31st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That as it is clear that umemployment is a long term problem in Australia, the Government should extend to the unemployed the same assistance as is given to any other disadvantaged member of the community. There is an urgent need to alleviate the financial hardship and emotional stress that the unemployed are suffering.
Your petitioners therefore pray:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Dr Cass, Mr Fry, Mr Holding and Mr Kerin.
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. by Mr Burns and Mr Howe.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives assembled.
The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the National Women’s Advisory Council has not been democratically elected by the women of Australia:
That the National Women’s Advisory Council is not representative of the women of Australia;
That the National Women’s Advisory Council is a discriminatory and sexist imposition on Australian women as Australian men do not have a National Men’s Advisory Council imposed on them.
Your petitioners therefore pray:
That the National Women’s Advisory Council be abolished to ensure that Australian women have equal opportunity with Australian men of having issues of concern to them considered, debated and voted on by their Parliamentary representative without intervention and interference by an unrepresentative “Advisory Council “.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Calder and Mr Jull.
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 1 0 per cent by 1 990 and about 1 6 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 Carlton and Mr Jull.
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:
Whereas the Government has recently extended the eligibility for Service Pensions to include members of Allied forces, eligibility for merchant seamen remains excessively restrictive.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that:
The Government extend eligibility for Service Pensions to all merchant seamen whose service took them into a theatre of war and that the practice of relying exclusively on forms T124X and T124T to establish eligibility be abandoned.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Dawkins and Mr Shack.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That we oppose the increase in marine radio licence fees for the following reasons:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will reconsider the increased licence fee and also consider a reduction for pensioners. by Mr Bradfield.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully petition:
That the Government will act to prohibit the use of all public moneys for the killing of unborn children. That the said use of government moneys is an unacceptable government endorsement of a great national tragedy- the deaths annually of at least 80,000 unborn children.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Burns.
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:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that Parliament will:
Reform income tax laws to allow the joint income of husband and wife to be equally divided between them for taxation purposes.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Calder.
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 Right Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectf ully 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% of the population as it was in 1970 to over 10% by 1990 and about 1 6% 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 Cotter.
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 continued use of animal ingredients in cosmetic products, and the inhumane use of animals in scientific research for cosmetic products is abhorrent and barbaric.
That the Industries Assistance Commission, because of the Commission’s terms of reference, seems unable to impose any regulation or recommend any regulation which might restrict the activities of Cosmetic Companies which produce cosmetics in which animal ingredients have been used, or for which animals were subjected to research.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives will:
Legislate to require comprehensive labelling of perfumes, cosmetics and toilet preparations to indicate:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Humphreys.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That in making available six fortnightly payments of invalid or age pension to the wife or husband of deceased invalid or age pensioners after their death, the Department of Social Security does not recognise the close relationship and bond of dependence that develops between pensioners of the same family, such as a brother and sister living together and sharing expenses.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House will request the Government to extend the special pension entitlement to the deceased pensioner’s next of kin where that person both bears the financial responsibility for the pensioner’s burial and is a pensioner.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Humphreys.
Import Parity Price Levy on Fuel
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The humble petition of citizens of Australia respectfully desire to bring to the attention of the Minister for Minerals and Energy that the high price of motor spirit and dieselene in Australia is adversely affecting the citizens of Australia by:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that in order to allow time for such affected people to adjust to the ‘world transport fuel crisis’ we respectfully request the Federal Government reduce its ‘import parity price levy’ by the sum equivalent to 1 5c. a litre, for a period of twelve months.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Simon.
To the Honourable, the Speaker, and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that due to technological change which has brought about large scale unemployment, we call upon the Government to introduce early optional retirement at age 60 with full pension benefits.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will as a matter of urgency introduce early optional retirement at age 60 with full pension entitlements to relieve the large scale unemployment in Australia.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Young.
To the Right Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The undersigned residents of the township of Greta, NSW and its environs respectfully showeth:
Their dismay at the disaster envisaged to their township if the Australian Telecommunication Commission removes the External Plant School from its present site.
They therefore beg the Australian Parliament to use its good offices in persuading Telecom not to move the school.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr James and Mr Lucock.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives, of the Australian Parliament assembled.
The petition of certain citizens of NSW respectfully showeth:
Dismay at the reduction in the total expenditure on education proposed for 1980 and in particular to Government Schools.
Government Schools bear the burden of these cuts, 1 1.2% while non-Government schools will receive an increase of 3.4%.
We call on the Government to again examine the proposals as set out in the guidelines for education expenditure 1 980 and to immediately restore and increase substantially in real terms the allocation of funds for education expenditure in 1 980 to Government schools.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byMrBradfield.
To the Right Honourable Speaker and Members of the Parliament assembled. This humble petition of the sportsmen and women and citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that:
Valuing the Olympic movement as an historic expression of all that is worthwhile in human endeavour and conscious of the important role competitive sport plays in maintaining health and the spiritof achievement in everyday life.
Honouring the high principles consistently pursued by the International Games Administration of keeping the movement free from religious, racial and political considerations.
Realising that the Olympic movement owes its resilience and very existence to the citizens of the nations from whom spring the participants in the contests and that the survival of this movement is the cherished hope of all communities.
We the undersigned sportsmen and women and citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia by this humble petition respectively pray that the Australian Government do all in its power to ensure the participation of a full Australian contingent in the XXII Olympic Games to be held in Moscow, USSR, from 1 9 July to 3 August 1 980.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr John Brown.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The 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 1 st July 1 982.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Porter.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The humble petition of the undersigned electors of the Division of Holt respectfully showeth:
That the export of aged and sick horses offends all animal lovers in the electorate of Holt and throughout the nation.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Federal Government prohibit any further exports from the States by refusing the Federal export licence to all further applicants.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Yates.
-I give notice that, on the next day of sitting, I shall move:
That this House, noting the attempt in 1 936 of the French Government to look both ways at once by allocating credits for their athletes to go to the Russian sponsored Barcelona Games and to the Hitler sponsored Berlin Games, thereby enabling and encouraging Hitler within 3½ years to parade under the Arc de Triomphe as the conqueror of France, resolves that the Australian Government and Olympic Federation should be guided by the lessons of history.
-I give notice that, on the next day of sitting, I shall move:
That this House congratulates the Tasmanian Olympic Council on its decisive and courageous vote in favour of an Australian boycott of the 1 980 Afghanistan Slaughter Olympic Games, and notes with regret that not one single member of the Australian Labor Party in this House has publicly supported the historic Tasmanian Olympic Council decision.
– I ask a question of the Acting Prime Minister and Minister for Trade and Resources. Is the right honourable gentleman aware of persistent reports in overseas and Australian journals that there has been a significant leakage of grain to the Soviet Union despite prohibitions by the governments of a number of countries, including Australia? In particular, is the Minister aware of reports that some 500,000 tonnes of Australian barley were transhipped in Singapore for the Soviet Union? If these reports are correct, will the Government act to make effective the few feeble trade sanctions it has so far imposed on the Soviet Union? Further, what action has the Government taken to extend the scope of these trade sanctions after May? In particular, will it maintain the ban on sales of grain, specifically wheat, to the Soviet Union?
– I am not aware of the reports that the Leader of the Opposition has mentioned regarding the leakage of grain, in this case via Singapore, but I will certainly have some inquiries made to ascertain what the situation is. We reached an understanding with other grain exporting countries, including the United States, that if the United States were able to freeze the 17 million tonnes of grain, basically feed grain, we would co-operate so as not to undermine its efforts in its embargo on the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. So far we have played our part by stopping some exports of grain, including a load of maize from New South Wales and a consignment of sorghum from Queensland. We have fully accepted our obligations and honoured them and I would want to see the United States do likewise. The points that the Leader of the Opposition has brought up are matters which I will have looked at. We believe in taking action which will be effective. The honourable member has said on a number of occasions that he is in favour of boycotts only when they will be effective. The reason why we have not imposed trade sanctions, as some people have suggested we might, is that the only people we would hurt in many cases would be ourselves. Unless we have agreement and cooperation with other countries, it is a useless exercise.
– Does the Minister for Home Affairs still maintain his view that there will be an effective boycott of the Olympic Games? Does the boycott have support among Australian sportsmen and sportswomen? Has the Minister seen reports that the Opposition is in difficulty over the boycott? Is this correct? Is there any support among Opposition members for a boycott? Finally, what will be the effect of the United States boycotting the Moscow Olympic Games?
-Before I call the Minister, I indicate to him that the question was in several parts. Only the first two parts are in order. The Minister is not responsible for any actions of the Opposition.
-I am very grateful that I am not responsible in any way for the Opposition, particularly in relation to this matter. However, I can deal with the last part of the question relating to the effect of the United States withdrawal from the Olympic Games which is a question of fact and opinion. According to the Guinness Book of Records, the 12 major countries at the Olympic Games have won 5,564 medals. Of those, over the period since the Olympic Games first began 1,512 have been won by the United States. May I add that 692 have been won by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, in case it is of interest to honourable members opposite and so they will not have to look up the record to quote the facts.
Can I also say this: Sporting officials at the meeting that I attended at Geneva indicated that on current performances United States swimmers would be expected to win 17 of the 29 swimming events at this year’s Olympics and each of them in world record time. I think it is necessary for honourable members to realise that the effect of the US Olympic boycott is to detract very considerably from the credibility of the Games in Moscow. I will come back to that in a moment.
A number of people representing sporting bodies and otherwise involved in the decision of the Australian Olympic Federation have indicated to me of their own volition their support. We have, of course, the fact that the Tasmanian Olympic Council has voted to support the boycott. Last evening on P.M. Mr Grange, the President of the Australian Olympic Federation, said- I think honourable members should take note of this:
In the first place … the only judge as to whether some particular event endangers national security 1 believe rests with the government. After all, they are the ones who have control of our foreign policy, have people who specialise in evaluating transient events overseas.
That is a clear response to what the Government has been saying to the Australian Olympic Federation. It is an indication that Australians generally should take note of what their Government says on these matters. I would expect the athletes of this country to do likewise on Saturday.
Of course, it is a notable fact that the Opposition has been in a sense in great confusion over this matter. There have even been honourable members opposite who supported -
-Mr Speaker, I take a point of order. Prior to allowing the question to be answered you indicated that certain parts of the question were out of order. Is it then in order for the Minister to answer those parts of the question which are out of order or does that ruling have no actual effect on the way in which the question is answered? The Minister is answering those parts of the question which you ruled out of order.
-The honourable member for Phillip asked a question which related to whether or not there was to be an effective boycott and whether or not the Minister still believed that would occur. So long as the answer is relevant to that aspect of the question I will permit it.
– The fact is, of course, that in the Senate yesterday Senator Button said:
We did, however, put ourselves in a difficult position in relation to what constituted an effective boycott.
If I might indicate what the honourable member for Robertson, who is responsible for sport, said when he returned to this country -
- Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. I inquire from you the propriety of the Minister selectively and in a very limited way quoting from what Senator Button said. He said for instance:
In terms of what 1 regard as the gross immorality of the Government’s position, I want to deal briefly with the history of this matter.
He said -
-The Leader of the Opposition is quoting from what -
– I have Senator Button’s statement.
– There is no point of order.
– If I could raise the point with you -
-There is no point of order.
– For your guidance.
Government members interjecting -
– It seems I have more faith in your ability to guide than do your colleagues.
-Honourable gentlemen on my right will remain silent.
- Mr Speaker, the situation is that if the Minister quotes in that selective and limited way out of context our good friends in the Press Gallery, or many of them, are likely to repeat that in their reports in that limited way. That would be a gross misrepresentation of what Senator Button said.
-The honourable gentleman will make his point of order, not an explanation as to what Senator Button said. Under the Standing Orders the honourable gentleman can make a point of order but not debate the issue.
- Senator Button extended his criticism of the Government to this area. The point I make is that the Standing Orders are very loaded. But that is not your fault, Mr Speaker; it is the drafting of the Standing Orderssomething ought to be done about it- and the way in which unscrupulous people use the Standing Orders.
-Before I call the Minister again I point out to him that he must remain relevant to the parts of the question which were in order. The Minister is not responsible for the actions of the Opposition. I ask him to remain relevant.
-I want to satisfy you, Mr Speaker, that I am relevant. I was talking about people having supported the boycott. I just want to read to the House what the honourable member for Robertson said when he returned from the United States on 1 1 February last. He was asked questions about the Olympic Games and the boycott. He said:
I think it is almost inevitable, unless Russia withdraws from Afghanistan, but I think it is sad-
I will quote the whole of it- because I think we will see the end of the Olympic Games as it is now. Maybe that is a good thing. I think the idea that has been floating around for many years that the Games be permanently switched to Greece is a good idea.
Of course, I went to Olympia as you know, Mr Speaker. The honourable member continued:
The other thing 1 would like to see introduced is that we stop the idea of teams entering. The original idea of the Games was that they were individuals who entered on their own behalf and I would like to see that happening in the future.
Then the honourable member for Robertson went on to say this:
So maybe some good will come out of it in the long run, but it looks pretty likely that Australia, amongst others, will withdraw from the Games.
That was said by the honourable member for Robertson after returning from a visit to the United States, coming back here with an unaffected mind on the subject. The Leader of the Opposition, on the other hand, said at the beginning that a boycott was the most effective way of indicating our attitude to the Soviet Union.
-I ask the Minister to draw his answer to a conclusion.
-I am doing so, and I will in two seconds.
- Mr Speaker, that quote is as shonky as his second opinion.
-The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. The Minister will draw his answer to a conclusion.
-I only remind the honourable gentleman that I expressed an opinion in
October 1975 which he refused to acknowledge but which happened to be right.
Honourable members interjecting -
-The Minister will resume his seat. The behaviour in the House this morning is not acceptable to me. I ask all honourable members to listen to the questions and answers in silence. I ask the Minister, when I call him again, to draw his answer to a conclusion. The answer has already run for a very long period.
– All this raises a very serious question, not only for this Parliament but also for every Australian and every Australian sportsman. Why is it that the Labor Party, the Opposition in this Parliament, is the only political force amongst our friends and allies that is against the boycott of the Olympic Games? In the United States there is a common attitude in the Congress and in Canada a common view is emerging in the Houses of Parliament. The Parliament of Great Britain expressed a strong view in the resolution that it passed. In Germany -
- Mr Speaker, I take a point of order. The Minister is raising such continuous arguments that he is provoking people like me who are normally quiet in relation to these matters. For instance, we were the only significant political force that opposed the war in Vietnam, and we were right then.
-Order! There is no point of order. The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. I have requested the Minister to end his answer. I must insist that he conclude his answer.
- Mr Speaker, with very great respect- I am not seeking to challenge your ruling- I submit that the length of my answer is due not to the length of the sentences which I have been using but to the interruptions from the Opposition. That is why it is taking a long time. Mr Speaker, I do not want to canvass what you have said. Can I just finish my answer? Both sides of the Parliament in West Germany have a common view on this matter. As I pointed out yesterday, there $ a common view on both sides of the Parliament in New Zealand, including the Labour Party. A very relevant question to ask is: Why is the Opposition in this Parliament the odd force out amongst our friends and allies? I believe that every person in this country will be asking that question.
-I direct my question to the Acting Prime Minister. I refer to the analysis of figures on trade with Iran. Do they disclose, for example, that in the last eight months
Australia has imported $75m worth of petroleum products, whereas in the previous 12 months we imported only $33m worth? Is it a fact that we now supply one-third of Iran’s meat? Is it a fact also that in the last seven months we have sold to Iran $44m worth of wheat, whereas in the previous four years we sold that country no wheat? What will the attitude of the Government be to the Australian Wheat Board, the Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation and the importation of petroleum products with respect to future contracts with Iran?
– I will get for the honourable member the exact figures relating to trade that has taken place between Australia and Iran. It is pretty obvious that because the prices of the commodities he speaks about have gone up so much over the past 12 months there would be increases in the figures. Australia has never applied sanctions where food items are concerned. We believe that food is something that the people, rather than the governments, of countries require. Therefore, where we have contractual obligations trade is continuing as normal.
-The Minister for the Capital Territory will be aware of the grave difficulties suffered by a number of my constituents who have worked for employers in the Australian Capital Territory and whose entitlements to workers compensation have been cut off by the collapse of Palmdale Insurance Ltd. The Minister will also be aware that under the provisions of the relevant ordinances in the Australian Capital Territory there appears not to be the protection that one would hope the sense of those ordinances would have given to those people to continue their compensation through other arrangements. Will the Minister ensure that justice prevails for these people as soon as possible?
– The honourable gentleman raises a very serious question. The plight of those people who thought they had workers compensation to cover them is a real one. It has been brought to my notice and I have asked for a very urgent report and for recommendations in relation to it. It is a fact that legal advice has been given to the effect that the Workers Compensation Ordinance of the Australian Capital Territory does not protect people by giving rights against the nominal insurer, in which event the question arises as to whether a fund should be established, which I think has already happened in New South Wales and Victoria. That matter is being given very careful consideration. I expect to receive a report within about a fortnight.
-I refer the Minister for Primary Industry to his announcement to the National Farmers Federation yesterday that Asia Dairy Industries (Hong Kong) Ltd would remain a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Australian Dairy Corporation and be given greater trading powers. The Minister will recall that very serious allegations have been made about Asia Dairy Industries and that it has been conceded by senior officers that irregular payments have been made. Why is the Minister persisting with his refusal to table the Auditor-General’s report on those illegal payments? How does he justify extending the operations of Asia Dairy Industries while this cloud lingers over its previous activities? Will the Minister ensure that the Auditor-General’s report is made available to the Parliament as quickly as possible so that a proper assessment can be made of Asia Dairy Industries’ activities and its fitness to expand its operations?
– This question has been raised several times, both in this House and in the Senate. The fact of the matter is that there has been an exchange of correspondence on this matter between the Auditor-General, my Department and the Australian Dairy Corporation. I am advised by the Auditor-General that it is not appropriate- indeed it would be a precedent- until the investigation is completed, for that correspondence to be tabled in the Parliament. That is the advice that I have received. I know that the honourable member for Melbourne Ports, who is seeking to interject, would like to do a Michael Finnane on the Webster case, just as the Labor Party did on Ian Sinclair. It is exactly the same sort of procedure. All you are seeking to do is to have the assertion tabled without the facts.
-The Minister will address his answer through the Chair.
– The suggestion that a statement ought to be made on this matter before the Auditor-General has finished his inquiry simply seeks to condemn by assertion, through the allegations that are made about the activities that have occurred. When the Auditor-General has completed his investigation and has reported to me I will either make a statement to the Parliament or, if the Parliament is not in session, issue a public Press statement on the matter. There is no cover-up.
– Of course there is a cover-up, and you know it.
– There will be no cover-up. The honourable member for Melbourne Ports is pretty good at covering up. Let us look at a couple of land investments.
– Ask Phil Lynch. He is the expert. He is the Stumpy Gully Kid.
-I might get Phil Lynch to advise me as to certain other investments.
-Order! The Minister will answer the question.
– There will be no cover-up on this matter. The investigation is proceeding.
Opposition members interjecting-
-Order ! I ask all honourable gentlemen on my left to remain silent while the Minister completes his answer, which I am sure will be done very quickly.
– There will be no cover-up at all on this issue. The proper investigation is proceeding. When it is concluded I will make the necessary statement.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Defence. On 25 March this year the Minister said that the use of Australian facilities had been offered to the United States of America to support that country’s operations. He indicated that arrangements were yet to be discussed. In this connection has the Minister’s attention been drawn to recent articles in a Sydney newspaper which were critical of this approach? Can the Minister inform the House whether negotiations with the United States are proceeding and whether he is now in a position to give all of those who are opposed to the United States-Australia partnership what they truly deserve?
– When the Prime Minister was in the United States some months ago, in acknowledgment of the enormous burden of responsibility discharged by the United States in preserving a military balance, particularly in the margins of the Eurasian continent, he asked the United States in what way Australia could help. When my colleague the Minister for Foreign Affairs and I were in Washington for the ANZUS talks we further explored the issue. Several facts deserve to be made quite clear. It is an enormous burden of responsibility that the United States discharges in the margins of the Eurasian continent. It is the only power in the world that can offer the indispensable counterweight to the preponderance of Soviet military force. To do that it must operate across thousands and thousands of miles.
The need for the discharge of that burden has become more imperative since the invasion of Afghanistan. It is a matter of regret that some people dismiss or at least seek to diminish the importance of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Some point may be given to it by recalling the story of the Congress of Vienna. When Metternich was informed that the chief Russian delegate had died, Metternich said: ‘Died, has he? I wonder what can have been his motive’. I ask all honourable members in this House to ask themselves the question: ‘What is the motive for the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan? ‘ As my right honourable friend the Acting Prime Minister said yesterday, it points to the prospective control of quite one of the most strategic salients in the world.
It is in acknowledgment of all those facts that the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister and I have sought to inquire in what way we can assist the United States. No commitments have been made, but I am glad to inform the House that, following those offers, a United States team of eight servicemen and civilians, led by a captain of the United States Navy, will arrive in Australia today to examine some of the facilities in this country. Discussions will be held here in Canberra and then possible recommendations made to the Government. The House will be kept properly informed by me, the Foreign Minister or the Prime Minister. It only remains for me to say one thing in this whole melancholy business: I believe that the supreme test to contemporary politics in this country and elsewhere in the world is to get a clear understanding of the fact that, following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and following the massive geopolitical disturbance in Iran, the world itself is in very grave danger.
-Did the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs give approval to the spending of approximately $820,000 for the printing of an information kit to be used in the marketing of government manpower programs? Is it a fact that, on the day such information kits were to be made available to the public, the Commonwealth Employment Service branches were advised that the kits contained erroneous information and would need to be withdrawn?
– I am not aware of the last assertion made by the honourable gentleman. It is a fact that kits were prepared for a promotional campaign by the Commonwealth Employment Service of all the manpower services available through the CES. I will check on the cost of that program and let the honourable gentleman have details of it. That promotion was embarked upon for a very sound reason: These manpower programs are very good programs. They are designed to help both employers and the unemployed and, overall, the skill of the Australian work force. For that purpose I have also recently had prepared a pamphlet which, in short but pertinent detail, describes all of those manpower services. I hope that that pamphlet will be distributed far and wide throughout the electorates of all honourable members. I know that Government members have shown an encouraging response to my invitation to take as many copies as they want to spread throughout their electorates. I invite Opposition members to do the same. I am also proposing to get as many of those pamphlets as possible into factories and other establishments around Australia so that not only management but also the work force at the shop floor level can ascertain what programs are available. I do that for one very good reason. It is because I have no doubt that many of those people are interested in the futures of their children. These manpower programs are designed to help those children in their futures. I invite the honourable member who asked the question to approach my office and obtain as many copies of the pamphlet as he may like to have.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. I refer to the Community Access 80 program under which many hundreds of rural subscribers will receive major reductions in telephone charges as from 4 May. As the success of this program develops, will the Minister ask Telecom Australia to respond to the needs of rural business people who are penalised by costly trunk call charges?
– I thank the honourable member for his question. When the Community Access 80 program is introduced on 4 May by Telecom Australia, everyone in Australia will, for the first time, have a 9c three-minute call to his nearest community or service centre. These centres have been designated in such a fashion as to provide the widest possible range of services in the local community as would be relevant in that type of community. I emphasise- this is of particular relevance to small business people in country districts- that the benefits go both ways.
The rural subscriber telephoning his nearest community centre gets the benefit of the reductions and business people within that centre also get the benefit of the reduced charging rate when they call subscribers outside the town.
The most dramatic savings are found in the case of the electorate of the honourable member for Kalgoorlie, which I understand is the largest in Australia. Indeed it may be the largest in the world. In that electorate there are subscribers who presently pay $2.70 for every three-minute call. The cost of those calls will be reduced by $2.6 1 to 9c for every three minutes. Admittedly they are the most dramatic reductions, but thousands of Australians in country districts will have reductions of many per cent- almost 100 per cent in some cases. This is a benefit to rural subscribers and small business people in country districts. These reductions will be accompanied by other reductions which will be of assistance to all people in country districts. The charges within a charging district will be reduced to a maximum -
-I indicate to the Minister that his three minutes has expired. He is on extra charge now.
-Do I get it at the new reduced rate, Mr Speaker? I will draw my answer to a conclusion. The day rate charges within a charging district will be reduced to a maximum of 8 lc for three minutes and between exchanges in adjoining districts to a maximum of $1.35 for three minutes, irrespective of distance.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs. Is it a fact that the Repatriation Commission has overpaid pharmacists to the extent of $25m over the past six years? If so, does this make a total of $250m in excess payments to pharmacists when taken with the $22 5 m excess payments announced by the Minister for Health? Why has not Parliament been informed of this, when a full fortnight has passed since the Minister for Health allegedly fully reported to Parliament on the matter? Can the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs assure the House that this is the final instalment in this whole sorry saga?
– I am not in a position to quantify or to confirm the figure which the honourable member has cited. It is true that the dispensing fees that are fixed from time to time for National Health Service prescribing apply also for similar services under repatriation prescribing arrangements. So the situation that was described by the Minister for Health certainly has application to the repatriation payments.
I hoped to be in a position before this to do as the Minister for Health did, namely, to quantify the amount for the Parliament. My intention is to do that. There are particular reasons for this taking a somewhat longer time, and that does not please me. The delays are not engineered; they stem simply from the difficulties and complexities of this problem. The main difficulty we have is that data relating to my Department is available on computer only since 1979. We have a big job of collating, extracting and calculating manually the information prior to that date.
There are other complexities, too, that are relevant, I believe, to the situation. One is that in the repatriation area we prescribe a range of items beyond the NHS formulary. That is being looked at too, because when I make a statement to the Parliament it will not be by guess or by gosh; it will be a quantification. The Minister, in his statement to the House, mentioned the repatriation situation. I hope to be in a position very soon now to make such a quantification for the honourable member.
– Has the Minister for Foreign Affairs seen reports indicating that the United States may mine Iranian ports? Can the Minister inform the House whether he has any knowledge of whether there is any substance in these reports?
– I have seen a report in a newspaper this morning. It is a speculative piece that was seemingly based on speculation similarly abounding in the United States Press and media at the moment. I have said all along that it would be inappropriate for any other Foreign Minister throughout the world to speculate on what the United States might have to do. In this tragedy that is confronting the United States, that country requires our assistance and support. We do not give it that support by getting out in front and indicating that this might be an option or might not be an option. I am very grateful to the honourable member for raising this matter. The fact is that it would be inappropriate, particularly with President Carter due to conduct a Press conference soon to indicate continuing United States attitudes to the Iranian situation -
– What if he loses in Pennsylvania?
-We are all aware of the interest that the honourable member for Lalor has in the United States election campaign, but I ask him not to interject and distract attention from the answer that is being given by the Minister. The Minister will continue his answer.
– I regard the interjection as an absolutely debased one. I regard the United States President as having acted on a matter of very great and important principle. What is happening in Iran amounts to an attempt to conduct relations between states on the basis of government sanctioned kidnapping and blackmail, and it does not sit well with the honourable member for Lalor for him to interject in that manner. If the matter needs any restatement-
- Mr Speaker, I take a point of order, and I ask for the withdrawal of that remark. I do not believe that my interjection was a debased one. My point was that there have been several successive shifts in policy in the United States. I do not think it is debased to suggest that this has some relationship to -
-Order! The honourable gentleman is not taking a point of order; he is arguing the matter.
- Mr Speaker, I am taking a point of order. I am arguing that -
Government members- Ha, ha!
– No, I am putting it to you that the interjection I made was -
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. He has destroyed his argument.
– But I am putting it to you, Mr Speaker -
-There is no point of order.
– But you have not finished hearing what I have to say.
-I have heard enough. I ask the Minister to ignore the interjection and continue his answer to the question.
– I will ignore the interjection. I just remind the Austalian people that we are not a non-aligned nation. We are America’s ally. We are America’s friend and, even if it sounds simplistic, I say that to have a friend one needs to be a friend. Let there be no doubt that we will have no doubt about supporting the pursuit of the release of the hostages who are incarcerated at the moment.
– What have you done about it?
-We have done a great deal, and a great deal more than you have done. We have refused to replace our Ambassador. We have withdrawn our Trade Commissioner. We have indicated that, if necessary, we will do more. There ought to be no doubt about that whatsoever. In fact, that contrasts rather well with what the Opposition has done. On the three critical points, the Opposition has said: Firstly, that it would have replaced the Ambassadorthat is exactly what Iran wants; secondly, that it would not impose any economic restraint- again that is exactly what Iran wants; and, thirdly, that it would not take any decision until the Iranian Parliament resumes. We do not know when that Parliament will resume. We do not know what decision it will take. But we know that that is what Iran wants. So the fact of the matter is that the Government is unashamedly supporting the United States as an ally and a friend; the Opposition is not. I conclude by seeking the incorporation in Hansard of details of the measures that this Government has taken- the Australian diplomatic approaches on the occupation of the United States Embassy in Tehran.
The document read as follows-
– My question, which is directed to the Acting Prime Minister, follows in many ways the question that the Minister for Foreign Affairs has just answered. I refer the right honourable gentleman to the Government’s decision to withdraw the Trade Commissioner from Iran, although it has not imposed trade sanctions on that country. I refer him also to the Government’s decision to give partial support, even though somewhat ineffectual and blatantly selective in kind, to the trade sanctions imposed by the United States on the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, although it has not withdrawn the Trade Commissioner in Moscow. As the Prime Minister has made it plain that the Russian invasion of Afghanistan is the greatest threat to world peace since World War II, and therefore immeasurably more serious than the Iranian crisis, why has the Government not also withdrawn its Trade Commissioner in Moscow? In the interests of logic and consistency, will the Government withdraw its Moscow Trade Commissioner as it has now withdrawn its Iranian
Trade Commissioner or, alternatively, will it apply to trade with Iran the same sanctions as it has applied to trade with the Soviet Union? If the Minister is not prepared to give an explanation in regard to either of these matters, will he remove the perplexity and confusion of the community on the basic contradictions in Government policy?
– I think I should make the point that we have maintained our Embassy and Ambassador in the Soviet Union so that we can keep up a continuing dialogue in trying to bring about some resolution, some encouragement of the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. On the other hand, we are trying to co-operate with the United States in regard to the horrific problem that it has with the hostages who have been held for many months. It is causing much concern to the American people, and indeed the whole world, that this atrocity should continue. To give support, we have limited our associations and involvement with Iran. Our basic trade with that country has been in foodstuffs.
– Not altogether.
– I said that our basic trade has been in foodstuffs. Many of those foodstuffs were supplied on contracts which were entered into well before the hostage problem arose. Therefore, we have an obligation to try to fulfil those contracts, as we are honouring our contracts with the Soviet Union which were entered into prior to the Afghanistan situation. So I do not accept that there is any inconsistency. We have expressed our abhorrence of the Soviet Union’s invasion. We are taking whatever effective action we can to register the expression of the Australian people as to what the Soviet Union has done. With regard to the hostages in Iran, we are co-operating with a friend and ally to try to make sanctions more effective so that the Government of that country might take some action to release the hostages.
I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.
-Mr Speaker, I take a point of order. My point of order is that the Minister for Home Affairs (Mr Ellicott) spent about a quarter of an hour answering one question. Despite repeated requests from you, Mr Speaker, for him to wind up, it was impossible to plug up his mouth.
-There is no point of order.
– I ask that Question Time be extended so members have ample opportunity -
-There is no point of order.
– I take a point of order. It relates to the answer just given by the Acting Prime Minister (Mr Anthony). The question he was asked was: ‘Why has the Government not withdrawn the Trade Commissioner from Moscow?’ In his reply he did not answer that question but simply said that we have maintained our Ambassador in Moscow.
– What is the point of order?
– That was an evasion of the question relating to the Trade Commissioner.
-There is no point of order.
– Wait a minute. I have not finished.
-The honourable member has gone as far as he is going.
– I have not finished and I am not going to sit down until I finish. Now, Sir -
Honourable members interjecting-
-The honourable member for Hindmarsh will resume his seat.
-I won’t. I will finish what I want to say.
-I ask the honourable gentleman to resume his seat.
– What I want to know is why was he permitted -
-I warn to the honourable gentleman to resume his seat.
-To sit down -
-The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
– And close Question Time before the question he was asked was replied to.
-I warn the honourable gentleman to resume his seat.
-I present the report of the Auditor-General on an efficiency audit of the Department of Administrative ServicesAustralian Property Function.
-I ask leave of the House to move a motion, firstly, to authorise publication of the report and, secondly, to refer the report to the Standing Committee on Expenditure.
– Will the motions be taken separately?
– They are separate motions. It will be a matter for arrangement when the matter comes on whether they are debated jointly.
Motion (by Mr Viner)- by leave- proposed:
– Put the first motion first.
-I call the honourable member for Corio. I give him indulgence to state his point.
-I make a very brief remark about the reference to the Expenditure Committee. I do not object to the reference, but I believe that reports of the Auditor-General are of such consequence and such importance that, after a reasonable period of adjournment prior to their being referred to a committee whose report will not come to this House for six to 12 months when it will be largely irrelevant, sometime should be made available for this House, which is responsible for the allocation of funds and for the expenditure of governments, to debate the report presented. Then the reference to the committee for detailed examination should take place.
-The question is that the motion be agreed to. I call the honourable member for Banks.
-Could I just ask the Leader of the House (Mr Viner) whether he would be prepared to move that the House take note of the paper?
-I called the honourable member for Banks to speak to the motion. If the Leader of the House replies, he will automatically close the debate. So I will allow the Leader of the House, if he chooses to do so, to speak by indulgence.
Mr VINER (Stirling-Leader of the House)- Mr Speaker, perhaps I could speak with your indulgence to explain the situation. In these cases of efficiency audits there is a necessity to decide to which committee of the Parliamentthat is, either the Joint Committee of Public Accounts or the Standing Committee on Expenditure- the report will be sent. By arrangement between those two committees, this procedure has been adopted. The two committees have decided that the appropriate committee is the Expenditure Committee. It is necessary for the Auditor-General’s report to be considered by the Expenditure Committee that the question be put now. I will, however, examine the past practice of the House with regard to the presentation of reports by the Auditor-General and discuss the matter with the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes).
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– Pursuant to section 1 8 of the Dried Fruits Research Act 1971 I present the annual report of the Dried Fruits Research Committee 1978-79.
– For the information of honourable members I present the report of the
Industries Assistance Commission on doubleedged safety razor blades.
Requests for Information
-The Leader of the Opposition indicated to me that he wishes to ask a question.
- Mr Speaker, I wish to ask you a question. You moved with too much celerity earlier. My question without notice follows the sequence of disturbing and distasteful events surrounding the removal and reinstatement of Mr Jim Dunn of the Parliamentary Library. I refer you to the documents which you tabled in this House on Tuesday and specifically to document A 1 which is a minute from the Commonwealth Parliamentary Librarian to the Speaker dated 2 April and headed ‘For Information’. To summarise briefly, the minute informs the Speaker of the intention of Mr Weir, the Parliamentary Librarian, to transfer Mr Dunn and continues:
Further changes involving the Defence Group of the Legislative Research Service will be made known and implemented at a later stage.
I ask: What changes are contemplated for the Defence Group? Does your annotation on the minute, reading as follows ‘Noted. I take it this is an internal organisational decision’, refer only for Mr Dunn or does it indicate approval for reorganisation of the Defence Group? Can the Librarian’s change of mind over Mr Dunn’s transfer be taken to indicate that he has also abandoned his plans to interfere with the functioning of the Defence Group, one of the most diligent and effective units in the legislative research unit of the Parliamentary Library? Finally, are you aware that members of this House will not tolerate any further attempt by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Librarian to put the cleaners through the legislative research unit or any section of it at the expense of proper and effective functioning of this parliamentary chamber?
-The note which came to me had two points, one of which has not been mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition. This is appropriate because it is not relevant. The note had two paragraphs really that deal with the question of Mr Dunn. The Leader of the Opposition marked another paragraph which reads:
Further changes involving the Defence Group of the Legislative Research Service will be made known and implemented at a later stage.
I regard that paragraph as informing me that that was a matter which the Librarian was looking at. I put on that minute the note:
Noted. I take it this is an internal organisational decision.
That was a decision of the Librarian to transfer Mr Dunn; it was not a note that related to that paragraph. I regard most of the matter contained in the question asked by the Leader of the Opposition as baseless. The implications are not wellfounded. The fact is that the Librarian has responsibility for the internal organisation. I said the other day that I would not engage in debate on the issue, and I do not propose to do so. Because of the implication, on a separate issue I wish to inform the House that the upgrading of the Library during the period that I have been one of the Presiding Officers has been greater than in any comparable period in the past. I think that any member of this House or the Senate would acknowledge that. It has been my definite purpose to make the Library an intellectual resource centre available to all members of the House and the Senate. By its very nature, the Library obviously is used more by Opposition front benchers than Ministers, no matter who is in Opposition. Perhaps it is used more by Opposition back benchers than by Government back benchers, although I cannot say that that is necessarily so. It has been my intention, therefore, to make the Library responsive to the Opposition.
At present, some campaigning is going on in relation to the Legislative Research Service. It relates to where that Legislative Research Service will be situated. It is well known- I have reported this to this House- that we will have extra accommodation available. Some people feel that it is possible that the Legislative Research Service may be moved from this building. I have been asked to give an undertaking, in advance of the consideration of all other competing interests, that that will not happen. I have refused to give that undertaking simply because I. think it would be very wrong to take that matter in isolation, because then somebody would seek that some other area be taken in isolation.
In association with the President, I have instructed the Library to draw up a series of options as to the dispersal of staff, given the extra accommodation. I informed the House earlier that I have done that. I have informed the House that the Parliament will be given the options to study and that ultimately the Presiding Officers will make the decision. The responsibility for a decision cannot be taken by a number of people; it must be taken by the Presiding Officers as they have the responsibility. I think that answers the honourable gentleman’s question.
- Mr Speaker, may I direct a short question to you? I apologise for not having mentioned it to you earlier.
-The honourable gentleman may proceed.
- Mr Speaker, will you, as custodian of our rights and interests, give consideration to the provision of available computer data information banks which could be made available within the Legislative Research Service in the event of its moving out of this building? This would eliminate some of the objections currently being propounded from various sources.
-In relation to the use of computers- I use that term in its broadest sense- in the Parliamentary Library, a request was made for a number of different computertype services, and I was very anxious to have them. I am very anxious that we be able to ‘plug in’ to a system called Ausinet- it is a curious name, but that is the name- which would enable all the indexes and references in many libraries throughout Australia to be available centrally to the Parliament. Looking into the future, there is even the possibility of linking that up by satellite with other resource centres in English-speaking countries. Being very anxious that we use technological advance to the fullest extent possible in the service of members, I believed it desirable that specialist consultants look at the whole concept of computer use in the Parliament. That examination by the consultants is in process at present.
Without pressing the matter or giving any undertakings, I can see that in the future, as visual display units become more common, it is likely that members will want far more access to them. These are developments which I have in mind. It is simply because I have put in so much thought and instigated so many potential reforms in this area that I find it undesirable that it should be suggested in any way that the Opposition in this Parliament is not being looked after in terms of the services of the Library. I will regard the question as one on notice because, until a decision is taken about the dispersal of the staff, it is not relevant. I must say to the honourable gentleman that what has been represented to me is not that there be access to any computer based information but a physical, personal approach by members or senators to members of the Legislative Research Service. That is the basis on which it has been asked that they not be moved out.
-Mr Speaker, I want to raise a matter with you which you raised momentarily. I am concerned that the defence section of Legislative Research Service is specifically mentioned for reorganisation. It is a very heavily used service and I think it is fair to say that, with the cooperation of the Parliamentary Librarian, it lent great assistance to the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence in the preparation of its report on defence procurement. It was also the subject of an unfair attack by at least one Minister during discussions in an Estimates Committee last year. There is an area of conflict which could affect judgments on that area which has to be taken into consideration; that is, that the representative of the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association is, in fact, a member of that particular section of the Service. That involves a different function from those involved with the Legislative Research Service. The question I ask you is: Can you give some undertaking that members of the Opposition will be consulted about any changes in that specific area which you have mentioned? It is important, not only to members of the Opposition but also to Government members, that information of a highly technical and complex nature is available to members, especially the type of information involved in the defence areas, which is really available from private sources and not departments and which is not openly available.
-I give the honourable gentleman the undertaking that the provision of service by that defence group will not be diminished. I cannot give him any undertakings concerning the actual structure of it because at present a consultancy group is examining the whole Library. It will report to us. The idea of this study is to upgrade efficiency through structural rearrangement. I cannot give any undertakings about maintaining the defence section as it is, but I can assure the honourable gentleman that in no circumstances will I agree to any change which would reduce the service available to members of Parliament, whether members or senators, from whatever party.
