in the Public Service of Mr David Berthelsen. The matter is alleged to have arisen out of evidence given by Mr Berthelsen to a sub-committee of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence in its inquiry into defence procurement. I have noted that on 19 March the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) on behalf of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence made a statement to the House in relation to certain allegations of intimidation by the Department of Defence against a witness. In that statement the honourable member informed the House that on the evidence available, the subcommittee could not establish that such intimidation had taken place. I should emphasise that that was an allegation of intimidation by the Department of Defence.
In raising the matter today the honourable member for Fraser informed the House that Mr Berthelsen had complained that he was being discriminated against and intimidated in his present employment in the office of the AuditorGeneral. I have carefully examined the papers presented today. I am limited in my consideration to the material before me. It is not my role to become an investigator or to draw any conclusion except from the material before me. From the information contained in that material and what was said by the honourable member for Fraser, I am unable to conclude that a prima facie case of breach of privilege exists.
-The House is debating a number of statements put down by the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) regarding defence spending and defence matters generally. I think it is pleasing that there is in this country a growing interest in debate about defence matters. This has expressed itself not only in this House and amongst members of this Parliament, but also amongst members of the outside com.munity. There are a number of community groups, civilian groups, which are promoting seminars on the subject of defence. One I mention in particular is the Australian Defence Association with branches in a number of States, where it does from time to time organise seminars at which people with different viewpoints on defence and from different parts of the defence establishment can come together, exchange views and promote public debate.
I was interested in the comment that the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) made in his previous speech. The honourable member for Adelaide seemed to be deploring the injection of Afghanistan developments into the defence debate. He seemed to be saying that this indicated some fraudulent attitude on the part of the Government in that the Government was using the Afghanistan situation as a way of justifying its present defence posture. All I can say is that I think the majority of Australians would take the view that the developments in Afghanistan are highly relevant to the defence debate. It is true that the developments in Afghanistan have not necessarily made a great deal of difference to our defence situation, but those developments have highlighted the position which we face in terms of foreign policy and defence. I think in one respect it is a good thing that those developments in Afghanistan have brought defence debate to the fore in the minds of a great many members of the Australian public. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan has brought home the weaknesses in the concept of detente on which many people had previously placed a great deal of reliance.
I want to agree with a comment made by the honourable member for Werriwa (Mr Kerin) about the need for more comment on some of the less glamorous items- as I might describe themsuch as transport, signals equipment and items of that nature. I think one of the faults with defence debate in this country is that we tend to be mesmerised by the more expensive and somewhat glamorous items of equipment. In discussions on defence we tend to concentrate on the TFF project and the FFGs. People seem to throw these items around as if they are pet hobby-horses, whereas there are a great number of items of equipment needed by our defence forces for their effective operation which get very little comment. One of those is the matter of trucks. Another matter which I have come into contact with is the need for field hospital equipment in some areas. I have become familiar with that because of the presence in my electorate of the Royal Australian Army Medical Corps, School of Army Health, at Healesville. I hope to come back to that a little later on.
One thing I do want to develop is some examination of the overweight problem with respect to the new naval patrol boats. In ‘Canberra Commentary’ contained in the Pacific Defence Reporter in November 1979 there is a report of some questioning at the Estimates committee which looked at the estimates of the Department of Defence. After reporting rather gloomily on the progress of proceedings, Hector, who writes this commentary, said:
It was left to a rather nondescript backbencher, Mr Peter Falconer (Liberal, Victoria) to weave together the most effective pattern of questioning. With some assistance from Mr Scholes, Mr Falconer pressed the foul-up over the patrol boat project with some insistence, and elicited the admission from Mr Killen that problems of overweight might effect a fifth boat, as well as the previously disclosed four.
The accuracy of Hector’s observations has to be questioned, I must admit, because the honourable member for Corio, Mr Scholes, was not present at the Committee meeting during that stage. Just before that line of questioning he had excused himself from the Committee because he had another engagement.
– But was he right with the description ‘ nondescript ‘?
– I would have to leave that to other people’s judgment. Perhaps I was unusually unruly in my appearance on that occasion. I want to raise a few questions with the Minister about the problems concerning those patrol boats. In the questioning at the Estimates committee meeting I asked him:
Is it known at this stage what caused the overweight problem? Was it a miscalculation in the first instance or was steel plate over specification used in it?
After some other comments the Minister said:
I do not know whether that was responsible for the error of judgment.
That was the fact that the design was lengthened by 5 feet-
The plating was thicker than was required. As I have indicated to the Parliament, when the legal position becomes clearer Parliament is certainly entitled to the most complete explanation of what caused it.
As I read the Minister’s statement of 25 March, he has explained very satisfactorily the fact that the overweight problem will not affect markedly the performance of the vessels, but I think it would be very valuable still for this Parliament to have an explanation as to what caused the problem in the first instance. Was it, for example, a design problem- a miscalculation at the design stage- or was it because materials which were not specified or which were different from those specified were used in the construction of the vessel? I should like also to ask the Minister just how many of the patrol boats are affected by the problem of excess weight. That is not quite clear from his statement. He did say:
Although the first patrol craft will still be about 20 tonnes heavier than specified in the contract, this is less than the weight excess earlier in prospect.