- Mr Speaker, I would like to ask you a question on that point. Will this review group consult the Sub-committee of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence before finalising its approach to this particular matter? As the honourable member for Corio said, the defence, science and technology group of the Parliamentary Library has had some special input to the work of that Committee and I would not want it thought that any special, unusual approach is being adopted to the work of that section as against the work of any other section of the Library.
-I take the honourable gentleman’s point.
-Mr Speaker, I claim to have been misrepresented.
-The honourable member may proceed to make a personal explanation.
-My interjection on the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) was not ‘debased ‘; it was a genuine request for information. I interjected: ‘What if he,’ that is, President Carter, ‘loses in Pennsylvania?’ My interjection implicitly made the point that there have been a number of shifts in emphasis in the United States President’s policy responses on the issue of the US hostages in Iran which have been closely and obviously- I do not say that in any critical sense- associated with the holding of successive Democratic primaries. The Democratic primary in Pennsylvania will be held in a day or two and its result is very likely to affect the emphasis of future policy positions. The significance of my point is that it may be difficult for Australia to give consistent support to a policy which shifts in emphasis in a number of unpredictable ways due to shifting domestic policy considerations. For example, if President Carter wins in Pennsylvania, it is reasonable to assume that there might be another shift in emphasis; if he loses then there might be a further shift. The Minister’s response was uncharacteristically splenetic -
-The honourable gentleman has made quite clear the point where he has been misrepresented.
-I resent the suggestion that my interjection was debased.
-The honourable gentleman has made his personal explanation.
- Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?
-He may proceed.
– Yesterday my contribution to the debate on the Olympic Games boycott was recorded by Hansard. Prior to the rising of the House last night I made some corrections to the Hansard report. Hansard informed me that it was not possible to incorporate those changes in the Hansard which came out today. I just want to make one correction which I consider to be an important one. During the debate I was outlining the Australian Government’s support for effective trade sanctions. On page 1781 of Hansard I am recorded as saying:
For example, the Government has made it clear that Australia will not feel any shortfall resulting from the United States ban on wheat sales to Russia.
That is not what I said. I said that Australia will not fill any shortfall; in other words, Australia will not meet any shortfall. I did not use the word feel’. That has a quite different meaning. I wish that to be recorded in today’s Hansard.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
- Mr Speaker, I crave your indulgence to provide information that was sought by the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr John Brown) in a question this morning.
-The Minister may proceed.
– I have been advised that in the preparation of the information kit one leaflet had a minor error which was rectified by an erratum which cost $50. The total cost of the kit was $80,000 which includes a training film for use within the Commonwealth Employment Service for the purpose of showing officers how to use the kit.
-On behalf of the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory, I bring up the Committee ‘s report on proposals for variations of the plan of layout of the City of Canberra and its environs- 69th series- together with transcripts of evidence and extracts of minutes of proceedings.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– by leave- The report on this series of variations covers 1 1 proposed changes to the plan of Canberra. One variation will allow to proceed a project at Bruce involving approximately 170 residences costing over $9m. Another variation involves a project for about 30 housing units at Holder with a total expenditure estimated at $1.2m. The Committee has recommended approval of all but one of the items in the series. It has suggested also that the proposed residential development in Bruce be monitored carefully to limit any adverse effects on the environment.
The Committee has not approved variation one which was to gazette as cycle paths previously constructed paths and recreation trails along the Ginninderra Creek and around the foreshores of Lake Ginninderra. The paths have already been constructed and the gazettal would mean their inclusion on the city plan. However, the Committee has been informed that it is not intended that they be gazetted as cycle paths under the traffic ordinance. Such a gazettal under the traffic ordinance would mean that the paths would be for the exclusive use of cyclists. The Committee is concerned about this issue and will meet with the officers of the Department of the Capital Territory and the National Capital Development Commission to discuss it further.
The report stresses also that the authorities concerned should ensure that the advertisements and displays outlining the variations, particularly those involving major works, convey in considerable detail the nature and implications of the proposed changes and the works involved. In particular, such material and the briefing provided by the authorities for the Committee ‘s use should give due attention to environmental questions. I suggest that the NCDC give serious consideration to the use of photographs in public displays rather than relying on engineering plans which do not necessarily convey the nature of the variation to the general public. I express disappointment that despite previous requests to the NCDC the Committee expects it to give due consideration to environmental implications of the variations.
In the case of the 1 70 unit residential development in bushland at Bruce valued at $9m, the NCDC claims in its briefing notes that no particular environmental problems are envisaged. Witnesses came along and raised a number of environmental problems which the Committee considered that the NCDC should have foreseen. The NCDC should have briefed the Committee in this regard. It is disappointing also to find that the Ellenborough Street extension at Kaleenthe Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Ellicott) gave me a written assurance that it would be constructed this year- was not included in this series of variations despite the fact that the community has been consulted at great length both by the Kaleen Community Association and the NCDC. They have expressed very strong majority support for the project. The delay on this extension has been quite unjustified and is inexcusable. It is of some concern to the Committee, as it should be to the Minister, that undertakings which the Minister has given to the Committee, to me and to the community have not been fulfilled by the NCDC.
– I move:
I gave notice of this motion more than two years ago, on 21 February 1978. Since that time, instead of an improvement in the extent to which Australians maintain ownership or control of our industries and resources, we have witnessed a significantly stepped-up program of foreign private investment in Australia, which has meant less and less control. Three months after I gave notice of this motion, the Treasurer (Mr Howard) issued a statement which announced a review of the foreign investment guidelines. In that statement of 8 June 1978, the Treasurer said: . . the Government wishes to relax procedural requirements wherever experience has shown this to be possible.
This was a deceptive understatement by the Treasurer. He went on to indicate that large numbers of foreign investment proposals would no longer be subject to the foreign investment guidelines. He also announced:
A company in the process of naturalisation would be given prior credit for achieving 5 1 per cent Australian ownership and would therefore be able to proceed with a new project.
In this deft stroke, the foreign investment review guidelines come to apply to promises which had no timetable, instead of to the facts of the particular case. The elements of this statement amounted to a substantial weakening of the foreign investment guidelines. This is despite the fact that the more responsible policies which preceded the statement were, even on the admission of the Treasurer, successful and widely accepted by the business community, both in Australia and overseas. I might add- most honourable members in this House would know this-that those policies were the ones laid down by the Australian Labor Government in the period when it was in office. Instead, the Government acted in its usual ad hoc and desperate way, jettisoning the 50 per cent rule which the Labor
Government had brought in. Indeed, that rule was jettisoned to give the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) something to talk about, so that he could do some more grandstanding on yet another overseas trip. Barely two weeks after the Treasurer swung the door of the Foreign Investment Review Board wide open, the Chairman of that Board, Sir Bede Callaghan, clearly indicated that it was to be an open season for foreign investors. It has stayed that way under this Government. Sir Bede delivered an address to a lunch time meeting of the Victorian Branch of the Economic Society of Australia and New Zealand. He made his attitude quite clear. He said:
As a rough average, international investment supplemented Australian savings by about 1 1 per cent in the 1960s. This may not sound much- only 1 1 per cent- but that 1 1 per cent is of the utmost importance. It was not just the crust of the loaf, it was the real ‘dough ‘, the real bread.
Sadly, it appears that Sir Bede was right. That proportion of investment- 11 per cent- has resulted in a much higher level of ownership and control of our resources and our industry. I will come back to this matter in a moment. But first let me return to Sir Bede. His attitudes are very important, given that he has been appointed by this Government to oversee- to monitor- foreign investment. In the speech to which I have referred Sir Bede also said:
This increase in foreign ownership and control has led to concern in some quarters that foreign interests might acquire an unduly large and dominant role in the Australian economy.
I would say that he is right about that. There is concern. But he continued:
For myself, I must say I find it difficult to determine the degree of concern. I’m not sure that the man in the street really cares.
I suppose that people like Sir Bede Callaghan may be excused for not knowing what the man in the street really thinks. But I can tell him that I and my colleagues in the Labor Opposition do know what the man in the street thinks about this issue. I can assure this House that the Opposition believes that the man in the street does really care about the foreign ownership and control of Australian resources. Like the Opposition, the man in the street is most unhappy about the sellout of Australia’s economic assets to foreign interests. We are aware that some foreign investment is required, but we certainly do not accept that this should be unconstrained. We are particularly concerned that members of the Foreign Investment Review Board should have such attitudes as those expressed by Sir Bede, when they are charged with such a responsibility, to review foreign investment proposals, and should not encourage foreign investment and the sell-out of Australian assets to foreigners. It must be remembered that it is the policy of this Government not to hold up worthwhile projects because of the unavailability of Australian equity capital. But given that the Foreign Investment Review Board, with its attitudes, has the task of reviewing just when this circumstance is meant to apply, we can have no confidence in the policy or the machinery for the review of foreign investment ‘” proposals under this Fraser Government.
Let me now turn to the effects of the permissive foreign investment policies of this Government, and, indeed, of its conservative predecessors. I wish to review them. In March this year the Treasurer issued some new statistics dealing with company income payable overseas. As with other statistics relating to foreign company activities in Australia, the series provided by the Treasurer was inadequate in that the latest year for which figures were available was 1977-78. Given that it was only after that period that the latest weakening of the foreign investment guidelines occurred we can expect the situation to have deteriorated still further since that time. I shall just break in with a sad story of how late we are in receiving these statistics by drawing to the attention of the House and the people of this country the fact that statistics are unavailable because the Australian Bureau of Statistics has been kept short of funds with which to do its work adequately. A remarkable tale is nevertheless told by the statistics which are available. In 1977-78 the income payable overseas was $1,5 17m, which was 35.6 per cent of total after tax company income. This was the highest amount and the highest percentage for the entire series, which dates back to 1 960. 1 reiterate that it has been since mid- 1978 that the least stringent requirements have been applied by this Government. In other words, the next picture, which we will learn about so long after the event, will be even worse than the picture that I have just painted.
The statistics show that about one-third of the total profits of Australian companies are payable overseas. Since asset valuation in the long run and in aggregate is roughly proportional to profits, we can reasonably conclude that the accumulated effect of that 1 1 per cent of savings provided from overseas has been to provide about one-third of our corporate assets to overseas owners. The trend since this Government took office has been clear. Income payable overseas doubled in the three years following 1974-75, when it was 25.8 per cent of total company income. This trend, I suggest, has continued to worsen in the past two years. But the Government is still not happy with this sell-out of Australian resources. On 30 January this year we found the Prime Minister, wooing United States businessmen at a luncheon- in the United States, of course; he was overseas again- with the news that 50 per cent equity in resource projects was no longer mandatory. He is reported as expressing no concern whatsoever at the problem of the expatriation of profits.
There can be no question that this Government has no concern for the effects of the expanding takeover of Australian resources and Australian industry by these foreign interests. This Government is mortgaging the future of our nation. It is not only the man in the street or members of the Labor Opposition who are voicing their concern about this matter. I pay tribute, for instance, to Sir Roderick Carnegie, who is the Chairman and Chief Executive of Conzinc Riotinto of Australia Ltd, one of the great Australian companies. He backs Australian ownership. I pay tribute to him for being on -
– It is not an Australian company. It is a multinational.
-The honourable member will find that the Opposition is not against multinationals per se, in spite of his inane interjections. Why does he not just listen to what is a sane argument on this subject, instead of giving his knee jerk reaction on an occasion such as this? I pay tribute to Sir Roderick Carnegie for backing Australian ownership. He has gone on record as saying that this country will pay dearly for relying too much on foreign capital. He said: People do not realise the cost. If you get $2 from someone overseas in 1980, that person will want $ I per annum from about 1 990 onwards ‘. That is, the cost, in stark terms, to Australian people of our going along with the sorts of policies that the Fraser Government, its Ministers, its back benchers and others are allowing in this country at present.
I have referred primarily to the issues of financial flows, particularly the extent of profits payable overseas, but perhaps of even greater concern is the question of control. In this respect it is of interest to note that the basic composition of recent direct flows of capital into Australia is as follows. The statistics, of course, are inadequate in keeping with the present Government’s usual approach of pursuing economic policies blindfolded. However, we have statistics, which were made available late in the day. They reveal that the great bulk of private investment by foreign interests in Australia has been in forms which indicate that substantial control is exercisable by those foreign interests. 1 will go further and say that not only is it exercisable but it is also being exercised. If it were merely a question of supplementing Australian savings, borrowings and investment in fixed interest from overseas, or even inflows into this country in the form of portfolio Australian securities investments, that would be much more acceptable and much more economically efficient than the present form of direct overseas investment in this country, which takes control with it. In fact the bulk of investment has been in the form of either direct investment or undistributed income of subsidiaries in Australia. At the same time, for most recent years, there has been net selling of equities held by foreigners in Australian companies.
It is clear then that over and above the strong level of capital inflow there has been an additional trend towards the consolidation of overseas based corporate control of Australian industry and resources. This increasing control of Australian corporate activity brings with it very substantial dangers upon which the Foreign Investment Review Board has no real impact. Indeed, it is the matter of control and hence of regulations which is of paramount concern to the Opposition. We expect and support continued capital inflow into Australia to supplement domestic savings. We recognise that such capital must derive a satisfactory return but we also believe that Australia should ensure that it gains the maximum possible benefit from such investment. That is not achieved by a complete absence of constraints on foreign-owned and controlled companies.
In expressing these concerns, the Australian Labor Party is by no means acting alone in the world. By hearing the noises we are from the Government, anyone would think that we were on our own in this attitude. But this concern of ours is shared by all of the responsible governments of virtually every other advanced Western nation and also by such bodies as the European Economic Community, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the Council of Europe at Strasbourg and the United Nations. I have had the privilege of visiting all of these bodies and of being able to talk with those who are carrying out worthwhile work in seeking to monitor the activities of foreign companies in nations. I realise from those talks that our concern is shared by so many other sensible people in the world. In fact, I believe that there is no other political party in the world which allows the people of its country to be raped in the way that the Liberal Party and its National Country Party cousins are doing in this case.
Since 1976, the OECD’s Committee on International Investment and Multinational Enterprises has been developing policies based on that organisation’s ‘Declaration on International Investment and Multinational Enterprise’. These governments and these organisations recognise that multinational corporations have substantial economic impacts due to their size. They recognise that these corporations often engage in restrictive business practices and have numerous advantages in the manner of avoiding national laws in such areas as taxation. It should be noted that many of the companies which have come under close scrutiny in the EEC also operate in Australia. The Opposition believes that there is an urgent need for the development and adoption of two major measures in relation to multinational corporations in Australia. The basic premise on which these two measures should be based is that foreign owned and controlled firms in Australia should act essentially as if they were autonomous Australian firms, by developing new technologies, marketing internationally as well as domestically and by participating fairly in all aspects of the Australian social and economic system. Some overseas firms do act in this way. We recognise that. The Opposition is not against multinationals per se. Some of them are good Australians but others do not act in the proper way.
In this country we must be more discerning but that discernment must be based on facts which are collected as a result of proper monitoring. I do not believe that anyone could seriously question that principle. Yet I believe we will probably hear questions from government members participating in this debate. A sign of how seriously the Government treats this particular subject will be whether it has a Minister responding in this debate or some backbencher who has to be given something to do to keep him otherwise occupied. The first measure which is imperative is to overcome the greatest obstacle to a correct appraisal of the activities of multinational corporations, that is, to develop through an appropriate monitoring authority a body of up-to-date information on activities of multinational corporations. This role could be given to the Foreign Investment Review Board. In fact, I think it should be given to that Board, but only by greatly expanding its. resources and functions. Unless this machinery is developed by the Government any adoption of a code of conduct which is the second necessary measure is meaningless.
Australia’s participation in the development of the OECD guidelines and our nominal adoption of them is of no real consequence because of our failure to develop the monitoring and regulatory machinery which is needed. It is particularly important to recognise that policies for multinational corporations go well beyond the task of monitoring and regulating foreign investment. Our main concern is with the control exercised over the Australian economy by firms which are already here rather than merely over new investment projects.
The Opposition has five main concerns. I do not have time to give the full details of these issues but we would seek a substantial improvement in the following areas: First, the strengthening of provisions such as those contained in section 136 of the Income Tax Assessment Act which seeks to overcome tax avoidance through such devices as transfer pricing; secondly, the extension of trade practices legislation to deal more effectively with cases of monopoly and power exercised by multinationals which can often dominate markets across national boundaries; thirdly, more substantial control of merger and takeover activity by multinational corporations- these should be closely scrutinised because, although they may have beneficial effects in some cases, they also often mean that local industries which have independent scope for development, for example the operation of F. H. Faulding and Co. Ltd in my own State which I talked about in Parliament yesterday, are subsumed under foreign control; fourthly, amendment to patent laws and close monitoring of new technology policies by subsidiaries in Australia; and, fifthly, regulation of pricing powers of multinationals. International experience following the oil crisis demonstrates the need for these powers.
The Opposition is very concerned that the motor vehicle industry does not abuse the new arrangements for export complementation by specifying unfairly low prices for imports in order to maximise the displacement of local component supplies. All of these matters are matters which a Committee of this Parliament should look into. I do not know how anybody could oppose the setting up of such an inquiry into this important area. That is why we want such an inquiry by a select committee of the House of Representatives set up to look at, firstly, the growing foreign ownership and control of our resources and, secondly, the need for effective monitoring and regulation of multinational corporations in accordance with a code of conduct set up in international bodies to which Australia belongs, such as the OECD. The policies of the present Government in each of these areas are totally inadequate. Australia is about to enter an era of renewed resource development activity which the Opposition supports and which on current indications, will see a further erosion of Australian control of our own resources and industries if we do not have the sorts of policies which I am advocating here today. In these circumstances, the only responsible course for this Parliament is to turn its attention to securing the benefits that I have suggested through the means I have suggested.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I wholeheartedly second the motion so ably moved by the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford). Why has the Government ceased to collect and collate statistics in relation to foreign ownership in Australia? Why has it ceased to monitor the appalling escalation of foreign ownership and control of our natural resources? Put simply, the answer is that, if the Government disclosed these figures, they would be a damning indictment of this Government’s bankrupt policies. The only mechanism to obtain this revelation and to obtain protection and security against foreign ownership is to set up a select committee. The question of foreign investment in the development of Australia ‘s natural resources is more basic to the future prosperity of the people of Australia than any other single issue. The real issue is not whether we need foreign capital. Rather, the question is: ‘On what terms should foreign investors be allowed to participate?’
In the role of foreign investment Australia needs to distinguish for policy purposes among three categories: Loans, portfolio investment or minority participation, and foreign controlled enterprises. The difference between loans and equity investment is that, whereas loans are repayable with interest at rates determined by the international capital markets, equity investment involves a claim in perpetuity to the profits from the investment. Therefore, overseas loans are generally preferable to overseas equity investment. Every effort should be made to attract loans on any reasonable terms. Our overseas investment in the form of equity also needs to be distinguished in terms of who controls the enterprise.
Portfolio investment by overseas investors in companies which are controlled by a majority
Australian bloc of directors responsible to Australian shareholders should be preferred to enterprises which are wholly foreign owned, which are controlled by a majority of directors and which are responsible to overseas institutions or overseas shareholders. The important question is who controls the enterprise and directs its operations. There is a vast difference between foreign corporations which come in and take over prospering domestic concerns and a corporation which comes in with its own money and enterprise to build a new industry. The foreign corporation that takes over prospering local concerns has little or no contribution to make to Australia and ought to be resisted. On the other hand, foreign investment which brings expertise which is not available has a role to play providing it is closely monitored.
The Foreign Investment Review Board has shown no ability to distinguish between worthwhile and undesirable foreign investment. What is the real issue in this debate? It is simply a question of who gets the return from the very high profits flowing from the plunder of our rich natural resources. Are they to be retained by this country or are the profits to be appropriated overseas? What mechanism is to be applied to maintain effective control? Is there a need for a resources tax- a secondary tax? Surely our people have a right to maximise a return on what is in fact their national asset. The problem in Australia is not that we accept foreign investment. This Government would walk over its grandmother’s grave to get it. The recent takeover of much of our coal, uranium and recently our oil shale resources by foreign owned companies is the biggest blow of all to any Australian aspirations to realise the full potential of our resources. Oil companies have time and again used their power to retard the development of alternative energy resources.
Sensible and rational alternatives to the use of oil have simply been foreclosed by oil corporations in their quest for profits. It makes no sense to have a rational timetable for developing alternative energy resources determined by corporations that have a vested interest in squeezing the last drop of profits out of oil. There is absolutely no excuse for allowing the self-proclaimed energy companies to control the alternatives on which our future depends. An effective energy policy can never materialise while the energy conglomerates control every alternative energy source. Anyone who doubts the power of the oil companies to contrive markets should observe the situation in the United States of America.
One of that country’s largest electric power utilities, the Tennessee Valley Authority, has strongly opposed the oil industry’s move into coal. Why? The Authority’s chairman stated that the lack of competition in the coal industry following the oil industry acquisition spree has driven ut coal prices as oil companies negotiate coal contracts at levels which will give them much higher profits. As a result, the TVA has urged the Justice Department to block further oil and coal mergers. The chairman summed up the oil industry’s tactics extremely well. He said:
Big oil has the strength to keep fuel supplies short and prices high. They can even keep the sun from rising as an energy competitor.
Surely it is stating the obvious to say that the interests of large multinational corporations do not always coincide with Australia’s interests or other countries’ interests; yet this Government’s decisions on investment show an appalling ignorance of this tact. The only defence the Government has made for its open slather of foreign investment policies has been to mouth cliches about private enterprise and market forces. The Government has convinced itself that any government intervention in any circumstances is bad. It is petrified at the thought of becoming involved in negotiating on a commodity purchase or sale.
Within Australia the amount of exploration and mining being done by foreign government owned- I repeat foreign government ownedorganisations is appalling. There are big headlines in glowing terms when a Japanese, British or French agency gets involved in an Australian mining project while there is an angry, emotive and hypocritical reaction when the Australian Government moves in a very modest way to exercise some control over the mining sector. We had the absurd situation where the Australian Government crusaded to sell off its interest in the Ranger uranium project. Yet the nationalised British Central Electricity Generating Board was welcomed as a potential buyer. What utter hypocrisy. If foreign investment is to be encouraged it should provide substantial benefits which outweigh the disadvantage of foreign control of our resources. In particular, the employment creating potential and the public return from resource development are surely crucial determinants.
As the largest buyer of our raw materials and as our largest trading partner, Japan has a special interest in foreign investment in Australian resources. The matter was answered by the Acting Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) yesterday. Japan has reason to be concerned when the ownership and control of Australian mineral and energy resources for which it is the principal customer are largely controlled by overseas corporations. We simply ought to take foreign investment decisions in the context of our relations with Japan. Japan’s position as an energy importer is not unique. Competition for supplies will undoubtedly grow. Concern about supply is likely to put a premium on fuels obtained from countries such as ours. There are signs that Japanese firms are reconsidering their traditional reliance on long term contracts for security of supply. They are showing more interest in taking a stake in projects, both to guarantee supplies and to have some control over prices. The importance of our trade with Japan demands that these sensibilities be taken into consideration.
Because of excessive foreign ownership and control Australia will gain little in entrepreneurial or administrative expertise and very little profit will be retained. The provision of only a small amount of employment and return from company tax is the sole benefit to Australia from energy and resource exploitation on a vast scale. We should debit the environmental problems of the bauxite industry. What will be the effect on Perth’s water catchment area? Has not the Australian public a right to know and a right to expect much more because of our position as a major bauxite producer and a major energy producer in a resource starved world? One should contrast the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries cartel of governments with the private mineral cartel. Whilst OPEC governments profit handsomely- as they have done undoubtedly since 1969 onwards- from their oil, the huge profits from mineral resources go largely to corporations and not to national governments.
We ought to note that the OPEC governments are using their power to expand into the refining and transportation of oil. I wonder why governments in the Middle East have embarked upon that as a project and a priority. Obviously they are attempting to break the stranglehold of oil companies to maximise their return on their natural resources. What is this Government doing about the situation in Australia? The Australian Government is allowing foreign companies to tie up Australia ‘s key energy and mineral reserves, effectively minimising the return that the Australian public will receive from the resources. The Government, frankly, ought to be condemned for what is nothing more than treachery.
There are a number of crucial areas, I suggest, that must be constructively assessed in the debate. I hope that the Government member who follows me in this debate will address himself to them. One is the role of the national government in the field of natural resource management and another is the level of foreign ownership and the consequent exercise of control by foreign countries in this resource sector. Two areas loom large as government responsibility. The first relates to the basic question of resource availability and scarcity and the second relates to recognition that multinational corporations dominated by foreign interests cannot be relied upon to develop such resources in the national interest. These areas are government responsibility basically because the business of mineral and energy industry is not to consider either aspects but to make profits.
I make this observation: If Australiancontrolled enterprises are to be acquired at terms which are not prohibitively expensive and discriminatory, it is essential that institutional means be established to mobilise effectively Australian equity capital and invest it in coherent majority or plurality voting blocs of shareholders and directors which are able to exercise control over the enterprise concerned. Neither existing institutions nor existing government policies are capable of achieving that broad objective of Australian control. In this respect, this country is a laughing stock in Western Europe, in Canada and in the United States. Its laws in relation to the area which would give Australian investment stability- that is, in the area of company law, security law, stock exchange regulations and accountancy procedures- are a shambles; they are a mess. The legislation that is before this Parliament at the moment and the forthcoming legislation do nothing to strengthen existing arrangements or give that security.
I conclude on this note: This Government’s policy and its application to foreign investment guidelines is a disaster. It is a charade. I have struggled for almost eight years now to have a select committee appointed to look at this area. We have select committees looking into all sorts of areas yet this is one area in which this Government has consistently refused to appoint a select committee. We need a select committee to look into two areas: One is the need to monitor the level and the escalation of foreign investment and the other critically important area is the need for the Federal Parliament to monitor extensively all movements of oil, minerals and energy throughout the world to enable this country to develop its resources in a coherent and sensible fashion.
Motion (by Mr Eric Robinson)- by leaveagreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent consideration of General Business notices being continued until 1 p.m.
-Today’s debate is, or, I believe, should have been, an important one. It is very interesting to read the notice of motion we are debating that was moved by the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) and seconded by the honourable member for Hawker (Mr Jacobi)- two South Australians who, in my opinion, have not really addressed themselves to the motion before the House. Really, they spent their time speaking invectively against any conceivable sort of benefit that might be gained from foreign investment or recognition of the benefits that foreign investment has brought to this country and which undoubtedly will be required to continue to be brought to this country in the years ahead. As I say, it is interesting that both honourable gentlemen are from the State of South Australia which, until several months ago, suffered under the economic yoke of a Labor Government which had the same philosophy about foreign investment as do members of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party. Anyone with any interest in or knowledge of South Australia would know what that generally restrictive, anti-business, almost jingoistic attitude towards foreign investors in this country did to that once great State.
– Absolute rubbish!
– It is not rubbish, as the voters of South Australia pointed out pretty clearly to the Labor Party a few months ago. I believe that the motion must be rejected. The motion is, of course, to establish a select committee to look into the whole question of foreign ownership and control of Australian resources and to play, as the honourable member for Hawker suggestedalthough this is not mentioned specifically in the motion- some sort of monitoring role and to draw up codes of conduct in relation to foreign corporations operating in Australia. The whole tone of that motion is that these things are not looked at at all in this nation at the moment. That, of course, is absolute nonsense and I will come back to that point later.
I want to make two main points as to why I do not support the motion for the establishment of a select committee in this area. The first is that, despite what the honourable member for Adelaide has said, the foreign investment policy which has operated in this country has been, by and large, in terms of practical application, a fairly bipartisan policy. Certainly, the policies of the Whitlam Government during the 1970s and of the present Government and of the McMahon Government that preceded the Whitlam Government are not vastly different in their application to foreign investment policy. We have had now a decade of progressive evolutionary formulation of investment in this area- a policy which I think without any doubt is now working, is of benefit to Australia. I personally believe that to establish a select committee of this Parliament, given all the other demands on Parliament’s time, would be to waste the time of the Parliament. I say that advisedly because I do not believe that the information available to a select committee of the Parliament would in any way be any better. In fact, in many ways it may not be as good as the general information available and the ability, and therefore the data base for policy formulation, that already exists in institutions already set up in government and outside. The opportunity exists already for this Parliament to debate and to monitor the area of foreign investment. It is a very important part of the economy and other policies of the nation.
The Foreign Investment Review Board was spoken of disparagingly, I believe today by the honourable member for Adelaide and in earlier debates on foreign investment by speakers from the Opposition side. That Foreign Investment Review Board tables an annual report which is subject to debate and on which the Parliament can comment as it sees fit.
– Have we ever had a debate on it?
– Yes, we have had debates on foreign investment. But one point I make- this is where I differ fundamentally from the Opposition’s policies- is that foreign investment is somehow way out there, completely divorced from the whole area of economic policy, from resource development and the like. The opportunity is provided time and time again in this Parliament for Opposition members to debate foreign investment policies if they want to.
The second reason I reject the proposal is that there is now overseas an understanding of and a confidence in the stability of the Government’s foreign investment policies. As I said earlier, they are policies which have evolved over time. I believe that the creation of a select committee at this point would introduce an area of added instability into the foreign investment climate in this country and I believe that that would be very damaging to our economic future. That is not to say that foreign investment has no potential disadvantages, but I make the point that this approach is very different from that adopted in this debate by the Opposition in virtually not acknowledging any benefits at all in the existence of foreign investment. I remind the House that in the post-war period foreign investment in Australia has played a fundamental part in the development of this nation. Without reasonable access to foreign capital in Australia and without the type of foreign investment we have had in this nation for the last 30 years, we would be today a very much smaller nation in terms of population, in terms of jobs and certainly in terms of standards of living.
Foreign investment, if properly organised, supervised and monitored by government- as is the case at present- brings economic growth and an increased number of jobs. I find it extraordinary that the Opposition, which claims to be the party of job concern, should adopt in such a fundamental area an approach which is the very antithesis of encouraging development and job creation. Foreign investment has brought with it an improvement in living standards as well as skills and technology that this country would not otherwise have had. Of course, foreign investment earns profits, but some 50 per cent of income earned on foreign investment is not repatriated; it is retained in Australia for further development.
One of the problems that Labor has with the whole subject of foreign investment, as it has with industry policy generally- and if time permits I will discuss the extraordinary document on that subject which was released this week by the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) on behalf of the Labor Party- comes through over and over again. Somehow or other Labor believes that we can have a growing economy without the existence of profit. Extraordinarily, to the Opposition, ‘profit’ seems somehow to be a dirty word. The whole development of our nation has been based on private enterprise and co-operation with government. Basically it has been the result of individual private enterprise and initiative. If we move away from the acceptance of profit as a good and essential generator of economic growth we will rue the day greatly.
However, the attitude of the Australian Labor Party to foreign investment seems to vary remarkably, depending on which Opposition spokesman happens to have the floor. Two weeks ago we had in this House a debate on the question of foreign ownership and control in which the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) was the main Opposition spokesman. He too spent his time railing against foreign investment and the horrible multinationals.
However, two or three weeks earlier, at a seminar in Perth, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) had said:
It is no embarrassment to the Labor Party to accept foreign funds for development where risk capital or technology is not available from Australian sources.
He went on:
In the area of ownership and control we would require 5 1 per cent of Australian equity in all new resource projects, except where companies were progressively shifting the level of foreign equity downwards, at a rate, and on terms, acceptable to a . . . Labor Government.
As I have already mentioned, he went on to say that this requirement would not be allowed to become an impediment to desirable development.
– Who said that?
-The Leader of the Opposition said that in Perth just a few weeks ago. In essence it is precisely the attitude of the Government coalition parties towards foreign investment. I cannot understand why the Opposition attempts to polarise yet another area of considerable importance to this nation. In its heart of hearts it knows perfectly well that the way in which foreign investment operates in this country is of benefit to the nation. It knows perfectly well that when Labor was in government it evolved the foreign investment policies that had first been outlined by the McMahon Government in the early 1970s. It knows that the further development of the mechanics of foreign investment monitoring and approval that the Government has adopted progressively over the last four years represent a natural evolution rather than a fundamental break with the policies and procedures adopted by Labor in the years 1 973-75.
I say that with a reasonable degree of competence because before I entered this House I happened to be one of the two executive officers of the original Foreign Investment Advisory Committee, which was established and developed during the years in which the Whitlam Government was in office. It is simply not correct to suggest that the procedures that are being followed by the present Government, the machinery of policy formation and the scrutiny of individual projects, are in any major way different from what existed in those years. There is one major exception. Although both policies had flexibility built into them, in terms of the degree of local ownership and control necessary to enable a project to proceed, the big difference was that that flexibility was interpreted very rigidly during the 1973-75 period. It is now being interpreted more flexibly.
As a result of the machinery of administration of foreign investment policies from 1973 to 1975, some of the major resource projects which, had they got off the ground at that time, would have provided great benefit to this nation were strangled for several years. Only in the last two or three years have foreign investors recovered their confidence in the stability and economic common sense of government. They are now putting their money where their confidence is and bringing into Australia money for sensible resource and other developmental projects. That surely is one of the fundamental keys to where we are to go as a nation in the next 20 years. If we want a nation which is to be restricted and restrained in terms of economic growth, with all of the consequences that that brings in terms of lack of job opportunity and lack of development of skills and technology, let us adopt the Labor Party approach to this subject. If, on the other hand, we want continued growth and development of our great nation to reap its great potential, one must concede that the present application of the policy on foreign investment is a highly desirable one. It is not the ‘tickle my tummy’ policy of 10 or 15 years ago. It is one which is carefully monitored. Foreign investment projects simply are not permitted in this country if the seen costs outweigh the seen benefits.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-The Opposition is concerned about the level of foreign ownership and control of Australian industry and resources. Let me outline quickly in a broad overview the extent to which this has already taken place. Some 86 of our largest 200 enterprise groups are foreign controlled. These account for 43 per cent of the value added of the largest 200 enterprise groups, and 22 per cent of the value added of all manufacturing industry. These 86 foreign-controlled enterprise groups also account for 18 per cent of Australian employment, 20 per cent of wages and salaries, 25 per cent of turnover and 29 per cent of the fixed capital expenditure, of all manufacturing industry. Some 39 of the 86 groups are United Kingdom controlled and 35 United States of America controlled. Together they account for 10 per cent and 8 per cent, respectively, of the value added of all manufacturing industry.
Let me be more specific in terms of foreign control of our resource industries and refer to groups engaged in bauxite and aluminium production. Alcan Australia Ltd is 70 per cent overseas owned. Alcoa of Australia Ltd is 5 1 per cent owned by the Aluminum Co. of America. Comalco is 45 per cent owned by Kaiser Aluminum and Chemical Corporation. The Gove joint venture is 70 per cent owned by the overseas company Swiss Aluminium Australia Pty Ltd. That company in turn, is 100 per cent owned by Swiss Aluminium Ltd. Queensland Alumina Ltd is 30.3 per cent owned by Comalco and 28.3 per cent owned by Kaiser. Of course, our biggest oil producer, Esso-BHP, is 50 per cent overseasowned. The oil industry’s refining and retailing sections are dominated by overseas oil multinationals such as Shell, Texaco, Mobil, British Petroleum, Socal, H. C. Sleigh Ltd, Amoco and Total. They have a death grip, so to speak, on the Australian oil and petroleum producing and retailing industries.
These oil majors have also intruded to a great extent into the coal industry, about which I am particularly concerned. Without going into the matter too deeply, in Queensland Esso Exploration Inc. owns 25 per cent of the Hail Creek reserves; Shell owns 43.3 per cent of German Creek and 37.7 per cent of Austen and Butta Co. Ltd’s share in German Creek; Houston Oil and Minerals of Australia Ltd owns 80 per cent of Oaky Creek; and British Petroleum totally owns Sirius Creek Nos 1 and 2 reserves. In New South Wales Shell owns 44.5 per cent of the Drayton reserves and British Petroleum owns 100 percent of the Burragorang Valley reserves, formerly mined by Clutha Development Pty Ltd. It also has 37.7 per cent of Austen and Butta Co. Ltd in New South Wales and recently has purchased almost a controlling interest in the Bellambi Coal Co. Ltd in my elecorate. One could go on and on. Our coking coal industry is 47. 1 per cent foreignowned. The figure for the steaming coal industry is even worse at 49 per cent. The North West Shelf gas development, an industry which we expect to develop in the near future, will be 52 per cent foreign-owned if it goes ahead, as it now seems to be doing.
Even this Government seems to be getting the message because I noticed that several days ago it vetoed, through the Foreign Investment Review Board, a bid by the Japanese Electric Power Development Agency to assume a 19 per cent ownership share in CRA Ltd’s proposed development of steaming coal at Blair Athol in Queensland. Even the Acting Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) was moved to say that he thought that not sufficient effort had been made by CRA to achieve an increased level of Australian ownership. There cannot be any argument about it now. Surely the Government is admitting it itself. I will be interested to hear what the Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson) has to say when he speaks.
We have heard a lot of talk from this Government about its proposed attempts to lead Australia out of recession by developing the mining and processing of Australian minerals. I put on record that the Opposition is not at all against development, but that we are for a proper rationalisation of development. Let us look at some of the capital requirements for some of these bullish predictions. The North West Shelf gas development has an overall capital requirement of up to $5 billion. I read recently that, at the Coal Industry Conference at, I think, Surfers Paradise, predictions were made that by 2000 AD we would be producing 250 million to 300 million tonnes of coal a year and that some $25 billion would be required in capital expenditure to reach anywhere near that level in that year. It is proposed that up to $5 billion be spent by 1985 in the aluminium smelting industry, and I have read that a further $12 billion could be invested in the next 5 years up to 1990. All of those capital requirements are exclusive of the less certain developments such as the Rundle shale oil development and perhaps later the production of oil from coal.
If all these developments go ahead, what sort of squeeze will there be as a result of the need to provide increased capital expenditure to the States and to local government and to provide for the modernisation of manufacturing industry? If the developments go ahead to this level there is no question that, in the interests of restraining the money supply, we will see a squeeze on social welfare and a further clamp on real wages if this Government stays in office. I might add that this has already occurred. Before I point out how it has occurred in this year’s Budget, I draw the attention of the House to the capital expenditure which will be required to produce each job in these bullish predictions of mining and processing development. The North West Shelf development would require $4.3m a direct permanent job, uranium mining $650,000, uranium enrichment $900,000, aluminium smelting $500,000, and major coal projects up to $750,000. As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) has pointed out, if we are to reduce unemployment significantly to about 2 per cent or 3 per cent simply by these means, we will need to invest some $50 billion in the next 10 or 15 years.
It is truly incredible and ridiculous to suggest that we can really meet the problem of unemployment in this way.
I come back to the way that the squeeze on social welfare and real wages has already occurred, even before this great surge of capital inflow occurs. I point out that despite the fact that more than $3 billion has been received by Federal revenues from the oil levy this year, none of that money, according to the recent financial statement made by the Treasurer (Mr Howard), was actually handed back in the form of tax cuts. As a matter of fact, it will be used to reduce the domestic deficit by a record level of $ 1,700m down to $450m-odd. All this is certainly in the interests of controlling the money supply and holding back interest rates. But a contradiction has arisen. Overseas, inflation is up; it is now 14 per cent in the United States. Prime lending interest rates in the United States are currently in excess of 20 per cent. If we are to raise all this capital that the Government is talking about, especially on the overseas market, local interest rates must go up, despite the Government’s attempts to reduce the domestic deficit this year to hold back inflation and interest rates. There is no question that will happen as these funds are borrowed for capital investment in these projects and for the required government infrastructure which would be funded mainly from Loan Council approvals. As I said, we in the Opposition certainly support development, but we say that it must be rationalised, that we must maintain local equity and that there must be a fair and adequate taxation return to the Federal Government to be used in the interest of ail Australians. We have no indication that this will occur under this Government.
In the time remaining to me, let me deal with several points relating to the mining industry generally and their implications for the future. We seem to have the idea that Australia is so rich in mineral resources that we can just tear them out in a completely unrationalised and unrestrained way. That is not the case. We are very rich in resources, but when we compare what we are doing with what is happening overseas we can see that other countries are better off than we are. For instance, whilst we account for 3 1 per cent of the world’s bauxite export trade, we have only 1 1 per cent of the reserves. We have 2 per cent of the world’s black coking and steaming coal but we export 18 per cent of the world’s trade in that commodity, compared with the United States figures of 28 per cent of the world ‘s reserves and 8 per cent of world exports.
The final point I make-I am about to round off to give the Minister for Finance his 10 minutes- is that we have to be careful about the rate at which coal in the form of electricity is sold to the new aluminium smelting concerns. There is some talk that electricity in Queensland will be sold to the aluminium smelting companies at about 0.5c per kilowatt hour. The cost of production of electricity per kilowatt hour in the United States is 1.6c to 3.6c in Europe 4c, in Japan 8c, and in Australia 1.5c. Apparently electricity for the purpose of alumina smelting is to be sold in Queensland at one-third of the cost of its production. The average price that the Electricity Commission of New South Wales pays for its coal, which it obtains by purchase or from its own mines, is approximately $9 per tonne. Yet the average price on the export market now for steaming coal is between $27.50 and $35 per tonne. I think this House has to have a good hard look at the way in which the various States are competing against each other to sell off our coal on the cheap in the form of cheap power for aluminium smelting.
– I appreciate the co-operation of the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) and the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr West) in allowing me to speak in the last 10 minutes before the sitting is suspended for lunch. The honourable member for Adelaide’s motion is a continuation of the obsession that is always shown by the Opposition towards foreign investment in Australia. Obviously there is a complete lack of understanding of the importance of foreign investment to this country. Unfortunately there is some lack of understanding by the people out in the community of the importance of foreign investment to Australia. I will go through some of the advantages which foreign investment provides to this country. The honourable member for Adelaide said that he has witnessed a continually stepped-up program of foreign investment by this Government. I welcome that step-up program; I would welcome more foreign investment to Australia. This stepped-up program has been evidenced by the continual trips overseas by Mr Wran, the Labor Premier of New South Wales, to try to lure foreign investment to his State. Labor policy is framed in one way federally; it is framed in another way when it applies to the States.
A lack of foreign investment in Australia will, of course, lead to less investment and less investment will mean fewer jobs. In the Labor dark years between 1972 and 1975 we witnessed policies that tended to deter foreign investment in
Australia. We witnessed domestic economic policies that gave no confidence to foreign investors to come here. Hand in hand with those two things we witnessed a great rise in the level of unemployment. Australian people who wanted to work could not get jobs. Let us talk about the money situation because I guess that is what foreign investment is all about. It is about bringing money to Australia so that important projects can go ahead. Members of the Federal Labor Opposition appear to think we should not bring foreign investment here, we should use local equity. Let us analyse where the local equity is. Is it argued that Australians have all this money, which they are not prepared to invest, locked up somewhere in Australia? That is just not true. Even though there may be individual Australians who put their money in banks and other forms of investment do not honourable members think that that money is recirculated in a secondary capacity? Is that money not lent by banks to enterprises to reinvest that money? The money is not locked up somewhere; it is not true that it is doing nothing. Any foreign investment that we deny Australia is money that is not spent. It cannot be found.
I guess one should go back some hundreds of years and look at the development of the greatest nation in the world today- the United States of America. How do members opposite think that country was developed? Do not they think it was developed through foreign investment? Would members on the other side of the House say that today the United States is owned by some other foreign power? Are they trying to say that the United Kingdom, Japan or West Germany owns the United States? The United States developed under a system of foreign investment to be the great nation it is today. Australia has those same opportunities. Australia has been capital hungry for many years and that situation will not be altered. We will continue to be capital hungry in the future. The greatest benefit of foreign capital is the mobilisation of Australian money. That is exactly what we want. When we look at the plans already drawn up to invest money in large projects in Australia in the immediate future, we can see that development in excess of $6,000m is on hand at the moment. The annual report of the Foreign Investment Review Board points out that already in the 12 months from July 1978 to June 1979 foreign investment of over $2,000m has been approved for Australian projects.
-How many jobs have been created?
– Hand in hand with Australian investment goes Australian jobs because the development of these major projects immediately creates a local demand for support industries. The honourable member knows that Australian jobs are created. One has only to look at the development of the North West Shelf, the plans to develop the bauxite and alumina industries and the plans to develop the Rundle shale oil deposits. Unfortunately we do not have all the money here to develop these projects. Would the Opposition stop this development? Would it stop the employment that is created by this development, because that is exactly what its policies would do?
– How much employment?
– Let us talk about the advantages because the honourable member is referring to employment. Let us analyse the advantage of foreign investment because there is some thought on the other side of the House that foreign investment means that a large chunk of Australia will be owned by some other country. That is not true. Any company that invests in Australia is subject to all the local government laws, the State laws and the Federal laws. It pays all the local government charges that are applicable to anyone else, it pays local government taxes, it pays State charges and State taxes and it also pays Federal income tax.
The honourable member for Adelaide referred to Conzinc Riotinto of Australia. It is true that this company is multinational and that it has a large degree of foreign ownership. The report of that company indicates that last year it paid $133m tax. This is the amount paid by only one company. From where do honourable members opposite think that Australia will get its revenue if it does not collect taxation from sources such as this. It is interesting to note that foreign companies paid nearly $3,000m in tax in the year 1977-78.
– How much did they evade?
– I will come to that. Let us look at some other advantages of foreign investment. What about the savings in terms of foreign exchange? What about the overseas companies that come here and set up manufacturing plants? If these companies did not come to Australia all the goods that they make here would have to be imported. Do not honourable members opposite think that this is an advantage?
– Would they?
– How much money do honourable members opposite think we would spend overseas on fully imported cars if we did not manufacture cars locally? Admittedly cars are manufactured in Australia locally by overseas owned companies. But local manufacture is creating employment. Those companies are saving Australia money in terms of foreign exchange. What about the technology that the larger overseas companies bring to Australia? It is extremely necessary that Australia as a new country have that influx of technology.
I was asked by way of interjection: ‘What about the tax they evade ‘.. I agree with honourable members opposite that it is most important that we keep continual pressure on any foreign company- in fact all companies in Australia- to make sure that their accountability is correct and that Australia gets its fair share of tax. In this regard this Government has done more over the last four years than the Labor Government ever thought of doing. The amount of tax we are collecting from foreign companies and all companies is more fairly distributed today than it ever was.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The time allotted for precedence to General Business notices has expired. The honourable member for Barton will have leave to continue his speech when the debate is resumed. The resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day under General Business for the next sitting.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
Speaker has received a letter from the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The growing public concern arising from pressures on the Government to sell Trans-Australia Airlines.
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 -
Motion (by Mr Viner) proposed:
That the business of the day be called on.
-What is involved is the pilfering of a public asset and the denial of services to country people of Queensland. Queensland is involved and this motion is stifling debate. This is a denial of parliamentary opportunity to discuss a very important and grave issue, the pilfering of a public asset.
-Order! The honourable member for Shortland will resume his seat.
The House divided. ( Mr Deputy Speaker- Mr Millar)
Deputy Speaker. If the Parliament is to be denied the opportunity to discuss the pilfering of Trans-Australia Airlines will you please advise what procedures can be followed to prevent TAA services being withdrawn from western Queensland?
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the right honourable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, I do. I refer to an article in today’s Age. At page 1 1 it correctly states:
Two successive Prime Ministers were so unimpressed with the results of our spying that one (Sir William McMahon) queried whether the agency -
That is the Australian Secret Intelligence Service- ought not to be closed down-
That is correct. I did this and I gave evidence to that effect before the Hope Committee and in this House. I have no quarrel about that. The article then went on to say that I thought it was a fraud. I never thought of using those words, and I would not have used them. As you will see my thinking was much worse. I want the people working for the Melbourne Age to know that I did not use that phrase and I would like it corrected.
Motion ( by Mr Viner) proposed:
That unless otherwise ordered, the House shall meet next week on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday at the times specified, namely:
Monday, 2 1 April 215pm;
Tuesday, 22 April, 2. 1 5 p.m.; and
Wednesday, 23 April, 10.30 a.m.
-In the few days before the Parliament meets again on Monday, and due to the fact that the days of sitting have been amended because of Anzac Day, which is about the fight for the freedom and rights of man and so on, I hope that the Government will take a look at the procedures by which it governs this Parliament. The recent procedure by which an important matter was gagged indicates that we are not handling this place properly. Yesterday some 40 or 50 matters were taken off the Notice Paper. These matters dealt with subjects which had not been adequately discussed. I am not suggesting for one moment that it is all the fault of the Government. We all have to apply ourselves to the management of the Parliament so that this House becomes an effective debating chamber. Even matters such as Appropriation Bills are discussed in a very limited way compared with the situation 20 or 30 years ago. Defence and foreign affairs matters are hardly mentioned. If they are mentioned they are subverted by all kinds of techniques employed by the Government.
I hope that we can examine the processes of this Parliament in such a way that important matters, such as the one which has just been gagged- that is, the proposed disposal of TransAustralia Airlines by the Government of Australia, through the force of the Liberal Party- can be debated. That is a very important matter. It is a matter vital to the Australian community and discussion on it has been gagged by the Government. I hope that over the weekend the Leader of the House (Mr Viner) will start to apply himself to the general principles of how to run this place. Of course, fortunately, as soon as we have an election the Leader of the House will be an ex-member along with me.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill presented by Mr Nixon, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of the Bill is to authorise the execution of an agreement between the Commonwealth and the State of Tasmania, covering the purchase of previously cleared land and eucalypt plantation establishment. The expansion of Tasmania’s forest resources would have environmental benefits and provide further employment opportunities in that State. It would also contribute to the long term growth of Tasmania’s forest products industries and the Tasmanian economy.
In 1976, the Prime Minister commissioned Sir Bede Callaghan, C.B.E., to inquire into the structure of industry and the employment situation in Tasmania. Sir Bede’s report, which was tabled in Parliament in 1977, identified native forestry development as one possible avenue of encouraging long term growth and development in that State. The Tasmanian Native Forestry Agreement Act 1979 gave effect to the Government’s original decision to assist native forestry development in Tasmania. An agreement has been signed with the State to implement a forestry program comprising the establishment of eucalypt plantations on previously cleared farmland purchased by the State, the rehabilitation of forests damaged by fire and the thinning of blackwood regeneration. Assistance, matched by the State, will amount to $136,000 per annum in real terms for the five year period commencing 1 July 1978.
The Bill now before the House meets a request from the Tasmanian Government for additional funds of $100,000 per annum for the four financial years commencing 1979-80 to purchase previously cleared land and to expand the eucalypt planting program undertaken in accordance with the forestry development plan incorporated in the existing native forestry agreement. The agreement to be authorised by the present Bill is supplementary to that agreement.
An interest rate corresponding to the long term bond rate will be charged on loans made in accordance with the agreement. This is consistent with the Government’s practice of obtaining a reasonable return on public funds committed to projects considered economically viable. However, in recognition of the time taken for forestry projects to yield a return on investment, the terms of the loans provide for a twenty years deferment of repayments. Interest payable is capitalised in this period and repayments of capital and interest at the same rate are made in the subsequent 40 years on a six monthly basis. The terms are identical to those included in the earlier agreement.
Because of the very long time horizons involved, total repayments of capital and interest will be substantially greater than funds advanced by the Commonwealth. However, it is a reasonable expectation that returns from timber sales resulting from the program will more than cover the total loan repayments.
The offer of further assistance to forestry in Tasmania reflects the Government’s view that forestry and its dependent industries are efficient and of considerable importance to Tasmania’s economy and to the nation. The Native Forestry Agreements are further evidence of the Government’s intention to assist Tasmania in its efforts to foster long term growth and development. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Morris) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Garland, and read a first time.
– I move:
The world is facing an energy crisis and unless positive action is taken by the Government to encourage the rational use of our national energy resources, Australia may experience shortages and hardship. For this reason the Government has formulated a policy of encouraging the use of liquefied petroleum gas as a means of reducing our dependence on imported oil, particularly in areas where LPG has premium value, such as for automotive use or for use as a petrochemical feedstock. The Government expects that existing Bass Strait producers of LPG as well as potential producers in the Cooper Basin and North West Shelf will supply the domestic market as a first priority.
It is essential, however, that we avoid patterns of usage of LPG where there is a ready availability of long term alternative fuels such as natural gas or electricity. To these ends the Government’s policy provides for assistance to achieve the national objectives which were outlined by my colleague, Senator Carrick, last week. There will be a reduction in the price of propane and butane to a common maximum price of $205 per tonne other than for petrochemical and non-traditional industrial uses. This means that the price of propane will be reduced to about 20 per cent and the price of butane will be reduced by about 30 per cent. The new price will provide approximately a 50 per cent price differential between LPG and motor spirit in the Melbourne reference market and will be a major incentive towards the usage of LPG in motor vehicles, especially in the case of fleet owners.
The Government will be encouraging conversion out of LPG by commercial and industrial enterprises by extending to such users the previously announced taxation concessions and allowances which will apply to the conversion and replacement of oil-fired equipment. The use of LPG by householders, non-profit residential type institutions and schools will be subsidised for three years to allow them time to adjust to the rising prices of LPG and, where possible, to convert from LPG to more readily available alternative fuels such as natural gas or electricity which, of course, is produced mainly by coal. In introducing this scheme the Government has been particularly mindful of the interests of householders and similar consumers who now use LPG in country districts. It is expected that any hardship being suffered by those consumers, following recent increases in the wholesale price of LPG, will be alleviated by the introduction of this subsidy. The purpose of this Bill is now to provide for the subsidy. The subsidy will operate from 28 March 1980.
The Bill provides for grants to be made to the States to enable the States to pay, to registered distributors of LPG, a subsidy of $80 per tonne on LPG sold to those consumers. The subsidy will also be paid to registered distributors of reticulated gas at the rate of $80 per tonne on LPG and naphtha purchased by them for use in the production of the gas subsequently sold to those consumers. Payment of the subsidy to the registered distributors will be conditional in all cases upon the benefit of the subsidy being passed on to the consumers. The subsidy will not be payable to commercial or industrial users, who nevertheless will benefit from the price reductions that I referred to earlier and the tax concessions to be extended to those users to encourage them to switch from LPG. It is estimated that the cost of the subsidy scheme will be about $60m over the three-year period. Arrangements are being made to enable the State governments to introduce the necessary legislation so that early payments may commence.
In my view there will be little difficulty involved in the administration of this scheme. The legislation to be introduced by State and Territory governments will contain heavy penalties for any breaches of the law. These penalties will include a maximum penalty of $2,000 or imprisonment for 12 months if a person is found guilty of knowingly obtaining or attempting to obtain payment under the legislation that is not payable. Commonwealth officers approved by me will be vested with extensive powers in relation to the administration of the scheme. These powers will be similar to those given to such officers under Commonwealth bounty legislation. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Keating) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Garland, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to enact the Excise Tariff Proposal No. 1 (1980), which increased the excise duties on stabilised crude petroleum oil, from $102.27 to $140.11 per kilolitre, with effect from 1 January 1980. This follows determination of revised import parity prices by the Minister for National Development and Energy (Senator Carrick) following the official price increase of Arabian light crude oil in December 1979.
The Government policy in relation to crude oil is that all Australian-produced crude oil should be priced to refineries at import parity levels. This policy was first implemented in the 1978 Budget. Import parity pricing is an essential ingredient of our policy to enable Australia to improve its level of self-sufficiency in oil. The need for import parity pricing has been brought about by the fragility and uncertainty of the international oil supply situation which has meant that Australia must reduce its dependence on imported oil. This policy has given impetus to the exploration for and the development of oil reserves in Australia. The development and successful exploitation of alternative sources of liquid fuel such as the recently announced Rundle shale oil project is dependent upon maintaining the import parity pricing policy for petroleum from conventional sources.
There has also been a change in consumers’ attitudes to the conservation of the world ‘s fuel and to the use of alternative energy sources such as natural gas, liquefied petroleum gas and electricity. A policy of ‘cheap crude oil’ would lose the conservation and development benefits which accrue from import parity pricing and would inevitably lead to greater dependence on imported oil. Additionally, our dependence on imported oil would have a detrimental effect on Australia’s balance of payments and the only people who would benefit would be the producers of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries. Australian producers would then have no incentive to explore and develop oil reserves and the inevitable long term increase in the price of crude oil would be of no benefit whatsoever to Australia or to the Australian motorist. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Keating) adjourned.
– I move:
Excise Tariffproposals No. 2 ( 1 980).
Over the past year, the prices for liquefied petroleum gas on world markets have risen substantially from about $ 1 10 per tonne in April 1 979 to the current price of $30 1 per tonne for butane and $252 per tonne for propane. As a result of these export market price increases and related increases in the price of liquefied petroleum gas sold to the Australian market, the producers of excisable naturally occurring LPG have experienced substantial increases in profitability. The Government has therefore decided to collect part of the windfall profit of the producers of naturally occurring LPG derived from sales, on both Australian and overseas markets, of gas derived from fields in production in August 1 977. Excise is currently payable on those sales. As announced by my colleague, the Minister for National Development and Energy (Senator Carrick), last week, the Government has decided to change the basis on which that excise is to be levied, by setting a rate equivalent to 60 per cent of the average wholesale price in excess of $147 per tonne.
Excise Tariffproposals No. 2 (1980), which I have just tabled increases the excise on naturally occurring LPG derived from fields in production in August 1977 from $14 per kilolitre to $41.65 per kilolitre. The new rates of excise duty will have effect on and from tomorrow 18 April 1980. I commend the Proposals to the House.
-It is the practice of the House that when Proposals such as the one now before the House are returned for discussion they are debated in a cognate form, so I shall say just a couple of things now about this measure in respect of liquefied petroleum gas. Recently I saw an editorial which described the Government’s liquefied petroleum gas policy as a dog’s breakfast’. I think that is a fair description of what we have seen in the last week or two. What we have seen is a major switch by the Government in the basis of its energy policy. The Government has committed itself to the concept of opportunity cost energy pricing, which means that indigenous crude oil is priced on the basis of what is known as import parity. Because Australia is a net exporter of liquefied petroleum gas, liquefied petroleum gas is priced on the basis of export parity. That decision was taken by the Government because over a long period liquefied petroleum gas in Australia has been sold from two sources- from refineries, which produce it synthetically, and from the producers in Bass Strait particularly, who produce it as a naturally occurring product.
About 18 months ago we saw a situation where the price of synthetic LPG was increased by the Prices Justification Tribunal. That price happened then to be higher than the ruling naturally occurring price or the price with which naturally occurring LPG was made available in
Australia to meet a shortfall. The result was that the Gas and Fuel Corporation of Victoria started purchasing liquefied petroleum gas from naturally occurring sources in Bass Strait. BP Australia Ltd through its refining operations at Westernport in Victoria then decided to flare the liquefied petroleum gas that it was unable to sell. The Government then moved to bring the two prices into line, that is, the price of naturally occurring LPG and the price of synthetic LPG on the basis that the domestic price should be equal to the world price and that we would have a pricing known as export parity. The Government then set up an excise which is now increasing in this measure to take the difference between the domestic price and the export price.
Many things changed since that time. What mainly happened was that after the Iranian crisis and the close down of Iranian production, the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries saw a first class opportunity to market LPG, which it had previously flared, as a first class high premium commodity and to give it the full status of a fuel. They did that because LPG, unlike crude oil, does not need to be refined. It can be used as a fuel. It is, of course, a clean-burning high-premium fuel. The result was that, when the glut of oil disappeared after Iran dropped out of the market, just following the revolution, the LPG price soared by 350 per cent over the following 12 months. It was bad luck for this Government domestically and in political terms that it had decided to go for export parity pricing. What happened then was that the whole price of LPG rocketed with the OPEC price because Esso-BHP prices to Japan reflected the world price. The result was that the Government had on its hands this predicament particularly in the rural areas of New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland where LPG is sold on a reticulated gas basis where pipelines are not connected. The people who were connected to an LPG reticulated grid were paying about $25 a barrel oil equivalent for LPG and people connected to gas in Melbourne were getting theirs for $3.00 a barrel. So naturally we could hear the screams go up and quite justifiably so.
What the Government has done now is to change completely the basis of its policy. There were two matters in question. The first relates to the narrowing gap between the price of petrol and LPG. That gap which I think is about 13c per litre needed to be maintained because people would not convert to automotive uses of LPG if the gap closed. So the Government found the gap closing because the price of LPG had been brought up to the world price. But the reason why the gap closed was that the Government was not passing on the full oil price. If the Government had been passing on the full import parity price for crude oil, the gap between prices for petrol and LPG would again widen and be re-established. So the Government, if it wanted to maintain the integrity of its energy policy, simply had to pass on the true import parity price for oil which we all know is about $30 a barrel. But at the moment we are charging our refineries $24.77 a barrel.
We on this side of the House do not believe in charging import parity to refiners, but the Government does. Honourable members will hear the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) stump the country on the virtues of import parity pricing at the drop of a hat. If the Government believes in an import parity pricing policy, why does it not believe in import parity prices. It is because it is politically difficult to keep putting up the price at the bowser. If, in fact, the price of Australian oil was at the level at which imported oil is sold into Australia, we would be charging our refineries about $30 a barrel. In the event we were charging $30 a barrel, the gap between LPG and petrol would be of sufficient width to encourage motorists and fleet owners to transfer to liquefied petroleum gas. Therefore, there was no need for the Government to change its policy in respect of automotive fuel. There was a need for the Government to change its policy in respect of those people in the country who were hooked up to a liquefied petroleum gas supply.
We on this side of the House supported the Government’s initiative of an $80 per tonne subsidy to subsidise liquefied petroleum gas users in domestic situations. We think that is fair enough. If they have no substitute available, they ought to have some of the benefits that other Australians have of cheap electricity and cheap gas. We did not demur from that. But what the Government did then was to reduce completely and dramatically the whole pricing structure of LPG. Arbitrarily it picked on a price of $205 per tonne and reduced the per tonne price of butane from $252 to $205 and propane from $290 to $205. The Government then said to the oil companies: ‘You can go skitch the losses by putting up the price of petrol, kerosene and distillate by applying to the PJT for increases. When you so apply we will indicate to the PJT our support for that policy.’ In other words, all consumers of petroleum products- motorists and others- are to subsidise the industrial use of LPG under the Government’s new policy. This measure which is now before us in fact increases the excise on LPG which more than covers the $80 per tonne subsidy cost to the Commonwealth. So by reducing it we see the complete folly of the Government’s policy. It does not believe in opportunity cost pricing. It only believes that in respect of petrol.
When one looks at the phoney measures which were announced with it, introducing taxation incentives for industry to transfer out of liquefied petroleum gas and into other fuels when, in fact, the price has just been reduced from $50 per tonne to $90 per tonne, it is ridiculous. To get a tax deduction, a company has to spend money. Why would these companies spend money to get out of using LPG if it is being made cheaper. It is, as the editorialist described it, ‘A dog’s breakfast’. It is unworthy of any government serious about its own rhetoric in terms of opportunity cost pricing. So we have liquefied petroleum gas, a fuel which we all agree is a premium fuel and which should be used in transport application and perhaps in petrochemicals, now being sold at $50 to $90 per tonne less than the world price by a government which believes in opportunity cost pricing. So, in other words, the Government believes in opportunity cost providing that the prices do not politically hurt it. If any conservation and substitution start to take place and the pains start coming, it whacks a subsidy in as quick as a flash or reduces the price. So much for the Government’s resolve in sticking to what it terms a rational energy policy!
Let me come to another aspect. I refer to the question of refineries. An oil company which sells liquefied petroleum gas to a petrochemical refinery will get $252 or $290 a tonne for its product. However, an oil company selling to any other industrial user will only get $205 a tonne. So, perhaps the Government might let us know at some stage on what basis companies will be in a position to be able to provide the petrochemical industry in which case it has an enormous windfall vis a vis being able to supply ordinary domestic industries within Australia. The difference is very dramatic. It is $50 to $90 per tonne different if one happens to be supplying a petrochemical plant vis a vis an ordinary industry show in Australia. If the Government wants to be fair to the companies it would have to introduce an absorption scheme as it did for crude oil in 1970 when everyone got a little piece of the action.
This policy is absolutely riddled with inconsistencies. I have never seen a worse product. Talk about a mish-mash of policy! Every department must have had a crack at this one. After seven or eight weeks of to-ing and fro-ing in and out of
Cabinet making deals with members of the back bench so that they would not ask questions of the ministry about liquefied petroleum gas at Question Time, the Government puts forward these political reasons. In the end, what do we see? We see one massive political dog’s breakfast. It is a policy designed simply to get the National Country Party off the hook in the rural towns it has in its electorates throughout Victoria and New South Wales and a movement away from the very basis of the Government’s policy.
Petrol will be an issue in the forthcoming election. The Government will stu…p the country talking about the need to have opportunity cost pricing for energy. The Government does not believe in its own rhetoric. If it believes in it in relation to petrol it should believe in it in relation to LPG. The Government does not believe in it for LPG because it is now very much cheaper than it was. It is cheaper than what is available on world markets. There is a real opportunity cost concept because the opportunity cost is established by the price which Esso-BHP gets from the product on world markets. The opportunity cost is quite clear. The companies can show what price they get. If the Government believes in opportunity cost pricing it should stick with it. The Government is saying how reliable it is and how it can be believed by industry. It told the North West Shelf producers that they would always have their sales of liquefied petroleum gas sold in Australia at opportunity cost prices.
The calculations for the project basis of the North West Shelf in respect of LPG are based upon getting the world price for inland sales in Australia. The Government has broken that promise as well. The producers will get only $205 a tonne and not $250 or $290 for propane or butane. I do not know how the Government can face the oil industry in the future and say that its promises can be believed when they are broken so often and so ingraciously by a government which basically does not have an energy policy at all.
Debate (on motion by Mr Hodges) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Ellicott, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of the Bill is to amend the Australian Film Commission Act so as to enable the Commission to operate with more flexibility and on a more commercial basis, which will better fit the Commission for supporting the Australian film industry in the 1980s. The opportunity is also being taken to make minor amendments to the Act. The Government has reviewed the structure of the Australian Film Commission to ensure that it is an appropriate body to assist the Australian film industry as we move into the 1980s. For this review the Government had the benefit of the Peat, Marwick, Mitchell Services report ‘Towards a more effective Commissionthe AFC in the 1980s’ which was tabled in the Parliament on 13 November 1979.
The existing structure of a full time chairman and at least five other members of which at least two shall be full time members, was appropriate during the development stage of the Commission. This structure was effective, enabling the chairman to control directly all areas within the Commission. The Commission’s needs have now changed and the amendments I am proposing reflect this situation. Essentially the Government believes that it should have greater flexibility in appointments to the Commission so that it can move effectively to make appointments to fit a given situation. Accordingly, it is proposed that the chairman may be appointed on either a full time or a part time basis. Also the requirement that there shall be at least two full time members is also proposed to be removed from the Act. Although under the amending Bill it will still be possible to appoint full time members to the Commission I see the Commission moving within the next two years to a position where all its members including the chairman are appointed on a part time basis.
The Peat, Marwick report identified the need for a general manager to be responsible for the day-to-day operations of the Commission. The Commission supports the creation of such a position and a proposal for such an appointment is currently with the Public Service Board. The amending Bill has been drafted in order that it will be possible for the general manager to be appointed to the Commission if this is considered desirable. I envisage that with a part time chairman of the Commission the appointment of the general manager to the Commission could be most advantageous.
The staff of the Commission is currently employed under the Public Service Act. The Peat, Marwick report proposed that the staff be removed from the provisions of that Act. This was also one of the conclusions of the Senate
Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations in its report ‘Statutory Authorities of the Commonwealth’ of January 1980, if, as the report put it, ‘the Commission is to become a fully commercial organisation’. The Government has decided to go part of the way towards the conclusions in these reports by proposing in the amending Bill that the staff shall be employed by the Commission but with the terms and conditions of appointment being subject to the approval of the Public Service Board.
The amending Bill removes the need for ministerial approval for programs made by the Film Australia branch of the Commission as special activities. There are two types of programs made by Film Australia, one is what is known as the departmental programs and the other the national program. The departmental programs are only made with the approval and funds of the commissioning department or authority. Ministerial approval under the Act, therefore, serves little purpose and has never been refused in practice.
I believe the Commission should also be entrusted with complete discretion to determine how the funds under the national program are expended. Honourable members will recall that only one program has not received my approval under these provisions. This was the Unknown Industrial Prisoner. My decision not to support this program received support from various sections of the community, but there was also a deal of criticism. The existence of the power can, of course, lead to allegations of political interference. I believe that any question of there being political interference with the types of programs produced by Film Australia is undesirable and the provisions in the amending Bill will, hopefully, overcome this possibility.
In keeping with the general thrust of the Government’s attitude to the Commission it has also been decided to propose that the Act be amended to remove ministerial approval for transactions involving more than $250,000 under section 35 of the Act, when the transactions to be undertaken arc in relation to the making, promotion, distribution or broadcasting of programs. The amending Bill also provides for the Act to be amended to extend the special activities function of the Commission. Under the present Act the special activities function precludes the Film Australia branch from promoting and distributing the programs that it has produced. The proposed amendment will give promotion and distribution to the special activities function.
Section 36 of the Act, which it is proposed be repealed, provides for the making of superannuation payments by the Commission in respect of its staff. The section excludes payment in respect of special activities staff. With the repeal of this section the Commission will be required to make superannuation payments of all its staff under section 1 59 of the Superannuation Act. It is not considered appropriate that no payments should be made in respect of special activities staff.
The amendments that the Government is proposing in the Bill will, it is envisaged, provide the Commission with a greater degree of flexibility and freedom as we enter the 1980s. The Bill will provide part of its needs to meet the challenge of supporting the Australian film industry in the years ahead. It is safe to say that without the Film Commission the Australian film industry would not be at its present stage of development.
-And the AFDC.
– The Government looks forward over the next five years to the Commission assisting in, to quote the Peat Marwick report, ‘a stable industry, a flow of product and a maintenance of standards’. In conclusion, to satisfy the honourable member who has just interjected, I would like to remind honourable members of the achievements of the film industry since the Gorton Government established the Australian Film Development Corporation. Since that time the industry has produced about 80 feature films and has been involved in the financing of major television series. In most of these projects the Commission has been financially involved. The Commission has also been involved in building an Australian and international awareness of the industry. This has succeeded to the point where there is possibly more written about the Australian film industry in international film publications than about the industry in any other country outside the United States.
In Cannes last year I was present at a function attended by several hundred members of the international film industry. To them I found that the Australian fim industry was one of the most exciting things that had happened to the international film community in recent years. I mention films such as Picnic at Hanging Rock, Newsfront and The Last Wave which ran for three months in one cinema in Los Angeles. I mention Patrick which achieved the No. 10 position in the United States gross box office, which is a figure that few foreign films have achieved in that country. I mention also Mad Max which has recorded record sale figures and My Brilliant Career, and the most recent film which honourable members had the privilege of seeing the other evening, Breaker Morant, which we hope will find its way to Cannes this year. Such success in such a short time for an industry in a country the size of Australia creates an atmosphere of great confidence for the future of the Australian film industry. I am happy to add that the approach to the film industry has been a bipartisan one- one shared by both sides of the Parliament- and I am sure that this Bill will be accepted by both sides of the House. I commend it to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Morris) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Ellicott, and read a first time.
– I move:
The Australian War Memorial is the expression of the vision of that great historian Dr C. E. W. Bean and the dedication of those responsible for its development over the years. It is well known as the nation’s memorial to those who have fought and died for their country. It is also acknowledged as a major museum and the largest repository of relics, art works and memorabilia relating to war or war-like operations in which Australians have been involved.
This Bill perpetuates and continues the Australian War Memorial. Its primary function has been a memorial and the Government is committed to the maintenance of this essential character. However, the Memorial has a number of other functions and following a request from the Board of Trustees, the Government agreed that they should be clarified and more specifically stated in the legislation. The opportunity has also been taken to update some of the provisions and bring them into line with the provisions of the statutes of other Commonwealth cultural institutions. Honourable members will note, for example, that many of what might be called the administrative clauses of this Bill are identical with those in the Museum of Australia Bill which is presently before the House. One of the changes originally proposed was that the title of the institution be changed to ‘The Australian War Memorial Museum’. After further consideration following discussions I had with the Board of Trustees, and, may I say, a number of representations, the Government has now decided that the present name will be retained.
I now turn to some of the principal features of the Bill. The 1962 legislation created a situation whereby part of the collections of the Memorial were owned by the Commonwealth and part by the Memorial. This, as honourable members will appreciate, created administrative difficulties for the Board of Trustees. To overcome these difficulties, the Bill provides for the ownership of all the collections to be vested in the Memorial. This provision does not apply, however, to material deposited with the Memorial by other agencies. The Memorial will continue to have custody of such material but control over it and access to it will remain with the department or authority that deposited it.
With the Memorial taking over ownership of the collections, it will no longer be appropriate for the governing body to be known as the Board of Trustees. The Bill, therefore, provides for the appointment of a Council. The appointment provisions remain unchanged other than that members are to be appointed for specified terms instead of as at present at the GovernorGeneral’s pleasure.
For a number of years, the Memorial has been concerned to depict not only conflicts in which Australians have been engaged, but also the events leading up to conflict in all sections of the community. It has been increasingly important to explain the reasons underlying Australia’s involvement in war and war-like activities as the changing population base in Australia has resulted in the majority of Australians having no direct association with our military history. It is a proud history and while we do not set out to glorify warfare, we do have a responsibility to explain Australia’s role in it- particularly to the younger generations and to those Australians who have recently migrated to this land and made it their own. For this reason, the Bill provides specifically for the educational responsibilities of the Memorial and for it to assist in the creation and maintenance of museums in military establishments.
The Bill overcomes another anomalous situation. While the Trustees have been responsible for the management of the Memorial, staff provided and funds appropriated for the operation of the Memorial have not been under their control. My Department has been responsible both for the provision of staff and for the expenditure of these moneys but in future both staff and funds will be under the direct control of the Council.
There are a number of other provisions in this Bill which differ from the present arrangements.
They relate to such matters as the office of the Director, receipt and expenditure of appropriated and other funds and delegations. They are mainly standard provisions, similar to those in the legislation of other comparable institutions.
The net effect of this Bill is to maintain the primary purpose of the Memorial and to update and clarify its legislation- in other words, to give it an up-to-date charter. I believe that the members of its Council will be able to exercise their responsibilities more effectively and consequently more Australians will be able to appreciate and to understand the heroism and the sacrifices of those who contribute to the defence of this country. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Morris) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 1 April, on motion by Mr Eric Robinson:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, may I have your indulgence to suggest that the House have a general debate covering this Bill and Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 1979-80 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 two measures? There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.
-The Bills now before the House are the normal supplementary appropriation Bills which are brought in every year at around this time. As the Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson) explained in his second reading speech, this is because of variations in the expenditure needs of various departments, some of which will be spending less than their original appropriations and some of which need additional amounts. It is traditional, in dealing with these Bills, to have a debate on general economic policy and it is that course that I intend to follow. I move the following amendment to the motion for the second reading:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: whilst not opposing the provisions of the Bill, the House-
notes the failure, and rejects the inherent implausibility, of the Government’s policies of-
fighting inflation by raising prices,
encouraging employment by increasing employment, and
improving living standards by reducing wages;
deplores the accelerating increases in the rate of inflation and interest rates;
opposes the continuing suppression of Australian economic activity which has caused 4 years of depressed economic growth rates, declining living standards and rising unemployment;
rejects the growing burden of income tax and petrol tax and their increasingly inequitable incidence;
expresses alarm at the continuing deterioration of the social infrastructure and essential community services resulting from 4 years of falling real expenditure, and
deplores the effects of these policies which have been to make Australia an increasingly unjust, economically insecure and fragmented society’.
In moving that amendment to the motion for the second reading, I acknowledge that it is a rather caustic criticism of the Government’s economic policies, and it is intentionally so because we believe that the distinguishing feature of the Fraser Government’s period in office has been, and is quite obviously now, its utter failure to bring about its very brash promises to restore economic recovery in this country. One can only describe the Government’s economic performance as miserable in the extreme.
Let us look firstly at the growth rates which have occurred during this Government’s period of office. In the four calendar years, 1976 to 1979, the real gross domestic product growth rate was 3.3 per cent. That increase is well below the historic rate of growth for real GDP in Australia which is more of the order of 6 per cent. It also compares rather poorly with the performance of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development Countries as a whole as their average rate of growth over that period was 4.1 per cent compared with our 3.3 per cent. The comparison is even more disadvantageous when one looks at the reasons for Australia’s growth rate and notes that the major reason for its being as good as it was is that during the last two years we have had very good seasons and prices, favourable international markets for our export commodities and that, as a result, real gross non-farm product has increased rather less than has real gross domestic product. The real gross non-farm product has increased by only 2.5 per cent on average over that four-year period. The difference between that and the 3.3 per cent is accounted for by the very strong rate of growth in the last two years in the farm area.
Those growth rates also look poor when one compares them with the four years prior to 1976. In the period 1972 to 1975 real gross domestic product grew by 3.8 per cent, compared with the 3.3 per cent of the last four years. The real gross non-farm product, which is a more accurate indicator of the underlying strength of the economy, grew by 4. 1 per cent on average in that period compared with the rate of 2.5 per cent during the Fraser Government’s term of office. Quite obviously there has been a drastic reduction in the rate of growth, particularly of the non-farm product, even when compared with the period when the Labor Party was in office. I stress that we are comparing the four years of the Fraser Government with the four years prior to its coming to office. One can see that a considerable reduction indeed has occurred in the rate of growth of gross non-farm product. But even if one includes the farm sector one notes a reduction in the rate of growth.
As a consequence of that declining growth pereformance there has been, of course, an abysmal employment performance. There has been a quite appalling failure by this Government to create jobs, in the private sector especially. The employment figures show that there has been an amazing failure to create jobs for wage and salary earners in particular in the private sector. In November 1975 there were 3,502,100 civilian wage and salary employees in the private sector. In January 1980, AlA years later, there were 3,489,500, or 12,600 fewer. Admittedly, that figure is distorted by seasonal change. The seasonally adjusted figures show some increase, but it is still abysmally small. The actual increase in the seasonally adjusted figures for wage and salary earners in the private sector, as between November 1975 and January 1980, is a whole 1 7,800. In other words, based on the seasonally adjusted figures, we have had an increase in wage and salary employment in the private sector of less than 18,000 in 414 years, or at the rate of about 4,500 additional jobs per annum. This from a government that was going to turn on the lights by providing jobs in the private sector. What a mockery it has made of that promise. We have had this most appalling performance in terms of employment creation in the private sector. To all intents and purposes there has been virtually no growth at all in wage and salary earner employment in that sector. That, when compared to the rate of growth for the work force, becomes even more appalling. According to the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations figures published a couple of years ago, the work force should increase by the order of 1 10,000 a year. We have to find an additional 1 10,000 jobs each year simply to stop unemployment from becoming worse, yet in the private sector a whole 18,000 jobs have been created in 4’A years. Obviously, this is cause for an enormous degree of alarm.
It is also of interest to note, from the wage and salary earner figures for the public sector, an increase of 96,900 between November 1975 and January 1980. In other words, by far the greater part of such wage and salary earner employment growth as there has been during this Government’s term of office has occurred not in the private sector but in the public sector, principally the State government sector. Commonwealth government employment has dropped by a couple of thousand. Local government employment has increased to a small degree only. Most of the job growth has been under State governments. It is extraordinarily ironic that those governments have been berated by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Treasurer (Mr Howard) at Premiers’ Conferences for destroying this Government’s economic policy by increasing employment. Thank goodness they have done so. If they had not the employment performance, which is already abysmal, would have been more so.
These are very important figures. They demonstrate, as clearly as can any indicator to which one can point, that the Fraser Government has failed completely and utterly to generate jobs in the private sector. Naturally, that failure has enormous ramifications for the prospects for employment of the Australian people, given the fact that at the same time as it is failing to create jobs the Federal Government has been determinedly reducing its own level of employment. It has provided no jobs in its own sphere, and has done its utmost to restrain other governments, State and local, from increasing employment in theirs.
There are, of course, alternative figures to those for wage and salary earners in civilian employment which are published by the Bureau of Statistics. I refer to the Labour Force survey. The wage and salary figures that I have quoted have been taken principally from payroll tax returns and are therefore very accurate. The Labour Force survey is taken from a sample of less than one per cent and is conducted every month. Projections are made from the sample and therefore the results are subject to substantial error. The officers of the Bureau also seem to have a lack of confidence in the Labour Force figures, which show a higher rate of employment growth. This problem of the difference between the two sets of employment figures was discussed in the National Times of 9 March under the heading
White Paper on Jobs’. That newspaper contacted the Bureau of Statistics Labour Force section and quoted Mr Max Griffiths, the Director, as follows:
There’s something funny in the Labour Force Series at the end of the period. It seems there’s a violent fluctuation between August and November. “You can’t place too much reliance on short-term movements in the Labour Force surveys.’ . . . adding that the bureau preferred using the Civilian Employees series for measuring short-term movements in employment.