Then, after explaining that the four follow-on craft being built by North Queensland Engineers and Agents Pty Ltd of Cairns will be slightly lighter than the first vessel, he said:
However, further design changes which could not be incorporated in these vessels are expected to save a further 10 tonnes in the weight of each of the remaining 10 patrol craft.
That may mean that the remaining 10 patrol craft will be at the specified weight, but that is not quite clear from the Minister’s statement. Perhaps we could have some clarification from the Minister on that point. I would also point out that the Minister said previously that he was seeking an opinion from the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) as to whether the Commonwealth is indemnified in respect of the problem and that he would report back on that matter when he received the Attorney-General’s opinion. I may have missed his reporting back on that matter. Perhaps when he replies to the debate he will state the position with respect to whether the Commonwealth is completely indemnified with respect to all ships. I note that it is clear from earlier statements that the Commonwealth is indemnified with respect to the first vessel but it was not made clear that the Commonwealth was indemnified with respect to the problems of excess weight occurring in other vessels.
The next point I want to make relates to some of the less glamorous items of equipment and less glamorous items of expenditure which do not receive enough attention in the defence debate. I have referred to field hospital equipment. I wish to talk more particularly about some of the services which are required for the running of an effective defence force. There is some evidence that we are really not paying enough attention to the needs in that area. On 13 November last year I addressed the House on an excellent seminar that was conducted at the School of Army Health in Healesville. The seminar was attended by a large number of people who gave of their time and expertise at no charge to the Commonwealth. The seminar was held for the purpose of rewriting the Army manual on field surgery. Up to this stage the Australian Army has been using the manual on field surgery of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. It was decided some time ago that the Australian Army should have its own manual on field surgery which is appropriate to the sorts of conditions in which Australian servicemen might be serving in this region and the sorts of medical services and equipment which are likely to be available for them.
Some 44 civilians took part in the working parties and in the seminar itself and 38 military personnel, comprising Regular Army and Reserve Army personnel, also took part. It is important to note that those civilian personnel from all over the country gave of their time and expertise at no charge. It was, I would expect, time and expertise which on any commercial basis would have been valued at several hundred dollars per day per expert in attendance. Attending the seminar were surgeons, many of them noted surgeons, academics and people from medical schools who gave of their time. I wonder in how many other areas of Commonwealth administration we could get together people at that level of expertise to give of their time and expertise at no charge. For example, if we tried to get together a computer program for some administrative purpose within the Public Service, I wonder whether we would get a number of consultants from the software companies and from the computer manufacturers to give of their time at no charge.
It seems strange to me that in this vital area at least we are not in a position to pay people for their services. I wonder just how many other manuals there might be, how many other procedures there might be within the armed Services that require updating, that require the input from experts such as those attending the seminars in relation to which the Commonwealth does not have the funds in its defence vote to pay people appropriately. I would like to see the defence debate moving into this area. As well as looking at some of the more spectacular items of equipment which capture the imagination of many people in this House, I think this House ought to be looking at some of the support equipment and services which are very necessary if our servicemen are to be able to function efficiently and safely in the field, should they be called upon to do so.
– I enter this debate on the Government’s defence expenditure commitments for two reasons: Firstly, to expose the inadequacies and the dangers of the Government’s approach and, secondly, to put forward a more rational and balanced approach to ensure security for the Australian people. I am glad that the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) is in the House. I am concerned that the defence strategy being adopted by this Government reflects too much haste with too little thought. Too many options are being closed off. We are being locked too tightly into dependence on one military ally whose interests do not necessarily coincide with ours. The Government has determined to make military spending a major priority in this country and has announced a commitment of about $ 17,600m over the next five years. The Australian people are entitled to adequate security. I think all members of this House support that concept. We are also entitled to be given convincing reasons for such a large expenditure commitment.
The Minister for Defence has listed the major items of military hardware on which these large sums of public moneys are to be expended. But we are entitled to expect more than a shopping list. We are entitled to be given a consistently argued set of principles, a coherent rationale for the development of Australia’s defence strategy. We are entitled to be given at least a clear idea of what the Government means by defence. We are entitled to expect the Minister for Defence to justify publicly the commitments that he has already announced. Whilst the Minister’s statement provides a long list of military equipment purchases, it is short on principles. Whilst his statement is full of rhetoric, his arguments are empty. They lack logic, they lack coherence, they lack commonsense. They are neither sensible nor defensible.
I have always been reluctant to attack the weakness of an individual. We should rather examine the strength of policies. We need to consider programs, not promises, argument, not words. But in the Minister for Defence we have a man who, while personally likeable- I have had a long and friendly association with him- is in my view politically incompetent. He is a grand showman whose act obscures issues rather than clarifies them. Life is a play and we all play a part, the lover, the player, the clown. The Minister covers all aspects in that regard. Before detailing a catalogue of military purchases the Minister attempted to explain the rationale of the Government’s policy. The rationale he offered was hollow and it cannot be based on technical advice. It reflects too much the Minister’s commitment to his own confused rhetoric. Let us consider his arguments. We are told that the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan represents a forward thrust of territorial expansionism into Iran, into Pakistan, into the oil-rich Gulf regions and then into the Indian Ocean. We are told that the Soviet Union has secured access to air and naval facilities in Vietnam and is prepared to exploit any tension and provoke any disturbance to create instability in the Asia-Pacific region in order to realise its expansionist aims.