Obviously, the man who is in charge of the Labour Force section of the Australian Bureau of Statistics believes that the figures to use, for accuracy, are those for wage and salary earners in civilian employment, which I have been using, not those of the Labour Force survey. The latter are subject to substantial error. Even the man in charge thinks that something funny is going on. Nevertheless, they are quoted time and time again by the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs (Mr Viner) as though they were perfectly correct figures. Clearly they are not the figures on which he ought to be relying. If one looks at the most accurate figures one finds cause for great concern about the employment performance in this country.
As a result of that poor performance we have had, of course, a considerable increase in unemployment, both officially and unofficially. Officially, unemployment has increased by over 50 per cent during the period in which this Government has been in office. Unofficially, there have been additional increases in unemployment. Certainly, we have had an increase in what is known as hidden unemployment and also in underemployment. Hidden unemployment occurs when people cease looking for jobs, not because they do not want them but because there is no chance of getting one. They become discouraged after looking for a job fruitlessly for some time and give up all hope of getting one. That does not mean that they do not have a desire for a job. Because they are not actively seeking work, are not making inquiries for jobs all the time, the Bureau of Statistics does not count them as being in the labour force. Therefore, they are not counted among the unemployed.
Interestingly enough, last September the Bureau produced a survey of persons who were not in the labour force, lt showed that 610,000 people between the ages of 15 and 64 wanted a job but were not actively looking for one. Certainly, some said that they were not doing so because, for instance, they preferred to stay home and look after children. But some of them could more accurately be described as hidden unemployed. Some 74,000 were described by the Bureau as discouraged persons. They were discouraged from seeking work because of all the knock-backs that they had had, and so on. Some 1 1 1,000 were young people who were attending educational institutions. Obviously, there are in our schools, technical colleges, colleges of advanced education and universities many young people who are not really there for the purpose of gaining further education. They are there simply because there are no jobs outside. Therefore, there is a tendency to stay at school or at another educational institution for as long as possible. They do not really want to be there. They would rather get a job. This survey shows that 1 1 1,000 people are in that category. It also shows that 32,000 people were not looking for work, although they wanted it, because they could not get child care and that another 10,000 people could not get jobs with suitable hours. If we add up all those figures, we find that 227,000 people would like a job but are not looking for one because essentially they have been discouraged from thinking that there is any chance of getting one or because there is some physical limitation on their ability to get one. That figure of 227,000 represents about 3.5 per cent of the workforce, a very substantial figure indeed.
When one looks at underemployment- people who are working part-time but who would rather be working full-time- one sees that approximately the same number of people are involved. The survey of the labour force in August 1979 showed that 222,000 people, or 3.5 per cent of the workforce, were working less than 35 hours a week but would like to work more hours. These are people who are underemployed. So the total amount of unemployment in this country cannot be derived simply by looking at the monthly figures for unemployment either from the labour force series or from the registered unemployed series. One has to take account also of the fact that hundreds of thousands of people are either hidden unemployed or underemployed. Therefore, the real unemployment figures are probably at least double the actual figures which are pointed to as being the official unemployment figures in this country. Of course, this is an extraordinarily important development which shows that the unemployment situation in this country is far worse than the Government makes it out to be.
If one looks at inflation one can see again that the Government’s record has been abysmal. The inflation rate is still in double figures at present- 10 per cent in the last 12 months. In the last 12 months of the Labor Government it was 12 per cent. If one takes the whole of the year 1975 it was 14 per cent. But, even taking the top figure, in four years the inflation rate has been brought down from 14 per cent to 10 per cent- at enormous cost. There has been some reduction in the rate of inflation, but by God we have paid for it! We have paid for it by abysmal growth rates, by much higher levels of unemployment and, importantly, by reductions in living standards. That is what I turn to now.
In addition to the factors I have pointed to, there has been a very considerable reduction in the living standards of the vast bulk of the Australian people while the Fraser Government has been in office. The reduction in living standards has been greatest for those who can least afford it, those on lower and middle incomes. The lower trie income, the more likely people are to have had a severe reduction in their living standards. This reduction in living standards has come about by deliberate policy decisions of this Government in various respects. Firstly, the real purchasing power of wages has been reduced by almost 5 per cent in the last four years. Between December 1975 and December 1979, average weekly earnings increased by 41.2 per cent, but the consumer price index increased by 48.2 per cent. That gives a reduction of 4.8 per cent in the real purchasing power of average weekly earnings- almost a 5 per cent cut in the amount of goods and services that average weekly earnings will buy now as compared with what they bought in December 1975. So relative to gross wages there has been a reduction in the living standards of wage and salary earners.
On top of that, there has been a substantial increase in their income tax burden. Contrary to what they were promised in 1975 and 1977, they have had this large and continuing increase in their tax burden. I think this subject bears a little elaboration. Between 1975-76 and the current financial year pay-as-you-earn taxpayers- wage and salary earners- had their total tax payments increased by 70 per cent. On the other hand, nonpayasyouearn taxpayers- people who derive their incomes not from wages and salaries but from business incomes of one kind or another, including farming- had their total tax payments increased by 45 per cent. We find that companies had their total tax payments increased by 30 per cent over this period. They, are very substantial differences. That is one way of indicating the change in the tax burden for wage and salary earners. I believe that the present situation is best demonstrated by referring to a table. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table dealing with falling living standards.
The document read as follows-
-I thank the House. This table, which I will refer to now and come back to a little later, indicates the change in the living standards of four categories of people-a person on the average minimum award rate, which is a little less than a tradesman’s rate, a person on average weekly earnings, a person in the junior management area earning, say, one and a half times average weekly earnings, and a person in the senior management area earning, say, three times average weekly earnings. It compares the situations in December 1975 and in December 1979, annualises the weekly incomes of those periods and looks at the tax payments and the eventual decline in the real disposable incomes of those categories of people.
In regard to the tax side of things with which I am dealing at present, we can see that for the lower income person, the person on the average minimum award rate, the proportion of income paid in tax has increased from 1 7.4 per cent in 1975 to 1 8.4 per cent now. At the other end, for a person on three times average weekly earnings the proportion of income paid in tax has declined from 43.7 per cent in 1975 to 39.7 per cent now. At the bottom end it increases; at the top end it reduces. This increase in the tax rate, of course, has a substantial effect on the disposable income of people and, therefore, on their ability to maintain their living standards. As I have shown in previous debates, the fact that the Government has announced tax cuts to apply from 1 July this year does not change this situation. Those supposed tax cuts will in fact still mean that people will move into higher tax brackets, that the proportion of income which they will pay in tax will increase in 1980-81 over what it was in 1979-80 and that, therefore, there can be no argument that these figures which reflect the situation as at December 1 979 are destroyed by the subsequent announcement of tax cuts. Those tax cuts will still mean that in 1980-81 every person paying tax as a single taxpayer with an income of less than $ 1 5,000 a year will be paying more of his income in tax than he paid in 1975-76. If he has a dependant spouse and children, he will need an income of over $19,000 for the proportion of his income that he pays in tax to be less than it was in 1975-76. There can be no argument that those tax cuts in some way change the present situation. They will accentuate the fact that people are moving into higher tax brackets all the time. Also of relevance to this is the fact that people on very high incomes, as we have said many times, are able, through the explosion of tax avoidance, to avoid the reduced tax payments which the
Fraser Government has given them, but I have not time to elaborate on that argument now.
The petrol tax has also been an important factor. It shows up in the impact on living standards through the consumer price index and it also changes the incidence of the overall impact of tax. A petrol tax falls most heavily on those on lowest incomes because the same tax is paid for a litre of petrol whether one is a millionaire or a pauper. Therefore, the percentage increase in the tax burden which such a tax involves is greatest on those on lowest incomes.
Health insurance is also a way in which living standards have been reduced. Under Labor Medibank provided at least 85 per cent cover for medical expenses. If a doctor bulk billed, as most doctors began to do, there was 100 per cent cover and one paid nothing for medical services. Now, of course, we have no such arrangement, no subsidy at all for services costing less than $20. Therefore, in New South Wales for 100 per cent cover a single person must pay $4.20 a week and a family must pay $8.30 a week, which is rather like an additional tax. It goes not to the Government but to a health insurance fund, but the impact on the taxpayer is the same. He is shelling out that much more of his income for what he was previously getting under the Labor Government for little or nothing. Also family allowances have been frozen since this Government changed the system in 1976. It substantially increased family allowances at that time but not in a way which was of benefit to many people, because at the same time it abolished the tax deduction for children. The overall cost of the scheme was almost paid for completely by the abolition of that tax deduction. So there was no real increase involved in that, although I agree that the change was for the better. But there was no overall increase in the living standards of most people as a result of that change. Since then, of course, those amounts have been frozen. There has been no increase for inflation. Inflation has gone up by almost 50 per cent. So the real value has been halved and the living standards of the Australian people have thereby been reduced through this process.
If one puts all those things together one sees a rather frightening situation developing. The table which I have had incorporated in Hansard takes into account not only the change in the tax burden but also the additional medical insurance which must be paid and the freezing of the nonadjustment of the family allowance. If one then looks at the final situation- that is, what is the real disposable income of these various levels of taxpayers- one can see that the table reveals a quite terrible situation. The person on the average minimum award rate has had a decline in his real disposable income of 7.8 per cent. He needs an increase in his weekly disposable income of $1 1.23 to get back to the same standard of living he had in 1975. The reduction in the real disposable income of a person on average weekly earnings is 6.7 per cent. At Vh times average weekly earnings the reduction is 4.4 per cent. But there is no reduction at all for a person on three times average weekly earnings. He is up by 1.1 per cent. A similar situation applies- only the figures are higher- for a taxpayer with a dependent spouse and two children. The living standard of a taxpayer on average award wage has been reduced by 12 per cent. His real disposable income is down by that percentage. The standard of living of a person on average weekly earnings is down by 10 per cent. A person on Vi times average weekly earnings has had a decrease of 7 per cent in his standard of living. These are extraordinary figures. They demonstrate if we look at wages, taxes, health insurance payments, the family allowance, the amount of money people have left in their pockets after we take into account inflation- this Government has had four years of ringing in the changes in these areas- that the living standards of the great bulk of the Australian people have been quite considerably reduced by this process. That is an appalling indictment of any government and this Government should be extraordinarily ashamed of the fact that it has brought about this kind of result.
But it does not end even there. That is not the end of the picture of what has happened to the living standards of the Australian people, although it is a very substantial part of it. We must add to that now that we have increasing interest rates. Increasing interest rates, of course, are going to bring about further reductions in the living standards of the Australian people. All of those people who have home mortgages will be paying higher amounts in interest and therefore their living standards will be reduced by this process. Each half of a per cent rise on a mortgage of something like $30,000 represents an increase of around $9 to $10 a month in the interest payments which people will have to meet. If there are further increases in interest rates- we already seem to have in train a second round of increases which could be of the order of one per cent instead of the half of a per cent increase we have had across the board already- that of course would be a further severe reduction in the living standards of the Australian people.
This is a very important situation. But even that does not finally give us the measure of how much living standards have been reduced because there is also the area of what is sometimes described as a social wage. A social wage tries to encompass the concept of all the things one gets back from government expenditure. Of course, if we look at what this Government has done in the area of government expenditure we can see that what most people get back from government has been considerably reduced. I have already mentioned the area of health insurance. But there are other ways in which one gets benefits from government. One example is public housing. This is an extremely important area to people on lower incomes. But this Government has slashed funds for public housing. It has made it much more difficult for people on low incomes to get a house. Therefore it has diminished their real living standards.
But one need not stop there. We can look at the amounts paid to government schools, at the abolition of things like sewerage programs, the virtual abolition of legal aid, the cutback in funds for urban public transport, the reduction in funds for aged persons’ accommodation, the cutback in funds for community health centres and so on and so on. There is a never ending stream of cutbacks in government expenditure in ways which improve the living standards of the Australian people. All these things must be taken into account as well in looking at what has happened to the living standards of the Australian people in the period of office of this Government.
I doubt that there has been a period since the early 1930s- in fact I would be quite positive there has not been a period since the early 1930s in this country- when there has been such a concentrated and large decrease in the living standards of the Australian people. That is something about which this Parliament and the Australian people should be extraordinarily concerned. This, of course, has come about through the absolute and abject failure of this Government to bring about its brash promise to restore economic recovery, to turn on the lights. What the Government has done instead has been to make the lights even dimmer than they were when it took office. For most people in the Australian community things are much worse now than they were at that time.
I did intend to spend a little time discussing why this has happened. Unfortunately time has beaten me. I wanted to demonstrate how much things have deteriorated under this Government. I simply want to make one further point. There is no prospect, as I see it, for any change in the near future or, indeed, in the longer term while the current policies are continued. If one looks at the various indicators for 1980 one can only feel that the situation is going to be even more gloomy. The employment indicators are turning down. There is no sign of an expansion in the domestic economy. The growth area of the economy in the past year has been in exports. With the international recession intensifying and likely to become much more severe later on we can only be fairly pessimistic about prospects of any expanded growth in that area. So what we have then is the likelihood in 1 980 of an intensification of the miserable performance of the Fraser Government in its first four years of office either to bring about any form of economic recovery or to bring about any enhancement of the living standards of the Australian people.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MartinOrder! Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment. I understand that I should reserve my right to speak to allow the next Government speaker to address the House.
– I just want to make it quite plain at the outset that the people of Australia are in a recovery phase. The gloom that we have just heard from the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) is quite unwarranted, as quite a number of his statements were quite inaccurate and wrong in fact. I do not propose to go through all these statements because I did not make notes of what the honourable member said. But he said a few things. He said that the introduction of the family allowance meant no increase in expenditure. That was patently wrong. He said there was a decrease in the amount of money applied to aged persons’ accommodation. That was patently wrong. He said there is a downturn in the employment situation. That is patently wrong. They are just three things that come to mind immediately.
The honourable member spent five or ten minutes on the employment situation. I detect a degree of sensitivity in the Australian Labor Party on the employment question. I would just point out that in the year February 1979 to February 1980 growth in civilian employment was 155,000 of which 111,000 was in the full time work force. These figures are from the Australian Bureau of Statistics. I would like to remind the people of Australia of four things that occurred between May 1974 and May 1975. People will remember that this was the period in which the Labor Party was roaring along supposedly creating jobs, substantially through gross government overspending. In that period full time unemployment increased by 138,700, civilian employment decreased by 55,000 and private employment decreased by a massive 155,000 people. If we are talking about an increase in civilian and private sector employment of 18,000 between the end of 1975 and 1979, that might be the case. But in that one year private employment- that is, employment in the private sector- decreased by 155,000 people. They are the people who produce most goods and services in Australia and that is why we were in such dire straits at the end of 1 975.
I hope most people realise that we were then in a severe downturn. Australia’s trend was pointing down in productivity, pointing down in employment and pointing up in unemployment. At that time of our history we were in terrible trouble. Prior to the Labor Party’s coming into power in 1972 we had enjoyed some 20-odd years of basically full employment. I am not saying there were not periods when there were worries, but we had a government throughout that period that was prepared to believe in the private sector and to believe that confidence in this country was important. Therefore, it had the wherewithal to make certain that any aberrations in the employment front were soon quietened down. This was not so in the Labor time of office. The honourable member for Gellibrand showed the very soft undercarriage of the Labor Party when he said: ‘We have paid for inflation coming down’. We on this side of the House think that we have certainly made it tough in many ways by reducing inflation, but we would have paid far more if we had continued with the inflationary policies of the Labor Party. Labor openly admits that its policies have brought about so much havoc, not just to the wealthy and the employers but more importantly to the people on lower incomes and the people on fixed incomes. We are absolutely set on the course of continuing the recovery phase.
I must say, however, as a compliment to the honourable member for Gellibrand, that his speech showed a degree of responsibility. He was prepared to put forward many of the aims that in my view we should be following in Australia. I take it that he understands, as I believe I do and as most of us understand, that there are many things in the economy at present that we still need to trim up. He understands that employment, interest rates and inflation are problems. But he has publicly advocated higher taxation in order to fuel and to pay for heavier Government expenditure. While that irresponsible view is held by Labor, and I believe it always will be while it remains a socialist party, it cannot expect this economy to go forward under such policies so that ordinary Australian people can achieve their full potential.
We are at present debating Appropriation Bill (No. 3) and Appropriation Bill (No. 4). We should not lose sight of that. In my view it is a fairly good result that we are dealing with a net $250m-odd. In terms of total Budget outlays, as the Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson) said in his second reading speech, it is a relatively small margin. That is certainly a big change from the situation when he came into office. In 1975-76 the Budget of the then Treasurer, the now leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) provided for a deficit of some $2.8 billion. Within only a few months of that Budget’s being presented, when we came into power we found that many of those Budget outlays were blowing out quite incredibly. The Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party often said in this place that the Budget deficit was blowing out to some $4 billion to $5 billion. Luckily it did not ever get there but it was a very big struggle in that year just to keep it down to $3 Vi billion.
The Australian economy is in a relatively strong position and that is largely due to the basic philosophy of the Government parties. We unashamedly believe that ‘profit’ is not a dirty word. We unashamedly believe that if Australian people are allowed to retain as much as possible in their pockets they will make good and responsible decisions. We do not believe that all the best decisions are made by the Government. In fact, the record of governments, especially in the area of dabbling with private enterprise, is not particularly good- That is why we want to get out of controlling so much of the economy as governments have in the last few years. I believe that there are very good signs that we are heading in that direction. People have to expect that the present Government will be frank, tough on the economy, tough on the Public Service and tough on Government expenditure. People who go around saying that we need to expand this or that program and who use that typical phrase we need to create jobs in the government sector’ would be quite wrong to believe that that is what we will do. People must expect that we will be, above all, very steady.
Of course, we have some big worries. Recent statistics show that the level of investment in Australia in the first half of this financial year was not as high as is probably required. People know that the market place is struggling with interest rates for a variety of reasons. The Treasurer (Mr Howard) has made very clear in Question Time over the last few weeks the options and the problems that we face, especially with such pressures as interest rates in the United States being so much higher than ours. I take this opportunity to reiterate that interest rates in Australia are substantially less than they are in many of the larger countries with which we trade, such as the United Kingdom and the United States. I will reiterate again and again that inflation in this country is lower than the average for Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development countries. In the last year of Labor’s office Australia’s rate was 5 per cent higher than the OECD average.
Some good things are happening in the economy. I have mentioned employment. Of course, we do not need to be smug about that. There are obvious reasons why employment is strongly on the upturn in Australia at present. There is a greatly increased confidence. As a member who represents a very diversified area with many people living in country areas and in towns, the very strong feeling I get around my electorate at present is basic, solid confidence and the feeling that people do not want the Government to go overboard or, in this election year, to make stupid promises of money. People realise that during the Labor Party’s period in power, though money was spent as if it was going out of fashion, that sort of policy really had its effects. The Labor Party did promise the earth in that period and it is promising the earth again. I noticed recently some of the Labor Party policy papers that are beginning to be released, I presume in order that people will be conversant with all the beaut promises that are coming out. They contain the old, tired Labor policies of spending more money. In this place Labor members often talk about reductions in tax. If they are going to spend a lot more money and if they are going to reduce taxes- the honourable member for Gellibrand has made it quite clear that for his part he will not reduce taxes- and spend more money, what an extra bind we will be in with the blowing out of government deficits and with the reducing of the confidence of the rest of the world in Australia. I will get on to that subject later.
The Labor Party has some tremendously attractive- on the surface- promises in the area of petroleum products. I have written down four promises. I hope that the Australian people do not fall for it. I believe that they need to realise just what precious resources we are talking about. Even if one takes the Labor Party’s promises on petrol at face value, one is still left very confused. The shadow spokesman on these matters, in an article in the Sydney Morning Herald a month or two ago, made it very clear that whereas Labor is talking about pegging the price of petrol, it is also talking about a different tax regime for petroleum products which- these are his own words- ‘may end up with more levy in government funds being raised from petroleum’. I do not know quite what this means. Does it mean cheaper petrol or higher taxation on oil companies? I suspect that what it will mean in the long term is dearer petrol for the Australian people. I hope that people read the Labor policy documents very closely. I certainly intend to take them around with me to make sure that they are properly distributed because I believe that people in my electorate have enough sense to understand that only frankness and solidarity in government will push us forward through the very promising years of the 80s.
We hear about the Labor promises of job creation schemes. Labor is always prepared to put a cost on these things, but those costs always turn out to be wrong, just as the Hayden Budget turned out to be wrong in 1 975-76. It is promising the earth, with respect to Medibank. Labor members seem to think that we can get medical treatment in Australia for nothing. I just do not know where the Labor Party gets these ideas. We have been through this wringer and we do not want to go through it again. The Labor Party is talking about establishing new government corporations. It proposes to have a hydrocarbon corporation. I do not know what that will do. I do not see that the people in the bureaucracy have any special talent for producing or finding petrol or researching new fuels. These people do not have the talent possessed by the practical people who have been in gumboots and travelling the world all their lives. The bureaucrats will never have the talents possessed by these people. Bureaucrats have talents in certain areas, but let us leave the running of corporations to the people who can think, the people who have the incentive to make a profit. Let us not have the Government interfering because even if the Government is good at it we will have to raise money from unwilling taxpayers to pay for these corporations. That is just a matter of arithmetic.
It is true that in an election year there will be lots of short term expedients thrown up by the Labor Party. I do not want that sort of thing to come from this side of the House. Short term expedients will never do our country any good. What we are looking for is a government- I believe we have one- that says: ‘This is an election year; this is the direction in which we are heading; there are the things that we are doing; these are the things that the Australian people want; and these are the things that we will achieve ‘. Let us not talk about short term election expedients this year. I certainly will not do so.
Australians who have been through that false spring of Labor handouts realise that Labor’s mentality of handouts is like a 100 per cent diet of fairy floss: It just rots one’s teeth; eventually one gets sick and is not good for anything. I believe Australians are prepared to hear that we will not treat people like suckers, to use the American term. We are prepared to be strong and sensible in economic matters, and to strive even harder to continue our progress towards less government expenditure- certainly a far lower proportion of gross domestic productand lower taxes.
The Appropriation Bills focus fairly naturally on the Government deficit and, if we take our thinking a little further, on the overall government deficits throughout Australia. Government deficits increase the debt of government. I have said, and a number of other honourable members have said fairly regularly lately, that increased government debts have two very disastrous results. Firstly, although they provide sometimes for short term programs- they even provide for some longer term infrastructure programs- inevitably they lead to a debt which has to be serviced. That servicing will come only from the Australian people. If it does not come from those Australian people who are living today it will come from their children. When one borrows money in an economy one has to pay for it. Money has a value and that value is the interest paid on it. We are in the situation where even our own Government- this is apart from the State governments and the semi-government authorities- has a massive debt. Even in the Budget we are talking about $2, 000m each year being paid out of the funds of taxpayers for a debt that has already been incurred. Much of this money has been spent on stupid things.
The other thing that flows from the deficits is the loss of confidence. I refer particularly to our Commonwealth Budget deficit. It has been clearly established with people to whom I have spoken in recent months- people in the development field; people who want to invest in Australia; and Australians who want to invest in Australia- that if we cave in in a Budget year and let the deficit blow out inevitably confidence will be greatly reduced. That is just what we do not need in a period of economic upturn.
The overall government requirements around Australia at present, taking into account local government, State government and Federal
Government, are quite frightening. Recently, I was reading a speech by Jim Bain who is a very respected economist. He was saying that on his estimation total government borrowing requirements throughout Australia may well rise to something like $6,000m between 1980 and 1984. That is a lot of money. If that money were available to the people who want to borrow for housing, to buy motor cars or television sets, or to invest in a new joinery works, it would be very handy. While we are raising that sort of money it is not available for someone else to borrow.
I said earlier that I do not particularly see why governments have any special reason to say that they are expert in borrowing and investing money. The small businessman- the man in the panel beating shop, the man who wants to make frozen pies for export- is probably the fellow who will invest most efficiently. He is the fellow who will benefit the most from using money that is available in the capital market. I simply flag up the problem that we are facing. We are facing a problem of massive government borrowing in the next four years even if the Federal Government remains completely responsible with respect to its deficit, as it is at present. I imagine that one of the best things that we could do is to have a surplus in the coming Budget. I am not overly hopeful about that. A lot of pegging back from the deficit situation of two or three years ago has been required.
There are many things that could be said but I conclude by talking about the basic sense of the Australian people. People understand now that taxes need to be decreased. People understand that they would prefer to have in their pockets more of the money that they have made through their own efforts. People understand now that budgets and the way that governments operate basically have to follow the rules of arithmetic. People basically understand that the dollar spent by a government will not raise our standard of living quite as well as a dollar spent by an individual Australian. Therefore, I think they understand that the socialist way, the way of the Labor Party, the way that is becoming evident in all the election propaganda from the Labor Party, is not the way that will increase standards of living.
We have heard the honourable member for Gellibrand talk about disposable income. I will have a good look at the figures which he cited. If he is right maybe that is just the lesson that the Australian people want to remember. The severe downturn of this country in the 1972 to 1975 period, the pointing towards zero which this Government inherited when it came into power, was very difficult to turn around. At present if one talks to the man in the street in the EdenMonaro electorate one finds that he knows that we have a responsible government. He knows that we have a government that is trying to do the job. I believe that that is the sort of government to which he will give his support.
-I was delighted to hear that the honourable member for EdenMonaro (Mr Sainsbury) will opt out of the Government’s campaign at the next general election by not using short term expedients. He seems to have forgotten the promise made during the last election campaign that there were to be tax cuts on 1 February. These tax cuts took place and then, effectively four months later, a 1 *V** per cent levy was introduced. That levy continued even longer than the period for which it was proposed. The honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis), in the course of his excellent contribution, mentioned the question of falling living standards. I hope that all honourable members will study the table incorporated by the honourable member for Gellibrand. I have had a look at that table. The honourable member categorised four types of taxpayers. The first was the person on average minimum award rates, which are slightly less than those of a tradesman. The second category was those on average weekly earnings- a tradesman with over award earnings. Then there was the category of junior management, which was a person earning one and a half times average weekly earnings and the final category was senior management which was a person earning three times average weekly earnings. I would like to point out to the House the significance of some of the falls that have occurred in disposable incomes and living standards.
The tax payments of a person in the first category, without dependants, increased by 50.5 per cent between 1 975 and 1 979. Payments for a person in the second category, on average weekly earnings, increased by 40.6 per cent; for a person in the third category, by 34.4 per cent; and for a person in the fourth category- senior management- by 28.2 per cent. One knows to which category the mass of the income earners in Australia belong. If in monetary terms, the additional weekly tax payments plus medical insurance payments mean that the fellow on the minimum award rate is paying $5.88 a week extra, the one on average weekly earnings is paying $3.95 a week extra, whereas a junior manager pays $1.01 less and a senior manager pays $25.56 less.
Let us compare taxpayers with a dependent spouse and two children, using exactly the same earning categories. The fall in real disposable income over the last four years can be characterised in the following way: A taxpayer in the first category is $20.35 a week behind; a taxpayer in the second category on average weekly earnings is $22.60 a week behind; a junior manager is $21.08 behind; and a senior manager is $4.35 behind. It is suggested that the average wage in the first category is $168.24. Given the fact that a taxpayer in that category is over $20 behind the real disposable income that he had in 1975, my colleague’s accent on falling living standards is surely not overemphasised.
My colleague dealt with the Appropriation Bills in a broad sense by covering the economic factors. I will direct my mind to a much narrower and much more parochial field, a field that nevertheless involves the broad categories that my colleague the honourable member for Gellibrand encompassed in the amendment he moved. I refer to the question of encouraging employment by increasing unemployment. My colleague commented on the continuing suppression of Australia’s economic activity, which has caused four years of depressed economic growth, declining living standards and rising unemployment. In his amendment he expressed alarm at the continuing deterioration of the social infrastructure and essential community services resulting from four years of falling real expenditure.
I turn to the Community Youth Support Scheme as it operates in my area. I believe that in this field of the young unemployed we are building up a debt for the future that this country will find very hard to pay. In this area some of the material available is attributable because it is factual and is easily obtained. Other material is available which, whilst it is still as factual and can be obtained from community groups, community workers and interested individuals, is not attributable because some of those people are concerned that they may alienate their clients, that they may even cop retribution from their clients or that they might incur the retribution of the authorities who are concerned with their employment or of the law enforcement agencies.
Whilst I had some doubts about the concept of the Community Youth Support Scheme, I think I would be one of the first honourable members to utilise the facility in his electorate. The Preston Employment Action Group was one of the first to develop under CYSS in my electorate. Later the Lalor, Epping, Thomastown Unemployed Support Group, or LETUS, was established. So I have not been a knocker of the scheme from the start. I had hoped that it might be able to give some relief. The magnitude of the task that is faced in my particular area can be shown by statistics from the Commonwealth Employment Service -for February and March. The unemployment rate in the City of Preston is 9 per cent. The total number of people registered as seeking work is 4,465, of whom 1,036 are junior females and 876 junior males. These figures apply to those people who are registered as unemployed. In the Lalor-Thomastown area the total number seeking work at the end of February was 2,005, of whom 504 were junior females and 365 junior males. I think those figures would represent a rather substantial project for CYSS. The Scheme is not geared to be other than a veneer or a contact point. One of the groups stated the following in a discussion paper:
The needs, frustrations, and pressures experienced by unemployed people are paramount. Yet the assistance for these people is minimal. The Community Youth Support Scheme is the only general support program available to help deal with these issues, and the amount of funding allocated is merely a token gesture. In Preston there are 414 workers in CYSS to supposedly assist 4,500 unemployed people. In Lalor-Thomastown there are Vh. workers in CYSS to assist 2,00S unemployed people.
Those figures are not fixed figures. They represent a changing client population for the organisation. That is the magnitude of the task. That is the situation that exists.
I wish to show some of the social costs of continuing youth unemployment. Of course, this is where we have difficulty with attributing sources. There is strong evidence and there are reports of male and female youth prostitution developing on a marked scale amongst the young unemployed in my area. My State colleague, Dolf Eddy, member of the Legislative Council for the Thomastown province, sometime ago raised the question of young male prostitution. An investigation at that time identified six young males, aged about 16 years, whose position was directly attributable to the social problem of unemployment. Community workers in the area tell me that drug abuse is widespread amongst the young unemployed and, by their observation, is increasing rapidly.
– Is this State-wide or in the local area?
-I am talking about a local area. Previously I indicated the magnitude of the numbers of which we are speaking in a relatively localised area. Drug abuse is not necessarily due to economic circumstances. It does occur in affluent societies. But it is certain that’ the strains and frustrations of poverty do lead to an increase in drug abuse and so lead to an increase in crime and abnormal behaviour. A number of community workers give evidence of what the situation is. How does CYSS serve to cope with this situation? Do its officers reject the people who are drug abusers or criminals, or do they try to help in a field in which they are not trained? They may refer to some existing facilities but there are insufficient existing facilities to provide a real back-up to those faced with this problem.
Further, this area has a large migrant content- principally Italian, Greek and Yugoslav. There is a strong work ethic in the migrant communities. There are strong family pressures on the young unemployed. The elders of the family cannot understand that work is not available. There are family tensions and other problems. Not only are there tensions but also there are rejections. There is a feeling of demoralisation amongst these young people. This is obvious because of the deterioration of standards of behaviour, dress, cleanliness and so on. There is pressure, I regret, from employers to offer these young people part time or job sharing positions at low rates of pay. If possible these employers then try to dodge the award rate of pay which would disqualify them from receiving any benefit. This is demeaning to the individuals concerned. We know that there are all sorts of factors which affect young people in this position. They also have their own individual problems.
I am concentrating on the young unemployed people because I feel that they are the ones who are most disadvantaged at the moment as a result of the economic and social policies of this Government. They are the ones to whom society will owe the greatest debt in the future. After all, they still have the same sorts of social pressures from their peers. They face the pressure to have money to spend on clothes, entertainment, girlfriends and boyfriends.. Advertising in the media tends to emphasise that if a person does not wear certain things or use certain things he or she is a failure. If a person is unemployed he or she loses contact with his or her employed friends. One cannot afford to mix with them in the normal social occupations. So, there is a tendency amongst those young unemployed to turn to drugs, to crime or to anything that will break this cycle.
I am using CYSS as an example because it is supposed to be a support scheme but I see little support there for one of the major problems that society faces. What are the facilities and activities that such a scheme supplies? The Lalor, Epping, Thomastown Unemployed Support Group or
LETUS, has facilities for basic woodwork, sewing and other vocational craft. Several participants have made tool boxes, clothes, bean bags and other pieces of equipment needed at the centre. The actual production of these items has been slow. However, participants have shown a good deal of enthusiasm and interest. To overcome the lack of physical and material resources at the centre, the centre plans factory visits and invites employers and career advisers to speak at the centre. Most importantly it tries to encourage skilled people to come to the centre and instruct the participants. There are weekly excursions so that they have archery, fencing, art, et cetera. The comment is made that amazement is caused to see so-called no hopers listening intently to speakers and to instructors. It is encouraging to see participants act as mature and resourceful young adults.
How does that cope with the problem that these young people face? Where is the depth to occupational therapy for three or four hours a week to a generation that has been downgraded and frustrated. They feel themselves as failures because this Government is not prepared to recognise that it is building up a debt for the future that society will somehow have to meet. It is not a support scheme. It is merely a contact point for these people. It means that if the Government is to continue with its economic policies and to continue to contribute to the falling living standards, it must give some depth to this sort of scheme which might prevent or slow down the development of the various anti-social factors that I have referred to.
Late last year I visited the United States of America to attend the United Nations. As we know America is the home of free enterprise in all of its respects. I find it an amazing and fascinating country. But because of the people ‘s overwhelming attitude to private enterprise, and while political expression is free to the point of anarchy, the economic and social chains in a city like New York have left the large legacy of people who now are and in the future will be a cost to the community through anti-social behaviour and as a result of the force of circumstances that prevail. We are building up that same sort of problem in Australia by deciding that the young unemployed can be sacrificed to seek to reduce inflation. While I have concentrated on a very narrow area in talking about the Appropriation Bill it is a matter I feel very deeply about. It is a problem that is fundamentally caused by the economic policies of this Government. It is a problem that this Government will not accept as a continuing problem in the community. It is a problem that the Government is damning generations of the future to face and at a very great expense to our social structure.
-Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 1979-80 contains an additional appropriation for the Parliament of some $777,000 for 1979-80. 1 use this as a basis for my comment on the Parliament and particularly on the present standards of parliamentary behaviour. I raise this subject with three very serious qualifications. Firstly, I am aware that the Westminster system of Parliament is an adversary system and that the combative nature of that system is intrinsically healthy. Second, I run the risk of adopting a holier than thou attitude. In fact, I am as partisan as the next member of this Parliament and no better behaved in the Parliament than many of my colleagues. The third qualification is that I emphasise that the majority of members of this House on both sides deserve no censure at all.
But, given these qualifications, I refer to the question of the behaviour of Parliament and its standing in the community because it is a matter which is constantly raised with me by many of my constituents. During recess periods, many of us, in this chamber at least, make every effort to move about our electorates, meet our constituents and endeavour to identify and to act upon the matters of concern expressed to us by our electors. I report to the House that during the summer recess the most commonly expressed concern of my constituents was the poor behaviour of the members of parliament in Parliament. This criticism came at a time when we might have expected constituents to be more concerned with foreign affairs, unemployment, taxation or any other major policy issues of the day. But no matter where I went, whether it be to sporting clubs, age pension homes or even schools, it was the poor behaviour of members in Parliament that was most commonly raised with me.
This complaint is raised with me in many ways. But it is raised generally by jokes or sarcastic comments about members of parliament in general. The criticism was not of me personally, or of the Government, or of honourable members as members belonging to either the Liberal Party, the Australian Labor Party or the National Country Party. It was to none of those organisations to which we belong. It was directed at us as members of this institution called parliament. It is precisely that which worries me. It is the institution of parliament through the public perceptions of us as members that is under attack. I think that it is largely our own fault. I suppose to some extent this has always been the case, but in my brief experience as a member of this Parliament, I have not noticed this criticism quite as acutely as in recent months and particularly towards the end of last year.
Although it is difficult to make an objective assessment on this criticism, as one who must share in the blame if this perception of parliamentary behaviour is correct, I do think that we should look at ourselves. I say that because so many of my constituents have raised the matter with me. They believe that we are all too far removed from the real world to take a good honest look at ourselves. That is why I have raised the matter. I have given the question considerable thought and I must say that although the Parliament has been relatively quiet in recent weeks, that does seem to be the exception rather than the rule in recent years. It does seem to me that we deserve much, if not all, the criticism we receive for our parliamentary behaviour. Instead of adopting responsible adversary roles in Parliament- each side has decided too often to indulge in bloody-minded confrontation instead of providing a lead for national unity- the Parliament has become a leading example of disunity. Instead of seeking to resolve conflicts, Parliament has reflected and even exacerbated the conflicts which already exist within the nation.
The institution responsible for passing laws is increasingly being seen as an institution which transgresses its own laws and standards. Instead of being a forum for debating national issues in a spirit of common sense and even, on occasions, in a bipartisan manner- seeking responsible long term policies and solutions for our nation- the Parliament has become an arena in which a contest for short term political points is of paramount importance. At the end of each week the participants seem to tally up the premiership points which have been gained from the weekly contest and then draw up a list of the injured players. I would certainly have thought Dr Millar of the Australian National University summed up the situation well in his submission to the Defence Sub-committee of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence on 2 April this year. When discussing the implication of events in Afghanistan for Australia’s strategic environment and defence policies, he said:
I do not wish to repeat the arguments canvassed on both sides of Parliament as to the implications of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. It seemed to me that those arguments contained a great deal of common ground, and an ordinary citizen might have dared to hope that both major panics would have had the statesmanship to emphasise the common ground rather than the differences. If Australians are still not capable of developing a predominantly bipartisan foreign policy in an unambiguous, deplorable and relatively remote situation such as Afghanistan, God help us if we find ourselves in a perhaps more ambiguous but more imminent security crisis closer to home in an election year.
That, to me, sums up the significance of the standing of parliament in the public’s eyes. Not only does this poor standing of parliament open up the possibility of clouding one’s judgment of major national issues, but if the public perception of the parliament and its members remains sufficiently low it constitutes a threat to the future of parliamentary democracy, because no one will be bothered to defend the very institution of parliament itself if and when it comes under attack. I am not suggesting that all should be acquiescence and purity in this chamber. In a place of 124 politicians with opposed and firmly held political philosophies and policies, one must expect angry and even bitter debates from time to time, interspersed with interjections, humour and all the emotions which politics arouse. That is the stuff of politics. That is what parliament is all about. It is not consensus which is missing from parliament. It is a charitable approach to reasoned disagreement. I do not think anyone would deny that the degree and nature of conflict in this House frequently exceeds the most generously defined necessities of political debate.
I believe that quite often this chamber loses its sense of balance between what constitutes parliamentary debate and what constitutes parliamentary abuse. The tendency to disagree on priciple rather than about principles, the deliberately false attribution of improper motives to members, the failure to distinguish between parliament’s right to know and the abuse of parliamentary privilege, the failure to distinguish between proper debate and cheap slanging matches and between constructive interjections and straight out catcalling, the overuse of personal denigration in pursuit of political points are things practised on both sides of the House. The public, certainly in my electorate of Perth, is very worried about it and constantly expresses its desire for members of parliament to improve their parliamentary performance. I do not think this can be achieved simply by tightening up the Standing Orders or by adhering more rigidly to the Standing Orders which we already have.
I think the Speaker and his deputies do their job well and try to discharge their responsibilities as well as they can within the constraints imposed upon them. They do so with the good understanding of the moods of the Parliament and its members. In my opinion, the Standing Orders, rules, regulations and laws, whether they be written or unwritten, have no real effect unless there is a general willingness by those affected by them to respect them. So any improvement in parliamentary behaviour basically remains, and always will, with the capacity of the members themselves to adopt proper standards of conduct in this chamber. I think the ball is in our court and no-one else’s. To mix metaphores, I think we ought to play the ball a bit more and the man a little bit less. I believe if we do not improve our performance then the whole institution of parliament is placed under long term threat.
I do believe this process would be greatly enhanced if the institution of parliament was made more relevant to the processes of government. If this chamber can consolidate the reforms of the last two years with respect to legislation and Estimates committees, if it can continue to press for a wider range of standing committees covering the major portfolios, if it can adopt the kinds of reforms required for better scrutiny of public expenditure, if it can obtain a more generous and spontaneous opportunity to question Ministers whenever ministerial statements are made in this House and if other reforms are introduced then I think there would be a better chance for this House to discharge its proper responsibilities in a more reasonable and constructive manner.