The actions of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan can in no way be condoned by anyone in this House. No apologies should be made and no apologies can be made for the invasion of Afghanistan by Soviet troops and for the continuing occupation of that country by a foreign power, particularly by a major sovereign power. We spent the best part of a week in this House debating the situation in Afghanistan. On both sides of the House there was general agreement that the Soviet Union had no right and no justification for its aggressive actions in Afghanistan. But the Opposition’s view differed from the view of the Government in its interpretation of the Soviet invasion. For our part we recognised that the Soviet Union was concerned about instability along its borders and chose foolishly, I believe, to muscle in to contain that instability.
The Opposition pointed out that Afghanistan was being torn apart by conflicts between religious and tribal groups. We pointed out that the Soviet Union had a long economic and military relationship with Afghanistan and that the former leader of what was basically a Sovietbacked regime in Afghanistan since 1978- the regime led by Amin- was unable to maintain order in that country. Amin, particularly, took a hard, purist line which was not acceptable to the overwhelming majority of the people of Afghanistan. We pointed out that the Soviet Union installed a more conciliatory leader in Karmal in an attempt to reduce the conflicts. The Opposition pointed out that so long as the Soviet military presence was maintained in Afghanistan, Karmal would be unable to restore order and that the Soviet Union would find itself embroiled in a protracted, costly and counterproductive war. The present tragic events in Afghanistan bear out the correctness of that interpretation. The Opposition also pointed out that the Soviet Union has no strategic need for access to oil supplies in the Persian Gulf region. The Soviet Union is a significant net exporter of oil to eastern and western Europe. The Minister should really understand that position.
There is no evidence that the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan is part of an expansionist thrust into the Persian Gulf. There is evidence that the power of the major oil companies to secure long term contracts for oil in the Gulf region is declining and that they are prepared to encourage the use of force, if necessary, to secure oil supplies. There is evidence that the major Western powers and Japan are rivals for access to those oil supplies. There is more division among the Western powers than there is among other forces. There is evidence of a decline in the military, economic and political leadership of the United States relative to other Western powers. There is evidence of a resurgence of a hard line position being adopted by the military and corporate leadership of the United States in an attempt to regain its world position and to rally its former allies into line. To this extent, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan has provided the United States hawks- as the Minister for Defence was a hawk in the Vietnam war- with an opportunity to launch a new cold war. The Australian Government appears only too willing to join forces with the hawkish United States elements in encouraging such a development.
The Soviet involvement in Vietnam does not represent an expansionary threat either. The Vietnamese Government has been increasingly pushed into greater economic and military dependence on the Soviet Union because of the failure of Western nations to provide balancing assistance and trade with Vietnam. The Opposition has pointed out many times in the past that it is in the interests of the political stability of Indo-China and the Asian region generally for the Western powers and the Asian powers not to isolate Vietnam. What the Government has to recognise is that Vietnam can be the Yugoslavia of Asia. Anyone who is aware of the long term effects of the war in Vietnam on the economy and society of Vietnam, must realise how difficult it is for the Vietnamese people to reconstruct their own economy. They have had 30 years of long struggle and of war. It is very difficult indeed for them to reconstruct their economy.
Anyone familiar with the effects of the atrocities of the Pol Pot regime in Kampuchea must realise how the people of that country have been reduced to the most basic levels of survival. Yet this Government still supports the brutal leadership of the Pol Pot regime. It is absurd to consider Vietnam as a launching pad for Soviet expansionism. Anyone familiar with the long history of the struggle of the Vietnamese people for liberation and self-determination must realise that. The Australian Government, however, chooses to ignore these realities and is guilty of a gross distortion of the international situation. It is incredible and tragic indeed that the whole defence strategy of Australia is being realigned according to such a distorted interpretation of world affairs.
The Minister for Defence told us that we should ensure that our maritime surrounds and approaches are not dominated by unfriendly countries. He refers only to countries aligned with the Soviet Union. He does not, for example, consider our closest military neighbour, Indonesia, which has shown a brutal interest in expansionism in relation to East Timor and which certainly has designs on East Irian or Papua New Guinea as we know it. No consideration was given to the brutal Indonesian forces that existed in East Timor. The Minister for Defence told us that Australia’s defence effort will be essentially an independent, national effort. But he also told us that we must rely on our principal ally, the United States of America. He told us that we have offered the United States the use of facilities in Australia that might support their own operations. He acknowledged- I stress this admission by the Minister:
In the event of hostilities, risks of nuclear attack arise for Australia as an ally of the United States.
Well, good God, the United States is a nuclear power. What can we gain out of this alliance? We give so much and receive so little. How can we assist in the defence of Australia? How can the Australian people feel secure when the Government knowingly makes us vulnerable to nuclear attack. It is the Government’s actions which draw nuclear attack to this country. The Government has decided that Australia should deliberately lock itself into dependence on one ally to provide bases for the nuclear warships of the United States to refuel on our coasts and to allow uncontrolled communications facilities to operate from our land. From past and present practice it is highly unlikely that the Australian Government will know what occurs at such bases. We have never known in the past and we will not know now.