I now wish to make some comments about the economic aspects of the Appropriation Bills before the House. I was pleased with the statement made by the Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson), when introducing these Bills, that total outlays in 1979-80, notwithstanding these appropriations, would exceed the Budget estimate by only a relatively small margin. This indicates to me that the Government’s policy of spending as little as possible of other people’s money is being adhered to. I have always maintained that responsible management requires that governments have to live within their means like anyone else, otherwise they go broke and many innocent people suffer- usually the poorest and the weakest. The best case I have seen for restraining government expenditure was given by William Simon when, as the United States Secretary to the Treasury, he gave evidence to a Congressional Sub-committee in 1976. He put aside his set text and delivered a spontaneous speech to congressmen. I seek leave to have his opening statement to that committee incorporated in Hansard.
The statement read as follows-
House of Representatives
Subcommittee on Democratic Research Organization
Friday, April 30, 1976
The Subcommittee met, pursuant to notice, at 9 a.m. in Room 334, Cannon Building, the Honourable Richard H. Ichord, Chairman of the Subcommittee, presiding.
Mr ICHORD: The meeting will come to order.
We have balanced the budget only once in the last 16 years. The national debt limit was raised to about $713 billion yesterday on the floor of the House. Interest on the national debt is estimated, for fiscal year 1977, to be in the area of $41 billion a year. And for fiscal year 1976 the estimated deficits are in the area of $76 billion . . .
We have been exploring the relationship between deficits and inflation, between deficits and jobs, between deficits and housing, between deficits and the stock market and between deficits and interest rates. And I don ‘t think it would be possible to complete such a study without hearing from our distinguished Secretary of the Treasury . . . May I welcome you to the committee, Mr Secretary . . . You are recognized to proceed as you wish.
Mr SIMON: Thank you very much, Mr Chairman and gentlemen.
Unfortunately, all the rhetoric about deficits and balanced budgets obscures the real danger that confronts us: the gradual disintegration of our free society.
You know, these last 3V4 years, the years that I ‘ve been in Washington- they’ve been like a bad dream. The kind of dream where ‘they’ are catching up to you, and ‘they’ overpower you, and people just walk past and don ‘t pay any attention! But it’s not a dream. It’s reality. This country is in desperate danger. The danger is obscured when we talk about deficits of $40 billion or of $70 billion or about whether we should balance the budget. The real issue is the government’s share of the Gross National Product- of the earnings of every productive citizen in this land. That is the issue on which we should concentrate. What does it mean for the American dream? What does it mean for our way of life? What does it mean for our free enterprise system? What is our free enterprise system? Isn’t free enterprise related to human freedom, to political and social freedom? God Almighty, our forefathers understood that. The millions of immigrants who came to participate in the American dream understood it. When we see this monstrous growth of government, we must realize that it is not a matter of narrow economic issues. What is at stake is equity, social stability in the United States of America. What is at stake is the fundamental freedom in one of the last and greatest democracies in the world.
Just look at what has happened in other countries todaywhether it be Italy or the United Kingdom or Argentina or Uruguay or Ceylon. Look at what has happened there when the so-called ‘ humanitarians ‘ try to create ‘great societies ‘ by taxing and promising and spending. When the government absorbs the GNP to the levels that we have seen in all of these countries- to the levels that we are now seeing in this country- there is a tendency toward social instability, toward minority government. The very cohesion of civilized society is destroyed.
And more than that. Freedom itself must disappear. You asked, Mr Chairman, about the consequences of deficits. But we all know what they are. We all know that neither man nor business nor government can spend more than is taken in for very long. If it continues, the result must be bankruptcy. In the case of the federal government, we can print money to pay for our folly for a time. But we will just continue to debase our currency, and then we’ll have financial collapse. That is the road we are on today. That is the direction in which the ‘humanitarians’ are leading us. But there is nothing ‘humanitarian’ about the collapse of a great industrial civilization. There is nothing ‘humanitarian’ about the panic, the chaos, the riots, the starvation, the deaths that will ensue. There is nothing ‘humanitarian’ about the dictatorship that must inevitably take over as terrified people cry out for leadership. There is nothing ‘humanitarian’ about the loss of freedom. That is why we must be concerned about the cancerous growth of government and its steady devouring of our citizens’ productive energies. That is why we must be concerned about deficits and balance the budget. The issue is not bookkeeping. It is not accounting. The issue is the liberty of the American people.
Forgive me, Mr Chairman. I have not been addressing your specific questions. I just wanted to put the real issue in focus. I can speak to the technicalities, and I will do so. But they obscure the real issue that faces us in this country today, the problems of deficit, budget balancing, capital marketsall these are important. But it is more important, I think, to understand that these are just early warning symptoms of a disease that threatens the very life of our body politic. And if we continue to move down this same path, that disease will be irreversible, and our libeny will be lost. I speak of this so insistently because I hear no one discussing this danger. Congress does not discuss it. The press does not discuss it. Look around us- the press isn’t even here! The people do not discuss it- they are unaware of it. No counterforce in America is being mobilized to fight this danger. The battle is being lost, and not a shot is being fired.
That, Mr Chairman, is why for me the last few years in office have been like a bad dream. I am leaving Washington next January. I am going to go home to New Jersey a very frightened man.
– I thank the House. Basically what he said was that increased governmental involvement in life meant a gradual reduction in individual liberties and that booming Budget outlays and deficits were early warning systems, not just of economic ruin but also of a threat to the body politic and basic freedoms. I share the sentiments which he expressed to that committee. To those members of the Opposition who still advocate massive increases in the government sector as the solution to economic problems, I invite them to look at their Government’s own record and then observe this Government’s economic record as a result of our policies of restraint. In 1974-75 the Labor Party, when in office, increased the Government’s share of the national product by 20 per cent. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table which describes the outlays of public authorities as proportions of gross domestic product since 1969.
The table read as follows-
– I thank the House. It was also in 1974-75 that the Commonwealth Budget deficit grew from a 1973-74 level of $293m to $2, 567m- an increase of just 776 per cent! That deficit has since been substantially reduced by the present Government. For those who still advocate massive increases in government expenditure and Budget deficits, or a combination of both, to solve economic problems- that is still the Opposition’s approach- I suggest that they look at what happened to the Australian economy when the present Opposition, when in government, adopted that policy. Firstly, in the two years from August 1973 to August 1975, the number of unemployed rose by 210 per centfrom 67,000 to 2 15,000. Secondly, to finance that expenditure, the Labor Government raised receipts from personal taxes by 89 per cent during its first two years in office. Following its three budgets, total taxation revenue had risen by 99 per cent. This, of course, constituted a major disincentive to work, to spend and to invest, thereby helping to create unemployment.
Thirdly, to help finance the deficit blow-out, interest rates went to record levels, again working against investment and employment. Forthly, the increased money supply resulting from all this expenditure and deficit budgeting led to inflation rates peaking at 17.5 per cent per annum by March 1975- hardly the kind of climate in which to encourage job creating investment. Fifthly, real national production growth fell to a level of 1.6 per cent per annum in 1974-75. 1 ask honourable members to compare this record with what has happened under the present Government with its policy of restraining public expenditure growth. I am not saying that everything in the garden is rosy. I think unemployment is still far too high, and this is not acceptable. Interest rates are also a worry and the retail sector is certainly too sluggish.
But let us look at some of the positives which are now emerging from the Government’s economic strategy which has been so strongly criticised by the Opposition. Unemployment, which is still too high, is starting to improve, with the total number of people seeking full time work in March falling by 34, 100. There are 1 1,900 fewer people seeking full time employment than there were a year ago because over the past 12 months employment has grown by 155,200- the greatest growth for many years. This has occurred because the Government has been able to reduce inflation consistently since it came to office. Last year, the inflation rate was 10 per cent, compared with the peak figures I mentioned a little earlier. This solid, predictable, stable economic environment is vital to investment, which has increased substantially in this country in recent times, not only in the natural resources sector but also right across-the-board. That can only improve employment prospects. Given government expenditure restraint, this has also meant that tax reductions have been made possible, further increasing incentives to spend, to work and to invest, all of which help employment prospects. Apart from the many other tax reforms that this Government has introduced and excluding the tax cuts announced by the Treasurer (Mr Howard) last month, it should be noted that the total income tax collected from all taxpayers in the last financial year fell in real terms.
Real national production, which rose by 3.7 per cent last year, is still increasing and is at present exceeding Budget expectations. Furthermore, exports have risen by some 22.3 per cent during 1 979, pointing to our improved competitive trading position which in turn creates employment and results from anti-inflationary policies. Even interest rates, although rising slightly, have been remarkably protected from the massive increases overseas due to the domestic economic policies pursued by this Government. Given the two distinctly different policies of the Government and the Opposition, and the obviously improved economic performance under this Government- measured by almost any economic indicator- it is clear that antiinflationary policies operate in the best interests of all, including the unemployed and the welfare beneficiaries, all of whom suffered most from the so-called benefits of increasing government expenditure between 1972 and 1975.
Clearly, one has to manage the economy properly, to understand that profit is not a dirty word and to understand that people have to have the ability and the confidence to invest and to create jobs. We have to encourage those people who produce the goods and services we all need if we are to remove large scale unemployment and we have to be in a position to cater for the needs of those who depend on health and welfare benefits. If we kill the goose that lays the golden eggs- that is the private sector- not only do we reduce everyone’s living standard but also we are unable to cater for those who need the care and protection which is provided by public welfare benefits which in turn are financed by the wealth generated by taxpayers, the bulk of whom are in the private sector.
As these policies of restraint have so far been much more successful than the opposite policies pursued by Labor, and as the economy has turned the corner, I ask: Why have we not taken that policy of restraint even further? As is obvious from the table that I incorporated earlier, we have restrained the massive growth in public expenditure which took place in the early and mid- 1 970s. But we have not reduced it- and I am not referring to reducing areas of expenditure relating to the needy and the disadvantaged. I simply say that perhaps we should have gone further in this general direction than we have already. I suspect that the law of ever-increasing State activity is still alive and well and working, even if in a more muted form than previously. Expenditures seem to grow because revenues grow, rather than the other way round. I suggest, therefore, that if oil money is still to add substantially to public revenues in this country, it would be far more desirable for the economic development and prosperity of this nation and our welfare beneficiaries, in the long run, if these moneys were not expended on massive government expenditure programs which, regrettably, are always put forward as attractive propositions in election years. I would rather see that money spent on reducing the deficit or providing greater levels of tax reductions all round.
I do not think that we can buy extra jobs with government money. We have to ask where the money comes from. If it comes from increased government expenditure without blowing out the deficit, we therefore have to increase taxes. If it comes from taxes, it comes out of people’s pockets and they do not have the money to spend in the shops and the factories do not produce the goods that are normally required. If, on the other hand, we increase government expenditure and do not increase taxes and blow out the deficit, we have to finance that deficit in one way or another. We have to sell government papers. That inevitably leads to the bidding up of interest rates. It means also that future generations of Australians will be mortgaged because of the economic permissiveness of the present generation. I think people forget that if we have deficits and we raise capital on the market that means that governments, by raising money, take money away from other people who would want to use the money to purchase houses or to build factories which eventually will create more jobs. I do not see this as being great economic theory; I see it as being economic common sense. I think the policies which have been followed by the Government generally have been very productive and have achieved the objectives they originally set out to achieve.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jarman)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-As I listened to these lessons about how Parliament ought to behave itself- anybody who sat in this chamber and lived through 1975 and watched the performances and heard similar appeals from that side of the House would agree with me; in fact, they came from the very same position as that occupied by the honourable member for Perth (Mr McLean)- I could not help but wonder: What are you on about? I suggest to those honourable members opposite who want to reform Parliament that they ought to read the Hansards of 1975, starring with the statements of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). After they have finished reading them, they should get around to the statements of the Acting Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr Lynch), the present Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Nixon), and the former Minister for Primary Industry, the right honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair). In those statements they will find the hounding, the abuse, the denigration and the slandering of Labor Ministers, the hounding of Rex Connor to his grave, and the persecution and the filth. Nothing was out of bounds to those who now sit on the Government benches.
I just cannot help but feel that though the institution of Parliament is important, it is rather strange that we hear the conservatives talking about the importance of the institution of Parliament only when they are in government. Then, they do not want hassles; they do not want disturbances. They want everything to flow along smoothly. I can accept the fact that the honourable member for Perth may have some personal feelings on the matter but I say to him that before he starts preaching to the Parliament, he ought to preach to his own Party, particularly the Prime Minister and those Ministers whom I have mentioned. History records the performance of conservatives- and Rex Connor lies in his grave.
– That is unreasonable.
– It is not unreasonable; it is fact. Anybody who sat in this chamber in 1 975 would know why we on this side of the chamber feel as strongly as we do. We listened also to what I thought was a rather simplistic lesson in economic theory, nineteenth century style. I cannot help being amazed at Government supporters referring to the supposed success of the Government’s anti-inflationary policy. It is a wonderful anti-inflationary policy! It has managed to achieve a 28 per cent increase in the rate of inflation between December 1978 and December 1979. I know that Government supporters are wizards and are flexible but instead they ought to be referring to the failure of the Government’s economic and anti-inflationary policy. The inflation rate has risen from 7.8 per cent to 10 per cent and it is now between 1 1 per cent and 12 per cent. To record that as being a successful anti-inflationary policy is a case of total misrepresentation. It assumes that the community and the public are idiots.
We have had a period of record unemployment, record interest rates, escalating inflation and the greatest level of tax collection in the history of the country. We find petrol being made a luxury fuel as a result of the taxation policies of this Government. Matters are getting to the stage where the people of this country will be forced to travel on foot because they will not be able to afford to buy petrol. I refer especially to people on low incomes, who must have private motor transport. Since 1975 we have seen a quadrupling of the Federal take from fuel tax and levy. This year it amounts to almost $4,000m. Government supporters have the temerity to talk about tax redistribution and anti-inflation policies. I ask them to go outside and meet some of the people who are suffering as a result of their policies.
Earlier today I sought to raise in the Parliament the very important matter of the sale of Trans-Australia Airlines by this Government and to express the concern of the Opposition and of millions of people in the community about what this Government is trying to do and about the orchestrated campaign being embarked upon to destabilise TAA. Throughout the community and the transport industry there is growing public concern at moves within government to sell TAA. Despite the half-hearted denials of some Government Ministers, I firmly believe that if the Fraser Government is returned at the coming election TAA will be sold to supporters of the Government. I am satisfied, from information that is available to me, that a decision has been made to sell TAA and that such action would accord with statements by several senior Ministers, including the Acting Prime Minister and the Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson). Since 1975 this Government has sold, or is in the process of selling, the Canberra Brickworks, the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation- despite the opposition of the industry itself- the Fawnmac pharmaceutical group, and the public interest in the Ranger uranium project. I wish to make quite clear that inevitably the sale of TAA will result in the creation of a private monopoly in major domestic air services, to the great detriment of Australian air travellers.
– The Minister said that it wasn’t on.
– The Minister said that it was not on but his own conference did not believe him. I advise the honourable member not to fall for that one. The Minister’s own council, the highest body of the Liberal Party of Australia, did not believe him. I do not believe him and the public will not. The observer, Senator Chaney, the representative of the Minister in another place- if the honourable member wants the specifics of the matter I will give them to himspeaking for the Minister and the Government said that he was not believed by his own peers, the Council of the Liberal Party of Australia. Government supporters should not try to trot that story out.
– Did you say that we would win the next election?
-I said that if the Government won the next election that would happen. It would result in higher domestic fares for all Australians. Moves for the sale of TAA should be resisted at every opportunity by every responsible Australian. The Federal Australian Labor Party will use every means at its disposal to block any attempt to sell TAA. I give notice that if by some quirk of fate TAA is sold, the incoming Labor Government will restore it to its rightful public ownership. Airline policy in Australia must be aimed at making air travel available to as wide a range of our community as is possible- an objective that is not supported by Government members, but one to which the Australian Labor Party is committed. Airlines exist to serve the people, not to line the pockets of Government supporters. That is what the moves to sell TAA are all about.
Claims that changing the ownership of TAA, or its capital structure, will benefit travellers are baseless. In fact, the opposite is the case, as I will show later. Changing the form of TAA ownership will do absolutely nothing for air travellers. What will benefit air travellers is greater public scrutiny of the financial performances of TAA and Ansett Airlines of Australia. Both occupy a protected and privileged position in this country. They operate in one of the few profitable areas of the public transport system. Their protection and privileges should carry the heavy responsibility of full public accountability, something that this Government disdains. .Public concern at the sale of TAA has been heightened by the Federal Liberal Party Council decision last weekend to sell that company. Let me quote what was said by a supporter of TAA, Mr Tom Mead, who is a member of the New South Wales Executive of the Liberal Party. Mr Mead said:
The sell TAA resolution would bounce back on us . . .
He was referring to the Liberal Party- because so many Liberal Party supporters believe TAA to be a far better airline than Ansett.
Supporters of the sale of TAA conceal their real objective, the handing over of a valuable public asset to their supporters at a fraction of its real value, irrespective of the damage done to the public interest. In effect, it is a pilfering of a major section of our public transport service, a segment that has a proven track record of performance and financial success, one that is patronised by a majority of domestic air travellers. I emphasise again that the sale of TAA would have the inevitable result of higher air fares and a private monopoly in domestic airline services.
The question should then be asked: Where is the pressure coming from for the sale of TAA? I will tell honourable members. It is coming from senior Government Ministers and members. Evidence of that was revealed by the Minister for Finance in April of last year. The Minister then told the Federal Liberal Party Council meeting in Perth that the Government was considering the sale of TAA. Peter Bowers, a well respected journalist of the Sydney Morning Herald- now its editor, I believe-wrote on 16 May, and not one Minister has refuted this:
The Federal Government is considering selling TransAustralia Airlines, the Government-owned domestic airline, to the Australian public.
The proposal is still in the discussion stage among a handful of senior Cabinet Ministers, including the Minister for Transport, Mr Nixon, and the Minister for Industry and Commerce . . .
But the discussion reached the point where ministers considered how to handle the way the decision would be announced to the public.
The Minister for Finance, despite repeated challenges, has refused to back away from that position. His statements are all in the record, in Hansard. The Minister for Primary Industry, after confirming that a sale was under way, later reversed his stand in what I consider was a journalistic fiasco and denied that there was to be a sale. His leader, the Acting Prime Minister, gave me a similar denial in respect of the sale of the Government’s interest in the Ranger uranium project. I wish to quote from a letter that he wrote to me on 29 August of last year. I had written to him on behalf of a constituent, who had written objecting to the sale of the Ranger uranium interest. The Deputy Prime Minister said on 29 August, which is not very long ago:
Firstly, I should point out to you, and to Mr James, that the Government has taken no final decision to divest itself of its share of the Ranger project, although such divestment would be in accordance with the free enterprise principles of the Liberal and National Country Parties.
– What’s wrong with that?
-Apparently that is okay-‘ socialise the losses and capitalise the profits. Grab it from the taxpayer’s pocket. That is what the honourable member is saying. The letter continued:
The Government is simply assessing the possibilities at this time.
That was supposed to be a denial. The Government had taken a decision. It has since moved on from that position. I accord as much notice to the denial of the sale of TAA of the Minister for Primary Industry as I do to that of his Leader, the Acting Prime Minister. The Treasurer (Mr Howard) when challenged at the time in Newcastle to refute what the Minister for Finance had said, refused to answer. He still stands in that position. So we have the two senior finance Ministers of the Government refusing to deny that the sale of TAA is being considered.
– The Minister has said three times this year that it is not for sale.
– I can ‘t. It is too late in the day.
– I know that you have had a liquid lunch again.
– I rise on a point of order. The honourable member for Shortland should withdraw the remark that he has just made concerning the honourable member for Phillip.
– The honourable member for Phillip took it in good fun and did not say anything about it. If the honourable member for Isaacs misinterpreted it, I am sorry.
– He should still apologise.
– I accept the honourable member’s assurance that it was said in good fun.
-I will withdraw it. I do not want to hold up the proceedings. Apparently the honourable member for Isaacs has some sensitivity in regard to the subject. Senator Rae, a senior Government member, has promoted the sale of TAA by way of the Kelso plan, urging that the shares be listed on the stock exchange. That would lead to a repetition of the Ansett fiasco. Esop Advisers Pty Ltd, the Australian promotors of the Kelso plan, sought to buy TAA on 18 May 1979 at the current book value of its equity, which would be about $27m, a fraction of its real worth. Coincidentally, it seems, also on 1 8 May 1979 Senator Rae said in an article in the Australian that TAA had a true market valuemind you- of $30m. Rupert Murdoch said last week that TAA would be worth at least $150m, five times the valuation placed upon it by the arch proponent of its sale. Let us remember that the Kelso plan has been promoted by Esop Advisers Pty Ltd. It is basically the same scheme promoted by Senator Rae. The principal of Esop Advisers is Mr Shann Turnbull, a former director of Direct Acceptance Ltd, a subsidiary of IPEC Holdings Ltd. That is most interesting because IPEC entered the stage recently also. It doubled Senator Rae’s valuation to $60m. The address of Esop Advisers Pty Ltd is 33 Bligh Street, Sydney. The address of IPEC Holdings Ltd is 3 1 Bligh Street, Sydney.
Senator Rae’s attacks on TAA’s superannuation provisions are also intriguing. His recent claims that TAA is technically bankrupt have been labelled as unfair and irresponsible by his own colleague, the Minister for Transport (Mr Hunt). But Senator Rae did not go on to define the difference between bankruptcy and technical bankruptcy. Apart from Senator Rae’s link with the Kelso plan, his actions as Chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations need to be examined. One would have thought that the office carried with it a wide public responsibility to ensure accuracy and to protect public assets. His unsubstantiated and continuing attacks on TAA appear to be part of an orchestrated campaign which is designed to undermine public confidence in the people ‘s own airline, TAA. TAA does have a superannuation problem, as the Minister for Transport pointed out. This has arisen from a national government decision in which TAA had no say and which must be resolved by national government, as the Minister for Transport indicated. Ansett also seems to have underprovided for its employees ‘ superannuation in its accounts.
Another pretext advanced for the sale of TAA is the need to improve the quality of airline services. This is the most spurious and partisan of all. TAA must operate in tandem with Ansett because of the conservatives’ two-airline policy of 1952 which was brought in to ensure the profitability of Australian National Airlines, later Ansett. Amazingly those who seek to sell TAA have made no comment on the efficiencies, financial performance or policies of Ansett. They were mute when Sir Reginald Ansett plunged some $2 7m into Associated Securities Ltd and then walked away and left the small depositors and shareholders lamenting their losses. The editorial in the Australian Financial Review of 1 7 May 1979 summed up the situation when it said:
The discussions in Government circles concerning the possibility of selling Trans-Australia Airlines to private shareholders will certainly give rise to a good deal of heated controversy.
But as far as Australia ‘s domestic aviation policy is concerned, the proposal is a red herring.
It really does not matter in the context of the two airline policy that TAA is Government-owned. It is virtually indistinguishable from its ‘private enterprise’ counterpart.
For many years now Ansett Airlines has been as effectively underwritten by Government as if it were publicly owned instead of being a private-sector corporation.
There have not been any moves from those trying to flog off TAA to look at Ansett ‘s performance or to apply a similar set of financial rules for Ansett. So there is the partisanship and the spuriousness. Also the present proprietors of Ansett, in their Australian editorial of the same date, 17 May last year, when speaking of TAA, wrote:
It is a large and profitable investment with attractive investment potential. It is already as far under the control of the free enterprise board of directors as the Government’s protectionist policy allows.
The Australian later described the trafficking in Ansett shares as the biggest corporate poker game in Australian history and as a three-ring circus. As things turned out later, it was a threering circus that they bought out lock, stock and barrel themselves. But there has been no move in the community to sell TAA. In fact the opposite is the case. I mentioned the contribution of Tom Mead of New South Wales.
– That is correct.
-I am glad that the honourable member agrees. In the market place TAA has consistently recorded a higher share of business. In western and south western Queensland there is tremendous public support for TAA services. Those services would cease if TAA were sold because Ansett withdrew from those regions many years ago.
Let me return to the proposal that TAA’s capital should be increased. The effect of this would be to increase air fares. It works in this way. The Australian taxpayers’ investment in TAA is $15m, less than half of the amount of $40m which this Government is spending on its VIP aircraft fleet. TAA’s financial objective, which was raised to 15 per cent by this Government, is based upon an investment of $ 15m. So if the capital of TAA is expanded, the profit of TAA in absolute terms has to be lifted to service the higher capital invested. That means that air fares have to rise. But at the same time as air fares for TAA rise, they rise also for Ansett. There is the twist. Ansett gets a windfall gain; TAA gets the blame: And the same result is achieved. Associated with pressures from members of the Liberal Party to increase TAA’s capital have been behind-the-scenes pressures to have TAA’s dividend or financial objective raised from the current 1 5 per cent. This has already been raised by this Government by 50 per cent, from 10 per cent to 15 per cent, but it now wants to raise it further.
The effect of increasing TAA’s financial objective to, say, 20 per cent or to 25 per cent on capital, means that air fares would again have to be pitched at a higher level to achieve a higher financial or dividend objective. Again the effect is the same. Ansett fares would rise in unison with those of TAA, enabling Ansett to achieve a greater profit. The essence of the story is that fare levels are pitched to meet TAA’s and Ansett ‘s joint objectives. Ansett cannot get a higher profit objective without TAA’s profit objective being forced up. This Government has done it previously and is seeking to do it again. Again this is to be at the expense of air travellers. It is clear that the orchestrated campaign against TAA is designed to weaken its reputation and its standing in the market place, to destabilise its staff and to seek to justify its sale. TAA provides vital services annually to almost five million Australians. It is time now for those people who use and value the services that TAA provides to register their objection against what this Government and members of this Government are seeking to do. The sale of TAA will rob the taxpayers of a successful and essential enterprise, a valuable public asset.
– It is not being sold.
– It is the policy of the honourable member’s party, and he cannot walk away from that. It will inevitably result in higher fares for all travellers in this country. It will inevitably result in a private monopoly in the provision of major domestic air services to the detriment of all people who aspire to travel by air in this country. The Opposition will fight it tooth and nail at every level. We are committed to ensuring that aviation policy in this country is designed to ensure that as wide a range of Australian people as possible have access to air travel.
– People listening to this debate will be excused for thinking that this is fantasyland. I return to the forum of the national Parliament. I regret that the previous speaker took us into the area of unreality. It may be that he put a feather in the ground, watered it and thought that it would grow into a rooster. I wish to talk about the real matters that we are debating, matters of responsibility in the Australian fiscal area. No speaker from the Opposition has really got down to the kernel of the debate. I record once again the eminently logical and statesmanlike words of the Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson). He stated:
Notwithstanding 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.
That is what this debate is all about. It is about good financial housekeeping. It is about responsibility. I am reminded of the words of an eminent Australian economist, Mr David Trebeck, who is not unknown to many members of this Parliament. He is obviously a very good economist because he was invited to address the last annual conference of the Queensland branch of the National Country Party at Bundaberg. His remarks on that occasion are pertinent to this debate. He said that he was disappointed that no government of recent times had opted for the harder alternative to reduce expenditure when faced with the proposition of reducing spending or increasing taxation to fund additional expenditure. No one likes having a privilege taken away from him. But it seems to me that if we are really serious about continuing to make Australia a great country, to ensure that those who follow us have the same rights and privileges that we have, we must curtail expenditure. It is morally wrong, I submit, to have a soft society, a sloppy society by taking more of the people’s money from them to allow us- big government and big brother- to spend money how we see fit and not how the private individual would like it to be spent. I think those words of David Trebeck must be numbered among the most outstanding in economic debates in recent times. When faced with the decision to increase taxation to fund more things for more people or to be tough and responsible and reduce expenditure, governments have tended to opt for the former.
I am delighted, therefore, to record the words of the Minister for Finance because they are important; they are indicative of overall economic strategy. Programs need to be examined. Real governments, such as the Fraser Administration, do this. I would make an appeal to the State and to local government to be partners in this. I am reminded of the excellent speech by the honourable member for Petrie (Mr Hodges) in this Parliament earlier this week when he drew the attention of the Australian nation to the incessant demands by State Ministers- he named one State Minister- for reduced taxation on the one hand and for increased disbursements of the common pool of taxation to them on the other. One cannot have it both ways. I cannot see how we can reduce taxation on the one hand and give the States more money to spend as they think fit on the other. This is just not responsible. I applaud the sentiments of the honourable member for Petrie. I join him in asking the States not to continue to pass the buck.
President Truman had on his desk a little placard which said: ‘The buck passing stops here’. It is true in the financial order of things in Australia that the buck passing stops here in this national Parliament. I remind the States of the contributions made in respect of the funding of public authority outlays in Australia last year as distinct from Budget proposals because they cover a wider sphere. The Commonwealth funded 74.6 per cent, the States 20.4 per cent and local government 5 per cent. So the Commonwealth Government does pick up the largest share of public authority expenditure.
I am disappointed that there have been complaints about the amount of money spent on roads in Australia. All of us know only too well that our roads could be upgraded. The Commonwealth Government does not have sole responsibility in this area. The States also have a responsibility. Legislation which concerned roads was debated in this Parliament recently and in this context I would like to talk about my own State of Queensland. Under that legislation Queensland received an increase of 13.5 per cent. This is a significant amount in real money terms compared with the provision the previous year. Yet, we are told that Queensland wants more money from us. That State has a responsibility. It has the right to establish where roads shall or shall not be built. I make a special appeal to the Queensland Government to ensure that a certain amount of this money is spent on rural roads which are in the real Australia- out where the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron), grew up, out in the shearing sheds, not in the metropolitan areas alone.
I get upset when the Queensland State Minister castigates the Federal Government although he is reported to have spent a couple of million dollars of what is basically Commonwealth money to build a road to nowhere, to the Iwasaki project. I understand that the road leads to two dead trees outside four rattling sheets of galvanised iron in all their isolated splendour.
– It is an absolute shame.
-Quite rightly the honourable member for Phillip and the honourable member for Hindmarsh say: ‘Shame’. They have put their finger on the real problem. The States have to be part and parcel of economic responsibility. There is a need for the States to depart from their philosophy of being content to take the cash without the responsibility and the accountability attached to raising money. It is all very well to adopt a philosophy of spending hand-outs. This is far more appealing than levying taxes. We have to do that and I hope the States make a meaningful contribution to curtail expenditure because that seems to me to be one of the real threats to the future of our Australian society.
In talking about the responsibility of the States, I note that certain sums are allocated in Appropriation Bill (No. 4) to natural disasters. All of us applaud the announcements made earlier in the week of taxation concessions for the provision of water supplies. I am reminded of a remark made to me by a great old Queenslander who said: ‘Better late than never, Tom’. He was quite right. It seems to me to be just a little matter worthy of criticism that we make income tax concessions available in the year of expenditure for things such as the provision of dams. But there is not much rain around at present to fill those dams. It would have been much better if this money had been made available earlier in the summer period when there was a reasonable possibility of those dams being filled by rain from summer storms.
– Typical of this Government.
-I would disagree with that. I would think that it is one of the things that happens in a bureaucracy. One gets embellished with a heap of red tape. The honourable member for Hindmarsh made the valid point that it would have been better if these concessions had been announced earlier so that people could have taken advantage of them. But I remind members of State governments and the people who live in the various States that the problems caused by drought are primarily the responsibility of the State governments. It is necessary for people to approach the State governments and to get the State governments interested. Why cannot the State governments advise the graziers of all areas where feed and water are available? That would appear to me to be an essential service and something that they should be doing automatically, rather than having to be prodded into activity. I remind State governments that the problems caused by natural disasters are their responsibility to rectify. Our responsibility is to pick up the tab, more or less automatically, for three-quarters of the total cost. But they implement the guidelines. They establish the framework within which the legislation is to operate. I hope the Government will give consideration to extending the concessions in Queensland as is being done in New South Wales. It is not for me to applaud the actions of a Labor Premier. But at least the Labor Premier of New South Wales has beaten the Queensland Premier to the punch on this matter. In my area local authorities have found it necessary to put down bores to augment the town water supplies. Local authorities in New South Wales which carry out this work get a subsidy and help. But this is not the case in Queensland at the moment. But this is a State government responsibility. I would hope on this occasion- I want to be generous and acknowledge this-that maybe a little bit of that enthusiasm for getting the job done that has raised its head in New South Wales just once would be copied by the Queensland Government.
While I am talking about State government responsibility I want to mention a problem that has arisen in my own area and about which I am concerned. Of course you, Mr Deputy Speaker, are fully aware of the great interest which members of the National Country Party of Australia have in the educational opportunities available to our young people because for too long educational opportunities were denied the sons and daughters of people who live in the bush. I am concerned at what has arisen regarding the payment of student union fees by students who attend the Darling Downs College of Advanced Education in Toowoomba. I understand that in our student years we go through years of rebellion; they can be somewhat radical years. We do not accept the norm; we want to create a new society. That is part of learning how to live. But I urge them to pay their union fees. I make a special appeal to them to do that because, in a final analysis, it will be them and them only who will suffer if they do not.
Let us look at the situation. Let us be generous. In the mid- 1 970s, at the initiative of the Whitlam Government, tuition fees for colleges of advanced education and universities were abolished. It should have been done a couple of decades sooner. But it was done, and we acknowledge that. Part and parcel of that move was that students who went to the various tertiary education institutions were compulsorily required to belong to a student union. The student was required to contribute to a union arrangement which provided him with services and amenities. Last year the Fraser Administration passed legislation in this House concerning tertiary education under its control to make the payment for membership of a student union compulsory for services and amenities but voluntary as far as political purposes were concerned. I applaud that. I think it is right that we should not be forcing political levies on young people but should require them to pay sporting levies and fees for other amenities. The Queensland Government has not followed that example even though it has been requested to do so. The Queensland State education Act which deals with tertiary education institutions has been in force for a decade. It appears to me that it is time that Act was changed. My local college of advanced education has gained enormously in size and stature over that decade. Surely the people responsible are entitled to make decisions that affect that college on their own without meddlesome interference by a State government department. Students should pay their fees. People who come from that area are very responsible and their sons and daughters are responsible. They have initiated a referendum, which I understand will be decided next week, asking all those students whether they believe political levies should be compulsory. They have taken the initiative. They have heeded the request of the Federal Government for a decision to be made as to whether political levies should be compulsory. The result of that referendum will be decided next week. The State Government, and the State Government alone, is the body which can change the Act. It should be changed to make fees compulsory but the political levy voluntary. I hope it will do that.
– Are you paying your dues?
– I am an external student and we are not required to pay fees. I make a special request that students pay their fees as required. Under the Act the College of Advanced Education’s council in Toowoomba does not have authority to waive payment of any fee. The next point I want to talk about is the problem of grain sales to Russia and the financial hardship that may accrue to certain coarse grain producers in Australia. Let us examine the situation. The United States of America requested an embargo on sales of coarse grain to the Soviet Union as a protest against its invasion of a peaceful country. Part and parcel of the United States proposition in asking other countries to follow it was the giving of an assurance that its grain which would not go to Russia would not be placed on the world market in such a way as to jeopardise the market and cause depressed prices. I am concerned, notwithstanding that undertaking, that perhaps some of it- and the total could be 15 million tonnes of grain- from America could be placed on the market and could be depressing the market and interfering with the supply and demand situation. Sorghum prices have decreased by approximately $12 per tonne since January, notwithstanding that overall world estimates of production have deteriorated on account of the severity of harvesting and growing conditions.
We understand the Soviet Union’s position. It has no grain for itself and is denied access to ordinary market operations. So it offers high prices to get the grain. Argentina, which was not a member of the embargo arrangements, quite rightly in its opinion has filled that market. I wonder whether, in filling that market, it is denying grain to its traditional customers, such as Spain. Spain is then forced to operate on the world market because Argentina is not supplying it and it could be that America is contemplating entering that vacuum created by the withdrawal of supplies from the Argentine. The end result could very well be that Australian coarse grain producers will be financially disadvantaged. The
Australian Government has set out fairly wide guidelines for our producers. One of the guidelines is that sales must be in a normal trading arrangement. What is normal trading in overall grain trading? We can understand the situation with wool. The Soviet Unions buys wool each year. It has done this for many decades. Let us take barley as an example. Russia could buy from Australia for three years in succession and not buy for five or 10 years. It could buy boatloads of coarse grain from us once in five years. It appears to me that if I were a grain trader that would be part and parcel of my overall normal trading transactions. It would be wrong if the Federal Government sought to isolate the coarse grain producers on account of a technicality. I make a special appeal to the Government, if the coarse grain producers of Australia can prove that they are being disadvantaged, that compensation be payable.
The final point I make concerns fuel. I can readily understand concern at high fuel prices being expressed in rural Australia. I want to record the truth of the situation. Of 24 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries we have the third lowest fuel price to consumers. We have certain advantages. The inflation rate in Australia is 10 per cent; in the United States, 13.9 per cent; and in the United Kingdom 1 8.4 per cent. Interest rates in Australia on capital required in any farming enterprise are tremendously important and do affect costs. The interest rate is 10.5 per cent in Australia; United Kingdom, 1 7 per cent; United States, 1 9.5 per cent; and Italy, 22 per cent. Obviously while fuel is of great importance to the Australian farming community the sound economic policies of the Fraser-Anthony Administration have given certain economic pluses.
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-This has been an interesting afternoon if one is interested in listening to fairy tales from the people opposite. It has been a concatenation of simplistic revealed and received points from the other side of the House. I will take a moment to deal with these points or to describe them. First of all, the honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh) will be pleased to know that I agree with one of his points; that is, that the abolition of university and tertiary education fees was a great social advance. It is under pretty constant attack and those people who believe in social and educational equality should ensure that they stand ready to defend it. On the other hand, on matters such as government enterprise, expenditure and so on, the honourable member for Darling Downs joined the attack of the honourable member for Eden Monaro (Mr Sainsbury) and the honourable member for Perth (Mr McLean).
One would almost think that they would refuse to walk along the publicly paved footpaths. One would almost think that if they were on fire they would refuse to allow the publicly funded and publicly owned fire brigade to put them out. One would almost believe they would not go near a public school. Honourable members seem to forget the importance of public expenditure in the establishment of the Australian system of government and the Australian quality of life. This has had a deadening effect upon the political thinking of all Australians. The constant reiteration of statements that have no basis and cannot stand up to proper and close analysis is almost a political anaesthetic. I mention the question of public borrowing, which was criticised pretty vigorously by the honourable member for Eden-Monaro and the honourable member for Perth, and the use of government funds to do all sorts of things.
This country is a co-operative enterprise between citizens as private individuals and citizens as corporate individuals. We are supported in everything we do by an enormous range of Government activities. Nearly all the major communication networks in this country are in public hands. This applies to the area of telecommunications and to the post office. I am glad that I occasionally get a cheer from the gallery. I hope that the lady with the child does not leave as the child is an important part of our next generation. I am glad that the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Staley) is in the House. Members of the Opposition had discussions yesterday with some people who were interested in the Australian Broadcasting Commission. These people made it clear that there was a serious deficiency in the maintenance of the building and equipment programs in the Commission. These Government expenditure systems have been under constant attack for years, particularly those carried out by the Labor Government, and these attacks are now starting to destroy the very basis of the society upon which we rely.
I want to speak on another matter. During this debate honourable members have talked about spending other people’s money. When Mr Murdoch is playing Chinese checkers with the shares of Ansett Transport Industries Ltd and when Mr Holmes aCourt or Sir Peter Abeles and all the rest of them are juggling with these funds, whose funds are they using? Do these funds come from their own pockets? Of course they do not. Firstly, they are dealing with public companies. These funds are public funds and belong to other people. In this country we have a strange system where private individuals, such as the people I have mentioned, can throw around $100m and $150m in order to acquire other people’s assets and to direct those assets towards their own whims and fancies. Apparently that is acceptable. Yet, if a government elected by the people of Australia collects taxes and puts that revenue into businesses such as Trans-Australia Airlines there is something wrong with that.
I wish people would stop talking about the taxpayers’ money or other people’s money. I am one of those people who is quite happy to pay whatever tax is necessary to produce the kind of society in which I want to live, in which I want to see my children raise their families and my grandchildren grow up. After all, they probably have to put up with it for another 80 years. It is time that this nonsense about taxation was defeated. Taxation is the very oil by which the machinery of a society works. Mr Deputy Speaker, you and I know from our long experience of looking at these things that all we have to ensure is that this money is spent properly and that we get value for our dollar. There are not too many examples of Australian private enterprise guaranteeing that we get value for our money. I want to try to encourage the citizens- those thousands of people who are listening to a broadcast such as this- to realise that there is not a significant difference between the way in which governments conduct their affairs and the way in which private citizens conduct their affairs, except that the documentation of it at government level is particularly obscure.