The Government has also decided to purchase highly sophisticated and expensive military technology from overseas, which is another form of dependence that reduces our capacity for selfsufficiency. These decisions have been made as a result of the Government’s hasty, ill-considered, knee-jerk reaction to events in Afghanistan. They have not been made on the basis of a considered assessment of Australia’s position in the Asian-Pacific region. Australia’s high risk defence strategy is promised on a distorted and hysterical interpretation of events in Afghanistan. It is built on foreign supplied military weapons. It is not built on a reasoned assessment of Australia ‘s security needs and defence capabilities. Central to any security system is the adequate provision of social and physical infrastructure, ports, roads, public transport facilities and communication links.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! It being 10.30 p.m. I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the negative.
-Central to the selfsufficiency of a defence capability is a broad and diversified manufacturing industry sector. These forms of self-sufficiency are being undermined by this Government. We have the potential in Australia to develop a viable shipbuilding industry. We have the capacity to produce the rolling stock. We have the need and the ability to improve the infrastructure in urban and regional centres. We have the potential to develop a viable electronics industry. This potential has been jeopardised by the hasty decisions of this Government. Australia’s defence options are being reduced rather than expanded by this Government. This Government is not genuinely interested in the security of the Australian people. At the domestic level it has deliberately pursued actions which threaten the income security, the job security, the housing security and the health security of the Australian people. It has allowed the Australian shipbuilding industry to decline substantially. It has presided over a major deterioration of the Australian manufacturing sector.
The security of the Australian people has been put in jeopardy because this Government is prepared to use public funds merely to demonstrate its support for the United States of America in its opposition to the Soviet Union. The Government basically is not concerned about the Australian people. That is the real failure of this Government. This Government has to start thinking about developing a defence program which will represent the interests of the Australian people, not merely link itself into the corporate sector and the wealthy sector of the Australian community and the world. If corporate investment is made in this country, the Government thinks that in time of war those corporations will help to defend this country. They will not. Only the people of Australia will defend this country.
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Debate (on motion by Mr Chapman) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr Groom)- by leave- agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the first Order of the Day, Government Business, on Wednesday, 2 April, being Grievance Debate and, further, that all other provisions of Standing Order 106 be read as if Wednesday, 2 April, were an alternate sitting Thursday to which that Standing Order would normally apply.
Disturbance at Opening of Nursing HomeTextile Industry- Australian Labor Party Employment Plan
Motion (by Mr Groom) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I wish to speak on a matter of major concern to my electorate of Melbourne. The demonstration by 1,000 citizens of the inner suburbs of Melbourne last Sunday against the presence of the Prime
Minister (Mr Malcom Fraser) at the opening of the Harold McCracken Nursing Home has provoked a considerable amount of verbal abuse about this place, not the least of which has been directed at me and a member of my staff. It is time that the record was set straight about what happened at that demonstration. A person whom I know very well and trust completely was present at the demonstration. In case some cynics are wondering, that person was not Councillor Healy.
This person, whom I will not name, was in a section of the crowd where the melee erupted and has given me an eye witness account of the proceedings. That person will swear to that account in the form of a statutory declaration. This person has confirmed the description of what happened with other people present. It must be said, as I said this morning, that when the violent confrontation erupted between the police and the demonstrators Mr Fraser was safely inside the nursing home having afternoon tea with the official party. The prelude to the violence was the arbitrary arrest of one man, a gesture certain to inflame the emotional and angry crowd of demonstrators. The arrest occurred after a man began pointing out to those around him the presence of a known plain clothes detective mingling with the crowd. When the policeman became aware that he was rumbled, he and perhaps three to five other policemen attempted to reach the person pointing them out. This man and another man moved to the edge of the crowd, and fled down an alley chased by the policemen. These men escaped. The plain clothes policeman and the other policeman returned to the crowd where an arbitrary arrest was made, sparking off the violent scenes which followed. People in the crowd tried to free the arrested man by pulling him away from the police. This attempt was unsuccessful but it led to the police wading into the demonstrators and also the charging of police horses into the crowd. One horse and its rider reared and knocked two women to the ground. One women was kicked in the eye by the horse and the other, an elderly woman, was hurt even more seriously.
– Are you blaming the horse now?
– It is no good blaming the Minister at the table. He is an imbecile. A man who attempted to pull the younger woman out from under the horse’s hooves was bashed twice on the head by a policeman using his truncheon. In the process he was concussed but he escaped arrest. A photographer employed by a student newspaper was severely punched in the stomach. One man, apparently unconscious, was seen being dragged along the ground by his feet, his head bumping the pavement. As people were arrested a policeman entered the back of a paddy wagon and began flailing punches at those people inside. It has been said that police uniform badges were not in evidence during the melee. After things quietened down a section of the crowd began to walk en masse to Russell Street police station where they remained on vigil until the last of the nine people arrested were released on bail.
Along the way the crowd was pushed and shoved and generally manhandled off the roadway by junior police officers until a senior officer arrived, and observing this provocation, asked what they were doing. He dressed down the junior officers in front of the demonstrators, who then continued to walk along the edge of the roadway to Russell Street without further provocation or incident. One man who had driven from the nursing home to Russell Street to inquire after his comrades arrived before the crowd. He was arrested immediately, the charge being that of using abusive language. The first man arrested was informed at the demonstration that he had been arrested as a public nuisance. Later this charge was changed to that of throwing an egg. Another person who was arrested was actually an employee of the Melbourne City Mission.
It seems to me that police actions led to violent scenes at Fitzroy on Sunday. Many of the police actions were violent in themselves. The police were well prepared for violence. This is in contrast to what the Prime Minister said on the Willisee at Seven program. He stated with official wisdom that there would be a peaceful demonstration. Apart from the throwing of eggs and tomatoes, hardly any projectiles were thrown. So it was a peaceful demonstration. It was peaceful but agitated by the movement of the crowd and those who went before it. The problems that confront the grazier from Nareen are all contained in the problems that confront the people in the Fitzroy electorate. It is the poor people of Fitzroy who feel the effect of these problems. They cannot escape being poor, being black, being migrants, being discriminated against or being unemployed in Malcolm Fraser’s society. It is little wonder -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The honourable member will refer to the Prime Minister as ‘the Prime Minister’.
– It is little wonder that they throw tomatoes. This man would try to start a fight in an empty house and blame somebody else for starting it.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Government members interjecting-
– Honourable members opposite are rippers and Santamaria dictates their politics.
-Order! Honourable members will resume their seats. The honourable member’s time has expired. I call the honourable member for Bendigo on a point of order.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, one is forced to enter this adjournment debate when one listens to this utter rubbish -
-Order! The Chair called the honourable member for Bendigo to take a point of order.
– No, Mr Deputy Speaker, I stood to speak in the adjournment debate.
-The honourable member for Bendigo got to his feet before the honourable member for Melbourne had been called to order. The honourable member for Moore has the call in the adjournment debate.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, with due respect, he did not even stand.
Opposition members interjecting-
-Order! It will assist the Chair if the House comes to order. I beg the pardon of the honourable member for Bendigo if in fact on this occasion the honourable member for Moore did not stand. He was standing on the previous occasion. In the flurry of activity and the disorder the Chair was confused. I call the honourable member for Bendigo to speak in the adjournment debate.
-One must come in and contradict the points raised by the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes), who had the audacity to stand up here and suggest that people who are elected and appointed and paid to preserve peace, law and order in this country are the causes of the trouble. What utter rubbish when we know that his own person, the person who is employed by this gentleman, publicly published that he was going to cause a riot- not just a demonstration but a riot. He threatened that there would be violence.
Opposition members- Lies.
– And then he had the gall to come into this House and say -
– Quite clearly that the police are -
-Order! The honourable member for Bendigo will resume his seat.
Opposition members interjecting–
-Order! The House will come to order.
– The Prime Minister’s little boy -
-Order! The honourable member for Corio will remain silent.
-He is the first cab off the rank.
-Order! The honourable member for Melbourne will remain silent. In the exchange the Chair has reason to believe that some unparliamentary expressions were used. The Chair will not insist on withdrawals because of the general confusion. To ensure that justice is done and that no discrimination is effected the Chair will not nominate -
– But the honourable member -
-The honourable member for Bendigo will remain silent or I will be required to deal with him, and also the honourable member for Kalgoorlie.
– With respect to members -
-Order! The honourable member for Kalgoorlie will resume his seat. The honourable member for Corio will return to his seat. The honourable member for Bendigo may resume.
– Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I notice that the honourable member for Corio got up and said that I am telling lies. The only reason he is saying that is that he is like all the weak-livered Nellies on that side who protest they are moderates but are left wing-
-Order! The honourable member for Bendigo will resume his seat.
– The communist based -
-Order! The honourable member for Bendigo will resume his seat.
– The honourable member for Bendigo makes a -
-Order! The honourable member for Corio is not entitled to address the House without the call. The honourable member for Corio was called upon to return to the chamber because he contravened Standing Orders in leaving his seat when the Deputy Speaker was on his feet addressing the chamber -
– I did not hear you.
-You were recalled on that point. The honourable member for Melbourne Ports is seeking to make a point of order.
- Mr Speaker, the terminology used by the honourable member for Bendigo in describing members of the Opposition is unparliamentary, undignified and offensive. I would ask that it be withdrawn.
-The honourable member for Melbourne Ports will resume his seat. On the point of order, it is a sad commentary on the House that the Chair is disadvantaged in following the exchange because of the sheer rowdiness. I must rely on the statement of the honourable member for Melbourne Ports that in fact offensive statements were made. The Chair must confess that the honourable member for Bendigo ‘s remarks are coming back purely in terms of volume and noise and are not in a distinguishable form. Under the circumstances I call on the honourable member for Bendigo to resume but not to be unduly provocative in his remarks.
– Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I am sorry that you cannot understand what I am saying. If you read Hansard tomorrow you will probably be able to read what I am saying. Let me make it quite clear -
– I take a point of order.
– A little socialist, the rough Red from Richmond is up again.
– I take a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker.
-Order! The honourable member for Bendigo will resume his seat. I call the honourable member for Melbourne Ports on a point of order.