I am interested in a report that I have from Conzinc Riotinto of Australia; CRA as it is known to all honourable members. Sir Roderick Carnegie is the managing director of that organisation. I compliment that organisation upon its report. It is easier to find out what that corporation is up to from this report and from the way in which it draws up its balance sheet than it is from our Budget Papers. I just happened to choose this corporation because the report arrived in the mail yesterday and all honourable members would have a copy of it. It is a monument of clarity compared with our Budget Papers. It is time that we redrafted the whole system of the presentation of public accounts. For instance, what on earth are we doing introducing Appropriation Bills only four or five months after the last Appropriation Bills were passed?
There ought to be three or four different presentations to this Parliament. We should have presented to us the actual running expenses of the Australian Government on those matters for which we are directly responsible. Then there ought to be another separate Budget created in such a way that people can understand the methods by which we gather funds for the States and for local government authorities. There ought to be another Budget which explains exactly what the capital works are. Honourable members and even you, Mr Deputy Speaker, have no idea- I can understand your surprise but you will understand when I explain the matterwhat part of the funds passed on to local government goes, towards their running expenses and what part goes to capital works. How should those things be shown in the Budget? They ought not to be shown as deficits or losses or anything of that nature. They represent the creation of a public asset.
One of the greatest problems that flow from the idiocy of this Government is that most of Australia’s public assets are running down. Suburban roads throughout Australia are neglected. Schools that have been a disgrace for 20 years remain a disgrace. Programs which were launched by the Labor Government have been cut off. People who were miserable 20 years ago but who had their aspirations and their sights raised during the 1972-75 term have now been returned to despair. I hope the people of Australia start to realise that it is time to stop surrendering to the kind of nonsense that is promulgated by the people opposite. I see that my friend the honourable member for Moore (Mr Hyde) has come into the House. He is a notable Australian farmer. He would not present his accounts to his accountant before he had made sure that the tax gatherer did not get too close. If the income from his wheat was $50,000 and his expenses in producing that wheat were $20,000 1 think he would say -
– No such luck.
– I was hoping that that sort of return would come to the honourable member. As a Liberal member he is not a bad sort of person when it comes to matters of this sort. If he had added $50,000 worth of improvements to his property during that period he would not show that as a $20,000 deficit.
What is the state of the nation? I make these comments because my colleagues opposite from the constituencies of Moore, Eden-Monaro and so on make great play of the improvement in the economic situation in Australia. Let us look at the economic situation. Inflation is rising. It is interesting to note how people ignore the inflation rate for the last quarter of September 1975, for which the Labor Government was responsible. In that quarter the inflation rate was 0.8 per cent. I admit that the transfer of medical funds and expenses from people’s personal pockets to the public sector had a great effect on the inflation rate. One might argue whether it is a valid exercise to look at whether inflation has gone up or down, but it demonstrates the total idiocy of the system by which we measure inflation. At present I understand that the price of building materials is rising by 15 per cent and 20 per cent over a short period. Most of these items are not included in the indicators. The same situation applies across the board. This Government said that it would reduce unemployment. In November 1975, the last month for which the Labor Government was responsible, there were 266,000 people unemployed. In February 1980, the last month for which figures are available under this Government, there were 462,000 people unemployed. Surely honourable members opposite do not have the hide to say with a clear conscience in this House that this is an improvement on the situation.
I deplore the fact that interest rates have risen so high and that the Government has refused to take any action to control interest rates. In June 1975 the minimum interest rate that one could get for a housing loan through the banks was 8.75 per cent. In April 1980 it had risen to 9.25 per cent. The current general taxation level in Australia is much heavier on the individual, even though it is concealed, than it was in 1975. How much is the new petrol tax costing the people of this country? I notice that honourable members opposite have spoken about everything but the matter of the taxation on petrol. I would think that for many Australians it would amount to at least $10 a week. I think membership of the health funds costs something like that amount a week also. So I would suspect that there is a hidden taxation level for many Australian families of at least $1,000 a year. It may well be higher. The interesting thing is that of course those figures are not produced by anyone on the other side of the House. So, in a country in which the Government claims that it has improved economic performance and made people better off, unemployment is up, interest rates are up, the inflation rate is rising and taxation is rising. By every measure the country is worse off.
Let honourable members opposite refer me to one significant group of people in, say, the under $20,000 a year income bracket who say that they are better off and that the country is better run now than it was four years ago. Fewer houses are being built. There is great dissatisfaction. This Government is possibly the most incompetent Government that we have had in the last 40 or 50 years. That is saying something. Does anybody know what the national health service is about? Even in managing the Parliament the Government has made gestures of incompetence that nobody could surpass. I recall a Bill, I think it was a States grants Bill for Aborigines, being sent to the Governor-General for signature before it had passed through the Senate. The Opposition does not happen to believe in the Senate, but the Government, when in Opposition, used it as the ultimate destroyer of democracy in this country. I recall that the New South Wales redistribution legislation was passed through this House in an illegal form, according to the Act, and that we had to have new legislation.
This is a government of ditherers and there is no better ditherer than the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). I mention two small matters that have arisen in the last week or so. I say now that I wish the new Government of ZimbabweRhodesia the greatest success in developing a prosperous and democratic country in Africa. The Opposition is not represented at the Zimbabwe independence celebrations because the Prime Minister dithered for so long in making up his mind about the matter that we had no way of making up our minds either.
– You were invited. Your leader would not let you go.
– We did not receive any invitation. The Prime Minister had the matter before him for weeks. He dithered over even a little matter like that. The other matter concerns the horses that were to be shipped to Japan. The Prime Minister managed to step in when they had reached Sydney. He could not even handle that matter properly.
– They took action after the horse had bolted.
-That is right. This Government has been destructive to public services; it has been destructive to the living standards in this country; and it has been destructive to social coherence in this country. I suggest that honourable members read the speech of my colleague, the honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins).
– Where is he? I do not see him.
– I can advise the honourable member for Isaacs that if it comes to a shouting match I will shout him down, but I do not think such action is necessary in view of the appeals of my colleague the honourable member for Perth this afternoon for better manners to be displayed in the House. But then, we know where the honourable member for Isaacs comes from. This Government is a government of confrontation. It is deliberately egging on the unions to cause great industrial strife. Union members in this country are not silly. They can all read. They know that profits are rising tremendously and that their living standards are falling. They see the Prime Minister outside the saleyards when the cattle from Nareen are being sold. I recognise that he has good knowledge of cattle, but he is not too bright about people. Nobody objects to his getting a good price for his cattle, but he objects to people getting a good price for their work.
There are a number of other questions that I want to raise. I leave this question with the House: Who governs Australia? The major decisions affecting our economic policy are made by a group of Ministers from the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries- people who do not recognise in any way the kinds of social functions we perform or the kinds of values we have. They sit around a table 10,000, 12,000 or 15,000 miles from here and, without any regard for anything but their own oil revenues, make decisions for us.
– They determine our inflation rate.
– They determine our inflation rate. They are now in charge of our oil pricing policy and our taxation policy. They have reduced our so-called deficit. The people’s wealth is seeping out of their pockets through the petrol pumps because of decisions made by Arab oil Ministers. Who is to decide what we will see on television? If we listen to the Acting Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) it would appear that the Saudi Arabian royal family does. Who is to decide our foreign policy? The President of the United States will decide it. Who is to decide Australian’s inflation rate in the setting of interest rates? The banks are to decide. We have the adequate legislative power to deal with that matter. But do we use it?
I want to say a number of things about the situation in this Parliament. I wish to support the members of this Parliament who are demanding an expansion of the parliamentary services and resources which are available to members. It is time that every honourable member received adequate services in this building when he is here and when he is away. We need to have staff in
Canberra. I have made that point to the Remuneration Tribunal. I suggest to all honourable members that they also make that point clear to the Tribunal. There are people in this Parliament who will go before the Tribunal and say: ‘We do not need extra staff in Canberra ‘. They are not the people who are sitting on the back benches, of course. We need adequate support services of that sort.
There is another matter which grieves me deeply. I have reached the stage where I no longer read in the Press or in books about Aboriginal affairs. I become so indignant after reading the first few paragraphs. We have almost stopped dead in the Aboriginal advancement programs. Nothing demonstrates that fact better than the situation of the Noonkanbah people in Western Australia. The Liberal Party celebrated Easter with the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) acting the part of Pontius Pilate and Sir Charles Court acting the part of the Roman centurion. All we need to do for the people of Noonkanbah is issue an order to acquire land. That would stop the invaders. Honourable members in this House- on both sides perhaps- and many people in the community say to me: ‘Look, why should the Aboriginals have special land rights?’ I reply: ‘Why should the miners have absolute rights over land? Why do we have this odd religion which declares that miners’ rights transcend people’s rights?’ In my view, until the Aboriginal people have been lifted out of the misery of the past and given status and social conditions equal with those that apply to the rest of us, we should give them some advantages such as allowing them to acquire land with absolute rights of occupancy.
No matter in what other areas the Government cuts expenditure, or feels it must reduce its activities, I ask it to apply to the field of Aboriginal affairs all the vigour and social and administrative skill it has to overcome the deficiencies of the past. From 1972 to 1975 the Labor Government marked out a path of progress which, had it been continued until now, would have made a remarkable difference to the plight of the Aboriginal people of Australia. In the Kimberleys, in Arnhem Land, in Torres Strait and at Cape York- wherever there are minerals to be found- there is no resting place for the Aboriginal people, the inhabitants of this country for 30,000 years.
-Before I discuss the issue that I wish mostly to talk about, I wish to say something about the comments of the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) in relation to Noonkanbah. It is true that Aboriginals suffer many great disadvantages and it is true that we ought to bias the affairs of this country to overcome some of those disadvantages. But I put to the honourable member that those biases and those provisions must be defined. The truth is that Noonkanbah is a pastoral lease; there is not a land right over it. The Aboriginals and the miners must therefore abide by the rules that apply to pastoral leases. Some people on both sides of the argument have exacerbated the situation for their own political advantage. The Aborigines will in fact be worse off as a result of rather foolish exacerbation.
I come to the issue that I wish mostly to pursue. I refer to Australia’s industries protection policy, particularly as it relates to the textile, clothing and footwear industries. In the very near future the Government will receive a report from the Industries Assistance Commission which will advise it on the future protection of these industries.
Australia is a relatively small nation in economic terms although it is vast in land area. It is geographically in Asia. It is a wealthy European appendage of South East Asia. It is important to us that we continue to be wealthy in relation to the nations of South East Asia. We ought to look very carefully at how our progress compares with the progress of those countries to our north. I will read to the House some brief statistics that apply to the last five years for which I could gain statistics, that is, from 1972 to 1977, for economic growth per head. Economic growth rates were: Japan 3.2 per cent, Korea 9 per cent, Hong Kong 7.5 per cent, Taiwan 5.1 per cent, Singapore 5.9 per cent, the Philippines 3.8 per cent, Indonesia 4.9 per cent and Australia only 1 .9 per cent. New Zealand had a growth rate of only 0.5 per cent. It is interesting to note- to enable Australia to be compared with other Western industrialised countries- that the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development average for that period was 2. 1 per cent.
The reason for that poor performance is often said to be that it coincided with the Whitlam Government’s years of office. I doubt, in fact, whether that is the case. The effects of any economic strategy are delayed. The first few years of the Whitlam Government were buoyant owing to the increase in money supply in the first 12 months of that Government’s office. It was not until the Whitlam Government had been in office for some time that disaster struck. It is also not because Australia is short of resources that our growth is poor. We are a far more resource rich country than any of those countries of East Asia with the possible and doubtful exception of
Indonesia which has oil. It is said by some that we do badly because Australia is growing from a high base and that we, therefore, do not have the opportunity to achieve growth by the import of technology from such countries as the United States. However, the technology of some of those countries, Japan in particular, is a good deal higher than that of Australia. If they are achieving their growth by importing technology it is an opportunity that is also available to Australia.
One ought to bear in mind that it is easier for wealthier countries to forgo part of their annual income and apply that to investment so that they grow. In fact, it must be easier for Australia to form capital than it is for any one of those countries in South East Asia with the exception of Japan which is now as wealthy as-Australia. One country that has a more inward looking economy that Australia is New Zealand. The one thing that is common among all the other economies that I mentioned is that they are outward looking and have a very high proportion of traded product to total product.
It is highly probable that our poor rates of economic growth are caused by our attitude to international trade particularly our high tariff barriers and very restrictive quotas. The fact that Australia is not doing well in the comparative wealth stakes will limit the options that are available to future Australians- to our children. The amount of money that will be available for social welfare, for protection of the environment and for defence and the amount of employment that can be in future generated within the Australian economy depends upon its economic performance today. These are not radical economic views; they are common views that are held by almost all economists. The present Liberal Government is very clear on where it stands on this issue. I would like to quote at some length from a speech by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) that he made to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting at Lusaka to indicate in very clear terms where this LiberalNational Country Party Government stands and where the Prime Minister stands on the question of protection. He said:
The Australian view is that there is also an inescapable link between inflation and protectionism. Each feeds the other and each frustrates the aspirations of developing countries. There is no doubt that the adverse effects of higher inflation in recent years are largely responsible for the drift towards protectionism. This proposition was fully recognised and accepted by those government leaders- from developed and developing countries- who came together in the meeting convened on the initiative of Michael Manley in Jamaica last year.
Defensive protectionist policies exacerbate the situation they are meant to deal with, in that they result in an efficient use of labour and capital resources. They are inimical to general economic recovery and put the future growth of developing countries in jeopardy.
It is all the more important therefore that attention be focused on the development of a difinitive program of action to implement positive structural adjustment policies. We need policies which will free those resources of capital and labour that are at present locked into unproductive uses and allow them to reflect the operation of market forces, including, most importantly, the competitive forces of international trade.
I emphasise that last sentence. The Prime Minister’s statement continued:
The adoption of such a program would have economic and political costs. It would require courage to implement. But the compensating benefits- for the industrialised countries themselves and for developing countries- would much more than offset the costs.
Those are the words of the Prime Minister and they are very clear. The rhetoric of the Government on this matter is very clear. I also wish to quote from a pamphlet prepared by the National Farmers’ Federation in which it argues for lower levels of protection and particularly for a responsible decision in relation to textile, clothing and footwear. The Federation drew my attention to a statement by the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Anthony. He said:
If we are going to export more products which we can produce competitively, then we must also import more of the products which we produce less competitively.
The Federation also drew my attention to the fact that the Minister for Primary Industry, Mr Nixon, said:
We cannot alford to saddle our most efficient industries with the continuing burden of high-cost uneconomic industries. The sooner we realise that, the sooner we will arrest inflation and declining rates of growth and employment. We must, in a word, adjust.
Mr Nixon said that to the OECD Agricultural Ministers ‘ Meeting in Paris in March of this year. Those who say that the Government would not be credible if it were to retreat from the forthcoming Industries Assistance Commission report on the textile, clothing and footwear industries are possibly making their noises a little early. I agree that if the Government were to retreat from that report and to adopt any policy that did not substantially, in the long run, reduce protection to these industries and make it quite clear that protection was going to continue to be reduced so that managers within those industries can plan now for the reduced protection and further adopt a program whereby protection starts reducing now- then the Government’s credibility would be in question. But I ask people not to assume that the Government is going to retreat from this report. The Government’s rhetoric on the matter has been very clear indeed.
I now turn to the rhetoric of the Australian Labor Party on the same matter. It has generally been in favour of lower levels of protection. But it is far from clear just where the Labor Party stands in some matters. I will quote some of the comments of honourable members opposite, particularly the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden), to try to demonstrate that the Labor party, at least for most of the time, is interested in reducing levels of protection. It is aware of the costs imposed on consumers by protected industries. I might suggest to members opposite that they ought to tidy up their thinking so that it is consistent. The honourable member for Bonython (Dr Blewett) said of the Harries report that essentially the ideas were intelligent, conservative responses to the problems of international trade. I agree that they were. I quote from page 2736 of Hansard of 30 May 1978. The Leader of the Opposition said:
I must say that everything I have considered about the Australian motor car industry makes it clear to me that that industry is a victim of these faults about which I have been talking- faults of previous governments.
The average Australian motor car is 100 per cent dearer than its equivalent in countries overseas. What has happened is that domestic buyer resistance has settled in and people are not buying cars.
I think that was a very sensible thing for him to say. That has undoubtedly happened and is happening to that other highly protected industry.
– Who said that?
– The Leader of the Opposition said it. He also said- I quote from the same Hansard:
If we are to sell more to other countries we have just got face a few facts. We have to accept more; we have to buy more. There is no point in selling more unless we buy more. If we sell more than we buy, we force a revaluation in the exchange rate and we do not avoid problems in internal adjustment because immediately a number of domestic industries are disadvantaged- largely the export oriented industries such as rural industries.
I think the statement was clear and sensible. What he was saying was that if the adjustment was not accepted in the uncompetitive and less efficient industries then adjustment would be borne by the more efficient industries that add more to our gross product. The Leader of the Opposition had more to say on 12 April 1978 but 1 am running short of time so I will not quote it. Members can look it up for themselves. I now turn to a policy statement which was made by the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford). We find a very strange mixture of advocacy for mercantilism and freer trade all within the same document. It is very hard to understand whether he agrees with his leader in stating that Australia must lower its trade barriers or whether he is advocating a course where trade barriers recognised as a cost to the community, but where it will never be the right time to reduce them. The document states:
Each of these objectives -
They were previously outlined- requires that Australia must in considerable measure concentrate on those things we do well. In the longer term, we claim -
That is, the Australian Labor Party- that policies should aim at a flexible industry structure which involves minimum levels of government support to the private sector.
That is advocating freer trade. The statement continues:
Therefore, advocacy of the use of general tariff cutting alone to promote industrial development can only be based upon either the dubious act of faith that the benefits of the strategy are in fact large or upon a naive use of comparative static analysis.
That seems to conflict with what the honourable member for Adelaide said before. On the other hand he went on to say that he would advocate the sorts of proposals and policies that have been adopted in the whitegoods industry. The whitegoods industry is successfully coping with a steady reduction in tariff. That is an advocacy for freer trade. The difficulty that the honourable member for Adelaide seems to have is that he does not know which camp he wishes to be in. On that point I will conclude my remarks.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
Debate (on motion by Mr Armitage) adjourned.
Bill received from the Senate, and read a first time.
The purpose of the Bill before the House is to authorise the Pipeline Authority to construct a natural gas pipeline from Dalton on the main Moomba to Sydney pipeline to Canberra. The Bill provides for construction of a 273 millimetre pipeline at an estimated cost of $7.5m. When completed in 1981 the pipeline will be operated and maintained by the Pipeline Authority, carrying natural gas from the Cooper Basin gas fields in South Australia. The Government’s decision to construct the pipeline was announced by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) on 27 September 1979.
Introduction of natural gas to Canberra will aid the Government’s liquid fuel conservation program by providing further opportunities for significant liquid fuel substitution. The changeover to natural gas could replace over 250,000 barrels of oil usage by 1982- the first full year natural gas becomes available in Canberraincreasing to over 400,000 barrels by 1987. The Government as the major user of oil in Canberra can set an example to the private sector by rapid changeover of its facilities to natural gas where this is shown to be economic.
Natural gas will enhance industrial and commercial prospects in Canberra and the surrounding region with consequent employment benefits. Some 200 new jobs are expected to be created during the construction phase of the Dalton to Canberra spurline and gas reticulation network, with a permanent direct addition to the work force of 60 to 70 persons to operate and maintain the spurline and reticulation network. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Dr Cass) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Nixon, and read a first time.
– I move:
A central purpose of this Bill is to provide for the continuation of the operation of the Wool Market Support Fund and the floor price mechanism. The fund has been contributed by wool producers through a 5 per cent levy on gross sales of shorn wool. It was designed to absorb any losses on the wool reserve price scheme. The Bill also provides for the making of progressive refunds of levy contributions on a first-in-first-out basis, starting with 1974-75, after the credit balance in the Fund reaches agreed satisfactory levels. Provision is being made also for the automatic appropriation in future of a dollar for dollar government grant to match expenditure of wool producers’ contributions to annual wool research programs. This will place the funding of wool research on the same basis as other rural research schemes.
A restriction in the Wool Industry Act, which prevents the pre-purchase marketing costs of the Wool Corporation being brought into the Corporation’s profit and loss accounts, is being removed. The replacement of the Australian Wool Industry Conference by the Wool Council of Australia is being recognised by appropriate amendments to the principal Act. Under the currently established arrangements for the operation of the reserve price scheme at wool auctions, it has been necessary to extend enabling provisions in the Wool Industry Act and the several associated wool tax Acts each year. The general authority for reserve price operations was provided in 1970, but the arrangements for the absorbing of any losses on the scheme through the Market Support Fund were introduced only in 1974 with the adoption of the floor price policy.
The reserve price arrangements embodying the floor price element are established and accepted, both in Australia and internationally, as a permanent feature of the marketing of Australian wool, and it is appropriate that the enabling legislation be placed on a continuing basis. This has the full support of the wool industry. Twice during the past decade, the scheme came under heavy testing when wool demand became severely depressed, and I do not believe that any member of this chamber would wish to suggest that the scheme has performed to date otherwise than in the most successful fulfilment of its intended role. Indeed, had the scheme not been operating during the 1970s, the consequences would have been disastrous for the wool industry. Apart from the price stabilisation advantages to producers, wool users have become enthusiastic over the floor in the market. The decision to provide for progressive refunds to wool producers of their past contributions to the Market Support Fund has been made in the light of strong requests from the Wool Council of Australia.
The primary purpose of the Fund, which was established in September 1974, is for it to absorb net losses on the reserve price scheme. It is contributed by wool producers via a 5 per cent tax on the proceeds of all shorn wool sold. As a result of the most successful management of the scheme, the fund presently has a balance of more than $300m. The fund is now reaching a healthy balance having in mind any future calls on it for wool purchases. The Government has acted upon strong representations from wool producers that the time has come to provide the machinery arrangements for returning to producers their early contributions to the fund, whilst continuing arrangements to maintain the fund at a safe level appropriate for its purposes.
The approach proposed by the Wool Council of Australia, and accepted by the Government, is for the ‘revolving’ of the fund. This will take place when the Minister for Primary Industry, with the agreement, in writing, of the Wool Council of Australia, makes a declaration specifying a year of levy contribution to be a period in respect of which refunds will be made. The balance in the fund must have reached a satisfactory level; the Council has in mind at the moment, a rninimum balance of $350m. The 5 per cent tax borne by the wool growing industry in a specified earlier year or years will be refunded to wool producers who contributed wool tax to the fund in that year. The Council has agreed that the collection of wool tax at the rate of 5 per cent of sales is to continue so as to maintain the fund at a desired level.
I turn now to the principal provisions of the Wool Industry Amendment Bill. Clause 6 of the Bill adds to the purposes for which money in the market support fund may be used, by including the payment of refunds to wool producers and the administrative costs of making the refunds. This clause also constitutes the fund on a continuing basis, and authorises all wool purchase expenses of the reserve price scheme to be brought into the reserve price scheme profit and loss account. Clause 7 authorises all marketing costs of other wool trading by the Australian Wool Corporation to be brought into the Corporation’s general wool marketing profit and loss account. Clause 10 introduces a new part, Part IIIA, into the Wool Industry Act, to provide the arrangements for the making of refunds to wool producers from the market support fund.
The detailed provisions, necessarily, are extensive, and it will be necessary to promulgate further procedures by way of regulations. It is essential that the entitlements and procedures are clear and firm, as the refunds will relate to annual tax contributions currently of some $60m with entitlements including tens of thousands of wool producers.
In outline, the refund arrangements will operate in the following way. Decisions will be made by the Minister for Primary Industry, with the agreement in writing of the Wool Council of Australia, as to when refunds of specified years’ tax payments are to be made; that means there will be a right of veto by either party.
In general, the returns are intended to go to the wool producer. Repayments will be by two avenues: Brokers and dealers registered with the Commissioner of Taxation to remit wool tax, will bulk-bill the Wool Corporation for the amount necessary to make the individual refunds to which their clients are entitled. This avenue is expected to cover above 90 per cent of amounts to be refunded. Wool producers who do not receive refunds in this manner will claim directly on the Wool Corporation, which will settle claims directly with those claimants. Provisions have been included for dealing with circumstances of bankrupt estates, deceased persons, defunct companies and so on. Amounts to be refunded to individuals, in the majority of cases, will be identified with the aid of sales documentation, which records amounts of tax deducted at the time of a sale. Methods of determination of the amount refundable will be specified in regulations.
As agreed with the Wool Council of Australia, a minimum refundable amount of $25 for each wool transaction is being specified, but provision has been included for some other amount to be prescribed by regulations in the event that practice proves an alternative amount to be more appropriate. It is further provided that where brokers and other persons registered for the purposes of wool tax collection have- as is normal practice- accounted for the sale of a producer’s wool in a single account which itemises the various lots involved, eligibility for a minimum refund will be determined on the total proceeds covered by that account rather than on separate lots. Refund amounts paid by the Wool Corporation for payment to claimants by registered persons must be held in trust by the registered persons until paid out. In the meantime, the money may be used only in prescribed ways, and any income earned paid to the Wool Corporation.
Penalties have been provided for improper actions and false claims and statements in connection with the refund scheme. Information necessary for the proper and efficient operation of the scheme by the Wool Corporation is required to be provided to the Corporation, and provision has been made for the meeting of costs incurred by registered persons in making repayments, in accordance with principles to be approved by the Minister. Importantly, provision has been included for claimants to take to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal appeals against decisions by the Wool Corporation on eligibility of persons for refunds, or on the amount refunded.
Clauses 11 and 12 provide the enabling authority for the future matching by the Government, on a dollar for dollar basis, of wool producer tax contributions for wool research, when those contributions are actually expended on research. The existing Act provides that the Government appropriate annually the amount it contributes to wool research. As research funds continue to flow for some months after the end of a fiscal year, some overlap of the new and old legislation will occur. Thus it has been necessary to identify in the reserves of the Wool Research Trust Fund amounts now in the reserve which are to be regarded as producer and Government funds respectively for this purpose and are not matchable when spent. All new grower contributions after 1 July 1980 will be eligible for matching by Government funds where expended. In the intervening period, when adequate funds for research projects have not been accumulated, the old reserves of the fund may be used. As a complementary measure the Wool Tax Acts will be amended to enable a specific rate of tax to be prescribed for wool research. Bills to effect this change will be introduced immediately after the measures which are the subject of this speech.
The general effect of these amendments is to place the funding of wool research on the same basis as the funding of other rural research, and to enable a specific proportion of wool tax income, as approved by the Parliament, to be directed in future for wool research in lieu of the current procedure of annual determinations by the Minister for Primary Industry. This Bill sets out the new provisions in a logical sequence and in simple form. Accordingly, I have restricted this speech to the principal elements of the Bill. The wool industry has been well briefed on the broad proposals and the Committee stage debate will provide an opportunity for more detailed explanations should they be required. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Dr Cass) adjourned.
WOOL TAX (Nos 1 TO 5) AMENDMENT BILLS 1980
Suspension of Standing Orders
Motion (by Mr Nixon)- by leave- agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent five Wool Tax Amendment Bills-
being presented and read a first time together and one motion being moved without delay and one question being put in regard to, respectively, the second readings, the Committee’s report stage, and the third readings, of all of the Bills together; and
the consideration of the Bills in one Committee of the Whole.
Bills presented by Mr Nixon, and read a first time.
– I move:
The object of these five Bills is twofold. First, the Bills seek to amend the Wool Tax Acts (Nos 1 to
Originally, these arrangements were provided to operate for the 1974-75 season only. Their operation was extended successively to each of the subsequent five seasons and the present statutory provisions for payment of the levy expire on 30 June 1980. As already announced, it is now proposed to provide arrangements beyond the 1979-80 season and to extend the levy at the rate of 5 per cent. This move will obviate the need for annual legislation in the future to continue the Fund and associated levy. If there is to be no interruption in the collection of the levy, the statutory provisions under which the levy is imposed must be amended before 30 June 1 980.
I now turn to the second change provided for in these Bills. At present wool tax consists of the 5 per cent levy for reserve price scheme purposes and the 3 per cent levy which represents woolgrower contributions towards the financing of the programs of wool research and promotion. It is now proposed that the latter levy be divided into two components, which together shall not exceed the present maximum of 3 per cent. The two components will be prescribed by regulation and will be earmarked respectively for wool research and wool promotion. The present total wool tax of 8 per cent has been in force since August 1975.
All the five wool tax Bills are similar in their text. The Acts which they amend are also similar, but each covers a different wool marketing channel such as auction, direct export et cetera. The need for five separate Acts arises from a constitutional requirement that laws imposing taxes should deal with one subject of taxation only. Opportunity has also been taken in the Bills to replace references to the Australian Wool Industry Conference, an organisation that has been subsumed within the Wool Council of Australia, with references to the Wool Council of Australia. I commend the Bills to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Dr Cass) adjourned.
APPROPRIATION BILL (No. 3) 1979-80 Second Reading
– I wish to raise tonight a number of matters which I feel are of considerable importance. One concerns what appears to be pressure that is being applied to the Australian Broadcasting Commission to provide an excessive amount of time for members of parliament who belong to the Liberal Party of Australia and the National Country Party, compared with that provided for members who belong to the Australian Labor Party. I have before me a copy of a question I put on notice, if I recollect correctly, about last September. It took a long while to get an answer. I am subject to correction concerning the exact date, but I can assure the House that it took a long, long while to get an answer to this question, which should have been a comparatively easy one to answer. It is question No. 4709, and I see now that I received an answer to it on 27 March. The question and answer, as recorded in the House of Representatives Hansard, read:
asked the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice, on 20 September 1 979:
I put the question on notice on 20 September 1979 and it took six months to be answered. The question reads:
Attached to the answer, which is easy for anybody to see in Hansard, is a full list of the interviews which occurred on ABC radio and television. The answer was:
We are not permitted to find out. The answer continued:
I am not having a crack at individual journalists in the ABC. What I am looking at here very clearly is that for some time there has been very heavy financial pressure upon the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Recently it was announced that some of that pressure would be relieved, although I did hear that there was some doubt whether what was printed in the Press as to the extent of that relief will come about in reality. It is fairly obvious that the Government, through financial pressure, is trying to force a lack of independence upon the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Out of 44 interviews on radio and television with Liberal, National Country Party, Labor and independent members of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly, five were with members of parliament representing the Australian Labor Party. Thirty were with members of parliament representing the Liberal Party or the National Country Party. Ten were with the one independent member, Mr Hatton.
Is it any wonder that people are beginning to wonder whether the Australian Broadcasting Commission is beginning to lose its independence? It is an organisation for which I have the greatest possible admiration. It has fought for its independence very hard indeed. It has a high quality of journalism and a high quality of program. It has a quality of program which is not the usual soap opera type of thing which one sees on the commercial organs and which gives considerably to the culture of our country. It is a very important organisation, but this tendency by the conservative forces in this country to put pressure on it to undermine its independence is something of which we have to be very frightened, keeping in mind that this is a country where the media is falling more and more under monopoly, where today in effect Murdoch, Fairfax and Packer are getting a bigger -
– Good men.
– Did the honourable member say that there should be more of them?
– I said that they are good men.
– The honourable member for Phillip says that they are good men. Apparently he agrees with this sort of monopoly activity in the media. Honourable members should not forget that we can have more than one type of dictatorship in this country. It does not necessarily have to be a military dictatorship. We could have a dictatorship via the influence of the people by the media. When we get to the stage where only a few families control the media of this country it is very dangerous for the independence of the Parliament and democracy.
If we are not careful and this situation is allowed to continue the Parliament will become irrelevant. It will no longer be important. Policy will be determined from outside by those who are the dictators of the media. That is why it is absolutely vital and important that the Australian Broadcasting Commission should have complete independence. It should have the capacity to criticise all parties, irrespective of whether a party likes such criticism. If we do wrong we should be criticised. If we do right we should receive credit for it. That is an essential issue. There is a lack of balance in this matter. It took six months to obtain a simple reply to the question which I put on notice. I will place another question on notice today dealing with the same subject.
I now turn to the issue of the concessional deductions which used to exist in respect of moneys paid by the public to health funds. When the Labor Government introduced Medibank the legislation provided for a levy to be paid. However, this levy was not introduced because the Senate amended the Health Insurance Bill by dispensing with the levy. When the Bill came back to the House of Representatives, the House accepted the amendment, the Bill went back to the Senate and was passed. That is historical. In 19.76 the Fraser Government introduced a levy. At the same time it cut out claims for concessional deductions in respect of subscriptions to medical and hospital benefit funds on the ground that a universal health scheme was operating and the taxpayer was receiving benefit from that scheme. Therefore, he could not receive the benefit twice. In 1978 the Government wiped the levy and decided that reimbursement to individuals who were not members of a health fund would be limited to 40 per cent of the recommended fee for a service. This was not necessarily the whole fee because the doctor would not necessarily charge in accordance with the recommended common fee.
In the May 1979 mini-Budget the 40 per cent rebate of the recommended common fee was abolished as from 1 September 1979. The system introduced in lieu thereof provided that the patient would pay the first $20 of each service. We had reached the stage where we did not know what system was operating. The public was dreadfully confused then as it is today. The patient was deprived not only of the subsidy by the Government for services costing up to $20 but also the concessional deduction that he received for paying into hospital and medical benefit funds. I submit that while the present system operates there is a very strong case for the reintroduction of the process by which subscribers to medical and hospital benefit funds are able to claim such subscriptions as concessional deductions for taxation purposes.
The Government, completely dishonouring its pledge to retain Medibank, a pledge which was made once again when it introduced the income tax surcharge, has cut out not only the previously existing concessional deduction but also the Commonwealth benefit for medical services costing under $20. This is a harsh, dishonest and immoral act of political cynicism. I think it is well and truly time that this issue was looked at and that the funds which are being reefed off the public as a result are utilised to introduce a commonsense health system which the public will understand and in respect of which they will retain major benefits. As I have said, people today are completely disillusioned and completely muddled, and no one can blame them for that. There have been so many changes that people do not know what is going to happen next.
There has been a great deal of discussion on the very important question of Afghanistan and the motivation of the Soviet Union in respect of its invasion of that country. I will make no bones about it. I do not think anyone in conscience, anyone from a democratic nation, could in any respect uphold the action of the Soviet. I do not think anyone could have anything other than a feeling of absolute abhorrence of the Soviet Union’s action in invading Afghanistan. This is undoubtedly the first time the Soviet Union has moved out of its area of influence, out of its own Iron Curtain area if one likes. The action of the Soviet Union in respect of Hungary and Czechoslovakia was bad enough and dreadful enough but this is even worse.
There has also been a great deal of discussion as to the motivation of the Soviet Union. I see that the honourable member for Hawker (Mr Jacobi) is in the chamber. I was about to mention the honourable member’s name. I would have done so whether he was here or whether he was absent. I have the greatest respect for the honourable member and for his capacity, as honourable members will see, to research matters out. He was a man who did research this matter out. I believe the reason for the Soviet presence in Afghanistan is not so much a matter of the Soviet Union wanting a warm water port. It is not so much a question of oil, Iran or Afghanistan. I believe first of all we should bear in mind that there is a minority of 40 million people of Islamic background in the Soviet
Union and the Soviet Union tends to be psychotic when it deals with minority groupings. I think the Soviet Union is concerned that what has occurred in Iran may boil over into Afghanistan and then into the Soviet Union itself. I think that is the first major reason the Soviet Union is in Afghanistan.
– And Pakistan, too, to some extent.
-As the honourable member says, Pakistan as well. The second point, as was brought out by the honourable member for Hawker, is the fact that there are very large untapped resources in Afghanistan and both the United States or America and the Soviet Union are having a look at those resources. This is something that has not been mentioned to any great extent. However, the honourable member for Hawker and I have attended joint parliamentary committee meetings at which this matter has been brought out and freely admitted. Those are the two motivations which I think should be remembered.
We are aware of the fronting of the Government on the Olympics. Today we heard that 500,000 tonnes of barley is to be shipped from Australia to the Soviet Union. We have found out that there are to be no embargoes on the export of wool or wheat, and that there is to be no embargo on the export of wool from the Prime Minister’s own property. Australian wool has been used to make the very uniforms used by Soviet troops when they marched into Afghanistan. There is to be no embargo on the export of hides to Poland which are to be used for the manufacture of the very boots worn by Soviet troops as they march into Afghanistan. Once again, the wool and hides come from the Prime Minister’s property, Nareen. When one sees that happen one realises just how hypocritical this Government is. One thing that could not be explained away to the people of the Soviet Union or Iran is an embargo if they found that food was scarce. It is a different matter when it comes to propaganda about the Olympic Games because no matter what happens in those countries there is complete control of the media and the media will explain away the whole matter to the satisfaction of the people of those countries. That is what this Government chooses to ignore in order to build an issue, purely for political purposes.
I shall raise another matter very briefly. Once again I refer to the petrol tax which is something which has escaped almost unnoticed this year. This financial year the domestic deficit will drop from the estimated figure of $2,200m to $400m.
That is the estimate contained in the Budget. This figure has been arrived at because of the reefing off of funds by this Government at every petrol bowser. The Government pretends that it is returning this money to the public by way of reductions and taxation. Of course, it is not returning anywhere near as much by way of taxation as it is taking off the public by continuing with its policy of world parity oil pricing. Every increase in world parity oil prices is going into the hands of the Government itself. In other words, what has escaped almost completely unnoticed is that the deficit -
– It is $3.5 billion.
– Exactly. As the honourable member for Hawker said, the oil levy is $3.5 billion. As a result, the domestic deficit as estimated in the last Budget will drop from $2,200m to $400m. All of that has come out of the pocket of the average motorist. It has come out of the pocket of the average wage and salary earner. A branch office of the Taxation Office is at every petrol bowser. It is no wonder that this Government is regarded as one without integrity and one which deliberately ignores the truth and tries to trick the public. This Government cannot be trusted from the Leader, the Prime Minister himself, right down to every rank and file supporter.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I would like to speak tonight about items that are listed in the Appropriation Bills under the heading of the Postal and Telecommunications Department. Before doing so, I think I must digress slightly to bring to the notice of the House some of the inaccuracies just uttered by the honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage). He claimed that the levies imposed under the oil parity pricing policy were causing all sorts of problems in Australia and causing all sorts of inequities. He failed to tell the House and the nation that the Australian Labor Party’s policy on a resource tax for fuel and on the provision of alternatives to the levy would in fact result in more tax being extracted at the petrol pump than is presently extracted- if one puts it that way- under the present Government’s parity pricing policy.
– That is absolutely untrue and another typical lie which this Government is always putting up. You know it is a lie.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I ask that the rabble opposite withdraw that statement.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. J. D. M. Dobie)- The honourable member will withdraw that unparliamentary remark.
– All right, I will withdraw, but the honourable member knows it is not true.
-The honourable member will withdraw the remark and not comment.
– Look -
-Will the honourable member withdraw?
– I will withdraw if you will give us the opportunity here of explaining how he is deliberately falsifying the policies of the Labor Party.
-I call on the honourable member to remain silent while I am talking to him. I remind him to withdraw the unparliamentary word.
– I have already done so.
-Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I will now explain the matter to the honourable gentleman because he does not seem to follow his own party’s policies. I did not intend to go on with this at great length but as it now needs some elucidation I will do so. The Leader of the Opposition, Mr Hayden, has clearly said that he would utilise the resources taxes imposed on the petroleum industry to finance a Medibank scheme. It would be used to finance various social security programs which the Labor Party has in its platform. The honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) has admitted publicly that the proposed taxes that would be imposed by a Labor government would not extract less tax from the petroleum industry than the present Government’s parity pricing policy. In fact, he is on record as having said that it would probably collect more. If the honourable member for Chifley is not convinced by the words of his own leadership he ought to read his party’s policy.
Let me return quickly to the matters which I wish to raise tonight. They are far more important than the diatribe by the honourable member for Chifley. These matters relate to the question of communications, particularly the telecommunications network throughout the remoter parts of Australia. I refer particularly to my own electorate and to the far outback parts of northern Australia, Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia. It is well known that the people living in these areas are subjected -
-And New South Wales.
-I take the point made by the honourable member. I refer also to the remoter parts of western New South Wales and South Australia. People there are no less deprived than those in the areas that I mentioned previously. I bring to the attention of honourable members that three or four specific amounts have been allocated in the Appropriation Bills. An amount of $500,000 is provided for general activities of the Australian Broadcasting Commission and $500,000 is provided to Telecom Australia for services relating to the ABC. A little further down in the Estimates we find that $45,000 is provided for the national satellite study. It is around this particular area that I wish to make my comments relating to telecommunications in outback areas. Telecommunications are almost non-existent in a large part of Australia and it is not hard to understand why. With the vast distances involved- there are no distances so vast anywhere else in the world with such a sparse population- it is no wonder that it is not economically viable to provide a satisfactory telecommunications link or a satisfactory radio or television coverage in those areas. This is much to the detriment of the people living in those very remote areas.
Communications is a very vital part of their way of life. It is the very thread which makes it worth living out there. They have spent many thousands of dollars and many hours of worry trying to obtain some form of communications. We thank God for the radio communications that have been established over a vast area of Australia. We are very thankful that this network has been connected through a Royal Flying Doctor Service network which is the central collecting point of radio telecommunications in vast areas of Australia. There are two aspects to this question. Firstly, there are the remote long line telephone services, which are very expensive indeed. In some places it costs $2.70 or more for three minutes of talk over a telephone line, where that is possible. In those areas people also have to put up with the static, the crackling and the breaking of messages, and those lines have been provided in most instances by the individual at the end of the line at huge cost. That is one area that needs to be picked up. It is one area that I see great difficulty in picking up.
I acknowledge immediately Telecom’s marvellous program of upgrading to automatic all manual services, for instance in Western Australia, in the next five years. It has a similar program covering other States. Maybe all the States will not be covered in the next five years but it is a very short time span in which every telephone user in Australia will be able to dial out through automatic telephone exchanges. I hope that that program will cover many people who are connected to telephones. I hope that it will cover, one way or another- by radiotelephone links, by natural cabling or by long wire links- all of those people who can viably and feasibly be connected to the telephone. But this will still leave a vast group of people to whom- unless some new method is used- it will not be possible in their lifetimes to give a normal telephone service.
It is in this area that I believe the Government’s decision to install a domestic satellite over Australia is a very important decision indeed. It is very important not only to the people living in the outback but also to a very large percentage of the population of Australia. It will be a total communications system. Make no mistake that it will not do away with the terrestrial systems that we presently enjoy. It will be used to co-ordinate with and groove into the present systems that we enjoy in the more settled areas and the more sophisticated equipment that we are able to connect to the terrestrial systems. A satellite system will provide those people in mining communities, people in isolated Aboriginal settlements and all those who are presently deprived of this communications link with a vital link which will give them the security, the cover and perhaps the educational chances which do not exist at present with the limitations of the terrestrial system.
I see all sorts of exciting possibilities. We will be able to use the satellite system for data processing. We will be able to use it for telex and telemetry communications. Improved telephone services, near normal radio communication and widespread television communication will be available to those people who at present have no possibility of receiving those communications. People who are connected to a telephone service today will, in less than one month’s time, be able to enjoy a normal 9c telephone call to their local service centre as a result of what is known as the Community Access 80 program. That, in itself, is a marvellous step forward for those people who are connected to a telephone system.
It is for those people in the outback who have a possibility of receiving normal communications only by way of a domestic satellite system that it is exciting news indeed that the Australian Government has made the decision to install a domestic satellite over Australia in a very short time. At present probably 40,000 people who are scattered across the country in small isolated communities are not able to get a normal telephone system and are not likely to get one in the foreseeable future. Approximately 500,000 people in Australia have no chance of receiving a television signal at all. Of these, approximately 120,000 people have little hope of ever gaining a service by terrestrial or conventional means irrespective of how much money we are prepared to spend upon providing such a service.
Another 220,000 people receive an Australian Broadcasting Commission service only. Whilst the ABC puts out a rather magnificent service to isolated areas, I do not believe that those people living in very isolated areas should be deprived of a normal service which is enjoyed by the vast majority of the population of Australia. In the case of radio, approximately 375,000 people live beyond the normal reach of the medium frequency ABC stations. One should remember also that they are able to receive only the ABC stations. Some four million Australians receive only the third ABC network. That illustrates the point that the ABC’s third network reaches quite a large number of people in Australia. Some four million people are able to receive only that one network. Some 375,000 people are not able to receive any radio signal at all under normal radio operations. A satellite system, broadcasting to individual homes via small earth satellite stations, would make it possible to provide a good range of services for those people who have no service at present, improve the services for those who have a poor service and provide a wider range of services for those people who receive only a few.
Because of its potential to meet television, radio broadcasting, and telephone services, the satellite system would facilitate additional diversity and resilience in the terrestial network. It would enable the quick establishment of essential communications in emergency situations, regardless of location. That is a very important point to those people who live in the outback. It would provide a more flexible network for a range of uses such as transport, safety communications services, meteorological and scientific data. It would enable also a significantly increased capacity for distribution of bulk high speed data communications, which is of great importance to the growth of business activities in Australia, particularly the mining and rural industries. It would improve the delivery of health and education services to all people away from the main population centres and provide an opportunity for greatly improved communications to Australian bases in the Antarctic. It would also encourage people to live and work in the remote areas with the knowledge that they would be secure, that their families would be secure and that their loved ones would be without the normal worries that they presently have to put up with.
It is this very sense of security that is so important to the people in the outback. I know because I have lived in the bush for 30 years. I have experienced the isolation and the lack of security which very few people in this place would have experienced. I know the real problems of the women and the children. It is all right for men to live 500 miles or 1,000 miles from the nearest centres of communication but it is very hard for women with children to bring up. It is very hard for the family to educate those children under isolated conditions without adequate communications. The implementation of a satellite policy would mean much to these people.
There is also the aspect of medical care. I did not wish to dwell too deeply on this aspect tonight but medical care in the outback means so much. Those people who live in that isolation and who experience the real traumatic problems of the lack of adequate medical care know only too well the importance of the Royal Flying Doctor Service. That service is possible only because there is a very good radio communications network and because those people have spent a lot of money on providing that network. That service, coupled with the School of the Air service, which is also utilising that radio network, makes life very livable for the people in the outback.
I would say that one of the most important decisions that this Government has made, when it is considered from the point of view of people in the isolated areas, is the decision to install a domestic satellite. There is no question that it will change many aspects of the way of life of people living in isolated areas. It will remove for all time that desperate feeling of being forgotten. It will mean that those people can enjoy the normal amenities that people in this city and other cities around Australia enjoy. I know that some of these things mean one hell of a lot to the people of the outback. Opposition spokesmen have made great play of the cost of this satellite. There is no way of measuring the cost to those people who live out there. He said that it is a waste of money. The Daily News of Friday 1 9 October 1979, just after this decision was announced, states:
Mr Innes said the major beneficiaries from the proposal would be industry and the television networks. People living in the remote areas would benefit only to a smaller and rather unsatisfactory extent.
The article quotes Mr Innes as saying:
In fact, it is not intended to provide a telephone service for outback people via the satellite . . . their plight is being used as an excuse to justify a satellite system which will be used for other purposes.
That is a totally cynical and dishonest statement. One of the major beneficiaries of this system will be the people living in remote areas. Sure, it will help those living in not so remote areas as well, with data transmission, telex and telephony and a back-up system to the magnificent terrestrial system that we have for communications throughout Australia. One really has to experience the sort of thing that happens. I can recall a couple of instances, one not so funny and one a little funny. Some years ago, there was a lady giving a telegram over the Royal Flying Doctor Service network. While she was giving that telegram she was looking out the window of the office across towards the garage and she watched her husband start up the station truck. She watched while he backed that truck out and ran over their child. Everybody on that network felt it. Everybody on that network knew about it because it was a public message. One of the things that the satellite will do is bring confidentiality back to those people. The woman I referred to will be able to ring her doctor in confidence.
There was one other thing that happened, and it also happened over the radio as I was listening one morning. The School of the Air is broadcast on the Flying Doctor Service network. It was customary in those days, and I think it still is, for the children, as they speak on the radio, to give a little piece of news. On this particular occasion a teacher in the bush- we will say her name was Miss Ryan- was holding class at one of the base network stations. A little fellow from an isolated station on the Nullabor Plain came on the radio. He said: ‘Good morning, Miss Ryan’. She said: Good morning, Tommy’. He said: ‘I would like to tell you some news’. She said: ‘Very good, Tommy. What is the news?’ He said: ‘Miss Ryan, there was a big wind out here last night’. She said: ‘Oh yes, Tommy. Was it a really big wind?’ Remember that this was being broadcast across the nation. Tommy came back and said: ‘Yes, Miss Ryan. It was a big wind; it blew the shithouse down the flat’.
That is the sort of thing that the satellite communication will help to solve. That person, that mother and others- I can recount a hundred stories- will be able to talk to their doctor or to their teacher in confidence, and the rest of the nation will not hear it. That is what the telecommunication satellite will mean to the outback people.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. J. D. M. Dobie)- Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-I should like to begin by quoting from an address given by the Chairman of the Association of Ethnic Broadcasters and Coordinators at its first annual general meeting. He discussed the way in which the organisation was set up, the difficulty with which it had managed to negotiate with the Special Broadcasting Service, and so on. Then he said:
Now, I come to the final subject matter that I would like to touch upon- namely, the new Organisation that is to replace the SBS which as you know, will be called the Independent Multicultural Broadcasting Corporation (IMBC).
I would dearly like to be in a position to give you a detailed outline about its structure and all the ramifications that will go with it. Unfortunately, I cannot do it and I doubt whether anyone could at this stage. The way I see it from what I managed to learn from various sources; IMBC is another name for the same child with two or three basic differences-
Firstly- the word ‘ethnic’ has been eliminated . . .
Secondly … the direct involvement of the Public Service Board has been removed and therefore IMBC will be far more independent than SBS was. For us, this means that no longer do we have to deal with the PSB -
That is, the Public Service Board - via the SBS- but rather we deal with that body of people who actually make and implement decisions.
He commented that this would be a much more satisfactory situation than had been the case in the past. He then went on to say:
We must ensure that the Radio part of IMBC will not be relegated to relative insignificance as the situation appears to take that direction at the moment. It seems that funds are readily available to establish the Television side of IMBC on a truly professional basis at the expense of and the neglect of parallel development so far as the Radio side is concerned. We must not allow that to happen.
I wish to make a number of points about his observations. Quite clearly, if there were a plan to establish a renewed, more vigorous and better broadcasting system for the ethnic communities than the SBS has been, I should have thought that at least the people involved with the SBS on behalf of the ethnic communities would have been consulted. I have complained on a number of occasions that that has not been the case. It has come to my attention from members of the ethnic community that they have never known what was going to happen. Here we have that situation confirmed by the people who surely would be in the strongest position to offer advice, the ones whom one would have thought any responsible planner would have asked in the first place, namely, the ones who have been doing the broadcasting for four or five years. But no, they have not been asked. They do not know anything about the matter. They have picked up bits of information about it here and there.
The next point I make is that, despite the obvious popularity of radio, the fear has been expressed by this gentleman that the Government will go ahead and press for the development of a television network, which would be much more glamorous and, I suggest, much less independent than a radio program is likely to be. Television will be much more conventional, much more controlled. We hear that doubts have been expressed in the Liberal Party room about whether the Government will go ahead with its idea. However, if it does go ahead with the idea that the television network should be largely commercially viable, that it should earn its keep as it were, that it should be dependent on commercial advertising, in my view it will go the way of most commercial services. That means that members of the ethnic community will have little or no say in how it is run.
The mystery about the Independent and Multicultural Broadcasting Corporation is deepened when one views with some concern the appointment of Mr Bruce Gyngell as managing director. Mr Gyngell, whatever his other qualities, is a man who has had very little, if any, experience in ethnic affairs or with immigrants and their concerns and interests. Yet he has been made the head, in essence, of an organisation which ostensibly is designed mainly to provide for the interests and needs of members of the ethnic community. One is forced to ask a couple of questions on this matter. Is the Government so worried by Mr Gyngell ‘s uncertain performance as Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal that it finds it necessary to move him sideways in order to get him out of the way? Does the Government hold ethnic broadcasting in such low esteem that it is prepared to turn this organisation, set up for the purpose of ethnic broadcasting, into a repository for failed appointees? Is it so cynical and insensitive towards ethnic communities that it would duplicate in this ostensibly new organisation, the IMBC, the same much criticised aspects of the SBS in the form of the sorts of appointments it makes, mainly, it appears, on the basis of patronage- appointments justified by anything other than merit, expertise, and professionalism in this particular area?
At this stage the Independent and MultiCultural Broadcasting Corporation is a set of unanswered questions. Will it operate along the lines of the Australian Broadcasting Commission? This has not yet been explained. How will it be funded? I have mentioned this previously. Ripples of concern are evident already at the suggestion that it should be commercial and largely self-supporting. In fact, in the Liberal Party room, the ripples have broken out into considerable waves, so much so that the proposed legislation has been withdrawn to be reconsidered for re-introduction and further discussion. What will be the relationship between the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, Mr Staley, and this new Corporation? Will it be as independent as the ABC is supposed to be, or will it be more directly related to the Minister in the way that the SBS was? We do not know. In all this, what really is the position of the Managing Director. Will Mr Gyngell be the Duckmanton of the IMBC? Mr Gyngell himself has said that, because a board of directors is yet to be appointed- and these are his own words- it is ‘premature to be making any statement on policy regarding form and content of the proposed new service’.
If the position is as Mr Gyngell has said, why is he going overseas to buy programs for the Corporation? Who is funding the trips? Is it the Government, or will the funding come from the proposed revenue gained by the IMBC from advertising on its television network? Did the Minister approve of the travel? It is altogether quite mysterious. It is certainly an insult to the members of the ethnic community that Mr Gyngell should have taken this decision to set in essence the pattern for that program if he is going to spend a lot of money purchasing programs even before the directors have been appointed.
We do not know yet whether the ethnic communities will have any say either in the appointment of these directors or perhaps even be represented among them, other than one or two close associates or people who have had something to do with the Government and its immigration policy over the years. In none of those instances have they really represented members of the ethnic community or particular ethnic groups but rather have they been people who have been acquainted with the Liberal Party itself or perhaps even members of the Liberal Party.
In this whole area of relationship with the ethnic communities, one suspects that the Government is deceiving itself. I like to think that it is not lying to itself, but it is deceiving itself in its protestations of concern for members of the ethnic community. Perhaps it is deliberately misleading itself, but I like to think that it just does not understand the nature of the problems. For example, in the areas relating to services to the community and to members of the community in local areas, why is it that in spite of the Government ‘s apparent generosity in terms of expenditure on ethnic welfare needs, these needs are not being met? The answer is simple. The Government’s generosity is only apparent. Certainly to members of the ethnic communities it is becoming quite transparent.
I have visited many of these groups seeking to provide services for their fellow members in line with the protestations of the Government that the best form of help is self-help, and that members of the ethnic communities should help themselves as far as they can. But the Government will not spend a lot more money on government services. In fact, it has cut government services. As a sop to the ethnic communities, it offered funding to ethnic groups in the form of grants in aid and so on.
I have visited a number of these community groups. I have seen how they have been valiantly attempting to deal with the problems that confront them. Recently I visited an area in Sydney where I saw three or four different organisations supposedly providing different services but in fact, by virtue of the pressure of demand from the people coming to those centres for services, they were seeking to do almost the same thing. The reason why they were doing it in this totally inadequate fashion is that those centres- they were not all just ethnic community self-help groups; one was a community health centre- just did not have the multilingual staff to enable them to cope adequately with the burden imposed upon them by people coming to the front door seeking help.
Because of that members of the ethnic communities are missing out on what should be their right, that is, access to community services. Those services should be available to all members of the Australian community whether they speak English or not. Immigrants of 30 years standing may still have language problems. There are plenty like that. The Australian nation never bothered to exert itself to ensure that tuition was adequately provided for them in their early years in Australia and they are now too old to learn English. So they flounder along with badly broken English. I ask honourable members to imagine the position when these people approach our welfare departments, health departments, education services and so on and find that there is no one there who is able to communicate with them. Surely they have a right to expect those services to be available to them in their native tongue as far as the point of first contact is concerned.
Most of the people coming into a Commonwealth Employment Service centre I visited were non-English speaking people. I was told how, at one time, it was possible by some accident temporarily to employ a young girl who had come in looking for a job and who was able to speak English and the other dominant language of the area. She was employed for a short time as a temporary staff member. Immediately the capacity of the whole centre improved enormously. But, because of staff ceilings and all the other mumbo-jumbo that the Government assails us with and despite desperate attempts by the senior staff in that centre to have the girl permanently employed, she finally had to be sacked. She was forced back on to the unemployment list because there was nothing else there for her to do. Once again the non-English speaking people in the area found it exceedingly difficult to communicate with the staff and get an understanding with them. I am not criticising the staff in that centre. It was just that they were not able to provide the services as adequately as they might have been provided simply because of the communications gap as no one on the staff was able to speak the dominant foreign language of the area.
When we look at the way the Government provides grants to the various groups in the communities- the grants in aid and so on- we find another block. It is not so great a block for the fairly well established groups, particularly those representing the larger communities, as some of the members of these groups have been here for a long time and have gained a fair bit of experience over the years and other members of these groups were born here and, having grown up in this country, know the ropes as it were. I refer to the preparation of the complex submissions that appear to be necessary before the Government is able to consider a request for help. But how about the smaller, less wellorganised groups of people representing those who have come to the country more recently and who are often less well educated than many of the other groups? The effect is that these small less well-organised groups are less able to provide the sophisticated submissions that are going to get a ready reception in the Public Service and be passed on to the Minister. Yet these groups often represent the smaller communities in the less plush areas, in fact in the very deprived areas where the need for this form of support is greatest.
A couple of examples have come to my attention recently of groups like this which have struggled for a long time and which have finally got the support and help of a non-ethnic community welfare group. They have eventually assembled the appropriate submission only to find that it was blocked, sidetracked, delayed, lost, being processed or considered- endless delays. There was a whole range of excuses so that in desperation the people came to ask me whether I could find out what had happened. I went straight to the Minister. I warned him about what I wanted to approach him on but I found out that he did not know anything about the matter. It had been running around in circles in the Department for months and had not come to his attention. I think that is completely unsatisfactory. In fact it is quite deplorable and defeats the whole point of the Government’s supposed policy of trying to support- as the Galbally report suggested we should- the development of independence and self-reliance of the various members of the ethnic communities.
In the few moments left to me I would like to make some comments, if I may, on the international situation, particularly regarding the problems in Afghanistan and our relationship to that conflict. I mention the views expressed in the Guardian Weekly on 2 March in an article headed ‘A clear call amid the superpower confusion’ in which it is mentioned that there were two theories abroad when the Russians invaded Afghanistan. The first was that, with the great calculation and all the military might needed, the Russians would swallow up a poor nation before marching on to the rest of the oil fields in the area. We have all heard that one. Alternatively it is suggested in a stew of geriatric indecision they had lurched forward rather than backward, seeking unenthusiastically to resuscitate an ailing Marxist regime. Then the article points out that the invasion is a very half-hearted effort because 70,000 troops in Afghanistan, a country larger than Spain, is not really a very effective army of occupation. It makes the point that one must be careful in drawing conclusions, but in Afghanistan there is almost no one fighting for the Russians now except the Russians themselves, just as at the demise of South Vietnam there was no one fighting for the Americans. So the article suggests that the Russians are failing and that Mr Karmal has not established a benevolent rapport with his people. The smoother face of Marxism which he was imported to provide is cracking into a snarl. The article suggests that we should be seeking, as Lord Carrington was proposing, international neutralisation of Afghanistan.
I want to conclude on that note because I think that is the essence of the situation. In my own view both superpowers feel inordinately insecure for all their power, wealth and arms. They are terrified of one another and every little move that they make. I am sure that the Russians are worried about what the Americans might do in Iran and we are terrified about what the Russians are doing in Afghanistan. In that situation the European countries are suggesting that we should strive not for confrontation but for negotiation and neutralisation. I think the Australian Government’s policy of backing America in a confrontation is suicidal. We will lose whatever purchase we have with America if we side with it unthinkingly like that. I am not suggesting that we object. We should help America negotiate.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. J. D. M. Dobie)- Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Before I make some comments on the Estimates in tonight’s debate there are a couple of points that I would like to take up with the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Dr Cass). I refer specifically to his references to the Bill that is foreshadowed as coming into this House in the near future for the establishment of the Independent and Multicultural Broadcasting Corporation. I was interested to hear the honourable member’s comments. I feel that I can assure him and the ethnic community of Australia that this certainly will be one of the major advances and developments in the broadcasting system in Australia in the decade. This is the Government taking up one of its election promises. It is the Government falling in line with recommendations of the Galbally report. I am sure that the honourable member for Maribyrnong will be pleased when he sees the form this Bill will take when it is introduced into the House. The Bill will provide an opportunity for ethnic groups to play a major part in the televising system that is available in Australia. It provides a chance for the people of Australia to gain a sense of understanding and knowledge of the various ethnic groups in our community.
I think that one particular recommendation of the Galbally report that should be supported as far as this legislation is concerned is that the proposed broadcasting system must be a multicultural system rather than just an ethnic system. Certainly there must be that provision in the Bill for ethnic telecasting. I believe that we have to serve all parts of the community and provide a service that obviously has been very much needed in years gone by. I was a little disappointed to hear the honourable member’s references to Mr Bruce Gyngell ‘s appointment as chairman of the Independent and Mulitcultural Broadcasting Corporation. More than anyone else I believe that Mr Bruce Gyngell probably has more to offer that service than any other television executive in Australia. Nobody can deny that man’s tremendous record with Australian television networks and also in Great Britain where he served the Independent Network very well. The expertise, knowledge and sheer management skills in terms of television that Mr Gyngell possesses make him a man who is ideal to fill that role. Unless we have the proper expertise heading the IMBC we may get a second-rate service. I do not believe that under the leadership of Mr Bruce Gyngell that will happen. In fact, in a very short time, we will establish a service that will be professional, appealing and acceptable to all members of the ethnic community and the population of Australia as a whole. It is essential that the IMBC does become a professional service and not a second-rate service as unfortunately some of the experimental areas of broadcasting have from time to time tended to be.
In an earlier speech in this debate today the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) made reference to the present inquiry into the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Along with members of the Opposition I have been fortunate to meet today with the gentleman who is heading that inquiry. I am sure that the Opposition would wish that inquiry well too, because we have reached a position in the history of broadcasting in this country where I think we are in a state of flux. We have to decide just where we are heading; what the prospects are for the decades ahead; what we have achieved and what we hope to achieve. I believe the combination of the IMBC together with this inquiry into the ABC and some reviewed powers for the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal can all meld together to provide this country with one of the finest broadcasting systems in the world today. One would hope that the inquiry into the ABC will be fair, that it will be looked at very closely by the Government when a report is finally presented and that we will help to iron out many of the problems that confront the ABC today. I would hope that that examination would extend from the top management right down through all strata of the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
One of the things that has worried me very much for a number of years is the fact that within the Australian Broadcasting Commission we do have some excellent people with excellent talent and in many respects those people have been thwarted by what could only be described as incompetent middle management within the Commission itself. One would hope that the whole structure of the Commission would be examined and some recommendations made that will make it an efficient broadcasting industry but, most importantly, an industry that gives people employed in it a sense of achievement, an ability to be able to express themselves and to show exactly what talent and creativity they do have. I am afraid that within the Australian Broadcasting Commission at the moment so much of that creativity and talent is stifled by what can only be described as an archaic management systemone that should be looked at very closely indeed.
Some tremendous advances will be made in the electronic media in the coming years. I am sure that the whole of Australia is excited at the prospect of Australia getting its own communications satellite within the next few years. That project has been” a major advance and certainly, once that satellite is launched and is operating, Australia will be leading the world in that form of communication. We will be equal with the United States, Canada and the other countries that are going to benefit by the use of satellites. I am sure that people in the remote areas of Australia realise exactly what that is going to mean to them. For the first time there will be a capacity for all Australians to have perfect television reception; to have ideal radio reception; and to have telephone services that are satisfactory- and I am sure that we all want that.
Apart from that side of electronic communications, it will give businesses, firms, government and defence, access to the finest form of communications Australia-wide. I hope that the Government will proceed quickly in getting the requirements together to have that satellite launched. I would express some concern that Australia, as far as I understand it, has made no application up to the moment to have our satellite launched. I stress to the Government that it should look at this question very closely to make sure that we do in fact have a position on the launch project in the United States to make sure that our satellite, no matter where it comes from- whichever country the final decision is made to buy that satellite from- is launched so that we can have it operating throughout the country by the mid- 1 980s.
On the subject of television, it has been interesting in the last couple of years to note the number of inquiries, including public inquiries, into- and the number of submissions that have been received, I am sure, by all honourable members on- the very vexed situation of children’s television. There has been a great deal of talk both in this House and in the other place, and in the community at large, as to in which direction we should be heading as far as children’s television is concerned. A few years ago I suggested, and I am still obviously of the opinion, that one of the things we must be absolutely sure of is that the television programs we develop for young people are, in fact, programs that will be acceptable to young people. One thing that has stood out in recent years is the fact that so many of the programs designed in Australia specifically for young people have, in fact, failed to achieve any sort of audience. One wonders whether all the talk, the discussion, the debate and the inquiries that have been going on have achieved anything terribly much inasmuch as the programs that are being screened at the moment are really the same programs, in either a repeat form or a rehashed form, that were being shown in this country some 10 years ago. Rather than having all the talk, I believe it is about time we started showing some positive action in this area. I have looked at this matter long and hard. It really is a problem because I do not think that we can really tell by ratings, by previous histories, just what young people are going to watch.
I still suggest that one of the best things we could possibly do as a Government would be to try to establish some form of children’s television foundation. Such a foundation, I think, could be partly government subsidised and, indeed, should be subsidised by the commercial industry. It should be supported by the ABC in a nonpartisan way and should go out and do its market research and experiment with children’s programs to find out exactly what it can come up with that will be acceptable. It is true that most of the programs of any quality that are made for children are very expensive exercises indeed. If there is to be that form of experimentation in children’s television I think that we as a Government should be prepared to take the burden of part of the cost. If that can be achieved- it is certainly not going to be a short term project; it will obviously go for some years- Australia stands a very good chance of leading the world in the area of children’s television. All countries world-wide have had a great deal of difficulty in achieving a quality program for their young people. If one looks at the history of British television networks one sees that it is not dissimilar to the history of ours. Frankly, the children’s programs that I have seen from time to time in the United States have been absolutely appalling. There is nothing else much around the world that I would accept as being completely suitable for young children. The experience has been that in most cases when a successful children’s television program has been achieved it has been rather a hit and miss affair.
Let us look at the history of Sesame Street which started on one of the very minor channels in North America. Somebody was just experimenting and did not examine the real needs of the market. That program was a sure fire hit. Certainly it has achieved a very great deal around the world. I think most of us in this House would agree that Sesame Street does a great deal for the young people who watch it. There is no reason why Australia cannot develop some sort of similar program. I repeat that I still believe that there must be an input into children’s television by government and all the networks involved. Let us stop the talk, the discussions and the hearings and settle down and put some investment and market research into this very vexed area.
I would like to speak tonight on some other points. I would like to bring up one aspect that concerns each and every member of this House. It has probably concerned them more so in the last week or two. I am sure that we have all been appalled at the allegations that have been made in the Press in recent days of the activities of certain lobbyists around this Parliament. I am sure that we have all been appalled at the allegations which have been made that government information has allegedly been sold to private lobbyists. It is only in the last 10 years that the professional lobbyist has really started to come to the fore in Australian politics.
Lobbying, in a professional sense, has been a very big industry in the United States for a great length of time. Lobbying in this country at the moment is allegedly worth in the vicinity of $50m a year. It is a big industry. I think that all honourable members would be pleased when they look at the record of Australian politics to realise that we have been very lucky in being devoid in any sense of graft, corruption or hidden payment, but when allegations such as those made in recent days come to the fore I think it is about time that we looked at the situation and tried to nip in the bud any hint of corruption that may enter an institution such as this.
I am sure that we have all been subjected to professional lobbyists. I think in modern day government they are probably a necessity. Lobbyists can work in two ways. They can provide information for governments and for private members. In turn, the private member can use the professional lobbyists to a very great extent to learn what is happening in the market place and in the outside world. I do not want my comments to be taken the wrong way. There is a need for the professional lobbyist, but I believe that it will be necessary in the very near future to look at the prospect of, perhaps, licensing or registering the professional lobbyists, I am not sure how many exist in this capital city. Certainly a great number of private companies act in this capacity as do a number of industry groups. I am sure that the legitimate lobbyists amongst our community would have nothing to fear whatsoever should such a register be kept. Indeed it would probably bring peace of mind to most honourable members to know that the people with whom they were dealing were legitimate, that their names were kept in a register and that they could be taken to task if there were any hint of underhand dealings. I believe lobbying is an important aspect of our day to day operations in Canberra. I certainly urge the Government to look at the proposition of keeping a register of or licensing professional lobbyists. As I say, they have a part to play. Nobody is trying to put them out of business. They are useful to us all. Let us, for goodness sake, get rid of any hint of possible corruption before it starts in our midst.
The Estimates that we are dealing with tonight have some very great implications for my home State of Queensland. A number of members of this House, including the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns), the honourable member for Fadden (Mr Donald Cameron) and I, have battled to bring about the development of the new Brisbane international airport. Indeed, work on the airport has already commenced. An expenditure of some $40m is involved on the contract for work currently under way there. A number of minor contracts have already been let. I believe that we should congratulate the Government upon what it has done in that area.
Already its decision to go ahead with the Brisbane international airport has gained some rather tangible results for Queensland. Just last week the foreign airline, Thai Airways International, indicated its willingness to consider the prospect of applying for landing rights in Townsville and Brisbane. I understand also that Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd is now interested in coming into Queensland. All of a sudden, with the advent of this new facility and the tremendous growth in the tourist industry, a great deal of interest is being shown by overseas countries in serving that most important tourist area of Australia. I commend the Government upon making the final decision late last year to proceed with what will be one of the largest public works projects in Australia since the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme. I am glad to see that the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Groom) is at the table because his department is certainly very deeply involved in the construction of the new Brisbane international airport. That work will proceed and the benefits that will flow to Queensland from it will be immense indeed.
It is interesting to note the figures on the increased number of visitors to Australia last year. I believe the number has increased by some 32 per cent in the last 12 months. It is interesting also that so many of the international nights to Australia arrive in Sydney. Obviously, Sydney is a desirable destination but it presents a problem at the moment in that its hotels can hardly handle the business that is flowing to it with the advent of the new, cheaper international air fares. This would seem to me to be an ideal opportunity for the Department of Transport, through the Minister, to encourage the development of other entry ports in Australia. Certainly, there have been some moves to use Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport to a greater extent for international arrivals and departures. Of course, there is room for the expansion of facilities in Brisbane and a great controversy has been raging in north Queensland about the opening up of Townsville as an international airport.
I think I should put to rest tonight some of the fallacies about the suitability to Townsville as an international airport. Honourable members will realise that at 5.30 p.m. tomorrow Ansett Airlines of Australia will be making a proving flight to Singapore to show that it can undertake that service. The charter flight has been organised by the Queensland Travel and Tourist Corporation and is of interest because it certainly has the support not only of north Queenslanders but also of all Queenslanders.
The intention of other foreign carriers to fly into Queensland is interesting. Although a great deal has been said in this House about the future development of the Townsville airport as an international port, the facts is that that airstrip already has an international capacity. On checking with the director of the Department of Transport for Queensland, it would appear to me that there is absolutely nothing to prevent aircraft such as DC8s and Boeing 707s from operating into that airport right now. The airstrip presents no problem, nor does the main taxiway. Similarly, there is no problem with the airport apron. Only the minor taxiway needs a coat of tar for it to become fully suitable for use by aircraft of that size. I urge the Government to encourage any applications that might be made by overseas airlines to serve that most important tourist area of north Queensland. It is the most desirable destination for overseas visitors to this country.
I would like to commend Ansett for setting an example and opening the way for the new international services to commence. I sincerely hope that in the not-too-distant future there will be a greater diversity of ports to which international airlines may operate. Certainly, Queensland and north Queensland in particular have much to gain from the opening up of Townsville as an international arrival port.
Mr FitzPATRICK (Riverina) (9.40)-It is nice to follow the honourable member for Bowman (Mr Jull) in this debate because I could disagree with very little of what he said, except perhaps his glowing opinion of what the national satellite communications system will mean to Australia. I believe that the honourable member, the Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson) and other speakers from the Government side have left out many aspects in the discussion of this important matter. Later in my remarks I shall offer some of my views on that system.
I remind the House that the Minister, in his second reading speech, informed the House that Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 1979-80 and Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 1979-80 were designed to provide funds to meet essential and unavoidable expenditure additional to that appropriated in Appropriation Act (No. 1) and Appropriation Act (No. 2). The Bills before us will provide an amount of $367.5m. The Minister went on in his second reading speech to soften the blow by saying that, to some extent, that amount was offset by savings made in expenditure provided for in Appropriation Act (No. 1) and Appropriation Act (No. 2).
All that sounds like the result of good government. It would be if it could stand up to close examination. But if it failed to do that, it could only be called a cover-up for mismanagement, imposing an unnecessary penalty on the taxpayer. I believe that it is the duly of every member of this Parliament to examine in detail the implications of the additional amounts sought in the Bills and of the statements made by the Minister. We should not be misled by the Minister and, indeed, the honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh), when they point out that, notwithstanding the additional appropriation sought, current expectations are that total outlays in 1979-80, including those financed from the special appropriation, will exceed the amount appropriated in the Budget by only a relatively small margin.
Both the Minister and the honourable member for Darling Downs indicated that that reflected great credit on the Government. I believe that it would do so if we could agree, or if both the Minister and the honourable member could prove, that this can be done without there being any rundown or deterioration in the goods and services which have been provided under previous Budgets. I think we can all say that that is not so; that there has been a big rundown in the goods, services and amenities provided.
I am not picking on the honourable member for Darling Downs, but he did mention roads. I notice that roads are not mentioned in the extra appropriation sought in these Bills. Surely that does not mean that our road system has been maintained in first class order or that improvements have been made to our road system. I believe that the very opposite is the case. Because that is so, people in my electorate have been penalised in more ways than one. Not only has it imposed on them extra costs in carrying out their operations, but also it has meant that they have had to pay much higher freight charges and, when the freight reaches its destination, its retail price has increased. That has brought about a loss of markets in certain areas and has caused a lot of concern in my electorate.
The constituents of Riverina were very grateful for the reduction in liquefied petroleum gas prices. But, unfortunately, that gratification turned to disgust and hostility when the Acting Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) indicated that he felt that fuel prices should be increased to make up for the shortfall in liquefied petroleum gas prices. Country people claim that it is criminal to allow or to support constantly rising fuel prices and at the same time to spend less and less money on roads, thus allowing them to deteriorate further. People in my electorate have informed me that they are sick and tired of the Government’s rip-off taxes and of everincreasing fuel prices. They claim that they have a right to know when these rises will end. One might well ask: What has been the Government’s answer to the cry for help from people in country areas? A $10 subsidy for liquefied petroleum gas was granted, but unfortunately before it was applied there was an increase of $ 105 in the price of liquefied petroleum gas. Of course, in country areas this got the reaction it deserved.
The Government announced that the price of liquefied petroleum gas would be half that of petrol. That announcement had hardly been made when it was announced that there would be another hike in the price of petrol. People in country areas expect the Minister for Trade and Resources and. other National Country Party members to oppose these continually rising fuel prices. They also demand that the huge tax rip-off that is being collected from the tax on fuel be used to improve the road system, our most important asset. It should not have been allowed to deteriorate to such an extent that the road transport system is near collapse. It is ironical that the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Staley) and other Government members are trying to promote a national satellite communications system by pointing out the glowing advantages that advanced technology can provide for people in remote areas, because the Treasury has already advised that the country cannot afford this national satellite telecommunications system.
I remind the House that people in my electorate have been told that they will have to pay $40,000 to $50,000 for a radio-telephone. Are Government members trying to tell us that once the national satellite communications system is provided, country people will get this for nothing? Of course they will not. I do not think that country people believe that, and I do not believe it. It seems ironical to me that while we are talking about this pie in the sky, our important communications system, the road system, is allowed to deteriorate to a dangerous and criminal level. I point out that that opinion about the condition of the roads is not only mine. The same opinion was conveyed to the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and to the Minister for Transport (Mr Hunt) on 25 March 1980 by a delegation representing 28 councils. The actual words used by this delegation were these:
Unless immediate and realistic action is taken by your Government to increase road funding in all categories to at least the levels suggested in this and the Association submission, the transport system in New South Wales, if not Australia, will collapse.
I do not have time to refer to all the particulars mentioned by the shires which have written to me, but I want to touch on the circumstances in the Narrandera shire in my electorate. Schedule 3 of the submission from the shires sets out a realistic need for 1979-80 compared with the actual money received. It says that the Narrandera shire needs $394,000 for resealing and routine maintenance work on arterial and rural roads. But it received $94,814. I repeat those figures. It needed $394,000 but it received $94,814. Schedules 4 and 5 set out how many kilometres of road the councils are constructing at the present funding rate, how much they should be doing and how long it will take to do the work in those circumstances. The Narrandera Shire Council said that it was constructing 1.6 kilometres of arterial roads. At the present rate that will take 3 1 years. It is constructing 7.9 kilometres of rural local roads. At this rate that will take 43 years. The Council points out that these are not extravagant claims; they are the bare minimum. I point out that I have not chosen the council in the worst situation. The Hay Shire Council has indicated that it will take 80 years for it to catch up.
It is ironical to hear the Minister for Post and Telecommunications and other members on the Government side talk about the advanced technology and make claims about what it will do for our communications system. We should all remember that the Treasury said that we could not afford it. In my opinion it is time that the Government got its feet on the ground and did something for the average Australian. It should maintain the things we have already. I give my full support to the submission by the shire councils. Most of the shires take in part of my electorate. I ask the Government to examine their submission and take notice of the statistics. If it does that, it might understand just how much the conditions of our roads have deteriorated and how urgently more funds are required to arrest further deterioration.
Should this Government reduce fuel prices and do something about the shocking conditions of the roads, it might survive the next election. But Government speakers will fool no one by telling half truths about the three years of the Labor Government. People can remember all the good things that were done by the Whitlam Government. They can remember also that that Government had to fight two elections during its three-year term of office. It had major legislation held up by a hostile Senate. I believe that Government supporters are foolish to remind people of those days. They have told half truths so many times that these statements have worn thin. Even Blind Freddie can see through them. The Government ought to remember the promises it made in 1 975. It asked for a full three-year term in office. How long does it want now? Government supporters keep referring to the Whitlam Government and telling half truths because of their Government’s poor performance. I believe that they are talking with tongue in cheek when they say that they believe in the profit motive. What profit? Do they mean the profit of the multinationals? A record number of small businesses has gone broke since this Government came to power. What about the rural producers? They have had a couple of good years but many of them still have not got out of debt. They have been crippled by the exorbitant fuel prices.
I remind all those honourable members who claim that they represent the small people that the more the tax burden is shifted from taxable income to commodities such as petrol, the better it is for the rich and the worse it is for the poor. Poor people in the cities will be adversely affected by the change in the tax burden but to a lesser degree. They spend much less on petrol than rural people on the same incomes. Presumably that is because they can get by without a car through the alternative means of transport whereas rural dwellers cannot. The National Country Party not only has been a party to the Government’s fuel pricing policy but also its leader, Mr Anthony, was the major architect. Poor country families have been betrayed by people who have the cheek to claim that they represent them.
The Minister for Finance, in his second reading speech, referred to grants to assist the unemployed youth. Although it is a good thing that unemployed youth are getting assistance, the Government should be concentrating more on providing work for them. On several occasions I have pointed out to the Government the advantage of assisting the mines at Broken Hill to work the lower grade ore bodies- what is called the western mineralisation. A few years ago the mines were unable to get any finance and the south mine closed down. The 3M company took over that mine and survived for a while until the price of minerals went down. The company worked underground and also treated the residue dumps on the surface. Because of the scattered nature of the ore left underground the company had to close down the underground section, but it carried on for a while on the surface. I am pleased to say that when the price of metals rose the company branched out into an open cut system. That mine is providing work for a lot of the youths of the city as well as other people. The mine could easily have failed for the want of some sympathy and some support from the Government. I ask the Government to stop bragging about its economic performance, look at some of these things and do something for the people who really need assistance.
– It gives me a great deal of pleasure to take part in this debate. I hope to hold the House enthralled with some points I want to raise in relation to protection in Australia and the policies which I believe ought to be followed and which I have to inform the
House are not being followed. I rise to say something about the forthcoming report of the Industries Assistance Commission following its inquiry into the textile, clothing and footwear industry. Australia under this Government really has to come to grips with the problem. It is no longer good enough for this Government to succumb to the lobbying and the arguments which have been put over many years- obviously they have been put effectively because they have been followed- that protection of the levels which the textile, footwear and clothing industry has been receiving should be continued.