– I would have been happy to leave the matter but the honourable gentleman, in resuming his speech, has basically reiterated the statements he has made, which will be recorded in Hansard. In order to inform you, I point out that he described members on this side of the House as a lot of lily-livered liars.
-I did not say ‘liars’ at all and the honourable member is a liar for saying that.
-Order! The honourable member for Bendigo is compounding the problem by repeating that statement.
– I just ask him to withdraw the terminology.
-Order! I ask the honourable member for Melbourne Ports to resume his seat. I call on the honourable member for Bendigo to withdraw and to confine his remarks to parliamentary language.
-I withdraw, Mr Deputy Speaker. Let me make it quite clear in the short time I have left that when the honourable member for Melbourne stands up here and tries to tell us that the police of this country are the instigators of riots he really must be kidding. The people who instigated the riot are the people who work for him, the people who publicly said there would be a riot, the people who organised the riot and the people who threw the stuff in the riot.
– Liar, liar.
– Not the people who protected those at the place, but the people who threw the damned stuff and you are one of the instigators of it.
-Order! The honourable member for Bendigo will resume his seat. The honourable member for Melbourne will withdraw the unparliamentary expression.
– I withdraw. I wish to take a point of order.
-I call the honourable member for Melbourne on a point of order.
– I am reluctant to take the point of order as the honourable member has resumed his seat. However, he has assassinated the character of a person who is not here to defend himself.
-There is no substance in the point of order.
– I just challenge him to make the remark outside.
-There is no point of order. The honourable member for Bendigo ‘s time has expired.
-One can understand the emotion that has been generated on the other side of the House in respect to this issue, members on the Government side having indulged in a piece of character assassination this morning with respect to someone who is employed by a Minister of this Parliament and within the jurisdiction of this Parliament.
-Yes, the Minister for Administrative Services” (Mr John McLeay). It is an incredible situation that a Minister who has an interest in terms of the administration of his office has singled out a member of the staff of a member of this Parliament and has dealt with his activities as an ordinary citizen within a time in which he was not in any sense carrying out -
– I rise to order.
– I hope that the point of order is not specious.
-The honourable member for Batman will resume his seat.
– He is a rabble rouser paid by the taxpayers of Australia.
-Order! I warn the honourable member for Kalgoorlie that if he again engages in a specious point of order or interjects in any form I will name him.
-The Government over the past four years has committed a number of acts of social violence within this community. I refer to the massive levels of unemployment that exist in this country, the disruption to health and welfare programs, the reduction in the real standards of living of people both within the work force and people who are out of the work force and dependent on social security benefits and services. It is no wonder that when the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) comes to an area such as the inner city area of Melbourne where much of this violence has been perpetrated, where people are suffering great hardship because of the policies of this Government, some kind of atmosphere would be generated.
Frankly, I support the views of Senator Grimes in the other place when he suggests that it was no accident that so many police were lined up. An atmosphere was generated by the police which could lead only to a very difficult and dangerous situation. Certainly, from the point of view of the police there were acts of intimidation, as I think the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes) suggested. I think the honourable member gave what was a fairly objective account of what took place in Fitzroy. This Government is pursuing a certain line of policies which must inevitably lead to very great division and social conflict in the community. If that division and that social conflict occur the responsibility lies fairly and squarely with the Prime Minister of this country. He is the one who has sought systematically over the past five years to divide this community.
It goes back to 1975 when he was prepared violently to override the due constitutional process and to embark on a course of action which radically redistributed resources in this country and set one section of the community against another. One sees that represented in terms of banners associated with the demonstration last Sunday. Members on the Government side cannot scream when the Prime Minister seeks deliberately to go out and seek a riot-led recovery. He has tried everything else; now he is on to riots. The view that the Prime Minister was seeking to provoke is a view which is not simply held by people who share the Labor Party’s disposition. People such as Sir Louis Matheson, a former Chancellor of Monash University, have put the point of view that the Government was seeking through the Prime Minister’s action in relation to that opening, knowing that he was not wanted in Fitzroy, to create the circumstances in which violence might occur.
It is my belief that the police were there because they were tipped off by the Government and that there were agents of the Commonwealth Police involved in that demonstration, actively seeking to stir it up in every possible way. This Government believes it can get something out of violence and it will seek to stir it up wherever it can. The real problem is the social violence which is being perpetrated by this Government and its policies. I recognise that Government supporters have become silent because they see the truth of what I am saying. The Government is itself responsible for what is occurring. It has divided the community, setting one citizen against another. It has set the employed against the unemployed.
– I raise a point of order. I have sat here with commendable restraint throughout this debate and listened to the rubbish and accusations of lies that have come from the other side.
-Order! There is no point of order. The honourable member for Herbert will resume his seat.
– I have a point of order.
-There is no substance in the point of order. The honourable member for Herbert will resume his seat.
-It might come as somewhat of a relief to the Chair to learn that I intend to change the subject. I do not intend to dignify what has been said on the other side of the chamber by even making a response. The words of honourable members opposite are condemnation enough. Recently, Professor Max Corden wrote:
There will . . . always be interest groups with lobbyists whose duty it is to argue one-sidedly in defence of their special interests and to get as much space as possible in the Press for their points of view.