The Green Paper on Manufacturing Industry has recommended that there should be gradual reductions in the levels of protection. The White Paper on Manufacturing Industry said:
As a long term objective the community will be best served by a manufacturing industry with a structure which requires minimum levels of Government support.
The Crawford Committee endorsed the need for trade barriers and protection levels to be reduced, particularly in high cost industries. So three recent studies which have been carried out at the behest of this Government have all come down in favour of reductions in the levels of tariffs and trade barriers. Senior members of the Government have taken very much the same line in relation to this matter. I think I heard the honourable member for Moore (Mr Hyde) quoting what the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) said in Lusaka. For the record, I want to quote what he said in Lusaka. The Prime Minister said:
Defensive protectionist policies exacerbate the situation they are meant to deal with in that they result in an inefficient use of labour and capital resources. They are inimical to general economic recovery and put the future growth of developing countries in jeopardy.
I think it is about time that we started to insist that the Government follow the policies which it has been espousing. There are equally compelling quotes from the leader of my own party, the right honourable member for Richmond (Mr Anthony) who, in 1 979, said:
If we are going to export more products which we can produce competitively, then we must also import more of the products which we produce less competitively.
So it goes on. The point I want to make is that we are giving a lot of verbal support to the proposition that tariff barriers ought to be lowered and that there ought to be a freeing up of trade, particularly in highly protected industries such as footwear, textiles and clothing. I think it is incumbent upon the Government to look very seriously at this group of industries and to ensure that at least on this occasion the bullet is bitten.
A number of arguments have been put forward in relation to this matter. For the record, I want to deal with a few of them. Trade barriers traditionally have been a major threat to international peace. I do not want to deal with that statement in detail, but I think it is obvious to the House that major international conflicts have arisen because of trade barriers. Australia’s trade barriers, particularly those which have been erected against textile, clothing and footwear imports, are injurious to the nations to our north, including members of the Association of South East Asian Nations. They see the trade barriers as being unfair. I believe it is dangerous to make enemies out of our friends, particularly friends of such obvious strategic significance to this country as Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines. Economic growth and the comparisons which can be made are other arguments in this area. Australia’s pretty dismal comparative rates of economic growth ought to be worrying to members of this Parliament. Australia is still a wealthy, although a small, European appendage of Asia, but in spite of our abundant natural resources it is rapidly losing its competitive advantage.
I should like to refer to some economic growth rates per head of population for the five years from 1972 to 1977. Over that five-year period Japan’s economic growth rate was 3.2 per cent. In Korea it was 9 per cent; in Singapore, 5.9 per cent; in the Philippines, 3.8 per cent; in Indonesia, 4.9 per cent; and in Australia, 1.9 per cent. The average growth rate for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries for the same period was 2. 1 per cent. Australia is not competing in terms of growth rates around the world. In particular, the relative successes of our northern neighbours, the ASEAN countries and our relative failure are consistent with economic theory. Unless Australia is prepared to lower trade barriers and seek economic growth it will be more and more secure and irrelevant amongst its Asian neighbours.
Of course, everyone puts forward the traditional argument about employment, but the number of jobs saved or created in a protected industry must be exceeded by the number lost in other industries. That this must be so can be seen when we consider that protection diverts Australian resources to other than their most productive use; so that gross product is less than it otherwise would be. Since gross product takes wages and profits into account, any reduction in productivity must be reflected either in wages or profits. A reduction in the wages component can only be brought about by lower real wage rates or reduced numbers in employment.
The Industries Assistance Commission calculated that in the absence of protection the Australian household, after meeting its textiles, clothing and footwear requirements at unprotected prices would still have over $200 left to spend on something of its own choice which somebody else would have to make or do. If one starts multiplying $200 by the number of families in Australia it is obviously a very major boost to demand. By continuing protection at these sorts of rates we are having an effect on the structure of industry in the future. The textile, clothing and footwear industries are doing more than any other industry of comparable size to ensure that potential exports like steel cannot compete in Asian markets.
By preventing the Asians from exporting those goods to us in which they have a natural advantage we not only deny them foreign exchange with which to purchase our exports but also we force them up-market into areas where Australians could have had advantage. Not only do they now compete in what should have been our more cost-efficient industry in overseas markets, but also they now enter the Australian market at the points where the barriers are least, to compete against our more cost-efficient manufacturers. In short, export manufacturers cannot get off the ground because of the artificial burden of protecting uncompetitive industries such as textiles, clothing and footwear. I make reference to a speech which was made this month by a gentleman called Mr Harold Scruby who is a consultant in the apparel industry and has had a fair amount of experience within that industry. I am very pleased to say that he is very much in agreement with the sort of argument I am putting to the House this evening.
– He made some nasty remarks about one of the big mills in my electorate.
– The honourable member for Paterson quite rightly says that he has been very critical of the Bradmill company. It is probably interesting for the House to give some consideration to the points that he has made. Obviously I cannot go through the speech verbatim, but one of the things he says is:
It is vital to segregate textile manufacturing from apparel manufacturing. Textile manufacturing is basically capital intensive whilst apparel manufacturing is labour-intensive.
Nevertheless, the majority (in terms of employees and turnover) are rapidly closing the percentage manufacturing cost differential relating to such traditional low cost areas as Hong Kong. Delivery rates and quality control are outstandingly better than those from the East.
In the jeans industry, the major manufacturers are now producing at a cheaper cut make and trim rate than their US counterparts.
If the arguments for protection are to be based on employment, quotas and tariffs on textiles should be lowered or dropped as soon as possible.
Without the high 40 per cent plus duty on fabrics, the manufacturing sector could supply both price-right and market-right merchandise which has been precluded from the Australian consumer for so long by exceptionally high tariffs and quotas.
Specific reference is made to Bradmill. I do not quote this section because it mentions Bradmill but it just happens to be part of the words that Mr Scruby used. He says:
Bradmill ‘s real motivation -
That is in trying to keep the tariff levels up-
Is not the protection of jobs. It is the protection of the capital invested in its textile plants.
How much more efficient would they be if tariffs and quotas were dropped on textiles, and these companies were not forced to purchase over-priced Bradmill textiles. How many more jobs would be created if they were permitted to buy their fabrics on the world market. Domestic prices would drop, production would increase and the export market would become viable.
I think it is an interesting argument which a man, who is obviously fairly versed within the textile industry, is putting before us as a government. In effect he is saying that the apparel industry in Australia has a real chance of becoming a major industry and an export industry. The greatest problem for the apparel industry in Australia is that the textiles it has to buy to make the apparel are vastly overpriced because of the duties imposed on them. If the apparel industry could buy on the world market it would be in a position to produce a lower cost product in Australia. Of course, it also would be able to provide more employment and to add to the export income of this country.
Talking about exports brings me to another point in this argument. I think it is something to which we ought to be giving consideration. The House is aware that Australia is on the point of another major boom in exports, particularly in the resource area, as well as in the traditional primary exports area. If this occurs, as undoubtedly it will, there will be great pressure to have the Australian dollar revalued, unless Australia increases its imports. I believe this is important. Australia must increase its imports or it will not be acting in the interests of primary producers or, for that matter, mineral and energy producers. We would be in a relatively uncompetitive situation on world markets if our Australian dollar were appreciating rather than staying at around current levels. It will be impossible, even under the administered system, to maintain the Aus.tralian dollar at around these levels if exports continue to rise and if imports do not rise along with those increasing exports.
So we must increase our imports. What better way is there to do that than by lowering protection on the textiles, clothing and footwear industry in particular, as well as protection in a range of other areas. We should encourage more imports and ensure that Australia will not continue with a farcical situation of producing commodities which it really has no right to be producing and which it is totally uneconomic to produce.
– I hope that the National Party will stand by you in Victoria.
-I am glad that the honourable member for Melbourne Ports has had a few words to say. In the last few days we have seen the Australian Labor Party’s answer to this matter. It is another one of these absolute hotchpotch situations. The reality of the matter is that the Labor Party is not going to make any changes. It is not going to lower tariffs. The Labor Party’s stand now is that tariff reductions should be made only on a pragmatic, case by case basis within a context of general industry growth initiated by positive economic policies. I notice that the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) has made some platitude to the effect that tariff reductions in most cases should result from rather than cause structural change. I have read that several times. I really do not know what the Labor Party’s stand is.
– What are you reading from?
– I am referring to the Labor Party’s policy released this week.
– No, it is not. It is a Press report.
– I am reading from an article which quotes the policy. The situation is that as we move towards an election period the Labor Party will again raise the old bogey of -
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. I do not want to interrupt the honourable gentleman. I would just like him to inform the House of the source from which he is reading. We are entitled to know that.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)There is no point of order.
– I am happy to respond to the honourable member even though it is not my practice to respond to interjections because I know that the Chair does not like it. This is a report of the Labor Party’s official industry policy released in Canberra on 14 April and reported in the Financial Review of 1 5 April.
-By Chris Hurford?
– Yes, released by the shadow Minister for Industry and Commerce, the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford). The Opposition is trying again to create the old emotional argument that there are jobs at stake if we try to rationalise protection in this country. I am saying that there is not an employment threat. I have very limited time but I just want to give one example of this. At the moment we are supplying about Vh per cent of the imports of the countries of the Association of South East Asian Nations. If we were to lift our share of their imports from Vh per cent to 5 per cent we would create 160,000 jobs in Australia. That is something about which we ought to be thinking. The employment which would be generated by the new export opportunities that we would create would exceed any loss of employment in industries which would get less protection as a result of a change in government policy.
There are very strong arguments in this regard. The House and the Government ought to give consideration to them. We have to stop making noises as has been done all around the world, by the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) and the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock). We must start to implement in Australia those things in which we believe. There is no need to cause enormous alarm. It is something which can be done steadily so that it does not cause significant disruption. In the case of the textile, clothing and footwear industries the Government needs to bite the bullet and make sure that its policy becomes known.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Firstly, I want to place on record that a prominent spokesman of the National Country Party presumably is putting forward the viewpoint of the National Country Party, that basically the Government ought to accept the recommendations of the Industries Assistance Commission and virtually phase out the textile, clothing and apparel industry in Australia. As a Victorian I want to make my position perfectly clear.
– He suggests that you said that.
-I suggest that the honourable member for Hume (Mr Lusher) said that. That was the thrust of what he was saying in his statement to the House. Having been in the Victorian Parliament for many years and having had many occasions on which to disagree with the Premier of Victoria I want to make it perfectly clear to the House that in respect of his plea on behalf of the State of Victoria for the Government to reject the recommendations of the Industries Assistance Commission I believe he is completely right and the Victorian Parliament is completely right. Anyone who looks at the nature of the clothing, textile and apparel industry in Victoria will realise that it is a major employer. It is a major employer not only in that State. That industry employs over 120,000 people, more than 10 per cent of the manufacturing work force.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I take a point of order. I appreciate the great courtesy that the honourable member for Melbourne Ports paid to my colleague, the honourable member for Hume, when he interrupted him and I will be very brief. I ask: Is it in order for an honourable member to speak from his side of the House when there is no Opposition shadow Minister at the table?
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)Order! There is no point of order. The honourable member will resume his seat.
– The honourable gentleman is blind. It is interesting that an issue as important as this is to the Victorian country people is the subject of continuous interruption by the National Country Party. I want that on the record.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I take a point of order. I claim to have been misrepresented.
-Order! The honourable member should take the appropriate action at the appropriate time arid not on a point of order. I ask the honourable member to resume his seat.
– I make the point -
– Order! I warn the honourable member for Darling Downs. I call the honourable member for Melbourne Ports.
– I am surprised that the National Country Party would want to be obstructive when dealing with problems which are of major concern to regional cities throughout Victoria. As I was saying, the clothing and textile industry employs over 120,000 people. Cities such as Warrnambool, Wangaratta, Ararat, Bendigo and Morwell derive in excess of 25 per cent of their manufacturing employment from opportunities which are provided by the textile, clothing and footwear activities that take place in those communities. It is because of that fact that I believe to talk about phasing out this industry in a situation where neither the Federal Government nor the State Government has anything like a manpower retraining scheme to equip people to take up employment in other areas, is an exercise in political irresponsibility.
What we are talking about is not merely phasing out an industry; we are also talking about phasing out whole country towns. That is the reality. I have no doubt that decent, reasonable, honest people in regional Victoria who in the past have supported members of the National Country Party might be a little confused as to why, in the national Parliament, members of that Party should be advocating this course. I think the reason for that is perfectly obvious; it is because the National Country Party no longer represents their interests. It has put itself in hock to the transnational companies which have been exploiting the mineral and energy resources of this Commonwealth.
The honourable member who preceded me in the debate spoke about the trade imbalance that exists. It is perfectly true that there is a trade imbalance, but what has produced that trade imbalance? I put it to the House that if one looks seriously at what is occurring in the Australian economy, one will find a situation in which the emphasis on our exports is coming from the development and export of our mineral and energy resources. Those resources are largely in the control of transnational corporations, and they are concerned merely to maximise their profits in Australia. They do not feel any duty towards preserving a balanced development of the Australian economy. Their main interest is in maximising profits. That is what they are in business for. In that situation, there is no way we can go on exporting mineral resources, exporting energy resources and building up these kinds of trade imbalances that exist. We are then told by cheap labour countries that we must take their cheap manufactured products in return. What does this mean? It means the abandonment of whole areas of manufacturing skills in Australia.
This Government is not even monitoring the extent of transnational operations in Australia. America, the home of capitalism, found it necessary to have at least a Senate committee of inquiry to see what was happening in its own economy as a result of the operations of these vast transnational corporations which have enormous economic power. Those trade imbalances are now creating a situation in which members of the National Country Party say: ‘of we have to accept low price commodities and of course the first industry which is on the line is the clothing and textile industry. But if we phase out that industry, what industry will come after that? I believe that the Premier of Victoria is quite right when he says that the Victorian economy cannot withstand that kind of operation, and it is certainly -
– Nor can New South Wales.
-As I am reminded by the honourable member for Reid, neither can the economy of New South Wales. Both those States are the homes of traditional manufacturing skills. This issue has to be looked at in a much wider perspective than the perspective in which it is currently being presented by the economic quislings of Australia, the members of the National Party. They have some support from within the Liberal Party. They are people who are so concerned to make a quick dollar that they never stop to ask what the social purpose of the dollar is and what its implications are for the work force of Australia and for Australian manufacturing industry. I make no apology at all for my view. I believe that the Victorian Government, whether it is a Labor government or a Liberal government- I believe that shortly it will be a Labor government- has to protect its manufacturing base. I believe that the New South Wales Government has to protect its manufacturing base.
The Labor movement in Australia has to be prepared to protect the traditional skills which have existed in this community and which have taken many years to build up. We are not going to prostitute ourselves. We are not going to act as economic quislings. We are not going to adopt some of the slick recommendations which are made by people who sit in Canberra and who never visit a rural community in Victoria, never look at the economic plight that they can create for thousands of decent Victorians who have made their homes in country towns, who have reared their families and who are entitled to have their manufacturing skills preserved.
Certain undertakings have been given in relation to time constraints in this debate, which I certainly propose to honour. I just place that matter on the record. I will be happy to develop my arguments further at a later time. The real issues in this matter go far beyond just a question of the clothing and textile industries. This Government has to face up to the role that is being played in our economy by transnational corporations. Just as the Americans have had to deal with it, the United Nations has to deal with it and we have to deal with it. We have to deal with it in terms of maintaining the living standards of Australian workers.
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Willis’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (The Chairman-Mr P. C. Millar)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! It being past 10.30 p.m., I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the negative.
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 Thomson) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 1 April, on motion by Mr Eric Robinson:
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 Thomson) read a third time.
Effects of Nuclear Explosions at Maralinga and Emu-Post Offices: Lotto Agencies- Compensation for Vietnam Veterans- Painters and Dockers Union of Australia- Road Funding
Motion (by Mr Thomson) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
-Between 1953 and 1957 there were nine nuclear explosions in South Australia either at Maralinga or at Emu. The human fallout from these tests nearly a generation ago is beginning to raise disturbing questions. Already 30 of some 2,000 Australians who worked at Maralinga during those tests are known to have died or to have contracted cancer. These figures are worrying but they are not, in themselves, statistically significant. I cannot say that the exposure to radiation caused these cancers but clearly there is a case to be examined. There may, in fact, be many more examples that have not yet been picked up resulting from people who worked at Maralinga during this period.
I again point out that I have urged this House before to think of the need for having a register of all those people involved in health situations such as this so that in future we would have readily available the material on such cases. Of course, it is not simply a matter of only Australians who were involved. There were some 9,000 Britons who, in those three or four years, served at Maralinga. Indeed their work was probably more dangerous because many of them were involved in experimental work in the danger blast areas. In addition there were unknown numbers of nomadic Aborigines who roamed this region and who are known to have come into contact with radioactive dust. Indeed, one of the Australians who served in that area, speaking of Aborigines in the district, said:
They must have got enough radioactive dust on their feet to make their bones tick for centuries.
Sufficient grounds are posed by those problems to warrant an investigation. But there is a second series of issues that need attention; that is, the growing evidence of inadequate safety standards. On the anecdotal evidence available, the safety provisions were well below those that would be tolerable today. There is evidence of contaminated aircraft being flown by air crew and serviced by ground crew without adequate protective clothing. Sloppy rules applied regarding protective clothing. There was insufficient demarcation of contaminated areas and there was pilfering of radioactive materials.
The response to date by the South Australian Minister of Health and the Federal Minister for Health (Mr MacKellar) is quite inadequate. The State Minister has said that she will not comment until she talks to her Federal counterpart, which is a classical example of buck passing. The Federal Minister has said that an inquiry was unlikely unless there was evidence to demonstrate a problem. Let me quote what the Advertiser thought of that piece of typical complacency. I do not usually agree with an editorial of the Advertiser. It said that the request for an investigation: is entirely reasonable. It deserves a more sympathetic response than the observation of the Minister for Health, Mr MacKellar, this week that an enquiry was unlikely unless there was evidence to demonstrate a problem.
I agree with the Advertiser. I think it is reasonable to request an inquiry into this matter. I think that the inquiry should look at three major factors. Firstly, were the safety measures appropriate; that is, would they be regarded as adequate, not by the standards of the 1950s but by those of the 1980s? We now know much more about these hazards than we did in the 1950s. Therefore we want to have an examination of the safety provisions that prevailed there in the 1950s to see whether they would meet the standards that are required to be met today. Secondly, it should look at conducting an epidemiological study of the 2,000 Australians involved. That is a manageable task. We have the names of most of the people who were in Maralinga for that three-year period. We think these people should be examined in order to determine the incidence of cancer in that group. At the moment we have only pieces of evidence. It could be a relatively undemanding process to look at the incidence of cancer among those 2,000 people. Thirdly- this is a much tougher task- we need to collect relevant evidence on the Aboriginal health problems in the region, given again the reports of the nomadic Aborigines in this area, and to see what we can find out about the health experience of the British who were in that area. It seems to me that it is reasonable to request an inquiry into these matters.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Together with my colleagues, I was surprised to notice this week a sign on the Parliamentary Post Office to the effect that the office was acting as agent for the New South Wales winning numbers game known as Lotto. It seems a strange set of circumstances for a New South Wales Government lucky numbers game to be handled by an Australian Postal Commission office under the administration of the Federal Government. It is very strange indeed that this Parliament has not been advised of this procedure by the Postal Commission because it appears to be a departure from the policy of providing mail services and matters associated with mail. The Commission is an autonomous body, but surely some advice should have been given by it of its intention to take this action.
There are many questions that must be asked of the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Staley). Is this policy to cover the whole of New South Wales or is it to be common only to this Parliament and the Australian Capital Territory? Is it the policy of this Federal Government body to act as an agent for the New South Wales Government, particularly in a numbers game and a game of chance? Surely our Postal Commission is not neglecting its very important duty of providing prompt, efficient and realistic mail services? We should be given details of this proposition, such as the financial involvement of the Commission; what funds, if any, are involved; the commissions payable; and full particulars of the whole situation. Will Lotto sales interfere with normal postal business? What are the priorities as to customer service? Does an applicant for Lotto lucky numbers take precedence over a genuine customer requiring stamps or the general services of the post office?
These are questions that must be answered. It is to be hoped that the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, for whom I have a high regard, advises the House and the public of Australia of the facts and full particulars of this extraordinary proposition. I do hope that the Minister takes notice of this request and that some information is given to us about this matter.
– I want to bring to the attention of the House, particularly the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Mr Adermann), the continuing representations which are being made to this Government by members of the Vietnam Veterans Action Association for a judicial inquiry into what they believe are the very serious physical injuries which they have suffered and the effects that such injuries are having on them and their families as a result of their exposure to defoliants. Members on both sides of the House have been approached by members of this organisation. I believe what is occurring is that there is a very serious reappraisal going on, as it ought to go on. I realise that there are traditionally political differences in this House when we come to talk about Vietnam. I just want to say, as one who was always opposed to our involvement in the Vietnam War, that the servicemen who did a job in that war, whatever view the Parliament or politicians might take, are entitled to receive full and adequate compensation for themselves and their families for any effects which they suffered as a result. When I say that I believe I have a consensus of members of this House.
I do not want, at this stage, to make this a party political issue. A very important matter was written by members of the Vietnam Veterans Action Association in Victoria. Firstly the letter stated who they are, what they are, what their cause is and their view of the present Government inquiry. The letter sets out, as they see it, their demands upon the people of this nation and this Parliament. I believe the best thing that I can do is to table that letter and to ask leave to have it incorporated in Hansard so that it becomes part of the record. All honourable members can judge the merits or demerits of that organisation. In the continuing discussions within political parties in this place and across political boundaries we may, I trust in the very near future, be able to move to a situation where the very tragic life of these veterans and some of their families will be dealt with in a far more sophisticated and mature way than they have been to date by the Government.
I simply want to make this point for the record: To date no Vietnam veteran who has made a claim based on injuries or conditions suffered by him as a result of his exposure to defoliants in Vietnam has had his case accepted on the basis of that exposure. Many of them are receiving pensions on the basis of war related injuries. Exposure to these defoliants, on the basis of the scientific evidence that has already been amassed, indicates a whole range of conditions which many of these veterans are currently suffering from. There is an area for argument in that. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a letter from the Vietnam Veterans Action Association of Victoria. I have shown the letter to the Minister and he has agreed to its incorporation. I thank him for that.
The letter read as follows-
VIETNAM VETERANS ACTION ASSOCIATION VICTORIA
140 King Street, Melbourne 3000
Telephone: 62 4333
Re: Vietnam Veterans Action Association
You may have some appreciation of our cause as a result of recent publicity. We would like to take the opportunity of formally introducing ourselves and to provide you with a short summary of our views in relation to the various steps announced by the Government for the handling of the Agent Orange’ problem.
The aims of the Association are:
to assist members and ex-members of the Armed Forces and their dependants to commence, pursue and maintain claims for compensation for injury connected with the use of chemicals in the Vietnam War theatre including the engagement of scientists, medical practitioners, lawyers, consultants and other experts necessary to obtain this object.
to provide rehabilitiation, support and welfare services to returned Vietnam servicemen and/or their wives or widows and dependants, including the engagement of trained social workers, welfare officers, medical practitioners and vocational consultants to achieve this object.
The Association has only been operational for some two months and arose out of the failure of the Federal Government to recognize the just claims of servicemen and exservicemen for compensation arising out of the use of chemicals in the Vietnam War theatre. The Association does not expect the Government to be the sole source of compensation and has taken steps already to institute claims in the United States Federal Courts to join the class action already commenced by U.S. veterans.
However, that action will take some three to four years to come to fruition and in the meantime there are many servicemen who are desperate for financial aid, not only to keep them living by way of pensions but also to pay their medical expenses- to date disabilities from chemical action have not been accepted by the Department and funds are needed to support the scientific, medical and legal consultants in their day to day activities and also to pay for social workers to advise members and their families on the social issues involved.
Most of the Vietnam veterans have come forward requiring urgent and sympathetic assistance of a social welfare nature. Their need would appear to arise out of the Vietnam Veterans’ peculiar inability to communicate with official Government agencies (where they exist) and the fact that the Veterans Affairs Department does not have a welfare section at all.
We have found that these veterans and their wives or widows are able to communicate with the Association because of the fact that it consists of other veterans and as a result the burden of providing rehabilitation, support and welfare has fallen to the Association. Funded only by membership subscriptions and lacking the qualified staff, the Association is unable to continue fulfilling this need.
In America the Veterans Affairs Department (having as it does an established welfare arm), recognizing that Vietnam veterans are falling away from established society and are unable in the main to relate to or accept help from people other than other Vietnam veterans, has established ‘Operation Outreach’ (see Time Magazine, January 28th 1980). This specialized welfare operation exists within the Veterans Affairs Department structure solely for the benefit of Vietnam veterans. Needless to say, it is staffed and controlled only by Vietnam Veterans and conducts itself in a manner necessary to satisfy the particular needs of Vietnam veterans.
The Association in Australia sees itself performing a similar function here but is unable to do so without Government funding. As the Department of Veterans Affairs in Australia does not cater for the social welfare needs of veterans, it is the logical conclusion that the Commonwealth provide the Association with sufficient funds to fulfill the need and establish an ‘Operation Outreach Australia ‘.
We have requested two alternative amounts in our application for a grant-in-aid.
If funds are obtained in the order of $500,000.00, they would be spent on essentials only, would cover the cost of the above services, fully audited reports would be made available to the relevant departments. We have started with nothing and the funds we do have are only the membership moneys and joining fees of $ 10.00 per member- that is, if the member can afford them.
If funds are obtained in the order of $2,500,000.00, the Association would, in addition to paying the costs of its own administration, employ and train welfare teams and launch an ‘Operation Outreach’ in Australia.
In relation to the scientific inquiry now proposed by the Government, we cannot over-stress our opposition. Following the original announcement by the Minister for Veterans Affairs in January that a scientific inquiry would be conducted by the Sydney School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, we held discussions with the Minister during which he agreed that such an inquiry would be futile. The Minister requested us to provide him with an alternative to that inquiry.
Given that it is now generally admitted that the chemicals used in Vietnam were toxic, and given that there is a known science which indicates the results of exposing human beings to toxic chemicals, we believe it logical to presume that the chemicals used in Vietnam caused the symptoms presently being complained of by Vietnam veterans.
We therefore proposed, as an alternative, that a judicial inquiry be established, based on the rebuttable presumption that the chemicals used in Vietnam caused the symptoms. We suggested that the Government should appear before such inquiry and rebut that presumption. If the Government was unable to rebut the presumption, then veterans and their dependants complaining of such symptoms ought to be automatically entitled (and by legislation if necessary) to repatriation benefits.
We proposed that such a judicial inquiry be conducted by a senior barrister at law experienced in compensation matters.
We requested that sufficient funds be available to allow the Association the opportunity of preparing a case and appearing before the tribunal, and that all relevant records not currently available be made available to enable the gathering of all relevant statistics.
In proposing the judicial inquiry as an alternative, we listed as our principal objections to the scientific inquiry:
1 ) It was the stated aim of the scientific inquiry that it attempt to establish a link between the chemicals and the symptoms. As a matter of science, no epidemiological study has ever succeeded in establishing conclusively that A causes B.
The proposed scientific inquiry was to study three control groups of servicemen, two of which were to include Vietnam veterans exposed to herbicides and Vietnam veterans not exposed. Since the Controller General ‘s report in the USA in 1 979 it has been generally accepted that every serviceman ex Vietnam has been exposed. Accordingly the control groups which were to form the basis of the study would be invalid.
The time it would take to complete such a study is prohibitive.
) The scientific inquiry denies an opportunity to the Association to appear, make submissions and adduce evidence in support of its cause.
In rejecting our request for a judicial inquiry whilst announcing, more recently, the terms of reference of another form of scientific inquiry, the Minister stated that the ‘rebuttable presumption’ basis of the judicial inquiry placed too heavy onus on the Government. The Minister further stated that a judicial inquiry would not provide him with an answer to the veteran who came to him with a question about the safety of having healthy children.
So far as the onus of proof aspect of the inquiry is concerned, we are asking the Government to do no more than that which they are already required to do under existing repatriation legislation.
So far as the ‘safety of children ‘ objection is concerned, we believe the Minister has failed to distinguish the question of compensation from the quest to establish scientific principles. In using the continuing epidemiological study in the
United States as an example, the Minister neglected to add that in the meantime American veterans are in receipt of benefits.
In discussions with the Department of Veterans Affairs since the announcement of this latest scientific inquiry, it has again been admitted that such an inquiry would be futile.
1 ) A statistical and medical survey of every veteran, his wife and family, will involve the medical examination of a minimum of 160,000 people.
An inquiry of a local health organization indicates that the minimum cost of examining one person will be in the vicinity of $350.00.
To see all of the relevant people within the two years allowed by the Minister would be impossible, and a more realistic estimate of the time factor is five years.
The $2,000,000.00 appropriated for the project is totally unrealistic.
Looking at the proposed scientific inquiry in its best light, it can be no more than a gathering of material and evidence. No announcement has been made in relation to who is going to be responsible for making a decision on the evidence. If the Government proposes to make a decision of the entitlement of Vietnam veterans to repatriation benefits on the basis of the material collected and collated by this inquiry, then it must surely be setting itself up as judge and jury.
Our society is based on the adversary system of justice. Inherent in that system is the right of two opposing parties to appear and state a case before an independent and unbiased tribunal. Should one of those parties be denied the right to appear before an unbiased tribunal, there is an inherent right to impeach the decision and to seek a fresh hearing. These are the principles of natural justice.
In setting itself up as investigator, advocate, judge and jury, the Government deny us natural justice.
The requirements of the Association:
1 ) The immediate amendment of the Repatriation Acts to provide for the flow of benefits to children.
A judicial inquiry to determine the entitlement to repatriation benefits.
A grant-in-aid to enable veterans to help each other to survive.
The waiver of the Limitation of Actions Act as a defence to claims by veterans for compensation at common law.
You will appreciate that this is a limited introduction to our plight, and we would value the opportunity of meeting with you and providing you with any further details which you may require to enable you to assist our case.
We trust that you will not hesitate to contact us at your earliest opportunity in this regard.
Vietnam Veterans Action
Association (Victorian Branch)
-This document is from a group of men who have served this country in terms of the way in which they saw their duty and who are entitled to call upon this Parliament to respond to what I can assure this Parliament is a very tragic situation affecting many families and many young men whose futures have been blighted and whose personal family relationships are under enormous pressure. Their situation requires sympathy from members of the Government and indeed, all members of this House. Ultimately, I think it will require an amendment to the legislation. I incorporate the letter in the hope that honourable members will regard it as part of the continuing dialogue that ought to take place on this matter.
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I rise to fully commend the positive action that has been taken recently by the Federal Government in respect of the Melbourne waterfront. The situation that has been going on there for many years, in fact for many decades, in relation to ghosting of the payroll and other alleged criminal activity has now finally been brought to a situation where things can be positively investigated. That can be done largely because of the excellent investigative work that has been done by the magazine, the Bulletin. Out of this work we are now going to see two things. Firstly, we will see a joint Federal-State police taskforce which will investigate in particular the criminal activities that relate directly to the Painters and Dockers Union of Australia. Secondly, there is the probability that a royal commission will be established to look at some of the broader aspects of the problem which relate not only to the Painters and Dockers Union but also to certain allegations in relation to the condoning of ghosting and other activities by the Australian National Line and other shipping companies. There is much to be concerned about because although this activity has been going on for some time, in recent years it has taken on a degree of sophistication not known before. That can be particularly judged in general terms by the following figures. If we look at ANL’s cargo handling charges as reported in the Bulletin of 15 April, we see that in 1978, total cargo handling charges for ANL amounted to $82m. By 1979, that figure had risen to $ 1 1 lm- an increase far in excess of inflation and achieved at a time when containerisation was supposed to be reducing handling costs on the wharves.
I would like to congratulate the Bulletin and the many other sections of the media for the courageous attitude shown in covering and finally bringing very much into the daylight the activities that have been going on for some years. In doing so, I would also like to commend the Melbourne Sun in particular which this morning reported some very curious events in relation to initial State police investigation that went on regarding the allegations of ghosting and other criminal activities.
I would like to expand on some of the comments made in the Sun this morning because I think the excellent work done by the Sun in that area does require some elucidation. I think the House should be made aware of the following facts. Firstly, the Victorian State Police were told some weeks before the first Bulletin article appeared, of the allegations and in fact were given a very detailed briefing by the Bulletin as to the exact nature of the allegations. Yet it was not until some days after the first article appeared that the State Police actually took any positive action. The second interesting aspect is that the initial investigation by the State Police team- not the joint taskforce- appears to have been of an almost casual nature. There seems to have been no attempt to prosecute with much vigour what was a very serious matter. The third thing which is most alarming and which has been brought to my attention is the fact that one of the investigating officers on the State Police team which set out to investigate the matter apparently advised union officials during the course of his investigation how to correct shortcomings in their records so as to avoid future prosecution. This extraordinary scenario must, I think in anyone’s view, cast very serious doubt over the effectiveness and the integrity of the initial State Police investigation.
However, that is in the past. Matters are now in the hands of a joint Federal-State police taskforce which I have no doubt will bring things to a very successful conclusion. I particularly commend Sir Colin Woods, the Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police, for the positive and decisive action he has taken in setting up the task force in conjunction with three State Police forces.
-Recently the annual meeting of the Local Government Association of South Australia Inc. took place in Adelaide. The meeting expressed its great concern at the deteriorating situation of road funding. Tonight I hope to raise some of the Association’s points of concern which were expressed at that meeting. Local government in South Australia is calling on the Federal Government to recognise road needs in Australia as a high priority. The Federal outlay on roads has been steadily decreasing over the last 10 years while allocations to other services in Federal Budgets have increased.
The Federal share of road funding has not even kept pace with inflation. For instance, in real terms South Australian Federal road grants have decreased by 22.5 per cent in five years when compared with road price increases. This puts the burden of road funding on State and local governments. Local government has maintained its effort in funding roads in that time. Local government’s overall contribution to roads is one-third of the total and has increased in real terms, as has that of the State Government, while Federal funding has fallen by 5.5 per cent. This has meant that State taxes on motorists and road users and local rates must be increased in an attempt to pick up the Federal Government’s shortfall. At the same time, however, the Federal Government is collecting thousands of millions of dollars from the same motorists and taxpayers through petrol taxes and levies. This amount has increased more recently from the extremely lucrative source generated by the decision to bring Australian produced oil to world parity price.
The motorist is paying high prices for petrol and the Federal Government is collecting handsome dividends from petrol sales yet the proportion of Federal revenue that is directed to road funding is declining every year, forcing the same motorist to pay higher State charges merely to maintain the current system. Local government realises that our road system is a national asset which should not be allowed to depreciate. Consisting as it does of so many billions of dollars worth of capital investment, it represents a national asset to which it is appropriate to expect the Federal Government to contribute equitably from national revenue.
Furthermore, decreased spending on roads has social costs as well as economic costs. Safety, fuel economy, population mobility, tourism capacity, employment and commercial transport costs are all factors which must be taken into consideration. As well as these large scale costs, councils in South Australia know the impact that a deteriorating road system, due to declining funding, has on a local community. The damage to residents’ cars and transport vehicles that can be caused by poor roads, the costs that this can mean in prices of goods and vehicle maintenance and replacement, the time and fuel that can be used unnecessarily and the cost of both plant and employees of councils and contractors being idle due to funding inadequacies are all familiar problems to local government.
South Australia particularly depends on its road links throughout the State. Rural and urban dwellers rely on a safe, extensive transport system as much as we do on our water supply system, but the Federal proportion of the combined State and Commonwealth funding to South Australia over the past five years has dropped by 8 per cent. We cannot afford to allow the Federal Government to opt out of its role in keeping South Australia mobile. The future economic and social development of this State will partly depend on the adequacy of our road transport system. In this context I refer to the total system which covers local and arterial roads and highways in urban and rural areas. Some councils in the State receive no money at all for roads from the Federal grants. This cannot be allowed to continue.
The Local Government Association of South Australia agrees fully with the Australian Automobile Association’s campaign to obtain a fair share of Federal fuel tax revenue for road funds. It supports the Australian Automobile Association ‘s call for an increase to $9m of the roads allocation in the Federal Budget. The Local Government Association also calls on the Federal Government to increase South Australia’s share of the Federal road allocations to 10 per cent to compensate for the decline in past years. The amount of $900m represents less than a. third of the estimated $3,000m that the Federal Government will collect from road users through petrol taxes and levies this year.
-It being 1 1 o ‘clock, the debate is interrupted. The House stands adjourned until 2.15 p.m. on Monday, 2 1 April.
The following notices were given:
Mr Hunt to present a Bill for an Act to amend the Trade Practices Act 1974.
The following papers were deemed to have been presented on 17 April 1980, pursuant to statute:
Public Service Arbitration Act- Public Service Arbitrator- Determinations accompanied by statements regarding possible inconsistency with the law- 1 980-
No. 83- Australian Institute of Marine and Power Engineers and others.
No. 84- Electrical Trades Union of Australia.
No. 85- Amalgamated Metal Workers’ and Shipwrights Union and others.
No. 86- Australian Public Service Association (Fourth Division Officers).
No. 87- Customs Officers Association of Australia, Fourth Division.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice, on 20 February 1980:
-The Attorney-General has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
Senator Durack said the Standing Committee considered residual constitutional links between Australia and Britain other than the Crown.
The Premiers Conference last year sought a report from the Standing Committee on such links and fetters surviving from the time when Australia and the Australian States were colonies and subordinate to British authorities.
The report adopted by the Committee examined particular residual links including:-
The subordination of State Parliaments to British legislation still applying as part of the law of the States
The role of British Ministers in formal advice to the Crown on State matters
The role of British Ministers in appointment and removal of State Governors
The power of the Crown to disallow Commonwealth and State Acts, and
Appeals to the Privy Council from State Supreme Courts on State matters.
The report also lists possible legal options as to ways and means for removing the residual links. Further work has been directed on the relative legal feasibility of the options. The Standing Committee’s Report will be forwarded to the Premiers Conference where it will be considered later this year. ‘
They are autonomous Communities within the British Empire’, equal in status, in no way subordinate one to another in any aspect of their domestic or external affairs, though united by a common allegiance to the Crown, and freely associated as members of the British Commonwealth of Nations’.
asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice, on 5 March 1980:
Ltd; Broome Pearls Pty Ltd; Kailis Timber and Trading Pty Ltd, and Rock Lobster and Prawning Association of Australia (Inc.).
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
(a) M. G. Kailis Gulf Fisheries Pty Ltd (Australian)/the Kaohsiung Fishing Boat Commercial Guild (Taiwanese) in a joint company- Kailis Kaohsiung Fishing Company Pty Ltd
(a) The Kailis Kaohsiung Fishing Company Pty Ltd is incorporated in Western Ausralia and registered in Queensland with renewal pending in Northern Territory. (4)(b)Shareholders:
Mr M. G. Kailis
Dr P. V. Kailis
Mr J. E. V. Murdoch
Kaohsiung Fishing Boat Commercial Guild
Mr Chen KungFu
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 5 March 1980:
– The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice, on 6 March 1980:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Australia’s existing wheat contracts, which all predate the US action, will be honoured but the Australian Wheat Board will not initiate substantive negotiations for further sales to USSR pending a further meeting of grain exporting countries tentatively scheduled for May.
In the case of coarse grains, guidelines have been specified by the Government for the consideration of applications to export to the USSR. Applications will normally receive approval in cases where an Australian seller concluded a contract by 23 January 1980, the date when exporters were asked not to enter into new contracts for sales to USSR pending a review of the administration of the Government’s policy. In other instances, the Government will examine export permit applications on a case by case basis to determine the circumstances of particular sales in relation to the Government’s policy that Australia should not pick up any of the shortfall created by the US action. In the case of an intermediary buyer an Australian seller can expect approval if, for the quantity in question, the intermediary buyer had a contract with USSR pre-dating 5 January 1980 and providing the contract was for supply from an origin other than the United States of America.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 26 March 1 980:
-The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
Other Offices/Centres-The Sydney City Office and the Rehabilitation and other centres have 22 Social Workers on staff.
A person shall not be appointed, transferred or promoted, to an office of Social Worker Class 1 , 2, 3, 4 or 5 unless that person has complied with the following conditions:
Has qualified for admission or has been admitted to:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 17 April 1980, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1980/19800417_reps_31_hor118/>.