The document that I have before me, which was published by the Textile Council of Australia Ltd and is entitled ‘120,000 Jobs on the Line’, represents one such argument. It is a one-sided and not truly credible exposition of a point of view. It claims, in attacking the recommendations of the Industries Assistance Commission on the textile, clothing and footwear industries that they would lead to major unemployment and would reduce national economic growth; that a switch from the present system of quotas on imports to tariffs alone, as advocated by the IAC, would lead to a substantial and serious increase in the volume of cheap imports. I ask: Would that be so with a 90 per cent tariff? The Textile Council says also that it plans to focus the widest possible public attention on the contribution that the textile industries have made, and can continue to make, to Australia’s employment, growth and wealth. In actual fact, because they require such high levels of protection they have reduced all three. Although the tariff or quota protection can help to raise the level of employment within a protected industrial process it must reduce the total number of jobs available at any particular wage level. In other words, the number of jobs created in a protected industry must be exceeded by the number of jobs lost in other industries.
– How many protected jobs are there in your electorate?
-Quite a lot. The Industries Assistance Commission has calculated that, in the absence of protection, the Australian household, after meeting its textile, clothing and footwear requirements at unprotected prices, would still have more than $200 left to spend on something of its choice that someone else would have to make or do. That $200 figure is expressed in 1976 dollars. It would be considerably higher today. The reason why jobs will not be destroyed by a reduction in protection is that those resources will then be available to spend on something else- be it clothing, textiles and footwear or some other employment-creating activity. I quote further the remarks of Professor Corden in the belief that his standing on the matter should be accepted by anyone. Under the heading Extra Employment’, he states:
What then is the simple answer when one is asked “tell us where the extra jobs will be?” First, some of the extra jobs will be in export industries, including some industries that may turn into export industries as a result of the gradual adjustment process. Secondly, they will be wherever the Government chooses to spend its money- whether on education, defence, public transport, or whatever. Thirdly, new employment will be where companies and individuals choose to spend their extra incomes, whether on consumption or investment. If the average citizen were given an extra $300 p.a., what would he or she spend it on? This spending would, of course, lead to extra demand for Australianproduced manufacturers and services, and thus generate, employment.
It should not surprise anyone that more, not less, employment must eventually result from using Australia’s resources in those activities in which we have our natural competitive edge and which do not, therefore, require to be feather-bedded. The only question that should be asked is how quickly we can make the change and reap the benefits without giving rise to unacceptable disruption.
Mr FitzPATRICK (Riverina) (10.56)-Like the honourable member for Moore (Mr Hyde), I want to speak on a more pleasant and amiable note. I wish to inform the House of the joy and gratification of Australian youth and other unemployed citizens following the Australian Labor Party’s announcement of its new plan for the employment of those who are out of work as a result of the Fraser Government’s policies. This new plan and the Labor Party’s attack on the Fraser Government for its failure to assist Australia’s unemployed gives at last some hope to those victimised and forgotten Australians. The Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs (Mr Viner) has fooled no one. As a matter of fact, he came under heavy fire for his distorted comments on the Labor Party’s plans to get Australians working again. The Minister and other Government speakers received and deserved the condemnation of Australia’s unemployed. They had shown no concern for the tragically record number of unemployed. All that the Government could do was rubbish the employment plan of the Labor Party and to claim that it was a rehash of the Whitlam Government’s Regional Employment Development scheme.
The question that we should ask ourselves tonight is just how far out of touch with the real feeling in the electorate can Government members get? I warn them that they cannot hide behind the Afghanistan situation. As far as my electorate is concerned the Government is hopelessly out of touch with the real situation because many local shire officials, school teachers and parents have written to me asking that I urge it to introduce some community work schemes to solve the unemployment situation. The Government’s exaggerated response to the Afghanistan issue, which is aimed at diverting attention from the real domestic issues of the nation, will fool no one. The attempt to divert attention from inflation, unemployment, petrol prices, interest rates and health care costs will not deceive hungry, unemployed people. Also, tax changes made in an attempt to head off public dissatisfaction at the rapidly increasing burden of income and fuel taxes will fool no one.
Mr Fraser ‘s tax cuts really mean that the vast majority of Australians will have to pay more tax in 1980-81. This Government is the highest taxing government in Australian history. In addition, every petrol pump has become a tax collection office, with almost half the cost of petrol going straight to the Australian Taxation Office. The latest confusion, denial and backtracking on the liquefied petroleum gas charges will be the ruin of the Government. It will bring it down. Country people can no longer put up with the increasing cost of petrol. It is putting farmers out of work- sending them bankrupt. It is also putting out of work many youths employed in country areas.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! It being 1 1 o ‘clock, the debate is interrupted. The House stands adjourned until 10.30 a.m. tomorrow.
The following notices were given:
Mr Garland to present a Bill for an Act relating to the acquisition of shares in companies incorporated in the Australian Capital Territory and matters connected therewith.
Mr Garland to present a Bill for an Act relating to fees payable for the purposes of the Companies (Acquisition of Shares) Act 1980.
Mr Garland to present a Bill for an Act relating to the securities industry in the Australian Capital Territory.
Mr Garland to present a Bill for an Act relating to fees payable for the purposes of the Securities Industry Act 1980.
Mr Garland to present a Bill for an Act relating to the interpretation of certain legislation relating to corporations and the securities industry, and for certain other matters.
Mr Ellicott to present a Bill for an Act relating to the Australian War Memorial.
Mr Ellicott to present a Bill for an Act to make provision for the establishment of a Museum of Australia.
Mr Street to present a Bill for an Act to amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1 904.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 29 August 1979:
– The answers to parts (1 ) to (5) of the honourable member’s question are as follows:
The Minister for Administrative Services has provided the following answers to parts (6) to ( 10) of the honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice, on 20 November 1979:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
New South Wales- interest by one station for one area. Victoria- interest by four stations for nine areas. Queensland- interest by seven stations for six areas. South Australia-interest by two stations for three areas. Western Australia- interest by one station for two areas.
It would not be appropriate to nominate individual station applicants at this stage. The above figures do not include television translator stations for which licences have already been offered by the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal.
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 2 1 November 1979:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 19 February 1980:
On what dates and for what purposes have Portuguese aircraft used Australian airfields in the last 6 years.
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania- There are no recorded movements over the past six years by aircraft with Portuguese registration.
Queensland- There are no recorded movements since June 1977 by aircraft with Portuguese registration. Earlier records are unavailable.
Western Australia- Details are available from April 1975 for movements to/from Penh, Port Hedland, Derby, Broome and Cocos Island airfields. Since then there has been only one recorded movement by a Portuguese registered aircraft, on 16 April 1975 between Den Pasar and Broome. No details are available as to the purpose of the flight.
Northern Territory- The only recorded movements over the past six years were in 1975 through Darwin Airport. Three flights, on 18, 21 November and 13-14 December were by Portuguese Army B707 aircraft and were associated with the movement of Timor refugees. The remaining 41 flights on the dates indicated below were by DHI04 aircraft owned by the Portuguese Government. The flights were associated with the carriage of personnel. Following the flight into Darwin on 7 December 1975 the aircraft was abandoned and in 1977 following consultation with the Portuguese Government it was donated to an aviation museum in Darwin.
Movements through Darwin Airport in 1975 by DH104 aircraft were on the following dates:
February 15, 22 March 1 1 June 6 July 2
August 6, 17 September 12, 13, 15,26
October 1,2,3,6,8, 9, 10, 11, 13, 16, 17, 18,21,22,24, 26, 30,31
November 1,3 (twice), 5, 6, 8, 18, 20, 2 1, 26 December 7, 21.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 19 February 1980:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 20 February 1980:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
In addition to the notifications of clinical cases of Q-fever, the prevalence of the disease can be assessed from figures of virus isolates submitted by the nine virus laboratories contributing data to the fortnightly bulletin issued by my Department ‘Communicable Diseases Intelligence’. Reports of Q-fever laboratory isolations reported during 1 979 were:
Brucellosis and leptospirosis isolations are not reported to the bulletin.
In respect of brucellosis, whilst the incidence of this disease is relatively low in Australia, it is not regarded as Dr Bartlett apparently suggested. Bovine brucellosis and tuberculosis are the subject of an extensive joint eradication campaign funded by the Commonwealth and State Governments and cattle industries. It is expected that the campaign will achieve provisional brucellosis freedom in cattle by 1984. Expenditure on operational costs and compensation payments for the program totalled $32 million in 1 978-79.
My Department is publishing a book entitled ‘Synopsis of Zoonoses’, which is designed as a text for medical and veterinary students and for use by medical practitioners and veterinarians. The book covers all known zoonotic diseases in Australia, including brucellosis. In addition, an occupational health guide for zoonoses in the industrial area is being drafted and should be available shortly. The guide will include brucellosis.
The Commonwealth Institute of Health at the University of Sydney provides the following for doctors and medical students in occupational health:
It is also planned to commence a thirteen week full-time course for medical practitioners in 1981, subject to the availability of staff.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 20 February 1980:
In respect of workers’ compensation, what sum was (a) collected in premiums, (b) disbursed in benefits, (c) disbursed by way of legal costs, and (d) disbursed by way of hospital and medical costs throughout Australia during (i) 1976-77,(ii) 1977-78, and (iii) 1978-79.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The following table sets out the amounts of direct premiums (including inward facultative and inward treaty reinsurance premiums) received in respect of the Employers’ Liability class of insurance business by underwriters balancing in the years ended 30 June 1977, 1978 and 1979:
This information has been compiled from statistics forwarded to the Insurance Commissioner by private and public sector insurers. However, neither the Commissioner nor the Australian Bureau of Statistics has available any dissected information on workers’ compensation claim costs of the kind sought in the honourable member’s question. The bodies responsible for administering workers’ compensation legislation in the various States may be able to furnish this information.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 20 February 1 980:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The fees quoted below for all other nursing homes approved under the National Health Act are gross fees for ordinary care patients. The patient ‘s liability to meet these fees from his own resources is reduced by the amount of Commonwealth and nursing home fund benefits payable. For extensive nursing care patients fees and benefits are$42 a week higher.
The detailed information requested by the honourable member is set out below:
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 5 March 1980:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister represent ing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 6 March 1980:
– The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answers to the honourable member’s questions:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 1 April 1980, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1980/19800401_reps_31_hor117/>.